Chapter 11

The Moonfalls

Standing amongst the scattered debris, a heavy tightness clenched in the pit of Flynn’s stomach. Consumed by shock and horror, he found himself unable to look away from the tangled bones sizzling within the Queen’s Web. His recent triumphant thoughts of slaying a Witch were short lived when faced with the reality of Ventille’s remains continuing to burn before his very eyes.

The grotesque sight left Flynn paralysed. He stood in the middle of the chamber, fixated on the gruesome scene. The smoking bones in front of him were a grim reminder of the brutal events that just occured. The entire sequence of events replayed over and over in his head. He could still see Ventille thrashing in pain, he could still feel the whipping winds of the cyclone tearing at him, but worst of all he could still hear the sounds of her agonising screams echoing in his ears.

As hard as he tried, Flynn couldn’t shake these sensations from his mind. They played on a haunting repeat until a deeper, more primal feeling took hold of him – Survival. 

Pushing his morbid fascination aside, Flynn knew that he needed to get moving. His instincts kept whispering to him that other members of the Coven were most likely lurking around IvyHold, so he needed to find a safe place to go. Looking at the chaos surrounding him, the Depths no longer felt safe. 

The problem, however, was trying to convince his legs to move. They were cemented in shock, indecision and fear – a very dangerous combination. 

Eventually though, Flynn recalled his mission:

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Focusing this mantra in his mind, Flynn managed the mental strength to force his right leg to take a step forward. Luckily his left leg followed. With another effort to make his right leg step forward, his left leg kept going as well and he was in full stride.

His forced march led him to the bureau where the contents lay spilled all about the floor. Ventille’s cyclone had raged all over the cellar in her death thralls, scattering the Relics, making Flynn’s search a bit more difficult. 

First he searched for his mother’s leathern satchel – collecting the Relics and journals was the most important task. 

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Resting Relics, Journals, Lost Explorer…

Once again, this mantra helped him keep focused on the task at hand. Eventually finding the satchel, he picked it up, scrambled around the chamber and stuffed the Relics inside. The foggy looking-glass, the burnt torch and scaly mask were all found quickly and flung into the satchel.The milky white stone embedded in each Relic glowed a dim hue as he scooped them up one after the other. 

With all of the Relics collected, Flynn began the search for his Dad’s journals. Ripped covers and torn pages littered the chamber, but Flynn salvaged every last bit of the journals – He couldn’t risk missing a single page. Finally, when he was certain that he found all of them, he turned his attention to collecting weapons – he needed to defend himself after all. 

There was no short supply of weaponry scattered about, but there was a choice to be made. With his satchel bursting full of Relics and his arms cradling the journals, he didn’t have space to carry much more. Not wanting to be defenseless though, he picked up an assortment of blades and stuffed them into the pockets of his cloak. 

He eyed up the heavy battle axe that started the commotion. His visions of wielding it heroically vanished quickly, knowing it was too heavy to carry along. Already overloaded, Flynn turned and shuffled towards the stairs. The effort to get across the chamber proved too much though. Sweat began to drip down his face and each time he readjusted his heavy load, the blades stuffed in his pockets jabbed painfully into his side. He stopped at the base of the spiral staircase to gather himself. 

Knowing that he had no chance of making a stealthy escape hobbling around with this clattering load, he regretfully discarded some of the heavier blades. What was he going to do with fifteen daggers anyways? 

While dumping the blades onto the tiled floor, a morbid reminder caught his attention from the corner of his eye. Unable to stop himself, Flynn turned to stare at the Queen’s Web wrapped tightly around Ventille’s sizzling remains. 

This horrifying display in front of him proved that the Relics were the true Power in this room, not the blades scattered about the floor. Flynn’s stomach clenched as he recalled the phenomenal Power the Queen’s Web was capable of – nets didn’t usually incinerate whatever was caught inside of them.

He wanted to collect all of the Relics, but as he approached Ventille’s crisped bones, he thought twice about taking the net with him. Even though he would feel safer with the Queen’s Web in his possession, he honestly couldn’t face the gruesome mess wrapped up within it. With a heavy mind, he turned away from the crumpled heap, deciding to leave the Spider Queen’s Relic where it was.

