Echoes||Finality: Part One
Note: In order to better understand the characters and events in this story, it is recommended that you first read Echoes||Betrayal.
I know not my future,
My mind never tires.
My spirit survives
Yet my body expires.
Though my past is a myst’ry,
My mind hears his bark
For I am an Echo
The Echo of Dark
She stared out the window blankly. What was there left to do? Supposedly she was washing dishes, but did dishes matter anymore? No. Nothing mattered anymore. Not after this.
It had been two days since Tyrrik Lonehowl had approached the Darkfang residence. She had been so excited to see him. He was practically a member of the family and she considered him an older brother. Every time he visited her father would laugh and say, “Well, if it ain’t my second son!” She loved it when her father laughed.
Her father had not laughed for two days. She hadn’t seen her father in two days. He was in his room, she guessed.
“Tyrrik! What a surprise! I thought you were off with Axe, becoming a warrior like your father,” Pyrai Darkfang, an aging but still well-muscled Darigan Gelert, had said with a laugh as he opened the door to reveal the shadow Gelert. The younger Gelert’s face was grim.
“I’m afraid I’ve been asked to deliver some tragic news,” Tyrrik had replied. Her father’s jaw had tightened and she had felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. There was only one thing she could think of that would have brought Tyrrik here with as cryptic a message as that.
The following few minutes turned her nightmare into a reality.
Conaxe. Her beloved elder brother Conaxe. Slain in battle. No. It couldn’t be. It was impossible. Axey couldn’t die. Axey was too strong to die. Axey had promised her he’d come back. Axey wouldn’t break a promise like that.
Her father had said only, “Galaduine, go get your mother.”
The tiny boat nosed into shore with a bump, startling the small Darigan Aisha nestled comfortably against my paw. She stretched with a mew, a sound I never thought I’d hear her make.
It felt strange, finding land here. In my homeland, an island far to the south known as Syrokia (named after the egotistical king), they had only spoken of the Neopian mainland in myths and faerie tales to keep the younglings entertained. Now, as I sat in the tiny stolen rowboat Voraki and I had commandeered when we had escaped that accursed place, it seemed as if I was staring at a legend.
There was nothing truly remarkable about the place we had landed except for the thick tree fringe a few yards away. Voraki had called this place the Haunted Woods. The woods I could see, but the haunted I didn’t want to find out about.
I felt so overwhelmed. So much had happened in the last few days that my head was swimming. I had gone from an average citizen to a soldier to a hero to a condemned convict in a few short hours, made a daring and risky escape with the help of a sorceress, and traveled for days in a stolen rowboat only to make berth in a land straight from a faerie tale.
That wasn’t the half of it either. I had started this venture as a simple blue Gelert bearing a duo of strange birthmarks upon either shoulder. I had thought nothing of these my entire life up to a few days ago. Now I was Electric, though not from a paint brush, and the great lightning bolts that streaked my body were only accentuated by the light blue scars that nearly disfigured my face: two across my left cheek in the shape of an X and a crescent shaped one that scored my left eye.
The biggest part of my transformation had been revealed the day of my escape when Voraki had come to rescue me from the dungeons of Syrokai’s palace. I had been sentenced to death because of what I was. An Echo. The Echoes, Voraki had explained, were pets of prophecy, each commanding a specific element, who were reincarnated from ancient heroes. I was the reincarnation of their leader, Voraki had told me. At first she had called me the Echo of Power, but had now revised the title to Echo of Essences, stating that there had been an error in the translation from the ancient tomes from which she had studied her entire life.
I wasn’t sure what she meant by this as I knew very little about her past, or her present for that matter. Voraki was a mysterious little Aisha, but for some reason I felt very comfortable with her, despite the fact that we had met less than a week ago. I trusted my tiny guide more than I trusted most of the people I had known my entire life.
“Come on, come on,” Voraki yawned, hopping to shore nimbly, pulling with her a small brown sack. She rummaged around inside of it for a moment as I leapt ashore after her and pulled the boat onto the sand so that it wouldn’t be washed away.
“Don’t bother,” the Aisha said, noticing my attempts, “We won’t be needing it anyway. Here, put these on.” She tossed something black to me and I barely caught it.
“Klutz,” she mumbled, shaking her head as I fumbled with the fabric. I slipped the article, which turned out to be nothing more than a black tunic, over my head, fastening a thin leather belt that Voraki had also chucked in my direction about my waist. This was followed by a black hooded cloak. I struggled to pull my ears through the holes cut in the hood and I heard Voraki chuckle.
“Hurry up, will ya?” she laughed impatiently. She was already dressed to match. Apparently, Voraki had planned this a bit more thoroughly than I had thought.
“I’m goin’ as fast as I can,” I muttered.
“Right.” Voraki rolled her eyes. The minute I had pulled both ears through the holes, something leather nailed me in the face.
