Chapter 12: Stirring of Shadows
I saw Tina’s worried face appear over mine. “Ema, your awake, are you alright. I’ve been so worried about you.” I leaned up and was able to see everyone surrounding me. I could feel that my clothes were sopping wet like I had just been dragged out of the lake.
“I feel fine. But what happened, how long have I been out for?” I was still trying to sort through my memories. There was that strange vision about the younger me’s and Dawn... Yes and there was that time in the meadow with Dawn and Lobatae. Was what happened real? I sat up and looked around. I was sitting on the edge of the lake that the Tower of Nothing was raising up out of.
Tina, Mink, Jamel, and Quell were standing around me looking worried. However I felt relieved when I saw Lobatae standing in the lake with his arms stretched out. I wasn’t sure what he was doing there but his presence reassured me that everything that had happened was real.
Quell decided to answer my question. “We aren’t exactly sure what happened. One second you were walking with us and were collapsing. The next second you were gone in a flash of bright light. We tried searching everywhere for you but we weren’t able to find you until we saw another flash of light coming from the direction of the Tower of Nothing. We all rushed over here and found you laying in the lake with that guy standing next to you.” Quell pointed toward Lobatae. “It must have been a couple of hours from when you vanished to when you appeared. Mink and Tina were getting very upset that you were missing and all of us were worried.”
“Who is that guy anyway. He had just been standing there since we found you. I don’t think he even budged an inch when we pulled you out of the lake and tried to wake you up.” Jamel shrugged her shoulders, “We tried asking him some questions but he hasn’t said anything.”
“He is alright.” I responded. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the Destiny Clock out of my pocket. “He was the person I was looking for after all.” I motioned randomly toward him, “He is Lobatae, the Green Hand, just ignore him if he makes any lame jokes. He used to be a tree in his last life... or this one depending on how you do the math.” My comment left a bunch of confused looks of my friends, which is understandable because one doesn’t often hear that someone was a tree.
Eventually it was Mink who spoke up, I assumed it was going to be to ask me to clarify what I said but instead she asked a different question, “What kind of tree is he?” I just mouthed the question for a couple of seconds before responding.
“He is an Oak I believe. I’m not exactly sure because I don’t know trees very well but I could ask him if you really what to know.” I staggered to my feet, helped by Jamel who was much stronger then her body suggested which was a product of her monstrous nature, I’m sure. “I probably will need some help carrying him to shore because he isn’t very good at walking, he isn’t very used to a human body.”
Jamel followed me into the lake. I went up and grabbed Lobatae’s arms. “Are you alright Lobatae, are you sleeping or something. Do trees even need to sleep?” I shook him a little bit and he toppled over into the water. Jamel and I grabbed his arms and began dragging him to the shore through the water.
I felt Lobatae’s thoughts raise to the surface of my mind again. ‘Sorry about that. It just that the fresh water and clean air was very nostalgic. It has been many seasons since I have last been to this land. I have been in that meadow so long that I had forgotten what this air tasted like. Thank you for bringing me back here and I apologize for being such a hinderance.’
“Well there is the trouble of trying to find a place for you to stay. I already had to find a place for Jamel here and I haven’t yet figured out what I am going to do with you. Maybe it would be easier if you turned back into a tree, then you could just stay in the back yard.” Jamel and me managed to pull Lobatae out of the lake and onto the shore.
I laid on the bank next to Lobatae, I had managed to get most of my clothes completely wet again. Mink offered my a handkerchief, but it wasn’t enough to actually dry myself off, though it was a nice offering. I nodded in thanks and took the handkerchief. I used to dry my hands before handing it back.
Jamel turned to me and asked me a question, “You were talking to him when we were walking back, do you have some way of understanding him even if he isn’t talking.” I scratched my head getting my hand wet again, Dawn had been able to hear Lobatae’s thoughts too so I didn’t really know how to explain it to someone else.
However I managed to try an explanation, “He isn’t really able to use his mouth to talk yet because he isn’t used to that form. However when I touch him I am to hear his thoughts like they are rising from an ocean into my own thoughts. I is hard to explain it.” My friends exchanged looks and nodded. They accepted my explanation, it wasn’t the strangest thing I had tried to tell them.
