A Scholar's Nightmare
It was all she'd ever really wanted, a 'good night's sleep'. From the day she fled her homeland, nightmares had plagued her evening hours, sending her into exhaustion and paranoia alike. Dreams, or perhaps more accurately memories, of a time long past...
The Sway had been right to grow cautious when she began to strike with the Quill. They had been right to heed the words of a young Draik in their number, of one whose knowledge dug deep through Faerieland's ancient tomes and then far beyond it. His sources had assuredly not missed their mark- the tale he found on the matter of chosen, 'blessed' Neopians, and of tales of a Black Rain that once gathered above the skies of Shenkuu. Above a village which now bore naught but shells of houses, ruined remains of what once was. However, there were details that only the 'survivor' could know, details that mere fishermen carrying young Acara away, or flying Pteri scanning the skies in horror, could not have possibly known.
It was her fault, Kimi's vanishing. All of it. They had only been small girls, playing into mazes and traps meant for experienced explorers rather than desperate children who hoped to impress their families- a description which, in the end, applied only to one of them. She did not know what happened to the Korbat of course, just that when the third wave of challengers had begun to knock her back with fires and spells, driving her to flee, Kimi had been there. Yet though she had joined the Awakened, her visage spoke of light and life, nothing less. Golden hair and yellow garb spoke of a timeless state, from which she had never left. Perhaps she really was a ghost. Perhaps the light in her form had merely served to illuminate that much of her, and was that even possible?
She didn't know. If anything, it hurt to think of. She had pulled her friend behind her with a wide grin and a cheer filled laugh, ignoring the protests of the ailing Korbat. Kimi did not get to see the sun very often- she was prone to illness, and kept inside where she was 'safe'. She, on the other hand, had been born into a very influential family of scribes and scholars, who had high expectations for their daughter. The maths and sciences, that would be where she was to excel. She would become a well literate scribe and eventually go on to the Imperial Exam. That was what they told her all her life, what they groomed her day, after day, after day into, and it made her sick!
She had been sick of it all, the endless lessons, all the quizzing they gave. It was never good enough after all, and there was always room for improvement. True scholars had no room for myths of old, for artifacts and rumors, for expeditions to the deep...
So she skipped her classes. She ran, she caused messes, she ignored all of them, and in her flight one particular day she managed to find her.
She would share stories with her, and Kimi would talk about how fortunate she was to have her friend there. She would begin to take her classes again, and in return for stories of such things, Kimi would tell her about what her own family had passed to her- a well guarded shrine, with an entrance to caverns far beneath the ground.
How could she resist such a trek, in the end? How could she have possibly told herself 'there's nothing there', that there was nothing the world could learn from its halls, that it was merely an old shrine nothing more!
There were two statues there, each holding great, glassy orbs in their grasp. One light, one dark, and she herself had taken the one that gleamed with light. In hindsight, she should have known. She should have known not to play this game, this game of them taking treasures from the deep for the world to see, with a clever little gimmick line of 'we plucked them at the same instant, both of us!'
The instant they touched those orbs, they should have known.
Only Darkness could seal Light.
Only Light, could seal Darkness.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered to herself, clutching her books close. Her papers and scrolls lay strewn at the side where she'd struggled to search for any sign of the opponent on the field now, for a single bit of information on just what it was they were dealing with. It was a 'thing'- that was what it was. A shade, dreary grey and white, bringing nothing but lethargy and sloth in its wake. Though the Acara had long been out of the runnings of battle she had never really left her duties. If she could not fight, then she would read, and assist where possible. If anything, the dire times they had come to were made clearer than ever before when the Professor himself had joined the fray, stepping out to face the leaders of the other factions with a stern gaze. Where the battle would go from there, it should have been obvious.
However then, the Obelisk had exploded with a power none had ever even seen. Shades of six great terrors rose, and stood before each 'team', and only them. Soon enough, what had been a war for the obelisk, became a war of much greater consequence...
Yet how? How could she fight!? Samuel had long since left, grim upset in his eyes as he took his armor and moved for battle. And the most she had done in response was cling to her pillow and close her eyes, burying her face into the fabric as she struggled to come to grips with nightmares of a different sort. Of shades from the past coming up from the dead, standing before her in battle, throwing light against her, as if to taunt her for her greatest mistakes! 'I bless you', the Dark Faerie had whispered that day, that day when she unknowingly unlocked her seal. A bond like no other had been forged between them, one which cost her all she knew. She'd fled that land and she'd never looked back- she'd carved for herself a new identity, a new life, and banished everything until the only place where it would find her was in the darkened depths of her mind and nightmares.
A good night's sleep was something she had craved for a long time. With things such as the battle now, that did not change. Not when the earth itself was becoming a weapon of war, as Vide of the Sway revealed powers the Draik had likened to her own, facing Pride down alongside many others. As fire seared the sides of the golden Greed, whilst water was turned to try and douse the flames of Wrath... Wind and magic cut away at envy, but when her eyes had fallen upon the shade of Death, she found herself blinded by the light which one among the Awakened had at their disposal.
She could not look to her, not for long, yet to look at her own faction- at their own 'great fear', the apathetic Bruce whose flippers lazily waved dismissively toward them as his haze filled the air...
