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No More Nightmares

Zaigar woke up screaming. She had another one of those nightmares again where she was chased by a bleeding Ormack and being yelled at of her past sins. And the ending was always the same: falling off a cliff. It had haunted her for years and still she couldn't make it go away.

She felt helpless. Tortured. And that was the worst feeling ever.

She had to stop them. She had to get rid of them. She tried committing suicide by letting a hungry vampire suck her blood from her wrist, but she only ended up in a faint and woke up with a bandage and in the middle of nowhere, with the vampire out of sight. She almost fell into a rage because she didn't want to be saved, but she couldn't find the vampire to exact her revenge on him.

Then she stared at the river she was lying beside. It was moving at a rather fast current and seemed deadly enough to not be that close to it. Maybe that should do it. Maybe she could end her life here and now in this god forsaken river and never return to the living again.

Maybe...Just maybe...she could reunite with Ormack her love again.

She removed the black ribbons around her wrist and took out her dagger. She removed every covering that protected her scars and slashed at them all with that dagger. Fresh dark red blood gushed out like a fountain. She then walked into the river and lay down, letting the water current take in all her crimson red and drift all the way into the abyss.

For the first time in her life since her damned fate, she smiled in bliss...

Andrew looked out across the bleak river, lost in thought. His sword supported his hands, upon which his chin was resting while his mind wandered.

So long...

So long since he was here last, back in the city. So long since he had breathed in oddly familiar stench of Darken Weste, since he had looked out across the city, since he had climbed the heights to sit and thnik and train. The memory of his last return haunted him still. He'd lost his mind... tried to kill his friends... succumbed to madness. So long ago, it seemed...

Idly he wondered what had become of the others, of Ayrania and Iyxia, Lumiere and everybody else. He realised he didn't truly know anybody here, not any more. Not since Jetel.

He flinched away from the subject, unwilling to revisit old pains. He was here, and this was now. The past was just that: the past. Dwelling induced self-pity, and he knew where that trap led.

He made to stand, looking for the last time into the cold waters. A face flashed by... a face so familiar he forgot all about forgetting. It was her! He was moving before he realised, sprinting to keep up with the flow, sweeping the waters with his eyes. There! It was her! It had to be! Death be damned, it was her!

He found himself dragging her from the water, laying her down, taking in the wounds. It was her! But... different. The skin... far too blue... the face, too rounded. And... he spied wings beneath her. Fairly collapsing with disappointment, he stared shellshocked down at the bleeding half-breed before him, memory slipping back to that last night. He never noticed himself speaking healing words, or the tears rolling down his cheeks.

Zaigar felt herself slowly gain consciousness. Everything was a blur and she couldn't see very well with water still in her eyes. She could hear someone mumbling something at her ear but she couldn't tell what they were.

Slowly she felt the sting on her slashed parts slowly subsided. She realized what that 'someone' was doing: he/she was trying to heal her! No! She doesn't want to be healed! She doesn't want to be saved! She wants to die! She wants to leave this god forsaken place and join her father and Ormack in the afterlife. She wants to be released of the dreams and not be haunted by them any longer. She wants to die! She wants to DIE!!!

With whatever strength she could muster after such massive blood loss, she reached up and grabbed the stranger by the collar, hissing, her eyes glowing bright yellow like all gargoyles do when they're angry or in battle mode.

"Begone...Whoever you are...I wish...for death...!"

Again, she slipped back into unconsciousness...

Disconnected, Andrew ignored the hand grasping his collar, the hissing or the luminous gaze directed his way. He was remembering... remembering memories long forgotten. No... not forgotten. Just pushed aisde, hidden for so long. Too long. He remembered her, sheathed in light like one of his demi-celestial kin, laughing and looking back at him with those beautiful eyes. Such eyes! And such intelligence behind them. A challenge and a delight to converse with. So easy to love...

Something seeped through to him in his reverie. Something the gargoyle had said... with aching slowness, he stretched towards the present...

"I wish...for death...!"