On his way up the stairs, Flynn knew that the vision of Ventille’s death was going to stay with him for as long as he lived. He was responsible for the death of another person – Becoming the Legendary Witch Killer didn’t feel so heroic now.

Flynn lumbered up the stairs with burdens weighing heavily on his shoulders and mind. Leaving the Depths behind him, he shuffled down the long dark hallway and outside of the Glasshouse. He stood in the broken doorway intently listening for any other intruders amongst the rubble and ruins of his home. Now faced with a decision of where to go for safety, he watched the sun setting over the crumbling walls of IvyHold. 

The sun was going down! 

That meant that the Moon was about to shine!!

Flynn knew EXACTLY where to hide for the night!!!

He shuffled as quickly as he could down the gravel pathway, towards his secret haven. There was only one place in IvyHold safe enough to spend the night – the Moonfalls. The hidden chamber behind the cascading waters of the Moonfalls would definitely offer protection for the night. But with the sun quickly reaching the horizon, he needed to move fast if he wanted to get there in time. 

Rushing against the sunset, Flynn lugged his heavy load through the Sunken Oasis, past the burning Hedge Maze and rounded the corner to reach the smooth pond surrounding the Moonfalls. Taking a brief moment to look up through the shattered walls of IvyHold, he could see the sun getting even lower – Time was quickly running out.

He had skipped along this pathway in the pond a countless number of times. Normally, he would be able to hop across the stepping-stones blindfolded, but with the awkward load he was carrying and his rush against time made the stepping-stone path seem much more daunting. He couldn’t stop now though.

Picking up his pace, he wobbled and nearly fell into the smooth waters. But fortune was on his side as he managed to keep his balance atop the stones in the pond. His urgency increased as he got closer to the flowing Moonfalls. Only a couple more steps before he was safe.

Without hesitation, Flynn bounded across the final two stones and leaped through the falling curtain of water. He disappeared into the chamber behind the Moonfalls just as the sun was setting.

 ~ ~ * ~ ~ 

  

Now safe on the other side of the Moonfalls, Flynn’s surging adrenaline was replaced with a massive sense of relief. Shaking off the water running down his back, he dropped the armful of journals and the heavy satchel in the centre of the hidden chamber. He stripped off his dripping cloak, balled it up and tossed it into the corner of the tiny chamber where he kept a collection of his other belongings. 

His panic and stress began to melt away as he relaxed in the security of this familiar chamber behind the Moonfalls. This was his own private space where he came whenever he wanted to disappear from the world and he had never wanted to disappear more than he did at this moment. This little hideaway offered the safety and protection that Flynn needed. 

There was only a thin curtain of water separating him from more hostile intruders, but that was all about to change. The atmosphere behind the Moonfalls surged with Power as the sun sank below the horizon and the moon came out to shine. 

An unnatural coolness fell upon the chamber while the air started to crackle and hum. Under the strong beams of moonlight, the flowing waters began to thicken and slow down. Unfazed, Flynn watched in pleasured relief as the Moonfalls began to crystallize before his eyes. Slowly at first, but then a rapid chain reaction kicked in, transforming the cascading waters into a solid wall frozen in place. Fully crystallized under the moonlight, the Moonfalls now offered Flynn protection for the night. 

He was safe.

The rising moonshine lit up the crystal curtain in a glorious glow, calming his stressed mind. In a moment of pure release, Flynn collapsed onto the floor. Finally able to stop his racing thoughts, he simply stared into the shimmering glow cast throughout the carved-out chamber. He usually spent a lot of time behind the Moonfalls, but very rarely after moonrise. The eerie lighting took some getting used to.

Not knowing how much time passed, Flynn eventually came back to his senses. In the morning he must leave IvyHold behind in search of the Lost Explorer, so he desperately needed to come up with a plan.

Gathering the journals around him, he settled down in the middle of the chamber. He lifted the clinking satchel and spilled the contents onto the uneven, stone floor. The Relics clattered out, echoing throughout the moonlit chamber. Safe within his private space he had set up over the years, it was time to have a look at the stash of Resting Relics now. 

