Dream Quest

Foreword

As I finish writing this I wonder how many will remember that I started this long ago.  This story was started about Feb. or Mar. of 98.  The start of it was posted before the crash if I remember correctly.  Well I am no longer on Shadowmud, but I felt that those there should get to read the full story.

The characters here are as I have portrayed them, but I hope I got at least kinda close to how they are, or at least they won’t be angry with how they were portrayed.  With that I hope you enjoy the tale of the Dream Quest.

-Twinkles-
 
 

Chapter 1
In a dark tower, a prisoner is chained.  He is of no race, an immortal, but not a god.  His name has long been forgotten, if it had ever been known.  Now he just calls himself the dream walker.  Within his mind he reaches beyond his prison to the world outside.  Somewhere there must be someone who can help him.  Help him escape this prison and stop the villain who put him here.  But what can he do, very little, for his powers are greatly reduced by his imprisonment.  The dream walker knows he must try, for the dream slayer walks free tonight.
*******
Wolfman slips deftly into the lightening daemon’s cave, using every ounce of practiced skill he has to remain silent and unseen.  Hidden he watches his prey.  The daemon is a foul creature, its body a cloud of dark mist with fiery yellow eyes.  It is in the middle of the cave, munching on the remains of its last victim.  The rogue winces at the sound of the bones snapping between the daemon’s teeth.  Well, he isn’t going to be a victim, that daemon is going to die.  He quietly draws out his fangs and skillfully works his way behind the daemon.  Wolfman leaps forward to run a fang deep into the creatures back, but the daemon suddenly turns.  The rouge stops short as he realizes the daemon can see him, but how he is cloaked.

The rogue shakes his head and shrugs, “Oh well” he thinks as he readies himself to take the daemon on.  The daemon leaps at him, its sharp teeth and claws reaching to score deep into his flesh.  Wolfman easily dodges the attack and as the daemon slides past him he buries a fang into the daemon’s back, or he would of if the fang hadn’t just disappeared.  Shocked with utter disbelief, he doesn’t react fast enough to dodge the next attack.  The rogue screams as the fiery claws of the daemon rip into him, tearing though his cloak and robes like butter.  He continues to scream as he awakes, drenched in sweat and panting.  As he stares at the ceiling of his bedroom, he tries to reassure himself it was just a dream, without success.
*******
Athos sits in Harry’s bar.  The fighter calls to the waitress to bring him a firebreather.  It has been a long day and he is ready to get drunk.  Perhaps he should wait for Wazoo and challenge him to a drinking contest.  Athos smiles as Wazoo opens the door and gasps as the fighter cries out and slumps to the floor, and arrow protruding out of his back.  Before Athos can even start to move, five cloaked elves, wielding swords and spears, step into the bar.  Harry and Scruffy are cut down before Lotus can even blink.

As a sword-wielding elf comes at him, Athos’ training kicks in.  Seemingly out of nowhere he produces two swords.  His steel clashes with the elf’s.  Then he feels a blade cut through his armor and into his back.  Ignoring the pain, he whirls around to meet this new enemy.  He turns and he watches in amazement as his swords just fade out of existence, another blade scores into him.  He yells his rage as he throws himself at one of the elves, right into the waiting spear.  The spear pierces his armor and his yell turns to a scream of pain.  The fighter closes his eyes and reaches to grab the spear and tries to pull it out.  Athos opens his eyes to his dark bedroom, with no sign of the elves.  It had just been a dream.
*******
Deeply concentrating on seeking a path in the snow, Picolo does not hear the snow devil sneak up behind her.  The white beast regards the cleric and then bares its sharp fangs.  Picolo is knocked to the ground with a single swipe of the devil’s claws.  Feeling the blood starting to flow out of the fresh wounds in her back, Picolo quickly mutters a prayer of healing as she rolls over to see her attacker.  Her face pales as she sees the snow devil. The beast swings at her again, but the cleric rolls out of reach and scrambles to her feet.

Once on her feet, Picolo faces her opponent, in one hand a morning star and in the other the staff of winds.  The devil leaps toward her, but his feet never leave the ground as he is caught in Picolo’s paralysis spell.  The cleric strikes at him with the morning star but before it hits, the morning star fades away as if it had never existed and with it her staff.  In shock, Picolo barley has time to ready another attack as the snow devil escapes her spell.  Picolo hurries to cast annihilate, but the spell fails.  The power in her magic has disappeared.  She shrieks as the snow devil circles behind her and buries it sharp claws through her titan armor and deep into her back.  Her own screams awaken her, to the darkness of her own room.
*******
Hern carefully approaches the pirate hideout.  Outside the main gate stand two guards.  Hern smiles to himself, no problems so far.  He hefts his two long spears.  The monk skillfully and powerfully throws one, and instant later one of the guards is pinned to the fort wall, dead.  The monk quickly throws the other spear and the guard joins his companion, but not before he raises the cry, “We are under attack!”

“Oh crud.” thinks Hern, things just got a little tougher.  He hurries to grab the key, to the gate, off one of the corpses.  Soon he has the gate unlocked and quickly slips inside before more pirates show up.  The monk slips into a darken doorway of one of the wooden shacks just as half a dozen pirate warriors rush by.  When they are out of the gate searching for him, Hern steps out cautiously.  The path between the wooden shakes is empty at the moment.  Hern starts to follow the path away from the gate, when a figure steps out of the shadows.  The man wears dark blue robes and a short iron gray beard.  His steely gray eyes stare at Hern, and Hern feels a shiver of fear run down his spine as he recognizes Al Kathazad, the pirate wizard.  Here is a fight that he had been looking to avoid, so much for that idea.

Hern readies himself for the fight, with only his gauntlet covered hands.  He would show Al Kathazad the meaning of pain.  The monk leaps forward and drives a fist, with all his strength, into the head of the pirate.  As the punch connects, Hern feels his strength ebb away and the hit lands with no force.  With no chance to recover, he screams in pain as the pirate wizard’s annihilate spell rips through him.  Hern awakes, the sensation of the spell hitting him still lingering.
*******
The mage works her way though the snow and the cold.  More snow starts to softly fall and she wonders again why she is doing this.  Dianora then remembers, the ice wizard.  His fame had spread far, but she had determined that the tales were exaggerated.  As she walks the terrain changes very little, but it does start to slope upwards.  Soon the path becomes steeper and off to her left is a long drop.  She glances down the cliff below and takes a step away from it, which would be a deadly drop.  Dianora finally reaches the top of the cliff and there stands her quarry.  The wizard watches her impassively as his white robes rustle in the wind.  The mage sizes the wizard up, “He looks good but how well can he cast.”  She thinks.

