A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 108,522,844 Issue: 217 | 18th day of Storing, Y7
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Shadowchild: Part Three


by sara_mossflower

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Deciphering the Prophecy

It was late at night when the fireworks stopped and eventually the stars were the only source of light in the sky. Dayne and I turned towards our apartment building, while Terzin padded into the woods after saying goodbye to us.

      Once in the hallway that had become so familiar to me, I unlocked the door to my home, as Dayne did the same behind me. Telling each other good night, we retreated to our individual abodes until morning. My fur tingled at the calming sensation of the cool indoor air. After briefly washing my face, I strode into my room and collapsed on my bed, the warmth from outside flowing like golden honey through the open window, soothing me into slumber.

      I didn't remember falling asleep, but I was soon jolted awake by the relentless knocking at my door that reached my ears. I almost fell off my bed, but managed to get up and loped into my foyer, unlocking and wrenching open the barrier between the hallway and me.

      Before me was a frantic-looking Terzin, the body of Alysoun SkyGaze draped over his broad back. The bright red blood staining most of her right arm practically swamped my vision as the enormity of what I was seeing hit me. My heart started pounding furiously. What had happened to her? Was she dead? Who had dared to hurt her? I voiced these concerns as I let the Lupe and his unconscious companion inside.

      "I found her at the entrance to the Roads," he explained as we lowered her onto the floor, gently. I placed a cushion from my couch under her head to support it and grabbed a washcloth from my bathroom, which I soaked in warm water, still listening to Terzin's voice in the other room. "She's all right, but it looks like she passed out from this wound."

      I accidentally knocked over the soap dispenser next to the sink, and it made a clunking noise as it thudded onto the bathmat under my feet. I picked it up and unsteadily set it back on the countertop. Releasing it from my hold, I realized that my hands were trembling uncontrollably. I steadied myself on the vanity, acknowledging how scared I was. Seeing Aly, unconscious and bloody, evoked a fear in me I'd never known before.

      Breathing deeply, I grasped the washcloth again, which was cold by now. I ran it under hot water again and brought it back to Terzin, then patted it down gingerly on Aly's arm wound, mopping up the drying blood and cleaning the gash. I told Terzin that there was a first aid kit buried somewhere in the linen closet outside my bedroom, and he trotted off to retrieve it.

      Once he'd found the kit, Terzin brought it to me, and I cut a length of gauze to bind Aly's arm with. "I guess she'll have some kind of story to tell us when she wakes up," commented the Lupe.

      "Yeah," I sighed in agreement. "Did you wanna stay over here until morning?" I offered. "Just so we're all here when we get to the bottom of this."

      "I guess I will," he said. "The floor is good enough for me." With that, he stretched slightly and made himself comfortable on my living room floor. I understood this casual action; he must have been exhausted from carrying Aly's limp form from the woods back into Neopia Central and then up to the apartment. At least he was able to rest assured that he had done a world of good by saving the life of his long-time friend.

      As the minutes passed, I noticed that the rate at which my blood was coursing through my body had retracted to its natural rhythm, no longer driven by speeding concern. I took the wet cloth I held and wiped it across Aly's brow, where I'd noticed cold sweat had gathered. It was evident that she had been running from something or fighting - the usual things that would take sweating energy.

      I removed the cloth from her head, which I then looked down on. Her face was so tired, but so calm at the same time. She seemed like almost a different person while she was asleep - serene, as opposed to her true aggressive and steadfast nature. This state seemed to reveal a hidden piece of her - around the time that Frey had been defeated, I'd discovered that there was more to Aly than her tomboyish exterior. I'd come so close to dying during that fight - I'd been skewered on Frey's blade, and the only thing that had saved me was the Storm's ability to turn back time. But when I'd been struck down, Aly had cried for me, proof that she was a more sensitive friend than I'd first suspected. She'd been screaming words I'd been unable to hear, and had been in absolute anguish at the realization that I was dying. Partly, it was because of her reaction that I'd found the will to save myself.

