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The Forbidden Game
“No,” I begged, my ankles chained to the floor. “Please, no.”
“This is the way it must be,” he breathed from the other end of the arena. “This is what fate intends - and you of all people should know better than to mess with fate.”
Whispers screamed in my ears - the voices of others past. Generations and generations prior, of those who stood in the same position as I did then. Snarling, growling, barking, like an incessant demon dog. Stop! I pleaded with them, but it is useless; he was right, it was destiny...but I didn’t want it... No one ever did...
“I don’t want to play this game...”
My tears burned as they ran down my face, taking the dirt as they went, while my hands quivered in their chains. I saw him through my tear-blurred vision, standing across the way, watching me suffer. It was a circle – it always ended like this. Fate – wretched fate – always kept this cycle. Does he remember?
Stop! I tried again with obliterated hope. But the voices continued.
It is fate; do not try to tempt it...
You cannot run from your destiny...
It will all be over soon...you will become One...
“A Raven screeches in the night. All creatures run in fright. The End is coming, the End is near. A new One will soon be feared...”
“NO!!!” My scream cracked through the air like thunder as I fell to my knees.
He snapped his fingers.
My chains disappeared, and the circle ignited.
And it all began hundreds of years ago...
* * *
Little Lillianne Cathers dismally wandered through the Ebony Woods, tears streaming from her eyes. Her sobs echoed through the shadows, the moon being the only thing to illuminate her path.
“Why?” she cried clutching her delicate, tiny hands to her heart. “Why me?”
Thunder loudly crackled through the grey skies above her, startling the young girl as rain began to fall. Gasping in fright, Lillianne ran to the cover of a nearby tree and sat on the muddy floor bringing her knees up to her chest.
Her face was stained with dirt, and all life and happiness from her once bright blue eyes had drained, turning her eyes a melancholy grey. No one was there to clean her off, and hold her and hug her anymore. No one was there to keep her safe, and tell her everything would be okay in the end...
Lightening flashed before her, and she jumped, running in fright. The young girl ran to the safety of another tree, hugging the trunk and pressing her body against it with all her might, hoping that maybe it would reach out and hold her back.
“Why me?” she murmured again, shutting her eyes with all her might. It’s all a bad dream, she thought to herself. I’ll wake up soon enough, and Mother and Father will still be with me...
Thunder crashed making her jump and whimper. Then lightning struck soon after, illuminating the entire forest, and for a split second, Lillianne saw the image of large bushes several feet away. But, it almost seemed as if something were behind them – like an immense rock of some sort.
When the following crackle of thunder sounded, hurriedly, Lillianne rushed to the cover of the bushes, but when she stumbled through the thickets, she realized her theory was only partially correct.
A large pile of jagged rocks sat in the middle, hidden by the bushes, but an opening was carved out of the east side. Disregarding all caution that provoked her thoughts, Lillianne didn’t spend a second to consider entering the cave. A rock staircase extended downward deep into the ground, lit by wooden torches glowing orange along the walls.
“Hello?” Lillianne called using the cold stone wall to guide her down the stairwell. “He-hello?”
As she neared the bottom, the muffled voice of what sounded like a grown man became audible. The stairwell ended, leading into a circular grotto with dozens of leather bound books piled along the left wall. Underneath the glow of the torches, a man with short, shaggy, black hair was doubled over murmuring to himself.
“Sir?” Lillianne called, too hesitant to take the final step down.
The man continued to mumble to himself, indecipherable to the little girl.
“Excuse me, sir?” she tried again, a little louder this time.
The man’s body stiffened suddenly as he abruptly ceased his mumbling, but never turned to face her.
Lillianne jerked back, too afraid to say any more. Briefly, she contemplated turning and running away – back the way she had come. But where could I go? she thought woefully.
“Who is there?” the man demanded, not turning around.
Lillianne jumped at the sound of his harsh voice. Petrified, she stood there waiting for the man to speak again.
