A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: Part One
Sierra wove her way through the maze of carts and kiosks in the Sakhmetan square. She locked her eyes on a dark, beige cloaked figure, the figure almost blending in with the sand in the shadows. The brown Xweetok picked up her pace a little as she followed it. The hooded figure noticed her, too, and swiftly sprinted away.
"Hey! You get back here!" she managed to shout. The figure sharply turned into an alley. She ran after it, and tackled it once in the alley. The yellow Acara pushed back, struggling, but Sierra kept a firm grasp on his cloak, her fluffy tail wrapped around his ankle as she snatched the bag of neopoints back from the Acara's possession. He got up as Sierra began to walk away.
"Give that back! It's mine now!" he growled. He shoved her in an attempt to snatch the pouch back, making her stumble.
"No, it's not!" She whirled around and pushed him up against the alley wall. He struggled, but he could not get through her firm grip.
"Yeah, it is! It's my job to relieve wealthy, selfish pets like you of unnecessary Neopoints, which can get very heavy."
"But it's my job to protect and regain what's rightfully mine, you meathead," she retaliated. The Acara could only watch as she shoved him away and walked off in a huff.
She strode back out into the square, stuffing the bag of Neopoints deeper into her leather crossbody satchel. Sierra brushed the sand off of her white tunic and shorts. She turned to find Lily, her best friend, running up to her.
"Hi." The green Shoyru greeted her with a hug. "What just happened?"
"Hey. Another one of those street urchins tried to steal my Neopoints again. I got them back though, like I usually do." Sierra sighed. "That's the second time this month!"
"Aww, that's too bad! I'm glad you got your NP back, though," Lily said. "You know, the street urchins were once affiliated with the Thieves Guild." The two began walking towards Lily's owner's cart, as usual.
"Really? That's reason number... eleven, I think why I didn't join them initially, then."
"What was reason number one again?"
"They broke into my house and stole my typewriter, as well as lots of other stuff."
"Oh yeah, I remember you telling me about that." Lily cringed.
"Anyway, any word on this skirmish's factions? They weren't out when I left for school today, and I didn't go home before hopping on the rickshaw to come here."
"Yeah, the Daily Memo came out a little late today. The Oracle called the Sway, the Order and the Awakened." Sierra was disappointed upon hearing that the Seekers were not an option this time around to fight for the obelisk. "C'mon, I have it at the cart." Lily motioned for her to follow.
They walked over to the cart, and were warmly greeted by by Lily's owner, Erick.
"Hello, Sierra! Good to see you again!" He smiled and handed them each a tchea fruit and a bottle of water. "I brought you a snack."
"Oh, thank you so much!" She smiled back, and took the food.
"Yeah, thanks, Dad!" Lily added, biting into her fruit. "So," she turned to Sierra. "Which faction are you going to join, since the Seekers aren't a part of this skirmish? I'm staying loyal to the Order, no doubt."
She thought for a moment as she continued to eat her snack. "I'm not sure. I might sit this one out, but you know how much I love battling, especially for a cause such as this. I might join you with the Order, but with all due respect for Rasala, I want to maintain my loyalty. Speaking of the Seekers, I'm visiting the University of Brightvale this Saturday for a tour. We might be able to catch the Professor at his office in the Scholar's Library there, and I think his adorable niece Katie will be visiting this weekend as well. Want to join me?" She turned to Erick. "If that's alright with you."
"Yes, of course!" he replied, and turned to Lily. "If you would like to go, just be home by six."
"I'd love to! I've never been to the University before." She smiled.
"Great!" Sierra said. She checked the time on her watch. "Well, I have to go now, so I'll see you then! Bye!" Lily waved in reply as she walked back to the Uni Rickshaw station, picking up some supplies on the way. She collapsed on the living room sofa when she returned home, simply glad that the day was over, and vaguely wondering which faction to pick.
She whipped around and set her book down onto her bed. What was that? She wondered. She pulled back the curtains, only to see her scraggly reflection with big, fearful brown eyes. Beyond it, there was only a lone, dim street lamp that struggled to light the black abyss of darkness in the secluded neighborhood.
Sierra, help us.
She turned around again as she heard the voice once more. She sighed nervously, her breath shaking.
I'm just being paranoid; it's probably nothing, she thought, and climbed back into bed. She turned off her lamp, letting the darkness consume her bedroom as she drifted off to sleep.
Voices. So many voices drifting in her head, invading her dreams, her thoughts, her mind.
Come to us, Sierra.
The Sway needs you.
You are a valuable asset to our society.
She saw the Duchess in a large room, playing chess among the exquisite grandeur, almost like the promotional video that was aired before the war. She was levitated, and was being pulled towards the Duchess by some magical force.
We know exactly who you are. You can become great and powerful, a battling legend. But only if you join the Sway. The other factions don't recognize this in you. The room shook as the Duchess slammed down a chess pawn onto a square. She watched as the pawn immediately transformed into a stately, powerful queen, glaring at her before disappearing from her field of view. Sierra felt a shiver run down her spine.
You could even change history. That's how much potential you have.
She opened her mouth to shout, but no sound came out. The Duchess looked at her in the eye and gave her a thin, sinister smile. Sierra glanced around for an escape, but there was none.
You must join us. You don't have a choice now. There is no breaking free from us. Nothing escapes us for a reason.
