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Burning Bright

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“What are you running from?”
She’s not accusative, only curious, only willing to help, but he closes himself off, shrugs and sits up. He hopes he hadn’t screamed or trashed about, but the sweat covering his whole body tells him otherwise.

“Who says I’m running?”

She looks at him with a face that tells him she can see through his lies and gets back to writing.

“What are you writing about?” He asks, knowing she won’t tell him, but willing to try.
She smirks and closes the notebook.

“Who says I’m writing?” She tells him, jokingly, and sits on the ground in front if him.

He scowls, looks outside the window and then back at her, to find her staring at him.

“What?” He barks, because she looks like she’s looking for something that shouldn’t be there, and his entire existence is what shouldn’t be there.

“I’m trying to decide if you’re trustworthy or not.” She says, bluntly, cocking her head to one side ad if he’s an especially interesting animal specimen.

He scoffs. “I’m not.”

She makes a sound, like she’s unamused and looks away, letting silence take over the cabin. The storm is moving away, he can’t hear the thunder anymore and he sighs in relief because he wants to keep moving, he’s scared that they’ve already stayed put for too long. He’s wondering if it was her touch that brought him back from his delirious state when she starts speaking, startling him.

“I can’t tell you much about who I am.” She starts, not meeting his eyes. There’s a pause and he stays quiet, waiting for her to elaborate.

“I can’t even tell you my name. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t remember.” She confides and meets his eyes, hoping for some sort of backlash, finding kindness instead.

He stays quiet, and she takes it as a sign that she can go on, at her own pace, and stands up to get the notebook. She opens it and shows it to him, and he quickly scans the page to find loose sentences, that don’t add up, like she’s trying to grasp something. And now he knows she really is.

“I’ve been writing about the things I remember, as little as they are, but everything is blurry and there’s chunks of it missing. It’s like some things stayed, and others didn’t. I remember how to write, but I can’t remember my name, and I’ll remember what plants are, but I’ve forgotten the animals.” She sighs, takes the notebook for herself again and settles down.

“Maybe there’s a way for you to remember.” He says, without hesitation, even if he isn’t sure that there really is a way.

“You think so?” She asks, looking up at him with eyes so bright and such an open expression that he knows they’ll find a way to get her memories back, no matter what.

“Sure. And in the meantime, I’ll be here to tell you about stuff.” Soul says, nonchalant.

“And we can call you tiny while we don’t know your name.”

She gets red on her cheeks and crosses her arms, huffing. “I’m not tiny.”

He laughs at how adorable she looks. “That sounds exactly like what a tiny person would say.” He says and she glares at him, prompting him to shut up, because he feels like she might throw the notebook at his head if he keeps mocking her.

They’re quiet for some time, and then he sighs, he owes her, but he can’t do it.

“Look.” He says, to catch her attention, and once she looks at him, he looks away. “I understand that you’ve just shared your secret with me.”

She has a gleam in her eye that tells him she’s expecting to hear his secret.

“But I can’t tell you mine.”

He’s not looking at her but he hears he splutter, confused. “Why not?”

“I want you to remember the old world before I tell you how it turned into this.

When morning comes and both are awake, they soundlessly get up and start following the river’s course again. She’s set on gaining her memories back, not only to know her story, but also to know about Soul’s. She’s relentless as she questions him, time and time again, in hopes that something will be the spark her brain needs to ignite.

He answers her everything, mindlessly walking beside her, feeling guilty for using her as his personal dreamcatcher, because he hadn’t woken up screaming that morning, and because she drove the coldness and the demon away. He’s fairly certain that touching her is what really makes the madness recoil, even if being near her helps its slower spread.

He’s thinking about how to make touching her seem accidental, because he figures he needs to do it time to time, when she stops, gaze locked somewhere on the other side of the river.

“Who’s that?” She asks, and his entire body freezes as he turns his head to see the Skaggen itself staring right at them.