“I asked who is there?” the man demanded harshly again, turning around as his black, silk cloak glided through the air.
Lillianne could only stare back in fear. The man was young – no doubt – however he looked as if his body was fighting deathly against age. The skin on his face was thin and pale, and his arms shook slightly with frailty. Elevated bluish-green veins stretched down his neck and continued down the front of his arms pulsating, almost as if they were draining the life from his grey eyes.
“Who are you?” he asked in a gentler fashion.
“Li-Lillianne,” the young girl stuttered.
“Lillianne, what are you doing here?”
“I-I am lost…”
“Lost? What are you doing wandering through the Ebony Woods my dear?” the man asked taking a step towards her.
“I-I don’t know…”
“Well where are your parents?”
Lilliane’s lip quivered not knowing what or how to answer.
“You do have parents, do you not?” he inquired raising one eyebrow.
The little girl shook her head sorrowfully staring back at the man with curiosity, yet fear in her eyes.
“Then you are an orphan?”
Lillianne nodded her head.
“You don’t have a home?”
The little girl shook her head.
“I don’t have a son,” the man explained, “or a daughter. It would be nice to have someone to spend time with, someone to keep my company.” He paused. “Someone for me to teach everything I know to.”
Lillianne just stared back at him.
“Here my dear,” he said kicking a bronze pot in her direction. “Have something to drink.” And with a flick of his wrist, the once empty pot mysteriously filled itself with crystal clear water.
After wandering through the woods for days, the young girl’s lips trembled, desperate for water. She looked up at the man with cautious eyes.
“How did you do that?” she finally spoke.
“My dear, I am no stranger. I have known your name since you were born, Lillianne Cathers.”
Lillianne cringed closer to the wall hoping in some way it would protect her.
“I will protect you,” he spoke as if he read her mind. “I will become your new father. I will raise you, teach you. You will no longer be alone.”
Lillianne reluctantly took the final step, grabbed the pot with her tiny hands, and began forcing the water down her throat. The glorious feeling of the cool, clear liquid flowing down relaxed and calmed the young girl.
“Come my dear Lillianne” he said when she finished. “You must be tired.” The man sat on the floor and opened his arms to the girl, and the child toddled over to him.
“What is your name?” she asked sitting down as the man wrapped his cloak around her to keep her warm.
“Edric,” he said softly.
“Thank you, Sir Edric,” Lillianne said resting her head in the crook of his arm.
“You are very welcome my child.”
As Lillianne drifted into unconsciousness, she vaguely heard Edric humming her to sleep with a melody:
“A raven screeches in the night… All creatures run in fright… The End is coming, the End is near… A new One shall soon be feared…”
* * *
I fell to my knees, unable to turn my gaze away from him. He was responsible for the death of those innocent people. I saw them – I saw them fall and their souls being taken from them. It was all him – he was the one responsible for it all. The blood and pain, it was all burned into my memory. To everyone else, he was feared – feared as the ruthless monster hunting the lives of the irreproachable.
But to me, he was like a father.
“Let the game begin,” he commanded.
He thrust his hands toward me, and horizontal towers of fire extending from the palms of his hands. I cringed towards the ground and brought the earth up above me as a shield. The heat of his attacks created dozens of sweat beads along my forehead. I have to get out of here, I thought to myself.
I shoved the ball of my hand towards the ground with great force, and the earth obeyed, barreling downward to create a path. Hurriedly, I slipped down into the tunnel forcing it to continue further through the earth as I crawled. But suddenly, the ground started to rumble. The earth began snapping above me, and a split second later, it had parted and the ground underneath me thrust me into the skies.
“You honestly didn’t think you could escape that easily?” he expressed as I plummeted to the cold, dirt floor. “Did you really think you could get away without a fight?” An arrow of flames shot towards me burning the right side of my waist. I whimpered in pain, clutching my side desperately trying to ease the burning sensation. “Did you think you could escape at all?” He paused. “You know what must be done. You understand what is needed to happen. You cannot escape your destiny.”
