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A Walk In The Woods
A druid goes a-wandering one evening and finds trouble she hadn't bargained for.
Last updated January 8, 2008 @ 2:21:34PM
Viewed 1929 times

((This is part of the complicated story of my Feathermoon druid, Sorcha'Rei. I think this episode is stand-alone, but perhaps some background is in order.

Sorcha had a long-ago love affair with a paladin named Pavel, whom she sent away for reasons that need not concern us here. He later was required by his father to enter an arranged marriage and a week or so after the wedding, he and his bride and their household were attacked by a large contingent of undead. Most of the household died, but Pavel and his wife disappeared.

At the time of this story, Sorcha's friend Rhaina (yes, the same Rhaina -- she used to be on Feathermoon, too) has gone to investigate the disappearances, having extracted from Sorcha the promise that she herself will not get involved. Instead, Sorcha has joined a company of heroes and is settling into living in their large manor headquarters in Elwynn Forest.

One night shortly after she joins the heroes, while Rhaina is still away, Sorcha cannot sleep. This is the story of what happened that night.
))

Sorcha was unable to sleep. Her promise not to do anything about Pavel until, well, until she was released from the promise chafed at her. It was a promise she intended to keep, but it made breathing, eating, and sleeping very hard. She had settled in nicely, in the rooms they gave her when she joined the Company. Her treasured belongings were arranged just how she preferred, the furnishings suited her exactly, and the bed was warm and cozy. If not for her errant thoughts and the burden of the promise, she would be able to sleep happily here.

Tonight, sleep was not possible. Seeking the comfort of the Earth Mother's realm, she leapt from her bed. Pulling on only soft leather, she slipped from the Hall, and wandered into the forest. Shifting to Cat, she began to prowl, stealthed to avoid disturbing the other creatures in the wood tonight, letting her elf senses recede, and easing into her feline self.

It all seemed so easy when she took on the shape and abilities of a hunting Cat: wander at will, do what is necessary, and sleep curled in a ball.

As she wandered, her heart began to ease some and she became more aware of her surroundings. Off to her right, some rabbits were having a birthday party. She disdained to disturb them, and continued on her way, moving aimlessly through the darkening woods. Up ahead, an owl sought its dinner. She ignored him, too.

Suddenly, she heard a growl that did not come from a normal, healthy animal. Making her way towards the sound, she cursed the fact that as a druid deeply immersed in the pursuit of balance, she could not move very quickly while stealthed. Still, the sound of that growl made her absolutely certain she wished to approach it unseen.

She emerged into a clearing, where she saw a badly injured Cat, the high lord of the Company, and the highest priestess, a human woman whose name escaped recall at the moment. Something serious was going on. Sorcha had no idea what, but the tension in the glade was immense, and a shiver rippled through her fur as she realized that the Cat was about to attack the high lord. Normally, she would leap in and fight at the side of someone under attack, but the way he was whispering at the Cat suggested that she should not leap to a hasty conclusion, lest someone die of her carelessness.

She looked to see what the priestess was doing. She was singing something priestly, and Sorcha hoped it helped. It puzzled her, however, because it appeared to be a priestly prayer of sleep, one that was aimed at the Cat. That couldn't work! It only worked on people! However, the Lady's actions told her what she might do to help. Shifting quickly to elf, she reached for the grace of Elune and began to cast a druidic sleep on the Cat. If the Cat was a person in disguise, then the priest's spell would work. And if not, if it was actually a beast, perhaps she could put it to sleep long enough to prevent what seemed to be a very serious attack on the high lord.

As she watched, the priestly song landed on the Cat; the only effect seemed to be to enrage the beast further. It spun on its hind feet and faced the small blonde woman, snarling. For a moment, it remained tensed for attack, and then it leapt into the air, teeth bared and claws extended, clearly intent on ripping the unarmed priestess apart.

The quick response of the great Cat to the Lady's spell terrified Sorcha so much it nearly caused her to lose her place in the casting. Grimly, knowing now that she was the only chance of preventing an attack on the other woman, she forced her attention back to her casting, throwing the completed spell at the injured Cat as he sprung towards the priestess.

