In the waking world she was strong and confident. Muscular and larger then most women. She felt almost perpetually confident and rarely afraid.
Here things were different. She knew she had appeared here before, perhaps many times. But she did not remember them. She had begun to remember these visits though. After an incident in which a romantic dream had become a lucid and clear experience in another place, like this in nature but vastly different in character. It that dream she had met a man, well groped him actually when she had transitioned from the romantic dream into the dreamscape. She had not meant to. He was not her type, not because he had been fat or a canine, but she was attracted to other women. Then the thing in the other place had come, it had scared her awake. But as she had bolted awake at that time she had realized it was not the Glimmering being that scared her.
It had been the sudden memories of the other. She did not know what the other was but it had been here, in this place she began to remember. It skittered in the dark on its many legs. She knew those ended in grasping hands, with fingers that ended in smaller hands that were clawed and cruel. When she began to remember this place she remember those hands. The thing had grasped her before, perhaps many times. She was never here long enough for those hands to draw her closer to the body she was sure it had. She could hear those hands now, skittering in the dark, circling around and around. It wanted at her, she knew that. But it couldn't get to her.
She also couldn't wake up. She wanted to wake up, back to where she was strong in body and mind. Now she felt small, so small as to be able to hide in the roots of a gnarled black tree. The tree gave her shelter, not in the sense that she hid in it but that it actively hid her. She didn't know how, but the tree had a will. Its roots crawled and moved closing the thing that wanted at her out. If the thing tried to put its sickening hands in to grasp her the roots grew thorns or whipped and clawed until the hand withdrew. She knew the tree was black. there was a half light that left no shadow, more a thinning of the darkness as if it had been a light mist instead of an absence of light. She was not sure why the tree guarded her, but she knew it seethed with hatred for that which stalked her. She had the sense that the tree was not evil, nor was it really good, it just was. But the thing outside was an intruder, and the tree wanted it gone. She had a vague memory of long ago being in this place and being wrapped and cradled by these roots. Others had been there. that is what the tree was meant to do, cradle those that appeared here. For what reason she didn't know. She knew though that she had never stayed this long before, though she didn't know how long that was.
The thing tried something new. It whispered. It whispered at her with 10,000 voices. She couldn't make out what it said, it seemed to be in many languages but she knew it was promising to violate her. She had a feeling it was describing how. She thanked the light that sparked creation she couldn't understand it. She wanted to shout at it, to yell to fight to defy it but all of that was blocked of somehow. She could only feel fear and the strange cold assurance of protection from the tree. The assurance was like love, but distant somehow cold. Like standing in winter sunlight at dawn. The feeling was there but different in nature. Different to anything in nature. Then she felt it. Warmth. There was warmth on her face. The warmth of flesh touching her.
Her Mind clawed its way awake. She felt the warmth of big lips on hers, of hand on her chest. "Oh please light not again" she thought. She didn't know why she thought that. She didn't care. She drew in a deep breath to scream and to fight. She hurt everywhere and the pain snapped her to full alert. She saw whose large lips she had felt. It Was a large male bear. And he was bleeding from gashes across the face. She cried out in surprise and pain and in fury. she was ready to fight but the next words disarmed her.
" Now fuckin stay breathing..." the bear gasped. She felt herself rolled onto her side and her head placed on something soft. As she gasped for breath her eyes darted around. Smashed glass and an overturned car. There were other people on the ground, some siting up and applying presure to their wounds other laying still or being tended to by others. As she was pointed that way she had a good veiw of a large vulpine in a dark blue uniform, he had his muzzle pressed to the figure on the ground and he blew in a deep breath, then began firm sure chest comprehensions. She realized that is what she had been feeling when she was brought awake. Someone, the bleeding bear, most likely had been performing CPR. There were plenty of other poeple laying on the ground she levered herself up and ignored the pain in her leg and crawled over to a male cheetah near by and felt for a pulse, it was there and thready but she heard no breath from him. She Started Breathing into his muzzled and was soon rewarded when he caughed in her face.
" Hey, lie by down, your injured she heard from somewhere."
