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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 27th day of Awakening, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 128 > Continuing Series > Dark Flame: Part Twenty

Dark Flame: Part Twenty

by child_dragon

A Normal Girl

I stared at them in confusion.

     "You said you… wouldn't fight me…" I said.

     Shi'tri nodded.

     "Think girl. We created the Essence. We gave it to you. We can take it away."

     I nearly dropped my spear.

     "No!" I shouted, "You can't!"

     "I thought you didn't like having this power," the dark element said with a trace of amusement.

     "I don't… but - Aldrai! I just want my pet!"

     The exchanged glances as if they knew this would happen. I stepped forwards and raised my spear.

     "I'm not letting you keep him," I said, and then leapt into the air.

     I flared my wings, allowing the thermals to carry me above the island. I gathered the power to me, so much power, so ready to be used. I would free Aldrai, they could not stop me. I wouldn't let them.

     I felt something strange wrap around me then. A burning arose in my chest and I gasped. My heart was beating wildly and an icy sensation slid down my spine. Multi-hued light surrounded me, shot down towards the island, and was gone. I shuddered and fell from the sky. I tried to flare my wings to stop my fall only to discover they weren't there.

     A hand closed on the back of my shirt. All the air was knocked out of me and I gasped at the sharp stop to my fall. I could feel the heat wrapping itself around me like a blanket, heat that had previously been unnoticeable. Whoever held me by my shirt collar carried me back up the short distance to the island and dropped me on the ground. I glanced up to see Shi'viv staring down at me with amusement.

     "You seem to be fond of falling," he said with a half-grin.

     "Shuddup!" I snapped and twisted around to see what had happened to my wings.

     They were gone. As was my tail, my horns, everything. Everything that made me the Essence. I could no longer feel the threads of power, could no longer call upon that magic rooted deep within Neopia. I was just a normal girl. Nothing more.

     I doubled over, shuddering violently. I tried to stop my shaking but I couldn't. Although the air around me was still uncomfortably warm I felt cold.

     "Calm down Kiddo," Shi'tri said gently, kneeling by my side and grabbing my shoulder, "Just calm down."

     "Wha -- what…"

     He gestured and I looked over to see Shi'kly kneeling on the ground, a multi-colored starburst crystal in her hands. The Essence of Neopia.

     I could feel the edges of my vision growing black. I tried to take deep breaths but all I could do was short panicked gasps.

     "Shi'kit… help me… she's gonna faint…" Shi'tri growled tersely.

     "Let her. Might be best."

     I felt light-headed and dizzy. And very very ill. The last thing I felt before I fell into a full faint was Shi'tri laying me back onto the rock.

     I woke to voices. For a moment I had no idea where I was. Then I felt the heat and bare stone beneath me and remembered. I kept my eyes shut, listening. The absence of my tail and wings and other features I had borne for so long was a jarring reminder of what had happened.

     "You agreed to this," someone was saying.

     "I agreed but I still don't like it," Shi'tri replied.

     "I never would have expected you to have a soft spot," the other marveled.

     I thought for a moment and was able to identify the voice as Shi'eus, the fire element.

     "Not so much as a soft spot as respect. She was just trying to save her pet."

     "I know."

     A sigh. "I didn't like it either, Shi'tri," Shi'eus continued, "But we didn't really have much choice. She had a responsibility to protect Neopia and she wanted to release something that wanted to destroy it as we know it. It's her own fault, really."

     "Yes. I know."

     "And we couldn't really have beaten her in a straight fight, could we now? We bound her too strongly to Neopia - she's just like us except combined. Our fault there."

     "But now Neopia doesn't have an Essence."

     "Neopia doesn't need one anymore," Shi'eus said dismissively, "The entire civilization walks around armed. Sloth is gone. The faeries are still around. There isn't any other threat like the Shadows. Really, this might be for the best. Maybe now child_dragon will have that normal life she's so desired."

