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Shadowchild: Part One


by sara_mossflower

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Author's Note: This series is a sequel to several of my previous works. To better understand the events and characters of Shadowchild, I would strongly suggest first reading Windstorm, Firejewel, and EndingArrow. Thanks, and enjoy!

A Dark Claim

The sword stood alone in the centre of the barren plain, untouched for a small number of years. The blade still gleamed brightly; the edge was still fatally keen. Neither rain, snow, nor any other form of weather could have marred the weapon. Like its previous owner, it was seemingly immortal. It had been fixed in the moor's earth a millennium ago, but had been wrenched free twice since that time. Each of these times it had drawn blood, but failed to kill.

      The shadow watched.

      A moment ago, the plain had been completely empty, with not a soul nearby. But now that the darkness was here, it had always been.

     He was drawn to the blade; it glittered like a precious gem amidst the desolation of the field of torn up earth. He knew that he was destined to be the new wielder of the spectacular weapon, slightly taller than the ambitious warrior.

     The presence took several smooth strides forward until it was standing next to the sword. Engraved near the center line was the weapon's name: Sirocco.

     There was a soft snickering and the gleam of malicious eyes, and a hand with fur as black as coal closed around the hilt and claimed its prize.

     *

     I thought I was gonna be sick.

     These stupid little tilt-a-whirls made out of what seemed to be tin buckets were merely another reason that the Usuki Convention gave me nausea.

     This had all been Dayne's idea, obviously. She was not only obsessed with shopping for clothes and accessories, but also for those little dressed-up Usul dolls that creeped me out with their staring little plastic eyes and demented hairdos. Today was the opening day of the Annual Usuki Convention, and she had begged me to come with her, as she always did. The Island Zafara dragged me everywhere, even though I was no longer her roommate, having moved into my own apartment…mind you, it was across the hall from hers.

     In order to keep myself sane, I'd asked Terzin and Aly to come along. These two were very close friends of ours who had helped me face my harsh destiny a few years ago. Terzin had reluctantly agreed, which gave me some relief - another male coming along was some comfort. Aly, on the other hand, a tomboy at heart, refused to accompany us and had stayed in her home, another world beyond Neopia, accessible only by the WindRoads, ancient passages hidden in the woods rimming Neopia Central.

     Dayne had urged us onto this stupid little ride, decorated with plastic flowers and operated by overly jolly pets in huge, fuzzy Usuki costumes. When we'd first got in, I'd been sceptical about whether the round seating area would hold the weight of two adult Zafaras and a brawny Cloud Lupe. The Usuki doll attending us merely giggled and shrugged, causing me to cock an eyebrow at her giddiness.

     By the end of the ride, Dayne was laughing uncontrollably, deeming the experience "totally, one-hundred-percent awesome", and wanting to do it again, while I was trying to steady my weak-legged self on a nearby doll display. The pet hovering over the dolls was asking me not to touch the items unless I planned on making a purchase, but I wasn't listening. As for Terzin, he was tough enough to endure the insane whirling of the seats, but I couldn't help but notice that he appeared to have taken on a slightly green undertone. I shook my head, trying to clear it, slightly embarrassed that my digestive system wasn't up to these Usuki rides, but the greater embarrassment was that I was here in the first place.

     This event was oddly casual and quirky for me, and I'd been experiencing such realizations for the past three years, ever since my conflict with my fated adversary, the wind mage and warrioress, Frey KeenBlade, had ceased. It seemed such a short time ago that I'd been fearing the next attempt on my life at almost every waking hour, despite the help my friends offered and my formidable gift of Storm magic, which was the only existing power that could rival Frey's.

     The Storm was a force woven from the six elements of Neopia: Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Darkness, and Light. It adapted all traits of a real, natural Storm into its being, and as a result, was capable of such things as altering time, something formed from the strange lapse between the flash of lightning and echo of thunder. The Storm was born into existence once a millennium, and it was I who had received it this time around. Before me, it had been a Fire Cybunny by the name of Tasson, who had been close friends with Frey when they had lived, but because of her insatiable greed for his gift, he had been forced to slay her, as I had.

     When Frey had finally died by my hands, I had felt release from my destiny, but ever since her death, I couldn't help but think that this just might not be the end of it. These doubts were rooted in the new prophecy she'd made before her life had been extinguished - words that had been seared into my memory, which I could never seem to forget, a rhyme heralding a dark avenger.

     "SISSLIO, WATCH IT!"

     I snapped out of my reverie, realizing that it was Dayne who was screaming at me. No sooner had I heard her cry then I realized that I'd caused one of the rare porcelain Usukis to fall off the display table by unknowingly shifting the cloth draping the table they stood on. A second later, a doll dressed like a majestic Sahkmet pharaoh toppled onto the sidewalk, its delicate body splintering into several fragments.

     The Pink Kacheek standing nearby casually chewed on some bubble gum and adjusted her Usuki Con souvenir hat. "You break it, you buy it," she informed me.

     I sighed in exasperation, but pulled out some money. "How much?"

     "Twenty-five thousand Neopoints."

