A/N: First off, I am so terribly sorry that this took so long . I've been busy with summer and school and oh-so-much more x.x Forgive me? ANYWAY! This IS the FINAL episode for The Kiirynil Diaries. The story doesn't end here, though! There is another story in the works that takes place pretty much immediately after this one. In the grand scheme of things, KD might end up being some kind of a prequel rather than the first in the series or whatever this ends up becoming... but we'll see about that ^.^ Please read and review! I hope you enjoy! ~Willow
Kiirynil Diaries: Episode Thirty Two
"It's a beautiful day today, Kiir."
Nightmare took in a deep breath of fresh air as he pushed open the window in the bedroom. It was early afternoon and he'd spent the better part of the morning doing various bits of paperwork. There was still a hefty amount that he needed to get done, but he could break away for a while in order to spend some time with Kiir.
"I think it's going to be a clear night, too. Perfect for a bonfire." He paused for a moment and looked over at her, and for just a moment the little smile on his face faded enough to reveal the pain beneath the cheerful façade. It was just for a instant, and then he was smiling again as he crossed to the bed and smoothed a hand over her hair.
She looked so peaceful, like she was just in a light sleep and would wake at any moment. Her color had returned to normal a few weeks ago, and she'd gained most of the weight back that she'd lost in that first terrible stretch of the healing. If it weren't for the fact that she just wouldn't wake up, she was completely healthy. It had taken time and lots of work to get her to where she was now, but somehow she was finally to the point that it seemed she would wake up any day now. He would be waiting patiently by her side every single day until that day came.
"Once you're feeling better I'm going to take you to Shadow Palace," he was saying quietly. "I want you to see it. I've been meaning to show it to you for a long time now, but for one reason or another I always put it off. I think it will speak to you like it does to me. Of course, knowing you, you'll probably speak right back at it and demand that it straighten up." He let loose a little chuckle. "Shadow Palace is a lot like Sky Manor, it's got a life of its own. Though the personalities of the two places are drastically different. For one, Sky Manor was nurturing, and Shadow Palace is more… how do I put it… malevolent? But sweet in its own way."
He was rambling on, and he knew it. Talking about meaningless things. Maybe some part of him thought that if he kept talking she would chime in with some sarcastic comment. Something playful. A poke at how he wasn't the type to babble about random things. That was more her area.
Which was probably why he was doing it.
Babbling on in her manner made him feel closer to her. She was right there on the bed next to him. If he put his hand on her he could feel the warmth of her skin, feel the way she moved subtly with each breath. She was alive, healthy, whole, but she wasn't awake. He had no way of knowing if she would ever wake.
Nightmare shook those thoughts out of his head and gave the still woman on the bed a small smile. "You've caught me again, my dear. There I was, going off on another tangent that I don't need to be wandering down." He bowed over her and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I—"
Something tingled along the edges of his awareness and he went silent. Still. A moment later there was a knock on the door to the little cottage.
Several things happened in the next few moments. Nightmare's power gathered in a steady roll to a sharp point, ready to be wielded at whomever was on the other side of that door. Some of it filled out to add another layer of shields around the small bedroom as he moved with measured steps away from Kiir's side and out of the room. He was already calculating, already devising a plan of attack, and then another one of payment. The payment one gets when they are stupid enough to approach a cottage cloaked in dark energy.
Whoever it was wasn't just stupid, though. They were powerful. They had to be in order to hide themselves from him and his shadows –shadows that drenched the forest around this little hideaway and should have been impossible to avoid.
But right now Nightmare was less concerned with how someone had managed to bypass his shadows and was more focused on why.
The knock sounded again, soft but sure.
"Ebon Shadow just open the door. It's me." The voice was exasperated, but Nightmare registered it and knowing that voice answered all of his lingering questions.
With an irate scowl Nightmare raked his fingers through his hair and crossed to the door. He opened the door a little more violently than was necessary, but the woman on the other side did not seem fazed. In fact she seemed almost amused.
"Well, it's a pleasure to see you too, my lord," she said with the edge of a smirk and a slight curtsey.
Nightmare made a sound that was almost a snarl as he turned away from her and strode back into the main room of the cottage. "You could have let me know that you were coming, you know. Why were you hiding from my shadows?"
The woman laughed. "What? And then have to fight them off until you realized that it wasn't an enemy at your door? Please, Shadow, I'm smarter than my pretty face you know."
