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EndingArrow: Part Ten


by sara_mossflower

--------

The Place Where She Perished

When Terzin and Dayne left the tomb, they'd found that Aillara had left the standing stones as they had suspected. Terzin peered through the thick snowfall that was plummeting from the atmosphere, but couldn't find a trace of the Eyrie's black pelt. "They must have left a while ago," he called to Dayne through the winds.

      "Which way's East?" the Island Zafara asked in reply.

      The Cloud Lupe had a well-developed sense of direction and was able to answer confidently, "That way," nodding ahead.

      Dayne nodded in return, and gathered her cloak around her tightly. "IT'S SO COLD!" she cried to the icy precipitation whipping past her. She noticed that Terzin had cocked an eyebrow at her, as if to say, "Why did I get stuck with you?"

      "Sorry!" she bawled, "I'll shut up, then!"

      "Okay," replied the Lupe briskly. "Let's go."

      The two friends then began to stride through the swirling gales of snow, freezing, but knowing that if they hesitated, it could be the difference between victory and defeat against Frey.

      Dayne strove not to complain as they made their way east, even though she felt like flopping into the snow, throwing a little tantrum, and then waking up in her own bed. But she was forced to bite her lip and keep walking, the gusts of wind tearing at her fur and skin like scythes of ice.

      Terzin kept a steady pace, testing his sharp nose as he strove to pick up the despicable Eyrie's scent, or that of Frawl, or the Ruki or Grarrl who had accompanied her. He had listened to Dredless and was determined to redeem his family's line. Frey had manipulated his ancestor, and he knew that right now he was the only one who could set things right for the HowlSoul Lupes, including his mother. He didn't care if he almost froze to death seeking her, but he silently vowed that he would get his claws into Aillara and make her pay for what she'd done. That done, he would have aided Sisslio and his family proudly.

      The two of them continued on for several hours, and the snowstorm eventually abated. They trudged onward, the trek now a little more manageable. "This is taking for ever," grumbled Dayne. "I'm an icicle."

      "It's a long way back," Terzin replied. "It was half a day to the League's headquarters, so it might take all day to get back to my village and the field."

      Dayne stopped. "Well that's just perfect!" she exclaimed sarcastically. "We'll get there and they would have already resurrected her or something!"

      Terzin sighed in exasperation. "They can't resurrect her without the Storm, remember? Sisslio's gotta be there."

      She managed to calm down as she realized that the reasonable Lupe was right. She'd decided to give her all to pull Sisslio through this final confrontation with Frey KeenBlade. Bracing herself for the cold, she kept walking, thinking of her best friend with each step.

      It was a struggle, but the Zafara and Lupe managed to not stop or slow down for the rest of the day. By dusk, they had reached the League's canyon.

      They stared down into the abyss sadly. It appeared to be a dead end for them.

      "The one thing it's missing is a typical rickety bridge!" Dayne stated. "Which is exactly what we need right now."

      "We'll have to go into their tunnels," said Terzin, thinking aloud. "That's how they go from one side to the other."

      Dayne didn't say another word; she too knew that the winding corridors of the canyon were the only way to go. It was easy to get lost in them, but she'd resigned herself to the fact that it was just another risk they'd have to take.

      After scouting around the western cliff of the abyss, they discovered one of the openings into the League's maze of passages. "Here we go," said Terzin, and stepped inside. Dayne followed hesitantly, and as they descended into the earth, they both realized something. The torches that normally lit the corridors had been snuffed out. It was pitch darkness.

      "They must have all left to follow Aillara," remarked Terzin, spitting out the Eyrie's name as though it left an unpleasant taste in his mouth. "They don't need light if they're not here to use it."

      Without another word, the Lupe stood still and closed his eyes, and a few seconds later, Dayne was shielding her eyes from the intense white blaze that emanated from her companion's pelt. "Awesome," she whispered.

      "Light magic has its uses," said Terzin with a smirk.

      "Wish I could do that," said the girl under her breath.

      They continued on quietly, taking several wrong turns and trying not to become frustrated with the endless tunnels spreading in all directions. Suddenly, just as they were about to make a sharp turn, Terzin raised his head and sniffed the air. "Incense," he announced, "Or at least the remains of it. The main room smelled of incense!"

