Druid's Tale

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Chapter Five The Wall of Fear

Everywhere Serin looked was total destruction. The few remaining walls were nothing more than a jumble of bricks with whole sections punched out making them look like a rotten teeth. She could see her own clothes snagged on the rocks and their bags in a heap on the floor. The sky was an autumnal blue with white puffy clouds being chased across the sky in the fresh wind.

“What are you talking about child?” Tesler rebuked her. “The inn is perfectly intact and if we don’t rush we’ll get soaked. If this is a joke young lady it is in very poor taste.”

“What’s wrong Serin darling?” Horren asked very concerned for her wide eyed lover.

“What is wrong with you?! The sky is a clear blue and its cold, look you can see my breath.” Serin yelled at them clearly very agitated and Horren’s next words didn’t help.

“You’re just tired darling it’s probably the smoke on the water that’s distorting your view.”

“Don’t you dare patronise me!” Serin snapped back. “I can see it’s a ruin why can’t you?”

Little Hanna stepped forward and looked at the intact in first with one eye covered by her hand and then the other.

“I can’t detect any obvious illusion so it must be some sort of induced delusion.” She concluded.

“What do you mean? Surely you don’t think someone has tampered with my mind?” Serin was sceptical.

“Yes more than likely either that or they have tampered with all of ours.” Hanna stared deep into Serin’s eyes and passed a hand over the bending girl’s forehead before grunting to herself with satisfaction. “Is it still a ruin Serin?”

“Off course it is, look dam you!” She spluttered to a stop before continuing quietly. “How’s that possible? It was ruins a moment ago?”

“You’re sharing my perceptions at the moment. I thought it was better that you should see what we see for the moment. We’ll investigate further once we’re inside, is that alright?”

Serin didn’t look convinced but nodded just the same.

Horren took her hand as they followed the others as large spots of rain began to fall.

“It’s going to be alright darling you see.” She kissed her cheek gently and put her arm around her shoulders. “You’ve nothing to fear.”

“Nothing to fear she say’s. I’m about to be led into a building that was a ruin a moment ago and she tells me that I’ve nothing to fear.” Serin whispered.

Just as they entered the hallway of the inn the storm broke lashing the building with driving rain and shaking the glass in their frames with each thunderclap.

“We’ll have something to eat then we will investigate that farm where the mother disappeared from a locked room and have a word with the owner if we can find him.” Tesler decided as she led them through to the day lounge, not that Serin was listening.

She was staring intently at the walls almost as if she was daring them to disappear.

“I know all this was a ruin so how can it be here now totally intact? It doesn’t make sense?” She muttered.

A thin reedy voice behind her made her jump.

“Ah you have experienced the thermological flux field interacting with the natural magic of the rift to produce a temporal perception shift.” The boggle eyed strange man they had seen at dinner was standing just behind her. “It what drew me here?”

The man’s eyes swivelled independently of each other for a moment before settling on Serin’s startled face. “We are on a natural rift of magical energy which has the ability to warp time itself creating temporal ghosts. This leads me to wonder if you are real at all or just a phantom from the distant past.”

He shuffled off back into the gloom of the building but Serin had on time to recover as another voice made her jump.

“I shouldn’t lean on that wall if I were you it could kill you. Will you be wanting lunch. That’s the fear wall that is been here for years. We’ve got some lovely trout or there’s mothers beef and ale pie.” Gwen chattered at her usual ten to the dozen style.

“What did you say about the wall?” Lorren asked.

“It’s the wall of fear. Touch it and it’s your worse nightmare. We’ve some nice Hock if you want it or you could even have small beer.” The girl chattered on. “There be a rhubarb crumble as pudding if you want it. Some people went in there and never came back Ma and me sold their stuff to make ends meet. So what will it be?”

Tesler shook her head as if clearing out some nuisance of a buzzing insect.

“What? Oh yes we will all have the fish, rhubarb and Hock to drink. Now, about this wall?” She didn’t get any further as the girl high tailed it back to the kitchen as if the devil himself was after her.

