Kingdom of the Blind (A Dais/Kayura Two-for-One Shot)
By Donna Smith
“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”--Erasmus
Kayura reread the piece of paper in her hand, shaking her head. Every time she and the other Warlords took care of one evil sorcerer or demon-warrior, another one took its place. She hadn’t realized before just how many evil creatures lived in the Dynasty realm. It hadn’t always been like that, but when Talpa took over, his malevolent power attracted them like flies to rotten fruit. After his death they’d begun to fight amongst themselves for control of what was left of his empire. She and the Warlords were determined to make the Dynasty a decent place to live again—for the conquered natives, the slaves brought from other realms, and for themselves. They were making headway, but some days it seemed their progress was extremely slow. She’d just received a report concerning the Forest of Despair. The sorceress, Nekra, had a lone tower deep within it. She ruled the great Forest and the land around it, keeping the locals subjugated with her power. But they had managed to get a message out in the hopes that the rumors they heard were true—that the Warlords now protected the people of the Realm. Kayura and the others had to go.
She smacked herself for her forgetfulness. Kayura had suddenly realized that Sekhmet and Kale were already taking care of a disturbance in the Southern region. That meant she would have to go alone to the Forest of Despair with Dais. That insufferable, egotistical..!
She and the Warlords didn’t always get along. Sekhmet gave her chills sometimes and Kale made her want to hit him on occasion, but Dais…Dais made her either want to rip all her hair out and choke him with it or run crying from the room. The others had welcomed her begrudgingly, occasionally mocking her in what was usually a good-natured way. But Dais was always so cold to her, so smug and superior. Whenever she approached him, he ignored her. If she tried to talk to him, he would belittle her. He spurned all her attempts at friendship and said whatever he knew would hurt her the most. Even the other Warlords didn’t seem to like him. Sekhmet avoided him and Kale resented him for some reason. She didn’t want to spend any more time than she had to with Dais but she didn’t have a choice. Her only consolation was that he wouldn’t enjoy it anymore than she would.
Two hours later the two of them were close approaching the Forest of Despair. Kayura held her tongue as Dais took the lead. Let him think he was in charge if it made him happy. She didn’t care! But the pathetic part was that she did care because she didn’t think it made him happy at all. In fact, she didn’t think she’d ever seen him smile without it being some kind of grimace or sneer. She never tried to probe him with the power of the Ancient’s Staff—it wouldn’t be right without his permission—but sometimes she got a sense of great sadness from him. Even a hint of paralyzing fear. But it never lasted long enough for her to figure it out. By then he was back to his usual obnoxious self. In her more charitable moments, she wondered if his behavior wasn’t some kind of defense to keep other people away. Kayura sighed. She really didn’t have any business analyzing someone else’s head when she still woke up in the middle of the night screaming from nightmares. At least her room was far enough away from the others that they never heard her. Dais would probably laugh at her if he knew.
Dais glanced at Kayura out of the corner of his eye. She was watching him again. Didn’t the cursed girl have anything else to do? It almost felt like she was probing him with her power. His life was none of her business! If she ever did try to probe him… “Hurry up, girl! Nekra will die of old age if we keep your pace.”
“I have a name, you know. Use it.”
He snorted derisively and quickened his pace, forcing her to jog to catch up. He wanted to put some distance between them. Why couldn’t she get the hint? She was always following him around and trying to “chat” with him. Didn’t she see how uncomfortable people made him? Was she blind or stupid? He stopped abruptly at the edge of the forest. Kayura was in such a hurry to catch up with him that she almost knocked him down. Maybe she was blind after all. “What is the matter with you?”
Kayura looked around her with a hint of nervousness. “I felt…I don’t know. Something odd. I don’t like it.”
Dais sneered. “Afraid? The wielder of the great power of the Ancients is afraid of the woods?” He walked on, ignoring how tense she’d become.
Kayura thought Dais was a fool. The Staff was trying to tell her something, but she wasn’t sure what yet. It had nothing to do with fear and everything to do with caution.
