Chapter 12: BETWEEN DARKNESS AND LIGHT
Sefra came to my room that night, and she briefed to me abut tomorrow. "You have to defeat the Demon tomorrow, for if you fail it will consume you and permanently gain control of your body," she said.
"I'm afraid about tomorrow night," I stammered.
"Don't worry Andraea. As long as you have the strength and will to believe that you can do it, you can do it. Let me tell you the secret of the runes that sealed the Demon – it is not the way the runes are read or the power of the user that determines the strength and shape of the runes, but the will of the user itself."
Although I had no idea of what Sefra was saying, I calmed down. "Do you think I can defeat the Demon?"
"I can't predict the outcome, child. It is your battle," Sefra answered. "However, you won't come unprepared. You will use the runes to defeat the Demon."
"But I don't understand the runes," I objected.
"Don't worry, as I have devised a spell to transfer my knowledge to you so you can use it for the duration of the battle. It's a blessing you are born a Terinzi."
"I don't understand."
"Your Fel blood stopped your soul from being consumed by the Demon, and your Terran blood enables you to use the runes."
With those words Sefra left me alone with my thoughts. I tried to push the matters aside and went to sleep. It was hard considering I had many things to think about, but I fell asleep anyway. I had a nightmare however; I saw myself – the darker version of myself – wielding the Demon Blade and wearing an armor alien to me. My vision was blurred with blood and murder; some of them were from Nathaniel's experience, but most of them were of someone else I could not recognize. None of them, however, were mine. I then saw myself at the top of a bloodied hill, still wearing that armor and Demon Blade at hand I looked at my surroundings. The hill was formed from the dead bodies, and there were only corpses around me. I then laughed; my laughter echoed and breaking the silence around me.
The laughter was so terrifying that I woke up from my sleep, screaming.
The day passed on with Vamira helping Sefra with the preparation for the coming night. I was in my room resting after staying up all night (I couldn't sleep because of the nightmare) and Alex had been kind enough to send food to my room. I had no appetite to eat however. I had an inkling the nightmare was a warning sent by the Demon inside me, telling me that I could never defeat him. It frightened me to think that the Demon had won the battle before it even began. Vamira noticed my worry when she visited me and calmed me down. I broke into tears when she did that. I always had support in my life; when I was young I had my parents, and Vamira always supported me. But this was a battle I had to face alone. I wished I would just die back then when the Demon killed my parents, because then I didn't have to suffer like this.
Night soon came. My transformation only occurred if I was bathed by the moonlight, so they let no light from outside came in before the spell was completed. We had agreed that should I failed they would kill me, even though it pained me to make the decision. I entered the room and sat inside a magic circle painted at the floor. The Demon Blade was at my side, and I closed my eyes as Vamira and Sefra began chanting. As it started I felt a little chilly as if there was a whirlpool of wind around me.
When the spell was completed I felt warmth from underneath me, and the magic circle shone and felt warm to the touch. Then I heard the drapes at the window opened, and the bright full moon shone over me. The sensation of chaos from the soft light of the full moon and peace from the light beneath me was too much that I slumped to the floor, unconscious.
I opened my eyes and saw a field filled with flowers. I was confused, but I felt peaceful somehow. The field looked vaguely familiar…had I been here before?
A childish giggle answered my question. I turned around, and saw my parents…yes, I remembered now. It was a long time ago when they first brought us – Adrian, William and me – to the field. It wasn't far from mother's hometown, and whenever we happened to be at the area we always had a picnic at the very same tree near the river. I saw the younger William and Adrian wrestled not far from a bunch of daisies. It was ecstatic to see my parents again that I ran towards them. A little girl cut the chase and I saw that it was my younger self, happily running with a bunch of flowers in her hand. I saw William took some of the flowers and ran away with it, and she ran to chase him.
A bright flash of red blinded my view.
When I was able to see again, I was at the same field…yet it was a lot different.
