Riley hissed as the pain returned, hot flashes slicing through her leg. “Sure…,” she growled. “Now what?”
“We need to get moving.” Saber surveyed the goblins continuing to fight against the barrier, trying to find an opening. She looked in the direction they needed to go, then down to Riley. “Can you walk?”
Riley quickly shook her head, struggling to hold back the tears.
“Okay. I’ll have to help you, like we did upstairs. We just need to find a way to deal with these…things.”
Riley wasn’t sure what she was talking about. They had met the king upstairs. Saber hadn’t helped her. Not unless…
Wait. Saber hadn’t helped her, but Patty had when she was on her crutches. Why had it been so easy for Riley to accept her help then but couldn’t now?
Because Saber got me thinking about Mom. In a way, she even reminds me of her. I can’t quite identify what it is about her, but there’s something. I hadn’t noticed it out there in real life, but it’s here in the dream.
Riley looked up at Saber. For a moment, she thought she was looking into the eyes of her mother. Riley had to blink it away a few times because the image continued to try and impress itself on her.
Once the image was gone, so was her mother…again.
Clamp it down, Riley. Focus.
“Riley! Focus!” Saber yelled at her.
“Okay,” she hissed. It was hard, but she pushed herself to sit up. As she did, she felt some of the cobwebs clear from her mind. The things still pushed on her dome, but so far, it held. That was good.
“We can do this,” Saber said.
Riley nodded. “I know.”
“So what are we going to do?”
Riley looked around, her gaze falling on the torch across from them. Noticing it was in the dome with them, she looked back and forth in the corridor. Her heart sank when she saw all the other torches were out. Outside the dome, there was only darkness and the growing presence of goblins.
“The torches are out,” Riley said, trying to stand. She hissed as a new stabbing pain hit her back. She wasn’t sure what it was from but pushed past it. “They must-”
“Oh, come on. This is getting boring.” The voice echoed around them. That was the only warning before Riley felt a strong pressure against the shield. “I want action! This is already better than I could have imagined. Give me something good.”
Riley struggled to keep the dome up, but she knew it wouldn’t be long before it popped.
“Why don’t you just get out of here. Leave us alone!” Saber yelled.
“Oh, but that would be no fun. You are already very entertaining. More than I thought possible. I thought I would just take out Bruce, then work my way through the rest of you Dream Chasers. Though I was going to save you for last, Patty. Now I guess I get to enjoy having you for lunch.”
“This is impossible,” Saber said to Riley, who still struggled. She could already feel the barrier getting weaker in some places.
“And, Riley, you were such a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t even thought of you before this, but now, you have my full attention. I even looked into your background. About your mother…”
Riley felt heat rising in her face as it spoke. It hid in the shadows, but she sensed it was close. She knew it was out there this time, lingering in the darkness.
“What you do is nearly impossible, so I paid a visit to your dad. Wow, the information I found out. Do you know your parents didn’t want you? You were never planned, your parents weren’t married. They only got married out of a sense of obligation. Your dad doesn’t even like being around you. Did you ever wonder why he was always gone? He blames you. You were the reason for what happened to your mom. How about that? How does it feel-”
Riley couldn’t hear any more of it. As the thing spoke, she felt tears rising, but it wasn’t sadness that burned its way through her. It was anger. She knew her dad had loved her mom. There was no way she would allow this thing to say this about them.
When Saber reached out to help her stand, Riley pushed her away, slowly straightening. Her eyes burned with intensity and she felt every part of her come alive. Wind whipped around the dome, tossing her hair as she opened her mouth.
A stream of fire shot out from her, bursting through the dome, shattering its protection around them. It didn’t stop there, though, but shot out in every direction.
“How-” she heard from the voice, then it was gone.
The goblins around them burst into flames as the fire spread and pushed forward, building upon itself. It only took seconds for the corridor to be engulfed in flames.
Riley closed her mouth as the flame became its own force, turning into a fireball that rolled along the corridor.
“Um, Riley…” Saber’s voice was quiet, yet concerned. She looked at her, but Saber took a step back, seeing the intensity burning in those eyes. Saber looked afraid…of Riley.
Turning, Riley saw why Saber had been concerned. She saw countless goblins approaching from the other direction. Some of these were larger, and on their backs, smaller ones clung, hollering their excitement. Their claws dug into the larger ones, hitting them as though trying to get them to go faster. The larger ones winced slightly from these strikes.
“This isn’t good,” Saber said. Riley raised her hand, fire shooting out from her palm and engulfing the other end of the corridor.
Riley looked back the other way. The fireball still moved away, but some goblins had survived and rushed toward them. Riley held out her hand and more flames streamed out.
Saber watched, amazed, but also a little terrified. Riley’s eyes glowed as she snarled. After a few moments, realizing Riley wasn’t letting up, Saber became concerned. There was more at stake than someone just getting mind-trapped, and Riley possibly straddled that border. She was lost in the act of killing all the goblins. If that pulled her in, Saber might never be able to get her free.
“Riley, you need to stop. It’s okay. You can stop!” Saber yelled.
Riley turned to face her, but it didn’t look like she actually saw her. She seemed to stare through her.
“Riley, come back to me. What’s wrong? Was it that voice? Was it what it said? You need to talk to me. Riley, I’m here. I’m your friend, but you need to tell me what is wrong.” Saber had to shout over the roar of the flame.
Riley tried to focus on her voice, to lock on to what she said, but it was so hard. Her eyes felt like they were on fire, and the tears threatening to escape burned like acid. She just wanted all of this to go away, to burn it all down, every last part of this place. So she kept pushing the flame as far as she could.
The flame went from orange to blue as she made it hotter, scorching even the rock around them.
“Riley! You need to stop!” Saber yelled, grasping Riley’s shoulders and shaking. “Please!”
It was hot. Saber couldn’t feel it, but Riley felt like her skin was beginning to bubble. Part of it felt good, but a voice deep inside told her it was wrong. She needed to stop. It wasn’t screaming it at her, it had done that before, but she knew the presence was there.
It was buried. Was that a good or bad thing? That voice had helped her before, so shouldn’t she be listening to it now?
In truth Riley felt so detached from her own body, like she watched everything from outside. She felt the heat, the pain in her foot, but it all was so far away, like she had…
It clicked, and Riley squeezed her eyes shut. She held them closed, feeling the intensity try to burn its way out. She pulled herself into the back of her mind.
The fire slowly died from her hands.
Don’t get sucked in. Don’t get sucked in. Don’t close yourself off. You’ve done that before. Don’t do it now. Pull yourself out of the rabbit hole. You can do it.
Her mother’s voice talked to her again, and Riley felt herself take a deep breath. Gradually, the world around her started coming back, and she felt herself collapsing into it.