Dais took two steps and fell to the ground. Nausea and cramps gripped his body. He tried to vomit, but he had nothing in his stomach to get rid of. He looked up to see that he was imprisoned in a musty dungeon, stale air and darkness weighing on him. He was a teenager again, his uncle’s prisoner. A cold chill shook his already feverish body. Dais didn’t know how long he’d been there—weeks, months? Moments all seemed the same there. A guard kicked him in the side, laughing as he threw the boy’s rotted bread into the cell. By the time Dais got up the strength to crawl to it, the rats had carried most of it away.
Kayura ran to see what was wrong with Dais. He was huddled up on the ground, clutching his stomach and side. He was mumbling to himself.
“Whatever it is you’re going to do, just do it and get it over with. Please…no more.”
Kayura tapped him on the shoulder, trying to get his attention. Then she shook him more vigorously, calling his name over and over. His skin was clammy and cold as if he were sick. And the look on his face… She’d never seen him look so young and vulnerable before. What was happening to him?
Dais pulled himself into a ball in the corner and prayed for sleep. The rats watched him, waiting. But pain and hunger kept him awake. One thought played over and over in his fevered mind. What did his uncle have planned for him? Sardon had promised to keep him in the dungeon until he could think of something more humiliating to do with him. He knew Sardon, knew that whatever it was his uncle had in mind would make him wish for the “comfort” of his dungeon cell. But the waiting—the waiting ate at him until he was paralyzed with terror. Just finish it! Dais wrapped his arms around himself as another wave of sickness hit him. Images of his father’s decapitated head flashed before his eyes as he rocked himself in fear and pain.
“DAIS! WAKE UP!”
Dais’s eyes snapped open. He looked up to see Kayura gazing down at him with worry. Disoriented, he jerked away from her, scooting out of her reach. His eyes darted around, making sure he really was in the forest again. He leaned again a tree and started to get up. Kayura grabbed his arm to help him steady himself, but he swatted her hand away in anger. “Don’t touch me!”
“Excuse me! I was only trying to help.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“It didn’t look that way a few minutes ago.”
“I had everything under control.”
“Sure you did. Sorry I was so thoughtless as to try and help. Next time I see you writhing on the ground like a landed fish, I’ll be sure not to do anything. Then afterwards you can tell me how in control you were.”
Dais took a couple of steadying breaths, ignoring Kayura’s heated glares. What had happened to him? He’d had some kind of terrifying flashback. He walked past Kayura and headed into the woods. What had caused it?
With a huff, Kayura fell in line behind him, not trusting herself to say anything to him at the moment. Men could be such stubborn idiots, but Dais put them all to shame. Her head with filled with unkind thoughts as they walked further into the forest.
Almost thirty minutes of angry silence later, Kayura stopped dead in her tracks.
Dais looked at her with exasperation. “What is it now?”
“That feeling again. The one I had before. I feel…”
Kayura was running through the village, the pounding of horse hooves at her heels. She called out for her parents, but no one could hear her. The village was full of the sounds of screaming people running for their lives. Fire and blood everywhere. Where could she go? Where could she hide?
Dais knelt down beside Kayura as she shook with fear, her unseeing eyes darting back and forth. She called and called for help. Dais didn’t know what to do. Was she experiencing something like what he had earlier? Hesitantly, he touched her arm, calling her name.
A cold, evil laughter swirled through the air as the armored soldiers killed the villagers. Where were her parents? She ran to their house as fast as she could, blocking out the sounds of people falling dead around her. Home! It was just ahead! Kayura tripped over something and fell down hard. She scrambled to her feet only to find her hands covered in blood. In a daze, she looked down at her feet. Mother. Father. Their bloody bodies lay in the dirt outside the house, glassy eyes staring lifelessly at the sky. Kayura screamed. A soldier scooped her up onto his horse, carrying her further and further away from her parents. She beat her fists against his armor until her knuckles bled, screaming and screaming even after her voice cracked and no more sound came out.
Kayura’s screams chilled Dais to the bone. He could guess from her words what she was reliving. He remembered well the day they raided the village of the Ancients and took her for their master, Talpa. There were many days like that that Dais would never be able to forget or be forgiven for. He took her face in his hands, trying to keep her from snapping it back and forth in terror. He called her name again and again, louder each time. “Come back, Kayura! COME BACK!”