Dianora decides to take no chances and quickly casts paralyze.  To her great surprise the spell fails, but her surprise is soon forgotten as the wizard’s bolt spell knocks her off her feet.  As she tries to regain her feet, Dianora hears the wizard start to chant the spell of blast.  The mage attempts to cast annihilate, but the words so long studied and memorized are suddenly forgotten.  Before she calls another spell to mind the wizard’s blast knocks her down again, this time off the cliff.  Dianora hears a screaming, but it does not register that is her.  She awakes on the floor by her bed, trying to figure out why she isn’t dead.

Chapter 2

The dream walker watches helpless as the slayer forces him to watch powerless as he plays with his victims.  Unless he can do something eventually the dream slayer will trap them in their nightmares, feeding on their fears until they die.  But the slayer’s victims have survived the attack and not many awake from the first nightmare.  Perhaps the dream walker can join forces with these, if he can contact them.
*******
Hern sits in the monk’s hall in Kieron.  He feels the wooden floor beneath him and the smells the crisp morning air coming in through the window.  Then monk slowly relaxes and starts to meditate.  He pauses before entering the meditative state, the memory of the dream hanging in his mind.  Even now, just thinking about it, he can’t believe that it was just a dream.  Hern briefly struggles to dismiss it from thought and as he does so he easily slips into his mediation.

The dream walker senses as the monk enters the spiritual plain.  This is one of the victims; perhaps if he gathers his strength the dream walker can meet him there.  Even as he thinks this, the dream walker doubts whether this will work.  His restraints have drained his powers and this will require much effort.  He quickly decides, no matter the risk he must try.

Hern walks on the spiritual plain, seeking enlightenment and restoring peace.  Suddenly his reverie is broken as a dark figure appears before him.  The monk immediately assumes a defensive stance; ready to fight if needed as he does he looks the figure over.  Hern guesses that the figure is male by his stance and build.  The figure is dressed all in black with his face cloaked under a black hood.  The figure speaks, his voice calm, but powerful “Have no fear.  I am here to help you.  Last night you were attacked by the dream slayer, as were four others.  Seek them out.  For though I can help you, I also need your help.”
The figure starts to fade; he seems to be struggling to stay on the spiritual plain, without much success.

“Who are you?”
“I am the ...”

Before he can finish the figure disappears completely.  Hern slowly comes out of his meditation, contemplating what the figure had said.  “Who was he and just how was the monk supposed to find these other four?” Hern thinks as he rises from the floor.

The dream walker sags exhausted against his chains, cursing his weakness.  That had taken more than he had thought it would.  He could only hope that it had been enough.

Chapter 3

Hern slowly walks down the stairs to the monastery.  Then he remembers that he is supposed to meet with his sister, adopted of course, at the restaurant for breakfast.  Hurriedly the monk makes his way down the street.  The day is nice and Hern soon forgets about his encounter on the spiritual plain.

“Hey, you’re late.”  Picolo calls to him as he enters the restaurant.  Hern grins sheepishly and tries to apologies.  The cleric waves him off and invites him to take a seat at the table.  “Not to worry, I just got here myself.”  Her brother raises his eyebrows, questioning, for Picolo was never late.  She nods “I had a rough night, so I was slow getting up this morning.”
“Rough night?”
“Yes, I had this terrible dream...”
“A dream?”
“Never had a dream so vivid, so real...”

Picolo’s face pales as she recalls the snow devil’s claws ripping into her.  Seeing this Hern reaches across the table to comfort his sister.  As he does he remembers the figure in black.  “Then you are one of the four.” he says excited
“Huh?” Picolo stares at him blankly “What are you talking about?”

Hern tells her of his encounter during his meditations.  As Picolo considers this, the waitress finally gets to them and asks for their order. Picolo smiles “You buying?”
“Sure, why not?”
“I’ll have the lobster.”
The cleric laughs as her brother groans. “And for you sir?” the waitress asks.  The monk searches his pockets. “Oh well you can’t take it with you, I’ll have the same.”

While they wait for the lobster, they continue their conversation.  Picolo asks, “Well what are you going to do now?”
“Somehow I have to find those other three.”
“And how do you plan on doing that?”

He shrugs “Besides even if I could find them, I wouldn’t know what to do next.”
The cleric pats his hand and says “Let’s worry about one things at a time.”
The monk nods in agreement.  Their food arrives and they eat in silence.  Each one wishing they could forget their dreams.
*******
Athos yanks his sword out of the corpse of the ogre with a violent jerk.  The ogre’s blood drips off his blade.  Disgusted, the fighter wipes the blood off with the dirty tunic of the dead ogre.  Then he turns, almost angrily, away from the corpse and goes in search of other prey.  “Why did that dream linger?  It was just a dream.”  He wonders as he strides along, seeking something to sink his sword into, something to distract him from the dream.
*******
Dianora sits in her study, in front of her lies her spell book.  Her eyes look tired and there is a sag in her shoulders.  She has been studying since first light. The fear of her dream coming true hangs over her.  A mage’s power is within their magic, to forget how to cast a spell would render a mage powerless.  So vivid the dream Dianora fears this has happened to her, causing her nearly frantic studying.
*******
Wolfman wanders into Harry’s bar.  Harry’s watchful eye tells the rogue he doesn’t want any trouble.  The rogue nods at Harry, if he wanted to cause trouble he wouldn’t of walked into here uncloaked.  At the nod Harry looks a little relieved, but still watchful.  Wolfman looks the bar over, only a few people here, but then it was still early, earlier than he had ever been here. So why is he here? Now?  The rogue signals the waitress to bring him a firebreather as he sits in the dimly lit booth in the corner.  He sighs as he recalls why he is here, that dream.  After trying for several hours to forget it, he has decided his only escape is the drink.

