Nypre and Lina stood on the border to the Night Land. It was night time now, making it difficult to tell just where the normal night ended and the Night Land started. The border cut straight through the town, bisecting homes and streets wherever the border spread. Nypre had hoped they’d be able to cross this border with no hesitation, because it was so difficult to tell the difference between the normal and unnatural night, but he couldn’t fight the feeling of dread that tingled unnaturally as he approached it. Nypre looked to Lina, and she returned his gaze. She looked scared, but underneath her frightened eyes was a feeling of determination. She wasn’t going to turn back now. Nypre was scared too, but that same determination burned strong within him.
Without saying a word to each other, the two both took the final step into the night. Nypre expected to feel a difference, or maybe have something jump out at him, to hear screams, but nothing happened. He felt completely normal as he crossed the border, and the town looked normal as well.
“We’re inside,” Lina spoke in a whisper. She clung on to Deren’s sword for protection. Nypre had taught her a few quick things about wielding the sword before they entered. To his surprise she had learned quickly, she had an almost natural talent for it. With more training, she’d likely be able to surpass Nypre with a sword.
“Stay close, and keep talking,” Nypre ordered as if he were Norris. Lina didn’t argue with his sudden mimicry.
“Keep talking?” Lina asked, as the two slowly moved down the street, eyeing every dark alley between the buildings. It was darker than a normal night, as not a single star shone through the sky above. It was also much quieter. There was no sound at all except for their footsteps on the cobblestone road.
“Yes, in case one of us is snatched away,” Nypre replied. He actually just wanted to hear Lina’s voice because it helped comfort him. He didn’t know that Lina felt the same way.
“I hope we find Norris and Deren soon,” Lina still spoke in whispers.
“Me too, I don’t know what I’d do without Deren.” Nypre recalled the dream where Deren had died. It had felt so real at the time. The two had reached the edge of town. There would be no roads from this point on as they continued south. Nypre’s footsteps slowed as the cobblestones transitioned to a dirt path and then to grassy fields, feeling more unsafe than when they had walked on the road. Lina followed after him. They had let their conversation go quiet without either of them realizing it.
“So, tell me about being a priestess. Is it true you all bathe together?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood.
“Bathe together? Where did you hear that?” She sounded offended, but at the same time grateful.
“Oh, just something a friend told me,” Nypre replied with a smirk, recalling Deren’s words. The imagery of Lina bathing with other girls of her beauty was a nice distraction.
“Well, I assure you we bathe separately. In fact we all have our separate baths.” Lina tried to sound as offended as possible.
“I see. Let me know if you want a partner sometime.” If it were any other situation, Nypre would have never uttered those words. But by making both himself and Lina uncomfortable it meant that they weren’t thinking of the Night Land which surrounded them.
“So, let’s talk about you. What’s it like being a mage?” Lina changed the subject immediately, making it clear she hadn’t liked the way the conversation had been going.
“Magical,” Nypre said, as if it were obvious.
“Really? I would have never guessed,” Lina responded sarcastically.
“Most people don’t think of it that way, I know. So, where do you think Norris and Deren ran off to? Should we call for them?” Nypre looked to Lina for suggestions.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to attract any unwanted attention.” Lina brought up a good point.
“No, you’re right. Let’s call for them.”
The two of them spent the next couple of minutes shouting out for Deren and Norris. There was no reply from either of them. Nypre tried to figure out their location as they continued southward. They were back in the Tawarln Territory for sure, at least on the northern edge of it, but it was so dark he didn’t recognize anything at all. The darkness seemed to stretch on forever into the horizon. Nypre hoped that it was just due to it actually being night time, not that the Night Land extended that far.
“Nypre, you haven’t done what I asked of you, son.” Nypre heard his mother’s voice from above him. He looked up.
“Mom?” he asked. Lina looked at him quizzically.
“Nypre, what’s going on?” Lina asked.
“You don’t hear her?” Nypre was confused.
“I’m communicating with you through magic. It’s something I wanted to teach you, but you left too early. Wind magic can be used to send messages,” Wonik explained. It sounded like it was coming from the sky to Nypre, but why couldn’t Lina hear it? “You try it, focus on me and cast your spell. Imagine the wind carrying your thoughts to me.”
