To die, to sleep
No more, and by a sleep say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep — perchance to dream — ay, there's the rub,For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet , Act III.1By: Belle the Shadow-Cat Chapter 1: The Dream (Nanowrimo Version)
"All things must change to something new, to something strange."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Pure white wings flashed in the moonlight, flapping upward into the night sky and seemingly into the stars. The owl hooted joyfully as at flew upward, hearing the night's voice in its ears. Solana, the goddess of the night, had blessed him well. Neither sickness nor famine had struck the owl. So there was much to be thankful for. Tonight had been a plentiful night and the owl's hunger satiated. The owl soared downwards into the thicket of pine trees where its nest was. No sound was made as its talons dug into the sharp bark of the overhanging branch. It looked around with its sharp amber eyes, spotting a few unfamiliar creatures lying around a roaring fire on a treeless spot of ground.
Three cats and a dragon. Very peculiar indeed, thought the owl. Felida, yes, that was what the cats were called. They were about the size of a lynx with long legs and short fur with sharp claws that could easily rip the owl into shreds. Not that the owl was planning to get close enough for that to happen. Even if he did and managed to escape the claws of the felida, he'd be outrun in a matter of seconds. The first two felida were alike in appearance: pure black with a silvery tint. They must be twins, the owl quickly decided. Twins were quite an irregularity in Paradise Valley.
It then set it's amber eyes on the dragon that had no doubt set the roaring fire in the middle of the clearing. The dragon rolled over on its shiny, silver-black scaled back, yawning. The dragon lifted one of its smaller forearms, imprinted with a shape of a circle with a bunch of small triangles around it, looking very much like the symbol of Sol: the sun. The dragon then rapidly scratched an itch at its side, before rolling back over. A glimmer from a red teardrop shaped stone hanging around the dragon's neck caught the owl's eye. It was a Dragon's Tear. It was a very rare stone, one given to male dragon royalty, though some dragonesses had inherited it. So this dragon had to be royalty. And from the build of the dragon the owl decided it had to be sky dragon royalty.
There were many breeds of dragons in the world, Sky Dragons, however were one of the few dragons to stand and walk upright, being the blood descendants of the pure-blooded Fire Dragons that had once roamed Paradise Valley. The true Fire dragons had died away, and it was not known if any still existed. Sky dragons were noted for their much smaller build then most dragons, being built explicitly for speed and agility in the air, not for physical strength or defense. Although some creatures argued that they were more deadly then most dragons because of their potent fire that they had inherited from the Fire Dragons themselves.
The owl soon lost interest in the dragon, and moved to the last member of the rather strange party. The felida was an orange gold color, very much like the color the leaves of the forest were now turning. On the felida's right forepaw was a mark in the shape of a Solana: the moon, in her crescent moon form. Probably nothing more than a birthmark, the owl reasoned to himself. Nothing unusual about it. But why would a royal dragon want to travel with a bunch of creatures inferior to him?
What the owl did not know was that the dragon, named Dravidian, had, two years ago, sprained his wing by running into a rock wall. He had then run into the three felida around the fire. The twins were named Lunar Stellaris and Silver of the Earth clan. The golden one was called Cytosine Starlia of Light. Cytosine had agreed to lead the dragon back to his home, Mt. Dragon, despite the fact that the dragons had murdered her family. He watched the golden felida twist and turn as if in a bad dream, before quickly turning his head to the sound of rustling, seeing one of the black felida awaken, springing onto its four paws. Its yellow eyes wandered around the clearing, stopping as it reached the gold felida. It's cocked its head, and moved toward the gold felida, stretching out a tentative paw towards the golden fur, almost curiously, before quickly withdrawing it in a second thought.
"Maybe I better not wake her . . . " mused the black felida to himself. "Maybe she's having a good dream." The felida's eyes opened wide, staring at his black tail twitching teasingly before him. With a squeak, he dived at his tail, missing it completely. The felida growled, before starting to chase after his elusive tail.
