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Thread: Neko's Tale {PG-13}

  1. #26

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    Chapter Eight
    The Orb’s Strength

    “Impressive.” Gale muttered as the dome sealed itself around them. Any attempt to break through it would be rather painful. “So this is all you’ve got?”

    “Not at all.” Neko could feel her heart racing in her chest. The dome was really all she had left. She became keenly aware that she could not hold it for too long despite how small it was compared to what she had accomplished in the past. What’s happening to me? Surely her strength could not be failing her now of all times? She saw Gale studying the dome. With any luck, he would not attack before the heat and lack of oxygen lowered his strength.

    “I can tell a lie when I see one.” The wind elemental turned to face Neko again. “So, what happens if I attack it?” Neko felt the wind tug at the flames. Concentrate! Letting the flames collapse on top of them was not a bad idea, but letting the wind take the flames away would not help at all. Neko took a few steps away from Gale.

    Suddenly the wind elemental lunged forward at Neko. The fiery Nekomata jumped out of the way and tried to make distance between the two. All I need to do is stall for time. She was already breathing heavily while Gale still seemed pretty comfortable. “Fine, if you want to play like that.” A strong gust of wind struck the flames. Neko struggled to hold the fire together, but at last the barrier fell apart and the flames were carried by the wind into the forest.

    The forest quickly caught fire and would spread in no time at all. “That might work.” Neko staggered a bit but fled into the flames, encouraging them to grow larger so that it would be difficult for Gale to follow. Careful not to trip on any fallen branches or be hit by anything that came down from above, Neko raced through the burning trees. Behind her she could hear the crunch of paws following her. Thankfully Gale was too busy weaving through trees and debris to run at full speed.

    Neko took a quick glance behind her through the flames and saw Gale using his wind abilities to blow away some of the flames in his path. At last she began to think that Gale might be falling behind. All that was left to do was outlast him. Thankfully, Cheetahs were not much for endurance. Sooner or later, Gale would tire out. A distant crack from another direction stole away Neko’s focus causing her to trip on the roots of a tree.

    Dammit! Neko growled to herself in frustration. She lay on the forest floor too exhausted to fight or run any longer. The fire dome she had created took far more energy than she had anticipated. The part that angered her most was that it did little to aid her against Gale. Neko considered if the outcome if this fight would have been different if she had not taken the attack that the wind Nekomata sent at Gale. The truth was that she did not regret it.

    “Tired already?” Gale was standing over her only moments after she lost focus and tripped, casting a shadow over her face. “I was hoping that would last a little longer.” Neko glared back at the Dark Warrior. If only looks could kill, then maybe she would be in a better position. Neko burst into flames again only to have a strong rush of wind scatter the fire into tiny embers. “How many times must I remind you that your fire cannot help you.”

    “Anyway, I suppose I’ll make this quick. I’m expected back at the castle tomorrow and if I don’t leave soon, I’ll be late.” Gale moved his claws over Neko’s throat. “Bye.” He whispered quietly. It can’t end like this! She closed her eyes shut and braced herself for the final slash. Nothing happened.

    Opening her eyes she saw that Gale was no longer standing over her. Right next to her nose was a metallic feather that was lodged into the ground. “Impossible.” She murmured. The former Dark Warrior slowly forced herself to her paws and was shocked at what she saw. Okay, maybe I am dead.

    Gale had been tossed away by a large brown Griffon. Scart. “Something is seriously wrong with this picture.” Neko muttered. “Well, unless you are just getting rid of him so you can take the credit for my death?”

    “Wrong.” Neko grimaced when she heard Hail’s voice. “Well… alright, not entirely wrong.” Was there even a slight chance that the Lion Nekomata would ever leave her alone?

    “Can’t you just stay out of my life for more than a week?”

    “Is that how you say thanks? Anyway, how can I stay out of your life if you don’t have a life to stay out of?” Hail was now at her side. “Anyway, you made it pretty easy for me to find you. Have you seen how many trees you set on fire already?”

    “I don’t recall asking for your help.” Neko kept her eyes on Gale who was now slowly circling around Scart. If anything, he was not pleased that the Griffon had intervened with his fight.

    “No, but I did.” Rayne stepped up from behind Hail.

    “I thought I told you to get your tail out of here!” She hissed in an attempt to be angry at Rayne. A rather horrid attempt at that. Sometimes it was just too hard to remain upset with Rayne, especially when he came back to help her.

    “No need to be upset.” Hail teased and turned to watch Scart. Gale was trying to find a way to attack the Griffon, but the Griffon had hardened his feathers and fur making him resistant to most attacks.

    Neko summoned up some flames and readied herself to fight. “Take it easy.” Hail warned. “Scart may not be our best friend, but he’s got this.” Neko was about to ignore Hail and run after Gale, but with only one step she realized how sore and work out she was. “Saia will be here in a few moments. He’ll check your wounds.” The older Nekomata was normally the last to arrive in such situations due to his age and slower speed, but in the middle of a fight he seemed quite agile.

    Scart was shaken up by a few strong gusts of wind, but managed to hold his ground. Before the wind Nekomata could knock the Griffon off-balance, a pillar of water slammed into Gale. “Rayne!” Hail seemed alarmed. “What are you doing?” Rayne charged forward despite Hail’s attempts to grab his tail and drag him back to the sidelines. It was clear that the Wolf was scared, but he continued onward regardless.

    At that moment Saia arrived with Riza flying overhead. “Good timing.” Hail muttered. “Take care of Neko, I’m going to try getting Rayne away from there before he gets himself, or Scart, hurt.”

    Saia laughed but sat down next to Neko. “Feeling alright?” The older feline spoke calmly.

    “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?” Neko said dryly. Part of her wanted to rejoin the fight, but she knew that in her condition she would only get in the way.

    “If you say so.” Saia responded as Rayne dodged out of the way of some blades of wind that had missed Scart. The Wolf skidded to a halt and leapt into the air in an attempt to get on Gale’s back, but the Cheetah Nekomata managed to sidestep the lunge as he dodged some more metallic feathers sent by Scart that almost hit Rayne.

    “I thought you rebels liked playing fair?” He laughed as he dodged another attempted strike from Hail. “Three versus one and you still can’t beat me?” His body was built to be agile which made it difficult for any of the three to land a successful attack. “Pathetic.”

    “No point in playing fair.” Scart growled. The four were standing all poised for an attack. “Especially when the other side can’t play fair.”

    “Well then.” Gale took a few steps back. “I guess I was wrong about you rebels.” He grinned. “You all are far more like us than I had originally concluded. It’s such a pity how two groups of creatures so alike have to war against each other.”

    “Don’t you dare compare us you murderers.” Scart growled with a furious intensity. Neko looked at Gale. It was not like assassins to stop and chat much. Either Gale is being overconfident, or he is plotting something.

    “You’ve killed some of our own.” Gale looked at Scart. “Does that not make you a murderer as well?”

    Scart’s golden eyes flared with rage. “At least we do not kill in cold blood.”

    “There is no such thing as killing in cold blood when you are at war.” Gale paused so that Scart may speak but continued when the Griffon remained silent. “What of Neko, then? You know she has killed many before. She’s killed some of your friends, correct?” Rayne slowly began to creep to one side out of Gale’s sight. “Why defend her?” Scart clearly had no answer to that. “If you allow me to complete my task here, I shall leave the rest of you be.”

    “Scart, don’t listen to him.” Hail growled as the Griffon backed off. There was a long silence that settled over the group. Ash was blown into the air by a light breeze.

    “What exactly is your task?” Scart kept his eyes fixated on the wind elemental.

    “To kill the Dark Warrior, or rather, former Dark Warrior, that stands behind you.” Scart’s golden eyes studied the situation. “So, please, will you move aside so that I can finish what I came here to do?”

    Neko flattened her ears against her head as Scart backed away from Gale and closer to her. “Not a chance.” With a flap of his heavy wings he sent an array of metallic feathers towards the assassin.

    “That wasn’t quite what I was expecting.” Neko was almost sure that the Griffon would have turned on her. Gale had a very good point. Neko did kill some of Scart’s friends and he really had no reason to help.

    “To be honest, I’m rather surprised that he agreed to help.” Saia spoke calmly as Gale and Scart began to fight again. Hail stood to one side in case Scart needed some help. Joining in the fight might cause some accidental friendly fire that neither Scart nor Hail needed at the moment.

    “How exactly did you manage to convince him?” Neko could recall his several attempts to kill her at their previous encounters. She was sure this would end up no different when, or if, they managed to drive Gale away. “I’m sure you’ve noticed, but we are quite far from being friends.”

    “It wasn’t me.”

    “Hail?” Neko guessed.

    “No.” The fiery Nekomata looked at Rayne who was slowly creeping around to stand where Gale would not be able to spot him.

    “Don’t tell me it was Rayne?” Saia nodded. “I guess I should stop underestimating that furball.” Anyone with even the smallest bit of heart would be unable to go out against the full force of Rayne’s unparalleled innocence.

    “Be sure to thank him later.” The Wolf was now in the perfect spot for a surprise attack. He peeked out from behind a tree and looked at Hail waiting for his chance to strike. So far, Scart had been doing very well on his own and did not need assistance.

    Hail gave a very subtle signal to Rayne. The Wolf slid out from his hiding spot and created several balls of water. Just as they started heading in Gale’s direction the blobs of water froze over and turned into giant chunks of ice. The balls of ice shattered as they hit the assassin, sending frozen splinters in all directions. Gale hissed in frustration as Scart tried to attack him while he gazed around to find where Rayne had vanished to.

    Neko’s ears twitched as they picked up the whistling sound of fast moving wind. “That can’t be good.” Hail had also noticed the sound.

    “For you at least.” Gale replied. Blood was dripping down from a slash wound on his cheek. Rayne and Hail had given Scart the opportunity to lash out with his talons. Around the group was a barrier of high speed winds. “Now then, I dare you to try going through that.” Neko could see many scratches appear on the trees that were on the wind’s path. The trees could very well be cut through if the wind continued for too long.

    “I’d rather take you down.” Scart muttered, not caring much for the barrier. It seemed as if Gale was attempting to trap them even though fleeing was the last thing on their minds. This doesn’t make sense. Rayne was silently walking over the leafy forest floor as he approached the wind elemental.

    The leaves on the ground began to life slightly off the ground. A tornado? The Wolf suddenly broke off into a dash at Gale, using the floating leaves to help conceal himself. Just as Rayne leapt off the ground, Gale spun around and struck at the Wolf pup. Within a few short moments Gale had Rayne pinned to the forest flow with one paw. “One down.” He grinned.

    Hail and Scart froze. Neko knew that Hail would not risk attacking with Rayne in the way, but she was not entirely sure what Scart would do. No one moved or spoke. The only sound was that of the whirlwind that was slowly growing stronger around them.

    Rayne struggled to slip free, but the Cheetah Nekomata had him firmly held against the ground. “Let me go.” He barked in a panicked voice.

    “I will.” Gale grinned. “Eventually.”

    Scart prepared to attack. “Wait.” Hail spoke. The ice elemental looked steadily at Gale. “Let him go.” Since when did asking ever work? The wind around them was slowly growing stronger.

    “Why should I?” The assassin laughed. “My orders were to kill all of-“ Gale froze. What’s going on?

    “Go.” It took Neko a moment to realize that Saia was holding Gale with his odd abilities. Her body was still sore, but the few minutes of rest she had helped a great deal. Flames flickered on Neko’s fur as her paws carried her towards Gale. The fire steadily grew as she approached, despite the wind around them.

    Her burning body crashed into Gale, forcing him to release Rayne. “I didn’t take Rayne along with me so you can kill him.” She growled.

    “Fine, I’ll finish you off first, since you seem so eager to fight some more.” He lunged at Neko with his claws outstretched. Before his claws could tear into her fur, Rayne leapt in the way and took the attack.

    “Rayne!” Hail rushed to the Wolf who miraculously landed on his paws. “Are you alright?” The Wolf nodded. Blood was soaking his fur on his flank, but aside from that he seemed perfectly fine.

    “You want to fight me?” Gale glared at Rayne.

    “Your opponent is right here, Gale.” There was no more playing around. Even Gale seemed to be taking the four versus one situation seriously now.

    “Haven’t you learned already?” Gale turned to face Neko. “You can’t win with your fire. It’s useless.”

    “We’ll see about that.” Neko could feel a surge of heat around her, more so than usual. “Hail, get Rayne and everyone else somewhere safe.” Unfortunately, there was no where that was completely safe within the small area Gale had trapped them in. Neko focused on keeping the flames alive as she sent them into the whirlwind.

    “You’re insane! Are you trying to kill us all?” Neko heard Hail call out from behind. She could feel the heat intensify as the winds slowly grew more and more powerful. All of a sudden an explosion of fire mixed with the whirlwind. Around them was a burning vortex that threatened to burn them all. Neko tried to control the fire, but it raged on well out of her reach.

    “What are you doing?” Hail yelled, but his voice was almost completely drowned out by the roar of the burning tornado. Why can’t I control it?

    “Stop it! I give up!” Hail called out in a panicked voice. The wind Nekomata valued his life and knew that he was beat. “Just stop it!”

    “I can’t!” Neko yelled back as flames began to envelop her body with a scorching heat like never before. She could no longer see anything but fire. Nothing but flames, then darkness.

    Comments/Notes

    Well, I've been pretty motivated this weekend, so I got another chapter done before the usual update day. (Basically I'm updating early.) I might get another chapter up on Wednesday, or Thursday. Depends how much I can get drafted and if I have time at home to type it up.

    Status

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-8 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
    Chapter 9 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 10 (P2) Draft - (70%)
    Chapter 9 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 24th July 2011 at 5:10 PM.




  2. #27

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    Chapter Nine
    Cera's Request

    Neko woke up to a throbbing headache. I passed out again, didn’t I? She opened her eyes slowly and sighed. Her body protested when she got to her paws. There was no where that did not ache. “Take it easy.” Saia came up from behind the drowsy Nekomata. “You’ve been out since yesterday afternoon.” Neko tried to ignore how dizzy and sore she felt.

    “What happened?” She slowly glanced around for Hail, Scart, Rayne, or Riza. It seemed as if it was just her and Saia. I hope I didn’t kill them. The last thing Neko could remember was Gale’s tornado catching on fire and a burning sensation at her side- which was not normal for a fire elemental.

    “It seems like you activated the orb’s power.” Neko looked at her side while Saia spoke. No burn marks or anything, just a lot of cuts and bruises. “You made quite a mess. The fire elemental noticed that the trees around them were completely scorched without a single green tree in sight.

    “Whoops.” She had not intended to set the forest on fire. Then again, she did not intend to create a giant unstoppable tornado of fire. However, she did consider figuring out how to create that without having a wind elemental around. It’s destructive power could come in handy if she were fighting alone.

    “Rayne and Hail spent quite some time trying to get the fires out after you passed out.” Well, that was two more accounted for, and the only two Neko actually cared for. As far as she was concerned, Scart could vanish and never return.

    “What about Scart and-“ Neko just realized that she did not know the Eagle’s name.

    “Riza?” Saia laughed. “Don’t worry. We all made it out alive- with quite a fur burns of course.” Neko spotted a few patches of singed fur on the old Nekomata’s body.

    “Sorry about that.” Neko actually expected him to be far more burnt than he was, though it sounded as if the fight ended shortly after she passed out.

    “Don’t worry, Gale was on the receiving end of the full force of that tornado.” Good. “He won’t be back for quite a while after that, I suspect.”

    “I’d hope so.” Neko yawned, wanting to go back to sleep. The last thing she wanted to worry about at the moment was dealing with another attack from Gale or some other Dark Warrior.

    “You’ll be a little bit sore for a while. I probably should have warned you earlier, but using the orb takes up a lot of your strength afterward.” I wish he had given me that warning sooner. Even after being out for nearly an entire day, she felt exhausted and worn out.

    “I didn’t exactly intend on using the orb.” Neko recalled feeling it’s heat through her bag, but she did not even consider using it during the fight. She did not even know how to use the fire orb’s strength even if she had wanted to. “It just happened.”

    “You’ll learn how to control it sooner or later.” Sooner would be nice. “I recast the spell on the orb to keep it hidden, so do not use it unless you have to.” Not like Neko knew how to use it in the first place. Had Gale figured out that she had the orb, or did he think she just had a random burst of strength? That was probably a question that would be answered at a later time.

    “Why are you helping me?” Neko blurted out. Her sister may have had reason to help her, but Cera was dead which left no reason for Saia, Hail, and especially Scart, to help her. Saia and Hail had been friendly to her even when she was still their enemy, but even now it just felt too strange.

    “I’m helping you because Aros, Riza, and I made a promise a long while back.” Saia responded. “To Cera.”

    “Cera is dead now, though.” Not too long ago, she might have killed Saia or one of the others that saved her had they crossed paths with Neko at the wrong time.

    “First of all- Cera isn’t dead. No one dies until all memory of them has faded from this world.” Under the logic, Yugito would never die either. No one would be able to forget the dark Nekomata and her reign of terror, even long after the sun sets on her rule. “Second- a promise is a promise. All because the one I made the promise to no longer walks amongst us, I still have to follow it. Anyway, if I did break the promise, your sister would surely come and haunt me for the rest of whatever remains of my life.”

    “Cera was crazy, but it was her wish that we help you.” Saia continued. “She believed that we could bring you back from the Dark Castle.”

    “She was right, though, wasn’t she?” Neko muttered. It still made little sense to her how the leader of the rebels would have faith in a Dark Warrior of everyone in the world.

    “However unlikely it was, she was correct. You standing here with us is proof of that.” Neko gazed up at the sky. Clouds were moving gently along over the ash and soot that the forest fire had created. It was peaceful despite the war that plagued the land. “Helping you remember was the hard part.”

    “Wait…” Neko turned her head to face Saia again. “You had something to do with that?”

    “No. You just had some random dreams and got some of your memories back because you hit your head against a rock one too many times.” Saia muttered sarcastically.

    “I don’t remember hitting my head against a rock.” The fire elemental had no memory of receiving such an injury before any of her dreams.

    “It’s called sarcasm.” Saia muttered. “Of course I had something to do with it.” He laughed. “I couldn’t bring back all of your memories, regretfully. Only those of Marua.”

    “Why not?” Most of her childhood was still unknown to her, save for the final hours of Marua’s existence. Even then, she only began to remember it clearly in the last few days. Before then, she knew only what had been shown in her strange dreams that Saia had apparently created. Neko had been trying to help a friend when she passed out in the burning building. She was the one who let me go at Kalm.

    “The longer one’s memories are sealed away, the harder it becomes to recover them.” Saia explained. “I managed to get to Hail shortly after his arrival at the Dark Castle, but you had been there for a few years before Cera told us everything that happened at Marua and guilt-tripped us into getting what she wanted.”

    That made sense. Sort of. Neko’s ears picked up the sound of footsteps heading in their direction. “Hey, Saia!” It was Hail. That’s my cue to leave. “Is she awake yet?”

    Before Neko could go anywhere Saia had to respond. “See for yourself.” Hail noticed the fiery Nekomata trying to escape.

    “Nice to see your up and about again.” He teased. “If you were out cold for too much longer, I would have had to get Rayne to dump some nice cold water on you.”

    “You wouldn’t dare.” Neko muttered. Hail made it far too easy to think about killing him sometimes. “Where is Rayne anyway?”

    “He’s out patrolling the area with Scart and Riza.” Oh dear.

    “Is that really a good idea?”

    “Don’t worry, Rayne will be fine. Scart may hate you, and maybe me, but he doesn’t have anything against Rayne.” That’s nice to know.

    “Actually, it’s not Rayne I was worried about.” Neko could only imagine the horrors the young overly energetic Wolf was putting them through. It was a miracle that he had not driven anyone to insanity. Yet.

    Hail laughed. “well, let’s hope for the best then.” Neko shook her head. How could Hail be so light hearted all of the time? Like Neko, he had Yugito after his life. “Feeling better now?”

    “I’m fine.” Neko yawned again. “Just tired.”

    “Still?” Hail looked over at Saia who was silently studying the sky. “You’ve already been asleep for the last twenty-four hours or so.”

    “I’m well aware of that, thanks.” Neko spoke under her breath.

    “So, have you reconsidered?” Hail looked expectantly at Neko. Neko stared blankly back.

    “Reconsidered what?”

    “Joining us, of course.” Neko sighed with irritation.

    “My answer is still no.” The fiery Nekomata could not see herself amongst the rebels. Especially after some of the things she had done in the past such as her visits to Thunara, Kalm, and Orre.

    “Come on, Neko.” Hail pressed. “You’ve got no where to go. You can’t go back to the Dark Castle, and you won’t exactly be welcomed with open arms anywhere, especially with Yugito on your tails.”

    “I know.” Neko growled at the ice elemental. He could be far too persistent at times.

    “Then where will you go? What will you do?” Hail was pushing Neko’s patience, which was already thin after the chaos over the last few days.

    “I don’t know.” Neko growled. “Some where- anywhere away from this stupid war.”

    “It’s not that simple!” Hail rose his voice. “Yugito won’t just let you walk away and wander wherever you want. You will be hunted down. You may have escaped from Gale, but she’s bound to send more Dark Warriors after you.” Neko unsheathed her claws. “The only reason either of us have survived so far was because we’ve had help. You won’t always get lucky and have someone to show up and save your tails every time you get in a tight spot.”

    “Hail, enough.” Saia rasped. “She’s well aware of the position she put herself in by taking Rayne and leaving the Dark Warriors.”

    “But, Saia, what about Cera?”

    “Cera wanted us to show her the truth and help her if we could.” Hail did not look very pleased. “Getting Neko to join the rebels was not what she wanted us to do.”

    “Thank you.” Neko muttered.

    “Saia-“

    “Enough, Hail.” Saia snapped. “If we force her to join us, that would make us no better than Yugito.” I wouldn’t go that far.

    “Fine.” Hail sighed. “If you change you mind, try to find us.” Don’t count on it.

    Neko stretched her sore limbs and started to walk off. “Well, I’m leaving now. Thanks.”

    “What?” Hail sounded surprised. “Shouldn’t you at least rest up a bit before you leave? You’re wounds can’t have healed already.”

    “I’ll be fine.” In truth, Neko was still very tired and not feeling too great, but she did not want to stay put for much longer. Getting away from Yugito and her followers was her main concern at the moment, and staying in one location for too long would only give them more time to locate her and strike again. The sooner she left, the better.

    It looked as if Hail was about to argue, but a sharp look from Saia kept him silent. Finally someone who can keep him quiet. At last he had given up. “Be careful.” He murmured.

    “You don’t have to remind me about that.” Neko began to head out into the forest. “Hail?”

    “What?”

    “Take care of Rayne, alright?” Part of the reason she wanted to leave as soon as possible was Rayne. There was no chance of being able to escape without having to explain to the Wolf pup why she was leaving and dealing with his whining. If there was anyone who might actually be able to convince Neko to stay, it was Rayne.

    “Alright.” Hail seemed to loosen up again. “So, why exactly did you leave?” Is Hail going to let me go or not?

    “Rayne didn’t tell you?”

    “He told us that you did it to save him and that you got in trouble for letting us go at Vritra, but there is more to it, right?” Neko had to decide if Hail should know what really happened.

    “When Yugito found out about Vritra, she called me in.” The fiery Nekomata decided that their was no harm in telling the rest of the story. “I was given two choices. The first was to kill Rayne and stay, or leave and be in the same position as you. I took Rayne along because he would have been killed if I left him.”

    “Thanks for that. I’ll keep an eye on him.” He grinned. “Also, I’m sorry. I was wrong about you.”

    “About what?” Neko turned in confusion.

    “For calling you heartless back at Kurori.” Neko grinned. “I realized that you do have a heart. It’s just frozen over with the coldest ice imaginable.” I should have seen that coming.

    “Thanks.”

    With that, Neko walked into the forest. She had no idea where she was going or where she should go, so her only option was to wander aimlessly in some randomly selected direction. The only thing she did know was that she needed to get away from Yugito and the rebels if she ever wanted to have any peace and quiet. She wanted no part in the war, not anymore at least.

    She walked on for several minutes. The air was warm and choked with the smell of burnt wood. Thankfully there was no wind. Clouds were scattered high across the sky. There were a few that seemed to be carrying rain as they were much darker than most of the other clouds. I hope it doesn’t rain soon. Shortly after she finally got out of the charred part of the forest, she heard a sharp crack from behind.

    “Who’s there?” Neko spun around prepared to attack, but relaxed when she saw Scart. “Oh. It’s you.”

    “Nice to see you too.” The Griffon eyed her suspiciously. The Griffon was clearly alone.

    “Where is Rayne? Hail told me that he was with you.”

    “I sent him back with Riza.” Neko said nothing but kept her eyes focused on the Griffon.

    After a few moments of silence the fire elemental finally spoke. “Thanks for helping me out yesterday.” She muttered. “But I don’t quite understand something. Why did you? Of everyone here, you have the most reason to leave me to die.”

    “I don’t quite know myself.” The Griffon admitted. “I don’t agree with what Saia is doing, but if this is really what Cera wanted, I won’t argue.” Well, that was a surprise.

    “I don’t understand most of what has been going on myself.” Neko turned and began to head out on her way again.

    “Leaving so soon?”

    “Yeah. I have no reason to stick around.” If there were any reasons, Neko did not want to acknowledge them.

    “Just know one thing.” Neko paused again. “Saia might trust you with the orb and I know that he was hoping you’d stay, but know that I can’t trust you.” Neko shrugged. “I can’t forgive you for what happened at Thunara.”

    “I never expected you to.” She called back and continued to walk away. “Tell Rayne I said bye.” The Griffon watched as the fiery Nekomata vanished deeper into the forest.

    Notes/Comments

    First of all, I must note that me updating this often is not normal and will probably only happen during the summer months. I have 4 update speeds. Slow: Every Other Week. Normal: Every Week. Double: Twice a Week. Fast: Three or more chapters per week. I am currently in 'Fast' When Summer Band and school start up, it'll probably jump to slow, unless I choose to save chapters for buffer rather than posting them as I go.

    Also, for those who like to look at some art, I made cover pages on photoshop out of boredom.

    Part One Cover
    Part Two Cover

    Status

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-9 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
    Chapter 10 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 11 (P2) Draft - (40%)
    Chapter 10 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 24th July 2011 at 5:11 PM.




  3. #28

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    Chapter Ten
    Yugito’s Plans

    Night had fallen over the Dark Castle, laying a thick blanket of eerie silence over the black corridors. Within the main chamber near the entrance, Yugito lied in wait for Gale’s return with Zera sitting silently at her side. “He’s late.” Zera said flatly. The two Nekomata had expected him to return well before nightfall and was quickly growing impatient.

    The dark Nekomata replied with silence, acknowledging Zera’s words with a flick of her ear. She was already planning her next strike against the rebels. Yugito had hoped that the battle at Kurori would put down the rebellion against her, but it seemed as if she had failed to notice who was pulling the strings behind the scenes of the rebellion. Cera and Aros had both been faces to give hope. It was clear now that the mastermind behind everything was the old Nekomata named Saia. Taking him out was what she had to do.

    “Yugito?” It was Gale.

    “I trust you have something to report?” Yugito’s voice was void of all warmth or emotion. Gale easily spotted Zera’s striking yellow eyes in the dark room.

    Gale bowed his head. “Forgive my tardiness.” The wind Nekomata had told Yugito that he would return before nightfall but had not anticipated the trouble he had with the rebel group and Neko. The dark ruler instantly knew that Gale had not succeeded with his task when she saw the wounds her bore. The heavy burn marks proved that both Gale and Yugito had underestimated Neko’s strength. “I caught up with Rayne and Neko, but a small group of rebel fighters interfered with the fight before I could finish Neko off.”

    “Who?” Zera narrowed her eyes. It was unusual for a small group to wander around, let alone defend a known Dark Warrior from an assassin.

    “Saia, Hail, and a Griffon. I believe they called the Griffon ‘Scart’” Yugito growled softly at the mention of the spirit Nekomata. At least Gale’s failure brought news of Saia’s location.

    “Where are they?” Saia had been a thorn in her side since the war started six years ago. It had only recently occurred to her that whenever one of her plans failed, the old Nekomata was at the scene. Despite his age, he had proven able to evade death thus far. Killing Saia was high on her list of things that had to be done.

    “In the eastern forests- not too far from Midveil.” Gale was surprised, and slightly suspicious, that Yugito had not been upset about his failure to eliminate the fire Nekomata or Rayne. “I believe Neko split up from the rebel group.” Perfect.

    “Dismissed.” The assassin nodded and silently left into the pitch black corridors of the castle.

    “Would you like me to pursue Neko?” Zera offered coolly.

    “No, I’ve already come to a decision on who I should send next.” The dark Nekomata had already prepared another plan in the event that Gale failed.

    “Alright then.” Zera was hardly visible in the dim room. “Then what did you wish to discuss with me then?” Yugito had called for Zera, but had decided to wait for Gale’s return before saying anything on why she had summoned the Dark Warrior. The shadow Nekomata merely assumed that it was a topic that Yugito did not want the assassin to accidentally overhear.

    “I believe that I’ve pinpointed the location of one of the orbs.” Zera’s interest grew much stronger.

    “Which one?”

    “The water orb.” Zera nodded. She would have preferred hearing that it was either the Dark or Shadow orb, but this was still good news for them.

    “So that is why you’ve called me?” The closest Zera had gotten to one of the ancient relics was when she had chased Cera down near Mt. Valline and ended up being on the receiving end of the orb’s strength. It was clearly not a force to underestimate.

    “Partially. I’ve already sent one of the other Dark Warriors to go fetch the orb.” Zera assumed immediately that a water elemental had been sent out. “Speaking of water, I sent Talon out to take care of Rayne and Hail.”

    “You think he’ll be able to finish them off if they are with the rebel group that beat Gale?” Talon was one of the strongest of Yugito’s forces, but it was still doubtful that he could take on too many at once. Zera herself was familiar with the strength of Saia and Hail and knew that those two alone would be handful, but add another Griffon and Rayne and that would prove difficult if Talon did not take them seriously.

    “Worst case scenario, I’ll end up dealing the problem myself.” Yugito purred. She actually fancied the idea some. She had not fought in a fight since Kurori and kind of liked the idea of getting to spill some blood. “Anyway, I’d like you to head out towards some old ruins that we recently located.”

    “Ruins?” It was not exactly what Zera had expected. She did often find looking at old architecture interesting, but this was not what Yugito would normally send her out to do.

    “Arth found the ruins recently. He managed to decipher some of the writing there that led us to the possible location of the water orb. Unfortunately, he couldn’t figure much else out.” While Yugito wanted to send Zera after the rebel group, she decided that getting the orbs was of a higher priority. “You are more familiar with the ancient writings than most, so I want you to go investigate.”

    “You believe that these ruins may be able to tell us where the orbs are?” Zera was doubtful. The orbs were created so long ago that most living beings no longer knew of their existence. That, and Arth had proven to bring false information in the past. The orbs could have easily been relocated several times over the many years since their creation.

    “Perhaps. Even if the ruins fail to reveal the information we seek, I’m sure you will find something worthwhile out there.” There was only one way to find out. “The ruins are located in the northern mountains. Not too far from where Kalm was.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Neko sighed as the forest continued on before her. She had been walking, and partially limping, for days and had let to see no end to the trees. After so long of seeing nothing but the forest it began to feel as if she had been going in circles. Turning her gaze upward, she tried to find a suitable tree to climb. One large tree with large dark green leaves stood out amongst the rest.

    Bunching up her muscles, she leapt onto the tree and pulled herself up onto a low hanging branch and leapt again. Eventually, despite the aches of her wounds, she managed to get to the highest branches. Careful to maintain her balance, she slowly inched towards the edge of the branch so that she may look out past the leaves for a better view of the forest.

    Neko was surprised to see how far up she had gone and how tall the tree was in comparison to most of those around her. An ocean of green leaves lay out around her. The only area that seemed out of place was a blackened area that was the result of her fight with Gale. Did I really do all of that? The fiery Nekomata was aware that she had destroyed a part of the forest, but not an area that large.

    The tabby Nekomata mapped out the area she saw in her mind before slowly making her way back down. Fortunately she had been traveling away from the charred area which assured her that she was not going in the wrong direction. Just before she could make it to the ground, the branch she was on snapped and sent her crashing down to the leaf-littered earth. Neko quickly scrambled to her paws, wincing in pain as she realized one of her paws had been injured in the fall. Great. Looking up at the tree, she saw her bag hanging off the branch next to the one that had broken.

    The fire elemental hissed in annoyance. This was not turning out to be an exceptionally great day. I really need a new bag. Ever since it first tore in Kalm, the straps of the bag had snapped apart time and time again and she had to constantly patch it back up.

    Ignoring the sharp pain in her paw and her many cuts from her fight with Gale Neko leapt for the bag and managed to snag it with one of her claws. The branch, unable to support her weight, snapped and sent her straight down- again. Her back slammed against the ground. Sometimes it seemed like a far better idea to simply finish what she started and burn the forest down.

    “And here I thought cats always landed on their paws.” Neko, still laying with her paws in the air, tilted her head back to see the face of a silver fox.

    “It’s not as easy as it looks.” She tried to make up an excuse for her fall.

    “Not your lucky day, I take it?” The canine had taken note of not one, but two, broken branches.

    “Not at all.” She rolled over and got to her paws. The silver fox, upon closer inspection, was not really a fox. It was a Kitsune- a fox-like creature capable of having anywhere from one to nine tails. The more tails, the stronger they were, or so Neko had heard. The tips of his five tails and his underbelly where white and his eyes were a light blue. “More of a bad week, actually.”

    The fox-like creature laughed. “The name’s Storm.” He seemed friendly enough, well, friendlier than many of the others Neko had bumped into since she had fled the Dark Castle. Having a reputation as a Dark Warrior definitely did not help her at all. “Let me have a look at that paw.” Neko was hesitant, but eventually held it out for the Kitsune to see. “Looks like you just twisted it. It’ll hurt for a few days, but it’s nothing to worry about.” I don’t quite recall being worried about it in the first place.

    “Thanks.” Neko flexed her paws, allowing her claws to snag a few leaves in the process. It ached but not so much that she could not put pressure on it.

    “So what brings you here?” The Kitsune’s bright blue eyes shone with curiosity.

    “Trying to get away from the stupid war between the Dark Castle and the rebels.” Neither side of the fighting seemed to want to leave her alone. “I just need to get somewhere peaceful enough to think for a while.” Neko was not quite sure what she wanted to do yet. She had considered Saia’s offer of joining with the rebels, since going back to Yugito was out of the question, but imagining herself being welcomed by the rest of the rebel forces, especially those who she had fought with in the past, was difficult.

    “Don’t want to join up with the rebels?” Neko laughed. “What’s so funny?”

    “It’s a long story.”

    “I’ve got time.” The silver-furred Kitsune seemed friendly enough. Neko began to explain how she had been a Dark Warrior, why she was exiled, and her encounter with Gale. She was careful to leave out anything related to the orb, Cera, and how Saia and Hail had invited her over to their side.

    “So you’re basically trying to find somewhere peaceful to hide out where neither side will find you?” Storm’s tails gently waved in the wind.

    “Yeah, but it isn’t easy seeing how I’ve been bumping into both Yugito’s forces and the rebels almost every day.” In the time since she had split off from Hail, Neko had bumped into a few other creatures that had recognized her as a Dark Warrior and were not too welcoming. She could not blame them for hating her though.

    “Perhaps I can be of assistance, then.” Neko looked at the Kitsune with curiosity. “I’ve traveled quite a bit in my time. I believe there is somewhere that may yet to be reached by the war- or Yugito even.”

    Neko became far more interested. “Where wound that be?”

    “If I recall correctly, it’s quite a way from here. North-east beyond the mountains.” Neko’s heart sank.

    “Over the mountains?” Storm nodded. The idea of heading north through the snow did not sound fun. She remembered her time near Kalm where her fire abilities had melted the ice, rendering her flames useless with the water. Since then she had been careful not to be in her fire form unless necessary, but the thought of the risks were hard to forget.

