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EndingArrow: Part Nine


by sara_mossflower

--------

Ancestral Voices

Terzin, Aly, and Dayne sat near the foot of the central pedestal of the chamber, Saskar still standing in the shadows, thinking it best to keep his distance from the feisty striped Zafara who had threatened him. They had been waiting for close to an hour so far since Sisslio had gone to speak with Tasson. Silence permeated the air of the dark room, its occupants lost in their own thoughts, having nothing to say to one another.

      Aly looked up at the intricately decorated walls for what seemed to be the millionth time. She rubbed her hands together, feeling the slight moistness of cold sweat that had accumulated upon them. She'd felt inexplicably nervous ever since he'd departed, and was failing to calm herself. The thought of her friend trapped in the depths of Tasson's casket was all too eerie. She knew that this wouldn't be happening right now if she and Terzin hadn't met Sisslio at the Art Centre last year. Deep down, ever since Frey's resurrection, Aly had felt guilty for what she had unknowingly brought upon the white Zafara she'd become so close to. She kept going over what had happened to all of them in her mind, scarcely believing that it had actually taken place. The only sound the Zafara girl could hear in her subterranean surroundings was the hammering of her heart against her ribs, ringing in her ears.

      Terzin, too, was lost within himself. He had so many complexities shooting through his brain. First and foremost were the League's return and the current situation they were in - one that would surely result in Frey walking upon Neopia's earth and grass, alive once more. But closely shadowing this contemplation was the sorrowful enormity of his mother's death. He hadn't seen Siersha die, hadn't witnessed the final breath rattling from her mouth, but Aillara's claws had dealt a mortal blow, and he knew instinctively that as he sat here in this chilling, dark place, the old soothsayer's body was laying alone, glazed by frost and snow in the ruins of her own home. However, he was trying his best to hold back his grief for the time being - Sisslio's battle with Frey was the issue at hand right now, not the loss of his parent. The Lupe knew that he would have time to think about his own problems later, but now was a time for self-sacrifice.

      As for Dayne, she felt out of place, but as resolute as Terzin to stay loyal in the face of great peril. For most of her life, modern commercialism had dominated her behaviour, but ever since she'd been dragged into the churning mix of events spawned by Frey's Windstorm prophecy, she'd subconsciously come to value life and people a little more. The world had been forced upon her with all its harsh reality, but she had discovered that she was strong enough to deal with it. It was really her experience with the Firejewel that had turned her life around. Sisslio had risked so much and tried so hard to save her from a terrible fate, something no one had ever done for her before. Now Sisslio was the one in trouble. If anyone had suffered the most by the end of all this, it was him. She'd been his friend for such a long time, but she'd never truly acted like one. Dayne's face took on an utterly determined expression as she silently promised to return the favour. This was a valuable friendship, and she wasn't going to let Frey destroy it.

      Finally, Aly broke the silence. "How much longer do you think it'll be?"

      Terzin gave a forlorn shrug. "I have no idea."

      "Well I'm not gonna sit around and do nothing for much longer," she replied. "Frey isn't going to fall if we just stay here!" Aly whirled around menacingly towards Saskar, who hadn't said a word. "And don't you even think of giving me lip for saying that, you withered lump! You know we're your enemies, so live with it!"

      Suddenly Aly became aware of a strange sensation - an incredibly subtle humming in her ears. She froze; her hate towards Saskar vanished from her mind. She desperately wanted to decipher the new sound. In a few seconds, the whispering melded into a voice. "Listen to me, for you are my kin."

      Aly turned back around and looked at the walls again. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Terzin had stood, a curious, probing look in his eyes as well. Dayne stood off to the side, looking slightly out of place. Her attention was fixed on the carvings, although the naked eye revealed nothing of particular interest. She glanced over her shoulder, guessing that perhaps the speaker was hiding behind her, but her inspection was futile. She turned back around -

     - and almost fell over at the sight she beheld.