      "Great!" Dayne cried excitedly. "Lead the way!"

      Terzin looked over his shoulder, a little weirded-out due to Dayne's sudden joy, but bounded ahead, confident that he could now locate the central room where they had been brought the other day.

      The narrow passage ended abruptly and space spread out in all directions as Terzin and Dayne entered the main chamber, lit only by the sharp glow of Terzin's body. Dayne glanced around, unsettled by the sight of this chamber filled with shadowy corners. This was where she had almost died about two weeks ago. It was where Sisslio had saved her with the Storm and helped her to escape up a staircase…

      She glanced around the room; trying to remember which archway they had gone through. She had been only partially conscious at the time, but she had to make a reasonable guess. Her green eyes scanned each exit, and she mentally discarded each one for lack of familiarity. Finally, Dayne noticed one passageway that triggered a twinge of recognition. "That's the way out," she announced, pointing.

      "You're sure?" asked Terzin, turning his head.

      "Yeah. That's where we went when we came to save you guys."

      "Okay - let's try it."

      The two moved towards the stairs, and Dayne became uncertain as her foot touched the first step. Was this the right staircase? What if she was wrong and they were stuck in this labyrinth forever? Inhaling a bit to gain confidence, the Island Zafara kept moving, and as she quickened her pace, she became surer of herself. This was where Sisslio had gone with her - she remembered moving upwards here at an incredible speed!

      Terzin struggled to keep up with his friend, who was now bolting ahead. The stairs seemed to go on for infinity, and they were racing uphill for several minutes. Suddenly, a waft of clean, fresh air blew into the Lupe's face and he tasted winter again.

      Dayne leapt off the last step and into the night air, her feet making contact with the cold, moist snow underfoot. Before it had seemed that she loathed nothing more than the freezing, fluffy substance, but it was different now - feeling the chilled air of the season indicated that she'd found their way out - she'd chosen the right path.

      "We're OUT!" she yelled victoriously. "Kay, let's get to that field and kick some League behind for Sisslio!"

      This time, Terzin couldn't help but laugh at loud for the combined reasons of the amusing nature of Dayne's enthusiasm, as well as the fact that he was happy to be out of the complex network of canyon corridors.

     Gazing at the star-speckled sky, the pair of companions took on new confidence in their mission and without once looking back, bounded forward into the darkness, towards the field where Frey had perished millennia ago.

     *

     Aly and I held our breath as the light grew steadily brighter, and then took on the colour of fire. I realized what was happening, but didn't understand why.

     Tasson was coming back.

     It seemed like a lifetime before the light finally began to ebb to a subtle glow. Slowly, the shape of a Cybunny lying on its back began to rise out of the casket and slowly moved until it was standing upright. As his feet touched the ground, he seemed to make the transition from celestial to mortal. The bow and quiver were summoned into his hands, moving so naturally that it didn't seem to be unreal.

     His head was bowed, the strands of flame-coloured hair that sprouted between his ears falling thickly into his eyes. He raised his face towards us and his eyes opened, millimetre by millimetre. I could see that they were a strange, steely blue hue, something I hadn't noticed in the memories.

     His mouth moved as he spoke my name, which was barely a whisper.

     "Sisslio…"

     I hesitated for a moment, and Aly, beside me, glanced from one Storm-blessed being to the next, unable to predict what would happen next.

     "Yes." I strove to keep my voice from shaking. "I didn't know…"

     "That I would come?"

     "Yeah."

     "We have to end this together. We have to…kill her."

     I gulped, the enormity of my task falling over me once more. I didn't know what to say, and Tasson brushed past me, his fur blazing, although his body was no longer illuminated by the ethereal light, which had shrouded him moments ago.

     I knew to follow him, and with Aly close by, we ascended from his tomb.

     We passed Saskar on the staircase, and the old creature gaped as his distant ancestor strode by him. He was stricken mute, and Tasson paused to stare at him once, sadly. There seemed to be no need for words, and we continued upward.

     After travelling up the mouldy staircase yet again, I was assaulted by a fierce gust of icy wind. We were outside again, and although seeing the physical world in which I lived heartened me, I knew that I was not yet free from my quest. Tasson stood by me now - we both had reason to fight Frey one last time.