I raised myself off the ground and lobbed a large ball of fire towards him, but he easily deflected it with a wave of his wrist.
“I don’t want my destiny!” I called hopelessly.
The sound of samurai battling one another with their katana echoed in my ears as he materialized dozens of ice shards and thrust them towards me. I was pinned against the wall again, this time by ice rather than chains. I couldn’t move; they were too strong. He still had control over them… He had control over me…
“You cannot run from your destiny!” he hollered.
Suddenly, a black fog materialized out of his chest and raced towards me, its talons by its side, ready to pry. My mouth dropped open, and I began shaking with fear as I desperately tried to escape.
That was It. That was the spirit, the thing that possessed him – the real villain behind the mask of another. The thing everybody feared. The thing that started it all…
It was headed straight for me…
“No!” I screamed, but it was too late.
The spirit attacked my chest, and pain like never before ensued. Burning, freezing, stinging, all at once but magnified by one hundred. No one could understand the horrific sensation, unless they had been through it themselves.
My body went limp, reluctantly surrendering to the pain. There was nothing I could do to stop it. And I knew he was watching me with a smirk on his face. This is it… I could hear him say. This is it… I heard myself think.
My body felt as if flames were slowly burning up my arms and legs going to one destination – my heart. Yet at the same time, I was suffocating as if drowning in glacial waters. My body ached from the vicious pain, and I could feel my eyes slowly turning black. But that was the only part I had control of.
I fought to resist the obsidian taking over. The grey had already taken over several years prior; I would not let the black consume my eyes too.
The pain increased, and I almost lost it. I can’t keep this up much longer… It was torture even to think to myself. I couldn’t take it any longer… No! I have to continue to fight… It won’t end like this…
Suddenly, the pain ceased.
It had retreated back into his body.
It was over…for the moment…
I have to get out of here, I thought to myself after I had collapsed to the floor gasping for breath.
Quickly, I rose and engulfed myself in a ball of flames. Focusing on my abilities, I concentrated hard with one thought in mind: escaping. With all my might, I thrust my arms outward and the fire spread. Walls of flames surrounded me, creating pathways to run. And that’s just what I did.
My footsteps ran parallel to the rapid beating of my heart. Thump, thump, thump… I have to get away, I thought running as quickly as I could.
I couldn’t see him in the labyrinth; I had no clue where he was.
Suddenly, the path I was following came to an end with a blazing wall of fire before me. There was nowhere left to run.
“I told you you could not escape,” came his voice from the darkness.
I spun around; no one. He knew where I was – he knew exactly where I was. But where was he? I had forgotten one major detail: how was I supposed to get out?
I gazed all around me searching for a shadow of some sorts – anything to tell me where he was. There was nowhere for me to run as the glowing towers of flames were reflected in my eyes.
I was trapped in a maze of fire.
* * *
“Sir Edric?” Lillianne called from the bottom step.
“Lillianne, my dear,” Edric called looking up from his work. “Come, come.”
“What is it you are doing?” she questioned prancing over to the man.
“This, my sweet child, will give me the gift of immortality,” he explained placing his arm around the young girl. “Do you see that book over there?” he continued motioning to the open brown book that lay on the floor. “These pages describe a ritual that will bring forth an anonymous spirit in which they simply call It. Now they say that this spirit needs a body to dominate in order to attain immortality. The soul and body is called, ‘The One’. And hopefully I will be able to become One and receive this gift.”
“‘The One’?” Lillianne questioned gazing over the pages depicted with ancient symbols and pentagrams. “Like the lullaby you sing to me every night?”
“What is that you said my dear?” Edric questioned gazing curiously at his adopted daughter.
“The lullaby,” she repeated beginning to hum the melody.
“You can recall the tune I sing you to sleep with?” he asked crouching down beside the young girl.
“Only the first verse, after that I drift off to sleep.”
“Well,” he began turning the page back in the leather-bound book, “does this recall your memory?”
