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||You are on Week 290
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 Two Hundred Ninety Ends September 15
Editor's Note: To mix things up a little bit, we've decided to try something new for this week's contest -- going BACKWARDS. Instead of writing what happens next, you will write what happens before. So set your gears a-turning the other way, and have fun!
..."Renue!" Andie screamed, desperately trying to cover his face against the onslaught around him. Invisible forces pushed and pulled, while darkness swirled around him in a terrific storm. He reached out with his other paw and groped hopelessly at nothingness. "Renue!" he called again.
"I'm here!" came a faint voice, emerging through the wild wailing of the wind. A comforting paw reached through the storm and grasped Andie’s.
"Take cover!" said a deeper voice as Siri showed up behind them. The tall Neopet immediately covered both Andie and Renue with his large cloak, and the three of them crouched down.
Then, with a great resounding crash and a clap of light, it was over.
A breeze blew around them, ruffling their fur and tossing up playful whirls of dust on the ground.
Renue was the first to speak. "That was something..." she whistled softly, wiping a paw across her brow.
"We may never see its kind again," said Siri. The Neopet's voice was quiet and even, but a small spark of sadness flickered in his dark, brooding eyes. Abruptly, he turned. "It is over -- for now. I must be off."
"A-already?" Andie questioned. He and Renue looked up at the older Neopet with pleading expressions.
Siri nodded. "I count myself lucky already. It was an honour fighting with you." With that, he pulled his hood over his head and walked off at a slow, steady pace.
Andie sighed and glanced at his friend. "Do you think he’ll return?" he asked wistfully.
Renue stared at the dark figure in the distance with a look of understanding in her eyes. "When he has walked the world over, I suspect he will only start over. So yes, I think he shall return." Suddenly, her face broke into a smile. "Come on, Andie, let's go home."
Date: Sep 8th
...The creature reared its mighty head, seven pairs of eyes glaring at the trio, though its intents were strongly against Siri; a being from an immortal past, an enemy, a rival, a thing to be destroyed.
Its copper-bronze scales flashed like fire as the creature let out a mighty roar, its secondary head snapping at Renue, trapped against the stone wall, its third belching fire into the smoky pit that housed it. There was a flash of talons, like steel swords racing through the air faster than an eye’s blink. Andie watched, aghast, those terrible blades striking against him, unable to move momentarily. And then they passed, and a pressure on his side was the cloaked mass of Siri, pushing him to the ground, before releasing him and rolling over. Andie did likewise, avoiding the massive, reptilian hand that had intended to crush them beneath its palm.
The elder Neopet pushed himself up, his chain-mace abandoned upon the ground, looking frantically around himself, sure he’d lost Renue; he saw her nowhere, and, for one terrible moment, his fear for the mortal painted images in his mind, the demon creature devouring her to please his snarling stomach. If Renue was gone... True. She had surpassed her use. Her part of the Prophecy had been fulfilled. She was obsolete now. But Siri was reminded of something. Reminded of the friend he had let down, so many eons before.
The third head shoved at him, knocking him violently back, and Siri’s eyes flashed the same fire that the monstrous lizard possessed.
Its lips were curled back in a mocking snarl, grinning maliciously at him. Longing, pain and sadness filled the Skeith’s heart, for perhaps a mere moment, though it was there nonetheless, as he met eyes with an old friend... an old friend whom he had not known how to protect.
I see your fear, old friend. The thoughts were clear, haunting in his mind. Poor, defeated beast.
He raised his head raucously, before parting his jaws to scoop Siri up within its fangs.
Despair, old friend - and die!
* * * * *
The words chased her, flooded into her mind, wave upon wave of thoughts and emotions hit her, overlapping in her brain and confusing her, distorting the images her eyes should’ve observed, making thinking too painful for her to bear. Shrieking, Renue collapsed, shielding her Zafara ears and gritting her teeth together so tightly she felt pain in her jaws.
Never... can’t... fail! Falling... Wrath, pain, death, dying...
And then, beyond that, she felt the sadness, and knew these words were not meant for her. Clearness cascaded upon her mind, and trembling, she looked up again.
* * * * *
Out of nowhere, a heavy iron mace connected with the jaws threatening to devour the Skeith. A roar - dangerously like a yelp - escaped the wretched Draik head, eyes slitted in rage. A panting Gelert, barely strong enough to hold the heavy weapon, stood by Siri’s side, the terror clear in his aqua eyes.
“Siri - Siri, stop it!” The hoarse yell of Andie roused the lean Skeith from his frantic reverie, his eyes widening as he caught sight of his young disciple. The girl had been knocked aside by the lunging of the second head, whose attention now turned to the troublesome males. She was crouching, holding her head, apparently suffering the wrath of some unknown spirit, and as her senses came to her, a fearful shock crossed Renue’s expression. The thorny tail of the beast lashed out at her, and, the breath knocked clear from her lungs, the Neopet went flying, tumbling like a rag doll thrown innocently by a child. Keiron glared at them all, bracing itself as the third head recovered from the dizzying blow; then it seemed to come to a decision. Carelessly, one head glanced back over its shoulder. The heavy tail rose again over the winded form of Renue.
