EndingArrow: Part Nine
Terzin, Aly, and Dayne sat near the foot of the central
pedestal of the chamber, Saskar still standing in the shadows, thinking it best
to keep his distance from the feisty striped Zafara who had threatened him.
They had been waiting for close to an hour so far since Sisslio had gone to
speak with Tasson. Silence permeated the air of the dark room, its occupants
lost in their own thoughts, having nothing to say to one another.
Aly looked up at the intricately decorated walls
for what seemed to be the millionth time. She rubbed her hands together, feeling
the slight moistness of cold sweat that had accumulated upon them. She'd felt
inexplicably nervous ever since he'd departed, and was failing to calm herself.
The thought of her friend trapped in the depths of Tasson's casket was all too
eerie. She knew that this wouldn't be happening right now if she and Terzin
hadn't met Sisslio at the Art Centre last year. Deep down, ever since Frey's
resurrection, Aly had felt guilty for what she had unknowingly brought upon
the white Zafara she'd become so close to. She kept going over what had happened
to all of them in her mind, scarcely believing that it had actually taken place.
The only sound the Zafara girl could hear in her subterranean surroundings was
the hammering of her heart against her ribs, ringing in her ears.
Terzin, too, was lost within himself. He had
so many complexities shooting through his brain. First and foremost were the
League's return and the current situation they were in - one that would surely
result in Frey walking upon Neopia's earth and grass, alive once more. But closely
shadowing this contemplation was the sorrowful enormity of his mother's death.
He hadn't seen Siersha die, hadn't witnessed the final breath rattling from
her mouth, but Aillara's claws had dealt a mortal blow, and he knew instinctively
that as he sat here in this chilling, dark place, the old soothsayer's body
was laying alone, glazed by frost and snow in the ruins of her own home. However,
he was trying his best to hold back his grief for the time being - Sisslio's
battle with Frey was the issue at hand right now, not the loss of his parent.
The Lupe knew that he would have time to think about his own problems later,
but now was a time for self-sacrifice.
As for Dayne, she felt out of place, but as
resolute as Terzin to stay loyal in the face of great peril. For most of her
life, modern commercialism had dominated her behaviour, but ever since she'd
been dragged into the churning mix of events spawned by Frey's Windstorm prophecy,
she'd subconsciously come to value life and people a little more. The world
had been forced upon her with all its harsh reality, but she had discovered
that she was strong enough to deal with it. It was really her experience with
the Firejewel that had turned her life around. Sisslio had risked so much and
tried so hard to save her from a terrible fate, something no one had ever done
for her before. Now Sisslio was the one in trouble. If anyone had suffered the
most by the end of all this, it was him. She'd been his friend for such a long
time, but she'd never truly acted like one. Dayne's face took on an utterly
determined expression as she silently promised to return the favour. This was
a valuable friendship, and she wasn't going to let Frey destroy it.
Finally, Aly broke the silence. "How much longer
do you think it'll be?"
Terzin gave a forlorn shrug. "I have no idea."
"Well I'm not gonna sit around and do nothing
for much longer," she replied. "Frey isn't going to fall if we just stay here!"
Aly whirled around menacingly towards Saskar, who hadn't said a word. "And don't
you even think of giving me lip for saying that, you withered lump! You know
we're your enemies, so live with it!"
Suddenly Aly became aware of a strange sensation
- an incredibly subtle humming in her ears. She froze; her hate towards Saskar
vanished from her mind. She desperately wanted to decipher the new sound. In
a few seconds, the whispering melded into a voice. "Listen to me, for you are
Aly turned back around and looked at the walls
again. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that Terzin had stood, a curious,
probing look in his eyes as well. Dayne stood off to the side, looking slightly
out of place. Her attention was fixed on the carvings, although the naked eye
revealed nothing of particular interest. She glanced over her shoulder, guessing
that perhaps the speaker was hiding behind her, but her inspection was futile.
She turned back around -
- and almost fell over at the sight she beheld.