What I saw was the dead bodies of my parents. Bloodied, at the very same spot they were sitting before. I saw Nathaniel standing with a bloodied sword near them, garbed in the silver plate mail he always wore. He turned to face me, and from hatred his face changed to sadness.
Again, a bright flash of red blinded my view.
I saw then that I was no longer at the field, instead at an oasis. I remembered the place very well…it was the oasis where Nathaniel died. I saw, as an observer, Nathaniel helped me from being raped by the group of travelers. I saw myself fighting for my life but never once returned his blow. I saw him fell into the pond, and I desperately tried in vain to save him. I saw the Demon as it took over my body.
A bright flash of red followed suit, and when my sights cleared I saw that I was on a battlefield. There were corpses everywhere. On a distance I saw a Terran, slowly limping and used his sword as a crutch. His clothes were tattered and his bloodied cloak was weakly blown by a wind that I didn't feel. I ran to him in an attempt to help him, and when I was closer to him I saw that he was carrying the normal version of the Demon Blade. The absence of runes at the blade made me realize that he could be the original owner of the sword.
I stopped dead at my tracks as there was suddenly a huge wind that blew the sand, blocking my view. When the wind subsided he was nowhere to be seen; instead I was standing at the edge of a deep cliff, and down below was a huge city near the sea. The city was burning and I could hear the screams of its residents. It was too horrifying and I put both my hands to my ears to mute the voices as I fell to my knees, but it only intensified. Again, the huge wind blew again and subsided soon after. Slowly I opened my eyes and looked around.
There was nothing around me, except the dusty ground and the twilight above.
In a distance I saw a figure coming towards me. I couldn't make out who it was at first, but when the figure walked closer I almost screamed.
It was me – no, a darker version of myself.
She was exactly what I saw in my nightmare, but much, much more terrifying. The black Demon Blade at her right hand; her elongated claw grasped the hilt tightly. Her armor seemed ancient and was unlike what I had seen before; she wore a breastplate and a guard at her right shoulder, complete with bracers on her arms. Her thigh was covered with armor, and she wore high metal boots. Like the sword, her armor was black. On her head was a circlet covered in the runes, but was twisted and corrupted beyond recognition. I saw that her Demon Blade and armor were covered in the same rune fashion. Her hair was tied in a ponytail, and her tail waved sinuously behind her. Based from experience I knew it was as good as a weapon as the sword. Her fur and hair were black, and her burning eyes were filled with hatred. She smiled, and I saw her small fangs protruding from her lips.
"Foolish, persistent girl," she began. "Do you think you can fight me? Why don't you just fall in submission? You like what you did back at the island, don't you?"
I realized the Demon took over my image to fight me. "Never," I replied, trying my best to remain resolute. "This is my body, and I won't let anyone take it!"
"Oh?" The Demon feigned a surprise. "And how are you trying to stop me with?"
I discovered the truth in its words as I looked back at myself. I wore only the clothes that I wore before, and I had not a single armor on my body. Even my bracers were nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, I had no weapon with me. However I had to do something else the Demon would kill me and took over my body.
"I'll stop you with everything I got!" I screamed.
"Tch, tch…persistent girl. Well, you asked for this," the Demon said as it charged toward me. Its armor and sword didn't seem to affect its agility as it attacked with vengeance. Without any protection I could only avoid the slashes of the blade and using my claws to attack the Demon. It was futile however as the Demon had armor to protect itself. A slash from the Demon Blade tore my shirt and scratched my skin. When I noticed the Demon's bare neck and quickly tackled it to the ground. Pinning the Demon's sword hand to the ground, I swiftly brought down my claw to its neck in an attempt to rip them apart. Apparently the Demon saw what I was trying to do, and slapped me with its free hand and left long scratches at my cheek. Its sudden action stunned me, and the Demon took the opportunity to free itself.
