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After


by sara_mossflower

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Author's Note: This short story is something of an epilogue to EndingArrow, and also alludes to events I plan to cover in a future series, just to let you know. ;)

Utter defeat - that was all she could feel. After a millennium of waiting, after planning her return so meticulously, her enemy had bested her. Her followers had merely cheered her on mindlessly, although in truth there was nothing their mundane company could have done to support her. She had been so powerful, so feared, and she had loved every moment of it. After such a long struggle to reclaim her dreams, her ambitions had died.

      And so had she.

      Frey's soul wandered without a body, drifting through this white oblivion that offered her the peace of the departure from life. Was she supposed to feel elated? Relieved that her torturous battle had ceased? She didn't - only a despondency that swept over her like a vicious wave from time to time. The Windstorm had broken through her temporary immortality with a single, Storm-fuelled arrow, as Tasson had done before him.

      But at least she had left her mark, cursing his future... But had that really been necessary? She made herself think so; that fool Sisslio had thwarted her more than she cared to recall. Revenge would allow her to rest, at least partially satisfied that she had scarred him. It would let him know how vilely she had detested him and how deeply she had envied his power.

      All she could do was hope that the future nemesis she had melded out of blood and emotion would carry out his task, as she so desperately wanted him to.

      "So you're here… finally."

      Frey's sourceless senses whirled as she strove to find the speaker. She recognized the voice.

      "Tasson?"

      "Yes. I'm here, in the tranquil world beyond life. I've waited for you."

      "The stupid Windstorm fulfilled his mission. He slew me." She spat this retort, even though it was common knowledge to Tasson.

      "He had to. Just like I had to."

      "Will you stop giving me your "voice of reason", Tasson? Even after my existence has ended, you still hound me with your philosophies of right and wrong! I don't want to speak with you - not now or ever! Our magic is gone here, gone with our bodies. I can figure that much out."

      "I'm not finished." The Cybunny's voice was firm. "Perhaps this would be easier for you if we became an imprint of life?"

      Suddenly, Frey could see. She had eyes, and a form again. It felt almost as though she was alive again, but there were subtle differences - she wasn't breathing, there was no heartbeat pulsating in her chest, and yet she felt no discomfort of any sort. Tasson appeared before her - the familiar Fire Cybunny she had first cherished and then loathed. Around them materialized a still more familiar scene: a clearing of trees. This was the small hollow in the woods where they had relaxed together and spent time on activities such as archery. It had been the physical heart of their friendship, one thousand years ago.

      "What's the purpose of this?" Frey snapped. "Trying to make me feel reminiscent? It's just like you to think you can heal all the past's wounds, fix every mistake you made, or that I made.

      "I don't regret what I did, you fool." She grinned devilishly. "We're dead, Tasson. If you wish to find some means of worthless redemption for me, your efforts are futile. I don't want to have to listen to you tell me that what I did was hateful and evil - I don't care. Everything is over."

      Tasson's gaze hardened slightly, but overall he remained calm. "No, it's not," he replied. "You recited a new prophecy. I thought you might have learned that repeating the past won't get you anywhere." He looked at her levelly. "You lived your life. Why do you have to take that of another?"

      Frey felt rage boiling inside her. How dare he lecture her? How dare he chastise and question her as though she was a fool? Had she still been alive she would have loved to aim an arrow at the Cybunny's heart, just so he knew what it felt like. "Because I won't let him get the best of me!" she snapped. "I won't let anyone! That's what happened before I even knew you, and you, with your dim-witted voice of reason, can't seem to understand that!"

      Her former comrade blinked, pity suddenly evident in the well of his blue eyes. "So it all goes back to that, Frey? You wanted to prove yourself that badly?"

      She merely sneered at his sympathetic countenance. "I'm not that weak. My memories helped to fuel my efforts. In case you haven't noticed, you're not the only one who has lost close friends and family. The amount of suffering one has endured does not define who they are. I hope that's not how you judge others, Tasson."

