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The Challenge: Part Two


by kandeegrrl

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He was walking through a wide field, in the middle of the night. He could see no moon or any stars, only the myriad blades of grass that rustled gently beneath his feet. A fog had begun to sweep over the ground on which he stood, obscuring his view slightly. The fog soon became so dense that he could not see his hand in front of his face. He looked down to his feet, which he could also not make out. It gave him the creeping feeling of floating in the clouds.

      Flash of lightning in front of him... was he in the clouds, then?

      Rain poured down atop his head, soaking him quickly and utterly.

      In the distance, he could make out a pair of hooded grey eyes, glaring at him through the fog - or the clouds... Muttering something...

      “You have such potential...”

      “What you lack is ambition...”

      “We can give you the power...”

      “Power and wealth beyond your wildest dreams...”

      “We ask for little in return...”

      The voices grew louder, like thunder in the storm, breaking through the haze, and all he could do was stand and listen... He found his feet would not move...

      The voices became so loud he could no longer understand them. He clutched his head, the back of his skull throbbing...

      Corran woke with a start, sweating and breathing in gasps. He sat up slowly and let his head rest in his hand.

      It wasn’t the first time he’d had that dream, and he had the eerie feeling it would not be the last. It was so very strange...

      Feeling he could sleep no longer, though it was probably only just after midnight, he quietly got to his feet, grabbed his cloak, and headed out the door.

      Like any other castle, Meridell’s had many secret passageways. One of which he, Torch, and Flame had discovered one day while strolling around the many halls of the castle.

      He reached the burning torch against the wall, tilted in to the right, and stepped forward. The wall revolved around, leaving him standing on the other side in front of a winding case of stone steps. He made his way up the stairs, which led to a small, barely noticeable, balcony. He leaned against the stone railing of the balcony, resting his elbow on the rail and his chin on his hand. Even though his sleeping pattern had changed somewhat since he began living in Meridell Castle, he was still very much a night person. He was beginning to believe his mother’s absurd suggestion that he had Werelupe blood.

      In the silence, he couldn’t help but think of his strange dream. They had been coming for nearly a week now, and they were always the same. Voices whose faces he could not see, promising him wealth and power, among other things. He neither understood nor wished to understand why it kept repeating itself. It was beginning to irk him slightly.

      As he gazed at the twinkling stars, he noticed a bright flash of light in the horizon. A shooting star maybe? It seemed to be growing larger...

      Soon, he realized with a shock, he observed it was none other than a light faerie. She landed softly and was sitting on the railing, still glowing. She was probably taller than he was, but it was hard to tell as she was sitting down. Her wavy blonde hair fell to her waist, and, like the rest of her, seemed to glow in the gloom of the night. She turned to look at him.

      “I did not realize that any other than myself visited this tower at night.”

      Somehow, for he was still wide-eyed in shock, he managed to respond, “I don’t often. I couldn’t sleep.” He shook his head, a bit ashamed of himself. “Where are my manners? I’m -”

      “Corran Halcom.”

      “It’s creepy how people keep doing that...”

      The faerie giggled. “I am a friend of Illusen; she told me your whole story.”

      “Ah.” He tried not to look to pleased with himself. Even the faeries told tales about him.

      “My name is Bella,” she said, extending a slender hand. “Arabella, actually, but I prefer Bella.”

      He shook her hand politely and asked, “So... why are you here, Lady Bella?”

      “I’m visiting Illusen,” she answered. “She’s a dear friend of mine. I haven’t seen her in years, so I decided to come and see her here in Meridell.”

      Corran smiled. “Do you come up here often?”

      She nodded. “Among other places. Illusen has often commented that I am the only light faerie she knows of who enjoys the nighttime.”

      “Nighttime is my favorite time,” said Corran. “My mother says I have Werelupe blood.”

      She laughed again. “It’s a good time to think.” She was silent for quite some time, then, “May I ask you something, Squire Corran?”

      He nodded. “Sure.”

      “Has... has anything been happening lately that was a bit... unusual around here?”

      Corran laughed. “You mean besides the bandit incident?”