Before I knew it, its hand was closed tight at my neck. The Demons' grasp tightened and I started to choke. It didn't let go of me as it stood up, and with inhuman strength lifted me several inches from the ground. I was suffocating, and in a blur I saw the Demon raised its sword. My survival instinct took over and I kicked the Demon in the gut. The Demon released its grip on me and was pushed back a few paces, and I fell to the ground. I coughed to clear my throat, and when I tried to get up but the Demon had stood in front of me.
"Any last words?" The Demon asked. Without waiting for reply it smiled and continued, "Oh, don't worry about your friends. I'll make sure they die a very slow and painful death."
I closed my eyes as the Demon raised the Demon Blade upwards and brought it down at me. Everyone…I'm sorry…
The words flashed through my mind, and instinctively I raised both my hands to block the Demon Blade. I heard a clash of metal, and when I opened my eyes I saw the Demon Blade was blocked bracers that had appeared on my arms. It was a bracer of light, created with the very runes that had sealed the Demon thousands of years ago.
I saw the fear in the Demon's eyes as it stepped backward. "No…how did you do that? That's impossible!"
I slowly rose to my feet and studied the bracers. I was surprised to see that it wasn't a bracer, but complex rune formations shaped into a bracer. The realization of what Sefra told me before finally sunk into my mind, along with the complete understanding of the runes.
I closed my eyes and let the power of the runes flowed all over my body. A shimmer of light shone from my body as the runes appeared, covering my body, and from it I began shaping my armor. I shaped them as an exact duplicate of the Demon's armor, only mine was created by light. The runes slowly encased me and forming the armor I desired. The runes at the palm of my hand expanded, and from it I shaped the Demon Blade in its purest form. I noticed that the armor and sword were weightless, probably because it was just runes. After it was finished I opened my eyes, and my emerald eyes bore deep into the Demon's red-blooded eyes.
"I will finish you off tonight," I said and charged toward the Demon. With both of us equipped it was a fair fight. The Demon took every opportunity to disrupt my concentration on maintaining the rune structure, but I was calm enough to ignore it. The battle was intense, and seeing that I was able to counter its blows only intensified the Demon's hatred toward me.
In anger the Demon began slashing wildly at me. Most of it came close to injuring me, but I was able to parry it. Seeing that, the Demon jumped towards me and slashed hard, trying to cleave me in two. As the sharpened edge went down I faintly smiled, and raised my own sword to block its blow. There was a spark as the two swords clashed, and I thought it was odd because mine wasn't a physical weapon. I didn't see the Demon's claws however, and it injured my unprotected arm. I countered with a slash but the Demon stepped away. There was an evil smile on its lips as blood oozed from my wounds, and I stared in disgust when it licked my blood from its claws. We stood still for a while, and I took the opportunity to use the power of the runes to close the wound and ceased the pain so it wouldn't restrict my movement.
Suddenly the Demon disappeared, and I only heard a swift wind coming at me. Before I knew it the Demon was in front of me and punched my gut with the hilt of its sword. The blow chocked me but I managed to dodge a slash intended for my neck and stepped backwards. I barely had the chance to recover when the Demon used the same trick again, this time appearing at my back and slashed its claws. If it wasn't for my armor I would be heavily wounded. It knocked me down, however I managed to make a flip and quickly took a defensive stance. When Demon used the trick again I was ready. I figured that the Demon was moving at a very high speed, so I used my hearing to sense its movements.
As I expected the Demon appeared at my right and swung its sword directly at me, but I was ready and parried the attack. The runes that formed the sword shivered, and I guessed that the runes absorbed the impact of the blow. My sudden action made the Demon lost its balance, and I took the chance to deliver a blow to its ribs. The Demon's armor was smashed at the point where I hit it and left a wound, and the Demon stumbled a few feet away from me. It slowly stood up again however, and with one hand holding its wound, the Demon spat blood to the ground. I looked to the Demon in triumph, but was slowly confused when its lips formed a devilish smile.
"You may have that runes to aid you," the Demon said, "but it won't be able to protect you from this!"