    “Why? Is that a problem?” The Kitsune looked at the sky. I thin layer of soft grey clouds had blown in over the forest. I hope it doesn’t rain.

    “You can say I’m not particularly fond of snow.”

    “Well, it would make it harder for anyone to find you.” It would also make it easier for anyone to kill me. “How many Dark Warriors or rebels would think to find you in the mountains if you don’t like snow?

    Neko thought about it for a moment. “I guess you have a point there.” She admitted.

    “How about I lead you there myself?” Storm suggested. Neko knew it would be helpful to have someone who knew the area with her, especially one that was not trying to kill her, but she was used to traveling on her own thus far.

    “I don’t know.” She muttered doubtfully. “Remember that I’ve got Yugito after me, and if you are with me, you’ll likely be targeted as well.” Neko had been careful not to kill anyone. If anything, the fiery Nekomata wanted to leave that part of her life behind.

    “You were a Dark Warrior yourself, no?” Neko nodded. “That would mean you must be pretty strong.” Neko could only wish that were true. If she had the strength to fight off other Dark Warriors, she would not had to have Hail, Scart, and Rayne come to save her tails. The fiery Nekomata was still concerned on how easily she had tired out in her last fight and how easily she lost control of her abilities.

    “If you get caught with me, you realize that both sides will immediately mark you as their enemy as well.” Neko felt a small drop of water hit her nose. It was drizzling. “After all, I did kill a good number of rebels and betrayed the Dark Warriors.”

    “I don’t mind much.” Storm yawned and moved closer to the tree in an attempt to stay dry. “We all have our histories. It’s who you are now that matters though. There’s little point in fretting over things that are long past.”

    “It hasn’t been that long actually. Just a week or so.” Storm laughed.

    “Well, do you want me to come with you or not? It’s not trouble at all really.” Neko paused for a moment. “I’m just a wanderer, It’s not like I was heading anywhere to begin with.”

    “I guess that would be helpful.” Neko was glad to have her odd feather-shaped shell charm with her as the drizzle strengthened to a light rain.

    “Great!” He barked. “Let’s head out when the rain clears, alright?”

    Notes/Comments

    Status

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-10 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
    Chapter 11 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 12 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 13 (P2) Draft - (10%)
    Chapter 11 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Chapter 12 (P2) Typing - (0%)




  4. #29
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    I really like this story; it is one of the few worth reading in the Non-Pokemon section. I knew, though that the Nekomata with the Light Ball would die, so maybe you can work on less predictable plots points. Of course, Neko is going to win, duh, but who will survive, certainly Raine with an injury.

    Other than that, the story is well written, with only a couple of typo's.
    Quote Originally Posted by bobandbill
    Quote Originally Posted by zomegax7249
    So now it's not enough that we beat the NPCs, now we have to steal their clothes as well? Isn't this basically mugging them?
    Suddenly the aim of the Pokémon games is apparent. It isn't to catch them all, or to be the best trainer, or to learn about the values of friendship with strange monsters that can breathe fire and whatnot.

    It's to beat up other people for their hats and jackets.
    3DS FC: 0018-1095-7707
    Friend Safari: Pancham, Mankey, and Breloom
    Accepting any except for Electric
    PM me before you add me

  5. #30

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    Chapter Eleven
    Ally or Enemy

    “It would be easiest if we went a little further east before attempting to cross the mountains.” Storm was leading Neko eastward to find an easier way to cross over the mountains. After the rain they had set off again until nightfall came. If they wanted to evade any unfriendly visitors it was best that the two did not waste any daylight.

    The sun was shining over the trees again as brightly as ever. The humidity n the air was barely tolerable in the afternoon heat. “About how long do you think it will take to cross over the mountains? Neko spoke to break the silence. “It depends on where you choose to ho over.” The mountains had at last come into view that morning. “I plan to cross between those two mountains over there.” Neko saw a gap between two rather large mountains. “It’ll take most of a day to cross there, but it looks like that way would be the easiest.”

    “How far have you traveled?” Neko asked. She was curious about the Kitsune. Amidst the war there were very few that were brave enough to travel on their own. Most wanderers did not make it far before getting into some sort of trouble.

    “I’ve been to too many places to count.” Storm responded. “Though I do have a few favorite locations. The southern shores were rather pleasant. It’s beautiful there if the weather is good.”

    “You’ve been to the southern region and came out alive?” Most of the fighting between Yugito’s forces and the resistance had been in the south since the war began. Some of the stories the Nekomata had heard of the violence where so gruesome that even Neko had a hard time imagining the chaos there. Fortunately in her time as a Dark Warrior she was never sent there.

    “I was there before the war. It’s not exactly a great idea to visit these days is it?” The Kitsune had to be older than Neko originally thought if he had been able to visit the southern areas before Yugito’s rise to power and the bloodshed began. “I decided to leave when the light elementals began to be killed. Back in those days the light elementals were quite common. Yugito saw them as a threat though, so she ordered that they all be killed.”

    “Are you a light elemental?”

    “No, but I didn’t want to stick around and fight.” His five tails gently hovered over the ground. “It wasn’t easy to watch the world you grew up in change completely in a matter of days and be completely powerless to do anything about it.”

    “I would imagine so.” Neko muttered. “What was it like?”

    “What was what like?” Storm responded.

    “Before Yugito came along. I know that the south was where the rebels first started to fight back so they got the worst of the punishment. They still are, actually.” Neko had heard many stories of current events, but rarely anything of before the dark Nekomata’s appearance.

    “Peaceful.” Storm murmured. “There was very little to worry about. It was a huge shock when Yugito came up from out of nowhere and turned everything upside down. It wasn’t exactly bad at first, but then someone tried to resist the new laws and killed one of Yugito’s Dark Warriors in the process. It wasn’t until then that blood began to be spilled.”

    “Do you know who it was?”

    “A Nekomata, the founder of the rebels.” Storm continued. “Saia, a spirit elemental.”

    “Wait, I thought Aros was the founder of the rebels.” All of the tales she had heard led her to believe that Aros was the one who rose up against the dark Nekomata. She had never even heard of Saia until she saw him at Kurori.

    “Aros was just a face to lead those who wanted to go against Yugito. Having an old creature as your leader doesn’t do much for recruiting.” Storm explained. “Saia has been the one pulling all of the strings since the beginning though.”

    “I guess that doesn’t quite surprise me.” Neko muttered. Storm seemed have become distracted. “Storm?”

    “Be quiet.” He whispered and sniffed the air. “I smell trouble.” Storm kept walking casually with Neko. The fire elemental tilted her ears in different angles to listen for any sounds.

    “I hear it.” It was not just one creature either. “Not too far from here.” Something tells me it isn’t Hail or Saia. Neko’s ears picked up sounds from another direction than the first ones. “Sounds like we’re surrounded.”

    “I suppose this means you weren’t kidding about how trouble seems to be following you around.” The two stopped walking and positioned themselves to face opposite directions.

    Neko laughed. “No I wasn’t.” Several creatures appeared one by one out of the trees. Three for each of us. Fun. The creatures attacked without a word. Within moments Neko could see that they were not Dark Warriors. “After sending Gale back with half of his fur burnt off, you’d think Yugito would take me more seriously than this.”

    Three of them, a Wolf, a Panther, and a large Eagle, were fighting Neko while the other three, a pygmy Dragon, another Wolf, and a rather small Falcon faced off with Storm. The Nekomata successfully sent the first Wolf flying with a strong burst of fire and swatted the Eagle away with her un-injured paw. What is Yugito up to? Had Yugito sent six Dark Warriors instead, she would be as good as dead.

    Their attackers were just blindly attacking. No strategy or thought whatsoever involved. At least that made them rather predictable and easy to fight. “Neko, watch out!” The Kitsune pushed her out of the way of a water elemental’s attack.

    “Thanks.” Even with her special feather-shaped shell, Neko did not want to get hit by any water attacks. A few more minutes of fighting continued before the six attackers gave up and fled back into the forest. “Are you alright?” Neko was sore, but not from any injuries she had obtained in the small skirmish that had just taken place.

    “Yeah, just a few scratches.” Storm licked a wound that was just above his paw. “What about you?”

    “A little sore, but I’ll be fine.” She stretched and felt her limbs protest as her older bruises and scratches ached. Thankfully, it was very bearable. “It looks like we’ll have to move a little faster before we run into some more of Yugito’s minions.” It had not taken long for them to get into the skirmish and it was likely that if there were anymore on their way, they would not be as surprised by Storm’s presence.

    “So, those were some of Yugito’s followers?” Storm’s blue eyes gazed in the direction that the group had fled.

    “I think so.” Who else would openly attack her?

    “Are you sure?”

    “Who else could they be?” As far as Neko was aware, Yugito was the only one making orders for Neko to be killed. Any rebels that may want her killed would probably not go out of their way to hunt her down.

    “The rebels?” Storm suggested.

    “Alright, I know I’m a former Dark Warrior and all and I’m not exactly on the good side of anyone involved with the war right now, but some of the rebels have helped me out and saved my life before.”

    “Thank about it for a moment.” The Kitsune shook some dirt off of his fur. “They want you to join their side now that you’re being chased by Yugito, correct?”

    “Yeah, but how does attacking me have anything to do with that? Wouldn’t that make me less likely to join up with them?”

    “If they frame the Dark Warriors for the attack, you or anyone else would get upset and dislike the Dark Warriors for it.” Storm explained. “Then the rebels could come in and ask you to join them against Yugito with the promise of protection, revenge, or whatever they might be seeking to gain out of it.”

    “I don’t think Saia and the others would do that.” Would they? The attack had come rather soon after Gale’s strike. There was no way that an ambush group that weak could have made it so far from the castle since Gale had fled.

    “This is a war, Neko.” I can see that, thanks. “Both sides are willing to do anything to gain power and win. In the end, it is one evil against another.”

    “The rebels aren’t evil.” Neko said dryly.

    “Maybe not in your eyes- but that is what they want.” Neko listened to what Storm was saying. “The rebels have attacked innocent towns and put the blame on the Dark Warriors before just to rouse up anger against them.”

    “How do you know this?” Neko was having slight difficulty believing the Kitsune’s words.

    “I was once part of the rebels.” Storm continued. “They ordered me to attack and destroy my own hometown with some others.” He turned to one side and showed Neko one of his tails. There was a nasty looking scar that had been concealed when it was in line with the other four. “When I refused, this is what happened.”

    Neko stared at the scar for a moment. It looked as if it had been created by someone with very sharp fangs. “I was just a disposable tool for them. Once I was no longer of any use, they tried to kill me.” The fiery Nekomata had no idea how to respond. “Clearly, I managed to escape.”

    “Is that why you are heading in this direction as well?” Neko did not want to automatically assume the Kitsune’s story, but most of it made sense. The only way to learn the truth was to confront Saia, but she was not about to turn back after having traveled so far.

    “Exactly.” Storm answered. “Just like you, I don’t want to be involved with the war any longer.” His words seemed rather honest.

    The two silently traveled until nightfall. Nothing else occurred after the small skirmish and their brief discussion. Neko was glad to be heading away from the war plagued territories, though she was slightly bemused about what Storm had said. Surely Saia meant well? Or maybe the Kitsune was right that it was just a huge fight over two sides that wanted the same thing- power.

    He’s from the southern reaches of the war though. Maybe things are just worst over there. Saia could not see what was going on in a location far from where the main rebel bases were usually established. Perhaps Saia, Aros, and Cera did not have a full grasp of the situation in the more violent areas of the war.

    “I think we should stop and rest now. It’s getting late and it looks like we’ve got more rain on the way.” Storm interrupted her thoughts.

    “Alright.” Neko noted that they were just about out of the forest with the mountains less than a day’s journey away. Neko made a small fire for warmth with some pieces of wood she managed to find. Within moments the fire elemental fell asleep. Storm, however, remained awake.

    Comments/Notes

    Feedback! You know, it really makes my day to get feedback. ^_^ I'm glad you like it so far.

    Anyway, on a more serious note. I didn't exactly try to surprise anyone with Cera's death. In fact, I even flat out mentioned that she was going to die... well, Saia did, but you get my point there. There are a few things I've been hiding, though I do like to drop a few subtle hints that you may or may not pick up. The next chapter will have something that I'm pretty sure most would not have predicted. In fact, I only dropped one very vague and subtle hint way back in part one. Even then, you might not remember it until a little bit later probably.

    And for the record, Neko has bad luck. She's not a black cat, but she has the luck of one. Of course, it wouldn't be any fun if she never got into any tight spots. Part Three will hopefully be less predictable compared to the first two parts. Hopefully.

    Also, feel free to post any predictions. I really do enjoy hearing what people think will happen next. It does help me evaluate if I've dropped too many hints or something along that line. (I post this story at a few other places, and for the most part the guesses are rather interesting to read.)

    Status

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-11 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
    Chapter 12 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 13 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 14 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 15 (P2) Draft - (0%)
    Chapter 12 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Chapter 13 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Chapter 14 (P2) Typing - (0%)




  6. #31
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    Hey, Petunia! It really is a shame that this hasn't gotten any reviews - the nonpokemon section swallows too many gems. D: I've only had the chance to read three chapters as of yet, but I've enjoyed reading it! Your writing style is very smooth, the characterisation good, and although there is the occasional typo (a missed comma, etcetera), they are hardly noticeable. :3

    In the prologue, for example:

    Clouds rolled onward, and everything seemed like a perfectly normal day in the fields, but as it was, things are never what they seem.
    Repetition of forms of 'seem'. :3

    They could have been mistaken for twins, except for the fact one bore Green eyes, while the other a deep amber.
    No capitalisation needed.

    Scanning the grass for the slightest sign of movement she saw the tips of her sister's twin tails bob up above the grass for a split second.
    Missing a possessive apostrophe. x3

    A final point: there's no need to indent all of your chapters. x3

    In any case, as I said, I've really enjoyed it thus far and will continue to read it. You have a nice foundation here, your writing style is solid, and as you write more you will become better and better. <3
    Last edited by katiekitten; 16th August 2011 at 8:38 PM.


    Floating over your rocky spine
    The glaciers made you and now you're mine


    Pair: duncan | Lyrics: Great Lake Swimmers

  7. #32

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    Chapter Twelve
    Ice

    Another dream. Saia had been getting many usual visions in his sleep for the last several days. While it was perfectly normal for him to have such dreams, it was not often for him to have so many in such a short period of time. His main concern was the fact that they almost always had some sort of meaning behind them that warned of something that has, is, or will happen.

    He was in a dark place. The floor was cold, hard, and uneven. There was a dripping sound echoing from further in. A cave. Saia’s paws carried him slowly through the cavern. A tiny flame lit the dim cavern further up. If anything, fire had become a common theme recently.

    He casually approached the tiny flickering flame. There was nothing special or unusual about it. The fire was flickered slightly as a small drop of water dripped down from above. Saia sighed, accidentally blowing the tiny spark out. Sometimes the dreams felt far too real which always worried the old Nekomata.

    He shrugged and continued walking down the damp cave, using his white whiskers to help him feel the way. At last his eyes detected some sort of light coming from further up. Quickening his pace he glided forward until he reached the source of the light. It was the exit to the cave.

    Saia squinted his eyes when he stepped out of the cave onto dew-covered grass. The air was damp and heavy with a thick mist. The old Nekomata could see a slightly distorted reflection of himself in the moisture in the air. He looked away for a moment to check where he was and turned back to face the reflection. This time, however, there were two blobs in the image. A red and a blue one.

    Looking back into the cave he saw two bright lights dancing around each other. They had definitely not been there when Saia had passed by only moments before, unless he had been moving to fast to notice their presence. A third very light blue light joined the others. The spirit elemental began to take a few steps forward when a thunderous roar echoed out of the cave.

    The sound grew increasingly louder until Saia could see the cause. A rush of water burst from the cave, engulfing the three lights and the Nekomata. The old creature began to claw frantically in the water to propel himself to the surface only to reach out at more water. Out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of something large swimming in the water. What in the world is that?

    With a brief glance he managed to see a large reptilian creature with a long flowing tail. It was definitely not an alligator though it did resemble one in many ways. It was mach larger and bore many long, webbed spines that went across its back. It had to be some sort of serpent. Saia cleared the thought and tried to swim upward again. He had to reach air before it was too late.

    One paw broke past the surface of the water. With one final surge he pushed upward only to receive a strong blow to his side as the creature’s tail collided with the Nekomata and forced him deeper into the water. No!

    Saia’s eyes flashed open in the forest. His breathing was heavy and the taste of the water was still quite strong in his mouth. “Just a dream.” He reminded himself with a slight shiver.

    “Another one?” Riza was perched on a low hanging branch. Hail, Scart, and Rayne were still sleeping as it was still rather early in the morning. The sun had yet to ascend past the horizon and the air was rather cool.

    “Yes.” Saia got up and shook his fur, half expecting water to fly in all directions.

    “Saia, I’m getting worried about this.” Riza’s striking golden eyes shone even in the dim morning light. “These dreams of yours seem to be getting worse every night.”

    Saia sighed. Everyone always seemed to be far too concerned about him. “I’ll be fine. They’re only dreams. They cannot hurt me.” He looked over at Hail and Rayne who were sleeping side by side. It was needless to say that everyone had grown fond of the Wolf, even Scart.

    “The dreams themselves might not be able to hurt you, but the fact that they have been depriving you of sleep will.” Riza warned. “The others have noticed how tired you’ve been recently.”

    “It’s just part of being a spirit elemental.” Spirit elements like himself were rare, but they had great potential. Of course, with great power cones greater responsibilities. “They dreams will cease sooner or later.”

    Riza shook her head. “If you say so.”

    The sun slowly made it’s way into the sky giving more light to the forest. Hail woke up with a large yawn just as Riza went off to scout the area for any sort of trouble. “Morning Saia.” Hail was normally the first one to wake up followed by Rayne. “Everything alright?”

    “I’m fine, thanks.” Rayne was the next to get up. The young Wolf was glad to be back with Hail, but had thrown a tantrum when he learned that Neko had left without saying goodbye. Scart was the last one to get up having stood guard at sunset until late into the night. “We’ll head out to Terran when Riza gets back.” Terran was the nearest town at the moment and would take the better part of the day to reach.

    “Terran?” Hail was scanning the sky for the eagle. “Sounds fun.”

    “When exactly did she leave?” Scart asked as several long minutes came and went.

    “About an hour ago.” After another hour passed, the old Nekomata began to pace around.

    “Saia, are you sure you don’t want me to look for her?” Scart had offered to fly out earlier but Saia had refused so they would not risk getting separated. There was a lot of safety in numbers.

    The group waited for a while longer before the golden eagle finally returned. Saia began to relax for a moment until Riza had begun to explain the cause of her delay. “There’s a Dark Warrior not too far off. I trailed him for a little bit to see which way he was heading.” She spoke as she landed on the same low hanging branch from before. “Not one I recognize, but he’s definitely looking for someone.”

    “Species?” Hail asked.

    “Griffon.”

    “Too bad. I don’t know any Griffons aside from Scart.” Hail shrugged.

    “Where was the Griffon heading?”

    “I couldn’t tell for sure, but he seemed to be going northeast.” If he were trying to find someone, he’d be flying… unless he already knows where his target is.

    “Let’s go then.” The old Nekomata got up and grabbed his bag.

    “Wait, what?” Scart looked awfully bemused. “We’re going after the Dark Warrior?”

    “I thought of all of us here, you’d be the most willing to fight, Scart. If that Dark Warrior was looking for us, we’d already be fighting. With any luck, he is unaware of our presence here. We can surprise him and drive him back to the Dark Castle.” He explained. “Dark Warriors don’t come all the way up here unless they have a reason to. I’d rather not allow him to do what he wants.”

    “I wasn’t complaining.” Scart’s feathers were slightly ruffled. “You aren’t exactly the one I’d expect to go looking for a fight.”

    Saia laughed. “One more thing.” The old Nekomata grabbed a small pouch from his bag. “Hail, take this.” The ice elemental eyed the pouch with curiosity. “You may need this.”

    “What’s in it?”

    “You’ll see.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Hail silently flowed behind Scart as they moved through the trees. He was itching to know what was in the small pouch that Saia had given him, but he had been instructed not to look until later. “Get ready.” Riza called quietly to them after checking ahead. “We’re nearly there.”

    Scart took the lead from Riza and walked as silently as possible. This outta be fun. Hail thought as the Griffon came into sight.

    Immediately Hail could see that he was one of Yugito’s minions. It was not the Griffon’s appearance itself, but a strange vibe that he gave off. The Dark Warrior had silvery feathers and fur with flecks of black. The huge wings on the Griffon’s back were more black than silver. Ready? Saia’s voice echoed in his voice. Hail nodded along with the other two who must have heard the old Nekomata as well. Follow the plan. Now!

    Rayne used the moisture from the earlier rain to create a jet of water and struck the Griffon. Before the large Griffon could turn around or even realize what was going on, Hail froze the water. The silver-feathered creature screeched in fury as he tried to shake the ice off. In only a moments time Scart shot forward and knocked the Dark Warrior to the ground.

    “I should have known.” The Griffon was about to get up but Scart swiftly pinned him down to the forest floor. “Rebel idiots.” He snapped.

    “It’s never wise to let your guard down.” Saia rasped.

    “You again?”

    “Have you two met before?” Hail looked at the older Nekomata.

    The Griffon tried to wriggle away from Scart, but the metal elemental had increased his weight to make it more difficult for the Dark Warrior to escape. “No, but Yugito is getting rather annoyed with your meddling.”

    “I’ll take that as a compliment.” Saia approached the two Griffons. “Care to introduce yourself?”

    “I’ve no reason to.” He growled. The Griffon was clearly rather young and seemed to be a bit hot-headed. I guess all Griffons are rather irritable and stubborn.

    “It’s four versus one. Even if you manage to get free from Scart’s grip, you are outnumbered. How about you cooperate with us?”

    “How about we just kill him.” Scart suggested.

    Hail sighed. “No.” Scart looked at the Nekomata. “Stick to the plan. Anyway, if we kill him, we won’t be any better than him.”

    “Fine.” Scart submitted. They would not resort to killing unless they had to.

    “Cowards.”

    “Let him go.” Saia ordered.

    “What?” Everyone, including the Dark Warrior, spoke in unison.

    “Are you insane?” Scart did not budge.

    “You heard him. Let me go!” The Griffon tried to smile innocently.

    “I have a message for Yugito.” Saia turned to Hail. “I’ll need a little assistance in a moment.”

    “With what?” What’s going on? Hail could make little sense of anything that was going on.

    “You’ll see.” How in the world am I supposed to help you if you won’t tell me how? “Scart, let him go.” Scart looked doubtfully at the old Nekomata and released his hold on the Dark Warrior. Immediately the silver-feathered creature lashed out at Scart. With a heavy swing of his wings Scart pushed the Griffon away.

    “You rebels are far too soft.” He growled. “It’s no surprise you’re losing this war as badly as you are.” He stretched his wings. “Tell me, what is this message of yours? I’m curios what you’ve got to say.”

    “Tell Yugito to stop sending arrogant idiots like you and come to face us herself.” Saia! What are you thinking? Hail stared in amazement. Saia was basically asking for trouble by taunting an enemy they had no knowledge of.

    “Why you-“ The Griffon went after Saia who remained fixed in the same spot only feet away.

    “Saia!” Hail yelled as he intercepted the Griffon’s path. “What exactly are you trying to accomplish.” He growled.

    “Scart, Rayne, stand back. I don’t want you two to get involved.” The spirit elemental stood behind the ice Nekomata. Focus, Hail. Hail still had no idea what Saia wanted him to do. “What’s the matter? It’s one on one now. I thought it’d be nice to give you a fighting chance.” Hail realized that Saia was intentionally trying to anger the Dark Warrior.

    “And you called me arrogant.” The Griffon’s feathers were ruffled up. Hail, The ice elemental could hear Saia’s voice. Focus your energy. Unleash it when the time is right. Hail did not comprehend what was going on, but he did as Saia said.

    The Griffon was now poised to attack. The Nekomata felt an icy feeling on his shoulder. “Saia, an explanation would be very nice right now.” Just focus. You don’t need to know anymore than you already do. That was… reassuring. The Dark Warrior spread his wings and attempted a strike from above.

    Now. The small pouch Saia had given him earlier began to glow intensely. Ice began to form on every stick, rock, tree, and blade of grass around Hail. “What the-“ The Dark Warrior screeched and veered in another direction to avoid a large white figure heading in his direction.

    “Saia? What exactly was it that you gave me?” Hail, slightly dizzy, stared in amazement as a polar bear faced off with the Dark Warrior. The Bear’s white fur shone slightly and the entire creature seemed to be partially transparent.

    “Soyala, spirit of ice and guardian of the ice orb.” Another orb?”

    “Wait, you’re telling me that you’ve had another orb this entire time?” Hail opened the pouch with one claw just enough so that he could get a glimpse of an icy blue sphere.

    “I found it a few months ago, not too far north of Kalm.” The bear, despite seeming nothing more than a ghost or mirage, was more than capable of striking with its long icicle-like claws. The Bear gave a powerful aura that was enough to keep the Dark Warrior from attacking. “Now that you know the real message, I suggest you get moving.” Saia muttered. “We have no intentions of giving up, no matter what happens.” The Griffon hesitated before retreating off into the forest.

    “That worked.” Hail felt exhausted but was glad that everything had worked out in their favor. “But what exactly was that?” Hail motioned towards the Bear who had begun to fade away.

    “Just what else are you hiding Saia?” Scart was almost speechless.

    “Don’t worry Scart, I think that will be the last of the surprises for now.” The old Nekomata snagged Hail’s bag with one claw and opened it so that Rayne and Scart can look at the ice orb within it. As the spirit began to fade, so did the glow around the orb. “I did warn you that these are quite powerful, no?” He opened his jaws to speak some more but feel silent.

    “Saia?” Riza had been watching from a safe distance.

    “I’ll explain later.” Hail sighed. His curiosity did not like Saia’s response.

    “Is this about those dreams that have been keeping you awake for the last week?” The bird gently glided down to the others and landed gently on the ground. The old Nekomata nodded.

    “There’s another orb in this area.” There’s more to it than that. The worried expression on his face said for more than his words. Trouble was brewing and they all knew it.

    “You still owe us all an explanation.” Hail urged.

    “Saia can explain while we get moving.” Riza concluded and stretched her wings for flight.

    “Riza, scout the area for anyone- or anything else. I doubt that Yugito would send only one Dark Warrior is she is aware of the presence of another orb.” Everyone seemed unsure of what was going on. “I’ll explain everything on the way, but for now, let’s get going.”

    “It’s just one thing after another.” Hail sighed. “Why can’t we just find a nice shady spot and have a nap for once?”

    Comments/Notes

    Yeah, the non-Pokemon section is way too broad and great stories can be easily overlooked. I don't mind the fact I haven't gotten reviews thus far, though. I enjoy what I do. Anyway, it's not as if I haven't gotten any feedback whatsoever every so often.

    After 150+ pages of typing it's almost impossible not to have the occasional typo. I promise you- there are more to come. xD -shot- I try to keep an eye out for them when I'm typing, but I miss a good number of them.

    Well, considering you've only read three chapters, I'm sure you will be glad to hear that my writing has (or should have) improved over the last year and a half that I've worked on this. Between chapters eleven and twelve a took a long hiatus so if there is any obvious style change, it might be there.

    I indent my chapters cause I can be OCD-ish and like things to look neat. It sorta bothers me seeing huge lines of text and paragraphs that are extended into two lines. It's just something that drives me crazy that really isn't a big deal.

    I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it so far. It's always great encouragement to get some feedback, so thank you very much for responding.

    On another note: Updates have officially shifted into the 'Slow' status. Chapters will now be posted every other week until further notice. (Reason: Marching Season has started so I'll be busy most of the time and will not receive as much time to draft and type as I normally would.) Updates should return to a weekly basis by late November or early December.


    Status

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-12 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
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    Chapter 12 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 13 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 14 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 15 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 13 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Chapter 14 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Chapter 15 (P2) Typing - (0%)
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 17th August 2011 at 8:15 AM.




  8. #33

    Default

    Chapter Thirteen
    Betrayal

    “Good morning, Neko.” The fire elemental opened one eye lazily. It was humid and misty outside.

    “There’s nothing good about it.” She muttered. She hated muggy days such as this. Her fur felt damp and heavy in the air.

    “For you perhaps, but I rather enjoy this weather.” Storm was already awake, shaking dew from his silver pelt. His fur shimmered gently in the light. Neko looked up at the clouds overhead. “We’ve got rain on the way.”

    “Wonderful.” Neko responded with undisguised sarcasm.

    They set off again towards the mountains. The trees had slowly begun to thin out and give way to a more damp and open ground. At least the mountains that loomed in the distance were now clearly visible and creeping closer and closer as they moved on.

    By late afternoon they had made it to the base of the mountains. Neko was glad to set her paws on solid stone as the two left the wet soil behind them. “Almost there.” Storm looked up. The mountains seemed much larger from their bases than they did from afar. “I guess we should find a place to rest up.”

    “But it’s only afternoon.” Neko pointed her nose upwards to the sun. “We still have plenty of daylight left before night hits.”

    “I don’t think we want to get stuck on the top of the mountain when night hits. It’ll get rather chilly.”

    “Alright.” Neko decided not to argue. Her paws itched to continue onward, but her mind saw sense in what the Kitsune had said. Of course, she also did not want to get stuck in snow as well.

    They spent a large portion of the afternoon checking around for a sheltered place to rest. Rain had begun to drizzle over the land, eventually drenching the Kitsune. “How are you still dry?” He laughed.

    The grey Nekomata tapped her charm with one claw. “This keeps me dry. Fire isn’t very helpful when you’re wet.” She was always thankful to have her charm with her.

    “Ah, that must be quite valuable.” He inspected the shell’s odd shape for a moment. “Anyway, I think I’ve spotted a cave up ahead.” Sure enough there was a dark shadow amongst some stones that seemed to mark an opening to a cave.

    “Perfect!” As they headed toward the opening in the stone, Neko caught movement from the corner of her eye. A large bird was flying overhead. They’re still following me?

    “What is it?” Storm followed her haze to the sky, squinting through the rain.

    “She’s one of the rebels. A scout of some sort.” Neko glared at the shape as it dived to a lower altitude.

    “Looks like you’re still being followed then.” He muttered unenthusiastically.

    “Not for long.” The Nekomata muttered.

    “Neko!” Riza’s golden-brown feathers were darkened by the moisture. “I have to talk to you.”

    “I don’t want to hear it.” She hissed. “I made it clear I want no part in whatever you, Saia, or the others may be planning.” Her ears were flattened against the back of her head in a clear show of aggression.

    “It’s impor-“ Neko summoned a large fire ball and sent it in the Eagle’s direction. As it hurled towards the bird, the rain slowly whittled it down so that by the time it got close to the bird the flame had diminished in size. Riza managed to dodge it at the last moment and got away with the tips of some feathers slightly charred. “Fine, be that way.” The Eagle turned around and headed back the forest.

    “For a moment there I thought you were trying to kill her.” Storm commented as they got under the protection of the cave.

    “No, but I hope she got the warning and will pass it on to the others.” Neko muttered. “I didn’t ask to be followed. I made it more than clear on multiple occasions that I’m not going to join up with them.”

    Neko and Storm lay down in the cave for a short while. The Kitsune began to feel a little restless and began to explore the immediate area. “I think there is more further in.” He pointed to a darkened tunnel that opened up at one side of their temporary shelter. “Want to check it out?”

    “Not really.” Neko yawned and rested her head on her paws. She was rarely given the opportunity to take a peaceful nap these days.

    “Come on! For all we know it may lead straight through the mountains!”

    “Or it may get us killed.”

    “Stop being so pessimistic.” Storm laughed. “It’s not like you have anything better to do.”

    “Fine.” The Nekomata sighed and got up reluctantly. The thought of lying back down and sleeping was still very tempting. “But if anything happens, it’s your fault.”

    “Fair enough.” He slipped into the dark tunnel with Neko following closely behind his many tails. Her green eyes quickly adjusted to the lack of light and her whiskers guided her through the stone passages.

    “I think this will get us stuck in a dead end.” Neko muttered. The passage had become increasingly narrow. The Kitsune, being smaller than Neko, did not seem to mind too much.

    “There’s only one way to find out, no?” Surely enough the path widened up enough for the two to have plenty of breathing room. Neko could hear the sound of a small stream filtering through at one end that was fed by a few cracks in the ceiling. The rains must have allowed the water to come down into the cave. The small trickle of water steadily grew wider as the path continued until they reached a wide open room.

    “A little light here?” Storm nudged Neko gently. “I don’t have your eyesight.”

    “Oh, right.” Neko sent an array of small flames throughout the cavern lighting it with a gentle orange glow.

    “Whoa.” The stream fed into an enormous lake that spread through a large portion of the cave. “Look how clear the water is.” The two poked their heads over the water to gaze into the depths of the pool.

    An uneasy feeling began to creep through the Nekomata when her eyes pinpointed a spot towards the center of the lake that seemed to be slightly glowing. “What’s that?” Whatever it was, Neko was not intending to get into the water to find out.

    “Hmm…” Storm shrugged. “I don’t know.” He whispered then pointed to a spot in the water just in front of him. “Come and look at this though.”

    “Look at what? I don’t see anything.” She focused her eyes to where the silver-furred Kitsune was pointed and saw nothing but water and stone. Storm suddenly flashed a paw towards the Nekomata’s neck. “What was that for?” She quickly retreated from the water. Something small splashed into the water. My charm!

    Storm laughed quietly. “I admit, I rather enjoyed your company these last few days.” The Kitsune gave a half-hearted smile. “Unfortunately, I’ve got orders to follow.”

    “You’ve been sent my Yugito?” He nodded. I should have known. Neko felt like a complete idiot for believing what he said about the rebels and not expecting that Storm could have been one of the evil Nekomata’s followers. I shouldn’t have attacked Riza like that. Neko realized that the Eagle was probably trying to warn her of this.

    “There are more Dark Warriors than the ones you met at your time at the castle.” Storm’s five tails gently lowered into the water. “You should have known that Yugito wouldn’t allow you to get away so easily.”

    “Can’t you just let me go and tell Yugito I’m dead?” Neko growled. “I’ve already told you, I want nothing more to do this war.”

    “To be quite honest, I wouldn’t mind that idea myself, but it won’t work.” Storm spoke calmly. “I don’t quite understand why the rebels have taken interest in you, but it seems as they won’t give up. So even if I do lie to Yugito, she’ll probably find out sooner or later.” Another reason for me to hate Hail right now.

    “Fine, have it your way then.” The flames that scattered across the room all shot towards the Kitsune.

    “Again, I apologize that this is how things have to be.” A veil of water blocked the flames. Crap! Neko’s fur bristled with both anger and rage. There was no way she could fend off a water elemental with a lake of liquid at his disposal.

    Neko froze and remained motionless for several moments. The Kitsune could not spot her or hear her if she withheld her abilities. Hopefully the damp smell of the cave would be enough to mask her own scent from the canine’s sharp sense of smell.

    Step by step the Nekomata inched towards the way they had entered. “Leaving so soon?” Storm was already blocking the way. I’ll have to charge through then. With a deep breath her paws propelled her forward. Flames enveloped her body as she attempted to push past storm and get away from the lake.

    “Neko, you can’t keep running on forever.”

    Comments/Notes

    Well, short chapter this week. I've been busy with... other things.

    Completed
    Chapters 1-15 (Part One)
    Chapters 1-12 (Part Two)
    Part Two Outline
    Part Three Outline

    In Progress
    Part Four Outline (0%)
    Chapter 14 (P2) Draft - (100%)
    Chapter 15 (P2) Draft - (100%)
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    Chapter 1 (P3) Draft - (90%)




  9. #34

    Default

    Chapter Fourteen
    Extinguished Light

    “Nice try.” Storm remarked as he pushed Neko aside, preventing her from escaping. If anything, the Kitsune was fast and agile. The Nekomata lashed her tails in frustration sending sparks of fire in one direction. “Stop trying to run and fight me already.”

