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Burning Bright

Chapter Text

They don’t notice until people start disappearing.

Soul was young, but he remembers his mom, holding him close and telling him to be careful, not to talk to anyone. He promises he will, like a little kid will swear to his mother whenever she makes him promise her something, promptly brushing it off. But Soul notices things, and notices the way his parents cringe and his brother changes subject whenever he mentions another kid that stopped going to class.

Sometimes, when sleep comes hard, Soul finds himself wishing he could stop going as well. His master keeps scolding him, he doesn’t keep up, he isn’t motivated, he’ll never be anyone if he keeps being like he is. His mates, the other elves who attend class with him, refuse to make the effort and talk to him, see through his exterior and try to make him feel included. He lives in a land of strange things, but he’s the strangest of all, and there isn’t a day he doesn’t wish for him to look different, his hair less white, his eyes less red, his teeth less pointy; because elves have pointy ears and leave pointy teeth to the beasts that live beyond their cities.

He wants to feel like he belongs, so it isn’t a surprise when he meets a human on his way to class and stops to talk. They’re young, maybe his age, although it’s harder to say with humans because they age more quickly, but what drives him out of his path is the hair, pink hair, and although he’s been warned about witches, everything he’s ever heard claims humans are harmless. He feels awkward, manages to wave, and they wave back, beckoning him closer, and he follows, without even noticing that with each step he’s delving further into the trees.

He doesn’t see it coming. Maybe he saw a flash, or maybe it was something else, but the pain spreading through his body drives him to his knees, and face down on the ground, lifeless. There’s quick footsteps walking away, away, or maybe he’s just losing consciousness, because his body hurts and he can smell blood, his.
When he wakes up, he’s back in his home, a weeping mother leaning over his bed, a sleeping brother near the door, and a restless father pacing the house, somewhere, outside the room. He opens his eyes, tries to move his hand, held in his mother’s, and then she startles, looking at him, wide eyes full of disbelief. It’s almost too quick for him to notice, but he sees the fear in her eyes before she masks it with worry and leans forward, whispering: “Be careful, dark times lay ahead.”

She disappears the next day. The family mourns her loss -- she’s as good as dead, the neighbors say -- and then Soul finds himself visiting more houses with his father and brother, more people who went missing. They’ve all noticed the pattern by now, but refuse to acknowledge it. The light elves are almost gone. Soul shaves his head.
The days get shorter, darker, heavier, and then they come. Soul isn’t there when they come, to take away whatever light remains and to make sure they all know their place, but he hears rumors. “They’re human,” a woman tells him, terrified while packing, “They’re not a witch, and yet are so full of spirits that they can’t control them!” The elves start calling them Skaggen, Shadow, because wherever they go, despair follows.
And then madness.

It hits in waves. First, the weakest, the ill, succumb. Some go running to the streets, cackling and shouting, but most just laugh, endlessly, and then the Skaggen comes to take them away. Soul spends a whole week hiding in his bedroom, trying to control the demon that tries to claw out of his chest.

It doesn’t come, for a long time, but when it does, most elves succumb. It’s stronger, a much stronger wave, destined to wash away the remnants of an already fragile civilization. Pillaging and mindless destruction, fires and deaths -- it all falls down upon them, because their family and neighbors are mad, and it’s a type of madness that can’t be cured. Soul knows this because the demon has told him so, and because he can’t look in the mirror without seeing another face looking back at him. He fights against the power, the demon that is trying to take over his mind and manages to climb out of his bedroom just in time to see who’s coming to take the mad away. He’s expecting the Skaggen, but he’s greeted by an army of Kraigeri instead.

He falls back, cursing all of their destinies, because the Kraigeri are the army that was supposed to protect them and they’re a part of whatever is happening. He doesn’t see Kid anywhere, so he looks away from what’s happening on the streets. Kid had become a Kraigeri when he was young, because his father was one, and because he dreamed about a balanced world, and becoming a Kraigeri would mean he’d give up his powers, he’d be not light, nor dark. He fears the worst has happened to the other elf. Soul mourns the loss of his friend.

The madness keeps coming, the waves keep hitting, but fewer people let themselves be consumed now. Some are still taken, but only a few every year, and so people try to keep on living. The waves affect the nature as well, and food and water become scarce, precious, as the madness consumes everything; trees die and wilt, animals hide and foam at the mouth if they don’t hide for too many waves, and the whole forest, once green and leafy, now stands dead, marshy. Skaldur, the elves’ forest, is blighted.

He’s twenty five when they first tell him to become a Kraigeri. Soul is not even an adult, he hasn’t stopped growing, hasn’t fully developed, because he’ll live a thousand years and he has a lot more growing to do. “There is no way for you to be useful if you keep learning magic. It should have manifested itself already.” They advise him to start working out, training with a sword, fighting, but he doesn’t. He refuses the offer. To become a Kraigeri had been an honor once, but Soul knows they are nothing but pawns now.

The other elves pick fights with him, call him a fake, because kids as young as 5 have already had their magic manifested, and Soul is twenty years older and there isn’t a sign of it.

“Maybe you’re human.” One of them says, but after a long glance at him, he reconsiders.

“Too weird for that. Probably just a beast. Your parents found you in the woods behind your house and took you in.” Soul turns his back on them and scoffs, willing his heart to stop beating so fast, the demon to not push as hard against the inside of his head.

He’s at class, “Stand in lines,” ready for the inspection.

He’s shaved his head and beard, willed his eyes to change color, to no avail, and dressed baggier clothing, to hide his body. The witch is the one who demands that the inspections be made, to boys around his age, and he knows what she’s looking for.

But he’s been good so far, the guards go, poke at them, may hit them, but it’s obvious that they have no idea what they’re looking for, that no one really has an idea of what he looks like. He feels good about it. But his stomach sinks to his feet when he sees her come in. He’s never seen Medusa before, but the woman has as much class as all of the flyers they were forced to read say. She radiates energy, power, and he almost feel like he should cower, or kneel before her. And then the Skaggen comes in, locks eyes with him, and Soul knows he’s done for.

The Skaggen’s eyes widen in recognition, he looks towards the door to see it blocked by two of the witch’s guards, but as the Skaggen leans towards Medusa to inform her of his presence, he takes off running, thinking that the surprise element will help him take out at least one of the guards, and then he’s trapped in place before knowing it. There are snakes curling around his feet, making him unable to run but he still tries -- she can’t be that powerful.

He closes his eyes when he feels a nail touch his cheek and drag towards his chin. She’s in front of him now, he can smell her, and forces him to open his eyes. He obliges and she hums, satisfied. “Looks like I finally found you.”

They didn’t notice until people started disappearing, but Medusa had been planning it all along.

Chapter Text

It’s a night like any other, dark, quiet, and he’s trapped in what they call his bedroom, but he calls glorified prison cell. He had feared much more, that Medusa would punish him or force him to do things her way, like she’d forced the Kraigeri, but after a failed attempt to escape on his part, she’d laughed and had him locked up.

The guards change, from time to time, keep him fed but must’ve been instructed not to talk to him because he’s called them all the names the kids on the street used to call him and there hadn’t been any reaction. People wear him out, but he’s been locked in the room for long enough that he feels like climbing up the walls with the lack of stimulation. That’s why, hyper aware, he hears a whisper and passes it off as the wind, until the whisper turns into words and he distinctly hears someone calling him grandpa.
“Yeah, you, with the white hair.” He hears again, and his ears twitch, searching for the sound. He hears a sigh and finally catches the sound as coming from above, looks up and sees an indistinct mass leaning over the skylight, high above him.

