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EndingArrow: Part Eleven


by sara_mossflower

--------

A Mage's End

My mind was numb to the pain that devoured me. I couldn't process what I was seeing: the massive blade of Sirocco, buried in my chest up to the cross-hilt. I looked up, and there was Frey, looking partially amazed that she had finally managed to inflict a fatal blow, but for the most part, she appeared malevolently triumphant.

     I saw blood staining my tabard, cloak and shirt. I felt it welling up in my throat. How could this be happening? How could I let her kill me? I turned my head slowly and saw Aly and Dayne on the sidelines, both horror-stricken at what they'd just witnessed. Aly suddenly drew her dagger and raced forward, screaming curses at Frey and slashing at the resurrected warrior madly. The world started to lose its clarity, and the sounds around me became muffled.

     Frey used a gust of wind magic to fling Aly away from her, but the Striped Zafara was back on her feet in a second. Frey lifted her sword clear from my body and I felt new pain. I was dimly aware of Aly's hands cradling my head, and her face above mine, crying endless tears, and she was shouting something at me. I couldn't focus though - couldn't read her lips.

     My vision darkened, and I felt her arms tighten around me. I couldn't leave her like this. I realized now how important Aly had become to me. The sight of her crying over my bleeding body made me choke on tears myself. She hadn't come here to witness my death - she'd come to help me defeat Frey in any way she could. I couldn't leave Dayne or Terzin either! How could I abandon them like this? How could I have made such a mistake?

     These questions and my regret built up inside me until I couldn't take it anymore. It couldn't end this way!

     Lightning.

     Thunder.

     They were still alive, even if I was on the brink of death.

     Please, I begged, save me. I tried to think of how to use my power, but my mind was fading - words wouldn't come together anymore. But there were other ways of commanding the Storm: instinct and emotion.

      This time I didn't think, just absorbed what had happened: my dying, Aly's tears, Dayne's horror, Frey's victory, and forced them all away. These things fled at the coming of my pouring rain, my roaring thunder, my clashing lightning, and my clouds of shadow.

      My vision suddenly began to return, I heard sound, the pain became fresher, and Sirocco was suddenly embedded in me again. Aly began moving backwards and was then sprawled on the ground, only to be lifted up again, flying through the air towards Frey, where her dagger erased the slashes on the mage's snow white pelt. I realized what I was doing.

      The Storm could not heal, but it could alter Time.

      I had a second chance.

      I started to hear sounds again: of seconds and milliseconds bending back on themselves, struggling to unravel the threads they'd already forged, take back the deadly strike I'd faced. In a short time, I was standing up, facing Frey again. Aly was back with Dayne in the crowd.

     I was ready to try again.

     The level slash came at me at head level once more, and I ducked it as I remembered doing. When I stood up again, Frey had vanished, just like before. This time, I was aware of what she was doing. Reacting swiftly, having no time to recover from my recent near-death experience, I swung the Windscythe wildly, and heard it clash with Sirocco's invisible blade. Steel seemingly grated on air, but then Frey appeared, shedding her cloaking breeze.

     "Curse you!" she roared, lunging again. I could tell that she was also aware of the shift in time I had just created. "This time," she seethed, swinging her blade brutally, "I'll slay you quickly! You can't use your precious Storm with your head hewn off!"

     I didn't bother replying, just fought to stay alive. Sirocco kept coming for me, but I dodged each blow and returned each with an equally aggressive attack. Every time her sword came at me, I was reminded of how it had speared me in another time, where I would have died. But there was no time for fear. I had to win this time.

     Frey was all I saw now; I was caught up in the intensity of combat once more, and all my focus was riveted on her blade, and on her movements. If I missed even one subtle twitch, it could mean my true demise. My muscles strained to hold back every lethal swing, and our weapons clashed, ringing incessantly as each blade strove to kill.