I looked up at the sky and realized that the sun was starting to set, it was starting to get late. I needed to think of a place to leave Lobatae, maybe I should really take my own advice and keep him as a tree. “We should getting late, since it takes us a long time to get home we should probably get going soon. I can explain everything on the way back.” Everybody nodded and we began the long journey back. We had to carry Lobatae most of the way and we got some strange looks from other people. At least on the bus we were able to pretend that he was sleeping.
The journey home started mostly uneventful. I explained what happened the best as I could. People seemed surprised when I started speak about, it explained a lot but made everything more confusing. Most of the rest of the journey was spent discussing what had happened and making speculations about what everything meant. However even together we weren’t able to figure out any more then I had been able to alone.
As we finally got off the bus nearer to our homes Tina turned her nose up into the air and twitched her ears. “Ema, something seems wrong. It feels like a storm is coming. It feels a lot like the night when the Tower of Nothing appeared.”
I looked up as well but didn’t notice anything unusual. However I felt some thoughts rise to the surface. “Lobatae says that he agrees with you. He says the air feels different then it did before. If both Tina and Lobatae say that something is strange then something but what should be do about it. Even if something is happening, until we know what it is wouldn’t it be better if we all returned home. If something happens then you can call me and we will all met up.”
We all headed home after we were in agreement about the plan. I walked with Tina so that she would help me bring Lobatae. When we got to my house we set Lobatae down and Tina asked, “What are you planning on doing with him? You can’t just bring him home, your mom is less likely to accept a strange boy then she was to accept Jamel.”
“Don’t worry Tina, I have a plan.” I gave her a grin and pulled the Destiny Clock out of my pocket. “I’m going to try something that I hope will work.” I placed the clock in the palm of my hand and pressed it against Lobatae’s bark like clothing, My thought about turning him back into a tree now actually felt like a good idea. “Don’t worry Lobatae, I’m going to try and make it so that you can turn back on your own but this is my first try at this so I hope it all works out.”
I could feel Lobatae’s worried thoughts as the clock slowly began to glow. I tried to visualize clearly what I wanted. Instead of the larger tree form I wanted a smaller compact version that could be kept easily. The glow once again surrounded Lobatae and then after a minute when then light receded, he had become a small potted tree.
“Wow, that’s really cool Ema! I want to see you do it again. Maybe you can change him into a flower or maybe catnip. I want to see what else you can do.”
I could only shake my head and sink to my knees. I felt exhausted, it was like all my energy had been taken by the transformation. “No, I think I should go home and take a nap now.” I waved at Tina as she walked home. I picked up Lobatae and heard his thoughts and how he didn’t like being such a small tree.
Like I had expected it was fairly easy to explain a plant to my Mother and she agreed to let me keep it in my room. I set him near the window and quickly laid down my bed. I only managed to get a short break before being called down to eat dinner. It was only after dinner that I was able to finally collapse on my bed and fall asleep. I’m not certain when it happened but I was hearing something in my sleep. However it wasn’t the same as the other dreams I had previously had. This time everything was dark, I could hear something move in the darkness. Despite the fact that everything was pitch black I could see the outline of something even darker still. It was large, or at least seem extremely large. It raised its head into the sky and let out a large piercing sound.
I woke up sweating, still hearing the piercing sound. It took me a couple of seconds to realize that the sound was real and not part of the dream I was happening. I looked out my window to see that Tina and Lobatae had been right, the night was dark and stormy but without the rain. Even through the darkness I could still see the Tower of Nothing off in the distance.
Sitting beside the window was Lobatae... wait, sitting? Somehow Lobatae had returned to his human form and he was sitting next to the window staring out into the sky. He noticed me and turned to me and then spoke, not in his mental voice but in a real human voice, “You’re awake, you can hear the beast awakening too.” Somehow Lobatae had managed to gain control of both his body and his voice while I was sleeping.
Over the piercing sound I managed to ask him, “Then you know what is causing it, is it the Beast of Chaos?” Then as an afterthought I added, “And how did you manage to return to the human form and gain control over it.”
“It is only a guess of mine but I believe you are right, tonight is probably going to be a long night. You should be glad I managed to turn myself back so you wouldn’t have to spend energy restoring my form. It seemed that whatever you did to me earlier had several side-effect which were probably caused by your subconscious desires. You probably wanted me to be able to turn back to this form by myself and you wanted me to be able to control this form so I wouldn’t burden you. For whatever reason, when you changed me last it give me control over this body and the ability to change back from that silly potted tree.”