The triumph was fear on every greedy face.
As Andie let out a yell for his friend, Siri gazed up at the third head. The jaw... the jaw... something about the blow... it hadn’t recovered - but why?
That’s when his eyes found it. The obsidian coating the half of its face was cracked.
* * * * *
Renue gazed upward. Even as she heard Andie’s yells, knowing that he ran for her, feeling his new magic reach for her, she was well aware it was too late. The tail would crush her.
She looked up at the head that was turned back to her, and deep within those greedy eyes she saw it - a flash of anxiety, of anger, but none for her.
“Andie...” she breathed. “Andie! The head! The third head!” She saw a faint glimmer in the Third Head’s eyes as their gazes met, and the look within them went cold. If you must, the gaze growled quietly at her, and then the tail flashed aside, the second and first heads crying out in anger, as the third head turned its snarling head to Andie and Siri.
The mace crackled with magic - the last Andie would ever use - but his exhaustion was too much. The mage - no, just a child, now - staggered beneath its weight, feeling dizzy, nauseous.
It was then that strong, determined hands clutched the mace, and, with all the strength of an immortal, Siri threw it, and watched the magic dance like lightning within the stone mask of the Third Head, heard the pain, the hatred roared through an ugly, fierce beast.
Andie, weary beyond anything he’d ever felt, could do nothing as the Wild Magic took them all, tearing fiercely at the monster that was, and the child heroes, and the immortal; there was a strong surge that filled them in those terrifying moments - and they knew it was thanks...
A moment later it was gone. And Andie lost sight of his companions in a blaze of earth, fire, water and wind….
Date: Sep 11th
...Thin, choking black mist swirled slowly through his mind, whispering coldly, taunting him. A faint shudder passed over Andie's furry body, and the darkness redoubled its attack. For a moment, the young Gelert considered lying down and taking it. He was tired, so tired. As his mind rose reluctantly from unconsciousness, his eyes flickered slowly open, then widened suddenly, shining wildly in the dim light.
Renue. The blue Zafara lay crumpled on the floor of the cell, her late-evening pelt matted with dirt and draped limply over her unmoving form. Anger exploded like white fire behind Andie's eyes, and with a snarl he resisted the attack, pushing back against the darkness. It retreated, and for a moment Andie was left alone with his thoughts, isolated in his regret.
Renue, poor Renue. She had always been so warm, so kind and caring and gentle. She didn't deserve her hideous heritage. She didn't deserve...
No. Andie couldn't think about that yet. He couldn't allow his mind to rest upon the events of the past several... what was it now? Days? Weeks? It was so difficult to tell. Everything was so mixed up, mind and memory wandering aimless through the darkness, refusing or unable to return to clear his thoughts.
Andie shook his head, then padded over to Renue on paws made silent by long obligation to stealth. "Ren?" he whispered, prodding her limp back gently with his paw. "Renue?"
* * * * *
Pain. It was the first thing she was aware of, when her mind had risen far enough above the swirling blackness of oblivion for her to be aware of anything. Then, surfacing amid the pain like sleek, cold-eyed predators emerging from the depths of a storm-tossed sea, came fear, anger, and regret. The end loomed, and she faced it head-on, afraid, unwilling to die, but resolute.
No -- not her. Somebody else. She was aware of that now. Somewhere out there, someone was struggling with death, but had amid the chaos of battle somehow managed to contact her.
Siri. He alone knew the fullness of the gruesome details of her wicked family tree; he alone knew how the barriers around her had been stripped away by violent hands. He alone could use this to touch her mind.
There was a sudden burst of horrible physical pain, so brutal that Renue's half-forgotten body, left behind as she forged deeper into this dream, jerked and shuddered with sympathy. Siri had been struck.
Remember the prophecy. The words echoed hauntingly in her mind. Your destiny has come to the point. Now is your time. Your time... or his.
* * * * *
Renue wouldn't wake up. Andie wasn't panicking, because the sharp, shuddering rise and fall of the girl's chest told him clearly that the Zafara was alive; but he was still desperately worried. His friend was clearly suffering in the grip of a nightmare, and Andie wished he could protect her.
Of course, he had also wished he could protect her from... No, he still couldn't think about that. He couldn't take the time to torture himself like that, especially not right now. Instead, as much to occupy his mind and preserve his sanity as to try to find any shred of hope, he began to explore the cell.
* * * * *
Renue leapt into consciousness with a gasp, her surroundings flooding violently into her mind like a dark river pouring over a small form curled up in the riverbed.
A few feet away, Andie jumped slightly, then turned to face her with a look of unutterable relief shining in his eyes. "Ren!" he exclaimed. "Thank goodness!"
"Andie," Renue said, her voice low and urgent, "where are the symbols?"
The Gelert blinked, staring at her blankly, then said in a slow, confused monotone, "They're right here, on the wall; I found them while I was waiting for you to wake up, but I couldn't make anything of them. They won't respond to my magic. But Renue, how did you know about them? You just woke up."
"Never mind." The normally quiet and polite Zafara was the picture of single-minded urgency. "Siri's alive, Andie."