“I hear my mother’s voice. She’s communicating with me through magic,” Nypre explained to Lina. He wasn’t sure what to do. “I am awake, right?” he asked, just to be sure.
“I hope you are,” Lina replied. “I know it’s your mother, just remember what the reports said about her.”
“I know what the reports said, but there has to be some kind of mistake. My mom should be around here somewhere, she may be trying to help us. I have to respond. Wonik-E,” Nypre focused his thoughts, asking his mom what was going on and if she was okay.
“Thank you, Nypre.” He heard Wonik’s voice again. It didn’t make sense for her to say that. Her voice continued. “There is a light in the darkness that makes it impossible for me to track your movements. Now I know where you are. You’ll be joining me soon, my son. You will help to spread the night.”
Nypre felt a chill run up his spine, as if he had done something wrong.
“What’s going on?” Lina asked. “Did you respond to her?”
“We need to move right now,” Nypre yelled. He grabbed Lina’s arm and started running. He picked a direction at random and ran as fast as he could, dragging the slower Lina behind him.
“Nypre, what are you doing?” Lina struggled to say while trying to keep up.
“There’s something wrong in this place, like someone is manipulating everything. Whoever it is said they can’t track our movements because there is a light in the darkness, and I’m guessing that light is you,” Nypre tried explaining. It hardly even made sense to him.
“Light? You mean my prayers?” Lina asked.
A loud screech sounded right in front of him. A large spider appeared out of the darkness, where it seemed to have been waiting for them. It jumped straight at Nypre, and he let go of Lina and raised his sword defensively just in time. The spider impaled itself upon the blade. More screeches and skittering sounds could be heard all around them. It was as if the spiders had been lurking quietly in the darkness, just out of their sight, the entire time they had been walking.
“Lina, start praying,” Nypre ordered, kicking the giant spider’s corpse off of his blade as he held it high. He needed light. He recalled from his dream the lightning giving him flashes of light, it would have to do.
“Wonik-E,” he pointed in a random direction, directing his lightning. There was a quick flash of light which revealed several shining carapaces, all moving toward him. There were more spiders, as if they had been laid like traps waiting to be triggered, and by running into one he had triggered them all.
“Ana please protect us. Shine your light upon us and shield us from this darkness.” Lina held her hands together, dropping to her knees focusing all of her concentration on her prayers. Nypre stood in front of her as she continued praying, his sword held high. There was another screech, this time from the side. He turned, but too late, and the spider knocked him to the ground, his sword spinning away into the darkness. He could see the spider clearly now, as it lunged forward to bite at him.
“Wonik-E,” he yelled, zapping it’s underside with lightning, blasting it backwards off him. He felt a sense of déjà vu, realizing that he had used that same maneuver within his dream.
“Ana, help us. Shield us from Letum’s evil!” Lina yelled, hearing Nypre’s struggle as he fought off the spider.
“Letum’s evil?” A dark laugh rang out in all directions. Nypre rapidly searched for his sword, picking it up the moment he found it. He looked to Lina. It was difficult to see her in the dark. But he heard her heavy breathing, and realized her praying had stopped.
“Lina?” Nypre asked, trying to pick out her form in the darkness. Then he saw her. She was being held by her neck, feet dangling several inches above the ground, by a large man. The man had skin of pure darkness, darker than any human Nypre had ever seen. He stood tall, with long pointed ears and piercing bright red eyes. His hand, which encircled Lina’s neck, was more of a claw than a hand, with pointed, distorted finger like talons emerging from it. He wore a dark cloak which was wrapped around him, blending him into the darkness.
“Letum had no part in this, I assure you. Much like your goddess abandoned you, my god has abandoned me.” His voice was dark and sinister. Nypre rushed toward him with his sword raised to attack, lunging forward to stab him. The dark figure held up his other claw, and waved it in his direction. “Wonik-E,” he said. Nypre felt a strong gust of wind which slowed his forward movement, but not strong enough to knock him down. The wind cut at him sharply, as if there were thousands of tiny pieces of glass being blown within it. It cut through his shirt, slicing his skin with thousands of tiny cuts, causing him great pain. Still he pushed forward toward the creature.
