Hesper’s Web Pt. 3

It was a bright and sunny day as Mariel opened her eyes, standing in front of a giant, unfamiliar castle. As she looked around, she saw that everybody had made it inside. The grounds around the castle were full of green trees and gardens full of flowers. The flowers were hard to look at as their colors were unearthly bright like nothing in the material plane. Now that Mariel thought about it, the sun was way too bright. The place was off, like a saccharine version of the real world. The hopes and dreams of a peasant girl personified.

“Did everyone make it?” Luther asked. He was looking around, blinking. Even after decades above ground, a dwarf would be sensitive to such bright sunshine. Hells, Mariel felt her eyes start to hurt. She had to remember that it was not really her eyes as they were not really there. They were all in their armor and Mariel guessed that this drew from memory. There might be loopholes to exploit in that but that would require experimentation. They had to get their bearings first.

“Looks like it,” Asher said. “We’re all in one piece. Though, it is oddly quiet.”

“That would be the first thing you’d notice,” Mariel said. She was a little annoyed at herself that she had not noticed it. “Not the eye-searing visuals or the strange architecture.”

“I thought it would be stranger,” Asher said with a shrug. “This place just feels like it’s badly rendered art rather than a true dreamscape. However, the silence unnerves me. The world is never silent.”

“Everybody’s a critic,” Luther said. “Maybe the girl has limited imagination.”

“Perhaps the devil’s influence has imposed some undue order on her dreamscape?” Mariel offered. “Devils despise chaos if it does not suit their purposes.”

“Umm,” Dina said. “Did you not notice that this castle is resting on a cloud far, far above whatever’s down there?”

“That seems structurally unsound,” Dimitri said.

“Not in the Dream Plane,” Mariel said. “The laws imposed by nature and magic do not apply here.”

“What does that mean?” Dimitri asked. “Should we be frightened?”

“It means that literally, anything is possible here,” Luther said, “So be smart and be prepared for anything.”

“Like that?” Fern asked and pointed at a giant stuffed teddy bear in golden armor. It was walking toward them slowly. Its height was ten feet and it looked substantially solid. Obviously, it would be a bruiser of a fighter in the material plane. Except, of course, that it was a stuffed toy.

Everybody drew their weapons in unison and got ready to fight. The bear gave them a stern expression and shook its head and then let out a ‘tsk tsk tsk’ disappointed sound. It waited patiently for everybody to slightly lower their weapons in confusion.

“My name is Sir Buttonface,” the bear said in a deep gravelly yet comforting voice. “If you can behave then you can come inside. If you cannot behave, you must be sent below.”

“Umm, what’s down there?” Mariel asked.

“You do not want to know,” Buttonface said. “We do not contemplate such things. However, we assume that it is not pleasant. Master Gwendolyn is not to be disrespected and she handles such disrespect efficiently.”

“Wouldn’t it be ‘Mistress Gwendolyn?” Dimitri asked with a smile. He had been taught the ways of the court and nobility and these things were ingrained.

Sir Buttonface turned quickly toward Dimitri, frowning deeply. “Girls can be masters too,” he yelled somewhat defensively. “It would be like calling me Mister Buttonface. Honestly!”

Dimitri looked seriously at the stuffed bear. “I am sorry Sir Buttonface,” he said. “I would never dishonor a fellow knight. Please accept my apology.”

Sir Buttonface visibly brightened and nodded. “Of course,” he said. “Mother always said to be nice.”

“Mother?” Mariel asked. “Your mother?”

Sir Buttonface shook his head. “I don’t have a mother,” he said. “I mean Master Gwendolyn’s mother. I’ve never met her myself but our dear Gwendolyn speaks highly of her.”

“We’ve met her,” Luther said. “She sent us here to visit.”

“Truly?” Buttonface asked. “Then you must all come inside. Master Gwendolyn will want to speak with you. In fact, she will want to play with you.”

“Play with us?” Dina asked, a little nervousness in her voice. “What does that mean?”

“Just what I say,” Buttonface said. “Shall I lead the way?”

“Lead on,” Luther said. “We will follow you.”

Sir Buttonface lumbered toward the massive castle gates and started to push them open effortlessly. Everybody moved to follow. They stayed prepared for a battle.

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