"What? That's impossible! They sent him to be executed, and that was hours ago!"
"But he survived. Keiron was supposed to kill him instantly, but he didn't. Andie, Siri's a lot more powerful than either of us thought. But he isn't powerful enough. We need to get to him."
Renue ignored him. Her large cobalt eyes had already fixed themselves on the far wall of the cell, which was scarred from floor to ceiling with black, ugly markings.
Markings inflicted eons ago, and planned at the beginning of Time. Renue began to run the lines of the Prophecy through her head, words passed down from a heritage she had spent her whole life trying to escape. A heritage that had finally caught up with her, and brought her to this final pass.
Final... The word touched her mind like a cold echo prowling through the darkness of a lifeless canyon. Yes, this was final. The last piece of the puzzle, the swan song of her part in the Prophecy. Through the duration of this long, dark quest, Renue had taken some comfort in the idea that perhaps she wouldn't die until her part had been fulfilled.
But now, if she did this final deed, her part would be over, and she wouldn't even have that flimsy excuse for a guarantee.
Renue shook her mind free of her fear, and returned her thoughts to the task at hand. If she died, well... the world could do without her. If Siri died, then they would surely win, and the whole of Neopia would suffer for it.
There it was, in the lower left-hand corner of the wall. A dent in the rock, in the shape of a Zafara's hand.
"I already tried that, Ren." Andie's voice interrupted her thoughts. "I used every opening spell I could think of while you were asleep, and put each of my paws in there -- I even tried fitting my hindpaws into the dent. Nothing happened."
"But you are not a descendant of the Dark Circle," Renue answered in a whisper. Andie opened his mouth to protest, but the Zafara shook her head. "I have fought my past all my life; but if there's one thing that this whole hopeless business has taught me, it's that I can't run away from my future. Either I embrace it, or it takes me by force."
This said, she turned away from him and inserted her paw into the dent. Instantly the symbols lit up, shining with a pale light, clear but remote, like cold fires glaring up out of an unimaginable depth. Then the flames went out, and the symbols disappeared. Without so much as a whisper of stone against stone, a crack formed in the solid granite wall, and a door appeared, slipping open with the stealth of a wraith.
And there before them stood Siri. The Skeith had been forced back against the wall where the door had been, and now he nearly toppled into the cell. Risking a hasty glance over his shoulder, he allowed himself a small smile. "Renue," he greeted the Zafara. "You've done it -- your part in the Prophecy has been fulfilled. But now-"
His voice was cut off as the vast mutated Draik he had been battling against lunged, forcing the three Neopets to scatter...
Date: Sep 12th
...The somber-faced magicians hauled Siri to an unimaginable depth of the fortress, to a dungeon that could never know the sun. With neither explanation nor inquisition, the Skeith was forced into a nameless prisoner barracks, the walls of which positively spit with barrier charms and snare spells. So much as a Tigermouse couldn't squeeze itself past the walls, let alone a sorcerer.
All this the immortal judged before turning to look at his fellow occupant in the dusky room.
There are precious few Neopians who can say with honest hearts that they have seen a beautiful Draik, for Draiks were no more crafted for purposes of elegance than Myncies were made to swim the seas. Rare, yes, extraordinary perhaps, even majestic if the speaker is in the proper mood. But never beautiful. Warriors of the sky, vandalish knights adorned with a dozen colors to match the castle banners wafting high, such things care no more for beauty than a rock, a fern, a falling leaf. Nevertheless... Keiron was beautiful.
She really, really was.
"My lady." Gossamer hood falling over his forehead, Siri stooped low in a hunchback's bow. "The years have not diminished you."
"Outwardly, at least." Talons tucked neatly under her belly, they squealed across the surface of the granite slab beneath the Draik as she turned to look at her old associate. Look, though, became a relative term as her eyes met Siri's through the linen veil spanning her face. Their pupils were thick, clouds encroaching over the irises that had once been snow-shadow blue; she was blind.
Looking into them, Siri felt the memories of his life tumbling around him like falling leaves. He ripped his gaze away to the dungeon cobblestones below, but the scald of her stare caused a steam of grief to leap about, panicky, within the confines of his thoughts.
"How dare you." The words were quiet, quiet from this sorceress who had before sent the heavens fleeing with a single command. Perhaps the damp of eternity had taught them to be meek; perhaps they had learned on their own.
Siri did not risk a glance. "My lady?"
Keiron shook her head, her veil scattering witchdust across the floor. "How dare you return here. Here, to the one place you have not stolen from me yet. Have you come to reap your vengeance once again? Is there some grievous fault I have committed to offend your delicate constitution? Have I perhaps now caused the weather to be spiteful, or your porridge not just so? Please, tell me I have, take whatever crumb I dare to call my own that you might have missed before. Sir."
Each word, from this voice that had long lain worm-eaten in the graveyard of his thoughts, bore into Siri like a stake. Still, he protested. "You're the one who lured me back to the Dark Circle in the first place! You learned of the prophecy before I; you used the Zafara as bait."
"Yes," the moonshine-silver Draik agreed. "It is only fitting that your downfall has been initiated by cheated Arla's kin. You and I are the only ones left of the original Eight. I am all that lives to carry out the vengeance of the seven you abandoned."
