The ghostly librarian waved goodbye to us, our horses clomping away. Silence hung between us, Viktor looking over at me oddly. This was to be expected because I haven’t spoken a single word since yesterday. Even Lottie was watching me intensely, everyone making me feel awkward. Birds chirped cheerfully around me, my black silk dress feeling wrong on my skin. Tears welled up in my eyes, the bright morning sunshine feeling wrong.
“Are you okay, my darling?” William queried, his hand touching my shoulder. “You haven’t smiled once today.” Rubbing the back of my head, a worn smile dimmed my face. It all felt wrong, so wrong.
“I am just tired.” I blurted out, staring ahead. “I guess the last battle took a lot out of me.” Viktor glowered in my direction, his quick mind catching my lie. His lips parted to speak, a burnt forest looming in front of us. Black smoke curled into the sky, ash snowing around us. A single person collapsed to her knees sobbing in the middle of the wreckage. Approaching carefully, the girl looked up at me, a sick grin on her face. Black eyes bore into mine, the girl disappearing in a puff of smoke. Fright paralyzed me, my eyes falling on the net underneath my feet. A sharp twinge rang in my ears, the magical rope draining my powers as the net wrapped around me.
My head throbbed ferociously, a dull ache tormenting my muscles. Viktor cried out, a giant spider lady rising up. Eight red eyes blinked back at me, purple poison dripping from its hairy fangs. Her sleek red hair blew in the breeze, the ground quaking with each step. A shiver ran down my spine, a clicking noise echoing in the still air. Searching behind her, a red gem caught my eyes. The blood red gem shimmered in her larger abdomen, dark energy curling off of it. First thing first, I had to get out of this blasted net. Ice crept up the rope, William smiling warmly up at me. The rope shattered, hot smoky air rushing around me as the ground came into view. Viktor leapt from where he was standing, my body crashing into his arms. Unnatural screeches erupted from the creature, Boran tossing me my blade. Still aching something mighty fierce, I leapt into the air. Bones cracked, her spider leg pinning me to the ground. Cold sweat dripped off my brow, my skin growing clammy. A glob of venom hovered my face, words escaping me for some reason. Hacking violently, her leg freed me. The ground dissolved where I once was, managing to roll out of the way in time.
“Get the stone on her back!” I hollered, four of her legs coming at my face. “I just have to say that I hate spiders.” Sudden realization dawned on me, she was a dream walker. However they were meant to give you sweet dreams not nightmares. Razor-sharp pain shot through my body, a spider leg running through my stomach.
“You know what I am!” She hissed, her head snapping towards me. “I much prefer nightmares. They taste so much sweeter.” Blood dripped onto the ground, vision blurring. Trembling violently, my sword clattered next to me. Voices of my friend faded in and out, exhaustion winning. Cruel restless slumber opened the bridge into her world.
Gizmo hovered over me, a strange machine whirring incessantly, strange words tumbling from my lips. Blue light bathed the ancient crumbling rubble, my last breath leaving my body. My companions cried out, furious dark looks dimming their faces. The scene jerked to my friends sobbing over a six foot deep whole, an ebony coffin sinking in slowly. Cold sweat dripped from my brow, tears welling up in my eyes.
“I am so sorry!” I pleaded, falling to my knees. “I had to. I didn’t want to leave you.” A skeletal hand gripped my shoulder, ebony walls hugging my body. Clawing desperately, shouts of help exploded from my lips. Hot salty tears of panic flooded down my face, a gentle voice jerking me out of my hysteria. The lid opened, a tender looking spirit pulled me out. Her green hair floated around her, soft wool robes drifting over her body. Glowing green eyes met mine, then looked away shamefully.
“Free me.” She begged, pressing her palms together. “Only you shatter the stone from the inside.” Her pleasant image blurred to a dark shadow with red glowing eyes. Terror widened my eyes, storm clouds rumbling above me. My heel spun around, only for a happy Viktor to be dancing on my grave. Fresh tears streamed down my cheeks, his face turning towards me.
“You are no longer my burden, and I am finally free.” He gloated gleefully, a disgruntled Lottie stepping next to him. “Tell her how you feel, Lottie.” Tears streamed down her face, her little fists clenching tightly. A burning sensation stung on my cheek as her hand slammed into my face.
“I hate you for leaving me!” She blubbered, my heels spinning to leave. Ice crept up my skin, an irked William glowering in my direction. Dark energy oozed off of him, his mouth moving but my ears hearing nothing. Shoving him off of me, my bare feet pounded against the gnarly ground to black circle. A red heart beat in the center, inky blackness devouring the red. My friends’ voices echoed around me, my head throbbing aggressively.
“Leave me alone!” I screamed, grabbing the sides of my head. “I said leave me alone!” Relief washed over me, the voices going silent. Nothing, I heard nothing. Stepping into the circle, the heart beat faster. My blade slid into my clammy palms, the blade over my head. I was about to strike, a faceless version of my mother grabbing my hand.
“Oh, just give up and die.” She whispered in my ear, her bony finger wiping away my tears. “I should have never had you. You took everything away from me.” The dirt beneath my feet was soaked with tears, the blade sinking into the still beating heart. The ground quaked beneath my feet, the scene shattering in front of my numb eyes. My mother’s words ran through my head, pale hands grabbing mine.
“It is over.” The green haired dream walker comforted me, a warm smile greeting me. “It is time to go back.” Green sparkles rained down around me, the scene fading away.
Jerking away, my head slammed into Viktor’s. Shivers of fright wracked my body, real tears flooding from my eyes. Concerned eyes and bruised up companions surrounded me. The black silk was drenched with my sweat, my arms wrapping around Viktor’s waist. My head rested on his chest, my fingers gripping the back of his shirt.
“I can’t sacrifice myself!” I blurted out, shaking my head. “I need to live!” Confusion twisted everyone’s face, Viktor wiping away my tears. His crooked grin warmed my heart, the dream walker staring into my eyes.
“You will have to fight for the rest of your life with that choice.” She warned, playing with my hair. “There is a way to bring light and darkness together. Just kill Gizmo. Your mother is dead, correct?” Her lips saying my mother sent me back into my mental hell. Nodding numbly, she faded away. Oakley hovered over my open wound, the bloody hole sealing shut. Her chipper energy was darker, a hint of depression in her eyes.
“Please stay with us.” She exclaimed, kissing my hand. “We will always fight by your side. Everyone knows that evil is never truthfully gone.” Tears of joy flooded down my cheeks, Boran nudging my shoulder, giving me a nod. Lottie flew in between us, her arms shoving Viktor away. Her eyes gazed into mine, her hands grabbing my face.
“You are my older sister, and you must always protect me, ‘kay.” She urged, wrapping her arms around my neck. Warmth grew in my heart, the wreckage of the fire turning green. Flowers popped up, new trees sprouting from the ground. Animals hopped by me, Lottie chasing after them. Viktor pulled me close to him, his lips pressing against mine hungrily.
“Please don’t do that again.” He growled, tucking a piece of hair behind my head. “We are here to help. You don’t need to do anything on your own again.” He just held me as the tears flowed onto his shoulders. I was going to be okay. I just know it.