Kayura jerked awake, staring up at him. Her heart was pounding as she tried to catch her breath. Where was she? Someone had a hold of her. She tried to shake him off but he wouldn’t let go.
“It’s ok. You weren’t there in the village. You’re right here in the Forest of Despair, in the Dynasty. Talpa’s evil is gone forever.”
Her breaths became slower and steadier as she took in her surroundings. The two of them then looked at each other without a word until the silence became extremely uncomfortable. Kayura blushed. For all his horrible behavior, he did care! His face was lined with concern!
Dais noticed he was still holding her face in his hands and quickly let go, backing away.
Kayura shakily got to her feet. “It was…that was horrible! I was there, in the village. Soldiers were everywhere. They…I…” She turned away for a moment. Breathe in, breathe out. After a few calming breaths, she was ready to meet his eyes again. “You saw something, too, didn’t you? When you collapsed?”
Dais nodded. Nothing of his feelings showed on his face. “It was extremely…unpleasant.”
Kayura thought that was a real understatement judging from his reactions when he was unconscious. He’d been panicked and shaking.
Dais scanned the trees around them warily. “First you, then me. What’s causing this?”
“I felt something just before each attack, seizure, whatever you want to call it. It was a presence or magical power of some kind.”
“It happened right after we entered the forest. Perhaps we should turn back.”
“No. This is exactly why we have to go on. This is the kind of evil magic we’re trying to put a stop to. Don’t tell me you’re afraid?” She’d meant the last part as teasing, an attempt to lighten the mood slightly. But it had sounded too mocking even to her own ears.
Dais scowled at Kayura, pushing past her and heading deeper into the woods. He thought she must surely be feeling better since her sharp tongue was working again.
Kayura could have kicked herself. Dais had seemed almost relaxed around her for a few moments and she’d ruined it. Now he was all cold again. With a sigh, she followed him into the trees.
They walked for a good while without incident, constantly on guard. They’d seen no one in the woods nor had they seen any animals. That was more than odd. No birds or little woodland creatures, not even insects. The unnatural quiet filled them with unease.
Dais wished that whoever was out there would just show him or herself so they could fight. An unseen enemy that could get into his thoughts that deeply unnerved him. He’d used his own illusion powers to strike fear in countless enemies, but they could always fight the images if they had the willpower and strength. His illusions were only sensory after all. This hidden foe was getting inside their memories and making them relive horrible, painful things. How could a warrior fight something like that?
“DAIS! I feel it again! It…”
Dais spun around to face her. He was suddenly in the brothel in town. He heard a voice that froze him to the bone.
“You shouldn’t have tried to run, boy. You know what happens now. Don’t worry. I won’t mark up your pretty face—that’s what the clients love so much about you.” He caressed Dais’s face, sliding his meaty, sweaty palm down his cheek. Dais shuddered and jerked away from him. “You n’ me are going to be good friends tonight, pretty boy.”
Dais couldn’t move. He was firmly chained to the wall. This was the second time he’d tried to escape. He knew what he was going to get. Even so, his body still spasmed violently as Keliban brought the whip down across his back.
Kayura held Dais’s hand, trying to call him back. Every few seconds his body would jerk and his face would contort with pain. He obviously wanted to say something, to cry out, but he was biting his lip so hard that blood trickled from his mouth.
Dais couldn’t hold it any longer. He cried out as the whip ripped into his flesh again. He was weak, so weak. Someday he would be strong, he would escape and have his revenge on them all—especially…
“Now, now, Master Keliban. I don’t think the beatings are doing a thing to teach him humility. Just look at the defiance in his eyes. He’s caused a lot of trouble today. Perhaps he could work off his debt tonight. I hear the Mag k’jin are in town. They are very…rough with their pleasures. I’m sure Dais could do something to keep them entertained, though.”
Keliban smiled knowingly at Dais’s uncle. They were of like minds.
Dais drifted in and out of consciousness, not realizing when it had become full night. The door creaked open. He knew why they were there. He was too weak to even fight them tonight. Was this his life from now on? He huddled in the darkness, fear roiling off him in waves. Figures moved towards him. The door slammed shut.
Kayura shook Dais, shouting loudly this time. He wasn’t waking up as easily as last time. She didn’t like the look of him. He was so…so totally vulnerable and petrified.