“What are you doing over there?” Soul asks, “And who are you?” He adds, on second thought, because he’s fairly certain no one he knows would ever risk being caught just to get him out of imprisonment.

“It is a shame that you don’t know who the almighty Black*Star is.” The voice replies, sounding disappointed, in a mocking manner, before he disappears. Soul has half a mind to worry, and realizes he had been right when the figure reappears and makes a move to smash the glass in.

He barely gets the words out of his mouth, asking him what the hell he thinks he’s doing, but there’s glass shards raining on him so he takes cover, under his raised arms, and braces himself for the impending arrival of the guards, alerted by the noise. And then, Soul hears a loud thump, like someone had jumped down from the roof, and hurries to look because he realizes that’s exactly what happened. He’s expecting anything but the man standing below him, barely reaching his shoulders, and grinning like he’s just heard the best news he could possibly have.

He cackles, and Soul realizes he’s laughing at him. “Close your mouth, old man, you’ll dislocate your chin. I know it’s a lot to take in, but from what I’ve heard of you, you should be able to take it well.” He says, sounding almost too nonchalant, and Soul sees the glimmer of a threat in his eyes, that’d he’d missed before due to the dim lighting.

“Why are you here?” He asks, gently, lowly, like his mother taught him he should if approached by a wild animal.

“You’re the talk of the town. They say you’re her greatest weapon.” Black*Star, as he’d called himself earlier, says, smile fading with each word. “I’ve seen what that God forsaken Shadow can do.” He’s saying, and his eyes are cold, like metal, like a blade ready to cut through him. He takes a step back.

“I’m not on her side.”

The man starts laughing again, hits him in the arm forcefully, and pretends to wipe a tear from his face. “Do you think we’d be having this conversation if you were?” Black*Star asks, and the question hangs in the air for a second. “She’s keeping you here until she can control you. I hope your joints aren’t as bad as your hair makes me believe, you’ve got an awful lot of running to do.”

Soul’s still thinking about his words when he hears them, as if on cue, the footsteps of the guards, carrying down through the corridor that leads to his cell. He looks beside him, for guidance, but the man is missing. Something causes him to look up, to the man who’s already halfway through the skylight. He briefly wonders at how he got there, but upon realizing he isn’t waiting for him, he shouts. “What should I do?”

The man grins, he can see it from down here, shouts back something about not trusting strangers and leaves. Soul is frozen, unbelieving, waits for him to pop back again as the footsteps grow closer. When he realizes he really isn’t coming back and moves towards the door, it’s too late. The footsteps have stopped, they’re right outside his door. He braces himself, for the impact, the pain, but when it doesn’t come, opens his eyes and tentatively reaches for the door. It’s been locked all this time.

It swings open.

Outside, he finds a pile of armored bodies, guards, seemingly-lifeless, but he doesn’t stare long enough to find out if they’re dead. He runs towards the end of the corridor, the window, and only realizes his mistake once he feels a presence behind him. He whips around to find the same man, with strange blue hair and stranger green eyes, a bulging tattoo on his shoulder and a smile so wide it must hurt.

“South.” The man says, and before Soul can react, winks at him and shoves him backwards.

It’s liberating, Soul thinks, falling through air, the wind howling in his ears. In a moment, all thoughts drain out of his head, all his worries, and all he can feel is an immense whiteness.

He screams when he hits the frozen water, but his plea is swallowed by the water that now threatens to fill his lungs. He kicks his legs, tries to reach the surface, his lungs ache and it feels so far away, the water drags him with her and when he finally breaks the surface, he takes a few grasping breaths and tries to stay afloat, all the while fighting the strength of the river current.

It’s only when he’s on dry land, laying on his back and panting, that he gives some thought to the man, Black*Star, who’d risked his skin to save him, but who Soul wasn’t sure had known that the river was right beneath the window. He gives the man some credit, although the glint in his eyes had him doubting, and settles with thinking that he’d known the river was there, but was hoping Soul got at least some bruises and scratches out of the trip.

He falls asleep, wakes up when the sun is already high in the sky but the clouds, the mass of dark clouds that perpetually hovers over them like a dome, stops the sunlight from reaching the ground, everything is still covered in shadows. He still isn’t used to the lack of sun and heat. He’ll admit that he was never the biggest fan of the Summer, of the long, hot days that took over for about half a year, but he certainly misses the sensation that the sun hitting his skin caused him. More so because he’s shivering, wet clothes dripping as he makes his way inside the blighted forest.

He hasn’t been in the forest, out of civilization’s reach, since Medusa took over. It’s different, so much different from what used to be. It seems like the madness affected the air itself out here, because he can’t help but feel paranoid, looking over his shoulder, looking for threats that aren’t there.

The animals are deadly quiet, only until he passes them, because when he does, they hiss, and growl, and when a squirrel bares his teeth at him and almost bites his hand off, Soul starts walking faster. Even the trees seem to speak to him, cast him out, laugh at him, and he isn’t so sure about his own sanity anymore. The trees don’t cackle, and they certainly don’t mock him, and yet he hears them, sneering giggles, insults thrown his way, animals that seem to outright laugh at him.

As he delves deeper, a sense of dread starts settling in his bones, unwelcome and unpleasant, and he starts walking faster, to get away, but to go south, like Black*Star had said, he needs to go deeper, and not out of the mad forest that is intent on driving him nuts as well.

Soul remembers the man’s words, not to trust him, and the voice in his head tells him he shouldn’t have and Soul relaxes a little, because there aren’t the trees that are laughing, but the little voice in his head. The voice laughs, disappointed that Soul had found out about his game, and Soul relaxes, because this he knows, he’s been living with the demon for years now.

He questions his sanity again when the voice makes his journey easier, not harder, because no one should be comforted by a voice that invaded their head, but Soul is. The demon won’t leave him, he’ll always have it to remind him of normalcy.
The demons jeers at him because he doesn’t have a plan, asks him if he plans on walking until he dies of exhaustion, and Soul almost answers that yes, that sounds good, before he catches himself and decides to stop to catch his breath.

Only once he stops does he notice just how tired he is, and decides to sleep, in a hollowed tree trunk, because that was what his mom had told him to do, if lost in the forest, because the trees would keep him safe.

He stares the hollowed tree down, at the gaping dark hole on his trunk, big enough for him to fit, but not to move too much. It doesn’t look he’ll be safe there, but he still prefers it over sleeping out in the open, so he steps in, and immediately loses his footing.

Only it isn’t just a hollowed tree, and he falls through a hole, into a cave. Fear catches up to him when he realizes that the cave is filled with light.

He’s in a tunnel, he realizes, looking as abandoned as an underground tunnel can look. The walls have caved in, in some places, and the rest of them seem to be held up only by the countless roots that cling tightly to them. He stares at the light, far away and in front of him, and then looks behind him, to the rest of the tunnels, filled with a darkness so thick that he fears they’ll eat him up. Decides to take his chances and starts walking towards the light, because Soul will not admit it to anyone, but he’s terrified of the dark, and finding whatever is shining will probably not be as bad.

The light gets stronger as he gets closer, and the tunnel gets narrower, until Soul feels like he wouldn’t be able to hold both of his arms out without hitting the walls. And then he stops, because he feels something, a wall that seems to hold the light inside, even though he knows that’s impossible. He’s cautious with his steps, getting closer, and then holds his hand out, it’ll be okay if he touches it gently.

The air gets knocked out of him as he is knocked backwards, through the air, and when he hits the ground, he sees that he’s been engulfed by darkness. There’s no light anymore. He panics, doesn’t even notice the pain, caused because he’d fallen so hard he’d be bruised and he still hasn’t recovered from the river. But the thickness of the air, the absence of light all around him, won’t let him think; he’s sweating, he can’t breathe, the darkness is suffocating him.