      At this point, I was just thankful that she was safe now. Getting up from the floor slowly, I made my way back to my room, and struggled to find rest.

     *

      Tyrin exited the WindRoads shortly after Terzin had carried Aly away. He had never experienced such a journey as that taken through the Roads - it had stirred his inner being strangely, and he wasn't sure he liked the method of travel. As he had glided through the passages he had felt as though something was probing at him, and several times he had felt disoriented and confused, as though he had come close to taking the wrong path. Striving to forget the unpleasant experience, he shook his head in a vain attempt to clear the memories from it.

     Glancing around through the dark trees, he realized that this forest was completely unfamiliar… now that he'd thought about it, he'd never set foot in a forest before. But that didn't matter right now - what did was the fact that he had successfully entered the Windstorm's world. He smiled subtly - the desire to kill pulsed through his mind and he caressed the blade of his sword fondly. After slaying his enemy, he would have finally fulfilled his mission.

      He stalked through the trees, Sirocco in hand.

      "I'll find him…"

     *

      The next morning, I awoke and strolled into the hallway, wondering whether Aly was awake yet. She wasn't on the floor as we'd left her, and neither was Terzin. Suddenly I became aware of the smell of something burning. I darted into the small kitchen to the sight of Aly and Terzin at the stove, the Lupe's paws struggling with a spatula, trying to flip over a pancake that appeared similar to a flat piece of rubber.

      "That's NOT how you do it," Aly was telling him.

      "I don't have thumbs, okay?"

      I took a step forward to make my presence clear. "Um…what are you guys doing?"

      They turned their heads toward me, looking like they'd been caught in an awkward situation. "Uh…making breakfast…" Terzin explained, realizing how strange he must have looked.

      I realized I was staring at him blankly, then blinked. "Oh…uh…thanks."

      "Your 'modern' cooking supplies aren't exactly easy to use," offered Aly. My eyes strayed to her arm, where her bandage was still tightly bound, a large red splotch staining it, but the bleeding appeared to have stopped and dried.

      Just as I was about to answer her, there was a thunderous pounding at my door, which I ran to answer. Flinging it open, Dayne Riversong was revealed, standing in the hallway, looking frantic.

      "WHAT'S GOING ON OVER HERE?? ARE YOU SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTING OR SOMETHING??"

      I winced at her usual strident tones. "Uh…no… Aly and Terzin were -"

      She brushed past me. "Well I smelled this, like, burning sensation, and it was coming from here! I thought the building was burning down!"

      "You can't smell a sensation."

      "You think I care? I need an EXPLANATION!"

      "They were making pancakes."

      There was silence.

      "They…uh…burned."

      Further silence.

      Then, "Oh. Okay. So…what are they doing here?"

      "Aly got hurt and Terzin brought her over here. They stayed overnight, and now they're making breakfast."

      "Why don't we just eat cookies? You have some, right?" With that, she dodged past the Lupe and Zafara to get to my kitchen cupboards. She started throwing aside boxes of cereal and bags of chips until she found her prize.

      "What are you doing?" I demanded, picking up the discarded packages. "This is MY apartment, you know!"

      "I know," she giggled, munching on the biscuits laden with rainbow chocolate chips. "But I need a sugar rush to get me going in the morning!"

      "You're such a slob," I muttered, jamming all the food back onto the shelves. Dayne was the only person I knew who could get away with barging into someone's house, tossing stuff all over the place, and doing it all in front of guests.

      About half an hour later, we'd managed to make some halfway decent pancakes with slightly burnt edges, but the sticky syrup softened the unpleasant crispiness. Afterwards, we sat down in silence. No one had to say it, but we all awaited Aly's tale - how she had been wounded.

      Aly herself looked disgruntled. "First of all, this is just a scratch," she said, wanting to make sure that everyone understood that she was no weakling. "You guys were all at that stupid Usuki Con, and I was at home. So I was going to bed, and sensed this dark aura of a non-magical being. This other Zafara just flung open the door and walked in. At first, I thought it was Frey." She paused momentarily. "He was carrying Sirocco."