      "No," he sighed. "It's not. Pain can cause people to react to the world in different ways. They can try to protect it, like Sisslio, and prevent further pain, or they can blame it and lash out at everything for simple satisfaction." He looked uncomfortable as he whispered his next words. "Like you."

      This time Frey did not react hatefully. She was completely aware that Tasson viewed her in this way, and had resigned herself to the way she had decided to live. The fact that this distressed the Cybunny was not something she bothered herself about. She and her old comrade had become enemies one thousand years ago, and nothing was going to change that. He had never agreed with her ideals, and she had never felt remorse for what she had done.

      "I know that," she answered, surprised by the calmness of her own voice. Now that she thought of it, when was the last time she had whispered? It was too long ago to fit into her memory, that much was certain. "Is this what death will be like, Tasson? Is spending the rest of my soul's existence with you some kind of penalty?"

      "No," he responded. "I just thought I'd talk to you."

      "And why is that?"

      "To tell you that I never understood you in life, and that because of that, perhaps I wasn't worthy to call you a friend. If I'd looked deeper, maybe we could have both been happier."

      "You're saying now that you wish to comprehend my past goals?"

      He managed a weak smile. "I'm not sure anymore."

      Frey snorted. "I never understood you either. You always clung to others, and in my eyes, that only weakens you. Once they're gone, you feel sorrow, and you crumble. That's what happened…" She lifted her eyes. "When I killed… Quiela, was it? And little Forlan?"

      Tasson was silent, and successfully contained his thousand-year-old grief. "That's right."

      The Zafara merely observed the other silently. Now that she saw him in a world where their past conflicts did not exist, she felt a sense of admiration. Tasson must have been strong to overcome the deaths of his loved ones with such dignity, but he still held on to his memories. She had tried her best to forget when her parents had died, so long ago. It had been her fault - which she had never forgotten. How stupid she had been, a child frolicking amongst her enemies.

      "And now we're the ones others have lost," she murmured, voicing her thoughts. "And one day I'll meet the Windstorm here, whether the Shadowchild slays him or not."

      Tasson's eyes suddenly flickered, brightening slightly. Was she… was Frey accepting the fact that she was no longer alive? "That's true," he said softly.

      "And yet we're still here," Frey mused. "We're here, speaking to one another, Tasson. We can still exist beyond Neopia."

      The archer found himself looking at the other in a new way - it was as though he knew her again, as though they were having a friendly chat, discussing their thoughts.

      "We live on," Frey whispered hollowly.

      "It takes more than a sword to dispatch one's spirit."

      The Zafara straightened, standing up. "I assume I don't have to stay with you the entire time I'm here, Tasson?"

      "No. Go where you wish."

      Frey let a smile creep across her face. She still didn't understand this other existence completely, and what Tasson said had not changed her, or so she liked to think. She continued to feel cheated by the Windstorm. I don't regret the avenger I've loosed upon him, she thought. He'll know my vengeance soon enough.

      The pure-white Zafara reflected on what had come to pass: after striving to live and evade death for so long, she had failed. First thwarted by Tasson, and then by the Windstorm, Sisslio. She had endured suffering, desperation, and endless hate, and even - once upon a time - happiness. "So this is my fate," she muttered. Her mind turned to where she should go now - how she should go about exploring this new realm that was seemingly the end. Who else could she talk to? Those she had slain, those whose deaths she had witnessed with horror years before she had ever heard of the Storm and Tasson the archer. Names meandered through her memory: Gerdon, Skirnir, Shula, Arwa, Loki… Some she detested, others she embraced. Here was her chance to almost study the life she had left, which she had longed for so desperately.

      Frey looked over her shoulder. "Good-bye, Tasson. I'll see you again, I suppose."

      The Cybunny looked surprisingly content. "All right." And he was gone, formless once more, for here was a world where shape didn't matter.

      The mage was alone again, but wandered through the blinding mists with shreds of hatred, dejection, and even hope stitched together to form her being.

      Maybe being dead wasn't so final after all…

The End

 
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