I followed the gargantuan men, Nero gripping my shoulder the whole time, until we reached a misty clearing in the centre of the forest. It was completly silent, even our gentle footsteps sounded loud on the forest floor.
My breath made clouds in front of my face as I breathed quietly, trying not to make a sound, terrified I would break the spell.
One of the red-eyed men stopped, they were all identical, it didn't matter which one he was. He stood in the centre of the clearing and the others, including myself and Nero, formed a circle around him. I tried to ask what was happening, but the silence stiffled me. The man's eyes grew wide and his mouth formed multiple shapes that I assumed to be words in some ancient language.
I tried to look away from his terrifying wide eyes, flashing a stronger red as he chanted, but I simply couldn't. I was transfixed. As his silent chant reached a fever pitch the silence in the clearing ceased.
The entire forest grew dark, I could barely make out my hands in front of my face and a small glowing red ball of flame appeared above the man. I stared at it, was this some kind of witchcraft? The ball expanded before me, it's heat and light growing steadily more intense until it comsumed the man who had stood there moments before, he gave a high pitched scream and was gone. The silence returned.
In his place was a staircase, it was as if it was made of mirrors, I could see myself in it clearly, along with the rest of the clearing. It semed to strech infinatly into the sky. Nero led the way, shoving me just in front of him. As I trudged up the heavenly stairs for what felt like an age I saw myself everystep of the way, every step I took I was confronted with my hideous, beautiful, purple eyes.
Eventually I reached the summit, the stairs led onto a platform of thick clouds, I cautiously steped off of the solid surface onto the cloudy floor.
"Go on! What do you wait for?!" Nero winked at me again as the men behind us snickered, softly shoving me forward.
I made my way across the cloud with caution, it was like walking on sand. I wiped hy forehead, the sun, far closer than before, was now boiling hot and it filled the cloud with a brilliant light that burned my eyes and brain. Just as I began to get confident with walking on the new terain the entire ground around me began to quake, the sky itself shaking!
The cloud in front of me parted and in it's place, a huge wooden temple took root as if it had been there for thousands of years. It was red, with jade green tiles for it's roof. The staircase leading up to it was white marble. As I took in the red wooden building I thought that it was beautiful, however something I discovered on closer inspection changed my mind.
The entire roof was lined with ahemyst gargoyles, I had thought nothing of the sparkling purple heads, a mere decorative piece. Until I saw a frighteningly familier one... The woman who had plagued me was now decorating this temple, her familier features carved into the jewel. I saw many other women's head lining the ceiling until I wretched, was this going to be me?! I looked at Nero, he kept quiet and still like all of the other men, not even acknowledging me. They were waiting for something.
"Greetings my loyal servants! You have brought me the girl?!"
A man had burst from the temple door. He was tall, about a head taller than my height and was clad in crimson and gold armour, it caught the sun so violently I found myself unable to look at it. He was extremly handsome, but in such a way that he just looked important and he barked orders at the scattered men with a confidence and authority that I almost admired.
"Men, bring me the lady! She is our honored guest and will dine with me tonight!"
They obeyed and the next thing I knew I was thrust inside the temple being passed around by a group of identical women, they put me in new clothes and pasted my face with make-up, until I was deemed 'acceptable'. I had tried to struggle but they were just as strong as the men it seemed; they had almost cat-like white faces and long necks adding to their already impressive height. By the time they were finished I looked almost like them, of course I was shorter and my neck was normal size. And I was not nearly as terrifying.
Eventually I was sent back in to see the 'Emporer' of this cloud world, I choose to be civil, he might be able to help me get to Jairo. And there was no point in angering these viscious demons further
"You are being awfully cold to me my love, is that any way to treat your fiance?"
"I was unaware that that was the arrangment."
"Well good! I'm sure you love surprises! Unless... Are you unwilling to go along with this 'arrangment' as you so well put it?"
"Yes! I am most unwilling!"
"Shame... Poor young Jairo..." A look of curious concern snapped across my featuers.
"What do you mean?" I asked accusingly, the smug Emporer merely chuckling to himself as a red velvet curtain behind him was raised, to reveal my poor Jairo, bruised and battered almost beyond recognition, Emitting the same horrifing shreik that I had first heard from my mother, what felt like an age ago.