"You... You... You!"
Muffled buzzing and murmurs filled their head as a sharp ring in their ear woke the person up with a jolt. They gasped sharply before hissing and clenching their head with both hands. What was going on? Who was calling to them? And was something piercing their skull?
There was no time to wonder what had happened or what will happen. They had to see what was going on currently. They glanced down at their body. It was completely in shadow as if they were made by it. Tugging at their sleeve and patting themselves, they were wearing long-sleeved pajamas and their feet were bare. Their shoulder-length hair curled down in messy waves. And they were soaked.
They jumped at the realization, shaking themselves as they found themselves standing on top of a stream inside a tunnel. Were they in a sewer? They sniffed the air. No rotten sewage or animals around. It was a fresh saltiness. Perhaps they were in a cave or some catacombs. But they were sleeping on their bed before, were they?
There was no other direction to go than forward, so the person trudged down the tunnel as they kept an eye out for any new objects and landmarks. Other than rocks, shells, and the occasional plant, there were no objects in the water, which was a good sign. They continued to walk until they saw a faded green light up ahead.
"Is... this the way out?" They asked aloud. With a hopeful smile, they rushed towards the light and skidded towards the center of an underground clearing illuminated by something green in the water. They suddenly tripped and landed on their back with a yelp and a splash.
"You, you, you!" Faded whispers rang in their ears, but they couldn't find the source. They winced through a hiss and rubbed their sides as they tried to sit up only to find a wave of water inches away from their face.
"GAH!" They gasped and scooted their body away, only stopping when the wave of water did the same.
The human tilted their head. The water tendril copied their movement, equally as curious. Both reached out for each other tentatively until their hair was submerged in water. When the water lifted back, the hair was sopping wet like a mop. They blinked before they giggled, covering their mouth. The water seemed to bounce as if also laughing. They had a strange feeling that this water was alive and a good friend. They opened their mouth to comment and ask where they were when...
"Ah... my dear beloved."
They froze. There was something or someone in the room. They could feel a presence from all around them, but they did not recognize nor see the entity. The voice was distorted, deep, and high at the same time. Whoever it was sounded certain and determined.
"A lovely and noble flower of evil." They could hear footsteps coming from behind, getting closer to them. "Truly, you are the most beautiful of all."
Was the figure talking about them? Before they could turn their head to the speaking figure, their body felt numb.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the..."
The rest of the words became a blur as they suddenly fell on their back and dark purple shadows leaped onto their body. Then came the trembling. Then their eyes, ears, and mouth began to burn. They screamed and shut their eyes, trying to pull against the energy, but the aura was too strong. They could feel tendrils of water trying to grab them, managing to cover their eyes and ears.
"W-Wait, stop!" They pleaded through the pain. "Who are you?!"
There was no answer from the figure. After a moment, the pain subsided and water seeped through their eyes, healing them. When they opened their eyes, they found themselves looking at their reflection on the ceiling. Although they could not see through the dark aura around them, they noticed glowing pale gold eyes and sharp teeth. They gasped and covered their mouth, sitting up to find themselves in front of a large mirror. The person turned their head. The figure had disappeared, but its voice and aura were still heard.
"Those who are guided by the dark mirror... As long as your heart desires, take the hand that appears in the mirror."
"Hand...?" They muttered, only to yelp when a gloved hand shrouded in shadow appeared in the mirror, its palm up and waiting.
They hesitated. Why should they trust the cryptic figure before them, let alone the owner of the hand? For all they know, it could be a trap or something worse.
Then again, they could see no other options. They just had to put their faith in who was on the other side of the mirror. And that thought scared them the most.
With a nervous gulp, they grasped the dark hand with shaky fingers. The hand gave a firm yet gentle grip before pulling them in. They went through the mirror and entered a room that barely had light and no water.
