Rashell opened the doors to what was a condo Arwell had enchanted at least a few people to get it.
“Hello, my darling little savages,” Count Arwell sang as he waddled up to them in a silk robe. Rashell hugged Arwell around the middle, he ruffled the other boys hair with affection. “Unfortunately all our servants turned to dust the moment we entered the human world.” the lord of the manor sighed. “They were over 300 years old.” Rashell shrugged relieved to be rid of Fox’s dirty spies. Arwell fetched a bottle of wine and poured it into two three crystal goblets. “Well, no matter, in times of danger, one can always rely on family.” he offered them a drink.
“I’ve got ta be very sharp,” Rashell said with a shake of his head rejecting the glass. Rayanna rolled her eyes at her brother’s actions, took a glass, and downed it.
“Pansy assed sprites, Whisky, now that’s a real Scotsman’s drink,” Still, desite her complaints, Rashell drank the second glass.
“Didn’t ya just recover from last night?” Rashell asked Rayanna who was on her second glass.
“And look what happened,” Rayanna retorted as she finished another glass.
“How did ya survive being married ta Dorncourt?” Her twin shook his head.
“Well, me late husband and I had an arrangement. Me half was smile, look pretty, and if anyone says anything, nothing beyond small talk.” Rayanna took another sip of her wine. “And we’re not family.”
Arwell pressed a hand to his heart a wounded look on his face. Rashell glared at his twin, he rather liked Arwell, even if the man did make him question how the count managed to survive this long. “I have presents for you both, but first,” Arwell held out a chess set enticingly toward Rayanna. She sat down on the couch giddily, Arwell set up the chess board on the coffee table. With the count watching, The two of them, sat down to play, Rashell with reluctance, Rayanna with slight enthusiasm. Before long the game reached its predictable conclusion. Rayanna checkmated Rashell’s king with an air of boredom. Her twin sighed loudly at his defeat.
“Ya could at least try ta be a challenge,” his twin sister complained.
“I do try, I’m just not good at chess,” Rashell responded glumly.
“Ya always focus far too much on protecting yer king. It leaves yer other pieces open ta attack. The King is the most important piece, yet ya have ta protect yer pawns ta use them later on. A good player knows when to protect, and when ta cut their losses.” she explained to him.
“Real life Pawns aren’t restricted ta moving diagonally, and can take out more than one attacker at a time, this game makes no sense.” Rashell said in an exasperated tone.
“Come on, ya have ta have some sense of strategy, given yer apprenticeship,” Arwell cut in.
“I think how can I take this person down, or the fastest way ta escape from a potentially dangerous situation, if it doesn’t involve those two elements I don’t care.” Rashell gave a careless sassy hand wave.
As Rayanna set up the board for her match with Arwell, Rashell let out a yawn. “Off ta bed!” he said then slipped from the room going to his own. There, sitting on the bed, was a pale silky dressing gown with lace at the collar and a big white bow lace also adorned the long sleeves. Rashell also spotted all the members of his teddy bears collection in the corner and the tea set which Arwell had apparently evacuated from the manor. Rashell felt relief the instant he saw them and began looking them over. He’d secretly feared that they were at the bottom of the lake or something. Rashell undressed and threw on the nightgown carelessly. He selected Lady Gadivia, a chocolate colored bear with big brown eyes that wore an elegant evening dress and carried her to bed. Yawing, he climbed under the covers. Meleck hopped onto the bed and nested in the covers. Rashell lay there after flicking on a night light.
“Look how impatient she was to get you to leave!” whispered the teddy bears their voices hushed.
“Rayanna loves me,” Rashell whispered back.
“When you’re her puppet,” chorused the teddy bears.
“Then I’ll be her puppet,” Rashell reassured himself.
“How sad.” Came their mocking response.
“It’s what you do, hurt people. Greedy little muse sucking the life out of everyone around him like a parasite.” the teddy bears continued.
“Shut yer gobs before I throw ya inta the river!” Rashell snapped gripping the covers. He could feel the bears grinning at him. Rashell rolled over he was faced with the outline of Lady Gidivia’s grin, it was equally as mocking.
“Go ahead,” she whispered. Rashell hugged her to him in response. “Thought so.” she whispered.
“Let me sleep.” he responded a kind of desperation in his voice. Then, mercifully, all of them fell silent and soon he drifted off into slumber
Rashell walked down the hall of the castle and past the portraits of finely dressed nobles. The light from his candle fell briefly on a portrait of a man with long dark curls and a blue beard protruded from the portraits chin. Feeling a jolt of guilt, Rashell paused, looking at the delicate key in his hand. But even as he did this part of him knew he was stalling and had made up his mind long ago. Gathering his courage, Rashell continued to walk barefoot towards the end of the dimly lit hallway. A slight chill ripped through his dressing gown making him shiver briefly, but soon he arrived at the door at the end of the hall. Entranced, he ran his hand over the lock tracing it with delicate fingers. His breath spend up slightly and a feeling of wicked excitement welled up in his breast as he put the key into the lock and turned it the door slid open. Within lay bodies; flies buzzed and feasted on their rotting flesh the stench of them made Rashell reel back gaging, the fresher bodies were of boys and girls their decaying lips twisted in pain their eyes frozen in perpetual terror.