She could not do that, in the end. She stood above the battle field, her books still in her arms as she peered out from the tent, and she could not bring herself to enter the fray and fight.
'Why not take a little nap?' someone seemed to whisper. 'Just a little lie-down, get some shut-eye...'
If she slept, she would only have nightmares. Of that she was certain, yet the voice persisted, with Yuume sinking to the ground and staring toward the battle with glazed eyes. She was so tired, she would admit. So very tired, and for reasons entirely contrary to what plagued her comrades. For while they avoided slumber for the sake of knowledge, and progress, she herself did not avoid it for anything more than fear and experience. If she slept, she would have nightmares. It was a fact that could not be avoided.
'Just sleep,' the voice whispered, soothing, and quiet. 'Close your eyes, slumber makes you wise...'
How could she sleep when so many others fought now, when so many others resisted the urge? How could she think to look them in the eyes at the end, when all she had done was lie upon the ground in silence.
'Is there anything else that could be done?' the voice questioned, and for an instant her eyes widened with shock. 'You have brought much pain, young Neopet... And experienced just as much. Why not close your eyes then?' Apathy whispered. 'Leave it for later... Sleep, for now...'
Sleep... But all that would do was-!
Silvery grey stood before her and as she looked up, the white smoke of the spirit misted over her body, coiling about like a thick blanket of plush. 'Sleep,' the shade repeated, the mist filling her eyes as they closed over. 'There will be no nightmares here...'
She could be assured of that, couldn't she? A peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, ('what are you doing'), for the first time in years. A sleep which no one, after all, would hear of ('What are you doing?'), which no one would care to awaken her from...
'What are you doing?!' a harsh voice thundered, her eyes closing as they met with darkness. Again Yuume ignored it, and so the voice spoke louder. 'WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING? STAND, AND FIGHT!'
Aaaah, but she could not, wasn't that right? There wasn't any way for her to fight, therefore there was no point. Overall she could care less-
'Is that so?' The voice was cool and sharp, and in the silent realm that surrounded them now, it was all which she could hear. 'THEN TELL ME,' the voice snarled, 'Do you truly intend to waste what power I have granted you? What life I have allowed you to keep?!'
She knew this voice.
Yuume looked up, and she was met with robes of black and violet, large leathery wings and the tinted skin of Dark Faeries making it impossible to mistake who it could have been. She was perhaps a little more 'cleanly' dressed than a number of Dark Faeries known to the world- her robes hung loose, and they adorned by silvery jewelry, blackened stones set into them and accompanied strangely enough by ghost white pearls. Her eyes were different from he typical 'Dark Faerie' as well. Violet as they were, the whites were tainted, a solid black meeting her now. Perhaps it was a nightmare; a depiction of what she could barely remember, the faerie of the seal which she had so foolishly released.
She looked up to the Faerie, and yet there was neither anger nor hate in her eyes despite her words- and with such a being standing before her now, it was her own anger and hate which allowed her to snarl, which allowed her to clench her fists and look up to the Dark one with nothing but bitter rage. "What use is your power," she spat, the Dark one merely staring in silence. "What use is your DARKNESS, when it brings only destruction?! Or do you deny what your power does?" Yuume added, the Faerie continuing to stare in silence. "Do you somehow feel that 'Black Rain' was nothing but a coincidence!?"
"I do not deny that my release caused such calamity," the Faerie responded coolly. "Nor do I intend to falsify regret for such an act. The release of my power was beyond my control," she continued, ignoring the trembling Acara at her feet. "Such things are unworthy of my pity."
"You..." She shook, eyes welling with tears as she looked to the Dark one. "YOU DARE-!"
"Such things are not worth your guilt either," she continued, adjusting her gown to come and kneel near Yuume's level. "For your dreams to be plagued with such things is hardly my doing... I have tried to quell such things on my own, yet still, you push my power aside..." Such a thing was even a question to her?
Such a thing could be considered so trivial to this Dark one, such things that had affected her for nearly all her life!?
At last the tears fell down her face, and as she cried she bowed her head, unable to speak. 'So?' the Faerie was questioning her even now, still staring, still standing before her. 'Will you take my power? WILL YOU FIGHT?'
It was not the shouts of the Dark Faerie which awoke her. The shouts of battle on the air, of blades falling to the ground under an unstoppable urge to collapse in exhaustion and simply leave the fight for 'later'. Of the comrades who resisted, who shouted for their friends to awaken, but to no avail!
They would not awaken.
Not unless it was stopped.
'That's right,' she heard dimly, the Dark one's voice hovering in the back of her mind. 'Accept it,' she hissed, and as Yuume's eyes opened, so did they in the waking world, as darkened shadows ebbed from her feet. 'Accept my power!'
"I'll fight," the Acara responded, shadows coiling about her form and about her bade. "BUT I WILL NEVER ACCEPT YOU!"
Whether those below knew who she referred to or not, did not matter. Whoever it was to lay the final blow as well did not matter, and time and time again it seemed, 'Apathy's mist would send her flying back.
Each time however, the shadows would set her back to her feet, and she would be launched into the fray once more.
The past, the future... Nothing of it mattered in those moments, nothing but the present.
For now, her 'exhaustion' would bear the same source as her fellows.
For now, it seemed, all of them fought as one.