As they entered the cool interior of the temple proper where the Healing Pool was housed Dannia rapidly began shedding her clothes and when that was done began removing the clothes of the young woman that lay in increasing agony in Father Peter’s arms.
“Hang on girl, hang on we’re nearly there.” Dannia implored the girl.
“The pain is so much, but I won’t do it I won’t kill you, they can’t make me do it. Oh but they are cutting me. So much pain so much pain.” She managed to scream before dropping into incoherence once again.
As they approached the pool Dannia was pleased to see that Peer had followed Dannia’s lead and was totally naked and had even taken the woman in his arms so the Holy Father could divest himself of his clothes.
The young woman only wore a blood soaked pair of knickers as they reached the edge of the pool. Dannia didn’t stop there but instead dived without any hesitation into its cold waters and swam to its centre where she regained her feet and stood up with the water lapping around her breasts while the two men carefully brought the now naked young woman down the steps and into pool.
“What are you going to try to do Peer my friend?” Dannia asked as they approached her.
“If I can get Father Peter into her mind he should be able to heal her. These pools are excellent for healing physical ills but are no good without mental contact in dealing with issues of the mind and very few clergy have the power to do that.” Peer explained as they lowered the girl into the water. As she knelt there in a growing pool of blood Peer touched her temple then with his other hand Father Paul’s who touched Peer’s in turn. The little man seemed to Dannia have become a live bridge between the victim and the healer. His head shot back and his back arched as a look of sheer pain and terror crossed his face.
“I have contact, now quickly Father cross over and heal her!” He panted.
Agony lanced through the priests body causing him to scream out loud.
“There are creatures in the way I can’t get to her. She’s stopping me herself somehow.” A bloody mark appeared on the man’s face as he grimaced in pain. “I can not heal her and fight these monsters at the same time it’s plainly impossible.”
Dannia quickly made her mind up.
“Child, can you hear me child.” The girl nodded and cried out as a fresh white scar opened up on her body. “I’m coming to free you, now do you trust me?”
“Yes my Lady with all my heart I do, but hurry, I can’t take the pain much longer.”
Nervously Dannia placed her hand against the girls temple and her other hand against Peers and all of a sudden she was no longer in the pool but standing perfectly dry but naked in a long dimly lit corridor. She could hear the girl’s screams and cackling laughter from somewhere in front of her. She took a few running steps along the hall before realising her predicament, being naked and weapon less was not a situation Dannia felt comfortable with but thankfully as she thought this her leather armour started from the feet up to recreate itself and in her hands appeared her trusty gem knives. By sheer force of will she managed to lengthen the blades until she had two blue flickering swords in her hands. Satisfied she began to run smoothly down the corridor but within moments she realised that she wasn’t getting anywhere, the corridor was totally featureless in either direction. She stopped and called out in her mind to the girl.
“I need your help child. Guide me to you and I will free you I promise.” She suddenly became aware of the girls name and of the horrors she had suffered in her so short life and it brought tears to her eyes.
A globe of light appeared in the air like some marsh Will-o-the-wisp and danced there before her eyes.
“Follow.” The girl screamed and in that moment the walls of the corridor changed in a rippling effect to those of the school. It was suddenly clear to Dannia where the girl, Michelle du Loc, was being held and tortured, the processing room.
She didn’t even question how suddenly knew the girls name she just accepted it as she pounded down the corridor and up the stairs after the rapidly moving light.
Up and up they went until they reached a large pair of double doors which she recognised instantly. Steeling herself she carefully pushed them open to reveal the room where they had fought the assassins earlier and there halfway across the room fighting a rearguard action was Father Peter with just a metal shod quarterstaff as a weapon. His enemies were two huge representations of the grim reaper that swung their glittering scythes in an attempt to break through his defence.
Dannia broke into a run straight at these frightening figures, her speed increasing alarmingly over the short distance. As one of the figures swept round its scythe at the clerics waist Dannia converted all that speed into an agile leap onto the creatures forearm driving the weapon into the ground before somersaulting over its head with a full twist. As she came down from the apex of her flight she reversed the weapons in her hands and drove them downward each side of the creatures back allowing her impetus to cut out its spine. As it flopped to the floor she was running back up its back to sever its head from its neck with one blow and use it to spring board an attack at the other. The second figure blocked her flashing form with its scythe handle and set her flying through the air to land on the balls of her feet several foot away.