     Everything was happening so quickly, and despite my recent use of the Storm, I felt energized and refreshed. This fight was mine - it had to be. If it wasn't, I would lose everything. Sirocco came again, and at each lunge I felt my heart skip a beat in a combination of fear and exhilaration. I knew that one wrong move would give her an opportunity to kill me swiftly, and I feared failure. But I also knew that I had already endured the bite of her blade, and had overcome it once. I matched her. The Storm was the only thing in this world that rivalled her power, and I had been fated to be born with it. Frey hadn't given me the Storm, as I'd once suspected, she'd merely predicted it, and granted me the ability to resurrect her. That was all. I was the bearer of the Storm and had been her enemy for a millennium, ever since she knew I would exist, ever since she knew Tasson's magic would have a successor.

     I felt no hate, only destiny consuming me. I fought on.

     *

     The confrontation between Zafara mages was not the only one occurring. Lupe and Eyrie circled one another, constantly seeking a vulnerable opening, somewhere where claw, beak, or fang could wound. Both Terzin and Aillara already carried an assortment of gashes and other cuts on their flesh, and continued to scathe one another as their fight wore on.

     The group of League pets had backed off considerably, forming a second ring around their Rogue and her opponent. Two battles raged on the field now.

     Terzin suddenly saw his chance. Leaping into the morning sun, he came at Aillara from above, letting the sky's light blind her as she sought to fend off her enemy. He came down at her forcefully, tearing at her jet-black wings insanely. He felt as though he finally had her in his grasp, as though he was only seconds away from ridding Neopia of Aillara and avenging his mother, but suddenly his foe was gone, vanished from underneath his assaulting claws. Terzin glanced around, dumbfounded but still alert. His mind reeled, trying to find the reason for Aillara's disappearance. Then he remembered when they had first met her, she had managed to somehow teleport herself through the bars of a cage. It was her outlandish magic at work.

     The milliseconds ticked by like hours, as he knew that upon her reappearance, she would catch him unprepared. "Curse her," he muttered under his breath, licking at his bloody lips.

     Suddenly a cold chill of sweat prickled along the Lupe's back, and inexplicably -

     - He knew.

     Whirling around, the Cloud Lupe bounded into the air, and with an almighty swipe, brought the Eyrie down from the air, sending her colliding with solid earth, leaving her gasping in pain on the ground a moment later.

     He didn't know how he had managed to strike her as she defied time and space in her almost impossible movement, and right now he didn't care. He padded toward his adversary, whom he knew was not yet defeated.

     "I'll kill you for that," Aillara seethed, and managed to stand, her sleek, obsidian body still strong. She tensed, and sprang.

     *

     Frey's strokes fell upon me as though her blade was a relentless hailstorm. Each assailing blow reverberated down the steel length of my weapon, making my hands vibrate painfully with the remnant strength of her attack, but I didn't care. I retaliated each time, continuing to feel rejuvenated since I'd saved myself with the Storm. Our conflict wore on, and I wanted it to end, although a piece of me was enjoying it. I was finally matching her. The first time we'd met, I had never held a sword before; I hadn't even known what the Storm was. I was still nowhere near the level of an advanced mage or a battle-scarred warrior, but it was something. I was mastering the Storm; I was meeting her blows. I was strong, and I could stand against her. There was nothing that could happen now, save for victory and defeat. I was anxious for the outcome in a strange, excited way.

     But then my eyes locked on Frey's, and my excitement ebbed. Her dark eyes were just too…cold. Too hateful. And I felt ashamed of my previous confident thoughts. I knew her past, I knew how twisted her life had become, and I felt new pity rise in my heart. She had been hurt too, in her fight against Tasson. I'd always thought of Frey as invincible, but I saw now that she was afraid of things too - afraid of death, afraid of losing, afraid of being seen as weak. She stood alone in her fight against me - I knew that she didn't even need her League; it was they who needed her. I didn't know why glory was so important to her, and I didn't know why she had to manipulate others to get it, but there was nothing I could do to change her. Tasson had tried, and failed. She should have died, and yet she wouldn't be beaten. It was my fate to resign her to her life's end, as it should have happened so long ago.

     With all these thoughts whirling through my brain, I was bound to make some mistake, something I realized too late.