The owl hooted in amusement at this. 'Don't tell me /this/ is what they do for amusement.'
The black felida stopped a second later, turning its head toward the sound of the owl's hoot. Amber eyes glimmered excitedly as the felida saw the owl perched on his branch, staring curiously down at him. The felida went into a crouched position, slinking stealthily toward the owl, making the owl moved farther down its branch. With a sudden display of speed the felida dashed toward the tree, scaling its tough bark in an instant moving onto a low hanging branch, just a little below the owls. A second later, the felida jumped to a branch that was just diagonally upward from where the felida had been, and it so happened to be the exact tree the owl was perched on. His foreclaws dug into the branch with a crunching noise as the felida struggled to pull the rest of his body up.
"Hiya! I'm Luna!" said the felida, startling the owl with the appearance of a furry head that had been on the ground only a second before. The owl was so surprised that it loosened its hold on the branch, flapping its wings rapidly in self-defense, as if flapping would blow the unwelcome felida away. The flapping did no good except to knock the unfortunate owl off balance, sending it falling off the branch and into the bushes below with a loud crash.
The felida jumped down onto the solid, brushless ground below, rushing headlong into the bushes with worry. "Hey . . . you okay?" he asked, as the owls body came into view. The owl let out an annoying hoot as it picked itself off the ground floor, fluffing its feathers up in annoyance. It stared at the cat creature with extreme distain. "Mooove! Gooo away!" said the owl in its own tongue, rushing at the felida on its taloned feet, hobbling as it did.
Luna was forced to back away from the sudden onslaught of the owl, swiping his paw at its white feathers. The owl flapped his wings, avoiding the attack. It turned around and rushed the other way, flapping its wings as it did, lifting itself off the ground, Once it gained a few feet in altitude, it flew towards Luna sweeping over his head and soaring away into the sky.
"Luna? What in the name of Solana was that?"
"Nothing, Silver. I just wanted to see the owl. But it got mad at me and flew off."
"I daresay it did," said Silver, annoyed at being woken from his sleep. He stretched himself, feeling better as he did. "And bird with half a brain would flee from a felida. But must you have been so loud?"
"Sorry . . ." said Luna, as he waltzed back into the clearing, finding Silver sitting down.
"Aww, look, you've woken Dravidian too."
"Actually," yawned the dragon, "I was awake during the whole thing. "
"Looks like the only one who hasn't woken up from your little escapade was Cytosine."
"Like that's a surprise," said the silvery-black dragon. "She could sleep through a thunderstorm."
"Looks like she's having an interesting dream," said Luna, nodding toward Cytosine. "I was going to wake her, but I decided not to. Should we now?
"Now," said Silver, "we might as well have one of us enjoy their sleep. Although, I must admit, it looks like Cytosine is having an interesting dream herself."
"Indeed it does," said Dravidian.
Cytosine, the golden felida, was having a very strange dream indeed. Cytosine seemed to be flying in the air as imaged rushed passed her unceasingly. The images went by so fast they were unrecognizable to her eyes. Either the images or she (unable to tell which) began to slow down, until a she could see an evergreen forest fast approaching. It looked strange, even from a distance. If anything, the leaves should have been changing colors by now, yet they weren't. She was now soaring over it, feeling an aura that was almost mystical and, for lack of a better word, magical. She immediately felt her body relax, feeling suddenly refreshed and carefree. Her mind drifted lazily onward, barely aware of anything. She barely even noticed anything when a pure white beast galloped through the trees followed by another, just like it. But they were gone as quickly as they came. Soon, the forest was all but lost in the distance. Things sped up again, and Cytosine became more aware of hers with every second that passed.
A mountain loomed up in the distance as she began to slow down once more. She could see a bunch small, yellow figures flying in the sky, joyful and carefree. Their figures were familiar, yet altogether different. There was a sudden sound of thunder as things sped up again, faster than before.