Dais’s voice was a harsh whisper. “Please, Uncle. Please don’t let them do this! Don’t let them touch me! Please!”
Kayura couldn’t bear it! She didn’t know what else to do. She slapped him. Hard. Then she slapped him again.
Dais jerked awake, gasping for air. He rolled away from her, disoriented. “Please, no more. Just kill me.”
“Dais! It’s me, Kayura. I’m sorry I had to hit you. You wouldn’t wake up. Are you okay?”
He stared back at her for several minutes, wondering if she were a dream. Her words were so soothing, gentle. She would not hurt him. When her face didn’t disappear, he accepted that this was reality. He’d never been happier to see anyone before.
“What happened, Dais? What did you see?”
The Warlord only shook his head. He couldn’t speak of it. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to.
Kayura saw the tracks of tears on his face and didn’t ask again. She got up to inspect the perimeter, letting Dais have a few private moments to collect himself. When she finally looked back at him, his mask of control was firmly back in place.
They pressed on in silence after that, neither one sure what to say. Whatever was causing the attacks was powerful. Kayura was sure it had to be Nekra. She was the only evil creature in the area with enough power to do something like that. Rumors said she fed off the fear of her enemies. Maybe they were right.
Kayura had only a moment’s notice before she was lost in another memory. The smell of death floated around her, making her dizzy. She was immersed in a pool of glowing energy as evil nether spirits floated above her head. Their voices buzzed in her brain, trying to fill it with lies. Their leader, Badamon, was angry because she refused to believe what they said about her family, her heritage, herself. They wanted her to turn to darkness. She wouldn’t! She couldn’t betray the memory of her parents that way! The spirits began to chant, their words making the fiery energy of the pit leap up and encase her. It burned! It burned so bad! She screamed as she felt its power sear through her skin to touch her heart and mind.
Dais hesitantly put a hand on her forehead to still her, but she flinched away as if his touch caused her pain. He spoke softly, trying to ease her out of her frantic state. It didn’t work. He yelled at her. Nothing. She was lost in her nightmare. She’d saved him from his own memories. Surely, he could find a way to help her.
Badamon moved in front of her face—so close she could smell his musty breath. “You have no family save Talpa. You have no home but with Talpa. You have no past and no future without Talpa. All your strength and loyalty are for Talpa.”
“NO! I’m not his! Never!”
His voice was hypnotic, weaving its way into her, easing the red-hot pain. His minions chanted softly behind him, strengthening the spell that would suppress her true memories and make her Talpa’s willing soldier.
“Let Talpa take away the pain. Embrace the darkness that sooths away your fear and loneliness. Talpa will guide you. Talpa will command you. Be his forever.”
“No! Please no…” She could feel herself weakening. Badamon’s evil was seeping into her very soul. And it was soothing... It did take away the pain…
Kayura spasmed awake with a gasp of alarm. She was soaking wet! But the energy, the fire? Where were the evil spirits? Was she somehow free or had she given it? Someone suddenly grabbed her nose and mouth and dunked her underwater. When the hands pulled her back up into the fresh air, she remembered where she really was. The Forest of Despair! Dais! He was looking down at her with relief.
“You were burning up. I had to cool you off.”
“So you thought drowning me in a river would be a good idea?”
“It worked, didn’t it?”
The harmless smirk on his face totally undid her. Kayura collapsed against him, sobbing. “I gave up! The pain was so great that I welcomed Badamon’s evil spell! I gave myself to him. I’m so weak, so weak.”
Dais was unnerved by the fact that she was clinging to him so desperately. A part of him wanted to push her away, to protect himself. He hesitantly put his arms around her, cradling her to him. “No weaker than Anubis, Sekhmet, Kale, or I. We’ve all had weak moments or none of us would’ve let Talpa into our souls in the first place. But you’re not weak. In the end, Talpa had to imbue us with more of his tainted magic to keep us under control, but you… You fought him so hard that Badamon himself had to possess you in order to control you. Weak? No. Human? Most of the time.”
Kayura looked up at him with puzzled eyes. “Most of the time?”
“You can be inhumanly irritable in the mornings. Why do you think we always avoid you until early afternoon?”