Rashell saw the gaping slashes on their tiny necks, all of them were dressed in red. All their eyes turned toward him in unison. “Welcome,” one of the girls rasped. The corpses stood, their bones creaking, bits of decaying flesh dropped to the ground, maggots crawled out of eye sockets dropping to the ground. Rashell backed up hands shoved over his mouth so that he would not scream, terror held him in its tight grip.
“Come join us,” hissed a skeleton with a shepherds crook, which he wrapped around Rashell’s ankle.
“No!” he kicked the skeleton with his left leg and freed his right running from the room and slamming the door behind him frantically and fitting the key into the lock. With a whoosh the door was thrown open carelessly and Rashell was knocked to the floor. Scrambling to his feet he continued to run out the door and down the hall.
“Rashell, I’m home,” The blond, shaking through himself into the arms of a huge man with a blue beard and green eyes. “Mon sherrie, what’s the matter?” the man asked. Rashell trembled harder the man wordlessly uncurled Rashell’s tiny fist from around the key which was now stained with blood and eyes darkening turned to see the corpses stumble into the room. “I told you not to open that door,” the man said.
“I’m sorry.” Rashell whispered.“Shh, it’s okay,” The bigger man stroked his cheek, drying his tears. “You’ll make a wonderful addition to moi’s collection.” Before Rashell could process this he found himself tossed at the feet of the corpses who grabbed him and started to drag him across the floor.
“No! ya can’t let them...! I’m sorry....I swear I’ll never da it again!” he begged.
“You’ll stay in that room. Only I will have the key.” the man said holding up the blood stained key triumphantly.
Rashell was forcefully pulled across the floor at top speed by the corpses. “No! This is wrong! I don’t belong there, I don’t!” he screamed as the skeleton girl in a tattered cape looked at him somberly.
Then he froze in fact the whole dream froze, for that is what is was Rashell remembered. which meant only one thing, there was another Leanansidhe here. Rashell took a defensive stance. ” I know yer there,” he warned. He felt something light brush against him. He whirled around only to see the shimmering form of a skinny boy with white hair and dark circles under his eyes. Rashell stared no it couldn’t be ” Ciar.” he said breathlessly. Several emotions flowed through him at once.
“Rashell,” Ciar said urgently in his whispery voice. The other boy had always been soft spoken to the point where Rashell had to pay extra attention just to catch his words. Ciar looked uncertain as he reached out his hand.
“Don’t. Just don’t.” Rashell responded flatly. The two of them stood -- or in Ciars case -- floated in silence.
“I heard you want to hurt our Erlking.Why are you being so bad Rashell?” Ciar’s voice didn’t rise but his grey eyes filled up with disappointment which Rashell felt the full sting of.
“It’s complicated, Ciar,” he responded.
“No, no, no bad thoughts, no bad thoughts, we follow the Erlking!” the younger Leanansidhe yelled, tugging at his hair. Then he closed his eyes to compose himself. “We are disciples of the Forest, daughters and sons of creativity, we are of the dream...” He paused then looked at Rashell.
“The Erlking is all we need.” Rashell joined him on the last line.
“See? simple,” Ciar offered, Rashell remembered a time when the Erlking told him to do something and he did it. Greyman had always been so much wiser then Rashell and the things he said sounded right when he said them.
“Remember when we running from the Hunt boys and the only way was up?“Ciar’s gaze softened as he paused. “I didn’t want ta climb that tree, it was high and I was scared. I kept thinking I’d fall and break my neck over and over again until the thought wouldn’t leave my head. Ya said we were in this together, and no matter what happened ya wouldn’t abandon me.”
Rashell told himself he wasn’t developing a lump in his throat. ” I remember.” he said quietly.
Ciar’s face drooped. “How could you, Rashell? You were Greyman’s most devoted, an example to us all!” his body quivered.
“Ciar, I -” He was cut off.
“Greyman has told me what you’ve done!” Ciar looked at him “But I forgive you, just come home, please.” he pleaded.
“Quiet, do ya feel something?” he whispered.
Ciar froze. “Oh no,” he whimpered. Then a huge grey trunk burst through the walls and lunged for Ciar’s midsection. Rashell yanked him out of the way and sliced at the offending trunk with his knife while pulling both him and Ciar behind the sofa of the french chatto he had dreamed up before the creature used its truck to grab the french gilded sofa and shove it into its mouth.
