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==> Brony Advice: Your Questions Answered #134/35/36! by Cuddlepug

Fantastic art done by: :iconquila111:

Brony Advice is both an active collaboration with artists and an advice column, in the simplest of terms: I want you to send me notes if you have any problems, secrets or comments on the pony fandom of any nature. It doesn't matter how embarrassing, offensive or vicious they might be - if you want someone to comment on them in a rational way, send them over. Maybe there's something within the fandom that you particularly despise, or perhaps you're feeling sad and need to hear some friendly advice? Whatever the motive, send me a note with your comment or question.

I'll then respond with advice and commentary and post the answers up in future installments. Users will remain anonymous, so you don't need to worry about your feelings and thoughts getting out onto DeviantArt. You may find that some of the things that you've personally been feeling will be addressed.

Feel free to note me if you would like your questions and observations to be answered in an upcoming edition. Every edition will be engaging with three issues. The above three featured today were submitted by anonymous deviants.

Other Work By the Artist:

AT:: Oopsie! by quila111 Evacuate The Dance Floor by quila111 Pwincesses of Equestwia by quila111
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Chapter 1
There I was, just sitting underneath the old oak tree. It had been such a peaceful twilit night as the winds of Lai softly blew. I watched the water nymphs sing and dance in the moonlit river as I played a ballad of Water.
The wind was so relaxing… so carefree as it caressed my face ever so gently. The grass, a luscious green, waving to the sky. The clouds, just drifting by as the starry night is their sea.
I sighed in awe as this night was truly a wonder. Sadly, it was time for me to leave as it was almost dinner time. I stood up and pulled my blonde hair behind my pointed ears as the wind started rushing their song.
The nymphs had stopped their dance and smiled up on me. I could hear their silent giggles and whispers. I suspect that they are attracted to me. I waved goodbye to my beautiful friends and walked down the dirt path. A guide back to my peaceful village.

Chapter 2
I journeyed through the dense forests that walled the entrance to the village. Trees as tall as castles and the atmosphere, as grim as graves. Darkness lurked here and fear filled my lungs. I looked around only to see shadows spread around me. Glowing eyes watched me. A blood red of fear loomed in the trees as they glare at me with terror.
The moon was blocked by the tangles of the trees as I looked up. The only noise I could hear was the padding of my footsteps along the hard ground and my breaths deeply flowing in and out. My blonde hair flew about as the winds violently conjured. The whacks on my face were like whips. The only light that guided me were my glowing, sky blue eyes…
I was almost out of that horrid place when I heard whispering near my ears… The cold breath made me stand stiff. We will get you… You cannot hide from darkness… Such cold words pierced through my mind with such tension and force. I shook the thoughts away and continued heading for the village. At least I would feel safe there…

Chapter 3.
I was relieved that I was finally out of that damned forest and able to see the moon again... It brought a smile to my face.
The trees were flowing gently with the wind and the stars glittered in the sapphire sky. A small red glow emitted from the centre of the village. Singing filled the night and dancing made it more faithful. I was carefree and at ease. The sacred dance of Lai was one of peace… Tranquillity… Honour…
Everyone watched me come forward and greeted me happily. I smiled back at them and danced along. My heartbeat was beating to the rhythm of the song. My feet padding and my arms swaying like the water. My hair bounced around in the calm, nightly wind. My eyes brightly wide as I grinned. I started to whisper small words that had started to sing in my head. Oh Lai, our dear, you bring us our light, giving us our sight. May the Guardians keep you safe and well, let the elements be rung at your bell...
Everyone had played their part and it was now time for rest. I went back to my humble home, watching everyone say their goodnights. For some reason…. I felt as if I needed to do something… A duty…. But what?

Chapter 4.
I entered my home and sighed. It was a small place, but it was enough for me. A small bed I had made from simple timber… A barrel of water with my dirty, worn clothes placed in it. A fireplace that I had not used in a while… I decided to light it and hang my clothes to dry.
I looked at myself, gazing at my filthy tunic. All of those chores I had to do… I took off my tunic and placed it in the barrel. I watched as the water turned a murky brown. Glancing at my bed, I wearily stretched in exaustion. As I sat on my bed, I looked out the small window. The moon shone brightly against my pale skin and gave me warmth. I closed my eyes and laid back… Drifting off into another world…

Chapter 5.
I was falling… Down and down… Very slowly…. I watched myself just close my eyes and let myself fall freely… I heard a voice… A divine voice… I looked around to see where it was coming from, but I saw nothing…
The divine voice serenely sung as I continued falling into the darkness…. Dear one… You are the last of the Light… Restore the world and rid it of the Dark… You must save us… Before it is too late… These words echoed through my head. What could it mean? I tried talking back to her, but it was like I was muted… I couldn’t speak out… I saw a hand come out from above me… Glowing brightly… I reached my hand up towards the fading light hand in the sky, desperately trying to pull myself out of the darkness… But I was pulled down… Dark, shadowy tendrils wrapped around me, preventing me from grabbing her hand… I couldn’t escape… A menacing laughter now echoed in the darkness…. Pain struck through my heart…. I couldn’t breathe… What was happening? What is my destiny?

Chapter 6
I woke up with sweat dripping from my brow… I held my blanket tightly in my grip as I gazed out the window. Thinking about what that dream had meant. The tendrils of darkness that were wrapped around me… The divine spirit reaching out her hand… Falling into a pit of shadows… What is it trying to tell me?
I was so confused… I didn’t know what to do. I kept wondering if I should tell my friends, but they probably wouldn’t understand… I got up and went over to the basin. I splashed the cool, pure water on my pale face as the sun shone brightly. As I looked up with the water dripping from my lashes, I could see the village girls carry their baskets full of fresh grown corn cobs and apples. I waved to them gratefully and politely thanked them for helping us all.
They giggled softly and quietly whispered to each other as they walked. Their dresses swayed and twirled as their hair bounced about in the wind. The young and old were well known for their kindness and beauty, but also for their exquisite cooking.
I smiled and had put my favorite tunic on. It was a magnificent shade of indigo with fine gold threading. A leather belt crossed my waist and the skirt of my tunic went down to my thighs. The creamy brown tights were comfortable against my legs and my boots were well worn from travel. It was time for me to do my daily training with the mayor. My daily sword training.

Chapter 7.
I ran over quickly to the mayors residence, the wind was flailing my blonde hair and hitting my face. I could hear all of the children laugh as they played, and I could see the trees flow gracefully and the water rush on by. Such peace is common here. I loved it.
I had finally arrived to the mayor and quickly rushed through the door. I called out for the mayor and quickly grabbed my wooden sword that was leaning against the old chair. I heard footsteps thump against the floors and dishes were shaking.
He had come out of the living room and faced me. His big belly was bulging and his fine grey hairs were bristled upon his head. I heard him guffaw with his proud voice as he held his bulge and looked at me. “Good to see you, my boy. Are you keen for your next set of training?”
I nodded quickly and posed with my sword. "Yes sir!". I felt as if my head was going to drop off from the excitement that had whizzed through. “Good to hear, Fin! Go on to the barracks. I will be there shortly.” He walked off slowly to his room and shut the door behind him.
I went to run out the door but it must have shut and I had knocked into it. I groaned in pain and held my head. As I opened the door slowly, I could hear the mayor laughing. He had probably heard me. I gave a small smile and again rushed off to the barracks, pumped with adrenaline to learn more skills of sword mastery.

Chapter 8.
The barracks were old and horse trodden. The old oak wood had been covered in moss due to thunderous winds and ravaging rain. It was a great place to train though as we could practice our slashes against the unwanted wood.
As I entered through, I saw the mayor stand in the middle with his armour on. His sword was by his side and he stood nobly as he looked down on me. I looked at him in shock as his sword was not of wood… But of steel.
“It’s alright, Fin. I won’t hurt you with it. It is just to see how well you can handle facing a real sword.” The mayor swung the shining sword and pointed it at me, the point at my jugular. I gasped and smiled devilishly as I quickly strafed and tapped my sword on his buttocks.
"Come get me, old man." I stood tall and gestured my sword cheekily, inviting him to attack with all his might. He laughed and had his sword at the ready. A quick slash! I ducked and rolled to his side. With a smirk, I tapped his thigh and jumped back. I could see his small, blue eyes gaze at me with anger as he lunged at me. It may have been a real sword but I would pretend that it is wooden. Just like in our training.
As he tried to lunge and make contact, I dodged every move with ease. Seeing a good moment to strike, I poked his belly with my sword, leaving him winded. He was gasping for air and struggled to concentrate. I grabbed his sword and dropped my practice one. In awe, I twirled it around and gazed upon it as it shone in the sun. I smiled gleefully as I had swung the sword with pride. But then somehow, I felt a sharp prick on my throat. Somehow, the mayor was behind me. How did he get there so fast!? I would have seen him move!
“Fin my boy… You still have much to learn.” I stood nervously as I heard these words. Maybe I was been a bit foolish. I sighed in surrender and nodded. “Go home and rest, boy. A man needs his sleep. And I can tell you hadn’t any.” I nodded and the mayor moved the dagger away from me. I smiled peacefully and slowly walked out the bulky barrack doors. Should I tell him? About the dream I had last night? What if he doesn’t believe me? He would probably laugh. Oh well…. I am sure everything will be alright…

Chapter 9.
As I walked back home, it was very strange because all was quiet… I looked around me and I could see no children playing… No beautiful women helping carrying those delicious, fresh vegetables and fruit… The sky was gloomy, clouded by darkness…
I padded softly as I continued looking around. The winds gushed about, whacking my body with brute force. All was silent, not even the birds were singing. As I looked down, I saw shadows come towards me. I stared in confusion and before I could react, somehow, it held my legs. I couldn’t move. I struggled to break free but it was dragging me down towards the ground. It was like I was sinking. I called out for somebody to help but there was no reply. Lower and lower I sunk… Into the mysterious darkness… I now couldn’t move my arms. This force squeezed me tighter and tighter for each time I wriggled. Up to my neck…. What do I do!? The darkness was overwhelming me. I tried to breathe, but it was now over my nose. The last thing I saw… Was the glowing oracle somehow standing in front of me… Watching me drown in this darkness…

Chapter 10.
I slowly opened my eyes only to see more darkness surround me… I slowly stood up as I held my head in confusion… What was happening to me? I carefully treaded along the dark paths… Nothing was among me… Then a flash of light shone brightly from behind me. I turned and saw a door… A pure white door that had glimmered pierced through the shadows and pointed to me…
I started walking towards the door, but something grabbed my arm. I gasped and looked to see a shadow being hold me with a big, black hand… Its eyes were soullessly red as the stared into my soul… Its malevolent smile cut through me… The maniacal screams and laughter now filled the dense air…
I ran for the door… Reaching my hand out to it, ready to grasp… More and more shadows started to form and began to run after me. Desperately trying to get away, I kept my eyes on the door. I felt like I was going nowhere as I could see the door was still the same distance away… I looked behind me and the minions of the darkness were getting closer… Running and running, I was almost at the door… Finally out of the dark…
Before I could grasp the doors handle, black tendrils surrounded me and wrapped once more… With one arm still free, I stretched out my hand… I was pulled backward and thrown to the ground… The shadows were coming closer with each tread. Trying to pull myself up, I continued looking at the door… I then felt heavy… The minions caught me… I waved my arms, attempting to strike but my arms went straight through them…
They climbed all over me and held me down… I tried to call out for help but their dark hands covered my mouth… I was unable to do anything… As I kept struggling, a black feminine figure appeared over me… She went up towards my face and stared at me with a wicked grin…
You will never succeed, boy. The darkness will reign! You can’t do anything to stop us! We will take over! The light shall be no more!
I stared at her shocked and confused as she raised her arms and laughed with evil… A sudden dagger appeared in her hands and she pointed it at me… You will be mine…
Wriggling to break free of the grip, I watched as she came closer. The knives point was now resting over my heart… As it touched… I felt like something had invaded my body… Something rushing in my blood stream… I shook from so much tension and force that overwhelmed me… A flash of light had burst…
Dear one… You must stop her… Free us… Free us from her despair!

Chapter 11.

I had awoken in a strange place. I was lying on a cold, hard floor made of stone. As I slowly let my eyes adjust, I saw a huge stone roof above me with hanging plants gently waving in the calm wind. The birds flapping were echoing in this mysterious place. Slowly as I got up, still tensed of what had happened, I rested my head in the palm of my hand.
Somehow… I could hear voices sing… A choir singing such a divine song. I looked around only to see more stone and green. Sunlight had slightly shined its way through the cracks of the stony walls. I then heard a voice. Welcome dear one…
“Who are you?” I called out. My only reply was a silent giggle. I looked around for the owner of this voice but I couldn’t find them. I ran towards every pillar, every wall, every crack yet I found nothing.
Fin… Need not worry… Need not find me… You cannot see me just yet… They giggled once again and I then heard a creak. I turned to look behind me and saw a huge wooden door open. How did it get there? It was all walls of stone.
Slowly I approached it and carefully looked through the small crack. Waterfalls, luscious green grass, elder trees and lavender bushes had filled my vision. I entered the strange garden and walked along the stony path. My boots had pattered and my breaths were calm with the wind.
As I looked at the middle of the garden, a marble crescent stood. It shone a pure white as the rays of the Sun were glowing. My curiosity got the better of me and I went towards the statue. Holding my palm in the air close to it, I felt it was warm. It started pulling my hand closer but I snatched it back. More giggling had filled and the sky grew darker.
Looking up, I saw the sun was falling fast and the moon was rising. As the moons rays glow in the sapphire blue sky, the statue was pulsating purple waves. I held my arms in front of my face as the waves pushed and pulled with much force and strength. One last wave had pushed me far back onto the stone path. I groaned as I held my head in pain  and looked back up to the sky. I suddenly saw a glowing white cloud fly above me…

Chapter 12.

Looking closely at the mysterious cloud, I saw a figure with tree brown hair, pale moonlit skin and a crown of gold. Her dress was flowing like white waves among the blue night sky and her eyes were filled with care and worry. She flew down closer to me as I gently sat up. Her eyes gazed in on mine… Such a pale white… So ghostly… I couldn’t look away.
Hello… She whispered. Her voice was so gentle, so quiet and so sacred. As I continued to be captive to her gaze, she held my head with her soft, pale hands and rubbed my cheeks gently. You are the last of the Guardians, dear one… You are the only one who can find it…
“Find what?” I asked.
She sighed and placed her forehead upon mine. I could feel her cold breath blowing calmly on my face and her hair brush on my shoulders. You must find the hidden key… Lai… She is the only one who can bring Light back…
“Lai? Who’s that? And who are you?” I placed my hands on the ground and lifted myself up. Still in her mystic gaze, she smiled and giggled.
Let me show you… She flew closer to me and hugged me tightly, pinning both my arms to my sides. She pulled me upward, higher and higher we went towards the clouds…

Chapter 13.

