The route through the cave passages went from colossal avenues to narrow passages. The bear remembered the path quite well, even after so much time. He never cared for the place, feeling that it was a cliche nightmare, that of the monster in the cave. Every passage he passed held eyes watching him, but none would intrude on the bear’s journey. They were old enough to remember his past and guarded their continued existence.
No concept of time could be grasped in this place. Always, when exiting, you were a moment behind when first entering. Barnabus knew this and occasionally ensured that he met himself to relay what would happen inside. Regardless of his familiarity, Pugmulch was often troublesome to locate until his scent wafted through on the wind. This time he found the goblin waiting for him by a small, bright fire.
Pugmulch was a squat figure, possessing a bulging stomach, an incongruous sight on the skinny frame. Its skin was a repulsive mix of brown and yellow. The lank hair was thin and brushed across the shoulders. It looked at Barnabus and gave a grin that exposed a mouth of crooked, blackened teeth.
“Old bear,” Pugmulch said with a sneer. “You only return when there is a problem. It pleases me when you admit to being ignorant of something!” The goblin cackled, the sound ringing through the cave passages. When the reverberating din settled down the bear could hear things scuttling in the dark.
“Remember who I am, you miserable imp.” Pugmulch flinched as Barnabus walked past him, taking a seat on a rock on the other side of the meager fire. The bear was growing curious about that. Goblins despise fire.
“Why are you sitting in the open, Pug. You’ve never been keen on open spaces, even in this cave.” Barnabus looked around at the substantial chamber. The piles of stone, though, created many shadows and places to hide. The bear drew the shaytan’s dark blade and began sharpening it on a stone. The rasping sound spread out through the passages.
Pugmulch gulped, a ripple running through his throat.
“Look, bear, things aren’t what they were,” he said, eyes scanning the shadows. “This place is being consumed.”
Barnabus looked at him with a curious gaze before subtly scanning their surroundings. There was something strange happening to the rock that he missed on the journey in. The walls looked as though they were crumbling into dust.
“They are devouring this place. Eventually it will spread throughout the realms of nightmares. They feed on it, growing stronger with every one,” the pathetic creature said in a low voice.
“If you stay here, Pug, you will be destroyed.” Barnabus’ voice was flat, possessed of a clinical inflection.
“It is what the thing is,” the goblin replied. “Old nightmares disappear all the time,” he said with a chuckle. “Well, most do so.”
The bear stood, looking at his surroundings.
“We are leaving, Pug.”
The goblin’s face screwed up in terror.
“Outside,” he squealed, clutching the rocks around him.
“I am, yes, but that is not how you will.” He approached the cowering figure. “Look into my eyes, goblin.”
Pugmulch realized what was about to happen, and gave a hushed squeal. He stared into Barnabus’ violet eyes, feeling his body becoming insubstantial, fading into nothingness.
Barnabus concentrated, creating a cave system in his mind, sensing the goblin’s relief at familiar surroundings within the bear’s imagination. Shaking his head to clear the muzzy feeling of drawing the nightmare into himself before turning to walk away.