" I can be injured later dammit." she snapped. she made to move to another person but a skinny rabbit in an EMT uniform got to who she was making for first.
A pair of hands griped her and tried to steer her away.
" Fuck off, people need help." She blurted out angrily.
" And you are one of them ma'am, responders on are the scene, sit down." Came the polite but firm command. She turned and saw a rabbit with an average build and an EMT uniform.
She let herself be sat down and treated. Now that she wasn't thinking about helping she felt her leg and her ribs began throbbing. She tried to look around at the scene but the Rabbit held her head still and checked her eyes. The Rabbit was asking her questions, but she was ignoring them. She still heard the 10,000 voices whispering to her as if far away but growing rapidly closer.
" Ma'am i said...."
" How can it be whispers if they are so damn loud she burst as they tried to scrape the inside of her thoughts ragged,
"Ma'am!" The Rabbit said then he was roughly shoved aside. It was the bear with the torn up face. But this time his eyes looked...wrong. thy looked withdrawn and dark even though they were wide and intense.
" Vre'hellus faidaar dru' Cr'hamall...." the bear said gripping the her shoulders. She Felt those words burn into her. Like a song she had heard a thousand times since childhood but suddenly new and so interesting that they would leave her mind. She said them in her mind, strongly with intent. The whispers retreated. The bear fell sideways in a dead feint. As she saw his eye roll up she saw something leave them.
" What?" the rabbit EMT says siitting back up from where he was shoved aside.
" I am alright. check on him" the Lioness assured and leaned over to look at the bear herself. His eyes were still open but rolled back into his head. The left was twitching and would bobbling to become partially visible before rolling back again.
" I am going to need help to move him" the Rabbit says. One of the policemen, the hefty vulpine and strongly built badger are on their way over.
" Ok lets put him in the ambulance, he looks pretty bad." the Rabbit says. After the 2 cops help load him into an ambulence he returns to the lioness.
" Could you make out what he said to you?" The rabbit asks.
" Oh yes." The lioness says, then when the 3 men stay staring at her expectantly she sighs. "Vre'hellus faidaar dru' Cr'hamall, gelmhjet gefarguct djeflarben tahl." The Lioness says easily. It was only after she repeated the litany that she realized the big bear had only said the first half. The rest of the words just came to her.
" Sounds like aphagea brought on by head trauma." the rabbit says sounding worried.
" Sounds like something you should ask your boyfriend about" the badger says to the hefty fox.
" Don't joke about people's sexuality like that" the Lioness says testily.
" No he's right, that sounds like magic shit, and the guy i am seeing knows about that kind of stuff." The round Fox cop says. He pulls out his his phone and dials.
" Hey, real quick, i am going to have someone say some weird words, i want you to tell me if they ring any bells." The Hefty fox holds out the phone and makes a "say it again motion"
"Vre'hellus faidaar dru' Cr'hamall, gelmhjet gefarguct djeflarben tahl." She repeats back smoothly as if it is something she has said a million times.
" did you catch that?.... Stuart? Stuart are you there? Stuart i don't understand that old northman stuff speak.... what, how bad?" He looks startled.
" What did he say." The badger prompts.
" He said ' When people quote the Book of shadows that walk, bad shit is happening.' that was the part i understood anyway. He says he is calling the wizards tower. He sounded nervous."
" This Stuart of your wouldn't happen to be husky or part husky fellow with gray eyes, long hair and be kinda chubby would he?" The lioness asks thinking it is a long shot.
" Well yes but he is more than kinda chubby, why do you ask?" The large fox officer queries with some what narrowed eyes.
" This is going to be a long weird story..."
" Was if maybe a week ago, in a dreamscape and you were dressed in someone's taxes?" He asks.
The fox suddenly turns to the badger. " See this is why i keep telling the cheif we need a magic division, cause i have a feeling this is going to get even weirder and creepier before it is through and stuff like this seems to happen more and more often"
" So what did happen here? The lioness asks. " I am sorry and i know i am supposed to tell you but all i remember was meeting some friends in the club and then nothing after... did someone spike my drink?"
