I walked down one of the three royal purple aisles splitting the rows of black and velvet chairs. I was almost to the stage when the music stopped and I heard a slam behind me. I nearly jumped into the ceiling as I volted around and assumed my stance.
In the next moment, I felt a presence toward the stage. I turned back to find a man now sitting at the piano, playing the song again from the beginning. I froze, becoming more and more unnerved by the second as I scanned over the man's energy. It wasn't what I found that made me nervous, but what I didn't. And that was his energy altogether. Was I hallucinating? It would definitely be an explanation for everything thus far. But this didn't feel like a dream. I lost track of how long I sat there as the noise blended into one sound, nor was I sure if the man had reached the end of the song or not, but when I came back to my senses, he was standing toward the front of the stage with an arm across his torso and the other extended from his side. He took three small bows as if there were a crowd giving him a standing ovation. His silver waist coat glistened in the dim grey light. He had on black slacks and shoes, and his slick hair rolled to the side of his head.
On his third bow, he stood straight and gave off a chilling smile in my direction.
“Do you enjoy the arts girl?” he spoke in a soft honeyed voice. I gave no response, and his soothing voice only made me tighten my guard. I still couldn't get over the fact that I couldn't sense any energy from him. I bore my eyes into him, watching for every sudden movement he made. He momentarily turned away and snickered before casting his glance upward.
“I just love a good performace, don't you?” he continued. “Such beautiful agony in the creation of every detail. Etched piece by piece. Woven with the delicacy that could only be captured by someone with the fiery passion to abandon all morals to chase the embraces of perfection, no matter how much she evades you.”
He was now moving around the stage, gracefully hopping and sliding and waving his arms as if he were putting on another performance. Even though he was clearly there, he seemed to be apart of my imagination. Nothing about him seemed evil, but nothing about him seemed like anything. My heart thumped from the unpredictability, and feeling the pulse in my temples did nothing to help my condition. I supposed that the only way to relax was to take a little initiative.
Alright, play it cool, Ka'Lyla.
“Who are you, and what are you doing here?” I asked brusquely.
“Who am I?” he mocked. “Who are any of us but players on a stage. As for our purpose, well, I'm not one to decide that. But let's say that I have a unique interest in the mark being scorched onto the world.”
Mark being scorched on the world? What the hell is this guy on?
“Would you mind a little, you know, elaboration?”
He responded with another wicked grin in my direction.
“I've seen a lot in my lifetime. And watching certain events have piqued my interest-” he trailed off for a moment, curling his index finger to his chin.
“-Sparked my imagination, I suppose is a better phrasing.” He nodded, satisfied with his choice of words.
“You see, watching these events have given me a wonderful idea for a tale. Would you like to hear it? It has quite the interesting development.”
The more he talked, the more my heart's thump grew ever prevelant. The way he grinned, and cocked his head, as if he were scheming something. This whole situation had me nervous. To say that this mission hadn't gone according to plan would be a massive understatement. There was nothing even remotely close to this scenario in the calculations I'd thought of. No ships, no pirates, a labryinth of books and now a theatre that would rival even the classiest of cultures? I wouldn't expect this even if someone had told me about it.
I held my silence as the man looked on. Apart of me was curious, and seeing as he completely deflected my last question, I figured hearing him out would be the only way to gauge anything about him. He must have taken the hint, because his eyes lit up like a child.
“See,” he began, “in its beginnings, there are two children, who meet in the most unorthodox of ways. A very troubled boy, and a very peculiar girl. Their first meeting isn't much. In fact, any other child would have gone off and left the boy to himself. But the girl, however, becomes intrigued by the boy. The way he just sits and looks at the clouds. Barely any movement, yet the ever present aura that surrounds him would be enough to energize a community. And instead of going back into her own world, she stays in his. And she befriends him. And it's the most innocent of friendships. Simply enjoying the presence of one another. And little by little, their two worlds begin to merge into each other, with them each acting as gates for the other. And on they grow, and eventually the boy begins laughing, and the girl begins to see the world differently. Their worlds ever intertwining until they become secret lovers. Pure and innocent.”