     Standing on either side of the stone casket was a brown Zafara and an electric Lupe. The Zafara stood in front of Aly and the first thing she noticed was that they shared an uncanny resemblance. It was as though she was looking into a mirror. Although the other's fur was a completely different colour, her facial features were so familiar. And her eyes… Aside from herself, Aly didn't know a single person who had the same, inimitable, indigo eyes as she did. She knew who these pets were, and yet she couldn't find her voice. Her mouth had become completely dry.

     Terzin spoke for her. "D-Dredless?" he stammered, staring at his long-dead ancestor. Aly knew that the creature who stood before her was her own predecessor, Bryony SkyGaze.

     "You see before you our spirits," explained Dredless to his descendant, as well as Aly. "We were called here by the force of Tasson's actions. In our lifetime, we too were deceived by Frey, but we only learned the truth in death."

     "So…why are you here now?" asked Aly, her palate finally finding some moisture, "You're not her enemies."

     "But you are," Bryony pointed out. "Because we placed our trust in her, we unknowingly doomed our entire family lines, which is something we are ashamed of. Because of this, we've chosen to aid you against Frey."

     "You must leave for the field which she was buried under," Dredless instructed the two mages. "The League has already departed for it, anticipating her return. The odds are not in your favour, but if there were some way to stop them, this would greatly help you, for even if Frey is defeated, they will remain. Now is the time to act."

     Dayne knew that she wasn't being spoken to as directly, but she agreed with the dead Lupe's reasoning. With the Firejewel, their escape had been particularly difficult because the League had wanted to kill her.

     "But…what about Sisslio?" asked Aly of her ancestor. "We can't just leave him here."

     "One of you should stay," suggested Bryony. "And bring both he and Tasson to the field as well."

     "Tasson?" Terzin and Aly both spoke at once, scarcely believing what they were hearing. Tasson was to be brought to life as well?

     "It has been his choice to defeat Frey and end the Windstorm's misery," explained the Zafara. "But all of you will have parts to play. Our time has nearly concluded, and as such we must leave you."

     Dredless had the last word. "We wish we could be of more help, but we are not as powerful as Frey and cannot walk among the living for long. Please," his eyes, as well as Bryony's, became sorrowful, as though they were begging a favour that they knew they were not worthy of. "Redeem our families, and vanquish this evil."

     Slowly, their forms faded from the room, leaving Dayne, Aly, and Terzin alone again, save for Saskar, whose eyes were wide in silent disbelief at what he had witnessed.

     "Tasson wants to defeat Frey? Why?" Terzin pondered this fact aloud, wondering why the archer was trying to turn Sisslio's fate around.

     "That doesn't matter right now," said Aly huffily. Their ancestors' visit had been a brief one, but despite this fact, it had left a "Bryony and Dredless knew more than we do, so we better listen to them. We need to leave for the field." She paused momentarily, but then looked over her shoulder at the casket, now seemingly alone, lacking the presences of the two mages of old who had been standing with it only moments ago. "Dayne, you stay here and bring Sisslio when he wakes up."

     Dayne's eyes narrowed sceptically as she noticed the reluctance in the other Zafara's voice. Personally, she was completely fine with staying here. She would be helping, but avoiding losing her life for the time being. But she saw in Aly's eyes something that was rare in their indigo hues: simple, honest concern. Dayne couldn't help but smirk slightly as she figured out why, and then made up her mind. Life was about risks after all, wasn't it? And helping each other was a plus - she'd known that since she was four. "Aly," she said, "You stay here. For once, I'll take a turn springing boldly into danger."

     "What?"

     "You'd be better off here." Dayne smiled and for the first time looked at Aly as a genuine friend. She understood what the mage was feeling, and that made her feel a little bit closer to her. "I'm sure of it."

     Aly considered retorting with some kind of tough remark, but she thought better of it. Dayne was right. This was where she wanted to be. She nodded in affirmation. "Okay. You guys go ahead, do what you can."

     "We won't let down good old Sissles!" cried Dayne with a whoop. "Frey's goin' down!" Terzin was staring at her, but Aly gave the Island Zafara a small smile. At a time like this, enthusiasm was only to be admired.

     "Let's go, then," urged Terzin, striding ahead to the exit. He didn't know whether Aillara had left for the field or not, but he had a score to settle with the Eyrie. Dayne bounded after the Lupe, waving at Aly one last time.