Wishing she could see as well in the dark as her Cat form could, she peered into the clearing, hoping against all hope that her spell worked. She heard a thumping sound, as if something large landed softly on the forest floor. She cautiously moved forward, still in the shadows. Now she could see the great Cat asleep at the lady's feet, and the high lord speaking quietly to the priestess.

Staying in elf form, to give herself as many options as possible, Sorcha waited quietly to see what happened next. The high lord turned away from the priest, and raised his voice slightly. Speaking in the language of the Night Elves, he bade Sorcha show herself, so she stepped silently into the shaft of moonlight in the glade.

As she did so, she sensed a duality in the older elf's response to her. One part of him assessed her, took in her exquisitely crafted leathers, her light, sure movements, the way the moonlight glanced off her white hair and light skin, so that she must almost appear to glow. Another part of him recoiled from her in horror. Although he did not speak, Sorcha was aware that this part of him urged him to attack and destroy her, and she held more tightly to the grace of Elune as she stood silent before him.

After a moment, the old elf drew a deep breath. He growled something at the priestess, something Sorcha was just as glad she could not hear, and then his face changed, calmed, and he knelt on the ground beside the sleeping wounded Cat.

For a moment, Sorcha thought that whatever had possessed him, had made him look at her with loathing and fear, had passed from him, but then his face contorted with a rage she could not account for.

"Get away from me, both of you, before I lose control and destroy you both!"

The priestess was frozen at Sorcha's side, clearly terrified by the high lord's words. As they watched, his body began to change. At first, Sorcha thought it was a druidic shift, much like the one she had used earlier to turn herself into a hunting cat. Almost immediately, she could see that he was shifting to an ursine form.

To her alarm, the shift seemed to go awry. His body swelled and hard scaly plating appeared upon his skin. His hair began to fade away and the flesh of his forehead was suddenly pieced by two demonic horns. He cried out in pain and fear, and a great bellowing roar filled the glade. Sorcha watched in horror as his hands stretched and swelled into great black paws, covered with scales and crowned with claws already drenched in the blood of innocents. His clothing choked and bound him as his form grew, then ripped and fell away.

Fully transformed, he stood before them laughing darkly. A grotesque mockery of a bear he was, twice the size he should be, with horns and fangs, and where there should have been fur, mottled scales covered him.

Something controlled him, corrupted his shapeshift, and although it wanted them to believe its power was absolute, it was not. Shining brightly behind the clouded, enraged eyes of the horror before her, Sorcha could see the spirit of the old elf. And on the slight breeze in the glade, she heard his voice, "Help me . . . "

Sorcha imagined how it would feel to have one of her other skins so distorted. Using her inner sense, she reached out to the demon, seeking some connection to that elven spirit. At first, she can't find it, but then she heard again, with her inner ear, the whispered plea for help. Following it, she found the tiny core of the high lord's self, deep within the demon growing before her eyes.

Concentrating hard on establishing a connection to that shining spirit, she appealed to Elune for help, and felt herself graced by the light of the moon. Opening her mouth, she began to speak, and spoke with both her inner and outer voices to the man at the core of the horrific beast before her.

"Yes, I will help you, high lord," she heard herself say in her native tongue, "But I can only help you. You will have to win this fight yourself. I will not shift to another form, but will stay in my weakest form that still can use the dream voice to talk to you. I will place myself in front of the demon that tries to destroy you and offer to let him destroy me instead. He will want to do so, for he will feel the power of Elune pouring through me. If you can prevent him from destroying me, you will also prevent him from consuming you."

She flung her arms up in the air, and holding tight to her connection to the high lord, began to rain down a healing spell upon the glade. She had not known that spell could be used like this, but Elune was truly guiding her tonight, and she used an ordinary healing spell to channel the very power of the moon into her fragile bond with what remained of the high lord's spirit, hoping she could offer him enough power to allow him to gather his own resources and subdue the demon who tried to destroy him in front of her eyes.

Beside her, the priestess, also having been frozen in horror at the sight of the demonic beast, suddenly moved. Raising her hands before her face, weaving a pattern of light with her fingertips, she spoke, not to the elf within the beast, but to the beast itself.