“Well I’ll be.” Tesler would have said more if it wasn’t for the movement she saw out of the corner of her eye. “Lorren no! Don’t touch it!”

It was too late she had vanished.

“Hanna, get her back!” Horren yelled reaching for the wall.

“Don’t touch it child.” Tesler warned. “Losing one of you is bad enough without risking a second. Hanna any luck?”

“No.” Sweat ran down the little woman’s face. “The wall is some sort of portal but I can’t get a sense of it because it’s continuously shifting.”

“Horren, Serin extend your senses. I want to know if this is the cause of the wrongness.” Tesler commanded.

Horren shut her eyes and pushed out her mind into the rocks and bricks of the inn, in to its very essence but the wall defied any contact feeling icy cold to her questing thoughts.

“It’s no good Sister it’s far too alien; it’s unlike anything I’ve ever come across.” Horren reported her teeth chattering.

Just as Horren had decided to follow her sister no matter what Tesler would say Lorren reappeared.

Lorren’s white face had a sickly cast to it and her eyes were haunted. She was half crouching with her arms up in front of her head as if warding off a blow.

But as she reached across to comfort her Lorren turned toward her and let of a angry tirade.

“Get away from me! Don’t you touch me?!” Her lip curled up bearing her teeth. “It’s your entire fault; it’s all your fault, it would never have happened if it wasn’t for you.”

Before Horren could react Lorren had walked away out into the hall.

“Leave her!” Tesler advised. “Whatever was in there has given her quite a shock it’s best if we give her space to recover herself.”

“I will not leave her she’s my little sister and she needs me.” Horren barked before turning and vanishing into the gloom. She didn’t have to go far to find her she was just down the hall staring out of the window at the raging storm.

“I told you to go away.” Her voice was cold but lower, more controlled.

“No! You are my little sister and whether you like it or not I care for you!” Horren took Lorren’s chin and turned the pale face to face her before continuing in a gentler more conciliatory manner. “What happened in there, what did you see that frightened you so? I can’t help you otherwise.”

“Leave it alone can’t you, there’s no way you can help me.” Lorren replied.

“No I can’t if you keep shutting me out.” Horren hugged her tall sister. “Let me in. Just let me in for awhile? I do love you.”

Lorren stiffened and slowly unwrapped Horren’s embrace.

“You want to know what I saw? Little monsters, thousands upon thousands of them, all with the same two faces all calling for me.” Lorren drew back and kissed her. “I know you love me and I love you but it is hard to forget and even harder to forgive.” Lorren collected herself. “Please leave it at that.”

“But…”

“Please?”

“Very well.” Horren was furious at those who had hurt her sister so and tinged with guilt she stomped back into the room and up to the wall, cursing herself for not being able to get Lorren to lower her guard.

“Is she alright?” Serin asked.

“No but when is she ever!” She snorted and before anyone could stop her she touched the wall and vanished.

“Come on you cowards and come out and face me. I will destroy you for hurting my sister so.” Horren yelled as she completed the transit. But where she reappeared shook her for all the wrong reasons. She expected to find herself in some sort of infernal pit not on a bucolic mountainside beside a magnificent waterfall. The trees wafted in a slight summer breeze as Skylarks rose and fell singing loudly from a clear blue sky.

“What on earth could have frightened her here it’s beautiful.” She muttered admiring the rainbows created by the waterfalls spray catching the summer sunshine.

“Horren help!” Serin screamed from further down the mountain.

“Oh holy Earth Mother the stupid girl has followed me.” Horren cried. “I’m coming darling just hang on!”

Horren fled down the screed with the agility of a gazelle leaping over tree roots that would have tripped a lesser mortal and dodging briars out to lacerate her skin. Eventually she thundered into a small clearing but what she saw pulled her up short.