Standing on either side of the stone casket was
a brown Zafara and an electric Lupe. The Zafara stood in front of Aly and the
first thing she noticed was that they shared an uncanny resemblance. It was
as though she was looking into a mirror. Although the other's fur was a completely
different colour, her facial features were so familiar. And her eyes… Aside
from herself, Aly didn't know a single person who had the same, inimitable,
indigo eyes as she did. She knew who these pets were, and yet she couldn't find
her voice. Her mouth had become completely dry.
Terzin spoke for her. "D-Dredless?" he stammered,
staring at his long-dead ancestor. Aly knew that the creature who stood before
her was her own predecessor, Bryony SkyGaze.
"You see before you our spirits," explained Dredless
to his descendant, as well as Aly. "We were called here by the force of Tasson's
actions. In our lifetime, we too were deceived by Frey, but we only learned
the truth in death."
"So…why are you here now?" asked Aly, her palate
finally finding some moisture, "You're not her enemies."
"But you are," Bryony pointed out. "Because we
placed our trust in her, we unknowingly doomed our entire family lines, which
is something we are ashamed of. Because of this, we've chosen to aid you against
"You must leave for the field which she was buried
under," Dredless instructed the two mages. "The League has already departed
for it, anticipating her return. The odds are not in your favour, but if there
were some way to stop them, this would greatly help you, for even if Frey is
defeated, they will remain. Now is the time to act."
Dayne knew that she wasn't being spoken to as
directly, but she agreed with the dead Lupe's reasoning. With the Firejewel,
their escape had been particularly difficult because the League had wanted to
"But…what about Sisslio?" asked Aly of her ancestor.
"We can't just leave him here."
"One of you should stay," suggested Bryony. "And
bring both he and Tasson to the field as well."
"Tasson?" Terzin and Aly both spoke at once,
scarcely believing what they were hearing. Tasson was to be brought to life
"It has been his choice to defeat Frey and end
the Windstorm's misery," explained the Zafara. "But all of you will have parts
to play. Our time has nearly concluded, and as such we must leave you."
Dredless had the last word. "We wish we could
be of more help, but we are not as powerful as Frey and cannot walk among the
living for long. Please," his eyes, as well as Bryony's, became sorrowful, as
though they were begging a favour that they knew they were not worthy of. "Redeem
our families, and vanquish this evil."
Slowly, their forms faded from the room, leaving
Dayne, Aly, and Terzin alone again, save for Saskar, whose eyes were wide in
silent disbelief at what he had witnessed.
"Tasson wants to defeat Frey? Why?" Terzin pondered
this fact aloud, wondering why the archer was trying to turn Sisslio's fate
"That doesn't matter right now," said Aly huffily.
Their ancestors' visit had been a brief one, but despite this fact, it had left
a "Bryony and Dredless knew more than we do, so we better listen to them. We
need to leave for the field." She paused momentarily, but then looked over her
shoulder at the casket, now seemingly alone, lacking the presences of the two
mages of old who had been standing with it only moments ago. "Dayne, you stay
here and bring Sisslio when he wakes up."
Dayne's eyes narrowed sceptically as she noticed
the reluctance in the other Zafara's voice. Personally, she was completely fine
with staying here. She would be helping, but avoiding losing her life for the
time being. But she saw in Aly's eyes something that was rare in their indigo
hues: simple, honest concern. Dayne couldn't help but smirk slightly as she
figured out why, and then made up her mind. Life was about risks after all,
wasn't it? And helping each other was a plus - she'd known that since she was
four. "Aly," she said, "You stay here. For once, I'll take a turn springing
boldly into danger."
"You'd be better off here." Dayne smiled and
for the first time looked at Aly as a genuine friend. She understood what the
mage was feeling, and that made her feel a little bit closer to her. "I'm sure
Aly considered retorting with some kind of tough
remark, but she thought better of it. Dayne was right. This was where she wanted
to be. She nodded in affirmation. "Okay. You guys go ahead, do what you can."
"We won't let down good old Sissles!" cried Dayne
with a whoop. "Frey's goin' down!" Terzin was staring at her, but Aly gave the
Island Zafara a small smile. At a time like this, enthusiasm was only to be
"Let's go, then," urged Terzin, striding ahead
to the exit. He didn't know whether Aillara had left for the field or not, but
he had a score to settle with the Eyrie. Dayne bounded after the Lupe, waving
at Aly one last time.