"You cannot have him," she declared with the certainty of one who will not be denied. "You shall not have him!"

Golden light poured off her fingertips, encasing both women in a shield of protection, and then the shield began to enlarge, to try to encompass the beast as well. Here the priestess appeared to reach the limit of her power, but at least she held both herself and Sorcha in the golden cradle of a Light-born shield.

The demonic beast that once was the high lord was moving towards the priestess, head down and growling, when Sorcha's healing rain began to fall upon the glade. The power of it filled the the glade, and where the sparks fall upon the beast they burned him. With a terrible roar, the great beast turned and launched itself at the elf. Though massive and armor plated, it moved with a terrifying speed as it bore down upon her immobile form. Reaching her, its great taloned paws slashed out, only to be deflected by the holy shield which surrounded the women. Though it sustained only a single swipe, the shield cast upon the druid was immediately reduced to the faintest shimmer, almost overpowered.

The beast was the height of the elf while on all fours. Now it rose up before her to stand on its hind legs and roared in fury and pain. Great indeed it stood; more than twice the height of a man and pawing at the air, preparing to descend upon the unmoving elf. Impassive, Sorcha looked up, but continued to cast. The healing rain looked like a shower of tiny stars into the glade, and each one that landed on the beast burnt away a bit of his carapace.

The stars fell, and Sorcha could tell that the elf felt the stirrings of hope in his breast. The stars fell and the sky cleared. Into the darkness came a shimmering light; the light of Elune shining upon him. Where the light fell, death receded. Rising through the channel of light he came back to his mortal form.

The high lord blinked at the women. Sorcha could feel the enraged possessor retreat before the light of Elune that her spell poured down onto the glade and into the wounded heart of the man before her. It did not leave its place within the high lord, and Sorcha sighed, knowing this was nothing but a respite.

As she tried to find words, the naked man's eyes closed and he fell to the ground in a boneless heap of unconscious elf.

For a moment, the priestess just stared at Sorcha, then she turned to look at the man before her, keeping her eyes averted from his nakedness, in the human way. She looked back at Sorcha, and clearly was having as much trouble remembering Sorcha's name as Sorcha was having remembering hers. If she hadn't been so terrified, Sorcha might have smiled at that.

She contented herself with saying, "I'm sorry, and a little embarrassed, but I don't recall your name, lady. I am Sorcha, newly come to this company, and unable to sleep tonight."

The priestess did manage a tiny grin, "I am Polly, and for my sins, I am high priestess of the company." Her smiled faded. "Can we carry him back, do you think? He needs more healing than I can manage here, with the supplies I have."

Whispering her gratitude to the moon goddess for the help that had been given her, she knelt beside the unconscious body on the ground before them. She could see his spirit burning brightly, but her heightened awareness of him meant that she could also sense the demon hidden in the depths of his mind.

"That was a battle won, not the war, I'm afraid," she said sadly. "We need to get him somewhere warm, but first, I think we need to tend to the Cat. Can you put a shield around the high lord to hold him while we care for his friend?"

She turned to look again at the sleeping beast. Reaching out to the Cat with her inner sense, she felt his torment, which seemed in an uncanny way to echo that of the high lord.

"I think the best we can do for him right now is for you to try to heal these awful wounds. I will hold him asleep while you do that. Then we can move the high lord back to the Hall." She grimaced ruefully.

Placing one hand on the head of the great Cat, she sang softly, the song that would keep him sleeping as long as she sang it, no matter what else happened.

Sorcha cold feel the resistance in the priestess before she finally agreed, as if she knew that the high lord, druid and Night Elf that he was, would want this poor injured beast tended to before they dealt with his own situation. Polly removed her own cloak and used it to cover the unconscious elf, and then turned to the Cat.

Great gashes ran along the sides of his body, as if he had been raked by dragon claws, and blood oozed out of the injuries, matting his fur even more than it already was. One ear was torn and scabby, the pads of his paws were worn raw, and his tail had ugly boils on it. On the whole, he looked as miserable as any animal Sorcha had ever seen.

