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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 27th day of Awakening, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 121 > Continuing Series > Dark Flame: Part Thirteen

Dark Flame: Part Thirteen

by child_dragon

Candles Go Out

We returned to my house in silence. There was nothing left to do except wait until sundown. Melody dropped Padiglione off at her house, gently covering the Kougra with a blanket until she awakened.

     "Does he really know how much he's hurting us?" she asked me.

     "I doubt it. He's not like that… but -- like Sabreur said -- he's gone nova."

     She nodded and returned to the buggy from which we returned to my house.

     The Faeries failed attempt at stopping Aldrai was being broadcast and re-broadcasted all across Neopia. I noticed Infernus slumped over in a corner. I just curled up on the couch to wait. It was indeed getting worse. I doubted I had much time left.

     My pets didn't have much time left either. Lady MoonFall so far seemed fairly safe but she had a rather aggressive and spiteful streak buried within her. Melody would probably be the last to fall, as would Sakuko and Netsuko. I didn't know about my brother, I had assumed he would have collapsed with Infernus. With that thought I realized I hadn't seen him in a while.

     I stood and headed over to the kitchen, from which I heard the most noise. MoonFall was making lunch with Sabreur's help apparently.

     "I will not be inept, I will not be inept," he muttered, walking past me with a pan full of water.

     "Just follow the directions!" MoonFall called in his direction.

     "There's thousands of instant meals to choose from," he retorted, "So why on Neopia do we need to cook?"

     "Just because you forget to feed yourself does not mean cooking is unnecessary," she replied.

     My brother was about to reply when his eyes suddenly slid shut. I caught him as he fell, struggling to lower him to the ground safely.

     "Oh no… Kiddo…" MoonFall said with a gasp.

     "I-I was expecting it," I managed to say, "Just… help me get him up to my room for now."

     Melody came and helped lever my brother onto MoonFall's back. Together we walked him up the stairs and onto my bed. Then my Uni and friend left me. I drug my chair over to his side and sat down, watching his sleeping face. A strange reflection of my own face was there, deluded a bit from when we were children, but still there.

     "I know you can't hear me," I said softly, "But I'm going to say it anyway. 'Cause I didn't get to tell you this before. And I don't think I'll be able to tell you afterwards. We've had our disagreements and I've been jealous of you before. Of how easy things seem to you, how smart you are. But then sometimes you drive me nuts with your absent-mindedness and logical mind. Either way, it doesn't matter. You are who you are and I wouldn't want anyone else for my brother."

     I took a breath and fought back tears.

     "You've been my friend all through life. When we were little and again when we were teenagers. Now we're both adults and you're still my best friend. You helped make me who I am today and your opinion matters more than you think it does. I am so incredibly proud of you and I hope you can say the same about me. I hope you know that I love you and count myself the luckiest sister alive."

     I stood and wiped my eyes. I should have told him that earlier. Now it was too late and he wouldn't wake until after I was gone.

     No one really talked to me much after Sabreur fell into the sleep. I stayed curled up on the sofa with a blanket wrapped around me. The hours passed and I dozed for a short time. When I woke it was to MoonFall bringing me dinner with a solemn look on her face.

     "Swifty has fallen asleep. As has FireDarkWolfX. There's not much time left. Kiddo… be careful. I know I'm next… but… just… be careful. Do what needs to be done. Don't do anything stupid."

     "Don't worry, MoonFall," I said softly, "I know what to do. It'll be okay."

     I hugged her and she left to feed the other people staying in my house. I forced down the meal she'd brought me. It tasted like ash in my mouth.

     I slipped into the kitchen and stood in the entrance. Everyone turned to regard me.

     "I'm off," was all I said.

     They bid me good luck but that was all. The strain was evident on everyone's faces and no one wanted a long tearful goodbye. I would either fail or succeed. If I failed, nothing would matter. And I did not want to worry them further with what success would mean.

     I flew all the way to the castle, stopping just outside the barrier. Aldrai was a beacon in the darkness, the light magic a nebulous web surrounding him. I gathered the darkness to me, wrapping it like a shawl around myself. And I flew into the barrier.

     The two elements met with a sound like thunder and then negated each other. Aldrai's head snapped up and the power around him grew more erratic and frenzied.

     "Aldrai. It's me."

     He stared at me with pale glowing eyes. There was madness in them, a madness of magic. Utterly consumed. My resolve faltered then. Was there enough of him left to bring back?

     He rose into the air, flapping his wings slowly.