     Aly spoke up suddenly. "Come on," she urged, "Let's get moving - the field's over a day's journey away." She took a few steps forward, but Tasson held out a paw, the stark blackness of his pelt seemingly absorbing the whiteness around him. Instinctively, the Striped Zafara stopped, knowing not to cross the revived archer.

     He turned around slightly and looked at me, deep wisdom dwelling in the well of his eye. He was the black heart of the white winter, and I met his gaze evenly.

     "Use the Storm," he said, and I didn't know why, but I had almost foreseen his words - it was so clear to me that the Storm's strange power was my new tool.

     "How?" I asked.

     "The Storm is controlled by emotion, thought, and most prominently, instinct. Take us there."

     By the expression on his face, I could see that he would not elaborate. He barely showed emotion, and I could understand why. His previous life had been scarred so harshly, and his business now involved only Frey, the Storm, and myself. I knew I had to do this, even if I had no clue as to how. I had to trust in my ability to wield the surreal magic I'd been born with.

     My eyes closed, and I tried to think about something. Anything. I visualized a storm, clouds rolling, rain falling, lightning striking. What could it do? What was it capable of? The dark clouds moved silkily, tossed about by the atmospheric gales, the raindrops sped by, perfectly straight, like silver hairs. The lightning spun out from the darkness and illuminated the sky in savage streaks, like neon marks left by a demonic beast's scathing claws. I realized that it was so full of movement, and I wanted to ask the question: "Can it move us? Take us where we want to go?" But I hesitated. No questions; only the Storm. I was taken back to the League's HQ for a millisecond - when I had climbed that staircase in an impossibly short time. I felt a crackle of lightning in my soul, and I knew that I had succeeded in awakening my power.

     I opened my eyes and looked upon wintry reality once more. Tasson looked inexplicably satisfied, Aly looked at me although I was a different person than the Sisslio she knew. I tried to soften my gaze to reassure her that the Storm didn't change anything, but I had no time for sentimentalities.

     I felt the flow of air around us change, and a sudden weakness came over me. My desire to be standing on the field intensified, and the snow began to feel like bullets of rain. It took much of my strength just to keep up this beginning motion. "Take us there," I whispered, feeling the Storm building up as I continued to focus. This was it. Frey was waiting for me - and I was going to meet her. The thunder crashed in my mind, and I knew that I could do this.

     The swirling air bound me tightly, holding onto me as it prepared for its journey. A second later, the world began spinning past in a wild blur of colour as we became superior to time and space. The wind was rushing; the lightning and thunder collided in lapsing rhythm. I couldn't see Aly or Tasson, but I could sense them. Tasson was subtly proud, and Aly was awed that I could do this.

     As I looked ahead, only one thought filled my mind:

     I'm coming, Frey.

     *

     Dayne and Terzin tore through the woods, a lithe, muscular Lupe racing through the trees gracefully, while beside him scuttled a shopper-extraordinaire Zafara who had never gone on a jog in her life. Fortunately for Dayne, darting through throngs of Uni's Clothing customers to haggle her brains out had its benefits. She was able to keep up.

     The two were rapidly closing in on the fringe of the field they had travelled so far and long to get to. As they neared the edge of the trees, they simultaneously put on an extra burst of speed and their thoughts were one: For Sisslio.

     They broke free of the cover of the mass of spindly overhead branches and continued across the meadow, its grass cloaked by the thick blanket of snow. Their breath turned to icy clouds as they continued on, hanging in the air for a moment, and then fading away and becoming one with the breeze, like teardrops on water.

     Finally, shapes began to become clear on the horizon - an immense crowd of pets, who Terzin and Dayne knew to be impatient League members.

     The Cloud Lupe's heart was already exerting itself as it circulated the vital blood his vigorous body needed, moving at this speed, but it clenched in fury and sent a chill through his veins as his hate for Aillara welled up inside him once more.

     Suddenly Dayne stopped, and Terzin dashed by, only mimicking her action when he was a number of metres ahead of her. He looked at her questioningly, but the Island Zafara explained quickly.

     "We can't keep going - we'd run right into them and get killed," she reasoned breathlessly, panting from the long and hard run she had just endured.

