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Week 505
You are on Week 506
Week 507

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Five Hundred Six Ends Friday, May 13

Dear Reader,

This story is different. It begins with the conclusion and ends with the beginning, a kaleidoscope of colours falling from entropy to uniformity, a shattered rainbow reformed. Perhaps not so linear as a direct transport back in time, but more of a circular motion, of swirls in a rippling pond and raindrops that splatter.

This story has fallen apart, and it has been pieced together by wordsmiths to create something whole. I have travelled across lands and seas to acquire this chaotic lullaby, with lyrics so magnificent it trembles even the sun.

Dear Reader, prepare to fall backward in time as I relate to you the story of a Kacheek ruined.

***

A sword clatters to the ground.

His name is Vician. Brown fur, ragged clothing, haunted eyes. He stands before a monster summoned from an age that has not yet come to pass, one with a towering, black figure and hollow red eyes, one with hungry claws and breath of vaporised poison.

"I can't fight you." Vician steps backward, his voice quivering. "I won't fight you."

The monster hisses, flames flaring from her nostrils. "Weak. I'm almost disappointed." With a rasping laugh, she raises her own weapon above her head, preparing to strike.

Vician closes his eyes.

***

He remembers a time before this. Of green meadows, of gurgling brooks, his feet splashing in the pristine water. He was jumping from stone to stone while she remained seated by the bank.

Then, she was a timid Kacheek...

Author: Aurorapearl
Date: May 9th
To fall is a quiet thing.

It begins with a seed, a little notion of inquiet that burrows within one's heart. It germinates, drawing strength from insecurity and fear, draining more and more from its host as it expands. The branches stretch out, clawed and thorned, while the remains of one's self languish quietly in the heartwood.

To fall is a quiet thing, but perhaps all the more terrible for it.

But there was a time before she nurtured that tainted seed. There was a time in which they were together. One in friendship.

And even when there is nothing left of her, he cannot bring himself to fight back.

***

"Vician! Vician, come back!"

The brown Wocky laughs in response, leaping to a stone closer to her. The Kacheek flinches at the spray of water sent skyward, droplets glistening like jewels in the sunbeams.

"Ack! You got me wet!"

"You should try," Vician coaxes, plumed tail wet but held jubilantly, eyes of molten gold shining with the sheer joy of life. "Come on! The water's not that cold."

The Kacheek fidgets. "My mother told me not to."

Her friend's tail droops. "Aww, Nixi, you're no fun at all."

***

Through the screams and panicked crowds, he runs. The sword is held firm in his hands; he is ready to prove his mettle, to prove his worth. Destiny has lain its dice upon the table; fate will wait no longer for the confrontation that has been etched in stone.

Just as he searches for it, she searches for him.

And his paws scramble to a halt. The beast towers over him. It is vast, horrible, transcending description. Scythes protrude from its elbows, sharp enough to sweep through trees. It seems to block out the very sun.

Its eyes are hollow, cruel; garnet sunsets, crimson pools. But there is perhaps a shade of bitterness that peers from their empty depths, something far more venomous than the toxic gusts it exhales.

Vician would like to say that he feels brave, feels stoic -- that he is ready to confront the monster that has taken his best friend away from him. But he is not. It is more than the feral threat that overshadows him -- there is something wrong, something impossibly wrong. The air itself seemed to hiss with some terrible premonition.

Clinging to his memories, he steels himself and raises the sword. "This is for Nixila," he snarls.

The beast throws back its long neck and laughs. A more terrible sound he has never heard -- the hysterical screech is punctuated by gouts of sickly flame and acrid smoke. At last, words are formed through the cacophony, sliding from fanged jaws in a sibilant hiss.

"I am Nixila..."

***

All is quiet in the meadow, and Vician doesn't like it.

He knows quiet, knows it well. Quiet was peaceful afternoons, quiet was lazy weekend mornings, quiet was the presence of his best friend. He cherishes it... but not this. The stillness hangs over the familiar setting like death, something stagnant and oppressive that dares the breeze to blow or voices to speak with teeth bared. Bloated clouds shroud the redeeming stars and moon in their heavy, hopeless shawl.

He feels very alone, as he slips through the tall grass he'd traversed so many times prior. The meadow has changed this one night, betrayed him, turning from a warm and familiar acquaintance to a brooding stranger, something aloof and contemptuous of him.

Vician upholds that mantle of crushing silence as he glides through the brush, mind lingering on the brooding fear that was neither explainable nor in his power to deny. He had done as the note had asked, hadn't he? And yet it seems otherwise now. What-ifs and worst-case scenarios are rapidly solidifying the spectrum of his expectations, etching sleepless days and nights' worth of worrying into stone. Anything is possible under this dark and unfeeling sky, and his dread only magnifies as he approaches the stream that he had spent so much of his childhood at.

The rocks are charred, the grass burnt to cinders. The trees barely cling to life, withered, sickly leaves drooping. The air smells of decay and fumes, and the bubbling, pure stream he had splashed in was murky, bubbling torpidly with some noxious taint.

And she wasn't here. He had come too late. He remembered the note, remembered its ominous words.

If only I'd been a little faster...

But she was gone. It had taken her.

Vician chokes. "Oh, Nixi..."

Editor's Note: Great job, everyone! There were so many excellent entries to choose from -- please keep them coming! :)

Author: dianacat777
Date: May 9th
***

Looking back, he will try to pinpoint where it began. When she started to slip.

He searches his memory in vain, a lonely traveller, desperate and thirsty, trying to recognise the start of it all, as if answering why or how would be enough to bring her back.

It won't be. He knows that. But he searches anyway, thinking, Could I have stopped it?

Could I have saved her?

***

When they were young they read stories, on grassy hillsides, or beneath a canopy of summer leaves, or sitting by windows as the rain came down outside, or by a cackling fire in the heart of winter, or on the shore of the babbling brook. They read stories about knights and princesses and far-away lands. Stories about heroes and the monsters they'd slay.

When the story was over, they would bask in the glow of it, and he would turn to her and say, "Do you ever wish our life was like that?"

And she'd fiddle with her dress or look up at the clouds in the sky or pick petals from a flower or blow the hair from her eyes -- do anything to avoid his. "No, not really."

"Why not? Haven't you ever dreamt of adventure, Nixi? Don't you wanna be a hero?"

She'd sigh and look him in the eye and then look at the world around them, and say, "Not really. I kind of like it here."

"Here? But there's nothing here."

"Exactly. It's nice. It's peaceful. It's safe. It's... it's home, Vician. I don't want to leave."

He let the words sink in. "I suppose you're right. There's no place like it, right?"

"Yeah."

Then he'd grin. "Still, I wanna see the world, Nixi. I wanna travel. But if I do, I'll come back to you. Every time I see something, I'll come back here, and I'll tell you about it, so it'll be like you saw it too, even though you never left. I promise."

She'd smile at that. "Okay."

And it goes like this forever, for as long as they can recall, because children don't count seconds the way you and I do, Reader, they count them the way we used to and just can't remember how.

But even then, when they lapse into the comfortable silence that only good can share, there will always be a slight heaviness in the air, and the weight of unanswered questions and unspoken answers will press down, unnoticed, until they become too much to bear.

If I asked you to stay, would you?

And

If I asked you to come with me, what would you do?

***

Walking back from stream, Vician starts to shiver.

Nixila frowns. "I told you it wasn't a good idea, Vician. The water isn't warm enough to swim in yet. My mother says you're supposed to wait at least another week before going in."

