Within the Flaer’s mind everything was dark. Vast emptiness encompassing the entire world, nothing but the darkness around me. I looked around and felt the sensation of déjà vu. Under my feet was black gelatinous floor, reflecting some unseen light. There was nothing producing any light, but it felt like I could see everything perfectly, only there was nothing to see.
I look around, trying to find something. Nothing can be seen in close proximity to me, so I have to try harder. I turn into the fox beast, trying to get the most of my senses. Expanding my perception as I often did through meditation, I try to find where my little girl was. At first there was nothing, just emptiness and void of Amy life. But after some hours passed, I was able to distinguish faint sighs of movement somewhere far to my side.
I grow wings and take off, going towards where I felt Flaer. I don’t other flying high, just staying close to the ground, gliding forward. After more time passes, I notice the first change. At a distance, there stands a shadowy figure. It is completely made of darkness, just black smoke moving around. I get closer u till I can have a good look.
Before me stands a copy of Flaer, her features distorted and twisted, but it is unmistakably her. Her form is completely black, incorporeal. From her legs black tendrils are going into the ground, like roots. I get close enough to touch it and I see that it had a normal eye with eyelids and skin, just looking into the emptiness and crying. Only a single part of the apparition is real.
I try touching it, but it completely dissolves into nothingness and reforms few meters away, the shadow rising from the ground and taking the shape it had previously. I approach it again and on my touch the same happens.
Understanding that this is pointless, I do another check, expanding my senses. There are many of these things, all around the area. Most of them are concentrated in one area some distance away, and from there they all spread slowly. It is like they are all walking away from the single point.
I take off again and move towards the center of this phenomenon. Everywhere around me a lot of these figures can be seen. Each one is black, but with some feature of the real girl. Some have fingers, others have feet or stomach, some honey have few strands of hair. It’s like something shattered Flaer into millions of pieces and gave each one to the darkness. Was this what the entity did to the poor girl?
After half an hour I close in to the large. Umber of these things. They all stand close together, black and lifeless smoky figures, just crying, weeping silently. I try to look for some clues. Something must tell me where the real dragon girl is.
In reply, every apparition around me turns to me, their mouths open in silent scream, showing the gaping darkness inside them. They are all the same, just simple figure with no will. But they reacted, which means somewhere here there is the real one.
“Flaer! I am here! I came for you!”
The monsters are still looking at me, but they start moving towards me. There must be thousands of them, if not more. The many black bodies converge on my location. Looking around, there is a single point where these things seem to be walking around something, as if avoiding it. There shouldn’t be anything here other than me, Flaer and these things, so I guessed that the girl must have been there.
I fly towards the location where the smokey figures try to walk around something. Coming close, I can see a small figure on her knees, her face covered with her hands. Or what should have been hands. She is mostly whole, but parts of her are missing. Her body and legs are mostly intact, but her arms missing beyond elbows and her head is gone, leaving only hair, the neck and some skin.
I come closer, calling out to her.
But she doesn’t react. How could she, she has no ears. I get closer, trying to reach her, but when I come within meters, all the apparition suddenly come for me, trying to grab me. Their finders and claws sink into my flesh. I should be stronger than this, but this is Flaer’s mind. In here she is the goddess and the ruler, whatever she thinks goes.
I try to fly away, but the apparitions all have wings as well. They try ripping my flesh, chasing after me, slashing at me with theirs shadowy talons and tails. This is not good.
I fly away, leading them away, but at a certain distance, they give up, coming back to wherever Flaer is. They just stand around, weeping like they did before.
Damn, what can I do? I could try and absorb them, but they have fragments of Flaer and I need her whole. I don’t think she will recover if some of her pieces are missing. Although, how do I know the darkness didn’t consume her already?
I fly some distance away and think for a minute. I should be able to charge at her and pick her up. With my speed there is little contest on who is stronger and faster, but there are just too many of them. What do I do?
I make some distance between us and then charge at Flaer, hoping to reach her. At first everything seems fine, but then every apparition dashes for me, trying to kill me. They sink their shadowy tendrils into me again. I can’t get close enough to the girl before I die like this. Once again, I get away before it’s too late.
Damn it! What can I do? Why can’t they ignore me? It worked with anomalies… Wait, I am dumb. I have darkness of my own, why do I forget about it now?
I engulf myself in my fire and every apparition immediately looks at me, it does nothing. It seems they feel my darkness to be different, but since it is purified, it should be effective against them. I begin another descent.
As I get closer, the shadowy figures move away. They don’t like my black flames. I hope it goes smoothly. When I reach the threshold at which they attack, they all charge at me once again, but they her repelled by my fire. Their foul power cannot come close. Some of them get pushed forward by the fiends behind them, but once they touch my fire, they fall apart, their smoky bodies unraveling, appearing at a distance away.