He struggled a couple times beneath her sleep-song, as the priestess worked with hands and light to heal him. Finally, the woman sat back on her heels, and looked him over. Still filthy, and caked in dried blood, his wounds appeared mostly healed, and healthily so. New skin covered the pads of his feet, and although his tail lacked fur where the abcesses had been, they were no longer there, either.

Physically, he had been healed, but Sorcha could feel the corruption still inside him, resonating against her hand as she sang him to sleep. Again, she could sense the sameness between the Cat's corruption and the demonic thing that seemed to be hiding within the high lord.

Wishing she could simply cleanse both the Cat and the elf, she sighed as she turned back to consider how best to manage the high lord's return to the Hall.

Looking down at the elf sprawled on the ground, surrounded by glowing Light, Sorcha considered his immediate predicament. She agreed with the priestess that he probably couldn't manage the walk himself, but she wasn't sure he will consider the alternative an improvement. The only way she can get him back to the Hall would be to fling him over her shoulders and around her neck and carry him herself. She tried to think of an alternative.

As she gazed at him, the high lord's hand moved slightly. Sorcha knelt down beside him, and took that hand in hers. "Can you hear me, Lord D'ana'no?" she asked, using the common tongue so that the priestess could also understand her.

A voice answered, sounding old and unused. "It is all right. I am . . . myself . . . again."

Polly quickly knelt beside him and helped him sit up, holding him upright as she offered him a sip from her canteen. Sorcha wondered why the woman was in the forest at all tonight.

After drinking deeply for a moment or two, the high lord looked at both women, and then shrugged, a gesture of resignation greater than any Sorcha had seen in the 317 years of her life.

"I am forever in your debt," he said. "Few things in this world happen by chance, and so it can be no chance at all that brings you here to my side when I needed you most. Both of you have joined the pattern of my final dance. I only hope you will not die of it."

Polly gasped softly, but merely moved a hand to touch his face gently, a familiarity the high lord allowed.

"I have been ashamed to admit the truth," the rusty voice continued, getting a bit stronger as it spoke, "but you have seen it already tonight, and have served me and my companion so faithfully that I surely owe you an explanation."

He looked again at the sleeping, physically healed Cat, and Sorcha knew he could see the inner wounds that the priestess had not been able to reach. She suddenly dreaded what he would say next.

"How I came to be burdened as you have surely seen that I am is not important tonight. We can speak of it another time. Tonight, we must concern ourselves with the fate of Adumbro, my faithful companion. He has caught my contagion, as it were, and although he is a beast most regal and strong, no animal can resist the pressure from a demonic possessor. And so over the last few weeks, he has lost his way, wandering the woods in perpetual agony."

He paused for a few moments, and Sorcha knew herself craven enough to wish he would not continue. Yet, as she knew he would, he finally began to speak again. "I have come to the woods at night, to try to remind him of who he was, when we rode and hunted together, to feed him, to try to ease his agony. Each time I saw him, it was as if there was less and less of him there, and more and more of the demonic. Tonight, I could not find him at all in the wounded body. And you saw that he was prepared to destroy me."

Again, he paused.

"Sorcha," he said, turning to face her, "He is lost in the Dream. He has retreated there. I cannot go there, for my own demon makes that an unsafe place for me, but you can." Tears welled in his eyes, tears she saw he had been holding back for months, as he watched his beloved companion succumb to a taint he was unable to cure.

“He is lost, and I cannot help him!” He looked up at Sorcha in desperation. “I cannot help him, for my spirit is corrupted. My Dreams are dark and tainted; my hands do not heal. But you can. Go into the Dream. Find my brother, and bring him back to wholeness. Perhaps he is not too lost.”

Sorcha felt terror growing in her as she listened to the high lord speak. Before he asked, she had known what he would request. She was afraid, but before she said so, she considered the alternatives. She knew that the high lord was right: the Cat had very little time left before he succumbed totally to the taint within him. And he was right again that he could not himself remove a corruption he had caused. If Adumbro was to be saved, she would have to do it, and do it now.