Vician just laughs. "Say what you will, Nixi. It was fun. It was worth it." As if to elaborate, he flicks his wet tail in her direction. Nixi screeches and attempts to avoid the deluge. She glares at Vician, wiping the water from her eyes, but quickly succumbs to the laughter.

"Come on, Nixi, what good is life if you don't live a little?"

She sticks out her tongue. "At least I won't catch a cold."

He shrugs. "Fair enough. I can live with that. Here," he says with a grin, "I'll race you home."

They run.

***

Seems peaceful, doesn't it?

Perfect.

It always is just before the storm.

***

He falls to the ground. The ashes burn his clothes, singe his palms, and smoke rises and tickles his eyes, but he doesn't move. He lets the heat sink in, lets the pain sink in as well. It is his punishment. This is what he deserves. This is what he gets for failing to stop it, to save her.

He feels the note in his pocket, heavy, omniscient. He longs to pull the paper out, to ball it in his fists, to throw it far, far away, so it will land in the still-smoking ash, and it will catch fire there and burn and be gone.

But he doesn't. He pulls it out slowly, reading the words, rereading them, as he as done time and time again, until they are seared into his memory like the ash is threatening to sear into his flesh.

It is his only clue.

He gets up, driving away his grief. There are much more important things to do than weep. He has a mission now. He has to find her.

***

I won't tell you how it begins, Reader, not just yet. Fear not, fret not, you will soon know the catalyst, know how all of this came to be, just not yet, not yet. Soon enough you will know, just as you will know that there are never really concrete beginnings and endings to stories such as this, or any story, really, just events leading up to one another, like dominos colliding, or ripples in a stream, events crossing then parting ways then parting again.

I will not tell you how it began. No, not yet. But I will tell you what happened next.

***

"Vician?"

"Hrrm. What is it?"

"I had a dream..."

"Huh. Was it a good one?"

"... no. No it wasn't."

***

It didn't start with a dream, as most stories do.

But there were dreams, and they went a lot like this...

Author: reveirie
Date: May 10th
... dreams of fire and brimstone and horrible, horrible sights that Nixi begged never to see again. Dreams of fire, dreams of ash and smoke and the choking hold of destruction.

The people in the village began to talk, as people in villages tend to do. Rumours of evil and magic filled the air, of a seer and the idea that somehow there was a wrongness within her.

Perhaps that was how the change began in her... but no, no, it had happened long before that. It was merely how it began to take hold. Dreams of the end, nightmares that seemed all to real.

But those dreams were nothing, nothing compared to the ones that Nixi really feared. They were so much more basic, but so much more real.

She dreamed that one day, he wouldn't come back.

***

"That's silly, Nixi. I'll always come back. What's the point in going somewhere if you have to stay there forever?"

"You know what I mean, Vician. I'm waiting, and it's so real, so very real. I'm waiting, and you never come back to me. I'm waiting there, all alone... forever."

A deep hug.

"It's just a dream Nixi, just a dream."

"Then I don't want to dream anymore."

"You don't mean that."

"Yes, I do! If it means dreaming of a world without you, I don't want it! Vician, I..."

"Then I'll find a way. I promise."

That was how he left her. Her own fears driving him away in a cycle of self-fulfilling pain. He left the village, a grand quest to find a cure for the visions.

He promised he'd return, but her tears made it clear that she thought they would never meet again.

He found what he was looking for, but then so did she...

Author: herdygerdy
Date: May 10th
A dark place. A dangerous place. A place in which even the innocent heart of a child would blacken and wither.

She shivers. She's been here once before, before the dreams started. It now seemed so long ago.

Cold eyes flash at her. Calm. It is perhaps the calmness of these eyes that frighten her the most. They are sure, unwavering.

"You knew very well the conditions of our arrangement. Did you expect impunity for your actions? Everything has a cost."

"Oh, yes I know, but the dreams are simply unbearable! They get worse every night. I've become so afraid to even close my eyes! You must help me! Besides, haven't I been punished enough?"

"Ah, so he's gone?" A malevolent smile.

"Yes, he's gone."

"Forever?"

"I... I don’t know," her voice quivers.

***

He is weary from his journey, but his heart his light, joyful even. Anxiously, he pounds on the door.

"Nixi, I'm back! And you won't believe it what I've found! A cure! Soon everything will be like it was!"

Of course, Reader, you and I both know that things can never be as they were. We cannot reverse life as we can turn back the hands of a clock. Minds grow wider. Hearts harden. Souls become heavy. Childhood abandons us all too quickly, and we are left grasping at memories of what once was.

"Nixi? Aren't you home?"

The Wocky searches for the key he knows is hidden in the mailbox. Entering the dark Neohome, he realises that his friend is nowhere to be seen, but there is a envelope on the table.

Vician is written on it.

***

She knows what she must do, but everything inside her tells her to stop. To go back.

If she goes through with this, she will never be the same. For who she is now is not the kind of creature who could ever commit such a deed, but she has no choice.

The dreams have to stop. His absence in them is all too harrowing. It violently embraces her like the dark nothingness of a moonless sky. This absence tortures her, because in many cases, nothingness can be much more menacing, much more painful than somethingness.

"I've ruined everything!" she cries to herself. It wasn't supposed to happen this way. She didn't know it would turn out like this, and how could she have known? Deep down she still believed that one day he'd come back to her. Someday, they could be happy together again.

However, right now, she had to get rid of these dreams! Her eyes narrowed. Yes, she could do this.

But under her breath, she softly reproached herself.

"Wicked, wicked, wicked, wicked...!"

***

Oh, Reader, I beg you, do not judge her so harshly! Do not point your rigid finger at her so definitely just yet! For, you see, there are still things about her you do not know, ghosts in her past that I have intentionally neglected to tell you until now...

Author: favonianbreeze
Date: May 11th
...and as harshly as she judged herself, she meant to save them both.

When she was six, Nixila was fearless, and she walked in the deep woods by the starlight alone.

***

It was strange, Nixila thought. Once Vician was truly gone, she had wept for hours, despairing, and since then... the loneliness had not been as bad, in real life, as the anguish that had ripped at her when he walked away in her dreams.

She wasn't numb, exactly. It felt a little that way, but it wasn't so. She still felt. She still hurt.

She did what she had to, all the household chores she'd always done and the ones she'd left to him.

After two weeks her spent tears returned and she could cry again. She stared between the ladder and the bleating Babaa some prankster had left on the roof, and finally set the ladder against the eaves and climbed, blood pounding in her temples, breath short, vision narrowed dizzily to the next rung. Coming back down was worse, with the squirming Petpet in one arm threatening her balance and her grip.

When she was down, the Babaa ran off as if nothing had happened, and Nixila sat and cried. But a month later, when it rained for a week straight and the roof leaked, she climbed up again to fix it.

After three months she laughed almost as often as she used to.

And after six, she was angry. She fumed without realising it for a week, and then her mother mentioned Vician -- only she really didn't, she just happened to set down soup in the lopsided but functional, oddly graceful bowl he'd carved during the month he wanted to be a woodcarver -- and Nixila screamed at her.

"Don't talk to me about Vician!"

"But he was your best friend," her mother said, instead of denying she'd done it. Her lips pressed together. "Even if he was irresponsible."

"Don't say bad things about him! He was responsible. He was brave. He wanted to be a hero." Her voice broke, shattered. "He wanted to fix me. He left me. He left me...." And she raged and wept and kicked over her chair and beat the floor with her fists.

