And there's still quite a few left to go yet.
I'm guessing that SS+S is probably going to end up the longest of my serial stories, because there's still so much more that has to happen before I can even start thinking about ending.
Judging Justly got a pretty obvious majority for option three, so it was back to the Darkness with Louise. (And I'm the one who will get in trouble for being mean to her again. No, don't worry. I liked option three too :P)
Something cold as ice wrapped around my legs, dragging me down. Into Darkness.
I screamed, the sound wrenching violently from my throat.
Falling, slipping, downwards. I couldn’t see anything but black.
Nothing but Darkness.
I landed on something hard, my burnt hands pressed against a freezing stone floor. A small relief.
For a moment I didn’t dare raise my eyes from the grey stones. Panting, my throat dry with terror, I slowly tipped my head up.
The faint light I could see by came from nowhere, simply shimmering around me like from a sunbeam.
All else was Darkness.
Pushing myself up, I skidded back slowly until my back touched against a cold wall.
Where was this?
A slow dripping of water echoed from the far right, the only sound other than my own rasping breath.
“You have brought it...”
I jerked back at the voice, my head scraping against the stones of the wall. Jumping to my feet, I searched the Darkness desperately.
“Who are you?” I asked, trying to make my voice firm and commanding.
“This cannot happen like this. You are His brother. You could not have such—”
I spun in the direction of the voice but it seemed to be coming from all directions at once. “Stop it,” I yelled, barely controlling the swelling panic that rose in my chest. “Who is that, and where am I?”
“This cannot be...” The voice sounded confused, and angry.
And something else that I couldn’t identify.
“What can’t be?” I gritted, pressing back into the wall as the Darkness seemed to swirl around me.
“You. You cannot be.”
Choking down a scream, I laid my burnt palms on the cool stone, trying to calm down.
It was just another of those dreams.
“Except I am.” I licked my lips nervously. “So what are you going to do about it?”
A deeper shade of Darkness twisted out from the black. Darker still than the rest. Fear clenched my throat and I couldn’t have screamed even if I could find breath to do so.
The Darkness shaped into a man. Tall, a flowing cloak twisting and lashing from his shoulders as if it were alive, a deep hood completely obscuring his face.
Terror locked my legs. I could barely think.
Then the hood slipped back a way and I almost saw two black orbs of eyes.
Drainers of light.
A glance and light would fade.
But before those eyes touched mine my knees crumpled and I found myself on the floor. Liquid fear flooded my mind, blocking out all rational thought.
I couldn’t fight this.
How could anyone fight this?
“There is no hope...” The words crept down through the Darkness like snakes.
“No,” I said, clenching my jaw. “There’s always—” I couldn’t get the words out.
What was the point of saying it anyway?
Leonora had said something about that once. There was always...something.
What was there always?
I couldn’t remember anymore.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to.
Maybe it was hopeless. Hadn’t I thought so myself so many times?
How had I ever thought I could do this?
My hand, resting on the floor before my eyes, blinked with the faint light, dimming slightly.
“Wait.” I had to fight to get the word out. “Before you said something wasn’t right.”
Dark hissed viciously, the Darkness around him writhing at the sound. “There was never hope for you.”
“Never think something is hopeless, Louise. If you give up before you even start trying, it’s just wasted everything.”
Leonora’s face swam across my vision, an earnest look in her eyes.
“No.” I pushed up from the floor, standing shakily but keeping my eyes low.
I couldn’t risk meeting those of Dark.
“No. I think you’re—” My breath came in gasps, every word an effort. “You’re—not—right—”
The light around me burst brighter, barely, but it did. For a moment I saw the stone floor a metre from my feet and then a scream pierced my ears, tearing pain seeming to shred my very self apart.
I staggered back, my only thought to escape.
To escape that sound.
Something wrapped around my waist, pulling me forward, the smell of salt and grease filling my nostrils. I flailed wildly, struggling against the pull.
I couldn’t give in.
Something knocked me sprawling on the ground.
It was damp and grassy.
“Lass, it’s just me. Come back ‘ere, lass.” Hands touched my shoulders, gently shaking.
It wasn’t Dark anymore.
Stars blinked in the sky high above, the shadowed face of Gripper leaning over, twisted anxiously.
“You okay, lass?” the sailor asked again.
I swallowed, my whole body shaking uncontrollably. “I—” The words stuck in my throat.
“What happened?” Gripper’s voice was tight. “Ye almost slipped straight off...” he left the words hanging, nodding his head forward.
I pushed up and a scream almost shuddered through my lips again.
A bare pace away from my feet, the ground dropped off into nothing.
Scrabbling backward away from the drop, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the cliff edge. I had almost fallen? My breath gasped, heart throbbing in my chest.
