The Nightmare Plague: The Children of Bilal, Part Two

There were so many nightmares drawing his attention, but Bilal focused on two brothers.  Their dreams had become intertwined, tainted by another presence.  They slept fitfully, any rest disrupted by whatever was preying upon them.  Rather than sitting outside to avoid intruding on their home, Bilalslipped into the small apartment.  The dwelling was one room and poorly maintained.  Listening to their thoughts led the bear to realize that they were nearly destitute, having lost their jobs recently and forced to live in whatever accommodations they could find.  His eyes narrowing, Bilal walked towards their beds, slowly fading away as he entered their dreams.

Once in the brothers’ dreams, he saw that this infestation had been affecting them for a long time, but had been so slow and methodical that the trouble escaped the bears’ notice.  Bilal found a crumbling landscape of ruined buildings and lifeless vegetation.  The thoughts of the brothers were nothing but a desolate wasteland.  Anything of value was caught in a state of entropy that mirrored their damaged hearts.

Creeping along, Bilal was careful not to disturb his surroundings.  He escaped the notice of various things, malicious imps created to wreak havoc by pulling the two minds apart piece by piece.  He wasn’t certain, looking at the coordinated destruction, that the two men would ever be whole again.  Determination drove him on, however, resolving to bring them whatever peace he could manage.

Bilal drifted among the rubble and decaying trees, moving gently through the dreamscape with ease and without creating a disturbance that could be felt.  He remained calm and focused, easily moving from one place of concealment to another.  He had traversed the dream in the manner for some time before he found the source of the blight.  A short distance away, a marionette was giving instructions to a trio of boogeymen.  The creatures weren’t as cunning as their forebears, but retained enough to be capable of carefully orchestrated misery with directions from a more intelligent being. 

As he watched, the small, mindless apparitions were bringing bits and pieces of the dream world to the group where the boogeyman methodically destroyed the offerings.  Piece by piece they had been prolonging the men’s suffering for a considerable amount of time.  It was then that Bilal saw it:  A small, beautifully crafted cabinet with strings leading off into the distance.  He recognized the device from Barnabus’ descriptions as some sort of battery, absorbing the pain caused by nightmares and storing it away for some purpose.

Settling in, Bilal watched, making certain that the four were his only obstacles.  After a short interlude, he was satisfied that the small group was his only concern.  Standing slowly to avoid being noticed, his body tensed, storing the energy it would need.  Feeling prepared for the conflict ahead, the bear leapt forward, running as light as a gazelle across the intervening space between him and his quarry.  The nearest boogeyman turned too slowly to evade the light, curved wooden sword that ended its terror.  As the others began to move, Bilal swung low at the next, the sword’s cut trailing a noxious, black mist.  The third was leaping towards him when the bear stepped to the side, bringing his weapon down in a two-handed blow that severed the creature in two.  As the boogeymen dissolved into nothingness, the bear turned his attention to the marionette.

The fight had lasted but a few seconds, and the puppet was still reeling in shock at the bear that was slowly advancing towards it.  The limbs moved in a jerky fashion, as though it had only recently had its strings cut and was used to freedom.  

“What are you,” it croaked, stumbling backwards, ultimately tripping over a pile of dream fragments.

The bear was serene as he approached the monstrosity, his soft boots barely making a sound.

“I,” he began, his sonorous voice ringing through the silence as a song, “am Bilal, and I am here to end you.”

The marionette remained in a state of shock, never uttering a sound as Bilal ended his terror.  He then stepped back, scrutinizing the cabinet more closely.  The strings leading off from it vibrated as though alive.  Reaching to his back, the bear drew forth a dagger, large enough to be a sword to one of Bilal’s stature.  He had taken a blade from the jinn that Barnabus destroyed, reckoning that he would also have need of one of the demon’s weapons.  He approached the construct slowly, keeping his attention on the strings.  Springing forward, he brought the blade down on the strands, the blade slicing through the air in silence.  As they were cut, Bilal heard a distant shriek, as though the severing of the strings wounded something far off.  It was but another moment before he shattered the cabinet beyond all recovery.

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