"You were never broken," her mother whispered to her. "There's nothing wrong with you, sweetheart."

"But there is," she whispered back. "There is."

And that night the dreams returned.

The loneliness wasn't as bad as she'd expected... while she was awake. Braving the roof wasn't as bad as she'd expected. A hundred little things weren't.

She began to think she should face her fears, after all.

But the fear for him, that was worse.

***

"So what if," Nixi had said, sprawled under a tree in the shade while Vician splashed about in the cold water. It had been a hot day, easily warm enough to swim, but she didn't like the feel of the water well enough to make up for the initial breathtaking shock or being nibbled by fish.

"Uh-oh," Vician had said, flopping out of the water onto sun-warmed grass.

She'd smiled. "What if one day, an evil magician poisoned the brook--"

"No!" He'd played along. "This pretty brook, all fouled and ugly?"

"--so that the water ran sparkling clear, even more beautiful than before, like rainbows and diamonds -- but it killed everything that touched it?"

"Nixi," Vician had said in dismay, sitting up, "that's even worse."

"I know. But deadly things are often beautiful."

Vician shuddered. "But corrupted things shouldn't be."

The creature that had once been Nixila, centuries ago for her and right now a few hundred yards away, gazes at the deadly, sparkling-bright stream running under starlight by her unsuspecting home. In the morning, she knows, they would go to the well nearer at hand for water, but then the bolder children would come and play here, where the sun and grass were still cool and the water was too cold to swim in, and where it was beautiful. They would splash in the icy bright water and they would not go home to catch cold.

She tells herself, they don't deserve to die in such beauty.

She scuffs the ground with her feet and bows her head to foul the water with her own venomous drool.

She knows her master will punish her.

***

In her dreams now, when they are not of herself lying alone with her chest open and bloodless and her heart gone and all the nerves alive with pain...

Nixila sees Vician fighting a horrible monster.

Like a dark tower from the end of the world bending down with red-lit windows, black fog rolling from its base and its turret.

Like the Monoceraptor that terrified her in stories of Tyrannia. (You mustn't go walking alone in the dark.)

Like a factory of Dr. Sloth's. (Corruption shouldn't be beautiful.)

Like the Darigan Citadel menacing the fair fields of Meridell. (Vician wanted to be a knight!)

Like the howling beast inside her that wanted him to suffer for leaving her.

And she knows in her dream that the monster will win.

***

When she was six, Nixila was fearless, and she used to sneak out and walk in the deep woods by the starlight alone, under the new moon.

One night, the stars went out, one at a time.

She did not at first notice, because it was dark anyway under the trees, and there was a soft and lovely shimmer through the leaves still.

And then she came to a small opening -- not even a clearing, just a space where one large tree had fallen -- and a shaft of moonlight spoke to her, but there was no moon.

And it said, "Why have you trespassed here?" in a voice of bright hard silver.

Nixi said fearlessly, "I haven't trespassed anywhere. These are the woods around my village and they don't belong to anyone."

"Oh," said the moonbeam, "but they belong to me," and that was when Nixi remembered that there was no moon tonight, that Kreludor lay in Neopia's shadow, and there was only the dim dark disc high in the sky.

The moonbeam leaned down, and Nixi thought she saw a faerie in it, impossibly bright and beautiful with smooth wings, but perhaps not, for who ever heard of an evil light faerie? And one silver-white hand touched her over the heart, and it was cold.

For your trespass here, whispered the leaves, like silver chimes,

You are mine and no other's.
You will feel my fear
Drive out friend and brother.

You will see ahead.
They will not believe.
And the coming dread
You cannot relieve.

After aeon years,
When you come to me,
With a poison tear,
You are still not free.

Nixila didn't know how she got home; she only knew she woke up in her bed with muddy sheets and damp paws and grey leaves scattered throughout the room. She caught a bad cold with a fever and wasn't well for two weeks, and the dreams were terrible.

From that night on, her parents bundled her in warmth and warnings, and always Nixila was afraid...

Author: schefflera
Date: May 11th
It was a few years before the dreams began. At first, she didn't understand them; they were just another nightmare, and when she awoke screaming, her parents held her and shushed her and told her that everything would be okay, their eyes warm and loving, confident in their pronouncement.

At the time, she believed them. Being a child, her parents still had the power to make her feel safe, but as she grew the dreams kept coming, the screams erupting from her throat still waking her. Oh, her parents still held her, but she was growing older, and holding a screaming child sobbing from a nightmare is not like holding a young adult, and slowly their eyes lost the warmth at night. Oh, they still loved her, but the confidence was gone, and behind their eyes they began wondering if Nixila really was okay.

After a while, she stopped screaming. Her parents were relieved; it was a step in the right direction. But you only scream in fear when you believe someone will save you, and Nixila no longer felt she could be saved...

***

She was ten when she first found the dark place, shortly before the nightmares began in earnest. Perhaps she should have learned fear by then, after the Silver Faerie, but when she had asked her mother had laughed and told her there was no such thing. "There are grey faeries, dear, but no silver ones," she had said, and hugged Nixila, her eyes warm and laughing. Her parents had decided she had been sleep-walking that night and never thought more about it. It would be a long time before Nixila learned just how real that faerie was, but for now, the buoyant fearlessness of childhood still carried her places it shouldn't.

Like the moonbeam place, she wasn't sure how she had gotten there... she had just been walking. But in the space between breaths, she found herself enclosed by darkness, staring at two bright blue eyes... eyes that despite their beauty were cold and hard. And deadly, deadly calm.

In the darkness around her, voices chittered, voices she could only partially make out. Want her... want... want... keep... take... The voices made her shudder, but it was the eyes that had her trapped.

"Hello, little one..." came the voice in the darkness, the voice, she was sure, that belonged to those eyes that held her still, whose gaze she couldn't break no matter how hard she tried.

The Kacheek tried to stammer out a greeting, but to no avail... fear was growing in the pit of her belly, icy cold fear that left her teeth chattering.

"I have something you want... but I want something in return..." The voice was like the eyes; it had a beauty to it, but a malevolence that was apparent even to a child. Deadly beauty... silk stretched taut over steel.

"I have n-n-nothing anyone w-would want!" Nixila stuttered, still hypnotised by those eyes. Those eyes...

"Oh, but you do, child, you do." Sweet malevolence, honeyed steel...

Wide-eyed and rapt, the young Nixila leaned forward and listened to what the voice proposed.

***

Older now, Nixila steps into the stream and weeps. The stream is shallow here and barely covers her ankles, but the icy water quickly leaves her feet numb as the crystalline water fords around her legs. Amid her tears, she doesn't even notice.

Her dreams are haunted now. Sometimes loneliness so poignant and eerie she screams, sometimes violence so horrifying her stomach turns even as she screams out her terror. Sometimes fire as her village burns and ash drifts like snow, and sometimes, a Silver Faerie with hands so icy cold they burn, who only whispers, "You are mine..."

It is the last that are often the most horrifying and are the only ones she can never bring herself to tell Vician about. Over the years, she has become certain that faerie is real, and that Nixi is lost, so lost, even to herself. Even the bargain in the dark place hadn't saved her, and she had later reneged... but the dreams had gotten worse, so much worse. It was hard to tell which were the ones that looked forward and which were only nightmares.

And the worst, the Voice had said, if she changed her mind, he would take what was dearest. When Vician had left, she knew... she knew...

"Wicked, wicked girl," she cried softly to herself. But she had no choice, all was already lost.