     "Good luck," called the striped Zafara as her friends disappeared from view. She then glanced into the corner where Saskar still sat. She knew that the old Cybunny was terrified of her. He wasn't going to stop them, and he wasn't going to say a word for the time being. But even though he posed no threat, Aly didn't want him here. She shot him a glare. "Do me a favour," she hissed, "Get out."

     She said it with enough cruel firmness that the creature was soon scuttling up the staircase in seconds. She didn't care if he went outside or just sat on a stair higher up, just as long as he was gone from this place, she was satisfied.

     She sat down on the earthen floor, leaned her back against the stone platform, and waited.

     *

     I'd seen so much more than I'd expected, all speeding across my vision and through my mind in a whirl. Scenes of Frey first recruiting her League, the day they had marked the canyon as their headquarters, times when they would rampage through villages that were home to well-known mages, who Frey would slay in order to prove her magical and physical prowess.

     There were also glimpses of times past, which I knew Tasson yearned for desperately. These were memories of when they had been true comrades, similar to when I'd seen them enjoying archery practice together on that summer afternoon. They had met with other friends during friendly get-togethers, used their mystic abilities to help other pets, and there was even a time when Frey had first witnessed Tasson use of the Storm -he had stopped time as he fought to keep his cool when dealing with a scraggly band of rogues who had infiltrated the village's boundaries in hope of stealing some valuables. I now understood why the Storm could control time; it came from the relationship between lightning and thunder in a natural storm. The light was seen first, and then its sound followed a number of seconds after, and this lapse in time contributed to the strange magic.

     I was already unsettled by the countless images I'd already seen; the contrast between Tasson's recollections of Frey's cruel betrayal and hunger for invincibility and those of their former bond of friendly alliance were just too absolute, too different to believe. When Tasson's voice spoke to me now, within my head, it sounded as though he was choked by tears or filled with regret, and this emotional sense only intensified as the memories continued and synthesized into a living blur of primeval tragedy.

     When the next memory unfolded, I immediately felt a petrifying sensation wash over me. This one was different than the plethora of the past's fragments, which I had been forced to endure. I could tell that this memory was one of the final ones, and it carried a chilling atmosphere with it. I could do nothing to stop it, and allowed my mental eye to open wide and gaze upon Tasson's miseries.

     It began in a matter of milliseconds; Tasson opening the door of his home. Gouges had been made in the walls of the house like the savage claw marks of some gargantuan beast. An adult, brown Cybunny lay on the floor, along with a small white one. By the look of absolute horror and sorrow that came over Tasson's countenance, I knew that this was his family - a wife and child.

     I felt as though I was standing in that doorway, gazing down at the bodies of Aly, Terzin, and Dayne, left cruelly in the vicious wake of Sirocco, the only weapon I knew to be capable of such terrifying gashes. My heart felt as though it had been run through, clenched tightly and hurled into oblivion. I could have died for the deep grief I felt. I knew Tasson's pain, every infinitesimal bit of the twisting despair, anger, fear, and revulsion that were consuming him at this moment.

     Frey hadn't come for him yet, but she'd done something that was a greater affliction than the archer's own death; the death of his loved ones, displayed in brutality.

     He slowly walked over to the pair of still forms, the callous enormity of what he was seeing dawning upon him, and soon his eyes were brimming with burning tears. He crouched down near his child, cradling its head in his arms, closing its glazed eyes with a gentle finger. He then looked upon his wife's face, knowing that she would never give so much as a twitch ever again, never smile again.

     He couldn't hold it back anymore, and didn't know why he'd tried to. The Cybunny let his tears stream forth, and with a voice wrung with nothing but pure remorse, he screamed.

     *

     That was the beginning of my war against her, Tasson said, his voice as quiet and delicate as an echo.

     "I'm so sorry," I whispered, knowing that no number of words, no matter how strong or consoling, would ever heal the invisible wound that Frey had scarred his heart with.

