Prepare for Battle
Jessie heard a voice, quickly identified as Gavin’s voice, harshly grind out “You’d best open your eyes now, Jessie.”
Jessie’s eyes popped open in shock.
“You promised me you wouldn’t interfere in the real world!”
She looked up at what appeared to be the blue sky of a warm spring day in the clearing Fergus had used to teach her, the same place she’d been the last time she’d seen Gavin and the Katarese.
Jessie noticed that, while her hands still gripped a weapon, it was now the familiar and welcome grip of her sword rather than the two handed haft of the axe.
Jessie was now, to all appearances, lying fully clothed in worn, soft leathers on the grass of the clearing, holding her sword. Of the elf, the knife, or the gold medallion there was no sign to be seen.
Jessie sprung up, her anger hot and fresh, driven by the terror of moments before.
“How dare you interfere when you swore you wouldn’t! And am I imagining all this? I think not! This is all your doing, your will deciding what I’ll see!”
Gavin was indeed standing before her, but of the Katarese, Jessie could see no sign, either. It was just the two of them.
Taking a second look at Gavin, Jessie felt herself momentarily taken aback.
Gavin was standing, wearing armor of a fashion Jessie had never heard of before, heavy steel covering him in overlapping plates from neck to boot, all lacquered in a solid sky blue, with actual gold metal banding on the edges of every plate and on the heads of each bolt.
In his hands, he clenched the haft of a massive blued steel and gold warhammer larger than anything Jessie had ever heard of, a weapon that would be so heavy in the real world that no man could lift it.
To her surprise, the first thought Jessie had, even through her rage, and the one that she blurted out loud, was “Compensating much?”
Gavin looked down at his warhammer with his pale blue eyes, and then back up at Jessie, and to her surprise, he grinned.
“Mayhap I am, just a little. I feel well and truly helpless now, and that’s not something I’m used to.”
“Look, Jessie, I promised you what I did, and I’m holding true.”
Jessie broke in, her anger still too hot to be contained. “To hell with that! Tell me you didst not pull me here in some damned misguided idea to spare a frail, little girl some pain! I dare you!”
Gavin shook his head quickly from side to side, adding, “No, I’d not do that, but I don’t blame you for thinking so. In the world you know, women don’t fight in the front lines, but only in defense of the homestead or Caer. In mine, what you’ve got between your legs meant nothing, nothing at all compared to what damage you could do with your hands, and whether or not you could stand your ground in the face of hell. There’s no way you could know that, but there it is. And I’m not minding saying that I think it was a finer world than this, in all truth.”
Gavin swung the hammer in a grand sweeping motion, taking in all the sky overhead.
“Look about you, Jessie. Feel the sky lightening with your mood.”
“This place is how you made it yourself. When first you learned you could affect this realm within your soul, you crafted, all unknowing, a safe haven for yourself, a place where you instinctively feel safe and guarded. This glade is where, in the real world, you took your dreams and made them come true with your own hard work, and where, with the guidance of your friend Fergus, you came to trust in yourself.”
Suddenly, the sky overhead from horizon to horizon, where it could be seen through the trees, glowed and flashed with the flames of a fiery inferno. The blazing light was accompanied by a suddenly audible chanting, in a strange, darkly melodic language strangely familiar to Jessie.
as Jessie looked to the sky, watching intently for any sign of a foe to fight, the flames gradually faded back into the pattern of the blue sky, and the sounds of chanting faded with it.
Turning her attention back to Gavin, she asked, “What the hell was that?”
Gavin sighed, and pointed with his hammer towards the sky once more.
“That was your friend Bane, using her power to touch your soul with the first element of the spirits. Your flesh has already been carved, and the powders used. Now is come the weaving, and the sundering of the gold.”
“I didn’t bring you here to protect you, I brought you here within because you’re about to have the fight of your life on your hands, literally.”
“Now stand straight, get centered, and focus down. You’re in the training leathers that you feel most comfortable and safe in, but get your head wrapped around preparing yourself for combat.”
“Katarese is keeping your outward body still while the ritual goes on, but you’ve got to be on top of your form. Bane is skilled and strong, but she is guessing at it as she goes along. She told you that you’d likely have to fight the spirit of Raktar that is still bound to the axe, but she had some vague idea of a contest of wills.”
“I’m here to tell you, I can feel the axe through your hands, and the bindings upon it, and when the last of the work of the original ritual is unbound, Lord Raktar Single Blow, the orc you took the axe from, is coming straight for your soul, and it is here within you that the battle will be decided, winner take all.”
Jessie looked at Gavin, seeing the open anger on his face, and the frustration in his eyes. “You’re not going to be able to help me, are you?”
Gavin’s fingers twisted as he gripped the hammer handle… the imaginary hammer handle tighter. then he seemed to slump with a sigh.
“No, I’m not. Katerese is taking care of your body during the ritual, but when the last of the bonds are broken, Bane is going to start weaving them around, and into, your soul.”
“She’s good, but she’s not nearly sensitive enough to get it right. We know, we were the ones that had to piece you together after she drug you and the rest of the fragments of souls back from the Dreamtime. It’s mostly due to her inexperience that the tear in reality is still open in your heart.”
‘What she’s going to try to do, It’ll be like trying to smooth out a piece of thin gold foil over an egg, nice and even, using nothing but a heavy hammer at arms length.”
Jessie gave a short, sharp bark of laughter. “I can see why they called you Gavin the Hammer. But what can you do to help Bane? That’s what you’re talking about, isn’t it?”
“Yes, you’re right. I’m going to be doing what I can to keep her from pushing too hard, or in the wrong way. My soul is going to be the anvil against her hammer, supporting your fragile eggshell from within.”
“When what is left of Raktar is freed from the bindings, he is going to flow into you. With the door to the dreamtime cracked open within you, you’re wide open to possession. You have no natural defenses at all anymore.”
The sky chose that moment to plunge the glade into darkness, a shade the color of deepest indigo, pulsing with traces of green and yellow. The colors soothed, despite their wholly unnatural caste in the sky. The sound of chanting grew even louder, and while the words were still in an unknown yet strangely familiar tongue, the voice was clearly that of Bane.
“That’s it, Jessie. Only a few more bindings left to break before the weaving begins in earnest. We’ve each got our part to play in this, and yours is here. Remember where you are, Jessie. Remember where you stand. You were full of fear and anger when I pulled you into the dreaming, and it’s taken a great deal of my strength to hold things firm while you calmed yourself down. When I go to take my place, this place will be guided, directed, and ultimately controlled by nothing and no one but you. Try and keep that thought ever in your mind.”
Gavin smiled once, sadly, and then raised the hammer in seeming farewell.
“And Jessie? The blessing of Tyr be on you. Good hunting to you.”
With that, Gavin faded away as though he’d never been any more than mist of a summer morning, leaving Jessie to look around, nervous, wondering from where the attack would come.