    I don’t think I’ve got many choices.
    Flames began to spark in all directions giving light to the area around her. She sent the cinders at Storm and vanished into the darkness. It was probably best to use her better sense of hearing and sight to her advantage.

    “Trying to hide now?” Her fur stood on end as she heard Storm move in one direction closer to the exit. A strong surge of water and the sound of falling rocks came shortly after. “Now that we’re both stuck her, tell me why you chose to betray the Dark Warriors.”

    Neko held her tongue. He’s just trying to figure out where I am. “I’m under the impression that you aren’t quite close friends with Saia and his traveling companions, so why spare Vritra and the Wolf?” Her heart began to beat faster as Storm’s paw steps grew louder and drew nearer to her. “Try to realize that I merely wish to understand the reason for your actions.”

    The Kitsune was now walking in from of Neko. Without even the shortest moment of hesitation Neko jumped up on top of the Kitsune forcing him to the ground. “Are you going to answer now?” He grunted as she pinned him down against the stone floor.

    “It’s complicated.” She hissed.

    “We’ve both got plenty of time.” Storm insisted.

    “I had no reason to stay.” Neko dug her claws into Storm’s fur so he would not try to escape from her grip.

    “What about being chased down and hunted for leaving? Surely that is reason enough to be obedient.” Neko growled softly.

    “Yugito lied to me about many things. Staying there would have just resulted in me doing her wishes for who knows how long. I’d rather live in peace then have someone tell me what to do for the rest of my life.”

    “And your friends and family?”

    “What?”

    “Yugito could just as easily target them in order to get to you. By leaving you not only put yourself into danger, but anyone close to you as well.” Neko looked at Storm for a few seconds then laughed.

    “I don’t have any. As far as I’m aware, everyone in my family has been killed by Yugito or someone serving Yugito.” That was true for Cera at least. She had no idea what became of her parents. Perhaps they died in the fire that destroyed her former home.

    “No one?” The Nekomata caught a glimpse of shock in Storm’s eyes. The shock only lasted a moment. “That’s a lie.”

    “What makes you think that?” She hissed.

    “You saved the Wolf pup. You chose to be marked a traitor just to protect Rayne, am I correct?”

    “I promised someone I wouldn’t let the brat die.” Neko dug her claws a bit deeper into Storm’s fur.

    “You wouldn’t have kept the promise if you had no connection with the one you gave the promise to, now would you?”

    “I-“

    “Admit it, you’ve got friends, or whatever you want to call them, you’re just too stubborn to admit it. If they really aren’t your friends, then you must owe them something or you at least have some sort of trust in them if you were willing to put your life on the line like that.”

    “What would you know?” Neko growled. “Just stay out of my business. You don’t have any idea about anything that has happened in the last few weeks.” Neko spat. “You’re just another one of Yugito’s mindless slaves sent to do her bidding.”

    “Very well.” A wave of water crashed on top of them. Dammit! Neko was lifted by the water and carried into the lake. With a heavy heave her paws carried her upward towards the surface of the lake, which thankfully was only a few feet above her head. She gasped for breath and reached her claws out for the stone floor of the cavern.

    Another strong wave forced her back under the water but at a greater depth. Neko flailed to get back to the surface as her lungs began to scream for air. Her claws eventually scraped against solid rock. Using the stone to guide her, Neko made it back up. I hate water elementals.

    Once again a wave came towards her. “Not again.” She hissed with fury. The Nekomata spotted Storm and sent a ball of dark energy at the Kitsune. Neko had nearly forgotten about the practice she had with using dark elemental abilities. Unfortunately, she never really got the hang of it.

    The attack did help as it caught the silver-furred creature off guard. “I wasn’t aware that you could use more than one element.” He remarked as he got back to his paws. Neko could only hope that Storm would not realize how shaky her dark abilities were.

    Neko’s paws waded through shallow water until the found a surface that was not submerged in water. I need to get out of here. The entrance may have been blocked off, but there had to be a way out.

    She focused on the point where light filtered in from a small crack in the ceiling. Water still dripped down from the crack. It must be raining still. Widening the opening would not be too much of a problem, but getting up there was a different story entirely.

    A large splash broke through Neko’s thoughts. With a quick glace around Neko determined that the Kitsune had jumped into lake. I don’t like the looks of this. A shadow in the water blocked out the dim light she had spotted in the lake earlier. Whatever the source of the light was, it began to move as the Kitsune swam back to the surface. What is that?

    A large roar shook the cavern sending many stones falling into the lake at once. The sound of water falling water drowned everything else out as a large creature emerged from the lake. “Please tell me that thing ate Storm.” Neko took a few steps back only to realize that the water level had risen so that there was very little space to walk.

    It was a large snake-like creature with skin that looked like stone and legs that ended with webbed claws. It’s underbelly was similar to that of a Dragon’s and the creature’s tail was long and clearly powerful. It had webbed spines from its head all the way to its tail. If anything, it looked like a mix of a crocodile, a serpent, and an eastern dragon. The part that struck Neko was how the creature seemed almost transparent.

    “Unfortunately, no.” Storm had surfaced and was now standing on a rock not too far from the large reptilian creature. At his paws lay a small blue sphere that glowed gently in the cave. “I was told I would find this in one of the caves here, though I didn’t expect to find it until after dealing with you. This should speed things up though.”

    Neko fixed her sights on the orb. If she wanted to get out alive, she would have to take it from him. Saia had never told Neko that there were other orbs, and despite what she overheard at the Dark Castle, she had never really considered the possibility. While the Nekomata was not entirely sure, she was almost certain that the beast was linked to the orb in some way. “Care to introduce me to your new friend?”

    “This orb has more power than any other relic or charm known to the creatures of our world.” Tell me something I don’t already know. “There are more like it- one for each element. Within each there exists and entity that can be summoned forth. I guess you can say they are like spirits that can do more than just haunt the living world.” The fire elemental wished that she knew how to use her own orb so that she could have a chance of fighting off not only the Kitsune but the huge reptile that she now faced.

    Neko felt the water rise around her paws. With the main entrance blocked off there was nowhere for the water to go, trapping it all in the cavern and dooming it to be flooded. At least, assuming Neko survived long enough, there would be a way to reach the crack in the ceiling. The idea of luring the reptilian creature to the entrance to smash it open again was also took into consideration.

    The Nekomata sent a large rush of fire at the creature in an attempt to get the reptile’s attention. It worked. With a low grow the water-entity walked out onto the shallow water over the stones. Neko was able to see how long the creature really was. The creature’s long body was able to move with ease on land just as in water. The water entity’s spines slowly flattened against its back as it left the water.

    While the creature was not enormous it was still huge and definitely looked powerful enough to smash through solid rock. The end of it’s tail had sharp spines on the sides likely used to deal additional damage to whatever unfortunate creature that happened to be on the receiving end of a powerful lash.

    The serpent-like beast opened its mouth and hissed gently as Neko sent more fire at it. The large water elemental followed her slowly around the cave. It was a relief that it had not launched a full out attack yet. The creature seemed more curious than aggressive. Neko guessed that it might be attracted to the orb in her bag, which against all odds was still strapped to her shoulder.

    The water finally reached the point where Neko’s legs could not reach the ground without submerging her head. The water entity, however, was still able to stand. There was no doubt that the creature was many times more dangerous in the water than on land. Neko pushed hard against the water towards the pile of rubble.

    Before she could arrive at the blocked-off entrance the cave began to tremble. The pile of rocks behind her began to collapse. The creature once again began to growl lightly, but ceased after a moment. “Now what?” Neko hissed. A white blur crashed through the rubble and raced past Neko and rammed into the serpent-like entity. The serpent seemed to have been surprised and quickly backed off some.

    “What’s going on?” Storm growled as he repositioned himself to get a better view of the water entity and the newcomer. “Attack!” The serpent looked hesitantly at the Kitsune before creating a giant wall of water. Oh crap.
    Comments/Notes

    I started a web-comic based on events prior to the beginning of Part One's Prologue. If anyone cares to check it out, click Here.




  10. #35

    Default

    Chapter Fifteen
    Rebirth

    “Miss me?” Hail pushed through the rubble that had just collapsed. His face bore a wide grin.

    “Not at all.” Now the entrance had been cleared so the water had somewhere to flow. That did not change the fact that a large wave was racing in their direction.

    “Oh come on!” Hail laughed. “This is the second time I’ve come to get you out of trouble. Give me some credit!”

    “I don’t understand why you insist on helping me, but can you please do something about that?” Neko gestured to the water.

    “Oh, right.” A thin layer of ice slowly tried to coat over the wave slowing it down as the water broke through and froze over again until it stopped entirely. The ease of which Hail stopped the wave only irritated Neko because of her own uselessness at the moment. “Anyway, I help you because it’s what friends do.” Friends? That was the first time Neko heard that word used in reference to her that she could ever remember.

    “Yup!” A happy bark echoed through the cave.

    Neko could only grimace as she braced for Rayne’s attack. “You brought Rayne?” The Wolf jumped up onto Neko’s back, further soaking her already drenched grey fur.

    “I know how much you love water, so I brought Rayne along.” Hail joked at Neko’s miserable appearance.

    “Shut it.” She growled. Hail only laughed before turning to watch the water entity fight off the newcomer that he had brought along. Neko saw that the bear had the same ghost-like appearance as the serpent. The bear had been freezing the water around the reptilian creature in order to halt its movements.

    “I’m going to assume that your Kitsune friend over there has the water orb.”

    “Yup. Let me guess… you have the ice orb?” That would explain the big semi-transparent polar bear that was using ice abilities to fend off the water entity.

    “It’s Saia’s. He’s just letting me use it for the time being.”

    “Where is he anyway?” Neko had expected the older Nekomata to be with Hail and Rayne. Scart also seemed to be missing, not that Neko minded much. She was rather thankful for his absence.

    “Keeping watch. Your friend over there isn’t the only one that has been hanging around these parts.” If anything that was not reassuring in the least. The possibility of other Dark Warriors joining in was not exceedingly high but still worth some concern. A small wave of water from the serpent washed over their paws. “So, what’s the plan?”

    “What plan?” The only think Neko had tried to do so far was to stay alive and possibly escape if the opportunity was granted to her.

    “Well, we can’t just let him get away and give that orb to Yugito.” Hail looked around and examined the area.

    “Rayne, can you search for my charm? It fell in the water earlier.” The Wolf jumped off, or rather fell off, her back and turned to face Neko.

    “But I can’t see.” Oh, right. Wolves, although their sight was pretty good, did not have the night vision capabilities that most members of the cat family did, especially in deep water in dark caves.

    “I’ll light this place up when I can, alright?” The pup nodded and slinked off into the water. Neko turned to Hail. “How do I do that weird ghost thing with the orb?”

    “First off, they aren’t ghosts- ghosts don’t even exist. Second, I have no idea really.” Neko sighed. “If you really want to know, go ask Saia!”

    “I’d love to, but he’s not here.”

    “Go find him then.”

    “Does it look like we’ve got the time to-“

    “You two shouldn’t quarrel in the middle of a fight.” Storm casually walked up to the two Nekomata.

    “Stay out of it.” Neko snapped and turned back to glare at Hail. The Kitsune stared in bewilderment. “Either you tell me now or we all die down here!”

    “That’s a bit of an exaggeration.” Hail was keeping an eye on Storm who simply stayed off to the side in confusion.

    “Well, if you try the same thing you used on Gale, maybe we’d all die.”

    “Don’t you dare bring that up!” The last thing Neko wanted to think about was how she had lost control of her fire abilities against Gale.

    “Too bad, cause I just did!”

    “Um, I don’t mean to interrupt but-“

    “What?” Neko hissed.

    “However entertaining it is to watching you two argue, we have some business to finish.” The fire elemental glared at Hail for a moment then back at Storm.

    “Fine. I’ll deal with you later.”

    “Just like you dealt with Gale and Storm?”

    “Not again.” Storm sighed. Even the two elemental entities had stopped fighting to watch.

    “What is that supposed to mean?” Neko was about to continue the argument when a ball of water was dropped on top of her. “What was that for?” For a moment she had nearly forgotten about Storm and thought that it was Rayne. “Oh, right.”

    “Shall we continue?” The Kitsune asked. Neko had to give him one thing- he was polite and had some honor which was far more than could be said for many, if not all, of the Dark Warriors.

    “Hail, the fox is all yours.” Despite how immensely irritating Hail was at times, Neko was glad for the help. “I’ll try to help-“ Did the bear even have a name?

    “I believe Saia called her Soyala.” Neko had not expected the entity to be female.

    The two elementals began to clash again shortly after Storm interrupted Neko and Hail’s fight. What confused Neko, however, was how they seemed so unwilling to fight. She could not help but wonder if the two entities had their own thoughts and feelings like herself or were merely just doing what whoever had the orb wanted them to.

    I forgot about Rayne! Neko realized that the Wolf was probably searching in the water using feel alone. The fiery Nekomata willed for flames to appear in the damp air and illuminate the cave. It was not easy considering all the moisture, but soon enough the area was sparking with flames. The Kitsune was glad to be able to see but was still about evenly matched by Hail’s ice. The contrast between the cold water and the hot muggy air became more and more noticeable after a few minutes passed by.

    Neko spotted Rayne’s head come out of the water as he came up to replenish his air supply. Within a moment he had diced back down into the lake. It was a known fact that water elementals were able to stay underwater for much longer periods of time than most other land creatures. Unfortunately for the young Wolf, the charm could have been pushed anywhere by the waves Storm and the water entity had created.

    She turned back to the two spirits that were fighting. The bear was much lighter footed on land but was unable to keep track of the serpent as every time it dove into the water it appeared in another spot in moments. The former Dark Warrior was slightly concerned that the reptilian creature may go after Rayne, but it seemed busy enough with the bear.

    Am I the only one here who is completely useless? The only thing she was capable of doing at the moment was to keep the cavern lit and send the occasional fireball at the water entity or Storm- but the light also aided Storm. Neko snapped out of her thoughts when the water entity finally decided she would be an easier target and sent it’s large tail swinging in her direction.

    “Hail!” Neko called out when she noticed the bear beginning to fade away. She spared a quick glance in his direction to see that the ice elemental looked very worn out already. The Kitsune also seemed to be tiring out as well.

    “Just keep it distracted for a while longer. Summoning the entity takes a lot of your own energy, so Storm shouldn’t be able to keep this up for too much longer.” I hope this means that giant serpent-thing will be gone soon. If what Hail had said was true, which was the case, the water entity would soon follow the bear and vanish in some time. Until then, Neko had to keep the much larger and more powerful beast with an elemental advantage busy. No problem.

    It’s just me and a big ghost-reptile. How hard can this be? Very hard, apparently. The entity sent wave after wave of water in her direction at every chance it was given. Either the reptile had gone easy on the ice entity or just really hated Neko. The fire elemental ducked out of the way of it’s heavy tail once again before catching a fleeting glimpse of Rayne with the shell charm clenched in his jaw.

    “Toss it over here!” The Wolf nodded and threw the shell in Neko’s direction. Another swat of the creature’s tail however, tossed the shell back into the water. “Thanks for nothing, you useless reptile.” The former Dark Warrior muttered before sending a flurry of fire at the entity.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll find it again!” It was times like these that she was extremely thankful for Rayne’s optimistic and helping attitude, even if it was not as contagious as many would think. The creature growled in a deep tone before heading to the water after Rayne.

    “I’m not done with you!” The tabby Nekomata hissed and jumped onto the entity’s tail. The reptile thrashed it’s wildly around, clearly not pleased to have a wet cat clinging to it. The more it tried to shake her off, the harder she dug her claws into it’s thick scales.

    At last it stopped moving. Did I kill it? Rather, the reptile had decided to ignore Neko and slide into the water, with or without the Nekomata on it. Knowing that Rayne would not stand a chance in the water against the entity, Neko started to bite down and claw at the creature’s somewhat transparent thick skin in an attempt to distract it.

    She could feel a tiny bit of blood well up from the bite just before it went into the water. Crap! Under the water she saw the webbed spines on it’s back begin to unfold. The thought of tearing the webbed skin between the spines crossed her mind. Surely it would be more painful than clawing at hard scales and thick skin?

    Resisting the water and the entity’s movement, Neko slowly clawed her way to the side of one of the long spines. Gripping tightly with three sets of claws, she lifted her right paw and slashed at the webbing.

    Her actions undoubtedly made the aquatic creature furious. Folding it’s spines back down, the water entity began a spiraling dive to the bottom of the lake. Unlike the Serpent’s previous attempts to knock her off, the water entity finally broke free from Neko’s claws.

    I need air! The fire elemental had not realized how long she had been underwater nor how deep the entity had taken her until she began to feel slightly dizzy. She kicked her paws and started to swim back to the surface. I won’t make it! Something bumped into her side and began to push her upward.

    She coughed heavily when at last she made it to the surface. Rayne popped up next to her. “Thanks.” She gasped. The two swam back to the rocky surface. “Are you alright?” He was uncharacteristically quiet.

    “Yes.” The Wolf pup was understandably tired. He shook his fur dry, sending drops of water all over Neko. “Sorry.”

    “It’s alright.” There was no way her fur would dry anytime soon regardless.

    “No, I mean about your shell.” Rayne managed to fish out the charm- or what was left of it. The water entity must have shattered it when it’s tail collided with it earlier.

    “Don’t worry. It isn’t your fault.” The serpent must have vanished because neither Neko or Rayne saw any sign of movement in the water. “It’s Hail’s fault… speaking of whom… where did he go?” The fiery Nekomata relit the cavern with flames. The ice elemental was still facing off with the Kitsune. “Let’s go help.” Storm was strong, but he would not be able to handle a fight against three former Dark Warriors.

    “Hey Storm.” Neko felt comforted by the warmth in her bag. For a moment she had forgotten about it and worried that the orb may have slipped out while she was in the water. “It’s over.”

    The Kitsune looked up. “As I said earlier, I have orders to follow.” He broke away from Hail who gladly allowed the five-tailed fox to go after Neko instead.

    “Think about that before you send you-“ What was the water entity anyway? It was not any type of creature she had ever seen or heard of before. “- lizard after Rayne.” While she was not entirely sure if he or Hail had full control over the entities, she was still very irritated- mostly because she had to take a swim. “I didn’t go out of my way to save him at the Dark Castle so he could get killed here instead.”

    “What do you intend to do about it? You’re just as tired as the rest of us.” Storm slowly approached the Nekomata. “It’s three versus one, but my orders are to kill you. As long as I get that done, the rest doesn’t matter.”

    “What if I flee and leave you with these two pests?”

    “Hey!” Hail protested.

    “Then I will be forced to kill the Wolf.”

    “You won’t be killing anyone.” Neko knew Storm either had something planned or was desperate to be acting so confidently in this situation.

    “Really?” He growled and changed course to Rayne’s location. Why does everyone insist on going after Rayne?

    “Really.” A shrill screech echoed in the cavern as flames began to build up and take form. “You have one orb, we’ve got two. Give it up.”

    Two blazing wings spread above Neko as the fire took the form of a great bird. A Phoenix. Any confidence Storm had drained away. Everyone knew he was too exhausted to put up a fight with an entity, even if it was for a short time.”

    “No!” He growled. There was a tone of desperation in his voice. The Kitsune halted and looked at Rayne and Hail. Storm hesitated before backing off towards the exit. “Fine. I promise you though, we will meet again.” With that he ran off in his escape. Neko let out a sigh of relief. At last this mess was over. Storm was by far the most interesting Dark Warrior she had met so far. There was something about him that was different. Maybe it was just her imagination.

    Within moments the Phoenix vanished. “See? You didn’t need me to tell you how to do that.” Hail teased.

    “Do we have to start this again?” Neko muttered.

    “Maybe.” Hail joined Neko as they started to head out of the cave.

    “You have a lot of explaining to do.” There were many questions that Neko wanted to be answered.

    “I’ll let Saia do that. I’m not even completely sure what any of this is anymore.” Hail yawned. “So, will you join us now?”

    “You’re annoying persistent, you know that, right?”

    “We’ll let you kill Kura!”

    Neko laughed. She had made a promise to herself not to kill unless it was necessary, but this was an offer that was just too good to resist. “Your persuasive abilities are horrible, but sure. Count me in.”

    Notes/Comments

    And that concludes Part Two. Part Three will begin in a few weeks. (Mostly so I can build up some draft buffer and work on other things.) I will get the Pt. 3 prologue up in the next week or so.

    Also, cookies for whoever catches the allusion I threw in there. ^_^




  11. #36

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    Part Three
    Prologue

    Zera padded carefully on top of the frostbitten stone, careful not to slip or trigger any sort of trap that might be waiting for her. All around her stood ancient ruins that had endured many years of wind and ice. The shadow Nekomata puffed her fur out in an attempt to keep warm. She was deeply annoyed with Yugito for sending her out to check up on some old ruins while Storm and Talon were sent to go after Neko and the rebels. Of course, there was no way Zera would show that she was irritated in front of her master.

    It was not that Zera did not want to check out the ruins, save for the fact they were so far north in a climate much to cold for her short fur. The fact that Yugito had sent Storm and Talon on such important tasks bothered her. If Gale had failed to handle the problem, then it was clear that the two Dark Warriors would not succeed without some difficulty. Talon may have been powerful, but he was not the brightest or most strategic fighter. His tactics usually involved jumping right into the fight without a second though. Against a strategist like Saia he was bound to lose. In fact, Zera suspected that the rebels had probably defeated him already.

    Then there was Storm. The Kitsune was a newer addition to the Dark Warriors. He had proven himself a powerful opponent, but there was something about him that Zera did not like. The Nekomata had a strong suspicion that Yugito had sent him after the orb and Neko as a way to test him. If he failed to get rid of Neko while she was still worn out from her encounter with Gale, then Yugito would have lost a huge opportunity.

    Zera shivered in the cold and turned her focus back to the ruins. They were set far north of where Kalm once stood and had laid undisturbed until Arth recently came across them on an investigation task. It always seemed that Zera was sent to the most miserable places as a result of Arth’s findings. The stones were either covered by snow or encased in ice making for a very slippery walk. Zera stopped when she reached a dead end. A large wall loomed over her. At the base there was a small altar with a shallow dip as if something was supposed to be placed there.

    Behind the ice on the stone there was text. Thankfully, most of the text was legible even with the ice layering over it. This was the reason Yugito had sent her. Of all of her followers, Zera was the best of interpreting ancient text. The weird symbols were spread out before her in a uniform pattern. The first thing the Nekomata looked for were symbols that were still used in the present time. Immediately she picked out two. Ice and Shadow. The symbols were usually used to represent the element rather than the word itself while the written word was the opposite.

    The symbol for ice, two perpendicular lines, was written at the top of the wall of text while the symbol for ice, a clockwise moving spiral was hidden very vaguely in the midst of the text. The ice part was not a surprise at all seeing how unbearably cold it was in these parts, but what of the shadow element? And what was with the altar? A thought crossed her mind. If she placed the ice orb there, would it lead to the shadow orb? The dip seemed to be about the right circumference for an orb to fit in.

    Her eyes sluggishly scanned over the text. It was more than difficult to translate as there was at least fifty different characters- more than twice as many as the language spoken by a large portion of the world. She found the part that Arth had managed to decipher. “Submerged in darkness. Hidden by earth. The serpent’s cache lies at the trough.” Zera whispered. If anything, Arth was good with riddles. Other parts were hardly legible due to countless years of erosion, however.

    Be… he… eternal… re…n… On the… of… en… dar… he… ha… rise o… ore. we… ill… se… n… tw… wi… all. The power of the past will… ing… ao… to all.

    Zera muttered in frustration at the eroded text. That phrase was near the top where the ice and wind had done the most damage. There were some lines at the top that mentioned the ice element, but were also very difficult to translate.

    She then turned her attention to the shadow symbol. Her hope was that whatever was written here could lead her to the shadow orb. With that, no one would be able to defeat her, except maybe Yugito. She deciphered bits and pieces of the text, but most of it seemed to refer to old history or ancient tales that Zera had heard of but never took much interest in. There were many different stories told about what had happened in ancient times, but no one could ever seem to agree or confirm the truth of any particular story. Of course, the chances of any history written on an ancient block of ice were probably much more accurate than anything one would find in a book.

    A slight sound broke into the shadow Nekomata’s thoughts. “Who’s there?” She hissed. After a few moments of silence she decided it was just the wind blowing over the stone. Moments later, a pile of snow fell from the top of one partially crumbled wall spraying her with frost. The snow had been covering up several unusual pictures that she had not seen before. The images, despite the crumbled part of the wall, seemed to be in pretty good condition in comparison to the eroded text.

    There were about five illustrations that were intact. One portrayed a mountain range that had a sudden dip towards the center. Another showed a large chasm in the earth. The third seemed to be a large tree in the midst of a valley. Above those three pictures were some of a Dragon she had never seen before. It looked like any other dragon, but it had feathered wings and seemed to have fur rather than fur. The last was of a Wolf standing before the twelve orbs. She looked back the landscape pictures, then the realization hit.

    Notes/Comments

    Well, part three started yesterday, I just didn't have the time to post it up here. Anyway, I'm back to every other week updates... assuming anyone is actually reading this. (Kind of hard to tell these days.)

    So in that break, I got very little drafting done. Why? I've been unusually busy, even more so than I had expected. Things should slow down in a few weeks, though. Hopefully I won't run out of buffer before then.
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 26th October 2011 at 11:45 PM.




  12. #37

    Default

    Chapter One
    Birth

    “Where are we going again?” Neko looked expectantly at Saia.

    “You’ll find out soon enough.”

    “You said that yesterday.” Rayne whined.

    “And the day before that, actually.” Hail added with a slight smile.

    While Neko, Hail, and Rayne dealt with Storm, Saia had been with Scart planning some sort of scheme that, aside from Saia, no one there had any details to. The only piece of information they knew was that he and Riza were to meet up with other rebel groups and prepare for an expected fight with Yugito’s forces. There was no way the leader of the Dark castle would sit idly by when the news of the ice and fire orbs reached her ears.

    The group had traveled back through the forest. After a few days into their trek, Neko had begun to doubt that they were ever going to leave the trees. The journey to the mountains seemed much faster, though the fact that she had traveled alone for most of that part might have contributed to it. Saia was admittedly slow when he was not fighting or in any rush.

    To pass the time, Hail had attempted to explain to the fire elemental what little he knew about the orbs. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in bringing further confusion not only to Neko, but himself. Saia promised that he would tell them everything they needed to know- and Neko assumed he would tell no more than that- but so far the old Nekomata had said very little since Neko had joined in their group, let alone anything on the orbs. “We’re almost there.” He muttered. “We should be there by noon.”

    “You realize that there is absolutely nothing but forest around here, right?” Neko recognized the scorched part of the forest not to far off ahead of them. After seeing that stretch of the forest so many times, she could only assume that they were going in circles.

    “Don’t be too quick to assume that.” Neko sighed. At least they have not run into any more trouble. They were all tired and worn out from travel and fighting, the last thing they needed was to run into an unfriendly face.

    “My paws hurt.” Rayne whined. While they were all exhausted, Rayne was the only one to be open about it.

    “Deal with it.” Neko growled.

    “Ignore her, Rayne. She’s always in a bad mood. You get used to it though.” He leaned down so the young wolf could climb up onto his back. Thankfully he was still small and light enough to be carried, though for how much longer was unknown. Neko could see that Rayne had grown some since the events that took place in Kurori.

    “Not always.” Rayne barked happily. “I think it’s only when you’re around.”

    Hail laughed. “Lovely. I must have missed something then.”

    “We’re here.” Saia came to a stop.

    Neko looked around and saw nothing but trees. Finally, a large boulder propped next to what was easily one of the largest trees in the forest. “This is it? A big rock?” The fire elemental was decidedly unimpressed considering the amount of time it took to find it. Saia closed his eyes and put his focus onto the boulder. After a few moments it shuddered before slowly floating up from the ground. It crashed back down after moving about four feet to the right revealing a large hollow in the middle of the tree trunk. “Oh.”

    “Come in.” They all followed the spirit elemental into the tree, pausing only to allow Saia some time to move the boulder back into place. Everyone, except for Saia, had been caught by the unexpectedly steep slope inside and nearly rolled down a lengthy tunnel. “Watch your step-“ Neko tripped on something and nearly collided with Hail. “-there are several tree roots sticking up from the ground around here. It’s also a bit slippery.”

    “Where are we?” Rayne eagerly looked around at the damp soil surrounding them as he tried to make out what he could in the dark passage. This doesn’t exactly seem very safe. One wrong move could bring down the soil above them, but Neko decided not to think about that.

    “We’ll be able to hide out here without any interruptions so I can explain what the orbs are, why they were created, and how to use them.” After a few short minutes they ended up a more open room with a stone floor. Books lay scattered across in all directions in large piles or stacks. The air smelt somewhat or ash. We must be under where I burned the forest. “After Yugito rose to power, she ordered that all books be destroyed.” Neko recalled seeing a small library in the Dark Castle, but she never bothered to read any of the books, scrolls or tomes. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to do so while she had the chance.

    “Yugito wanted to wipe out any knowledge that could help bring her down from power- especially the old legends.”

    “What legends?”

    “Well, it looks like she succeeded with that.” Saia muttered. “They used to be pretty common tales back before she rose up to power. I guess I can’t blame everyone for forgetting them with everything else to worry about.” The old Nekomata lifted a book from one of the piles with his abilities. “Anyway, Aros and I managed to hide away some of the historical texts as well as other books we believed were of some importance.” He looked through several books before gesturing to some torches that were aligned along the wall. “Mind giving us some light here?”

    The former Dark Warrior lit the torches and brought light into the room. “Thank you.” She could only assume that Saia’s eyes were starting to lose their strength in his old age, as most Nekomata would have little trouble seeing in the dark. She looked over to Rayne who had fallen fast asleep on top of Hail’s back.

    Saia continued to look through the books for a while. “Here we go.” He pulled an old book off a dusty pile and placed it on top of a nearby stack so that Neko and Hail could see the book clearly. “You wanted to learn about the orbs, right?” The two Nekomata nodded. “Well, this should help.”

    The brown cover of the book was heavily ornamented with gold markings and featured a thin black and silver dragon flying in a tight circle in the center. The first page had many colorful illustrations of places and creatures- some of which Neko had never seen or heard of. Most of the text was pretty easy to read, but scattered around the pages were several phrases and words written with unusual symbols.

    “The legend of Velius.”

    “Is it true?” Surely if it were a legend- it could be all false, right?

    “No one knows for sure, but I believe, based on my past experiences over the years, that this story is more accurate and reasonable than many of the stories out there. There are many variations of this legend- many of which are rather absurd.”

    “Basically, you believe this one is true, then?”

    “Yes. No one has been able to find proof that any of this could have ever happened- until recently perhaps.” Neko looked at Hail who merely shrugged.

    “Proof? What kind?”

    “You’ll understand when you read the story.” Neko looked at the first page. There were many strange symbols and another more detailed illustration of the same black dragon. There was no deciphering the unusual text, so Neko turned her attention to the next page. A list of seven chapters stretched down across the page with a picture of an odd Dragon hatchling in the upper right hand corner. The first chapter was titled ‘Birth’.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Damn it.” A black-scaled Western Dragon growled in annoyance as her prey barely managed to escape the grasp of her claws and flee into the dense forest around her. The Dragoness was a lithe and elegant Dragon with dark scales. The silver of her horns, claws, and underbelly contrasted with the darker colors. The reptile was worn out from the trek through the trees and frustrated due to her lack of success. Hunting had been difficult for the past several weeks and she, as well as others, were being forced to go further and further from the city to find food.

    There had been rumors of some sort of evil and murderous creature roaming the area, but the Dragoness insisted on traveling deeper into the forest despite the warnings and caution of many others that lived in the nearby city. Almost everyone had begun to rely on fruits, vegetables, and whatever other plant life they could scavenge, although it was a growing concern that the plants were slowly withering away in recent days.

    The sleek Dragoness glided silently over the trees in search of another target. The forest was unusually still with not even the slightest trace of animal life moving amidst the foliage. With a sigh of annoyance and frustration, the Dragoness swooped down to perch upon a tree. The limb swayed under her wait, but held showed no signs of snapping. Tired from the days hunt, the dark-scaled creature decided to take a short nap.

    When she awake the sky had begun to darken as nightfall started to creep up over the horizon. The Dragoness was about to return to her home nearby the city when something froze her on the spot. A strange, ominous, whispering was beckoning her further into the trees. While she was usually bold, proud, and fearless, the black Dragoness felt a strong uneasiness creep up as an overwhelming sense of danger began to consume her instincts.

    As she walked, deciding to stay in the cover of the trees rather than fly, every sound nearly made her spin around half-expecting to see the monster than many believed to have taken residence in the forest. “it’s just the wind.” She muttered in an attempt to relax, but the strange whispering slowly grew louder, though remained inaudible. “Who’s there?” She hissed. Silence fell over the trees as the last light of the sun sank away in the distance.

    She spread her wings and prepared to take flight to the safety of the city when the voice returned.

    The eternal one shall rise at last.
    Distortion and chaos shall follow his path.
    No hope to grasp when the final spell is cast.
    For all will be destroyed by the eternal’s wrath.


    “This better not be some sort of joke.” She growled. At this point every muscle in her body was frozen even as her instincts screamed at her to run and put as much distance between her and this spot as possible. Thunder crashed into the jungle. The winged creature finally managed to take a few steps back only to halt as her hind leg bumped into something hard, smooth, and round.

    Her hind leg had brushed up against a soft white egg with thin gold stripes that laced across the entire surface. How long had the egg been there? The egg was identical in size to that of a Dragon. The Dragoness glanced around nervously. There was no in sight, and without a mother, or someone else, to care for it, the egg was doomed to die.

    Pushing aside her nervousness, the black Dragoness grabbed the egg carefully in her hook-shaped silver claws and took to the sky. She could not help but feel as if she were being watched as her wings carried her above the trees. The strong headwinds slowed her progress, but the Dragoness was determined to make it back to the city that lay right near the forest- Hala.

    Hala was the largest city known to the world and had long been a center for trade and news. Recent hauntings, however, had driven away many travelers and created a unsettling situation for those that lived within it’s limits.

    “Amaris!” She was greeted by an Eastern Dragon as she arrived to where she lived- a small house just outside of the city. “Where have you been?” The long serpent-like Dragon had clearly been awaiting her return. He had soft white fur and a light blue mane that ran across the back of his long body. His underbelly had the armored scales that most types of Dragons had. “We’ve been worried.”

    “I’m flattered.” She muttered. “But by ‘we’ve’, you mean you were worried, and you know very well that I can take care of myself, Aalok.”

    “You know that it isn’t safe-“ Aalok paused when he noticed what Amaris was holding in her claws. “What is that?”

    “An egg. I thought you could figure that out on your own.”

    “And it’s mother.”

    “If you’re thinking that I stole it, you’re mistaken.” Amaris growled softly. “It was just there. No nest, parents, sibling… nothing.”

    “Perhaps it’s already dead, Amaris. If it wasn’t in a nest, it was probably abandoned for some reason.”

    It was not uncommon for creatures to abandon bad eggs or weak young so that the stronger offspring could have a higher chance of survival when times were difficult, but Amaris found the idea repulsing and cruel. At one point she had wanted to raise children but was never able to find a mate and had long given up on the idea. “If it’s abandoned, I’ll care for it.”

    “And if it’s dead?”

    “I guess we’ll find out in a few months.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Several months passed quietly by with little occurrences. After the arrival of the white and gold egg the food shortage had begun to end and there were fewer sightings of the monstrous creature that was thought to be living in the jungle. Some even believed that the creature was gone for good. Because of these events, many of those who lived in Hala began to believed that the egg had been sent from the heavens as some sort of gift to protect them from danger.

    Amaris, of course, found the whole idea absurd, but welcomed the special treatment she and the egg were receiving. The Dragoness spent a very large portion of her day standing guard over the fragile egg and keeping it warm with the occasional flame. She only left to get food and supplies in which Aalok would step in and keep an eye on it for her. “Amaris?”