      She nodded. “Naturally. Something that was strange... or unexplained in some way?”

      He shivered. “Well, I’ve been having nightmares... always the same one.”

      Bella looked genuinely interested by this. “Really... would you mind terribly to tell me what that dream was about?”

      He hesitated, but perhaps the faerie could help interpret his odd nightmares. “Well, they all start out differently. In one I was in a forest, in one a cave, and in one a field.” She nodded for him to continue. “But they always end the same; I’m surrounded by clouds, and I hear... voices...” He knew that if any of the older inhabitants of his village had heard he was hearing voices, they would spin a tragically eerie tale of a young man who lost his mind.

      This didn’t seem to surprise Bella, though. “What do the voices say?” she asked, looking wary.

      He gulped. “They... promise me things. Fame, fortune, power... and they want me to do something for them in return.”

      She looked very wary now. “What do they ask of you?”

      “They never say... they just say, ‘We only ask for one thing in return...’”

      The light faerie was silent for a very long moment. “I’ve been having nightmares too,” she finally said, “of a darkness, spreading.” She had an odd look in her eyes, and for the first time he found himself wondering how old she was. He had heard that faeries lived to an immense age. She appeared extremely young, and yet her eyes seemed to hold a wisdom more ancient than Neopia itself. Did all faeries look like that?

      “It’s not an immediate threat...” she explained slowly. “It’s more gradual... slow and precise.”

      Corran was struck by a sudden thought. “Can all faeries see the future like you can, or just a few?”

      Bella thought for a moment. “Well, it’s not exactly the future I’m seeing... it’s more a feeling. I’ll leave the Seeing for the Seers. And to answer your question, many faeries share dreams like this, but very few actually See and know the future.” She shook her head sadly. “Oh how I pity them.”

      Corran didn’t quite understand this comment. “Why do you pity the Seers?”

      Bella sighed, a sigh that told him she had answered this question many times before, then said, “Think about it, Squire Corran. You see the fate of others, and sometimes even yourself. Since you are the one who has Seen, you feel... like you must fix the situation. For instance,” she began to spin an example, “if you were to know that someone was to die, you would feel compelled to do anything to stop the death. If you didn’t succeed, or, worse, if you ended up causing the death, how would you feel?”

      The red Kougra winced. When you put it that way, it was understandable why they were to be pitied. Such a thing would be more of a burden than a gift. “I imagine it would haunt me for some time,” he answered finally.

      The light faerie nodded. “It’s good that there are very few of them.”

      The squire sighed and leaned against the stone wall of the balcony, gazing at the stars again, and suddenly feeling exhausted. “Do you think this darkness could have anything to do with the bandit situation that happened recently?”

      Bella nodded her agreement without hesitation. “Absolutely. Bandits don’t try to take over kingdoms, Corran. There was a much mightier, more ambitious source behind that little fiasco.”

      He now felt more tired than ever. Being a squire was turning out to be exciting indeed. He just wished the excitement would give him time to rest...

      Oh, don’t be so whiny, he thought to himself. This is your dream. You wanted more excitement, and that’s what you got. You’re just tired, that’s all.

      Maybe I should just go back to bed...

      He turned to the light faerie, who also looked weary. “I’d better go,” he said. “Squires don’t exactly get up at a decent hour.”

      She only nodded slightly as if she had only barely heard him, and he made his way back down the stairs, turned the torch, and headed back to his comfortable bunk in the barracks.

      He moved on tiptoe between bunks, careful not to wake anyone up. Flame was a particularly light sleeper, and Corran had no doubt that if he woke him up, he’d never hear the end of it. Since Flame’s bunk was right beside his own, he had to be very careful...

      He slipped under the covers and settled into the most comfortable position he could manage without making much noise. To his right, he heard Flame grunt loudly, but he was still asleep. Corran too closed his eyes and let the darkness take him.

      Within moments, he was snoring quietly and, thankfully, enjoying a blissfully dreamless sleep.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» The Challenge: Part One
» The Challenge: Part Three
» The Challenge: Part Four
» The Challenge: Part Five
» The Challenge: Part Six



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