"Good luck," called the striped Zafara as her
friends disappeared from view. She then glanced into the corner where Saskar
still sat. She knew that the old Cybunny was terrified of her. He wasn't going
to stop them, and he wasn't going to say a word for the time being. But even
though he posed no threat, Aly didn't want him here. She shot him a glare. "Do
me a favour," she hissed, "Get out."
She said it with enough cruel firmness that the
creature was soon scuttling up the staircase in seconds. She didn't care if
he went outside or just sat on a stair higher up, just as long as he was gone
from this place, she was satisfied.
She sat down on the earthen floor, leaned her
back against the stone platform, and waited.
I'd seen so much more than I'd expected, all
speeding across my vision and through my mind in a whirl. Scenes of Frey first
recruiting her League, the day they had marked the canyon as their headquarters,
times when they would rampage through villages that were home to well-known
mages, who Frey would slay in order to prove her magical and physical prowess.
There were also glimpses of times past, which
I knew Tasson yearned for desperately. These were memories of when they had
been true comrades, similar to when I'd seen them enjoying archery practice
together on that summer afternoon. They had met with other friends during friendly
get-togethers, used their mystic abilities to help other pets, and there was
even a time when Frey had first witnessed Tasson use of the Storm -he had stopped
time as he fought to keep his cool when dealing with a scraggly band of rogues
who had infiltrated the village's boundaries in hope of stealing some valuables.
I now understood why the Storm could control time; it came from the relationship
between lightning and thunder in a natural storm. The light was seen first,
and then its sound followed a number of seconds after, and this lapse in time
contributed to the strange magic.
I was already unsettled by the countless images
I'd already seen; the contrast between Tasson's recollections of Frey's cruel
betrayal and hunger for invincibility and those of their former bond of friendly
alliance were just too absolute, too different to believe. When Tasson's voice
spoke to me now, within my head, it sounded as though he was choked by tears
or filled with regret, and this emotional sense only intensified as the memories
continued and synthesized into a living blur of primeval tragedy.
When the next memory unfolded, I immediately
felt a petrifying sensation wash over me. This one was different than the plethora
of the past's fragments, which I had been forced to endure. I could tell that
this memory was one of the final ones, and it carried a chilling atmosphere
with it. I could do nothing to stop it, and allowed my mental eye to open wide
and gaze upon Tasson's miseries.
It began in a matter of milliseconds; Tasson
opening the door of his home. Gouges had been made in the walls of the house
like the savage claw marks of some gargantuan beast. An adult, brown Cybunny
lay on the floor, along with a small white one. By the look of absolute horror
and sorrow that came over Tasson's countenance, I knew that this was his family
- a wife and child.
I felt as though I was standing in that doorway,
gazing down at the bodies of Aly, Terzin, and Dayne, left cruelly in the vicious
wake of Sirocco, the only weapon I knew to be capable of such terrifying gashes.
My heart felt as though it had been run through, clenched tightly and hurled
into oblivion. I could have died for the deep grief I felt. I knew Tasson's
pain, every infinitesimal bit of the twisting despair, anger, fear, and revulsion
that were consuming him at this moment.
Frey hadn't come for him yet, but she'd done
something that was a greater affliction than the archer's own death; the death
of his loved ones, displayed in brutality.
He slowly walked over to the pair of still forms,
the callous enormity of what he was seeing dawning upon him, and soon his eyes
were brimming with burning tears. He crouched down near his child, cradling
its head in his arms, closing its glazed eyes with a gentle finger. He then
looked upon his wife's face, knowing that she would never give so much as a
twitch ever again, never smile again.
He couldn't hold it back anymore, and didn't
know why he'd tried to. The Cybunny let his tears stream forth, and with a voice
wrung with nothing but pure remorse, he screamed.
That was the beginning of my war against her,
Tasson said, his voice as quiet and delicate as an echo.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered, knowing that no
number of words, no matter how strong or consoling, would ever heal the invisible
wound that Frey had scarred his heart with.