The young girl was hung from two posts in a cross shape facing toward her, her eyes pleading through the pain, behind her the shades of the headmistress and the matron cut her with a cane and a whip cackling with laughter while the blood they spilt dripping on the floor their every blow bringing a fresh scream of pain from the child. But worse still was the blood splattered white clad hooded figure that was cutting away the girls inner labia and clitoris until it hung by a single thread of tissue, ready to drop on to the death card that lay beneath. Dannia knew that if the figure succeeded the girl was lost and shrinking one of the swords into a knife once again she threw it with all her might and skill straight into the figure’s ear. It staggered and started to lift its clawed hand to draw it out of its skull.
“Sword!!!” Dannia yelled pointing at the weapon before watching in shocked satisfaction as it grew rapidly to its previous size exploding the creature’s skull.
She ran forward and pulled it straight out of the top of the creature’s ruined cranium and flicked the blood and grey matter from its surface before turning to face the final monster.
It swung its scythe once more but was stopped in its tracks by a blast of electrical energy surging out of Dannia’s crossed blades. Its cloak was alight but it paid it no heed as it swept forward once more to be blocked by the little Halflings blade. A glimpse behind told her that the headmistress and matron were trying to finish the job the white clad figure had begun, sawing at the girls privates with blunted knives.
Dannia backed up toward where the girl was tied as she blocked blow after blow from the smouldering skeletal figure before her. She had slammed the hilts of the two swords together at one hundred and eighty degrees to each other merging them together to form a double bladed affair which she spun at phenomenal speed blocking and cutting in almost the same motion. But for all that she was driven to her knees as the women worked on the girl behind her. The scythe swung with deadly accuracy toward Dannia’s head only to find she had vanished upward in a spinning athletic leap, but the weapon found flesh as it sliced easily through the Matron and Headmistress literally cutting them in half.
Dannia’s action had brought her level with the grim reaper’s head and neck where the blades of the hybrid sword in her hand cut it to ribbons as she twisted round. It screamed a strange high pitched squeal as Dannia pressed her advantage slicing off both hands with her newly separated swords. The blades flashed in the eerie light as the creatures body was eviscerated to such an extent that with a high pitched scream it turned to smoke and blew away.
Dannia twisted round and nearly decapitated Father Paul as he tried to replace the girls flesh and reconnect it to her body.
“Dannia she’s almost give up, you’ve got to fight her own fears, look.” The holy man pointed at two shambling almost amorphous shapes coming out of the gloom that had settled on the room.
As she ran forward to meet this new set of foes she could hear Peer telling her that this was one fight she couldn’t win by force of arms and that a new tactic was called for.
She stopped before the shapes unarmed and naked once again.
“Alison I know you can hear me, I am naked and defenceless before you. If you wanted to take my life I could not stop you, I wouldn’t have the time, remember if you kill me here I will die outside in the real world.” Dannia was playing for high stakes and she was absolutely terrified it would go wrong. “Or you could let me live and help me find the other girls who were abused like you and ultimately ‘Nocturne’ the one behind all this fear and torture.”
One of the creatures developed a pouting mouth and spoke in a pained whisper.
“If I kill you the pain will stop.” It said in the girl’s voice. “I only feel pain because I resist and I shall resist no more. The pain is too much.”
“But if we kill you we will live with that guilt for ever more, a pain in my heart that will tear me apart as surely as the agonies rend my nerves.” The other said through its down turned sad mouth.
“I am not worthy enough to live; twice over I have tried to kill you. I know you now and know how you tried to help me but all I have done is betrayed you.” The first one said in horror.
“I was too weak and could not ignore the message, even now I struggle. Kill me Lady Dannia assassin and my saviour. Take my life and let me feel peace.” Said the other in a pained voice a lumpy sad face growing out of its blank head to stare at her forlornly.
“Hear me Alison, my brave girl. You did not fail you succeeded, you did not complete the trap because in your heart you knew it was wrong and in your mind you have fought so bravely against the compulsion.” Dannia knew she had to get through to the girl or they would die from the psychic backlash of the girl’s death or even worse be locked inside her insane mind. “That is not an act of a coward but the act of a heroine, brave and true. They could not break you then don’t let them break you now. Let Father Peter heal you child and let me guide you home.”
“Will the pain be gone, will my mind be clear?” They asked together.
Dannia stole a glance at the priest who nodded his face full of strain his hands soaked in blood.
“Yes my child, trust me, you will finally be whole in mind, body and spirit.” Dannia said earnestly.
The shapes merged to become a replica of Alison draped in a gossamer white robe.
“I’m frightened.” She said walking forward toward Dannia with her arms out for solace shrinking down and regressing till she was an eleven year old girl the size of a Halfling child. Dannia took her into her arms and rocked her gently speaking in a comforting low voice.
