Chapter Twenty-One: A World of Illusion

     We three were lost, like lovers in a forest . . .
     The house was gone mad.  The very aspect of lurid horrors virtually lived and breathed herein.  I breathed in the stench of death and of fear.  Raven was struck by the sense that he was being watched by an invisible pair of eyes; or was she watching him?  He knew the eyes at the window not to be Lynoria’s, and was extremely apprehensive.  And Leon, he fingered his bows very tightly – lest some phantom-witch come up unexpectedly to take him and join his brother.
     We walked with the softest of steps towards the front door.  Raven did not think we would find anything on the upper floors.
   “I suspect they will be more comfortable in the deeper, darker recesses underneath this house. There she hides herself by day.”
     And he motioned for us to follow.
I am afraid, Raven,” I said, “for we know not what she can do, and we cannot discern her motives.  What is it that she wants?  Why is she here?”
     Leon agreed.
I do not know for sure,” said Raven, “only that we must work quickly, before she grows in power.  Already I sense that she is becoming stronger somehow . . .”
     And as he spoke a chill ran through me, for a laugh was seemingly heard, the mirth of cruelty, the shrill sounds of Lynoria, or someone, something else.  Raven acknowledged the same chill that I felt, but he later said it came from within his own heart, as if it wilted and grew cold, to that of a stone.  Like that of a cold grave.  I shuddered to think on it.
     It was a long and dark night and the leaves surrounding the mansion were shaken from the dying trees.  They were picked up by the wind, then blown in circular gales, until they landed upon the grave facade of the house of my family.
     Darkness truly seemed to sweep over the land and the earth surrounding the house, especially the cemetery, which seemed to reek of various rot and fungi.  The green vines overhanging the balconies seemed to choke the very windows of any fresh air, and I was quite sure I had also seen a pair of eyes staring at me through one of the malevolently darkened panes.  A pair of eyes, glowing blood-red.  Lynoria?  I shivered. 
     Leon still fingered a bow and kept it to him tightly.  He feared something, it was true.  Never had he smelt terror in the air so distinctly, nor had he tasted it in the dark rain that now touched his tongue.
     It was a dark time of the year, to be sure, and already the ominous moon seemed covered with a deep haze, a mist of putrid yellow vapours.
     “We cannot get in through the front door.  She has locked it,” said Raven.
     He spoke of what we already suspected.  We would have to enter through the cemetery’s hidden passages.

It is the only way in and perhaps the least troublesome,” he added, then paused and said, “I know it is not my preferred route either, but we need to do this quickly.”
     “But why not wait until day?” I asked.
     Leon suddenly hushed us both.

Listen.  It is the sound of death yonder.”
     Raven nodded.  I shivered slightly and looked at Raven with concern.

Leon is right.  You see, her powers are already immense and she gives rise to darkness and evil.  Already the tombs resound with the cries of the dead.  If we do not move fast we will perish for sure . . .”
     I clutched Raven’s arm and shuddered.  And there, there in the dark light of the moon we saw a gravestone crack in half.

Let us go then!” I cried, and from around us the sounds of the ghoulish music of the dread seemed to pervade like the concerto of death.  A dark solfeggietto emerged from the creaking tombs and yawning, watery mausoleum – dotting the horrid landscape with a dreadful horror. The cries and menacing sounds of the waking dead.
     “Let’s go!” Exclaimed Raven, and we three crossed the verdant green of a sepulcher wherein the hidden passage would be found, green and overgrown with moss and the rank odour of the charnel house.  It led into the hollow and grey basements of the old mansion.
     Inside this dark and haunting abyss led a flight of wide, winding stairs leading to the entrance of a long hallway, pronounced with white busts, cobwebs, and an almost imperceptible hush, a sound not unlike the inward rush of a soft sigh, but higher in pitch, and incredibly eerie and unnerving.

What was that?” I gasped.  I had heard something strange, turning to find my two companions lost in darkness, for their torches had long gone out.
     Blindly, I struggled to find them, but, finding nothing, shivered quietly, trying not to breathe too loudly.  I heard that endless ticking of an old clock seeming to run on an invisible energy, for it was so old I had no idea how it could still function.
     I felt the walls around me grow oppressive, and by the light of the faintest ember of my torch, which I tried to kindle, I made my way down that hallway, but running only seemed to extend the length of its confounding corridors.  Aghast, I came to a stop and turned slowly around.  I had heard something again.
     There, in front me me stood my very likeness.  The image I used to see at the mirror across the spinet.  This woman in the portrait that looked so much like me.  That odalisque on a bed of blood-red satin.  Lynoria . . .
     I . . . reached out . . . My twin image now glowed as a white oscillating planet might in the night sky, dark as darkest night . . . a white terrible moon . . . a phantom planet.
     The pair of eyes that met mine grew darker, then lighter, as my own.  A certain jade light bled through them, enhancing the dark irises with a peculiar malevolence.  A sea wave of gelid green.  Menacing.

     The voice I heard also seemed to be my own, yet not.  It seemed to speak inside me.  What did it say?  It spoke of strange desires, things I might know of, perhaps from dreams.  Or nightmares.  The sound of water seemed to trickle through that voice, a voice like cold water. Rain.
     I began to back away but the demonic odalisque seemed always closer. The ticking of the old clock became a drum.  My heart.

The cold wet voice now spoke of . . . convergence . . . my sister . . . strange allurements.  I felt my heart beat from a drum to a slow and morbid dance, a quiver, a drooping chanson.  I gasped for breath and felt death rattle my lungs.  A blot of ink for sky.  A revolving darkness. Death.
. . . then life . . .” spoke the dark demoness.
     “Life.”
     I was becoming one with her, becoming one and the same with my own twisted mirror image, until Raven, from behind, came out and bound the demon to the wall with all his strength, and then Leon, quick and lithe now, plunged an arrow into the darkened heart.

The last thing I saw before fainting was my double fall into a heap, then Raven with a gleaming dagger procured from his belt, and the scent of rancid blood . . . fetid . . . her heart . . . dead.
I closed my eyes and the world went dark again.
Lynoria was now dead.

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