He heaved a sigh. "How long have you known me? You can call me by my name, you know." He turned to face her, not at all surprised that she wore an expression of stubborn disapproval.
The gypsy was a woman he had known for centuries. Eons. She had been an accomplished Dancer before he'd taken his first steps and long before he had become the one that the gypsies referred to as their king. He had no idea how old she was, and he knew that she had seen much. Even more, perhaps, that even he had witnessed. Yet she looked just the same as the first day he'd laid eyes on her. Tall and golden-skinned with sharp chocolate eyes and feathers of silver and gold strewn throughout her auburn hair, which she always left down in loose, seductive waves. She had told him once that she loved her hair for the effect it gave, and that she liked shiny things so having silver and gold feathers were always a plus.
She was eccentric and eclectic, a wildfire, but she was also a stickler for certain kinds of protocol. He had never met anyone quite like her, and he had a feeling that he never would.
"As you will, Lady Ember Light," he said with a sigh and a shake of his head.
She only gave him a cheeky grin before taking a look around the main room of the cottage. "Well! Are you going to invite me in or are you going to leave me standing at the threshold?"
Nightmare just looked at her. "I should just let you stand there for sneaking up on me like that, Madam Light." He obviously wasn't taking it too well that she had bypassed his shadow security so easily. Of course, now that he knew who it was, it made sense that she was able to do it. She was probably one of the few people that could slip by his shadows at all, and perhaps the only one that could get away with it alive once he'd discovered them.
Ember Light made a face at him. "Oh come on now, don't be like that. We both know that you aren't going to leave me out here so just let me in now so that I can talk to you and get out of your hair as soon as possible."
For a few long moments Nightmare just stared at her, and something in his expression and demeanor sobered her up. He was completely still, so very serious. She knew that in that moment he was seriously considering not allowing her to pass through the doorway, about denying her permission to cross through his barriers.
The two of them went far enough back, their loyalties tight enough that she took it completely seriously when he hesitated for that long moment before finally stepping back and murmuring the passphrase that would allow her to pass safely into the cottage. It was that same loyalty and history that made her wait just a few more moments before crossing into the room, giving him the chance to make sure that he was okay with letting her in.
"Lord Ebon Shadow?" she questioned softly as he shut the door behind her. She didn't need to say any more than that.
Nightmare looked past her and at the door to the bedroom before allowing his gaze to shift back to his guest. There was another of those long, searching silences but this time Ember Light seemed to catch on before he said anything.
"She's in there, isn't she?" she asked softly, gaze flickering toward the closed door.
Nightmare merely nodded.
Another nod, short and curt. It was only because she knew him so well that she was able to see the pain hiding behind those enigmatic black eyes. It was also due to how well she knew him that she refrained from further comment or question about the state of the woman beyond that door.
"Then I understand if you turn me away after I say what it is that I need to say, but regardless it will not stop me from asking."
Nightmare gave another short nod.
The gypsy woman took a moment to collect her thoughts, looking out the window at the trees that surrounded them. "There is trouble brewing," she said when she looked back at him. "It is only just beginning, and it would probably take centuries for it to come in full, but this is something that if we don't stop now I fear for the fate of us all.
"There is a chance that I'm completely wrong in this. I've lived a long life –much longer than I ever imagined I could– and have seen enough to make me paranoid…" She shook her head, looking out the window again in a private moment. "I'll stop being cryptic with you Nightmare and just come right out and say what I need to say.
"I believe that there are those plotting the release of the Aeniri."
Silence was all that passed between them for a few moments, though the air was tense and thick with a strained energy.
"The Aeniri are supposed to be a myth," Nightmare said after a moment. His voice was quiet, though, quiet and still with the presence of heavy consideration.
Ember Light gave a shallow laugh. "Oh, right, a myth. What about her?" she asked, gesturing toward the closed door. "What about you for that matter?" She shook her head again and began to pace. "Myths and legends, that's what all power is when it comes down to it. Myths and legends because the passing of time makes us think that none can be more powerful than what we can already see, what we already know. You and Willow Haven are a legend as one and myths all on your own, and you know that as well as I so don't go and tell me that the Aeniri are a myth." The proud gypsy woman scoffed. "A myth. Ha!"
