Auren dreams and from Malie’s experience most of his dreams are unsettled. He’s dreaming now, but whether he knows that or not, remains to be seen. It’s that type of dream – vivid and real. The type the mind has trouble differentiating from once your awake – sometimes causing a feeling de-ja-vu.
“Come play, Auren …” Malie’s voice comes from a small distance away. The sun is bright, beating down on his crystalline hide as he lies curled on a rock near the bay. A familiar setting for the Xaayr, to be sure.
Play? Play is something that Malie often wants to do. Usually not from… so far away. Where is she? He doesn’t know. But he takes to the skies and begins to head out over the seas. Usually hide and seek isn’t the game but he’ll find her if that’s how she wants to start.
Everything’s okay. It must be. This is normal.
“Auren … over here …” Malies voice comes from the surface and he make out the sleek grey shape she forms as she speeds through the water. Racing – that’s something she likes to do – always trying to prove that she’s faster him. Something they haven’t concluded to her satisfaction – yet.
The Dolphin leaps, high, towards him, squeeing happily as the sun reflects off him. As she makes the peak of her leap a tentacle snaps out of the water wraps around her body, dragging down – towards the water.
The squee of pleasure becomes scream of terror. “Auren …”
Down, down, she goes, closer to the surface of the water … soon to dragged underneath.
Auren’s terror rises when he hears that voice. He can see what seems to be a dark shadow under the water. Indistinct but absolutely massive. Whatever it is it’s… pulling her under. How many things could it really be?
The dragon drops like the rock he sort of is and hits the water… and keeps going.
He sinks like a rock too.
“Auren!” The squee of terror is magnified as Auren starts sinking, a tentacle starts to wrap around him and … squeezes. He can feel the pressure around him and the pressure on his mind to submit.
Not far from him, he can see the Dolphin with the white patch over her eye being dragged down as well. She doesn’t have long – dolphins can hold their breath for a while, but she’s struggling, which shortens the time that she has.
Not so deep in mind though, the Words that he shouldn’t speak stir a little … If he speaks them, he can get out of this and save her. That’s right isn’t it?
Auren struggles as well. He claws and squirms but he can’t shake the iron grip on him. He doesn’t know that it would be better to die now, that the Lord’s magic can keep a trapped creature alive as it makes the thousands mile journey to the creature itself to be… made into something else. A servant.
The words. He could banish this beast if he spoke them. But… it would destroy Malie. And this ocean. And this whole world. Locked in frozen jade forever.
No. It’d be better to drown, surely.
“Auren… please…” the Dolphin clicks and squees, imploring him to help her. Can he really let her drown like that? Would it really be better? The Words will save them, won’t they?
It might surprise the Crystal Dragon when he doesn’t start to drown and the pressure on his mind to submit increases. Or when Malie doesn’t seem to drown either and is just dragged in front of him. //Pitiful Xaayr, I will have my servant back and make you one too… Or perhaps, I’ll just sell you to the Splugorth …//
“Auren … please… save me. I don’t want to go back to The Lord.”
//Auren. Fight it// That’s Malie too. And the touch of her mind on his comes from another angle. Not from the Dolphin in front of him.
What … is going here?
Auren gasps. He can’t breathe but he gasps anyway. The voices in his head make him shake it back and forth as if to shut them all up. He claws harder, trying to loosen the coils grip but it just… won’t budge.
Looking at Malie almost… breaks his heart. The words murmur in the back of his mind. It’d be so easy.
No. No he… he can’t. “Malie… help…”
The Dolphin in front of him can’t help but he can hear her in his head.
It would be oh so easy to just say the words. Malie won’t suffer again, will she? And neither will he. The coils tighten and Auren can hear his crystal crack. Is it painful when that happens? The water gets darker as he and the dolphin are dragged deeper. //Oh yes, Xaayr. That’s it. Just … say them.//
Just so easy. Speak the words that are battering at his mind and end all this. Consign this world to a hell made of jade and save the Dolphin and himself from the pain.
Somewhere, far away, he can hear the strains of a song. It’s an angry song, he can tell that much from the bits that he can catch. //Auren, I need you to wake up …//
Auren starts to mouth the words. The pressure is almost overwhelming. The creature is asking for them. Well. He’ll get them no- wait. Why does the Lord want him to say them?
The pain on Auren’s chest is almost unbearable. The pressure is crushing. He wants to scream but he has no breath. It’s like he’s drowning.
Maybe he is. Maybe he’s going to die. He needs to wake up wake up wakeupwakeupWAKEUP!