A black mist slowly formed at the Demon's sword. I realized that the Demon was going to use the same move that disintegrated the other demons at Neo-Earth Island, and quickly charged at the Demon to stop it. However I was too late, and as the Demon laughed and swung its sword towards me a bright light engulfed my view. I felt pain piercing every part of my body, and heard something shattered as I fell to the ground. When I was finally able to see my surroundings I saw the Demon stood in front of me, Demon Blade pointing directly at my chest.
I was in a worse condition. The attack had shattered the rune structures, and my armor was slowly fading away except for my circlet and bracers. At the point where the rune structure was broken was a deep gash that extended from my ribs to just below my throat. My sword was still at my hand, but my arm was wounded and it was painful – in my current condition, it was painful to even breathe. I tried to heal myself with the rune-magic, but the pain robbed me of concentration. The Demon stared at me mockingly.
"I've told you that it's useless to fight," the Demon said as it raised its sword with both hands, aiming for my heart.
As the Demon Blade zoomed down I instinctively rolled to one side, and as I did so I thrust my sword at the Demon with the strength I have left. The rune sword broke through the Demon's armor, stabling the Demon cleanly at its heart. The Demon stared at me wide-eyed as it fell to the ground, unmoving.
I smiled. I had won. The Demon was forever banished, and I was free. I wanted to laugh at the thought, but it was too painful. My last move totally drained my energy, and as the rune sword dissolved along with the body of the Demon I slumped back to the ground, unconscious.
"Andraea, Andraea? Are you all right?" a voice called. The voice was vaguely familiar…where had I heard it before? There was a bright light shining in front of me, and it was painful to open my eyes. On top of that, my head hurt. I saw shadowy figures looming over me.
"Where…am I?" I asked. Glancing to my side I saw Vamira and Alex, both looking at me in concern. I tried to get up, but Sefra held me down.
"You need rest," she said. "You used up all your energy during the battle."
I lay back down and with my limited view I looked around. I was still in the same room where I was before, and a few hours had passed. I glanced at the window and saw the soft light of the full moon bathed my body. Instinctively I raised my hand, fearing that I was still in my changed form. What I saw relieved me – my fur was brown, and when I took a lock of my auburn hair I saw that it had its original color. I formed a faint smile. I was free from the Demon! My other hand touched the scabbard of the Demon Blade. Curiosity took over, and I sat despite Sefra's attempt to hold me down. Carefully I drew the sword, and saw that while it was in its normal color, the runes on the blade were shining with a faint light.
"I didn't expect this to happen…perhaps it was the side effect of the spell," Sefra began.
"Eh?" I answered, puzzled.
"It seemed, my child, that your Terran blood is accepting the rune-magic."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Don't you notice, Andraea? You have a rune bracer at your arms and a circlet on your forehead, and the runes at the sword responded to it," Vamira suddenly said.
Vamira's words made me look at my arms and touched my forehead. What they said was true. I was too excited of not changing to my darker form that I missed the bracer before. Furthermore, it overlapped with my titanium bracers.
"You now have the knowledge of the runes, so use it wisely. I think you deserved it," Sefra shortly answered. "Now why don't you lie down and rest. You're tired."
I complied, and as I did I dissolved the rune bracers and circlet. With my mind free from maintaining the rune objects, my head felt lighter and fatigue finally took over me.
I spent a few days at the Mage Tower practicing and understanding how to control the runes until I was proficient at it. Sefra said that the runes were originally created to fight demons, so using it to attack a non-demonic creature would have no effect. However a defensive usage of the runes would protect the user from harm, so long as the rune structure remained unbroken. She also remarked that there were many other uses since the runes were the root of all runes and magic on Terra, but it was something that I had to discover on my own.
We departed from Kadath a few days later, and Sefra told Vamira to act as my tutor as I was new to rune-magic. The three of us – Vamira, Alex and me – then headed out home. I heard Alex said he wanted to join our mercenary group, and Vamira had agreed. Judging from Vamira's behavior towards him however, I guessed there was more to it.
Well, I had better stop writing. I had a long journey ahead, so this would be enough for now. Till next time, then.