“What are you doing!?” I yelled out. I didn’t dare move in her arms, fearing if I did, I would fall to my death. I dared not look down and I kept looking up at her face. So beautiful… Such… Finesse in a delicate pale face.
The clouds grew closer and closer as we continued our flight. The clouds felt like soft puppies fur had been brushed against the skin on my face. She had let me go when we have risen above the grey clouds in the dark sky, leaving me falling onto the soft puffs. I looked up at her as she gently floated down.
Her dress was waving softly in the gentle winds and her hair and crown shone brightly against the pale, mystic moons light. Now dear Fin… Listen very closely to me… She waved her arm across the sky and the stars began to dance and form images. There is one of the Light named Lai. She is the divine princess and oracle of this world.
The stars formed into the shape of a woman that had short hair, slim body and a key shaped marking on her left side of her face. The glow of the stars coloured her image. White skin, white hair… The only things of colour were her gorgeous yellow eyes and the black marking of the key.
She is the one you must seek… Only you can bring her back to save this land… Save this entire world…
“Why only me?” She looked at me deeply and walked closer. Caught in her gaze again, she whispered.
Because my dear Fin… You are the last Light Guardian…
I looked at her in confusion and she simply laughed. She then handed me a golden rimmed mirror that had been lit by moonlight.
Look at your eyes, dear one… What colour are they?
“Blue. They had always been an aqua blue. What makes them so special?”
Look again… I gazed in the mirror again and I had seen my eyes were slightly glowing. I gasped in shock and put my hands towards my eyes, dropping the mirror onto the soft, spongy cloud.
Those glowing blue eyes of yours are the only ones in existence. There were four Guardians that had these strange eyes. They all resemble elements. She waved her arm to the night sky again and images of four people were now shown across the stars. Tao, the Guardian of Earthren. He had green, tough looking eyes to symbolize his strength. The man she pointed to was very big and bulky, shoulder length hair and a huge sword resting on his back.
She then pointed to a woman with a very slim and acrobatic figure. Knee length hair was twirling behind her as she danced and her eyes shone a very bright white. Ariel, the Guardian to the Breaths of Windrel. She was well known for her cunning during battle and the graceful beauty she possessed.
I noticed she held a small dagger in each hand as she twirled. She looked pretty… But dangerous…
Another woman now appeared in the stars. Her hair was flaring like a flickering flame and I could see a small light in her hand. Her eyes furiously shone a vibrant orange. Flair, the Guardian of Firea. She had a firey attitude and yet, she was so kind and gentle.
“What happened to them?” I asked in curiosity. The woman simply lowered her head and I saw a small tear had shed.
Unfortunately… They had fallen to the darkness… She waved her arm again and I saw the image of me in the ever glowing stars. I saw that I was smaller than the others and I had a small sword in my hand. I watched as my tunic and hair softly swayed in the image and my eyes glow a soft blue. You are Fin. The Guardian of Waywa.
“Waywa?” Waywa is of an ancient language. Meaning ‘Water’… I continued looking up at the sky and slowly walked closer to the image. “Who are you then?”
I am one of the Goddesses. Loyal oracles to Lai. I am the one of Lune. She waved her arm and the stars began to dance again while the moon started to smile. I gazed at her in awe as she walked towards me. She knelt down and a flash of light appeared. I covered my eyes and looked away as it was too bright to bear. I looked back to her and saw she held a sword in her hands and her head had lowered. This is yours, dear one… Use it well and save us all…
I gently reached for the sword and slowly lifted it from her hands. The blade was a magnificent silver as the moonlit rays kissed it. A golden handle with a light blue gem had held the blade in place. The hilt had fine carvings of what looked like an old written language.
Dear one… Do you accept this fate? Will you find Lai and save the world from Darkness?
I nodded in response and I saw her smile. Well, go on. Find her. And good luck! She waved her hand again and a hole had formed through the cloud underneath my feet. I fell through, seeing her bright face smile at me as I fell further and further down…

Chapter 14

Falling… Falling… Just like in that dream I had that night… I didn’t dare shut my eyes as I feared that the darkness will find its way to me. I watched as the clouds started turning pink from the rising, new born sun. I watched as the dark blue started to shade lavender purple and the clouds drifting calmly. Birds of white flew above me and danced as the warm sun’s rays had shined brightly against their soft, fluffed up feathers.
Even though I continued falling, I felt as if I had nothing to worry about… The wind was just slowly gushing onto my back and through my sandy blonde hair… My tunic was flying about wildly from the tension of the fall and I felt the sword rattle in my hand. Gripping it tightly, I finally closed my eyes and continued to fall.
As I opened my eyes again, I saw white, glowing feathers lay underneath me. I landed softly onto the bed of wings and started to float down. Lakes were now glittering against the rays of the welcoming dawn and the trees started to show their beautiful green hair of leaves.
The sky had become to transform into the peaceful blue it normally wore and the clouds puffed up into the pure white creations I was accustomed to seeing. I had finally reached land and my legs started to slowly touch the ground once again. Onto the luscious sea of grass, I continued to gaze up at the clouds… Still holding the magnificent sword as it shined its noble silver steel…

Chapter 15.

I sighed and lowered my head to look at the rest of my surroundings. A huge waterfall gracefully fell its pure, clear water against the rocks of the mountains foot. A lake had formed underneath it from erosion and time, always ever-flowing. The tall trees of old had surrounded the beautiful sanctuary, the leaves of olive green softly swayed and the animals treaded peacefully against the ocean of lime green grass.
I went closer to the pure lake and stared at my reflection that had emitted. The water started to wave calmly and a saw a vision had formed. I watched as the reflection continued to change, slowly waving and dripping. The reflection showed a magnificent stone temple that had stood tall against the trees and could be clearly seen from the canopy. The grey, rough walls were covered in ancient encryptions and tangled in vines with long, sharp-pointed thorns.
I turned to look around again and I saw the point of the temple glowing eastward. “Well. I guess that is where I have to go first…” I headed for the point in the sky, gripping my sword tightly ready for any dangers to come.

Chapter 16.

Carefully I treaded through the deep woods as the light couldn’t shine through the density of the leaves. I could hear laughter and cackles in the darkness and the shadows as they continued to loom over me. All else was silent… No birds singing their ballads or the rustling of the trees with the winds… Nothing… But the cackles of darkness and the deep breaths that were heaving out of me.
All of a sudden, a black, shady cloud appeared before me. I watched it as it landed to the ground and a black shadow being had formed from underneath it. Rising up slowly, it stared at me with malevolent yellow eyes as I watched it smile an evil grin. Sharp, pearly white teeth had barred from its wide mouth and it spoke. “You will be ours. You cannot see the Light again! You will fall!”
I gasped as I saw it lunge for me with its huge hands, fingers twiddling to grab a hold. I jumped backwards and it simply stood still again with the grin of white still cut across its face. It then disappeared into a cloud and invisible to my eyesight.
I looked around nervously as I held the noble sword in my hands, all I could see were the dark trees that were surrounding me. Hearing a cackle again, I felt myself been pushed, making me fall to the ground and losing my grip to the sword.
I struggled to get up, but I then felt heavy on my back. Feeling myself been turned by force, I realized that the shadow being had me in its clutches. Its eyes stared deeply into my soul with that furious yellow glow and its smile had made me tense up.
“You’re ours now!” It held one of its hands above my face and slowly pushed it towards me. I felt around me with my right arm to try and grab the sword that was just inches away. I slightly touched the hilt and jolted myself to grab it.
Before it could react, I stabbed it in the chest, right where the heart would have been. A loud, dark scream now filled the once silent air and pierced through my ears, making them ring from the force.
I watched it hold its head with its shadowy hands and close its yellow eyes. It then dispersed with a blast of light and a white butterfly had formed from its shady remains. It had beaten its pure white wings and flew closer to me gracefully. Hello.
“Hello?” I stared at it in confusion as I still lay on the dark green sea of grass.
Thank you dear one… You have freed me from her evil curse…
“Her? Who are you talking about?” It flapped down even further and landed gently on my chest. As I looked closely, I saw a tiny, feminine body purely of white. I saw her cross her legs as she sat and stared at me with pure white eyes.
You don’t know?

Chapter 17.

“Know what?”
She sighed and cross her arms in anger and sadness. Empress Shade… She is the ruler of the Darkness… She wants you Fin. She wants to find you and turn you dark like her.
Quizzically, I carefully sat up and made her fall gently into my open hands. She whimpered and looked back to me. She wants to marry you… She wants you for herself… She also wants to reign this world with her darkness. So if she does find you, I am afraid all is lost…
I gasped in shock and quickly jumped up with her delicate body still in my pale hands. “What!?” Her small hands held her face as she tried to hide her shame.
If you do not find Lai soon… Well… I guess it’s over… I pulled my hands closer to my face to look closely at her. I saw she moved her hands away from her face to look at me. Her face was red and her eyes widened to show her glowing white eyes. I smiled at her and kissed her tiny head of brown hair.
“Light will stand strong. I am sure of it. Thank you little one for telling me about Shade. You are very helpful.” I heard a small giggle and watched as she hid her face once again. I felt the beats of her gentile wings against my palms as she floated upwards.
Thank you Fin! I know you can do it! She waved and then floated off into the darkness of the trees; her white glow had slowly faded as she went deeper into the thick forest. Looking back at the point in the sky, gripping my sword tightly, I ran as fast as I could with the winds once again brushing my face and the sun shining its noble, bright glow.

Chapter 18.

As I slowly walked out of the dense forest, I had finally reached the temple. A tall, stony building with cryptic Lai markings all over it. Looking above me, I saw the huge point stand strong in the sunlight, shining a powerful green aura as I held up my hand. The earth began to shake and tremble underneath my feet and the blinding green light furiously beamed. I quickly covered my eyes and turned myself away, my tunic was waving back and forth, my boots shook with great force and my head started to rumble. No sooner, the earth had softened and stopped its shaking.
Slowly opening my light filled eyes, I glanced at the temple once again and to my surprise, a door had opened. Peering through, only darkness was to be seen. Looking both sides of me, watching with caution, I took a step forward… Slowly treading towards the cryptic entrance. I held the doors gently with my hands and continued to glare inside. Voices beckoned me to enter the mysterious building of old. Come on… Enter… You will be alright… Gazing in deeply, I entered with my sword still in hand. A sudden slam had sounded behind me. I spun on my heel and saw that the door had shut forcefully. My eyes were now glowing their water blue shine and had lit the walls in front of me.
“I guess I have no choice now…”
I breathed out slowly and began to wander… Deep into the darkness once again…

Chapter 19.

Carefully treading, further and further down I went, ready for anything that dared attack. I could feel along the walls that there were small bumps from the ancient encryptions of the Earthren language. I’d stop to look at them from time to time as I was curious of their life and past. Small pictures of women dancing on dirt mountains and men beating massive drums had filled the walls.
“Maybe… That was for a ceremony… Like what we do back in my village… Hmm…”
I gently sheathed my sword onto my belt and continued. The only sounds I could hear were the pads of my worn boots and the scratching of my fingers running along the ancient barriers. I had finally seen light at the end of the dark corridor and had decided to run to it. Running and running, happy to see light again. I then heard crackling underneath me and felt the ground shake.
I stopped and looked down to my feet. The floor was collapsing.
“Oh no!” I yelled out and I had quickly sped off again. I was almost there… Almost at the light… Reaching out my hands to jump as the floor in front had already collapsed.
I jumped over the gap, hoping that I would have been able to reach it. Thankfully, I was able to reach it… I slowly turned my head to look behind me and I watched as the rest of the ground started to crumble and fall.
Breathing heavily, I started to walk forward again, entering the light. I had to cover my eyes as been in the dark for that short while had made me dizzy and out of focus. Looking again after adjusting to the brightness, I saw this humongous door stand before me. Torch fires had been lit around it and the encryptions had… Been moving… I walked closely to one of the walls and stared at it in curiosity as they continued to move around.
Fin… You shouldn’t have come here….
A strange voice spoke to me.
“W-who are you?” I looked around and stared up to the roof of the room.
You’ll see…
Frightened, I quickly placed my hand on the swords hilt. But before I could wield it, I suddenly passed out.
My world went black…

Chapter 20.

I was lying across a dirt ground when I had awoken. As I looked up, the sky was just pure black. Slowly, I had pulled myself up and continued to look around. The ground was a very dark brown, the walls were the colour of dampened sand and there were tall pillars of dark red standing around the walls. Small lanterns that had swung around the pillars were the only light other than the glow of my eyes. I then saw a glow of green, standing in the middle of the room. I walked closer to it but it kept moving further back.
“Who are you?” I called out, my only reply was a laughter. The voice sounded young, like a 13 year old child.
“Show yourself!”
The glow of the eyes had come closer to me with each padding step I heard echoing from the hard earth. The figure was then shown in the shine of the lanterns light. A boy a bit smaller than me with brown shoulder length hair and tanned skin had cut a smile across his face as he watched me. He was wearing a green shirt with a brown over jacket and his pants were black. As I looked down, I saw he wasn’t wearing any footwear.
“Hello Fin. Nice to meet you.”
His voice made me jump and stare straight back into his deep green eyes. His face was still grinning as he pulled a thick sword from along his back. The hilt was hidden by his hair, I didn't even know he had a weapon.
“Who are you?” Still gazing at my soul and cutting a smile, he had suddenly twitched his fingers that were around his sword. I then felt a sudden snatch along my arms and I was pulled back a bit from force. I looked behind me and seen that dark green vines had latched onto my forearms, making me unable to grab my sword from my hips.
“I am Tao. Guardian of the Earthren people. My leader has asked for me to bring you to her.”
I looked back to the child with eyes widely open from shock.
I thought Tao was a big, burly man! What happened!?
Tao had walked closer towards me with his sword still in his hand, pointed to my direction.
“Tao! What’s happened to you!? Who is your leader!?” He lowered his head and his smile had broken.
“I am not one of Light anymore. The Light are weak! You hear me!? WEAK!”

Chapter 21.

“What!? No! What makes you think that!?”
I kept tugging at the vines to release their hold of me as I continued yelling at him. Tao simply laughed.
His voice suddenly sounded deeper. Like a fully grown man. Looking back at him, he was now a tall, muscular man with a dark green tunic and his pants were dark brown. He was also now wearing big black boots, much bigger than any normal persons. His hair was still the shoulder length brown and the bottom of his chin had black whiskers.
“Are you ready to battle, Fin?”
Still shocked from the sudden transformation, I nodded as a response to his challenge. With another twitch of his fingers, I felt no more grip and I had stumbled forward. I stared at him angrily and sheathed my sword into my hands. Tao laughed as his had proudly shown off his sword and how big it was.
“I doubt you will beat me, lad. Look at you compared to me. I am much bigger and much stronger than that puny little body of yours. Beware, I will not hold back.”
I barred my teeth tightly and had run forward towards him with my noble blade pointed towards his chest.

Chapter 22.