He sees the white orb, floating someplace ahead of him, and immediately calms down before he panics again. The orb is moving. Around, as if someone is using it as a lantern. Up, as if someone is getting up. Towards him. He scatters backwards, on instinct, and the orb stops.

It’s silent, for a few seconds.

“Who’s there?”

It’s a high voice, much different from the growl or death threat he’d been expecting. He doesn’t answer, anyway, just does his best to quietly get up so he can get away.

“I can hear you, you know? There’s no use being quiet.” The voice says again, and Soul’s heartbeat quickens because he can see the shining orb getting closer, faster than he’d like.

He does it on an impulse, starts running away from the light and the person, blindly, arms outstretched in front of him so he’ll have a warning if he’s about to hit the wall.
He doesn’t even notice the footsteps growing closer, until something slams into his back, causing him to fall and the person to fall with him. He tries to get up but is turned around and straddled, as the very shiny orb is practically shoved in his face. He winces and curses quietly, trying to shield his eyes to no avail, it’s too close, and then he just lays back, surrenders, he is at their mercy anyway.

“Who are you?” They ask, and this close, he’s fairly certain it’s a girl. He thinks about answering, but he doesn’t know who he is talking to, and they’re sitting on his belly, still sore from being slammed on the ground. “Why won’t you answer? I’ve got you under my control.”

He wheezes out a laugh. “I know. You’re kind of hurting me.” He says and instantly regrets it when she presses harder. “Alright, alright. I’m Soul.”

She stays quiet for a moment and when she speaks, her voice is almost shy. “You’re a soul?”

“No?” He asks, and opens his eyes, straining to see who is holding the light, but it’s too bright. “I’m Soul, that’s my name.”

She sounds like she’s made a discovery and then forcefully presses the light closer.

“Maybe I’ve asked the wrong question. What are you? And why are you here?”
He almost feels offended, he knows he doesn’t look like the usual elf, but he doesn’t look like anything else. “What do you mean what am I? An elf, of course.”

“You don’t look like an elf.”

“Maybe you don’t look like an elf either and I’m not trying to blind you, am I?” Soul says, unable to abandon his snarky retorts, even if faced with an unknown threat. “And believe me, if I’d had it my way, I wouldn’t be here. I fell through a hole.”

She scoffs, like she doesn’t believe him and gets up. “Alright, show me.”

It’s not a request, it’s a demand, and only when Soul is up does he realize that he has no idea where the hole is. “How would I know where it is?” He asks, pretty sure that she’ll force him to show her the hole regardless of everything.

The orb grows, in size and brightness, illuminating the ceiling of the tunnel, and well as the girl who’s holding it.

“There,” she says, and stares him down and he stares at her.

She’s tiny, much tinnier than he is, and also several times leaner. Had he not known how much strength she had, he’d have mistaken her for a defenseless elf, but she’d slammed him to the ground with the strength of someone at least three times her size.

Her features are delicate, feminine, and she has big, round eyes, whose color Soul cannot tell because the orb casts an eerie blue glow on everything. He’s noticing her dress when she clears her throat and he looks up, at her eyes and her expression, not a very pleased one.

“The hole?” She reminds him, and he turns his back on her, ashamed of having been caught.

He starts walking forward, eyes strained towards the ceiling in search for the tell-tale hole, the girl trailing behind him, holding the bright orb up so he can search the ceiling. She’s a light elf, he’s sure of that, because he remembers the kids in his class, once their powers started showing and everyone was sent to different classes, depending on which side they fell upon. Light elves are nearly extinct, he knows that, but he has a feeling that she doesn’t know, something tells him she isn’t aware of how threatened her life is. Even if she seems like she’s trained for war.

He’s so caught up in his thoughts that he almost misses it, but takes a few steps backwards and excitedly points at the ceiling, to the hole that he’s sure he’s fell through, mostly because the soil underneath seems to have been pressed down by something.
She huffs, eyes the hole questioningly and asks, or rather, demands, that Soul hoist her up. He stares, gaping, much like a fish, as she explains that she wants to make sure it really is a hole. He caves in and holds his hands out so she can check the hole, although he’s sure she’s just being stubborn, because had she not trusted him at all, she wouldn’t have asked him to help her.

She seems to be satisfied with the veracity of the hole and Soul wastes no time in thinking up a plan on how to get out of the tunnel. “Think we can help each other climb out of here?” He asks, hopeful.

She laughs, shaking her head. “We’re not climbing out. We’re walking out.”

Soul stares at the dark tunnel behind him, outraged. “Through there? Why?”

She doesn’t answer, shines the light higher so he can see an arrow, on the wall, pointing towards the darkened tunnel, with a neatly written “This Way” underneath.

“Are you really going to trust some old writing on the wall?” Soul asks, unbelieving, but also aware that he can’t climb out on his own. And she has the light.

“I trusted some old elf that was lying on the floor.” She shrugs and starts walking, Soul trailing behind her because she has the light.

“That’s the second time I’ve been called old today.” He grumbles, slouching and walking behind her, glad that she’s walking slowly.

She laughs, a clear laugh that rings pleasantly in his ears. “You look like you are at least two thousand years.” She mocks and he feels like slouching more.

He doesn’t tell her his real age. They keep quiet, walking through the tunnel that doesn’t seem so chilling anymore.

“Can I know your name?” He asks, tentatively.


And they keep walking.

Chapter Text

It’s been a few days since they’ve emerged from the tunnel, to a world the girl had deemed as sad. He’d seen the light leave her eyes as she took more and more of the world in, possibly thinking about a world she didn’t know anymore, because Soul has no idea how long she’d been in there, but for her not to know about the blight, she’d been there longer than she should have. He had let her have a few moments to adjust, waited for her to ask him where he was going, because he was fairly sure she was. She did ask him, argued with him about the answer because she claimed it didn’t make any sense that he was walking towards the south without even knowing what he was looking for, but ended up going with him, for reasons unknown because she didn’t tell him and he didn’t ask.

It’s been a few days, but Soul can already notice the differences. It’s the light, he tells himself, because if they stay put for a little too long, the nature around her seems to wake up. Not the trees, they’re too big for her to have any effect on them in such a short time, but after they’ve spent the whole night in one place, he can see flowers and small plants growing, green and bright against the death around them. The animals are affected as well. They’re less jumpy, less prone to bite, once or twice they’ve even approached her, to her delight. She doesn’t realize it, but he does: she heals the madness. And then he notices that the voice in his head is quiet, hasn’t spoken since he fell through the hole, and the only voice he hears it’s hers. He also notices that he doesn’t mind it that much.

They don’t trust each other and they both know it. Whether they’re stealing glances at the other as they walk, waiting for them to strike, or sleeping on opposite sides of the fire, looking ahead, at the other, waiting for them to attack during their slumber, their mutual distrust hangs between them, keeps them from talking much.

He stays with her because she’s slowing healing him, without even noticing, but doesn’t trust her, because he’s seen how deceiving her appearance can be and he has to be prepared. She stays with him because she doesn’t have anyone else, but she doesn’t tell him that, because sometimes he looks a little bit like a rabid animal, when he’s mad and the light hits him in a certain way, and she’s too scared that he’ll attack her in his rage so she doesn’t trust him.

But after a week of walking aimlessly, trivial conversation held between them, he sees her writing on the ground, with a small stick, and leans forward, to see. “What are you writing?”
She startles, turns her back on him and quickly wipes out the small words, throwing the stick she’d been writing with away from her. He frowns, takes a few steps backwards and sits on the ground, staring at her back. “Sorry I asked.”