Don't be, he answered. I was surprised
at the calm tone of his voice. It was partly my fault that they died, and
I also take some of the blame for the way Frey became. I could have dealt with
it differently, but I waited too many years, and when her League was strong
enough…she did what she'd promised to do - demonstrate her power to its full
extent. She killed my family.
"And that's how the war started," I stated, knowing
already that it was a fact. "The battle that she died in."
Yes, Tasson replied, but didn't elaborate.
I was already choked by Frey's cruelty - I couldn't believe that she'd gone
so far as to slay those who were so close to her old friend. Her hunger for
superiority was simply insatiable. I didn't hear another word about the incident
from the archer. I had to see it for myself.
Tasson stood at the foot of two low mounds of
dirt, one much smaller than the first. Kneeling, he placed a handful of wildflowers,
which he had arranged in a rugged bouquet upon each one. Looking down at the
pair of graves, he let his eyes stare wistfully at the only things that proved
the former existence of those who had been so precious to him. "I hate her,"
he hissed through his teeth, and was silent again for a brief moment, letting
the wind ruffle his flame-coloured fur slightly. He then spoke again, as quietly
as before. "It's gone too far now. Her desires were too great…and because I
didn't act, she murdered you." Tears coursed through his ebony fur from swollen
eyes, and he covered his face as he choked on his woe. "I can't believe I trusted
The Cybunny sat alone for several more minutes,
his body racked with sobs of perpetual sorrow. After a while, his sadness slowly
began to ebb, and he then stood up. "I've got to do something," he whispered
to himself. "I'm the only one who can stop her." He didn't relish the thought
of using the Storm to get Frey under control, but it was probably the only force
that would rival her strength now. He then turned his back on the graves and
strode back to his home.
The boughs of trees, thick with lush green foliage,
then obstructed my vision. I had a strange, soaring feeling in my stomach, as
though I was flying ahead, swifter than the world around me. I knew that a brief
time was passing in the memory, and the next thing I saw was Tasson standing
alone in a forest, his bow in his paws with an arrow set to its string. He appeared
to be waiting for something or someone, and I could easily guess whom.
Suddenly, a voice called from the trees. "Is
this how you greet me, Tasson? Ready to put a shaft through my heart?" I recognized
the taunting yet mellifluous tone as Frey's.
"Show yourself!" he cried in response, slowly
pivoting his body to scan his surroundings. There was no trace of the rogue
"Can't we just talk, like you requested? I don't
feel threatened by you, Tasson, but evidently, you fear me."
"You could come out and kill me for all I know
- that's what you did to Quiela and Forlan! I know that we're enemies now, Frey!"
"Enemies we are, true enough," agreed Frey in
a tone rich with false lamenting. "And therefore you now have the desire to
The Cybunny's fingers tightened their grip on
the arrow's fletching. "I don't want to, but I have to."
"You know that we'll meet later on, Tasson, and
that is when a true reckoning will take place. You also know of what I want:
to match the Storm's power. I won't let you stop me. I didn't allow Gerdon to
stop me, or Skirnir, or any of the other mages…"
"They meant you no harm whatsoever - and yet
you went out to hunt them down and butcher them," Tasson snarled, still glancing
around at the trees encircling him.
Frey didn't acknowledge this remark, and merely
continued. "…And I didn't allow that scumbag pair of rabbits who you found worthy
to be your wife and son to stop me either. I can't see the logic behind you
settling down with a family, Tasson. You should have exercised your talent,
allowed it to swell in glory. But you gave up on it, as I knew you would. I
had to make you see the truth, rid you of the naïveté that has continually blinded
you…so I vanquished that which you loved too dearly. Face reality now, archer.
You have only me and the Storm to deal with now. That little runt and his stupid
mother got what was coming to them."
Tasson gritted his teeth in rage and whirled
around to face the source of the Zafara's voice. Targeting his enemy, he stretched
the bowstring taut. "HOW DARE YOU TALK ABOUT THEM LIKE THAT? YOU'RE THE ONE
WHO DESERVES TO DIE!" And with that he loosed his arrow, sending the missile
speeding into the woods, its path fuelled by his unquenchable fury.
There was a resounding echo of steel colliding
with steel, which rang in Tasson's ears for several seconds, and then dimmed.