“You gotta be more alert than THAT, yeah?” Voraki laughed as I rubbed my nose.
“What’s this supposed to be?” I asked, confused.
“It’s a sheath, genius. For that giant wood splitter of yours,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I stared at her as if she was insane, and at this point, I wasn’t quite sure that she wasn’t. “Uh, Voraki? How am I s’posed to fit an axe into this little thing?” I asked, studying the small leather sheath. It resembled a narrow tube.
“Idiot,” the Aisha muttered, then noticing the confusion plastered on my face, she sighed, “You really don’t know ANYTHING about magic at all, do ya?”
“Well, they always used to tell us that magic wasn’t real, so no, I don’t,” I replied honestly.
“Well, give it here then, huh?” Voraki demanded, holding out a paw.
I handed my axe to her hesitantly, not sure that her miniscule frame could support the weight of it. She grabbed it from my paw quickly, and I was surprised to see her lift the large metal object with one paw. She brought the blade close to her face, studying the intricate carvings of Draiks and fire that its creator had adorned it with. She reached out with her other paw and tapped the emerald eye of the uppermost Draik lightly.
A few uneventful seconds passed and I was about to accuse Voraki of being completely insane when the blade of the weapon began to glow a light gold. It was a soft glow, seemingly warm, like that of a small fire. I gasped as the blades on either side of the handle began to fold in, disappearing into the steel of the handle until the axe was little more than a metal pole with one leather bound end.
“Didja think this was just a normal weapon, huh?” Voraki asked, raising an eyebrow. I just stared at her incredulously. It was at that moment that I realized just how ignorant I really was. I was brought out of my thoughts by the voice of Voraki. “Give me the sheath, yeah?” I obeyed, allowing her to take the bit of leather from my paw. She slid the axe handle down into it smoothly and tossed it back to me.
“Now when ya draw it the blades oughtta just pop right out again. Nice bit of work, that is,” Voraki observed. “Now let’s get goin’, yeah? We need to get through here quick as we can. All sorts of ‘undesirables’ hangin’ ‘round here, ya know?”
“Right,” I said, nodding. A thought struck me then. How exactly did Voraki know where we were going anyway? I put the question aside for later. Better to just get going now.
“This way, pup,” Voraki stated, motioning for me to follow her before disappearing off into the trees. I did my best to follow the faint outline of my friend moving ahead of me, though I nearly panicked a few times when I momentarily lost sight of her.
We had been walking, or stalking really, through the darkness for nearly a half hour when Voraki stopped suddenly, causing me to nearly crash into her. We were standing at the edge of a rather large clearing, the moon lighting the place up, causing my eyes to need to adjust. I squinted in the direction that Voraki was staring and saw, to my great surprise, a large decrepit old house standing in the center of the clearing.
“There it is,” Voraki stated simply, pointing at the house. “Now, c’mon. We gotta be stealthy. He doesn’t like visitors too much.” She started off toward the house and I had no choice but to follow. Upon arriving on the porch, the house seemed even spookier than it had before.
“C’mon, c’mon, no time to lose,” Voraki whispered, pushing the door open with a creak that seemed unnatural in the deathly stillness of the clearing.
The old house was extremely dusty, as if no one had cleaned the place for years, but in the dust I could see the outline of seemingly fresh paw prints, and large ones at that. They looked Zafara in nature, but I couldn’t be sure in this light. I turned back to Voraki, who was mounting a spiral staircase a few yards away. She motioned for me to follow and I complied, ending my study of the mysterious foot prints reluctantly.
We traveled up the old staircase slowly, unsuccessfully attempting not to make much noise in the process. The old, dusty stairs creaked horribly with each step, and I was starting to get nervous from all the secrecy. We were nearly to the top of the staircase when the step beneath Voraki gave a terrible crack, and before I knew what was going on, it had given way beneath the Aisha, who let out a squeak of surprise.
I instinctively reached out blindly into the large dust cloud that had formed and my paw closed around something thin and furry. When the dust cleared, I saw that I had just barely managed to grip Voraki’s tail. She was swinging back and forth slightly in the now open space where the stair had been. Her arms were crossed and she was staring up at me in annoyance. I reeled her up and set her on the stair above.
“Gah, stupid stairs,” she whispered angrily as she dusted herself off. She then turned to me. “Nice catch there. Maybe you’re not so useless after all.”
“Oh, thanks,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“Cut the sarcasm and let’s go, yeah? If he didn’t already know we’re here, he does now,” Voraki said, turning and climbing the remainder of the staircase. I followed, carefully avoiding the broken step.
We reached the next floor without further difficulty. I was about to ask Voraki which way we should go when she halted in the middle of the hallway and sniffed.
“He’s this way,” she said, pointing down the hall, “I can sense his aura, but there’s something weird about it... something almost... tainted...”
