Posted 24 July 2010 - 01:47 AM
21. Memories Gained
â??Lexy! Lexy!â? A splattering of giggles followed the call. Two small children appeared over the crest of the small hill, their heads barely topping the large gillyflowers that covered the field. â??We know youâ??re out here!â?
A soft wind blew across the field, ruffling the tiny brunette curls on the girlsâ?? heads. The petals and leaves of the flowers rustled in the wind, and it carried their voices across the open, snow covered field. â??Where are you, Lexy?â? More giggles.
â??Girls, here I am! Follow my voice - if you can!â? Lexy called, buried beneath the giant flowers that grew everywhere. The young woman giggled, her laughter joining in with those of her sisters. She peeked out between the fragrant petals and peered at the lavender sky. The suns were shining above, casting their pale yellow glows through the soft haze that blanketed their world.
â??Lexy! Come out, come out wherever you are!â? The sweet smell of the flowers permeated everything and brought with it the feeling of comfort, of home. Even the fog that had started to descend on the plains held no menace. No monsters stalked this misty fog, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting girls.
Thatâ??s an odd thought, mused the young woman. What was there to be afraid of, ever, here? Why would I suddenly think that there was? Monsters did not exist in real life. Even the monsters of their fairytales were not all that horrible. She shrugged and dismissed the passing worry, her mind focused on hide-n-seek.
â??Lexy?â? It was eerie hearing the girlsâ?? voices, but not being able to see them through the heavy fog. It made them seem further away, out of reach - less real. Goosebumps prickled across Lexyâ??s arms. The girlsâ?? voices moved further away. â??Leexxxxyyyyy!!
A deeper voice joined in on the calls, familiar, but distinctly out of place. â??Lexy?â?
The woman stood, pushing the flowers aside. The new voice drew her towards it, enticing her with only a few syllables. She left the laughing voices further behind her, her game and sisters forgotten. â??Hello?â? she called quietly. The fog thickened, obscuring even the flowers that came up to her waist. â??Whoâ??s there?â?
â??Lexy? Are you here?â? The voice, laced with confusion and uncertainty, somehow warmed her heart. She smiled. A figure appeared some distance ahead, unrecognizable in the blinding light of the lavender haze. Even shadowed, she felt certain she knew this man who called out her name.
â??Iâ??m here!â? she answered, her voice high and excited. She ran towards the figure and stopped a few feet from the man that had materialized in her world. She took in his appearance, from the splattering of blonde hair that stuck out at odd angles on his head to his sad, blue eyes, down to his rustic attire.
Nothing about him seemed familiar. Her breath form spirals in the cold winter air. She shivered. â??Doâ?¦Do I know you?â?
The happiness and recognition that had begun to appear on the manâ??s face faded. He took a hesitant step forward, eyebrows drawn together in worry. â??You donâ??tâ?¦know who I am?â?
She shook her head. â??Thereâ??s something about you...â? she began. She stared into the manâ??s eyes, trying to find something familiar there. The soft, blue eyes enthralled her, but brought out no real memory. Her heart fought against the logic of her memories, trying to tell her something that she could not see with her eyes. It made her head ache. â??No. No, I donâ??t believe weâ??ve met before.â?
With an audible snap, the fog receded and brought everything into sharper focus again. The ache in Lexyâ??s head eased with the passing of the fog. Her tumbled thoughts evaporated. She smiled.
â??Are you visiting from Harahjju for the Winter festival?â? she queried, her head *^^*ed to one side. The wind picked up again, swirling softly around the pair. The manâ??s brow wrinkled in confusion and he, too, shook his head.
She placed a hand lightly on the strangerâ??s face. â??Is everything all right? You seemâ?¦sad.â?
â??There you are Lexy!!â? The small girl paused as she reached them, interrupting anything the man was about the say.
The other girl joined them and beamed up at the stranger. â??Hello, mister. Do you know my sister?â?
â??I do,â? he replied. The man shifted his gaze from the small girl to stare at her older sister. He ran one hand through Lexyâ??s hair, tucking the silky raven locks that fell almost to her waist behind one ear. He cupped the side of her face, much like she had so recently done. â??But I think sheâ??s forgotten me.â?