The creature tossed Lina aside, parrying with his claws and turning Nypre’s sword aside just as he thrust it forward. He disarmed Nypre quickly, and then with another quick swipe of his claws, slashed Nypre deeply across the face, knocking him to the ground. He jumped on Nypre’s back and raised his claw menacingly, ready to stab Nypre in the back. He held this pose threateningly.
“Your mother wants you to know she’s sorry. She’s sorry that she couldn’t be the one who killed her son. She was looking forward to skinning you alive and feeding me your flesh,” the creature whispered to Nypre. Before it could stab Nypre in the back, Lina rushed forward with Deren’s sword. She attacked with a clumsy slash, a slicing blow across the creature’s back. There was a screech of pain, and the creature jumped from Nypre’s back and turning to face Lina.
“You! I cannot see into your mind, I cannot control you,” it hissed at Lina. Nypre rolled over onto his back, holding his hands up and gesturing at the creature.
“Wonik-E,” he whispered. He hit the creature with lightning, electrifying it. It let out a horrible scream of agony. Nypre kept the lightning pulsing from his hands to the creature, concentrating his hardest not to break the chain. One of the spiders appeared from the darkness and bounded into the lightning, disrupting it with its crystal carapace, breaking his spell.
“Ana please protect us from this night.” Lina kept repeating her chant over and over again. Praying for assistance
“We need to get out of here,” Nypre suggested. He could hear more spiders moving out of his sight. “Lina keep praying, pray for Ana to hide us.”
“Ana, hide us from this darkness. Shield us with your light,” Lina whispered, as the two of them fled the scene. The spiders wandered around aimlessly, as if they were unable to see or hear them. Lina’s prayers really were protecting them. Nypre looked around, but was unable to see any more of the creature. They quickly escaped the scene, but kept running.
“I’m sorry. I should have known it was a trap,” Nypre told Lina.
“Don’t be. Are you okay?” she asked. She walked up to Nypre placing her hand on his face. Her touch stung his wound. He could feel blood running down his face over her hands. “You’re really hurt Nypre.”
“I’ll be okay. We have to find Norris and Deren,” he responded. The wound wasn’t terrible. He wouldn’t lose that much blood if they kept moving.
“I just don’t know where they are,” Lina sighed. “I’m scared Nypre, more afraid than I ever have been.”
“I am too, but we can’t just give up. You’re the only one who can save them.” Nypre responded.
“You’re right.” Lina shook her head trying to overcome her fear. She had always been so good at hiding her emotions, but hiding her overwhelming terror seemed impossible. “How did that thing find us anyway?”
“My mom used wind magic to communicate with me. For a moment, we connected,” Nypre responded. “I guess that let her locate me, and in turn let that creature find us. I think it’s controlling her.”
“Were you able to find her?” Lina asked trying to keep the conversation going. Nypre didn’t answer at first. He thought about it for a bit, going back over everything that had transpired in his mind. For a moment, a very brief moment, he had felt his mother. She was somewhere within the Night Land to the northwest. She was somewhere close to where the Night Land had originated deep within the darkness. That’s all he knew.
“Yes,” Nypre nodded. His mother’s location was fixed firmly in his mind now. He couldn’t help but feel a tiny spark of joy.
“Is there any way you can use that magic to find Norris and Deren?” Lina queried.
“I don’t think so. I believe that kind of communication can only take place between two wind mages. And both wind mages have to be willing to respond,” Nypre shook his head. Lina let out an annoyed sigh.
“We can’t just keep walking about randomly, hoping to find them,” she told him.
“I know,” Nypre groaned. He took a seat in the grass, Lina sat next to him.
“I can’t believe all this happened just because we slept too close to the Night Land,” Lina frowned.
“Tell me about Norris,” Nypre asked her, trying to revive some of the lighthearted conversation from when they had first entered the Night Land.
