Chapter Twenty-Four

What is is to Burn

Ahoy, readers! Aye, aye, we're on chapter 24, page 240, newly-christened year 2004, ect, ect. Now, you might be thinking, my nonexistant readers out there- all of you!- 'why is she talking like a pirate, when it's not Talk Like a Pirate Day(11/19)?' Because, me mateys, my sister and I, as well as our crew, decided that slang for year 2004 should be pirate talk and 80's lingo. Spread the word- it'll be totally swashbuckling!

Now, this isn't my favorate chapter in the entirety of this story. But it's somewhat nessicary, you must understand. Enjoy, mateys!

You fell down, of course Then you, got up of course And started over Forgot my name, of course Then you started to remember Pretty tough to think about The beginning of december... --The White Stripes

Far away, the world succumbed to darkness.

Tyche closed her eyes, feeling things she hadn't for ages, decades. A pulsing hate that killed out her inner light, a pulsing shadow that brewed in dark memories. Her mother hitting her when she was only a child, her father mercilessly raping her. Her loveless marriage to the local whore- monger, her escape and training in the secret art of assassination. The thrill of the kill, the taste of blood on her husband and lover's lips as she kissed him one last time before leaving him dead, lying across the covers in the inn of his latest sucession. She lived to kill, lived in this shadow, which joined with all the other shadows and made her feel, for once, like everyone else, like someone who could be accepted.

i"Tyche!" /iscreamed the sword in her hand, the traitor goddess who didn't want her happy ever again. i"Tyche! Stop!"/i

This made her happy. This shadow made her happy. It was a shallow happiness, a temporary happiness- but it was more intense, more rewarding, than anything else in the world. And it could last forever. All she had to do was hold it up, with her undying love for the one who used to control her. Hold it up. _______________________________________________________________________

Humans weren't to be trusted. Bone snarled as the world was eclisped into darkness, and her fear melted slowly to anger. It was the human's doing. The humans were trying to kill them all! They were trying to blind them so they couldn't see what the others were doing-

And the first to be killed would be the gryphon Lark!

Snarling, Bone leapt at Lark, to find a human with a knife already standing there, while blood poured down the gryphon's flank and the little cat trying deperately to escape howled in fury and fear. Bone didn't know which to attack for a moment, as she stood in the gryphon's blood.

Humans were less trustworthy than gryphons- and the white wolf sprang at her victim, growling deep in her throat. The human backed away quickly, slipping in the gryphon's blood. _______________________________________________________________________

It was a second eclipse.

Finn tensed as the servents screamed and ran, panicked, from the places were the darkness reached in with greedy fingers. He, he sat in it, and relished it.

What was it about this place that made evil seem so wonderful? So grand. He drank in the shadows, breathing deeply, letting Death's control sink into him.

So wonderful. So wonderful....

Hating was no longer bad. Everyone hated. Everyone else was dirty, as dirty as he, and he didn't have to watch everyone else walk by, little lights in the distance, while he sat knee-deep in gore for their sakes. Hating was perfect, hating was the way you were accepted, now.

And the blood that was on his hands was testament to lies and lives wasted in an inn, to worlds that would fall and souls that would pay for Finn's indescent past.

Darkness was so very wonderful... _______________________________________________________________________

And every city and every world that the darkness bathed seeped in the shadow, seeped in and soaked in the darkness. And every person of every world let themselves be immersed in it. Adrian, standing faced with his fears and his sadism once more, allowed a smile to grow across his face. Vlad, furious again over Diric's death, cried out in unleashed anger. Typhlyn, terrified, moved away from these creatures, trying to hide from the darkness. Lorath cried out in her own stupidity and weakness, and for once, there was no one with enough heart to comfort her, tell her she was wrong..... _______________________________________________________________________


Natu screamed as the darkness cut into him from another world, and as Death tore at the natural link between priest and god. It was attacking the one thing that the priest would protect with his own life- his faith, his love, for the goddess Tempest and the memories of the other three that he had worshipped. Pherality immediately protected him, though she, too, was cursing- and then, the brown gryphon did something none of the gathered woulod have predicted.

Throwing his own safety aside, Natu cut off his faith in the Black God.

"There is only one way to defeat darkness," he hissed, eyes glowing with fury. "And that is light. To the people of Tarrarus! To the humans, to the dragons, to the gryphons! Gather your light and weave a protection against the darkness! Find the true core of your being, and make it into a sheild! Fight against the shadows!"

Somehow, to Lorath's surprise, the voice of the priest echoed in every language she had ever heard- the song of the dragon, bellowing and smooth, the loud, energetic shreik of the gryphon, and every word the humans had. It echoed across the planet, shockingly loud, shockingly powerful. "There is only one way to defeat Death, and that is to live! Take your life and the light in your souls, and protect yourselves and your planet! Fight for yourself, but mostly, fight for those around you. For only then will you win against evil, only then will you win against madness. Only then will you survive! Fight it all!"