“I see.” I responded, that explanation made as much explanation as any. I suddenly realized that the piercing sound was becoming slowly softer and then a couple of seconds later the sound stopped completely. I then heard the ring of my cell phone. I checked the number, it was Mink calling me.
I answer the phone and said, “So you heard that sound too.” That could be the only explanation of calling me at that moment. “Something bad is probably brewing Mink, we had better get ready.”
“You are right Ema, I have already gotten Shin to agree to help us. I’m going to have him drive and pick us all up, that will be much faster then relying on walking to get us to whatever it happening.” Mink’s voice sounded like her usual happy self but there was a hint of stress in her voice. “I’ll let you call everyone else and I will probably be there in maybe ten minutes.”
I agreed and the hung up. Then I started the process of calling everyone else. Tina was easy to get ahold of and she agreed to come over right way and that she would be at my house in a couple of minutes. Jamal was easy to contact too, it seemed that Krien had fallen asleep easily but Jamel hadn’t been able to sleep so she was wake and managed to answer when I called.
However when I called Quell I got no repose and was forced to leave a message. Why was he not answering his phone at a time like this I didn’t know but I had a hard time believing that is just an ordinary reason. I was worried that something had happened to Quell that prevented him from calling us or answering his phone. I really hoped that he was alright.
I called Mink back to tell her that Quell wasn’t answering and that once she had picked the rest of us up we should first find out what he wasn’t answering. However when I tried calling Mink back she didn’t answer her phone either. It seemed everything was going from bad to worse. However I breathed a sigh of at least partial relief when I heard my phone ring and it was Tina’s number calling.
I answered the phone and found that Tina had already arrived at my house. I grabbed a couple of things, including the Destiny Clock and my cell phone, and began heading sneakily down the stairs with Lobatae. We tried to be very quiet and avoid waking my mom up and apparently we were successful because we managed to escape the house without seeing anyone. I locked the door when we finally exited the house.
“Tina, it seems there is a problem. After Mink called me earlier telling me she would pick us all up with Shin I haven’t been able to contact her. Also Quell isn’t answering his phone either. I’m worried about both of them, we should probably stop at their houses before looking the source of that sound.” As I spoke I realized that I even if we found Mink and Quell safe and sound I wasn’t sure where to head to find the source of that piercing screech.
“That is a problem, then do you suggest trying checking Quell or Mink first. If it is those two you are worried about I think we should go after Quell, Mink has Shin to guard her so she shouldn’t be in too much danger but Quell doesn’t have any protection.” I nodded in agreement with Tina’s suggestion. Going after Quell would probably be the best solution at this moment.
“First, I’m going to try and call Jamel and see where she is. I was able to contact her earlier.” I tried calling Jamel again but this time when the phone was picked up it wasn’t Jamel on the other side but Krien.
“Ema, that is you right? I need you to come over here quickly. Things are getting fairly back over hear and I need you to get here as fast as possible.” I thought I heard some crashing from the other side of the phone. “Sorry, I can’t talk, I have something to tell you when you get here but you need to hurry.” Before I could open my mouth to respond Krien hung up.
“Tina, Lobatae, it seems bad things are happening everywhere tonight. Krien answered when I called her house and she says we need to get over there as soon as possible.” I motioned and set off running toward Krien’s house, “I hope you have managed to control you body well enough to run Lobatae because me and Tina are fairly good at it.”
Even though I got agreement from Lobatae about his ability to run we wasn’t as good at it as me and Tina so we had to slow down a bit for him to keep up. Since he used to be a tree I guess being able to run fast wasn’t something he learned.
Even at the reduced pace we were able to reach Krien’s house in a fairly short time. It was much closer then Mink or Quell’s houses. As we arrived I knew something was wrong here. While it was night the area around Krien’s house was completely dark. The streetlights had all gone out for about a block radius. I could barely see into the inky blackness because the sky was overcast and there was no light from the stars or moon to guide me.
Thinking quickly I drew the Destiny Clock out of my pocket and it quickly began to give off a soft glow. I was getting the hang of using the clock to make things happen. The glow wasn’t very much but it was enough to see by. So lit by only the glow of the Destiny clock we continued closer to Krien’s house. Tina probably didn’t need the soft light to make her way though the darkness but I, and probably Lobatae, did.
I crept through the darkness, however I didn’t make a big effort to stay quiet. The light from my clock was bright enough that anyone would be able to see us coming. I move slowly so that I would be able to react to anything and so that I could see where I was going.