Sierra woke with a start. She was trembling, breath shaky, the voices continuing to echo faintly in her mind. Her frightened eyes darted around the room.
"Just a dream," she barely managed to whisper. "It's only just dream." She slowly lay back down and checked her clock. She groaned as she noticed it read five o'clock am. She climbed out of bed, realizing that it was pointless to go back to sleep, since she would have to wake in an hour. It wouldn't have been possible for her to, anyway. She changed into a T-shirt and sweatpants, quickly filled out the Faction Application Form on her desk, then snuck outside to stuff it in the mailbox. She dashed back inside, completing her unfinished homework and preparing for yet another hectic day.
She set her bag down next to her desk with a thud at her first class, Neopian History. Sierra sat alone in the front, as usual, at her two-seat desk. As her teacher began talking, she took a few notes, but her usually attentive mind wandered. What was with that dream last night? she wondered, gazing around the classroom. She vaguely wondered what her friends would say, then she remembered that they would probably ignore her, and would continue fangirling over Kanrik, attempting to convince her to join the Thieves Guild and lamenting over how it wasn't a choice this time. She normally would have been more tolerant, but it was pretty much the only thing they ever talked about.
"What's the point of swooning over a celebrity, let alone a criminal celebrity? I really don't understand this," she would tell them, time and time again.
The usual response would be, "Oh, but he's so handsome! By the way, you should totally join the Thieves Guild next time! You'll be able to see him every single day-"
"For the bajillionth time, I am not joining that bunch of scoundrels! You already know that! Ugh, you guys are hopeless," she would usually exclaim, and would simply stay silent while half-eavesdropping on the gossip of the day, half wondering what Lily would do.
Her daydream was interrupted by a loud knock on the door. She turned to find the admissions director leading a tall Shadow Kyrii into the classroom.
"Hi everyone! This is Damien, and he just moved from Meridell! He'll be joining this class today. Why don't you find a seat?"
"There's a spot open next to Sierra," her teacher stated.
She froze. She hated talking to people she didn't know, and she felt uneasy about sitting next to this guy, with his eyes plastered to his black shoes. He sat down next to her, and Sierra awkwardly attempted a smile while he set his black backpack on the ground. He looked at her for a moment, his icy blue eyes piercing her brown ones, but his cold expression didn't change as he took out his notebook and pencils. The teacher continued writing on the board. She noticed that all of his things were black, save for the hints of purple and red from the Darigan Citadel Altador Cup logos on his pens and keychains. His dyed, jet black mane glimmered from the sunlight emanating through the windows.
He didn't respond, so she tried a different tactic.
"I think it's pretty cool that you support Darigan Citadel. Would you like to use my pencil sharpener?"
"Uh, okay then," she replied, now a little intimidated by his hostile response.
She knew it was going to be a long day.
"It's finally Saturday," she sighed, glad that the previous day had passed without too much chaos that usually accompanied Neoschool despite the arrival of the strange, withdrawn Kyrii. She grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat down at the kitchen table when Isobel, her owner, appeared on the stairs. "Morning, Sierra! What's up? You're awake early!"
"Hey, Isobel," she replied, grabbing a glass of orange juice for herself and coffee for her owner. "Couldn't sleep again last night. And before you ask, I'm not wearing this to Brightvale."
"Oh, okay. Thanks," she chuckled as Sierra handed her the mug of coffee. Her two younger brothers tumbled unceremoniously down the stairs, chasing each other around the house until they crashed into the sofa. They grinned sheepishly at Sierra when they noticed her walking into the living room with her paws on her hips. "Hi Sierra," Zane, a red Kacheek and her middle brother, grinned guiltily.
"Alright you goofballs, let's go get breakfast. And don't chase each other around the house again like that, you could break something or get hurt."
"Or run into the couch again?" Tyler chimed in.
"Exactly." Sierra tickled her youngest brother, and the baby Gelert squealed playfully. They all sat down at the kitchen table.
"Now, remember, Sierra," Isobel began between sips of coffee. "Be home by eight, make sure you and Lily stay together, be polite to everyone, leave with enough neopoints-"
"... So I can properly pay the Unis, right," Sierra finished. "We've been through this a countless number of times, Isobel. I'm fifteen. I've got this."
Isobel stared at her coffee and nodded. "Okay."
"I guess I'd better get ready to go, then."
The rickshaw trip to Brightvale was an unusually short one, and she breathed in the fresh air with a smile on her face. She began walking to the University behind the castle, wandering into the various stores, buying a snack and couple of books along the way. She found Lily waiting for her near the University's main entrance, the huge double doors looming over them.
"Hey, Sierra." Lily hugged her.
"Hi Lily! What's up?" She hugged her back.
"Not much, really. I'm excited for this tour, though, and visiting Brightvale in general. Oh, and I signed up for the Order yesterday, and I get to miss school for the pre-battle faction meeting on Monday. What about you?"
"I've decided which faction I'm joining, and I don't think you're going to like it."
To be continued...
I first want to thank my best friend and my wonderful editor-in-chief, roaringtiger_1998, for making this series possible and being there from the idea's conception, providing every kind of help possible from editing and name help to figuring out how to fix plot holes. I also want to thank liouchan, parody_ham, thedoggirl_97, and everyone else in the JCW; professor_lambert and the Seekers, and everyone else who helped me with the series. All of you have been so supportive and I couldn't have done it without you! :)