â??Thatâ??s not very nice,â? intoned one pig-tailed little girl, handing the stranger a small bud that resembled the overgrown ones that surrounded them.
â??Not nice at all to forget someone!â? replied the other girl. She pulled on the womanâ??s skirt, tugging it mercilessly. â??Youâ??d never forget us like that would you, Lexy?â?
The young woman looked at one heart shaped face to the next. The image blurred, distorted, but still their voices came. â??Youâ??ll remember us for ever and ever and ever??â? â??Right, Lexy?â?
The voices slipped further away, barely audible now. â??Lexy? Lexy where are you?â?
A single tear dripped down the young womanâ??s face as she turned to the man who stood next to her, the only thing left solid in the glowing purple world.
â??Xyler?â? Her tears came quicker now. â?? Xylerâ?¦How could I forget them?â?
Galexy woke from her dream, wiping away the tears that still streamed down her face. She laid there for a few minutes, reliving the dream. It was hard to distinguish what was a dream and what was a memory. It all felt very real, like a memory from long ago. But, sadly, dreams often felt real, too.
She tried to see every detail in the dream, draw out every nuance of the memories, and commit it all to memory. And as she categorized her dreams, new memories emerged. She remembered other games she played with her younger twin sisters, the clothing she had sewed for them, and the meals they ate together. The tastes, smells, and looks of exotic fruits and meats invaded these memories, but she could not recall their names. Neither could she recall the names of her sisters.
The lack of knowledge picked at the growing hole in her chest. The sense of loss was overpowering, more so because she could not pinpoint exactly all of what she had lost. Half awake and half asleep, the world felt alien and unreal. She needed to get outside and think.
Lexy sat up and pushed the piles of blankets off of her, careful not to wake the sleeping Mage in the adjacent bed. She slipped on her Dimple Shoes and wrapped a furry coat around herself. She eyed her pack, neatly organized by Dex the night before, and strapped that on as well. It was better to carry everything she needed at all times. Just in case. She stuck her wand into the sash around her waist and stepped outside of the tiny inn.
Soft white flurries fell in tiny waves from the sky. The whole Magical City of Eucar was blanketed with a fresh layer of snow. The busy city was quiet at this hour. No one roamed about. It felt safe, serene, at this hour.
Lexy crossed the empty business buildings and walked up the great arch incline to reach the second level of the city. The shop windows up there were dark, a thin layer of ice frosted the glass panes. The only source of light in the whole area came from the twinkling teleporter in the middle of the town square - the only one of its kind in existence.
True, other towns now had their own teleporters, accessible through the special IM tickets that were sold. But the magic wasnâ??t readily seen as it was with Eucarâ??s top level teleporter. Their other teleporter, like those built in every major city, was run by a bot named Idiosel. She was stationed in front of all the teleporters.
The Cleric sat a few feet from the foot of the glowing teleporter and gazed up at its beauty. How often had she wondered after her arrival at this foreign world about the magics of these teleportation devices? She used to dream that sheâ??d step into the teleporters one day and exit back home in her own world.
Those dreams had stopped fairly quickly. There was always something to do here, in this world. People to meet, schools to attend, battles to fight. But to forget her sisters for war? What sort of person was she, to let something like that happen?
Galexy took a deep breath, trying to calm her rattled nerves. The clean, crisp air of the city clashed with the vibrant smells of her memories and only served to depress her further.
â??Couldnâ??t sleep, Lexy?â? whispered Ellylovesess. The Mage, wrapped in a matching coat, settled into the snow next to her friend.
â??I had more dreams,â? replied the Cleric, face upturned to catch the drifting snowflakes. â??I have sisters, Elly. Little ones, somewhere.â?
The Mage drew up her knees, wrapping her arms tightly around them. After a few moments of silence, she responded. â??Iâ??ve been remembering things, too.â? She paused. â??Not about my family, really, but about the place I came from.â? Another pause, longer this time. â??There was water everywhere, Lexy. As far as the eye could see. I lived on a boat, I think. Except it wasnâ??t called that. It was huge. As big as any city here. Almost as big as Junon Polis, I think.â?