" We are still investigating but it looks like you weren't the only target." The badger says.
They left her sitting in the back of one of the Ambulences that the EMTs were occasionally grabbing things from. They went on to do whatever cops did at scenes like this. The moment she thought she was out of people's minds she pulled herself up and walked to check on the other victims around. She Got a vague idea of what had happened.
From the pieces she gathered the club sh had been in was pretty packed but everything was normal, but something had happened and people started getting woozy and passed out, whole chunks of the dance floor just dropped. Some people, like her had gone out instantly, but some, had smashed the windows or opened the doors and stumbled into the nearby busy street. That had cause the car accidents. After traffic ground to a halt some of the drivers, the ones not bitching and moaning had gotten out and pieced together what had happened and gone into the club to pull more people out. The guy she was currently talking to, a pine marten in what must have been well off because his clothes were in tasteful pastels like salmon and taupe, had said the moment he went in to pull people out he started feeling woozy and sick. He had manage to pull one person out before he had collapsed and had a hard time getting back up to go and save more.
" It was mostly the bigger people, This bear and 2 cows that kept up, they went in time after time, there was also this wolverine guy, who stayed inside and pulled people from the back toward where other people so they could be pulled out faster. He ended up falling too." The Marten explained.
She thought he was finished then he started again. " It was exactly like all the tests...." he said groggily.
" What tests?" The lioness prompted.
The marten started then looked around almost drunkenly, he leaned in. " I work PR for Red-Knight arms, we fit into the Phip collective of corperations, and passed to one of the Phip sons, he started making direct visits, apparently he is a weapon enthusiast, any way a year or so ago he asked us to work on a gas grenade that could incapacitate crowds or dangerous animals for the explorer division. Well they made one, and it worked really well, too well in fact, tests showed people went down almost instantly, but it was dangerously potent to smaller species, but big bigger species and well bigger individuals of most species were less effected. The head scientists were concerned and were ready to thrown down with the new owner when he came to visit against it. The new owner shows up, this was a few month back, at first i thought he was a posturing fucker, came in wearing boots and light body armor but in like triple XL size. This guy looked like the typical fat-ass weekend warrior type. Well maybe he is, but anyway he takes one look at the report and without even waiting for the researchers to explain it he says no to it, he actually got kinda steamed saying he wanted sleeping gas not and i quote 'this shit that will kill anything smaller than my fat ass in minutes.' Everyone agreed it was too dangerous and the head researcher even started crying and said ' thank you for not being a corporate fuckwit' He gave her a hug everyone agreed to shelve the current formula and rework it so it wouldn't be lethal. I mean people were so worried about this the head chemist told me he would quit if he was told to move forward on it as it was. The new owner, i forget his name then gave a speech that we already made enough weapons that were fully lethal and that we needed to now focus on less lethal tools for law enforcement and consumers who wanted to defend themselves without ending a life. The from what i heard he went from there to those old tunnels that cut through the mountains went in to find something. Like he led a field op. From what i heard there was magic stuff involved and he and some wizard type people went did... well whatever they did."
The marten, looking all sleepy eyed half like he wanted to puke, looked around and saw the Big bellied figure of the fox officer taking notes. He must have been listening. The Marten blinked at her. " Fuck.... i wasn't supposed to say any of that. Nother effect of the gas, makes people loopy and say stuff... would be dicey in courts...fuck stop talking."
" It's ok lad, ii knew some of this already." The fox cop, his name patch Read McGuffin T., says in an assuring and comforting tone.
" No, you don't... how could you." the marten says rubbing his face.
" Simple, I am banging your boss." The officer says lightly. The Marten just lays down and puts his hands to his head. The Officer turns to the lioness, " what the weasel..."
" I'm a fucking marten..." comes from the laying figure.
" Well what the marten says is true, i remember hearing about this from Stuart, non of it is secret, there was a press release talking about the new generation stun grenade being delayed due to safety concerns, you may have caught it."
" Wait i wrote that press release...." The marten says from the ground. Both ignored him.