Finally, it slowed down again, with a feeling that this was the last time she would stop. A great hole, evil and foreboding, lay in the center of a barren ground with strangely familiar spiral steps leading downward. She dived into the hole, despite her unwillingness to do so, landing on the ground softly, making no sound. Her eyes began to focus themselves in the almost pitch-black darkness, still unable to see much of anything. Frustration and fear boiled into her heart, as the inky blackness surrounded her, oppressing her thoughts.
She saw a tunnel loom ahead of her, a light dull green light beginning to appear shine in the darkness. Out of pure curiosity, she ran down it. She slowed down as she began to feel a new substance, very different than dirt and rock and grass, begin to cover the ground. It was slick to the touch, like smooth stone, yet it had an old, foreign smell to it, like it should not belong here. The tunnel was becoming narrower with every passing second, though it was nowhere near to totally barring her body from entering. Her eyesight also began to become clearer as she got closer to the dim green sources of lights. Lights that happened to be nothing more than light green stones embedded into the rock wall. Finally, she could see the end of the tunnel coming up, her fur beginning to bristle with anticipation.
Cytosine walked into the great stone room, the material on the floor was the same as that in the tunnel, except less care worn, smooth and slick as an undisturbed pond. What she saw before her filled her with a sense of dread and fascination. A large silvery grey wolf stood in the center of the room, a long, scabbed over scar running along its neck. She felt like she knew this thing . . . this whatever it was, but she couldn't remember. Something in her mind wanted to remember, yet she couldn't. Suddenly she heard a low voice.
The voice spoke in a low whispering echo that sounded centuries old. She could barely make out the words, but she heard them:
The dark one who was once thought dead, but was not shall come and put the world in eternal darkness!
Then the voice faded slowly away into the oblivion of time.
She looked frantically around the room hoping to find the owner of the voice. But no one else was there except the silver wolf and her.
The wolf rose up and howled. Its cry was musical, not sounding like one wolf, but a chorus of many. But the music was dark and haunting, sounding like the center of a bad dream, where everything had gone wrong. The shadows around her seemed to darken, just like the shadow that was in her heart, chilling her to the very marrow of her bones. It made her long for the sight of the sun or moon; their welcoming light could make this all go away
The rustling of feet was heard, and Cytosine spun around facing a creature around her size that she had never seen before. Its coat was pitch-black, darker than even Luna and Silver's fur, with deep, blood red eyes. If it weren't for the creature's eyes Cytosine doubted she would have even seen the animal at all, or even realize that there was a something beside her, mistaking it for nothing more than a shadow. As she looked down at its paws, she noticed that its long, sharp claws were also a deep, blood red. Whether it was natural, or nothing more than a stain, Cytosine did not know. Power seemed to radiate around her, dark and terrible, yet she sensed something different, as if it was a power unwanted, unneeded, but yet it was there. She scrambled out of the way of the beast and began to run, but she was not fast enough. She felt a sharp pain in her side as one of the red-eyed creatures tackled her, their claws digging into her fur, yet not breaking the skin, shaking her.
"Let me go!" she cried, twisting and turning trying to get away.
"Stop it, Cytosine!" one of the things said in a harshly, but familiar voice.
"Come on, Cytosine, wake up. It's only a dream!" The other one said giving her a big shake.
Cytosine's eyes snapped open to reveal Lunar Stellaris, usually called Luna, and Silver holding her down with their paws. Their grips lessened, seeing she was awake.
She broke free of their grasp, bolting a few feet away with the last of the terror filled thoughts that she possessed fading away. She sat down moments later, breathing hard with her pupils wide, full of unprecedented relief.
"Are you okay?" asked the black dragon Dravidian, his ruby eyes full of concern. "You seemed to be having a very bad nightmare."
Cytosine didn't say anything as she forced herself to take deep breaths to try and calm herself down, only slightly shaking now. 'A nightmare? Was that all it was?' she thought to herself. 'It seemed so real, so vivid.' the picture of the black creature was still in her mind. The red eyes were ever leering at her.
"Cytosine . . ." Luna said carefully.