"I did not abandon you!" Siri argued, though he grew feeble as Keiron leaned further towards him, and further still. "I embarked on a mission to empower the Dark Circle-"
"Do not lie to me, Siri," At once, the Draik's skin seemed to sag with the weariness of being alive without reason for too long. "I was your right-hand, the one who knew you best. You lied to the other six as you would, but you could never lie to me."
Seri pondered this for a bit, as the blind eyes looked on. "Arla is dead?" he asked at last, rolling the words about his tongue as though to grow accustomed to their strange fit. "She did not seem the kind to die, at least not without fulfilling her vendettas."
"People seldom do. But there are more pressing matters at hand." Dainty as someone thrice as young, Keiron lowered herself to stand a few feet before Siri. Perhaps it was an illusion, or a sunburst, but the Skeith was almost sure that he made out the forms of strange creatures swimming below the surfaces of her fog-filled eyes to light them from within.
"'Who we are and what we choose,
Vengaenence there and gone.
Seven heads for seven skins,
Ghosts do not live on.'"
"There were three sections of the Prophecy," she told him rather sadly. A larger shape seemed now to hover above Keiron; a stranger, older shape which knew no leash or fiery lair. A beast created for destruction alone, and a beast full equipped to do its job. A nightmare clothed in bronze-scale armor, in fourteen amethyst eyes.
Then the shape and Keiron were ensnared within one another, struggling. And then there was no such person as Keiron, except for the final fading words:
"Siri, you knew the ending was meant for you."
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Andie had spent the better part of an hour lying at the side of the now-invalid Renue, who remained comatose despite every healing enchatment or heartfelt plea the mage could think to issue. Though no breath welled within the cavity of her chest, a reassuring thump greeted his ear when he pressed it to her heart. So for better, and most likely for worse, the Gelert could only wait.
The room they'd been thrown into was impeccably sealed, sealed well enough to throw a master illusionist for a loop, let alone Andie. Frustrated beyond all clarity, he contented himself by hitting the walls with his mace. It didn't so much as crack the plaster, but he found it to be very comforting.
At one hit, the mace rammed into the wall with so much gusto that it tore itslf from Andie's paw and rolled to the crack of the enchanted oaken door. Heaving a sigh, he moved to get it.
Leaning his head down to examine the mace, Andie was not prepared for the flood of hostile black fog that flowed below the door to blackout his eyes...
Date: Sep 12th
...They were both silent for several minutes, and Andie could hear the beating of his own heart - pounding like an ancient drum within his chest. Although he knew it wasn't possible, he was almost surprised that Renue couldn't hear it and perhaps make some sort of comment. However, the Zafara seemed wrapped in her own affairs and problems for the moment, as her blue eyes studied the floor before her intently. The ticking of the clock boomed in the silence before melting like ice cream in the oppressive quiet.
"We'll have to break in," Renue said softly, yet her voice cut through the silence like a knife.
"What are you talking about?" Andie asked, as he took a step back instinctively. He was almost sure of what his friend meant, but he didn't like considering it.
"We'll have to break into the forbidden room - Keiron's former chamber," Renue stated, slowly raising her head and turning to face her friend.
"But we can't," Andie insisted, "The council already said that it's forbidden!"
"The council aren't the ones that are having these dreams!" Renue shouted, her voice echoing off the high ceiling and reverberating about them like an angry bell.
"Dreams?" Andie began. "Is that why you suddenly screamed during Saoch's lecture this morning?"
Renue sighed softly as her gaze drifted down to the floor once more. "Yes," she answered, "I began having these dreams a few weeks ago. There are horrible visions of what has been foretold in a prophesy I heard long ago. At first, there were only nightmares, but soon they became much more." A single tear escaped and traced a tiny silver path down her face. "Every time I close my eyes, I see the same horrible images over and over. I can't sleep at night and today I couldn't help but drift off. The moment I was asleep, the nightmare returned - only this time it was much worse. These dreams are becoming more real, and I fear what they predict is about to happen."
"What do they say will happen?" Andie questioned, shivering slightly. A part of him knew that he wasn't going to like the answer.
"Keiron will return," was the solemn answer. “Or else she already has.”
"Impossible!" cried Andie, "That sorcerer died years ago. If she was alive, she'd be over 100 years old!"
"She's still the one that's torturing my mind," Renue insisted, "And unless I face her once and for all I fear she will drive me completely insane."
"And we can't let that happen," intoned a voice from the shadows.
Both whirled about only to see Siri standing there, a serious look adorning the Skeith's face. "How long have you been listening?" Andie asked.
Siri didn't answer his question as he placed a gentle hand upon Renue's head. "I swore to Arla, wherever she might be, that I would give my very life to protect yours, and that is what I will do."
"Then help us break into Keiron's chamber," Renue said. "I'm sure that's where she is."
"It can't be her!" Andie cried.
"It can," Siri countered, "The passage of time means little to one accomplished in the Dark Circle. Besides, it would make sense that if she was to return to this castle, she would reside in the very room where she slept and grew into the sorceress she became. I will help you, Renue, and I will fulfill my duty and promise."