//WAKE UP!// Malies mind is much stronger now and he can feel her pushing the Words back. The song is louder too, more distinct and it’s angry. He’s never heard Malie sing like that. Not even with the Reacher.
As sleep slowly recedes and Auren awakens, there’s a //crash// as the pressure on his chest eases. Eases – like something was just pushed off it. As his eyes open, he can see some Malies legs as she stands by his cot.
There’s a glow not far from her and she seems to be struggling with it.
“Malie?” Auren wakes up. He’d gone to sleep in human form. On a cot. He feels like something’s been sitting on his chest and maybe it has. It takes him a moment to realize there’s some kind of struggle going on near him.
“What the hell?” The dragon reflexively lets out a beam of light from his eyes. Laser vision like an old time superhero. Not that he… knows what those are.
Malies song swells as Auren awakens, the feel of her mind on his lessening for the moment. As the beams of light shoot out from the Dragon made man, the glow – which seems to be almost humanoid – evaporates. It just disappears …
Malie sags and puts a hand against the wall, breathing raggedly. “Auren … ” she says faintly. He can see her skin is oh so dry and she’s dehydrated “… I … what //was// that? Are you ok? It was … sitting on you …”
“Ow…” Auren rubs his chest as he levers himself up onto one elbow. “I… don’t know. It was you. I mean… I was dreaming and…”
He frowns and his eyes narrow. “It wanted me to say the Words, in my dreams…”
That can’t be good. Nothing associated with the Words ever is. It wouldn’t have done anything to the world hopefully if it had happened but… it might have heard them… and learned them.
Malie collapses onto the edge of the cot next to Auren, rubbing his shoulder as her breathing slows down. “It was attacking you, psychically. Maybe it was making … you dream … I could feel the Words pushing at you when I touched your mind.”
It’s dangerous for her to do that – after what’s happened before. Who knows what this has done anyway.
“It wanted to learn the Words. And it was trying to get through your dreams. I’m not sure it matters who, if anyone, sent it. We’re not safe here, are we?”
Auren sinks back down onto the cot strangely exhausted. It’s like not only has his rest not rested him but he’s actively been exhausted. Perhaps he has. Whatever was invading his dreams certainly didn’t mind hurting him physically. He can feel the ache of bruised muscles and tender flesh.
“I… don’t think we ever were.” The beings that know he has this knowledge and want it are… powerful. And their reach is very, very long.
Following him down, Malie makes him shift over. The cot is narrow but they’ll fit … just. She’s dehydrated and shaking and will have to find water soon. A side effect of the Lords transformation on her.
“I’m … sorry.” she murmurs, rubbing his chest where he had just been rubbing, knowing that he must hurt, but not how much.
“Perhaps we weren’t but something has shifted if they’re braving us both here and now …” she says after a long, long moment. “We need to see Ingerhast and see what she’s discovered, if anything. Are you thinking about leaving? Because I wouldn’t blame you if you were…”
“Where would I go?” Auren says almost bitterly as he shifts to make room for the dolphin changer. “My people are hunted across the multiverse and I have secrets that most Powers would kill to learn. There’s no place I can hide… and no place that I’ll ever be safe.”
He could run. Become a tramp and a wanderer. But the agents of his enemies will catch up with him sooner or later, he’s quite sure.
“I don’t know, Auren…” Malie says quietly watching Aurens as he speaks almost bitterly. “It might buy you time if you did. And you’ve travelled beyond this world, where I haven’t. I … wouldn’t want you to leave, but I wouldn’t stand in your way.”
What would become of the Dolphin Shifter if she was left alone here? Their enemies know she knows the Words and that would leave her vulnerable as well.
“Stay here with me, in Vesper for a while. We’ll see Ingerhast and see what can be done.” She says even more quietly knowing that she’s consigning to more attacks like this. But there must be something they can do.
“I will.” Auren looks at Malie. Her skin is hot and looks like it might be about to start cracking. “You need to get into the water…”
The water isn’t far from the warehouse which is in fact on the dockside. And the fact that it is Vesper Harbor means that it should be pretty safe but…
… well, who knows at this point?
“I do … yes. That fight took it out of me.” Malie answers. She’s listless and they do they need to move and soon “But I wasn’t going anywhere till I knew you were ok.” she says quietly. “I’ll go now …”
She starts to rise. He’s right the waters not far and should be safe. Mostly. As safe as the streets around here, really.
Auren can go with her or he can stay. She’s satisfied he’ll be ok at any rate.