Chapter 4

Night approaches.  As the sun begins to set five mortals fearfully remember the night before and wonder what dreams this night will bring.  The dream slayer smiles as he feels their fear.  True they had escaped the night before, but one had to expect setbacks when one’s goals are set so high.  After all these are some of the strongest, most cunning, and skillful people her could find.  They were to be a challenge.  Of course, they wouldn’t be too much of a challenge, not now that his enemy is locked up and powerless.  That fool, how dare he even think he could best the dream slayer?  What did he even see in these pathetic mortals?  Let him watch his “pets” suffer.

The dream walker watches the sunset thought the bars of his prison and sighs.  Somehow he must aid the mortals and defeat the dream slayer.  Briefly he wonders if his short, and incomplete, warning had done any good.  He shakes his head, best not to dwell on it.  The dream walker tries to relax and clear his mind.  He is going to have to use every last drop of strength to help these mortals tonight.
*******
Picolo and Hern sit in Picolo’s living room.  The fire burns brightly, though the weather is not cold.  The heat and the light comfort the pair.  They have spread out two sets of blankets and pads on the floor.  After talking the situation over they had decided that trying to stay awake would be impossible.  So Hern had suggested that they take turns sleeping and if the dreamer seems to be in danger the other would try to wake them.
*******
Wolfman hits the ground with a dull thud as he is tossed out of the bar. He has stayed past closing time.  The rogue struggles to his feet and starts to stagger to the rogue hall.  Even though he is near passing out, he still retains his skills.  The rogue carefully cloaks himself and silently, though a bit unsteadily, works his way down the street.  His drunken mind tries to figure out why he had gotten so drunk.  The rogue enters his hall and as he vaguely recalls why, he passes out on the floor.
*******
Still at her desk Dianora yawns.  She stretches and struggles to stay awake.  The mage has studied all day and now it is the dead of the night.  She glances out her window and sees the moon.  It is full and bright, but it seems to shine coldly. “I really ought to get up and walk around” she thinks as her head starts to nod.  Before she can act on this thought, the need for sleep slowly and gently pulls her head to the desktop.  As her head lightly rests on her desk, she falls fast asleep.
*******
Athos crawls wearily into his bed.  His body protesting at every movement.  Many creatures have been slain by his hand today and he has traveled far.  Only in a pitched battle was he able to forget the dream.  Now he is too tired to care what dreams may be waiting for him.
*******
Hern watches over his sister as she sleeps, thinking about the figure.  Who was he?  Who are the others?  How can they help this man?  As these questions run though his mind, he starts to fell the pull of sleep.  He ought to wake Picolo. No, not just yet, just a few more minutes.  He could last that long.  The minutes pass, but Hern makes no move to wake the cleric.  The sleeping pair drifts into dreaming.
*******
The dream slayer clasps his hands together gleefully.  Now the fun will begin, but first to torment his prisoner.  He will watch this and learn who is the greater.  He climbs the stairs to the top of the tower, where he has the dream walker chained.  After unlocking the door he strides confidently into the cell.  The dream walker looks up at the sound of the door being unlocked.  The slayer starts to pace in front of the walker as he speaks:

“The time has come.  Tonight I will show the world my power.  And there is nothing you can do about it.”

He stops pacing and laughs at the chained prisoner.  The dream walker hangs his head in defeat.

“You shall watch them suffer, trapped within mere dreams.”

With that the dream slayer calls upon the powers of the earth and bends it to his will.  He relishes the feeling of the raw power flowing into him.  Then he channels and directs that power at the dream walker and the five mortals

Chapter 5

The five mortals stare at each other in amazement.  They are standing in a large dark cave.  Chained to one wall is a dark figure and standing nearby is another.  Hern acks as he recognizes the chained figure.  Picolo looks at him quizzically. “We must help him,” commands Hern.

Needing no more encouragement Athos leaps forward, drawing his blades.  The figure standing by the prisoner looks shocked and starts to chant a spell.  Before the spell is complete the fighter’s blades bite into the chains holding the figure.  A loud cracking echoes through the cave as both blades shatter the chain holding the figure’s right hand and themselves.  Athos look at his bladeless hilts, dumbfounded.  The dream slayer finishes spell and Athos is thrown across the room into Wolfman.  As they tumble to the floor the dream slayer disappears.  “Look” whispers Dianora, awed.

The mortals look at the chained figure.  His right arm shines bright white, greatly contrasting the rest of his dark clothes.

The dream slayer works frantically to repair the chain.  In his hurry he forgets to wonder why the dream walker isn’t trying to stop him.

The dream walker feels the power flowing into him through his freed limb.  Even now his captor is repairing the broken chain and he knows he must hurry.  Using his re-found power the dream walker gestures at the mortals without a word.  There are gasps of surprise as items appear in each of their hands.

Athos looks at the deep dark blue-black blades.  The hilt is made of gold and bronze.  The hand guards have sleeping eyes engraved in them.  They feel light in his hands and powerful.  He feels ready to fight.

Like Athos’ blades, Wolfman’s daggers are engraved with sleeping eyes, but the blades are white with streaks of red.  After looking them over he hides them in his cloak.

Hern looks at the thin black gloves in his hands.  They look like he could just rip them to shreds.  On the back of them is embroidered in gold thread are sleeping eyes.  He shrugs as he takes off his iron gauntlets and puts them on.  They fit perfectly and are skintight.  He curls his right hand into a fist and slams it into his left palm.  He yelps in pain, it felt like a rock had hit it.  After recovering he experimentally punches the solid rock of the cave wall behind him.  As he pulls his fist away he sees he has left an imprint in the rock.  “Oh wow,” he thinks.

The mage looks at the folded black fabric in her hands.  Then as she shakes it out she realizes it is a robe.  She can feel the magic imbedded in the fabric.  Quickly she sheds her old robe and puts on the new one.  Dianora then notices the golden sleeping eyes embroidered on the cuffs.

Picolo holds a small rolled up scroll made of black paper.  As she scans the scroll she realizes that it is a spell.  She briefly studies it and then tucks it away in her pack.

