Chapter Sixteen: Fire with Fire

     I was found by Raven the next morning.  He had found me as he walked the shores with his pets.  He carried me up the hillside into a field of flowers, my favourite place.
     My story sounded incredulous, but he believed it nonetheless.
     “Stranger things happen, I can attest to it.”
     I felt better when he said that, for I believed myself losing my mind.
     I also told him about everything that had happened on my voyage, and that I was shown, in the broken mirror, that those evil ones were nearing closer.
     “What will we do?” I asked.
     First, he was concerned that I was becoming quite frail.
     “The ghosts come to you now, feed on your aura, and your fears, for spirits can and will do such things.  The spirit in the water perhaps was benign, but may not have been your . . . friend, but an apparition created by evil.  It cannot be certain.  But now that those creatures you reported are coming here, we can at least defeat them.  Lynoria, however, she will be the most difficult.”
     He and I walked to his home and he offered, again, to help.
     “I can come with you, guard you; this bow of mine you see, and this arrow of daub can be set aflame.  When they come closer, I will destroy them.  I am well practised in both arts of magic and combat.  Then we will only have Lynoria left to worry about.”
     I agreed, and he looked at me strangely and saw that I wore both the cross at my neck, and the charm he had given me.  He smiled.
     For days we waited for them. Waited for them to appear at our shores.
     One night, on the night of the Old Ones (for the twin moons had appeared, stained with crimson), Raven motioned to me to be very wary and not to wander; I had been sleeping and woke to find him looking at me, and put his hand on my shoulder as I woke.  The night of the Old Ones was a very ancient day, said to be when the spirits roamed freely.  Raven was very concerned for me and stood guard outside while I slept.  
     He lit his arrow now with a seemingly magical light and let it fly to hit its target.  Something was hit, for a creature screamed, and now ablaze, we could see its shape, that of ghastly Esmeralda.  But Josue was too quick and disappeared just as I had begun to light my lance.
     Raven stilled my hand and broke an arrow in two, then led me to the screaming body, too horrible to behold.  The broken wood of the arrow was stuck deep into its ugly heart.
     “Let us find the others,” he said.
     We walked very quietly to the mansion that night, his hand pulling on mine.
     “I can see something,” he said, leading me away from the front entrance.
     I kept close to him.  He led me into the old iris garden, with its gurgling fountain.
     “No, they’ve gone back in.  Look, up there!” I shouted, muffling my excited voice somewhat.
     “That pale and morbid face in the window. It is one of them.”
     So up and up the stairs we crept, until we reached the room in which I had spotted the dreadful visage, the largest bedroom, unused in years.
     But all did not appear as it should have.  The room, once pale and grey and neo-classical, was now magically transformed into a red nightmarish fantasy, a fantastical Andarian harem.
     A strange perfumed mist surrounded us and Raven seemed perplexed.  I felt dizzy now.  Small bells, for they seemed soft and tinkling, were heard, and a white hand appeared in the mist, holding a tambourine.  In the other, a peacock-feathered fan.
     The hands played, soft entrancing sounds, and a rustle of silks.  In the centre of the room stood not a stately bed of classical design, but an array of dazzling silks in shades of golds, reds, oranges, and yellows.  The tambourine struck.  Raven closed his eyes and seemed to breathe for air.  I gasped.  I tried to hold him close but he disappeared, and I could no longer move.
     The dancer emerged from scarlet-tinged darkness.  She danced slowly around Raven, her body wrapped in translucent silks, seemed to poison Raven with her suggestions, then looked at me with a wicked glare.  She danced around him as a snake lost in the endless pattern of the arabesque painted on the walls; her hair, plaited with golden snakes; her eyes, burning with red fever . . . her eyes . . . betrayed what she would do next, take a bite out of Raven.
     I shouted at him not to look into her eyes.  With that, Lisbetta blew a fine gold dust at me.
     “The sleep of death,” she whispered.
     I fell to the rose-petaled filled floor and shut my eyes, did my best to try and not listen to her.
     Groping, I felt the pouch of arrows at my waist; I looked up now and saw Raven sleeping on the silks.
     “No!” I shouted, and found myself in the trance of a dream.
     The dancing odalisque encircled us.  Gold, dusty gold, fell from her now nude, white body, her every movement.  She seemed to come and go, and I could not tell what was real or not.  I feared I was still under the influence of that strange golden drug and felt myself quiver.
     Raven opened his eyes.
     “The light . . .” he muttered.
     I looked toward where he pointed, a row of candles, easily reached, the light from the candles there, set the arrows to burn, and Raven took out his bow.  I passed the arrows to him as he sprung them from his bow, and the dancing form was lit as if from inside, translucent skin crackling.
     Raven was able to regain himself, and, breaking another arrow I had passed him, took it and plunged the dark heart of the abysmal creature.
     It . . . screamed.  Face and flesh melted. Body turned to burnt stone.  I gazed away.
     “How many more?” asked Raven.
     “Two. Not counting Lynoria.  Two men, one is the father, or so I was led to think.”
     Raven pulled me to him and whispered.
     “We must leave for now, hunt by day . . . they are less wicked then.”
     And so that night we slept in a bed of leaves and soft hide blankets, covered by the light of the crimson moons.
     Grotesque images haunted my sleep and I was rather glad when daylight came, despite our horrid task at plan.


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