     "You've come to stop me. I knew you would."

     "You're plan won't work," I said evenly, "The only way to succeed is to kill me. You know this is true."

     He was silent, considering my words.

     "Then so be it."

     I smiled grimly. Step one taken. Now, everything rests on what happens next. I summoned the Elemental Spear to hand and flew. Up, higher into the sky, with Aldrai right behind me. Up and up, to the clouds. I then leveled out, far above Neopia, hovering in mid-air. The Darigan Zafara hovered opposite me, trailing light magic.

     "Would you really kill me, Aldrai?" I asked quietly, "I thought you would never take a life."

     "That's what must be done, since you won't step aside."

     "I won't step aside because I can't. To undue darkness would be to undue me. I am the Essence. Your plan requires my death. And are you truly prepared to do this?"

     In response he gestured and the light magic swelled around him.

     "Very well then Aldrai," I said with bowed head, "I gave my life to you when I dove into the river. I gave it again when I fought the Shadows. And I give it now so that you may be saved from yourself."

     His eyes grew confused for a moment and then the light magic took over. He gestured sharply and shouted a word of power. The full force of the spell hit me. I did not fight back. I let it strike, the light magic wrapping around me, through me.

     I could not breathe. There was no pain, just light. Pure, unfiltered, light. It coursed through me destroying everything it touched. I could not breathe. My heart beat as if it were to burst. And just as I knew the magic would destroy me utterly I heard a shriek of anguish.

     The light stopped. I hovered in midair, suspended by the very same power that had just torn through me. I could see nothing. There was pain now, unimaginable pain tied with a numbing cold that told me that soon all pain would be gone.

     "Child_dragon! Your life… given… aih! What have I done!?"

     I struggled to open my eyes. Through a red haze I could see Aldrai. His head was thrown back, every muscle in his body trembling. And his fur was orange spotted black with angel wings.

     The light magic around him twisted and seethed like a thing alive. He gasped and slowly, slowly, brought it under control. Then he turned to look at me.

     "I-I lost control. I can't… can't stop it."

     I could not reply.

     "I know what you're trying to do," he said softly, looking at me with terror in his eyes, "It worked, but only for a moment. I-I almost killed you… I will kill you if… I know you want to save me. But I can't be saved. It's too late. Too much power… my fault… You can't bring me out of it."

     He was himself again. That was accomplished. Darkness hovered on the edges of my vision and I knew there wasn't much time left. But I could not speak, could not move. I desperately clung to life knowing that I had no chances left. Aldrai must break free completely or my sacrifice to snap him out of the nova would be wasted. And all darkness would die.

     "I'm sorry Kiddo. I love you, you know that. I won't hurt anyone else anymore."

     I gasped and tried to speak. Then I saw the edges of his eyes turn white with power and I knew that his control was slipping.

     "Aldrai…"

     "I won't hurt anyone else…" he whispered.

     And his fur deepened to red and his wings turned to Darigan.

     And the magic holding me fell. I could not stop my fall. My wings were ruined, worthless. I was dying. The magic had destroyed me. And this time there was no Un-eairkagh to catch me.

     Darkness reached for me. Tired… too tired to keep fighting. At least I would be gone before the end of my fall.

***

Swallowed Up

"Still no sign then?"

     "Of what?"

     "Life. Hope. Anything."

     "Neither. Everyone's rejoicing because they don't know what price our salvation was wrought…"

     "And even if they knew - "

     "Would they care?"

     The darkness was all there was. Darkness and nothingness. That was all there was, all there ever would be.

     "It's been over two weeks now."

     "If you're asking me to give up hope then think again."

     "I'm not asking you to give up hope. I'm asking you to be realistic."

     "I am being realistic. I will not give up either of them."

     Sometimes there were glimmerings of things in the darkness. Figments of the past. Shadows of what was, perhaps. But they were just as quickly glimpsed and just as quickly gone.

     "I never told you how much I love you. I wish I had. I still have that white feather - from when we fought the Shadows.. You never knew I had it but I do. I kept it and it keeps me strong."

     The glimmerings are getting stronger now. I - that is strange - I am able to make out shapes now. And this I - I have no memory. But I am defiantly an I now. I do not know what that means.

     "Keep fighting. I know you can. You never gave up then, you can't give up now."

     "She can't hear you."

     "What makes you think that? Science?"

     "Yes. I thought you lived by science."

     "No. I live by the ties of family. And I know she can hear me. Wake up Kiddo… please."