They stay like that, for some time, until he hears her sigh and turn to him, eyes downcast.

“I’m the one who should be apologizing. It wasn’t that big of deal, you just startled me.”

He scratches his neck, thinks about apologizing again, this time with feeling, but decides against it. “So what were you writing?”

“I’m not going to tell you.” She scoffs and looks up at him, mildly amused. “We’re not friends.”

He’s not fazed, shrugs and looks up at her. “We could be.”

His words are normal enough, but the way his eyes focus on her makes her heart skip a beat and she’s sure she’d fall if she wasn’t sitting. She catches herself and scoffs again, turning away from him to look at the forest around her.

They’d stopped to catch their breath and Soul had found a little glade with a tree stump large enough for one of them to sit. She’d taken the available space and he hadn’t complained, saying that he’d look for the river nearby. He’d found it and they were headed there, as soon as she felt less tired. She gets up and he follows, both soundlessly walking towards the river.

They follow the flow of the river, the same river Soul had fell in, and the fact that they’re walking away from it all, from Medusa and the Skaggen, makes it easier for him to breathe.

“What’s that?” They’d been walking for a while, in silence, so her words set him on edge.

He stops. Maybe he’d jinxed himself by thinking about it.

“What’s what?” Soul replies, hoping that she means something else other than them.
She looks at him, picking up on his nervousness, and then points at the ground.

Soul follows the direction she’s pointing in and finds two squirrels, currently sitting at her feet, tails waving. He looks at her, disbelieving, and she shrugs, looking apologetic because she didn’t mean to alarm him. “Those are squirrels.”

“Oh.” She says, quietly, as she seems to ponder something. “Can I touch them?”

He surveys the squirrels. They aren’t growling nor baring their teeth at her, they’re just waiting for her to give them something to eat, much like they used to do before the madness hit. “I guess. They want food, so watch out for the teeth.”

She immediately kneels, holding her hand out to pet the squirrels that happily climb up her hand and arm, playing like they used to before. She laughs, claims that it tickles, and then she’s so happy that Soul finds himself grinning, infected by her happiness. He doesn’t mention that she should know what squirrels are, regardless of the fact that she’d been locked away; squirrels, as far as he knows, have been around for millennia. He also doesn’t mention it when they start walking again and she starts asking him about all kinds of things. From certain trees, to plants, to how the river works and why is there water falling from the sky? It’s like a floodgate has been opened and she has so many questions that he’s scared if he doesn’t answer quickly, or well enough, she’ll be mad.

The rain starts pouring harder and they rush, looking for shelter – some trees are tall enough to keep them dry – but she spots a cabin, and before Soul can stop her, she’s running towards it. He follows, knows he has no other option, and is pleased to find out that it’s empty, and that it looks like it hasn’t been used in a while.

As soon as he’s closed the door and looked around the small house, the inquiry continues, and she seems so excited that Soul feels bad when he isn’t able to really properly answer her questions. Like when she asks him about the stars, or about why the world looks like it does. He could have answered the question, told her exactly what had happened, but she looked, for once, happy, and Soul didn’t want to ruin it by telling her there was a high probability that she was the last of her kind. He looks at her with new eyes, because she truly is alone, there’s no one coming for her, and because they’re looking for him, and if they find him, they find her and they’ll take her away. Nauseated, he answers a few more questions and then tells her he’s going to sleep, because he is tired, and because he
doesn’t think he’s spoken this much, ever.

He takes the floor, near the door, and she takes the bed, soaking up the sheets a little bit because her dress hasn’t dried properly yet, and she isn’t going to take it off.

It takes her longer to fall asleep, the house is much quieter than the forest usually is, and when she does fall asleep, it’s restless, light, like she needs to be awake, like something bad will happen.

She wakes up a lot later, the sheets and her dress are almost dry, and she wonders about why she had woken up. She’s almost asleep again when she hears it. It’s a whimper, quiet and restrained, and looking towards the door, towards Soul, she can see him shivering, contorting himself in his sleep, whimpering from time to time. She sits up on the bed, unsure of what she should do, but when he practically screams in pain, she jumps from the bed and kneels near him, grabbing his face between her hands.

“Soul.” She tries calling him, tries to make him hear her despite his screams. She tries again, louder, and they’re both screaming, because she doesn’t know what’s happening and he sounds like he’s in pain. He writhing again and she’s so scared that she can feel the tears falling down her face. “Soul, wake up!”

He bolts upright, nearly hitting her in the process, eyes wide and shallow breathing, and he looks around, erratically, looking dazed. He sees her, but she doesn’t think he’s really seeing her, because his eyes are foggy, like he can’t see. “What happened?” He asks, breathless.

“Soul, are you okay?” She asks, tries to keep her voice steady even though she feels like breaking down any minute.
He shakes his head, like he’s clearing the fog that took over his brain. “Yeah, it was just a nightmare. Go to bed.” He lays down again, facing away from her, but she is rooted to the ground, as the tears fall freely. It had sounded so real, like he was being tortured, like they were hurting him. She ends up falling asleep on the ground next to him. He doesn’t scream again.

She wakes up with a blanket covering her and a back ache, and only then remembers last night’s incident. She looks around, fails to see Soul anywhere, and sits up, startled, only to see him walking through the door, hair dripping and fresh clothes, and a small smile on his face.

“Good morning.” He says, shaking his head so the droplets fall. When he’s finished he looks at her, serious. “I’m sorry for last night. I don’t remember much but it must have been horrible.”

She had plans of admonishing him, tell him he should have warned her that he was prone to nightmares, but the shame in his voice makes her rethink her words. “You scared me.”

He nods, like he understands. “But I’m okay now.”

She nods as well, stands up, and places the blanket on the bed, once again.

“There’s a pond just outside. You can go and take a bath, if you want. There are even some clothes here.”

He smiles, and she understands why he’s dripping wet now.

He hands her a towel and a white dress, that seems to be about her size, and she goes outside, unsure of whether she’s taking a bath, or not. She discovers that the pond is away from the house, far enough that she’d be able to tell if anyone was coming her way, decides that a bath can’t hurt, because the water is clean enough, and she feels that she hasn’t bathed in years, and that Soul wouldn’t take advantage of it, not the Soul she’s come to know.

She takes her time, swimming and marveling at the way the water feels against her skin.
She feels free, like nothing can hurt her and like the world could be beautiful once again. She hears thunder, gets out of the pond and quickly gets dressed, mostly because she
remembers that the day before, it had started raining right after the thunder. She hurries to the cabin, feeling small raindrops hit her skin and manages to get inside right before the storm hits in full force.

Soul is sitting at the table, inspecting something in front of him and she nears him, curious. He’s holding what seems to be a black rectangle, quite uninteresting, really, but when he sees her inspecting it, he grins.

“What’s that?” She asks, as he hands it to her and she examines it to find out that it opens, and it has blank pages inside.

“A notebook.” He answers, getting up from the chair. “I found it in one of the drawers, and remembered you were writing on the floor the other day. Now you can write there.”

She looks at him for quite awhile, to the point where he wonders if there’s something wrong with him, before she holds the notebook to her chest and looks away. “How do I know you’re not doing this just so you can read it later?”

He shrugs. “You don’t.” He tries to sound serious, but she can detect an hint of amusement in his voice.

“What am I supposed to write with?” She asks, because she actually enjoys the idea of having a place where she can write what goes through her mind and she thinks Soul’s too scared she’ll hit him if he looks.

He scratches his head, making it fairly obvious that he hadn’t thought that far ahead. He looks around, surveying the room, and nears the fireplace, to grab a small piece of charred wood.