     "But -" Terzin struggled to retort in some way, but he realized that for once Dayne was being the logical one. At first hesitantly, but then gradually moving faster, they headed back to the trees and looked out onto the open space.

     "I didn't think there'd be like so many of 'em," Dayne commented. "Your ancestors sure weren't much help." She then realized that what she'd just said might have been impolite and grinned apologetically. "No offence, or anything!"

     "None taken," Terzin sighed. "I'm starting to believe that Dredless was a bit of a simpleton."

     "Wow, really?" Dayne then nodded slightly, but couldn't stop thinking about what Terzin had just said. Oh jeez, she thought, this'll be embarrassing…

     She looked the Lupe squarely in the eye and spoke her mind. "Uh…Terzin?"

     "Yeah?"

     She paused for a moment. "Umm…what's a simpleton?"

     The Lupe only guffawed loudly in reply, and Dayne glared at him as he found amusement in her inferior vocabulary.

     *

     The Storm abated and as I looked around me, my blood ran cold - and yet this was not due to the icy atmosphere.

     We were on the field, just as I'd requested, but I stood next to the sword Sirocco, planted in the frozen earth, and around us stood ravenous-looking League members, Aillara included. The Eyrie's emerald eyes widened considerably at the sight of Tasson alive, but they then narrowed as she sniggered amusedly. "So you've arrived - and brought the Storm with you," she said. "We won't harm you - we come to see our Mistress return and do away with you."

     I almost laughed aloud, but this was only because of the Storm. Its power had not yet ebbed from my body, and I felt fearless for a moment. "She won't do away with me," I told her quietly. "We're here to end this."

     She wasn't at all intimidated by me, and the smile remained on her beak. Her ebony feathers gave off a dull sheen in the pale winter moonlight, which was beginning to slowly morph into sunlight.

     I was amazed at how quickly the night had come and gone, but I knew that as this new day dawned, I would confront Frey for what I hoped would be the last time.

     But why wasn't she here? Why wasn't she rising with the Storm?

     I first thought to look to Tasson for some help, some guidance, but I stopped myself. I was the Windstorm, and when it came to the conflict between Frey and I, I was alone. It didn't matter what kinds of magic Terzin and Aly used, or how good of a friend Dayne was - it was my fight. Even Tasson, who shared the pain I'd been cursed with, was separate from me somehow - he wasn't a part of my prophecy.

     I knew that Frey couldn't manipulate the Storm like we could, but right now it was the one thing that could bring her back for a third time. I then realized what I had to do - I had to awaken her myself, of my own free will. It was going to be like the first time I'd come to the field, only this time I wasn't being deceived by her ancient words. I knew that I would never be more ready and prepared to call on my Storm, which was becoming more and more familiar to me with each use.

     I looked at Aillara, who was fixing me with a quizzical expression, wondering why I was so silent, wondering why I wasn't afraid. I managed a weak smile towards my enemy and dug deep within my spirit to instigate the Storm's power.

     Lightning struck earth…where Frey now lay dormant, quietly awaiting my call, anxious to slay me. Electricity ran through the nerves of every living creature, and I needed it to wake her. I saw the image she had drawn to show Tasson so long ago: The white Zafara, curled into a ball, the star of the Storm resting within it. Light shrouded the Zafara, and I called to her softly. "Wake up. Come and face me. The Storm has returned."

     I felt the frozen soil beneath my paws shift - it shifted ever so slightly. I knew that if I hadn't been trying to draw on the Storm's magic, I wouldn't have felt it at all; I felt so much more attuned to the world now.

     I had to keep trying. Her anticipation was reacting to my aura's strength. I knew now that I was a mage, and a rare kind: a Storm mage. That's what the Windstorm was meant to be, or rather what Frey was meant to be after she stole the breath from my body.

     I tried again, focused my thunder to the underground realm in which she dwelled. "I'm here, Frey," I hissed, and sent waves of mental lightning radiating into the earth, which buckled under my feet without warning.