    “What is it now?” She growled as the Eastern Dragon entered a home. The place where she lived was not extravagant in any way. A simple structure made of stone was all she needed for shelter. There were two rooms in the house- one of which was used as place for her to sleep.

    “Has it hatched yet?”

    “Of course, it hatched in the few minutes you were gone.” She growled sarcastically. “It’s just as it was the last time you came in the last dozen times.”

    “Amaris, it’s been too long.” The Eastern Dragon raised his head a bit to try getting a better view of the egg as it was partially covered by Amaris’ wing.

    “It will hatch.” She insisted. “Perhaps it’ll hatch sooner if you stay away from here long enough. Now, unless you’ve something important to tell me- get out.”

    “Relax.” Aalok was more tolerant of her temper than most. “Garan just wanted to make sure you were doing alright.”

    “Since when was taking care of an egg a dangerous job?” The black Dragoness was rapidly losing whatever patience she left.

    “He’s just concerned, Amaris. You know how he is.” Aalok dipped his head and began to head out sensing the Dragoness’ annoyance.

    “Tell the superstitious Wolf to sop poking his nose in places it doesn’t belong.” Aalok give a short nod to acknowledge her words. “Now get out.”

    Amaris spent the rest of the day keeping her sights on the egg until at last she fell asleep. Her dreams were filled with memories of her days as a young hatchling. She was always the outcast- others would relentlessly treat her badly until the day Aalok stood up for her. Even then, the taunting and cruel treatment never completely ceased. The Eastern Dragon had always tried to help her, even after he was invited to join the elemental warriors.

    The elemental warriors were a group of well trained and skilled elementalists. There was one spot for each known element- making twelve spots total. However, there were only eleven warriors as the vast majority of creatures had a natural distrust for anyone with dark abilities.

    Much to her surprise, she had been invited in alongside her friend. “Is this your idea, or everyone else’s?” She had asked with suspicion. Surely they would never allow her in willingly. “You know they don’t trust Dark elementals like me.”

    “I trust you.” Was all Aalok replied. The Dragoness thought about the offer for several days, locking herself away from the rest of the world for a while. She had finally declined the invitation by breathing fire into the leader’s face. Secretly, though, she had been grateful for the offer and wanted to be a part of the group, but she knew that joining the elemental warriors would cause more trouble than it was worth.

    Her sleep was disturbed by a sudden clicking sound. Her eyes blinked open in a heartbeat and focused on the egg. A small crack had appeared on one side of the shell. The break steadily grew larger as something scratched at the shell from within. Amaris could only watch in anticipation as the creature inside began to break free.

    Slowly, but surely, the egg shell began to crumble away until a small dragon sat on top of the scattered remains. It was much different than any other Dragon Amaris had ever seen before. Except for the usual protective scales on the hatchling’s underbelly, the baby Dragon was covered in fur. This was normal in Eastern Dragons, but the newborn was definitely not an Eastern. Two small feathery wings hung at the hatchling’s side. Both his fur and feathers were the purest of whites lined with glittering gold flecks.

    “He’s beautiful.” Aalok poked his head around the corner. He had never actually left earlier and decided to stay and wait to see if anything would happen before night fell. Amaris had known he was there but chose not to say anything about it. “What are you going to call him?” The hatchling’s two eyes looked up at Amaris with a bright curiosity.

    “Any suggestions?” The odd Dragon chirped excitedly as Amaris nuzzled his feathered wings.

    “You’re his mother- that’s your job.” Aalok cautiously crept closer, careful not to frighten the baby Dragon. “So?”

    Amaris thought for a moment. “How about… “ There was a brief pause. “Velius.”
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 17th November 2011 at 6:44 AM.




  13. #38

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    I have decided to cease posting new chapters up here in the serebii forums due to lack of responses and readers. I no longer see the point in posting up chapters (That take time to reformat from the other site I post this for) for non-existent readers.

    - Petuniabubbles/Neko




  14. #39

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    I don't even know why I'm updating this.

    Chapter Two
    Velius

    “Velius, it’s time to go.” Amaris called out to the unusual young Dragon. It had been a few years since the dark Dragoness found his egg in the forest and things seemed to be going well so far. Velius had grown a good amount though he was still very young for a Dragon. His wings had strengthened enough so he could glide for short periods of time and he was steadily getting better at flying. Straight, pointed, golden horns had begun to grow on his head with a row of spines and fur that ran down his back.

    “Do I have to?” He whined trying to claw at the ground as his adopted mother lifted him up by his tail. The two were returning home from a rather pleasant trip to Hala. Usually Amaris disliked going to town, but she wanted Velius to see around and play with some of his friends. The last thing she wanted was for him to end up as an outcast like herself.

    “It’s almost dark out, Velius. I’ve told you many times that it isn’t safe out alone-especially at night.” Sightings of the weird creature in the forest had risen in the last few weeks but there was never any trace of such a beast whenever someone went out to investigate the rumors. While Amaris believed that everyone was probably just seeing some weird patterns of shadows formed by the trees and plants in the forest. However, she was not going to take any risks.

    “Fine.” Velius muttered and let the Dragoness carry him back to their home without further protest. He was thankfully obedient most of the time, though his curiosity often got him into all sorts of mischief. “Can we explore the forest some more tomorrow then?”

    “What have I said about that?” She muttered, making sure not to drop Velius as she spoke- not that she has not done so in the past.

    “Please!”

    “It’s not safe for you to go wandering about there.”

    “But you’ll be there too!” He pleaded and tried to look up at his mother to give her his most innocent face. “Anyway, the monster everyone talks about only comes out at night!”

    “There is no monster there, Velius. It’s all just silly superstition. If there were something like that in the forest, it would have been confirmed by now.” Confirmed by some sort of dead body or an attack, but Amaris left that part out.

    “So if there isn’t a monster, why can’t I go?”

    “Because-“ Amaris realized she had destroyed her own argument against him going.

    “Because-?”

    “Alright, I’ll think about it!”

    “Yay!”

    Sure enough, the next morning Amaris found herself walking through the forest with Velius riding on her back between her wings which were folded against her side. The forest was rather quiet and calm despite the rumors of some strange, supposedly bloodthirsty, creature. “It’s really green out here!” Velius looked in awe at all of the trees and plants that were scattered in high density across the area. “Are all forests like this?”

    “Most are, but they all have different types of plants and trees.” A loud rustling brought Velius to his feet.

    “What was that?”

    “Don’t worry,” Amaris caught of glimpse of white amongst the trees. “It’s only-“

    “Roar!”

    “It’s the monster!” Velius jumped in shock and ended up falling off Amaris and into a patch of muddy ground. A nearby fern was lit up in flames.

    “-Soyala.” Amaris sighed. A large white bear walked out and stomped the, thankfully small, fire out with one large paw before nuzzling Velius with her nose. She was a large white bear- not a polar bear though. She had long black claws on her front paws that looked like they could tear through just about anything. Although bears were usually seen as aggressive and stubborn, a gentle gleam could be seen in her dark eyes. She was wise- but fierce when she needed to be.

    “That makes seven elements now.”

    “What?” Velius, still slightly in shock, looked up in confusion.

    “Soyala, you know better than to sneak up on him like that.” Amaris gave the bear a stern look.

    “It’s all harmless fun.” Velius, finally relaxing as he realized that it was only Soyala, began to swat at the small diamond-shaped pendant that hung around the bear’s neck. There was a crystal in the middle of the pendant with the symbol for ice within. On the back of the pendant there was some ancient text engraved in the silver metal. This pendant was the sign of one of the elemental warrior. Each one had their own pendant that bore the symbol of the element on it and had different text on the back.

    “Oh yes, like the time Itzal scared him last week.”

    “That was but a little tremor.” Velius had proven capable of using many elements, though he was not aware of it. Aalok occasionally reminded her that they would have to train the young Dragon to control these abilities at one point or another, but Amaris wanted to put that off for as long as possible.

    “Oh, yes- it only collapsed one or two buildings.” Amaris retorted. Velius, oblivious to the fact that the conversation was about him, scrambled up onto Soyala’s back and settled into her thick fur to keep warm as the weather around Hala was usually cool or cold- never hot. Had Soyala realized how muddy the young Dragon had gotten when he fell of Amaris, she may have reconsidered allowing him to climb on her back.

    “Those buildings were expected to collapse soon anyway. He only made it happen earlier.” Soyala fluffed up her fur. “His abilities are harmless- for the time being at least.”

    Amaris was silent for a few short moments as she watched Velius. Soyala was a regular visitor so the odd Dragon had grown quite close with her over time. “What did you want, anyway?”

    “Mommy, what’s that?” Velius motioned to something in the forest, but neither Amaris or Soyala turned to look.

    “In a moment, dear.” She looked expectantly at the bear.

    “To deliver a gift from Aalok.” The Eastern Dragon, though Amaris would never openly admit this, had been a great help with caring for Velius since he had been born.

    “A gift?” Soyala reached into the bag she often carried around with her and pulled out something small and shiny. It was a pendent- much like the one Soyala was wearing, except that instead of a icy blue crystal, it had a very dark, almost pitch black, crystal. The symbol for the dark element could be seen through the clear gem. The metal around it was silver in color with a long thin chain attached to it.

    “He had Tamotsu make it for you.”

    “Tell Aalok I don’t want it.”

    “Why not?”

    “It’s the mark of an elemental warrior. As much as he likes to believe that I’m one, he should know by now that I have no intentions of joining.”

    “He predicted you would say something like that.”

    “Then why bother?”

    “He wants you to take it regardless. It only has meaning if you give it meaning.” Soyala gave a sympathetic look to the dark elemental. Aalok was always trying to be kind to Amaris, but sometimes he tried a little too hard.

    “Mommy!”

    Amaris grabbed he pendant. Not even she could have denied the elegance of the dark gem. It shone brightly even though it’s color was that of night. The details Tamotsu was capable of putting on even small pieces of metal like this one always amazed the Dragoness. Even with her sharpest claw could she etch a design so neat and precise. “And why isn’t Aalok delivering this pendant himself, if you don’t mind me asking?”

    “We both agreed that the chances of him returning home unscathed were very slim had he done so.”

    Amaris grinned. “That’s probably true.” The Dragoness could imagine taking a few swipes at Aalok for even thinking of this.

    “Speaking of Aalok…” Soyala looked up to the sky where the Eastern Dragon was flying in the unusual way that his wingless species managed to do.

    “Mommy!”

    “Aalok! Get you tail over here!” Amaris growled. The light elemental came down, cautiously avoiding tree branches, and landed on the ground next to Soyala.

    “Is something wrong?” He looked at Amaris in bemusement.

    “Explain this.” She held up the pendant.

    “Oh… that!” Aalok grinned nervously. “I thought it would be nice to give you something to celebrate the fact you haven’t tried to kill anyone in a while- and vice versa.” Soyala chuckled lightly just before he whispered in her ear. “I also thought you were going to give that to her sooner!”

    “With the emblem of an elemental warrior?”

    “It wasn’t just my idea! Everyone agreed upon this!”

    “Everyone?”

    “Well, Onatah and Shant no, but the rest of us did.” That was not a surprise. Shant and Onatah, mostly the latter, were very aggressive against Amaris and made little effort to conceal their dislike. Shant, at least, did try to make an effort to treat her with respect despite his dislike of dark elementals. Onatah, on the other hand, made extra effort to make Amaris’ life miserable.

    “Agreed doesn’t necessarily mean they supported the idea.”

    “Must you be so negative about everything?” Aalok sighed.

    “Mommy!”

    “Velius, what is it?”

    “Can I go explore?”

    Amaris looked at Soyala. “Soyala, can you keep an eye on him?”

    “Of course.” The bear lumbered after the young Dragon as he scampered off into the jungle.

    “So, what is this really about?” She said as the two were out of sight. Aalok looked away from Amaris. “I know something is going on here.”

    Aalok began to look uncomfortable. He never liked being the bearer of bad news. “Garan thinks something terrible is going to come. He isn’t sure when or what, but-“

    “Garan is young and inexperienced. He could be wrong.” Amaris cut Aalok off. Garan was the youngest- and newest- member of the elemental warriors. Amaris did not know much about him other than the fact he was a rare type of Wolf that were thought to have died out long ago.

    “He may be young, but he’s one of the best spirit elementals we’ve had in a long time. I wouldn’t dismiss his concerns so quickly- the nightmares he’s been having recently have not only kept him from getting sleep, but the rest of us as well. If he is even a tiny bit correct, things won’t end well.”

    “What does this have to do with me, anyway? If you’re asking for my help, the answer is no.”

    “No, we aren’t asking you to help us, but…” Amaris studied the Eastern Dragon’s expression. Aalok was terrible at hiding his emotions and at the moment he was clearly very nervous and concerned. “It’s Velius we’re worried about.”

    “He’s a child, Aalok. He poses no threat to anyone and has never shown any signs of aggression.” Yes, the odd Dragon was very curious and mischievous at times, but he was well behaved and usually acted upon good intentions.

    “Not yet, maybe, but he’s already showing signs of using over half of the elements. That is something you don’t see often, if ever- especially in one as young as Velius.” It was true that mastering elements that you were not born with was a difficult task, but it was not impossible. It was unheard of for anyone to have competent skill in all twelve of the elements though.

    “Only half.” Aalok brushed over the burnt foliage with the tip of his tail and gave her a questioning look. “A bug bit Velius, so I killed it.” Amaris did not want Aalok or anyone else to know that Velius had fire abilities. Fire elementals were considered highly dangerous due to how volatile their abilities tended to be.

    Unfortunately, Aalok could tell that she was lying- but he didn’t push the issue. “If you say so. Anyway, Garan is concerned that Velius’ abilities will be too much for him to control sooner or later. That quake he created last week only solidified his concerns.”

    “Wait- Garan told Itzal to scare Velius, didn’t he?” Itzal was easily the most intimidating of the elemental warriors. He could not be described as mean, but he was not really gentle either.

    “Well-“ Aalok looked away from Amaris.

    “And Nereus approved of that?”

    “Yes.”

    “Aalok, he’s only a child!” The Dragoness growled with a protective fury over her adopted son. “He isn’t some sort of test subject for you or any one else to experiment with!”

    “Amaris, calm down. You know Nereus won’t allow any harm to come to Velius. He just wants us to keep an eye on him for anything unusual… aside from the obvious. As far as we’re aware, there has never been a Dragon like him before- if he really is a Dragon. We have no idea if he possess any other types of abilities or traits besides the elements.”

    “He may have fur and feathered wings, but I have no doubt that he is a Dragon. If you want to keep an eye on him, please do so without trying to frighten him or treating him like he’s different. He deserves to live a normal life like everyone else.”

    “Amaris, you don’t understand.”

    “Understand what?” She hissed, losing what little patience she had left.

    “Nereus wants to…” Aalok paused as he tried to put the words together in a way that would not result in his immediate death. “Nereus wants to take Velius to base so we can all keep an eye on him and watch over his training.” The light elemental braced himself for what was to come. He would not blame Amaris if she took it all out on him- as long as it was not anyone else.

    Amaris, however, was lost for words. While the unusual Dragon was not her own child, she was just as protective over him as if she really were his mother. “I won’t allow it.”

    “Nereus himself ordered this, Amaris.”

    “Did he say what would happen if I refused?”

    Aalok shook his head. “No, he didn’t, but I promise you- he is not going to take no for an answer.”

    The dark elemental still could not believe what she was hearing. “And you’re okay with this too?”

    “No, Amaris. I tried to dissuade him from doing this, Soyala, Ebele, and Tamotsu were also against it, but that quake was the last straw.”

    “So you’re going to take my son away from me just because he can use more than one element?”

    Aalok gestured to the pendant in Amaris’ possession. “Look at what I gave you.” The darkly colored gem shone brightly, even in the shade of the forest. For the most hated element, it gave a beautiful glow. “Nereus- and many of the others- agreed to allow you to join us so that you can still be with Velius.”

    “So I have to join up with you just to be with Velius?”

    “It’s just an offer.” Aalok seemed rather disheartened at the whole mess. Amaris realized that he really did not want any of this to happen. “Nereus will find you tomorrow morning to hear your answer.” At least they were giving her a little time to think on it- or to run for it. “Oh, if you try to run, Garan will be after you.” Or not.

    “Leave.” She growled softly. The light elemental bowed his head and began to head away when Soyala returned. Immediately both Amaris and Aalok saw that something was wrong. Velius was not with her. “Where is he?” The dark Dragon growled with such fury that both Soyala and Aalok were startled.

    “I do not know.” Soyala exchanged a quick glace with Aalok. “He was there- then he wasn’t. I never took my eyes off of him.”

    “Looks like he used a spirit or shadow ability.” Aalok could sense that the Dragoness’ fury had subsided to concern for her son. “If that is the case, he could be anywhere. Soyala, help Amaris search. I’ll go get some help.”




  15. #40

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    Really, if anyone is reading this... it'd be very encouraging to see some feedback on occasion. This story is almost two years old and of all the places I post it, I only have one person that consistently gives me feedback. It's very cruel to my motivation when I know that no one will respond.

    Chapter Three
    Search

    Aalok watched as Amaris vanished into the forest. He could not help but suspect that he would be blamed for Velius’ disappearance sooner or later. He cared deeply for Amaris, far more than any one else did- except maybe Velius- but Amaris’ fierce temper was something that should be handled with extreme caution, especially when Velius was involved. He only hoped that the Dragoness would not assume that he or the other elemental warriors were involved with Velius’ disappearance.

    A glint of light caught his attention as he prepared to head back to town to gather a search party. It was the pendant he had convinced Tamotsu to make for the dark element. For a moment he considered picking it up so that he could return it to Amaris later, but he decided to leave it in case the Dragoness came back to retrieve it herself.

    Not wasting any more time, he lightly took to the air gliding gently under the clouds with both of his eyes scanning the earth for any sign of the young and unusual hatchling. Despite the situation, everything beneath him seemed peaceful and calm. The missing Dragon would have little to fear in the jungle due to the fact that most of the feral creatures there had slowly vanished over time. What was the worst that could happen in the quiet forest, anyway?

    Feral creatures were any creature that lived in a very primitive state of mind, surviving on instant alone. They are capable of using elemental abilities like most other creatures and have proven to be very dangerous when enraged or threatened due to their lack of self-restraint when it came to using their abilities. However, since they relied solely on their instincts, their actions are quite predictable and they are not extraordinarily clever or intelligent in any way or form. Any well taught being would be able to outsmart them and escape. Of course- any well taught being would also know to avoid feral creatures when possible and avoid angering them.

    Despite the apparent peace and the supposed lack of feral creatures in the forest, Aalok was deeply worried for the young Dragon’s safety. Something just was not right with the whole situation. It was true that Velius had shown significant potential of having powerful strength in most of the elements already, but as of now, he could not have successfully warped himself or hidden for long. Even experienced shadow and spirit elementals had difficulty with such tasks as they were easily the most difficult elements to master.

    Much to the Eastern Dragon’s relief, the city had not been too far away from where he had spoken with Amaris, though it made sense that the Dragoness would not want her adopted child to be too far from help. Hala stood in clear view upon a fairly rocky slope that lay between the forest and the mountain top. In the innermost area of the city was Aalok’s destination- the base of the elemental warriors. His feet gently landed on the grey stone path that led to the entrance of the building. “Hello?”

    The main hall was ornately decorated with white and brown stones. Ancient writing was engraved upon many of the stones. Aalok had always wondered what the writing said, but not even Garan was able to decode it. At present, the main hall was empty. It was very rare for the base to be left unattended. He quickly walked to the eastern wing where he and the others slept. Just like the main hall, there was no one there. The Eastern Dragon began to feel uneasy. Perhaps they had already heard of what happened and were already out searching? No. Aalok shook his head. There was no way that any of the others had already learned of Velius’ disappearance.

    “I better head back.” He muttered. Waiting around for someone to show up was a waste of time. He was better off heading back out to look for the young Dragon, with or without extra help.

    As he was about to take flight outside of the large building he heard his name being called from the sky. “Aalok!” A figure glided down from above and landed lightly on the ground. “Where’ve you been? We’ve been looking all over Hala for you!”

    It was Shant, a rather outspoken Wyvern- and the electric elemental. Wyverns are a type of reptile that are closely related to Dragons, but unlike their larger brethren, their wings and arms were together. Shant had grey scales with yellow wing flaps that slowly faded into a light silver. A line of black spines went down his back.

    “Same.” Aalok responded. “Where is everyone?”

    “Trouble in one of the southern villages.” For everyone to be out, it must be something significant.”

    “What happened?”

    “We’re not entirely sure what is going on yet- but it looks pretty bad. One of their villagers arrived her this morning in very bad shape.” Aalok shifted his tail nervously. It was not that he had no interest in what was going on, but he wanted to get back to searching as quickly as possible. “They say that it was the monster that everyone was talking about.”

    “Shant, I’ve got to go.”

    “What?” The Wyvern looked astonished. “Whatever you’re up to, it can wait.” He growled.
    “I know, I know, but Amaris-“ Bad idea.

    “Forget about that dark elemental.” Shant snapped. “She’s nothing but trouble. We’ve got more important things to do.”

    “No.” Aalok turned his back on Shant. “If I don’t help Amaris, who will?” Well, Soyala would, but Aalok was not about to get her in trouble for doing so. “I’m not the only elemental warrior. The rest of you should be more than enough to handle whatever is going on.”

    “I’m not asking you, Aalok- Nereus himself ordered that all of us report to Mistveil.”

    Aalok froze. “Mistveil?”

    “That’s right.” Shant looked the Eastern Dragon in the eye. “So unless you want to abandon your home and disobey direct orders from Nereus, you better hurry up.”

    “But-“ Aalok watched Shant take to the air and leave without another word. The Eastern Dragon was heavily torn by the two choices- go back and help Amaris find Velius, who may or may not be in danger, abandoning his family and home while disobeying orders at the same time- or he could go to Mistveil and leave Amaris with Soyala to search for Velius.

    Aalok had been born and raised in Mistveil with his younger sister. Mistveil was a small town near a beautiful lake that was almost always shrouded in a thick fog. It was a gorgeous place in clear weather, but nearly impossible to find otherwise. The attacker must have known where the tiny village was or had been extraordinarily lucky, or unlucky, to stumble upon it.

    Then there was the possibility of the attacker being a feral creature that may have just wandered there by pure chance. Despite being dumb and nearly thoughtless, they were vicious and would fight and kill anyone on sight if it felt threatened or angered. To make matters worse- Mistveil was known to be a very peaceful place and thus did not have many capable of fighting off any threats. The villages’ main defense was the shroud of fog that constantly drifted over from the lake.

    Then there was Amaris. He knew if he want to Mistveil that she would not forgive him any time soon if at all just for leaving, regardless if the little Dragon was found or not. The Dragoness had also lived in Mistveil, but unlike Aalok she had very little attachment to the small village. At the first opportunity she had got, the dark elemental left Mistveil and headed out on her own for a while until she finally ended up in Hala, which was not too far. Aalok never asked, but he knew that she had been driven away from many places before she found a more less tolerant place to settle.

    It was common for most to drive away dark elementals due to superstitions that they brought disaster and chaos with them where they want. Hala did not usually turn away dark elements, but they did not give them a very warm welcome either. Aalok found the way dark elementals were treated as cruel and unreasonable. Amaris may be cold and bitter, only as a result of the way she had been shunned and picked on for her entire life, but the Eastern Dragon knew that she would never intentionally cause harm to others or stir up trouble without good reason.

    Finding Velius’ egg was likely the best thing to happen to Amaris in a very long time. The odd hatchling was too young to understand that his adopted mother was an outcast and gave her the unconditional love and admiration that she had never received from anyone except perhaps her own mother. Others also held back any aggression towards her so that they would not upset Velius who had already become quite popular amongst the residents of Hala.

    Aalok sighed. He had to make a choice sooner or later. Go help Mistveil where his family could be in danger or help search for Velius who was likely safe and would be alright on his own for a little while longer. Anyway, if he gets frightened, he’ll just use some of his abilities. The Eastern Dragon remember the small earthquake Velius had caused when Itzal caught him off guard. Another more worrisome thought crossed his mind. What if- Aalok pushed away the idea. If he was right, however, which he certainly hoped he was not, Velius might not be really missing.

    “Sorry, Amaris.” He muttered before flying off in the direction of Mistveil.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Velius!” Amaris called out from just above the tree tops. There was no sign of the young Dragon, so far. This can’t be happening. She folded her wings and dove back into the trees to search on the ground again. What bothered her most was Soyala’s story. Velius had just vanished. His abilities so far were usually only triggered when something surprises him. According to the white bear, nothing happened. Nothing at all.

    Maybe he was finally become aware of his abilities and was learning how to use them on his own free will. Amaris hoped that was the case. At least if something did go after him, he would be able to fight back in some form or another. “Velius!” She called again, but there was nothing in sight. A sudden rustling from behind started the Dragoness. “Who-“ The white shape of Soyala lumbered into sight. “Oh, it’s you.”

    “Yes, it’s me.”

    “Anything yet?”

    “Not a trace.” Soyala looked to the sky. “None of Aalok either.” The bear noted. “He should have returned by now.” Where was he when they needed him?

    “He better get back soon.” She could not help but add. “If he’s coming back.”

    “Amaris, you know very well that he wouldn’t forget about you. He’s probably just trying to convince some of the others to come help.”

    “Well, he’s wasting his time then.” Aalok would be lucky to convince even a single other being to help her.

    “Perhaps.” Soyala began to part with the Dragoness. “We’re doing no better standing her talking, though.”

    Just before the white bear could leave, and odd creature burst into the scene. “There you are.” The newcomer was a Ki-rin- and odd creature that looked like a mix of a reptile and some sort of deer. The Ki-rin had the form of a deer, but instead of fur, there were brown scales. Around the creature’s neck was a bright mahogany colored mane that continued down to it’s belly. Tufts of hair also hung from the end of the Ki-rin’s tail and at it’s ankles. A single horn grew from the center of the deer-like creature’s forehead and curved very slightly backwards. However, Ki-rins could come in a wide arrange of colors.

    “Onatah.” Amaris glared at the Ki-rin. Onatah was one of the elemental warriors and easily the one she disliked the most for many reasons.

    “Soyala, I can’t believe that you’d take a walk in the forest with this beast.” She gestured towards the dark Dragoness.

    “Jealous.” Amaris muttered under her breath.

    “What did you say?” The Ki-rin stamped one hoof on the ground.

    “Oh, nothing.”

    “Onatah, I hope you didn’t come all the way out here to antagonize our friend. We are in the middle of something rather important.”

    “Friend? Maybe for you and Aalok, but I wouldn’t be caught dead with that demon.”

    “Oh? And you’re an angel, I suppose?” Amaris could see the rage building up in Onatah’s eyes.

    “Let’s not stir any trouble, now.” Soyala stepped in between Onatah and Amaris. The dark elemental was not one to strike out often, but Onatah was more than impulsive enough and was clearly losing her temper. “So, what bring you, Onatah?”

    “Trouble.”

    “With you around, there’s always trouble.” Amaris whispered, half to herself.

    “A feral creature attacked Mistveil.”

    “You attacked Mistveil?” Amaris spoke with a smug grin.

    “I’m not a feral creature!” Soyala sighed.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.”

    “Amaris.” Soyala gave a warning glace at the dark elemental. “Anyway, I thing the others quite capable of dealing with a feral.” She was careful not to stir up any more anger from Onatah. “Amaris and I should get back to searching for Velius.”

    “He’s missing?”

    Amaris and Soyala exchanged a quick glace. It was probably best they not let her know.

    “Just a game of hide and seek. We’d best not make him wait.”

    “So while Mistveil is burning to the earth, you’re going to play with Amaris’ little rat?”

    “Wait, I thought you said it was a feral-“

    “Don’t you dare insult my son, Onatah.” Amaris growled fiercely.

    “But he isn’t your son- you stole him, remember?”

    “Onatah!” Soyala warned, knowing that the best way to infuriate any mother was to attack her child.

    “I guess I can’t blame you- after all, being a freak must get pretty lonely.”

    “Onatah!”

    “It’s just unfortunate for the little brat that you were the one to steal him away.” She sneered.

    Amaris spread her wings and leapt into the air over Soyala’s head. Apparently, standing in between two angry friends was highly ineffective when at least one of them was capable of flight. The Dragoness was not particularly large for a Dragon, but she was still large enough to knock over Onatah and pin her to the ground. “I warned you.”

    “Amars, enough!” Soyala tried to calm the Dragoness.

    “It’s alright, Soyala, let her prove to us the monster we all know she is.”

    Amaris glared down at the Ki-rin for a few moments. “You aren’t worth my time.” She said at last before releasing Onatah. “I’m going to look for Velius. Feel free to go help with the feral problem, Soyala. I’ll manage.”

    “Wait.” Soyala spoke as the Ki-rin shook the dirt off her mane. “Onatah, what do you know about this feral?”

    “Well, to be honest, we aren’t all quite sure it’s a feral. Nereus thinks it is… but you never know. We do know it’s a fire elemental though.”

    “There aren’t many fire elementals in these parts.” Soyala thought for a few brief moments. “Go on ahead; I’ll join you shortly, Onatah.” She waited for the Ki-rin to be completely out of sight before turning to address Amaris.

    “I think we should go investigate the occurrence at Mistveil.”

    “We?”

    “Listen- what if it’s Velius?”

    “Velius would never harm anyone or set a village on fire.” The Dragoness did not like where Soyala was going with this,

    “Perhaps, but what if he did warp there… he could have been startled by the sudden change in his surroundings. After all, he isn’t quite aware of what he is capable of.” The bear pointed out. “If a small scare caused a tremor, imagine what he could do if he really gets frightened.”

    “But what if he’s not there?”

    “Regardless if he took any part in what is happening in Mistveil, it’s the most dangerous place at the moment. If he is there by chance, he’ll be in trouble. If he isn’t, then he’s probably safe for now. The forest isn’t exactly dangerous.” Amaris could not argue with Soyala. Checking the more dangerous areas first would allow them to help Velius sooner in the event has was in real danger.

    “Alright.” She replied hesitantly.

    “You go ahead. I’ll follow.” There was no way the Dragoness would be able to carry a full grown bear with her and it would be much faster to fly ahead on her own. “Aalok might already be heading there.” Without another word, the Dragoness set off to what was once her home.




  16. #41

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    To celebrate two years of extraordinarily little feedback, I will be updated three weeks in a row instead of the usual every other week. I'm pleased to tell you that I'm working my tail off to draft up these chapters before then so my invisible readers can read them.


    Chapter Four
    Chaos

    Flames spread across the damp green land, swallowing up even the wettest of plants and sending up plumes of thick suffocating smoke. “Nereus! A little help here would be greatly appreciated!” A partly high pitched voice pierced through the roar of the blazing fires.

    “Just hang on a while longer.” Mistveil was slowly burning to the ground after an unexpected attack was launched by a rather unusual feral creature. Itzal and Tamotsu were in the process of driving the creature away from Mistveil while Nereus attempted to put out the larger of the fires. If it could be avoided, the elemental warriors always tried to avoid killing- even in cases with rampaging feral creatures. However, Nereus was not all too sure that they would be able to calm down the creature before it seriously hurt anyone.

    Three of the elemental warriors, Ebele, Urith, and Enlil, were currently in the process of evacuating the area and leading everyone safely up river where the flames were unlikely to reach. Shant and Onatah had been sent to find Aalok and Soyala who had not been at base when the news of the attack had come. The last of the elemental warriors, Garan, was on a trip doing some research as was usually the case.

    Nereus was an Eastern Serpent- a rare type of Eastern Dragon that had adapted to be best suited for life in the ocean or in large lakes. While these creatures were capable of walking with little difficulty on dry land, they were one of the few species of Dragon incapable of flight. Nereus was the current leader of the elemental warriors and remain so until he dies, steps down, or is incapable of continuing his duties.

    “Hurry up then!” Another voice, almost identical to the first, called back. “This beast is not getting any happier!” The feral creature that was attacking Mistveil was clearly a fire elemental with a huge mean streak. At the moment, it was unclear of what species the creature was due to the fact that it was entirely coated in red hot flames. From what they could tell, based on the shape of the flames, the creature had a long slender body.

    One of the warriors that was fending off the feral was Itzal, a Lion who possessed the shadow element and had proven over time to be a very reliable asset to the group. He had originally traveled further north to find a new place to live and settle down and eventually ended up in Hala where he had met Nereus. Shadow elementals were hard to come by, just like spirit elements, so after proving his skill in an emergency caused by a sudden flood he had been invited to join the elemental warriors.

    The other warrior that was helping Itzal was a far stranger being. Tamotsu was a rather long and thin grey snake. What made him unusual was the fact he was born with two heads- and lived. If it were not for the fact he was quite small in size and only had two heads, he could have been mistaken for a Hydra. Both heads had their own independent thoughts, though one was often more quiet than the other. It was not rare to see the two quarrel, but they made a very efficient team when they managed to cooperate long enough.

    Being a metal element, Tamotsu’s main job was as a blacksmith. There was no question that he was one of the best at what he did despite the more than obvious lack of paws or claws to work with. The snake was not much of a fighter, spending more time at the forge making whatever the two heads could agree upon. However, Tamotsu was more than capable of holding his own in a fight. What he lacked in both size in strength he made up with speed, strategy- and poison.

    Nereus turned his attention to the lake that sat beside Mistveil. At least the fire elemental made poor choice in where to have a fight. “Heads up!” He called out to Tamotsu and Itzal. Thankfully, the feral creature seemed to be too focused on the other two to notice Nereus plotting in the background. Water began to rise up from the lake slowly gathering into one giant blob of water that floated over their heads.

    “Itzal!” The snake called out as he noticed what Nereus’ was doing. The Lion gently grabbed Tamotsu and slung him across his broad shoulders. Being as small and light as he was, Tamotsu could easily be washed away by a strong enough rush of water.

    Nereus released the blob of water on top of the fire elemental. The sizzling sound of evaporating water filled the air followed by a cloud of steam. The earth, just a little bit damp before, was now completely drenched and muddy. “I wish he’d give us more warning before he does that. Last time I nearly ended up taking a ride down a water fall.” The snake hissed as he dropped down into a big puddle.

    “This isn’t over.” While most of the fire had been put out, the fire elemental was still standing and ready to fight- coat of fire and everything.

    “Are you sure that thing is feral?” Tamotsu gazed at the fire elemental for a few moments. “No normal fire elemental- feral or not- could still use it’s abilities after a drenching like that.”

    The feral creature stood incredibly still save for the wind pulling at it’s flames. The creature’s red tinted eyes, barely visible under the burning coat, were wide open and gave no hint to what the fire user was thinking. Even Nereus began to feel unsettled as the silence persisted. No one moved.

    “Something isn’t right here.” Nereus spoke quietly, barely audible to Itzal and Tamotsu. This can’t be a feral creature… There was something in the way the beast acted that bothered Nereus. It seemed as if it had a purpose- what that goal was, however, remained unknown to the Eastern Serpent.

    “Should we attack?” Itzal asked, slowly circling the fire elemental as he sought out a point at which he could attack. Every creature had a weak point, it was just a matter of finding it.

    “I suppose. It’s better than just waiting for it to make the next move.” Nereus knew better not to underestimate any creature, especially the unpredictable ones. “Just be careful.”

    The shadow elemental carefully crept up on the flaming beast as if he were stalking prey, not knowing what to expect. “Itzal, wait!” The Lion had just leapt forward as Tamotsu cried out. “It’s an illusion!” The Lion’s claws met empty air and muddy ground as the image of the fire elemental vanished. This is definitely not an ordinary feral creature.

    A jolt of electricity shot through the Eastern Serpent’s body. “Gah!” He growled and shook his back as a searing heat scorched his scales.

    “Nereus!” It was clear that the creature was now on his back trying to severely burn the water elemental. He continued to thrash about until finally he dislodged the creature’s claws from his scaled body just before the Serpent dove for the lake. Thankfully Nereus’ damp scales had protected him from any serious burns although they were slightly blacker in color.

    “This thing is getting really annoying.” One of the snake’s heads muttered as the three warriors once again lost sight of the creature. ”You’re one to talk.” The other said retorted and received a head butt from the other.