     Sudden wild hope arose in my heart. A normal life. No more risking my life, risking my pets. No more having to shoulder the responsibility of immense power. I was free.

     But I still didn't have Aldrai.

     I cracked my eyes a bit and looked around, careful not to move. Shi'tri and Shi'eus sat on the edge of the island, their backs turned towards me. No other element was visible. The crystal imprisoning Aldrai was a couple feet away, as was the Elemental Spear. My spear.

     I slowly brought myself to a crouch, preparing myself to lunge. My feet were no longer hooves now and I could feel the rock beneath my bare feet. I flexed my toes, hoping the sudden change in bone structure wouldn't throw me off too badly. The two elements were still talking. I moved forwards slowly, still in a crouch, and stretched out my hand to grab my spear.

     It burned. A shock like electricity shot up my arm and I dropped it with a cry. Shi'tri and Shi'eus jumped to their feet and turned. I stood there sheepishly rubbing my wrist with the Elemental Spear at my feet.

     "It's not yours anymore," Shi'eus said, immediately understanding what had happened, "Only the Essence can use it."

     "I know," I replied demurely.

     "Feeling better?" Shi'tri asked, "Probably not. But we'll get you out of the Forge. Our power stretches far enough to make sure you reach the tunnel that will lead you back to the Infernal village."

     I stared at the ground. I'd failed then. Come all this way and for nothing. For more than nothing; I had lost the only power that might have saved Aldrai. Tears built in my eyes and through them I could see a hazy outline of the Spear at my feet. Wrought by an upheaval in the Forge. As was Aldrai's prison.

     I suddenly became aware of a weight at my belt. I snapped my head up and stared at Shi'tri and Shi'eus. Then I turned and strode over to the edge of the island and stared down at the magma below.

     "What are you doing?" Shi'eus asked casually.

     "Saving Aldrai," I replied and held up Sabreur's improved firebomb.

     "No!" they both shouted simultaneously and lunged for me.

     But I had already dropped the bomb, straight down, towards the magma.

***

Sabreur's Genius The bomb exploded the instant it touched the boiling magma. An explosion rocked the cave, sending gouts of magma into the air. Shi'tri cringed and in an instant all the elements had manifested.

     "What the heck did you let her DO?!" Shi'mio screeched.

     "This could be very bad… keep the island safe everyone," Shi'eus said as the thundering roar of fire and explosives reverberated across the chamber.

     The elements grouped together, watching carefully. I knelt by the edge and peered over. The lava was still erupting and falling back from the explosion. Chunks of rock had started to fall from the ceiling.

     "Get back," Shi'kit hissed and pulled me away from the edge by one arm.

     Shi'mio was watching the falling rock all around us carefully.

     "Oh no," she breathed as one boulder the size of a small house smashed into the wall, "It's ruptured a gas pocket."

     There were various expressions of consternation from the elements.

     "Nice job, Kiddo," Shi'viv snapped, scooping me up in his arms.

     I let out a squawk of protest as he flew up into the air, flying higher until he was up near the furthest most corner of the Forge. Below us I could see gouts of fire leaping into the air. The explosion was apparently over.

     "It didn't work," I said sadly, struggling against Shi'viv holding me in the air.

     "The bomb didn't create an upheaval, as you were apparently wanting. But it did rupture the stone between the Forge and an underground gas pocket. Now hold still unless you want me to drop you."

     I fell still and waited. A gout of flame licked near the new break in the wall of the Forge. Something ignited.

     There was a deafening roar and I screamed, grabbing hold of Shi'viv's shoulder. I could feel waves of heat rushing over me as explosions reverberated across the Forge. This was much, much larger than the firebomb. Everywhere was the sound of splitting and falling rock. The place shook and gouts of magma shot high into the air, some even nearing us. I closed my eyes and prayed Shi'viv could keep me safe.