What is this?
My heart had begun pounding. This was hitting way too close to home just to be some coincidental tale. The glare in his eye seemed to be looking directly into my head, as if he knew the importance of the underlying themes in his message.
“Little did the girl know,” he slithered on, “she'd made a hole in the boy's heart. And when the darkness of the boy grew, so did his internal confliction. And on she looked as the boy fell ill, unable to do anything but hope that eventually her lover would be able to overcome the distance put between them. But she could not offset the boy's destiny, and so fate took over, as tragedy struck. And the boy vanished, but the girl refused to accept fate's offering. Unlucky for fate, for the hole in the boy's heart remained ever present, even though he could no longer remember the pain it caused. And so our tale begins with our heroine.”
My hands were now sweating, and I took a large gulp. I felt like I was beginning to suffocate. As his glare remained casted on me, the presence around me grew darker and darker. I suddenly heard his voice behind me before he'd even disappeared off the stage.
“Will she be able to purge her own darknesses for her lover?” he whispered into my ear.
I shrieked and stumbled down as the man now stood behind me with a bloody dagger in his hand. I looked down to see that I now had a freshly open wound on my stomach.
I clutched the wound and the blood oozed through my hand and between my fingers. There was no physical pain, but the psychological distress was almost enough to send me into shock.
There's so much blood? What do I do? Am I going to bleed out? What do I do?
The man came closer and my panic spreaded as I sprawled back.
“Or will our heroine perish to the fear before her?”
I stumbled as I pushed myself to my feet. I needed to put some distance between me and this man. I turned to run, but ripped right into his dagger at the exact same spot. This time, I felt it pierce my insides, and I let out a small yelp and pushed off of him. I backstepped and forced myself into a trembling fighting stance. The room seemed to shake uncontrollably, and my breath echoed inside my head.
His eyes changed to a bloody red and black, and his energy incremented. The atmosphere turned cold as if the reaper was curling his fingers around my body. It was like death wanted to toy with me, subjecting me to as much pain as possible until I'd begin begging for death to save me.
The man darted toward me, and I let out a despairing wail, forcing myself to move. I side-stepped and flailed a desperate fist to his face , followed by a kick to his chest that sent him flying over the chairs and smashing into a wall. He fell to one knee, and kept his eyes on me as he licked his lips and dragged his knife across torso.
“No, no no, that won't do my dear girl. Fighting for survival is the equivalent of fighting not to die. There's no purpose in it. You'd might as well live a life in hopes that your lover came running back to you.”
Tears were streaming down my face, both in agony and desperation.
What the fuck is this!? Some sick joke? Some ploy meant to pry on my emotions with Sy?
A crack to my ribs interrupted my thoughts and sent me flying to the other side. I hit the middle row, taking a good chunk of the chairs with me into the aisle. I got to one knee, and extended my arm, letting my energy trickle down until it formed my spectral spear.
“Now that's more like it,” he broke in.
“Shut up!” I charged toward him, swinging wildly, desperately trying to get him to back off long enough for me to get away. He sidestepped with ease, and planted a roundhouse kick to my ribs. I recovered quickly, and continued my assault before throwing the spear and doing a fury on his face with my fists, sending him sailing into the stage.
I have to regroup with the others.
I turned and dashed toward the door, but a hand pulled my ankles up just as I reached the door, and I face planted into the ground before being lifted up and meeting the eyes of the man again.
“You can't leave now. The fun is just beginning.”
He gave me another crack to the ribs that sent me flying back toward the stage.
Another force drilled into my spine mid-air, causing me to wail in response as a shock of pain erupted in my body. I crashed face first into the ground, and moaned at the oncoming headache.
“Is this all the willpower you have my love?” the man mocked. He picked me up by my hair, and forced me to face him. His smile faded.
“I can see all the doubt inside your eyes,” he remarked. “All the fear. All the questions. More importantly, I see all the emptiness. You're physically here, yet your mind is in a place far from this one. You can't even focus on what's in front of you, because you're too afraid of what it might be. Such a naive girl, you are. All your internal confliction. Will you have to kill? Will you have to abandon your own morals and sanity? I can see these questions of self-doubt all throughout your conscious. All the wishes that things would just return to normal.”