Something within him reacted to the words instinctively. No. That wasn't right... nothing should wish such. The words echoed within him, an odd resonance with another conversation, an age ago it seemed, so achingly familar, etched into his memory. He'd pondered over such words for hours, only to realise something. For once, she was wrong. He'd privately promised her never to utter such words, to desire such an end.

"No."

He said it with finality, with decisiveness. He became firm of purpose. It couldn't be allowed to happen again. Never again...

"You don't know what you want."

Standing, he picked up her limp form and began walking away from the cold waters.

She was at the same cliff, but it was not because she was chased by Ormack. The cliff didn't seem so treacherous now. In fact, it was rather soothing, with the soft wind blowing at her face and the chirping of birds as they pass her by. She realized that she was not wearing her usual hunting attire and loincloth or holding any weapons of destruction anymore. In their place was a silky white gown embroidered with beads and pearls and she had a crown of roses on her head. She had never felt so peaceful before in her life. Is this what the afterlife was?

No. Not yet. This wasn't the afterlife yet. There's still yet one more step to go. She stared at the cliff and knew what beckoned her below. Slowly, step by step, she walked towards the edge. She outstretched her arms like a pair of wings and was ready to set foot into the abyss when suddenly a stranger came from behind her and grabbed her by the waist, stopping her at her tracks.

For once, she didn't go into her fight mode. She calmly replied the stranger whom she couldn't see his face and said, "Leave me. I wish for death."

"You don't know what you want."

*

Zaigar awoke with a start. She found herself lying on grass covered with mildew and she was blanketed with what looked like bearskin. She shifted herself a little and saw that she was being bandaged with clean white sheets. As sleep left her, she began to remember what she was doing here. She was supposed to die. She was supposed to cut herself blind, jump off into the river and let it take her to the afterlife. Why was she not dead? Why was she still alive? Who the fuck interfered with her plans again??

She shifted her gaze to see a dark figure building up a fire. She couldn't see his face clearly because of the smoke, but she could tell by the smell that he was the one who had muttered the healing spell on her.

Almost immediately, with years of agility, she grabbed her dagger, jumped across the fire and leapt onto the stranger, brandishing the dagger at his throat. Her eyes glowed again as she hissed venomously, "Who are you?! What do you think you're doing saving my life?! I thought I told you I wish for death!! Why can't you just leave me alone?!"

Andrew heard the halfbreed wake, but didn't react immediately. He knew the way people were who'd just been saved against their will. Best she was left to wail and gnash her teeth without someone else building their furor. He threw another branch on the fire and was turning to pick up another just as she landed on him, slamming him to the ground. He looked up impassively into her vivid amber eyes with his own grey, studying her expression, just how she felt painted on her face.

He was weaponless, his sword beside the fire, but that was insignificant. Such action would make his situation a farce. Instead, he examined the musculature of her face. So like her! Yet subtley different. Could there be some common ancestry there? No matter. She wasn't her.

In an odd way, carrying her here, bandaging her and keeping her alive had cleansed something from him. He'd stopped hiding, and in those few short minutes between leaving the river and laying here on his back with a dagger to his throat, he'd changed. He no longer feared her memory. He wondered how that might apply here.

He looked closer and revelation dawned.

"You're afraid," he said.

Zaigar widened her eyes in surprise, then in anger. She hissed at him and said, "I am not afraid! There is nothing for me to fear!"

Afraid? Why would he say that she was afraid? She was never afraid. She was never afraid of anything in her life. As long as she could remember, she had fought people and hunted animals twice, maybe thrice bigger than her own size and she never backed away from a battle. She didn't even shed a tear when she was tortured by Ormack for the crime she was framed of. She held no remorse and didn't even shudder when she swished the blade and cut off Ormack's head. She didn't cower away when one of the hunt killed her father. No. She was never afraid.

"I'm never afraid..." Zaigar repeated herself again as she pressed the blade of the dagger deeper onto the stranger's throat, making it bleed a little. Another look at his grey eyes and she began to waver. Was she afraid? Was she really afraid? Is that why she wanted to die? Because she was afraid that the dreams alone could tear out her soul and break her sanity?