“It’s not the best, but it’ll do.” He tries, holding it out to her. She takes it and sits on the bed, opening the notebook and carefully trying to mark the paper.

Soul takes some time to observe her, the blissfull joy that overtakes her when she manages to write something. It’s not long before she has to stand up and get another piece of charred wood, the one he’d gave her already too small to write with. He lets her be, for quite some time, until a thunder sound overhead and an ominous chill runs through his body. The door is closed and all the windows as well, but a coldness takes over his body and he feels like he did when he was back home.

The demon is still nothing but a whisper, but the fact that he can hear it, that Maka’s influence is no longer drowning it out, makes him worry, and he shuffles closer to her just to make sure. He stumbles upon the bed and she looks up, but he can still hear it and can’t think straight.

“Are you okay?”

Her voice comes from far, far away, like he’s underwater, like she’s miles away and not sitting right next to him.

“We need to leave. We need to get away.” He tells her, but the voice doesn’t sound like his own, it’s warped, twisted.

He looks at her but can barely see her, the edges of his vision are going dark, and he’s moving towards the door before he knows it.
But Soul stops, a hand on his wrist, his vision clearer, his ears picking up the girl’s shouts -- his name. He turns towards her and she’s there, wide-eyes, afraid, and he wonders if she’s scared of him.

“There’s a storm raging on outside. We should stay here for today.” She says, and forces a smile, so strained that he wonders if it hurts her.

“I would really rather not.” He mumbles, his voice rough, like he’d been screaming. He notices she’s still holding his wrist but does nothing to move away.

“Please? We have nowhere else to go.” She begs, tugging at his wrist and taking him away from the door.

He sighs, concedes, seeking for the wellness that her presence usually gives him, and sits on the ground, near the bed as she takes up her previous spot, this time writing less furiously, and sneaking glances at him from time to time.

He doesn’t know how long he stays there, the rain hitting the roof lulling him into a state of unconsciousness. He zones out.

When he wakes up, the rain has stopped and he’s outside, laying on the ground, alone.
He sits up, tries to call for the girl but remembers he doesn’t know her name, although it feels like it’s there, just at the tip of his tongue. He shakes his head, trying to clear his thoughts, trying to find the cabin, but instead he sees it. The Skaggen, a younger Skaggen, the same faded pink hair and lean figure but the face of a child. He remembers it, the day he’d found them, and knows what’s coming before it does.

Slow footsteps come closer and he’s scared to looking, knowing he’ll find himself, just like he has for so many nights. But he forces himself to look, only to wish he never had. It’s not him that’s standing by the pathway, maniacal grin and glangy figure staring right in his direction. He knows it’s him, the demon.

Soul struggles to his feet to get away, run, but the demon is upon him in an instant, chewing dark fingernails as if he’s expecting something. “There’s no use in running, Soul and you know that.”

He knows it, but runs anyway, hoping to find the end, the place where his dream ends and reality begins, but the demon chases him.

“They’re going to find you.” He taunts, getting into his head.

“They’re going to use you.” He keeps running, pays him no mind, it’s all in his head, it’s all in his head.

“They’re going to take her.” He says, and the forest ends.

Chapter Text

“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.


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.

Chapter Text

When Soul wakes up, he’s lying somewhere much softer than the ground and his first thought is that something bad happened. Then he hears a voice, recognizes it as hers and tries to sit up, only to be held down by a pair of strong hands. A familiar face looks down at him and he almost chokes.

“Kid?” He asks, incredulous. “I thought you were dead.” Soul says, and his voice cracks at the end of the sentence. He had mourned him.

The boy looks ashamed. “I am so sorry for not trying to find you. I needed everyone to think I was dead. I didn’t think it would hurt you so much.” Kid says, and searches for Soul’s hand, holding it between his. “Will you forgive me, Soul?”

Soul laugh, not with mirth but because he can’t believe his friend is sitting right there. “Of course I forgive you!” He all but screams, throwing his arms around his friend. “Next time make sure you warn me, though. Mourning you once was hard, and I only want to do it again, if you really have passed on.” He laughs, but he doesn’t think it’s funny, he’s just trying to cover up the way he feels.

Kid nods, promises he will not do the same again, and then gestures to woman with a patched up eye, so she takes a step forward, nearing the mat Soul is sitting on. “Hello, Soul.” She says, her voice kind, her eyes sorry. “I’m Marie, and I would like it very much if you accepted our apology for what we did to you.” She says, and Soul raises an eyebrow at her, so she elaborates. “Stein said you were tainted, so we didn’t take the risk and paralyzed you.”

Soul is more confused than before. “Tainted?”
“With madness.” She explains. “We say that those who have been touched by madness are tainted,” She continues, and looks at him with something very similar to pity in his eyes, so he looks away.

“It’s okay, anyone would have done the same.” He shrugs, believing, without a doubt, that some elves living outside the cities, like they seemed to, would have killed him, without a second thought, believing him to be one of Medusa’s pawn.

“But then Maka told us how you’ve helped her and protected her.” Kid says, smiling at Soul. “I’m glad we found you, Soul. We can try and help you now.”
Soul nods, not really believing that they can help him, but then something makes him curious. “Who’s Maka?” Marie and Kid exchange a look and Soul wonders if he shouldn’t have said it, the girl vouched for him, after all, and then he understands. “Is she the girl I was travelling with? She remembers?”

He’s ecstatic with the news, but Kid’s face makes his hope drop a little. Marie intervenes.
“She remembers some of it.” She supplies, not meeting his eye. “I’ll go call her, so you can talk.”

Marie leaves, and when she appears again, she’s accompanied by her, and a red haired man, that looks very unamused. Maka nearly runs to him, smile wide and tells him the good news. “I know who I am, Soul! I remembered.”

He’s going to answer when the man pushes her aside and points a threatening finger at his face. “If you hurt my baby girl, I’ll make you wish you were never born.” The man says, without backing away, and Soul almost laughs with the irony because he’d wished for something similar many times.

Soul forgets everything about how gloomy Marie and Kid had looked when talking about Maka, and his voice is deliberatly mocking when he speaks. “I pass out for an hour and you find yourself a psycothic guardian. Way to go! Also, I heard your name is apparently Maka?”

She pushes the man away and sighs. “Behave Papa, he’s not going to hurt me.”

Soul raises an eyebrow. “Even worse, you found your psycothic dad.” He says, surprised that they’d run into the man, by chance. He also notices that the man is practicaly foaming at the mouth, looking at him like he’s ready to kill him, before Maka asks for some time alone.

Marie and Kid leave, dragging Maka’s dad, who is not so willingly to go, and they’re left alone in the small room.

There’s silence for some time, until Maka decides to break the silence, voice quiet. “They told me, about all that’s happened. How the world got the way it is now.”

“Maka, I’m sor-”

She cuts him off, holding a finger to his lips because she knows that works, that it shuts him up. “I know. It was better this way.” She sighs, sitting on the ground next to him. “Had you told me and I would have tried to run away, like I did. You were trying to protect me.”

He nods, speechless because he’s still drowsy, and she’s said it all, and she takes it as a sign for her to continue.

“I’m not alone, Soul.” She says, and a tear starts forming in her eye, threatening to fall, but she wipes it before it can. “There are more light elves. They’re hidden. Marie is one, and there are more, so I’m not alone.” She tells him, and he smiles at her, searches for her hand and squeezes it. She nods, thankful.

“And they know the witch who did the spell, the one that put me to sleep. She’s staying here and will get back in a few days.” She’s excited, he can tell, but dread settles on his body. “She can try and make me remember.”

