The Case of the Misguided Guhl (Part VII)
We hurried through corridors leading downward through odder and odder sites. Down Twisting stairs and through forgotten doors we finally found ourselves in a large and magnificent treasure room with such wonders as to make the tongue mute in confusion.
My master made a sudden exclamation, “uh…by Nerull’s social awkwardness! There is too much magic in this room. Give me a moment.” He took out his goggles and began switching through lenses and investigating details.
Gamal seemed anxious. After moments of silence she said, “If the Guhl was impersonating her, then where she is. Guhls do not leave survivors.”
I was about to answer when my master came crawling past us with his face pressed to the ground.
“She fine…well not perfectly, but I have a guess and we can confirm where she is when we find the Guhl.” He jumped up and kicked his heel against the ground in a strange pattern that must have been a key. In the middle of the room a secret door opened in the floor. But instead of moving toward it his eyes were transfixed on the treasure beyond where a white and black egg rested.
“Jeremy!” I yelled, “They are just eggs.”
He shook his head, “The white egg and black egg are laid by the Phoenix before it dies and is reborn. The white egg is a new phoenix and the black egg…” he began to walk forward, “no one knows….no one…” I remember this as his favorite mystery from childhood. How horrible to have it here now.
“Jeremy! We need to go…now.”
“No, Frederik!” he yelled stomping his foot. “No, I want to find out what this is…and you promised to help me.”
“What?” I turned to Gamal for aid but she was sitting on the floor. Rocking back and forth.
“She took my toy.” She cried. “I want my toy.” A torrent of tears followed that were both serious and forced.
I looked at both of them. I grabbed my master and looked into his eyes. They were simple, surely intelligent, but they were the eyes of Jeremy Moonrise at eight maybe younger. I looked at the princess, and she was the same. Childlike. Simple.
“Frederik, you’re hurting me. I’ll tell…please help me. You promised!!”
“My toy!!! I want it back!”
Why was I unaffected? Time, a trip through time, the thing said. They were becoming younger in their minds. They were becoming children in adult bodies. Some curse or trap that opening the door had set off. I looked again at my master and trusted in his will to fight such a thing. “Jeremy…remember why we are here. Hollowfaust is in danger.”
He paused in his begging. “But…but…secrets.”
“What good will the secrets do you if the walls of Hollowfaust are torn down from within? What good if the city falls? You are a master necromancer of Hollowfaust…not a child!!!”
“Is there a difference?” he said smiling.
But he was cracking. He began to shake his head and fight the spell. “Master,” I said softly holding him by the shoulders, “Come back.” He looked up struggling and that’s when I brought my knee hard into his crotch.
He fell to the ground coughing. “Oh gods. I never knew that hurt so much.”
“Enough to break a spell?” I asked.
“Break a spell and other things.”
We turned to the princess who looked shocked.
“Ooohhhhhhhh…you did a bad thing.” She said.
“Same thing won’t work on her,” I said.
“I can dispel it.”
A few moments later we descended the ladder and saw the Guhl still wearing its guise, and performing some ritual over the toys before a door of bone that was slowly swinging open. I charged but the thing was ready and unleashed a fire spell. I jumped and rolled into a ball with the shield on my back facing the onslaught. It was magically treated to absorb heat and fire damage
I let my full weight crash into her and pin her against the door fame, the shield between us protecting me from the ambient fire. I assessed. I had my back to her. Not many battle options, Looking at the position of my sheathed blade, I gambled. Drawing my Marrow Blade I enveloped it in negative energy. Turning it with the point toward myself I prepared to do what I needed to do. Jeremy realized what I was going to do and started to close the distance between us. I took the little time I had to drive the sword upwards through my right lung, avoiding my spine.
The monster behind me gasped as the blade came up and into her neck. I took my elbow and smashed it into her face twice before pulling the blade out quickly. No matter how gruesome it looked, I was immune to all but the minor damage that could be done and the Netherflame around the blade was already healing me. I spun with my free hand and caught the creature under the chin where I could reach up and clutch the jaw bone through the flesh. I dropped my sword and placed my other hand in the wound on the neck. It would be very hard to do anything without a head.
Only the voice of my master prevented me removing it, “Frederik, Stop!”
I stepped back and let the guhl slide to the ground.