Her glowing eyes dimmed, replaced by welling of tears. She tried to blink them away. She would never yield to tears. She had promised to herself that no matter what happens, she would never cry. Tears were overrated, a sign of weakness, a sign of emotion. She would never show herself to be weak. Never.

Yet his words...Those heart-piercing words that came out of his mouth...The truth hurts...

She released her dagger and hastily got off him. She just stood there staring at the fire, her tears finally flow freely out of her golden eyes. Quietly, she asked, "What do you know about my fear? Would you have stopped me from leaving this god forsaken world into the afterlife if you had known what I have truly been through?"

She's quicker than most.

Andrew got to his feet slowly, adjusted his coat and sat down again to tend to the fire. He remained silent as he stoked it with his sword, began to place stones over the largest logs and placed a couple of slabs of meat over them, rendered from some indistinct large animal he'd found wounded not far away. Bit of luck, that. Meant he didn't need to hunt, which meant he hadn't needed to leave the fire for long. He stared into the fire a while longer.

"You fear the unknown," he said at last. "You fear the future, because you are stuck in the past. You're terrified of facing yourself alone." He pondered her reaction, the way her face had moved, each muscle examined. "Whatever happened to you, you've told yourself you need to forget it. But you torture yourself still. You torture yourself so that you will remember."

He placed his sword back into its scabbard, looked once more into the flames, lost in thought.

"You yearn to forget, but you won't let yourself," He made a judgement, "Everyday you remind yourself. Everyday you refuse to forget. You think dying will make you forget," He shook his head. "But death is an unknown too. You've convinced yourself it isn't, that you know what awaits you, that it would be bliss, but you still secretly know what it is. It's unknown, and you're terrified of that too. Not enough."

And he turned to look at her then, to watch her eyes and to try to convey some meaning in his words.

"You're afraid."

Zaigar slumped onto the ground and buried her face in her knees. She knew what he spoke was true. She knew that she reminds herself of the past every friggin wake of her moment when she told herself to forget all that. She couldn't forgive herself for killing Ormack and she couldn't forget the things Ormack had done in betraying her love. Or for that matter anything else that was connected to her and Ormack.

The truth hurts. Badly.

"My father told me he had a bad feeling about me pursuing Ormack," Zaigar began opening up her secrets. Secrets that even her friend Ayriana never knew. "He said that he knew through experience that he would most certainly be a dent in my life, but he still respected my decision, in case he was wrong. He said I should at least choose someone from his human side of the kind, since the gargoyle clan didn't accept me due to my half-breed nature, but I refuse to listen to him. I chose Ormack the Eldritch Elf and no other.

"I told Ormack about my feelings for him, but he was already promised to another. But he agreed to be my best friend, and I was contented to that. Though I was met with objections by one of his members, he continued to treasure our friendship day by day. Then the day came when there was a civil war between his family and another at Silverdale. An assassin broke in and killed Ormack's brother. His member took that opportunity to frame me, saying that I was in allegiance with the enemy and killed his brother for them.

"I tried to prove my innocence but wasn't given the chance. Ormack kept me locked up in the basement and tortured me, forcing me to confess my crime. I couldn't blame him; he loved his brother very much, but I was bitter because he would rather believe someone else than his best friend. He should know I would never do anything to betray him but he was blinded by rage over the death of his brother. He even ra..."

Zaigar tried to blink away the horrible memory, reducing it to only Ormack tearing off her clothes, stripping her bare and his forceful entry into her...

"Let's just say our supposedly love-making was not the way I wanted it to be. When he couldn't get it out of me, he used his eldritch-enhanced sword and stabbed me, before throwing me into that river where you've just saved me, leaving me for dead. It was a thief who rescued me, and he nursed me back to health. I have to admit I wasn't giving him and his seven sons an easy time, but I recovered, as you can see."

She caught a whiff of meat and looked up. The stranger was offering her a piece of meat he had just cooked in the fire. He was giving her the "Take care, it's hot" look with his gray eyes. Tentatively, she took it and munch it down. Between mouthfuls, she continued pouring out her secrets. She didn't know why but she suddenly had the urge to get everything out of her chest. Since the stranger didn't seem to stop her, she took the chance.