â??Were there a lot of people there?â?
â??Iâ?¦I donâ??t know. I believe so. There would have to be, wouldnâ??t there? Why else would they have such a large ship?â? Elly sighed. She struggled to remember more of her dreams, but nothing came. It frustrated her, knowing how close she was to remembering her past and yet not being able to reach it. â??I think I was a scientist there, too. I worked in the greenhouse, growing things and coming up with different mixtures for food and ship fuel or something. I think.â?
â??Do you regret remembering, Elly?â?
â??I regret forgetting more.â? Elly turned to her friend. â??Iâ??m glad our memories are coming back. I want so badly to remember everything. Maybe I have a family back there, too.â? She wiped a hand quickly across her face, surprised to find tears there. â??Sad time all around, huh?â?
Lexy scooted closer and wrapped an arm around the Mage. â??Each day we remember a little more. Each day we get a little closer to finding Xyler. Things will look up soon.â? She smiled shakily. â??They have to.â?
â??This is a touching moment.â?
Both girlsâ?? heads snapped up. Towering over them, weapons drawn, stood the Affliction Clanmember Esseff. As the Muses watched, the Hawker sheathed one weapon and proceeded to trace patterns into the snow with his left-handed blade. He made no move towards them.
â??Whatâ?¦What do you want??â? The girls darted glances around them. No footprints appeared in the snow nor were there any other people present in the courtyard. It appeared that the Hawker had either been there for a long time, cloaked and hidden, or had appeared out of thin air.
Esseff tilted his head to one side, his unblinking eyes boring into that of the Cleric. â??Why do you cry over things long gone?â? He stepped closer and knelt down, his face inches away from the girls. â??Over half-forgotten memories?â? He reached out with one gloved finger to wipe the tears from Galexyâ??s face before she could flinch away.
Ellyâ??s staff appeared instantly in her grasp. In the same heartbeat, the Mage launched herself from her sitting position towards the Hawker. He raised his blade to thwart her attack, but did not draw his second sword.
â??It was only a question,â? he asked as he slowly shifted his gaze to the Mage. He lowered his weapon. â??No need to get all touchy.â?
â??Stay away from us,â? demanded Lexy, bolting upright. She pulled her wand from the sash at her waist and pointed it at the Raider.
â??Elemental Strike!â? yelled Elly, staff aimed at the man. Instead of evading or fending off her attack, he took it full on. The lightning bolt flashed and struck, leaving the air full of the prickly aftermath.
He smiled, unfazed by the blow. Static sparks jumped from his uniform and made his hair stand on end. His eyes turned to Lexy as buff bubbles flew from her wand and flicked his head towards Elly. â??Feisty, isnâ??t she?â?
Scowling, Elly swung her staff in a wide, horizontal arc. It caught the Hawker mid-section and sent him flying backwards into the teleporter. It sucked him up and he promptly disappeared.
â??Howâ??s that for feisty?â? she murmured. The Mage grabbed Lexyâ??s hand. â??Letâ??s get out of here. Before he comes back.â?
â??That wasnâ??t very nice.â? Ess stood before them, blocking their path. He tilted his head to one side and unsheathed both of his weapons. â??I just wanted to talk.â?
Elly rushed towards him as he spoke, her staff already swinging in her string of melee attacks. The struck from above, from the sides, from every angle she could think of and, yet, each strike was quickly and easily fended off. Buff bubbles enveloped her, increasing the strength and speed of her attacks ? to no avail. Nothing connected.
But neither did the Hawker attack back. He smiled at Elly, his eyes never leaving her face even as he blocked her attacks. The magic spells she threw at him, he took. His clothing was alternatively smoldering at the edges or frozen stiff, depending on her method of attack.
Lexy recalled their last encounter, back at the Resort. They were all knocked unconscious almost instantly then. Even alone, the Affliction clanmember was proving to be a formidable opponent. He could easily crush them, if he so chose. It was becoming increasingly evident that he was toying with them, merely defending himself as he tired the Muses out.