" I am a Tax lawyer, why would i pay attention to press releases regarding weapons?" The Lioness asks. The Cop just shrugs.
" I mostly said it so the loopy mustelid doesn't start panicking about loosing his job. Anyway Stu is going to go through the roof if it is indeed the same substance, He is already sounding tense from whatever you said to him over the phone.... Speaking of tense one of the fastest ways to overcome this doze gas that was rejected was adrenaline. You don't seem to be reflecting any after effects. May i ask why that is?"
" Nightmares" She says simply.
Accepting this the officer just pats her on the shoulder and escorts her to an empty ambulance, one of the few left as most everyone else had been triage and released or taken to the hospital. Her leg and ribs hurt and she had been inside when the gas struck so she was off to the hospital. She layed down on the gurney and heard the doors shut. The slam of the doors was the last thing she heard.
She snapped into awarness in the dark, she knew she had to run. She was up and sprinting in an instant and she heard the hated claws of the thing that pursued her click and scrabble at where she had been. She ran not caring that the terrain beneath her feet kept changing instant to instant, from sand to tile, to loose dirt to cold stone. She ran and heard it pursue her, she ran toward a place, she somehow how knew the place was out, it was where she needed to be leave.
She Reached the place, a set of stone steps she scrambled up, she heard the skittering pursuer stop, it paced back and forth, it wanted at her but it didn't want to touch the steps of rough black stone. She scrambled up them partway but didn't feel like getting to close to something that frightened the something as hideous of nature as it. She turned and looked, it was a lightless place and it should have been too dark to see, but the mysterious half light the showed the land and features went on for miles, she also could make out her persuer, and wished she hadn't thought to look, she turned and bolted up the steps toward an arched door. as if emboldened by her burst of fear it scrambled up the steps after her, iit made screeching sounds as if the stones were hot and burned its hideous hands with smaller hands as fingers. She bolted up the steps flying up them with ease and barreled toward the doorway. There was a long flat parade yard before the massive door. She scrambled up the steps and ran full tilt toward the black emptiness of the massive arched door. She had an odd thought, the massive gate should have been shut, there should have been doors of black iron, but the darkness she saw was openness showing lightlessness beyond. She didn't think too much about this and just hurled herself toward it. it filled her vision as she ran toward it. When she passed the threshold she felt an odd sensation that caused her to stumble. she feel forward but caught herself. The She realized that she was looking at a marble floor. A lit marble floor. She turned around and saw the massive doorway were sealed by black iron doors with images engraved on them. the images were so small and intricate she didn't make any of them out.
She turned to look toward the open room. Inside was a foyer, lit dimly and Spartanly decorated. the one feature she made note of was a pair of staircases one white marble with black striations and the other black marble with white striations, both curved and lead up toward a door through which light was pouring. Above the Door was an image. She stared at this image and let it burn itself into her mind, she knew it was important and let it seep into her memory. When she fully accepted the image she felt herself catapulted through the lit doorway. She didn't need to bother with the stairways and jest let herself move through the door.
She bolted upright in a hospital bed and sat there stiffly panting and gripping the her hands into fists. She was frightened certainly but she was determined. The image had showed her how to vanquish the thing that pursued her. The key was the tree. A tree she knew spanned realities.
" Whoa now miss..." she heard a nervous sounding voice. Her eye darted sharply over. There was a hospital orderly with his hands up looking frightened. She glanced down at herself and saw why. She had been strapped to the hospital bed with her arms secured with padded cuffs to the bed railings. These restraints were snapped and torn. She hadn't felt them when she sat up. They must have given way like cobwebs when she jerked upright. She saw her legs were secured as well. With a testing yank of her legs the straps gave way with loud snaps. This made the orderlies eyes widen even further. He was terrified. Strangely she felt no more fear at all. Just certainty.
" I am going to use the bathroom, can you get me a pen and paper while i do?" she asked pleasantly but still breathing intensely.
" May i ask why you need them?" the orderly said in an obviously trained calming voice.
" To solve a problem." The lioness said simply as she got up and walked into the in room bathroom.