"I manage to gather enough strength and heal from my wounds, but not the ones in my heart. The theif who saved me was sentenced to death for stealing royalty treasure and I paid my debts for his help by killing the person who sentenced him and gave his head to his sons. Then I travel long to find Ormack sleeping peacefully with his promised other. Rage overcame. I swung the sword and chopped both their heads at the same time. They never felt a thing and none of them stirred. I even killed his entire family and the friends who framed me for my uncommited crime. I left no loose ends."

By the time she ended her story, she already wolfed down the entire meat. She sighed and propped her chin on her knees with her arms, saying, "Not a day went by when nightmares of me being pushed off the cliff by Ormack haunted me. I couldn't make them go away. They kept coming back. No matter how much I tell myself that Ormack was the fault of all this and that I should forget the past and move on, he still comes back to haunt. He still comes back every night to push me off that cliff. I began to wonder maybe that's the uncertain future that is in store for me, like you said. That's why I took the plunge and end all my sufferings.

"You see now why I wish death? You see now what tormented me to the brink of my existence? You see now why I wished that you'll leave me alone? There's nothing for me here. My father's dead. Ormack's dead. I have no one else to live for. I wish I could move on, find my true love and build a family with him that I couldn't with Ormack, but this is not the place for such wishful thinking, so what is there for me to live for?"

Again, she cried. Again, she buried her face in her knees, not wanting the stranger to see anymore of her weakness.

Deep down inside, she wished someone, anyone, was there right now to embrace her and make her bitterness go away...

Andrew regarded the cringing half-breed before him with impassive eyes, chewing slowly on his steak as he observed her tell her tale. He'd always found it odd, the way a near-death experience loosened the jaw, when you'd think it would do the opposite. Some small part of him wanted to comfort her, to make her forget as she so wished. Another part despised her for her weakness and hypocrisy. But Andrew had long ago learnt to live with himself and ignored such parts.

"I see," he said in a way that defied the visual, "I know why you wish." He turned away and kicked the stone from the fire, huddled closer to it for warmth as the day faded and cold, bitter night settled in. He seemed to still then, just looking into the flames with glazed eyes while his mind walked the avenues of the past. "Your tale is more tragic than most," he said at length. But still one of many. "But you've forgotten something. Forgotten something amid all your memories as you wallow in your self-pity." The words came not unkindly, but not softly either. He denounced nobody now. "You have a future. A future as yet undetermined. In death... in death you deny yourself that future."

He turned to look at her then.

"In death, you deny yourself the remotest chance at happiness, at relief, at comfort. In death, you deny the whole world of your presence. Who knows what your future may hold? It is uncertain. But death is absolute. Absolute so far as this world is concerned. In death, you deny yourself a chance at anything." The smile that touched his lips was superficial. "Even escape. You never know."

Throwing her a blanket, he looked up at the stars half occluded by the lights of the nearby metropolis, thought of the number of times he'd sat and watched them. They reminded him that only the heavens were constant in this world. Everything else... everything else was ephemeral as summer mist.

"You don't need to forget Ormack. You need to accept him."

Zaigar eyed at the blanket that was given to her. Accept? How could she accept the man that had betrayed her love and left her for dead? How could she accept the man who had tortured her beyond compare and killed her with his own two hands?

But deep inside, she knew he spoke the truth. And it ached badly. She knew she had to accept the fact that Ormack was dead and there's nothing else she could do about it. She knew she had to accept the fact that what Ormack had did to her was done and nothing can change that. She knew she had been denying herself of a possibility of a beautiful future with someone worthy of each other's love and that she was foolish enough to pursue an absolute end to her fate. She knew that the future is uncertain, that it could be beautiful or cruel, whichever way it might end, and her life may worth a significance in this god forsaken world, if only she'd embrace it, but she was too afraid to face it.

She knew the future was uncertain, and all she had to do was try and live through it. May it be death in the end or a life spent with her true love, who knows?