***

Walking back into the dark place, Nixila can only hope. She had only time for a short note to Vician; she had no idea if the Wocky would ever read it, but she hoped so. Hope was all she had left.

"Welcome back, little one." The voice was cold and gleeful, sweet and horrible, poisoned honey, smooth but deadly.

"Get on with it." Nixila lifts her head, defiant, proud, in these last moments.

***

Dear Reader, please pardon the interruption, but I beg again -- do not judge Nixila. She knew what she did was wrong, but horror has a way of grating against a soul, terror a way of grinding what is left of you until you can barely recognise yourself, until the face you see in the mirror doesn't match the bleakness in your soul. She knew what she did was wrong, but when you feel trapped with no options, even the most barren choice will seem the best if it is a choice.

***

Centuries from then, what was left of Nixila walks the ruins of the world. She has been punished over and over as the aeons have passed, the remains of her heart excised until there is little left but a name to remind her that once, she had been Nixila; once she, had been a Kacheek. Once, she had been both more and less than she was now.

"Little one, I have a task for you; I think you'll like it..." A millennium has passed, but that voice is still honeyed steel, poisoned honey. She has changed, but it has not.

As Nixila listens, a grin grows on the ruins of her face, as much as the over-filled mouth full of sharp, craggy teeth and dead crimson eyes can grin. The urge to punish those who hurt her is sharp, and while she cannot punish her master, she can punish the others. Oh yes, she can punish them.

***

Vician stumbles through the ash, trying to remember and trying to forget. He had done what she asked; where was she? He must find her... he must... her words are seared into his brain.

Dear Vician,
I am sorry, so sorry...

Author: agedbeauty
Date: May 12th
I know you told me to be strong for you, but I could not. You told me that everything was going to be OK. You told me that you were going to come back for me, but you have not. I waited, just like I promised you. I kept my promise. You never kept yours.

I wish you were here with me now, just like you used to be. You were my rock, the one I trusted more then anyone else. Now, even you disappoint me. I am moving on; I shall leave you behind, just as you left me. I have a higher purpose ahead of me, and as of tonight, I shall start to fulfill it. One last night to gaze at the moon, to dip my feet in the old stream, to remember the wonderful memories we shared. Maybe I will even see your smiling face in the water like I always did when I was a child. After this brief escape, I will set upon a new path, one that takes the pain of missing you away.

Remember me, Vician, as I remember you. Those precious memories of our childhood together. I will keep them for as long as I can, though I fear, as you have forgotten me, I will begin to forget you too. Perhaps, we will meet again some day, but please know, I will never be the Nixila you left behind so very long ago.

Goodbye, Vician.

At the bottom of her note, Nixila had scribbled feverishly over the words "Forever Yours." Her name was deeply etched into the paper, as if securing her mark on the world one last time.

Vician thumbed gently at the words, the yellowed paper showing that the note was written ages ago. The dust that had settled over the table where the note had been left told the same tale.

The years had passed so quickly, he could hardly feel how time had worn upon him. He felt the leather sling across his waist, the long sheath at his side housing the sword he had grown fond of over the years. It was meant to be a casual adventure, though it turned into so much more.

The Wocky had come to realise how restless the world was. Villages in trouble, maniacal villains at every turn. Vician had spent so many years being Nixi's hero, he neglected to think that so many others would need that same helping hand. He regretted leaving Nixila behind; he kept telling himself how she would understand, how much good he was doing for the world. She would understand why he did not keep it all here for her alone.

***

"He comes..."

The voice stirred Nixila. The darkness that enveloped her after the simple nodding of her head subsided. The familiar sound of the softly running water reached her mangled ears. Her acrid footsteps marred the ground around her feet, and the soft chittering around her dissipated as the fauna scurried away at the sight of the invader.

The memories flooded back to her foggy mind, memories of when she was young and vibrant. Memories of a family that loved her, memories of an unwavering friend. Memories that she made up just to try to remember a better life.

It was just never good enough. Just like everything she had ever known, the memories became corrupt. The family that gave up on her, the friend that turned his back and walked away.

"He comes..."

The creature that Nixila now was canted her head. She could hear the whispers, she knew the very moment they were eluding to.

***

Now, of course Dear Reader, you want the storybook twist, that she's waiting there at the stream, beautiful and vibrant. The valiant knight makes it just in time to save the damsel in distress. They live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that is not the tale we will hear today.

On that day, in the proper span of time, Nixila was not there when Vician returned and went to the stream to find her. When Nixila made the choice to leave, to accept the prophecy put forth on her by the voice in the darkness, she did not know that she could not return home. When she spoke those words, accepted the dark pact, the physical changes had begun. So very slowly, but so obvious, Nixila was too ashamed, too scared to go home. From that day on, Nixila the Kacheek was never seen or heard from again.

Dear Reader, you must open your mind to the possibilities of the world, to the possibilities of shaping time and space around your will. Nixila did not have that power, but she was compelled by a force that did. Vician did not know what would happen, but never in the many years he was away from her, did he expect what he found at the stream that day.

***

It is said that time heals all wounds. Vician would hope that statement was so very true. His path was steadfast, his heart was pure, and with his trusty weapon by his side, he was ready for anything that would stand in his way. He was going to get Nixila back, he was going to save her once more, just like he always had.

The world around him had not aged well, the skies red with torment. The grasses burned, foundations were crumbled. The Neopets of the village were scared, rushing about, as if a great cataclysm was upon them. Vician had seen this so many times, now a seasoned warrior, he had helped defend any village in his path. Nixila was not here though, and he had so many years to make up for. So much time he had spent away from her, rescuing others. He could not spare a second more. He felt in his heart, she would be there, waiting for him. He would never chose the path that led away from her ever again.

He took the dirt road toward the stream, running at full speed, just like when they raced as children. It was that very feeling that lead Vician to believe she would be there. He felt it, the connection they always had, the one that he let his own selfish needs get in the way of. She had to be there.

The stream was quiet, as if the air around it was muffling the once very animated rushing water. The only sound Vician could hear was a deep, ragged breathing...

Author: filter
Date: May 12th
He went on to investigate. Who was that? And what were they doing here, at Nixi's stream?

It wasn't hard to find the source of the noise. Hidden amid the tall grasses was a single faerie, with wings of pale, glassy silver, hair mussed, dress torn, and overall, a total mess. She appeared to be in pain, clutching her wrist.

"Are... are you okay?" asked Vician hesitantly, wondering if he should do something to help her.

She winced, but managed to gasp out, "Your village... under attack..."

"My village is being attacked?" Vician could hardly believe it, but he was willing to take this mysterious faerie's word for it.

She nodded. "Hurry..."

***

She had been told that Vician had deserted her.

Nixi lingers on the outskirts of town, shivering nervously; she refuses to acknowledge her new appearance -- that of a monster -- refuses to realize that the faerie is using her.

"I'm sure you don't want anything to do with your little friend," the Silver Faerie had told her. "Deserting and abandoning you... but I'll help you. I'll always be here for you."

She thinks back to when Vician had promised the same thing but remains silent.

"And once you get rid of your village, everything about him will be gone," the faerie had continued...

But for once, it hadn't been sugary sweet. Her voice was tinged with acid.

***

He has his sword. He can still save the day, play the part of the hero. The memories cloud his mind, memories of Nixila, talking to her about the childish fantasies of then, about how he wanted to be a hero, he wanted to save the day, but she didn't like the idea...

As he pushes open the gates to his little village, Vician can hardly believe his eyes...