Serin was naked lying on a bed of leaves on top of a low sacrificial slab surrounded by equally naked men. Like beasts the men let out feral screams as they descended on Serin hiding her from view and began raping her in any orifice they could find.

Horren roared in anger her body transmuting into her totem beast, a massive Great Brown Bear.

The creature lumbered forth smashing the men aside crushing skulls and breaking limbs in its desire to get to the young woman underneath. Two men flew across the glade to hit the trees with bone shattering impacts to reveal… an empty stone. Serin had gone. But not only that but so had all the victims of her headlong rush.

She reverted to her own form with a puzzled expression on her face just in time to hear Serin’s cry back up at the waterfall.

Horren ran once more like the wind but as she cleared the woodlands she was too late as she saw two men swinging a gibbet with Serin’s twitching, choking form out over the waterfall.

She twisted away from the sight to see her lover being burned at the stake a mere few feet from her. Everywhere she turned her head there was an image of Serin dying in mortal agony. Horren shut her eyes tight and slamming her hands over her ears and let out a howling scream.

Then she heard Serin’s giggle, a sound that she loved so much, and turned to it’s source to find her lover naked servicing a man most intimately. Horren screamed again for everywhere amongst the images of Serin dying were others of her lover enjoying congress with men.

Eyes tightly shut and her hands once again slammed over her ears she stepped backward straight into Serin’s arms outside in the corridor. The ordeal was over she was back with the others in the dingy room.

“Shh you’re safe, you’re safe with me.” Serin said rocking her like she would a frightened child from the school.

“You foolish child what were you hoping to achieve with this foolishness.” Tesler chided before saying more softly. “You poor child but you’re safe with us now even your sister is here for you.”

Horren turned her head to face Lorren.

“I tried to destroy what had frightened you but it terrorised me with own fears.” If she was expecting any comfort and understanding she was sorely mistaken.

“You couldn’t leave well alone could you? You had to interfere, you had to try and protect me!” Lorren’s voice was rising as was strangely a breeze around them. “How many times must I tell you? I don’t need protecting! I don’t fear death I welcome it for what I have done!!”

Lorren, her face the image of hate and self loathing, turned and rapidly disappeared into the interior of the inn.

The others stood stunned for a moment before looking at Tesler for guidance.

“We are all weary from what we have seen and endured. We have an hour before our meal will be ready I suggest we use it to get some rest.”

The others agreed following the Clergy woman back to their rooms at little more soberly than before.

Lorren waited outside her room looking far calmer than earlier. She caught Horren’s eye.

“I love you sister but you must let me deal with this in my own way.” Her white face made her look sad and forlorn.

“I know and I will try, but it’s hard for me too.” Horren promised tearfully. “I love you too.”

They kissed and entered their separate rooms to rest.

“Are you alright my Horren?” Serin asked unable to hide the concern in her voice.

“No but we have an hour for us to drive those thoughts from my mind. Everywhere I looked I saw you dying, being tortured and hung.” Horren paused but Serin didn’t react. “Prove to me that you’re real and that you love me?”

Serin understood and began kissing and stripping her partner. Soon both were nude and intertwined.

Breathing heavily Horren kissed Serin’s neck, the back of her hand gently brushing her lover’s pert nipple as it dropped lower on to her muscular stomach. Their tongues wrestling like two ecstatic snakes in each others mouths as Horren’s fingers reached Serin’s mound of passion.

“Girl’s are you ready lunch is being served.” Tesler called through the door after knocking loudly.

“What!” Horren roared but was forestalled from saying anything further by her lover’s finger pressed to her lips.

“Holy Sister you promised us an hour in which to rest, has something changed?” Serin asked sweetly.

“You have had over an hour my children.” Tesler informed them before carrying on somewhat embarrassed. “You must have fallen asleep or err something.”

“Yes we did fall asleep Sister but we only thought for a moment. We will be with you in a moment.” Serin replied signalling Horren to get dressed.

The pair of them had a hurried whispered conference as they got ready.

“That bloody woman!” Moaned Horren. “An hour my foot she’s doing it on purpose.”