     I underestimated Frey's return attack after she parried my offensive blade. My grip on the Windscythe's hilt wasn't as concentrated or firm, and it was only a matter of seconds before Sirocco swept it out of my hands.

     The blade spiralled through the air, glistening forlornly as the distance between it and me grew. It landed close to a League member in the inner ring of the crowd - I realized that it would be a great risk to attempt to retrieve it.

     But then I realized that I didn't need it. It was only a sword, and this was only a battle. I had the Storm; it had defeated Frey and her Firejewel before, and I knew it could do it again, only more ultimately.

     I stood my ground as she advanced toward me, still hateful, but noticeably cautious. She knew the power I possessed; she now understood what I was capable of. I thought of what to do - how I could use the Storm to finish her. I had used it against her before, but it hadn't been a visible magic, but a hidden awareness that held a strange invincibility. I cast about for some kind of inspiration, some idea of how to handle my ambiguous gift.

     Out of the corner of my eye I saw it: Tasson's discarded bow, with the arrows strewn carelessly beside it, loosely stored within the quiver. The Cybunny archer had used an arrow to channel this force before - maybe I could do the same.

     Frey came at me unexpectedly. I dived onto the ground to avoid the assault, rolling in the direction of Tasson's weapon, although I was still some way away from it.

     I strove to catch my breath and in that one second of hesitation, Frey was given all she needed. She flew at me a second time, and I dodged a moment too late; no sooner had I seen her blade than a garish stripe of crimson was painted across my side.

     The wound was a deep one. I felt my eyes watering as I put a hand to my torn flesh and clothing. Despite the pain that now throbbed through my veins and nerves, I knew that I had to keep going. Dancing away from my enemy, I managed to swiftly cover the short distance between her and Tasson's abandoned quiver.

     Wincing, but continuing to focus, I picked up the bow in my hand and shakily set an arrow to the string. Frey stopped where she was, a few metres away, and snickered. "You think it noble to slay me the same way Tasson did," she observed. "My vigilance was blinded by my victory when he fired that cowardly shot. This time, I won't make that mistake."

      "I won't let you live." I panted, breathless with pain. I'd never fired a bow in my life, but I had to make this one count: the arrow, which - I prayed - would end everything.

      All the hate I'd ever felt for Frey was gone - what remained was a desire to do what I was fated to, what was best for everyone. Regret boiled up inside me too, and time seemed to slow without the Storm's power as a collection thoughts rampaged through my mind for what seemed to be the millionth time in this venture. She could have died honourably, she could have died with Tasson's friendship, she could have died without greed, she could have died a good person! Why had she chosen the wrong path? Why did people like her have to fall prey to such corruption?

      But her mistakes didn't matter now - only her death.

      Frey was charging towards me, reducing the firing distance I had. She was trying to slay me before I let loose my shot. I stood up and willed the Storm to fill the arrow I held, as Tasson had centuries ago. I commanded it to kill her, to ease the pain of everyone who had suffered because of her awful ambitions.

      She was almost upon me.

      Help me, I thought, perceiving blue-grey smoke coiling around my arm and the arrow in my mind's eye. My thunder and lightning were preparing to become her fatal bane. She was closing in fast, and I felt cold sweat permeating my fur - there was a very real possibility that I would fail.

      I finalized my focus, not knowing whether I would live or die, succeed or fail. Nevertheless I had to try - this was my last chance. I called out to my aura:

      Release her.

      The arrow flew truly from my hand, striving to conquer the difficult odds. It was just like the vision and the memory. A liberating feeling washed over me as I saw Sirocco coming at me for what could be the last time.

      The blade descended, but its speed slowed and Frey plunged it into the earth in front of me, not as a threat, but for her own support. She leaned on the hilt, her dark eyes wide in mingling incredulity and pain.

     The shaft was in her heart.

      I'd struck her.

      I could sense the Storm stealing her life, and as she looked at me, I could see in her eyes the sorrowful realization that she was now taking her final breaths - she wouldn't be able to return again this time. My shoulders slumped in relief and the bow fell to my side as I sat there, face to face with my dying enemy, who I had struggled to defeat for so long. Now I was the victor.