Gamal rushed forward. “Make it tell us where Anisah is.”
“Look for the defect,” my master said in an odd quiet voice, “Look for where she fails to approximate her perfectly.”
Gamal leaned in and began to expect the mortally wounded creature. After a moment she began impatiently, “Does it matter…? Just interrogate it.”
“There is none, Gamal.”
“Of course there is. I just can’t find it.”
“You can’t. You? The most perceptive person here who is not me, can not spot a difference or anomaly on a face and hands more familiar to you than your own.”
She realized what Jeremy was saying. “A clever guhl could…”, she protested weakly.
“No, they can’t. This is not a Guhl who is impersonating your nanny. It is your nanny who has been a guhl for decades. A fire Guhl who specializes in dream magic and illusion.”
“NO! She’s not a monster!”
“No. She’s not. She’s undead. But this is the same face that smiled on you when you played, The same hands that mended your wounds, The same voice that told you stories and the same eyes that watched you live the dreams she gave you. This is Anisah, who you called Beloved One no more than two hours ago. You said it yourself, Guhls don’t leave survivors. But she knocked you unconscious and left you unharmed. Why?”
“But she…why would she steal…”
“Because she’s insane,” he said coldly, “Insane because she loves you all, and she’s not supposed to.”
Gamal looked confused, “You should stop speaking.”
“You really should…”
“So she can die without you understanding and be unresolved? No. I don’t even want to know what a fire aspected, dream weaving guhl ghost would be like. She wanted to get this key…had a compulsion for some reason. She could not stop. So she went insane. She pretended to be a guard at the gate to warn us. She told you all that she was stealing when no one noticed. And she buried all of this so deeply in her mind that she forgot anything she was doing except being Anisah.”
“But,” Gamal protested, “that would bring on her own death.”
“Rather than betray you. Yes.”
Jeremy knelt down. “What was so important old one…about the key that only the Sultans children’s dreams could open this door to the key and map. What was so important that you risked your life to get it but found something more important?”
For a long moment, the Guhl twised her face in rage; trying as hard as she could to not revert to her real form of an undead elemental horror. She managed to hold shape. I felt she would not answer him. But she relented into a smile.
“You got most of it. But the key opens the temple where the Great Guhl Lord is. The darkest one. It cannot be opened by these heroes. I was sent years ago, when the first child was born, to take the place of a palace staff member. Become their nanny. Foster the dreams so they could create the key and we could open the doors get the map and key and release the Great Guhl. Only pure dreams of joy could open the bone door sealed with fear. ”
“But you could not steal it and use them.”
“Beautiful dreams.” She said, as tears rolled down her face. “I had to protect them, the children and their dreams. I did too good a job being mortal. I love them. I could not use their dreams to open the way to evil. I helped them to such pretty dreams.”
I wiped her blood off respectfully on my polishing cloth as she continued to talk to my master. I noticed that the blood was mostly red. Guhl blood was black.
“But it came to me in dreams, nightmares…that heroes were coming to open the temple, more like a tomb. And I feared from the nightmares they would not be able to stop the Great Guhl and would release it. So I needed to get the key. Hide it. Take it and hide it away. The man said he would hide it if I brought it to him. ”
“The human…I think human…maybe not…in the mask. He showed me such terrible things. The things that would happen when they opened the door; the nightmares were so often. Said he would keep the key safe so the children would be alright. So they could grow old.”
“I see. He lied, beautiful one. The heroes coming will stop the darkness. Not release it.”
She smiled again, “Such a stupid old woman. I could not betray them, even for the world. So I told you what would happen. I told them things were being stolen. I knew the Sultan would find a way to stop it. I could not stop myself, but they could find a way: Hid it all from myself until now. I am a crazy old woman.”
She began to cough deeply. Hollowfaust is familiar with the death throws of living and undead. My master and I exchanged looks. He put his hand on Gamal’s shoulder and nodded.
Gamal held her as she died, and Jeremy went into the room and retrieved the key and the map. We stood back as Gamal cried over her nanny. “I thought,” she asked, looking at Jeremy, “that Guhls reverted to their true form at death.”
We walked over and looked down at the old Baklune whose head was cradled in her lap; a face with a peaceful expression and a smile.
“She is.” He said softly.