     Don't be, he answered. I was surprised at the calm tone of his voice. It was partly my fault that they died, and I also take some of the blame for the way Frey became. I could have dealt with it differently, but I waited too many years, and when her League was strong enough…she did what she'd promised to do - demonstrate her power to its full extent. She killed my family.

     "And that's how the war started," I stated, knowing already that it was a fact. "The battle that she died in."

     Yes, Tasson replied, but didn't elaborate. I was already choked by Frey's cruelty - I couldn't believe that she'd gone so far as to slay those who were so close to her old friend. Her hunger for superiority was simply insatiable. I didn't hear another word about the incident from the archer. I had to see it for myself.

     *

     Tasson stood at the foot of two low mounds of dirt, one much smaller than the first. Kneeling, he placed a handful of wildflowers, which he had arranged in a rugged bouquet upon each one. Looking down at the pair of graves, he let his eyes stare wistfully at the only things that proved the former existence of those who had been so precious to him. "I hate her," he hissed through his teeth, and was silent again for a brief moment, letting the wind ruffle his flame-coloured fur slightly. He then spoke again, as quietly as before. "It's gone too far now. Her desires were too great…and because I didn't act, she murdered you." Tears coursed through his ebony fur from swollen eyes, and he covered his face as he choked on his woe. "I can't believe I trusted her!"

     The Cybunny sat alone for several more minutes, his body racked with sobs of perpetual sorrow. After a while, his sadness slowly began to ebb, and he then stood up. "I've got to do something," he whispered to himself. "I'm the only one who can stop her." He didn't relish the thought of using the Storm to get Frey under control, but it was probably the only force that would rival her strength now. He then turned his back on the graves and strode back to his home.

     The boughs of trees, thick with lush green foliage, then obstructed my vision. I had a strange, soaring feeling in my stomach, as though I was flying ahead, swifter than the world around me. I knew that a brief time was passing in the memory, and the next thing I saw was Tasson standing alone in a forest, his bow in his paws with an arrow set to its string. He appeared to be waiting for something or someone, and I could easily guess whom.

     Suddenly, a voice called from the trees. "Is this how you greet me, Tasson? Ready to put a shaft through my heart?" I recognized the taunting yet mellifluous tone as Frey's.

     "Show yourself!" he cried in response, slowly pivoting his body to scan his surroundings. There was no trace of the rogue mage.

     "Can't we just talk, like you requested? I don't feel threatened by you, Tasson, but evidently, you fear me."

     "You could come out and kill me for all I know - that's what you did to Quiela and Forlan! I know that we're enemies now, Frey!"

     "Enemies we are, true enough," agreed Frey in a tone rich with false lamenting. "And therefore you now have the desire to slay me?"

     The Cybunny's fingers tightened their grip on the arrow's fletching. "I don't want to, but I have to."

     "You know that we'll meet later on, Tasson, and that is when a true reckoning will take place. You also know of what I want: to match the Storm's power. I won't let you stop me. I didn't allow Gerdon to stop me, or Skirnir, or any of the other mages…"

     "They meant you no harm whatsoever - and yet you went out to hunt them down and butcher them," Tasson snarled, still glancing around at the trees encircling him.

     Frey didn't acknowledge this remark, and merely continued. "…And I didn't allow that scumbag pair of rabbits who you found worthy to be your wife and son to stop me either. I can't see the logic behind you settling down with a family, Tasson. You should have exercised your talent, allowed it to swell in glory. But you gave up on it, as I knew you would. I had to make you see the truth, rid you of the naïveté that has continually blinded you…so I vanquished that which you loved too dearly. Face reality now, archer. You have only me and the Storm to deal with now. That little runt and his stupid mother got what was coming to them."

     Tasson gritted his teeth in rage and whirled around to face the source of the Zafara's voice. Targeting his enemy, he stretched the bowstring taut. "HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT THEM LIKE THAT? YOU'RE THE ONE WHO DESERVES TO DIE!" And with that he loosed his arrow, sending the missile speeding into the woods, its path fuelled by his unquenchable fury.

     There was a resounding echo of steel colliding with steel, which rang in Tasson's ears for several seconds, and then dimmed. Frey stepped out from an area sheltered by groupings of branches, which were densely coated with leaves, Sirocco held in front of her body diagonally, using the broad blade as a shield.