Frey stepped out from an area sheltered by groupings of branches, which were
densely coated with leaves, Sirocco held in front of her body diagonally, using
the broad blade as a shield.
Tasson panted heavily, realizing that he hadn't
hit her. The mage padded forward, slinging her weapon over her back as she approached,
her body now unprotected. Tasson's mind was numb, and he didn't reach into his
quiver for a second arrow.
Frey stopped a few metres away. "So you're ready
to challenge me, then?" she asked mockingly with a grin. The Cybunny didn't
answer, just regarded his foe warily. "I belong to the West, now, Tasson. Your
home is the next place we will strike. Make a stand if you so wish, or be slain.
Or you may choose to flee, and we will hunt you all down until the Storm is
dead. Await me."
The pure white Zafara then turned her back on
the archer and brought her sword down from across her back so that she now carried
it at her side. Tasson gazed after her retreating back, so exposed, so vulnerable
to his arrows. He could end it all at this moment - kill her, and he would never
have to fear for his own safety or that of his village ever again. But his body
would not obey. He couldn't do it.
Frey silently strode across the earth and was
lost to the shadows of the forest.
I returned to the village and told everyone
what Frey had said, and they agreed to take up arms against her. In a matter
of weeks, her Western League appeared on the field's horizon, and we met them.
Bryony and Dredless had befriended her; unaware of the slaughter she was capable
of, not knowing what she'd done to me.
I listened to Tasson, but realized that I couldn't
reply; my voice had vanished from my throat. As he spoke, images continued,
flashing across my vision at an uncontrollable speed, transforming into wild
blurs, but still clear to me. There was Frey, swinging her sword in frenzy,
laughing as she ran innocent Easterners through, using her wind magic to trap
them so they could not escape Sirocco's hungry blade.
This is the destruction we brought upon our
world. Pets died, villages we didn't even know lost friends, and Frey was never
Bryony and Dredless stood back-to-back, fending
off Easterners with their swords, seriously wounding the majority of their foes.
There was an incessant ringing in my ears, a single, droning note that wouldn't
let up and silenced all the other sounds around me. I wanted to scream at them
to stop, tell them that they didn't know what they were doing, that they were
killing innocent people, but my voice had been sucked away by the subtle screech
There was only one way to end it.
I was suddenly the one behind the bow again,
but my hands were numb to the feel of the weapon they held. I still lacked a
physical body, but I wanted one. I wanted my existence back, to be able to run
away from what I was seeing, to have muscles which I could will to move, to
have a mouth with which to speak.
But I had to stay like this, in Tasson's place
again. I held the arrow that would end it all, and every second that ticked
by before I loosed it was almost more than I could take. I wanted Frey to go
away forever, but I didn't want to be the one doing the killing - did that make
me weak? Did it make me a coward? I didn't know, and I didn't want to deal with
this. I tried to scream, tried to make myself heard, but to no avail. I seemed
to be overcome by some kind of mental claustrophobia; I was trapped within this
world of memories, which I knew would end once I fired my missile and defeated
my foe. I felt the feeling of raw power shifting through me - the Storm. Its
essence rushed into the arrow, and I knew that this was how Tasson had succeeded
in ending Frey's life. I strained my throat, kept trying to cry out, and I felt
my eyes watering as the fletching slipped from my grasp.
Her death was the only path to peace.
I felt an unnatural gust of wind as the arrow
sped through the air, closing in on Frey's beating heart. The intensity that
had building up inside me should have receded, but it inexplicably deepened,
and my desperation to escape reached its zenith as the bowstring twanged violently
as the pressure upon it was suddenly released. I saw the arrow strike Frey's
chest, saw the bewildered expression that crossed her face as she realized that
she was going to die, that the one who had once been her greatest friend had
just slain her.
I didn't feel victorious. I felt tortured, remorseful,
drenched with grief, and the burden of my fate as the Windstorm pained me more
than it ever had, like an incurable wound. I couldn't believe what I'd seen
- how could two friends become such great enemies? How could Frey have allowed
her ambitions to twist her life around so harshly? Why did the Storm have to
be such a coveted magic? Why did any of it have to happen?
The scene faded, and I was shrouded in darkness.