I make my way towards Flaer. I would like to go faster, but the black figures push me away, even if my fire repels them. I push forward, going towards Flaer. Slowly but surely I get very close to her.
I try to shout to get her attention, but she doesn’t reach again. I guess I will have to actually touch her. I bring forth more power, trying to push the apparitions further away, landing new the dragon girl. Slowly I take step after step, coming closer to her. There is a lot of smoke around me, pushing against me, the forms of the black figures melting into one dark mess. It does not want me to reach my girl.
I come closer and closer. Just about close enough to touch her. With a last push I reach out to her and grab her. The moment my flames engulf the girl, every shadowy monster begins writhing about in pain. It seems each one of them is still connected to the real one.
Flaer gets startled by my touch. She must have been here for a long time alone. While this is mostly an illusion, it is still a horrible experience. I hold her close to me, hugging her fragile frame. She is nude, but I don’t care about that now, I am happy to hold the dragon girl. I couldn’t loose the cute little kid, not now after all we have been through.
At first she is fearful of me, but once she feels me rubbing her back, trying to comfort her, she hugs me back and shudders, crying. Parts of her are missing, but she still seem to remember me. I hold her, not wanting to let her go. Around us the smoky figures slowly fall apart, their dark bodies dissipating into nothingness. The fragments of Flaer come towards her slowly, filling in the missing pieces.
I whisper to her that it is all ok, trying to make her feel better. My touch calms her, soon she stops crying, only holding on to me, making sure I am still there.
Each fragment of her slowly makes its way to her, but too slowly to my liking. I doubt I can really do anything about it, so I just wait. Slowly, the girl in my arms reforms, her body becoming whole again. After some hours, she is almost completely herself, with only few parts still missing.
“Zern, I was so scared. Where were you? I tried calling for you, asking for you, but you weren’t there…”
“Yes, I know. I tried getting to you as soon as I could. I am here now, it is all ok.”
“Zern, where are we? I am scared.”
“Don’t worry. This is just an illusion. We are in your head, waiting for you to be whole again. Soon we will go back to wherever everybody is. They are all worried about you, they want you back with them.”
“Yes, they and the others too. Meriden is just outside, sitting beside you as well as Aedim. We will be out soon, don’t worry.”
I hold the girl, trying to ensure her of safety. She is almost reformed, just few pieces around. But there is one thing that is still unsolved. What scared me? Did the same happened to me that it terrifies me so much? Or was it som thing else?
We waited for longer until Flaer was complete again. I held her, slowly patting her head, comforting her. She still wasn’t over the trauma, but she should be ok. Once she wakes up this will be nothing more than a nightmare.
Before we leave, I still have to find out what happened. That is probably why Aedim hasn’t pulled us out yet. The only way to find out is to ask Flaer.
“Flaer, are you ok now? I need to ask you something.”
The girl looks at me with slight fear in her eyes, but replies to me.
“Yes, I am ok. I am fine.”
She tries to be mature now. I can feel her fear, but I also admire her courage. I hug her closer to me to elevate the fear.
“Flaer, do you remember what happened to you?”
“I… I am not sure. We were walking and you played around with the thing, when the skies turned dark and everything became scary. I was scared but you punched the ground and covered all of us with your wings. I thought everything would be ok, but then it turned dark and I was here.”
The girl was talking quickly, trying to tell me what she remembers. I listened carefully, remembering every little detail.
“It was here. The bad thing, it was looking at me. First, it just looked at me but then it did something and I was on fire. I felt like I was forgetting things and it became scary. I couldn’t see or hear anything, so I stopped and cried.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks, remembering what happened must have been scary for her. She tried speaking, but I stopped her and let her pour out her fear. It was good for her. After she stopped sobbing, I asked another question.
“Is it still here?”
“Can you show it to me?”
She pointed towards the ground. I didn’t understand what she meant.
“Flaer, all this is in your head. You can do anything you want. Can you show me the thing that did this? If we see it, we can get out.”
She looked at me for a second, closed her eyes and flinched, as if trying to do something very hard. The darkness around us moved, parting away and the ground flew from under us. Very quickly it was far away and we floated in front of it. There was a massive eye.
It wasn’t alive or sentient, just simply watching. There was no light in the eye, just dead stare. But this was enough. I remembered what happened to me, all the time I spent with the eyes. They were different, alive and watching, but this was not much better. Flaer shivered when she looked at the massive eye ball.
“Flaer. Good job. You’ve done well.”
She didn’t say anything, only pressing her face into me harder. I held onto her as well. There appeared a pull from beyond, Aedim was trying to get us out. I held on and went towards it. I knew what the entity was and I had an idea, what it was before. Now, if only Aedim had the extra information needed to solve this puzzle.