Author: chocolate_lover67
Date: May 13th
Editor's Note: This week's story was very unconventional, and so I thought it deserved an unconventional ending. Also, it was really difficult to choose a winner with so many possibilities. ;) Enjoy!

...and, dear reader, you must know by now that Nixila was waiting for him, but he did not recognise her.

***

If the years had slipped by quickly, almost unnoticeably for Vician, they had dragged step by deadly step for Nixila. She had not expected her master to be kind; she had seen the dreams, of course. But she had not known how long aeon years could be.

She had gone to the dark place and given her heart away for an end to the dreams. And Nixila never dreamed again.

Now she lived the dreams instead.

Her master did not put her to sleep to change her; she felt every alteration, every twist, every burn and shifting bone. And at last she was allowed to see what had been made of her -- with just enough light to see, stabbing her eyes with its soft radiance after so long in the dark, but the pain was so little next to what she had lived through. Her master was a backdrop of shadow.

Her heart sank, because she was beautiful.

There was still something of the shape of a Kacheek in the shape of her towering body, the lines of her ears -- under her sleek shadow-dark pelt, behind the muzzle, inside the powerful limbs. She was a predator and a glorious one, the dark of the night sky with stars glinting in her teeth and eyes.

Deadly things are often beautiful.

But corrupted things shouldn't be.

"Why have you done this to me?" she whispered, almost voicelessly.

Want, want, take, keep, want, whispered back the shadows.

Her master sent her out. Not against Neopets or faeries, not at first. Against things that were evil or ugly, or seemed so, testing her against other monsters and against strange alien devices, and who could argue with opposing monsters or Dr. Sloth? Then sometimes against things that were not so ill in themselves, even good ones, but that did not require her to harm anyone directly. And later...

...it would be kinder to both you and Nixila-that-was, dear Reader, not to go into detail. She fought and she submitted. She remembered and she forgot.

Nixila, over the centuries, learned some of the twisting arts and changed herself. She made her fur heavy and coarse and ragged, grew rough uneven horns in place of the graceful daggered ones given her, changed her proportions, bent her joints, swelled her gums and venom glands until she couldn't swallow properly and drooled. She started after the first time her master sent her against Neopets, and some of them gazed entranced at her beauty or even touched the deadly fur. They should all know what was coming and fear.

Her master punished her and did not make her stop.

One day she saw herself again and knew herself for the monster Vician would fight. She rejoiced because she had known it would happen, because now his life would be in her hands (claws, teeth, breath). She could save him. She could kill him. She rejoiced because it was too late, and if she was his monster he was long dead before it had been made.

She wept.

One day she stood by her master at the end of the world, Neopia in ruins, barren and befouled as legend said it had been before the faeries arose.

"Why have you done this to me?" she asked. She could no longer whisper; her voice was a hoarse growl.

"Because," said her master, "I was once in the silver faerie's glade."

***

Her master sent her back in time. Nixila remembers even now, the day the village had begun to die, the day its children played in a crystal stream and lay on the bank and never rose up again. It had been after she left, years after, and her master had taken her to watch, had hidden her in the shadow of the trees, invisible, and forced her to be still, and left her there while a shaft of too-bright moonbeam had touched the source of the stream, and while the children came to play. Tonight she could move, and tonight she was ages older, ages of pain and resentment and grasping after her own power, and tonight she had not looked for her younger self but had fouled the water with her feet and slaver.

Had anything changed? Could it? Had it been real or had she dreamed again after all? She remembered the water had been bright, and now it runs dull and red and yellow.

Tonight, she had been told, Vician would come.

Tonight, the silver faerie had met her when she arrived and told her she was the one who'd called her from the far future, that she was the one Nixila's master had sent her to, that she would be free when she destroyed her past.

Tonight, she panted in the silent outskirts of her village, and saw a knight on his way to slay the monster.

Tonight, she who had always been afraid fought, and was winning, before all those drawn by the noise and held back by fear. Not as she used to be, not fearful of the unseen or promised, but of the living terror in front of them.

Tonight, she who has become a monster taunts Vician with his failure, his betrayal, his weakness, and he drops his sword and says he will not fight her....

Nixila laughs at him.

She blows flame from her nostrils and singes his fur.

She raises her weapon high...

Tonight, a voice sings, soft as a silver chime, "You are mine and no other's--"

Tonight, Nixila knows who her master is.

Tonight... Nixila decides.

The weapon crashes down.

The faerie's song stops.

The terrorised village falls silent.

Nixila kisses Vician's forehead -- a fearsome kiss -- and sinks to the ground. "I'm free," she whispers.

Not so far away, a brook runs clear again.

***

Dear Reader, did you expect a happy ending?

But, dear Reader, I promised you a beginning. Let me sing for you. You will hear it, if you bend your head close to the silver ink.

Once upon a time, a faerie...

The End

Author: schefflera
Date: May 13th
...Neopets screaming in terror. Fire, flames dancing, licking buildings hungrily with reds and yellows and oranges. Smoke, a sky tinged black. Green leaves turned brown, crumbling to ash beneath his feet. It was unbearable to watch. His home was being destroyed piece by piece. And in the centre of it all was a creature, a twisted monster with jagged teeth, bladed elbows, crimson eyes.

He has never faced something so terrifying, yet his hand reaches for his sword almost automatically. He will fight the creature. He will fight it in the name of Nixila, his friend who he has lost. He does not feel brave. In fact, he is terrified. Yet part of him knows that this is what he must do.

He runs with his sword held high, all caution thrown to the wind as he heart beats wildly in his chest. "This is for Nixila!" he cries, yet the beast hears him, turns toward him, and glares at him with hatred in his eyes. It laughs, deep and crackling, the sound of an inferno.

In a voice that is foreign yet so familiar, it hisses, "This is Nixila."

* * *

Reader, it seems we have come full circle. Yet again, isn't time circular in a way? There is no chronological order to these events I'm telling you, but there is an undeniable flow, a current pulling us along to the conclusion. To the beginning. To everything in between.

As what has become of Nixila strikes her friend to the ground, time is all that Vician can think of. His mind, like this story, is sporadic, run through with memories of the past that all play out in his mind in mere seconds. The brook. His journey that spanned several years, trying to save Nixila from the dream that plagued her. The Kacheek's laughter as they played and danced and talked when they were kids. It all floods his head, and his sword clatters to the ground uselessly. He knows he can not fight her; he tells the monster so. Yet Nixila feels no remorse, no pity for her friend who has deserted her. She calls him weak.

She watches as her friend closes his eyes, giving up so as not to harm her. She raises her fist, a weapon in itself, made of thick leathery skin and blade-like fingers. She makes a move to strike him down, the hurt and anguish building up in a great crescendo... and then she pauses.

Because, my dear Reader, time is not linear for Nixila either, and all at once, it is as if she too can see her past. Not the nightmares that had clouded her vision for so long, the ones that she had convinced herself were realities. But her true past. She sees the brook, the way Vician smiled at her with his deep brown eyes, balancing on the rocks, coaxing her into the water.

And yet she is so far gone, dear Reader. So destroyed by the faerie that crafted her, destroyed by her hatred for so long. She can not turn away from her fate, her destiny to destroy the Wocky. She hears the voice of the faerie in her head, urging her forward, and yet, she pauses as she looks down at him.

"I'm sorry," she whispers, and she brings her arm down.

* * *

Dear Reader, do not look at me in such a way. Do not wince or cry or scream at me, for I am just telling a tale that I have gathered. A tale of friendship, loss, darkness, and hope.