    “Itzal!” the Lion looked over at the water elemental who was about knee-deep in the lake. “We need to catch it off guard. Tamotsu and I will serve as a distraction.”

    “Of course, thanks for asking.” Tamotsu protested just as the Lion vanished without a word.

    Shadow elements were perfect for ambushes and surprise attacks due to their ability to literally hide in the shadows. The shadow element was often considered to be closely related to the dark element, which was partially true, and like the dark element, was often disliked, but not to the same extent. Shadow abilities were mostly non-offensive and relied more heavily on the user’s intelligence rather than brute strength or speed. When used effectively, the shadow element has great potential and is considered very dangerous. Thankfully, Itzal was on their side.

    “It’s moving around to my right.” The snake motioned with his tail tip in one direction.

    “Where?” Nereus saw nothing except the mist, smoke, and some steam. “I don’t see it?” One would think a flaming feral creature would be pretty easy to locate.

    “It’s using illusions, but it’s there.”

    “Fire elementals cannot create illusions.”

    “Or electrocute serpents.” Tamotsu snapped back. “This one is obviously no normal fire elemental.” The snake coiled up into a defensive position.

    “Alright then, how do you know where it is?” The creature was likely watching them and waiting for the first opportunity to strike.

    “Heat.” Tamotsu replied. “The best is still on fire, illusions or not.” Nereus paused. The metal elemental was right. He could feel a wave of heat coming from the direction that the twin-headed creature had pointed out. “Now that we’ve cleared that up- now what?”

    “Itzal can’t attack yet, so we wait.” The fire would give off a light that would get rid of any shadows in the area directly surrounding the unknown creature.

    “Fun, as if we’ve never tried that before.” Tamotsu muttered. “Want to play a game or two while we wait?” He said sarcastically.

    “This isn’t the time to joke around.” Nereus scolded. What is this thing’s motive? Whoever or whatever it was that they were fighting was far too intelligent- and powerful- to be a mere feral rampaging through the area. The problem was, only a feral or simply cruel creature would attack a village as peaceful as Mistveil unprovoked.

    “It’s coming.” Tamotsu’s quieter head warned. Nereus could feel the air around him rise in temperature gradually. As the heat intensified the illusion began to fade until the fire elemental was more than visible before their eyes. It’s target was the much smaller and more vulnerable Tamotsu, but a powerful swing of Nereus’ tail sent it flying in one direction.

    At that moment, Itzal came out and crashed into the flaming creature midair just before it could begin it’s descent back to the earth. “Hold it down!” Nereus ordered. He knew Itzal would not be a very happy feline after this, but this was their chance to extinguish the flames.

    “That’s gonna hurt.” Tamotsu noted.

    “Whatever you’re planning, do it fast.” The Lion pinned the fire elemental down with a firm grip despite the flames lapping at his mane, belly, and legs.

    The serpent created a large sphere of water from the lake. Hopefully the residents of Mistveil would not be too horribly upset that a good portion of the lake water would be not in the lake, but scattered across the ground in both large and small puddles. It took a great deal of focus for Nereus to guide the sphere of water towards Itzal and the best. “Alright, push it in!”

    At this point, the creature was struggling furiously, biting and clawing at the shadow elemental with no particular aim. With some difficulty Itzal managed to grab the fiery creature with his claws and shove it into the sphere of water. “Thanks, Itzal.” Nereus muttered as steam burst from the sphere creating a veil that cloaked the sphere from view. “That should get rid of the fire this time.” Based on the amount of white steam, it would take a minute or two for it all to clear. Unless the creature was much smaller than it seemed, it would live long enough without air. “Are you alright, Itzal?”

    “Never ask me to do that again.” He muttered and let himself collapse onto the muddy ground. Thankfully a thin layer of mud coating had helped reduce the amount of burns he received, but one could still easily see his blackened belly fur.

    “Tamotsu, would you go get Ebele?” Ebele was a nature elemental that specialized in using plants and herbs for medical uses. It looked like the Lion would need some of her expertise. “Tamotsu?” The snake had slithered closer to the sphere of water to get a better look at the feral creature.

    “Nereus, let it go!” There was an edge of panic in his voice. Several red flashes illuminated the sphere one after another.

    “Tamotsu, what’s wrong?” The creature had not been in the water long enough to suffocate… right?

    “Just do it!” The tone of Tamotsu’s voice startled the water elemental. Without another moment of hesitation the Eastern Serpent released the water allowing it, and the creature, to fall to the ground. An eerie red glow enveloped the fire elemental. A sickening screech filled the air as the glowing form thrashed on the ground.

    Unable to comprehend what was going on, Nereus merely stared in shock. “What’s going on?” The creature thrashed about furiously setting off several sparks of fire which quickly died with nothing to grab onto. The piercing cries soared into the air sending a shiver of fear down Nereus’ spine. As quickly as it all began, the red glow faded to reveal who had attacked Mistveil.

    “What just happened?”

    “I… I don’t know,” Lying on the ground was an Eastern Dragon with light grey, almost silver, fur and a dull blue mane. Several splotches of dark red suggested that the creature’s fur was covering up a good number of deep cuts and scars- most of which seemed very recent despite none of the three having directly attacked the fire elemental with claws, teeth, or other sharp objects. Two short horns stuck straight out from the Dragon’s head bearing the same dull brown as it’s underbelly scales.

    “Do you know who it is?” Nereus could not help shake the feeling that this Dragon looked vaguely familiar. Tamotsu slithered towards the motionless Dragon to take a closer look.

    “Careful.”

    “No need.” He muttered. “She’s dead.” The Dragon, upon closer inspection seemed to be a young Dragoness with a very peaceful face. No one would have believed that only minutes before that she was trying to destroy everything in sight. Nereus noted that the Eastern Dragon did not bear the appearance of a feral creature.

    “I didn’t mean to kill her.”

    “I don’t think you did, Nereus.” Tamotsu spoke calmly. “I don’t think being trapped in water for two minutes would have killed her. Anyone who can use fire, electric, and light abilities must have extreme endurance.”

    “I think you two are looking too far into this.” Itzal grunted.

    “Hmm…” Nereus looked to the sky then back to the dead Dragon. “I suppose we should clean up here.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Aalok could now see the plumes of smoke rising up from the direction of Mistveil. To put it simply, things did not look too great from his current position. It must have been a large fire to have caused so much smoke. “Please.” He whispered. “Let everyone be okay.” However much he tried to ignore it, a feeling of dread had crept into his heart.

    Before long he finally caught sight of small, charred, buildings next to a lake that looked like it had been partially drained of water. The Eastern Dragon could see Itzal laying down in a part of the village that had been heavily damaged. “Itzal!” He can’t be dead! He quickly made his way down to the ground to go to the aid of his friend.

    “Careful!” Aalok had nearly landed on top of a very muddy looking Tamotsu.

    “Sorry, I didn’t see you there!” He apologized to the snake then turned to Itzal. Was he… sleeping? Oddly enough, that did not surprise him. And here I was worried. The light elemental was glad to know that everyone, so far, seemed to be okay. At least there were no dead bodies scattered about.

    “It’s alright- just be more careful.” The lack of sarcasm told Aalok that the twin-headed snake was rather tired.

    “What happened?”

    “Just a fire elemental going on some sort of rampage.” He pointed at Itzal with his tail. “The lazy kitty over there and Nereus took care of it, though.” Itzal grunted some sort of response then fell back asleep. “So, how’d it go with your girlfriend?”

    “What are- uh- Tamotsu!” Aalok stammered. “I’m not- We’re-“

    “Relax!” Tamotsu laughed. He enjoyed giving the Eastern Dragon a rough time. “I’m just kidding with you.” Not really. “Anyway, you missed all the fun over here.”

    Aalok remembered that he should go back to meet up with Amaris since things seemed to be under control. First, though, he wanted to make sure his sister and friends were alright. “Where is everyone?”

    “Nereus is cleaning up the mess, Shant and-“

    “No, I mean the Mistveil villagers.”

    “Oh, I’m sure everyone will be glad to know you were so concerned.” Tamotsu laughed. “As for the villagers, Urith, Ebele, and Enlil led them upstream some ways. Just follow the river and you’ll find them eventually.” There was a large river that emptied out into Mistveil Lake. It was well known for it’s usually calm and warm waters and was a favorite spot for swimming and fishing. “Oh, if you’re heading there, tell Urith that things have settled down over here.”

    “Alright.”

    “Also, I do believe Shant went to find Ebele, but if you see her, send her over. Itzal might appreciate that.”

    “Alright. Is that it?”

    “No.”

    “Tamotsu- I’m in a hurry here!”

    “Actually, that’s it.” Tamotsu laughed and coiled up on top of a nearby rock. “Lighten up, it’s not like there’s some sort of emergency going on… anymore.”

    You have no idea. Aalok sighed and flew up into the air. He quickly found where the river emptied out into the lake and headed upstream. Everyone was only a few short miles away.

    “Aalok!” What is it now? A large, handsome, Griffon met him midair. The Griffon had dark brown feathers with white flecks at the tips of most of his plumage. Around his neck was a black mane that blended into his brown feathers and fur. “I was about to go check up on Nereus’ group.”

    “Everything has settled down from the looks of it, Enlil.”

    “That’s good to hear. We were getting a little bit worried over here.”

    “Tamotsu asked me to send over Ebele… do you know where she is?”

    “Is everyone alright?” The Griffon asked immediately sounding concerned.

    “Just some minor burns from what I could tell. Nothing serious.” He looked at the small crowd of creatures that represented the entire population of Mistveil. “Sorry, Enlil, but I’m in a bit of a hurry.” He muttered before going over to the crowd.

    “No problem.” Enlil called out from behind. “Don’t worry about Ebele, I’ll find her.” Aalok was grateful for the help. Enlil was usually very reliable and was a great friend. If anyone ever needed help, no matter how trivial or difficult the task, Enlil would do his best to help in whatever way he could manage.

    Aalok landed and began weaving through the small crowd until he found a very familiar face, which thankfully did not take too long. “Shira!” A small female wolf with neatly groomed grey fur lifted up her head.

    “Well, well, what do we have here?” The Wolf was an intelligent and independent being with a knack for getting into all sorts of mischief. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Some of us were beginning to think that you’ve forgotten all about us in our humble little village here.”

    “I’m sorry, but you know how busy I can be… Anyway, have you seen me sister?”

    “Maybe.” A playful grin crossed the Wolf’s muzzle.

    “Shira, please! I don’t have time for this!”

    “Alright, alright. Stop being such a grouch.” She yawned. “Aala left for Kalm a few days ago.” At least she was safe away from Mistveil and the attack. “She said she’d drop by Hala on her way home. Try not to be too busy when she comes.”

    “Thanks, Shira.” Aalok turned to leave. It was about time he headed back to Hala to look for Velius again.

    “Leaving so soon?” Shira stopped him.

    “I have something I have to do, sorry, but I’ve really got to get going now. I’ll come by another day.”

    “Oh really now?Care to let me in on what you’re up to?” The Wolf gave Aalok a playful push.

    “I’d rather not.”

    “Is it something to do with your dark Dragon friend?” She winked at Aalok.

    “Why does everyone jump to the conclusion that- No!” Aalok sighed.

    “I knew it!” Shira laughed. “You’re a horrible liar. You know that?” Aalok said nothing. Was she trying to delay him or something? “You should take lessons from me!”

    “That would be a rather bad idea, actually.” Aalok looked at the sky. The sun was beginning to descend behind the mountains. “I should get going now.”

    “Don’t waste your time, Aalok.” The Eastern Dragon had no time to respond before Shira jumped up on top of him and forced Aalok of his feet and onto the ground. “If it’s Amaris you’re looking for- she’s right there!”

    I’m dead.




  17. #42

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    Chapter Five
    Eternal Wrath

    Amaris laid quietly in a grassy nest she had made in her home. Dull light filtered in from an opening in the wall, but aside from that there was nothing to illuminate the room. It had been several years since Velius had gone missing. Since then, there had been no further sightings of the young Dragon or any hints of his whereabouts. The worst part for Amaris, though, was not knowing if he was dead or alive.

    The Dragoness had set out countless times over the years to search for adopted son. Every morning for many months she would fly out into the forest and the surrounding areas and scan for even the slightest trace that he had come through. Each trip took her further and further from Hala until she started spending multiple days away from Hala at a time. Even after all of the others gave up on their search, Amaris did not give up.

    But as days turned to weeks and weeks into months, it became increasingly difficult for her to believe that she would ever see Velius again. Part of her had to hold onto the hope that he still lived, but another part reminded her that a young defenseless Dragon like himself would not have survived for so long out in the wilderness alone.

    She sighed as the sun continued it’s accent into the sky and, much to her dislike, filtered more light into her home. It only meant another painful day of isolation and silence. Velius had been the best thing to happen to her. The young Dragon’s curiosity had given her something to look forward to in each day, something that vaguely reminded her of the days before the world learned that she was a dark elemental. Why did everything she hold close to her heart be ripped away from her grasp?

    After the events at Mistveil most of the elemental warriors- the ones that were not too worn out from fighting and running all over the place- had been ordered to help look for Velius. While not all of them would admit it, most of them had grown rather fond of the young Dragon and were deeply troubled by his disappearance. Of course- there always had to be someone or something to blame. Apparently, it was Amaris’ fault.

    Nereus had attempted to speak with her shortly after it was regretfully accepted that the odd Dragon was not going to be found. The Eastern Serpent tried to comfort her to the best of his ability and even made sure she knew that his invitation to join the ranks of the elemental warriors would remain open. Amaris knew that the water elemental had good intentions, but she could not help but feel a strong resentment towards him for everything that had happened that day.

    Amaris spent most of her time alone at her home or out in the forest wandering around by herself. Only on rare occasions she would venture out to Hala to run errands or gather supplies but she never spent more time than was absolutely necessary in the city. Aalok also made several attempts to visit her on occasion, but she had continuously sent him away.

    Aalok made a few attempts to visit her whenever he could spare the time and find her, but after the events at Mistveil the dark elemental had attempted to cut Aalok out of her life. Part of her blamed the Eastern Dragon for Velius’ disappearance. Had he not come to speak with her that morning, the young Dragon would never have left her sight and vanished off to some unknown area. Then when he did go missing, Amaris had caught him playing with some Wolf. What she did not know, however, was that Aalok’s sister had never returned home after her trip to Kalm. She was reported missing only a few days after the search for Velius was abandoned.

    “Amaris?” Apparently, this was one of those days where Aalok would try to visit. Go away. She growled softly to herself. Sometimes if she were quiet enough he would think she was out and leave. “Amaris, I know you’re in there.” Sometimes.

    “Aalok, whatever you’ve got to say, I don’t care.” She growled. “Just leave me in peace for once.”

    “Just listen-“

    “Go away.” She growled more loudly.

    “Amaris, don’t muse us force our way in.” That was not Aalok. “I’ve got to speak to you.” She lifted her head slightly.

    “Garan?” She had not spoken to- or even seen- the white Wolf since Velius was born. The spirit elemental was usually traveling from one place to another in search of ruins that were scattered across the land. He loved history and could never seem to get enough of it. The ancient texts and old legends that he found and learned were carefully ingrained in his mind. One could argue that he was one of the most intelligent beings around, despite his young age. As a result of his studies, he rarely spent time in or around Hala.

    “Yes, it’s me.”

    “What do you want?”

    “To start- I want to talk to you.” Garan snapped. He did not exactly have much patience. “About Velius.”

    Amaris remained silent for several long heartbeats. She knew better than to let her hopes rise up for anything, but if there was anyone who could have any knowledge about Velius, it would be Garan. “Fine.” If it were not for the dwindling hope she had of seeing her son again, she would have sent Garan away.

    Garan and Aalok made their way into the Dragoness’ home. It was a little bit cramped with the three of them inside at once, but they managed to get comfortable. “You’ve heard about the recent fires, right?” Garan was the first to speak.

    “Sort of.” She admitted. Paying attention to recent events was usually not something Amaris did. “I have seen many parts of the forest that look as if they’ve been scorched recently.” In her most recent trips away from Hala she had come across many scars on the earth from what she had assumed to have been created by wildfires. The further away from Hala she went, the more of them she saw.

    Garan sighed. “Well, recently, the fires have been moving closer and closer to the surrounding towns and villages. Several of the fires have caused minor casualties though most of them have been pretty harmless.” Garan continued. “What’s odd is how many of these fires we’ve been having. It’s not natural.”

    “Of course it is- we’ve been in a drought for over a year now. Things are bound to dry up and catch on fire sooner or later.”

    “Perhaps that may be a contributing factor, but the fires have all been too…” He searched for the right word. “Organized?”

    “Care to explain?”

    “I’ve been drawing out a map of where all the fires have occurred and the scope of damage that has resulted.” He pulled out a piece of paper from the bag he was carrying and flattened it out against the ground. “Look… “ He pointed to patches on the map that were shaded black to represent the burned areas. “They made some sort of… symbol.” The blackened spots were all very neatly drawn and seemed to just be some sort of unusual letter written in black ink over the page.

    “What does any of this have to do with Velius?” She kept examining the symbol that the marks made. Amaris had never seen something like it before, but she knew instinctively that something was missing from it.

    “I was examining one of the areas when I saw someone. I’m not completely sure- but I think it was him.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “I already said I’m not entirely sure of this- but I don’t think I’ve ever seen any other Western Dragons with feathered wings and grey fur instead of scales.”

    “Velius had white fur.” Amaris pointed out, though part of her really wanted Garan to be right.

    “True- but the colors and markings of many creatures change as they age. Again, I may be wrong, but unless you’ve seen another Dragon like him, I don’t know who else it could have been.”

    “Or maybe he was covered in ash or soot,” Aalok gently suggested. That was a definite possibility.

    Amaris got to her feet. “Where did you see him?”

    “I was investigating the ruins near Kalm at the time. I’d say he was a few miles south of where I was at the time.”

    “I’m going to look for him.”

    “Wait, I’m not done!” Garan barked.

    “Make it fast, then.” She growled in reply. How could he expect her to wait anymore now that she has finally gotten a clue of Velius’ whereabouts- even if it was only the smallest of chances.

    “When I heard about Velius’ disappearance all those years ago, I decided to try finding out more about what he was.” Garan pulled out a book and some more papers from his bag. Most of the paper had notes scribbled in tiny, hardly legible, writing in almost every blank space available.

    “Did you figure out anything?”

    “I found a large number of myths that speak of a Dragon with fur and feathers- and the ability to manipulate all of the elements.”

    “You’re trusting some old myths?”

    “Most myths have some- if not a lot of- truth behind them, Amaris.” Garan retorted. He opened one of the books to show a picture of a Dragon that did indeed look a lot like Velius- except fully grown and not quite as cuddly looking. “Most of the myths call him the ‘Elemental Dragon’ and claim that only one of his kind can exist at any given time due to the immense power these Dragons are supposedly capable of.”

    “Is that even possible? For a species to exist as the only one of it’s kind?” Aalok tilted his head. Apparently, this was all new information for him as well.

    “I don’t know, but if that was indeed possibly by some means of magic or something, that could very well explain why you found his egg alone in the forest with no sign of his parents.” Garan shrugged. It was probably best not to think too heavily on that. “The Elemental Dragon is so called because of its ability to manipulate all twelve elements with ease- though I probably didn’t have to tell you that. Without a doubt, though, that much power makes for one very dangerous opponent.”

    “Do the stories say anything about Elemental Dragons being…” Aalok paused. He might get mauled by Amaris if he worded this wrong, but he went ahead anyway. “Aggressive?”

    “Not at all. Quite the opposite actually.” The young Wolf looked at Amaris and tried to read her with his deep blue eyes. She seemed to be taking it all in pretty well. No casualties yet, at least. “Though I’m sure that many would be terrified to believe that an ultra powerful beast with ill-intentions could exist.”

    “Are you done?” The white Wolf nodded. “I’m going to go look, then.” Amaris slowly made her way to the exit of her home.

    “Amaris,” Aalok knew better than try to stop her. “Be careful. We don’t know if who Garan saw is really Velius or not- and if it is, there is no telling how he’d react to seeing you after so long.” Amaris nodded in acknowledgment before vanishing from their sight.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “You’re not going to follow her?” Garan asked the Eastern Dragon who had remained silent for many long moments after Amaris had left the small room.

    “No.” He sighed. “I’m pretty sure she wants to find him alone.” Something told him that this was just one of those things no one could prepare one for. Anything could happen at this point.

    “well, we better share this with the others.” Garan got up and stretched out his limbs before putting all of his papers back in order then into his bag.

    “Wait, why?” Aalok stared at Garan with a questioning look.

    “If Velius, or whoever this Dragon really is, is as powerful as the stories I’ve heard suggest- we need to be prepared for the worst case scenario.”

    “What about Amaris, doesn’t that mean she might be in danger too?”

    “To be honest, I hope she succeeds in whatever she wants to accomplish by going after him.” Garan was not exactly a close friend of the stubborn Dragon, but he had no reason to distrust or dislike her.

    “What will happen if she doesn’t succeed?” Aalok suddenly realized that there was so much Garan wasn’t saying- so much that he did not want to say. The light elemental was aware of how spirit elementals could sometimes predict the future and with Garan being the best at what he did was usually full of answers.

    “Possibly.” The tone in the wolf’s voice suggested that whatever he did know was not something he wanted to share.

    “Possibly?”

    “The future is never set in stone, which is why I’m hoping Amaris will be able to change what is coming.” Aalok was beginning to feel increasingly uncomfortable.

    “Something is wrong, am I right?” Aalok growled gently. “Why didn’t you say anything to Amaris then? She could be walking into some sort of trap!” Garan sighed.

    “I didn’t tell her because she’s had enough grief for one lifetime, and like I said- there are no definite answers when it comes to the future.”

    “I should have gone with her.” Aalok did not want the Dragoness to be alone if trouble was coming.

    “No, we need you here.” Garan said as they made their way out and back towards Hala. “I know you’re worried- and you are right to be- but we’ve got to trust her with this. If things go wrong though, we’ll be prepared to stop any real damage that may occur. If things go well, then we can laugh about this later.”

    “I probably don’t want to know- but what exactly are you worried about?” If Garan did not consider all of the recent chaos to be real damage, he was unsure if knowing would do him any good.

    “Do remember what that symbol on the map I showed you earlier looked like?” Aalok nodded. “I think that symbol was incomplete… Something was missing.”

    “Where?”

    “Just about where Hala is on the map. If by chance Velius and these fires are really connected, and to be honest, I won’t doubt that they are, Hala will be in a massive amount of trouble soon.”

    “How soon are we talking about here?” They had just passed one of the main roads in Hala.

    “Tonight.” Aalok did not say anything after that. Rule number one with a skilled spirit elemental- never doubt their predictions. Rule number two? Asking questions usually just makes things worse for yourself.

    When they arrived at the headquarters for the elemental warriors, they found Tamotsu spread out on a rock absorbing the sun’s warmth. “Garan!” One of his heads lifted up to greet the Wolf while the other continued to lazily sleep. “How was your trip?”

    “Tamotsu, tell the others to meet me at the shrine.”

    “I’m fine, thanks for asking.” Tamotsu yawned and shook the other head awake. “It’s always great to hear that you’ve got wonderful news for us.” He muttered before slinking away to locate the other warriors.

    “Hurry, please.” Garan sighed and watched the snake vanish without another word.

    “Garan, why the shrine?” When was Aalok going to learn to stop asking questions when he knew the answer was something he would rather not hear? “Why not just discuss this all here at base?” The shrine was an ancient ruin that stood right near the edge of a cliff that overlooked the forest and surrounding areas.

    Garan began to lead the way out of Hala. “We need to prepare for the worst- remember. I’ve got a hunch I may find out what I need to up there.” He looked at the sky to check the time. It could not be too long before noon. “I don’t exactly know what I have to do, or even if this will work, but…”

    “If you don’t know how to do whatever you’re trying to do, then why try to do it?”

    “I believe the shrine will give me the answers I’m looking for. We just need to figure it out, then wait.”




  18. #43

    Default

    Chapter Six
    Creation and Destruction

    Velius, where are you? Amaris glided over the forest with such haste that she nearly forgot to keep an eye out for any sign of her adopted child. She was undoubtedly excited to see the unusual Dragon again, but Garan’s words had left a shadow of doubt over here. The Dragoness hated to admit it, by Garan was almost always right about most things. She hated Spirit elementals for that reason.

    “Velius!” She called out. It began to feel as if she had gone back to the day that Velius had vanished mysteriously without a trace. She felt almost as if she were reliving that exact day, except this time Amaris was not searching for a very young Dragon- but a much larger Dragon with untold of strength.

    A sudden shock surged through her body, winding the dark elemental for a moment and forcing her to land to catch her breath. It had not been an attack, rather a powerful sensation that had caught her off a guard. It was all too familiar. Her breathing slowly sped up as she acknowledged the fact that she was not alone. “Who’s there?” She hissed. Her mind suddenly flew back to the night she had discovered Velius’ egg. It had been the same then, except this time it was far stronger and even far more terrifying.

    Quickly surveying her surroundings, Amaris realized that she was in the very part of the forest where she had found the strange egg all that time ago. The same whispering could be faintly heard.

    I have returned.

    Once again, her instincts screamed at her to abandon her goal and flee to the safety of Hala, which probably would have been a wise idea. I know he’s here. Images of her son gave her the strength to break free from the paralysis that had frozen every muscle in her body. There was no way she would quit now when she knew Velius was so close.

    I will destroy you and all you hold dear to your heart.

    Amaris ignored the eerie voice and pushed onward. The trees and bushes seemed to reach out and grab her as she brushed by them. The warmth of the sun seemed as distant as the furthest star. Finally, after many years of searching and waiting, Amaris caught a glimpse of a feathered wing up ahead.

    At long last I will have my revenge.

    “Velius!” She broke into the same small clearing where she had first found the egg. There he stood before her very eyes. His fur, while now a semi-dark shade of grey, was neat and well kept. His mane had grown longer, concealing the spines that ran down his back. His gold colored horns had grown to a sharp point with no curve.

    He was no longer a young hatchling having grown to be a good deal larger than Amaris. The Dragoness stood there and took in the sight. There was no doubt that it was Velius standing before her. “Velius…” After all, how many Dragons with feathered wings existed in the world? She inched closer until he lifted his head and their eyes met.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “What exactly are you looking for, Garan?” Aalok’s gaze drifted along the ancient stones of the shrine. The inside of the place was cold with the only light coming in from a gaping hole in the ceiling. Most of the shrine was made up of old brown stone that had slowly begun to crumble over the years in the elements. The shrine had a very mysterious feel to it.

    Garan looked around the dim room. “Writing.”

    “What does it say?”

    “If I knew, I wouldn’t have to look for it.” The Wolf stuck his nose under a piece of crumbled stone.

    “Well, I can tell you that you won’t find it there.” The shrine was very spacious and despite the obvious signs of weathering and age, was still a magnificent place.

    “I could have sworn that it’d be here.” Garan growled softly in frustration as he scored over every surface once again with his eyes. It was clear that the Wolf was becoming more and more panicked. “Aalok, mind giving me some light here?”

    “Alright.” The Eastern Dragon’s body shone with a gentle glow that slowly illuminated the area just enough to see clearly, but not to blind anyone.

    “That’s enough, thanks.” Everything was now much easier to spot, however, after a brief pause the light began to intensify again into a blinding white light. “Enough!”

    “That’s not me!” Aalok called out, also unable to see in the extreme brightness. The two waited with their eyes shut for the light to subside into the room’s original darkness. Aalok quickly scanned the area for anyone else when something caught his eye. “Garan- look!”

    “Hold on.” The Wolf was rubbing his sore eyes with one paw. “Alright, what-“ His eyes opened up. In front of the two on the wall was some ancient text that shone with a brilliant glow. “Of course… this is the shrine of light.” He looked at the writing. It was ancient, but oddly enough, he could understand the meaning of the unusually characters.”

    “Garan, what does it say?”

    When evils dawning power
    Falls upon blackened trees
    In night’s extended hour
    Must spirits be set free

    Fail to complete the final task
    And chaos will reign supreme
    Forget the future and forget the past
    Focus only on the current scene

    Forever linked with love and pain
    Evil and Darkness together fall
    Under heaven’s cleansing rain
    Before the warriors struck in awe

    Conceal the elements for time unwound
    Away from greed’s searching eyes
    For future’s need will come around
    To destroy the circle made with lies."

    “Translation?” Aalok was not very good at deciphering riddles, let alone cryptic prophetic-sounding… poems?

    “We’re doomed-“

    “What?” A few of the other had come in with Ebele in the lead.

    “I love how no one ever waits for me to finish my sentences.” Garan yawned.

    “Sorry…” Ebele said shyly. The white deer had always been timid, but loyal and pure at heart.

    “It’s alright.” He read over the text a few more times. “Is everyone else almost here?”

    “Good.”

    Sure enough, the other elemental warriors arrived starting with Shant and ending with Nereus. The Eastern Serpent looked uncertainly at Garan. “Well?”

    “Velius is back.”

    “So the little brat is back? So what?” Onatah remarked.

    “He’s far from little, Onatah- and more than capable of ripping any of us apart.” Garan quickly explained to others what he had seen and learned on his most recent trip.

    “Amaris knows he’s alive?”

    “Yes, I spoke with her on my way here.”

    “Don’t you think it would have been better to report to Nereus first?” Urith, a common Phoenix with dull reddish-brown feathers suggested.

    “On normal conditions, perhaps.”

    “Normal conditions?” Itzal asked.

    “What I saw on my way here wasn’t the same young Dragon from before. As of this moment he’s probably heading to Hala- and I doubt he has good intentions.” A dark silence fell upon the group.

    “Then why aren’t we going there to stop him?” Shant finally spoke up.

    “You don’t understand what we’re up against here. Velius is not a mindless beast on a rampage.”

    “Don’t forget that he has control over all of the elements.” Aalok added.

    “So do we- but we’ve got the advantage of numbers on our side.” Itzal pointed out.

    “Remember, Velius is a creature straight from many old legends and myths. Such stories have some truth in them- and the last thing we want to do is go into a battle blind.” Garan responded calmly.

    “Then why not send out a scout to investigate.”

    “I already have. Amaris is out looking for him right now.” Garan explained. “If there is any one who can stop him without resorting to violence, I firmly believe that it would be her.”

    “So… what exactly happens if she doesn’t stop him?” Ebele asked.

    “We’ll have to defend Hala- or die trying.”

    “Is he actually coming to attack Hala?” Soyala looked at the Wolf.

    “Look at this map- if you connect all of the destroyed towns and villages with a line- they make a symbol.” He pulled out the map and put it where everyone could clearly see it.

    “But part of it is missing…” Nereus muttered. “Hala.”

    “Exactly.” Garan stated.

    “Are you sure about all of this, Garan?” Nereus flicked the tip of his finned tail uneasily.

    “Have I ever been wrong before?” No one replied. “Point proven.”

    “Alright, but what do we do if it comes to a fight?” Enlil’s feathers were ruffled up, despite his attempts to seem calm. “We need a plan.”

    “Garan, any ideas?” Nereus would almost always turn to the spirit elemental before anyone else when it came to difficult situations like this.

    “Yes… but I’m not entirely sure it will work.” Garan looked at the glowing text. “But it’s probably our best bet.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “The sun should be setting soon.” Urith landed carefully on the stone floor beside Garan.

    “Then it’s almost time. Did you bring the stones?”

    “Most of them. Enlil will be here with the rest.” The Phoenix dropped several perfectly round stones onto the hard floor.

    “Careful, we cannot afford to break those.”

    “Sorry!”

    “Are the others almost ready?”

    “Yeah, they should be on their way up to the shrine as we speak.”

    “Good. We can’t afford to waste any time.” Soon enough the shrine was filled with the eleven elemental warriors.

    “Here are the last of the stones.” Enlil placed three more sphere shaped stones on top of the pile. There were a total of twelve evenly sized stones. “Why exactly did they have to be the same size, though?”

    “So no one would complain about getting the smallest one.” No one was quite sure if Garan was joking or actually serious.

    “Good.” Tamotsu yawned. “I was beginning to think that we were going to use these as projectiles to throw at Velius. So we get to keep them then?”

    “You’ll see.”

    “Cause, you know, I’ve always wanted a pet rock of my own.”

    “Alright, everyone form a circle around the stones.” Garan instructed.

    “Are we going to do some sacrificial ritual or something?”

    “Tamotsu, we don’t have time for your jokes right now. We’ll only get one shot at this.” The Wolf ran around and arranged the stones so that they aligned with the warriors. He removed the extra stone before walking over to his position of the ring.

    “Now what do we do?” Nereus looked at the white Wolf. “I don’t see how this is going to help us, Garan.”

    “Just wait.” The spirit elemental looked up at the ceiling’s single gap that allowed the sunlight to flow in above them. In night’s extended hour. He repeated one of the lines in his head over and over again. “It’s going to be a long night.” The sun had begun it’s descent into the horizon. Within the next hour night would arrive upon the land.

    Then, as he looked through the opening, he saw what he was waiting for. “It’s time.” I hope this works. The moon slowly moved into position in front of the sun. By the time the moon stopped blocking the world’s source of light, nightfall would have arrived. The light began to quickly diminish as the solar eclipse began.

    As the last of the light began to fade, Garan started chanting in an ancient language. He was unaware of what he saying, or even how he knew what to say, but he did know that this was exactly what he needed to do.

    Garan’s focus was so intense that he had not realized that the stones had begun to shine in different colors. Even the warriors began to glow one by one. He opened his eyes and continued to chant. It’s working! Before much more time could pass, the entire shrine was filled with a brilliant light.

    Your task is not complete.

    Garan blinked, losing concentration for a split second. The light dimmed just a bit during this brief moment. Shut up and let me focus.

    When the sun ascends again it will be too late and all will be lost.

    The light slowly began to fade as Garan finished the ritual. It was still dark outside but the eclipse had not yet ended. “What was… that?” The stones were no longer ordinary spherical rocks, but different colored spheres that emitted an unusual and compelling aura.

    “Ah, so we get pretty marbles!” Tamotsu joked, ignoring a sharp glance from Garan.

    “In the event that we have to fight Velius, these orbs will help us.” The Wolf explained. Everyone knew at this point that they would probably have to fight regardless. “Each orb holds a concentrated elemental power that will amplify your own. Each orb contains a part of your spirit, so if you lose it, you’ll have some sort of idea where it is.”

    “So what do we do if we don’t have to fight.” Ebele asked. The earth below them trembled slightly as if in response.

    “Hide them so no one could use these for the wrong reasons.” A storm was brewing nearby. He’s coming.

    “Can these break?” Tamotsu was tapping at the orb with the tip of his tail.

    “I don’t know, but I’d rather not find out.” Soyala looked at the orb that corresponded with her element.

    “Urith?” Nereus looked at the Phoenix. “Did you evacuate all of Hala?”

    “I have the warning. Anyone still here is here at their own risk.”

    “Alright then, let’s get ready.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Urith flew forward into the sky. Nereus had sent him ahead to locate Velius and determine whether or not there would be a fight. If all was well, he would simply return to where the others were waiting. If Velius turned out aggressive as Garan feared- and was probably going to be right about- then the Phoenix would give a signal be setting himself on fire. Was it dangerous? If you considered making yourself a very noticeable target dangerous, then yes, it was.

    It was difficult to see in the night, especially with the dark clouds forming overhead that were blocking light from the moon and stars. He was thankful that the clouds had not let out rain, though there was plenty of lightning and thunder. The storm had come rather suddenly as an unpleasant surprise.

    Nothing so far. Urith noted as he caught the first glimpse of the forest where Velius was last spotted. The Phoenix lowered his altitude to get a better view of the forest. Garan had said that the Elemental Dragon would be over here somewhere, so where was he? Perhaps the Wolf was wrong or maybe Amaris had succeeded in stopping him. No, Garan is never wrong. He’s here.

    Then he heard a single wing beat. Please be Amaris. He looked around and saw nothing. Unless he was just hearing things, whoever it was flew as silently as an owl- not a Dragon. He turned around to report back to the others. Another faint beat. “Amaris?” Urith picked up speed. “Velius?”