Lillianne observed the new page in the brown book. “Yes,” she exclaimed. “That-that’s it! A Raven screeches in the night. All creatures run in fright. The End is coming, the End is near. A new One shall soon be feared.”
“This is the haunting melody,” Edric began to sing, “Where no one escapes their destiny. Generations past, it’s always the same. It’s time to play the Forbidden Game.”
“Yes, yes, that’s it!” the little girl cried with a jubilant smile. “What does that mean?”
“My dear sweet child,” Edric began returning her smile as he draped his arm around her shoulder, “we will find out soon enough.”
* * *
A line of fire arose blocking off the only exit possible and surrounding me entirely in a blaze of flames. I was completely and utterly trapped.
My hands shook as I spun round and round, searching for any sign of him. He has to be around here somewhere, I thought to myself. He has to be… He’s watching me – I know he is… But where is he?
Nothing. The only thing that I could see was the fire spiraling around me. Then, the voices came back to me…
It will all be over soon… You will become One…
“No,” I mumble. I will not take the lives of the innocent….
“Tick tock,” came his voice.
I whirled around, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, a pillar of fire extended from one of the walls of flames scorching the front of my shirt and singing my already black hair. I stumbled to the floor trying to put out the flames on my shirt.
I have to get out of here, I thought to myself. It seemed the only thought my mind could possess. He had the advantage; he could see me, but I couldn’t see him. He could control the blazes better than I could. He was the hunter, and I was his prey.
Suddenly, the flames parted like a show was about to begin – a horror show – and his black silhouette entered, walking with pride.
“You seemed frightened my dear,” he snarled, the fire in his palms reflecting the fear tattooed on my face. “You shouldn’t be afraid.”
His hand lunged towards me, and once the ball of fire left his touch, I saw them, the marks – the scars. They were burned into his hands as a permanent reminder of his past.
I grabbed the ground and a column of earth rose beneath my feet.
Death. I wasn’t afraid of death – in fact I would much prefer to die rather than face the fate that I was destined to. Deep inside, I knew he wished for death too, and by the time this battle finished, he would have his wish. But I wouldn’t. I would take his place, and the torture would ensue.
He smashed his hands into the ground and water began pulsating from them and started rapidly climbing the mast. It reached the top in three seconds, and he clenched his hands into fists. With the movements of his hands, the water froze over to ice and shattered into a million pieces, sending me plummeting to the floor.
A cry of pain escaped my throat as my body collapsed to the ground.
He stalked towards me and, grabbing what was left of my shirt, pulled me towards him. The veins on his arms pulsated as they stretched upward towards his neck, draining the life from his obsidian eyes.
“Please,” I begged shaking in his grasp as tears began falling from my eyes. “Please don’t do this to me…”
“Dear Haela,” he spoke while my tears slid down his arm. “Dear sweet Haela, you knew from the beginning this was how it was supposed to be. You knew this was destiny.”
“Please,” I pleaded again. “You’re-you’re like my father. You don’t want to do this…”
His eyes suddenly changed from midnight to overcast, and for a split second his hold on me loosened. His lips parted as if he were about to say something, but the black took over again immediately.
“You know what is meant to happen!” he commanded harshly.
Suddenly, I was blown backward by a harsh wind and restrained – once again – against the cold stone wall with my arms stretched outward to my sides, palms up. Kill me, I thought to myself. But I knew It wouldn’t dare do that. I was Its next body – I was Its next soul to take.
He brought his arms across his chest and thrust them in my direction. A black shadow materialized out of each hand and headed straight for me, slithering across the ground. A few feet away from me, they leapt from the dirt, lunging towards me.
“No!” I called trying desperately to escape, but it was useless. He still had his hold on me, and he wasn’t letting go.
The shadows attacked my palms, dissolving into my skin, and the stinging sensation returned. The searing pain traveled up my quivering arms and rested in my chest, and I felt my eyes darken a little.
I fell to my knees, shaking in what was left of the clothes on my body.