"I'm alright, Luna," Cytosine said slowly. "It was nothing, just as you said . . . nothing more than a bad dream."
"What was the dream about?" asked Dravidian.
"Nothing unusual happened for awhile. But then, these black, red-eyed and clawed, figures entered my dream, turning it into a nightmare. Funny enough, they quite resembled you two, yet eviler and viler. And," she added as an afterthought, "more powerful and strong."
Luna's tail fluffed up in terror. "You mean . . . they are our evil twins? Did you hear that Silver! We have evil twins!"
"Well luckily," said Silver, a hint of disdain and sarcasm in his voice, "they weren't real. Nothing more than a nightmare. Although, Luna, I wouldn't mind meeting your evil twin, if you had one. I daresay I'd get along with him better. "
"Was it a nothing more than a nightmare?" questioned Cytosine, aloud, but as if to herself. "It seemed so real." She stood up with an air of finality, before walking into the trees.
"Cytosine, where are you going?" called Luna.
"Into the forest, it'll give me some time to think. Maybe I'll catch a mouse of something."
"Are you sure you're okay?" asked Dravidian. "I could go with you if you want."
"I don't need you to accompany me in this forest! I can take care of myself perfectly fine," said Cytosine. "I'll be back before sunrise."~*~*~*~
Cytosine walked through the pine trees slowly enjoying the calming scent that the pine trees gave off. Her head cleared as she breathed in the pure evergreen sent. Many thoughts were swimming around in her mind, the foremost thought being, of course, the dream. Cytosine did not pretend to understand anything that had happened in the dream, and perhaps it was stupid to try. Even now, the dream was escaping her thoughts slowly, like sand through a cupped paw. Every minute that passed she would began to forget the terror that she had felt, leaving her with a happier feeling in her heart. Though the image of the black creature was still imbedded in her mind, its red eyes ever leering at her, that, she was sure, would never fade away.
Cytosine's ears twitched as she heard an unmistaken hoot of an owl. Her pace became slower as she crouched near the ground. Her pawfalls were light, barely making any sound on the ground. She crept behind a bush, seeing a snowy owl a few feet away with a cave in the background, standing over a rabbit, hooting victoriously to itself.
Cytosine had never considered herself much of a scavenger as she had grown older, though she had been one when she was a kitten. But when an opportunity like this came around, Cytosine was loath to abandon it. The owl looked well fed after all, and wouldn't miss one meal that was stolen – no won – from an attacking felida.
Cytosine wasted no more time for thought as she bolted out of her hiding place, and towards the owl. The owl stared in horror as the felida ran towards it. It gave a rapid flutter of its wings, carrying it off the ground, though Cytosine was far faster.
The owl was only a few feet in the air when Cytosine reached the rabbit, springing up into the air from her spring-loaded hindpaws. She tried to swat the owl with her claws, hoping to bring it down. But the owl twisted away into the cover of stars, leaving Cytosine on the ground with its rabbit.
"Bad timing on my part," said Cytosine regretfully, staring into the cave. She was about to begin to feed on the owls kill when she scented the smell of a felida, finally noticing a shadowed form at the back of the cave. It was the felida no doubt. She abandoned the kill for the moment, approaching the form cautiously.
"Hey you!" she called to the felida.
"I haven't done anythi –" the felida cried, standing up. It stared around the room frantically. His eyes finally came to rest upon Cytosine. "Wait. You're not one of them. Did they bring you in? I don't see them anywhere."
"They . . . what? Who?"
"Never mind," he said, surprising Cytosine with the urgency present in his voice, "They obviously didn't bring you here. I'm surprised they haven't seen you yet. Although maybe they have, and just not shown themselves. Whatever those foul beasts are up to . . . " he sighed. "Nevermind me, if you know what's good for you you'll leave right now, while you still have a chance to get away."
"Get away? From who?"
"Them," said the felida.
"I don't know," the felida admitted. "I had never seen them before . . . until now. But trust me, you don't want to know them."
"If they're so horrible, come with me."