    Something hard and heavy struck one of his wings. Ignoring the sudden pain he folded his wings in and dove down in a spiraling dive to gain speed. As he did so, he burst into flames to alert the others. He knew that he was being followed immediately, even before the shards of ice came down after him, thankfully melting before making contact.

    He turned midair and spread his wings to stop his descent and face his attacker. Sure enough, it was what he expected- a large Dragon with fur and feathered wings. With one powerful flap of his wings, Urith was able to charge forward at the Dragon, catching him by surprise. After a brief struggle, the Phoenix managed to get a good grip on the unusual Dragon with two flaming claws.

    Movement in the trees below distracted Urith. He’s not alone! In this moment, Velius, being heavier than the Phoenix, managed to carry along with him and slam him into a tree forcing the fire elemental to release his grip on the Dragon. The fire elemental recovered midair and turned tail to find the others. He could vaguely hear Velius gaining up to him. All he needed was another spiral dive, but he was not up high enough to safely pull that off.

    Claws struck his back followed by a sudden weight forcing him to the ground. Velius had the Phoenix pinned down. Urith struggled furiously to try freeing himself but Velius was far too heavy and had a firm hold on his wings. Not even fire seemed to have any effect on the mighty Dragon. He twisted his head to face Velius and was surprised at what he saw. The Dragon wanted to kill him, that much was clear, but some sort of conflict made him hesitate just long enough for help to arrive.

    Shant tackled into the Dragon just in time, allowing Urith to scramble out from his grip.

    “Urith, are you okay?” Aalok landed at his side.

    The Phoenix carefully spread out his wings. Pain seared through both of them, causing him to wince. “I’ll be fine.” He lied knowing that he had probably broken a few of his fragile bones. There was plenty of doubt if he could fly adequately, but the last thing Urith wanted was to step down and allow the others to fight without him.

    “Any signs of Amaris?” Aalok sounded worried that the dark elemental had not returned.

    “No, but I don’t think Velius is alone.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I saw many shapes moving through the trees. Maybe I’m just going crazy… but…”

    “No, it’s fine. I’ll go warn Nereus.” Urith nodded despite having wanted to find Nereus himself, but there was no arguing with Aalok without letting him know exactly how much damage he had actually taken. When the Eastern Dragon left, he flew up to help Shant hold off Velius.

    Enlil was already there when Urith painfully flew up. Once he got close it became obvious that Shant and Enlil were having difficulty facing off with Velius. The mysterious Dragon was using their own abilities against them. The Griffon and Wyvern were trying to catch him off guard, but Velius always seemed to know exactly what they were going to do moments before they take action. Then he vanished.

    “Damn it.” Shant cursed. “We have to find him!”

    Enlil looked around for any hint of the Dragon’s whereabouts, but caught site of something else.

    “Are those… feral creatures?” Under the trees below them there was a fight brewing between the other elemental warriors and a large group of what seemed to be mindless feral creatures.

    “You two, find Velius- I’ll go help them out!” He dove down away from his friends and crashed the trees, nearly losing control of his flight in the process. From a closer view, it was not as bad as he had initially feared- though it was still pretty bad. Somehow Velius managed to create and control a very small army of feral creatures.

    A quick headcount assured him that everyone was still standing- and breathing- but were clearly getting tired even at such an early stage of the fight. Wait. He counted again. Aalok! The light elemental was alone and nowhere to be seen. Several flashes of light shone from one direction. It had to be Velius, Shant, or Aalok. Not wanting to risk Aalok being in trouble all by himself, he headed towards the light.

    Just as he spotted Aalok, a heavy weight crashed on top of the Phoenix again. In front of him, maybe thirty years away, a strike of lightning revealed Velius standing over Aalok, about to deliver a finishing blow.
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 30th March 2012 at 3:07 AM.




  19. #44

    Default

    Chapter Seven
    The Twelve Elements

    No! Aalok desperately clawed at Velius’ belly but was unable to get the much heavier Dragon off of him. It can’t end like this! Around him a battle was roaring- one that seemed they were destined to lose. Perhaps if Velius had been alone they could have had a chance, but somehow the Elemental Dragon had managed to build and control a small force of what seemed to be feral creatures. Aalok could only get mere glimpses of the others but managed to see Urith pinned down by what looked like a large tiger.

    Timed seemed to slow down as it usually did in the midst of terrible events. The night was filled with the thundering cracks of attacks sent upon one another. He had never before been in the midst of such a large fight against creatures that could hold their own against the Elemental Warriors. The sky was illuminated only by an occasional strike of lightning and the sparks of the battle. Everything was crumbling apart around him. His friends were all in trouble and here he was, pinned down and helpless- likely about to be finished off.

    He closed his eyes and sent out a silent prayer for his friends. “Aalok!” He could hear Amaris’ scream echoing in his head. The Eastern Dragon had wondered what became of her since she had never returned to Hala after going out to search for her adopted son. “Aalok!” His heart skipped a beat. That was definitely not in his head!

    When he finally opened his eyes, Amaris was there glaring down at him. “Get up you idiot.” Yup, she was okay. What had happened to Velius? He had not seen the strange Dragon get knocked away by a very powerful blast of darkness from Amaris.

    “Were you worried about me?” He laughed weakly. He had certainly been worried about her without a doubt.

    “As if.” She growled and checked the surrounding area as he recovered his senses. “He’s coming our way.” A strong gust of wind burst forth, knocking Amaris over. This was the first time Aalok had noticed just how badly Amaris was already injured. Her breathing was heavy and numerous wounds could be seen all over her body.

    “Amaris…” Aalok stood by her side and helped her up, keeping his senses alert for any sign of Velius. It was clear now that she had indeed found Velius before but had been attacked rather than the joyful reunion she had longed for. If anything, facing Velius may have been difficult for her as it was clear that her love for him was still there. Unable to bring herself to fight back must have resulted in the serious wounds she had now. “… I’m sorry.” He muttered. “This isn’t your fight. I’ll get you home as soon as-“

    “It is now.” She struggled back up to her feet and stretched out her wings. They were badly torn at spots but still looked as if they could fly- just barely at least.

    “No, it’s not-“ Amaris smacked him in the face with one wing. “-what was that for?” Aalok noticed something shine around Amaris’ neck. Despite being heavily coated in mud- and blood- he knew what it was- the pendant! How long did it take her to find that after everyone had forgotten about it in the forest the night Velius had vanished all that time ago? “Are you sure about this?”

    “Not really, to be honest.” There was no question that this would be very difficult for her. “But we’ve got to end this- one way or the other.”

    “Agreed.” A high pitched howl streaked across the night. Amaris turned to Aalok. “That’s Garan.”

    “What do we do?” Amaris assumed that the howl was some sort of signal or a warning. The latter was less preferred though.

    “Re-group if possible.” Seeing as Velius had not come back after them, he must be occupied doing something else. “Can you walk?” Flying left them too exposed to attack. At least under the trees anything that was flying- or on the ground- would have a harder time spotting them.

    “I made it this far, didn’t I?” The two weaved through the forest, following the sound of an occasional howl from Garan- which hopefully would not attract enemies as well. There was still no sign of Velius.

    “Aalok! Over here!” A shape slithering from branch to branch guided them to where a few of the others were waiting.

    “Thanks, Tamotsu.” Garan said. It was clear that the white Wolf had been fighting too as his fur was so muddled up that one could forget that it was originally white.

    “Is everyone alright so far?” Aalok counted heads. Not counting himself and Amaris- and counting Tamotsu’s second head- there were seven total.

    “Ebele took Urith to find somewhere safe to rest. He’ll be fine though.” Assuming they did not run into any trouble, but that was probably implied. “Onatah and Nereus are distracting Velius.” Nereus and Onatah usually made for an impressive pairing however odd it may seem.

    “And the feral creatures?”

    “Most of them seem to have retreated.” The good thing about feral creatures was that their instincts forced them to flee if they felt that they could not win the fight. Thank goodness for those instincts.

    “What now then?” Amaris asked impatiently.

    “When did she get here?” Shant, who was resting on a low hanging branched looked over at the Dragoness. He clearly had not expected to see the dark elemental here, but his face showed no hostility. In fact, Aalok could have sworn that he saw relief in the Wyvern’s face- even if just for a brief moment.

    “I’m guessing a good half hour ago- give or take.” Tamotsu slithered down the trunk of the tree he had been on. “Unless that was someone else yelling at Aalok.” Had it been only half an hour?

    “That was her.” The Eastern Dragon confirmed. “Anyway- why’d you call, Garan?”

    “Change of plans.” Originally, their tactic was to fight with Velius and protect Hala. However, the unexpected arrival of several feral creatures had caught them all off guard, splitting them up from each other. As a result, almost all of them bore obvious wounds. “I’d like all of you to go and give Nereus and Onatah a hand- take care of any Feral creatures you see along the way. We need to make this a battle between us and him- nothing more.” Garan spoke calmly.

    “Alright.” Shant was the first to leave, spreading out his arms before jumping out of the tree and taking to the air.

    “Oh, and Nereus has given permission to kill if necessary.” Aalok turned to see Amaris, knowing that this included Velius, but he could not read the expression on the dark elementals face. Could he or Amaris be able to kill him? Would they?

    The remaining warriors disbanded and began to do as they were told. “Amaris, not you.” Garan halted the dark elemental. Aalok paused, unwilling to allow his friend out of his sight. It was not that he did not trust Garan, but he could not- did not- want to imagine what might possibly happen in the next few hours.

    “Garan, I don’t care if you want me here or not- I’m going to fight.” Amaris growled.

    “That’s not it. I need your help with something else first.” The Wolf noticed that the Eastern Dragon was still there. “Aalok-“ He paused.

    “Yes?”

    “Never mind. Just keep your eyes open for any trouble.” Garan was just about to send him away, but something had changed his mind.

    “Alright… “ Amaris muttered. She was not quite used to being ‘needed.’

    The spirit elemental stuck his muzzle into the small bag that was strapped around his shoulder and pulled out a spherical object. It glowed with a gentle milky-purple color. “What’s that?” Amaris stared at the object.

    “It’s what will help us defeat Velius.” Garan spoke after dropping the orb to the ground. “Each of us has one that corresponds to our element- except you.” He pulled out a perfectly round- yet otherwise ordinary- stone.

    “I thought you had to make them all at once?” Aalok watched as Garan began to draw intricate patterns and symbols on the ground.

    “No- I just had to start the ritual during that eclipse.” Garan’s tail accidentally brushed away one of the markings. “I’ve got until sunrise to complete it though.” He placed the stone in the center of the patterns. “And to complete it- all twelve elements must be present?”

    “What will happen if you don’t complete this… ritual?” Amaris looked uncertain.

    “The other orbs will lose their power. All twelve must exist to balance out each other.”

    “How long will this take?” Amaris looked up at the sky. They still had plenty of time before the black of night would fade into daylight- assuming the overhanging storm clouds allowed any light to reach them at this point.

    “Not long. Just stay still for a little bit until I’m done. You won’t feel anything at all- so don’t worry.”

    Amaris nodded and did what she was instructed. An eerie black glow lit up the writing, Amaris, and the stone. Garan had began to chant the same ancient words as before. This time the process was far less colorful, but still impressive. How Garan knew how to do all of this was beyond Aalok’s understanding.

    A giant spark illuminated the area. That didn’t happen last time... did it? Garan did not seem to notice. Perhaps it did and Aalok was just too transfixed by the ritual the last time to have noticed. A prick of concern began to travel through the light elemental. However, the fact that Garan seemed unbothered helped. When it was all over, the stone was now a pitch black with a brilliant and sleek surface. “There.” Garan’s breaths were fast and shallow.

    “Are you alright?” Amaris looked up from the object in front of her.

    “Just tired. I’ll be fine.” The Wolf did not show it, but the process of creating the orbs had taken a massive amount of energy out of him. Considering how powerful of a spirit elemental he was, that would have worried anyone.

    “So, what exactly do I do with this thing?” Amaris grabbed the dark object with one set of claws and examined it carefully.

    “Hold not that until I give the signal.” Garan placed his orb back into the little pouch he had with him.

    “Okay- but how exactly am I supposed to use this?” Garan had not given much explanation on how the objects worked or anything about them.

    “The magic of that sphere is directly connected with your own spirit. Don’t ask how, but you’ll know how to use it when the time comes.” He looked at Aalok. “Are you two ready?”

    “Why wouldn’t we be?” Amaris responded calmly.

    “We might have to kill Velius, Amaris- are you prepared for that possibility?” When Garan sad ‘might’ he usually meant it was they would indeed have to do so, but he was trying not to upset the dark elemental more than he had to. Things must be hard enough for her as they are.

    “That isn’t Velius. Not anymore.”

    Garan looked at her with a puzzled face. “Alright then… let’s get going.” The three moved at an average pace towards the sounds of the fight. In the still air of the night, everything seemed so much louder. The roar of the earth, the crack of ice, the drumming of paws beating over the soil. It was all heard. It was unnerving to say the least.

    As the Elemental Dragon drew into sight, rain began to drizzle down from the sky. Velius was facing off against seven of the elemental warriors and seemed to be holding his ground pretty well despite the numbers against him.

    “Stay close.” Aalok warned Amaris. They stood a far better chance if they stayed together and worked as a team. The fight was thankfully taking place on the ground now and not in the sky where they would have to be ready for attacks from all directions.

    The Dark elemental kept just behind Aalok, analyzing the situation. He had never seen her fight before- not since they were very young at least. Every one always picked on her and called her weak for it, but Aalok knew she never fought back because doing so would do nothing to change the situation she was in. Anyway, in her current condition, rushing forward to strike was a poor choice at best, so she merely waited for a good opportunity to strike.

    “Soyala, watch out!” Aalok called out a warning to the Bear who just barely managed to dodge a large ball of flames. Velius knew his elements or so it seemed.

    “Quiet, you idiot.” Amaris snapped.

    “Why-“ Velius turned his attention towards the light elemental. Within mere moments a barrage of attacks from different elements were making their way towards the two of them.

    “That’s why.” She hissed before ducking behind a tree with a fortunately thick trunk. He’s after me! The Elemental Dragon had attempted to kill Aalok at every given chance since the battle had begun. The only question was why. Aalok created a simple illusion and vanished from sight. By bending and refracting light, he could alter the appearance of an area for short periods of time. This, however, did not effect what was physically there.

    “We need to end this- and soon.” Amaris hissed. “If we drag this out any longer, we’ll just wear ourselves out.”

    “Yes, but we’ve got to wait for a signal from Garan.” Aalok continued to bait Velius with illusions leading him a little further away from himself- and especially Amaris- while the others took every opportunity to launch attacks and do damage towards the unique Dragon

    “And when exactly will that be?” Velius managed to land a hit on the illusion causing it to dissolve into the air. “Before or after he kills us?” A terrible earthquake shook the drenched earth as the Dragon roared in rage.

    “Garan is just waiting for an opening. Velius has to let his guard down sooner or later.” Thunder crashed overhead just as Velius smacked away one of the fighters.

    “Is that all?” She grinned. “Just distract him for a little bit, I’ve got a plan.”

    Aalok nodded and created another illusion of himself that, just as successfully as the first, caught the Dragon’s attention just before he could take another swipe at Onatah. “Lead him to that tree- over there!” The moment that the Elemental Dragon’s back was facing Amaris and Aalok, the dark elemental bolted out from behind the trees and into the clearing where the fighting was taking place.

    “Amaris!” Aalok called after her. The Western Dragon jumped and latched herself onto Velius’ back with her free claws. The dark orb in her right claws was glowing brightly. Very brightly. “Get back!”

    “Here’s your stupid opening, Garan!” She growled, struggling to keep the larger Dragon within her grasp. “Finish this now!” Everything went silent. Velius was thrashing violently in an attempt to shake her off- which would not take too long.

    A hesitant howl from Garan signaled that it was now the time to use the newly created orbs. “No!” The air began to tense up with energy as time once again began to slow down before Aalok’s eyes. “Stop!” Aalok knew that unless Amaris released Velius she would be caught up in the all-out attack- and die.

    “Aalok, hurry!” Amaris yelled out as the glow of all of the nearby orbs began to illuminate the area. “I’ll be fine.” She lied. Her grip loosened on the Elemental Dragon.

    “I can’t-“

    “Yes you can!” She hissed. The light elemental had not even taken out his own orb. How could he use it knowing that pulling it out to defeat Velius would harm his friend in the process. “Just do it! If we fail now, it will be all over!”

    “Amaris.” He could see the many years of pain that she had endured reflected in her eyes. There was something different though. A burning determination had risen up and given her the strength to fight onward. Or had it always been there? Aalok closed his own eyes.

    At last her claws lost their grip on Velius’ wet fur. “It’s now or never!”




  20. #45

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    Chapter Eight
    Spirits

    “The next pages have been torn out!” Neko looked at the ancient book that lay on the ground in front of her. The next chapter of the story was entirely missing. The edges of the pages that were once there could be seen still attached to the binding. Neko ran one claw through the torn edges. This was frustrating- the story was just reaching a climax!

    “The rest of that book has been missing since long before I came into possession of it I believe.” Saia closed the book carefully. How long ago was that? Neko looked at the cover of the book. She now realized that the Dragon on the cover of the book was Amaris. To think that dark elementals were treated so terribly in the past- perhaps even now in the present it was like that. Not that Neko had ever paid attention as all of the dark elementals she knew were loyal to Yugito.

    “So how exactly does it end?” Hail asked. He had been paying very close attention the story- more so than Neko at least.

    “Well, Amaris dies giving the other a chance to finish Velius off.” Saia placed the book on top of one of the nearby piles. “Afterwards they all agreed that the power of the orbs was too dangerous and decided to scatter them across the land to prevent anyone from gathering them all together and using them for wrong.”

    “So the orbs have been hidden ever since?” How long ago did this all happen, anyway? Surely if this occurred many mange years ago, someone would have accidentally stumbled across the orbs by now? Well, aside from Saia.

    “I would dare say most of them have managed to remain untouched until just recently.”

    “Most of them?”

    “I saw one of them once- in the possession of a good friend of mine.” Saia laid down against the earthen wall.

    “Where is it now?” Hail yawned. How long had they have been sitting there reading that book?

    “Hidden away again most likely.” Saia responded. “I have reason to believe that he may have known much more about this story and the orbs than he ever let on.”

    “Do you know where this friend of yours is now?” Hail prodded Rayne gently. The young Wolf had fallen fast asleep somewhere in chapter four of the story. “Perhaps he could give us a hand with finding the other orbs before Yugito gets to them.”

    “No, he’s been dead for some time now.”

    “Well, that’s very helpful.” Neko muttered. “Did he ever tell you anything about the orbs?”

    “No, he was quite… secretive.” And you aren’t? Neko could not help but note that Saia had held back a lot of information from them in the past. She knew almost nothing about the spirit elemental at this point. What she did know was that he was a key figure in the rebel forces. “He never mentioned any of it, but I know he knew something that he didn’t want me or the other to know. In fact, he may have been an elemental warrior.”

    “So they exist?”

    “No, Neko- Saia thought that you’d enjoy a nice bedtime story.” Hail laughed before prodding Rayne again. The water elemental simply rolled onto his back and continued to sleep. Apparently Rayne took it as a bedtime story.

    “No, I meant that do they exist now? Then perhaps- but if their job was to keep the peace, why aren’t they doing anything?”

    “I can’t answer that. More recent history speaks almost nothing about them. It looks as if they literally faded away without a word. Perhaps they became more secretive- or simply just vanished.” Some peacekeepers. “All I know for sure is that he had a pendant much like the ones illustrated in the book. I saw it once- on accident- shortly after we met.”

    “What symbol was on it?” Hail seemed more interested than Neko was.

    “A perfect circle.” Saia responded and left Hail and Neko to put the pieces together.

    “A light elemental!?” Saia nodded to Hail who had spoken before Neko could. “I guess that explains how he died.”

    “Wait, what?” Neko was puzzled. “Since when does your element determine your death?”

    “You don’t know?” Hail’s blue eyes lit up with surprise.

    “Don’t forget that this all began when the both of you were very young- even before possibly. I doubt the Dark Warriors spent much time teaching you any type of history- past or recent.”

    “That’s why we’ve got you, Saia.” If anything, the old Nekomata was very well informed. More so than most were these days.

    “Um- so what happened?” Neko pushed.

    “The reason light elementals are assumed extinct is because Yugito ordered them all to be killed. My friend was one of the first to be killed. Your sister, Cera, may have been the last of the light elementals.”

    “Why did she order them to be killed?” Neko still found the idea of having a sister odd to say the least.

    “Yugito fears light elementals.”

    “But- “ Neko shook her head. “Light elementals have a huge disadvantage against dark elementals- why in the world would Yugito be worried about them?”

    “That may be so- but Yugito still fears them. She once had a spirit elemental amongst her ranks- a powerful one at that. He spoke of a prophecy that suggested Yugito would fall from power because of a light elemental. At least, that’s how many interpreted the prophecy.”

    “If it’s true… then we can’t win without a light elemental?” Hail gave Rayne one last poke before giving up on waking up the Wolf. He really should not be sleeping through such important discussions.

    “No- the prophecy only suggested that a light elemental would defeat her. It could have meant something else entirely.”

    “Do you know the prophecy?”

    Yes- but I heard it from word of mouth. It may not be exact- or even entirely wrong.” Neko understood that the change of even one word in a prophecy could give the whole thing an entirely new meaning.

    “When the dark evil comes
    All will plunge to chaos and despair
    When the lies of all or none
    Will be thrown beyond the air

    Piercing through the darkest night
    A warrior shall arrive to aid
    With heaven’s pure and fiery flight
    Will never flicker nor fade

    With the sun’s final seam
    The endless rain shall send
    And up rises a hopeful gleam
    That all shall heal and bend”

    “That… makes absolutely no sense.” Was all Neko could say in response.

    “There’s no telling how accurate this is since it was never written down. Words have a way of being changed when one speaks to another.” Saia reminded her. “But you can tell where one would get the idea that a light elemental would be the end of Yugito, correct?”

    “But it is still possible that the whole thing means something else entirely?”

    “Very much so. Often the meanings of prophecies like this one don’t become clear until they unfold.” So it seemed that all of the light elementals were wiped out because Yugito thought one would defeat her? All on a simple guess?

    “What happened to the Spirit Elemental? I don’t think I ever say one while we were there.” Hail asked. Now that Neko thought about it, she could not remember seeing any spirit elementals there either.

    “No one is sure- some say he died, others say he just vanished.”

    “Oh.”

    “Anyway, back to our original topic.” Neko had almost forgotten about the orbs already. “There were twelve that got created- one for each element.” Saia was actually telling them stuff without being extraordinarily secretive. Perhaps he was just like that because he could not trust them entirely. After all, he was speaking to three former Dark Warriors. For all he knew, either one of the three could be a spy.

    “It can be assumed that they were created using part of the warrior’s spirit to give them strength. That would explain why you can summon up a sort of entity by using the orbs.”

    “Do these entities have any sort of memories or feelings of some sort?” Hail asked, remembering their recent fight with Storm. “The two didn’t really seem like they wanted to fight each other.” Considering the two were once teammates, that would explain a lot.

    “I’m not sure- but it’s possible.” Saia thought about it for a moment. “They are connected to those who were there during their creation- so I suppose it could be possible.”

    “But if that’s so…” Hail paused. “Wouldn’t it be like we were forcing them to fight against their will?” Why did Hail always have to have morals? Neko felt a twinge of guilt at the thought. She had not liked being told exactly what to do every day while she was at the Dark Castle, so in a way she could relate.

    “Hmm…” Saia seemed to have gotten lost in his thoughts. “Did they at any point act without you wanting them to?” Both Hail and Neko nodded. Nereus had plenty of fun trying to kill Neko while Storm was busy dealing with Hail. “Then I can assume that the spirits can indeed choose their own actions- so you two would be wise to take extra caution around them.” Great, so they might turn around and kill them at any given moment if the entities felt like it.

    “But why fight each other the?” Neko’s head was swimming with all sorts of questions. These spirits were just as ‘alive’ as she or Rayne. If they had their own thoughts and feelings as their previous actions had suggested, why listen to her or Hail when they could easily just turn around and possibly kill either one of them with little trouble.

    “Maybe they didn’t know what was going on?” Hail suggested. “They’ve been hidden away for who knows how long- they might not have been able to see or hear anything going on while being concealed for so long.” The thought of having the entities being able to watch them from their orbs was somewhat unnerving- and possibly comforting at the same time.

    “I suppose we’ll learn more about that in due time.” Saia sighed. “Anyway- we know that most of the orbs are still hidden.”

    “We have two.” Neko stated.

    “And so does Yugito.” They were not really sure about that, but rumors claim that Yugito had found the dark orb some time ago. To deny the fact without any proof could be a dangerous mistake.

    “That leaves us with eight more to find then.” Saia concluded.

    “And idea where we could find them?” The fire orb had been hidden- or rather protected- in the hollow of a large tree located in a village of fire elementals- Marua. The water orb was found in an underground lake. Where the dark orb was found was unknown and Neko could not recall if Saia had ever said where he found the ice orb.

    “To be honest, not really.” Saia sighed. “For all we know, some of them may be inaccessible- or even guarded like the fire orb. Having someone guard an orb makes it easier to find since someone knows where it is- but it also makes it easier to relocate if the orb is at risk.” Looking for something that could be moved at any time would be difficult. “But I think it would be safe to assume that most of the orbs are hidden away with no protection except for natural barriers.”

    “I think we can cross out anywhere near large cities or busy roads. That would be too risky of a spot to hide something so valuable.” Hail put in.

    “Not all roads and cities existed back in the day the orbs were hidden. A city could have been built right above one of the orbs for all we know.” Saia countered.

    “So basically- they could be just about anywhere?” Neko concluded.

    “That would be about right.”

    “That makes things easier.” Neko muttered.

    “Would it be safe to assume that orbs wouldn’t be hidden too close together?” Hail made another guess.

    “Probably.” Saia yawned. He must be just as tired as everyone else there. He had kept a quick pace heading to the hideout despite his age, but it seems that his stamina had been drained for the day. “Let’s not worry about it too much tonight. We’ll head out to the nearest town and see what information we can get tomorrow. Then we decide what to do. For now, let’s get some rest.”

    “I second that thought.” The lion looked at Rayne who was still sleeping like a rock. The entire journey since they fled the Dark Castle along with the multiple fights must have left the young Wolf extremely worn out. Hail let out a huge yawn, revealing some powerful looking canine teeth. No one was about to argue with the idea of a peaceful sleep in a safe and sheltered location. Neko allowed the flames to go out and left the room in total darkness.

    Unfortunately, fate had no intentions of allowing them to have a good restful night. After everyone had fallen fast asleep, a scratching sound began to echo through the passage that led to the dark room. Rayne was the first to wake up as he had been the most rested at the moment. Had the scratching not woken him up, it would have been only a matter of minutes before he got up and been forced to endure boredom. “Hail?” He whispered, keeping his ears facing in the direction of the sound. “Hail!” He tried again. “Stop snoring and wake up!” He jumped up on top of the ice elemental.

    “Whoa!” Hail was slightly startled. “What is it?” He looked around lazily. “Morning already?”

    “There’s someone outside.” Neko muttered, having been woken up by all of the commotion. “And whoever it is probably knows we’re here now.”

    “Sorry.” Rayne squeaked as he realized how load he had just been a few moments ago.

    “Quiet- all of you.” Saia snapped, getting to his paws. The scratching continued, getting a little bit more frantic than before. Neko could have sworn there was a pattern to the sounds. For every two short scratches there were two longer ones. “It’s safe.” He concluded. That pattern must have been some sort of password or code. “I’ll go see who it is. Feel free to tag along.”

    Hail and Rayne got up to follow. “I’ll pass.” Neko was probably better off staying hidden. Most of the rebels probably were unaware of the current situation and would likely assume her as an enemy and the last thing she wanted to deal with was another fight. Sure, Rayne and Hail were once Dark Warriors too- but they had not done as much as Neko had.

    She could hear the sound of the boulder moving down from where the entrance was. Even most of the speaking was audible due to the acoustics in the passage. “Thank goodness you’re here.” The voice sounded tired and uneasy. “Saia-“

    “She’s hurt!” Rayne’s surprised bark echoed down. “I smell blood!”

    “Don’t worry, I’m fine- it’s only a scratch, but-“

    “You can explain inside, we need to tend to your wounds before they get infected.”

    “I’m okay! Really!” The newcomer insisted. Deep within the crevices of her memory, Neko recognized the voice. It had been a long while- a very long while, but she knew who it was. A few distant and foggy memories from her childhood slowly drifted to the surface of her mind. Only still images- nothing more. All of another Nekomata she had once known. Before the four could return to the room, Neko relit all of the torches and ducked behind a large pile of books.

    “How did you know to come here?” Saia asked as they entered the room.

    “I didn’t. This just happened to be the closest safe house.” The newcomer panted. It was clear that she had run a long way to get here. “I’ve never been more relieved to find someone here.”

    “Clear, what happened?” Clear. The other survivor from Marua along with Cera, Glade, and herself.

    “We were ambushed-“

    “We?”

    “Glade and I.” Clear replied. “We were on our way to investigate some rumors not too far from here.”

    “What kind of rumors?” Hail asked. Peeking her head from behind the books, Neko could tell that Clear was a little uneasy around Hail and Rayne. At least those two seemed friendly enough.

    “Ghost sightings.”

    “Ghosts don’t exist though!” Rayne barked.

    “Exactly, which was why we were investigating.” Clear justified. “I don’t know what we were expecting- but we got ambushed by what I assume was a Dark Warrior.” Had the Dark Warrior been sent to ambush them- or perhaps to go after Neko, Hail, and Rayne and just happened to run into them on the way?

    “Do you know who it was?”

    “A Dragon- I don’t remember his name.” Kura, no doubt. There were very few Dragons in these parts. Even fewer under Yugito’s command. If it was not Kura, then it was another Dark Warrior that Neko had yet to meet. The Dark Warriors were made up of several groups that rarely ever met. Neko only knew those that were in her group- which included Hail, Rayne, and a few others with Kura at the head.

    “Where’s Glade?” Saia finally asked. They all wanted to know, but no one dared ask the question.

    “They’ve got her.” At least she was no dead. Right? Then again- there were far worse fates than death. “It’s a ransom.” Clear continued. “He said that if we want her back alive, we have to meet him at the eastern edge of the forest and give him the orb.”

    “It’s a trap.” Saia seemed rather calm. “They wouldn’t just let her go like that, even if we did what was asked. He would no doubt try to kill whoever went with the orb and Glade.”

    Neko took a deep breath and stepped out. Hopefully this would not turn out disastrous. “Then I’ll go.” Clear spun around with blatant shock on her face. She looked rather silly, actually.

    “Are you insane?” Hail stared at the fire elemental. “Have you forgotten how many times you’ve died in the last few weeks?”

    “No, but this is Kura we’re talking about. He trained me.” Trained may have been an incorrect word choice. “I know the way he fights better than anyone.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Have you ever wondered why he’s blind in one eye?” Neko unsheathed her claws. After a few moments they were glowing a molten red. If anything, the chance to fight Kura with no restrictions seemed to be a pleasant change of luck for her.

    “Alright then.” Saia agreed. “I doubt he’ll be expecting Neko to show up. Clear?” The Nekomata had been frozen in place after seeing the fire elemental.

    “Yes?” It was apparent that she was putting a lot of effort to not stare at Neko.

    “I want you to go with her- just in case.” The light furred Nekomata was getting even more nervous. “Don’t worry- she’s on our side.” That did not seem to help any.

    “Can I go too?” Rayne barked. Now everyone was a little speechless. Since when did Rayne volunteer to get involved with the fighting?

    “Rayne- you realize there will be a fight- it will be dangerous.” Hail knew more than anyone how much the Wolf did not enjoy violence. “And why would you want to go with Neko of all of us here?”

    “Hey!” Neko growled lightly. Hail and Rayne laughed though Clear remained shocked into place.

    “I want to help.” Rayne wagged his tail gently. After fighting against the water entity- and survived- he had grown some confidence he did not have previously and was determined to prove that he could be helpful and not just a fluffy burden like he believed himself to be after the several times he had gotten his tail saved by Neko- usually at the cost of Neko getting some sort of injury or getting into unusual situations.

    “Okay.” Saia looked at Neko. “Only if it’s okay with Neko.”

    “Fine- but promise me you’ll listen if I give you any type of order.” She gave the Wolf a stern look.

    “I promise!” Why did Neko feel that he would be unable to follow even one order? Strangely enough, though, Neko trusted the Wolf. He may be small and young, but he was still powerful- after all, he had been a Dark Warrior. Even though Hail was soft as a mentor, the ice elemental had given great effort into ensuring that Rayne would be able to take care of himself against any opponent. If anything, this was an opportunity for the Wolf to show his strength.

    “Wait- why can’t we all go?” Hail protested.

    “Kura would get suspicious if too many of us go. Anyway, those three can take care of themselves. They’ll be fine.”

    “So we just wait here?”

    “No, we’ll be heading out to research possible locations for the orbs. The sooner we get information and find them, the better of we’ll be.”

    “What happens if things go wrong though?” Hail was more concerned about Rayne than anything else.

    “This is war, Hail. Things will go wrong. Things will go right. All we can do is hope everything goes if planned- if not, we’re always prepared for the worst. I trust Neko will be able to handle whatever happens later on. If not, Clear and Rayne will be able to help her. We can’t just avoid any situation that may be risky. Without taking some risks, we won’t make any progress against Yugito. All we can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”




  21. #46

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    Chapter Nine
    The Trap

    “Neko, Neko, Neko, Neko, Neko, Neko!” Why did this seem so oddly familiar? “It’s time to get up!” Rayne tugged gently at her ear. Had it been anyone else, Neko would probably have attempted murder well before this point.

    “I’m up, I’m up.” She shoved Rayne away with one paw and slowly got up. It was almost impossible to tell what time it was in the dark room, but based on how unbelievably tired she was at the moment she could only assume that it was pretty early in the morning. Neko hated mornings.

    “It’s about time.” Hail yawned. “We thought you were dead for a moment there.” Despite his comments, the ice elemental looked awfully tired himself.

    “Very funny, Hail.” It seemed like just about everyone was awake or waking up at this point. Within a few brief moments the entire room was illuminated by the flames on the torches.

    “Are you three all ready to set out?” Saia asked. He seemed rather lively considering the interrupted night they had dealt with.

    “Looks like it.” Neko grabbed her bag and slung it across her shoulder. It was clear that she would be needing a new bag sooner or later. The one she had now looked like it was barely holding together after having been through so much use and abuse.

    “Alright then- when you can, head to a town called Manem along the eastern boundary. We’ll meet up again there, though Hail and I probably won’t be getting there any time soon- so make yourselves comfortable until we find you.” From the looks of, Neko would not see much of Hail or the old Nekomata for quite a few days. She welcomed that idea as she wanted a little freedom from the two. Rayne was not a problem- hopefully Clear would not prove to be difficult to travel with. “Be careful- and don’t take any unnecessary risks, okay?”

    Neko nodded. “Same goes for you two.” The fire elemental had to admit that without Saia or another known rebel, she would never be able to walk freely amidst any area with many rebel supporters- unless of course her name was not too terribly well-known. That did not seem to be the case, though.

    With that, the two groups left the cavern and went their own ways. Neko’s group was going to go confront Kura and hopefully rescue Glade without too much trouble. That was assuming that this was not some sort of trick, which it likely was. Saia and Hail would be going off to do some research on the orbs. It was imperative that they retrieve the relics before Yugito did, or else they would lose any chance of defeating the powerful dark elemental.

    Clear began to lead the way where Kura was supposedly going to be waiting for them. It was at least a good half-day’s walk, much to Rayne’s dislike. The young Wolf tired easily, but was thankfully aware that now was not the time to complain. No one said anything for the first few hours of the trip- particularly Clear. The Nekomata had not said much- or anything really- since she had seen Neko the previous night. What Neko could not decide was why- sure the light-furred Nekomata had plenty of reason to dislike Neko, but at the same time, she did not seem to be the hateful or grudge-holding type.

