Daughter of Chaos

As, disparately, Jeke and Joseph engaged Ursa's fanatical pursuers, and Sunder watched on, the scene became pure bedlam, owing to a confluence of erratically twisting circumstances that had led each one of these remarkable individuals all to this unlikely moment in time, and the brutal violence only added kindling to the growing flame of Chaos that had been Fernoia's domain. An influx of the background energy passed through Orla as she had experienced on former rare occasions, such as during the horrific destruction of Opra Dale. She felt lighter, stronger, and far more confident as her vital essence was empowered. Arcane words formed on her lips and a column of wind skirled around her, obscuring her in turbid curtains of blowing snow and lifting her upwards into the slate grey sky, away from the combatants.

Instinctively, Orla summoned her iridescent, gossamer wings, and rode the gusting wind, letting it whisk her higher as though she were an insubstantial leaf. As she looked about, she glimpsed her lost satin sandal spinning rapidly end over end amid the whirling snowflakes. She reached out and snatched it from the air, slipping it back on her foot, then turned her attention fully to the dreaded stone fortress that loomed menacingly below.

She could hear the fighting and sense the foul magicks that resonated from within, and her momentary newfound confidence began to unravel. She was reconsidering venturing inside when her eyes beheld a fervid flash of light emanating from an upper floor window. Her Faerie sight registered it as an expression of goodly magic, specifically the sort of magic granted by a divine power. She knew what that meant. A cleric or priest, perhaps even a healer—just what she needed to save Horo!

However, a small furrow crossed her delicate brow as she also perceived something else. An eerie sense of familiarity, for the fleeting radiance contained a unique magical signature she was strangely certain she had encountered before, and in the not-so distant past.

Could it be—?

Disbelievingly, Orla glided in toward the fortress, her blonde bob of hair streaming back and her poplin frock whipping round her legs. She was not used to being up so high or flying in the midst of a torrential snowstorm, and she strove with difficulty to not let the mighty gusts catch a hold of her and sweep her out over the yawning abyss. Buffeted sideways, downwards and every which way, she tucked her wings back to decrease the drag and descended in tight, swooping circles until she reached the forbidding structure and alighted precariously on the stone and mortar ledge of a broken window.

She dissipated her wings and wasted no time stepping in out of the fierce blizzard through the jagged opening that lay before her. Minding the sharp glass, she hopped down into a cold, mouldering, mildewed room whose interior was dimly lit from the outside. She glanced around and saw that it had once been a lavish suite with a four-poster bed and fine mahogany furnishings. Years of exposure to the elements had caused the wood to decay and rot. She crossed the room and slowly, cautiously, peeked out the thick oak door to the hall beyond. For a moment, she simply stared in wide-eyed recognition of the long, stone-tiled corridor lined with doors on both sides, doors which she knew led to well-appointed boudoirs.

“By the Goddess, this truly is Gray Haven,” Orla said to herself, as a flood of all-too vivid memories came back to her. “And unless I'm very much mistaken, this is the Hall of Ladies...”

She had been here once. Sort of. Gray Haven—or in that instance, merely a nightmarish Fortress of the Mind, one might say—had some time ago served as a waypoint for her inauspicious return to the mortal plane. In her darkest hour, it seemed she had again been drawn back to the ghastly place; but this time the real life version she had never thought—or wanted—to see. Had a fateful helping hand guided her here?

Or a not-so-helping hand? Orla wondered, quailing at the shadow of a figure suddenly coming around the hallway corner from the stairs. Was it the person she sought? The person she hoped beyond hope? Or was it another one of those pitiless Sarnian knights? Perhaps, she thought with a shudder, it was an undead guardian on the lookout for intruders to rend with its hungry teeth!

With the memory of Kelmoran's undead hordes fresh in her mind, her nerve wavered. She ducked back into the bedroom, shutting the creaking door behind her as silently as possible, before casting a quick illusion spell to hide her from view should anyone look in. Whether the spell would work against the undead she could not be sure; she had no magic to aid her the last time she faced them. If worse came to worse, she would try to bolt back out the window, even if she had to crash her way through the broken pane of glass in her haste to escape.

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