Irfaan gasped, his words emerging breathlessly.
“Bilal, what is that?”
The older bear looked as shocked as his companion.
“I have no idea,” he stated, “it isn’t a ghost or a phantasm. However, it is also between us and the door. Isn’t there a window behind us?”
“Then we should be exiting through it, do you think?”
Within seconds, both bears leaped through the window, Bilal grabbing Irfaan and the pair landed on their feet.
“What will we do now?” Irfaan was clearly shaken by the encounter.
“We re-enter and search out the nightmares. They may be the cause of that thing.”
“But it isn’t a nightmare?”
“True, but they may be making it more powerful. The strength of emotion emanating from it is incredible.”
Returning to the foyer, both bears stood and reached out, trying to locate their quarry. Both nodded in satisfaction and proceeded to search for the way into the basement.
“I almost wish Barnabus was here. That bear seems able and willing to fight everything.”
“Who is he?”
“A rather pugnacious bear that I met recently. He is filled with a towering rage and I have found him to be an enigma.”
“He sounds like a bit of trouble,” Irfaan noted.
“True, but he is driven with a purpose.”
Locating the stairs, the bears walked down into the darkness with swords in their hands. A faint light could be seen in a distant corner and they began to approach it, their softly shod feet not making a sound.
Within the dim light was a grotesque creature in the shape of a woman, with long, stringy hair and talons that glittered like metal. The skin was weathered, taut in places and sagging in others, and possessed an unsettling greenish-yellow color. Its mouth was stretched wide showing rows of misshapen, jagged teeth. The creature was listening to the grunts and slobbering words of several impish creatures crouched before it.
The bears listened and observed, but could understand nothing that passed between the monstrosities. It was evident that these were the source of the misery in the building, possibly exasperating the thing encountered upstairs. Bilal gently squeezed his friend’s shoulder and nodded to a distant corner, at the very edge of the light. A charnel pile could be seen, the bones thrown into the pile with no regard for the lives they once were. Irfaan looked to Bilal, the horror etched across his face, but froze when he saw the bear’s expression.
Bilal’s violet eyes sparkled like gems, cold and hard. There was no mercy in them, only vengeance. He was focused, though, controlling himself rather than simply unleashing violence upon the world. He simply stood, observing the creatures and their movements. He closed his eyes, slowly drawing in deep breaths. When they opened again, there was no trace of the emerging fury, only a steadfast resolve. Bilal moved quietly toward the group, his body swaying gently as the bear began to tense. Abruptly, he burst into motion and Irfaan leapt forward to follow.
Two of the smaller creatures fell quickly to Bilal’s onslaught before the bear focused on the hag-like beast before him. Irfaan rushed in behind him, engaging the handful of imps that remained. The hag shrieked, swinging a clawed hand at the bear assaulting it, though Bilal deftly side-stepped. He could hear Irfaan making short work of the thing’s servants, leaving him to concentrate on their master. The creature howled with every blow it received, bellowing in frustration at its inability to strike the bear.
The cries of impotent rage from the creature echoed through the room. With a speed shocking for the misshapen form, it leapt at Bilal with outstretched arms, attempting to bring the bear to the floor. With a show of strength, Bilal grabbed it by an arm, easily slinging the monster around until it was prone on the ground. A look of terror spread across its face when Bilal, still holding the arm, placed a foot on the bequest’s torso, preventing it from rising.
Bilal looked down, his face impassive as the creature began to burble and slobber out words that could not be understood. The bear continued his emotionless stare, before rasing his slender weapon in the air.
“I will end you,” he hissed, before bringing the blade down.