He threw me into the stage where I felt another spike through my body.
The tears continued to stream down, as the insistent fear and uneasiness kept shelter in my heart. He walked closer and my headache added a small echo to his voice.
“What purpose is there in your existence? You have a path set out right before your eyes, yet you insist on walking with a blindfold because of your fear of the objects in the distance.”
He flashed his dagger again, and I darted up and stumbled back into my stance as he stalked closer.
“You've been fighting this entire time, hoping that by some blind luck you will proceed on. As if freezing and pretending this isn't happening will save you. Well, I'm going to tell you now, my girl, that won't do.”
I let my energy flare again, forming a blade of my own this time. The man stopped, and reformed his cold grin and deceptive glare.
“A new dawn has risen. And you've a choice to make, princess.”
He held up his hand, and my vision flashed. A boy sat nakedly chained to a wall. His arms and torso were cut badly, and he trembled as the blood dripped from his wounds. Suddenly, a man appeared into the room, and walked up with a sadistic smile on his face. He took a blade, and plunged it into the boy. He threw his head back and his messy hair flipped to reveal Sy's face as he screamed in agony. I collapsed as the brief vision ended, and found I'd done the same where I stood in reality.
“No...” I mumbled.
Please, no. Please be alright.
“Pleading won't save his life, deary.”
I looked up at the chilling gaze of his eyes again, and he just grimaced, enjoying the game he was playing.
“What do you want?” I stumbled.
“A story for the ages,” he retorted. “The choice is really a simple one. If you want him to live, then plunge into my heart. And if you can't do that, then you will die for his darkness.”
My heart stopped as his wicked presence drew nearer. I clutched my blade, but hesitated. Sy's darkness. A new dawn. A tale for the ages. All helped add to the headache pulsing in my head.
Why? Why was this happening? Why was this so hard? Even after all of this? Even when it's a choice as simple as kill or be killed, why was it so hard to take a life?
I was nauseated at the thought. I'd learned and mastered targetting the vital points of every species. I'd practice on training dummies for hours at a time, depicting different angles and situations, but no matter how much I practiced, it did nothing to prepare me for a real fight. Even in sparring, I'd withold my strength out of fear of injuring someone. And now I was staring the hands of fate in the eyes, and I still hesitated to make a move.
Time had slowed to a crawl, and the man's footsteps echoed like a ticking clock. Each step getting closer to the next hour.
This should be easy. But why won't my body move. I know what I need to do. Why the hell can't I move!
The tick had reached the mark of eleven. The moment was so close, yet time seemed to stretch endlessly. Fear. Doubt. Morals. All things encompassing a single person seemed to flash through me. He raised the dagger above my head, eyes bearing into me like a nail into the flesh.
“Farewell, my heroine.”
I don't know what it was, but in that moment, all was still. My heart didn't beat. My mind didn't process. My body just acted. In a single motion, I thrusted my dagger through his chest and volted him with enough force that he tore a fissure through the stage as he shattered through the wood. I fell broken to my knees at the entrance of the crevasse, and all was blank.
I blinked, and Gem stood in front of me.
“What happened?” he asked.
I wearily glanced at my clothes, and noticed that there were no more blood stains, nor rips in my clothing. My knees bled on a metal surface, and I looked around to find I was now sitting in a large docking hangar.
Was that a dream?
“Ka'Lyla...” Gem called out again.
“What happened to the theatre?” I mumbled.
“What? No, we're in the docking bay of a pirate base. There is no theatre. You fell through a vent and landed in here.” He pointed up to the vent in ceiling.
This doesn't make sense.
“But, the piano. And the strange man...” I shook my head, and a rapid pulse made me nauseated.
“Look, just sit still, I think you may have a concussion.”
He called in Ari on the comm, and everything began to jumble together. My head was spinning rapidly. I tipped over onto the pavement, and everything blurred together until it vanished all at once.