“What a strange assortment!” he thought to himself. 

He had seen them briefly back in the Depths, but now he could study them closer without a Power hungry Adept hovering over him threateningly.

The only hopes of saving his parents lay within these random objects and a stranger called the Lost Explorer. He must not have been that great of an explorer if he was lost himself. But Flynn couldn’t think that way now, he needed to think positively about saving his parents – but first he needed to save himself and get out of here. These Resting Relics were of little use now. The answers to his escape plan lay in the journals surrounding him.

Flynn turned to his father’s journals sprawled on the cold stone floor and picked one up. He began to read by the moonlight shining through the crystal curtain of the Moonfalls. Straining his eyes to see, he searched through the journals in the growing darkness. He didn’t dare light a torch since it might draw attention from whoever could be lurking outside. 

Skimming through the journals, he saw they were simply records that his father kept on the surrounding areas. The diaries made for dull reading, but they were strangely comforting. Reading over the words that Dad wrote made Flynn feel like his father was here with him right now. Most of the passages dealt with the lands of the Western Reach surrounding IvyHold. Important information, but quite mind numbing in all honesty.

However much he needed to plan his escape in the morning, Flynn’s exhausted mind simply couldn’t do anymore. After a couple more minutes of looking over the dull descriptions, he began to unwind and relax. Getting ready to sleep, Flynn balled up his damp cloak to use as a pillow. 

As soon as he lay down, a faint click-clack of footsteps was heard crossing the frozen pond surrounding the Moonfalls. In total shock, Flynn stared intently at the moonlight streaming through the frozen wall. 

Waiting in terror, the footfalls became louder. They were soon followed by the appearance of a shadow approaching the crystallised curtain of the Moonfalls. Flynn jumped up, hands to his mouth, holding back a terrified yelp that he desperately wanted to scream out. Pulling his cloak tightly around himself, Flynn froze in fear.

The shadow reached the Moonfalls and began knocking rhythmically against the crystal falls, searching for a way inside. It disappeared for a moment then the passing shadow returned, still scanning the frozen wall. It stopped in the centre of the Moonfalls and slapped it’s open hand against the solid wall with a hollow clunking sound. 

Clearly visible, the palm of the small hand began to glow a misty grey colour. A foggy cloud surrounded the hand, forming a mist which clung to the exterior of the crystal curtain. The fog quickly spread across the entire wall, consuming it totally.

Covered in cloud, the Power outside began to surge – buzzing and humming ferociously. Flynn backed away to the far end of the chamber, frozen in horror. He knew that there was no way the shadow could get inside the Moonfalls during hours of moonlight, but what if…

The Power increased, making the frozen Moonfalls vibrate ferociously, but the crystallized wall remained as sturdy as ever – resisting the Power inflicted upon it. 

Regardless, Flynn was terrified. Just knowing that somebody was out there… only a few steps away… wanting to get inside… sent shivers through his bones. And once the moon set, what was to stop them from getting inside then? 

After what seemed like ages, the assault of Power stopped as suddenly as it began. The shadow disappeared soon after, as if it was never there. In an attempt to comfort himself, Flynn wrapped the damp cloak tightly around his shoulders. 

He stood behind the frozen Moonfalls shivering long after the intruder vanished. The cloudy shadow may have gone away, but Flynn’s fears kept him company all night long. He stood guard with vigilant eyes for as long as he possibly could, but eventually Flynn drifted off into a deep, dreamless slumber that can only be brought about by pure exhaustion.

Once again, everything went black.

Chapter 3

The Alter Chamber

Ever since they crossed the threshold, the precious Relic slung over Brady’s shoulder began to buzz with even more intensity. Countless spiders sealed up the entrance behind them as they entered the foyer. This fresh curtain of webbing caused the natural daylight illuminating the interior to dim down. However, the glow of the silver net was burning so bright that there was no need to light a torch within the darkened foyer.