"So... you're the one who called for me?" A new voice asked, slightly distorted yet sounding masculine. They looked up to find that the hand belonged to a person covered in a shadowy robe. The person was very tall and something in the back of their mind told the other that it was male. They could sense an air of mystery and a calming aura around him. There were pointy things on top of his head. Thorns?
"I'm... not sure." They answered honestly after clearing their throat and dusting themselves off. "I do need some help though. This feels so strange like a dream, yet I feel awake at the same time."
"I see. Well, I would be delighted to assist you however I can." The man bowed and gave them a key. "Now, you must choose another."
Just then, a few candles in the room lit themselves, small green flames burning and illuminating the room. Six coffins surrounded the two beings, floating in mid-air as echoes emitted from them.
"Let's go. We mustn't be late."
"Hey, let's go. Follow me..."
"Ah, you're here! Are you tired? You can follow me if you'd like!"
"Do not protest. Let's go..."
"Good job getting here. Well... I'm going to go back now."
"It's not safe to stand in such a place. You want me to show you the way?"
There was something about the recent words that made them comfortable and eager to proceed with the strange event further. The person stood before the coffin, nodding to themselves. They gripped the key in their hands before pushing it into the keyhole. The key glowed and turned itself to unlock the coffin.
When the coffin opened, a masculine figure came out wearing detailed black and purple robes with a distinct gold trim. Although their vision of him was blurry, they were reminded of an analytical boy most likely wearing glasses. He joined the shadow boy and smiled at the person as the remaining coffins faded away.
"You are a very lucky person to have us guide you." He said in a smooth tone. Some of his next words were muffled and gibberish to the person's ears, but they recognized it at the boy introducing himself. The only words they heard were, "... you shall not worry." They smiled at the offer, then frowned and took the hand of each boy with their own as the first voice they had heard echoed once more.
"Flames that can turn the moon to ashes... Ice that can freeze time... Earth that can swallow the sky." As the voice spoke, the person could picture the words vividly in their mind as they closed their eyes. The voice continued, "Show no fear to the power of darkness."
There was a sudden clap and the being opened their eyes with a sharp exhale. One moment, the trio was in the black abyss of a room. The next, they were standing on top of the ocean. At least, they thought it was the ocean. The floor was covered in constantly moving water and the salty smell of the sea. However, there were giant faded tree trunks over the horizon instead of the endless nighttime sky. The leaf canopies were like storm clouds and a large mist spread throughout the sea. The being looked down to their feet, their eyes widening at how they were standing on top of the water as if it were the ground. Their awe and confusion didn't last long.
"Watch out!" A voice warbled and deep exclaimed. The robed individual who had come out of the coffin pushed them out of the way as he took out a long item from his pocket. Was it a wand? The boy of thorns kept holding them as he summoned some sort of scepter and pulled back, dodging a giant ball of blue fire.
Wait, a giant ball of blue fire?! The three turned their heads and locked eyes with the source of the fireball that growled and crouched low, ready to strike.
The beast was massive, perhaps ten stories high. The size of ten adults stacked upon each other. It resembled a large wild cat. A jaguar? A panther? It was dark grey with icy blue pupil-less eyes, razor-sharp pitch-black claws, dragon wings on its back, several tentacles jutting out from its neck, and a large snake for its tail. However, it was the blue fire that surrounded its neck like a collar and spurted out from its ears that caused the being to tremble.
"What is this power...? It's nothing like I have ever seen before..." The robed boy with a wand muttered aloud. The boy of thorns was about to comment, probably to warn the other of keeping his guard up when a sob stopped him. For some reason, tears welled up in the being's gold eyes and cascaded their cheeks but they did not know why. They put a free hand to their breaking heart.
"I don't understand. How did it all come down to this? Is this... my fault? Did I do something wrong?" They asked with a shudder, feeling like they were going to fall apart at that moment. The boy gripped at their hand to steady them.
"Come now, show me your power. We only have a little bit of time left."