The dream walker struggles to maintain a “proper” look of defeat as the slayer magically re-forges the broken chain.  But even his powers being drained by the chains cannot dampen his spirits.  Oh the shock the dream slayer will get when he tries to take their weapons.  He had done his part, now it was up to the mortals.

The five mortals turn to thank the chained figure, but are stunned silent.  The figure is gone and in his place stands his captor.  He speaks. “You can not escape and you will never find the one you seek.”

The figure disappears into the darkness, his laughter echoing in their ears.

Chapter 6

As the echoing laughter fades to silence the mortals look at each other, but before anyone can say anything creatures start to flow from the shadows.  By common consent the five form a small circle.  They stand back to back as they watch in or as the cave fills with monsters.

The creatures are black and shadowy.  Their forms seem to shift and change, making them hard to see.  They move silently and swiftly to surround their prey.

Each one prepares for the coming battle.  Athos and Wolfman on the balls of the feet, blades tightly gripped and ready to strike.  Hern standing firm, his hands balled into fists, ready to strike a powerful blow.  Dianora prepares her annihilate spell, slipping easily into the realm of magic.  Picolo steps back, leaving the others to form a square, and readies to heal the others.

The foul creatures move in on the small band.  As they move closer their shadowy forms start to change, becoming more solid and defined.

Dianora stifles a scream as she can make out what the creatures are.  Ice wizards!  She couldn’t take one, let alone this many.  Fear starts to course through her veins, like an icy stream, freezing her mind and body.  Burning courage melts through and she starts to unleash her annihilate spell at the closest wizard.  As she starts the spell she starts to falter, doubting her ability.  The mage feels the spell starting to slip from her mind.  Just then she glances at her sleeves, a movement catches her eyes.  The sleeping eyes are opening, revealing bright golden eyes.  They seem to star into Dianora, restoring her faith in her abilities.  Easily she completes the spell.  The spell rips though the wizard and he slumps to the ground dead.

To her left Wolfman is muttering to himself, “This can’t be there is only one. This can’t be real.” as he watches hordes of lightening deamons coming for him.  They are coming and they were going to rip him to shreds.  Wolfman contemplates running, fleeing.  No!  The others are counting on him.  Gathering his strength and courage he starts to leap at the nearest daemon, his daggers ready to strike.  Then he pauses, wondering if his daggers are going to just fade away.  Fear nibbles at him, was he going into to this battle just to be killed from being disarmed?  In disbelief he looks at his daggers, a change has occurred.  Two pairs of golden eyes are looking at him, encouraging him. With that courage he circles the nearest daemon and plunges his dagger into its back.  The daemon falls at his feet, dead.

Behind him, past Picolo, stands Hern.  He clenches and unclenches his fists as he nervously bounces on his feet.  A hundred pirates stand before him, ready to cave his skull in.  No problem, he thinks, I can handle these.  But then from their midst steps Al Kathazad.  Hern shudders as he remembers his dream.  Suddenly he feels weak, as if his strength was being drained away.  Even so the monk puts up his fists, ready to fight.  As he does he is surprised to see that his gloves have changed.  The eyes are now open.  They look strong and Hern takes strength from their gaze.  Al Kathazad advances, muttering a spell.  The monk smiles and dashes forward.  The blow lands solid right into Al Kathazad’s head, so hard it snaps his head back.  Hern hears a satisfying crunch and the pirate wizard is knocked to the ground, dead.

Athos, to Hern’s right, tightly grips his swords.  He struggles not to panic as the wild elves come for him.  Sweat starts to bead on his forehead.  He looks at his blades and they look almost transparent, as if they were fading away.  The fighter glances back and forth between his swords and the advancing elves.  After a couple of glances he stops looking at the elves, astonished by what is happening to his blades.  The engraved eyes are slowly opening.  As they open the blades seem to be more real, more solid.  The eyes seem to calm him and Athos nods, there is no need for panic.  Athos looks at the elves and yells a war cry.  As the cry echoes though the cave he whirls at the nearest elf, neatly and easily removing its head in one stroke.

The dream slayer rages as the mortals defeat his minions.  He curses the walker for giving them dream weapons, for no matter how great his power he can’t affect them.  Well if he can’t simply defeat them he’ll give them a battle that they won’t fight.

Chapter 7

A dense fog then fills the room.  Wondering what is happening now, the small band starts to move closer together.  Picolo moves from the inside of the circle, trying to see better.  The circle of warriors peer intently into the fog, slowly five figures fade into view.  The figures surround them and approach as if to do battle one on one.

Dianora carefully studies the on coming person and soon comes to recognize who it is.  A smile covers her face and she starts to call a greeting.  But the figure raises his hands in a threatening manner and Dianora recognizes a chant of an attack spell.  “Zarquon! It’s me, Dianora.  What are …” She starts.

Before she can finish her plea a blast spell slams into her.  She falls to the ground.  How can she fight him, she doesn’t want to hurt her friend.

Hern watches the figure that is approaching him.  It is small and moves silently.  Recognition fills his eyes and he calls out “Cynara!”

But instead of returning the greeting as expected the hobbit pulls out a sharp and deadly dagger.  Confused Hern fails to defend himself, as she leaps forward and slashes his chest.  Finally he pushes her off and falls into a defensive stance.  But can he take her with out hurting her.

Athos stands ready, studying his opponent.  As the figure fades into full view he almost drops his guard to greet the fellow warrior, but instinct keeps him ready.  “How do you come to be here, Lonewolf?”

The human makes no reply but draws his own swords.  A little bewildered Athos barely gets his guard up in time to parry the attack.  His blades flash, but always in defense.  He can’t bring himself to attack or hurt his friend.

Watchful of the figure in front of him, Wolfman stands ready for an attack.  When he recognizes the figure he almost drops his daggers.  Its Picolo, but how can that be, Picolo is standing behind him.  What trickery is this?  He hears her start to chant a spell.  “Picolo!!!” is all he gets out before he is caught in a paralysis spell.

Picolo quickly recognizes Mordock and wonders how he got here too.  She almost greets him, but she hears him chanting a spell.  Before he finishes she hears Wolfman yell her name.  A quick glance past him startles her it is herself.  Before Mordock finishes his spell, she casts a quick paralysis spell to stop him.  Then she remembers the scroll.