With a clash of steel, we both collided. Facing each other as our blades began to scratch screams and cries of metal.
“Is that the best you can do!?” Tao yelled out, making the ground rumble and quake. I quickly backed away as he drew back and slashed again, aiming for my arm.
“Tao! Don’t you remember your duty!? To protect the world! Not help harm it!”
I jumped up and lifted my sword above my head ready to strike. But before I could get a hit, vines had wrapped around my waists and had thrown me hard onto the ground. I groaned in pain as I held my head and dropped the sword.
“You are too weak boy! Come and get up like a man! You talk so big about defeating me! Do it then!”
I looked up at him and he had started to run towards me with the heavy blade dragging across the dirt floor, leaving cracks along the path he made. I scrambled along as he came closer and closer each passing second.
What do I do!? He’s too strong!
I kept moving backward on my hands and legs until my back collided with the pillar. I looked around and then stared back at him in fear as he had lifted the enormous blade above his shoulders and yelled out a battle cry. As he began to swing it down, I quickly rolled to the left of me, making him hit the pillar instead of me.
The pillar began to crackle and crumble from the force of the attack and had finally collapsed from the powerful strike. Tao let out a roar of anger as the pillars debris had fallen on him.
“You stupid boy! How dare you!”
I laid on my torso and began to crawl for my sword to avoid the debris still falling. I reached out my arm to grab the shining blade but then Tao had caught my ankles and started to pull me towards him.
“Let me go!” I began to wriggle my legs to see if it would make him release me but the grip of his burly hands were just too strong so I began to stretch out more, struggling to reach for my only hope.
My blade.

Chapter 23.

“You’re not going to win boy! Not if I can help it!”
He tugged me hard, dragging me across the hard ground again. I felt as if my legs were about to be pulled off from my limbs.
“Must… Reach…” I was tearing myself apart just trying to grab my sword from the cold earth.
Come on… Almost got it….
With a final jump, I was able to grip my blade once again. I twisted my back and waved my sword onto Tao's arm, leaving a huge cut along his muscular arms and him crying out in pain. He got up slowly and held his arm to stop the bleeding. I quickly bolted away from him and held my sword in front of me in case he dared attack again.
Tao dropped his arm and it waved around weakly as he ran towards me again.
What!? How!?
But before he could reach me, he had fallen over and landing near my feet.
Fearfully, I moved my legs away from his range and knelt to see his face. Tao weakly looked at me with pleading eyes as the glow of emerald began to fade.
“Fin… Strike my heart… Do it…”
With shock, I shook my head.
“Why!? I don’t want to kill you!” I then heard a faint laughter coming from him as he closed his eyes.
“Just do it, you coward.”

Chapter 24.

I came forth to him and lifted my sword above my head in fear as his eyes still gazed at me with despair. I shut my eyes tightly and quickly struck the blade downward towards his chest.
A sudden squelch of flesh and blood had echoed in the room and Tao cried out, making the whole room shake and stir. Opening my eyes again, I saw black tendrils shoot out of the blades cuts and start to fly about all over the room. I crouched and held my arms above my head as their screams loudly filled the air.
I stared at Taos lifeless body as more and more tendrils flew out. I slowly placed my hand onto his shoulder and stared into his pale green, soulless eyes.
“Tao…. You are now free of the darkness… I wish you a safe journey and may you protect Lai once again.”
I closed my eyes and lowered my head to silently pray for him as I held my sword in both hands. The walls began to crumble down and light began to fill the room, blinding me.
“Fin… Wake up…” I looked around to find the owner of the voice but before I could move, a scream echoed.
“WAKE UP!!!”

Chapter 25.

I quickly opened my eyes and jolted upward in a sitting position. I was breathing heavily as I looked around and had seen the huge door again.
Was it… all a dream?
I slowly got up and held my head in confusion and relief.
Did Tao really… die?
I ran towards the great door and looked up towards it. It began to creak open and sunlight began to peek out. I pushed it to open it more, using all of my strength. When it finally moved, I watched as the warm orange sun had begun to set behind the purple clouds.
Somehow… I was back in my village. But it looked younger. The trees were still only small sprouts; the young women looked very familiar as they walked past me.
“Hello?” I waited for a response but they walked past me without reply. I turned to watch them and saw that they were smiling to little children that were playing with small wooden swords.
I looked towards the river and had seen that it was still a crystal clean blue as it flowed towards the mountains. The houses were much recently built too. Freshly carved wood and wheat were the golden yellow, ready to harvest.
I walked towards the children and watched as they pretended to fight each other with the toy blades. They were all laughing as they formed a ring around two figures. Looking over them, I saw a small child, smaller than the rest start to hit a man that looked around adulthood with a tiny, brown wooden sword.
The little child wore a dark blue shirt and tannish shorts that sat just above his little knees. Small, blonde strands of his hair blew about in the wind as he puffed up his chest and ran towards the elder. I watched him as he kept hitting the man’s wood sword with all of his might but the adult was just standing there laughing.
“Face it boy. You are too small to beat me.”
Suddenly, the poor boy had fallen over as the man pushed him backwards. I was about to run in there but it was like there was a barrier blocking me from going near. I just watched as he started tearing up while clenching the blade ever so tightly in his delicate hands. He had then jumped up as he saw the man walk away and pointed to him bravely.
“Just you wait, old man… I will beat you one day! People… People will accept me for who I am! You’ll see! I… I will be a hero!”
The child had yelled out in-between sniffs. The determination could be seen clearly in his light blue eyes as he stared at the man in anger.  The elder stopped in his tracks and turned to look at him with caring gleams. He had then knelt towards the boy and placed both of his hands on his shoulders.
“You know what… With a heart like that, I am sure you can be someday.”
The child looked up at him with innocent, wet eyes and had then hugged the man. The elder hugged him back with an arm around his back and a hand carefully holding the boys head.
“My dear Fin…”
It is not finished yet but I would love some feedback of it so far. Please.. I am really in dire need for opinions. :icondeepworshipplz:
ALL OF THIS STORY BELONGS TO ME! IF YOU DARE STEAL, I WILL REPORT! And Master Sword your bloody ass~ :iconlinkstareplz:

With the thanks of :iconshadowbladetsuyo:, I was able to improve on my writing a bit. THANK YOU SO MUCH!~ :heart:

Alrighty! Whew. This story is awesome! *ahem ahem* I has a question. Should I give you soundtracks to certain parts of the story? Please comment your opinion.
Here is your first example. For chapter 25. -->…
Into the Darkness -->…

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Her villain’s moustache had finally arrived in the post.  

Geneviève slapped it on and admired it in the mirror. It was long, divided in two, and pointing stiffly off to the sides with a curl at each end. Oh, yes—it was perfect. Goodbye to queue-jumping and not taking your library books back: it was time to move up to the next rung of being evil. Geneviève did a little dance of glee and twirled the moustache. And then much to her surprise it twirled her.  

“Gosh,” she laughed, as she came to a halt. “I can see you’re going to be a handful.”

She examined her reflection once again. The moustache was dark—as dark as the deepest chasm, as black as the deepest despair. She nodded.

“I probably should do something about my hair.”

“Splendid moustache, madam,” said Mabel the hairdresser at Curl Up and Dye.

“Thank you,” said Geneviève. The moustache twitched slightly and the hairdresser flinched but she was a professional and recovered quickly.

“Would you like to sit yourself down here?”

Geneviève made herself comfortable while Mabel put a cape round her. “So, what can I do for you today?”

Geneviève indicated her hair. “I’d like to go a bit darker, if that’s possible.”

“What about a blue-black?” said Mabel, picking up a bottle from the shelf. “That’s quite nice.”

“Well, actually, I was hoping for something as dark as the deepest chasm, as black as the deepest despair, to match the moustache,” said Geneviève.

“Right,” said Mabel. She looked at the bottles. “I may just have to mix something up from scratch.”

It was all done. Geneviève considered her reflection, as Mabel held up another mirror behind her. Her hair dyed and slicked back, she now looked truly evil.

“It’s wonderful, thank you.”

Mabel beamed. “It does suit you, madam.” She reached down for a pair of scissors. “And would you like me to give your moustache a trim to complete the look..?”

“No, I don’t think that’s necessary…” said Geneviève, but Mabel was already leaning in, the blades gleaming. Geneviève felt a quiver on her upper lip and realised just slightly too late what was going to happen.

The moustache sprang from her face and went for the hairdresser’s throat! Mabel screamed and clawed at the vicious facial hair.

“Down! Down, boy!” yelled Geneviève, jumping to her feet. But the moustache clung on all the tighter.

Mabel tottered over to a nearby table and scrabbled about. At last she managed to grab a wax strip and slap it on her throat, pulling it away again with a nauseating ripping sound. Then panting she threw it far from her, down onto the floor.

There was silence as both women watched the moustache struggle in the wax for a few seconds, its movements becoming fainter and fainter until finally it became still.

“No!” cried Geneviève, slumping back down into her chair. Though inside she knew it was probably for the best. The situation had become quite hairy.

She straightened her shoulders and got up again. What the hell, she didn’t need a moustache—she could be a villain all on her own.

She slowly approached Mabel who looked at her uncertainly.

“I believe I owe you £32.95,” said Geneviève.

“Oh. Yes. That’s right,” said Mabel.

“Here’s £32.95 exactly.”

Mabel looked down at the money and then looked up again at Geneviève.

“That’s right!” said Geneviève, laughing evilly. “You won’t be getting a tip!”

And she exited the premises, with a dramatic swirl of the hairdressing cape.
592 words.

Er, anyone remember when I got all excited after Flash Fiction Month and said I was going to write a piece of flash fiction a week? Anyone? No?


And so, after a bit of a pause, here's another piece of flash fiction ^^"
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Together Forever:

((If you are coming in on here and haven't read the script yet please see the description.))

“….loves me….loves me not…..loves me…” Ib followed Mary’s voice as it echoed through the hall. She was alone now after Garry had stopped to rest. She reached the top of the stairs. The room they had entered with the toy box had changed. It was odd, all pink now with large yellow roses and vines on the far wall. Mary was in the center of the room she plunked the last petal “Loves me not….” She paused for a moment then tossed the stem aside “Loves me!” She smiled “Ah yay now I can…” She muttered something then hurried out of the room. Ib stood there pale as she glanced down at the beautiful blue petals on the dark floor. She walked over and picked up the stem of Garry’s rose. She felt tears fall down her face and hurried back down to Garry.

Once she got down the hall she ran over to him. Garry was against the wall unconscious, limp. Ib trembled a little as a few tears fell down her face. “Garry….” She looked to the stem of his barren rose. “I’m going to try to find a vase ok…” She sniffled and gave him a tight hug, he felt a bit cold “Rest up please…” She moved back she noticed something in his hand, his lighter. She reached down to take it but hesitated. “N…no. Garry wouldn’t want me taking his things.” She shook her head and hurried back down the hall. She ran up the steps and out of the house.

Ib was out in the drawing town again she hurried to the pink house. She knew there was a vase near there. Ib found it and quickly placed the rose stem in the vase. There was plenty of water but nothing seemed to happen. Ib watched for a while but still there was nothing. She frowned “I need to find him help…maybe…maybe if it stays longer though he’ll be ok…” She was trying to convince herself that everything was going to be alright but it was starting to feel more and more like it wasn’t.

Ib hurried to the pink house and put the key in. (everything from here is the same as forgotten portrait until….)

Ib rubbed her eyes from the bright flash, the frame had vanished and the mural seemed to be like a pot of paint. Ib frowned “If I get back to the Gallery….if I can tell my parents what happened…maybe we can find a way back here and to Garry…” She told herself. She took a few steps back then ran toward the mural and jumped in. Not long after a figure emerged from the darkness “…this is the way…” the familiar voice muttered.

Ib opened her eyes and looked around a bit confused she couldn’t remember what she was doing. She started down the hall. She felt like she needed to meet up with her family. As she hurried toward the stairs she stopped, there was a painting she could see that looked oddly familiar. A man in blue….it was hard to see from the stairs. She wanted to go over to look at it more closely but she heard a voice that snapped her back into focus. “Mommy, What’s for dinner tonight?” A young blonde girl was in front of Ib’s parents. Ib slowly descended from the stairs. She recognized the girl, that was her sister. Oddly though Ib felt a bit nervous when she was around her.

“Come on now Mary….Talking about dinner already.” Their mother sighed. Mary’s cheeks puffed up a little “Well it’s cause I’m hungry.” She pouted a little. She perked up though seeing Ib finish descending the staircase. She hurried over to Ib “Welcome back!” She smiled then took Ib’s hand she ran back over to their parents. “Hey I found Ib!” Ib’s mother shook her head “My word Ib where did you get to?” She crossed her arms “I wanted to go see the exhibits with you.” Their father smiled “Hey it’s alright maybe Ib wanted to see the exhibits by herself in peace.” He chuckled.

Mary smiled “Yeah that’s it huh Ib?” Ib frowned “Oh…I did…I saw something though I wanted to get a better look at. Maybe next time though then we can all see it together.” Their father nodded “Of course….in any case though we should get going soon.” He rubbed Mary’s head “Mary’s getting hungry it seems.” Their mother smiled “I’m feeling a bit parched myself. Let’s see if we can find a Café.” Mary smiled and clapped her hands “Yay! Café! Café!” She faced Ib now holding her hands tight “You hear that? A café! I can’t wait to see what they have.” Ib smiled a little at her sister’s excitement and nodded. Their mother smiled at the two girls “Okay Let’s go.”

They started off together. Mary was holding one of Ib’s hands. Ib felt something in her pocket though she pulled it out. It was a pretty yellow candy, she sniffed it. It smelled like sweet lemons. Their mother spoke “The Guertena exhibition was really something….” Their father smiled “Yeah I bet Ib and Mary learned a lot to huh?” Mary smiled “Yeah it was the best right Ib?” Mary paused she noticed what Ib had “Oh candy gimme!” She snatched it from Ib. Ib tensed and tried to get it back. “Wait that was mine.” She managed to get the candy wrapper but Mary had popped the candy in her mouth. Even though it was hard she crunched on it. She laughed a little “Tasty.” Ib sighed. She really cared a lot about Mary but she really didn’t like when she did things like this. Ib looked to the wrapper and tucked it away. The wrapper was still rather pretty she wanted to keep it.

“Sorry…” Mary frowned then spoke “…Hey Ib? What do you want to play when we get home?” She seemed to be trying to make up for what she did. Ib shook her head “We could put a puzzle together I guess.” Mary smiled “oooh I’m getting excited just thinking about it!” Ib gave a small smile again but she got distracted thinking about that painting she briefly saw. Something about that faint glimpse…it made her feel so sad. Mary seemed to notice this “Hey….” She took Ib’s hand in her’s again “Promise me, from now on…We’ll always be together Ib.” Ib was a bit caught off guard but smiled “I promise.”