"I can't. My leg won't allow it, I sprained it a while back. I won't be going any distances on this leg. You had better run. They'll be back anytime now. Their eyes are always watching."
"Fine, then I'll stay here and fight with you then. I'm not leaving you with whoever they are. They've done enough."
"No," the felida yowled, with a lot of urgency in his voice, "you don't understand, they can't be fought. Their numbers are too strong. It's like facing eight other felida, you can't beat them with only two."
"Come on!" growled Cytosine. "I don't care whatever these things are. Let's just go. If we can get far enough away I have friends that can help us. Two other felida and a dragon. You can walk can't you?"
"A dragon! By Solana! How does a felida become allies with a dragon?"
"It's a long story, but you still haven't answered my question."
"I was getting to it," the felida said. "To answer your question: Yes, I can walk, but not very fast I'm afraid. Just go. I'll just slow you down." He looked around nervously, as if expecting the creatures he dreaded to be right beside him.
"Listen! Just come with me. Please."
"Fine!" said the grey felida, his eyes full of insane urgency. "I might as well try. But let's waste no more time."
The exited the cave, both looking around cautiously, before darting into the bushes.
"See I told you," she said after a while. "We got out all right. They'll never find us now."
"Overconfident little one aren't you? We could have found you in pitch-black darkness while a thunderstorm was going on. But finding you in here was too easy," a raspy voice said.
Cytosine looked around for the voice that had spoken but she couldn't see anyone.
"They're here!" he hissed. "You must run quickly. Now!"
"You had best well heed his warning, little felida. But I don't think you'll get far. You can't outrun us."
" Don't be a bunch of cowards! Show yourselves!"
"Very well," said the raspy voice again. "No need to get angry!" In a split-second, the thing was in front of her, staring at her with its blood red eyes.
"You!" Cytosine yelled. It was even worse than it was in her dream. The creature was so black that it would make the darkest color of black that you could imagine seem white. Its body seemed like it had ripped the very air apart into this black chasm of darkness, and if you stepped into this hole you'd drift forever finding no end, just endless darkness.
"What's wrong, hmm? Cat got your tongue?" said the creature menacingly.
The sound of laughing was heard soon after. She spun around and saw more of the black beasts had surrounded them. But something then caught her eye. There was a small opening in between the creatures. It was their only chance.
"Listen," she hissed quietly to the grey felida beside her, "we'll need to dash through the opening in between the two creatures there, but can your leg stand it?"
"I think I could manage a quick dash, but not more than that. But what good would that do?"
"I'll try and call to my friends I told you about. I hope they'll hear me. When you can't run anymore, tell me and we'll hide somewhere. Now, on the count of three, one . . . two . . ."
The creatures were now watching them intently, an evil glint as in their eyes now.
"Saying your prayers, huh, kitties? Well let me tell you prayers won't—"
". . . Three!" Cytosine yelled and in a grey and gold flash of fur, they bolted through the small gap between the two creatures.
The one that was standing in front of Cytosine must have been the leader because it gave an unpleasant yowl and yelled, "Don't let them escape! After them!"
"Dravidian, Luna, Silver! Help!" Cytosine yelled as loud as she possibly could, hoping that they could hear her.
"I'm sorry," the grey felida gasped soon afterwards, now limping. "I can't run any further, my leg's shot. Darn them all!"
"Quick," she hissed, pushing the grey felida into a bush, before diving in it herself, "in here."
Both of the felida went into a crouched position hoping that the things would pass by them. Cytosine stared through a tiny hole in the brush watching to see if anyone would come. Cytosine barely heard the sound of the light footfalls of the galex as the came towards where she and the other felida were hiding. She watched the hole intently; eventually she saw a pair of black feet with red claws, in front of her bush. Soon more footsteps approached and joined the pair in front of her.
"Split up. Search the whole area. I want them found!" the creature said with a hiss. The black heads nodded in assent then bolted into the trees, silent as a bunch of shadows.