     The members of the League backed away in fear and awe; one or two of them were unsuccessful with their escape and fell into the newly formed crevasses, shrieking once, and then falling silent. I saw Aly leap clear of the destruction, and Tasson already safe, moving so quickly and gracefully that he was standing on stable ground in the blink of an eye. On the edge of my vision, I caught sight of two shapes break from the nearby forest - one a pale cobalt, the other an earthy tan with a burgundy cloak billowing out behind it - Terzin and Dayne.

     I sprang onto the nearest stable area of earth, and, struggling to keep my balance, made my way over to Aly and Tasson. Terzin and Dayne were a short distance away, and continued to near us. They weren't the most important things on my mind right now, though. Whipping around, I saw exactly what I'd expected: Sirocco, floating above the broken ground, white light beaming from its blade. In a moment, a hand covered in silky fur of the same colour gripped the hilt, and lowering my eyes slightly, I saw my sworn enemy, Frey KeenBlade who wanted nothing more than to trade my life for her own.

     She twirled the hilt of her gigantic sword deftly, and then brought it down in a graceful arc, bearing it single-handedly as she usually did. "You must be a fool, Windstorm, to bring me back yourself! Do you truly desire death?" She then tensed her legs and pounced across the destruction around her, landing nearby and continuing to face me.

     "You know what I want," I responded, drawing the Windscythe from the scabbard at my side. "To put you to rest." I then noticed that she wasn't even looking at me - she was staring distantly to my left. Turning my head, I beheld the sight of Tasson, bow drawn. I took a few wary steps to the right. What was happening? Did Tasson plan on killing Frey instead of me? It appeared that this was the case, but I didn't know why.

     "Tasson," she said, in the archer's direction. She gave a soft snort of casual glee and went on. "I see that you still loathe me; holding a grudge this long isn't like you, Tasson. You killed me once before, and yet you're still not satisfied."

     The Cybunny held his weapon steady. "You're the one who wasn't satisfied," he retorted. "One life wasn't good enough for you." He then followed this up with a dose of sarcasm. "You're above it all."

     Frey sneered at her one-time comrade. "So you see it fit to kill me in place of the Windstorm?"

     "He's an innocent creature - he should never have dealt with you! This whole matter of your lust for the Storm was between you and I, centuries ago. To disturb the modern world is going too far."

     "I thought the deaths of your precious family was 'going too far', according to you," Frey snapped in return. I saw a pained look come over Tasson's stern face. I was amazed, and sympathy washed over me like a chilling wave. After one thousand years, his wife and son's murder was still there, an eternal ache in his heart.

     The arrow was suddenly flying through the air, released from his hateful grasp. Frey held her ground, an open target.

     The shaft thudded into her chest.

     I couldn't believe it - I thought I would be the one to take her on. It wasn't supposed to end this way. I should have been sighing with relief, but it was just too…wrong.

     Suddenly I noticed the smile spreading across Frey's face. She snatched the missile from her body and broke it in two by clenching her fist, spitefully tossing the mangled arrow into the snow. "You can't kill me, Tasson," she informed him. "Yours is the Storm of the past. It can't harm me now."

     I was equally shocked at this statement. Tasson had no power as a resurrected being? But Frey had used her mage abilities against me in our first meeting. I then understood. The Storm was only in this world once each millennium. It couldn't exist in two beings at once. I was the only one present who held this power - Tasson's arrows had become mundane, and a great wind mage like Frey could render herself immune to such missiles.

     Tasson looked as though he was aware of this fact, but nonetheless thwarted. "So it's true," he breathed, "The only force that can rival your power is the Storm, just as I feared. I thought you might go peacefully with me - come back to death. But you'll never change Frey - I don't think I ever accepted that fact until now.

     "Why was it so important to you? Why were you so willing to steal my magic?"

     Frey's eyes narrowed, her mocking expression changing to a serious one. "Because it was unfair. I had to live beside you for so long, seeing the formidable feats you were capable of, but rarely performed - and I know why. You sensed my jealousy, and you abandoned the Storm's use to spare my feelings."

     "I didn't -"

     "Yes! I don't need your sympathy, Tasson! I never did, and never will! From no one! I had to show you my strength - and now I have."

     Tasson looked at her sadly. "You murdered our friendship, and then my family. Was that how you showed your strength?"

     Frey snarled at him. "It was. I don't care about you anymore, Tasson."

