Fortress of the Mind - Part 02

(Joint Post by D2wintr & me)

Orla Carling was seated at the long dining table, her small, dainty hands folded in front of her, and her mind blissfully lost in thought. She was remembering the great forest where she was born, of the thick primeval wood, of young dryads at play, of giant toadstools and fey laughter, and of her wonderful grandmother telling her ancient fables, now since passed into the unreachable realms, whom she hoped to meet again one day. Roused from these happy childhood memories by the crypt-cold voice of the dreaded Lich, Olra became cognizant once more of her terrifying surroundings. She shuddered and hugged herself tightly, pulling in all her senses to tune out the most ghastly tableau she had ever seen or imagined.

She could not recall exactly how many times she had manifested here -- past and present had lost nearly all meaning to her -- but it was obviously not long enough to have grown immune to the hideous smells and sounds of the mindless abominations gorging themselves on their unspeakable buffet. She scrunched her eyes shut and thought of anything else; thinking of Horo, of Avara and Maelwin, and how she had got into this abominable situation. She remembered paying a visit to Ceriden Malkaan and of those last fleeting moments, being seized by his ghoul guards and dragged into his presence. And, of course, what came next that she would never forget, of being magically folded, crumpled and collapsed in upon herself, and then swept away like a ghostly breeze across the vast eternal void.

Upon arriving in this hall of gruesome horrors she assumed her forsaken soul had finally been consigned to some wretched hell dimension. But, after a time, she gradually realised she had been cast into someone's frightful nightmare. There was little she could do to affect the dream's happenings, for she held but a mere tiny fragment of existence here, her true power and essence seemingly elsewhere, still trapped and bound in the material plane like a pinioned butterfly.

Orla's silvery blue eyes opened and she looked now at the girl sitting across the table, a young, dark-haired elf-maid who seemed to be the dreamer of the dream. But it was no ordinary dream, this. It was in some manner connected to Kelmoran. That much was clear. She watched the Lich's tall, skeletal likeness leave the girl be and shuffle past, appearing as he did in his final years in Verden before the Inquisition destroyed him bodily. But the girl, this dreamer, was not any shade or ghoul, but real and very much alive.

"Pay him no mind," Orla softly urged. "Pay him no mind, and wake yourself up from this dreadful place--and perhaps it will all fade and disappear like all dreams do."

Ursa gave an upwards glance at the woman seated across from her, seeming to only just becoming aware of her for the first time. "It doesn't quite work like that."

Ursa shook her head sadly glancing to make certain the Lich was no longer near enough to hear what was said.

"How does it work, then?" Orla asked quietly, finding herself a bit surprised. She hadn't fully expected to be heard or noticed amid the disturbing mindscape. How long had it been since anyone had conversed with her? It seemed like aeons ago.

Ursa shook her head feeling foolish at the thought of trying to explain the arcane workings of this hellish place to an apparition who was likely just as trapped here as she was. The fact that she didn't entirely grasp it all herself only adding to her frustration.

"Look, I know…" Ursa spoke aloud trying to make sense of what was in her head for the first time in a very long time. "I know that I'm asleep and that this is all a dream, but this, all of this…" She motioned rapping her knuckles on the table. "This place, I don't think this is a dream, or at least this isn't my dream."

Ursa nodded her head in the direction of the Lich who had returned to his throne and was once more seated there. "I think this is his dream, or at least everything here is a construct of his memories." She then glanced at the hall's great double doors. "I think the only reason. I keep returning here to this place is because this is the only place both he and I have shared memories of. This is where me and my companions died, and this is where I think he restored me to life, though the why of it continues to escape me..."

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