"Even if the Aeniri existed, even if they still exist for that matter, how do you know that whoever it is can actually bring them back? Really, Adele—"
"Never use that name with me, Nightmare!" the woman hissed, whirling to face him and ceasing her pacing the instate the name left his lips.
Nightmare gave out a low growl. "Why not? It's your name. Adele. Just as mine is Nightmare and Willow Haven's is Kiirynil. We are all both the Dancer and the monster beneath, you should know that better than most."
It was the other's turn to let out a growl. "Adele is dead, Nightmare. You may continue to be both halves of yourself, but Adele is dead to me." Her fury was like fire in the air. It filled the room with its own icy heat, radiating off of her in crackling waves.
There was a visible measure where Nightmare forced himself to swallow whatever anger or irritation he was feeling, then he let out a stream of air as if releasing as much of that stress as he could. "Alright," he said. "Ember Light. What is it you want of me?"
For a long moment she looked at him, considered him, remembered him. Back when she was Adele, she knew him as a little boy, before he became the magnanimous force of nature that he was today. Before he was her king, he was her friend. Before he was her friend, he was just a little boy, and she'd viewed him as a son.
But that was Adele, and as she'd reiterated over and over, Adele was dead.
To Ember Light, Nightmare was purely Lord Ebon Shadow. He was a powerful creature, and he was her king.
"I come to ask you as my friend, and beg you as my king, please… help me destroy those I believe are trying to release the Aeniri. Even if you believe it only to be a myth, some kind of foolish venture. Because in this case, it is much better to be safe than sorry. If you are right, then it's just the deaths of a few idiots. But if I am right, we'll have stopped the end of the world."
She let that sink in for a moment. Allowed him to grasp the undertones of what she was saying. Like she knew he would, it did not take him long to catch on. It took him even less time to make up his mind. Nightmare might not believe in the Aeniri, but he would do anything to protect Kiir, even if that meant chasing after a myth he didn't believe in.
Ember Light didn't care, as long as he agreed to help her he could use whatever reasoning he liked.
"Fine," he said shortly. "But the only reason I put any credence at all in what you are saying is because of my history with Adele."
Their eyes locked and Ember Light didn't flinch. She just gave a small nod. "Thank you, my lord."
"When do you want to go?"
This was going to be the hard part.
"Right now, my lord. Immediately. I know where our target is at the present, but they may move at any moment."
To Ember Light's utter and complete surprise, Nightmare gave only a small nod. "Very well. Give me a few moments and we will be on our way."
With a gracious nod, the gypsy woman excused herself and left the little cottage to wait outside.
Nightmare waited until the door shut before he turned and headed back to Kiir's room. He kept himself as calm as possible, as if he was afraid that allowing any emotions to flow would disturb the sleeping woman.
He sat down lightly on the edge of the bed, watching her breathe as he brushed a stray bit of feathered hair away from her face. "I need to leave for a little bit, Kiir. I know I promised you that I wouldn't, that I would never leave you again as long as I breathed… but this is something that I cannot turn away from. Someone needs my help, someone I trust. I will be back as fast as I can, I swear to you."
Peacefully, she slept on.
Nightmare cracked a small smile. "Don't wake up without me, okay Starshine?" He leaned in and kissed her on the forehead, then lightly on her lips before standing up and walking slowly to the door, as if he were giving her those extra moments to wake up before he left. When he got to the door he paused and looked back at her, but she didn't move. She just slept on.
Once outside, he looked to Ember Light with a nod. "Where are we going."
"Your deepest word that you are coming with to help?" She hated herself for this, but she knew that it was for the best.
Nightmare frowned, but nodded. "Of course, I said that I would help you and I will. I give you my word."
"A realm called Dres."
It only took a split second for understanding and temper to flare in Nightmare's eyes. "Dres."
Dres was a very far realm. Very far. It was just barely inside of Nightmare's range, and that was when he utilized all of the personal shadows under his command. Which meant that he needed to use all of them if he wanted to make this as speedy a venture as possible. Every last one.
"You realize what you are asking me to do, Ember Light. What you have made me give my oath on."
"Yes, my lord, I do."
Nightmare looked back at the cottage one last time and pressed his eyes shut. He could almost see her against the back of his eyelids, sleeping peacefully, unaware that she was about to be left completely vulnerable, and completely alone. Again. Then he called in every last one of his shadows, wrapped an iron grip around Ember Light's arm, and took them to Dres.