Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Chapter 30

Jaden watched the dream lord warily, not knowing what to expect. He was more conscious now of their audience again, hovering in the air above and around them, and the forest seemed to slip away until it was just the two of them on a small, grassy patch of earth, facing each other.

It didn't look as though the dream lord was carrying any weapon, other than the scepter. Jaden figured that probably meant he had more to be afraid, rather than less. He continued to crouch slightly, trying to stay at the ready for whatever happened.

But he wasn't ready enough. The scepter flicked through the air like a wand, with a mere twitch from the wrist, and Jaden felt a searing pain slash across one cheek from something invisible. Another twitch of the scepter and this time Jaden swung his halberd across in front of him. Something metallic clanged off of it and cut his arm.

Not knowing what else to do now, Jaden threw himself at the dream lord slashing and jabbing wildly with his halberd. His opponent scarcely seemed to notice, but somehow the scepter appeared everywhere that Jaden struck, just a split second before, and in time to block every blow. Then it flicked out on its own and Jaden fell backwards with the wind knocked out of him.

He remembered the fights with the demons in the forest, and he tried to call to mind the dance hall, and the music, and Zoe. Gradually the secondary scene formed around him. There was a tango playing, with sharp, violent music. Why did it have to be tango? Zoe was in his arms again. He tried frantically to remember any tango at all, hoping to at least reconstruct the eight count basic in his mind. He took a step.

But then the dream lord was there in that world with him as well. He grabbed Zoe roughly, tore her from Jaden's arms, and threw her aside. Jaden saw her flicker and then fade away, and then he too was knocked to the ground. The dream lord ripped the music from his ears, and cast the dance hall into darkness. They were back again on the grassy arena. Clearly Jaden had no choice but to face his foe on his own terms.

He rolled over onto his back, and started to bring his weapon up in front of him, but then found the shaft of the halberd pinned to his chest. The dream lord had caught it with his scepter, and was knelt over him, pressing him down into the grass with his weight. Jaden couldn't move, could barely breathe.

And then the dream lord seemed to be inside his mind, twisting it and contorting it against his will. As Jaden had previously created a new dream of his own devising to overlay the battles, so now was the dream lord pulling him into another world. Jaden could still see and feel himself pinned to the ground, but now he was also present in a secondary reality.

He was in a torture chamber, strapped to a rack, his body covered with bruises and welts and bleeding gashes. The dream lord stood over him, brandishing a whip and laughing maliciously.

"So you think you can beat me at my own game, do you?" he sneered at Jaden. "Never! I will be the master of your dreams, and while you are in my realm, I will determine your reality."

And even as he spoke, Jaden could feel the original scene slipping away, and the torture scene becoming stronger, and more real around him. He tried to force his mind back to somewhere else, to pull a different reality back around himself, but the pain made it hard to concentrate.

"Pitiful!" the dream lord shouted at him. "Give it up! You have no hope here. You will merely die slowly, and dying here means that you will be completely and utterly destroyed."

He reached for the crank to give the rack another twist, but then froze. The world around them seemed to be shaking, or quivering. Then the torture chamber began to fade. Jaden felt barely strong enough to notice at this point, much less cause it, but who else could be imposing their will on this place? He began to feel grass beneath him again, and the pressure of the dream lord leaning on him from above, pressing the halberd shaft into his chest. One by one, pieces of the torture chamber winked out of existence.

Then the sky seemed to split and open above them.


At 7:52 PM, Blogger R. Brady Frost said...

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