Finally! I’ve had more than I can take of the Flogistan. I could use some SERIOUS shore leave. We came to the Sphere of Shadows to find that it got its name from the swirling, dark mists that surround and infuse it. It was hard to enter, but Lenata hopped on the helm and used her piloting skills to win us through.
Once we entered the sphere, the smoky swirls seemed to congeal, though there was no odor to them or any physical sense of what they were made of. All they seemed to do was mess with our vision (also, the crew). Dark mutterings seemed to spring up from everywhere. I tried my best to bolster morale once more, but the singing sounded eerie, even to me, amongst the half-light and darkness rising all about us.
We spent days headed toward the nearest planet on our charts to replenish air and water (if there was any water there). It was getting rather musty in our envelope. We were about halfway there and I was on watch, when all of a sudden, a horrible-looking creature appeared in the middle of the deck. I’ve always tried not to judge a person by their appearance, and so far no one had managed to “appear” on the deck without being friendly, so I hailed the (ugly, horrible, GROSS!) creature in Common.
It turned its glowing eyes on me, and in a blink was right on top of me! I narrowly missed being pinned to the deck by its barbed tail and slashed by its claws. “Guys! WE HAVE COMPANY!” I screamed loud enough to wake the dead, hoping to get aid fighting off the invading ugly. This thing was twice my size and meaner than anything I’d ever want to face alone. I manifested my mindblades and prepared to try to hold him off until the cavalry arrived.
Pulse-pounding moments passed as I traded blows with the monster. In no time at all, or ages, (who can tell in these situations?) my allies arrived on deck and gave the creature more hell than I could do on my own. As Word flew up the stairs, screaming “Guard your minds, friends, for this is the enemy of which I spoke!” I took a right hook from the beast that sent me flying across the deck into a pile of ropes.
I shook my head to clear it as the clang of Word’s glowing blade met the creature’s claws. “Take that, you creature of nightmare!” Word yelled and I spotted Kenari slipping into cover behind a door frame. A second later and I would have missed her entirely. I dragged myself to my feet and manifested new blades, ready to bring a little Maenad payback to the monster.
I got a few good slices in, while Kenari shot from cover and Word flew all over in front of the monster, taunting it and drawing its attention. Lenata arrived at the same time as Ef, though from different doorways. I had to force myself not to stop and stare when I realized that Ef was wearing Mage Armor… and nothing else.
Flashes of nightmare passed into my brain for a moment, courtesy of one black look from the ‘Quori,’ but I shook that off, too. All that mattered was keeping my friends safe from the hellish beast. It seemed poor Takero wasn’t so lucky as he began attacking the ship itself. Amidst the screams and clangs of battle, I swiped and swiped with my blades, missing the creature time after time as it wiggled just out of the way when I was about to strike. Damage done by bullets and mundane weaponry healed before my eyes on the nightmare creature’s hide, and blow after blow looked nasty one moment, but ineffectual the next.
Frustration and hopelessness filled my heart. This was a creature of the darker realms of my homeland. Why couldn’t I kill it? Why couldn’t I just will the bad dream away? With a cry of abject hatred, I slashed into the creature, sinking my blade in deep and felt for the first time the very essence of a creature from my realm touching my mind, sticking to my blade. I held onto that essence with all my might, and as I drew back my weapon, felt it being drawn out with it, into my keeping. Into me. It felt like inhaling a breath of frigid air into starving lungs: painful, yet sustaining…
In that moment, I pulled back with all my might, slipped on the black blood on the decking, and fell. Stars exploded before my vision, pain radiating out from my skull, then darkness.
I open my eyes to the strange visage of my Warforged friend. If he could have expression, I’d swear he was looking down on me with concern. “Is it dead?” I croak.
“Indeed. The creature is no more.”
“Did I kill it?” I wonder aloud, still watching stars flit about the periphery of my vision.
“Whatever you did seemed to have killed it, yes,” he replied, stoically. I might have heard a smile in his voice.
Kenari approached, still snickering. It was strange to see her from such an angle… as I watched, something caught my eye. A shadow remained after the stars had gone, revolving around my head like a planet or one of those “Ioun Stones” Sapphira’s dad had floating about his. Worried I might actually be going crazy, I pointed at it. “Do you see that?” I asked Word.
“Why yes, I do…” he replied, tracking its progress. I raised up a hand in its path and as it passed through my skin, I caught the mental image of a dark, desolate space with a little boy being terrified by gibbering monsters.
“Great trick… but you need to work on the finale,” Kenari laughs as she grips my hand to help me up. I guess she can’t see what I took out of the Quori. I shook off the remaining chill from playing with my new ‘nightmare’ and scanned the deck for more uninvited company. ‘Least that’s what I plan to tell everyone I was looking for, when really I was searching for another glimpse of naked Ef. He was nowhere to be seen.
Lenata set about healing the injured (especially me) and Kenari went back to bed. Ef arrived back on deck a short while later with all his armor on. I smothered a sigh of regret. “I’ll take my watch. You should go get some sleep,” he offered kindly.
“That’s not really necessary,” I started, sure I could finish out my watch like a big girl.
“You hit your head pretty hard,” Ef teased. He sobered, then. “You were also fighting that Quori the longest. If anybody deserves a break, it’s you.” I searched his eyes for a moment, seeing a new-found respect, and perhaps a bit of trepidation. However I killed that thing, it wasn’t normal. I nodded, feeling suddenly like a freak, and thanked him absently as I headed back to my quarters to sift through my thoughts.
I haven’t tried to play with the floating sphere around my head. I don’t like the feel of it. I know it’s mine, now, but I have no clue what it means. How did a creature of nightmare get on our deck? Dark thoughts slither in the shadows. I think I’ll distract myself by bringing up that memory of Ef wearing only Mage-Armor. The sparkling aura caressed his muscles so prettily….