“Maka, is it safe?” He asks, because he has a feeling that her memory loss was a side effect, not a desired outcome, and he’s scared that the witch doesn’t really know how to reverse the process.

“Probably.” She answers, sheepish, almost as if she’s scared of his reaction.

He’s fuming. He now understands why they weren’t exactly happy that she’d only gotten some of her memory back. She was going to put herself in danger! “Probably isn’t good enough!” Soul says, loud, louder than he intended and harsher. “I can’t lose you!”

They both seem to realize what he’s said at the same time, and although he blushes, he starts speaking before she can. “I was hopeless until I met you. Don’t you realize what you are? You’re a beacon of hope for all of us! You were saved for something better!”

“And I have to get my memories back so I can know what my mission is!” She says, forcefully, because she’s sure it’s there, somewhere in her mind, and she needs to know it.

“What if it isn’t there, Maka? What if something bad happens to you just so you can get your memories and your mission isn’t there? What then, Maka?”

“Stop saying my name!” She screams, startling even herself. Soul moves away from her, looking like a kicked puppy and she hurries to explain. “Each time you say my name there’s this lullaby, this rhyme in my brain.” She tells him and says quietly, “The fated words, oh hark! / When by the ravenous dark”

“Swallowed are the gentle beams of day.” He completes, and they both stare at each other, for a while.

“You’ve heard it?” She asks and he nods, looking away, eyes unfocused. They’re both left to think about it on their own, and when Maka stands up to leave, Soul doesn’t call for her.

They avoid each other. If asked about it, they’ll make excuses, like, “oh, Maka is too busy reconnecting with her past and I don’t want to bother her”, or “Soul is shy, he likes to keep to himself and he’s just found out his friend is alive so I won’t intrude”, but they both know that they just don’t want to be with each other.

Ever since they found out that they knew the same rhyme, both feeling that there was more to it because despite it being a common lullaby, Maka hears it when Soul says her name, and Soul hears it whispered by the demon, that they’ve avoided the other.

Soul thinks he knows what it means. He thinks that falling down the hole and finding her hadn’t been an accident. He doesn’t believe in fate but the prophecy is clear: he sees no other explanation for the fact that she hears it when he says her name. They’re fated together. He tries to ignore the fact that the rhyme is a bad omen for him, because nothing involving his madness, and the demon in his head, have ever been good for him. He tries to find Maka.

He asks around, getting sideway glances and unsatisfatory answers, but finds Kid, who smiles and tells him where to find her, a little detached from the usual comotion, and he finds her, talking to someone. He sees pink hair and immediately takes a defensive stance. Not here, not here, not here. He keeps getting closer, step after step, and relaxes when he sees someone else.

“Maka?” He calls, and her head whips around so fast that Soul isn’t sure if she’s startled or had been expecting him. She excuses herself and the girl she’d been talking to smirks, like she knows something they don’t, and waves her off, telling Maka to find her later.

When the blonde girl nears him, Soul can’t help his curiosity. “Who’s that?”

“Kim, the witch that put me to sleep.” She says, as assertive as she can. She doesn’t want to fight.

“So you’re doing it?” He asks, unable to hide the sadness in his voice.

She nods. “It’s the only way.”

“It’s not.” He tries, shaking his head, knowing she will not like his theory. She raises her eyebrows, and he elaborates. “I think I know what the rhyme means. I’m the darkness, the night. You’re the candle, the light.”

She stays quiet for a while, gaping like a fish,and he waits for her to react. She slaps him.

“If that’s your way of telling me you like me, then it wasn’t a very good one.” She huffs, mutters something under her breath and turns away. “Besides, just because a stupid rhyme is telling me we should be together, doesn’t mean I want to.” She leaves to find the witch.

Soul stays where he is. He had wanted to tell her that he didn’t want some stupid prophecy to tell him what he should do, he’d had enough of that at home. He’d wanted to tell her that he didn’t believe in fate and that if he liked her, it had nothing to do with what was written. Instead, he’d said nothing and watched her walk away, leaving him with something that feels very much like a broken heart.

So Maka gets back to Kim, they’re both planning the best way of getting her memories back, and Soul gets back to his room, alone, too caught up in his own emotions to realize that the demon in his head started whispering again.

Chapter Text

He learns, through Marie, the only one, besides Kid, who cares enough to bring him at least a meal a day even if he hasn’t left the small indentation on the wall that he calls room in what feels like years, that Maka is getting her memories back today. Marie invites him to watch, but Soul reffuses, he doesn’t want to be near when her disappointment hits because it didn’t work. Marie looks sad at his answer, and he wonders if Maka had asked her to ask him, but quickly brushes it off. She certainly didn’t.

He shows up anyways, stands among the many other elves that have gathered, in a circle around the witch and the girl, who are sitting in front of the other, holding hands. Maka’s eyes search the crowd, but he hides, he doesn’t want her to see him, and she isn’t looking for him anyway. She looks nervous, like she should, but Kim looks nervous as well and he shivers at that, he’s certain that the witch isn’t sure about what she’s doing.

He thinks about stopping them, but decides that he shouldn’t, he’s nothing to Maka but someone who she was stuck with because there wasn’t anyone else, and besides, if Maka wants to do it, she should. But it pains him to stand there and wonder about the repercussions, he’s never liked magic and the spirits that witches call upon during spells are moody, and sometimes malicious. Maka knows that too, he reminds himself, or at least he hopes she does or someone’s told her, but he knows that she’s stubborn enough to try it, nonetheless.

They’re about to begin, silence falls upon the audience and he closes his eyes, he doesn’t want to watch, he wants to leave, but feels like he owes it to her, to be here if it goes right. Someone screams.

He turns on his heel, as do the other elves, to see a man, a human, the same human with the blue hair that had saved him, running towards them, a bleeding girl in his arms, and he can’t help but gasp. He’s seen her, she’s Kraigeri, she’s the one that came to his house in search of the mad and left with her hands empty, even if he was holed up in his room and reffused to see her. He takes an involuntary step forward, and Black*Star’s eyes lock on his. Soul instantly knows that the man was expecting to find him.

Black*Star slows down, holds the girl so they can see her, and then speaks. “She needs help.”

No one moves, and Soul looks back, at the elves who all stand still, and then at Maka, who is looking at him, almost like she wants him to do something. He tries to tell her that he’s unwelcome in the community, that they know he’s tainted, but she pleads and he looks away, takes another step forward. “Didn’t you hear the man? She’s bleeding. You have to help her.”

A woman amongst the crowd speaks, quietly, almost like she’s talking to herself. “She’s Kraigeri.”

“So what?” Soul asks, but he knows the answer.
The man with the cuts, Stein, he’s heard him be called, steps forward and speaks, like he’s tired, like he doesn’t want to say it. “She’s tainted.”

Soul sighs and looks him in the eye. “So am I. And you took me in.”

Some elves gasp, others step away from him, and he hears someone say “I knew it.” like he deserves a punishment. Stein is still looking at him, unreadable expression in place because the doctor is always unreadable.

Black*Star coughs, opens his mouth, but Maka beats him to it, cutting through the crowd and turning towards Stein. “What are you waiting for? She’s still bleeding and Soul is still here, despite being tainted. So in my opinion, you can damn well help her.”

Stein looks down at her curiously, like he’s amused, and then at the human. “Couldn’t have said it better, tiny tits.” Black*Star says, winking at Maka. Soul cringes, he’s sure she will not like the nickname, but despite a sour look thrown the human’s way, she keeps to herself.

Stein walks foward, takes the Kraigeri’s body and as soon as the girl is out of Black*Star’s arms, Maka punches him in the stomach. “Don’t call me that, ever again.” She says, and her voice is almost venomous, but Black*Star only laughs.

