Chapter 13. But Peace Has to End
Erin was walking through the forest when it happened.
She, Vechs and Chad were making good time, they were going to arrive at Guude's earlier than expected. The air was cool and there was bird song filling the air. Everything was peaceful.
But peace has to end.
Erin let out a blood curdling scream and fell to her knees. Her head was in excruciating pain, like the worst migraine she'd ever had multiplied by ten.
"Fucking hell!" She screamed. She felt like her head was going to explode. She felt the boys run to her, she heard muffled sounds that were possibly voices before she passed out from the pain.
When Erin awoke she wasn't in the forest. She was in a field. It was the middle of the night, the only light glowing from the bright moon above her. Even if she didn't know where she was, there was one good thing, the pain was gone.
Just ahead of her there was a thick, black mist; Bittermist. It was contorting and forming human shapes. The shapes moved towards her, quickly becoming more detailed until they stood about two metres away and were fully formed.
They were all masked individuals, each mask differing as Erin looked from face to face of those surrounding her. They were dressed in all black, most noticeable of their features was their long, hooded, form fitting coats.
The figure in the middle, possibly a man, reached a gloved hand to their neck. They moved their hand under the scarf they wore and seemed to press something. The lower half of the mask turned to bittermist and slithered into the person's neck, "Hello Aureylian Wicken." A masculine voice said.
Erin frowned, "You have the wrong girl, I'm Erin Wayne, not Aureylian Wicken."
"Your subconscious says otherwise. The magic user accessing your aura is tapping into your deepest memories, and they say that your name is Aureylian Wicken."
A flood of fragmented memories hit Erin like a bus causing her to stumble. She remembered a man singing her to sleep. A woman cradling her in her arms when she cut her knee. A bright light. A knife. Blood, so much blood…
She shook her head, "No! This isn't real! This isn't real!" She shouted at the figures.
"It's not real, no. You are currently dreaming, we are in your dreamscape. But your memories are real, Aureylian. They happened, you just don't remember them; they were locked away from you."
"You're lying, this is just an illusion the person fucking with my head is making. None of this is real." She insisted, "None of this is real."
"You can keep telling yourself that, Aureylia-"
"Stop calling me that! My name is Erin Wayne! My adoptive parents were Allison and Robert Wayne! I grew up in America! I am thirty years old and I got pulled into this mess because of a weird case!"
"If you wish to believe that, then you may. But everything you know is founded on lies."
Erin sat up a start, nearly head butting Chad who was looking over her with concern. She was breathing heavily; frantic and scared.
"Erin, oh thank gods you're awake," Chad said, letting out a sigh of relief, "are you okay?"
She was shivering, "I don't know." She murmured numbly, "There were these figures in black with weird masks and one guy was insisting my name is Aureylian Wicken. It's not. My name is Erin Wayne. It's Erin Wayne. It's Erin Wayne," she kept repeating it, and Chad pulled her into a tight hug.
"Shh, it's okay, it was just a dream, Erin, it's okay." The felin said soothingly.
Erin looked at Chad, her eyes puffy from tears, "Someone wanted me to see that dream, they made me black out so I could. I'm scared, I don't feel safe inside my own head."
Vechs sat down noiselessly, "Maybe Guude will be able to help?"
"Maybe…" Erin pulled out of Chad's protective arms and stood up, "Come on, we have to keep moving." She looked at the worried expressions on the boys' faces, "I'm fine, or will be. Let's just get going."
The other two complied and they continued to trudging through the forest, Vechs leading them.
Every now and then Chad would glance at Erin, making sure she was okay. Possibly to reassure Erin, or maybe himself. Erin didn't know for certain. She wished she had a weapon of some kind. She'd feel safer if she could protect herself. Back on Earth she'd had a gun.
She now missed the weight of the gun in its holster. It let her know that if worst came to worst she'd be able to protect herself. Even if she used it more to knock people out when they attacked her rather than shooting them; she'd only fired it once and that was only to shoot someone in the leg when they were running away.
Vechs had said he'd give her a sword when they stopped at his place, apparently he had several. After consulting the map, Vechs had said it would make more sense to go to his house after Guude's so that was their plan.
Erin thought about the figures in her dream. Instead of being hazy and fading from her memory as dreams normally did, Erin could remember every detail. Like how one was really tall and thin, or another was clearly a felin because they had two shapes in their hood like ears.
She could remember the slight sting in the air, likely from the bittermist. She could remember the way the figures formed out of seemingly nothing.
If these people were real, and Erin had no doubt that they were, they were powerful and dangerous, she'd felt it. There was a nagging fear in the back of Erin's mind, she was very aware of the fact that right now she wasn't safe. Her mind was being used as a weapon against her and that was terrifying.
Erin shook her head, she needed to focus on something nice and happy. Her mind drifted to the market. The moment when she'd met that brak. It felt weirdly significant, but she didn't know why. Perhaps it was because it was her first time meeting a brak and it was new and exciting to her.
She remember the warm smile on the woman's face, the way she'd checked that she was okay, but in a "I'm sure you are, but I wanted to make sure" kind of way. Erin suddenly wished she'd asked the woman's name, it would have been nice to befriend more than just Chad and Vechs.
The forest they walked through was cool, such a contrast to Skol Prida. Erin didn't feel like she was going to burn up here.
Before they knew it the forest had thinned away, revealing a small mountain village. The village that according to their information was where Guude lived. Erin was suddenly nervous. They were showing up at this man's home, uninvited, to ask about his past. Thinking about it, Erin wouldn't have appreciated it if she were in Guude's position.
They stopped to ask for directions to Guude's house - Vechs' map was better for larger scale navigation and wasn't designed for a small village.
The village had dirt roads and the buildings weren't as close together as they were in Braestin. There wasn't the same buzz in the air, but it was still pleasant.
The trio went up the path that they'd been told would to lead to Guude's house. They reached the end and in front of them stood a fairly large house. It wasn't anything special, but it certainly wasn't an ugly building.
Vechs stepped forward to knock on the door. There was a pause, none of the adventurers daring to speak as they waited for the large door to swing open. Each of them trying their best to not look as awkward as they felt as the door slowly opened.
It was pulled open to reveal a well built man with a short beard and short hair, "Hello." He said.
"Uh, hi," Vechs said after a moment of silence, "You're Jason Guude, right?"
The man nodded, "That's me. What's it to you?" His tone was guarded.
"Well," Vechs begun, "we were wondering if we could ask you about," he looked around and got closer to the Guude, "about the Order of The Sphinx."
Guude laughed, "No way. Meria and I both decided that after Liana died and Dorian disappeared that we were out. Go away, the lot of you."
Erin, who'd be pretty hidden from sight, stepped forward, Guude gasped, "Liana?" He breathed, "But you're dead?"
"No," Erin shook her head, "I am not Liana Ray, but I may be related to her."
"Related? How so?"
"She might be my aunt?" Erin tried.
But Guude shook his head, "I've met all her nieces and nephews, you're not one."
"Oh… I might be her daughter then?" Erin looked at the man hopefully.
Guude shifted his weight, "Look, I don't care who you are, you're not coming in. I'm done with Sphinx." He started to close his door but Erin dove to stop it.
"What if I told you that Joseph Greenwood is alive?"
The door creaked open again, "Joe's alive?"
"Yes, I spoke to him about two weeks ago. He's the reason I'm here, on Sunreth. I'm not from here, I was transported by one of your portals. Please, let us in."
Guude sighed and looked around, "Alright," he agreed, "I suppose you'd better come in then."