Possessed: Part One
Author's Note: This is the fourth installment of the Shadow of the Xweetoks saga. I suggest reading the second and third (Tyrants and Heroes and Torch in the Darkness respectively) first. Enjoy!
I pulled my shawl around myself a little tighter with my pink paw. A raging hailstorm had enveloped Cloudpoint, and I was stuck in a cavern because I couldn't travel. I, Saml the Disco Acara, was, of course, still going to be the first one to the top. The hail held everyone else back, too.
Cloudpoint was a nice place, really. It snowed every day or two, occasionally hailing. The incredibly thick pine trees looked gorgeous when they were white-tipped. The colossal mound of rock literally jutted above the clouds at its very tip. It was newly-populated upon its recent discovery...
And I was going to be the first one to the top.
The storm gradually ceased. I eagerly began my hiking again. Not only did I want to make the record books, but they said that there was a legendary treasure on the summit. I could have an entire legendary treasure all to myself. As I lived alone, I wouldn't have to share it with anyone at all...
And it would be mine, not someone else's, because I was going to be the first one to the top.
I was the first to experience what clouds felt like. They were just plain wet, not fluffy. I was quite disappointed that they weren't like you'd expect them to be, but I suppose that was what I deserved for embracing fairy tales as a child. I always had believed everything I read.
Oh well, I was still going to be the first one to the top.
They would pass down fables of Saml the disco Acara in whispered bedtime stories, conspired for the sheer amusement of the young and for the parents to satisfy them. Good thing I was Saml. I would be a celebrity, a living legend. And when I died? Tales of my ghost and many haunting escapades would echo within every room of every home. I would double in fame, and whoever wrote the legend books would have a new name to put in them.
Because I would be the first one to the top.
Finally, I made it. There was no kingdom of diamond on top or anything of the sort. It was just barren grey rock. I snorted. Then, I noted the single glittering, clear boomerang lying on the ground beside me. It was sharp and polygonal, with a multitude of planes. I could see the ground through it, despite the fog inside. Sparkles of every color flickered to life within its depths and died again, as though they had never existed. So many things were like those brief glitters; I wouldn't be one of them. I was Saml, the first one to the top. It was beautiful... It almost spoke to me...
'Go ahead, pick me up. Let me live again. I will reward you with treasure beyond your dreams...'
It hardly needed to say anything at all before I snatched it up. Was it really the same object in the infamous legend? Nah, just a coincidence. And even if it were, it didn't matter at all.
Suddenly, pain wracked my body. I was transforming. I screamed as my horns hardened and twisted out in front of my face and my face caught on fire. Cold, black fire. I felt my thoughts fade away, and I felt no emotion. A single understanding jolted alive inside of me. Just wait. Destroy all who come. Keep the boomerang safe.
I had been the first one to the top.
Twenty-Two Thousand Years Later
Something changed inside of Faith that day, because sometimes, stuff just happens without you doing anything. Fang, a shadow Kacheek, had just had some gems embedded in his back replaced. As usual, his conversation with my caretaker Rubia turned to the history books. The four of us were sitting in our foyer.
The room, carved out of dirt, had a line of two chairs (mounds of soot with leaves over them) and two thrones (made from wood) against one wall. A bed near two tables, all three carved from the roots of the tree our house was under, were clustered in the center. As Fang spoke, Rubia re-lit a torch in the wall.
"I insist, most books say that Darkest was th' Hunter who caught th' twin Unis of legend."
"Fang, I have five reliable works of history in my storage that report that their captor was never discovered, but that Rose most likely nabbed them both. After all, she was the most skilled of the Huntresses that hunted Riverwood back then, and besides; wasn't Darkest all the way in Shinedune?"
Yes, Rubia and Fang were both pretty big on history.
"But from what we know, The Forester's Book of Legends and Legacies is the biggest and greatest legend book ever, and it says that Darkest got them."
"Not a chance!"