Cytosine looked upward into the hole and saw the beast's black head look around, and it sniffed intently trying to pick up their scent. She watched as it started to walk away, she let out a sigh of relief. The creature turned around quickly, its ears pricked up. It gave their bush a piercing glare that seemed to be able to see through the bush itself. It stared at the bush for a moment then bounded off. She waited, letting the time fly by. Each moment felt like an eternity.
She listened; all was quiet except for the steady hum of the crickets. Warily, Cytosine slowly crawled out of the bush. Her ears were behind her head in agitation and she could feel her muscles begin to tighten up in anticipation and fear.
A loud shrill yowl echoed through the still forest. Cytosine spun around, saw the black creature jump from a tree, and seem to fly toward her. The impact of the creature sent her crashing into a tall pine tree. Then the creature launched another assault. This time Cytosine was ready, she leap to her feet, dodging neatly out of the way, then pounced at the creature, giving it the full extent of her teeth and claws. The creature shook her off, snarling in rage, before head butting Cytosine. She went head over tail into a tree, gasping for breath. The beast was all over her in a second, and they rolled along the ground biting and scratching.
"No one can defeat a Galex!" screeched the creature, as it tried to bite Cytosine with his fangs.
"We'll see about that!" came Cytosine's answer. "But first, lets see how fast you can run!
With a sudden burst of energy, she threw the creature off her of, running into the distance. Trees flashed by her as she ran, hoping that she was giving Dravidian time to get to her and time for the grey felida to escape. Red eyes popped out of the trees, leering at her from the bushes beside her; somehow, it was keeping up with her. But how? Surely, this Galex couldn't be faster than a felida? More pairs of red eyes appeared, with their black forms running, joining that of the other Galex, melding into the darkness. Cytosine was sure they weren't gone, so she kept running. The head galex that had been chasing her from the start sprang onto the trail, forcing Cytosine to make a quick turn, skidding around the corner at full speed. Cytosine ran onward, twisting and turning in complete disorder with all the agility her feline body possessed. But that seemingly wasn't enough.
She ran for what seemed like to her an eternity, it was like and endless nightmare. She had to force herself with ever few seconds that passed to go faster, to keep even slightly ahead of the Galex was a challenge. Her breathing was coming in raspy gasps, her longs burning and legs burning with every breath, until she was almost sure that they would her legs would snap and her lungs explode. The Galexs' never stopped or showed any sign of exhaustion. She jumped over a familiar log, yowling in despair as realization hit her. They were herding her: taking her back to the place she had started. She wasn't even sure how much longer she could keep this speed up.
"By Solana," she gasped. "Some evil gives speed to these creatures!"
Cytosine yowled in pain as she felt a sharp impact at her side, before skidding a few feet away, with the galex was now on top of her, pinning her down with his weight. "I told you, no one can defeat a Galex, nor can they run from them," said the Galex. "Oh and don't even think about running again. Or you'll regret it." Right on cue eight Galex appeared from the shadows, their figures surrounding them.
The grey felida was chased into the center of the ring by one of the galex. He limped slowly to Cytosine and whispered: "I told you that you should have left me, but thank you. At least you gave me a chance, to be free again."
"There's still hope," whispered Cytosine.
The Galex that was pinning Cytosine down dug his claws deeper into Cytosine's fur and spoke menacingly to Cytosine, "You now are the property of our master. You will serve him until the end of your days."
Their master? Could that have been the thing that she had saw in her dream? That big, furry wolf-like creature? The very thought filled her with terror, she couldn't—wouldn't—serve him, no matter what.
"No…" Cytosine whimpered quietly, looking up into the star filled sky. Where were they? Had they even heard her? "Dravidian." She yelled into the sky, hoping somehow that he would hear her.
A/N: I hope that was at least some improvement. And Digidaydreamer, if you're reading this, I hope the character's conversations aren't quite so unreal. I noticed that too, and it bothered me. I hope I fixed that . . .
Please review! I'll be grateful. And yes, you do pick a Stat for Spirit Guardians, even if you already have read the old chapter 1.