“Hey! That was the only thing I liked about this nightmare!” Rashell complained loudly. The creature looked at him and Rashell saw that it had an elephants head, tusks, and trunk, but it also had a huge pair of ram horns and the paws of a tiger with sharp claws. No it couldn’t be!Then he felt a giant velvet paw grab him, Rashell grabbed a candelabra and tried to smash it into the creatures face. Its trunk wrapped around his arm holding it in place.
“What’s the matter, never been powerless in your own dream before?” the creature taunted.
“Face me, ya coward! I’ll slice ya up like Swiss cheese!” the young Leanansidhe vowed.
“As fun as that sounds, I’m not here for you,” the thing stated.
“Well, that’s obvious, darling. But I’m not letting ya have, Ciar,” Rashell shot back.
“That does propose a problem.” The thing hurled Rashell into the stone wall with such force that if this wasn’t a dream the impact would have shattered half the bones in his body. Unfortunately, because this was still a nightmare, Rashell still felt every moment of it. To make matters worse, the creature decided he wasn’t in enough pain and raised its giant elephant foot to stomp on him. Rashell rolled his body out of the way ignoring how his muscles screamed and jumped to his feet gritting his teeth. “You always were tough.” the thing stated.
“We’ve never met.” Rashell wrinkled his nose in confusion.
“Not officially, but I was always there when any of you Leanansidhe dreamed.” Rashell jammed his sword into the things foot. It trumped in pain. Ciar groaned his hand flickered. “How long have ya been out of yer body?” Rashell called out nervously.
“Three minutes maybe,” Ciar shrugged.
“Ya idjit!” Rashell proclaimed before feeling a trunk wrap itself around his neck he gasped for air as the trunk tightened.
“Leave him alone!” Ciar yelled, his other arm flickered.
“I have to punish you, anyways. Besides I’m having fun.” The thing shook Rashell so hard he felt like he was going to hurl.
“I said let him go!” Ciar’s sprite started glowing and suddenly the walls of the frozen french chatto collapsed into a river of black sludge around their feet. It frothed and foamed until it grew a large gaping maw of razor sharp teeth and red eyes about over a dozen of them poped out from the sludge. The Baku ripped one out and popped it into his mouth the sharp mouth dove for his hand the bakulu ripped its tooth straight out of its mouth and jammed it into Rashell’s arm, he yelled in unison with the monster.
“Come on, kids, I’ve been doing this a long time,” the creature sounded bored. “You think your the first to try to avoid the Erlkings punishment?” He kept tearing the monster to pieces with his trunk and claws eating pieces of it as a frustrated Ciar tried desperately to keep holding on. “Stay and watch your hero get hurt. It’s what your best at, princess,” the monster taunted consuming a tooth with a crunch. “Maybe I’ll even have a little taste of muse.” He eyed Ciar like Arwell eyed buttered scones.
“Mo chride ya have ta let go,” Rashell urged him as Ciar’s whole body flickered.
The other boy looked at him sadly “Sorry, I could never be your hero the way you were mine.” Then he vanished from sight. Rashell felt relief.
“Looks like I’m not getting a tasty snack.” the monster sounded disappointed. “But I still have my toy.” The relief flew out of his chest and was replaced by terror as the trunk started to crush his windpipe, Rashell clawed desperately, hearing loud trumpeting in his ears.
“Rashell! Rashell! Wake up!” Rashell suddenly awoke. Instinctively he clung to his twin sister tightly, his whole body shaking . “Rashell, Rashell?” Rayanna called. Arwell hovered anxiously in the doorway. His blankets and Lady Godiva were on the floor. Rashell hugged himself tightly.
“He always has nightmares.” Arwell stated.
“Afterwards he can usually speak, this isn’t yer typical nightmare!” Rayanna snapped, rubbing soothing circles on Rashell’s back.
Then Meleck pecked him. “Ouch!” he was brought back to reality.
“’Shell, talk ta me,” her voice was soothing. “Ciar dream walked inta me dream.”
Her eyes darkened. “If that bastard did anything...”
Rashell let out a dry laugh. “He tried ta save me from-”
Rayanna grabbed him by the shoulders. “What da ya mean what?” she demanded.
“Remember, we Leanansidhe be very good, obey the Erlking like good Leanansidhe should, if you’re bad Leanansidhe and rebellious too...” Rashell trailed off.
“Then the Baku will come and swallow ya, no hope of reincarnation fer ya.” she finished fear in her eyes.
“I saw it Ray. And I heard it. Just like in the song.”
As she heard those words, Rayanna a look of pure terror fixed itself onto her face.