      "Well fought, Windstorm," she said, her ragged voiced laced with anger and hate.

      "You can't hurt me anymore," I whispered, so quietly that only she could hear me. I still sat there, waiting for death to claim her completely. I felt awful, in a way. I'd killed so deliberately, and I knew that this would change me.

      I wanted to stand up, but something kept me there - no matter how despicable and traitorous Frey KeenBlade was, I didn't want her to die alone, amidst a crowd of followers who didn't even know her.

      Suddenly her gaze brightened unexpectedly, and I tensed in fear - was she not dying? She was looking at me as though I was the one with the arrow in my heart. I was filled with new trepidation, and instinctively backed off, clutching the bow and a handful of arrows.

      Frey's pristine, white body began to quiver with subtle laughter. Her eyes glowered at me, but her mouth was a thin smile. "With the final ebbing of my power," she intoned, "I give the Windstorm's future a promise!" She touched Sirocco's blade, my blood on it still wet. She took the living liquid into her left palm and held it out to me, scarlet. I didn't understand what was happening.

      "Foreseeing your darkest hour, I unleash upon you a child of darkness."

      She took her right hand and moved it along the sword, breaking the skin. With morbid delight, she pressed her two palms together, locking her fingers firmly. It was then I understood: her words were rhyming - she was forming a new prophecy!

      "Born from the love of one pair and the hate of another, heir to my vengeance they shall be."

      I frantically raised the bow again. I couldn't let her do this! Why couldn't she accept death? Why couldn't she handle defeat? With shaking fingers, I set another arrow to the string. "SHUT UP!" I bawled. "STOP DOING THIS!" I didn't want to shoot her again, but she wouldn't let up, although I could sense her strength quickly fading. Couldn't the Storm kill her faster? In a frenzy of fear, I remorsefully launched my second arrow - this one didn't fly as straight, and struck her lower, almost in the side.

      I saw a look of pain cross her countenance again, but she only continued, and voiced her final words. "Bearer of the Storm they shall smother - the Windstorm's doom will avenge me!"

      I felt tears course down my face as she grinned victoriously and then let death claim her as her body slumped and then sprawled gracefully on the snow-coated grass.

      Frey was dead.

      But she'd left her legacy.

     *

      During Sisslio and Frey's battle, Terzin had continued to face Aillara. It was becoming a strange fight; the Lupe felt as though he was constantly one step ahead of his contender, subconsciously knowing what she was going to try next.

     As the final arrow met the resurrected mage's flesh, the Eyrie had dealt him a vicious blow to the face, marring his muzzle with blood. It was a lucky shot, considering Terzin's subtly unreal advantage.

     The Lupe cried out as the claws raked his skin, and took a step backwards, blinded by a gruesomely ruby wall. He pawed at his eyes, blinking until he could see clearly, but by then the Eyrie had flung herself onto him, knocking the wind out of his lungs.

      Terzin looked up into the cruel green eyes boring into him and glanced around for somewhere to escape. He then realized he didn't need to as he noticed Aillara's defiant stance, four feet planted apart over his body. He smirked as he saw his path to triumph. "Goodbye, Rogue!" he cried, and plunged his back feet into her stomach, slashing at feathers and flesh with his claws.

      Upon this sudden impact, Aillara was forced backwards onto the ground, and her enemy was immediately upon her. Not wasting a moment, Terzin lashed out at her unprotected belly again and again, until the flesh was one fatal gash.

      The Eyrie gasped as he inflicted the wounds, and tasted the blood trickling out the side of her beak. At that moment, her Mistress collapsed a short distance away. I failed, she thought, and with a final, weary breath, her ebony head lolled limply onto the grass, and there she lay still.

      Terzin gazed at his fallen adversary. He gulped, wetting his dry mouth. "It was what you deserved," he whispered hollowly, and then turned toward Frey's last battle.