We reached the front door of Krien’s house without meeting any resistance. However the door to the house was open. Inside the house was also completely dark. The fact that the door was swung open like that had me worried and I wondered what horrible thing was in the darkness down there, well besides Jamel I mean. I took another step into the house, I couldn’t leave either Krien or Jamel inside there. Some people might call what I did heroic or maybe crazy but I like to think of it as friendship.
As I entered the living room I found the monster that was responsible for what had happened there. In the living room sitting on a bloodstained couch, cloaked in an even darker darkness that the light from my clock was barely able to penetrate, was Etern Void. Her black hair and eyes seemed to vanish into the darkness surrounding her and even her body almost seemed like it wasn’t there. Those black lines I had seem on her body before were easily prominent.
“I’ve been waiting for you. Even though you arrived quicker then I anticipated it is too late.” Her voice was soft and deeply threatening. “Your friends managed to escape downstairs but it is probably too late, one of them is almost certainly dead by now.” Etern smirked a little as if relishing in the pain she was bringing to me. “She was stupid enough to jump in front of your friend who saved you last time to protect her. It’s her blood here on this couch. To think she would sacrifice her life to protect someone else, how laughable.” However she didn’t laugh when she said it.
If it was Krien who got hurt by Etern the I didn’t need to worry to much. If Bloodlose could kill Krien then she would have died years ago. However knowing that didn’t make me any less angry at Etern for doing what she did. I looked over my shoulder at Tina and Lobarae and said, “Thanks for coming with me here you too, I will be find on my own. Instead I want both of you to go find Quell and Mink. I’ll be fine here on my own.”
Lobarae began protesting, “But Ema, you might need our help agienst her and what about your injured friend downstairs.” However Tina grabbed him by the arm and begin dragging him outside.
“Alright Ema, We will see you later. Don’t go overboard.” Tina reassured my as she pulled Lobarae outside. It put me at ease to see that Tina trusted me enough to leave now. After they were gone I turned back to Etern who was still sitting on the couch.
Etern stood up once the door was shut behind Tina. “I don’t know why you do something as stupid as sent them off but it makes me job easier. You really must want to die here with your friends downstairs. I will destroy you for winning earlier and for all of your crimes.” Etern seems very annoyed and angry at me, Jamel must have really hurt her pride when she was defeated days ago.
I let go of the Destiny Clock and caught it by the chain. “You are mistaken Etern. I don’t plan on dying and my friends certainly won’t die either.” I began swinging the clock around in a circle, “You see I now know a great deal more about you then I did the last time that we met. Earlier when you said that it was stupid to sacrifice your life to protect someone else, you don’t really believe that. I know that because even right now you are risking your life to protect someone you care about. Isn’t that right?” As I spoke the light at the end of the chain grew brighter and brighter until the entire room could be seen from it. However it didn’t dissipate the darkness surrounding Etern.
“Ha, like you know anything about me. Your just guessing.” Said Etern, still confident that I didn’t know what I was doing. Like before she motioned and tendrils of darkness shot out from her to entrap me. Also like before the Destiny Clock cut through them like they weren’t even there. Expecting that Etern sent more darkness at me, this time from multiple directions. Last time I hadn’t been able to react in time but this time I was expecting it and all of the tendrils were broken before they could reach me.
“I know Etern, I know because I met her. I met Dawn.” It was one of my weapons against her. Because of that meeting with Dawn, Etern wouldn’t be able to deny that I knew nothing about her. I was right too because Etern’s face quickly showed a looked of surprise and her attack halted for a second.
“That’s impossible. She would never meet with you. Your enemies after all, and your destined to... to...” Etern seemed to realize what she was saying and stopped before she revealed what I was destined to do to Dawn. Etern’s mental armer was cracking, even if she denied it it was possible that I had met with Dawn and found out about her.”
“I don’t know what I’m destined to do to her, but I do understand why you want to protect her. She accepts you for what you really are, doesn’t she? You hide what you truly are from everyone but she knows and she cares for you because of it. She did what other people hadn’t. That is why you want to stop me all by yourself instead of relying on her.” I was walking closer and closer to Etern as I spoke. I could see what each line that I spoke was doing to her. “Show me Etern, show me the resolve that makes you want to change the future. The resolve that makes you want to forge your way though an uncertain future rather then see the Destiny of Doom that Dawn had.”