I froze. Something wasn’t right. I blinked rapidly. I wasn’t feeling myself. It felt like something was trying to control me from within. I obeyed it, whatever it was, and allowed it to direct my eyes to a room on the far end of the hall. There was a very faint yet distinct glow emitting from one of the rooms.
“Do you see that?” I asked Voraki, pointing to the room in question.
“See what?” she asked, studying the doorway closely.
“It’s glowing... don’t you see it?” I asked, squinting at the door, finding it impossible that she couldn’t see the pale blue glow emitting from it.
“Ah. I know what you’re seeing. If you’re thinking it’s odd that you can and I can’t, don’t. You’ve just discovered your aura sensing abilities. I thought you might pretty soon anyways. I can’t see it ‘cause the way I sense auras is different from yours. I smell them. You must be able to see them. How lucky for you. Going on scent isn’t always easy, y’know,” she replied matter-of-factly. I nodded. Auras, eh? That could be useful.
“Good thing ya pointed it out, too,” Voraki continued in a low whisper, “Or I would have had us searching every room ‘till we found him. See, smelling auras makes it a bit more difficult to locate the owner, since you can only detect the general area around them. You, on the other paw, get a visual signal. Makes it a lot easier, see?” I nodded again. I guess that made sense.
“Well then, no time for starin’ at the pretty colors, eh? Let’s go!” She began creeping forward and I once again had no choice but to follow. She froze at the doorway and motioned for me to go ahead of her. I raised an eyebrow suspiciously.
“Go on!” Voraki insisted when I stopped. “You’re the only one that can reason with him, ya know. Powers and all that, got me?”
“Yeah, I think so,” I replied, still unsure.
“He ain’t gonna go easy though, just so ya know. From what I’ve ‘eard, he’s right stubborn. You’re gonna have to try to tap into his psyche and awaken his inner Echo.”
“What?!” I barked, nearly forgetting to keep my voice to a whisper. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“You’re an Echo! Figure it out! My mentors may have said I had to find you, but they never said anything about teaching you. You have to teach yourself. However, they did say that when faced with another Echo your instincts will kick in and take over until you learn how to control them. It’s kinda like a defense mechanism, ya get me? Now relax, take a deep breath, and get going already!”
She shoved me lightly, causing me to stumble into the glowing room. As I crossed the threshold I noticed that the glow had become concentrated in one area in front of me.
In the middle of the room was an old armchair, facing a fireplace in which a small fire was crackling merrily. I couldn’t see the occupant of the chair, but the glow was resting in that area. I blinked a few times to clear the small dots the sudden light of the fire had forced upon my vision, and the glow disappeared. Odd.
“Um...” I stumbled over my words, not exactly knowing what to say or how to say it. Voraki wasn’t helping either as she slunk into the room behind me and whispered such encouraging words as “Get on with already, I ain’t getting’ any younger over here!”
“Uh... well...” I cleared my throat and took on a more authoritative tone, struggling to sound like I was experienced in these matters, “Echo of Darkness! I, Conaxe Darkfang, have come to... awaken? YES! Awaken you...so that you may fulfill your destiny against the forces of evil!”
I saw Voraki slap her forehead out of the corner of my eye.
“Or... um... well... uh.... that is to say...”
“Stow the gab, pup. I know why you’re here,” a voice came from the unidentified occupant of the armchair. The voice was icy, yet silkily smooth. It sent a shiver down my spine.
“You... you do?” I questioned, raising an eyebrow, yet thoroughly relieved.
“Oh yes,” the voice replied, “You’re here to finish what your friend started. The shadow child that was here earlier. Well, I’m afraid I can’t let that happen, pup. You see, I don’t take kindly to malevolent strangers.”
With that the chair slid back slightly, and the owner of the voice came into view. It was a Zafara. A ghost Zafara. But something was different. Something was wrong. The Zafara was slightly transparent, the wall behind him visible through his body. His eyes were a bloody red and, to my slight shock and Voraki’s as well, for I heard her gasp, his feet did not touch the floor. Rather, he floated a few inches above the ground.
“Oh no,” Voraki was muttering, “Oh no, oh no, oh no.”
The Zafara spoke again, louder this time, angry sounding. “You, pup, will not banish me from this world as your friend attempted to. I will not allow it.”
At that moment his paws began to glow with an eerie purple light, as did the crescent moon markings that were visible upon his shoulders. I drew my axe quickly, the blades folding outward with a swooshing sound as I did so. Weighing my options, I decided to try reasoning with the irate Echo.
“I... I don’t want to have to kill you...” I started, but he cut me off.
“Oh, you cannot kill me, child,” the Zafara hissed, forming a small orb of the purple light with his paws and readying it. He threw it in my direction with incredible speed. “For I am not among the living!”
To be continued...