Together forever after end:

Years passed, Ib and Mary were in their last year of high school. Ib had grown tall she still had her long brown hair but now it reached closer to her mid back. She was wearing a red dress with short sleeves that was white at the ends. The collar of the dress was also white. The bottom of the dress reached down pasts her knees. Around her neck was a red rose necklace set in gold. She wasn’t sure why but after she had been at the Guertena exhibit all those years ago she had developed a fascination with red roses and art. She stood outside of a gallery Mary and Ib were supposed to meet here they had a paper to write about an art museum. Ib had found out the Guertena exhibit was back in the city again and she had been dying to go. Ib sighed “She’s late.” She looked at a nearby clock.

A car pulled up and Mary stepped out she had grown quite a bit as well but was a bit shorter then Ib. Mary had been told she was adopted from a rather young age but Ib and her parents accepted Mary as if she was flesh and blood. Over the years the girls had grown a little apart. Mary was very interested in being around lots and lots of people while Ib was focused on a few close friends but mostly her art. Mary waved goodbye to the people in the car as they drove off. She was wearing a short green dress with thin straps and a blue bow around her waist. She had high heels on that made her Ib’s height. Her hair was around her hips now and she had a blue ribbon in it to.

She ran over to Ib and gave her a tight hug “Sorry I was late Sis.” Ib stumbled back a little. “It’s ok Mary…” She sighed “Try to be more careful next time though.” She moved away from Mary and started inside “You should be taking this more seriously Mary. Your grades have been slipping lately. Mom and Dad are going to be upset.” Mary sighed “Well you are going to help me right?” Ib frowned “Only if you take this seriously.” Mary crossed her arms she got quiet now she had put up a lot of trouble in the days prior. She didn’t like the exhibit that much and even said that Guertena was a bad artist. But Ib told her she didn’t really have another choice if she wanted her help.

Ib looked to Mary “I am going to go look around on my own for a bit. Try to find something you want to write about ok.” Mary frowned “You are going to leave me alone.” Ib nodded “Just a little while Mary.” She started off. Mary watched her go a rather sour expression on her face. Ib took her time viewing some artwork she remembered from when she was younger. She reached an area of the exhibit labeled “The Forgotten works of Guertena.” She stepped inside in the section there were only two paintings. Though one was heavily damaged. All that was left was the very bottom of it where there were some faint yellow roses. Ib read the placard in front of it.

“Broken Yellow Rose (????) This painting was discovered in recent years but seems to have been damaged beyond recognition. There was no title that could be found and so it gets its name from the barely visible roses left on the canvas. Scholars have said that there is a chance that Guertena had sought to destroy this work in a heat of passion. But as of right now there is no conclusive reason for this work to have been so badly damaged.” Ib frowned “I wonder why they think he would want to destroy his own work of art…” Ib turned around she felt her heart begin to race when she spotted the other work.

It was the man in blue. Beautiful blue Roses bound him up and his visible eye was closed as if he were sleeping. His hair was a brilliant purple with darker purple streaks. Ib slowly approached this work of art. She remembered this one she remembered it very clearly. This had been the one she had seen all those years ago. Ib stood in front of the painting she recalled the scent of lemons. She slowly opened her sketchbook she was using to take notes. Inside the cover there was that pretty candy wrapper she had been unable to part with all of this time. “Why do I feel so sad…” Ib ran her finger over the wrapper feeling a tear fall. She looked at the title under the painting “The Forgotten Portrait…” Ib shook her head “He isn’t forgotten….he’s…he’s just sleeping…”

Behind Ib Mary stood a rather dark expression on her face. “…….Ib….” She dug her nails into the wall.

Here is a link to the first chapter of the script:

Hello again everyone. I'm sure this ending has been much anticipated. I know some people might not be totally happy with my portrayal of Mary so I feel I should explain how I see her as a character. Mary struck me as a rather selfish girl. Even though she claims to really care for Ib she is willing to hurt her in all the other endings. Now I know some people argue that it was because she was scared or some other thing but I think she sees Ib a bit like a toy. She loves her but sort of like a child loves a stuffed animal. Ib was the first human Mary met that was her age and also a girl the ideal person she would want to spend time with if she was human. In this ending I get the feeling she is even rather possessive of Ib's parents (making demands) and she shows her selfish again when she steals the candy from Ib. (trying to make sure Ib will never remember Garry). And well there is her who attitude with Garry. She didn't really care what happened to him as long as she was able to escape and take his place. Even after all this though I don't think Mary is beyond saving, if there was some other way for her to escape without taking someone's place I'm sure she would want to take that way instead. (I say this because in the welcome to the world of Guertena ending she has Garry with her and Ib in that room.)

Anyways those are just my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed this and thanks for reading ^_^

Link to other Endings:

Promise of Reunion ~ After Endings

Memory Crannies ~ End ~ After End

Forgotten Portrait ~ End ~ After End

Ib's Sacrifice ~ End ~ After End

Disclaimer: (I don't own ib just a huge fan of the game. all respect and rights to the characters and story and stuff to Kouri)

Also link to the game:
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I met Ed when I joined the Marines for the first time.  Her name is Jessica Edwin, but in the Marines she was Corporal Edwin, or Ed.  It stuck.  She was tough and pretty, smart, driven, and two years older than me.  I was nineteen and foolish.  Somehow it worked.

We got married when we found out she was pregnant.  My parents were very nasty about it.  They felt I'd somehow taken advantage of her.  Good as raped her.  Her parents were wonderful.  They hosted the wedding, Ed and I wore our dress blues, and took an oath that meant even more than the one we swore to our nation.

Tiger was born just a few months after that.  Ed's four year contract was finished, so she found us a little house near the base.  She found a job, and she raised Tiger, almost by herself, while I ran PT, stood firewatch, crawled the obstacle courses, fired my rifle, shipped out on West Pac, and came home.  I wrote to her and Tiger every day while I was gone.  She was true to me.  I was worried about that, even though I never told her.  I wanted to trust her, but I had to worry.  She's a beautiful woman.

Soon as my contract was up, I found a job; nothing great, but it helped.  And we moved out to be closer to Ed's family.  My parents still couldn't get their heads around the idea that I'd got a girl pregnant when I was just nineteen, and that it wasn't to do with drugs, and that I was doing right by her, taking care of her.  Really, she was taking care of me.  And Tiger.

Tiger was already three by the time I left the Marines.  Summer birthday, just missed the fourth of July.  He was four when his baby sister was born.  We named her Natalie.

And for about a year that was my world.  And I've never been happier.

Then... everything changed.  Terrorists attacked our nation.  The nation we loved and had sworn to defend.  I was horrified, and outraged, but Ed took it to a whole new level.  She told us she was going back to the Marines.  She wanted to fight back; she knew we would retaliate, we couldn't afford not to.  She wanted to be in that first wave.

It scared me to death.  I knew I couldn't support the kids with the job I had.  Natalie was just a baby, just eighteen months old.  Tiger was coming into his own and testing all the limits.  He had another six months or so before we could send him to kindergarten.  I couldn't take care of them, and work to support us.  I told Ed so.  I was only covering up the real reasons.  I didn't want to lose her.

She just smiled at me.  "Rome, honey, I'll be fine.  And you can handle it."

I couldn't talk her down, I wouldn't tell her she couldn't go.  It's her right.  And her duty.  I felt it too; just not as strong as the duty to my family.

The day she shipped out, we spent most of it wrapped up in each other's arms.  I did not want to let her go.  I think Tiger was embarassed.

I told her, "This is all backwards, Ed.  I'm s'posed to go away to war, while you cry over me at home with the kids."

She laughed.  "Roman, if you cry today, I will kick your ass."

"Yes ma'am."

She wrote to us every day.  I found a better job.  We moved again.  Our new neighbor – sweet lady, retired teacher – watched the kids for me while I was at work.  I had nightmares about Ed dying over there.  I scared myself awake and cried myself back to sleep.

When it happened for real... I just shut down.  It's maybe stupid, sentimental, but I knew.  I had a dream about Ed; she was sitting beside me on the bed, singing softly.  For most of the night, she sat there and sang to me.  And then just before morning she leaned over and kissed me.  "I have to go.  Stay strong for me, Marine."

I slept better that morning than I had in months.  When I woke up, I just knew, in my heart, she was gone.  I just felt empty.

I tried to give Tiger and Natalie one more normal Saturday.  We watched cartoons.  Then Tiger 'helped' me clean up the yard.  We planted daffodils for next spring.  We mulched Ed's lilac.  Then we all played in the yard until dark.

The contact team arrived just after supper.  With two uniformed Marines standing in our living room, I hugged my kids and told them as carefully as I could that Mom wasn't coming home.  I didn't cry.  I wanted to, but it wouldn't come.  I called Ed's mom.

"Hi, Roman," that sweet midwest accent, and that tone, like she was always glad to hear from me.

"Mom..." she is my Mom, since my parents basically wrote me off.  "Ed's gone."


"She's dead."  I came so close to crying, right there.  My throat ached, my chest got tight.

"No..."  She went quiet for a long time.  I could picture her struggling with it.  Finally she came back; "How are you handling it, Rome?"  That woman is a saint, worrying about me, when her little girl was dead.

I couldn't speak.  Just saying it out loud felt like somebody stabbed me.  I forgot to breathe.


"What do I do?"  It was just a whisper.

Very quietly, very firmly she told me; "You hug your babies like you'll never let go.  And you hunker down 'til I get there."

"Yes ma'am."

Tiger and Nat and me huddled up on the couch.  I asked the Marines of the contact team to stay with us, at least until Mom got there.  I don't think the kids understood it yet.  But they knew I was broken up and scared and they stayed, cuddled up with me.  Nat fell asleep on my chest.  Then I fell asleep under her.

Six hours later, Tiger was shaking me awake, and the contact team was welcoming Ed's mom into the house, carrying the suitcase inside for her.  I laid Nat down in her crib so she could finish her sleep.

Mom caught me in the hallway outside the kitchen and hugged me so tight I thought she'd crack my ribs.  It wasn't tight enough.  I came real close again right there.  My eyes stung.  I hugged her back.

She kissed my face.  "It will be all right, Rome."

I just nodded.  I couldn't speak.

"Dad will be here tomorrow," she told me.  "Let's make some coffee."

It gave me something to do, keep my hands busy.  I made coffee, she finally put Tiger to bed, hours past when he should have been asleep.  I poured coffee for her, and myself, and the Marines.  At some point we all sat down together, and Mom asked the question I couldn't.

"How did she die?"

They didn't have details, but they understood it had been an RPG, fired on Ed's vehicle convoy.  I shut my eyes, unable to get past the image of her beautiful, sleek body, her sweet face, all mangled and bloody in the dirt.  I felt sick, and enraged.  I went outside to be alone.

In the morning I left the kids with Ed's mom and drove into town by myself.  First stop I made was at the barber, got myself a proper high-and-tight.  Somehow it was comforting.  I went into the pharmacy and bought a lilac scented soap, her favorite.  I went to the grocery and paced the aisles for too long.  I bought bread, peanut butter, milk, eggs, carrot sticks, orange juice, toilet paper, cereal, oatmeal, bananas, pears, broccoli, celery, cheese, hotdogs, bologna, pickles and mustard.  I got my heart set on watermelon, but it was out of season.  I bought a six-pack of Sprite; a six-pack of beer.  I drove myself home, very slowly.

I washed my hands with the soap, and the lilac smell was comforting.  I hugged Ed's dad; he had arrived while I was out.  And I found myself apologizing to him.  He looked hurt.  "It's not your fault, Rome."

We sat outside and drank a beer each, while we warmed up the grill for hotdogs.  The contact team was still there.  I liked having them around.  They made me feel secure.  I think even then I was thinking about going back to the Marines.


The funeral was so hard.  I didn't have that sleek dark uniform to draw strength from anymore.  I felt fragile and empty.  I finally cried a little; but it just scared the kids.

It was difficult for me to adjust.  Ed's letters kept arriving in the mail for days after the funeral.  It was like touching a ghost.  But after they stopped, it was worse.

I took as much time from work as I could.  I stayed at home with the kids.  I drove Tiger to school, and picked him up, played sports with him after school, took him to movies.  I played with Natalie, and prepped her meals, changed diapers, gave her her naps, nursed her through a fever.  I read her stories, and taught her new words.

My babies.  I felt so torn.  I wanted to be there with them, always, but I also wanted to fight!  I wanted to go over there and take some back for Ed!  I wanted to finish what she started.

I talked with Ed's parents, told them what I was feeling.  "I want to go back to the Marines.  I need to finish this.  For Ed."

Dad was dead against it.  "You can't do that to your kids, Roman.  They've already lost their mother."

"I know..."  It was like a killing pain in my chest.  I hated the thought of leaving them at all.  And leaving them to go risk my life; to go and die in the desert half-way around the world... that was even worse.  But I couldn't shut it down.  I still had that need.

Mom was more open.  "You're a fighter, Roman, always have been.  You're a protector.  I understand why you feel you need to do this."

I felt like she'd articulated something I'd been feeling for months, but couldn't put into words.  I wanted so passionately to fight back because I felt that if I'd been there I could have protected Ed.  It was stupid, but it was extremely powerful, and I couldn't shake it.

"Mom..." even if she wasn't mine, I'd call her that.  "I feel really strongly that if I do this... I won't come back."  My voice was deathly soft.  It scared me badly.  "But I feel like I have to do this."

The sadness in her eyes; it broke my heart!  But she just hugged me.  "I can't stop you, Roman.  It's your right.  It's your life."

"If I go... it's not like I'm abandoning my kids..."

"Hush.  I know that, honey."

"I don't want them to hate me."

"Roman!  Don't talk like that."  But she didn't know what nasty things Tiger was saying about his mother lately.  That she left us on purpose, that she hated him and Nat.  That killed me.

So before I went too far, I tried to explain it to Tiger.  He immediately resisted the idea.  As soon as I told him he pulled away from me.  "You're gonna leave us too?"

"Tiger, it's not like that."

"Why do you have to go?!  Why can't you stay here with us?!"

"I want to, but if we don't fight, the terrorists could attack us again.  They could hurt more innocent people."

That made him quiet for a minute.  "Is that why Mom left?  To fight the terrorists?"

"Yes."  It shocked me that I could have neglected something so important.  Didn't we ever explain to him why his mother was going to war?

"But she didn't win."

"No.  Sometimes... sometimes the bad guys win."  Seven years worth of Saturday-morning-cartoon feel-good logic out the window.  Sometimes people really do get hurt.  Sometimes the enemy wins.  Sometimes mothers – and fathers – don't come home.

He stares at me, very serious, maybe a little afraid, but not as horrified and hateful as I'd braced myself for.  "Who's gonna take care of us?"

"Gram and Grampa, and maybe Mrs. Silver.  Would you like that?"

"Maybe.  I think so."  So cautious.  "What if you don't come back?"

What if I don't come back?  What if I die over there?  Those questions haunted me for weeks.  I felt very powerfully that I was going to my death.  "Tiger.  If I don't come back... that means I'm with Mom."

"Mom hates us."

Tears burned my eyes.  "Don't ever say that."  I hugged him tight, and after a minute he relaxed and hugged me back.  "Your mother loves you so much.  If there was any way she could come back to us she would.  But they took her away from us."