Picolo reaches into her pack and pulls out the scroll.  Quickly she scans it and prays to the gods that she doesn’t miscast it.  Slowly she chants the arcane words.  When she finishes the fog slowly dissipates and the small band is alone, their friends faded away with it.

“What was that spell?” asks Dianora

Picolo looks at the scroll, that is now crumbling, its power released.  “I think it was a spell of true sight.”

Dianora nods.

“You mean they weren’t real?” asks Athos.
“Yes, this is all a dream,” answers Hern.
“So how do you fight a dream?” asks Wolfman.
Hern looks at his gloves and lifts his hands “With these.”
“Now what?” asks Dianora.
“The only thing I can think of is to find the one who gave us out weapons.” answers Hern.

Then Hern tells them what he knows from the meeting on the spiritual plane.

The dream slayer watches as the spell destroy his illusions.  These warriors are proving to be more formable than he first thought.  No matter, they would not be able find the one they seek.  He would make sure of it.

Chapter 8

As the mortals watch in astonishment the cave fades away leaving a dense forest in its stead.  Far in the distance they can see a tall dark tower rising above the tallest of the trees.

It is obvious to them they are to make their way to the tower. Packs are shouldered and soon they are ready.  Athos and Hern leading with Wolfman acting as rear guard.

The path between the trees is narrow and winding.  The travelers have to be wary of roots across the way and low hanging branches. As they pick their way through the forest feeling of doubt assail them.  For though they have weapons to fight in this dream, how can you actually defeat a dream?  Their only chance seemed to be in finding the chained man who gave them the weapons.

After tripping and ducking, for seemingly for hours, they came upon a clearing.  On the far side of the clearing stand a wall with a gate.  In front of the gate is a knight dressed in black armour mounted on a black charger.  He sits tall and wields a long ebony lance, along with a black shield with no device.  In his belt is a sword; he looks ready for a joust.  Nearby is a white charger, a rack with lance and shield.  Almost without thought Athos leaps forward, heading to the horse and rack, certain at what needs to be done. “Wait” calls Hern.

“This is a personal combat test, and I accept it,” returns the fighter as he readies himself and mounts.

“Of all the fighter macho,” starts Picolo.
“No, he may be right,” says Wolfman.

Then there was no more time for conversation as the two horses started their charge.  The sound of pounding hooves fill the air, and then the sudden crash of metal on metal, both riders are thrown to the ground.  Athos gains his feet faster, not having to contend with the armour, but is quiet bruised and feeling it.  The black knight gains his feet and draws his sword. Athos starts to draw both swords, but honor makes him put one back.  Thus the dueling began.

Slash slash, parry, duck, and dodge. This knight was inhuman thought Athos, barely keeping up.  Closer came the cuts and narrower the misses.  Steadly falling back, giving ground, the fighter could see no weakness to exploit, no holes to drive into.  “This is not for honor but our lives,” yells Hern.

Realizing this to be true Athos draws the other sword.  Suddenly the tide is turns, his flashing blades inescapable.  With a slash he cuts though under the helmet of the knight – beheading him.  Or should of if he had a head, or a body to remove it from.  The empty armour clatters to the ground, no longer supported.

The dream slayer growls his displeasure; he had counted on the fighters’ measure of honor to keep him from using his advantage.  Well never mind, he would test the rogue next; see just how much he could be shaken up.

Cautiously the rest make their way out into the clearing, keeping all senses alert to danger.  As one they move past the pile of armour and head to the gate, their obvious path.  Once at the gate they see that it is closed, locked, and of heavy black steel.  A taunting voice enters Wolfmans’ head “You’re just a weak fighter, your rogue skills are useless. It’s just a simple lock, but it’s beyond your abilities.  The others know it too.”

For a moment he thought about telling the others about it, but the thought took more and more hold, becoming his own thought, so that he starts to believe it.  The others it seemed to him were just staring at him, expecting him to conjure the key out of a hidden pocket.  Well conjuring is the mages thing, let her figure this out.  Without realizing it he started to pull away from the group, as if to sneak away on his own, wrapped up in his thoughts and growing anger.

The others stood around the gate thinking how to get past this obstacle when Picolo noticed Wolfman’s movement. Without thinking she stepped toward him, reached for his arm and about asked what was wrong.  As she reached for him, he violently pulled away and pulled out his daggers, taking a fighting stance. “What’s the matter?” asks a confused Picolo.

Looking into her eyes, seeing the pain, bewilderment, and her friendship, shakes Wolfman out of his whirlwind of thoughts.  He slowly shakes his head the voice fading away. “I .. I’m sorry” he says, “Something was getting to me.”

“This place can do that I think.” She responds with an uncertain smile.
“I’m ok now. Let’s see what we can do about this lock.”

An idea (of his own) comes to him and the rogue goes and searches the armour, in it he finds the key.  With that they open the gate and head into a garden.  Wall high hedges define the edges of the garden.  All though it are little paths, one larger main path, and patches of various flowers.

Again the dream slayer finds himself foiled, but then he’d never knew a thing as friendship.  He had come closer that time to breaking up the group, for only together can they even come close to defeating him.  Maybe one of the females next, will prove worthwhile.

Quietly Wolfman explains what happened to him. “I wonder what our tormentor is trying to do,” says Hern.

With a shrug Athos starts down the main path. “We’ll figure that out sooner or later, I’m sure.”

Nodding Hern followed him, and the rest followed him.  Soon the path led into a hedge maze.  “Which way now?” asks Dianora.

Chapter 9

There are two paths, one to the right and the other to the right.  In the distance straight ahead towers the dark tower.  The hedge growing taller than they can see over, so no way to see which path would lead where.  Then a voice comes from the maze, from the left. “Help, I’m in pain. Help please, in the name of the gods I beg. Can anyone hear me?”

Hearing this, Picolo starts to call back.  But seeing this coming Wolfman puts a hand over her mouth. “It could be a trap. I think we should go the other way,” he whispers.

Picolo shakes her head “It may be someone like us, dragged here against our will.  My god requires me to check, even if it means us splitting up.”