And as with tales, there are always the legends that go along with it. There is a story told by a young Cybunny watching the scene from the inside of her house with horror, seeing the arm of the great beast coming down... and then the brown Wocky simply vanishing, as if by some strange magic. One moment he lay on the ground, exposed and vulnerable, and the next he is gone. The Cybunny claims she saw a swirl of something glittering in the wind, something magical and beautiful, and heard the sound of bells and the songs of adventures, but who am I to verify her claims?

Either way, after the deed was done, Nixila fled the village, fled into the depths of the forest. The faerie still whispered in her head, but she pushed it aside. She knew she would be punished for what she had done, or hadn't done. And yet, despite her fall of grace, deep in her chest there still was a kernel of herself. Vician had called to it, and as small as it was, it still resided deep inside of her.

Vician had healed her.

She would be punished many times over for her disobedience, yet she did not care. Vician had once said to her that corrupted things should not be beautiful. She was corrupt; she was hideous. And yet, she would fight. She would be corrupt but do beautiful things.

* * *

Time repeats, flows, weaves. And so, as this story ends, a new one begins. It is a story of a fallen Kacheek, no longer her former self, but something new, different, corrupt, yet beautiful. Her name had once been Nixila, and to this day, so the legend goes, she can be glimpsed out of the corner of your eye near a stream, a brook with rocks to leap across. She guards it, her toes in the water, still wincing at how cold it is, still hearing the voice of her friend whispering in her ear to join her. Some say that even when you don't glimpse the creature, you can see a swirl of shimmering mist, and hear the sounds of laughter echoing throughout the clearing.

There she sits until her master calls, making sure none fall into the icy water.

The End

Author: vanessa1357924680
Date: May 13th
His village, his home, where he and Nixila played as children... gone.

Oh, he had seen the burning earth and the twisted shells that had been houses, the crowds screaming as he ran to Nixila's stream. He had seen them.

But he had not seen them. Not like this.

In the distance, a terrible roar is heard, a roar that chills him to his core, a roar both horribly alien and horribly familiar, and without stopping to think, Vician runs. Through the screams and panicked crowds, he runs.

***

"No," he whispers, ash thick in throat, mixing with tears as they slip down his cheeks.

The Beast whuffs softly, toxic breath searing the fur on his face in ways the burning ash had failed to do. There is dark amusement in the blood-red eyes as the Beast scuffs the ground with its deadly claws, leaving deep runnels in the ash and dirt.

"Surely your old friend is not so unfamiliar?" There was malice in the voice, malevolence he would never have associated with Nixila.

"You can't be Nixi... you can't..." The words seem to come from elsewhere, and at first, he does not realise that it is he who spoke them. Wrongness permeates the air like water vapour, and he can barely breathe.

"I am everything you made me!" A glint of defiance sparks in the dead crimson eyes, and somehow, that is worse than the darkness, worse than the malice. Worse because he knows it, worse because he doesn't want to know it. Worse because he had seen that same defiant glint in Nixila's eyes as children when he finally pushed her into something her mother had told her she shouldn't do.

"No," he whispers again, the words choked and nearly stillborn in his throat. With every fibre of his being, he wants to deny it. He closes his eyes.

"Look at me!" the Beast hisses, and his eyes snap open. "I am what I am, because of YOU! Years of waiting for you... I have had aeons, Vician. Aeons to see where this began."

Vician wants to deny it, but he can't. Nausea bubbles in his stomach, and guilt freezes him in place. He had left her alone. Alone.

In the distance, he hears a sword fall. It takes a moment to register that he has dropped his sword.

"I can't fight you." Vician says, his voice shaking. "I won't fight you."

***

Nixila raises her weapon, gouts of flame flaring as she laughs. This was the creature she had lost her heart over? This snivelling, pathetic Wocky? For this creature, she had become a monster?

What a waste. What a fool he was, and what a fool she had been. What a pleasure it would be to remove this final irritating reminder of what had been, what could have been.

***

Above his head, the weapon arcs. Vician closes his eyes again, listening to his breath and his heartbeat. These last moments have passed so quickly, and yet, they have taken forever. Perhaps he will be here forever, death falling ever closer but never arriving. The space between heartbeats seems infinite, the guilt strong enough to keep him here indefinitely.

If only there was a way to save her. If only he had found the cure sooner, before she had felt the need to write that note. He was sure if he had gotten to her then, everything would have been the way it should have been. If only there was something, anything, he could do now. If only...

Perhaps death was the only way. He had saved many lives in the span of his own lifetime, had been the hero more times than he could remember, but the mistake he had made, the depth of the scar he had left in leaving her, and the cost that had been Nixila's, not his, to bear -- the magnitude of these weighed heavy on his soul. If his death was the only thing he could do for her, he would do so willingly, with no regret for this choice.

***

Unasked questions and unspoken answers, regrets for decisions we wish could unmake. Horrors we wish we could unsee and forces we wish we had the strength to defy. Can you really blame them for their choices, Reader? Can you blame Nixila for what she did? Can you begrudge Vician any of his choices?

Mistakes are so easily made, dear Reader; life is full of mistakes. Can you truly fault them for theirs?

***

As Nixila swings her arm, bearing down with the weapon that has become as much a part of her physique as the craggy yellow tusks and dagger-sharp claws, time seems to slow. Corruption has become so much a part of her that there is nothing left of the Nixila that Vician once knew. And after only a moment more, there was nothing left of Vician, either.

Nixila lets her arm drop, staring at the fallen Wocky in disgust.

Around her, the night is still. Behind her, a silver-bright voice disturbs the quiet that has settled. A voice as hard as diamonds, as cold as a moonbeam.

"Well done, pet. Well done," says the Silver Faerie.

Turning, Nixila stares at the bright being. After a long moment, she bows her head as best as her monstrous body allows. "Master," she replies, as respectfully as she can. For aeons, she has served the creature before her, served until she was beyond recognition, even to herself.

The faerie laughs, a velvet laugh that sounds bells and echoes like a scream.

"Master, I have done it all, everything you have asked…every foul deed and horrible task you have set, I have completed," Nixila said, hating the pleading tone she heard in her roughened, wheezing voice, but unable to escape it.

"Oh yes, little one... you have," she replied in that silver bright voice, her eyes hard and impossibly silver. "Even when you didn't know it was me."

Stiffening, she could only stare back at her master. Even when she didn't know...?

"Oh, little one. So many aeons we have played together, and you never knew? Every dark deed, every bit of pain you caused, did you really think you could serve two masters and I wouldn't know?"

Nixila wheezed, shook her head. Aeons, millennia she had walked the world. She would have known.

"Two masters, pet. Who serves two masters? How did you never see me?" Her voice is poisoned honey, and Nixila's mammoth legs try to buckle beneath her.

The faerie stepped closer, put one icy, perfect hand against one monstrous cheek. "I am everywhere, everything... I am the Darkness, Nixila, and you... you are my instrument. Now," she said, gesturing to the fallen Wocky, "more than ever."

Shaking her head, Nixila tried to put aside the faerie's words. They didn't matter. She had served her aeons, served her time. It didn't matter to whom.

"Master," she said, hating the low urgency in her voice, "it doesn't matter who you are. I have done it all. I am free now, aren't I? I have done it all; I have done everything, haven't I?"

The faerie's mouth hardened, but she didn't lose her smile as she stroked Nixila's cheek lightly. "Oh, child. You are mine forever. I told you when we met; you are mine and no other's forever. You are the weapon I have forged; why would I let you go?"