My right wing was gently curled around an original red Xweetok as we were currently watching the Kacheek and Hissi quarrel. Indeed, they did seem to enjoy arguing about what had come to pass before they were born; sometimes so much that they forgot the present happenings. Fang probably looked forward to having gems replaced by Rubia, because it was an excuse to see her. As the thought came to mind, I instinctively touched one of the handsome grey-blue jewels in my sides.
"...Wait. I was thinking about th' twins Kruz and Ri, wasn't I, now?" The shadow Kacheek suddenly questioned himself.
A smile made its way across Rubia's face. The red Hissi had won.
"Told you so."
"Eh, I'll be right next time. See ya!" The shadow Kacheek flicked the front door open with one paw and was about to leave, when I glanced over at my fellow Xweetok, Faith. She's a Creator's age Xweetok, but a really long story short, she was really an ex-Huntress converted to her form by the Creator. After saving many lives, she was considered redeemed.
Was it just me, or were her eyes flickering black?
Fang noticed it, too. Rubia put a wing on her shoulder and inspected her closer (as in, suddenly staring her in the eyes) as the Kacheek sauntered up a little closer to her. At first, she seemed rather dazed and maybe nervous at the eye contact, but then her face became suddenly devoid of all emotion for a split moment, and then she spoke.
"The Unis were captured by Darkest during their trip to Shinedune, in which they attempted to injure him enough to intimidate him into never returning to Creation, but only succeeded in securing their own fates," she reported in a deep tone that shouldn't have been possible by her.
And who was Faith to settle an argument between two regular historians, anyways?
"Dizzy..." she mumbled faintly, in her normal voice, and her eyes shut as she collapsed. She had been standing on her hind legs, and I barely managed to catch her by the shoulders. Gently, I positioned her in one of the chairs, when I realized that she was breathing.
"Eh... It ain't that I cease to be concerned 'bout the girl, I do think gold 'n silver of her; but maybe you three need time t' figure things out, an' maybe Litehart would know a thing or two," Fang said, glancing over his shoulder, as he put his foot outside.
"Wait a second," I stated. "She's sleeping, not out cold."
"Asleep? That's an oddity." Fang tilted his head in Faith's general direction as he walked up to us again. "Ay, I'm sorry, but I'd really better get a move on. Litehart'll think th' Hunter got me."
He sauntered back to the door and left. Confusion swirled deep inside of me. Rubia and I looked at each other for a moment, and then I started to rouse Faith.
"I do think some people pretend to be polite when they're busy..." The Hissi lamented.
I was alone in dark silence... Or maybe silent darkness? I was warm and comfortable, like I was curled up on the ground in a ball, only I touched nothing.
"Faith?" Cerulean's voice called out like an echo.
'I'll keep you asleep for a few minutes, Faith. I want you to be safe.'
Those thoughts weren't mine... Who was that?
"Faith," Rubia insisted. Although she was audible, it was as though she was talking from miles away.
'Don't worry. You're in good hands. Just sleep.' The voice inside my mind spoke again.
"FAITH, WAKE UP!" they simultaneously shouted at me. My ears pounded. I wanted to answer them, but I just felt so chained...
'Sleep... Cerulean and Rubia were calling your name just now, but they will never be far away when you awaken, and now you need to sleep.'
Finally, my thoughts and my mind's presence faded out. For a moment, there was absolute and complete silence, not even my own train of thought. And then the world jumped back into life. I gasped as I found myself awake, in one of the chairs in Rubia's foyer. I took a few gasps of air. What had just happened?
I had felt my mouth go numb, and then the complete explanation to the argument had been settled through my own lips. That was when my world had faded to black. At present, the scarlet Hissi entered the room, noticed my being awake and she gently stroked my head. She brushed her wingtips over the side of my face, carefully inspecting for any sign of what had happened.
"Your body heat is normal enough... How did you know a minor historical truth that had been lost for ages? And what about that voice, and the passing out?"