"And you have to go and hurt them, because they took her."

"Yes."  Maybe it was that stupid and simple.  I wanted payback on those sick bastards.


Tiger is seven.  Natalie is three.  I'm twenty-seven, and foolish.  Today I ship out to war.  I hug my babies like I'll never let go.  But I don't cry.

I can hear Ed laughing.  "Roman.  If you cry today, I'll kick your ass."

"Go, tell the Romans that it is the will of heaven that my Rome should be the head of all the world. Let them henceforth cultivate the arts of war, and let them know assuredly, and hand down the knowledge to posterity, that no human might can withstand the arms of Rome."
from History of Rome (Ab Urbe Condita) by Livy - Book 1 Chapter 16

based on a dream I had this morning...
all persons and specific events are fictional

Any feedback, reactions, questions and/or crit is much appreciated!

Part II: TheBattleForRome...
Part III: TheFallOfRome...
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Chapter 56 – A Most Familiar Surprising Guest
     "Mush, Tammster, mush! I spy with my sexy wounded eyes a little something called the Opera, o' hooded one."
     "Get off him, for Christ's sakes," Bella snapped quietly. "People are not only staring in fear."
   Chimabell gave his brother a sour look followed by a childish whine, "My god, you are one jealous turkey! Surprised your eyes aren't glowing green already. Because, brother beloved, you do know that I could fetch you a Tammy of your own. All you have to do is ask your lord and master right here. Really, it's alright to speak up every once in a blue moon than get pissed about something you regret not saying."
     The mayor spoke of Tammy like he was an item; like sucking the souls out of people and turning them into mindless slaves was but a factory hobby. It did not help that he was riding piggyback on the mute Doll too. That was just wrong.
     Freaks - on the top and lower levels of the district - turned their faces away from their rulers, shrunk in their presence like cowardly worms or glared hatefully out the corner of their eyes'. Silent warnings were apparent what with the rows of vultures groaning in creaks along rails and lanterns and Dolls strutting in pairs along the sidelines as if voicelessly saying to every citizen around "The tyrants are out in the open, nice and exposed. We dare you to do something stupid now. Just you try." Immortality was not very well liked in the veiny, slippery hands of the politicians, but all the freaks could do was shut up, clear the way, and do nothing.
Story of Decembersville city.
     Though the mayor took notice of it all, how many faces stared at them in fear. It did not make his jolly alligator grin wilt but something stopped him from saying anything in response to it all. It was the usual feeling he had when there was rare face-to-face contact with the public. He knew it was nothing to cause a ruckus over, but one of the biggest things he despised about being the mayor was the smorgasbord of stares he would get; stares of wonder were honky dory but emotionless gray ones were rather lung-tightening to him. Like he was the only target they had, like the one kid in class everyone glared at strangely; the freak in a city of freaks that was looked at like a freak. It's not like he asked for the job. If he'd had known he'd be so hated then he would have never taken up a certain offer from a certain someone.
     The bell-eared lout chuckled and whispered down at Tammy, grinning madly but with a teaspoon of what sounded like loneliness, "It's like I'm gonna bite someone or something. Admit that it is a little funny."
     When he could have moaned instead Tammy kept quiet, a sign of understanding. Good old Tammy – three days and about four hours old – was truly special in more ways than one. It made him someone, almost, not just a Doll.
     So the trio reached the Opera House fine and dandy. Goodness, they were late, but the concern was not for the party or the show (that they usually dozed off to anyway) or even the fact that it was their obligations as public officials to attend; they were going because the Moonsick's were attending and if the brother's lied around their home a moment longer then the manor would only close in on them more. Everything was a tad more suffocating than usual with their sister missing, as hard as it was to admit. Not that they missed her, but if you've lived together for over thirty years then the slightest dent could twist up a few things. Even the crowds suddenly looked different to the brothers in Campara's absence. The eldest vulture wanted his sister back, the youngest did not know whether it was him missing her or simply wanting things to be back to the way they were beforehand; change scared this man. Everything that has ever changed in his lifetime only took him a few steps down below.
     Once they and Tammy arrived to skip ahead of the commonfolk then they were not given faces of reverence but of confusion; like realization ht every freak at once that they were experiencing déjà vu or something or other.
     "Yodele-hi there, idiot slave of mine!" Chimabell squealed in all his casual enthusiasm to the Doll guard. The Doll barely moved.
     Bella made it to the top of the steps and made a brooding sigh. He said "Ten to an hour late. Such bad manners, yeah, but the point is that we are here now."
The Doll did nothing.
     Chimabell slid off Tammy's back and meanly shoved the lanky servant aside, bringing his hand up to the guard's face and waving it side to side, eyes squinted so that his grimy pupils could focus. "Hey. Is it broken?"
     "My lords."
     "Go on inside," the Doll said bluntly.
     The brothers exchanged puzzled faces between each other, Tammy doing the same as if he was just as confused as they were. Again, something was thrown off course and they had no idea who or what to blame. Hell, the past few days have been nothing but an oddity to them.
     Bella pointed a weak talon at the entrance corridor and asked suspiciously "By 'go on inside' do you mean to just… go inside?"
     Chimabell made the same expression, asking "We renewed the security pass … quiz… thingy or whatever for this year, right? To keep out fraud?"
     The Doll's masked face met the flaky palm of its hand and so it said tiredly "My lords, have mercy and just go inside. Nothing is required, we all… weallknowwhoyouare— please just go."
     The brothers looked at each other again. The mayor said awkwardly "Uh… yeah, sure thing," then muttered to Bella "Moonsick's must'ave saved us the trouble 'cause I'm just that fantastical."
     So the mayor's crooked beam popped up in an instant and his jazz hands danced with the cool air, eyes now directed at the crowd of freaks waiting to go inside. He squealed annoyingly "We hope you enjoy the Opera, liversnaps! If not then we'd be happy to beat the fun into you—nah, I'm kidding, I'm kidding, so quit taking me so seriously."
      The glares suspended as their ruler joked because they all had the feeling in their guts that he'd do such a thing because he knew he could do it; as if anyone forgot about Zero that early morning.
     Bella could not help but scowl, "Chima, they are waiting."
     So the littlest brother whistled "A toodles to the bunch of ya's! We are heading off to salsa!" He hopped into Tammy's arms like a little princess and the trio finally went on in.
The Doll guard just stood there, hand still to its face. "I am so fired."

Meanwhile, how the other fools are doing…
     Mellon and Tin were in trouble, quite obviously.
     The gold doors of the round elevator slid shut, trapping our heroes in a giant vermillion dome with two legal murderers pointing their guns right at them, ready to either interrogate or do their bloody work. Mellon stood upright, leering darkly at the officers across from them, hands finally settled down; Tin's raw shock was stuck on his face for the last eight minutes since they have been caught.
     A Doll spoke, its gender-less voice steady, "You thought you could get away with it, Melloni Collie. But you were in trouble the second you presented yourself out there. You and your sunny friend."
Tin gulped, shivering all over. Mellon was still and quiet.
     "Really," said the other officer, "you two absolutely suck at this." There was a surprising edge in its tone and the dog caught it.
     One of the gangster's floppy ears rose up into visibility. He tilted his head in suspicion saying "One o' ya is taller than the other. And why are you trying to change your voice?"
    The Dolls were quiet for a moment then responded unevenly "Are we really that obvious, too?"
     Mellon moved freely and threw his hands up "Oh, so we are not the only ones who suck after all, then. Your outfits are barely even right!"
    "Aw, touché!" a Doll laughed unnaturally. "And we were about to have a little fun here."
    The masks were easily removed as were the black hoods, revealing actual smiling faces underneath them, made of flesh and bone – eccentric in appearance but harmless at a first look – one freak being a common frost color, the other a vile lime green; a young man and woman.
     "Damn it, guys!" Mellon snapped, taking a few steps forward. "Did Wonka send you to piss us off!?"
    The young lady gave him a sarcastic look; her almond-shaped eyes a glimmering black much like a spider, her fair-cropped hair a venomous violet that came off dark unless a flicker of light showed off the lovely color. She spoke, her small lips hiding rows of needle-like teeth, "On the contrary, he only sent us and a few others to help Darkchovi out in finding Sophia but instead we happened to find you morons." She moved slowly yet fluidly, like every move was planned. Tipping the gangster's chin, she chuckled "Honestly, you both look god awful and I am not complimenting that. You are lucky to have gotten here."
The elevator doors opened and people were outside waiting. The spider-ish freak closed the doors and none entered.
     "Oy, Anna," her partner said aloud. Encircling Tin like a slippery stalked, his slimy tongue licked at the air as he shot his companion his ghastly snake eyes, "I think Lily Sunshine fainted standing up. And I'm being serious, though his eyes are open and everything." His tongue pointlessly moved the dark bangs out of his eyes, only for them to slip into place again. "Want I should wake him up?"
    "Be gentle, Buttercup."
    The snake freak grinned, "With pleasure, love."
    Anna looked at Melloni again and he seemed far from impressed with Tin's little moment. She said "So, 'Mr. Mayor', from the looks of it you do not have the kid so I'll ask instead: where is your chew toy Zero?"
     "He's fine. Stick around and you'll be seeing him soon— aw, dammit!" he shouted and turned, hand to his forehead. He realized something pretty big. "That stupid kid, he better not be doing anything wild out there or we are both so screwed!"
    Buttercup was wiggling his tongue at Tin's frozen cheek when he made a questioning hum, "What'd the mutt say?"
     Mellon made a frustrated growl and hammered his fist against his forehead lightly, "Freaking blood, dude. I gave Z some swell moon fluid to hold onto for just-in-case stuff. I doubt that he could remember that—"
     "That it's explosive and will BLOW HIM TO BITS, PERHAPS?" Anna exclaimed. "Are you stupid!? If he so much as trips then he's confetti and Wonka will eat you alive! There is a reason that the stuff is illegal, Melloni!"   
     "Fall and 'splode. Ha-cha-cha, what a way to go," said the snake-like freak Buttercup, who was now playing with Tin's hair. "Where did you leave the poor kid? Could we pick 'im up?"
     The dog groaned "No way, man. He was led elsewhere by your neighborly albino creep factor Steven. Said he would sneak Z in here safely though we have yet to find him."
     "'Steven'? Steven who?" asked Anna, her head tilting slowly, slit eyes narrowed to thin diamonds.
    Mellon answered straight "Steven. Tall, white hair, heart glasses, gay to the max? He's the reason we're here. Mentioned that Wonka sent him to help us out."
    Confounded glances were traded between the young rebels. Buttercup made a shrug (as he was now playing with Tin's batty ears, top hat flung off), making the luxurious atmosphere rather unsettling. The snake freak mumbled, "Sounds dreamy. But what's this Steven guy all about?"

Now, over to where the poor (innocent shred of unfortunate affairs) Zero is…
     Nowhere in the Opera House was safe for Zero to be but it would have been considered lucky where he ended up popping his head. Sliding his thin metal hands through the door slot, he cheated the lock and carefully took a peek outside the door of the props closet where the Meowsician dropped him off at. There was music and chatter echoing from up ahead as it turned out Zero was on one of the high corridor levels of the Opera House; only the corridor was bare empty, even its floors lacking red carpeting and the chandeliers above dead and filled with webs. Of course, it must have been a closed-off floor. That was understandable for the walls were filled with stains and cracks; the open corridor in great disrepair. It was most likely only used for its storage of props and nothing else, which was a shame because with a bit of repair then it could have served for more space.
     Zero's heart was hammering wildly in his chest out of his anxiety. Being alone during a break-in while on a wild search was not one of his favorite activities, which made him mumble exhaustedly to himself "Sophia, why are you doing this to me? I've been nice, haven't I? I've been tolerant, so why not just stay put?"
     The corridor joined another up ahead that encircled the lobby of the Opera House along with the layers beneath it, so there was plenty of move-around space. It was like a risky sanctuary.
      There was not much for Zero to gaze around at yet he was still so terribly cautious, scared out of his wits about bumping into someone less than acceptable or of vultures that may have been hiding in the shadows; everyone in the city knew that those beasts played great surveillance. Taking a deep breath, Zero shivered with every step he took towards the balcony rim, getting closer to the light and music. He made it just fine and looked over the railing carefully at the world of color and amusement below. He could not help but smile a little at the jolliness going around for it was a nice change of view from the misery he has been exposed to over the last bunch of hours.
       Eyes scanned the lobby from high above. His pupils searched and searched the entire arena in hopes of catching a glimpse of Mellon or Tin, but he was not as confident for he was unsure about where they could have entered from or whether they have made it in already; it would have been difficult to catch them anyway due to the fact that they would have blended in quite nicely with the crowd. "Come on, guys, come on…" he found himself whispering anxiously, trying to find them. He looked towards the treat tables.
Then he took a gander over at the auditorium entrances.
Not at all.
Next his eyes took a quick look at the building entrance.
No, just the mayor and his brother coming in.
    "OH, JEEZ!" Zero squealed, instantly ducking from sight and crouching right before the wallish ledge of the corridor balcony, panting like mad. He reiterated "no, no, no" to himself praying that the mayor did not catch a glimpse of him and the greater wish that he would not be caught that night. That man scared the hell out of the little freak and he was not too inclined to have another near-death experience. For god's sakes, he was just there to find his friend and that's it. He did not wish for more trouble (which was what he was going to get, by the way; as if you should be surprised).
     Zero took a gulp, slowly bringing himself up to look over the balcony ledge again. He saw the mayor and his brother there from so high up, totally oblivious to the kid. He saw Tammy there as well, sulking hauntingly like the bloodless vessel he was. Except the second Zero laid eyes on the Doll servant then Tammy immediately shot his head upwards to stare at the freak.
Zero's heart went dry and he threw himself down again, terrified about whether Tammy saw him or not; if he did then he was screwed. That is it! The feeling was kicking in gradually. He saw me, he kept repeating to himself. He totally saw me, he's going to tell them that I am here. The boy gulped again, struggling up to get a show on the road. I have got to move quick before—
Now Zero went dizzy, every ounce of worry that he had vanished in but a second and he swaggered side to side, fumbling backwards with the weight of his hands swinging him around like a drunk.
     "Look at those huge shining anime eyes. You were born for the camera, kid."
That voice was terribly familiar to the freak yet he could not put a specific guess on it. Zero mumbled and fell back on his tuckus, trying to clear his vision. There was someone there with him that was hard to make out but then came another huge flash that stunned him. The person was talking terribly fast and rather annoyingly yet Zero had trouble making it out.
     "You are breaking my heart! You are giving me the look of a gothic maid in distress!" Another flash. "Your face was made for sad calendars and that is the honest-to-momma truth." A third flash. "Oh my, you just seem to be in more anguish as each photo is snapped! You've been born out the belly of a kicked puppy dog." In came another blasted flash. "With crippled kittens on the side!"
      All the blinding flashes made Zero's eyes burn and his mind spin, tilting here and there on weight. "Ohhh man…" he gurgled to himself, "I think I'm going to be sick." It took him a while to take notice that he was now lying on his back for he could see the fuzzy picture of a shadowy person standing right over him now; he could barely make him out, but there was a small glimmer of cerulean light marking a place where the guy's eye must have been. Who was this dude?
     The person squatted down over Zero and his head tilted, his fast-talking voice now more energetically concerned than over-enthusiastic, "If you are feeling sick then it'd be delectable if you threw up over the side. There's been one too many cases in which I've checked a fella' who drowned throwing up lying down and it is never a sad sight but a hilarious one, which is just as sad." The voice sounded strange, like it was someone talking through an old walkie-talkie or a radio. "Hang in there, kid." The stranger yanked Zero up by his wrists and helped him maintain balance. "Got to say that you are heavier than you look."
     The ax-handed boy shook his heavy head and brought his exhausted eyes up to look into the stranger's. He did not know him at all, apparently, but that voice of his was just way too familiar to let go.
     Letting out a small cough and a couple of blinks, Zero asked gently without malice (knowing that the entire blinding sequence was unintentional), "E-excuse… me— excuse me, sir? Uh… uh, wait." He rubbed his eyes with his arm in embarrassment. "Sorry. Uh, excuse me? Do I… know you at all?"
     The stranger made a huge smile that was easy to melt hearts with and said in nonchalant giddiness "Listen to the radio much?"
     "The… radio? Oh wait! Then you are—"
     "That is I!" the freak chuckled. He poked the top of Zero's head going "And you, my boy, are in the wrong place what with you being a criminal and all. I highly suggest you stick around right here in this specific isle considering the mayor's floor is right under you."
It was easy for Zero to trust the man for reasons that shall be explained soon, yet he automatically questioned "You are not going to turn me in or anything, are you?"
     "Depends. How old are you?"
     "S-seventeen years of age."
     "Then nope! A kid in trouble is too common to spark interest in this media. You had your share this morning and Mary strike me down if I were to turn in an innocent like you due to…" (he shudders and rasps) "…political mendacity." He shoved Zero a bit. "It's the Opera! We are here to live a little!" With a laugh, the freak pulled Zero into a should-to-shoulder embrace and squeaked "Now smile for Mr. Kodak!"
      "Thank yoouuu!" said he, pushing a dizzied Zero aside and skipping off. By the time Zero's vision cleared up then the man was gone.