    Finally, with a huge sigh, Neko decided to break the silence. “Do you hate me?” It was a fair question to ask, or so Neko thought.

    Rayne, being next to Neko while Clear was several paces ahead, thought that the fire elemental was talking to him and responded right away. “Why would I? You’re fun!” That definitely would not be a word most would use to describe Neko, but she did not argue.

    “You couldn’t hate anyone if you tried, Rayne.” Neko looked at clear. She really could not blame her for hating Neko. How many of her friends had been killed or wounded because of Neko? “I won’t hold it against you if you do.”

    Clear seemed to have been caught off guard by the question. “I-“ She hesitated. “I don’t know.”

    “You don’t know?” How could you not know if you hated someone or not?

    “I wanted you back as much as Cera and Glade did.” She started. “But now that you’re here… it’s just-“

    “Not what you expected?” Neko finished for her. Things rarely ever went as one would hope or suspect. “Did you think things would go back to the way there were before this entire mess started?”

    “Do you remember those times?”

    “Honestly? No.” Neko admitted. “I only know of what happened to Marua through visions that I think Saia gave to me. None of it was my own memory though. I can only remember waking up in the Dark Castle one day.”

    “Why’d you leave?”

    “Long story.” She looked at Rayne. The young Wolf had been the reason she left when she did. What would happened if she did not help him get away? It would have been much easier to just kill him then in the long run- assuming Neko had been capable of doing the deed herself. Perhaps there had been a point in time where she may have actually gone through with following those orders, but after learning about Marua and the fact she had a sister, things began to change. At times it felt as if Neko did not even know who she was anymore- but she did know that leaving the Dark Castle was not an action she would ever regret.

    “How long ago did you leave?”

    Neko had to think. Everything since she had left seemed to have happened so quickly. She has spent a few days on the run with Rayne, another day or two with Storm, another day or two heading towards the safe house. Had it been only about a week? “Around a week, probably more, I guess.” Neko could tell by the tone in Clear’s voice that suggested she did not entirely trust the former Dark Warrior yet.

    “And you went straight to find Saia?” Clear slowed down to walk in step with Neko.

    “More like he found me. Twice.” Had Hail, Saia, and much to Neko’s dislike- Scart- not come in when they did in both of her fights, Neko knew she would most likely have been killed.

    “Twice?”

    “After I escaped, I tried to get away from this war by fleeing north.” Neko explained. “Yugito insisted on sending some of the other Dark Warriors after me to kill me.” In fact, Neko was still expecting Yugito to send more of her followers after Neko- especially now that she had revealed the orb in her fight against the water elemental. “If it weren’t for Saia and Hail, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have managed to get away.”

    “Don’t forget about Cera.” After all, it was she that had convinced Saia to try helping her despite all of the doubts the old Nekomata had initially had about the plan.

    “If it weren’t for Cera, I wouldn’t be in this mess.” Neko quickly realized that what she had just said could be taken in the wrong way. “It could have been worse though, I suppose.” The worst scenario would be that they all died, or something along those lines.

    They walked in silence for a little while longer. “What happened after the attack?” Neko was still very curious about her past.

    “Well… Glade and I found Cera unconscious in the hollow of the Great Tree and dragged her away from Marua as far as we could. When she woke up, she insisted we go back- and that was when we ran into Aros.”

    “Aros was there?”

    “Yes. Apparently, he had heard of two rather unusual murders in the area and was heading to warn Marua just in case.” The two unfortunate victims were probably just passing by not too far from Marua when they accidentally bumped into Kura.

    “But he was too late?”

    Clear nodded. “The murders occurred some weeks prior- but terrible weather prevented travel to Marua for some time.”

    “Is the weather normally bad in those parts?” Neko racked her brain for more recollections of the village and of her childhood, but failed to bring forth anything.

    “No, it’s usually very warm and dry.” It was no surprise why fire elementals liked it there. “The storm vanished very rapidly only days before the attack. If anything- no one could get to or from Marua during that storm.”

    “It was that strong?”

    “Yeah-“

    “Neko!” Rayne yelped in a high pitched tone.

    “What is it, Rayne?”

    “I smell someone.” The Wolf easily had the best sense of smell between the three of them. Neko would never doubt Rayne’s nose.

    “Kura?” Rayne normally kept his distance from the Dragon, but he should at least be able to recognize his scent.

    “No.” He paused. Was it a Dark Warrior he did not recognize- or perhaps just a random passerby? As if their luck would be that good. “I think.. it’s… it’s-“ Wolf whined lightly.

    “Well?”

    “Zera.”

    No one said anything for several moments out of shock. “Are you sure?” Neko looked at the water elemental. The young Wolf nodded. “You two, head back and hide for a while.” She looked around uneasily. Zera was a master of ambushes. She could be watching them this very moment for all she knew.

    “Wait, are you insane? If it is Zera then we should get away from here.”

    “What if you need help?” Rayne looked up at the Nekomata and remembered that he had promised to obey her and fell silent.

    “Do you smell anyone else?” Rayne shook his head. This was without a doubt a trap. Had Kura been at the end of it, things would look far more optimistic for them.

    Zera was probably well aware of their presence by now. Trying to run as a group would allow the shadow elemental to attack the three of them at once. Between Rayne and Clear, Neko was not sure how well they would hold up against Yugito’s most loyal and powerful Dark Warrior. “Just trust me.” With what, Neko could not be sure of. She would be going into this mess blind with nothing more than the intent to cause a diversion from Rayne or Clear. “Go find Saia, Hail, or- whoever! Don’t try to fight anyone you may come across- and be wary of strangers.” Neko thought of Storm and Gale. Chances were, the two Dark Warriors had not gone too terribly far yet and may still be in the area.

    “What about you?” Clear’s ear twitched nervously. The quiet Nekomata knew that she would be of little help in a fight.

    “I’ll meet up with you two when-“ She had almost said ‘if’ “-I can.” Clear nodded and began to lead Rayne back to where they had come from when the shadows fathered up in front of them and materialized into a solid form.

    “You’re late.” Zera walked past Clear and Rayne and stopped in front of the fire elemental. “Actually- I wasn’t expecting you. I was expecting either Saia or Hail to show up- or at least some other rebel capable of putting up a fight.”

    Neko looked at Rayne and Clear and willed them to run before Zera decided to attack. The shadow elemental followed Neko’s gaze just as the two began to vanish from sight. “No worries, I’ve no interest in those two. Nothing either one of them can do will be able to disrupt my plans.” If anything, Neko was surprised, yet relieved at this. Rayne was not in any immediate danger at least. “You on the other hand…” Zera unsheathed her claws. “It was my understanding that Storm was sent to kill you.”

    “He was.”

    “I take it he failed, then. Is he still alive?” Why was Zera talking? Was she trying to get off guard? Neko nodded. “To be honest, I guess I’m not surprised that he failed.” Zera laughed. “I am surprised, however, that you didn’t kill him yourself.” What was she getting at?

    “There was no point. He was already defeated.”

    “My, my. You’ve changed. Not too long ago, you wouldn’t have hesitated to end the life of any enemy that opposed you. What happened?”

    “Where’s Glade?” Zera was slowly circling Neko, but the fire elemental never took her eyes off of her.

    “I apologize, but she’s not here. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, this was meant to be a trap to retrieve the ice orb from Saia or Hail- whoever has it.” It occurred to Neko that it was likely that Storm may be the only Dark Warrior aware of Neko’s possession of the fire orb- at least until he returned to the castle and reported to Yugito. “Worry not, she’s unharmed. Now, did you bring me the orb?”

    “The deal was the orb for Glade.” Neko growled.

    “But Glade isn’t here, is she?” Zera grinned.

    “Neither is the orb.” Neko was only half-lying. It was the ice orb that was not with her- but the fire orb was.

    “Then tell me where it is- you already know where your friend is.” Of course, the Dark Castle was where Glade was probably being held by now.

    “No.”

    “Maybe one of your friends knows?” Neko did not like where this was headed.

    “I’m afraid we don’t know where Saia ran off to.”

    “Very well then. What about the fire orb then?” Zera grinned.

    Neko hesitated. “I don’t know what you are talking about.” Unfortunately, Zera was no fool.

    “You don’t think I believe that? Has anyone ever told you that you’re a terrible liar? I know that Cera have it to you.” Zera knew she was correct the moment she saw Neko’s reaction.

    “How did you-“

    “Those things don’t just vanish. We knew that Cera had possession of the orb for some time and had given it t somebody before she died at Kurori- but to think it was you- her enemy.” Zera stopped walking. “I was a little curious as to why you were acting differently after the battle- but it began to make sense after a little while. You- believed to be the last remnant of Marua- a town hidden in legends for as long as anyone can remember. There were four of you who escaped that day, am I correct?”

    “Of the four to survive, there was one fire elemental and one light elemental- two elements said to have been born together in ancient times when the first lighting strike crashed down upon the world. Fire and light- two sister elements.” Zera’s piercing yellow eyes rested upon Neko with contempt, knowing that she was right.

    “Cera, only minutes before her death, have the fire orb to her only remaining family and the last fire elemental of Marua. Of course, all of this may have stirred up some long forgotten memories. Such things are dangerous- why do you think my master wiped out your memory when you first arrived at the castle?” The amount of knowledge Zera had bothered Neko deeply. How did she figure all of this out. “They give you something to go back for. Once you had one glimpse of where you came from and those who may have been your family, you could not help but go and search for more answers- or perhaps to run away from the truth you face.” She grinned. “Am I right?”

    Neko stood in silence, too shocked to respond. “I’ll take that as a yes.” She grinned. The fire elemental could have sworn that there was more behind Zera’s smile than just mere satisfaction. “Now then, hand over the orb.”

    “No.” The fire elemental growled. “I won’t let you take it.”

    “Well, I guess you leave me little choice.” Neko tried to step back and put distance between herself and Zera, but her body would not respond to the commands her brain was issuing. It was then that she realized that Zera had been standing her shadow this entire time. “You know better than to let your guard down- even for the slightest moment.”

    “So do you!” Neko hissed back in response and called upon her fire abilities to dispel any shadows in the immediate area around her. Immediately she was released from Zera’s grasp and was able to get away from the shadow Nekomata. Now she had to plan a route of escape that led away from the direction where Rayne and Clear had gone.

    “Don’t you think you’ve done enough running for one lifetime?” Zera had been unfazed by the flames. “Stop being a coward and hold your ground.” Neko paused for a split second before breaking into a run. [blockquote]Call me a coward, but I’d rather live to fight another day![/blockquote] Zera was trying to lure Neko into a fight. “Or do you want me to go after the Wolf.” Neko froze. Zera knew that Rayne was the fire Nekomata’s weak point.

    “You said that you’ve no interest in pursuing them.” She growled with anger.

    “True, but the orb is necessary to our plans- and I know you won’t give it up without a fight.” Zera grinned. “So- what will it be?”




  22. #47

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    Chapter Ten
    Shadows

    “Where are we going?” Hail followed a few short paces behind Saia as they trekked out of the forest.

    “I’m not quite sure.” Saia had been silent for most of the morning thus far. He obviously had plenty on his mind. “We’ll probably stop by one of the nearby towns and see what we can find out in regards to the orbs locations.”

    “Well- here’s an idea. Where did we find the other orbs?” If it was the orbs they were looking for, it would not hurt to examine where they had found them so far.

    “One in the mountains, one in that lake, and one in Marua.”

    “Marua?” Hail had never heard of the name before.

    “It was an old village that lived quietly in a valley far to the west of here. It was rumored to have powerful fire elementals.”

    “Is that where Neko is from?” Hail knew very little about where Neko, or even Rayne, had come from- not that even remembered. His memories will still mostly fuzzed up, but he could at least put together many of the fragments and make sense of it.

    “That’s right. She, Cera, Clear, and Glade are all from there.” Did that make Clear and Glade fire elementals too? He knew Cera was a light elemental, but that was not all too far from fire.

    “Anyway- where exactly did you find the ice orb?” Hail wanted to know more about Marua, but now was not the time to ask. They had other things to sort out first.

    “Just north of Kalm- up in the mountains.”

    “Well, we found the water orb in a lake, the fire orb in a village of fire elementals, and the ice orb in a place that is almost always covered in snow. It seems as if all of the locations of some relation to the element- perhaps it’s the same way for the others?”

    “Don’t you think that’s a bit too… obvious?” Saia looked skeptical.

    “Don’t you think that you’re looking too much into this? Would it have made sense to put the ice orb in the middle of a desert? It would probably stick out.” Saia still seemed doubtful. “Come on, it fits with the ones we’ve found so far at least. It’s not like we’ve got any other ideas here.”

    “Fine. Any places in mind?” Saia muttered.

    “Not really.” Hail laughed. “How about we-“

    “Hold on.” Saia’s ears were angled forward. He had heard something just up ahead- and with the recent skirmished with a few of Yugito’s followers, it could have easily been one of them looking for revenge. Thankfully, this was not the case. “It’s just Riza.”

    “Back already?” Hail had thought that Riza and Scart had gone ahead to meet up with some of the other rebels and to investigate something that Saia did not want to explain. Something about looking for a safer way into the southern regions without having to make a huge arc around the Dark Castle. “Is Scart okay?” He knew that the Griffon was able to hold his own, but one never knew what would come up.

    Riza found a nearby rock to perch on. “Don’t worry, everything’s alright.” That was a relief. “We were on our way to stock up on supplies for the trip when we spotted a couple of Yugito’s followers on the way.”

    “Was there a fight?” Saia did not want Yugito to know that they were still in this area or she would likely send more fighters their way. Hail was not too terribly aware of this, but Saia was one of Yugito’s biggest targets. There must have been some history between the two that he had not heard.

    Riza shook her head. “No, but they didn’t seem strong or anything- probably just a few lower ranked idiots. I went overhead to try to listen in to their conversation and-“

    “Riza, you should be more careful- all because they didn’t seem to be a threat doesn’t mean they aren’t one.” Saia scolded.

    “You shouldn’t worry so much Saia, being too careful is just as bad as being overly reckless. Anyway, have you forgotten that I’ve spied at far more dangerous places in the past?” More dangerous places? He knew that Riza was a messenger and scout, but he was not sure where exactly she had been in the past.

    “Very well.” Saia decided against arguing. “Continue.”

    “Anyway, they were talking about the shadow orb-“ Everyone suddenly tensed up. If Zera gained possession of the shadow orb then things would get very bad in no time at all. The shadow elemental was a big enough threat as she was without the aid of the ancient relic enhancing her element’s power.

    “Did they say where it is?”

    “Something like that. I don’t know for sure- but they said something about a large cave that lies just east of Galaville.”

    “That far south?” Hail commented. It was quite the trip from where they currently were- a few days at least. That was not the problem though. Galaville lay just south of the boundary. In other words- it was under Yugito’s control. It would be impossible for them to go through that area without being noticed. Was it worth the risk? “How long ago was this?”

    “We spotted them yesterday morning.” Riza must have flown faster than the wind to deliver this message- that, or she and Scart were traveling at a slow pace.

    “Where were they headed?”

    “They were on the south-eastern road.” Riza replied. “I guess they must have been heading back to the Dark Castle to report.”

    “Assuming Yugito doesn’t already know, we may have a few days of a head start.” Saia concluded. It would take a bit for the two to report to Yugito and another few days for anyone from the Dark Castle to arrive at the cave if they were not already aware of the information.

    “What should we do?” Hail shifted a paw impatiently. The idea of going after the shadow orb was unsettling. Had it been of an element that was not so powerful amongst Yugito’s forces, he would have felt much better about this whole thing.

    “It would be dangerous to go past the boundary.” Saia sighed.

    “But it would be even more dangerous to allow Yugito to get her claws on the shadow orb- imagine what Zera could do if she had it.” Riza protested.

    “You know she’s right, Saia.” Hail understood why Saia was so hesitant. True, Galaville was only just within the area of Yugito’s control, but it was one of the largest cities in the area and had been an important place for trade and news- before it fell to the Dark Warriors in what was one of the most bloody battles of the war so far.

    Before it became occupied by Yugito’s forces, the rebels would frequently stop by to gather supplies and exchange news and information in the city where they were less likely to be noticed by one of Yugito’s followers amongst the crowds. When news had gotten out that some Dark Warriors, as well as a few other sections of Yugito’s forces, were headed to Galaville, most of the civilians fled up north- many of which were never to be seen again.

    Many rebels within the city, however, believed Galaville was worth fighting for and gathered to protect the city. The defensive forces were led by the Phoenix, Aros, who at the time had not been recognized as the main leader of the rebels. During that part of the war, the rebellion had no one leader, but was made up of many small groups led by respected individuals. It was a fact that few, except for those directly under his command, knew who Aros was until after the battle of Galaville. Of course, his was not the only group to arrive, but it had been decided that he would lead everyone into the battle.

    The battle had begun just after midnight in the midst of the cold season. The numbers on both sides were surprisingly even turning the battle into one of skill and strength rather than one of numbers. It was an unfortunate fact that many of the rebels had no formal training in combat, unlike the majority of Yugito’s forces who had spent a good portion of their time under harsh training.

    Despite their disadvantage in training, the rebels came off to a great start in the fight and managed to hold their ground and protect the main gates of the city. For a while, it seemed as if the rebels could have succeeded in defeating Yugito’s forces that day. Only for a while though. They were doomed from the beginning the entire time.

    A few short hours past midnight, the tide had been rapidly turned when Phayla, a beautiful Amphiptere with devastatingly powerful earth abilities turned against the rebels and revealed their battle plans to the Dark Warrior that was leading the attack- Zera.

    After that, the battle went downhill very quickly for the rebels as their opponents managed to break through their ranks. The rebels began to panic and split apart, making themselves more vulnerable to attack.

    Aros, enraged by Phayla’s betrayal, bravely had gone after the Amphiptere. The two clashed in the sky for what seemed lack an eternity until at last Aros fell. Had it not been for one of his loyal allies, Aros would have died that day. Before the morning sun could rise into the sky, the battle had been lost.

    Only a small percentage of those who had fought against Yugito’s forces that day lived to tell the tale. The battle was a complete and devastating defeat for rebels. Countless lives were lost that night for a cause that was doomed from the start. The battle of Galaville was the first major clash amidst the many smaller fights and would forever be remembered as the bloodiest of the battles thus far.

    Ever since then, the northern rebel groups gave wide berth to Galaville and its surrounding areas. For the southern groups, it was just a harsh reminded of how much they had lost. It was no wonder that Saia wanted to avoid Galaville. Not only was it dangerous, it was just one cruel memory for anyone who remembered hearing the news of its fall.

    “Saia, weren’t you the one who said that we would have to take risks last night?” Hail reminded him.

    “Fine.” Saia gave in. “Riza, you’re faster than either of us. Go ahead and fly to Tire- you remember where it is? Just north of Galaville. If all has gone well lately, the town should still be free.”

    A few town so close to Galaville? The residents there must be really brave- or stupid. Hail could only imagine how Tira had remained free from Yugito’s control so far- in fact, he had never heard of Tire up to this point. “When you’re there- look around for Ifrin. You remember him, yes?”

    “How could I forget.” Based on the look on Riza’s face, Hail figured that she and this Ifrin fellow did not get along to well. That aside, the name sounded vaguely familiar to the ice elemental.

    “Good, find him and tell him what is going on, alright?”

    “Isn’t there anyone else I can talk to?” Riza ruffled her feathers.

    “Sorry, but if there is anyone who’ll know anything about that area, it’s Ifrin.” Saia concluded. “What is it with the two of you, anyway?”

    “Fine.” Riza sighed, not answering Saia’s question.

    “Ifrin?” Hail looked at Saia, hoping for an explanation. It was not common to hear about someone who was on Riza’s bad side.

    “Ifrin is a good friend of mine. He keeps an eye on whatever happens in the southern regions- but he’s usually in Tira when he’s not out investigating rumors and such.”

    “What will you two do?” Riza spread her wings a little in preparation for flight.

    “Hail and I will follow. We would slow you down if we traveled as a group- it’s more important that Ifrin hears of this. If he feels that we don’t have time, he will act without us. We can’t afford letting Yugito get to the orb first.”

    “Alright then. I’ll see you two soon.” With one powerful stroke of her wings, she was in the air and was soon flying out of sight.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Storm silently padded through the dim and dull corridors of Yugito’s castle. He had just returned from his failed mission. Well- half failed as he did manage to obtain the water orb and bring it back. He still was not looking forward to reporting to his master though. There was no doubt that she would be upset about Neko still being alive.

    Ignoring the fact he had failed, he had been reluctant to return to the castle. He had never been so far aware from Alnera, the city that surrounded the castle, before. Admittedly, it was nice to get away for as long as he did. More importantly- away from the other Dark Warriors. All because they were on the same side did not guarantee that they would all get along like best friends.

    He approached the doors to Yugito’s chamber and waited. No Zera. It was common for her to hide here and prevent any unnecessary disturbances to Yugito. She must be out on a job. Storm assumed. That was just one less problem to worry about. “May I come in?” He called out.

    “Enter.” The dark elemental’s voice responded with mild annoyance. The Kitsune pushed open the doors and slowly walked in. “Storm.” He bowed his head respectfully. “Did you successfully complete your mission?”

    Storm closed his eyes. Just get it over with. He told himself. “She got away- an ice elemental and a water elemental came to her aid.” Storm explained. “I-“

    “So, you failed?” Yugito growled.

    “Yes, but-“

    “I don’t need excuses. First Gale, then you.” She hissed. “How difficult is it to eliminate one trainer?” Storm’s ears twitched. Gale had been sent ahead of him? The fact that the wind elemental had failed surprised him. At least it explained some of the wounds Neko already had when they met.

    “Yugito-“

    “Don’t forget what will happen if you fail again.”

    Listen, damn it. “The rebels have two orbs!” He blurted out, interrupting Yugito in his annoyance. He immediately recognized his mistake and braced for Yugito to lash out at him. Much to his surprise, when he opened his eyes, the dark elemental was oddly calm.

    “Two orbs?” Yugito’s frustration had vanished and was replaced with a calm fury. Yugito was even more frightening when she was like this. Storm’s fur stood on end. He could feel the anger resonating from her.

    “Fire and ice.” Funny how that worked. Two opposite elements working together side by side.

    “Fire? Are you sure?”

    “Positive.”

    “So that’s where it’s been.” Yugito contemplated. The fire orb supposedly went missing after Cera’s death. Until now, Yugito had believed that she had hidden it prior to the battle at Kurori.

    “I have something else to report. “

    “Go on.”

    Storm reached into his bag and grabbed a spherical object with his jaws. He then dropped it at his paws. “I found this in the cavern were I fought the traitors.”

    Yugito grinned. “Can you use it?” She asked.

    “Yes.” He nodded.

    “What is the best of the water orb?”

    “I’m not entirely sure what it was- it looked like a mix between an Eastern Dragon and some sort of Serpent.” The dark Nekomata’s smile vanished. Whatever he had said, she was not happy with it. Had Yugito encountered one of those weird Dragon-Serpent things before- or was it the fact that Storm did indeed know how to summon it?

    “And Neko?”

    “What about her?”

    “Can she use the orb?” Based on how Yugito was only asking about the fire orb, Storm assumed that someone else had already reported about the ice orb. That could also explain Zera’s absence.

    “Yes- the beast was a Phoenix.”

    Yugito closed her eyes. “Go find Kain- tell him that I’ve ordered him to take you along on his assignment.” She approached Storm and grabbed the orb with her razor sharp claws. He could see the hate in her eyes as she approached him and the orb. “I’ll deal with the traitor soon enough.” Storm flicked his tail nervously. “Now, go.”
    Comments/Notes

    While I know this isn't really important or anything, updates for the remainder of Part Three will not follow the usual update schedule. Predicted completion date for Part Three will be somewhere by May 29th. Updates will be random and more frequent until then. After Part Three is done, there will be a break in updates while I draft out the beginning of Part Four and outline Part Five. Thank you for reading.
    Last edited by PetuniaBubbles; 7th May 2012 at 3:00 AM.




  23. #48

    Default

    Chapter Eleven
    The Labyrinth

    “It’s been a long time since I was last here.” Scart said nothing as his companion led the way through a field of charred grasses. “At least, it feels like it.” The Griffon was traveling with Ray, the one Nekomata that had survived the events at Thunara not too terribly long ago. It had been a loyal friend that gave Ray the chance to escape.

    Scart and Ray had met up several days ago to investigate the labyrinth some more. However, amidst all of the tunnels and passages, they knew of very few entrances- the nearest one being in the ruin that was once Thunara. Thankfully, as long as the trip took, no trouble had greeted them along the way.

    Their goal was to find a path in the labyrinth that would lead them as far south as possible so that they could give more support to those that opposed Yugito in the more tightly controlled areas of the region. Traveling overland held a large risk of confronting at least one Dark Warrior- if you’re lucky. So a more secretive way of reaching the southern most areas was necessary.

    Scart and Ray approached the entrance. It was a hole that led straight down underground. The passage had been discovered by accident when the ground collapsed under the weight of many passing overhead. No one was injured in the fall, though there was some difficulty getting everyone out. The entrance had since been widened to accommodate larger creatures.

    Around the edges of the entrance, the stone was etched with numerous claw marks where many began their descent down the slight slope that quickly steepened as one got further down. Getting into the labyrinth was not difficult for most. There were many footholds that were used to get down despite most of them being slightly loose and likely to break should too much weight be put on them.

    “Come on.” Ray led the way down, using his claws to grip onto the rough surface. When he was satisfied that he had gone far enough down, he pushed against the wall and jumped to the ground. “Ouch.” He muttered when his paw landed on a sharp stone.

    “That’s what you get for being reckless.” Scart was careful not to let go of the wall until he could feel the ground with his hind legs.

    “You’re one to talk.” Ray laughed. Both of them were not several yards under the surface. Looking up, Scart could see a rough white circle that marked the exit of the dark tunnels. Getting back up would be more difficult than it was going down- even those with wings had trouble getting out since the walls were too close together for most wingspans to spread. Put simply- it was easy to get suck here if you could not climb back up the steep slope.

    The pair began to travel through the tunnels away from the light and deeper into the labyrinth. The further from the entrance they got, the darker the passages got until there seemed to be no light whatsoever in the area. “How are we supposed to navigate through this?” Both of them had been in the labyrinth before, but had only known how to get through the areas and paths that they had memorized. Leaning new routes in such darkness took large amounts of time, patience, and caution. There were many traps laid in the labyrinth.

    “Here, give me a minute to try something.” Sparks of electricity bounced around his fur, temporarily illuminating the area until they died out.

    “That’s not going to help.” Scart gave Ray an irritated look. They could not afford to waste time.

    “Just wait.”

    “What exactly are you trying to do?” The sparks danced around once more, but this time, when they died out the light stayed.

    “There we go!”

    “Light abilities?” Scart tilted his head in surprise.

    “Cera taught me some basics before- well… yeah.” Ray grinned, though Scart could see the sadness in his friend’s eyes. He had been very close to Cera and did not take the news of Cera’s death too well. “I’m not that good at it though.”

    The light flickered out several times throughout their walk and had to be remade every so often. Despite popular belief, light elementals were incapable of creating their own light and were only able to manipulate light. It was once a common sight to see light elementals learn some fire or electric element techniques so that they could create light for their natural abilities.

    Scart said nothing about how the light randomly died off. Learning other elements outside of the one you were born with was a difficult task, and as far as Scart was concerned, the Nekomata was doing pretty darn well considering he probably did not have enough time with Cera to properly learn anything except the most basic fundamentals of the element.

    A few hours passed by in silence. The Griffon did not feel like talking much. Thankfully, it seemed that Ray felt the same. Scart was still slightly confused about the recent arrival of three former Dark Warriors to their side. Could they really be trusted was the question that had been bothering him. Rayne was still probably too young to have any real idea of what exactly he had been involved with. Hail had been a spy for the rebels for quite a while, or so Saia had told him. Of course, there was also the fact that no one had ever heard of Hail as he had never completed a single task that Yugito had given him and somehow never got caught. Suspicious? Probably, but the ice elemental had done nothing against the rebels. Yet.

    Neko was a different story though. She had blood on her claws- she had been a known killer. Why Cera had tried so hard to reach out to the fire elemental was what Scart could not understand. Even Saia, seemed insistent on giving her a chance, but he knew the old Nekomata better than to believe he trusted her. What if she turned on them? Scart shook his head. This was not the time to worry about that.

    “Is everything alright?” Ray broke the silence.

    “Yeah.” Scart responded quietly. How much of this was Ray aware of, he wondered. He had not been at Kurori where Hail had switched sides, and he certainly had not seen Saia in quite some time. “Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

    Ray nodded. “This path will lead us right under Alnera.” Scart ruffled both his feathers and fur. Alnera was the city that stood in the shadow of the Dark Castle. Many creatures still lived there, but it was no longer the grand and lively city it has once been. “There should be an opening around there, but we’ll avoid it.” The Griffon nodded. It would be a terrible idea to surface right at the heart of their enemy’s territory. Not without plenty of back-up at least.

    A chill went down Scart’s spine as they went closer to Alnera. He may not have been able to see it, but he could definitely feel that above them was the unfortunate city. “To think we tried to-“

    “Quiet!” Ray’s ears shot forward. They were not alone.

    “Do you think they fell for it?” A voice echoed down from a nearby stretch of the maze.

    “They’re headed this way! Follow me!” Ray dispelled the light and guided Scart past an intersection of tunnels and hid behind a corner just within earshot of whoever was in the tunnels with them.

    “Who knows? Hopefully by the time they realize we’ve tricked them, Yugito will have the Shadow Orb.”

    Scart froze. I know that voic!. Yes, it had been years since he had last heard it, but there was no mistake.

    “Are they sure it’s in the chasm?” The first voice had the slightest hint of nervousness in his voice. That one too! The second voice was Storm, which made Scart more nervous. It was impossible for the water elemental to have not caught their scent in the cramped caverns by now- unless he was not paying attention, which Scart hoped so. He could not quite tie a face or name to the first voice, but he knew it was trouble.

    “Who knows, but Zera was quite certain about it.” He laughed. “If only I could have been on the ambush team with Kura. How I long to get my revenge on that old fool.”

    Then there was silence. Had Storm noticed their presence? Scart held his breath. “Is something wrong?” The first voice asked.

    “No, no. It’s nothing.” The second voice spoke uncertainly. “Um- let’s head back before Yugito notices that we’re late.”

    “Fine. I wouldn’t want to miss out on finding the shadow orb too.” The two voices faded away as distance was gained.

    Ray gave Scart a slight nudge. “This way.” He whispered. It was best they put as much distance as possible before speaking again just in case the two were seen or heard. Ray did not even bother lighting up the area and almost left Scart behind on multiple occasions as the Griffon was not quite as fast as a regular Nekomata- yet alone Ray who was known for his speed.

    “Okay, I think we’ll be alright here.” Ray took a deep breath.

    “I thought the Dark Warriors didn’t know about the labyrinth.” Scart took a moment to take in what they had just overheard.

    “No, they’ve known about this place for quite a while, I suspect.” Scart then remembered how Thunara had been destroyed- it would be hard to miss a big hole in the ground near the plaza even if no one had said anything about it. “I guess it was only a matter of time before they found an entrance closer to Alnera.” Ray knew of a great number of entrances that were around- and even in- Alnera. This was one of the few areas where there were so many opening so close together. “What I’m worried about is what those two were talking about- some sort of trick.”

    Scart shook his head. “I think they were talking about Saia.”

    “Wait- what?”

    “On my way to meet up with you, Riza and I overheard two of Yugito’s minions talking about the location of the shadow orb. I sent Riza to tell Saia.”

    “Where did they say it was?”

    “In a cave just east of Galaville.”

    “That doesn’t match what we just heard.” Ray thought for a moment before nearly jumping up in surprise. “Wait- Galaville!? You let Saia go to Galaville?” He snapped.

    “I have no idea if he’ll actually go-“

    “Don’t you realize how dangerous it would be for any one of us- especially Saia- to go there?” Ray was nearly to the point where he was yelling.

    “Calm down.” Scart snapped. “Saia isn’t stupid. He’s probably realized that something is a bit odd about the whole thing by now. Even if he does go, he’s capable of taking care of himself.” Scart was concerned, but freaking out about it was not going to help any. “If it makes you feel better, we can set course towards Galaville and try to catch up with him, alright?”

    “Fine.” Ray muttered, though he was still clearly frustrated. Scart couldn’t blame him though- Saia had saved both of their lives at least once in the past and was kind of like a father- or grandfather- to many. He only seemed to be serious and grouchy most of the time.

    “Do you know of any exits in that area?” Scart asked.

    “No, the nearest one I know of is a good deal south of Galaville.” Ray knew the labyrinth better than anyone else, though he was still trying to map out many of the passages. True, Yugito knew about the labyrinth now, but it would only be useful if she knew where the passages led.

    “How far exactly?”

    “I can’t say for sure- maybe a four or five day journey overland?” The Griffon frowned.

    “Do you think there might be any that are closer- or if we can blast one open?”

    “No, we’re too deep underground to make a new opening, plus we’d have to know where to make it. However, I haven’t been able to do a thorough search of that area, so there may be one that I don’t know about.” The problem with going overland was that they were far too deep within Yugito’s domain. To go overland and skirt around the long way would waste too much time.

    “Let’s go then.”




  24. #49

    Default

    Chapter Twelve
    The Shadow

    “Well?” Neko stared at Zera and held her ground. “If you want to keep it so badly, go ahead. I’d be more than happy to go take care of your companions.”

    Neko took one deep breath and cleared her mind. How in the world had she gotten involved with this mess? Only a few days ago she had been simply trying to escape the war and now she seemed to have willingly jumped into the fray. Why? What was her purpose in this war? Was there some sort of outside force pressuring her into fighting? Or was this just how everything happened to fall together?

    “No.” Neko growled. She was tired of being ordered around. Tired of this stupid war. If killing Yugito is what it would take to get some peace- then so be it. She was not a light elemental, but she would not pass up the opportunity to finish off the dark elemental should it come.

    “No? So you’re not going to give up your precious little orb?”

    “No- I’m not running away again.” A look of satisfaction crossed Zera’s face. This was exactly what the shadow elemental wanted, but Neko could not care less. “If you want this stupid thing so badly, then come take it from me- if you can.” She hissed. She was annoyed to the point that she had not quite realized that she was picking a fight with Zera- the most powerful Dark Warrior under Yugito’s command.

    Their eyes locked. “Well, well, I haven’t seen that look in quite a while.” Zera vanished. “This might actually prove to be worth my time.”

    Neko looked around for any signs of Zera, but she was so skilled in her ability that even Neko knew that Zera could not be found until she attacked or chose to reveal herself. A powerful blast crashed into Neko’s flank. She staggered on her paws but managed to keep her footing. It had come from the right- so that had to be where Zera was! A wave of flames soon crashed over the area.

    Another blast came from the opposite direction, slamming into the side of Neko’s head. “You’re holding back.” She hissed.

    “Whatever gives you that idea?” The shadow elemental materialized suddenly and flashed one paw with outstretched claws in her direction. Before Neko had time to react, she had a few long scratches on her cheek. They stung- but could have gone much deeper.

    The fire elemental thought back to the battle at Kurori. If her memory was correct, one of Zera’s shadow blasts was more than enough to knock her out cold. Only one. “Kurori?”

    “Oh that?” Zera laughed lightly.

    It then dawned on her. “You did that intentionally!” The glint in Zera’s eyes said everything. Why? Were they not on the same side at the time? What could she gain by turning on her own?

    The next time Zera came into sight, she reached out for Neko’s bag. This time the grey Nekomata managed to leap back just in time for Zera’s outstretched claws to barely miss. Her bag was still in rough shape. It would not take too much effort to tear it away should anyone give it a good enough tug.

    “So what if I did?” Neko growled. It was her turn to be on the offensive. Flames burst all around her fur as well on the grass around her. She charged forward at Zera and barely missed her target. Twisting around, she created three fireballs that were sent hurtling towards the shadow Nekomata.