I stopped to decide on what to say, and also on which question to answer first. Rubia's presence felt motherly and comforting to me, though, and I let go, just explaining everything in one burst. She was someone you could voice your thoughts with.
"I never knew anything about who caught the Unis. I felt my mouth feel strange, and then words spilled out. When I collapsed, I felt like I was in reality, only everything was too dark to see, and there was nothing there that I could feel anyways. I heard someone tell me to sleep and that I was in good hands. Come to think of it, it was in the same voice which I spoke through. I woke up just now," I explained and stopped to catch my breath.
"Sounds like a special state of sub consciousness to me... This probably has a lot to do with magic. I'll have to do research. Can you walk?"
"I still feel a little faint. I probably can, but I don't want to try for a couple of minutes."
"Do you need anything?"
I paused for a moment so that I could think. The person who had been the first to be worried about me, the first to try and wake me... It was obvious who I wanted.
"I'll go get him and tell him what we know."
I sighed. To be honest, it felt unearthly. It probably did have something to do with magic. I had some firsthand experience with magic before... The good side of it. I didn't want to find out what the other side was like. If those words weren't mine... Whose were they?
"Faith. What was it like?"
I glanced up. The blue Xweetok had entered before I noticed. I smiled a little out of seeing him—I felt like I hadn't seen him in years, although it was probably only an hour at most that I'd been asleep.
"I don't know... I don't know anything about what I said. I know nothing about ancient history, and I don't know who was speaking to me when I was blacking out," I moaned. He put a forepaw on my shoulder.
"Erm, forgive me for the personal question... But did anything like this ever happen when you were a--I mean, before we met?"
I blinked. He had caught me off guard. Still, I wasn't angry. He had worded it right and spoken slowly.
"No. This was the first time," I softly answered, and tried to stop a river of Huntress memories before they started coming back to me. The winged Xweetok's next words saved me from drowning in my past.
"You don't know what you said or what was happening at all... I don't understand."
There was nothing either of us could say. Cerulean merely but reassuringly rested his wing on my back as he always did, and I closed my eyes. He had such long, soft feathers...
Really, of all the interesting people... Cerulean fascinated me. He was defensive, tough, and willing to fight Hunters (and Valence on one occasion); but on the inside, to the people who mattered to his heart and soul, he had a love and care stronger than any that I'd ever seen.
In that aspect of him, I saw myself. Once I had been one of those whom he was always fighting, hurting and hating, because I posed a threat to foresters. In fact, he fought, hurt and hated me more than anyone else back then. But then I changed. I adapted to the new life, did a few acts of redemption, and then the Creator mended my scars from my journeys. Under the light of her magic, a new bond was forged, one that would last forever.
Cerulean and I were healed together, and thus melded together. From that day forward, I was trusted by him, and he genuinely showed care for me. He never tackled or spitefully treated me again.
And then, Rubia barged in, panting.
"I was flipping through some magical books, and... Faith, you've been possessed."
"What? Possessed?" I asked her while Faith clutched my side and trembled. Of course, I've never minded her habit of clinging to me; it was reassuring. I didn't know if I should have been afraid, but I was, just a little.
"That is, magically control another object or--on odd occasions, as we have seen now--a person."
How Rubia retained a relatively calm demeanor while in that situation, I do not know to this day. Perhaps she was just in her element: magic studies. It was a grim sort of enjoyment considering the circumstances.
"But why? Why Faith?"
Faith was still too stunned to speak. I reassuringly put a foreleg around her shoulders. I didn't understand...
"I don't know. Besides, who would possess someone for the reason he or she did just now?" the red Hissi reasoned.
"Faith..." I gently said to Faith and held her closer to me. "Oh, Faith..."
"I should be researching now. I have to find something," she said as she began to flip through a large book entitled The Tome of All Forms of Malevolent Wizardry. Faith and I went into the bedroom, my paw resting on her shoulder. As she settled down in her bed, I whispered in her ear. Whilst there was no need to speak so quietly, I sensed it was for the better.