Lit up by the intense glow of the Relic, the narrow entryway looked as crisp and clean as ever. Opening up to a spacious parlour, they looked around the well maintained Hovel. The buzzing net illuminated the pitch black parlour with it’s intensified, eerie glow. Brady grabbed his son’s shoulder and led the way through the foggy gloom.

“Welcome to Tarantu’s Hovel Flynn.” Sensing his son’s growing discomfort, he added soothingly, “Remember, there’s nobody living here. We’re only going to recharge the net. Then we can leave.”

The silver net brightened up dark corners to reveal spiders scurrying to and fro. They were working intricate patterns into their webwork, creating decorative webs that adorned the entire parlour. A fresh cloud of fog swirled around giving a mysterious feel to the breathtaking scene. There wasn’t a single speck of dust or a loose strand of web anywhere – it was absolutely mesmerising.

“Her spider’s keep a tidy house, don’t they?” Brady chuckled, “That’s all they know.” Flynn thought about these spiders housekeeping for a Master that was long gone – he couldn’t help feeling kinda sad and lonesome.

Side by side, they made their way through the parlour towards a banquet table which stood in the middle of the room. It was constructed entirely from the spider’s densely packed webs. Flynn gawked at the interior, fascinated by the attention to detail. Every single item in the room was expertly crafted from sturdy webbing. The recharging Relic cast it’s shimmering glow across the table, shining over silk-strand plates, woven goblets, and wispy utensils all made of their webbed handiwork – Everything! Even the ornate candelabra in the middle of the table was made entirely out of spider webs.

Flynn stopped to examine the silken candles. He couldn’t understand how they could possibly hold a flame without bursting into fire as normal webbing would. But this was the Hovel of an Enchantress after all – it would be strange if logic wasn’t defied in here.

Suddenly the room began to darken a bit. Flynn looked up to see his father entering a short hallway on the other side of the room, taking the light of the Relic with him. Not wanting to be left behind in the foggy gloom, Flynn dropped the silken candle and ran to catch up with his dad. The hall had two doorways, one on either side. Both doors were sealed up by webbing like the front door. Brady paused and considered his options.

Choosing the door on the left, Brady thrust his hand into the webbed covering like he had at the entrance of the Hovel. Instead of punching through the door, he jammed his fingers with a heavy thud against solid webbing.

“Oww!” Brady shouted out, shaking his sore hand.

“Are you okay Dad?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. It just surprised me.” Brady shook off the unexpected pain.

Inspecting the webbing, Brady noticed that it was much thicker; similar to the dense furniture in the parlour. The hallway was too narrow to get a good swing with his blade, so he cleared Flynn out of the way and took a step back. With a jump start, he heaved his shoulder into the webbing. A dull thud echoed as the webbing gave way a bit. Brady rammed into it again and then a third time; the webbing slowly caving in. A fourth shouldering and the webbed door tore open with a wet, ripping sound.

Brady stepped through and ushered Flynn into the room before the spiders began to diligently seal up the doorway again. The billowing fog followed them into Tarantu’s crisp and clean bedroom. Like the rest of the Hovel, the bedroom was decorated minimally, but with extreme attention to detail. An ornate 4-post bed and a lavish wardrobe dominated the room.

Brady was more concerned with the fog though. He watched the clouds enter the room with suspicion, “There was no fog in this room.” he thought out loud.

Flynn was too busy looking at the delicate web hangings draped from the bed posts to be concerned about fog in the room. Running his fingers along the impossibly soft bedsheets, Brady pulled him back.

“Come on Flynn. There’s nothing for us in here.” There was a definite note of caution in Brady’s voice, “The other doorway must lead to the alter chamber.”

They both backed out of the room without turning. Flynn knew that his father was preoccupied with thoughts that he wasn’t saying aloud. Walking backwards, they passed through thin strands of webbing of the rebuilt doorway. Once in the hall, Brady drew his machete and held it at the ready. Now Flynn knew his father was worried, which made himself worry – this was not looking good. He felt for the orb within his pocket and rubbed it for a sense of security. The burning eye was a reminder that he was well able to protect himself.