There was nothing inside of Lorath. It had died when she had fled the Path of the Souls, went out like a candle. It had died long ago.

i"There is light inside of you, Lorath," /isaid Katha, looking down at her rider, wisely. i"It is powerful enough to hold off the darkness, and it is strong enough to not be too scared to do so. It is the reason you are the one to be prophesized. Use it."/i

And came again the scarlet flame, as silver fire darted from Katha's scales and Katha's maw. Fainter, blood-red light emanated from Diborhn, while a white sheen came from the Tempest and golden-brown from Natu. _______________________________________________________________________


The priest wanted to kill her, wanted to send Tyche back to being a shadow among the fires. Pulling the shades of darkness around her again, the assassin blocked out these words, blocked out the voice that echoed in his mind and echoed through her sword and echoed in the words that Wildfire sent back to her. Tyche was scared, scared of the light, should it blanket the world once more.

Many are afraid of death, but many more are afraid of light. To hold a light is to fend off darkness- and this darkness plots just out of your sight, and you know it will strike again. The closer you get to the light, the more apparent the darkness comes- how much better to simply allow the darkness to pull you in? How much better is is, to sleep and let the world roll by....

And shadows fear the light, lest it chase them from their worlds. Tyche was a shadow, an assassin, and the light would cut her off from belonging. It would choke her, kill her....

iYou are stronger than you could know. /iWildfire's voice hummed into her mind; Tyche threw the sword away. The diamond blade skittered across the rocks, and the fire goddess's voice was cut off- but the assassin could hear her as if she spoke into her mind.

iYou are stronger than that. You will stand in the light, you will be your own light, and you will stand in the fire and remain yourself. It will take something from you, Tyche, but you are enough that you can give it up. Stand, Tyche. Stand up./i

She couldn't. The fires would devour her, and she couldn't, she wouldn't, sacrifice something for a world as horrible as this one! A world that had done all of this to her!

iIs this what the darkness promises, Tyche? You are not fighting at all- it is an argument between myself and the shadow that overtook you- are you so weak you cannot fight yourself? Are you so weak you cannot stand on your own?/i

No. Grinding her teeth, Tyche threw everything away from her- the shadow, the voice of Natu, and the voice that still danced in her subconcious. It didn't leave, no matter what she did- it kept talking, in a calm, soft voice, in a nearly sweet manner. iYou try and curl into yourself, but you must stand. You cannot hide, you have to fight. Fight or die. There is no point in lying down, now- now, you are strong enough to fight for yourself. What you do in the future, what you've done in the past, is nothing in this one second, Tyche. If you fight, you will win./i

The assassin didn't have to ask, she knew. She knew how the sword could say that, knew without thinking. For FireFang lay across the rocks, and even as she picked it back up, she knew that it wasn't the voice that had helped her stand.

iI know because I am you. /iShe was her own light, her own fire.

She held the crystal sword up to the shadowed sky, and released her own fire. _______________________________________________________________________

Vlad's eyes were tightly closed as the ambience of the eclipse brought memories hitting home. He shivered, alone, stranded, gasping for air. There was no reassuring hold that Ty always kept over his mind. There was no laughter bubbling form Lorath's mouth. There was no warm embrace- for Diric was dead, and he would never come back, he would never come back, he would never come back.

No matter what Natu said, it would never be right again. What did Vlad owe this fucking world, that took everything that meant anything then gave him more emotional conflict than he could bear? What did he owe to it? Why couldn't it just leave him alone, let him sit here and be surrounded by the darkness?

iBecause we need you./i

Vlad looked up, slowly- into the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. He knew them, somehow- a mirrored image of a human's amber eyes against a canine's violet ones, knowing and guessing and caring more about everything than Vlad could ever guess.

iWe need you, love. We need you. Lorath needs you, and Typhlyn needs you. Kaitan and Shein and Pherality need you. A- Adrian needs you."/i

"I know," he said, out loud. He had known. He had known he would help. He had known he would hate the thought, he knew he would always hate this world and everyone in it that made it shit. He knew he would hate himself, for everything he had done, that he would hate fate and probably forever the gods- but he did love the people he knew. And he was well aware that he would save them. When he came down to it, he knew.

And so he shoved self-pity and guilt to hell, and whispered a final goodbye to his lover, letting the fires within him escape. _______________________________________________________________________

The fighting had broken off immediately, as the words had struck home, carrying with them a faith stronger than any had in the Black God, than any evil could aquire, or even ask for. Bone pulled away from the terrified human, letting out a hiss as the words dampened a fire that had fanned into madness in her mind, and looked around her in horror. No one was seriously hurt except for Lark, who had been trapped between the humans and wolves in the creature's minds, and had been the first victim- and even the little gryphon was still okay. Autumn was beside the white lytrope before she could blink, his lupine head resting on her shoulder in a wordless gesture of comfort.

She had trusted the humans, but they had betrayed her trust.

This was madness. She had trusted the humans one second, then hated them. What had happened?

There is only one way to defeat darkness. There is only one way to win a war built on shadow. There is only one way to victory.