"Don't worry, Faith. We'll get through this. Together."
Little did I know, my words would be butchered that night...
I opened my eyes. It felt earlier. This was made obvious when I saw Rubia and Cerulean both still in their beds; the Xweetok's paw gently drooping over the rim of his, while the Hissi was loosely coiled in a pile. In fact, I never woke up on my own; Cerulean usually woke me up on her request. That time was probably an hour no creatures even knew existed, and I only felt half-rested.
'Faith, you know what you must do. I am not making you do it, only reminding you that you must.'
Where did that voice come from?!
I blinked a few times and rubbed my eyes, yet I noticed nobody who could've said it. If one of my companions sleep-talked, they would've told me, and that voice could never have belonged to either of them. It was too deep...
It was the same one I'd spoken in.
My muscles stiff with tension and my teeth clenched in realization, I entered the corridor in the center of the house. Was the voice here in our home? I glanced around anxiously, but saw no one. Maybe the foyer will reveal something, I thought as I went through another door.
Several books Rubia had been looking in earlier were still on the table. I took a single glance at the cover of one and my head boggled with confusion; it read The Maps to Everywhere. What did being possessed have to do with maps?
'Absolutely nothing, yet it's fate that this has been left here,' the voice calmly told me.
'Where are you?' The question raced through my mind, yet it was answered before I said it.
'Inside your head.'
I prickled with sudden stress and tried not to think anything, in fear of the entity overhearing me. Instinct alone made me flick the book open by its wooden cover to a particularly well-thumbed and yellowed page.
It was, of course, a map.
A scramble of counties was delicately drawn in the center of it. Above them, however, something caught my eye. A large mountain sat near the top of the map. A longing for that mountain suddenly burned inside of me. It had to hold answers... It had to. My heart ached with longing for answers.
Hastily scrawling a note and grabbing my root-carved ocarina, a sack and a few spare pieces of leaf parchment (I had an idea) as quietly as possible, I opened the door and slipped outside.
And thus I started the entire landslide of events.
Dear Rubia and Cerulean,
I'm sorry. But I have to do this. It's the only way for me to find what I want. Please, don't try to look for me.
"Cerulean? It appears we have a problem..."
"WHAT?! She's gone?"
I smoothly weaved beneath groves of high bushes, focusing on the task at hand. I was heading towards the Blank first, which would get me started going north. Heading in a straight line from there would be easy enough.
I passed through the huge, open square of gnarled tree stumps. It made a convenient landmark, as the historically known area where Valence and Serace had cut down trees. Now, it was a Hunter landing site.
Once I had started to run, my injured spirit was easy to ignore. It was really a motivation to keep me going; when I stopped, my longing to stay home would probably return to me. But if I kept dashing through the trees and let myself watch were I was going instead of resting, I could easily gain more ground.
After a few hours, and probably two hundred bounds later (a bound is as far as you can see clearly in front of you, unless you have vision problems), I realized I had to stop. Digging my claws in, I scaled to a high branch of a fruit tree I'd never seen before, meaning I had gone pretty far.
What was I trying to not think about again? Ooh, peaches!
I grabbed a peach, pulled it off of its bough and sank my teeth into it. Ravenously, I devoured it and threw the pit down to the ground below rather carelessly. Within a minute, a small pile of the hard cores had accumulated. I closed my eyes in fatigue and instantly drifted off.
"Could you help me with my hat?"
The world was hazy. The question seemed to come from behind me, but Rubia was right in front of me. She was attempting to lift an unnecessarily large and out-of-character crimson sun hat onto her head. A clump of flowers and leaves poked out from the side of a green bow as big as her head. Unbelieving, I reached to pick up a drooping end, but then she poked my forehead.
"Got your nose!"
She then began maniacal laughter. Hill, a baby JubJub whom I vaguely remembered from a couple of meetings, was chatting amiably in a rather masculine voice despite him being unable to speak as far as I knew. He was talking so fast that I couldn't understand a single word.