“Save that anger, will you girl? They’re coming.” He announces, turning towards the audience and projecting his voice. “Tsubaki.” He says, and points towards the girl who is now placed on a mat as Stein tends to her wounds. “She ran away from the army, at the expense of her own wellbeing, to find me and tell me that Medusa is coming.”

He’s managed to catch everyone’s attention, and even Stein, although working, seems to be keeping track with what he is saying. “How do you know she’s trustworthy?” Kid says, coming out of the shadows and eyeing both Tsubaki and the man. “How do we know you are trustworthy?”

An almost silent whisper of agreement sweeps through the crowd, and Black*Star smirks.

“I thought the name was already a giveaway, but apparently, you didn’t get the hint.” He starts stripping his right arm of the bandages that cover it, to reveal a raised tattoo, a star, burned into the skin of his upper arm, Another whisper sweeps the crowd, and Soul mentally scolds himself for not associating the man with the infamous Star Clan.

“I trust you all know what the tattoo means?” He asks, crooked smile in place as he turns around, showing the scar to anyone who can see it.

Maka is staring at everyone, all staring at the man as if he’s grown another head, but she sees nothing but a star outline. “I don’t know what it means.” She pipes up, shrugging when some elves turn towards her.

Before Black*Star has a chance to reply, Soul answers her. “He can’t lie.”

The human laughs. “Grandpa over there is right.” His smile fades into something thin, almost forced. “You elves wary of everyone else, so suspicious of everything you don’t know, that when my ancestors came here, to your land, you forced them to take an oath, to be binded, through magic, to the truth. We were not to speak anything, but the truth.

And that oath, that tradition, the star you see in my arm, was passed down, through generations, so we could keep having your trust,”

Some of the elves look uncomfortable, like they’ve seen the accusation behind the man’s words, but he continues. “But your plan had a flaw. For centuries, we thought there was no land on our planet besides Skaldur and Jarnio, the land of the faeries. For centuries, our teachers, who had also been binded to the truth, taught us that. And when we found the Prad Islands, just South of here, the most attentive among us wondered, how could they have lied?”

Kid shakes his head, already aware of what had happened. “You could only tell the truth that you knew, even if it was a lie.” Kid explains to everyone, getting closer to the human.

“So your parents took advantage of that, and got an elf that would help you, someone who could lie, to teach a whole generation of children nothing but twisted ideals.”
Black*Star nods. “It was carnage when they attacked. The elf must have regretted it, once he saw the monsters that he had created, and he spilled, he told the Kraigeri what he had done.” He stops for a moment. “The elf was killed, as soon as he finished his confession. Our clan came next. They took our village and killed everyone.”

“How come are you alive then?” Stein asks, already up and near the front of the crowd. Soul looks back to see that Tsubaki’s bocy is covered in bandages, and the bleeding seems to have been stopped.

Black*Star’s chest rises. “Sid Barrett was part of the group that attacked my village. Upon rummaging through my parent’s house, he found a bundle, a baby, no more than a month whole but already branded as part of the clan.”

“Sid took you home.” Kid says, and it is not a question.

“He did. He raised me. And then he was taken to be part of her army.” He seems sad now, melancholic. “He was the one who sent Tsubaki to me. So since I have this tattoo that binds me to the truth, you know that the story I just told you is not a lie. Sid Barrett was my father. Trust me. Trust him. Trust her. She is coming.”

There seems to be a change in the atmosphere, with everyone feeling to their chambers, in preparation for the battle. Black*Star knows his mission has been accomplished, he’s delivered the message, but he decides to stay and fight.
And then somehow, Black*Star and Soul find themselves in a room covered in maps, a typical strategy room is Soul ever saw one, along with Maka, the witch Kim, Marie, Kid and Stein. The others are pouring over a map, discussing something, but Soul and Black*Star are staring at each other, unsure of what exactly they are doing there. Maka turns around and gestures to them to get closer, so they do, to see a map of Skaldur spread in front of them, a red circle in its upper left corner, labeled as Medusa’s Lair.

Kid speaks first. “Tell us what you know.” And all eyes turn to the only human in the room.

“She’s coming from the castle.” He points at the red circle. “And she knows you are somewhere around this area.” He continues, drawing a small circle around their area with his finger. Soul sees a black dot close to the middle of the circle Black*Star had drawn and realizes it marks their location.

“Why us?” Maka asks, and it seems like most other people in the room wanted to ask the same. “They told me there are other settlements, other safe places. Why is she coming towards us?”

Black*Star smiles sardonically. “Because of you, of course.” Maka looks offended. “You and grandpa over there.” He adds, poking Soul in the ribs.

Maka ignores his second statement. “That doesn’t make any sense! I am not the only light elf, there is no reason for her to come for me!” Her voice isn’t strong like it usually is, and

Soul wonders if she is trying to convince herself, as well as the others, that she is not at fault for Medusa’s attack.

“You’re right, you’re not the only light elf.” He reaches foward and pokes her in the nose, much to her confusion. “But you are the light elf, the only one who can bring her down.”
It’s not Maka, but Marie that speaks next. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The human smiles. “It obviously mean that she’s the light that the prophecy talks about.”
They are silent, and little by little, all eyes set on Soul. No one needs to say it, but they all know: he’s the night.

Maka doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t search her, instead goes to Kilik, a strong elf with a talent for molding metal, to ask for an armor, like he’s been instructed. The elf apologizes, that he wasn’t expecting a need for armors to arise, that he has none. At first, Soul thinks he’s only denying him the safety that an armor would provide him in a fight because he’s tainted, but the man is genuinely sorry, and Soul turns to leave when he calls him.
“Night elf.” Soul turns to him again.
“I can’t give you an armor, but I can give you something to fight with.” Soul raises an eyebrow at him and he unsheathes a sword, blood red and curvy. It takes Soul’s breath away. “Be careful. Those who have wielded her say that she has a mind of its own.”
He should have been wary. Instead he takes the sword and leaves. He finds that most people are ready, equiped, but very few have armors, even if they all wield some kind of weapon. Marie has an hammer, Kid holds a bow, and Stein checks his belt, where Soul can see at least three small daggers. Upon further inspection, he sees that they are coated in a greenish substance. Stein catches him looking and puts his index finger to his lips, winking at him,
Soul is moving towards Kid, when someone takes hold of his ankle and he almost trips. He turns back, ready to attack, when he sees Tsubaki, still laying down, looking at him with pleading eyes.
“Let me come, as well.” She says, quietly. “I want to fight.”
He sees her desperation and almost concedes, but a peek at the way she’s lying on the groung, fragile and worn out, he shakes his head. “I’m sorry. You’re still wounded.”
The girl tries to get up and Soul goes to kneel down in front of her, because she seems like she’ll lose her strenght at any moment, but Black*Star beats him to it, placing Tsubaki’s arm on his shoulders and helping her up. “Easy there, fighter.” He says, steadying the girl. Soul eyes the human up and down, to see what he’s armed with, and realizes that the man is a walking weapon. He has daggers, he has a sword, he has a bow, and he has a little pouch, secured around his waist, and he can see a metal spike coming out of it. Black*Star catches him looking and smirks, taking a metal star, pointy and deadly-looking out of the pouch. “I’d lend you one, but you’d hurt yourself before hurting anyone else.”
Soul gives him a nod of acknowledgement, sardonic smile in place. He gestures towards Tsubaki. “She’s not okay to fight.”
Black*Star looks at him, like he has a secret she isn’t willing to share. “She will be.”
Soul thinks about staying, finding out how Black*Star is going to get the shaken girl ready to fight, but he shrugs instead and starts walking towards his friend, who looks ready to leave. He’s going to ask exactly that, when are they leaving, when he catches sight of her.
He doesn’t want to say it, he doesn’t want to be sappy, but he can’t describe it any other way. Maka is shining, resplendent, filling him with hope and strenght. She carries a scythe, a monstruous thing, something he’d say was too heavy for her to lift if he hadn’t known how strong she was. He gravitates towards her, and his feet seem to have a plan of their own. She notices him approaching and to his surprise, smiles, gently.
“You look…” He says, once he nears her, and he knows she doesn’t want him to talk about her beauty.
“Beautiful?” She asks, looking down.
“That too, but I was going to say powerful.” He says, smiling, and when she looks up at him, she’s smiling too, and blushing.
“Are you ready?” She asks, looking for a weapon and finding his sheathed sword, propped on his hip.
“Is anyone ever ready for what could be their end?” He asks, shrugging, and she hits him in the chest.
“Don’t say that. We’re going to win. We need to win.” She says, and once again, Soul feels like she’s convincing herself, more than she’s convincing him.
“How can you be so sure?” He asks, and he wants her to answer because he wants to be hopeful as well. “There are so much more of them.”
She shrugs and looks away, the tips of her ears pink. “The prophecy says we will win.”
They sart walking, Kid at the front, and he stays in place for a bit, as Maka marches forward in time with the other. He ends up falling into place, finding himself next to Black*Star and Tsubaki, looking much more lively. He throws her a questioning look and she simply smiles, while Black*Star sports a smug smirk. Soul decides not to probe, and his thoughts go to Maka’s word. If she believed the prophecy predicted the outcome of the battle, had she come to terms with what it meant for them?
His thoughts drown out everything else, but the demon whistles a happy song and waits for his opportunity to strike.