Another roar and the feline beast slammed a claw in the trio's direction, separating the three. The being flew backward and landed roughly on a large rock, groaning as they slowly got up. Not that they were further back, they saw that there were groups of people wearing the same robes as the boys fighting the beast. With the people were large shadows. Although they could not identify the shadows, they knew that the shadows were different creatures who wanted to stop the feline's rampage.
One robed individual ran up to the beast's face to attack it. Another stood at a distance but attacked using a wand. Three giant shadows were attacking from mid-range. One shadow stayed up in the trees. There were two robed individuals on a canoe. One of them was holding the other who seemed wounded. Two shadows stayed on the sidelines, one protecting the other. Despite the numbers, the beast was too strong for the group.
The being scanned everything and everyone. They did not know what was going on, but they had a feeling that they knew everyone there. Even though they did not understand the situation, they did not have power, and that their head was beginning to go numb into a headache, they wanted to do something. They needed to do something.
"We need to help them!" They exclaimed. Spotting something floating in the distance, they rushed towards it, only to stop when someone else blocked their way.
"Stop! It's too dangerous!" Another boy ordered, his arms stretched out as he glared at the being. "We can handle this on our own. We can't have you hurt!"
"But I can't just stand around and do nothing. I'm going to help!" With that, they pushed the boy aside and continued their path. The object they had spotted was another canoe where a tall shadow laid, collapsed, and wounded. When they had reached the boat, they patted the shadow's shoulder and pressed their forehead against the other's, receiving only a groan in response.
"I'm sorry for everything. I'll fix it. Just hold on!" They promised as they searched the boat for some sort of weapon they could use. All they could find was an oar. As they picked up the oar and held it in an attacking position, another voice spoke up.
"What are you doing...?" A masculine voice droned from the other side of the canoe. They nearly jumped to find a boy sitting across from them, his hood obscuring every detail of his head except for the large tufts of blue fire that was different than the beast's fire. Whoever he was sounded annoyed and tired. The being gave him a disbelieving stare.
"What's it look like I'm doing? I'm trying to help everyone!"
"With a stick?" He scoffed. "Why don't you just accept it? You do not have the power to change this."
They tightened their grip on the oar and glared at the individual with blue flames. "Watch me." They hopped out of the canoe, exclaiming as they ran to the others. "Ocean, hold me! Thorns, could you help me?" Their attention was to the tall man they had met at the mirror, who blinked and gestured to himself.
"What do you need me to do?" He asked.
"I need you to cover me and shield anyone who needs it!" After a moment to think, Thorns nodded.
"Understood. Be careful, human."
With that, the human charged towards the trees as fast as they could, their legs pumping and burning with adrenaline. With each step, water sprayed up and around their body like a shield that lifted them inch by inch. Any fireballs aiming towards them were stopped by water and thorns.
As everyone else who was active continued to attack, one of the large creatures saw the human running and growled, lowering their claw towards the water, "Need a lift?"
"Thanks!" They responded as they hopped onto the claw. The creature aimed, then threw the human up high into the air.
"Leave them alone!" They roared, causing the robed people and the other creatures to stop. The feline beast growled and glanced up to see the humanoid being falling towards it.
They raised their oar high, light blue markings appearing and glowing onto the wooden pole as strands of water surrounded their limbs. They descended straight onto the beast's head. As they swung as hard as they could, a distinct image clouded their mind:
A dark carriage. Pulled by horses. In a forest at night.
The next moment, they were hit by blue claws and sent flying, diving into the water.
"Yuu!" Several voices cried out, but they couldn't hear any more than that.
They were drowning. At least, they thought they were. They were sinking deeper into the ocean. Instead of water invading their lungs, warm air filled their esophagus and a sense of drowsiness washed over their body. As their eyes began to droop, they sunk some more until they landed somewhere dark and soft. They didn't even notice their arms crossing on top of their chest. Before they drifted into sleep once more, the mysterious voice whispered:
"At all costs, do not let go of that hand."