Her stomach clenched, as she felt herself resolve to enter the Dream and try to rescue the Cat. What she had already experienced of the demon possessing the high lord had shaken her to her very bones. And in the high lord's case, there was a fully sentient, very powerful druid with her. When she wandered to try to save Adumbro, she would do it alone.

"Yes," she said at last in Darnassian. "Yes, Lord D'ana'no, I will do it."

Considering what she was about to do, Sorcha realized that once she entered the Dream, the high lord's demon was likely to take that opportunity to destroy her, and the high lord at the same time.

"Polly," she said in the common tongue, "I am about to do the high lord's bidding, but I am afraid. I believe that once I am in the Dream, his demon may arise and try to consume us both. Please, can you soothe the high lord's mind while I walk in the Dream? And you, lord, will you submit to the lady's spell?"

She could feel the demon flinch away from her words, and knew that she had made them all safer with that suggestion. She gazed steadily at the face of the older druid.

He nodded and lowered his head over Adumbro.

"Save him..." he whispers. "Bring a natural death to him if you must, but save him from the taint that I have brought to him."

Sorcha nodded at the high lord's words, unable to say anything adequate in response to the great trust he has reposed in her. She turned to look at Polly, in time to see her begin to weave the patterns of light and shadow to soothe Lord D'ana'no, that would, if they were very lucky, be enough to keep his enemy from destroying them all.

Sorcha removed her boots and placed them on the ground. Kneeling, she wiped the leaves and needles and other things away from the raw earth in one place in the glade. Standing, she carefully placed her bare feet on the exposed earth.

She entered a light trance. Knowing she would need all the help she could get, she first felt her connection to the soil and rock beneath her feet. Sending a plea down through the soles of her feet, she sang an entreaty to the Earth Mother.

Concentrating on the places where her skin touched that of the Earth Mother, she sang of her knowledge of the natural world, of her love for the high mountains of the dwarves, and the sea bottoms where the turtles dwell. Her song conjured visions of the fertile plains of the Barrens, teeming with life, and of the glories of the rock formations in the place men call Thousand Needles. She sang of the welcoming, gentle places, of the Elwynn Forest, of Mulgar and its rolling hills, even of her own home place of Ashenvale. Her plea for aid tinged the song with sadness, but she was singing of the wonders she had known, of the sunsets and star-filled skies, the awe-inspiring storms and astonishing calms, of the world itself, with its glories and pains and beauty.

"Help me, Earth Mother. This Cat is tormented through no fault of his own. Lend me your strength and stolidity as I seek to redeem his spirit."

At first, the Earth Mother was silent, waiting as she so often does. Sorcha did not waste time considering whether her plea would be answered, but continued to sing her song, and gradually, she felt the soil move under her feet, until her feet were buried in warm, soft dirt. Smiling hugely at the knowledge that the Earth Mother was holding her, she sang a brief song of gratitude for this great boon.

Now she turned her attention to Elune, Elune who had already graced her beyond telling tonight, who had helped her save the high lord from destruction, and who blessed her with the gift of acting as a conduit to transmit the power of the moon to the suffering lord. "Please, Lady," she sang. "I ask it not for myself, and not for the high lord. I ask it for the sake of this suffering Cat, who, through no fault of his own, is being tormented. I would right this wrong, with your blessing."

Almost immediately, she felt herself fill with moonlight and starlight and sunlight, fill until it seemed she would not be able to hold it all, and a voice, an impossibly beautiful, shining, silent, loud voice filled her head, filled the glade. "Go child. I have given you all you will need, but it will rely on your own fortitude now. Go with my blessing, and hold fast to the safety of the Earth Mother's hand. Go. Save the Cat if you can."

Girded for the coming battle, Sorcha deepened her trance, standing at last at the entrance to the Dream, the place she had been afraid to come ever since news of Pavel's disappearance reached her. She feared its beauty, feared the truths she might find here. And yet it felt as it always had, unearthly, beautiful, and all her own. A thousand paths lay at her feet, for her to choose from as she entered the Dream.

Reaching out with her inner sense one more time, she sought the path that would take her to the stricken Cat. Patiently she waited until one path drew her attention. Leaving her corporeal feet buried in the Earth Mother's gift, she lifted one Dream foot and stepped onto the calling path.