She wanted a life of her own. She wanted to meet someone who truly loved her for her and have a family with him, a family her father never had the chance to have and grow old with them. She wanted to accept Ormack as a good memory and learn from that mistake. She wanted all that. But she saw what was going on with this world and was reminded again and again of what Ormack had done to her and was afraid the same thing might happen to her. Everyone in this world was brought up with much darkness and deceit, and she wasn't sure she would want to face another Ormack-driven life again.

The truth...hurts...real bad...

Zaigar hastily threw her blanket away, not caring where it landed and lunged towards the man. This time, though, she didn't plant a dagger at his throat. She wrapped her arms around him and sobbed like a little girl she used to be. She could feel the man resisting but she held on.

"Just let me be like this for a while..." she sobbed. "Just for a little while...Please..."

Andrew caught her gently as she fell on him, holding her lightly as she sobbed into his shoulder. His eyes sought the blanket, but it was out of the way. She had to do this, to let it out. So much tension, over so many years... he knew how it felt. He knew it had to go somewhere. This was when that little part of somebody where they shoved all their doubts, all their worries, all their nightmares during the day opened up and poured itself out. It wasn't the real the, but Andrew had learnt you could never see the real person all at once. What was true was that it was real, which was all that mattered.

He let her cry for a long time, let herself pour it all out and get rid of the tension. At length he gently straightened her, lifted her chin, held her gaze. He looked into her eyes, reached for that point where he could touch her with a look, the point where understanding came from the slightest flicker or change of expression. He might say he touched her soul, if he was still that sentimental. He watched her eyes, staring hard back into them. So much could be conveyed in one look.

"Look at you!" His voice was full of sudden venom. "Look at what you have become!" He provoked her, goaded her into rising from the depression, shoving her arm. "Is this what you want to do with your life? You're a wreck! A hollow shell of a person. You're worth nothing!" His eyes urged her to defy him, to defend herself. Pride would pull her from the pit of self-pity she had dug herself. Let her defy him! Let her fight tooth and nail to prove him wrong. "Ormack was right for what he did to you. Ormack was justified. You deserved it! Look at this snivelling shell of a person! You deserve no pity."

He knew the patterns, had read the thoughts expressed so finely in faces. Her self-loathing drained, defiance and anger would remain. She had strength, great strength, and she would see it.

Zaigar stared at him in disbelief, her yellow eyes still tear-filled. 'What was he saying?' she thought. 'That I deserve what Ormack had did to me? That everything Ormack done to me was a justified act? That I deserved to be tortured, raped and killed by the man who betrayed my love and friendship? Is that what he meant?'

Anger boiled inside Zaigar. It was a feeling Zaigar could not put in words. All she wanted was just a little comfort. All she wanted was just a little care and reassurance that everything was alright and that she didn't have to worry about anymore nightmares. Yet what she got was words filled with venom and incompassion, filled with blame and accusation. She almost thought that this man who opened up her mind would be able to open up her heart as well. He was no different than those sorry insolant people who were raised by this evil, tormented world.

"Then everything you've told me before was a LIE!!!"

Without warning and within a split second, she brandished her dagger and swiped the blade across the man's arm. Blood squirted and fell everywhere, some got on her face.

"To think that you understood me, of my pain and of my grief. You're nothing but another extension of this goddamn place. You're just like everybody else!"

Another slash. More blood.

"You're just like Ormack! You're just like everyone else in this world! Worthless! Indifferent! Heartless! Mouth full of shit, accusation and blame! I never deserved what Ormack did to me! Never! He betrayed me! He tortured me! He raped me! He KILLED me, dammit, he KILLED me!!! He knew I loved him dearly regardless of his betrothed situation and he knew I treasure our friendship above everything else, yet he disposed me like a piece of garbage all the same!!!"

Another slash. Even more blood.

"I just want you to reassure me everything would be fine, that I don't need to die to prove my low-life situation. All I want is for you to comfort me! Is that so much to ask?!"

Zaigar felt as if she couldn't stop.

"You lied to me! You lied to me! Everything you said to me before was a LIE!!!"

By the time she realized what she was doing, she found herself staring at the man lying on the ground breathing heavily, both their bodies a scarlet red.