     Suddenly, there was a sound like an approaching tornado. I opened my eyes again and stared at the bottom of the forge. The magma and water were swirling together at the exact center of the Forge. Soon wind joined it, and earth, chunks of rock spinning into the mix. Light and dark danced across the whirling mass of raw power. Then it exploded upwards in a beam of pure magic, smashing into the island and continuing on to the top of the Forge. The entire area was shaking as if it would fall apart on top of our heads. Slowly it died away, slowly the Forge returned to equilibrium. I was shaking and the adrenaline was pouring through my veins. The island was still there.

     Shi'viv flew down to its surface and dropped me at the edge, hurrying forwards to meet with the other elements who had appeared. Aldrai lay in the center of the island, blinking. His prison was gone. The upheaval that had created the crystal had been undone by yet another upheaval.

     Aldrai hissed and leapt into the air, shooting upwards on his Darigan wings.

     "Aldrai!" I cried, standing and watching his flight.

     "Com'n, we've got to stop him!" Shi'eus cried and changed.

     One by one they transformed into the creatures they were when I had fought them so long ago in the realm of the Shadows. A winged snake of fire. A water dragon. A beast of stone. A lightning bird. And Shi'tri became an immense shadow Lupe and Shi'kly a white Kougra.

     They split up, each taking to the air on wings that they either had to begin with or grew. Aldrai remained in the center of the cavern and watched them come. Shi'eus neared him first. Aldrai gestured and a bolt of light magic struck the fire snake head on. It shook its head and Aldrai gestured again. The light magic wrapped around the snake and threw it aside. It fell and vanished into the magma, only to appear a few minutes later. Aldrai by then was fighting the other elements.

     "Aldrai! Stop!" I cried.

     I had not just risked everything for my pet to loose him to the magic again.

     He seemed to not notice me. An explosion from the fighting elements and Aldrai rocked the cavern once again. I lost my balance and toppled from the edge. I managed to catch myself on an outcropping stone, my arms straining to hold myself up. Below me was magma.

     "Aldrai!" I cried again, with true desperation in my voice.

     I looked down and swallowed hard. I could not fall. Shi'viv probably wouldn't catch me this time.

     Suddenly, there was a flash of light and I felt someone grab my hand.

     "Kiddo… hang on…" a very familiar voice whispered.

     I let go of the rock and held onto Aldrai, my heart filled with joy for the first time since coming underground. The elements stayed back for a moment, seeing that things had changed now. That I had truly thrown my lot in with Aldrai.

     "I can't fight them off. We're getting out of here."

     "Are you in control of the light magic?" I asked.

     He hesitated.

     "Yes, I am. Because of you."

     And he flew. Straight up, his power building around him. Solid stone parted before him and he soared up out of the Forge, through the earth. The shifting veil of Aldrai's magic was all around us as he carried us up out of the earth to burst through into brilliant Neopian sunlight. I gasped as the unaccustomed sunlight burned my eyes. Aldrai landed then and let go of me. I wiped away tears and knelt before him.

     "I'm so sorry Kiddo," he said, trying to avoid my glance.

     I gently lifted his chin so that he looked me in the eyes.

     "It's okay. You're free now."

     "But I don't deserve it… I can hardly remember what I did when I was controlled by sheer magic… but I do remember I hurt people."

     "Aldrai, look at me. I gave up the Essence so that you could be free. You're not going to wallow in self-pity, alright? You're going to come home and be my pet from now on."

     He slowly nodded, his own eyes filled with tears.

     "Now, why don't you change back to spotted?" I said with a soft smile.

     He shook his head violently.

     "No. I lost my angel wings because I took my power as a gift, a right, instead of a responsibility. I will keep the Darigan color to remind myself to never lose control again."

     He looked at me fiercely, determination shining in his eyes. It was then I remembered something very important.

     "Sabreur! And the rest!" I cried, leaping to my feet, "they're still underground."

     Aldrai laughed then.

     "They're coming. I can sense it. Just give them a couple days… apparently they've figured out it's time to head to the surface."

     I smiled and scooped up my pet, hugging him close.

     "Welcome home," was all I said.

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 Thirteen

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 One

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