"Thank you," Renue said.
"We'll do so at midnight," Siri announced. "So be ready."
Siri slowly walked away, leaving Andie and Renue alone once again. “Do you think we can trust him?” Andie asked.
“Yes,” Renue responded. “He has always been there for me.”
“But wasn’t he one of the Dark Circle at one time?” Andie continued, “At least, that’s what I heard.”
“We have to trust him,” Renue answered. “It’s the only choice we have.”
* * * * *
Time passed slowly and on dark, velvet feet as Andie waited. He wanted to back away right now and just forget the scheme. Renue was his friend, his closest friend, but he didn't want to risk his career as a sorcerer or even his very life. Yet, he knew he had to do this. If he let Renue down now, he couldn't live with himself later.
Finally, midnight came and he slipped from his room. Renue was waiting in the hallway outside, carrying a single candle that burned like a beacon in the darkness of the night. Quietly, they slipped down the vast hallways as they navigated a maze of twists and turns. Finally, they found themselves standing outside of the boarded door to Keiron's chamber.
"Where's Siri?" Andie whispered.
All at once, all the torches suddenly blazed and the room was filled with a pale, burning light. Dark robed magicians surrounded them, two holding Siri, who appeared to be only partly conscious. No doubt, he had been hit by some sort of powerful spell.
A deep voice, beautiful and malignant, filled the room like a pungent order. "Take the two youths and place them in a cell. As for Siri, bring him to me..."
Date: Sep 13th
...Screams. They were all that Renue was aware of. Horrible, heartrending screams of agony such as she had never known, such as no living being ever ought to know. Such as hundreds of Neopets had been forced to endure in the course of the Dark Circle's relentless quest for power.
Everything was darkness, empty and desolate; yet the darkness was alive. It was whispering, taunting her. Its sickly coldness brushed against her shoulder like a breath of a wind bearing an odor of frozen decay, and Renue shivered involuntarily in response to the gentle menace. Gentle now, but brutal beyond imagining later. Renue knew what was coming, knew the dream for what it was, yet was powerless against it.
The screams grew louder, more piercing, and while the realization that followed them had already come to her hundreds of times, it struck her as if it were new.
Those screams were her own.
And then a light, a flame in the darkness, kindled before her eyes. Memory struggled to penetrate the night, and like a distant whisper meant only for her the knowledge touched her mind that the flame was none other than her. A fire sullied by darkness, surrounded and pursued by it, holding it within her heart, she must overcome that darkness, use the power it had given her to overthrow its source. Use the key to destroy the door.
The door: it was right in front of her now. Scored with ugly symbols depicting ancient and hideous lore, it waited, beckoning, mocking her. Laughing at her fear. There was no sound in the room, even the screams having suddenly ceased; and yet she could feel the taunting laughter echoing in her mind, and whether it was some outside being or her own personal demons that mocked her even she could no longer tell.
She was weak, she was afraid... it was too great a burden for her narrow shoulders... hot breath blasted against her face, and the night was ripped away, revealing a horrible set of shining fangs framing a long wet tunnel into endless dark oblivion...
The Zafara's scream echoed wildly through the room, drawing the gaze of every startled eye and halting Saoch in mid-sentence. The elderly Lupe stared intently at the panting Neopet, who looked around frantically before sinking into her chair in humiliated misery, shivering like a cornered animal. "Renue?" Saoch asked quietly. "Are you all right?"
Her breath raced in and out of her lungs, seeming afraid to venture out into the vastness of the lecture room, but loathing to stay within the darkness that sheathed the Zafara. "N-no -- I mean -- yes! I'm fine! I just -- I need to go..."
Renue bolted from the room, upsetting her chair in the process and leaving it to clatter to the floor. Andie watched his friend with surprise and sympathy, then cast an apologetic glance toward his teacher. "I'd better follow her," he said sheepishly, and Saoch nodded.
"Do not return before you make certain that your friend is all right." His gaze, deep with wisdom, swept the room. "And let that be a lesson. Any of you who puts the acquisition of power above the well-being of a friend is not fit to possess that power."
Andie did not hear the Lupe's words; he was already out the door. "Ren?" he shouted. "Renue?"
There was no answer. The hours passed, lunchtime came and went, fellow students of magic gave him bewildered glances as they passed him in the hall, but Andie did not notice. He was too busy searching for Renue.
It was two o'clock when his efforts were finally rewarded, just when he was preparing to give up after a final shout of "RENUUUEEE!"
"I'm here," a faint, choking whimper called, and dashing forward the young Gelert found his friend curled up in a shivering ball, looking hopelessly tiny and alone in the vastness of the empty room to which she had retreated.
"Ren, what's wrong?" Andie asked, his aqua eyes shimmering with concern. "Have you been here this whole time?"
"Yes," she answered in a whisper. "I couldn't come out, not while I'm like this."
"But what happened?" Andie pressed her, placing a paw on her thin shoulder.
"I saw it, Andie. I saw what I have to do..."