They needed to escape. Fighting him was only going to get themselves hurt - or worse. Galexy eyed the transporter. It sucked the Hawker away once. Pushing him in again for them to escape was not going to work. He had reappeared too quickly. They would have to run through it instead.
The Hawker yawned. â??I tire of this.â? He caught Ellyâ??s staff in this next swing and pulled it towards him. Elly, refusing to let go, was pulled with it.
The Hawkerâ??s arms wrapped around her, pinning her own arms against her sides. The staff, between them, was useless at the current angle. The closeness of the stranger rattled Elly. He stood only inches taller than Elly, her eyes in line with his smiling lips.
â??â??Tis a shame we must part so soon,â? he murmured, holding Elly tighter in his stranglehold. He brushed his lips quickly across her forehead. â??Until we meet again.â? With one quick spin, he pushed the Mage into the bright portal that she had so recently thrown him.
He turned to face the stunned Cleric. â??Are we ready for that talk, now?â?
Lexy, shocked at the speed in which the man moved, raised her wand and shot off random spells at Ess. Nearly all of them missed. She wasnâ??t built for a fighter, didnâ??t know enough offensive spells to fight with. Goddess above, she barely had her Cleric spells all learned! Sheâ??d only just passed her Level 100 exam.
â??Though I do appreciate a good fireworks display,â? he begun, dodging the measly Cleric attacks. He eyed the pack strapped to the girlâ??s back. â??I do believe that you have something that belongs to me.â?
The Hawker stopped a scant foot in front of Lexy, who proceeded to physically attack him with her wand. He laughed as he plucked the pack from her shoulders and emptied it into the snow.
Instead of running like she ought to have done, Lexy continued her attack on the man, throwing some magic spells in now and again. He ignored her attacks and scooped up the scrolls that spilled out. â??Thanks,â? he said.
â??Those arenâ??t yours!â? Lexy yelled, panting. Sweat ran down her brow, despite the chill, and her arms ached from her useless attacks. She did not know what the scrolls held, only that Fayhter had given his life to protecting them. She would not let them go without a fight.
The Cleric swung her Crystal Wand with all her force. She caught the smiling enemy across one cheek. Blood spurted from the wound and ran down his face. The smile faltered on his face. â??Youâ??re as bothersome as that Hawker of yours,â? he said coldly, shoving her roughly away.
Stunned by announcement, Lexy stumbled and fell to the ground. â??What do you know of him?â? she asked, shakily.
â??Heâ??s asked a favor of me,â? he said cryptically. The scrolls disappeared into his inventory as he shrugged. â??Nowâ??s a good time as any.â?
â??What?â? Hope beat against her chest, warring against her logic. How would this man know Xyler, if it was Xyler that the man even spoke of? Why would Xyler ask a favor of someone soâ?¦wrong? Curisousity and hope won out. She pushed herself up to her knees, trying to stand up. â??What favor?â?
â??This.â? Two long blades swung down at her, sharp and fast. Lexy threw up both arms in an attempt to ward off the worst of the blow. Sheâ??d let her defenses down and now she was going to pay the price. Would Elly get back here in time to revive me? Before Iâ?¦die?
There was a loud crack, a dreadful jarring sensation in her arm, and she was thrown to the ground. Her right arm had taken the blunt of the attack. It hurt. Her entire arm felt like jelly, all the way up to her shoulder. She wasnâ??t sure if her hand was still attached to her arm.
Lexy looked up at the man as he winked out of existence. She could not tell if he used a teleporting scroll or if he was there, cloaked, and watching her. She hoped that it wasnâ??t the latter.
Slowly she pushed herself up using her left arm. She took a deep breath and glanced at her right arm, preparing for the worst. What she saw took the breath right out of her. Even preparing for the worst possible outcome, she never thought of this. First the scrolls and now thisâ?¦
â??Itâ??s goneâ?¦Itâ??s goneâ?¦â?
She clutched at her wrist, fingering the soft, blemish-free skin there. On the ground, next to her fallen Crystal Wand, laid the smoking, broken pieces of her User-Interface. She had never seen anyone in all of ROSE without one. Replacements did not exist. They were not necessary. UIs never broke. Ever.
Nothing she dreamt of could have been this bad.