     Tasson panted heavily, realizing that he hadn't hit her. The mage padded forward, slinging her weapon over her back as she approached, her body now unprotected. Tasson's mind was numb, and he didn't reach into his quiver for a second arrow.

     Frey stopped a few metres away. "So you're ready to challenge me, then?" she asked mockingly with a grin. The Cybunny didn't answer, just regarded his foe warily. "I belong to the West, now, Tasson. Your home is the next place we will strike. Make a stand if you so wish, or be slain. Or you may choose to flee, and we will hunt you all down until the Storm is dead. Await me."

     The pure white Zafara then turned her back on the archer and brought her sword down from across her back so that she now carried it at her side. Tasson gazed after her retreating back, so exposed, so vulnerable to his arrows. He could end it all at this moment - kill her, and he would never have to fear for his own safety or that of his village ever again. But his body would not obey. He couldn't do it.

     Frey silently strode across the earth and was lost to the shadows of the forest.

     *

     I returned to the village and told everyone what Frey had said, and they agreed to take up arms against her. In a matter of weeks, her Western League appeared on the field's horizon, and we met them. Bryony and Dredless had befriended her; unaware of the slaughter she was capable of, not knowing what she'd done to me.

     I listened to Tasson, but realized that I couldn't reply; my voice had vanished from my throat. As he spoke, images continued, flashing across my vision at an uncontrollable speed, transforming into wild blurs, but still clear to me. There was Frey, swinging her sword in frenzy, laughing as she ran innocent Easterners through, using her wind magic to trap them so they could not escape Sirocco's hungry blade.

     This is the destruction we brought upon our world. Pets died, villages we didn't even know lost friends, and Frey was never satisfied.

     Bryony and Dredless stood back-to-back, fending off Easterners with their swords, seriously wounding the majority of their foes. There was an incessant ringing in my ears, a single, droning note that wouldn't let up and silenced all the other sounds around me. I wanted to scream at them to stop, tell them that they didn't know what they were doing, that they were killing innocent people, but my voice had been sucked away by the subtle screech as well.

     There was only one way to end it.

     I was suddenly the one behind the bow again, but my hands were numb to the feel of the weapon they held. I still lacked a physical body, but I wanted one. I wanted my existence back, to be able to run away from what I was seeing, to have muscles which I could will to move, to have a mouth with which to speak.

     But I had to stay like this, in Tasson's place again. I held the arrow that would end it all, and every second that ticked by before I loosed it was almost more than I could take. I wanted Frey to go away forever, but I didn't want to be the one doing the killing - did that make me weak? Did it make me a coward? I didn't know, and I didn't want to deal with this. I tried to scream, tried to make myself heard, but to no avail. I seemed to be overcome by some kind of mental claustrophobia; I was trapped within this world of memories, which I knew would end once I fired my missile and defeated my foe. I felt the feeling of raw power shifting through me - the Storm. Its essence rushed into the arrow, and I knew that this was how Tasson had succeeded in ending Frey's life. I strained my throat, kept trying to cry out, and I felt my eyes watering as the fletching slipped from my grasp.

     Her death was the only path to peace.

     I felt an unnatural gust of wind as the arrow sped through the air, closing in on Frey's beating heart. The intensity that had building up inside me should have receded, but it inexplicably deepened, and my desperation to escape reached its zenith as the bowstring twanged violently as the pressure upon it was suddenly released. I saw the arrow strike Frey's chest, saw the bewildered expression that crossed her face as she realized that she was going to die, that the one who had once been her greatest friend had just slain her.

     I didn't feel victorious. I felt tortured, remorseful, drenched with grief, and the burden of my fate as the Windstorm pained me more than it ever had, like an incurable wound. I couldn't believe what I'd seen - how could two friends become such great enemies? How could Frey have allowed her ambitions to twist her life around so harshly? Why did the Storm have to be such a coveted magic? Why did any of it have to happen?

     The scene faded, and I was shrouded in darkness. Tasson's voice called to me from the surrounding umbra. Do you now understand what the Storm can do, and why she wants it? Can you face her?