      Involuntarily, we all leaned in slightly, our interest captured. This fact concerned me - only someone connected with Frey would be carrying her sword. I felt my hackles rising. My instinct had been right - she wasn't out of my life just yet.

      "We started fighting," Aly continued, "because he told me that he needed to know where the Windstorm was." She looked up at me. "He wants to kill you."

      I forced myself to breathe. This couldn't be happening. I'd defeated her - how could she have formed a new servant in her weakened state, after I'd sent that arrow at her heart? I struggled to calm myself. "Keep going," I urged.

      Aly seemed slightly unsettled herself. "He told me that his name was Tyrin, and he seemed not to know anything about the League, but he was aware of the fact that the Storm is in your possession. He was young, and I ran to get back here. He was slowing me up because of this." She touched her bandaged wound gingerly and I felt a pang of worry. Someone who was capable of wounding a fairly experienced warrior like Aly was not to be underestimated.

      "I hit him with some fire magic," she continued, "and it was enough to give me a lead. I made it through the Roads, and the rest you know."

      Silence descended momentarily. Subtle fear and unrest quivered unpleasantly within my heart. Frey wasn't gone, and I know realized she never would be. Even if one day we succeeded completely, she would always haunt my memory. All the hateful things she'd done could never be erased, as well as the fact that her existence and ambitions had heralded my fate.

      I said the one thing that was most obvious, although it was also the last thing I wanted to do. "We have to find him, and figure out who he is." As everyone nodded mutely, I froze. A pit formed in my stomach as I suspected I already knew this stranger's identity.

     This new foe seemed strangely connected to the malignant words that rang silently through my mind everyday since Frey's demise. He was young, and shadowed… "A child of darkness…" My throat tightened as I discovered the truth. There was no way I could prove it at this moment - I could scarcely believe it myself - but inwardly, I was convinced that this was the solution: this Zafara was the product of Frey's second prophecy. He was my future, and Frey's promise. What other explanation was there? I was convinced - now was the time that my new enemy would rise to challenge me.

      Standing up, I grabbed for a notepad I'd left on the kitchen counter, as well as the pen that lay tossed beside it. Everyone's eyes were on me as I scribbled the words down with a trembling hand.

      Finally, I tore off the sheet of lined paper and lay it down on the table. My companions peered at it, reading the hateful words I'd transcribed from memory:

      With the final ebbing of my power,

      I give the Windstorm's future a promise.

      Foreseeing your darkest hour,

      I unleash upon you a child of darkness.

      Born from the love of one pair and the hate of another,

      Heir to my vengeance they shall be.

      Bearer of the Storm they shall smother,

      The Windstorm's doom will avenge me.

      "That's what she said as she died," I breathed, and them glanced at Dayne and Aly, who had also heard Frey's declaration. "You remember?"

      "Mm-hmm," Dayne affirmed, nodding. Her reply was followed by Aly's grave "Yes."

      The icy blood that permeated my being with quiet dread was a struggle to ignore, but I spoke. "I know he's connected to this."

      Terzin's eyes scanned the paper. "Some of it isn't perfectly clear," he commented, "Like the bits about your darkest hour and love and hate. They don't seem to apply to you right now. And she didn't say much about him - anything he was capable of other than killing you. You never know - he could be just as powerful as she was."

      The mere thought of Frey's formidable wind magic being reborn made me want to die. Facing her before had been such a burden, such a strenuous fight that went on for a year. Now that I knew who I was - the Windstorm, the Storm wielder of this millennium - Everything was so much more difficult to deal with. I understood how Tasson felt; day after day I wondered what I would do with my gift, now that Frey was dead. And now she'd sent another to slay me because of it.

      "Great, another baddie," mumbled Dayne, her mouth full of cookie. I was unable to resent her concern; I knew that the only way she could successfully deal with crises like this was to act as casual as possible.