He reacts immediately, taking her hand in his and running the other way, far, far away from it, is this a dream?, he wonders, but something tells him it’s the real deal. He doesn’t dare look back, doesn’t want to frighten himself more than he already is, convinces himself that the Skaggen stayed behind them and then he’s falling on his rear, the girl forcefully pulling him backwards. He’s about to scream at her when he realizes that she’d stopped him from falling off a cliff. His brain screams that this has happened, the dream, and then it’s too late.

“How funny that you too should meet.” The creature says, creature because its body keeps changing, like there’s too many things inside and not enough room for all of it.

“Who are you?” The girl asks, defying, standing in front of Soul as he thinks it should be the other way around. He wants to scream at her that he’s just another dark elf, he’s expendable, while she’s very valuable. The Skaggen beats him to it.

“He hasn’t told you, has he? What a bad companion you are, Soul Evans.” It continues, mocking, body blocking their path.

“Told me what?” She asks, confused, looking from Soul to the creature, lingering on him because he’s frozen in place, her expression silently asking for him to come to her aid.

“You’re both wanted. Our queen Medusa wants both of you.” It says, a proud expression on its face as it talks about the woman. “But she wants him alive. You? Not so much.”

And its face contorts a little, a maniacal grin spreading, and a deranged giggle starting to take form. It goes to move forward when Soul jumps into action, shielding her with his body, the Skaggen’s sword inches from his chest. It laughs.

“You want another scar, Soul Evans? Like the one I gave you all those years ago?” It asks, malicious.

“Go away. To kill her, you’ll have to kill me.” Soul replies, ignoring the provocation. His voice is icy, metal-like.

The Skaggen frowns for a second, before it sheathes its sword, sly grin taking its place on their face. “Such a sad girl.” It says, feigning pity. “All alone with no memories, and all she has is a night elf. A mad one, at that.” Someone laughs, and Soul knows it was one of the spirits inside of the Skaggen, while the others keep speaking. “You’re more alone than you think.” It says, venomous. “All the light elves are dead. Your family, your friends. His kind killed them.”

And then, to Soul’s surprise, the creature leaves them, slowing walking away. Soul only relaxes when he isn’t able to see it for a while. He thanks whoever’s listening for sparing him and turns towards the girl, only to find her staring at him, tears threatening to fall. He’s going to ask her what’s wrong when she shoves him backwards, almost making him lose balance.

“Is it true?” She demands, loud, louder than she has ever been. “Did you know that they were dead?” Her voice cracks, and a single tear slides down her face. She shoves him again. “Did you kill them?”

He takes a step back before she has the chance to punch him square in the jaw. “You don’t understand-“

“All I have-“ She sobs and stops to catch her breath, fists balled at her sides. “All I have are this damn images, like they’re underwater, or moving too fast, that I can’t get out of my head. That’s all I have left from them!” She’s angry, the fury in her eyes enough to tell him so.

“And you’ve known this whole time and didn’t tell me?” She continues, voice getting higher and this time, when she moves forward to punch him, he lets her. He deserves it. He stumbles and then she’s running, away from him, into the forest, and he can hear her crying so he hurries after her; he has to find her before someone else does.

She runs, and runs, until she isn’t even sure why she’s running, is he really at fault? And even if he is, what should she do? It’s like the creature had said, he’s all she has, good or bad. She hears him, just behind her, calling her name, begging her to stop, seemingly unconcerned about what his shouts could attract. There’s grief, pain, anguish in his voice and he sounds so genuine that she stops, and he bumps into her, both almost falling if he wasn’t holding them up. He starts talking, blabbering really, trying to apologize, to explain, but she shushes him, places a finger on his mouth so he stops, and he does. He stares at her, wide-eyed and speechless.

“I heard something.” She whispers, looking around, and he’s about to say that he hasn’t heard anything when he feels a sting on his leg, immediately loosing his footing and falling to the ground. He sees a dart sticking out of his leg and tries to remove it, but his arms don’t comply, and he’s soon lying on the ground, dozing off. He can hear her voice, coming from far away, and expects her face to be the last thing he sees before he blacks out, but insteads sees three cloaked figures, faces obscured by their hoods, looking down at him. He’s sure he’d do something if he could, but he’s paralyzed. He closes his eyes.