Throwing her head back, Bone called forth her own inner light, and felt it rush threw her and renew lost strength. _______________________________________________________________________

"You're too late, Natu," hissed Blackriver, softly, musically. Her fingers moved in the shapes of ancient rites, a spell of darkness to bind Death's power to the world. The fingers of her left hand stroked the pendant around her neck, the glittering topaz that encased Storm's powers, the glittering jewel she had already named. Thunderkiss gave her it's power, willingly, lovingly, supporting his brother and supporting his master. "You're too late. It's over. They will fall."

Inner fire. Fire was merely a temporary flare, never power. Power came from darkness, from the inner shadows inside every soul. She whispered that into their minds, letting it spread like the disease it was. And she felt some grab to it, hold to it.

And yet, some let their fires free, ignoring the whispers from their inner shadows.
"No," whispered Blackriver, letting the hiss travel thorugh the minds of the humans, of the wolves and the gryphons and the dragons and the others who watched the shadowed sky. "You are making a very poor decision."

She reached over to secure the shield over the world, but she felt resistance as the strong and the brave fought her temptation as hard as they could. Those who the heroes called strong- but she thought them weak, weak enough to fear the power she promised them, and sacrifice pieces of themselves to nothing at all.

And then all she saw was a golden flare, and heard the gryphon priest's voice in her mind. His name, she knew, was Natu, and he had worshipped the gods before she was born. He knew their ways, he was the mate of the Tempest, and he had brought to life this conflagoration.

"Sorcerress," he hissed, coldly. "You weave the shadows from your fingers, and yet you cannot control your own head. You call those who aid us weak, and yet you do not use your own power for yourself. You are a slave."

She didn't listen to him. She stayed silent, kept her tongue in check, and her eyes averted from his unwavering glow. She knew that the Tempest had projected him there, to try and stop her from her magics- but that only meant they were afraid, truly afraid, of her. That only meant she had won, in the end.

"You don't do this of your own free will. You do it because someone commands you."

Still, Blackriver did not reply.

"You do it because you are weak."

"Weak?" Her whisper held more levels of contempt than she had ever heard before, but she barely noticed. "Weak? And yet, it is you that relies on someone else's power to pull you through. It is you that depends on the will of someone else to live. I may only have it from aiding a god, but I have magic of my own, priest. I do not have to beg the aid of god or mortal, for I am the one who aids them. You overlook your own weakness to try and pull me back, and throw insults to others that may be better applied to your own damned feathers."

The strange creature made of light shook his golden head. "Are you that foolish, sorcerress? That thick-headed, that you cannot discern the strong from the weak?" He shook his head again, this time in a strange, nostalgic sadness. "I pity you. It is strange- once, I wanted the gods to give me power, as well. But as often as not, I have found, even one who is mortal and weak can find power enough inside of them. The gods equip us with what we need to get through life."

"Is that so?" Blackriver smiled, a cruel smile. "Sometimes, I've found, you have to give them a little assistance. But that's just me." And she tightened her fingers, a strange, sudden movement, calling bindings of shadow and darkness to tighten around the glowing soul of the gryphon. "Can you save yourself, priest? Or do you need your mate to come and help you? Do you still believe in inner light, you little bastard?"

For a moment, there was silence, as the shadows crept over Natu to kill out the golden light. Then the light shivered, wavered, almost as if it were laughing. And Natu said simply, "I do."

Then the light flared in a flame too bright to look at, killing the shadows utterly and completely. There was another flare, brighter than any flame Blackriver had seen, and the gryphon was gone, returned to whereever he had come from.

Thunderkiss pulsed in her hand, and the light inside of it faded. It no longer responded to her- not dead, simply unresponsive, as if it no longer loved her.

She cried out, reaching towards her web of darkness, trying to grasp at the magics that wrested their control from her- but it was too late. The black sheild over the fires crumbled, the pieces falling away, and they flew away on a tendril of wind, into the heart of the universe. _______________________________________________________________________

Far away, a girl named Tyche held her crystal sword to the sky, and orange-red light pulsed from girl and blade to arch across the night. She had worried over it for a moment, killing herself in her indecision, and let the priest's words flow over her, with Wildfire's, letting the unseen voices comfort her and take away her doubt. What was acceptance from a race of darkness? The assassin's eyes grew wide, and she trembled under the weight of the power, gasping for breath.

Far away, a girl named Nairne and her lover, Yeth, lay over each other, giving off a pale emerald light as they lay dead.

Far away, a white wolf closed her eyes and allowed dark blue flames to engulf her, gasping as they burned through her, while an entire pack of wolves followed in suit, letting their flames arch to the sky. A young gryphon nodded sagely, and let his amber fires claw at the shadowed sky. Each human in the little town watched them, wondering at the beauty of their lights, and looked inside of them, to their own true fires, letting them escape from their grasps in infernoes that burned together white.

Far away, a servent named Mellanie called out to the others, and one by one, faint fires from their weakened but strengthening hearts grew, setting the Society of the Gryphon's Shadow aflame and right once more. And as the dark place once more became light, the ex-servent Finn watched and marveled as his own flame overcame him once more.

Far away, but no so far in the light of things, a city flared to fire- and then another, and another. The mountains in which the gryphons delved glowed brilliantly as the shadows were thrown from their backs and the fires grew, and the lands of the dragons exploded in light. The world caught fire, in the end, and burned and burned and burned.