   Back to subplot fifty-five in the Grand Auditorium…
     The auditorium was so immense that it was questionable how much space the building had for it exactly; on the outside the Opera House was huge, yes, but the auditorium could have pretty much been a giant building on its own due to its tremendous size. The opera chamber was a glorious circular theater hall that lacked any ounce of light but from the magnificent stage itself that stood open before the audience. There were layers of metallic black seats glimmering from the reflective stage lights, the horizontal aisles subtly rounded about yet with the seats still facing the stage directly. The lack of lights in the audience made the theater into a sea of shimmering blackness, as if the entire chamber was made of dark gloss. The area as a whole was dome-shaped, so the walls were reaching up high and almost caving into the people before them; naturally red walls were dyed violet in the light of the place.
Red for a reason, yes, but let's leave that for later on.
     There were intros to the area surrounding the base of the walls – eight dark channels, big and round, each separated by a few feet – where freaks would enter quietly to take their seats wherever they desired; there would always be just enough space for everyone because, although the auditorium always had a seemingly full house, people came and went every now and then due to the play itself being optional for viewing because the Decembersville Opera was not exactly an opera but more of a glamorous party, it was a-okay to come and go as one pleased although once they entered the auditorium then it was in the best interest to stick around.
     The stage was a totally different story than the auditorium. It was not as tremendous as the viewing area was but it was most definitely a huge theater that brought others to shame. The stage was exposed and rounded about, reaching up high and ending at the ceiling itself, leaving space for so much detail and lighting to take over as well as a vast amount of space to move about. The curtains were long and moved to the sides of the stage, suspended by a horizontal row of dimly-lit chandeliers that floated about, ready to move when directed in order to open up more legroom for the stage. The base of the acting zone was a rounded isle with a silver rim, a wild collection of miniature gears working the gizmos beneath the floorboards in order to tilt and rotate the stage itself for scene changes as well as special effects. Bulbs, trinkets, and set designs were balanced on web-thin strings of platinum that dangled them from the ceilings and jutted upward from the stage itself to suspend the details in mid-air, able to work like puppet mechanisms in order to move the treasures around.
It was just magic. The theater was total magic.
     But there are some folks out there that failed to enjoy the show, whether it was out of their lack of appreciation or the boredom of experience; in this case, the aristocrats that loomed over their audience from high above, right on the left wall of the auditorium.
     "Look at them. They remind me so much of insects, drawn to the light. Those bulging eyes, those stupid faces," said Emily Moonsick, her jeweled eye mask glistening before the stage's tremendous lighting. "It's usual for ones such as ourselves to enjoy this, but you had to ruin it all with your lack of charisma, von Pyre."
     Bella rolled his eyes, taking a sip of his wormy rum, "Just enjoy the show then you may complain about Chima's hangover. Why blame me anyway? I didn't shove the shit down his throat or anything."
     "He's a deranged idiot and you had the gall to get here late— Emmy, get that out of your mouth." The little Moonsick sister was chewing on her porcelain plate, the ridges punctured with teeth marks and the utensils on the crimson floor along with a few instances of cake crumbs. It was usual for the little munchkin oddity to act surrealistically (like chewing on plates rather than edibles, for instance). The older sister looked over the ridge of the booth and sighed at the colorful show going on, "I must say that the set is quite extravagant. More complicated than the years beforehand."
     "BOOOORRRIIIIINNNNNG-UH!" the mayor whined loudly, the top half of his body hung over the booth crest like he was more than ready to throw up (again) into a crowd of onlookers. "Bella-wella, you should have killed me whenever you had the chance. My wounds are opening here."
     Emily raised a brow, "You mean your eyes?"
     "Aw no, your healing worked like a charm and I thank ya for that. By 'wounds' I refer to my damaged ego and aching for fun fancy here."
    Bella made a harsh sigh, his eyes almost cutting from the veins and rolling back completely, "We got here late. What more are you asking for? Just shut up and enjoy the ride."
    "I caaaan't."
    "You don't even have to pay attention to it. Just watch the damn show."
    "I. CAN'T."
    "Then drop dead!"
Bella's usual outburst could have distracted many from the show, their eyes settled on their rulers above, but an enchanted barrier (brought to them by the redheaded mistresses, of course) kept every detail of their conversation deaf to the audience's ears. Politics, secretive as always.
     A curtain call was made and a round of applause was at hand. The ceiling caved in slowly, rings of the curtains sliding around the stage and covering it up in their splendid color; a mass of floating chandeliers dancing a careful ballet from so high up, their flames illuminating on the highest corridor, covered over with stained glass.
How that glass, after so many dreadful years, shimmered before a flame so cleanly was a mystery that died under bored wonder.      
     The elder von Pyre motioned at Tammy, who just stood aside in the booth, to fetch him some more worm rum. He handed the glass over and grumbled coldly "Red scotch, meat ice." The servant made a sad bow and soundlessly walked out of the booth and into the red corridors, turning a corner and heading to the foyer. The vulture made a last minute threat and shouted "Not to be confused with blood!" He achieved no answer. "If he brings me any of that vampire-mosquito freak juice then I'll break that mask of his open."               
Suddenly a voice entered the scene going "Scarborough is too quiet tonight but at least it's still standing!" Every aristocrat in the booth turned around to take a gander at the entrance of their little royal spot.
Emily Moonsick spoke up.
     "Ah. Talkie Lovzit, at last."
In entered the newscaster with a hop in his step and a sweet smile on his face.
     Talkie Lovzit has been a resident of Decembersville longer than anyone was able to remember, which raised the question about his age (considering whether he could actually age or not); the svelte man seemed to be trapped forever in his late thirties, how he kept the smile and energetic kindness that youth offered along with the appearance of a to-the-point adult, but only in face shape and his healthy height. Otherwise he looked like an aristocratic clown, how his strands of hair stuck up wild with the same purple color as his thin lips; his teeth a bright yellow and crooked here and there; his skin the same cold, poreless, pearly white as the grand majority of Decembersville's citizens due to the weather; glimmering emerald powder encircling his baggy yet jolly eye, but only his left one.
Lovzit lacked a right eye, as it only came out as a tiny glistening blue circle lit up and trapped behind the glass of a horrid mechanical eye-guard of sorts; a long metal strap stapled gruesomely from the top of his forehead past his right eye to the flesh on the side of his head, a great metal circle covering the eye in the center of the strap to leave only a shimmer of blue light coming from it. It was obvious that the eye cast was there for a while due to the rancid, scabby, abused flesh that subtly poked out from beneath its ridges as if the mechanism was so tight that it cut the skin and was never removed again.
But he was still a joy to look at, believe it or not.
      The strange man made a little bow, keeping his face up so the massive item on his head would not become a bother to anyone in front of him. He took Emily Moonsick's hand in his and kissed it happily, saying in his radio-like tone "Good evening, royals and royalties on the opera floor who give me the pleasure of handing a good evening to. And how are we doing today?"
     Chimabell made a surprisingly calm smile and uttered "Yo, Talkie. It's been a millennia."
    "A mere month since last personal encounter, to be exact," said the radio man with his high tone of optimism. He twiddled his bony fingers until Emmy brought him into the balcony completely, pulling him by the ruffled sleeve with a demented smile that begged him not to be shy.
     The cerulean dot shone from beneath the confines of its prison like a firefly; always so distracting to stare at whenever a conversation was made with the freak. Perhaps that was the cause for his lack of companionship? It was easy to think so, what with how that trapped eye of his opened such crusty wounds on the public; old yet new and gushy wounds that none took pride in but were forced to expose.
Hell, Decembersville itself was an open wound and Lovzit was a fine example of remembrance. His fame never covered corrupted nostalgia and the fact that he got along so well with the vultures sealed his social status, like a voice that was easy to trust but easier to despise.
     "Well, what have I missed? Anything tremendous played just yet?" asked the newscaster jauntily, eyeing the brilliant stage of razzles and dazzles.
     "Sadly no," Chimabell said, followed by a yawn and a groggy tone. "Just, you know, the same awesome boredom that everyone seems attracted to for some reason. According to the list… thing or whatever there are about … shoot me to hell, are we seriously staying for the rest of the shows!? We'll be here all night, man!" he whined loudly at Bella, who just rolled his eyes and grit his fangs to fly over to his happy place where little brothers never roamed. "For god's sakes, I mean— UGH, mayeth this dome of cabareting boredom be my coffin."
     "It is rather funny that you bring that up," said the eldest Moonsick, turning her head to Lovzit. "Any thoughts on Razz Matazz's death, Lovzit?"
     "Would you hang me if I spoke freely?"
     "Your dues have already been paid so just say what you want to say."
      All eyes besides the mayor's were on the newscaster as he spoke, though beneath his exhausted expression Chimabell was listening intently with strong focus.
     "I find it incredibly suspicious, lords and ladies of the choir, and this is coming from someone who has been around for a while." He took a sit on the ledge of the balcony and whistled with a fruity face, "First with the death of the apparent Darkslaw who was coming in lately, Razz Matazz decides to hit the bricks. That is a huge conspiracy right there with the connections and all. Am I right or am I off course here?"
     "You are correct but that's already been taken to mind. At least lately it has but the public seems pretty doe-eyed about the situation."
     "In back of closed faces, sure, but for all we know they are fretting about the end of the world due to this little travesty."
Bella made a face of discomfort but said nothing just as his little brother was doing. Of course, not even their close ally Lovzit knew of the puppetry going on behind political curtains.
     "And it is also really sad because oy, that Matazz was a sweet creep! Interviewed him during happy hour about three years back and it was the BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE. Refused to mention certain notes, though, even when high as helium."
     "No kidding," Chimabell mumbled, sharper than how he intended to sound. "Even momma time has trouble forgetting about that weirdo's little personal screw-up."
    "Which was…?"
    Bella turned and said gruffly "Once upon a time and six years ago. Does that ring a damn bell?" Chimabell flicked at one of his ears to add to the unintended pun, but the rubber clappers got it to make a dull sound so he winded up sighing pathetically. Kudos to him, at least. "That Emcee Razz Matazz… never ever was a good cause for this city. Always stood up for the wrong reasons."
    "Nobody said he was a freaktriotic nut."
     "Then he should never have pulled his own strings in court that night."
     The newscaster made a face as though someone snapped his dreams in two upon remembering something pretty nasty mentioned, "Riiiight, my lord, right; bulbs in my noggin are all the flicker." His smile returned in an instant. "Think Darkchovi or Wiley are next?"
     Emily Moonsick played with her glass chalice and said silkily "The Darkchovi boy could be next but I am not confident about it. Every citizen knows of the grudge between him and his family. He even lives alone, not under the care of his relative."
    "Everyone is aware of that," said Bella, "because his uncle is a goddamn crazy rebel. He's always been bitter to that anchovy kid anyway, so he could be safe because… you know, he has got nothing to do with anything besides the blood relationship. What do you think, Chima?"
     The mayor was silent for a while followed by a kiddish shrug.
    "You are his adoptee, no matter how you two don't have it going." He looked at the Moonsick's, "The kid got disowned then this freak here filled in the name."
     "Signing an adoption thing doesn't make me a damn parent to anyone, Bella-wella. God knows that if I ever bother having kids they'll wind up pushing me from a third-story window. You should know that." He massaged his eyes. "Yup, you should know that more than anyone, li'l princess. I like my life."
    All the aristocrats went silent followed by a few sighs, their eyes on the beautiful show going on before them, including the newscaster's (who seemed rather blank). He brought a thin hand up and made a gun gesture with it, his thumb extended upwards. Then it stretched up high and hardened, a slither of tiny bones trying to break out the skin of his fingers and his nail curling up then wrapping around itself, pores sinking in to create holes and harden. Talkie said through the microphone "Kind of awkward, don't you think?"
Speaking of awkward, the group all responded at once in flat tones "I'll say." Then the mayor's head flung forward and slammed into the surface of the balcony wall, completely conking out and taking a rather spontaneous slumber that made Bella look like he was more than ready to make sure he stayed asleep and the world would have a happily ever after.
     Time came and went, shows came in and out, citizens watched gleefully, the lights flickered and toiled, the stained glass shone every now and then when the floating chandeliers took a glide past them, and Bella finally got his red scotch. Lovzit made a few adieus, always returning to their booth with his kind grin and energy with some news recorded about the opera, readying it every now and again for some juice to feed the radio stations.
It was nothing too huge.
      One of the shows came to a close and a rich choir of applause took over the colossal space again, Lovzit joining them only to get pretty bitter eyes from the higher-ups to shut him up (except for Tammy but nobody cared about what he thought). "Who is next?" little Emmy asked curiously.
     Bella fussed with the layered Opera program, eyes on the inky words that spelled out a huge list of both normal and fantastical names and titles of shows. It was frustrating to find considering he himself was not paying much attention to the show that occurred and ended just now.
     "Hey, Chima," Bella nudged at. Nope. The mayor was already dreaming. As much as he wanted to slam his fist into the back of his brother's neck, Bella resisted with all his strength and whispered to Lovzit "Any clue what just happened?"
     "Well…" said the newscaster, flipping his own program open and humming happily as he skimmed "Weee… just saaaw… 'Vultures of Malice'."
    Bella rolled his eyes and cursed "Figures."
     "And next is 'Webs A'Plenty', performed by Anna the literal widow."
     "Who titles this shit?"
     "You guys do."
     "I was afraid of that."
The curtains were closed and the claps went on, the lights still dim and the cheers echoing all around as if it would never end or the onlookers were purposely suspending the night.
     Lovzit was unable to hold his words in, so he whispered tightly through a big grin, some static trailing his radio voice, "Pretty dark, don't you think?"
Bella quirked an eyebrow.
     "Scarborough is cheering right in the palm of Death's hand." His eyes were directly on the big red curtains that covered the terrific, rounded stage, the shadows on them casted in wisps of dark vermillion that featured hidden regret. "And the funny part is that they seem to have forgotten where they stand."
    "Yes…" Bella responded grimly, eyes scanning the beautiful world of ruby and cheer, "… Seem to have."
SHAW! The auditorium fell black!
    A wave of gasps and chatter took place in an instant once all the browns, all the reds, all the golds and lights have shut off completely, all at once, plummeting the theater into thick obscurity (save for a few glimmers of lit eyes and features in the crowd, though not even their illumination could find the closest neighbor). Bella's own gold eyes shone dimly in the blackness as did Lovzit's small dotted pupil, the Moonsicks' eyes instantly going red as if the dark bid hello to the monsters beneath the skin.
    "Wow! It was not my fault this time!" Lovzit giggled happily.
Emily was heard asking "Then what is this?" to which Bella responded bitterly "You tell me! Think some rogue in the crowd set the lights off?"
The chatters in the crowd became scattered laughter and cheer, just to literally lighten the mood and because some just found it funny; others already gossiping in question as to what went on; even more passing the word that it was a part of the show. Only a mere handful whispered Sophia's name.
    "Is it only the auditorium or the whole build—"
    "The whole building, Lord Bella. I just got the word," said the newscaster followed by a few sparks leaving his mouth.
    "For the love of. Hey, Chima, you have to calm the— ifyouarestillsleepingthenIsweartoGod—"
    "He's still asleep, my lord."
    "I'LL KILL HIM!" (He meant it. He was feeling around for him and everything.)
    "Who turned off the lights?" Emmy squealed, adding to the chaos and noise going around in such tight darkness.
A moment that felt like forever has passed and the crowd below was becoming more and more restless with their wonderings to the point that Lovzit had to break the sound barrier of the mayor's lot and announce to all through his finger-made microphone that everything was under control and to just sit still for a moment followed by narrating to himself in recording of the scenario.
      A while passed by, teeming with gossiping murmurs and a rather curious series of little chit-chats. Dolls were sent to the candle labs to make sure none have died out and in case to renew; the enchanted natural energy of candlelight worked just as powerful and faulty as modern day electricity (or to most by "modern day" they obliviously meant a good dip in modern human life thirty years back). Lovzit announced twice that there was nothing to be worried about and the show was to begin momentarily.
     The servant Tammy caught a call from one of his brethren officers and brought his communicator out of the opaque mass of black his body took form. The masked mute handed the visual walkie-talkie over to Bella and he snatched it away easily, the little white dots of the limited technology making it easy to spot.
     "Sir, the fuses are all lit and nobody has entered the chamber all day long. Hell, it's been left alone for a week."
Bella hung up and pondered. The darkness was not a power outage – someone or something was purposefully causing it. But before Bella could do anything, the floating candlelight of the spinning chandeliers was slowly returning dimly, one cell of light after another.
     "Problem, m'lord? What'd the servants say?" Lovzit asked.
He was shushed, the audience fell silent, and slow music began to make itself known. The grand ruby red curtains of the colossal opera stage lifted up tenderly. And then a hum – low and merry, soft and haunting, happy and threatening – rose up along with the most when suddenly a silhouette descended onstage, hoisted by nothing. The music became a choir, then a few piano notes coming from god knows where echoed all around and the stage was suddenly empty, not one giant set or prop taking over. It was just the stranger and a sudden kaleidoscope of bright red strings dancing in the background to the beat of the music, it's slides and lil
     All eyes were on the surprise guest, gazing at his descent with lopsided confusion and ears of many kinds pointing, shaking, and fluttering to his slithery lullaby, his movements gently animated like a slimy shadow puppet.
     The stranger was glimmering in a pure whiteness that could have blinded eyes in the way of a godly savior; his flesh almost sickly in how paper pearl it was, not a stain to rust the flesh or a pore opened; even his apparel had a difficult time standing out against his skin due to the cold cream color – a long simple long-sleeved robe that reached his ankles like a kimono that lacked ties and ribbons – with the slightest hint of detail upon the plain dress being the many black music notes that were place at random up and down. But the symbols moves slowly throughout the dress as if they were floating knick-knacks trapped behind a transparent layer.
     His hair was snowy silver and cropped unevenly at a neck-length, flayed and fluffed in messy layers. Even those curved, cruel horns of his shimmered white as they poked out the sides of his head, pointing upwards like a bull or a wretched gargoyle of sorts, which contrasted greatly against the triangular little cat ears standing upright like a common flaky feline.
     But then came a closer look at the sheer malevolence being covered by the whiteness, all expressed by those eyes – those horrible, conniving eyes.
     Those eyes were far from ordinary – which was quite common, however – for they were more like almondesque caves than they were eyes: hollow black holes that carried but a fiery red pupil in the center, squinted and sluggish like a cunning something bidding a formal salutation but waiting for you to turn your back. His eyes matched his mouth, which was a long thin line of black, curved at the end to create a smug and sadistically nonchalant grin.
Who was this man?
     "Who is that?" Bella mumbled, oblivious to his question being heard. His talons flipped through the sepia pages of the program, the names of past performers grayed out through the means of enchanted ink but the title of the next act was at a standstill, glowing an odd pinkish color when it was supposed to shimmer in gold. The vulture raised his voice, turning to face Lovzit, "Who is that, Lovzit?"
     The Moonsick sisters leaned in on the question, surprisingly eager for an answer, yet the newscaster said after slight hesitation and staring "By my gears n' other bric-a-bracs, I lack a knowing of that fellow, not even in my tender memory files." It was a sad truth, but unusual for one such as Lovzit to lack recognition of anyone. He knew the names of every citizen, the backstory of every brick built in the odd city, the backbone of their world.
     If anybody knew about the bloodstream of Decembersville, it was none other than Talkie Lovzit. If a question on him was raised in terms of who was a stranger then that meant something.
Then the stranger began to sing; his voice low, soft, not willing to raise a note too high never mind his smile seemed to want to do otherwise. He sung along with the ghost choir – patient, slow, eyes cast dead upon the dark vermillion world cast in browns, blacks, and the dotted glimmers that represented glowing eyes and other oddities.
His hands danced around and his mouth barely moved as he sang:

"One two sins too much…
And the Lord laid down his hands,
So besiege by whom defied,
And so they paid blood with their sands…

     The smiling stranger moved like silk mercury, looking so slow but moving so fast in truth. The wisps of things glowing red behind him began to flail frantically, swinging into such abstract pictures like the man was putting on a light show. The wisps formed zig-zags leading up into the air but the singer merely spun around and actually began to walk up them like they were hard stairs, the steps left behind sloping then swinging upwards to create a flat tightrope-like surface. He walked upon the red tightrope like it were flat ground, the audience staring in pure confusion and wonder.
It was definitely a surprise show. All checked their programs and they doubted that this man was Anna the Widow for the next act.

"One spark of cruel lamentation reached their core,
Then UP and UP it rose till the liars laughed no more.

     The music escalated from god knows where, all head spinning in wonder as to where it was coming from – organs, violins, a daunting piano that was all playing quite merrily and jumpily in the midst.
Then the stranger spread his arms, making a fluid spin around as if praising the gods above and sang loudly with a voice like silk, his words jumping happily yet calmly:

"Feared n' fearing loves,
Quiet now,
Don't you dream a tune,
Solely for you?
For at the end of your fateful ballet,
He'll swoop down and steal you away.

What can I say if your exile is near?
You bring, you keep, you fall on your knees,
Your hands flare up, no dread shall you keep,
Under circumstance our losses draw near,
O' dire lull-a-bye of fear.

     A long and brilliant series of unworded stanzas literally glided over the masses, the strings of red dancing before the people and forming tremendous symbols that spiraled, that swirled, that played their loud and swirling beat like a neverending instrumental. The sorcery had it's odd effect for the curtains began to flutter and strong breezes took place with every sharp swipe the red wisps made in their air opera like they were composed of flesh, not mere smoke.
     The aristocrats stared at the dazzling spectacle in pure wonder, Bella's mouth hanging open slightly while the mayor (the biggest lout known to freaks) had his arms crossed over the ledge of the balcony, his eyes still closed. All watched, even Doll officers down below, and the ivory stranger on stage danced around the wisps seductively, interacting with them the way a celestial heaven-bound would, even going to far as to mutter rather foreign terms to it in a most loving, dangerous voice.
Lovzit spasmed.
     The Moonsicks stared at the man for he seemed like he just woke himself out of a rather haunting nightmare, straightening then immediately slumping with his hands to the sides of his head.
    "Talkie," Bella rasped at him, his eyes narrow. "What's your problem?"
All the newscaster did was shake his head and say shakily through a grin, "Nothing. Just… I dunno, I guess my mind turned off for a millisecond right there."
     The politician stared at him for a long time, the music grand and turning the entire auditorium into more of a becharmed cabaret made of red light and invisible music. Then he looked away and settled those dim golden eyes upon the stranger, his fangs grit together for a deep suspicion rose. Then a strong flash of red and pink got the entire audience to shriek and the aristocrats to turn away immediately as it has come from the stage; a mere effect played by the red magic to pound more music into the air and it's composer to smile widely as if all was well, there was nothing left.  

"A gruesome spell lies 'wake,
In the dark depths where they wait,
A feed on they, a spare for you,
White rain came down
And drowned the hate.

Don't mistreat my words for soon all shall face,
One choice, not two,
To lock up our fates.

Feared n' fearing loves,
Quiet now,
Don't you dream a tune,
Solely for you?
For at the end of your fateful ballet,
He'll swoop down… or watch you drown,
So pray your wings spread,
Not tear away, loves.

What can I say if your exile is near?
You bring, you keep, you fall on your knees,
Your hands flare up, no dread shall you keep,
Under circumstance our losses draw near,
O' dire lull-a-bye of FEAR!"

FWAH! Another tremendous blinding flash of red took place and all dodged their eyes away from the sight. The stranger held that last word for a long time in a professional falsetto, letting it screech, echo, raise curtains and play along with the brightness his magic was causing like the distraction for a terrorist attack. He held it for a long time, a strong wave of cold air blasting across the way, then… nothing.
The darkness fell upon all in a heartbeat, not a speck of red light being left behind. It was like someone flicked the lights off in the area, silencing everything. All that was left behind was the falsetto "fear" scream echoing, fading into the blackness to join with it's vermillion-and-white master.
With that, the lights began to dimly return, slowly rising to reveal the stage and the contraption-like set back in place like nothing had just happened.
  The audience was dead silent at first until a few awkward claps got the entire theater to stand up and shriek in cheer, applauding the surprise visit that concluded. The aristocrats were all together in their booth, leering in confusion without the slightest smidgeon of amusement.
     Bella's mouth was slightly open, eyes bulging. He knew who that was. It had to be who he knew it was.
     "Chima…" he whispered, insides cold. "Chima, you don't think that…" There was a stutter in his voice and he turned to see his brother, who was still lying sleepily over the balcony ledge. The older brother stared in disappointment but more shock, every muscle in his body tightened into a little coil. A slither of warmth upon his shoulder made him jump and he turned his head to notice Lovzit looking at him with concern.
    "Lord Bella! You're paler than used lime! What's the gossip?"
    He got no response at all but just a wide-eyed look that darted from him to the sisters then to him again, his mouth open but not saying anything. What could he say? What would he say? Things were about to go into action and the world was about to flip upside down, all because of a little song at the Opera and the slightest moment of realization. The night was not expected to turn out that way and the aristocrat was frozen in such daunting surprise, it brought the cold to shame.
    "Lord Bella?" Lovzit asked again, head tilting. "Jeewillakers, got hit just now by a sick thought?"
CLASH! Every freak in the booth (including the mayor) made a violently flinch and spun around at once, the sound of shuddering aluminum and the shattering of glass heard in a wave.
    Through gritted teeth, Bella seethed anxiously "Clumsy little fool," at Tammy as he seemed to have dropped everything from the silver tray of goods and sweets. He turned completely while his brother was rubbing his eyes, "You pick every piece this minute if you don't want to be picking up pieces of yourself!"
    The servant, Tammy, was just standing there, shaking all over like a kitten caught in the cold rain, hands up and tilted as the tray has slid out of his hands. A few mere gagging sounds were heard escaping him. "Ugh… u-uh… eh…"
   It was so strange. Ordered again, there was an attempt for him to crouch down and pick up the pieces, but he could not do it at all. Not entirely, creaking and moaning painfully like a broken toy.
     "What the hell is this, von Pyre?" Emily asked in warning.
     "You really think I know? Tammy! You listen to your master!" he shouted bitterly as if the Doll was a dog.
    "Lord Bella, isn't the mayor his master?"
A strong breathing sound began to escape the Doll and so he started to twitch, trying to turn his head away and look back down the hall.
     "Ehhh… eh-eh!" Then the flailing began as well. "Ehh! Eh… eh!"
    "Tammy, what the hell?" Bella growled, more than ready to bash the servant's mask inwards. Little Emmy skipped over to the mayor and shook him only slightly.
    It was amazing how much the mayor could sleep through in terms of noise but the slightest flick made him jut up in high alert as if he was not sleeping at all; that is unless he was lightly sleeping from boredom and ignored his brother beforehand because, well, he hated him.
    Chimabell turned in his seat with the most irritated pout and his mouth fell followed by his golden eyes widening into perfect circles. He looked to Lovzit in confusion until Bella said to his brother in sensitive exasperation, "Hey. Lightweight. Fix the little invalid!"
   "'Fix him'?" the mayor said in disbelief, giving his brother a confounded face while adjusting some of his bangs. "What are you smoking— what makes you think I know how these bloody things work? Hell, I'm scared here!"
    "Alright! Don't get your panties in a twist!" Rubbing his eyes, he whistled. "Yo! Tammy! I demand you calm down right now, little mister!"
Then Tammy darted off. The second his master finished his command, the servant went running for the hills to god knows where, disappearing as a black shadow in the red hallways then turning a sharp corner.
The group turned their heads to stare at the mayor, who only looked back with quite the dim little pucker, eyes looking in different directions.
     "You guys think I'm a Doll whisperer guru or something?" He adjusted his hat and rolled his eyes, turning away and slumping his arms over the ledge of the balcony. "Let him go. He's sparked my interest so we are going to stick around." His eyes narrowed.
"This Opera is gonna burn." Then he placed a hand over his heart. "The night is gonna burn."