“It’s alright it’s over now, they’ve all gone away never to return. They can’t hurt you now. Your free of them Alison but there are others like you who need our help. Will you let the Father Peter heal you and will you help me find the others who suffer so.” The little girl looked up at her and with tearful eyes nodded. “Thank you now go to the priest he needs your help.”
The girl got up and turned to the image of her still tortured self and flinched.
“It’s alright he won’t hurt you, go on run to him.” Dannia urged.
The child did just that but as she ran she returned to her former self such that when she wrapped her arms around the man’s neck she was the correct size and age. She listened to what he said peering at her privates that still dangled down and then up at her own face in agony. She got to her feet and slowly almost reluctantly walked around behind herself.
“You promise me the pain will end?” She asked them her eyes moist her lower lip quivering with fear.
“We promise.” Dannia and the priest replied simultaneously.
The girl nodded and merged with the figure hanging between the posts with a cry of pain that died away as soon as it had left her lips.
Father Peter carefully returned the excised flesh to its rightful position and ran his finger over the join healing and combining the flesh together to become what it had been. The girl writhed in what appeared to be pleasure as the ropes and poles faded away. With a final grunt of joy an intact young woman stood before her and the Holy Father was no where to be seen. Alison’s hair was piled up in a fashionable Greek style and subtle make up was applied to the face as a silk Grecian robe draped itself over her form giving her an ethereal goddess like look.
“I know you my Lady Dannia Darkhorn. I know what you are, assassin.” Her voice was as calm as her face. “You killed them for me but you didn’t know that they had already struck at you. Your daughter was murdered by them, the girls who killed her walked away not knowing what they had done, it was done to weaken you just encase you became involved.” The girl paused puzzled how she knew all this her head cocked slightly to one side as if listening. “They fear you now and want you dead so be careful my lady. Now you must go I’ve erected a portal for you but you must go quickly.”
Battered and confused Dannia turned to see a shimmering portal to the real world sitting in an angelic frame like a mirror, a mirror to the soul perhaps. Wearily she staggered through and disappeared from sight leaving Michelle alone for a moment before a nun with silvery shimmering skin appeared beside her and smiled warmly.
“That was what you wanted me to tell her Holy One?” The girl asked with a puzzled frown.
The figure smiled and with long delicate fingers smoothed away the frown.
“Yes my child though you will not remember it when you awake you have done both I and the world a service we can never repay.” With that she faded away.
The girl looked around at the beautiful garden that now surrounded her before fading away too.
Outside in the real world the situation couldn’t be any more different.
The four of them knelt in a bone dry pool, the girl youthful, her skin unmarked and clear, whereas Father Peter and Peer were haggard, exhausted, with the desiccated skin of old men stretched over prominent bones. Dannia looked worse of all her eyes sunken in her emaciated skull her hands arthritic claws her once pert breast just empty sacks laying on her prominent rib cage.
A young woman entered followed rapidly by a worried Simieon and Helena but all three stopped in shock as they took in the horrific tableau.
“Dannia?” Simieon asked in obvious disbelief.
“Now you know what I’ll look like when I’m old do you still want me?” She joked back but her voice was tremulous and hoarse from fatigue and apparent old age.
“I don’t care what you’d look like I’d still love you. I do still love you.” He said sincerely. “But what happened?”
“No time to explain.” She stared at the girl that entered with them. “Monique isn’t it? If there is any of that soup left bring it here as much as you can lay your hands on?” She turned to the other two. “Father Peter must rest and be kept warm there are some drying robes in the cupboard behind you use them.” Peer and Dania were barely able to hold up the unconscious girl they were that fatigued. “Take first the girl and Father Peter then come back for us as I don’t think we’ve got the energy to get up the stairs on our own.”
Helena thudded down the stairs and lifted up a weakly protesting Father Peter as if he were a rag doll so little did he weigh and carried him to a low massage table where she covered him up with a towelling robe. Simieon gently took the girl in his arms and carried her to another massage table where she lay in peaceful sleep.
The problem was where to put the other two who had slumped against the pool walls as there was no further furniture in the room. Simieon dashed out into the priest’s private quarters with Helena in tow to return moments later with two padded chairs.
Soon both Dannia and Peer were propped up in them drinking hot soup the kitchen girls had brought with them and wrapped up in warm robes. Dannia sat huddled up to Simieon sipping from the cup he held to her lips like some old senile toothless granny and she hated it. Oh how she hated it.
Dannia didn’t know how she would regain her youth and vigour but somehow she would and then she would find out about her daughter’s death, she would find out the truth, find out who was responsible and then kill them. She did not know why she felt this way or why she was so sure now that she was murdered but revenge burned deep in her withered heart, a flame that would never truly be extinguished.