She is kneeling by his side when the figures come. She doesn’t cower, even when they near them, and instead barks at them. “Don’t you dare hurt him.”
One of the figures takes off its hood and a scarred man, body covered in stitched up cuts looks curiously at her. “He was a threat.”

The other figures both uncover their heads, revealing a woman with blonde hair and a patched up eye and a man, with yellow eyes, observant, and dark hair, with three very unnatural looking white stripes on the left side of his hair. The woman speaks first, her voice docile and kind.

“We’re here to help you.”

She scoffs, unamused. “Sure, you were very helpful when you rendered him unconscious.”

“He could hurt you.” The scarred man said, matter-of-factly, and she laughed.

“If he wanted to hurt me, he would have already.” She said, sure that Soul would not hurt her. “It’s you that I’m scared will hurt me.”

The boy with the stripped hair stepped forward, his eyes still hadn’t left her. “You’re a light elf. Where have you been hiding?”

She doesn’t understand what being a light elf means, but the words stirr something inside of her. “Why should I tell you?”

He isn’t fazed. “You should come with us.”

“Why do you think I am?” She asks again, defying him, although she’s outnumbered.

The man steps in. “We’re taking you both with us. We gave him no choice, but you have one. Either you walk.” He says, getting a dart similar to the one still stuck to Soul’s leg out of his pocket and playing with it. “Or you can join him.”

She thinks about it, about her chances on a fight, but notices the woman’s hand closed around the handle of a hammer and decides to go with them. She and Soul will escape later.

“I’ll go with you.” She says, and the woman smiles, leaning down to drape Soul’s body over her shoulder. She takes a moment to appreciate the woman’s strenght, before she’s poked on the ribs, the stripe boy is behing her and impatiently waiting for her to move.

They walk, at a quick pace, throught the seemingly endless forest, and she realizes why Soul was following a direction. In the forest, someone can only follow a direction and hope to find something.

But the man, leading the group, seems to know the way, walks though the trees like it’s second nature to him and soon they’re travelling down, towards a cave, illuminated by lights too eerie to be natural. The lights get brighter and appear in shorter intervals, until they reach a room, that would be a called a glade if they were in the forest, but they’re in a cave so she doesn’t know what to call it.

There’s people around, elves, but they all stop to look at them, and she feels like taking Soul and running.

And then, a glimpse of red, in the corner of her eye, prompts her to lock eyes with a man.
They freeze. She knows him. He screams.

“Maka!”

It’s painful, the rush of memories that flood her brain, He’s your dad! And she sees him walking with her, hand in hand, feeding the squirrels, watching a sunset with her. There’s so much of the man, and there’s a woman too, beautiful, kind, hair just like hers, and she knows, without a doubt, that she’s her mother.

“Maka.” The woman says, and her head feels like it might explode. They’re at the cave, talking, and there’s someone with pink hair leaning next to her mom. The only other person with pink hair she’s seen is the creature, Skaggen, Soul had called it, and Maka shivers, It can’t be.

“Maka, you’re important, you’re so important to this world. I have to protect you, you need to fullfil the prophecy, you need to save the world.”

The woman stops and the pink-haired person turns around, Maka relaxes because it is not the creature, but a witch, she remembers now, and starts chanting, quietly. “Please don’t be sad if I’m not here when you come back. I have lived a happy life knowing that you are safe.”

The chanting grows louder, overwhelming, and she makes out the words:

The fated words, oh hark!
When by the ravenous dark,
Swallowed are the gentle beams of day.

Else everlasting night,
Of endless death and blight,
A thousand thousand hours shall they reign.

And elves’ sorrow and pain,
E're fixt when two are ‘twain.
Until faint light within the darkness burns.

That candle burning bright,
In concert with the night,
Become the dawn, the world again at peace.