At first, she seemed to wander aimlessly, in a forest full of life and peace, wandered among the teeming life, the aminals, the plants, the small things that are neither animal nor plant or perhaps are both, and she could feel the life of the forest rising up around her. Soon, there was so much life that she began to feel overwhelmed, but she sighed her impatience away and followed the path at her feet.

Eventually, she entered what looked very much like the glade in which her physical body stood, but different. Here, the building was not ruined, but whole, and made of stone that pulsed and breathed. She entered the building and descended a flight of stairs. The living stone was warm beneath her bare feet. Deeper and deeper down she want, and the sounds of the forest receded as she walked slowly but steadily down the stairs.

At the bottom of the stairs, she found a sleeping Cat, Adumbro. Kneeling beside him, she stroked his large head, and crooned at him, the way she would speak to Conundrum, her own mighty saber companion. "It is the Dream," she told him. "You can speak to me, too." But he was silent

Reaching out to him, she found his spirit cowering in a corner, much like a terrified kitten, so she took some of Elune's light and used it to comfort the kitten. Shifting in the Dream to her own Cat form, she licked the kitten clean, then played with it a bit, winning its confidence. The entire time, she could feel the brooding presence of Another, but she paid no attention, focusing on making the kitten feel safe.

"I have a battle to fight, Adumbro," she told it at last. "Go hide behind that plinth, and let me fight it. If I fall, run away into the arms of the Earth Mother."

The kitten looked at her quizzically for a moment, then nodded and bounced away to the place she had indicated.

Turning towards the brooding presence of the Other, she spoke again, still in Cat form. "You cannot have this poor beast. It is not he you fight, and I will not allow you to destroy one who is not party to your battle. If you want him, you will have to take me. Else, I will banish you from the prison you have made of Adumbro's body, and restore the Cat to itself."

A mighty form rose before her, resembling Adumbro's earthly form as the demon version of the high lord had resembled D'ana'no's bear form. "Puny Elf! Do you think you can stop me from consuming who and what I will?"

"You will not torment this beast any longer. You will leave him or I will put him out of his misery."

She felt the dark fingers of the demon's probing, questing mind enter her mind, and wrapped herself more tightly in the Earth Mother's hand. She pulled the light given to her by Elune away from the center of her mind, and let the demon travel within her. Where he touched her, she recoiled, but remained steadfast. Demons probe, and this would not play out until he had done so.

She felt him withdraw for a moment, and then the Demon Cat before her roared at her. "You have no time for this! Your Pavel is roasting over the flames of hell, and you would dally in a forest glade with ME?? Foolish elf, to risk your Love for this!"

Before her rose the flames he spoke of and she could see her paladin lover, naked and bound by chains, in the fires. His skin burning, agony on his face, and he was screaming an almost inhuman sound, but she could hear him. "Sorcha, if you love me, save me! No one else can! So-o-o-o-o-rcha . . . . "

She screamed.

The terror was too much. Without thinking, she shifted back to elf and began to run into the flames when the cooling light of Elune washed over her again.

Taking a steadying breath, stopping her mad rush forward, she said, "You will not distract or dissuade me. My business with Pavel is not at issue here. At issue here is the Cat, Adumbro. Release him!"

"I will not do so unless you offer me an alternative. Will you? Will you offer me yourself? Will you lie down on the ground and offer me your throat? Or are you afraid of me?"

"I do fear you," she replied, "but I will not let fear prevent me from doing what I came here to do. If I offer you my throat and yet I prevail over you, you will release the Cat. If you make this promise, I will begin by offering you my throat. But be aware, that you will not break this promise. Both the Earth Mother and Elune stand behind me and they will see, no matter what you do to me, that you keep the promise."

The Demon Cat roared at her. "You are a fool, girl! No one bests me, and no one takes back what I have claimed."

Calmly, now. "I do."

"Then do it, druid. Lie down and show me your throat. I will rip it out, and you will die."

"Promise."

"I promise. I will have your life in return for the spirit of Adumbro. You are a bigger threat and now you offer yourself to me as a gift, you whom I could not touch on my own. And for what? For a BEAST? Foolish, foolish, elf!"