     As I attempted to speak yet again, I was relieved to discover that my voice had returned to me. "Yes!" I cried, "I understand it! I know what I have to do! Now let me go!"

     You still plan to help me, even at the cost of your own suffering?

     Suffering? He thought I wasn't going to do this for fear of suffering? I'd suffered enough in one long year to last a lifetime. I was suffering now! "Yes!" I spat, almost spitefully. "My fate is to do this! Now free me! Let me go!"

     There was suddenly pure silence, and I slowly became aware of the cold feeling of stone against my back, and the darkness that my eyes were striving to adjust to.

     I was back.

     I glanced around the interior of the casket, blindly. I had to get out of here - I wanted to stand up, I wanted to breathe.

     "ALY!" I screeched, "TERZIN! DAYNE! GET ME OUT OF HERE!" I prayed that the thick stone lid above me wouldn't muffle my voice too much for them to hear me - if it did; I thought that I might die of panic and fear.

     Suddenly I heard the frantic scraping of the stone against the rest of the coffin - they'd heard me! I was about to be returned to the world I loved!

     The stone slab crashed onto the earthen floor, and I looked up to see Aly's familiar face peering down at me, the swirling hues contained in her beautiful eyes carrying deep concern. "Are you all right?" she demanded, choking on her words.

     "Aly," I breathed, sitting up and clambering out and onto the floor. My legs were so unused to contact with the ground and I stumbled slightly, and my friend reached out to steady me. This simple touch gave me more happiness than I'd experienced for what seemed like a century, and without even thinking, I took her into my arms, hugging her tightly, a gesture which she returned without hesitation. I felt like doing this allowed me to cling to the reality I'd been isolated from for so long - it made me feel safer somehow. I felt a silent tear of joy streak down my face as I was finally reunited with someone who I could connect with my own life, my true existence.

     "Are you all right?" Aly asked again, her voice whispering next to my ear.

     "I'm fine," I assured her, the sound coming from my lips equally faint.

     Finally, we drew away from each other after a moment. I had relaxed a bit, knowing that I was now safe from Tasson's vivid world of memories, but my relaxation evaporated as I glimpsed Aly's face, and the alien expression I saw there. Her eyes were watering with tentative tears, as mine had, and her cheeks appeared slightly flushed under the white fur that covered them. I'd never, in all my life, seen Aly allow herself such emotional behaviour - particularly the crying. Knowing her, she'd think that it made her look weak.

     "How about you?" I asked in return, "Are you sure you're okay?"

     She suddenly seemed to realize what she looked like and turned away from me sharply. "Yeah," she said, "Yeah, I'm fine."

     "You're sure?" I asked again. I never knew her to act like this before and wanted to understand.

     "Mm-hm," she said, to mean "yes". "It's just that…I sort of…I missed you." She turned around again, her expression hardened, as tomboyish and determined as ever. Clearing her throat, I could tell that she was trying to recover her tough exterior. "Is there a problem with that?"

     I forced a small smile upon my face, something I thought I'd never do after witnessing Frey and Tasson's devastating history. But that was over now, and I felt freer than ever. "No," I answered, "I missed you guys too." Looking around, I realized that Terzin and Dayne were nowhere to be seen, and while I was mainly curious as to where they were, I was slightly relieved that they weren't here. Had they been here to release me from the casket, a big, embarrassing, emotional group hug would have probably followed. For some reason, I was more comfortable that it was just Aly and me. "Anyway," I continued, voicing my thoughts, "Where are Dayne and Terzin?"

     "Went to the field. We found out that the League is heading there." She paused. "They're waiting for her."

     "Why didn't you go?" I asked.

     She suddenly looked fierce and protective. "Someone needed to stay with you," she explained tersely. "Now tell me what happened with Tasson. Is there something we should know about defeating Frey?"

     I was about to answer, when I became aware of an intense light expanding from behind me. Both Aly and I whirled around to see its source, and fell silent as we realized that the radiant blaze was coming from Tasson's casket.

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 Ten
» EndingArrow: Part Eleven



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