The bone dragon attacks for the second time.
But…something happened between. What was that? Some sort of horrible vision…restraints, a cruel voice, my companions maimed, and my eye…throbbing and empty…
No time for that now. There is fighting to be done. Shadow rises around me.
The monster spews gore and bone at us, and a strange nattering appears in my head. Go to the door and open it, it proposes, and I can see in the others’ eyes that they hear it, as well. We resist, and we vanquish the beast, only to hear the phantom voices redouble their efforts. I shrug them off as before; my mind is my own. Syne briefly falls under their sway and attacks me before he manages to regain control of himself. A close call, but it is over.
Now, there are questions. We compare our individual visions – bright light, leather straps, beaten bodies – and it becomes clear that this was no simple hallucination (or “brain-sickness,” as the child so charmingly puts it.) We have seen some sort of world beyond this one. Our credulity already strained by the temporal anomalies here in this ancient-but-not-ancient place, we must now entertain the theory that this reality is not, in fact, real.
We remember this place. We have been here before, fought these creatures before, seen these walls before. And as we struggle to pull ourselves from this dream, back into the hellish laboratory, all we can see is another vision of ourselves standing on the other side of that very door, in the temple-like chamber beyond.
Puzzling. And very troubling. Caution is in order.
At Kevian’s suggestion, I don a reassuring smile and speak to the child, Tani. I ask her about the people who once held her captive, but she is frustratingly evasive. She does, however, visibly react to my description of our captivity. There seems to be little doubt – whoever held and tortured her also holds our true bodies and is currently attempting to access our minds. But why? Who are they? How long have we been in their possession? And who are we, that they should be so interested in our memories?
It is suggested that perhaps whoever is keeping us hostage in the other world is trying to make us relive this experience to discover some secret. The location of this room, perhaps? The origin and layout of the seal against the Daelkyr? We are at a loss, and willfully decide to do nothing until we can better determine how to escape this unreality and frustrate our captors.
The shulassakar grows nervous and moves to protect the door. We assure him that we have little interest in helping our captors and moving into the chamber beyond, but of course he doesn’t understand what we are talking about. He understands even less when Syne suddenly flies into a rage.
“Cowards!” he bellows at our unseen tormentors. “If you want something from my mind, come and take it from me face to face!”
I am impressed. I knew that the metal man had a strong sense of autonomy, but this is intense. He continues to unleash his wrath on the hapless shulassakar, who sputters in surprise…and then, the guard abruptly speaks in the voice of our captors. He tells us, quite casually, to go through the door ahead.
Aha. So they are listening, after all. “Cowards” does not begin to cover it. Syne is not discouraged, and continues his aural assault. Finally, the shulassakar can take no more, and he prepares to attack.
Fair enough. Hard to feel pity for one who doesn’t exist. Not that I ever feel pity for my targets. But this ghost will die, and after him, the one who speaks through him. I’m not interested in revenge. Revenge is for the powerless. This…is merely a promise.