      Aly shot a glare at the Island shopper, but I met her gaze, silently telling her to let it go. "Yeah," I said. "And we need to find out more about him." I paused. "This prophecy's our only clue."

      "This feels like a study group," commented Dayne lazily. We all stared at her, but she merely continued.

      'Y'know, like, there's a tough problem and no one gets it in a group, so you take it home to look at, and then you present your findings and stuff." She elaborated. "None of us get what this means, cuz we're looking for all the crazy connections. Why don't we just check it out on our own time and see if it's clear? We always talk about the weird Frey-ish tragedies altogether and it takes forever to get anywhere!"

      She stood up and grabbed the paper from the table, waving it like a ticket to some private event. "It's a nice summer day, so I for one am gonna look this over on my balcony with a fruit smoothie!"

      With that, she departed, pulling my door shut in her wake.

      "She's so careless," snapped Aly, crossing her arms. "Should be a little more sensitive." After a few seconds she realized the irony in her speaking of sensitivity and sniffed indignantly.

      I shrugged. "You think we should do as she suggested? You never know; it could work."

      "We don't need that fashion plate to have a discussion. But if you wanna do it that way, I don't really care. I just want to get this figured out before he comes after you."

      I licked the inside of my dry mouth, now like dusty sand. "Yeah," I breathed. "Definitely."

     *

      Dayne shut the door of her apartment seconds later and didn't bother to turn on the air conditioning; as she had said, she planned for a smoothie and summer breezes to cool her off.

      Tossing some chopped banana and papaya into her blender, Dayne sat back for a moment until her snack was done, then proceeded to slurp it out of a tall glass by use of a vibrantly coloured straw. She went out to her small, concrete balcony and made herself comfortable in a folding lawn chair, looking out over the hazy skies of Neopia Central contentedly.

      After a few minutes, she pulled out the wad of paper, which Sisslio had written the second prophecy on. She skimmed it, her green eyes roving through the words lazily. Truthfully, she was worried about this, although it didn't seem so. She couldn't deal with crises like this - she always got all jittery and hyper when something bad happened.

      Dayne tried to focus on the verses, but found that she couldn't make sense of much of it - all she knew was that Sisslio had succeeded in defeating Frey three years ago and that had solved his problems. Now those problems were making a comeback, and she didn't know why.

      "With the final…give the Windstorm's future…your darkest hour…" She mumbled the words aloud to herself, still clueless. "Arg… can't she just say, 'In the future, I'll attack you', or something else simple?" She sighed. "This is so stupid. Man, Sisslio's life is a misery. So what else is there? Blah blah blah…love of one pair and the hate…" Suddenly she stopped. A smile slowly crept across the Island Zafara's face until she couldn't contain herself any longer. She fell from her chair, her body racked with incessant laughter. "THAT IS SO FUNNY!" she cried, "HA! His stupid little crush is part of the whole thing! That's too much!" She finally sat up, wiping humourous tears from her eyes. The way Dayne's mind worked, fashion, bargains, randomness, and gossip were the first things to be recognized, and in the context of the poem, this line was the first thing she was able to connect with.

      Lying on her stomach, she raised the paper in one hand, and the humid breezes caused it to flutter like a flag. "Wuv!" She closed her eyes and giggled under her breath. "Seriously, though," she said, voicing her thoughts to herself, "Why else would it be in here? No one else likes anyone else!" She narrowed her eyes slyly. "Peh. He'll never admit it. Maybe I'm bouncing around with conclusions." She shrugged carelessly, not bothering to get up from the cool cement floor.

      She continued looking over the paper, but found nothing else that she could figure out. Her brief humour had died off and her attention span shortened. The summer sun seeped into Dayne's mind and lulled her off to sleep, her thick lashes gently descending and resting on her cheeks.

To be continued...

 
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» Shadowchild: Part One
» Shadowchild: Part Two



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