“Norris has been my personal guard ever since I became a priestess. He’s done more than just protect me. He’s been my friend in times of need. He never judged me when I spoke against the temple, claiming that I wasn’t the first priestess to have second thoughts. He used to tell me that so much. We would talk almost every night. Well, rather I would rant to him about whatever the high priestess was doing. It seems kind of pointless now, there is so much more to the world,” Lina sighed, fighting away the tears and talking about her best friend as if he were already dead. “We have to save him Nypre.” The two sat, letting the conversation dwindle on that note. It was strange, sitting in silence. Nypre had done that so often before in these fields. He would usually try meditating, talking to the wind. He remembered Deren saying he was just sleeping, and often times he was. Meditation was a lot like sleeping, so it was easy for Deren to get confused.
“Wait,” Nypre said suddenly. “If I fall asleep, the night will take control of me like it did the others, right?”
“That’s our theory,” Lina responded. “You don’t want to fall asleep though.”
“Don’t worry about that, I’m still wide awake. It’s something Deren always said to me. I used to meditate out in these fields before I learned magic, trying to get a head start on my training, trying to talk to the wind. Deren always said I was just sleeping,” Nypre talked quickly, excited as a plan formed in his mind. “If I meditate, the night might try to control me, but I won’t be asleep, so I should be able to resist being caught within a nightmare.”
“You want to be controlled?” Lina was confused.
“I may be able to lead us to where Norris and Deren are if I do get controlled,” Nypre replied as if it were obvious. Suddenly Lina saw the brilliance of his plan.
“It’s risky though, what if you do lose complete control?” she asked worriedly.
“You can just wake me up again like you did before. We have to try something, and I can’t think of any other way to locate them” Nypre told her. Lina didn’t respond. She wanted to argue with him and say it was stupid of him to risk his life like this, but she couldn’t think of anything else either.
“Okay. I’ll be here for you. Tell me what I need to do,” Lina told him, trying to reassure him the best she could.
“Okay. Just don’t talk or make any noise while I empty my mind. If I’m correct, I should get up and start walking away. If I do, you follow me,” Nypre ordered. Lina nodded.
Nypre closed his eyes. Meditation involved completely emptying your mind of all thought, a very difficult task. The way he always did this was to forcefully think of nothing, an empty space, complete darkness. Thoughts would scramble in, scratching at the darkness, but he would shoo them away. Nothing would remain as nothing.
As he managed to empty his mind of all thought, his body began to fall asleep. Tingling sensations appeared all over his arms, legs, and spread throughout his body. His mind was still awake and alert, but his body was falling asleep. He could break this at any time, but knew what he had to do.
The moment he lost all feeling in his body was the moment he began to move. It was strange. He knew he was moving despite not being the one in control of his body. His eyes were closed, and he saw nothing but darkness. The only thing he could hear was his own footsteps, and the softer tread of Lina behind him. He could think at this point, in fact he was able to think on a higher level than before. He didn’t feel scared at all as his body moved through the darkness. He was unable to feel any emotion when meditating. Everything was calm.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed. It could have been minutes or hours. When he was meditating, he lost all sense of time. He just knew that Lina was following him like he had told her to, and that everything was okay, if just for that moment.
“Nypre, please wake up!” Lina suddenly said, speaking loudly. Nypre snapped out of his meditative trance almost instantly. He started to fall forward, but caught himself by shooting his arms in front of him. He opened his eyes and saw only the grassy ground below him. His vision was blurry from having his eyes closed; it was just like waking up from a deep sleep despite being conscious the entire time.
“It’s okay, it’s me, I’m fine” he called out to Lina, slowly returning to his feet.
“No, it’s not okay Nypre,” Lina replied in a frightened voice. He turned to look at Lina, and saw her pointing behind him. He turned again to see what she was pointing at. It took only moments before his eyes adjusted to the darkness again, but when they did he almost wished they hadn’t. Sitting in the open fields of the Tawarln Territory was a large swarm of spiders, climbing all up and down and over what appeared to be a gigantic rock.
The rock was made of pure crystal. Then Nypre saw it for what it really was, a building which seemed to be made of the same crystal that the spider carapaces were. He saw a small line of people marching slowly into the one opening on the front of the crystal building, as if they too were in a trance. Despite the large number of people entering the small crystal egg shaped building, they couldn’t see a single person coming back out. Nypre and Lina exchanged glances. Not a word was said between them, but they knew Deren and Norris were inside.