    “Impressive.” Zera remarked after having easily dodged all three and watched them set several trees ablaze. “As expected of a Maruan fire elemental.” The trees crumbled within seconds. For a moment they looked as if they might have exploded.

    “Were you there?” Despite being in the midst of a fight, Neko’s curiosity of her own past and history was overwhelming her common sense. She had to know more about those days that had been wiped from her memory- even if just a glimpse.

    “At Marua? No- I was there to hear Yugito order for its destruction and I did fight a traveler from there- but I didn’t get the pleasure of watching Marua fall to the destructive power of its own element.” Neko’s fire died out without her noticing. “But when they brought you to the Alnera…” Zera grinned. “Not even I had anticipated that outcome.”

    “They?”

    “You know how it works- most of us work in pairs- at least, back then.” Neko had noticed that most of the Dark Warriors often were sent in groups- except for those classified as assassins- like Gale, or Zera. It seems as if she had met quite a few of those lately. “You know- you should have died that day- the day of Yugito’s return. Yet somehow, partially because of the stupidity of my subordinates, you two managed to survive. Now look what happened as a result- both of you have become hindrances to Yugito’s plans. Had it not been for your lineage, our goals would have been accomplished years ago.” She said with a rather calm tone.

    “Good.” Neko growled.

    “Don’t forget that you were once worked to help Yugito achieve her goal.” Not like she had any idea what that goal was to begin with.

    “Now I’ll be working to stop you, Yugito, and any other idiot who dares side with you two.”

    “Brave words.” Zera ran forward again. Without a second thought, Neko sidestepped to the left. “But can you back them up?” She tried to turn and slash out at Zera. I can’t move! She had fallen right into Zera’s trap.

    Neko struggled to free her body to move but with no results. In an instant she realized that her flames had vanished and instantly relit them. Dammit. That was too close. The light from the fire dispelled the shadows that were holding her down.

    “What are you fighting for?” Zera had vanished again.

    “I already told you- to stop- no, to kill Yugito!”

    Another dark sphere slammed into Neko’s side. “Wrong answer.” Her body was aching all over. The blasts may not be as powerful as the one that knocked her out in Kurori, but they were enough to wear down anyone with a few good shots. “If this is all you have, then you won’t stand a chance against Yugito.”

    “We’ll see about that.” Neko allowed the flames to spread around and devour everything in the surrounding area in order to rid the place of as many shadows as possible. When Zera at last came into Neko’s field of vision she lashed out with a barrage of small, but fast, fireballs. When everything cleared up a few moments later, Zera was nowhere to be seen. Did I overdo it? Neko looked around. No. Zera wouldn't go down so easily.

    Yet another one of Zera’s elemental attacks managed to strike Neko. This one was more powerful than the others and managed to knock Neko off her paws and skidding across the ground. She did not have a chance to recover before Zera appeared and pinned her down to the ground. Neko could feel the claws only inches away from her throat. Once again she had been immobilized- but this time she was unable to call upon her elemental abilities. “How-“

    “You’re too slow and way too predictable.” Zera hissed. “You can’t even beat me as I am now and you intend to defeat Yugito?” The annoyance in her voice was clear.

    “I intend to kill Yugito.”

    “You won’t even come close if you try to fight her now. You’ll be dead in no time at all.” Zera hissed. “Even if you did stand a chance- I wouldn’t allow you to even get near her or all that I’ve worked for these past several years will have gone to waste.”

    “I can and will.” Neko hissed weakly. She knew her position was bad. Very bad. Zera could kill her right then if she wanted to. So what was she waiting for?

    “Stop lying to yourself.”

    Out of the corner of Neko’s vision she managed to get a glimpse of Zera’s eyes. They were easily the most distinguishing characteristic of Zera. Piercing yellow- almost like the most striking flash of lightning in the darkest of nights. In them, Neko could see the shadow Nekomata’s disappointment. Had she expected more of a challenge? No. That was not it. There was something else going through Zera’s mind. There had to be.

    “So, are you going to kill me or not?” Neko growled. She was fighting hard not to show the panic she was feeling. Not long ago she had been ready to die knowing that all living things would have to die sooner or later and that there was nothing to leave behind. Now the very thought of death was unsettling. A lot had changed since she left Alnera behind.

    The claws over her throat shifted slightly. Was she trying to torture Neko by drawing this out longer than it needed to be. After all, there were several earlier opening where Zera could have heavily injured- or even killed- her, and Neko knew it. “Neko!” A voice called from somewhere nearby.

    “Don’t!” The fire elemental yelled. She knew instantly who it was. Why can’t that pup listen for once! Neko should have known better than to trust the Wolf to obey her orders. “I told you to run!” She could hear his paw steps moving towards them.

    Zera’s paw moved away from Neko’s throat. What was she doing? Rayne had stopped in his tracks and Neko was still stuck- Zera was probably in her shadow. “You should have listened to Neko earlier, brat.” A ball of darkness began to form above Neko.

    “Don’t.” Neko growled more fiercely than before. It continued to grow at a steady rate. A blast that big could do serious damage to someone as small as Rayne- or even kill him. The wolf let out a quiet whimper but did not budge. What was he doing?

    “If you had done what she wanted you to do, I wouldn’t have gone after you… but not that you’re here.” The sphere grew bigger still. “Might as well get rid of you before you become a pest like the last brat I let get away.” She then added to Neko, “Do you regret not killing him when you were ordered to, Neko?”

    “What?” Rayne squeaked. He had never been told of why exactly Neko had ran away from the Dark Castle and Alnera.

    “Leave him out of this.” Neko yelled. Flames erupted around her and dissolved the dark ball that Zera had formed. Never before was Neko so glad to have flames enveloping her frame. She was not quite sure how, but Zera had somehow managed to restrain her abilities leaving her with a sense of intense helplessness. Neko got back on her paws and ran to Rayne, placing herself between her opponent and the young Wolf. There was no way she would allow Zera to get close to him.

    Zera vanished then immediately reappeared only a few paces in front of Neko with a slight grin on her face. She looked up at the sun and spoke calmly. “You’re an interesting one, you know that?” Neko kept on her guard. “Consider this your lucky day.” She then vanished into thin air.

    Neko waited for a while to make sure that Zera had indeed left. When she finally decided it was safe she relaxed a little. “Rayne- are you okay?”

    Rayne moved a few paces away from Neko. Had she frightened him? Or did what Zera say destroy his trust in Neko? “Rayne-“ She moved closer to the Wolf only for him to back off again.

    “Your fire is too hot!” He whined. A wave of relief washed over her. It was easy to forget that not everyone was fire-proof.

    “Sorry about that.” She let out a light laugh. It was not until the fires died away that she noticed how badly charred the area was. Whoops. Hail and given her a lecture about not setting the forest on fire again. At least this time it was only a confined space. “Anyway- where’s Clear?”

    “Well, you see-“ Rayne smiled innocently.

    “He ran off when I wasn’t looking.” Clear walked out from a portion of trees that had not been completely charred. “It took me a while to catch up. He’s faster than he looks.”

    “Glad to see you’re alright.” Neko collapsed on the ground, exhausted and sore. Why Zera did not finish her off when she clearly had the opportunity bothered Neko. Did Zera have some plan for her? Some cruel and twisted plot that would make death seem pleasant?

    “Let’s rest for a little while.” Clear suggested kindly. “I think we can all use a break.”

    “Agreed.” Neko muttered tiredly. Her body ached all over though she did not have any serious wounds that would keep her from traveling or fighting again after she got some time to recover her strength. Rayne decided to lay down not too far off. Apparently, Neko’s fur was still pretty warm to the touch. How had she never noticed that before? “After this, we need to catch up with Saia and tell him what’s going on. They still have Glade.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Saia?” Hail kept pace just behind the older Nekomata. The spirit elemental was confident in his step as if he knew exactly where he was headed.

    “What is it?”

    “Tira- I’ve never heard of that town before. How has it remained free while being so close to Galaville?”

    “Tira isn’t a real town.” Saia responded. “It was created by Ifrin for rebels traveling to and from Yugito’s domain so that they could rest up, stock up on supplies, and exchange information.” Ifrin. There was that name again. If he was important, surely Hail would have heard the name before now? “As far as Yugito and her forces know, Tira doesn’t exist.”

    “What if they find it?”

    “I don’t think that is likely- not without someone leaking out information about it though. Tira is well concealed from both land and air.”

    “If it’s hard to find, how do you know Riza will find it?”

    “There are several clues that only those on our side of this war would understand. She’ll find it.”

    Hail shrugged. They had been traveling for a few days already. If they had not already, he and Saia would be crossing the border that separated the free lands from the lands under Yugito’s control. Tira would be located just beyond that border.

    Saia took more frequent stops as the terrain became increasingly rocky. He looked around and pointed towards an odd looking rock with a reddish tint. It’s shape vaguely resembled that of a pair of wings. One of the wings had a big chip near where the primary feathers would be.


    “Almost there.” He walked past the old rock into what seemed like an endless field of stone. Hail looked around. The area felt too open- too exposed. How could a town hide in a place like this? In the distance, the skyline of Galaville could be seen. It must have been a huge and bustling city if it could be seen this far away. It also showed how close they were to an area that was likely heavily monitored.

    A slight nudge from Saia broke him out of his thoughts. The old Nekomata walked up to a cliff face that was covered in vines. Looking carefully through the vines, a passageway could be spotted. Another underground hideout?

    Hail followed Saia through a series of tunnels that will dimly lit by cracks in the ceiling. The ground was very uneven as if they were walking on top of poorly stacked slabs of rock. “Is this some sort part of the labyrinth?” Hail asked after a few minutes when Saia led the way through a fork in the path.

    “Far from it.” Saia pointed ahead with his nose. The floors and walls were darker up ahead as fewer stones lined the walls and ground. “This used to be an old mine back before the war. Many used it as a passage to Galaville since it was the easiest way to get there from the north.”

    “What happened to it?”

    “One day, while traveling through here, an idiotic fire elemental ignited the fumes in this cavern while fending off a Dark Warrior. The resulting explosion led to a massive landslide that blocked off most parts of the mine.”

    “Fumes?” Hail sniffed the air cautiously. The last thing he wanted was to die because he breathed in some toxic substance. That would be a pretty lame way to go.

    “Most of it burned up in the explosion- anyway, many assume that the mine collapsed completely- though, the landslide opened up a new path to Galaville so the passage was no longer required anyway.”

    “What happened to the fire elemental.”

    Saia laughed. “We thought he was dead until he managed to dig his way out some time later. It was his idea to create new tunnels and use this place as a rest point for travelers.”

    “Ifrin?” Saia nodded. “So- what would happen if we light a fire in here?”

    “I wouldn’t advise it. No one is quite sure how easily this place will go in flames should a spark get out.”

    “Best not to invite Neko over here then.” Hail laughed. Up ahead a beam of light could be seen filtering into the passage.

    “We’re here.” They walked into a massive cavern with enough room for a small town. Most of the ground was littered with large stones. The walls had clearly been reinforced to prevent the cave from spontaneously collapsing on everyone. The most unusual thing was the light filtering down a large angled hole in the ceiling. “Morning comes a little late since the sun’s light doesn’t reach the opening until about noon.”

    “Short days, huh?” Hail gazed upon all of the structures that made up Tira. “Why is it so bright in here?” They were a good deal underground yet it was so bright. Even the hole in the ceiling could not provide so much light.

    “The stones here have very reflective surfaces, so any light that enters gets scattered about the entire room. There’s usually at least a little light during the daytime hours in here.” Hail shrugged. “Anyway, let’s find Ifrin and see what he knows about the shadow orb.”

    “No need!” Hail turned around. There definitely was no one behind him. “Up here, snowball.” Snowball? Up on a rock ledge was the smallest scaled Amphiptere Hail had ever seen. The reptile’s scales were red with hints of orange or yellow. His underbelly and wing skin were both soft yellow in color. His dark grey horns were mostly straight and curved slightly into a sharp point. A row of spikes of the same color ran down from the back of his head all the way down to his tail.

    “You’re Ifrin?” Hail must have sounded more surprised than he had intended because the small Amphiptere shot him an angry glare.

    “Were you expecting some mighty giant dragon or something?

    “Well-“

    “Saia- this is exactly why I don’t like new recruits.”

    Saia laughed. “Hail isn’t exactly a new recruit, Ifrin.” The reptile slid down from his perch and floated gently down with his wings outstretched until he landed beside Saia. If Ifrin was completely stretched out, he would probably be as long as Saia from nose to tail tip. His wingspan seemed to be wider than he was long, but Hail was not entirely sure. “Anyway, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been?”

    “Busy as usual.” Ifrin seemed like a very energetic Amphiptere with plenty of attitude. “It’s nice of you to drop by though. I know you really dislike this area.”

    “Well, you know why I’m here I assume?”

    “Of course, the birdbrain told me all about the chaos that’s been going on. Sounds like I’ve missed out on all the fun.”

    “What do you think?”

    “About the shadow orb rumor? It’s a trap.” He stated confidently. “After hearing about it, I took a look at the place described- there were several dark warriors there. They weren’t looking for anything- they were waiting for you.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Since when have I not been? Anyway- I’d be more worried about the group of Dark Warriors searching around the great chasm.”

    “What?” The great chasm was a huge crack in the earth that went on for many miles. It was believed that if you fell in you would never reach the bottom. Needless to say, it was often avoided. In a way, it made sense that the shadow orb would be hidden there. Most of the chasm was veiled in a constant shadow since the opening allowed only so much light to get in.

    “From the looks of things, Yugito has been getting ready for a fight- I spotted her out there too.” Hail looked at Ifrin. Was he brave, or just really crazy? Sure, he was small and hard to notice- but spying on Yugito?

    “So the false lead was meant to distract us so they can buy time?”

    “It seems that way.” Ifrin’s tail twitched slightly. “So what do you plan to do?”

    Saia said nothing for about a minute. “How many Dark Warriors did you spot?”

    “Counting Yugito- five or six.”

    “What about Zera?”

    “I saw no sign of her in my last few visits, but…” Ifrin trailed off.

    “If we distract Yugito and her warriors, do you think you and Riza can go into the chasm and look for the orb?”

    “I’d be able to find it just fine without that birdbrain’s help, thank you.” Ifrin said stubbornly.

    Saia sighed. “One of these days you two need to learn how to get along.

    “Heh. Right.” Ifrin laughed. “That aside- how do the two of you plan to distract Yugito and her friends? Oh- and don’t forget the escape plan!”

    “I’m hoping to get a small fighting force together. One just large enough to fight, but small enough to pull back at a moment’s notice if necessary.”

    “There should be a town called Grayvine not too far from the chasm. You might be able to get some help over there- they aren’t fond of Yugito over there. The idiot that is watching the place wouldn’t notice you guys even if you smacked him on the head.”

    Saia was clearly trying to make up a plan to get there alive. “Alright- what would be the safest path there?”

    “The labyrinth!” Ifrin grinned. “Scart and Ray dropped in earlier today.” He motioned towards a large hole in the wall that seemed to have been recently created.

    “Scart and Ray are here?” Saia seemed glad to know that the two were safe- and had found another entrance to the labyrinth.

    “Sure are!” Ifrin looked in the direction of Tira but could not spot them. “Those two happened to overhear a couple of Dark Warriors in the labyrinth talking about the orb you’re looking for.” So that was how he knew. “They were headed this way to warn you or something- and well- ‘crashed’ in. They were a bit bruised up, but they’re fine.”

    “That’s five of us now.” Saia concluded. Scart would undoubtedly join in, though Hail did not know much about Ray.

    “Hey, do I even have a say in this?” Hail protested.

    “Get used to it, Snowball.” Ifrin flapped up and landed on the Nekomata’s head. “Saia’s a bossy one. Once he’s decided on something, good luck talking him out of it.” Hail shook his head slightly in an attempt to dislodge the Amphiptere but the little reptile managed to stay put.

    “It’s not that I don’t want to go-“ Well, he did not, but it was something that had to be done. “-but what about our plans to meet Neko and the others at Manem? They should be there soon…”

    “Right…”

    “How about you send Scart to fetch them?” Ifrin was clearly ill informed about who Neko was and how well she and the Griffon got along.

    “No!” Hail and Saia spoke together. The probability of Scart attempting to kill Neko was still quite high.

    “Riza then?” Ifrin seemed rather confused but did not ask any questions.

    “That will work. Let’s gather everyone up and meet in Greyvine then?”




  25. #50

    Default

    Chapter Thirteen
    Caged

    Deep within the Dark Castle were the dungeons where the prisoners were held. They were usually empty as it was uncommon for Yugito to take in any captives- mostly because that required more work than simply killing them. Glade happened to be one of those rare exceptions. She was not sure if she should be glad to be alive, or terrified of what they may do to her, though.

    Despite being imprisoned in a cold and dark cell, she had been treated fairly well, much to her surprise. She was given food and water over the few days she had been there and had been left alone for the most part. Every time she heard someone approach the room she tensed up, afraid they would come in and try to torture her or something.

    The last day or two or so had been unusually quiet. No Dark Warriors had come by for a good while from what the Nekomata could tell. It was not clear if there was anything going on that was keeping them busy, but Glade suspected that this was the case. Surely they were keeping her alive for a reason? She shuddered. Hopefully she would not find out why anytime soon.

    She looked up at the ceiling over her head. How could I let this happen? She scraped at the ground with one paw, frustrated at her situation. She and Clear had been investigating some rumors about a ghost wandering not far from what used to be Kalm when Kura had found them. The ghost rumor was unbelievable, yes, but that is what made them go check it out. Surely there was more to it than a mere rumor? It might have been a trap, or just plain bad luck that led them to bump into Kura.

    Glade had attempted to find an escape several times, but her abilities were useless inside the castle and the prison she was in had no holes or openings to be used as a means of escape. She looked around one more time. The same solid bars and dark stone walls met her eyes wherever they went. There has to be a way out… Glade’s attention was captured by a shadow near the doorway to the dungeons.

    Every muscle on Glade’s body tensed as she saw two yellow eyes appear in front of her. Zera? “Cooperate, and I promise this won’t be too painful.” The shadow elemental walked through the bars. If only Glade could do that. “I’m running a bit late, so let’s not waste any time, okay?”

    “Why should I?” Glade hissed. Her fur was standing on end. She was afraid- terrified even- but there was no way she would cooperate with her enemy, especially if it meant betraying her friends.

    “What were you doing so close to Kalm?” Zera growled lightly.

    “What does it matter to you?” Glade

    “Answer the question.” She warned.

    “No.” Glade was shaking like a leaf. If only she was not stuck in such an enclosed space. A powerful paw slammed into the side of her face. Zera’s claws had been sheathed, thankfully, but Glade knew that it was only a warning strike. Possibly her only warning strike at that.

    “Was it because of the ghost rumors?”

    “N-no! What ghost rumors?” What did Zera know about that- and why was she interested in it?”

    “Don’t lie to me.” Zera hissed, “Did you see it? Was it a Dragon?”

    “A Dragon?” Glade looked up, surprised. What she and Clear had been investigating was not quite any particular creature- just some rumors of a weird misty creature wandering the area.

    “Dammit.” Zera could see that Glade did not know anything more than she did.

    “Unless you mean the one that attacked us?”

    “No.” Zera turned around. Was that it?

    “You’re done?”

    “Yugito is waiting for me.”

    “What is she up to?” Glade took a step forward. If Zera was going to kill her, she probably would have done so already.

    “You really think I’d tell you that? Anyway, you’re in no position be asking me questions here.” She paused. “You idiots should have never interfered. This was did not need to happen, but you ‘rebels’ insist on dying for a doomed cause.”

    “It’s not a doomed cause.” Glade argued.

    “All of the light elementals are dead.” Zera must know about the prophecy. “The last fell at Kurori.”

    “So?” Glade’s fur bristled in both fear and anger. “We won’t give up until we’ve won!”

    “And how do you intend on doing that? We’ve killed everyone who has stood up against Yugito thus far- even the King couldn’t defeat her.” Glade cringed. She had heard stories of when Alnera was a magnificent city. The Dark Castle used to be known as the Great Castle and was the home to the area’s King- King Zephyr. That was all before Yugito showed up, though. Zera glared at her coldly. “Give up.” She turned her back on Glade again. “Once Yugito acquires the remaining orbs, it will be over.”

    “We won’t let her get them.”

    “We already know where a number of them are. The two traitors have one each, there is one that we’re on our way to claim- oh, and let’s not forget the ones we already have.” Zera grinned. “It’s only a matter of time before the traitors are dealt with. One of them is headed this way- perhaps I’ll bump into her on my way out. Anyway, I better get going now. Yugito won’t be too happy if I’m late.” Glade watched as the shadow elemental walked away. “I’ll be back.”

    “Now what.” Glade muttered. There must be something she could do in order to escape. Examining her surroundings again only revealed the same information as all her previous scans. The same iron bars, the same stone walls. It would take a huge explosion to break through either. Glade looked at the door to the cell she was in. It was sturdy- Glade found that out after many attempts at knocking it down.

    With a discouraged sigh she flopped down against the cold and blackened stone. It was silent in the dungeon. No one came for many hours which, compared to the last few days, was a little different. Am I going to die down here? Zera said she would be back, but when was unknown. If anything, the shadow Nekomata was probably going to try forcing more information out of her- and next time, she may not be as ‘kind.’

    The Nekomata looked at the door again. What harm would another try do? She slowly walked up to the door and made sure no one was nearby. Once she felt it was safe, Glade took several steps back. With a deep breath she surged forward. As she approached the door there was a click, and much to her surprise, the gate flung open and she crashed into the wall on the other side.

    “Ow…” She rubbed one paw over her head. With a quick glance around she confirmed that no one had spotted or heard her. Not yet at least. Now that the problem of getting out of that cell was done with, she faced the even bigger issue of finding her way out of the castle. With her thoughts focused on escape, it never occurred to her how or why the door had become unlocked.

    Glade went in the direction that Zera had come from in hopes that the exit would be easy to find. The halls were cold and hopelessly dark, but thankfully quite empty for whatever reason. Much to Glade’s relief, there were not many forks to worry about either. That would at least make it easier to back track if she found a dead end.

    “Hey!” Glade skidded to a halt at the corner of two hallways. Please don’t let him see me!

    “What is it?” It was the voice of her captor- the dark Dragon called Kura. If he saw her, she was as good as dead.

    “Did you hear about Neko?”

    “What about that pathetic excuse for a fire elemental?”

    “She’s with the rebels now. Apparently she’s managed to get away from both Gale and Storm.” Kura scoffed at this. “The troublesome ones always seem to come from your unit, don’t they? First-“

    “Shut it, Talon.” Kura growled. Sore subject? Glade strained to hear more but the two were walking away without having noticed Glade hiding just around the corner. Despite nearly getting caught, Glade was excited to hear that Neko had swapped sides. Sure, things probably wouldn't work out smoothly at the start, but Glade was relieved to have the doubts she felt at Kalm wiped from her. It was too bad that Cera wasn’t alive to hear the news herself. After all, it had been Cera’s will that they try getting her sister to join them. On further though, Neko must be one of the two traitors Zera had mentioned before- if that was the case, then she may very well be on her way to the Dark Castle… but why?

    Not having much of a choice, Glade left in the direction Kura and Talon had come from. Following them was too risky, even if she had no idea where she was headed. After some time of wandering aimlessly through the castle she caught a glimpse of light- it was dim, but it was definitely from the outside. Despite everything, this day might actually turn out to be a good one!

    Quickening her pace, she ran towards what happened to be a window. She reached up on her hind legs to try looking outside, but her legs were too short to allow her to look outside. There was one thing though- she could feel a cold breeze coming in from the window- that was good, very good. It must be an open window! Glade had two choices- jump for it- or look for another way out. If she did jump and there was a Dark Warrior or some other minion, then she was in deep trouble.

    After a brief moment of hesitation, Glade decided it was worth the risk. What if she got lost in the castle trying to find a way out? She leapt with all her might. Her forepaws just barely managed to grab onto the ledge. A surge of panic swept through her when voices echoed from down the hall. Hurry! Glade scrambled to pull herself up, urging her arms to climb up. With one last pull she managed to climb up. The window was embedded a few feet into the wall where no one could actually see the opening itself, only the light let in. It opening was small, but big enough for her to just barely squeeze through.

    Never before had she felt so glad to breathe in the outdoor air again- even if it was the tainted air that surrounded the Dark Castle and Alnera. There was just one more problem. Glade had been so relieved to be so close to freedom that she was almost too late in realizing that the window she was about to jump out from was not on the first floor of the castle. From the looks of it, she was maybe on the sixth or seventh floor. “Great. Just great.” She muttered out loud. So close, yet so far.

    “Who’s there?”Glade froze. Jump out a window from an impossibly high altitude, or get caught as a result of her own recklessness? Actually, it was a pretty easy decision. She slipped through the opening and jumped. She grabbed the wall with her claws in an attempt to slow her descent and yelped in pain as one of her claws was torn. I’m still falling to fast! She looked down and spotted something green- a very dry green- but it was a wonderful sight! Vines!

    Within moments the vines were crawling up the wall reaching out to entangle her in their green limns. Once her fall had been halted, they lowered her gently to the ground. Being a nature elemental, or sometimes called a plant or forest elemental, she had some control over many different types of plants. Unfortunately, nearly all of her abilities relied on the presence of plant-life of some form. She usually carried around a bag of seeds, but Kura had burnt them before taking her, unconscious, to the castle. Had she been conscious, she would have attempted to attack Kura with every plant they passed by on the trip.

    Getting out of the castle was thankfully the most difficult part of her escape. All there was left to do was to find one of the labyrinth entrances she knew were around Alnera before it was realized that she had escaped. Fortunately she had gone down in an area that had no barriers preventing her from reaching areas.

    She began to make a run for it when the figure of a dragon stepped in her path. Where did he come from? Her heart pounded in her chest. Surely she had not come this far only to fail?

    “Come.” Glade blinked in surprise. So he was not affiliated with the Dark Castle? The Dragon was a western type with dull light grey scales and black horns and spines. He looked rather thin and held his wings to his side. He looked a lot like Kura under closer inspection with many similarities in subtle details- and the addition of many scars- just thinner and different color. The biggest difference was this strange Dragon’s expression- it seemed weary, but gentle and trustworthy. Was this the Dragon Zera was looking for?

    “W-who are you?”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “Are you sure about this?” Clear asked Neko. She had opened up a little more since they all managed to get away from Zera alive. Why Zera chose not to kill any of them was still a mystery, but no one was complaining.

    “You want to help Glade, don’t you?”

    “Of course I do, but-“

    “She’s at the Dark Castle right now. We don’t have many options on this.” Neko had been thinking about how the nature elemental who had saved her life when they were on opposite sides of the way. At the time, she had not known that Glade had been a supposed friend of hers when they all lived in Marua.

    “Wouldn’t it be a better idea to get some more help first? I mean, it’s not like they’re just going to let us waltz in and take her.” Their plan so far had been simple- go to Alnera, sneak into the castle, and free Glade. However, Clear was getting increasingly nervous as they got closer to Alnera.

    “That would only make things more difficult. Any more than just the three of us and we’re almost guaranteed to be noticed. Our best shot is to go in and out unnoticed. If we were to get in a fight backup would be quick to come.” Thankfully, getting to and from where Glade was being kept would likely be a pretty straightforward task. The halls in the part of the castle where Neko figured Glade was being kept were usually pretty quiet- even in the busiest of times. “Anyway, we’ve already crossed the boundary. I doubt it would be easy to get help this close to Alnera.”

    Clear sighed. She was obviously worried about multiple things. “Do you think she’s alright?”

    “Zera said she was unharmed.”

    “Do you really believe that? She could be lying.”

    Neko did not say anything, but odd as it seemed, she did believe the shadow elemental. Zera may be one of the most dangerous of their enemies, but Neko believed just about everything that was said the other day. Zera had no reason to lie- except maybe to lay a trap for them. That was a possibility, but something about this all just felt wrong.

    “There it is!” Rayne yelped. He was just a few paces ahead of Neko and Clear. “I see the castle!” Sure enough the home of Yugito could be seen in the distance. The silhouette of the massive structure shadowed over Alnera.

    “I don’t like this.” Clear whispered as if she thought they might be heard by a nearby enemy. “I’m getting a bad vibe from that place.”

    “To be honest, so am I.” Neko admitted. She had never felt so uneasy about going to the castle before. Maybe it was because she knew it was enemy territory now and that going there could lead to her death? “Anyway- just keep close together. Whatever happens-“

    “Clear!” Everyone looked up and saw a familiar eagle heading their way.

    “Riza?” How in the world did she find them? There was no way she could have known that they would be on the south side of the boundary- let alone heading directly to Alnera. The eagle, having been way above the ground came down in a steep dive.

    “What in the world are you three thinking?” With no objects around to perch on, Riza landed on the grass in front on Clear.

    “Glade is in there. I do believe I was told to bring her back.” Riza glared at Neko for a moment before turning to face Clear.

    “Don’t worry about Glade- she’s safe.”

    “Wait, what?” Clear exclaimed.

    “She managed to escape.” Riza seemed relieved, and perhaps a little surprised herself. “Someone from Alnera had caught word of her capture and gave her a hand getting away from the city.”

    Clear smiled. “That’s great!” Great for Glade- not for whoever helped her should he or she get discovered by Yugito or one of the Dark Warriors. “Where is she now?”

    “She should be at the new meeting point by now.”

    “New meeting point?” Clear tilted her head.

    “Due to some unexpected circumstances, Saia has decided we should meet in Greyvine. I was sent to give you three a heads up.” The name sounded familiar to Neko.

    “How did you know we were headed this way?”

    “Oh, right. Glade heard that you three might be heading this way, so I’ve been scanning the area for you. I was starting to think I may have missed you.”

    “Wait- “ Neko realized where she had heard of Greyvine. “Isn’t Greyvine south of the boundary?” To be meeting on the south side of the border was not exactly the safest place for anyone not affiliated with Yugito. “What exactly did we miss?”

    “We’ve located another orb, well- Yugito has, actually. We’re hoping to beat them to it. Greyvine is as close to the spot where we can safely meet since watch over that area has been pretty lax lately. With any luck we won’t run into trouble there.”

    “Sounds like fun.” Neko muttered. It was just one bit of chaos after another these days.

    “If we get moving now, we should be able to arrive before Ifrin leads the search.”

    “Oh dear.” Clear said when she Riza mentioned Ifrin. “I guess we better hurry then.” Riza had already taken off to the air. “She won’t be happy if Ifrin leaves before we get there.”

    “Ifrin?” Rayne tilted his head as Riza pretty much left them behind. Hopefully Clear knew the way to Greyvine. There was no way they would be able to keep up on foot.

    “I guess you can say they don’t get along too terribly well.” She grinned. “It’s usually best to stay out of their way.” Clear sighed. “But… I’m getting the feeling she won’t wait for us.”

    Neko looked up the sky. All they had to do was follow Riza, right? “I’ve got an idea- if this works, I don’t think we’ll lose sight of her.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “I think I’m going to be sick.” Clear muttered as they arrived in Greyvine only minutes behind Riza.

    “That was fun! We should do that again!” Rayne wagged his tail energetically.

    “I’d rather not. At least for a while.” Neko had used the orb to summon the Phoenix to give them a ride. It was probably a waste of the orb’s power, but they managed to get to their destination in record time. If anything, the entity seemed to be pretty relaxed while flying. However, using the orb’s power had drained Neko’s energy leaving her tired and sleepy.

    “Saia won’t be pleased to hear about this.” Clear scolded. “The orbs are meant to be used in emergencies, not as a mean of transportation.”

    “Saia doesn’t need to hear about this. Isn’t that right, Rayne?”

    “Yup!” He barked.

    “Anyway, if it’s another orb we’re after, wouldn’t that count as an emergency?”

    Clear sighed. “True enough. Anyway, I’m going to look for Glade. You should probably find Saia and tell him what happened.”

    “Wait-“ Clear did not hear her and left. “Great.” Neko muttered. “This’ll be fun.”

    Rayne looked up at Neko and tilted his head to one side. “What’s wrong?”

    “Don’t worry. It’s nothing.” Neko yawned. The last several days had been very tiresome. Rayne was smart to have slept through the day they read that ancient book. The Wolf never seemed to tire out. “Anyway, I guess we should explore and look for Saia or someone we know.” That won’t try to kill us.

    “This is the first time I’ve been in a town before!” Rayne looked around, his eyes wide with wonder and excitement. That’s right! Rayne had rarely left the castle while he was there. Hail never took him along anywhere, more for the pup’s safety than anything.

    “Well, let’s go.” Greyvine was not huge, but it was easily one of the larger towns Neko had seen. From the looks of things, it was primarily made up of civilians. No guards or Dark Warriors in sight- or any rebels that Neko could recognize. The day might have actually been pleasant except for the fact that Neko knew she was being watched. She had felt it from the moment they arrived.

    Rayne’s excitement exploded when they reached a small and crowded market. “What’s that over there?” His focus was locked onto something farther down the road.

    “How about you look around yourself?” Neko suggested. “I’ve got something to take care of.” It would be difficult for anyone to mistrust the young Wolf. The worst that could happen was him annoying the sanity out of some poor unsuspecting target. Anyway, Rayne deserved a little freedom. For most of his life he had been under near-constant supervision by Hail, the other Dark Warriors, and now Neko. Greyvine seemed pretty safe, so there should not be much to worry about.

    “Really?” His blue-eyes lit up.

    “As long as you behave and don’t give anyone trouble- and don’t go to any areas that are quiet, okay?”

    “Alright!” He bounced away into the market. Neko watched him for a while until his fluffy shape got lost in the crowd. Riza must be right about the lack of surveillance in Greyvine. There was no way this big of a crowd would be out if there were Dark Warriors out and about.

    I guess I should have given him a time and place to meet. The fire elemental thought as she walked away from the market. She shrugged. Rayne had a knack for tracking down Neko without fail. The fire elemental continued until there was no one else in sight then sat down to wait.

    “What are you doing here?” A voice hissed from behind her. Whoever it was knew her and was certainly not happy.

    Neko remained still, not turning around. “Before you try killing me, can you listen for just a few moments?” She sighed. Of course she would run into someone with a grudge against her here.

    “Why should I?” someone slammed into her, knocking her to the ground and pinning her down so that she was face to face with her attacker. She forced herself to go limp and not fight back. Her attacker was someone she recognized- a Nekomata she had assumed dead after the events at Thunara. “You’re the Dark Warrior who attacked Thunara. Don’t think I’ve forgotten what you did.”

    “I was a Dark Warrior.” Neko growled lightly. “Not anymore.” She fought back the urge to burn this Nekomata’s paws. He was right though- she was responsible for what happened in Thunara. At least he had a good reason to want her dead.

    “Liar.” Neko stared him in the eye. She could tell that he would not be able to kill her even if he wanted to. That was the problem with many rebels- they were too soft to finish off their opponents before they could recover and strike again.

    “Just let me explain. Please?”

    “No-“

    “Ray!”

    “Great. Just who I wanted to see.” Neko muttered as the sound of heavier paw steps approached. She had no doubt in her mind that is was Scart. Now she had two people who wanted her dead alone with her.

    “Let her go.”

    “What? Are you crazy? She’s-“

    “I know who she is. Just do it.” Scart snapped. Ray stepped back after a moment of hesitation.

    Neko got back to her paws and shook the dust out of her fur. “Thanks.”

    “What is going on?” Ray glared at the Griffon. Someone really needed to get word out that Neko was no longer their enemy.

    “Had she come to fight, you would have never been able to pin her down like that.” Scart kept an eye on her. “Anyway, she wasn’t lying about not being a Dark Warrior anymore. She’s on our side now. If you’ve got any complaints, take them to Saia.”

    Ray had an expression of shock and confusion. “He’s okay with this?”

    “Well, if you must know- it was Cera’s idea to begin with.” Ray seemed to relax a little at the mention of Cera. “Long story short, Neko is Cera’s sister. I’ll explain more later, but we’ve got to go- Saia is expecting us soon.” Ray cast a doubtful glace at Neko. “Trust me, I don’t like this anymore than you do.” Scart muttered.




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