Lara Leona

      Marx was already fighting, waves of light and dancing blades swirled around him. Carissa's scythe almost took my head off, as I tried to force a third calming potion down her throat. Whatever nightmare she was having, it was too strong to be suppressed by just a few reassuring words. Finally her eyes opened, and she woke up.

     At first she looked startled, they relieved, "You're still alive!" she grasped my arm like a lifeline.

     "Pffft, of course I am," I scoffed, "You're awake now, but stay alert in case the calming potions stop working."

     She wiped her face... was she crying? I decided not to ask about it, and helped her to her feet. A sword made of light clanged against my shield as it tried to stab one of the shadow people.

     "Watch it!" I yelled at Marx, and got a faraway "Sorry!" in response. Carissa was surveying her surroundings now, her eyes sharp and alert.

      The room definetely looked different than how she left it. I had blown a hole in the ceiling so we could see better, and the floor and walls were deeply gouged by Marx's attacks. We were surrounded by a glimmering shield, with red eyes crowded around us behind it.

     "Here," I gave her a potion, thick and heavy, "You won't be able to fight with a shield, so it's a strengthening plus protection potion, among other things. Do you want one for night vision, too?"

     "No, I can see them well enough," she said, a determined expression set into her face and her scythe ready in front of her. She charged forward the second I let the shield disappear.

     Red eyes and shadowy figures filled her place, but I was ready for them. With the click of a button, a piece of the ceiling fell above me and crushed them. Bright sunlight rushed in, forcing the rest of them away from me.

     I ran towards Marx, shielding myself from his widespread attacks as my speed potion kept me light on my feet. I could see by his twitching face that he's trying to fight through his nightmares as well as the shadow people.

     "I'm here, Marx," I said as I briefly touched his shoulder before he moved to attack again. I fought almost automatically, reaching into my pocket for whatever came to mind and throwing it towards the shadows. A burst of green flames roared to life as a jar of greek fire shattered on the ground.

     Marx had a steady rhythm to his fighting, and I matched myself to it. Soon, the shadow people were constantly bombarded by attacks. But the same thing was happening to us. There were many moments where I froze in fear or tried to run away in panic, but Marx was definitely more vulnerable. Before he started fighting, he had briefly informed me of the memories and nightmares that would plague me if I gave in to the shadows. Every time Marx faltered or spaced out, I had to talk him out of it, and soon, I had a running commentary of the battle. I prattled on about my last battle with my team, strategies we could use, and voiced all of my thoughts aloud.

     "These things are hard to kill," I told him as he fired bursts of energy, most of which missed. It was much easier before, when there were so many of them that none of our blows missed. Now with more space to move around freely, the shadows writhed around like smoke, almost unaffected by most of our attacks.

     Carissa seemed to have the same problem. Her scythe was a blur as she whirled and slashed, but it barely did any damage. As fast as she was, the shadows danced faster. At least she didn't seem to struggle with her nightmares as much as Marx, though her face was screwed up in concentration and gleaming with sweat.

     I gave Marx a reassuring nod, before racing over to help her. "What up?" I feigned casualty as I dodged her blade and nonchalantly flicked a potion behind me. I could feel a wave of heat on my back from the explosion.

     "I'm..." she started, but was cut off as she leaped forward to attack, "Gathering energy," she swept her blade in front of her, catching a shadow person in a wide arc, "Will release it soon." She finished her sentence as she slammed the shadow into the ground. It dissipated into a cloud of fine black dust, and Carissa quickly moved onto her next opponent. "Protect yourself and Marx so you won't get hurt."

     I tried fighting alongside her for a while, but then decided the best thing to do was to stay out of her way. She was too independent, and having to constantly protect myself from her explosions of energy slowed both of us down.

     "I'm ready!" Carissa finally yelled. I rushed towards Marx encased us in a shimmering dome, just before a huge burst of energy washed over the room. The rest of the shadow people dissipated, and even my shield flickered slightly.

     The battle had left the room in complete wreckage. Most of the ceiling and walls were either gone or littered around the room.

     With a huge huff, Marx put his hand on his hips and relaxed, "Good, those things won't be bothering the monastery anymore. We're finally done."

     "I don't think so." I told him, moving towards where the door once stood, "There's something else."

     "What?" Marx groaned, "Don't tell me we have to go through those nightmares again."

     I stepped through the wreckage, into the next room, trying to summarize everything I found in just a few sentences. "The shadow people didn't cause all those strange occurrences, they only created fear around them." I explained, motioning for them to follow me.

     "What the hell are you talking about?" Carissa demanded, "If it wasn't the shadow people, who was it?"

     "I found something while I was looking for that shield," I said, leading them deeper into the monastery, down creaky stairways and hallways full of spiderwebs.

     I can hear a hum now, getting louder and louder as we walked forward. The sound grated in my ears as if it was screeching and screaming, and I gritted my teeth as I continued forward. Marx had his hands over his ears, but I knew that wouldn't help.

     "There's a lot of dark magic here," Carissa said, breathless, "It overwhelming. That's why they needed a shield, so no one could sense it." I could see her fingers twitching and spasming, even though she had a cold mask over her face.

     The hum seemed to fill my mind, blocking out everything else, and it took all of my strength for me to focus on our task and put one foot in front of another. Finally, a huge iron door loomed before us. Marx opened it with a blast of energy, and I finally saw what was inside.

     The room was beautiful. It's walls were midnight blue stone, carved with pillars that arched up towards the dark ceiling. The floor was the same color, polished smooth and swirling with thousands of shimmering colors. On one side, there was a shimmering pool of water and on the other an intricate statue carved out of black stone and orange wood. The air shimmered with magic. In front of us five monks sat in a row, their legs crossed and hands held in prayer. Their hum echoed across the cavernous room.

     Suddenly, the humming stopped. I felt myself flinch with surprise as silence clamped down on us. Then, in unison, the monks opened their eyes and spoke.

     "We've been expecting you," they all said, their eyes as white as marble. A female voice, coming from the monk in the center was the loudest of all. "And we know you've come to fail."

     "One of them is a seer," I remembered Olaf's words to Marx. This was what's been causing all this trouble.

     Marx was brandishing a his glowing fist at them, "You've caused enough mayhem. Come with us peacefully, and we will deliver you a just punishment."

     They all smiled together, and their identical cheshire grins were unsettling. "We don't think so," they chorused.

     Thick smoke poured out of their bodies, and their flesh began to sear as they stood up and moved closer together.

      I quickly placed a domed shield around them, just as a blast of energy burst against it.

     "What are you doing?" Carissa hissed, "It's weaker during transformation, we need to attack it now!"

     I could barely respond as I forced the shield to shrink, slowing starting to crush whatever creature forming inside. "I'm... containing... it."

     Inside the dome, I could see black smoke and dark blue scales, a flash of teeth and white eyes.

     Then the shield shattered, releasing a five-headed roar.

The End

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