They waited in silence, facing the bedroom while the spiders mended up the doorway. Flynn didn’t know what his father was worried about, but he knew enough to trust his father’s instinct and not to bother him with silly questions at tense times.

Once the bedroom was sealed up tight and secure, Brady sheathed the blade and turned his attention to the other door in the hallway.

“Let’s get this finished up, so we can get out of here.” Brady said in an encouraging tone.

Facing the door, Brady was about to punch through the webbing when he remembered jamming his fingers on the previous door. Not wanting to hurt his fingers again, he lowered his shoulder and charged straight at the webbing.

However, this webbed curtain ended up being much thinner than expected. It was quite similar to the thin veil covering the entrance of the Hovel. So Brady went barrelling right through the doorway, and disappeared into a dense fog that enveloped the chamber within. With too much momentum, he tripped over his own feet and nearly fell on his face. Managing to regain his balance in the middle of the chamber, he narrowly avoided a collision with the centre alter.

Losing sight of his father in the haze, Flynn ran into the alter chamber before the spiders sealed it up again. Groping his way through the cloudy haze inside the chamber, he could hear the recharging Relic buzzing furiously. Lost and disorientated, Flynn followed the increasing sound as his only guide.

Stumbling blindly he eventually saw beams of light slicing through the fog, casting strange shadows throughout the chamber. The intense glow was coming from the net still slung across his father’s shoulder. Running over, Flynn joined his father by the alter just in time for the full recharge to begin.

Brady pulled the net off his shoulder and held it in both hands before him. The Relic was now emitting a brilliant halo of light that made both of them squint in the foggy chamber. Looking away from the brightness, Flynn caught a brief glimpse of the skeletal remains on the alter. They were a delicate frame of bones surrounded by silken candles snuffed out long ago. Her silver staff was laid across her chest with a brilliant Moonstone adorning the tip. The Moonstone of the staff began to glow in response to the proximity of the Relic.

Suddenly, the blinding glow became unbearable. Flynn covered his eyes from the glare, but wished he had covered his ears instead after a popping sound exploded in the chamber.

Immediately, everything fell silent and dark as night. Once the ringing in his ears stopped, the only sound Flynn could hear was the increasing fog swirling about. That was soon followed by the tiny tapping of spiders scurrying around once again. In the darkened gloom Flynn looked down to where his father’s hands were. He saw a faint, shimmering hue emitting from the net which slowly faded away into pitch black.

Brady slung the recharged Relic over his shoulder in the darkness, pulled a torch from his pack and lit it. In the dim glow, Brady became very alert of their surroundings, “Let’s go Flynn. It’s done.”

But Flynn wasn’t listening to his father. Tarantu’s bones laying on the alter took all of his attention. At first he thought it was just the brightening torchlight, but there was actually a powerful aura emitting from the frail skeleton. It seemed to be buzzing as intense as the Relic had been before, but in total silence. Not knowing why, Flynn reached out to place his hand on the bones. He was being drawn to them – he couldn’t help himself.

He could almost feel the Power – the glorious, surging Power that was calling to him. It was just within his reach, when he was pulled away by his father’s firm grasp, “Don’t touch the bones Flynn!” Brady shouted.

Flynn was still in a daze; his eyes glazed over with the promise of Power.

“They’re Cursed Bones,” Brady explained.

These words broke Flynn out of his trance, “Cursed Bones?” he asked, never hearing that before.

“Yes, Cursed! Come on now. We have to go!” Brady grabbed his son’s cloak and tugged him along. He never did that, so leaving must have been urgent.

Flynn took one final glance over his shoulder at the Cursed Bones on the alter. Being dragged along, he swore that he heard the bones let out a soft giggle. Flynn was totally creeped out. He hoped that it was only his imagination running wild. But after he stumbled into his father who had stopped abruptly, Flynn knew that he must have heard the giggle too.

Brady turned sharply away from the doorway and faced the far corner where the foggy haze was thickest. Flynn wasn’t sure if it was just the torchlight dancing through the mist, but he thought he saw subtle movements in the darkened corner.