     My jaw almost dropped - that little porcelain thing was worth 25k? I looked to Dayne, hoping she'd take some of the cost. She shook her head, catching my drift. "No way - I'm not blowing my Usuki cash on some smashed-up thing!"

     I sighed a second time, but reluctantly paid the girl. "Thanks," she mumbled, her gum making odd smacking sounds as she chewed it.

     I tossed the porcelain splinters into the nearest trash can, and kept walking along with Dayne and Terzin, following my one-time roommate to various games, displays, and gift shops. In the next hour, I was weighed down by a multitude of fluffy pink and purple bags filled with all sorts of useless merchandise. To the casual observer, I probably didn't look like a male white Zafara at all - more like a collection of bargains with legs.

     Eventually, the day was well on its way to ending, and we were looking to get something to eat, or in my case, dump the burdensome bags somewhere. After begging Dayne for quite some time, I convinced her to head back to her apartment and leave the stuff there. Afterwards, the three of us went back out into the city, where the Usuki fans were selling glow sticks and hanging up lights. There were crowds of girls awaiting the fireworks, some with male companions.

     We found a small, quaint restaurant that served Mystery Island-style cuisine, and ate a tasty seafood dinner. Following our meal, we returned outside again to watch the approaching display of flaming lights.

     In a few moments, the first blast went off, an explosion of pink sparks, showering the streets with iridescence. The summer air was afire, and after one exasperating Dayne day, I felt calm, and in awe, which surprised me, considering that we were at the Usuki Con.

     The evening was alive. Children were racing around, whirling their glow sticks on strings until they became a fluorescent wheel, spinning wildly in the darkness. Pets still in their Usul costumes shed the furry garments, which gave way to sweaty tank tops and shorts. They danced under the spectacular blazes, their foam sandals crushing the lush grass beneath their toes. More explosions of beauty split the air gloriously, and couples stared at them in wonder.

     I found myself wishing that Aly had come with us today - it would have made the convention more enjoyable for us all, or at least for Terzin and me. Then again, now that I thought about it, I hadn't seen much of her recently, and I felt a subtle hollowness without her. I wanted her to be here with me, under the stars.

     Slowly, I managed to slip back into enjoyment, and my eyes widened at the next glittering flower of light, and the soft crackling that echoed in its wake.

     *

     Worlds and Roads away, Alysoun SkyGaze was also observing the heavens. Having found nothing better to do, the Striped Zafara had come out into the warm shadows of evening to look at the cloudless sky, letting the zephyrs ruffle her fur as they floated through the atmosphere brought on by the day's end.

     Aly realized that she somewhat regretted not going along with Terzin, Dayne, and Sisslio to the Usuki Convention. She'd been sitting around at home for the past five hours doing absolutely nothing. But she hadn't wanted to look like an Usuki-loving moron.

     Aly had learned to act independent and dauntless for most of her life - she had never let this façade fall to anyone. She was a mage and a warrior, and was able to take any kind of damage dished out at her without sobbing about it. She had been proud about this until about three years ago, when Terzin's mother, an accomplished soothsayer, had talked to her about her shielded emotions. She'd been told that she was "wounded", and had been advised to share how she felt with others. She'd blown this off nonchalantly - the Lupess was talking as though she needed psychiatric help or something just as pathetic and ridiculous. She wasn't soft, and didn't plan on acting like it. Aly hated girly stereotypes with a passion, and had proved to everyone she knew that she would never be beaten down by another ordinary pet.

     Well, there was one pet who she hadn't completely convinced, or at least she thought so: Sisslio. Before defeating Frey, she'd caught herself crying in front of him, and upon remembering this fact, would regret it deeply. Still, she'd noticed over the years that the young Zafara was a very dependable friend, and he had yet to let her down. Truthfully, had she been forced to appear weak and vulnerable to anyone, she would have preferred it to be him. Despite this, she felt guilty of his friendship - because of her first encounter with him, he'd been plunged into the adverse fate which awaited him as Frey's Foreseen Windstorm. She'd never even thought to question the task her family had been charged with: carrying on the Windstorm prophecy until finding the Storm's wielder.

     Trying to break away from this train of thought, Aly stood up and went back inside her home, thinking of either eating something or going to bed. Realizing that she still had some dried, salted fish left over from her lunch that morning, she sat down to finish it.

     About a minute later, Aly's striped fur was standing on end; she was sensing an incoming presence, and a negative one, at that. Standing up swiftly, leaving her meal on the table, she tensed, as her magical senses were taken over by her physical ones; she was hearing distinct footsteps, light and nimble, nearing her home.

     Becoming increasingly wary, Aly snatched her dagger from her belt - she always kept the weapon with her, no matter where she was. In a matter of seconds, the door of her cottage was flung open, the wood colliding with the wall. Aly's indigo eyes widened at the silhouette of the creature standing there:

     A Zafara, the immense war sword she knew as Sirocco borne across its shoulders.

     The Striped mage tightened her grip on the dagger's hilt in fear and surprise. She sneered defiantly as she hissed the name of her hateful visitor.

     "Frey…"

To be continued...

 
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