Night of Terrors - Part 05

(Joint Post by D2wintr & Rosmary)

"Redi Ad quod Locus Revertetur ad loca... "

The Lich cast his banishment spell at such a speed and with such alacrity that Ursa had no time to think to counter the spell before the world blurred before her and the next thing she knew she was lying back in her bed at the inn in Warfall, with a very dazed Orla secure in her arms.

For the longest time Orla did not know what had happened or, for that matter, where she even was any more. Disoriented and stunned, she slowly focused her eyes and saw that she was in a room, one that was shabby and small and much less luxurious than the elegant boudoir in the nightmarish construct of Gray Haven. Her attention was drawn to the window whose shutters were half-open and through which a fresh breeze blew, a breeze warmer than any she had felt in what seemed like forever, and carrying with it the verdant smells of a rainy summer's night, emphasising the fact she was no longer in that fetid fortress keep.

Frowning with perplexed bewilderment, she next became aware of the pair of slim arms that were wrapped tightly around her. She saw they belonged to Ursa. The young elf maid appeared to be only just waking from a sleep that had been something less than restful. Had Kelmoran knocked them both unconscious with his spell and then tucked them into bed together like a couple of errant children? Orla replayed in her head the very last things she remembered. Ursa's brave, albeit foolish defiance of the Lich, and her own last desperate attempt to keep the girl from harm.

"You don't know, do you?" Ursa spoke groggily, opening her eyes and giving her friend a tired but triumphant smile.

"Know what?" Orla asked, confused. She awkwardly pulled herself out of the other woman's rather intimate embrace.

"This place ..." Ursa smirked. "We're back in the real world!"

"The real world?" Orla was dumbstruck; she stared back, wide-eyed, almost incapable of processing it. "This is the material plane? Are... are you sure?" She looked around, wanting to believe but not quite daring to.

Ursa nodded. "Without question. This is the same room at the inn I'm staying at in Warfall. The Lich banished me from the dreaming and must have accidentally banished you along with me."

A look of dawning amazement spread across Orla's face. To be back in the Materium was like being well again after a long and debilitating illness. No, more like going to heaven straight from the torments of hell. Glowing with a pure and ineffable happiness, she excitedly tossed back the cheap counterpane and leapt from the bed. She felt like dancing, singing, and weeping with joy!

But it was only when her bare feet hit the cool plank floor and she felt the air against her skin that she realised she was completely nude. She gasped with sudden shock and tried to cover herself with her hands and arms. What had happened to her clothes? She frantically gazed about, not seeing them anywhere.

"Where is my dress?!" she squeaked, snatching up the bed sheet to cover herself.

Ursa could only shrug. "I would venture that whatever you wore in the dreaming was a projection, and remained there when you were banished from it," she explained, amused.

Giving an embarrassed, indignant cry, Orla quickly weaved her fingers, murmuring a spell of conjuration. A cloud of sparkling light glowed from her hands and enveloped her body, taking on the form of an elegant green silk frock, braided with gold lace — but then, to her chagrin, the image faded out of existence as the spell abruptly failed, leaving her standing there naked again with naught but the sheet she held in defence of her modesty.

"You shouldn't push yourself so hard so soon," Ursa cautioned. "It might be awhile before you can work magic again."

Orla nodded her head in acknowledgement of this. "I suppose you may be right," she said, her expression troubled and uncertain.

Ursa pushed upright in the bed, looking around the drab room thoughtfully before settling on Orla, as if really taking her in for the very first time and not as just a ghost. She was a dainty and petite woman in her early twenties, Ursa estimated. Her hair was wheat-blonde and shiny with unusual and subtle highlights, and there wasn't a trace of artifice in the way it perfectly fell to frame her face and curled around her slender shoulders. The face was delicate and pretty, though some might call it more cute than beautiful. But she had beautiful features, there was no escaping that fact. Her peaches and cream complexion looked fresh and pristine, glowing luminous in the dim light, and was set off by magical blue eyes of which Ursa had never seen the like before. The irises were touched with something akin to liquid silver, and possessed a benignity from some far bygone, innocent era. Goddess, was she a half High Elf? Ursa's prurient gaze lowered from Orla's face to her body, noting the full swell of her bosom evident through the thin material of the sheet and the gently curved hip and very well-shaped leg that peeked out from behind it.

"You look different than you did in the dreaming, more vivid," Ursa remarked, as if in apology for staring. Finally she extended from the bed a single digit, pointing toward her pack that was resting on the chair beside the room's small table. "There are spare clothes in my travel bag. You can take whatever you might need. Naked is fine though, you look good either way."

A bit flustered, Orla mutely nodded her thanks, and still covering herself with the sheet, walked unsteadily over to the table. She was in state of discombobulation, full of nervous energy, her emotions bouncing off one another, and her mind awhirl with a myriad of endless thoughts and concerns. She was corporeal again! Back in the world again! And thankfully having not been gone so long as she first assumed if Horo were still alive. But what about her people and the Avatar who Ursa had failed to be able to contact, and who the Lich claimed were dead? And why was her magic gone from her? It was particularly strange, so unlike her old self who channeled magic the way humans breathed air. And if that were not all, disturbingly, just like in the dreaming, she felt no real connection to the world around her beyond a tepid, superficial perception of it. Was something seriously wrong with her or did she simply need time to fall back into equilibrium with it all again?