Hern starts to shake his head, then stops, a small smile crossing his face.  The others start to ask what’s up.  Hern holds up his hand.  “Trust” he whispers, just so they can barely hear.

With his uplifted hand he pushes Picolo, then in a loud voice, “Oh fine you snotty cleric. Go off, but I bet you just find trouble.”

Picolo looks shocked at this and starts to retort, when Wolfman thinks he understands and responds instead “If you foolish monk can’t follow your god right, you should let a loyal cleric follow hers at least, I’ll go with her.”

Hern nods, barely hiding his smile, Wolfman understands.  “Fine then the rest of us shall go our own way, and get out of this mess.”

As they separate the dream slayer smiles, he has torn them apart.  Now they have no chance at all of escaping his world.

The pleas for help continued and Picolo and Wolfman followed them.  Round and round through twists and turns of the hedge maze.  They were beginning to think that the crier didn’t really exist, that it was just a voice to taunt them.  When they cam around a corner and there, chained to a large boulder with three vultures flying around him, he was.  He was a smallish man, with dirty blond hair, gray eyes, only patches of rags hanging on him for clothes, and several bleeding or used to be bleeding wounds.  They watched one of the vultures dived in and pecked at him, causing another wound.  He cried out again, and then passes out.  Knowing this must be stopped, dream or trap, the moved forward.  Picolo heads to the man, and Wolfman readies to fight the vultures.

The vultures seeing them coming, turns their attack to them.  Before the first reaches her, Picolo casts paralyze and stops it, then continues to the injured man.  Wolfman dodges his first attacker, slashing his blade into its side as it passes. It falls to the ground then disappears, more dream monsters.  He then changes to holding the blade of the dagger in his right hand, to throwing position.  As the last vulture circles he aims, throws, and hits it right in the chest.  Like the other it falls to the ground and disappears.  After it disappears Wolfman recovers his dagger and goes to the paralyzed one and dispatches it also.

While this was all going on, Picolo has been studying her patient.  His wounds are many, but don’t seem that deep.  She starts to cast her healing spells on him, when he awakes.  The movement causes her pause.  Then he speaks “No.”

Confused she asks “Why?”

“If you do, then you will not have power to defeat the one you must defeat.”
“How do you know?” asks Wolfman standing nearby.
“I have been trapped here for a long time, the dark one has imprisoned me, for I did not have the strength of mind to defeat him, and earn my freedom back to the waking world.  By now I am sure my body is dead and I am trapped here forever.  You may still have a chance, for you are together and still walking free.  But how is this, none have made it this far?”

Wolfman shows him his daggers, with the now sleeping eyes. “These have helped.”

Seeing the eye symbol brings a smile to the man’s tortured face.  “The walker still lives then, and broke free long enough to give you them.  There is hope then. You must …”

Before he could finish he disappeared, yanked away to some other torture by the dark one.  This one had remembered too much.

Baffled by his sudden disappears; the two Caspians quickly recover their wits and know that they must continue on to the tower, wondering how the others are doing.

Chapter 10

On the other side of the hedge maze continues Athos, Hern, and Dianora.  The maze just seems to go on and on, with no end.  “Are you sure we aren’t going in circles?” asks Athos feeling a little frustrated, to Hern who is leading.

“No, we aren’t its just a big maze,” answers Hern, as he heads off down another path, thinking as he went “I’m good leader.  How can they question that.  Haven’t I got them this far?”

“Stop,” commands Dianora
“Why?” asks Hern thinking, “Who does that mage thinks she is, commanding me.”
“Because I think Athos might be right”
“Oh really?  I suppose you’d like to lead then?” he answers thinking, “Sure let the silly female lead.  I know how to keep track, we aren’t going in circles.”
“Actually yes.”
“Well fine you do that,” says Hern then to himself “But darned if I’m going with you, getting more lost.”

With that Hern leans against a hedge wall, barely containing his anger at being questioned in his leadership.  As he does, the slayer laughs, he is getting under his skin now.

Dianora nods, wondering about the change in Hern, maybe what happened to Wolfman is now happening to him.  “Now what I propose we do is that we make marks at the divergent pathways.  So that if we do come back to the same spot we will know.”

“And how shall we do that?” asks Athos.
“With one of your swords, just cut a line in the grass.”

Athos nods in agreement “Shall we start here then?”
“Might as well.”

With that Athos draws a blade and cuts into the dirt, leaving a clearly seen mark.  Then as they watch the grass closes itself back up, erasing the mark.  The slayer isn’t going to make it that easy.

“What now high and mighty mage?” asks Hern, with a little bit of sneer.

With a whirl of robes Dianora turns to the monk.  “Just what are you thinking Hern?  Something about us doubting your leadership?  I am not attacking you, just trying to present another idea.”

Hern stands up startled.  “You reading my mind now?”
“No, just guessing, remember what happened to Wolfman.”
“Umm. Right.  Guess I was the sap this time, well no more,” shaking his head clear of the alien thoughts.
“Good, now lets figure out how to get out of this.”

The slayer knows he’s foiled again, but he’s getting better at messing with their thoughts.  He’ll get them yet.

Athos moves to feel the hedges. “Got something Athos?” asks Hern

“Maybe.  They feel kind of dry, like they’d burn.”
“What do you suggest?”
“A fireball.” Athos answers as he turns to Dianora
“Well can’t hurt to try,” she answers.

With that she gestures them out of the way, facing the hedge wall where she can see the dark tower behind it.  After they move behind her she calls the spell to mind “fzcker kirtz brtz” or was that “kirtz fzcker brtz”?  As she thinks about it the words seems to split up and go off into the darkness of her mind.  Then in her minds eye she can see a brick maze being formed. “Oh man!” she says out loud.

“What is it?” asks Athos.
“He’s in my mind now. I’m gonna have to sort though a mental maze to cast the spell, my personal trial I guess.”

Hern sighs and sits down and gestures for Athos to do the same. “You can do it, we must be on the right track if he’s messing with you.”

With a nod Dianora stands tall and closes her eyes, preparing for great concentration.  Using a little imagination she pictures herself standing before the brick maze the slayer has put into her mind.  Somewhere in there is the fireball spell. In front of her is the opening into the maze, calmly she steps into the maze, thinking about all that has happened.