"Is it?" His voice came slowly, drifting up from where he lay prone on the ground. With burning skin, he raised his arms, pushed himself up. He let the pain wash over him, wash through. He didn't resist. It was now. It had happened. There was precious little he could do. The Litany Against Fear rolled through his mind.

I shall not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I shall face my fear and allow it to pass over me. And when it is gone I shall turn to face where my fear has gone and there shall be nothing left. Only me.

He stood up, stumbled over to his pack, retrieved the medkit. Laying himself down, he began to treat his wounds one by one.

"Do you really think I did? Reassurance is a thing of mood, like music or lovemaking. Mood is not a thing for the Wilds. You need face certain truths sooner or later. Perspectives change... you shouldn't be surprised his did, just as mine seemed to before."

Zaigar almost felt relieved she hadn't kill the man. She never felt so angry before in her life. She didn't mean to do that to the man. Venomous as his words were, he still saved her life.

Changed perspectives...Moods...

True. The Wilds is not a place where you rely on only gut feeling and emotions. There's things to consider mentally and brash decision-makings of the heart was not the way to live in this place. Such was the lessons she had learnt from her father. Her perspective of the Wilds before she met Ormack was a world filled with danger and uncertainty, of death and chances. She changed when she met Ormack, believing that in this god forsaken world, something beautiful is meant to exist and that love can still survive. After the incident, she began to think that love was all but the truth, that love was nothing but a fleeting thought of wonting that is lethal and cruel. The man was right. Perspectives change. They always have been that way. She should have known better.

"I'm...I'm sorry...for hurting you like that...I was just..." Zaigar whispered apologetically at first, then steeled her face back to whom she used to be: cold, distant and indifferent. "You're right. Emotion is a weakness we must not give in at these trying times. I should've seen that coming."

She cleaned the dagger and walked away towards the river. She heard a shuffle behind her. Without looking behind her, she said, "I'm not going to kill myself again. I'm just going to clean myself off this blood and my dagger. I shall return soon and see what I can do to heal those wounds of yours. Those slashes don't look too light to be healed with just your medkit."

With that, she threaded through the field towards the river that almost claimed her life.

Andrew laughed. It hurt, hurt badly, but he laughed anyway.

"A weakness?" He said. "Emotion's a strength. Emotion's what separates us from the beasts and the demons," He spat at the still slowly roasting animal above the fire. Blood sizzled on stone. "Not many people you'll find strong enough to feel properly. No. Emotion's not a weakness. But there're times for it, just as there are times for the cold, calculating bastard. You just have to remember that in each and every place, each and every moment you are a different person than before. You can't apply a blanket filter to life and say 'This is how I am'. That's how you get killed. Or end up killing yourself."

He turned to follow the half-breed, but stopped at her reassurance. No grudge burdened him after her outlash. It was a thing that had happened. Anyone in the circumstances would have done the same. No burdens.

He turned and started seemingly talking to himself now that she was going. "No. Emotion's what makes you, you and me, me. But not out here. Not out here."

And he stared out into the darkness, listening to the sound of the night-time forest by the banks of the river.

Zaigar slipped off her clothes and shivered at the cold wind of the night. She cautiously dipped herself into the cold water of the river and exhaled as she relaxed herself in it. The wounds healed by the stranger stung a little coz it was still fresh, but pain was no stranger to her anymore. Not since Ormack.

True. Emotion is a strength as well as a weakness. You become strong with the hardship you go through and it can help you guide your decision through trying times. And it does separate us from the beasts and the demons that have feelings colder than the coldest ice. But emotions also lead to brash thoughts and foolish decisions. It was definitely something you have to balance thoroughly with.

As she continued to clean herself and her dagger off the blood, she didn't realize that something was swimming towards her, creeping as silent as the night itself. She didn't realize the creature with its pale, scaly skin and serpentine eyes that eyed her with malice and venegeance. She didn't realized it baring its fangs and licking its lips as it slowly surfaced up the water.

When the creature jumped up high with its mouth wide open to sink its teeth into Zaigar's gut, the only thing she could catch was the family symbol of Ormack's elf bloodline on its forehead...

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