Date: Sep 13th
...Renue stifled a loud sigh of relief. It was only a statue. The one of Renwik, actually... he was the first of the Eight. His eyes seemed to follow her as she backed away from him towards the back shelves of the library. She found she could not tear her gaze from the stone. Renwik seemed to know of her reasons for being here...
She turned on him and, still feeling his eyes against her spine, she walked hurriedly down the aisle toward the gates marking the 'heftier' section of the library.
"Blast!" she cursed aloud. The gates were of magical means... she would never be able to get inside.
She felt a hand close around her mouth and screamed into it, but her scream held no sound.
"Relax," came his voice. Andie. She exhaled and he let go.
"Why are you here?"
"You snuck out. I followed you." Then he turned, blue eyes flaming green as he looked over the gates. He made a few movements and then cast a spell upon it. The doors opened and they began to walk inside.
"Thanks," Renue said. "It's sometimes useful to have a magical friend around."
Andie rolled his eyes. "You're a descendant of one of the Eight, Renue! And you go to school here! Quit denying it. You have magic too."
"Not of the same kind. It cannot be harnessed nor controlled, and as long as I can help it, it shall not be used, either."
"Just because it is of the Dark Circle doesn't mean--"
Renue, who had been scanning titles on the shelf, cut him off. "Here we are. And yes, it does." She took an old and crinkling scroll from the shelves and blew upon it. Dust exploded into the night air and then faded back again, like a ghost that had died a second time.
"What does it say?" Andie questioned, looking over the title. It was made of ugly ashen letters in a language he could neither understand nor fathom. Renue did not answer, but in her mind she spoke to him.
These are the writings of my nightmares...
She unrolled the scroll and searched it, making sure it was the one she had seen in Siri's hands earlier that day. It could be none other and, her suspicion, curiosity, and need for closure piqued, she began to read it. Each word fell, shaded and fluent, into her mind. Then there it was... the Prophecy.
She read each of its three parts, but her mind circled back to the last. For it was the part she needed to know, the part that called to her, spoke of a destiny buried six feet under her Dark heritage...
"'The burden of the Circle
Upon the Last shall fall
And none can stop the Seven left
But the breaking of the wall.'"
She said it aloud, to clarify, to let it seep into her like the poison that it was. Then there came a sound, and with the speed of an Aisha whose tail had been set aflame, Renue placed the book back on the shelf and ran out of the Forbidden Section. Andie followed her, eyes blazing with unanswered curiosity... they flew by the statue of the eldest of the Eight, who watched them. But when they emerged into a hallway, a shadow broke free of the wall...
Siri, the school counselor.
Renue gave a tiny shriek, for Siri's eyes were not the comforting sort... they were bronze and pierced everything they gazed upon, tightening one's insides farther even than the soul. Andie steadied her with a paw, wondering again why Siri had such a knack for appearing unexpectedly in dark places.
"And what are we doing in the library at this time of night?" he said, and his voice was as much a shadow as any on the walls.
Renue, still shaken by their discovery in the library, mumbled a string of words that fit together like a broken zipper. Andie spoke up.
"I left some important... books behind," he said. "Renue was just helping me find them."
Andie realized too late that he had no books, but Siri seemed to overlook the fact.
The counselor nodded, then waved a hand out, half-bowing as he indicated the hallway. "May I assist you in finding your way back to the dormitories?" he asked, his voice empty of suspicion but reverberating with a deeper knowledge neither student could understand.
"Of- Of course," Andie replied. They began to walk down the hallway.
* * * * *
Renue stared ahead at Saoch, head in her paw, ears drooping. She had gotten no sleep, the dreams attacking her once more... and Saoch was not the type of teacher who brought a student to his senses in the early morning. Quite the opposite, actually. Andie was already sleeping beside her, snoring loudly. The sound became rhythmic, melodious even, and penetrated what was left of Renue's wall of consciousness. Slowly, slowly, she began to drift away...
And then there came the screams...
Date: Sep 14th
...Scarlet-bound, silver scroll beckoning, Renue could not help herself from picking up the book lying at the foot of Saint Arla's statue.
Once upon a time, there was a king. A Skeith by name, a sorcerer by trade, whose face was constantly shielded from the world by a hood spun with silkline, and feebled hopes.
Once upon a time, there was a blind Wocky, and she was beautiful. An artist by name, a scavenger by trade, she watched the seasons spin themselves away through the deceptive glass of a candle shop window. Lonely and alone with a company of wax turning to winter, she was called by the king, and she came.
This story began with once upon a time, because if it stretched to here and now, no one would be able to bear it.
One by one, the king called his land's finest magicians to breach the walls of his kingdom. Some were shot down, some broke from the hypnosis and withdrew into themselves to hide from this horrible scepter with eyes of crusting snow. But seven reached him. Six ensnared in a web of hypnosis, carefully coralling them to his grap. One came of her own.
They came, and he made them promises. To one he spoke of immortality, skewered on a hook for his delight. To another, visions of creature comforts, and a life well lived. To a third, a daughter snuggling at the lonely place beneath her side.
They accepted. Of course they accepted.