     *

      I don't know how long I stood staring at Frey, lying there without a hint of life in her. It amazed me and horrified me at once: she was gone, forever. I would never cross swords with her again as long as I lived.

      I was dimly aware of the dispersing League pets, afraid now that they'd lost their long-celebrated heroine. Aly and Dayne eventually approached me, Terzin hastening forward as well from another area of the field.

      None of us spoke, not even to acknowledge the nasty slash adorning Terzin's face. I could sense that the Lupe wasn't thinking about his wound either; all four of us had our attention locked on Frey's body, lying in the cold snow, the noontide sun shining softly upon it. We beheld the sight of victory together, and in a few minutes we were standing alone with Frey and Sirocco.

      I suddenly felt entirely exhausted, and I knew that it was because I'd been using the Storm so profusely in the past hours. My tiredness wanted to claim me, but I wouldn't let it. "We have to help her," I choked. "We've got to bury her. She…she won't be alone that way."

      I didn't understand why I felt this way, why remorse and pity were consuming me, why I felt sorry for the one person who had wanted my death so desperately. But I didn't hate her anymore. After declaring her first hoax of a prophecy and luring me into her deceptive plan, after almost killing me, after whittling away Dayne's life with the Firejewel… I felt that I had a duty to lay her to rest for eternity.

      Terzin, Aly, and Dayne silently agreed and understood, and after bandaging Terzin's injury with some cloth from Aly's cloak, as well as my own deep gash, we began the task.

      About an hour later after a time of absolute hush, it was done. Now I was satisfied. After taking the strain of the Storm's use for so long, I collapsed into the snow, as my enemy had before me.

     *

      I wasn't surprised to wake up in a room that was evidently a part of either Aly or Terzin's home. I was wearing a clean, dry tunic, underneath which were tightly bound bandages girding my side wound. My body ached, and I realized that the cause of this was the concentrated battle I had recently participated in.

      I searched my memory for the events of Frey's defeat - I remembered it all clearly, perhaps too clearly. Had it really happened? Was it finally over?

      The answer was yes; I knew that despite the disbelief that I felt, Frey was gone.

      But was she really? I shivered at the thought of the new prophecy she had recited as she died. It was still fresh in my mind, and I knew it always would be:

      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.

      I wasn't sure whether to doubt what she'd said or to fear it. She had been weak when proclaiming her words, but instinct warned me to be wary.

      A few minutes later, I felt strong enough to venture out of the room. It was Terzin's house again - the one out of the two that was closest to the field. The Cloud Lupe stood alone in the front room - it looked like he had been pacing alone for quite some time. He stared out the window into the fading afternoon light. The day was almost gone.

      "Hi," I said, voicing my return.

      "Oh," replied Terzin, turning to face me. "You're up."

      "Yeah," I responded. "Where are Dayne and Aly?" I then questioned, noticing that they weren't present.

      "Aly went back to her house to get something to eat, and Dayne's taking a nap." He met my eyes. "I killed Aillara back there," he stated. "Both of our enemies are dead now."

      I didn't agree. "Do you believe that?"

      Terzin knew what I was talking about. "Aly and Dayne told me about what she said after you shot her. I don't really know what to think. There's no way she can return now - she's been killed and the balance of life and death was set right again."

      I shrugged, a little too casually considering how I was feeling. I wanted to change the subject. "Where are my clothes? And did you get the Windscythe back?"

      He nodded. "The clothes have got to be replaced or repaired - that slash she landed you tore your shirt and tabard apart. Sword's over there." With a twitch of his tail, my eyes were led to the far wall of the room, where the Windscythe stood, sheathed in its scabbard. I picked it up and drew it. It was strange that this had not been the weapon to see Frey's demise. My gaze followed the blood channel down to the cross-hilt, where I noticed something peculiar. Near the blade's base was an engraved symbol which had not been there before: a simply-etched eye, a star contained within the pupil.

      I suddenly recalled waking up in the League's dungeons, scraping off Siersha's blood from the blade - I'd noticed the symbol then, too. Terzin's golden eyes narrowed curiously and I lowered the sword, showing him the strange mark.