Tears slipped down her cheeks as the she took in the faerie's words. Unnoticed, they hit the ground and sizzled, acid tears burning the charred grass. "Forever?" Her voice, for the first time, was foreign to her own ears.

The faerie laughed again. "Forever," she said, light burning bright within her eyes.

***

Dear Reader, please remember, the spirit can only try so hard, before it succumbs to the pressure of the world around it, too weak to go on. It is at that point that hope takes over. Hope is the driving force that keeps everyone alive. Hope grows from the tiniest of flames. When you think you've given up, you haven't, you just need to fan the fire inside you. Whatever seems right, whatever seems wrong, it's all just kindling for that flame of hope. Take care, dear Reader; even if you do not remember this tale tomorrow... remember to hope. With everything you have.

Nixila was decieved, used, mistreated, and malformed. She spent so many of her years thinking her flame of hope was extinguished. Vician could not save her, but he was able to give her something she couldn't give herself anymore. He gave her hope. He gave his life so she could have that tiny budding flame of hope again. Whether it was a charade or not, whether that hope had time to grow, to become the roaring fire it should have been, or just a tiny cinder in a cold and desperate heart. He gave her that last gift.

When that gift was taken away, when there is nothing left, no warm fire inside you, keeping you going, what happens? What happens when there is only emptiness left. Cold, dark, nothing. What do you have left to cling to?

***

Each footstep she took was harder than the one before it. As she approached the stream, she watched her memories flow by in the rushing water. Like liquid photographs, the images wavered and danced before the monster's eyes. Nixila dipped her tainted claws into the water, trying to catch them one last time before they washed downstream, never to be seen again. Her own reflection stayed, a hideous creature, malformed and corrupted. Her poisoned tears dripped into the fresh spring, causing the water to mar and blacken.

The pain was still there, if not a thousand times worse than before. All those thoughts, all the time she had to create them, culminated in this very day, the day of her revenge. Yet now, there was nothing. Nothing was going to save her; nothing was going to take away her pain' nothing was going to bring back the young, vibrant Kacheek that she had been.

Nixila wiped off her face on the back of her heinous claw. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted it. One more memory hung there, suspended in the water. One memory that she could never let go of, through the murk and mire, through the darkness and the pain. One memory that followed her through her entire, abnormal life.

Nixila stepped into the water, her eyes flooding acid tears, her arms outstretched. She had nothing left. Her anger subsided to regret, regret for every choice she ever made. Regret for venturing so far into the woods when she was so young, regret for being coerced by such dark spirits when she was in so deep a pain.

The creature known as Nixlia wrapped her arms around her one last memory. She felt the water rush around her, over her shoulders, over her head. It was kind, soothing, a feeling she had not felt in aeons. The feeling of home. Nixila grasped that last memory with a fervour, and ever so slowly, ever so softly, she felt it wash her away.

***

Nixila sat at the edge of the water, her arms curled around her knees. Her family had just moved to this neck of the woods. Nixila's parents thought it would be good to get out of Neopia Central, while Nixi was still just a child, and move into a more forest-laden area, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy life. The Kacheek was a wild spirit, and her parents wanted to give her plenty of room to grow.

It was there where Nixila found the stream, just a ways down a dusty old dirt road. Her wide and curious eyes peeked over the stone riverbank into the rushing waters. She lightly dipped her fingers into the water, feeling it flow, so free, so untamed.

When she pulled back her fingers, she canted her head. Looking up at her from the water was a second pair of eyes. Nixila gasped softly and looked up at the young brown Wocky standing over her.

"Hello!" the Wocky giggled.

Nixila grinned back. "Hello there! I'm Nixila."

The Wocky gave a short bow. "I am Vician. You just moved in down the road, didn't you?"

Nixila nodded. She stood up, wiping a streak of dirt off her overalls. "Yes, just today. It's very pretty out here."

Vician smiled. "Welcome to my woods. You see, I'm the protector of these lands," he stated, and spotting a small branch on the ground, picked it up and brandished it like a sword.

The Kacheek giggled as the Wocky bounced about, thrusting the twig like he was attacking an imaginary beast.

"Well, that's good," Nixila spoke, giggling softly. "I feel much safer already."

The Wocky turned back to Nixila, as if eyeing her up and down. "I guess I could consider sharing my woods with you... at least this stream." Vician motioned toward the stream with his stick.

Nixila bowed playfully. "I would love to share the stream."

Vician continued, stepping up to the Kacheek, holding his head high and puffing his chest out. "And as long as you live within my woods, I shall protect you too."

"Who will protect you?" Nixila prodded, giggling coyly.

Vician grabbed her hand, smiling broadly. "You will."

The End

Author: filter & agedbeauty
Date: May 13th
What he sees he can barely call a battleground, not even devastation would suffice. It is misery, a plain of ash and fire ruled by the most bitter of enemies.

Or was she even that?

"My old friend." He wonders whether the spite in her voice is true or if it is an involuntary necessity expected of one with an appearance such as hers.

But he is terrified nonetheless. "Wh-who are you?" He can barely speak; he does not want to. He does not want to ask, does not want to find out, does not want to believe what he can see. Because then he would know that it was all him. All his fault.

The monster cackles. "You already do not recognise me?" Of course he did, how could he not? He wants to close his eyes and forget, but if he does, she may disappear from his sight forever.

The creature howls and takes a heavy step forward. "No matter, I have already forgotten you. Goodbye, friend." What is a sword when faced with morals? He could slay her, no doubt, but could he really?

She stumbles, stomps toward him, talons at the ready. The hairs on her neck bristle, javelins jutting out, and her eyes bleed and seep with rage. She raises her claws and there is a scream. Whose? A sword is drawn and there is a laugh. The clash of metal.

And then...

And then...

* * *

And then there is no more, Reader. Nothing at all.

But this is not the end as you know it. For you see you have heard the story, and yet it has not been told.

Or maybe, I think it is better that I should say that you have heard a story (a twisted truth), just not the story that needs to be heard. The which, I shall now endeavour to tell you.

Oh Reader, how strange the mind can be! We spend our lives searching for knowledge and the unknown, yet not content with the wonders of science and the unobtainable, our minds will always move to the miracles in our imagination. There we see things that no others see, our own private viewing gallery with which to see the world. As a child, we might walk the glades and wonder if the laughter of faeries throws sunbeams across the forest floors, whilst others giggle and think that perhaps the sunshine is a golden star storm singing a tiny civilisation in the cosmos to sleep.

For years our younger selves are so content with the playfulness of our own minds, so delighted by the reality we can conjure. We just have to believe and it becomes real. But there comes a time when we no longer see what we believe in, but when we start to believe what we see, believe what we seem to know -- believe things that no other child could possibly hope to see. You might mistake this for adulthood, the thing that every child fears: seriousness, rationality. No more fun. But no, Reader, you are wrong; it is something so much more worse than that.

It is not when the mind does not want to let go of candyfloss and ice cream and a lazy summer's afternoon on the beach; it is not when the mind does not want to give up cuddles and a lullaby and mother at the bedside after a nasty dream, but actually quite the opposite, when the mind just runs away...

Call it obsession, call it immaturity, call it what you will, but this mind -- this wonderful, terrifying mind -- could not let go and it did what it could only do; it ran away. And this, in fact, is the star of our tale.

For you see, there may have been faeries, there may have been the darkness, there may have been the destruction somewhere once upon a dream, but, believe me, Reader, there were definitely dreams. And such dreams they were.