“There’s great magic involved here and it is even affecting the flow of time itself. Look where the sun is?” Serin crossed to the door and opened it full of apologies whilst Horren looked at the sun that was now visible through the window from their room rather than as it should be, still hidden.

As Tesler led them down the stairs to the common room Horren saw Serin stagger a moment. She swiftly linked arm with hers to lend support and whispered.

“Are you alright?”

“I am now but for a moment the stairs disappeared and I could see the ruins below me. It’s disconcerting to be walking on air.” Serin replied tight lipped.

As they crossed to their table in the common room the intense young man Lancelot came across and spoke to Serin and Horren, his staring eyes burning into Serin’s.

“My Lady Serin, Lady Horren, Ladies have you thought any further in aiding me?” He asked after he had given them a courteous bow.

The room went quite as all eyes turned toward the women.

But before any of them could reply the room twisted round as time accelerated before settling once more. Horren saw with horror Serin was now kissing the young man who blushed deeply before replying to an unheard question. Even Serin looked puzzled by her actions but not as confused as the other four who had suddenly found themselves sitting at the table.

“It’s agreed then ladies.” Lancelot said with a broad smile on his face, for the very first any of them had seen. “I will assist you in your quest for your aid in mine. When you are ready to precede call for me and I shall come armed and ready.”

The room warped once again and they found themselves all seated in front of dishes of beautiful fish and roots.

“What is going on?” Darius asked looking rather green around the gills. “This is making me feel a little sick.”

“I think entering the wall has created a magical maelstrom that’s affecting the flow of time.” Hanna replied her brow furrowed with thought as she looked down at her empty plate and rubbed her now full stomach. “I know you tell me off Sister for eating to quickly but this is just a poor joke.”

“Oh my God.” Tesler yelped as the three crones appeared behind her from nowhere.

The women cackled in a melodramatic manner as they circled the diners at the table pointing their long bony fingers at them.

“Yes my lovely he will enjoy your blood he will.” Said one pointing at Serin.

“And you my sweet shall be his sweet to savour.” Another said stroking Horren cheek with a long dirty fingernail. “And a new body must be found for the curse.”

“The rest will be his play things to dance at his tune.” Said the third before they all cackled with laughter and floated off to where the lover’s sat still staring into each others eyes oblivious to what was going on around them.

The women stroked the couple’s cheeks with their finger tips leaving blooded scars behind and still the couple didn’t react as all their life fluids vanished from their bodies to leave two desiccated husks.

It all happened so fast no one could react as the bodies fell apart and became like dust on the wind over which three young stunning beauties stooped laughing with pure evil joy.

They faded away along with everything else to only for Tesler and the others to reappear in front of the portal in the wall. Nothing else seemed to exist, just the wall, a strip of floor and the comrades buffeted by a howling wind.

“It seems that the rest of us must enter whether we like it or not.” Hanna yelled into the gale.

“How do you know?” Darius called back.

Hanna indicated the plight they were in before replying.

“I don’t see any other option do you?” She said.

Darius nodded and touched the wall and vanished.

The minutes seemed like hours as they huddled together in an attempt to protect themselves from the wind.

“How will we know if she hasn’t made it?” Lorren called voicing the one thing everyone else was thinking.

“I suspect we will have to touch the wall to find out.” Tesler replied over the wind.

The Cleric was just about to touch the wall when Darius reappeared backwards on all fours dragging her injured leg. Realising where she was the young ranger slumped to the floor and began franticly running her hands over her leg, feeling it, squeezing it. Satisfied she looked up at Tesler shakily.

“I was back with the patrol when the giants attacked.” She paused with a sob before carrying on. “I couldn’t save the others this time I hadn’t got a leg to stand on.” She gave a frightened laugh. “Quite literally, the buggers had taken my leg. I managed to drag myself to a tree stump and prop myself up on that but it was no good I couldn’t get enough stability. The giants ignored me and killed all the rest. When they had done they came back and laughed at me. I endured it over and over again.” She shivered as Serin helped her to her feet.