Kayura’s confusion turned to mild amusement. “I thought it was because you were all lazy and still in bed.” She couldn’t believe he was actually bantering with her. There was something different about him, something more open. She became serious again. “Tell me this isn’t the dream. I need to believe that this is what’s real and not…” She touched his face, trying to reassure herself that he was really there. But then she’d felt the fiery energy of the pit just as easily as she now felt his cheek. How could she be sure?
He flinched. It was hard for Dais not to pull away from such intimate contact, but he forced himself to remain where he was. He knew she needed the connection. Her hand on his cheek made him uncomfortable, but at least it didn’t repulse him the way most close, physical contact did. Was knowing she would never hurt him what made the difference?
Kayura shuddered. “It was so real, too much like the nightmares that wake me up screaming almost every night. So real…” She suddenly realized what she’d blurted out. Kayura hadn’t meant to say anything about her nightmares. It just came out. She was sure he’d make fun of her for being such a frightened little girl. Kayura held her breath, waiting. But Dais said nothing. Maybe he hadn’t been paying attention. A long sigh of relief escaped her lips. “I was wondering if maybe we should regroup. Go back to the palace and wait for Kale and Sekhmet and come back here in force. The chances that one of us could get through would be greater that way. It takes a lot of power to reach into another person’s mind. And these attacks are short with only one of us stricken at a time. She must be taxing herself to keep up this level of attack. With four of us…”
“But we could…”
Dais shook his head violently. “No! We press on! I want this Nekra. I want to face this witch myself and show her what it means to toy with the Warlord of Illusion!” Dais could detect illusions if he concentrated hard enough, but these attacks weren’t illusions. They were memories being forced up to the surface. No one had the right to invade their minds. No one! He would make this Nekra pay for violating them!
Kayura reluctantly decided to keep going. She honesty thought they needed some help, but Dais was so determined. She did have to admit that she wanted a piece of Nekra, too. Kayura only hoped they weren’t making a huge mistake.
Kayura used the power of the Staff to reach out through the woods as they went, scanning for Nekra’s magic. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t detect the witch’s power until it was too late to stop the attacks. Other than the pervasive feel of evil that permeated the very air itself, there wasn’t anything else at work that she could pick up on. The Staff should’ve been able to at least locate her life energy in a place so devoid of life, but somehow it couldn’t.
“Kayura! Look at this!”
She hurried over to him. He pulled aside a thick group of branches so she could also see what had gotten his attention. Part of a wall, old and crumbling, lay almost completely covered by foliage.
Kayura motioned for Dais to stand back. He held the Staff aloft and closed her eyes. A great beam of light shot out of the top of the Staff and blasted the wall, disintegrating the already weakened structure. The two of them walked through the opening.
Inside they found a small courtyard overrun by weeds and trees and vines. Kayura glanced at Dais in confusion. “Is she so confident in her power that she doesn’t need guards? What about that wall? It was in such a state of neglect.”
“I don’t know. It doesn’t look like anyone even lives here.”
“I’m not getting any sensation of life, either—just like in the forest itself. But what little information we could get about Nekra definitely placed her stronghold in this area. Could there be another castle? Maybe this is an old base that she’s abandoned.”
“Let’s find out, shall we?”
They walked towards the palace proper—if one could call it a palace. Dais thought it was more like a squat, medium-sized tower. He glanced over at Kayura only to see her suddenly stiffen. He knew now what that meant. The Warlord braced himself for another nightmare, hoping Kayura would be able to wake him up quickly.
“Dais. My Warlord of Illusion. Look how the mighty have fallen.”
Dais turned, his heart half-frozen with anxiety. Talpa.
“You were strong when you accepted my power. Now look at you—weak and pathetic. You fear, you worry, you cry. I made you powerful. No one could touch you physically or emotionally. You were cold and ruthless. Now you’ve turned back into the sniveling coward you were before I gave you the armor.”
Something wasn’t right about this. This wasn’t a memory. But he couldn’t think. He was confused. His confidence was already half-shot. Nothing made any sense. “No. I’m as strong as I ever was under your power. Stronger.”
“Really? Look at yourself! You are no warrior.”