I backed away from him only to stop short. I felt paws gripping my shoulders, claws unsheathed. Suddenly, I was thrust onto the ground and kicked in the stomach. Wrenching over to see the attacker, I noticed who it was. Of the events of the past thirty seconds, this one cancelled all my acceptance of them.
No... Cerulean wouldn't... It felt so terrible; I thought we trusted each other...
He pinned my shoulders to the floor, which had changed from the compact dirt of home to the watery mud of the forests outside when I wasn't looking. I was wrung from side to side, my pelt being spattered with grime. He stopped and thrust his muzzle a mere inch away from mine. Then it was the scariest part.
His signature warm, charismatic grin was plastered onto his face, only it was coldhearted and glad to see me afraid.
I sat bolt upright, panting heavily from my dream. Good. It was a nightmare. Wait, had I eaten some of those mildly-poisonous peaches that Rubia warned me about before?
Silently praying to the Creator that Cerulean would never hurt me like that in real life and also thanking her that nothing worse had happened due to the peaches, I removed my root-carved ocarina from its sack (which I had slung around my shoulder) and put the mouthpiece to my lips. Gently blowing on it, my fingers moved over the holes, resulting in an intricate melody.
The remorse hidden inside of me showed with each note.
I played softly. The tune echoed off of the trees and flew over the marshy grass. It was like the chirping of a bird which could play a hundred different notes.
Finally, I decided it was enough. I tucked the ocarina back inside the bag and started running again, hoping I hadn't grabbed the attention of a Hunter. I'd been foolish...
For another few hours, I scurried along. A few times along the way, I stopped to roughly sketch the land and distances on the pieces of paper I'd brought, hoping to have a fairly-accurate map of from Deepwood to Cloudpoint. It would be a good method to get some free lodging from a scribe; it was my only chance at having an option other than sleeping in the open.
After a while, the trees were beginning to thin out into grey wastelands that didn't even have rain. Dark clouds rolled towards the mountain in the distance as I walked on, alone on the ancient paths. The tough soil wore my paws thinner with every step. Thankfully, I had gorged myself on wild berries before (and the peaches I'd never eat again), so I wouldn't get hunger meltdown before I made it to the lush ice lands.
Gosh. I didn't know that the landscape would turn dismal this quickly. Or, maybe I'm just a naturally-quick traveler now, after reaching the sea in only a few days. Heh. Maybe I'll be at Cloudpoint by tomorrow.
I strode on my hind legs as I blew through my ocarina's mouthpiece, the music flowing as smoothly as ever. The song was beginning to feel like my only companion; indeed, it was. No sour notes crossed my lips let alone make it out of the instrument.
It was so barren out there that the Hunters wouldn't even bother. It didn't matter if I brought attention to myself. I thought more about the map; it was really a long shot.
My hand wandered to the key on a string around my neck. Huh, I thought, briefly removing it for the sake of examining it. I could have sworn this was silver, not gold...
This wasn't a place to stay. This was the in-between space, just a void, and the stars between planets. Unlike the stars, though, I could see no beauty in any of it. No, it was the place between stars... The roads are there for travelers, and travelers are the real beauty. Yet here, there were no travelers, and hence no roads...
Perhaps there was me, but I wouldn't be there for long. The wastelands put me in a sour mood; I was keeping my head down as I listened to the unobstructed song of my wooden instrument. No sounds dared cross my tune as though the whole world was hiding. Maybe it was. If there was a soul there, he was hiding, too deep within his paranoia and struggle to live to just muster up strength and find me.
And if he existed, then he may as well have not.
Out in the open, exhausted, I lay down on my side. I closed my eyes in rest before I could even see that towering mountain that jutted from the ground not too far away, nor the evergreen woods that surrounded and enveloped it.