As I stood before Etern she was trembling. I was pressing her hard and she was on the breaking point. Now she had to make a choice, would she do everything in her power to defeat me even if she had to reveal the form she hated or would her resolve break and she would meekly travel down the future that she didn’t desire. One of her hands gripped into a fist,
“Your right,” she admited, “Dawn was the only person to ever accept who I really am. Because of that I can never abandon her.” Etern’s trembling slowly began to stop. “You are also right I am willing to risk my life to protect her, even if that is a very stupid thing to do.” The cracks on her skin began creeping into the rest of her flesh, “You are also right that I haven’t been doing everything I can to defeat you... but even if you are right about everything, even if the destiny Dawn has is the best there is, I will do everything I possibly can to stop it from happening.”
The looked me clean in the eyes. I was a piercing determined looked and I knew she had made her decision. The were cracks around the edges of her eyes, like her skin was breaking apart and chipping off. “I will stop you, no matter what. No matter what sort of monster I will become, I will stop you.” Then in an instant the rest of her skin chipped way like a puzzle falling apart. Now before me was a living pool of darkness. It felt an inhuman form what is difficult to describe. It looked almost like a shadow of a person and felt much like a mirror. It was like a perfectly black mirror which only reflected what you believed it did. I felt it was so much like me that I could see my own weaknesses and flaws all too clearly.
“Beautiful.” I said in awe. Maybe I am a bit crazy but Etern as that black mirror like form was one of the most striking things I had ever seen. I realized I was laughing to myself softly, I guess I really am crazy, “Amazing Etern, you really did it. You are really amazing.” Even as I spoke and staring into the darkness I wasn’t afraid. Maybe somewhere along my journey I lost my fear or maybe it was something about facing down a person I understood and felt I know that wasn’t scary. “Now Etern, I have my own determination, my own resolve. I too want to prevent Dawn’s Destiny of Doom but I will do it myself. I don’t want to have to sacrifice anyone to accomplish it, that included you.”
I couldn’t tell if Etern heard me or not but she rushed toward me. Her darkness seeming to completely encompass everything. It was everything I could do to fend her off with the Destiny Clock. It sliced through her as well as it did her dark tendrils but it didn’t seem to slow her down at all. Every cut seemed to be only a momentary hindrance which fix itself almost immediately. I was pressed up against the wall by Etern’s advances. It gave me the advantage of having less angles to be attacked by but I couldn’t maneuver as well.
There there was an explosion from across the room as the door to the downstairs blew off it’s hinges. A red roaring light came from down the stairs. When Etern turned to discover what was happening I used that opportunity to escape from her grasp and move farther away from her and away from the wall.
Then from put the stairs came Krien and Jamel. Krien had several bloody rips and tears in her lab-coat, yet even if they might have been mortal on a normal person they didn’t seem to slow her down at all. She was carrying what looked like a portable cannon which was fueled by a flamethrower, that was the best what I could explain it. The light from the burning flame lit the room better then the glow from my block did.
Jamel on the other hand was looming larger then Krien. It looked like she was floating across the ground of small tendrils, thousands of small tendrils. Her air seemed almost completely frozen, yet still flowing around her. Her claws were longer then I remembered having seen them before. She looked even more monstrous then I remember seeing under the castle.
“you again” came the whispering voice of Etern, I also didn’t hear it because of how soft it was. “i thought i killed you. you too risk your life for what you care about.” It seemed that her determination hadn’t changed even with Krien and Jamel coming to my assistance.
What happened next was very fast. Etern rushed at me once more, caring about defeating me more then stopping my friends. During the time Etern have been distracted I had brought my clock up into my hand. When she rushed at me I pressed the clock directly into what I guessed was the chest part of her body.
I closed my eyes and pushed forward with the clock. I hear a sound, almost like the light flapping of bird wings. When I finally opened my eyes the room was light again. I was laying face up on the floor, I must have passed out at some point but I didn’t remember that point. I managed to get to my feet and looked to see that Etern had returned to her human look. She too was laying on the floor but unlike me she didn’t show any sign of waking, though her chest was raising and falling so she was still alive.
I turned to see Krien and Jamel leaning agienst each other panting. Krien was smiling at me, “You’re awake, oh good. Whatever you did before you feel was effective. She let out this strange sound and then began to move around wildly. It was almost like she wasn’t able to see anything. After that the two of us were able to safely constrain her and eventually she must have lost consciousness and turned back to that form.