     Tasson swallowed, choked by his grief. "I cared about you, Frey," he told her, turning away. "I thought you knew that. I thought you were my friend. Now…" He paused for a moment, feeling deceived. "I know you never were." He turned his eyes towards me now. "Sisslio, I'm sorry I couldn't stop her. Don't hate her for what she's done to you. Just end this. For us."

     I nodded solemnly. It was time for me to face her. "I will," I promised.

     Returning the nod, the archer turned away again, and was lost to thin air in a number of strides. He had returned to sleep. All that remained was his bow and quiver of arrows, lying abandoned on the earth.

     I tightened my grip on the Windscythe's hilt and strode forward, ready for her.

     Frey did the same and smiled at me sardonically. "This is it, Windstorm. Meet your doom."

     She sprang, Sirocco glittering threateningly as it descended in a blow that could have hewn my head from my neck. I danced out of the way, but the blade came again, this time I blocked it with my own weapon.

     Our fight was performed with a new, desperate energy, different from any of our other conflicts. This time, we both knew, one of us would die.

     *

     Terzin stalked through the crowd. The fight between the Windstorm and Frey KeenBlade had begun, but so had his. His golden eyes scanned the mass of League associates until he found who he was looking for:

     Aillara, Siersha's killer, the Rogue of the League of Purity.

     She was his.

     He finally spotted her, and without an ounce of consideration for what Frey's other followers would do, he bounded through their ranks and threw himself onto his adversary.

     The Eyrie screeched in rage at the surprising attack. Rolling over, she managed to shake off the vengeful Lupe. The surrounding pets backed off in shock, some drawing weapons.

     "You're that HowlSoul that always follows the Windstorm around," spat Aillara, recognizing him in an instant. She could tell that a fight was coming, and muttered to her nearest comrade, "Do not interfere."

     "The soothsayer you killed - she was my mother."

     Aillara put on a face that was a sham of sympathy. "And you want the noble revenge you deserve?" she asked in a high-pitched, scornful voice.

     "Exactly!" And with energy forged from pure abhorrence, Terzin pounced, and their battle began.

     *

     Sirocco and the Windscythe clashed aggressively, steel upon steel. Her strikes were brutal, but I strove to match her blow for blow. Sweat had begun to gather on my brow and dripped into my eyes as I fought. Still, I never hesitated for a moment. I couldn't let her win. I couldn't let her steal my Storm and my life.

     The League had surrounded us, forming a kind of arena. Aly and Dayne stood in the inner ring of it, and I had lost sight of Terzin. Although hundreds of eyes watched us, our combat was ours alone. After a few heated moments I had forgotten about the world around me - about the Neopia I existed in. There was only her, our swords, and I.

     Frey brought Sirocco across again in a violent horizontal swipe. The Storm, always present, tingled, and with sudden reflexes, I ducked under the killing blade, the air humming above my head. I straightened up - the threat was soon gone.

     And so was Frey.

     I glanced around, pivoting on my heel, searching for her. She'd seemingly disappeared, and I was filled with dread at the idea that she could attack me from behind. I kept turning, not caring that the entire League saw was the Windstorm, spinning in circles. My life was at stake.

     "Frey!" I called out. I received no answer. I felt like Tasson in the secluded forest centuries ago, forever wary of his elusive enemy. She was hiding from me, and not out of fear. Rather, she wanted to instil fear into me.

     I never stopped turning, but at the same time, I made sure that I wasn't making myself dizzy. I cleared my mind, deciding that perhaps the Storm could pinpoint my foe's location. Focussing, I suddenly became aware of a living breeze following my every move, following me like a hunter stalks its prey. Then I knew: she was using her wind magic to make herself invisible.

     I saw her in my mind's eye and spun around to strike.

     I was met by Sirocco, speeding towards me. I had no time - I couldn't move fast enough. Frey materialized out of thin air, laughing insanely. She raised her sword for the deathblow.

     And her blade met my heart.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» EndingArrow: Part One
» EndingArrow: Part Two
» EndingArrow: Part Three
» EndingArrow: Part Four
» EndingArrow: Part Five
» EndingArrow: Part Six
» EndingArrow: Part Seven
» EndingArrow: Part Eight
» EndingArrow: Part Nine
» EndingArrow



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