That next morning, I was thrilled to see the deep green-cloaked Cloudpoint. I ran towards it, where there was my freedom. The very tip of it literally jutted into the sky and above the clouds, hence the name. I ran beyond the thinner pines to the first towering fir tree and threw my forelegs around it, and then began to climb.
It was really more of an upwards hike, but either way, getting a little ways up was hardly a match for a quick traveler such as myself. At the first crunch of snow beneath my paws, I felt uplifted.
"She's just gone. I want my Faith back. Why? What did she have to do? Couldn't she have written a longer letter?" I rambled to Rubia.
"She isn't really your Faith. She only belongs to herself; or at least she should."
"I'll pretend that was sarcasm... Right, I get it. You can't answer any of those."
"Wrong. I'm assuming that she's going either spontaneous soul-searching or trying to see if she can get whatever demon possessed her out of her body just by traveling for a couple thousand bounds."
"Oh. Would it be pointless to search for her?"
"Yes. We have no idea where she's going, she could be wherever she wants to by now, and I'm not sure she'd want us to look for her."
"...Because she said not to look for her."
Silence passed until Rubia put her wing around me and brought me near.
"Well, I was wondering... She could be gone for awhile, and I'd like to visit my family sometime. I could ask Tor if he would take you in while I went to see them-"
"I'm coming with you."
"Are you sure? It's kind of a long journey, and it'll be very cold-"
"I'm coming with you. Where do they live?"
"It's a place called Cloudpoint."
I shivered. Rain I could take, but as I had found out, not quite snow.
My fur was flecked with white, another new crystal piercing my skin with cold every second. My feet were soaked with slush and the pads of my feet stung. I needed either an apothecary or to get out of the snow.
The oaks back home were nothing compared to the massive pines and firs of Cloudpoint. If I lay down on my back, I could see an intricate maze of branches on a backdrop of green far above, held up by the thick, straight poles which were the trunks.
There was enough snow to stand on without sinking to the bottom, and I didn't want to know how much of the trees they concealed. It was crisp and dry, but clung to my pelt and melted soon enough. I barely noticed a few tracks of very shallow, wide footprints—probably made by snowshoes used to both avoid Hunters tracking the users and to keep them from sinking.
At present, my eyes scanned the carpet of fallen pine needles, seeking anything suitable for eating. What had been a furious snowfall only minutes ago had slowed to a gentle sprinkle of white, like the opposite of the calm before the storm. I jumped and turned when I heard a thud from behind me.
"Eh, didn't mean to scare you. Maybe I did, but that's beside the point."
The owner of the slightly-raspy male voice was a Darigan Gelert who was standing on his hind legs, as tall as a Hunter. His well-built figure strode up to me as he gnashed down on a root he held in one paw. I backed away a little, intimidated.
"Wh-who are you?"
"Name's Raiyj. Only name I've ever had, and the only one I ever will."
I was slightly jealous.
"Erm, I'm Faith." I awkwardly introduced myself.
"Oh, I usually keep to myself around you typical horde. Almost all of you are always running everywhere to get away from you-know-which-type because they're way too flimsy to fight back, and the rest are idiots. I was just wondering why you were a Xweetok," he said without acknowledging what I had told him.
"Sorry. Confidential information."
"I can make someone want to talk."
"Are you sure? I did bad things."
"We all do bad things. I'll do bad things unless you talk."
"I was a Huntress named Chix once until the Creator altered me."
"That's it? Honestly, I was expecting someone worse than I am, what with my constant threats and occasional incidents. Whoa, don't be too startled. You aren't an idiot or flimsy. I never do anything to you gems. Ciao!"
He jumped off into the alpine undergrowth of large holly bushes. A sigh of relief escaped my lips and I continued my foraging. He considered threats and what he had called 'incidents' to be worse than hunting? Not long after...
"I'mSnowballandIwanttobeyourfriend!" A young white Wocky suddenly ran up to me, shouting. He leapt quickly and left ditches in the snow the height of his legs.
"Err, I'm Faith..."
Really, how many new people can you meet in five minutes?
To be continued...