Dais turned. His attention was caught by a giant mirror standing against a tree. In it he saw himself in all his weakest moments—trembling with fear, crying in despair, withdrawing in panic, flinching in terror. Dais was ashamed. He tried to look away, but couldn’t. His eyes were riveted to the mirror.
“You disappoint me, young Kayura. But then, you have disappointed everyone.”
Kayura spun at the sound of that voice. She’d only met him in her childhood memories, but she’d never forget his voice. The Ancient. His voice had always been so wise, so soothing. But now it was tinged with anger and disgust.
The Ancient shook his head. “You have disgraced us all. Since time began our family line has fought against evil. You were the only one to ever embrace it. And now you carry the Staff and act as if this can erase your foul deeds.”
Kayura had already felt so small and insignificant, as if she would never live up to the expectations of her forbearers. She thought that maybe if she tried her best, their spirits would be at peace. Now she knew how they truly felt. “Please! I’m trying so hard. I did not willingly help Talpa! I was under a spell. I was just a child…”
“Just a child? You were a child of power! The Ancient known as Caldis was years younger than you when she died to save the tribes of Yulan. And Rejan was also younger than you when he was captured by the sorcerer, Harek. When Harek tried to steal his power, Rejan died rather than help him become stronger. If you were truly worthy of your heritage, you would not have let Talpa bind you to him. Then you never would’ve committed such evil. Look at what you have done!”
Kayura stared at the giant mirror that appeared before her. Reflected on its surface were all the horrible things she’d done as Talpa’s servant—terrorizing people, destroying everything in her path, fighting the Ronins, causing the death of Anubis. She wanted to crawl away and hide.
Dais sank to his knees. Talpa was right. He was weak now. Laughter echoed around him. He looked up to see that he was surrounded by people from his past. Courtiers and soldiers who once bowed to him in fear because he was their prince, now laughed at his humiliation. Prostitutes from the brothel laughed at the little boy who claimed to be some long-lost prince held captive. Keliban laughed at the fear and shame in Dais’s eyes and stooped shoulders. A red-hot anger was building up inside him. How dare they laugh at him! He would show them! He would show them all!
Talpa’s voice was thick like dark oil. “Yes. Yes, Dais. Show me the fire that drew me to you. Show me why you were worthy to be my Warlord of Illusion!”
The ghosts of relatives and childhood playmates appeared around Kayura. They looked at her like she was something beneath contempt. They hurled insults at her like stones, berating her for being weak and stupid. Her own parents scorned her, shouting that they wished she’d died rather than disgrace them as she had.
How dare they? They weren’t there! She’s been just a little girl and hadn’t been trained in how to use her power yet. They didn’t know how much she’d suffered, how hard she’d fought! She would show them! She was worthy of her birthright!
The Ancient nodded. “Yes, Kayura. Show them how powerful you really are. Show them why Talpa wanted you so badly.”
Dais watched as the images in the mirror changed. Now the mirror showed scenes of his life as one of Talpa’s Warlords. He was strong, fierce, in control. The opposite of everything he felt now.
Talpa hovered over him. “Without me, you’re a weak, pathetic, nothing. I can make you strong. Embrace that hatred I see in your eyes. Let the darkness in you take control. Become unstoppable, untouchable. Your uncle was strong and he was able to take everything he ever wanted from those who were weaker. You could be even stronger than him if you accept my power in you once more.”
Dais’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the image of himself as an evil warrior. “Talpa” had said the wrong thing. If there was anything in the world he didn’t want to be, it was like his uncle, Sardon. Let them laugh. Let the all laugh! Dais was beyond them now. And he knew—knew at last, the truth. This was all an illusion! Nekra had made a terrible mistake this time. Her other attacks had been only memories, but this one was part memory, part fakery. If Dais’s confidence hadn’t been so shaken, he would’ve realized it sooner. “No. I let Talpa make me into a monster like Sardon once before—I won’t live like that again. Evil isn’t invincible. It only foolishly believes itself to be. I am Dais, Master of Illusion! And I won’t let illusions of dark power rule my life anymore! WEB OF DECEPTION!” His armor glowed brighter and cleaner than it ever had before. Its energy resonated throughout all the other armors. If he could’ve seen the Ronins and Warlords at that moment, he would’ve seen their armors pulse in response. Dais let loose all six of his extensor blades at once, smashing the mirror into a million fragments. The people around him all disappeared, leaving him back in the silent courtyard.