      To my surprise, a smile crept along his muzzle. "That's the mark of a soothsayer," he informed me. He looked deeply into the metallic eye as though it was part of a living countenance. Slowly, the engraving faded unnaturally, leaving smooth steel once more.

      "She was watching me," Terzin whispered. He looked up again. "During my fight with Aillara, I kept getting strange…predictions. I knew what her next move would be." He turned away towards the window once more. "I think that she gave me her gift of seeing before she slept forever."

      I slowly sheathed the blade again, unnerved at what had just happened. "Terzin, it's sort of my fault Aillara killed her," I choked. "She was telling me about Tasson, and…"

      He interrupted me gently. "No. It was her choice to stay until the League came. She chose her time of death - probably saw it ahead of time."

      I fell silent, realizing that there was absolutely no blame laid upon me. Quiet forgiveness hung upon the air.

      Suddenly there was the sound of wood slamming against wood from two directions, one much more subtle than the other. Dayne had flung open the door of the back room she'd been snoozing in, and Aly had just returned with a large paper bag filled with food.

      "WOA!" shouted the Island Zafara. "That was like SOOO weird! We both came in at the same time!"

      Aly cocked an eyebrow at her obnoxious friend as she closed the door and placed her package on the table. "Yeah," she answered dryly, "wow."

      She shed her winter cloak and, again simultaneously, the two Zafara girls noticed that I was awake and well. Dayne got to me first, throwing her arms around me in an exaggerated hug. "YAY!" she hollered, "You're ALIVE!"

      I winced as her movements caused my wound to twinge. "Yeah," I gasped. "Uh…I'm good."

      "You did so well defeating your bad little enemy, Sissles!" I knew that Dayne was just acting dumb to cheer me up, and it was sort of working. "You're the best!"

      Dayne then abruptly turned her head to look at Aly, who, I noted, looked fairly annoyed - her arms were crossed and she was trying to avoid eye contact with either of us. I smirked; she'd always thought of Dayne as impractical and simply weird. I sighed peacefully as I realized things were going to be friendly and normal for quite some time now.

      Dayne was still clinging to me. Snickering softly, she whispered in my ear, "Getta load of this - it'll be hilarious." She then drew away and started being loud and crazy again. "You'll always be my stormy little buddy!" With that, she gave me a soft kiss on my nose. My eyes widened - what kind of demented joke was she pulling?

      Suddenly, Aly's indigo eyes mimicked mine. Maybe I imagined it, but one of them seemed to be subtly twitching with agitation. "Uh…Dayne?" she asked.

      "Yes, mademoiselle?"

      "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??"

      The shopaholic darted away from the charging tomboy with a series of high-pitched shrieks. "Eeep!" Then, "Ooh! Jealousy has gotten the better of the great Aly SkyGaze!"

      "STOP ACTING STUPID!!"

      "Make me!"

      "I'm NOT jealous!"

      Feeling inexplicably embarrassed, I backed off to where Terzin was standing, chortling noisily, and was entertained by the girls' antics from there.

     *

      A few days later, Dayne and I headed back to Neopia Central.

      I stood alone in my room for the first time in many days, looking around at the daily familiarity that I'd left behind. My bed, window, desk, the photos in frames… I was amazed at the casual air I lived in. My battle against Frey had been my life for so long now, and with any luck, it would stay this way.

      Moving over to the far wall, I gazed out my window onto a split view: the forest, in which was hidden the WindRoads passage to my left, and the busy city streets of Neopia Central to my right. It was so strange to me: a picture of the two worlds I lived in. One was filled with danger and I was bound to it by fate, a place where I had made both loyal friends and treacherous enemies. The other was the everyday bustle of ordinary Neopia, a society oblivious to the existence and importance of what lay beyond the nearby woods. They would never know my pain, my burden, or my power. And maybe that was for the better.

      I sat down on my bed, grateful that I had lived to do so. I relished the rising dawn as its warm golden rays crept into my soul.

      I was home.

      I was free.

The End

 
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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: Part Ten



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