Orla pondered these many questions as she rifled through the garments in Ursa's pack. The young priestess seemed to favour nothing but black and dark clothing. She was the exact opposite, preferring vibrant colours and patterns. Not finding anything like that, she selected one of the long-sleeved, black linen tunic dresses and hurriedly slipped it over her shoulders and then fastened the accompanying leather belt around her tiny waist to cinch in the outfit. It was loose and flowing at the bottom, but fitted at the top a bit more snugly than things she usually wore. Still she was grateful for it and that she and Ursa were close to the same size.

"Hells, the Lich!" Ursa cursed suddenly, pushing herself up and out of the bed. She crossed to the window and forcefully shoved open the shutters to stare out into the rainy night. "How could I have forgotten? We need to hurry before..."

Before what? Even she wasn't entirely sure what games the Lich had planned. A frown touched her lips as she took notice that the summer storm had only worsened while she'd slept and that the rain was now coming in a torrential downpour.

"We need to warn our friends…" Ursa took a moment trying to concentrate before finally drawing upon the necessary magic she needed to work the spell she had prepared, noting that she had already used up the majority of her spells while she slept.

"Rose, Danger is coming. Tell, Horo… Orla."

Ursa spoke into her bowled hands, the words of her message taking the shape of a raven that she quickly sent on its way flying out into the murky darkness beyond the open window.

"Hopefully Rose will be able to understand and act upon it," Ursa said, glancing back towards Orla who was adjusting the tunic dress. "We have to go…"

Having gone to bed dressed for a fight she had awoken the same. Seeing her companion unclothed it was perhaps only then that she regretted the choice, if only briefly.

Waiting only long enough for Orla to don her spare pair of leather sandals, Ursa led them out the door and down the stairs to the common room of the tavern below where those that had chosen to remain and wait out the storm had gathered for the evening.

Orla looked around at the patrons supping their ale amidst the rustic furnishings; she was pleased to see so many real, living flesh-and-blood people again after so long. She noticed their style of dress was somewhat unlike the Two Kingdoms, showing unfamiliar cultural influences, and she wondered where in Aerán this village of Warfall was exactly? Varland? Aelmere?

Several of the men gave Orla and Ursa an odd mixture of looks but said nothing and quickly turned their attention elsewhere when Ursa flashed the room an evil look. As vilified as those of the Black Order might be it was still considered bad luck to cross one.

Ursa turned back to Orla and spoke worriedly. "We don't have much time…"

"You're really concerned about this... hunt?" Orla said, as if only remembering the Lich's mad ravings. "But surely... surely Galathus can do us no harm now that we're out of that dreadful place. He doesn't even have a body." Unless he's taken possession of Ceriden Malkaan's, she thought with a chill, but didn't add.

"I think not only can he harm us but that he will, and that we don't have much time before the hunt will commence…" Ursa replied, trying to measure out how much time they did have and finding no answer as she reached the main door of the tavern. "Look, we have to get to House Blackwood. The members of my Order considered it a sanctuary and left things there for safe keeping. So listen carefully… we must take the Southeast road through the woodlands to reach Blackwood. It will be the first thing you'll see as you clear the woodlands and little different than what you saw in the mirror before. If something happens to me or if I'm delayed for any reason you must keep following the road south until you get there. Don't stop for anything. My spell tracked your friend Horo to that place so he must be waiting for you there, somehow knowing you might come. It is perhaps twenty to thirty minutes at a run..."

Horo! Orla thought, hardly able to contain her hope and anticipation in finding him. She turned to the young priestess with a radiant smile. "I will heed all you say, Ursa, but let's try not to get separated, shall we? As far as running though, I can't say I'm accustomed to it. When I must get somewhere fast I simply..."

Fly, she was about to say with a flourish, and trailed off, her brow creasing into a frown as she tried to summon her faerie wings. She'd thought it would have been a wonderful surprise and something to lessen Ursa's worries, but nothing happened. Taking a breath, she tried again, and once more her wings failed to materialise. She could not remember any time in her adult life that she had not been able to effortlessly make them appear. Like a bird, a faerie without the power of flight was a helpless, pathetic thing indeed.

Unaware of the source of Orla's new sombre mood, Ursa hustled them outside into the damp and dark where they were greeted not only by the pounding rain but also that all-to-familiar terror that drew their gaze at once in the direction of the village square. A blinding flash of lightning revealing an empty square followed by a second showing the space suddenly filled with warriors dressed in ancient armor, some two or three score in number, the collective radiating an aura of death armed and armored for some coming battle standing in organized ranks and unmoved by neither wind nor rain. At their head stood a Church Knight dressed in the rotten and torn robes of his Order holding a great mace in one hand and thick chains that held in check a half dozen ghouls fitted with cruel looking spiked collars that hissed and clawed at the air trying to reach them.

"Blessed Fernoia, aid us," Orla cried, stark fear coursing through her, knowing they were after her.

Ursa quickly grasped onto Orla's hand, dragging her friend behind her as she started off for the forest road.

"Well, the Lich did say a Hunt, and I guess they do look the part of the huntsman's and his hounds, don't they? Did I mention we should run!?"

And they did, splashing across the pooling puddles and trying not to slip on the wet cobblestones as they fled hard for House Blackwood.

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