Athos had to fight a knight, but break his honor to win.  Wolfman was over come with doubt at the gate, but friendship got him through.  Picolo had to go find the injured, for some reason Hern let her and Wolfman go.  Hern had to have some idea there, but what.  Hern too was attacked by doubt, but about leadership not his abilities.  So here perhaps she was to doubt her abilities, or go against her personal code to win.  Thinking about it, it was more likely to be the later, for she didn’t feel any doubt at all.  This mental maze, was to be a mental tests, for weren’t mages the intelligent ones.  So perhaps instead of brains, the way to win this was with brawn.  Deciding to give that a try first she balls her hand into a fist and slams it into the wall in front of her, preparing herself for some pain.

To her surprise and great relief her hand passed right though it and her momentum pulled her all the way through as well.  Looking around she was in a room with no door, but the words were standing there before her.  Before the slayer could change anything else, she read the words, opened her eyes and cast the fireball.

The bright flaming ball leapt out of her hands and flew forward, right thought the hedge wall, setting it aflame.  Looking through the hole Athos could see the tower, no more maze. “Let it burn away from the hole a bit and then we’ll go though,” says Hern as he gets up.

Chapter 11

Picolo and Wolfman look around; there is only the hedge maze, which dead ends here, and the boulder.  “Should we go back to the others?” asks Picolo.

Wolfman shakes his head. “I’ll explain later.” He says as he climbs onto the bolder.

Once on top he can see over the hedge, and the tower, which is a little to his right.  “I’m going to jump over the hedge, and I want you to follow, I’ll catch you on the other side.”

With that he gathers himself for the leaps and jumps, barely clearing the hedge.  “Come on, its not so bad.” He calls.

Picolo carefully climbs onto the boulder, not quite having the agility of the rogue.  Finally she makes it to the top and stands looking over the hedge.  It looks so far.  “You can do it.  I’m here,” encourages Wolfman.

Taking a breath, and reaching for courage, the cleric jumps.  She tumbles right into Wolfman, knocking him down.  “Guess I’m not as strong as I thought,” says the rogue with a grin as he climbs to his feet and helps Picolo up.

“Now we’re going to that tower and looking for a back door.”

With a short nod the cleric start to follow him around the end of the hedge, when suddenly a ball of fire bursts through it and then disappears. “Looks like the others are heading there too,” comments Wolfman.  “Don’t call to em, we’ll join up with em at the tower.”

Wondering how he knows this, but not daring to ask Picolo simply follows the rogue as he leads off to the left of the tower, rather than heading straight for it.
*******

As the fire moves away from the hole, leaving only a charred mess, Athos moves to the hole and uses one of his swords to clear away so of the debris.  Then he steps though, alert for any more tricks, but there is nothing.

Signaling the others to come through he keeps watch, for in this place anything can happen.  Once through they all dust the soot they picked up from there clothes and take a look at the tower. “Should we wait for Picolo and Wolfman?” asks Dianora.

“No, they won’t be following,” says Hern.
“How do you know?” asks Athos.
“Just trust me,” he answers. “Now on to that tower and make an end of this game.”

With that he starts to head across the clearing towards the dark and foreboding tower.  Athos looks at Dianora, shrugs, and follows.  Dianora takes one look back to the hedges and then hopes that Hern is right as she too heads to the tower.

Chapter 12

The dream slayer is nearly beside himself in rage.  These mortals who are they, that they do not fear him and that they challenge him.  He will teach them terror, himself, directly.  With that he leaves the chamber where the dream walker is chained high atop the tower and heads to meet theses mortal fools.
As he leaves he sees the dream walker smiling, in a fit of anger he smacks him, knocking him unconscious.

Slowly and watchful the trio head to the tower, something in their bones warning them of coming danger.  When they are about 20 feet or so from the door, it slams open and there stands the figure that blasted Athos across the room.  It is their tormentor.  As they watch darkness seems to flow from the tower, completely surrounding them.  “Stand your ground, its only a dream!” yells Hern.

“Only a dream?  Only a dream?  This is a nightmare, that will kill you all!” shouts the dream slayer.

Then the images came, floating in the darkness.  Dragons spewing flame, wizards throwing lighting, wild elves hacking and slashing, Siva and Kieron burning, the in habitant being slain and brutalized, earthquakes, flooding.  Their world being destroyed, there would be nothing to return to.  Suddenly the images stopped and out of the darkness came a giant black dragon.  His eyes blood red, his tail and wings spiked at the ends, his teeth long and sharp and his long gray tongue flickering in and out of his mouth.  “I shall devour you all.” It cried, and with that the battle began.

*******

Hearing the yelling and shouting, Wolfman almost left off his task and went to his comrades.  As it was he barely restrained Picolo. “No, we can not fight this thing, we must rescue the chained man while it is busy.”

Understanding, but not like leaving her brother and the others to fight alone, she unwilling follows him to the back of the tower. Once there they can see no door, but there is a window a ways up.  “I think I can climb there, in this rock.  See it is not smooth.  Wait here, perhaps I will find a rope to through down to you.”

With that the rogue slowly begins his accent.  Finding finger holds and toeholds as he can, pulling his body up foot by foot.  Several times the cleric caught her breath; sure he was going to fall.  Finally he reaches the window and hauls himself in.

The room is dark; the only light coming in is through the window.  Wolfman makes out a door in the far wall, a bookcase, a table, and a cage.  Peering into the cage the rogue sees the longest sleeping snake that he has ever seen.  Pondering for a bit he comes up with a plan.  He goes to the window and calls down to Picolo “I’ve found a rope, kinda.  When I toss it out cast paralyze.”

Carefully he opens the cage, striving not to wake the snake, else this would become too difficult.  Hoping Picolo didn’t fear snakes too much he threw it out the window, hanging on to the tail end.

It was all the cleric could do to stifle a scream when she saw this huge snake come flying out the window toward her.  She barely kept her mind to cast the paralyze spell.  The snake froze, hanging from the window – mouth and eyes wide open for it had awoke while in flight.  “Climb up, before it unfreezes.”

“You have got to be kidding!”
“No, it’s the only way.”
“I’ll, I’ll get you for this.”
“Fine worry about that later.”