Chapter Text

Unbelievingly, they meet at a clearing in the forest.
On one side stands Medusa, backed by a seemingly infinte army, the Skaggen by her side and an evil smile on her face.
On the other stands Maka, tall and defiant, backed by a much smaller group of fighters, rudimentally armed, but ready to fight. Soul takes a step forward, lock eyes with the witch and smiles, hoping that she seems a little bit fazed, at least. But upon seeing him, her smile widens and a chill runs through his body.
They stay like that, assessing the other for a while, none willing to strike first. And then, without there really being a catalyst, both armies start running, clashing in the middle, their side painfully outnumbered.
Soul looses all sense of what is going on around him. He knows he has to fight so he does, slashing, cutting through bodies, unwilling to let himself dwell on what he is doing or who he is killing, because he doesn’t like it, but it has to be done. After a while he realizes they’re a lot more than they were at the beginning, and almost most elves, although strangers to him, seem to be as poorly armed as they were, some of them are well armed, well trained, and Soul realizes that some of the Kraigeri have turned against their own.
He briefly sees Tsubaki, plowing through bodies with ease, long sword graciously flowing through the air, and Black*Star, close on her heels, dashing and sinking his daggers into every body that runs his way.
He’s distracted, an elf manages to throw an arm around his neck, suffocating him, but when the man lets go, Soul looks around to see Kim, a bit removed from the heat of the battle, winking at him and making another soldier to his side fall down, unmoving, all with a movement of her hand.
He keeps fighting, trying to tune out the sounds of bodies falling, metal clashing, and the screams, both of victory and pain. He slashes through another elf and then sees her, glorious, wielding the scythe like she’s done it her whole life, looking she’s hardly broken a sweat. He looks away, because he knows there’s no room for distractions, and avoids looking at the ground, scared of seeing familiar faces looking back at him.
He’s so engrossed in the battle, that he takes a lot more time than he should have to realize that something is wrong. The blade of his sword is vibrating, humming, and although he stops, it swings on its own, slashing through the body in front of him. He has half a mind to drop it, but the hilt seems glued to his hand and he can’t let go of it. he panics, wonders what is happening, and then he’s not in the middle of the battle anymore, but in a long corridor, like an undergroung tunnel, full of indentations on both sides. Logically, he knows this has to be in his head, but he doesn’t know how he got there, or how to get out.
He takes a step forward and hears a splash, like there’s water on the ground. He looks around to see that it reaches the top of his feet and has a weird color, not clear like water should be, He starts walking foward, unsure of where he is going, and realizes that the liquid is much thicker than water. When he looks back down, it reaches his knees,
He starts running, frantic, now trying to get away from the blood, he realizes, once the iron-like smell hits his nose, black blood that now reaches his waist. The more he runs, the faster it seems to climb up his body, clinging to his skin. He keeps desperately trying to get away from its grip, tries to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, Maka Maka Maka Maka Mak-
The blood engulfs him.
Maka looks around the battlefield, now only a few individual combats going on. She doesn’t see Medusa, but she looking for Soul, failing to see him as well. And once she sees him, she wishes she hadn’t.
It’s not Soul, she tells herself because the man chasing down the wounded soldiers, slashing at them and cackling, maniacal, can’t be Soul. His eyes are more red, she realizes, and his teeth are sharper, like he’ll use them to rip through someone at any moment. It’s not Soul.
But when she sees the Skaggen, behind him, black sword raised, she can’t help it. “Soul!” She screams his name, desperate, and he looks at her, like he doesn’t know her, but the something cracks.
She sees the blood coming out of his chest and screams, runs to him as he falls down, eyes returning to their usual color, and a fond smile spreading through his face.
Maka doesn’t pay atention to anything else as she runs to him, craddles him in her arms, screams to the skies because she’s lost him. He splutters, raises a hand so he’s caressing her cheek and she looks at him, although he can barely keep his eyes open.
“Soul don’t go, please, stay with me, please, I need you.” She begs, and lets the tears fall down her face, freely, because she can’t lose him, not when she’s lost so much already.
He smiles at her. “I’m sorry. I wish I could stay.” And lets his hand fall, lets himself inhale one last time and closes his eyes.
Maka freezes, shocked, and only lets him go when Stein forcefully takes him away from her, Black*Star holding her back as she tries to get out of his grip and hold Soul again.
Both Soul and Maka miss the moment when Kim and the Skaggen fight each other, when Kim finally redeems herself from the spell that had gone wrong, leaving Maka with no memories, and manages to free the spirits that had taken over the Skaggen’s body.
They find out their name is Crona, and they’re scared of everything, but after being possessed by spirits their whole life, no one blames them, and their habituation to life in society, life as themselves, is slow.
Both Soul and Maka miss the moment when Medusa flees the scene, only for Stein to throw one of his daggers at her, for her to fall down paralyzed, and Black*Star to unsheathe a dagger, one with a carved hilt, one he’d never used, finally avenging his father and ending her.
The blight of the land starts leaving, slowly, but the moment the witch is dead, the air starts getting cleaner, lighter, and because of it, or despite it, the sun shines on the bloody battlefield, illuminating not only their victory, but their mistakes.
Some claim that Maka is the one who should rule them now, she’s a light elf, she’s a leader, but Maka reffuses to even talk, crying over her companion, crying over her friend, crying over the fact that she’d never told him how much he meant to her.
Kid raises to power, on the premise that his father had been the ruler before Medusa, promises to bring balance to Skaldur, he’s Kraigeri, after all, not light, nor night, and to clean up Medusa’s messes, in time.

Maka is sitting on the floor of her chamber, facing the wall, not crying because she feels like she has no more tears left, the ache on her chest, holding her down. The door to her chamber opens. “Go away.” She mutters. She doesn’t want to eat. She doesn’t want to go outside. She definitely doesn’t want to talk about it.
Instead of Marie, Stein stands at her door. “He’s awake.”