Brady held the torchlight up towards the clouded corner. Convinced of a threat, he pulled out his thick blade once again.

“Show yourself!” he called out in a voice that boomed throughout the chamber.

Flynn prayed that his father was mistaken and that nobody came out of the haze. But as much as he hoped they were alone, they weren’t. Slowly, a figure emerged from the misty corner letting out another ominous giggle. The alter chamber was now filling up with a dense fog as she advanced. The gathering clouds parted like curtains, making way for the slim figure’s grand entrance.

By the vague torchlight, Flynn could make out a young girl floating her way towards them. She may have been around his age, but the casual way she drifted across the room exuded an air of maturity way beyond her years. Draped in a powder-blue cloak, she pulled down the hood to let her wavy, brunette hair fall to her shoulders. Her sharp fringe cut straight across her brow framed an intense gaze.

Flynn wasn’t sure if it was just a trick of the light, but it seemed that her eyes glimmered an icy blue. She didn’t carry a staff like most Enchantresses, but there was no doubt that she possessed the Powers. This was proven when she casually materialised a fluffy cloud in the palm of her outstretched hand. The cloud solidified into a glowing orb that began to float in front of her. She raised an eyebrow tauntingly before she asked, “Wanna play?”

Before they could answer, the cloud burst into a blinding flash. Momentarily lighting up the entire chamber, the orb dimmed to reveal that the Enchantress was no longer there. Brady pivoted back and forth, searching for the Enchantress in the afterglow of the orb. A tiny giggle behind them revealed where she had disappeared to.

She stood directly behind them, blocking the doorway – the only way out. This close to her, it was clear that the Enchantress was not much older than Flynn himself. She remained silent, but her menacing smile said enough. She may not have been the Spider Queen, but there was a new Enchantress running this Hovel now.

Wanting to protect their new treasure, Brady tucked the Relic away into his satchel. Speaking calmly, he broke the tense silence, “We are just on our way out.”

He sheathed the machete and peacefully waved his hands in front of himself, “Our business is finished here,” he continued in a calming voice, “You can have the Hovel all to yourself again.”

Another giggle was followed by her sweet voice, “But you challenged me.” She giggled again, then continued in a more aggressive tone, “You told me to ‘show myself’.” Giving a deep curtsy, she presented herself in a mocking fashion, “Here I am.”

Flynn could see that this Enchantress was not in the habit of backing down from a fight. He slowly stepped behind his father for protection.

Shielding his son, Brady showed no sign of fear as he replied, “Well, it was lovely to see you,” he remained respectful but firm, “Now we must be on our way.”

Not budging, the young Enchantress responded with a taunting giggle. Then, out of nowhere, she sent a billowing puff of cloud shooting in their direction.

Always alert, Brady pushed Flynn aside, then rolled out of the way himself. The magical cloud crashed into the wall behind them with a heavy thud. Ripping some of the webbing aside. Flynn was knocked to the ground as he watched his father leap up, ready to fight.

The Enchantress raised her arms and the entire chamber was swallowed up in a thick wall of clouds. Flynn could see nothing, but that didn’t stop his father. Pulling out his machete, Brady bounded directly into the cloudy haze without hesitation.

Flynn could only make out dancing shadows in the mist as they battled throughout the alter chamber. Electricity surged in the air as magical sparks clashed with the sharp blade. Flynn had no idea what to do, especially as the shadows came closer. Standing up, he backed out of the doorway into the clear air of the hallway. He prayed that his father would soon emerge from the gloom, but there was no let up in the confrontation. He felt for the orb in his pocket and clutched it tight for a sense of security.

With renewed courage, Flynn stood up tall and came to a decision. He took a step towards the chamber entrance in hopes of helping his father. He was about to charge into the haze when a heavy cloud came bursting towards him. He ducked just in time to see the barrelling cloud smash into the webbed wall behind him. Turning back towards the foggy chamber, the last thing Flynn saw was a second cloud coming straight for his head. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as quick to react to this one. The thick cloud smashed right into his face, lifting him off his feet. After flying through the air, Flynn collapsed to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Then – nothing.