Kayura watched as the image of herself in the mirror changed. Now it showed her fighting with her starlight swords. She was graceful, confident, strong. Everything she hadn’t been since inheriting the Staff of the Ancients.
A dark shadow crawled over Kayura’s skin as Badamon appeared beside his master. Talpa’s voice was low and seductive. “You don’t need those fools! They are jealous of your power. You were chosen by me to fulfill a great purpose and they want to take that away from you. You could never walk in the light. It is not your destiny. Give in to the darkness and show them why they should fear you! Become a warrior for evil again. After all, it is the only thing you were ever good at.”
Badamon hovered off to Talpa’s side, waiting for her to invite him in. She looked into his eyes. A cold, vast, emptiness awaited her there. The fiery anger inside her died quickly. She could never live in the darkness of evil again. It didn’t matter what the others thought. Anubis had chosen her to wield the Staff, knowing she was the one. Neither he nor any of the others had blamed her for the things she’d done under Talpa and Badamon’s power. Why would her own relatives condemn her, then? They wouldn’t. This couldn’t be real! This wasn’t a memory and it wasn’t real!
She rallied all her strength to stand, her Staff glowing as she became more confident. “How dare you?!” The Staff of the Ancients now shone as bright as a star. “I am not a tool of evil! I am Kayura of the Ancients and I am worthy of that lineage!” She held the Staff aloft and completely obliterated the mirror and all the illusions around it with the white-hot light of truth. When the light faded, she saw that she was still in the courtyard.
She looked over at Dais. He looked over at her. Without a word they both fixed their eyes back on the tower and charged in. Kayura led them down the left-hand corridor, a new confidence in her stride. The corridor wound its way around and up, higher into the tower until it came to an end at a large oaken door. Dais kicked the door down with ease, wanting first crack at Nekra.
They entered the room swiftly, expecting a sudden attack from their adversary. Nothing happened. Dais peeked out from behind a pillar to examine the room more closely. It was an odd room—round with windows in all directions. In the center of the room was a large crystal hovering over a table. A lone figure sat at the table, its back to Kayura and Dais. Slowly the two made their way forward to confront this person, using the various pillars as cover.
Kayura reached out to grab the chair. She spun it around and readied herself to blast the enemy. She wouldn’t need any energy to defeat this particular foe, however. It was already dead. A dry old skeleton sat in the chair gathering dust. It wore a woman’s dress and jewels. Nekra.
Dais knocked the chair over, scattering bones across the floor. “It’s too bad she’s dead. I was looking forward to killing her myself.”
Kayura frowned. “If she’s dead, who attacked us in the woods?”
“Perhaps the question should be ‘what’ and not ‘who’.” Dais was staring at the crystal. Every few minutes it sent off a tendril of energy that flew out one of the windows.
Kayura held up the Staff. It throbbed in response to the crystal’s energy. “Yes. I can feel it now. This is where the attacks came from. This crystal is sending out waves of evil energy that prey on people’s fears. The rumors about Nekra were right. She fed off the fears of her enemies. She must have cast her spell from here, sitting like a spider in the middle, waiting for people to fall into her web.”
“An insult to all spiders everywhere. So what happened to her?”
“I’m not sure. I think the more she drained, the more she needed. That’s why there are no animals in the woods. She must have fed on them, too, after all the people in the forest were gone. The villagers beyond the woods can probably feel the faint effects of the spell. That must be why they never wondered why they hadn’t seen her in so long. They still felt her power and the fear it invoked and didn’t dare do anything to rouse her against them.”
“If she ran out of fear to feed on, why not leave and go to the outlying villages? Or maybe start anew somewhere else full of life?”
Kayura listened to the power of the Ancients flowing through her, giving her insight. “I think her spell backfired. She became so addicted to her diet of fear that nothing else mattered. She probably starved to death because she couldn’t tear herself away from her spell long enough to eat real food to sustain her body. It looks like when she died the crystal had enough magic in it to keep it going. Nekra’s been dead for quite some time, but her spell is still at work.”