Kiddo. The name seems almost familiar. The glimmerings are getting stronger. I can almost tell who they are. It is just there, on the edge of my reach. I stretch out my hand to grasp them but fall just short. I feel like I will never get there and wonder if I should just give up.

     You can't give up.

     But I can.

     They need you. He needs you.

     He?

     The Zafara The one you tried to save. We have him here with us. Come find us and find him. He needs you.

     It's gone now. But I reach out my hand and try to reach across the gap again. And this time I make it.

     "Melody! Come' mere! Hurry!"

     The voices are painful to hear. But somehow there is a swell of joy just to hear them. I can feel now and behind the darkness is light. I open my eyes and the light nearly blinds me. I close them again. I can feel someone holding my hand and I vaguely remember the voice as Sabreur's.

     "Kiddo! You awake? Can you hear me?"

     "Y-yes," I say, "I'm awake now."

****

It was a long time before I was fully awake. The doctors were in and out constantly. At least one family member was by my bed at all times. When I finally came to fully it was Terraile.

"Hiya," I said weakly, opening my eyes to take in the pristine whiteness of a hospital room.

     There were flowers by my bed.

     "Kiddo," my Shoyru said tearfully, her eyes alight, "Are you okay?"

     "Ngh, I hurt. Is it safe to sit up?"

     "Yes. You're all healed, just really really weak right now."

     She hurried to my side as I struggled to bring myself to a sitting position.

     "How long was I out?" I asked.

     "Bordering on three weeks now."

     I sat there, stunned. Three weeks…

     "The doctors thought you wouldn't wake up at all."

     "I heard them."

     A funny look came across her face.

     "You heard everything that was going on around you…?"

     "No, I just remember voices. I don't know what they were saying, though."

     Terraile smiled grimly.

     "Sabreur will be glad to hear that. He was about to swear off science the last time the doctors told him there was no sense in talking to you for hours on end."

     "Hours…?"

     "Hours and hours. He'd just sit and talk… it was as if he were going to bring you back through sheer determination."

     "What… exactly happened?"

     "Well, you fell. You hit a lake instead of solid ground which I think is the only thing that saved you. As it was, you were very badly injured. Very, very badly. A normal person would never have survived the fall to begin with… the fact that you're the Essence is the only thing that saved you. That and the Faeries. Fyora looks like she's had a nice healthy dose of humble pie. They worked non-stop for nearly a week after you fell to save you."

     "So the Faeries healed me then."

     "Yes. And then we just waited for you to wake up."

     "And what happened to Aldrai?"

     Terraile took a deep breath. When she spoke again her voice was strangely hushed.

     "No one really saw what happened. We could only guess. People saw someone in the sky get hit by light magic - a lot of it. That must've been you. Then it vanished and all the power Aldrai had accumulated faded. A couple minutes passed and he flared up again. Then you fell from the sky. A couple seconds after you started falling the entire sky lit up with this shockwave of light magic. It was centered around Aldrai. Then it all retreated in, like Aldrai was sucking the power to him. At that instant every light in Neopia went out. And everyone who had fallen into a coma woke up. Just like that; in an instant."

     "What happened then?"

     "Well, Aldrai went into a nosedive. It was like a comet falling from the sky. All the power he'd gathered was trailing around and behind him. He hit the ground… and the earth… swallowed him up. There's been nothing since then."

     I took a deep breath, held it, and let it out slowly.

     "I-I'm sorry Kiddo."

     "No, it's okay," I said slowly, "He's still alive. I know he is. And I think we can get him back."

     She looked at me, puzzled.

     "I'll explain later. Just trust me on this. What I did wasn't in vain."

     "I'm glad. We were really worried for a while there. I'll go call the others. They'll want to see you -- now that you're awake."

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Dark Flame: Part One

Dark Flame: Part Two

Dark Flame: Part Three

Dark Flame: Part Four

Dark Flame: Part Five

Dark Flame: Part Six

Dark Flame: Part Seven

Dark Flame: Part Eight

Dark Flame: Part Nine

Dark Flame: Part Ten

Dark Flame: Part Eleven

Dark Flame: Part Twelve

Dark Flame: Part Fourteen

Dark Flame: Part Fifiteen

Dark Flame: Part Sixteen

Dark Flame: Part Seventeen

Dark Flame: Part Eighteen

Dark Flame: Part Nineteen

Dark Flame: Part Twenty

Dark Flame: Part Twenty One

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