And so she climbed the snake “rope” and found her in the room with Wolfman, just as the snake started to shake itself free of the spell.  Feeling the movement Wolfman let it go, having no wish to tangle with it, they’d find another way out later.

Chapter 13

Quietly Wolfman opens the door and peers out.  What he sees is a spiral staircase, running up and down, with a small landing right outside the door.  “My guess is up,” he whispers.

The cleric nods her agreement and so they leave the room and head up the stairs.  Round and round, up and up they go, until they reach the top of the stairs.  Before them is a door.  Always before the slayer had been careful to lock that door, to keep his prey locked all the more.  But in his anger he had forgotten when he left the room this time.

Cautiously Wolfman opened the door, wondering what might wait within.  Both his daggers ready to fight if need be.  The room is empty, save for the figure chained to the wall, so they have found him at last.  They both hurry into the room.  The question how to free him, on their minds.

First they examined the chains, there were not locks to be picked.  “Perhaps Athos had the right idea in the first place,” suggested Picolo.

“You mean hacking at them with my blades?”
“Well yeah.”

With that Wolfman lays into the chain on the right hand.  This is slower going than for Athos, for the rogue only has daggers not heavy swords and Athos is much stronger than the he anyway. But slowly they start to chip into and crack.  Then suddenly he hits where the slayer had hurriedly repaired it, and done a faulty job of it, the links of the chain spring apart, freeing the one arm, which suddenly turns bright white.

Gradually the dream walker awakes, feeling power flowing into him through his right arm and a shaking motion on the other still capture arm.  Looking up he smiles, at the rogue and cleric, the former stopping at his hacking at the movement.  “Thank you my friends.”

“Who are you?” asks Picolo.
“All will be explained. Here this might work better.”

With a wave of his hands an axe appears leaning against the wall.  Wolfman quickly sheaths his daggers and grabs the axe.  “Careful now.” calls the dream walker.

Wolfman only nods and swings the axe, and abruptly the walker finds himself free.  The transformation in him is great.  He is all white now, almost shining.  “Ah the power returns,” he says

Chapter 14

Outside Hern, Dianora, and Athos are running, fighting, dodging, and casting for their lives.  The dragon breaths flames at them, flaps up into the air and dives at them, and slashes it’s tail at them.  But where can they go, all around them is darkness.

Then without warning the dragon and the darkness disappear.  The slayer had felt the shift in power.  That his enemy had some how had gotten free of his bonds.  In anger and a little fear, he returns to the cell.

*******

“Step back now, he’s coming,” says the shining figure.

Trusting his words they step back from the center of the room.  Unexpectedly the slayer is in their midst.  “So you have freed yourself, well no matter I imprisoned you once, I can do it again.”

With that he moves towards the walker. “Not this time, I am on my guard, I know your desires all to well now.”

They grappled together, their magic unable to touch one other.  Wolfman seeing that he could do no good in this matter, gets himself and Picolo out of the room.  Once out of the room he points down, better to be outside if this battle does not go well for the man they freed.

As they make their way down the steps they can hear the crashing and thumps of bodies hitting walls, the floor and each other.  Soon they are outside, where they meet up with Hern and the others.  “Well?” Hern asks.

Quickly Wolfman tells of what happened after they separated.  “Well here’s hoping the good guy wins,” says Athos.

The other nod their agreement and look up to the window at the top of the tower, wondering what their fate would be.

They did not have to wait long, for with out notice the shining figure appears in the door to the tower. “Ah my rescuers, how can I thank you?”

“Well you could start by telling us what this is all about.” Says Hern.
“Ah yes. You see I am the Dream Walker. I am an immortal, who walks in dreams.  The foe you fought today is the Dream Slayer, though he was not always so.  He used to be one who walked in nightmares.  But one night as he did so he found a mortal who truly believed in dreams, that they were real.  This intrigued the slayer, who invoked terror in the mortal.  The terror was too much for the mortal and he died.  Startled the slayer stopped to consider this, this power over mortals that he had.  He learned to enjoy causing terror, anger, pain, and even death mortal, where he could find mortals that truly believed in dreams.  I found out about this and set out to stop him, thinking that I could just talk him out of it.  But I was a fool and stepped into his trap.  Our powers come from the earth itself, and he had formed a chain that could block that flow of power.  With them he captured me, making me helpless.  From one land to the next he went, seeking whom he might terrorize.  When he got to your land he had decided that he would chose only the strongest and best of the land, if he conquered them (as he expected to be easy as he had had no real fights), then he would conquer the rest of the land.  You proved more formidable than he.  Now I shall send you back to the waking land, but with gifts of my appreciation.”

Then everything seemed to start to fade away. “What gifts?” asks Dianora

“You’ll see,” came the fading echoing voice.

Chapter 15

With a start Picolo sits up, in her own living room, staring at Hern whom had also sat up.  “Did that really happen?” she asks.

With a shrug Hern stands up and looks around.  There on a table a glitter catches his eye.  He moves to the table and picks up two small objects. “What is it?” asks Picolo

He turns to show her two small pins of gold, one of a pair of gloves, the other of a scroll.  “It wasn’t just a dream,” he whispers.
 
*******

Wolfman awakes with a pounding headache on the floor of rogue hall, still cloaked.  With a groan he turns over, a newbie rogue hearing the sound but not seeing the cause scampers out of there like a ghost was on his tail.  As he stands he pats himself down, making sure nothing is broken or missing from his pockets.  Nothing is missing, but in a pocket where there should be nothing there was something.  Reaching into it the rogue pulls out a small gold pin, it is an image of a pair of daggers.  The dream then wasn’t just a dream.

*******

Dianora awakes as the morning sunlight comes in through the window, where she saw the moon the night before.  Remembering the dream she sits up and looks around, wondering if all that had really happened.  There on the desk, next to her book is a small pin.  She carefully picks it up and looks at it, it looks like a small replica of some mage robes.  The gift from the dream walker.

*******

Athos awakes with a start, but then remembers the dream.  Or had it been more than a dream.  Looking around the sunlight from the window causes something on his nightstand to glitter, reaching for it he sees it is a pin, one representing to crossed swords.  The dream walker was real then.

The End