He sent the magicians about errands, funny little errands at all ends of his kingdoms. Babysitting, robbery, murder; all and in between. They did not ask why. Five too stupid to wonder, one as surely wicked as he. And one with nowhere else to go.
The kingdom became enveloped in a flame of treachery, devastation springing from the very grass upon which the Eight stepped. It ringed the kingdom in a circle; the darkest circle of them all. But they took no notice.
For the magicians found something.
Something old, and wickeder even than the king.
The something promised them something even their master could not give (though he promised all the same); immortality. True immortality. To live beneath the sun until it crumbled before your eyes, to sink your claws in earth a century past the collapse of reality unto itself. To see what happens next.
They accepted. Of course they accepted.
But alas, this something was not so simply appeased as their king. It needed a sacrifice.
And there were those same five, who were too trusting to run. Too stupid to save their own skins.
The wicked king and his enchantress threw them to the thing, the hungry thing. Meanwhile, the blind Wocky stood impassively by. She could see nothing wrong. She could see nothing at all.
She did not see the hungry jaws of the thing, the fourteen eyes which glowed with the hunger of seven black holes newly released. The teeth poised before her, a wet cavernous tongue stinking at her feet. The king asked her to step forward.
And for her trust, for her stupidity, the king and his enchantress were granted what they had so long pursued; Immortality. But the thing did not tell them that the Wocky's sacrifice would be divided amongst them, a half-life to each for the rest of their days. The Wocky's loneliness, the thing's hunger; it was split equally among the shoulders of the wicked. And none but one of the Wocky's kin, the artist who lay rotting in the unseeable pit of the day past forever, could bring the curse to a halt.
The thing also did not tell them that the Wocky had a daughter.
Renue stared for unknown centuries at the final sentence of the strange fable, the fable without pictures or names. "No..." The word escaped her like a sigh of a chair overburdened, and was gone before her ears had time to hear.
Around her, a sickle moon reflected off each of the marble eyes of the Seven, like a blade being sharpened on the wheel. Only statues, but the only way the poor creatures could be remembered now.
"The wicked king... it couldn't be... Siri..."
The library about her, a shrine to those cacooned and gone, seemed to heave its shoulders in eternity's sigh, as a shadow loomed over her.
Date: Sep 15th
* * * * *
...Curled into a tiny, shivering ball of fur, the Zafara moaned, locked in a deep, restless sleep. A choking sob filled the air as Renue shot upright in her bed, her heart pounding wildly. As the horrible visions faded like spectres, tears sprung from her heart and welled up in her deep blue eyes. She sniffed and crawled from her bed, staring at the ancient clock.
One in the morning.
Heaving a heart-rending sigh, Renue rubbed the sleep from her heavy eyes and stumbled to her writing desk. She may as well work on a lesson, since the horror of the dream would not allow her to sleep again.
Try as she might, the young Zafara could not keep her mind on her work. Her thoughts drifted to a past memory, a rhyme, and an old fear that had been buried for years.
Masters of a darkened age
Power gained and held
Lust consumed and blinded us
'Til by it, we were felled.
Who we are and -
Renue jerked her head up, blinking in the piercing light of her droopy candle. She had nearly fallen asleep. She shook her aching head to clear her thoughts. She would not think on those words - not at night, not ever.
* * * * *
“Renue, are you okay?” the blue eyes shimmered soft green with concern. The Gelert studied his friend. “You look exhausted.”
Renue waved her hand and attempted a smile. “Had a hard time sleeping last night.” She changed the subject. “We'd better hurry and get to breakfast. You know how Tiska is about tardiness.”
The two friends were swept down the crowded halls of the ancient castle turned into an academy. Seated at different tables, they smiled in parting as they branched into their separate ways.
Though Renue waved casually, Andie saw her drop her paw instantly, as though it was too heavy for her hold up. He stopped and watched as she trudged wearily to the table and slumped into the chair. He cocked his head, concerned. It was so unlike Renue...
“Students,” a crisp voice rose over the clatter. “Attention, please!”
Andie jumped and darted frantically to his chair before Tiska could see him. He made it just as her eyes swept in his direction.
Her clipped speech stretched on. “I am pleased to announce, we have a special honor this morning. Siri, the greatest mage of our time, will be joining us...”
The words ran into each other as Andie's mind again drifted to Renue. He thought back to a previous conversation.
"It's the nightmares, Andie. They're nothing. I'm fine."
The Gelert shook his head. Renue didn't look fine today. In fact, she looked terrible. Stealing a glance, he looked in her direction once again. Andie started when he saw her chair was empty. His eyes darted madly about the room. Just as he was about to panic, he saw it - a slight shadow slipping along the wall and out an obscure side door. Andie made up his mind. Nonchalantly, he rose from his chair and strolled down the table, as though scanning the steaming platters. No one noticed as he slipped away toward the door.
* * * * *
Renue avoided all eye contact as she strode purposefully down the nearly deserted halls. Ever since she had nearly drifted off, the Prophecy had rung in her mind. She knew it had to do with her. The words - the meaning - was all there, buried deep within her; but she had to read them, had to see them, to truly believe it.