Tasson's voice called to me from the surrounding umbra. Do you now understand
what the Storm can do, and why she wants it? Can you face her?
As I attempted to speak yet again, I was relieved
to discover that my voice had returned to me. "Yes!" I cried, "I understand
it! I know what I have to do! Now let me go!"
You still plan to help me, even at the cost
of your own suffering?
Suffering? He thought I wasn't going to do this
for fear of suffering? I'd suffered enough in one long year to last a lifetime.
I was suffering now! "Yes!" I spat, almost spitefully. "My fate is to do this!
Now free me! Let me go!"
There was suddenly pure silence, and I slowly
became aware of the cold feeling of stone against my back, and the darkness
that my eyes were striving to adjust to.
I was back.
I glanced around the interior of the casket,
blindly. I had to get out of here - I wanted to stand up, I wanted to breathe.
"ALY!" I screeched, "TERZIN! DAYNE! GET ME OUT
OF HERE!" I prayed that the thick stone lid above me wouldn't muffle my voice
too much for them to hear me - if it did; I thought that I might die of panic
Suddenly I heard the frantic scraping of the
stone against the rest of the coffin - they'd heard me! I was about to be returned
to the world I loved!
The stone slab crashed onto the earthen floor,
and I looked up to see Aly's familiar face peering down at me, the swirling
hues contained in her beautiful eyes carrying deep concern. "Are you all right?"
she demanded, choking on her words.
"Aly," I breathed, sitting up and clambering
out and onto the floor. My legs were so unused to contact with the ground and
I stumbled slightly, and my friend reached out to steady me. This simple touch
gave me more happiness than I'd experienced for what seemed like a century,
and without even thinking, I took her into my arms, hugging her tightly, a gesture
which she returned without hesitation. I felt like doing this allowed me to
cling to the reality I'd been isolated from for so long - it made me feel safer
somehow. I felt a silent tear of joy streak down my face as I was finally reunited
with someone who I could connect with my own life, my true existence.
"Are you all right?" Aly asked again, her voice
whispering next to my ear.
"I'm fine," I assured her, the sound coming from
my lips equally faint.
Finally, we drew away from each other after a
moment. I had relaxed a bit, knowing that I was now safe from Tasson's vivid
world of memories, but my relaxation evaporated as I glimpsed Aly's face, and
the alien expression I saw there. Her eyes were watering with tentative tears,
as mine had, and her cheeks appeared slightly flushed under the white fur that
covered them. I'd never, in all my life, seen Aly allow herself such emotional
behaviour - particularly the crying. Knowing her, she'd think that it made her
"How about you?" I asked in return, "Are you
sure you're okay?"
She suddenly seemed to realize what she looked
like and turned away from me sharply. "Yeah," she said, "Yeah, I'm fine."
"You're sure?" I asked again. I never knew her
to act like this before and wanted to understand.
"Mm-hm," she said, to mean "yes". "It's just
that…I sort of…I missed you." She turned around again, her expression hardened,
as tomboyish and determined as ever. Clearing her throat, I could tell that
she was trying to recover her tough exterior. "Is there a problem with that?"
I forced a small smile upon my face, something
I thought I'd never do after witnessing Frey and Tasson's devastating history.
But that was over now, and I felt freer than ever. "No," I answered, "I missed
you guys too." Looking around, I realized that Terzin and Dayne were nowhere
to be seen, and while I was mainly curious as to where they were, I was slightly
relieved that they weren't here. Had they been here to release me from the casket,
a big, embarrassing, emotional group hug would have probably followed. For some
reason, I was more comfortable that it was just Aly and me. "Anyway," I continued,
voicing my thoughts, "Where are Dayne and Terzin?"
"Went to the field. We found out that the League
is heading there." She paused. "They're waiting for her."
"Why didn't you go?" I asked.
She suddenly looked fierce and protective. "Someone
needed to stay with you," she explained tersely. "Now tell me what happened
with Tasson. Is there something we should know about defeating Frey?"
I was about to answer, when I became aware of
an intense light expanding from behind me. Both Aly and I whirled around to
see its source, and fell silent as we realized that the radiant blaze was coming
from Tasson's casket.
To be continued...