Reader, perhaps I have no right to impose myself upon this diary, for a diary is a precious thing, a place where everything you are, everything you will be is laid open on the page, a place where you weave your innermost soul into the most precious of words so that it may last somewhere at least for all eternity. But I could never allow the truth to elude you. I could never let the Nixi I knew escape the memory of this world. I could never let you think she was a beast.

For, and please do believe me, Reader, she was anything but a beast. She was the best friend I could ever hope for, the most wonderful friend. But she had one fatal flaw. And it was this: she was a friend who was afraid of change, a friend who did not want to let go of her fear. She dreamed. She dreamed of change and then of fear. And in the end she let it get the better of her. Like the river she always feared (for that was no creation of hers), her mind turned to flee from the pain and just flowed away...

Reader, I must admit that I must take much of the blame here. I told her that her dreams were not true, but she did not believe me. She doubted me. Why did she doubt me? I should have known that she was frail, and I should never have left her. But I did leave in the end, not to find a cure but to see the world as I had always promised. And I think it destroyed her.

When someone leaves a hole in you, you instinctively fill your head with other things, new and sometimes wonderful things to pass the time for fear that the memories, oh those precious memories, that were once there would seep out if you did not protect them. You have to fix the hole, and sometimes what you fill it with is so wrong and so strong that you can no longer face the truth, and you begin to forget what was there before, what was once precious to you and instead are consumed by these new thoughts of monsters and faeries and the dark.

And this is where the Nixila I knew starts to fade from our memories. Some at Meepit Oaks would have had her; others would let themselves believe she left to see the world, wanted more space to herself or something else ridiculous. Our worlds may have fallen from beneath us, but I at least know the truth and now so do you.

And that is why this story is different, Reader.

For there are no beasts, no damsels, and no heroes. Just a terrified little girl who did not want to lose her friend.

And the end? There can never be an end, not to sadness, not to madness. I should know; years I have stood here, a stone to shield her babbling as it passes me just as the rapids do, waiting, hoping that one day she may return. It is the least I can do to protect her. But there is never an end.

But there is always the start, Reader, and this I readily give you and warn you with my message.

It started with just one moment of doubt, one moment of disbelief.

And it ripped two worlds apart, once upon a dream.

The End

Author: 00baies_love00
Date: May 13th

***

Dear Reader, the ending to my story will upset you. Of course, calling it an ending is dishonest. As I told you at the beginning (an equally dishonest label) of this story, it is circular, and yet broken. I remember somebody once telling me that -- I'm paraphrasing, of course -- that there are no beginnings and no endings at all. There's always a before, always an after. The story never ends. In this story, the end is the beginning, but really, it is neither. I'm sorry, I confuse you, I can tell. You must think that I am merely playing with words, trying to trick you, trying to make myself look clever. And I am. But it is also the truth.

***

He has his sword. He has his memories.

She has her fangs. She has her misery.

They had each other. They have no one.

Vician looks up at the beast, draws his sword. "This was my village," he says, with tears in his eyes. "I've seen destruction before; I'm no stranger to death. But this... this was mine. Curse you!" He rushes toward it.

The creature laughs. "Your village? That's not all I took from you, now is it?"

Vician freezes. "What?"

"She told me about this stream," the monster hisses. "She told me all about you."

Vician's mind stops. He is unsure whether tears or sparks of rage will come from his eyes. His sword suddenly feels heavy in his paws, heavy with the weight of memories. He lets it fall to his side.

The creature laughs. "Yes."

Vician stares.

The creature laughs.

***

Years later, hundreds of years later, the beast that was Nixila receives her orders. The words trickle into her ears (if the holes in the sides of her head can even be called ears) like quicksilver. The creature laughs.

"Yes," whispers the voice.

Nixila has her directions. She begins to walk.

***

Reader, you can stop reading now. I will not judge you. It will be better for the both of us that way.

***

Nixi and Vician rested on the bank of the stream, lying in the cool grass. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure, Nixi," said Vician, flicking absentmindedly at a dandelion with his foot.

"Do you think about time?"

"What?"

Nixi sat up and looked at her friend earnestly. "Time. Do you think about it?"

Vician shrugged. "Do you mean when it's lunch time and when it's time to go to bed and --"

Nixi shook her head and frowned. "I'm serious. I think about it a lot. The future and the past."

Vician thought. "I think," he said, "that I thought about that once. And I think I will think about it. And I think that I'm thinking about it now." Suddenly he laughed. "You're giving me a headache, Nixi." He flicked the yellow head of a dandelion at her nose.

Nixi smiled halfheartedly. "Yeah..."

***

The monster breathes hot air over Vician, washing him in the odor of sulphur and ozone. He shudders.

"You really are a monster."

The creature doesn't laugh. It thinks.

***

Reader, please. This story pains me to tell, as I am sure it pains you to read. Please stop. Please. Please. The two of us don't have to hurt each other this way.

***

Vician -- I told you this before, but I will tell it again, in case I got some of the details mixed up (I tend to do that) -- raises his sword. "This is for Nixila!" he snarls.

The beast says, "I am Nixila."

Vician drops his sword. He says, "I can't fight you."

Nixila says he is weak. She raises her claws (I think I said "weapon" earlier, but I was wrong; she has no weapon other than herself) and prepares to strike.

Vician closes his eyes.

Vician played in the stream.

Vician will fall into the stream.

Nixila strikes.

Nixila played in the stream.

Nixila will cry.

***

After a thousand years of torture, the Silver Faerie leads Nixila to a village. In those thousand years, surprisingly little has changed. Empires rose and fell, wars began and ended, lives began and ended. Nixila -- don't judge her -- Nixila has grown to blame Vician for her curse. She did it for him; therefore, in her mind, he is responsible.

The whisper in her ear leads her to a stream. A memory stirs in the back of Nixila's mind. She watches, hidden within a forest. She sees, but is not seen. The faerie's voice points her head in the right direction. "That's the one," the voice whispers. "The Wocky."

She sees a Wocky lying on the bank of the stream. Next to him is a Kacheek.

The Kacheek speaks, and Nixila thinks she can almost make out the words: "Do you think about time?"

***

Reader, stop.

***

The beast's paw connects with Vician's head. He falls into the now-polluted stream, in the same way he fell into the stream as a child, in the same way he will fall into the stream as a different child.

The monster thinks -- no, thought -- will think? Thinks. The creature thinks about a thought it once thought.

***

Reader, I feel dizzy. I felt... feel sick.

***

The Silver Faerie urges the centuries-old Nixila on, toward the children in the stream, using the same voice she used to initially lure her, using the same voice she uses now ("now" -- ha!) to provoke Nixila to attack Vician.

But the beast pauses, looks at the body of the Wocky lying face-down in the sludge filling the riverbed. It thinks. (At least, I think it did.)

***

I can't do this any more, Reader. I'm sorry. Can... can you take over for me? Can you tell the story? How do you want the story to end? Tell me.

***

***

Oh. You can't. That's fine, Reader. I'm sorry I asked. I was sorry I will ask. I will have been sorry that I have been asking. I was going to have been sorry...

***

Nixila thinks (I'm sorry) about time, the way she once did and will once again. Vician lies unconscious (I'm sorry, Reader) in the slime. The Silver Faerie watches from (sorry) above. But no matter how much they might think and lie and watch, they cannot change anything.

***

You already know how this ends. It ends with the beginning.

The End

Author: rosabellk
Date: May 13th



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