At last, she turned down an empty corridor, passed under an arch scored with runes, and into a chamber so high and so vast and so crowded with scrolls, the small Zafara could hardly see beyond four feet. Her brow furrowed. What she was looking for would not be here - the general section of the castle library. Padding forward softly, she crept through the labyrinth until she drew near the section that contained ancient history - the history of the Eight of the Dark Circle. She stopped as something near the floor caught her eye...
Date: Sep 15th
The immortal looked about himself at the rest of the Eight. They had become a circle once more, enshrouding the wry Skeith, for no other reason than to hear what it was he had to say.
He neither spoke nor held any of their eyes, however. Some dark and secret pain lay like shade upon him. The air was taut with suspense, solid with the thought of true destiny. Finally Keiron, the most beautiful creature to walk the face of Neopia, spoke. "Blast it, Siri, tell us!"
There were more nods of approval. Arla moved forward, touched him lightly. "My friend," she said. "We have waited long for this. It is of the greatest importance."
Siri looked into her eyes, those eyes belonging to his greatest friend. He nodded slowly. It was his duty. He had been named the Prophet of the Eight at the dawn of Time and Prophecy. He had spent his innumerable years of life watching, waiting, and reading the scroll that held the Prophecy, and now he finally, truly knew what it meant. But what it meant was so harsh, so dark... it was his duty to tell... his duty.
He heaved a sigh and thought that, if nothing else, he would relieve himself of this burden.
"For countless centuries I have searched for the meaning of the Prophecy," he began. Arla nudged him forward. "Through many means I have finally discovered what it means, and what must be done to complete it."
Everyone inched forward, everyone but Renwik. The immortal Kougra still looked young. His eyes followed Siri knowingly.
Siri looked to the sky a moment, then began to speak the lore of the ages, from the heads of the beast to the breaking of the wall. When he finished, there was naught but silence.
"And it will be done," Siri said. "We shall follow the Prophecy, but beware. The evil that lurks within its words can consume all and any. We must avoid it... at all costs."
* * * * *
Siri almost merged with the ground, such was the force of his impact. His head nearly split open on a boulder, and a ghastly trail of immortal blood fell across his scales.
It was to happen here. It had to be. A courtyard, the wall. This beast... this horrible consuming beast that was the beautiful Keiron. It was time to destroy her and the five others of the Eight she had stolen.
Arla called out for him and he answered her, forgetting his pain. He became rejuvenated again by his age-old magic, and ran for her. Together they hurled blast upon blast at the creature, their flaming bursts of energy surging against its armor with the weight of Time fused with its power. And still it did the two-headed monster no harm, but they did not retreat, for it was made of the same magic as they... that of the Circle, of the Eight. Dark magic.
Siri dodged the two heads, Keiron's and Renwik's eyes sliding past each time he did so. The old Scroller thought back, remembering a ghost of a past. Ghosts do not live on.
He had warned them, but he had not expected Keiron to be the evil she had truly been. She was borne of the Prophecy and its intentions, her beauty masking her means. She had taken each of them, one by one. She now had three of their hearts within the beast. And Renwik, the wise Kougra of the ages... he had given up his immortality to save Arla and Siri... for only an immortal can take an immortal life. He had become the second head, the one which loomed above Siri now. Keiron needed only two more souls... then she would have the world.
Arla was the only one left aside from Siri. She was the youngest of the Eight, and therefore had to be the 'Last' that the Prophecy referred to... didn't she?
Suddenly Keiron's eyes smarted the air beside Siri's head and he fell again. He looked up into the air, shaded dirt swirling madly above him, like silent vortexes waiting to suck him in. Then he saw what Keiron had struck for - suspended in the air, the Darkness of the Eight surrounding her, hung the purest creature of all... Arla. She screamed but no sound fell within his ears... there was only the beating of a heart that had never beaten before this moment, the moment of utmost fear, incurable hatred, insufferable pain. Siri reached for her, but he could not think, could not understand. He did not know how he could save her...
For one brief moment their eyes met, and their two souls seemed to collide. Her last words reached his mind.
Watch over her, Siri. Take care of my daughter, for she is the only one left that can save us all.
Then Arla shrank back into the vortex of dust and Darkness and befoulment and Prophetic ghostly fear, lost to him forever. The beast sprouted a third head, whose eyes were closed, who was being born anew as an evil being who caged his only friend...
With a cry that shook the very heavens, Siri erupted, becoming in himself a power so strong that even the beast itself shrank back in fear. And with this power, a power not of the Eight, but of the eternal love that friendship had given him, Siri broke his final barriers. The stars had never seen such a light as the one he cast upon the world that day, burning brighter even than they.
He did not kill the beast, but Keiron had retreated, driven away to the darker shadows of the world to recover. Siri lay rumpled and torn with sorrow as his only companion on the earth.
His thought rested with Arla, and her beautiful child Renue. Siri held onto the hope that Arla might still live within Keiron, that she might still survive this Dark adversity... But he could not think of that, for now he knew what it was he had missed, the one thing that had cost him so much but that could yet spare the world the vengeance of the ages...
It was Renue. It always had been. Renue, the only thing he had left... Renue was the one and only Last...
Date: Sep 15th
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