Changeling the Lost - Both alike in dignity
He stalked between the trees with ease, he was lord of this place after all and he knew this great forest so well that no branch ruined his immaculate hair, no thorns tore at his princely clothing. His suit was fine deep green, mirroring the richness of the foliage around him, with golden brocade almost glowing in the warm sunlight that filtered through the canopy above. The enormous trees reached skyward forming a cavernous space between the soft mossy forest floor and the top most branches. As he approached the clearing his stomach began to knot, he was excited, aroused, and filled with terror all at once. Suddenly he heard the sounds, deep guttural voices shouting and cursing not far ahead of him now. He broke into a trot, drawing his sword as he deftly negotiated the twisted roots and scattered forest detritus.
He burst into the clearing and evaluated the scene. Jessica stood, pinned to the bole of a tree by a tall dark-skinned creature with tusks and wicked claws. Another two similar beasts stood watching as the first groped beneath Jessica's skirts. The young woman sobbed, unable to move or fight back. In the split second that the princely figure burst into the clearing she locked eyes with him. The world stopped for an instant, all he could see was her face as she silently mouthed, "help me."
The young warrior charged at the creature holding Jessica and swung his golden blade that sliced through flesh and bone. The beast's lifeless body fell to the moss covered floor staining the ground with steaming black ichor. Turning to the remaining pair the warrior held his blade aloft in a challenge, his left arm behind his back. They charged and were cut down for all their efforts to lay lifeless at his feet. He turned to Jessica and smiled sadly, wiping at a speck of blood on her forehead. A flap of skin peeled open at his touch, revealing another face beneath. He should have noticed those black eyes before, he should have known this was another trap and that yet again he had been toyed with. She pulled Jessica's skin from her revealing her misleadingly delicate form, blood flowing from her skin to be absorbed hungrily into the dry earth. She raised a finger and traced her nail along his jawline, pressing her naked body to his. "And now Algernon, my brave warrior, we are alone..."
Jack awoke, his body slick with sweat as he sat bolt upright in bed. Lily lay sleeping beside him, her breathing deep and slow. The room was quiet apart from the ticking of the large brass ship's clock on his wall. Jack swung his legs out of the covers and sat up on the edge of the bed cradling his head. His breath was still ragged and his heart pounding heavily in his chest. It seems that the memories cannot be banished for long. He stayed there until his breathing slowed and his pulse evened, focusing on the leg of his bedside table. As he watched the leg began to change into a thick vine that slowly extended up towards the bed. Jack was dumbstruck, he could do nothing as he observed the other legs do the same until they all squirmed beneath the sheets. He jumped up away from the vines and pressed his back up against the far wall, powerless to do anything, paralysed with fear.
Lily moved, she jerked autonomously in the bed and began to rise like a demonic marionette, her head lolling on her pale shoulders, her face covered by her thick, dark ringlets. She came within inches of Jack before she too changed. Instead of a young, beautiful woman Lily was transforming into a twisted thing of bark and stone. Its face was a lambs skull, skin hanging form it in shreds, its torso was a mass of rotten moss and leaves while its arms were branches held on to the body by leafy tendrils. This wasn't Lily, it was her Fetch, the Fetch Jack had slain a couple of years ago in order to give Lily her old life back. Suddenly Jack held his sword in hand and knew what must he done; he thrust the metal deep within the creature as he had done before, black fluids oozed down his arm as the vines holding the Fetch aloft became flaccid and limp before withdrawing to become wooden legs again. Once more the thing changed, flesh replacing the branches once more, Blonde hair sprawling in stark contrast to the dark floor, her black lifeless eyes staring up at him. La Belle Dame Sans Merci spoke, but with lily's voice instead of her own; "You killed me Jack."
Jack awakes again but this time in the knowledge that he really is awake. Looking around he notes that Lily is not beside him. He is, in fact slumped over his desk staring at a half empty glass of Captain Morgan's. He stands slowly and clutches at his spinning head. He had not had a dream so vivid for months, and he knew what would come next. Remembering so many details of his Durance always has a profound effect on his clarity of thought. He turns to the window and gazes out across the London skyline. It must be somewhere around three O'clock in the morning. It is still dark and extremely quiet. As he stares at the silent street and the black waters of the Thames Jack catches a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye, a dark shadow peering from the corner of a building, looking directly at him. Jack closes his eyes, maybe it would be gone when he opens them again, but instead of disappearing the figure is joined with a second, and then a third. All of the shadows stand motionless, simply watching him. Jack tears himself from the window and leaves his office. He wanders through the pub unsure of where to go until he finds himself in the Hollow. He stands in the courtyard, a light breeze tugging at his padded silk dressing gown.
There he remains for minutes or hours, he is unaware of the passage of time. The darkness and the silence wrapping him in a cocoon of isolation, clearing his mind of all thoughts. He slowly opes his eyes and finds himself looking out through the portcullis into the Hedge proper. There is movement out there, more of the shadows darting about in the weak pre-dawn light. Then She emerges from the foliage and slowly walks towards him with a wanton grin. All Jack can hear is the fast thudding of his own heart in his ears. She stops short just in front of the gate, inches from jack's face, he can smell her sweet breath, it fills his lungs and makes his head light as she softly whispers. "I know where you are now, Jack Squire, and one day soon you WILL come to me willingly!"
With that Her form disperses like so much smoke in the breeze, leaving Jack reeling. Surely it is just in his head. It must be, he has seen similar visions before, it is all part of who he is now, merely a side effect of his "condition." He returns to the bar and makes himself a coffee. There he sits until Jenni arrives to open up at around half past eight. The dreams and visions gone, but not forgotten. Never forgotten.