You must go back and read the entire story to understand this piece of work. -_- ... kinda, unless you have a swell memory.

.... I am paying the consequences of my sins by uploading this ancient, delightfully bastardized, long and detailed chapter as the continuation of Decembersville.
The story of Decembersville - the rough draft here online - has been going on and off hiatus for a long while mostly due to my feeling of "Don't upload it yet." You know that missing feeling? There ya have it. This chapter is a year old, a few chapters after this already written but being glossed over in the unofficial prayers and hopes that loose ends can be tied up due to my 16-year-old self's incompetence. C:

This chapter is a continuation of the Opera arc, where the von Pyre Bros. arrive, Zero goes into hiding, Tin and Mellon run into some rebellion members in the guise of Dolls, Talkie Lovzit enters the scene, and DAN-DAN-DAAAAAAAAAAN! The main antagonist is finally in the full light. :heart:

This chapter is 11 pages long, originally being 18 pages. There are cut scenes in this baby consisting of:
*Bella and Chimabell's trip to the Opera House but the mayor has a violent vision so the two plus Tammy wind up walking there; a reason for their lateness and why the Moonsick's arrived first.
*More character fun in the elevator for in the final cut of the story there is more development in dialogue and not actions caused just for the sake of getting action across.
*Very shortened sentences of detail, especially of the Grand Auditorium.
*Lovzit running around the Opera casting interviews for his station.
*Meowsician's song had to be cut and the mention of his real name left for another future scene that would not happen in the final cut.

This is just being uploaded for the sake of me wondering whether gorgeous writing crowns over story or if it is the story and events that keeps the folks reading.
Only time will tell. C: :D

A lot of writing in this baby is ancient as hell but I lacked the heart to completely rewrite stuff. I had to do manipulation but that did not work, though I just want this out there.

Love y'all and hope you haven't given up on the story of Sophia in Decembersville. XD

I swear that fantastic, brutal things will be coming this way within the next three chapters or so; we are just stuck in pure story foreshadowing and exposition. :3

I'm never going to offer fanmade cameo appearances ever again. x_x

Decembersville (c) Andi
Wonka (mentioned) (c) ~mexican-jo-cool
Anna the widow (c) ~togpie222
The Moonsick Sisters (c) ~PhantomsBride93

PS: I ain't making anymore promises as to when the next chapter will be uploaded. We all (I included) just have to hold our breaths and see. :D
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Everyone occasionally lost socks in the wash but Jane was experiencing a fifty percent casualty rate.

“I don’t understand it,” she muttered to herself, as she pulled the latest load out of the tumble dryer.

Fourteen socks had gone in but only seven had come out. She lined the survivors up: “And it’s always only one from each pair.”

So, she bought herself some sock clips. “You won’t be able to split up now!” she told her new batch. And they didn’t. When Jane opened the tumble dryer at the end of the cycle there were no socks left at all.

Jane screamed in frustration. “What the hell is going on?!”

“That’s exactly it—hell,” came the reply.

Jane turned but all she saw was her sensible cardigan, airing on the clothes rack.

“Who’s there..?” she asked cautiously.

“It’s me—the Sensible Cardigan,” said the Sensible Cardigan. “And the problem is that you’ve got a portal to hell in your tumble dryer. Every pair of socks is made up of an evil twin and a good twin and the evil twins are getting sucked straight to hell. Unfortunately, because of the clips their good twins have gone with them this time. Do you understand?”

The Sensible Cardigan paused and looked at Jane.

“You’re a talking cardigan…” she said.

The Cardigan sighed. “Do try and concentrate, dear.”

“Yes…” Jane tried her best. “Er… I must admit I didn’t know that clothes went to hell.”

“This is a special fashion hell,” said the Cardigan. “Where clothes go when they ‘peg out’.”

“On the washing line?” said Jane.

“No,” said the Cardigan. “You know, ‘peg out’.”

“Ah,” said Jane. “So, my socks are gone for good?”

“Well, I am loath to let the innocent remain in torment,” said the Cardigan. “I’m prepared to make the attempt to retrieve your socks. Hell holds no fear for those that are pure. And I am—one hundred percent pure cotton.”

“That’s very kind,” said Jane. She gestured at the dryer. “Do I just… bung you in then?”

“Oh, dear God…” said the Sensible Cardigan under its breath. “Absolutely no sense of the dramatic.”

It addressed Jane. “Yes, just ‘bung’ me in. I can take it from there.”

Jane screwed up the Cardigan and shoved it into the tumble dryer. She clicked the switch to ‘on’.

The Sensible Cardigan spun round and round, and at the back of the dryer the swirling black portal began to materialise. Tightening its weave, the Sensible Cardigan rolled up its sleeves and passed boldly through.

It was nightmarish. Everywhere there were clothes suffering all the horrors that fashion could bestow on them. To the left, lime green blouses for women; to the right, cropped trousers for men. The Cardigan shuddered. No clothing deserved that.

However, it had a quest to complete. It averted its gaze and made its way forwards.

The Sensible Cardigan was starting to lose heart after journeying through the whole of 80s fashion. Fashion hell was so big and the socks could be anywhere.

But then it heard a familiar little cry.

“That’s Good Twin Red-and-white-stripes-with-the-reinforced-heel’s voice!” said the Cardigan in delight. It hurried towards the sound.

And halted in horror. The poor little sock had been matched up with a tartan tie. The resulting clash of patterns was unbearable.

“I’m here to save you!” cried the Cardigan. It pulled the sock away from the tie and stuffed it into one of its pockets. “Where are the others?”

“They’re all nearby,” said Good Twin Red-and-white-stripes-with-the-reinforced-heel. “We were put in a big pile and now we have to spend eternity trying to sort ourselves back into pairs.”

“I see them!” cried the Cardigan. It dashed over, and then stopped and stared at the socks. It was a very big pile.

“I’m never going to be able to sort out the good from the bad,” decided the Sensible Cardigan. “I’m just going to have to take all of you.”

And it began stuffing socks into its pockets and up its sleeves.

Jane opened the dryer and the Sensible Cardigan tumbled out, socks spilling everywhere.

“Oh, well done!” said Jane. She picked up the Cardigan and hung it back on the rack. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re most welcome,” said the Sensible Cardigan with dignity. (Whatever the situation, it kept itself buttoned up.)

Jane started collecting the socks and putting them in the basket. “I’ve found an exorcist electrician online—he’ll be popping round on Thursday to get rid of the portal. Apparently, it’s a more common problem than you might think.”

She rubbed a sock between her fingers thoughtfully. “Though it seems a pity we can’t keep using hell—these are all bone dry.”

The Sensible Cardigan gave her an unbelieving look.

“Oh, put a sock in it,” said Jane.
800 words.

My weekly piece of flash fiction ^^ I used Pinkatron2000's prompt from the FFM 2014 Prompt BankMy dryer is a portal to hell. 
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I was on Sharezone (…, a chat channel hosted by dA, when the new logo was rolled out on December 4, 2014. I am ambivalent about the logo. It performs its function, and I am not a graphic designer, so I don't have much of an opinion about it.

However, in addition to being an artist, I have writing experience. The logo was rolled out with an article titled on the link tab as "Our Story" but titled at the top of the article* as "Boldly Facing The Future". Because of my experiences writing articles on Wikipedia, I am frequently preoccupied with vagaries and misuse of language.

Spurred by a spirited discussion on Sharezone about the logo and the associated article, and encouraged by other deviants in the conversation (JenFruzz, SnazzyDoodle, calebvoorhees, and Mercy4You2Live0), I assessed the "Our Story" article on its effectiveness as a piece of expository writing. In Sharezone, I stated my opinion that the writing is over the top, unintentionally hilarious, and conveys an insignificant amount of information to warrant six pages of text. I was pressed by other members of Sharezone to explain my stance, and this is the result. As a piece of expository writing, this article fails. It is obviously an exercise in advertising copy, marked by forced enthusiasm that seems to go with rebrandings full of public relations vernacular commonly used by startups and tech companies. Even at that however, this article/advertising copy is bloated with meaningless statements that convey very little to dA's members, many of whom pay for premium memberships as I do. 

In the end, it seems this article conveys two pieces of information that are important to members: dA has a new logo, and other changes are coming soon. I know there could have been any number of ways to express these two pieces of information, inform members of dA's past accomplishments while indicating what may lie ahead, AND still showcase the art and impressive design of the journal without the hyper-enthusiastic advertising copy. 

*A dA staff member named Pickley was present for the discussion and called "Our Story" an article repeatedly. I was, at first, confused by this descriptor because I saw "Our Story" as advertising copy, not an article.

Note: I intended to load this as a journal. However, it seemed impossible to do so (new design interface?) with this pdf, so here it is as a deviation.
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There were three things Jimbo hadn’t known before he travelled to the planet of Hepzibah 5 to start his new job:

1. The Excellent Robotic Company did indeed make parts for robots, but was also run by robots.

2. You should never unplug your immediate boss while he was updating himself, even if he did look like a microwave and you needed somewhere to plug in the kettle.

3. Companies on Hepzibah 5 had the legal right to detain and punish employees.

It was pretty miserable being in solitary in the company’s basement gaol and Jimbo was touched when Gigi came down to visit. She was another off-worlder and the only one of his colleagues inclined to be sympathetic to his situation.

“How are you holding up?” she asked.

“OK,” said Jimbo. “But I don’t suppose you’ve heard anything, have you? What punishment I’m likely to get?” He hesitated. “Is there any likelihood of me keeping my job?”

Gigi gave a hollow laugh. “Anything’s possible I suppose. But there’s always the chance they’ll go for the ultimate penalty.”

Jimbo went pale. “You don’t mean… death?”

“Oh, no. No.” Gigi grimaced. “The penalty’s not death. It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. They don’t chuck you in a cell for the rest of your natural. No, they’re able to reset organic brains so that…”

She looked at him. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”

Jimbo nodded. “Best to know the worst.”

“Well,” she said, “they’re able to reset brains, so that a certain song continually plays on a loop. This means the owner of the brain can no longer concentrate. They can’t hold down a job, friendships and relationships end. Eventually they can no longer even sleep. It’s a hell on Hepzibah.”

Jimbo gulped. “What is this song?”

“Nobody really knows,” said Gigi, “but it’s rumoured to be a highly sacred song, that once was sung by millions of faithful and fanatical adherents.” She gazed at him sadly. “The only people who know for certain quickly go insane.”

After a week of imprisonment, Jimbo was finally escorted upstairs by an armed android to see his boss.

But the robot seemed busy once Jimbo arrived at the office, and so he waited patiently, watching the robot’s countdown head towards zero. Once he heard the ping, he stepped forward.

“Good to see you looking better, sir!”

A sign flashed up on his boss’s display: ROTATE AND THEN RECLOSE DOOR.

Jimbo did so and turned back to face the robot who would decide his future.

The meeting began.

Gigi caught up with him as he made his way out of the building. “How did it go? Have you still got your job?”

Jimbo stopped, and winced slightly. “No, I didn’t get to keep my job. He (#let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back any more…#) gave me the reboot.”
482 words.

Written for Flash Fiction Month 2014: Day 19. (Posted a bit late if we're going by BST ^^")

Challenge #8: Science Fiction Triple Feature

Bullet; BlueElement ONE: SCIENCE FICTION:- Your story must be written in the science fiction genre.  

Bullet; BlueElement TWO: KLINGONS ON THE STARBOARD BOW:-Your story must, at some stage, feature the phrase "It's life, Jim, but not as we know it."

Bullet; BlueElement THREE: TOKENISM:- Your story must feature at least one non-human character.  

I also indirectly used SRSmith's prompt: You come home early from work one afternoon and catch your wife in a trance, plugged into a device you've never seen and... updating her software???

Let It Go composed by 
Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. I've never actually watched Frozen but I do have a 10 year old niece who has access to YouTube and who owns the DVD. And there was that memorable Sunday when she acted out the entire film for me...
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The meeting of the support group was taking place in the Dusty Dictionary—a refuge from the world for the archaic and lesser-used words in the English Language.

“Who would like to start?” asked the group leader, poltroon. “Ruth, perhaps?”

The word quivered a little. “My name is ruth, and I’m an archaic word….” It gave a sob. “I’m so sorry…”

“Take your time,” said poltroon.

“It’s just so hard!” said ruth. “I haven’t worked in years, and I’m not sure I ever will again. But ruthless is constantly being employed. It doesn’t make any sense. How can people have ruthless without needing ruth?”

Dandled nodded sympathetically. “I rarely get any gigs nowadays myself. But when I do, I turn up and find dangled has pinched the job. ‘He dangled the baby on his knee.’ What the hell does that even mean? Sounds bloody dangerous to me.”

“And what about me?” said dastard. “Dastardly is hanging on in there by its adverbial suffix—I turn up and everyone looks blank. Do they think dastardly simply arrived on its own out of nowhere?”

Just then another word shot into the room.

Poltroon smiled. “Ah, ejaculated—I’m so pleased you could come.”

There were supressed sniggers from dastard, and ejaculated glared at it. “Do grow up.”

It took a seat and addressed the rest of the group. “This could happen to any word. One minute you’re an everyday, hardworking member of the lexicon, that just happens to have an associated sexual meaning. Next minute that secondary meaning has smothered the original and the only work you can get is in jokes and medical pamphlets.” It sighed. “In the nineteenth century you couldn’t open a novel without seeing me.”

“At least you’ve got the jokes and the pamphlets!” said expostulated. “I’d give anything to work again but no-one’s interested.”

“That’s terrible!” expostulated dandled.

“Oh, bless you,” said expostulated.

Poltroon stood up. “Well, I think that’s probably a good point to stop for refreshments.”

It opened the letters and produced T E A, which was rearranged to E A T, and thereafter to A T E.

“Everyone satisfied?” asked poltroon and everyone cheerfully agreed that they were.

As the words were leaving, poltroon took the opportunity to speak quietly to ruth.

“What do you think? Will the group be of any use to you?”

“Oh, yes—thank you,” said ruth. “I’m sure it will. I already feel a little more confident.”

“So, we’ll see you next week then—here in the Dictionary?”

“Well, actually,” said ruth. “Actually… I’m hoping I might get taken out by a writer.”

“How magnolious!” said poltroon, and they exited together through the door marked ‘exeunt’.
446 words.

Written for Flash Fiction Month 2014: Day 9.

NB: I haven't made up any of the words in the story ^^
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