Its shadows were in me…
All hope was lost completely…
* * *
Lillianne stood in the center of the circle with the flames still blazing around her. Edric – her new father – lay dead at her feet. And she was the one responsible. The spirit which possessed Edric was now inside of her.
“I curse you, you un-named spirit,” she called to the sky. “I curse you for taking the life of the only person I had left.” With that, she lay beside the lifeless body of her father, and tears ran down her cheeks in streams as she sorrowfully sang, “A raven screeches in the night… All creatures run in fright… The End is coming, the End is near... A new One shall soon be feared… This is the haunting melody… Where no one escapes their destiny… Generations past it’s always the same… It’s time to play the Forbidden Game…”
* * *
It was as if I were gazing through hazy windows, watching the scene from a third-person point of view. He was no longer in control of me – I was no longer in control of me. Its spirits had possessed me, and soon, It would too.
I lunged for him, tackling him to the ground. Water ran down fingers and froze on my fingertips like sharp claws. I swiped my talons across his face, scarring his fair skin, but he never put up much of a fight. This was how it was supposed to be. It was controlling him, and They were controlling me.
I pulled my hands across my chest and a whirlwind of dust violently revolving around lifted his body off the floor and sent him spiraling into the air. I thrust my hand after him, and a river of water streamed out toward him, wrapping itself around his body. The water froze, and I yanked my arm downward with great force. Following my arm, the ice plummeted to the earth, pulling him with it. He slammed against the ground, the ice shattering into a million pieces. But it wasn’t over yet.
The ground began to crumble as I clenched my hands into fists. I raised my hands above my head, and the earth grabbed hold of his wrists and raised itself until he was on his knees. I strode over to him with vengeance in my step. He raised his head to look me in the eye, and a slight smirk formed on his lips.
The voices came back once again, but this time they spoke through my voice rather than just in my head.
“A new era will soon begin,” My voice spoke with the harsh echoes of theirs in the background. “The One will live on until immortality is reached. My soul will be given to help It take others.” My hands began glowing with flames. “The One will be feared for eternity.” I drove my hands into his chest and a bright light irradiated. Our heads snapped back and the ancient transfer commenced.
The burning, freezing, and stinging sensations returned, but one other unbearable sensation presented itself as well. My soul felt as if it were being ripped from my body. It was as if claws were urgently attempting to anchor themselves to my body, but being pried just as harshly from its home. That was probably the greatest pain of all…
The pain of the transfer seemed only minimal compared to the immense sorrow that consumed my body for a split second as I imagined my horrible future. I would soon be the One to be feared, taking the souls of all who cross my path – the innocent lives that do not deserve the tragic fate they would meet. I deserved to die...not them…
One single tear fell from my eye…
The black took over…
And it finally ended…
The earth pillars locking my adopted father in place retracted to the floor, and his body collapsed. He was dead, and It – the evil, malicious spirit – was living inside of me.
I fell to the floor shaking in front of him, the man who took me in, raised me, and became my father. He loved me, and I knew it was not him who wished it to be like this. It was a cycle it always ended this way…
The voice of little Lillianne echoed through the night:
“A raven screeches in the night… All creatures run in fright… The End is coming, the End is near… A new One shall soon be feared… This is the haunting melody… Where no one escapes their destiny… Generations past, it’s always the same… It’s time to play the Forbidden Game…”
“No,” I said to myself gazing at the red scars that were burned into my hands, “I won’t help to take the lives of innocent people…”
I only had a few minutes left before the spirit settled and took complete control over my body. I couldn’t fathom the idea of being the One who will be feared, the One who will stop at nothing to gain immortality – the villainous creature that makes one wish for death, the creature that cruelly breaks the innocent soul of not only strangers, but lost and helpless children.
I was the one It possessed – the one who It relied on to carry out Its domination. I couldn’t stop It – I knew that only too well. But I could try to prevent It from continuing in Its ways – to stop It from taking another pure soul of an innocent child. So I did the one thing that held even the smallest mirage of hope at stopping this sick cycle.