“Have you noticed that the wind has dropped?” Tesler asked. “And look more of the rooms showing.”

It was true there was more floor than before but at the edges of their sight blurred shapes were moving.

“They are using very personal fears against us. That knowledge should help Hanna, Serin and I survive better.” Tesler told them before touching the wall.

The Holy Sister’s reappearance was swifter than the others but by the look on her face just a harrowing never the less.

The wind dropped further and half the room was exposed. The flitting ghosts taking on more substance even if they were still blurred.

Tesler smiled wanly.

“They had me back on the boat with the brandy kegs trying to kill myself. The more I drunk the more there seemed to be.” She Hiccupped and sank to the floor singing badly a very off coloured song.

Hanna strode to the wall and raised her hand above her head and muttered some obscure sounding words. A nimbus of energy appeared around her like a second skin.

“Protection against fear very useful when in a tight corner.” She told them. “And no I couldn’t use it on the others only on myself. Let’s see what they have cooked up for me shall we.”

She touched the wall to vanish from the room to reappear in a desolate world under a bloated red sun. Around her tree’s were dying, crashing to the ground in their old age, their death throws screaming through her soul.

Hiding the terror she felt inside she smiled and then burst out laughing.

“Is this the best you can do? I know, all as Dryads know, there will come a time when the world will die. We don’t fear it as we know that out of it a new sun and new worlds will be born, and so shall we as its keepers, its wardens.” Pain and fear lanced through her as she felt the corruption in her home tree and heard it call to her in its senility. “I don’t fear this. I morn yes, I feel its pain yes but do I fear it? No!”

She felt a touch on her arm and turned ready to confront her torturer. True terror charge through her at the sight of the figure’s standing before her, the aged decrepit drooling vision’s of herself, and she screamed. She was still screaming when she reappeared in the now quiescent room.

Tesler quickly hugged her and consoled her like a mother would a child while looking worriedly at the next and last in line, Serin.

Serin swallowed hard and touched the wall nervously. For a moment nothing seemed to happen then she sunk slowly through the wall and vanished, only to reappear a moment later white as a sheet shaking like a leaf with a frown on her face.

“Serin?” Horren asked touching her arm.

“I expected giant crane flies, I’m terrified of them, my brother, Owen, is always making fun of me over it.” Serin replied with a vague look. “But it wasn’t that at all. I was back at the school but it was under attack. I saw you all killed but I couldn’t move. I watched them torture the children for the shear fun of it. Then I saw Owen but it wasn’t Owen it was one of the raiders come towards me. My brother raped and killed me. But that is stupid no one could get passed our barriers to attack the school and I know my brother wouldn’t harm me. It doesn’t make sense.”

She shivered heavily.

“What ever it is its over, look the room is back to normal.” Hanna said pointing around the room.

“But why did it want to put us through all that?” Serin asked gratefully accepting a flask of cool water from Tesler.

“To terrify us I should imagine.” Tesler offered with a shrug.

“If that’s the case it’s succeeding. My stomach is churning and my mouth is bone dry.” Darius said. “I’m more scared now than I was in battle.”

“Hmm. The fear of the unknown.” Serin mused before asking more briskly. “Why are our rooms up in roof when there are two floors of rooms beneath us? How many people are here bar us?”

“Well there’s our hostess and her daughter, but we are in Morag’s room so they must be sharing now. The two serving girls and perhaps three in the kitchen.” Horren counted. “But we have no idea if they have rooms here and whether they share but let’s assume two rooms.”

“Then there’s Berisford, the courting couple now decease, Lancelot and boggle eye.” Serin adds to the list. “The three witches who probably share a room and makeup. So how many rooms is that?”

“I make that eight possibly nine.” Tesler added.

“There are ten rooms a floor, save on our landing.” Serin paused a moment. “So who’s in the other rooms?”

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