“Capt’in?” the rough voice came from a way behind. “You alright?”
“Fine,” Warin’s reply came through gritted teeth, and I could hear his heavy breathing even with the distance.
I stood, leaning on Gripper for support, my mind numbly trying to understand.
What had happened in the Darkness?
Had I somehow hurt Dark?
Maybe even...could I hope that perhaps I had...
I shoved the thoughts away. I couldn’t have destroyed him...it so easily.
“Louise,” Warin was beside me, eyes blinking away exhaustion. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” The word came out croaked and barely audible. I coughed, swallowing several times before trying again. “I’m alright.”
Warin looked at me for a moment, eyes searching.
“It...it happened again,” I managed in a whisper.
He nodded slowly. “I saw.”
“How long back do we have, Cap?” Gripper asked.
Warin turned to his crewmen, gathered around or slumped, resting, on the ground. “Too far,” he said, the words short. “We won’t make it.”
“Do you think Rantu’s after us?” another sailor asked, fiddling with the hilt of his sword.
“Undoubtedly,” Warin said. “But we can’t keep up this pace all the way. Half an island is far enough.”
“They’ll catch up,” I said, my voice quavering even with the whispered words.
Warin’s eyes fell on me. “Yes,” his reply came soft. “They will.”
It was all my fault, I knew. If he hadn’t spent all his energy carrying me halfway across the island he could keep going.
“You can leave me,” I said, pushing down the half of me that was screaming “No! Don’t leave me behind!”
“No.” Warin shook his head before I even finished. “I’m not leaving you any more than I would leave behind Gripper or any other member of the crew.”
A growl of assent came from the surrounding crew.
“You’re one of us now,” someone grunted. “We as look after our own.”
Beyond the fear and pain I felt a surge of something.
But something good.
I was one of them.
A weak laugh bubbled up my throat, and I felt it shake through my shoulders. “What’ll Leonora say?” I asked, my breath catching on a half sob half giggle.
“I doubt there will be much she can say,” Warin said, a faint smile brushing his own features.
The crewman holding Altin over his shoulder crouched, lowering the unconscious Gypsy Boy to the ground. “Can we risk a rest?” he rumbled the question.
“We have to,” Warin replied tiredly.
A strand of hair fell into my eyes but I couldn’t be bothered to brush it away, my hands aching dully as they were.
Gripper pulled his jacket off, draping it over my shoulders. “Come, lass,” he murmured into my ear. “You’ll need to sleep. Not even the Capt’in can keep going forever, even though sometimes that can be hard t’ believe,” he added the last with a slight smile.
“We need to rest. There’s still a fair way to go.” Warin’s voice seemed to come through a fog. “Three on watch at all times.”
The jacket over my shoulders was warm and I let myself slump slowly to the ground, eyes slide shut, dropping off to sleep.
A minute later, I came awake with a jerk, gasping for breath.
He’d been standing there, as if waiting for me to sleep again. Waiting. Watching.
I couldn’t sleep.
Pulling my knees up and wrapping my arms around them, I clamped my bottom lip between my teeth.
The shadows around me were like creeping Darkness.
At any moment they would change shape into Dark himself.
I couldn’t bare this much longer.
It shouldn’t be possible. How can She hold such power?
I jolted to my feet, pulling Gripper’s jacket tight around my shoulders.
Clenching my jaw, I stepped lightly over the legs of a sailor, moving to the edge of the tree line, leaning my cheek against the rough bark.
“Please,” I breathed, feeling the touch of a soft breeze on the back of my neck. “Please if there’s someone out there who can help. I think I need it.”
The wind sighed through the leaves and I turned my back to the trunk, sliding down to hunch at the bottom.
The opposite of Dark was Light.
If Dark was an actual thing, who says there wasn’t a Light?
“Light if—if you’re there, could you—” I stopped.
It was ridiculous. What was I expecting to happen?
I let a long sigh slip through my lips.
It was cut short before I could finish, a rough hand snapping down over my mouth.
“This one’ll do, eh?”
1. Before I could even think about struggling, something hit the back of my head and everything went black.
2. “She’ll be a fine enough prize,” a second voice snarled in reply.
3. I threw myself to the side, tearing loose for long enough to scream. “Warin!”
I posted a little later on in the day than normal because it was my brother's birthday yesterday so I couldn't do my normal half-morning of writing the story and blog post. So instead I wrote the story in the evening (and...it may have gotten a little late before I was done) and the blog post this morning.
And I've now finally discovered how Louise is actually ever going to defeat the baddies and everything. That's rather nice.
Anyway, I think that's about it then.
|| Jane Maree ||