“Not anymore. WEB OF DECEPTION!” Dais let loose a barrage of blades, slicing into the hard surface of Nekra’s gem. It started to crack, dark power seeping out of it with a purple light.
The rings on the Staff began to spin. Kayura held it up to create a barrier of light. The crystal shattered, shards and evil energy flying in all directions. She then pushed the barrier outward until the light of the Staff had completely disintegrated every trace of the gem and its magic. She had a faraway look in her eyes. “Sometimes it’s not evil itself that we have to worry about so much as it is the things evil leaves behind.”
Dais looked over at Kayura with a new respect in his eyes. “Let’s go home.” They walked back to the palace in companionable silence.
Badamon’s evil spirits were everywhere, watching her, tormenting her. His voice wove itself through her thoughts as he chanted the spell that would suppress her memories and make her Talpa’s slave. The energy of the pit burnt her from the inside out, weakening her resistance. She screamed from the pain, begging them to stop. Badamon merely smiled with glee. She could feel herself slipping away as the darkness overtook her mind. Mother! Father! She didn’t want to forget them! She didn’t want to be evil! “Somebody, please! HELP ME! NOOOOOOOO!” Kayura eyes popped open to see her bedroom ceiling. She wasn’t in the pit. Badamon was dead. Relief shook her body as she remembered where she was. The nightmares again. Would she ever be rid of them?
“Are you alright?”
She sat up quickly, clutching her blanket to her for security. Someone stood in the doorway, a dark figure silhouetted by the hall lamps. “Who…who’s there?”
“It’s Dais. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. It’s nothing.” She rolled over towards the wall so he couldn’t see her face. She was ashamed for anyone to see her like this. “Sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t. I couldn’t sleep. I often can’t. I think you can understand that.”
Kayura’s eyes widened. Was he saying he had nightmares, too? She hung her head and braved on. “Sometimes…sometimes I’m afraid I’ll wake up and find that this life is the dream—that we all still belong to Talpa. You probably think that’s silly.”
“No. That makes a great deal of sense. We were his servants so long that it’s hard to believe we aren’t anymore. A few times I’ve caught myself thinking I had to report to him for something. It may take a few years for us to really accept that he’s gone from our lives and souls forever.”
“But is he? Is he really? He may be physically gone, but he’s still here in lots of ways, haunting us. I’m so tired. I just want to sleep and sleep. But I’m…afraid.” She glanced back at him, but didn’t see any condemnation in his eyes. He just seemed sad. How odd.
His voice was little more than a whisper. “The things evil leaves behind.” Dais walked into the room and sat down in the chair beside her bed. “Just close your eyes, Kayura. Don’t think about sleeping. Just think about relaxing. I’ll keep watch for Talpa or anything else that may show up.” He smiled at her.
Kayura was surprised. It wasn’t mocking or taunting—not even a sneer. It was a gentle, slightly self-conscious smile. “You don’t have to stay. I’m sure you need your rest and…”
“I’m here. I’m awake. And I’d rather not go back to sleep myself tonight. Just close your eyes and think about something pleasant.”
She did as he bid her. It was strangely easy to relax knowing someone was watching over you. Soon Kayura was fast asleep, lines of tension smoothing from her face.
Dais watched her sleep, feeling something inside himself relax as well. He sat there into the night. He sat there until the morning sun shone in through her window. He sat there until Kayura’s eyes fluttered open the next day. “How did you sleep?”
She smiled contentedly. “I slept. That says it all. You could become rich protecting people while they sleep, you know. You’re very good at chasing nightmares away. Thank you.”
“Perhaps someday you can return the favor.” Dais smiled tentatively.
Kayura put a hand on his arm. For once he didn’t flinch. “Count on it.”
1) I did this little fic to explain how Dais and Kayura started on the road to their “understanding”. The two of them just sort of pop up in Wrath of the Aesir and say, “Oh, by the way, we’re sort of dating.” I thought there was a story behind that that needed telling.
2) Again, no real action. The fics with action are the “epics” I do. The interludes and one-shots will usually be minimal action if any. Interludes fill in the gaps between longer stories and one-shots flesh out certain characters. If I do any drabbles, they probably won’t have any action in them at all (they’re humorous little pieces).