"Not good enough. It is not my life for the Cat. It is my lying down before you, throat exposed, in return for the spirit of the Cat. Promise!"

The smell of sulfur rose off the Demon Cat, and there was the sound of mighty teeth snapping together.

"I promise!" Flames rose around his body. "Now, lie down and let me take you!"

Fear washed over her, threatening to send her racing away from the Demon Cat, but she clung harder to the Earth Mother's hand and steadied her nerves. Sighing, a sound closer perhaps to a moan of fear, Sorcha shifted back to Cat and lay down. She rolled over and exposed her throat to the Demon Cat, a feline symbol of submission since the dawn of time. But there was no submission in her gesture, only defiance and hope.

The Demon leapt and his mighty jaws descended towards her exposed throat, but the instant he moved, she rolled over and leapt to her feet. Shifting back to elf almost before she regained her footing, she reached for the Light that Elune had bestowed on her.

She remembered that her healing rain had burned him, but she could not afford to channel now. She needed something instant, something the Demon would not be able to break. So instead, she began to throw a chain of quick healing spells at the Demon Cat, wreathing him in the green ribbons of Nature's grace. Over and over, until she felt her resources draining, she flung the healing at him as if it were a weapon.

The Demon Cat yowled in agony and leapt towards her again, trying to escape from the ribbons of healing that seared his skin and broke his Power. She knew that this was not the demon that possess Lord D'ana'no, but just a minion of his, grown huge and complacent by devouring the spirit of the great Cat Adumbro.

The Demon descended on her, ripping and shredding her soft leather garments until she stood naked before him. He shifted to a grotesque mockery of Pavel's form, and stood before her, laughing. She flinched away from the awful vision, from his obvious intent to violate her in every possible way, and flung more healing at him.

He reached out a gnarled hand, sparks flying from his fingertips and grasped her chin, pushing her face up to gaze at him full in the face. "You will not defeat me, Elf! No mere mortal takes me down!"

"I bear the Light of Elune. I sit in the Earth Mother's hand. They may let you kill me, but they will not let you have the Cat. In the end, that is all that matters." She smiled at him radiantly, tears pouring down her face. "You will not prevail over that poor creature."

"I will have you both!" came the snarled reply and he leaned down to kiss her.

Sorcha screamed.

She screamed and screamed and screamed some more.

The Demon kissed her deeply and whispered of Pavel in her mind as he did so. His touch burned her, and he reached for her memories of Pavel, attempting to corrupt them, but she had wrapped her love in the light of Elune. As the Demon tried to grab those memories, he encountered the power of the moon goddess, and his screams echoed her own.

Wrenching away from him, she reached deeply into herself and flung more healing ribbons at him. Now they started to burn away his flesh, and beneath it, she could see the flames that served him in place of a soul.

"You will not have the Cat!" she said to him through clenched teeth.

"Perhaps not, but you will never have Pavel. I wonder whose loss is greater?" the Demon snarled back.

These were his last words, for Sorcha reached deep into the light she carried and flung it all at him. Where it hit him, he dissolved. Over and over she threw pieces of moonlight, shards of starlight, beams of sunlight, at him, and watched as the power of Elune destroyed him, piece by piece.

All the while, he filled her mind with visions of Pavel in torment, and she was driven to her knees, howling in soul-deep anguish. Still, she threw the power of Elune at the Demon, hoping against all rational hope that she could outlast him.

In one last burst of fire, the Demon disappeared, leaving her kneeling on the ground, tears pouring from her eyes, groaning under the burden of the images the Demon placed in her mind. She couldn't escape the visions of Pavel in torment, and she wished for oblivion.

As she knelt there, she felt a soft roughness touch her hand, and looking down, she saw the kitten Adumbro licking the soot from her fingers. A smile found its way to her face, and she picked him up, cuddling him in her arms. The sleeping Cat and the Demon were both gone. Just Sorcha and the kitten remained.

"It will be fine, love," she told him.

Standing now, still holding the kitten, she began to retrace her steps out of the Dream.

"Let me take you back to D'ana'no, Adumbro. He has missed you greatly."
 
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