They heard the Delirium long before they reached it. “You are certain the Saedi are inside?” The Jack asked Khamet. “For I have never heard of anyone entering the Delirium and returning.”
“Nor I,” Megette said in a worried tone.
“I remember coming here, at least one of my other selves did and… yes they are here.”
Khamet had the same reaction the last time he encountered the Delirium, but now he knew what to watch for. They approached and the low ‘ohm’ sound that seemed to first slip along the breeze and cause the leaves to move with it grew steadily. Frob began to fly in one direction, then another, then simply began to fly in circles before finally taking up refuge on the brim of the Jack’s hat. The trees had begun to reverberate with the hum next and once the spongy ground began, they had trouble moving forward.
“Cat!” The Jack called out, exhausted. “We cannot penetrate this. We must turn back.”
Khamet could barely stand and as he tried to speak dropped to the ground unable to move. The Jack and Megette were still alright. It seemed size had a lot to do with the ‘ohms’ effect.
The moved out of the Delirium. Frob had passed out in the Jack’s brim. Once Frob was up and could fly again they settled. The ‘ohm’ was still evident, but faint in the distance.
“The last time I came the sound didn’t affect my other self at all.”
“Those ghostly parts of you are not alive my friend,” the Jack said.
Megette was holding her skull, a splitting headache had come over her. “This cannot be the way.”
Khamet looked into the forest towards where they were headed. The land was listening to him now and yes, he knew he possessed some uncanny abilities. He thought about what the Roadscholar had said. If what he said was true then he should be able to cross without any sort of impediment. Could he shift into it, simply apparate into the Delirium? He concentrated on the strange characters that shifted in and out of view, his other had seen. He vanished, but reappeared a moment later unsuccessful. Perhaps since the Saedi had been imprisoned there by the Roadscholar he could not penetrate the barrier.
They moved further out and made camp.
“I don’t see how they can help in any case,” the Jack said.
“Nor do I, exactly.” Khamet agreed. “However we are out of allies and without allies then…” his voice trailed off as the image of the Princess of Hearts came to him, filthy and incoherent. He moved off to the nearest tree while the others ate. A large oak twisted into a painful looking knurl with a large knothole in the face of the thing.
The land is listening to me he thought again. He ran to the tree and leapt, running up to the first branch, then the next and remembered the woman in the house with her games. “One cannot place themselves in any position without contemplating the effect it will have on every other place.
He looked at his position on the tree and noticed something. He leapt to another branch and sat and noticed it again. A thought came to him suddenly and again the grin came over his face.
“Well now that’s interesting,” he called down.
The others looked up and he leapt from the tree, though he was very high up, vanished in midair, reappeared right near the ground and landed without a sound.
“Ha,” he said triumphantly. “I have an idea and I hope it will work.”
The others watched as he walked right up to the large oak tree without stopping. As he reached the tree the knothole seemed to stretch into itself, reaching into and through the tree and slowly the hole became a large open maw that seemed ready to swallow him. Khamet walked right into the empty black hole and was gone for a full minute before his head reappeared from the darkness.
“Well come along then,” he said. And the others jumped up to follow.
Frob landed on the brim of the Jacks hat and closed his eyes as the three of them followed Khamet through the opening.
Megette noticed the sound was back, but it seemed distant and did not affect her. “Where is this?” She asked stepping out and looking around at the mist.
“This is the Delirium, the area beyond the whine and moan. This is where the Saedi reside and have been imprisoned for…” he stopped. “I don’t know how long.”
Khamet led the way through the fog and as the wisps got bolder Megette drew her sword and the Jack his baton. Frob moved from the top of the Jack’s hat to beneath it, which the Jack was not having.
“No, no Frob. I cannot have you on my head,” he said removing the beetle. “On my hat is fine but not…” A wisp came by screaming and the Jack knew instinctually if he had a hat to get beneath he might do so as well. “What was that?”
Megette seemed to be becoming even bolder and more unafraid. She sliced through the smoky air as the wisps screamed by.
“That’ll do then!” a loud voice called.
They all turned to a large man with a patch over his eye and hook for a hand.
“Though they be but wraith and phantom to you, that is how they be existing in the Delirium, the Saedi. Simple they are, and unformed save as wisps and vamps now, but it is not for ye to be beating at them with sticks and swords.”
Megette lowered her sword obviously embarrassed as did the Jack who gave a slight bow. “It seemed they were attacking.”
“Aye they were to those who stand to know what it is to be trespassing in this place.” He held his hand up. The ghostly wisps came to him and swarmed, some of the creatures had what looked like great teeth and they lunged, chomping at him, but breaking into smoke when they connected with his skin. “They are not but children, even babes. Just thoughtful emotions that come,” he waved his hand in a fast spin and all the wisps around him broke and vanished. “And are gone in a flash. Once they become flesh and harmful they will have consciousness and understanding, and would not bring harm unless provoked.” He said the last with an air of intent and it seemed obvious he was talking about them as well as himself.
Khamet believed that the Saedi could inflict a great amount of damage. Perhaps even kill them if they had a mind to.
“Come,” the large hook handed man said. “He is waiting for you.”
They made their way the same way Khamet remembered coming before. Megette and the Jack remained on guard, but forcefully did not draw their weapon when the Saedi became fleshy monstrous creatures that did snap in challenge.
“No one will harm you. It is important to understand they are terrified of you being here. We have never had an outsider in the Delirium. None ever make it past the forest.”
The numerous voices of the old man rattled as they entered the chamber. “Others.” “He brought others.” “He isn’t alone.” “He has a party.” “A whole group.” “And they are armed.” “They will do us harm.” “Here.” “In the Delirium.” “Not likely.” “But maybe.” “Maybe.” “Maybe not.”
“I have questions.” Khamet said as they approached.
“Questions he says.” “Coming here armed.” “Questions and answers he is seeking.” “We will tell him nothing.” “Speak for yourself.” “He could help us.” “Could release us.” “Will.” “Is supposed to.” “What are your questions?”
“Can you survive outside of the Delirium?”
“He.” “He.” “He is asking.” “What to answer?” “Yes.” “And no.” “And yes.” “But it is subjective and not something real.” “Everything that is real is.” “Suppose it is.” “So the answer is?” “If the barrier is open.” “Then we may.” “Inhabit this place.” “That place.” “Here.” “The Saedi are the connection.” “Between Heere and Yonderland.” “The Saedi arrive Heere first.” “In the Delirium.” “Then move to Yonderland once they have become flesh.”
“We are planning to lay siege to The Spade Castle in order to rescue the Princess of Hearts and we need your help.”
“We are held here.” “Can’t get out.” “Can’t escape.” “The Roadscholar.” “Bastard!” “Locked us here.” “How can we help?”
“Why did he do that to you?”
Khamet asked waiting to decipher the long speech that was about to issue in various parts of a hundred voices, but for the first time the old man didn’t speak. He only smiled and waited staring at Khamet.
“You were rivals?”
“You were partners?
Still silence but… a twitch in the look.
Khamet suddenly realized where this was going and had a sudden inclination of what had happened before. “You were brothers.”
The man began to mumble quietly to himself his eyes avoiding the cat.
Khamet stepped forward slowly, trying to make contact with the man. He stared into his eyes, then into him.