Shun, Luna and Bruno leaned against the outer wall of Djastra’a. The light shining down from a golden, sunless sky. Under it, each of them felt exposed; like 1000 people were staring at them. As soon as they caught their breath, Bruno grabbed Luna.
“So let me get this straight, Queenie,” he said, holding Luna by the lapels of her robes. “You have no magic, no plan to kill Xipil, and if we leave the city, an ancient god of darkness will tear us apart. Did I miss something or did you just royally screw us!?”
She forced his hands away. “I don’t have no magic. I just don’t have dark magic.”
“Leave her alone. We’re all just doing our best out here.” Shun jammed his sword into the ground in front of him. “Let’s take inventory. I’ve got a sword that never breaks. Bruno?”
The ram lazily tossed a wooden container next to the sword. “Just about two dozen bullets.”
As the others finished their inventory, Luna paced back and forth along the long dried riverbank. The win conditions had changed. With The Dark just outside the city’s light, Luna knew couldn’t just step out and start to brew a dark storm. “Let’s look around town. If I can find some darkness, any darkness, I can start working on a storm and, maybe salvage the plan.”
“You’d better hope, there’s something. I didn’t join you louts to end up trapped here with these-”
Shun shot him a piercing glare.
“Poor bastards...” Bruno finished. He stood. “Let’s just get looking. Maybe we’re lucky and Queenie hasn’t screwed us.”
The trio walked the sun-bleached streets of Djastra’a. They passed people covered head to toe in ragged clothes. Most had sunken eyes, and many looked like they’d seen too much; been alive too long. Luna recognized this look and it turned her stomach. This was what she had done. As they walked, Luna reached out with her whole being, seeking darkness, potential. But there was none. Reality here felt stagnant; dead. They walked the length of the city, stopping only when they got to the castle’s gates. They were tall, made of wrought iron and had an aura of menace longer than the shadows they cast. If this were an average castle, there would’ve been guard stationed there, but the gates had no guards and in fact sat ajar.
“Guess no one wants to protect the bastard...” Bruno mused
“Well it stands to make our job easier,” Shun said, scratching his chin.
Luna just stood there, trying to tune them out, focusing ever harder. Then it hit her. “Gentlemen,” she said. “I have an idea,”
“We’re all ears,” Bruno said, crossing his arms.
“Dark magic draws on hidden potential and uses that power to reshape reality. But what if I’ve been thinking of this all wrong?”
“I get the feeling you want us to do something...”
“We’re going into battle now. Against the king. I’d tell you more, but I fear divulging too much could skew the results.”
“Are you-” Shun cut himself off. “Look, I trust you. But you ask us to walk up to the gallows and tie our own nooses.”
“Maybe...” Luna said, looking up at the castle. “But if this works, it will be amazing.”
Bruno grumbled. “Fine, I guess now’s as good a time as any to die.”
The trio steeled themselves and approached the castle of King Xipil. Just as no one guarded the gate, no one stood guard anywhere they could see. They wandered through the deserted halls, clearly once opulent, now decrepit. Suits of tarnished, rusted armor towered over them, and the eyes of worn busts watched as they passed through. Eventually, they made their way to the throne room. It was trashed. Tables and eating utensils lay strewn about. The whole room was filled with a bright golden glow that emanated from the figure sitting on the throne. Xipil himself. Shun flattened his ears against his head and Bruno readied his gun. As the group approached him, he made no move. The lion sat stock still, eyes staring out into the middle distance. The once bright colors on his regal clothes were faded, and his once golden mane had faded to almost a pure white, giving him the appearance of a very depressed sun.
“This is what we’ve been scared of?” Bruno said. “Lemme put a bullet between his eyes and let’s go home.” He pointed his gun at the king and fired, the shot echoing through the room. But the bullet never hit the king, instead turning to ash almost as soon as it left the barrel. “I’ve got nothing...”
Luna sighed. “Shun, run him through with that sword of yours. I promise this will make sense soon.”
With a roll of his shoulders and a nod, Shun stepped forward drawing his sword. He squeezed his eyes shut and plunged his sword into the unmoving king. Tendrils of grabbed at the sword and at his hands, but were unable to find purchase.
Luna nodded. “Now here’s the hard part. Bruno, I need you to shoot Shun.”
“WHAT!?” they exclaimed simultaneously.
“I need a wound,” Luna clarified. “A really bad one. But it can’t be on me, because I need to be able to focus.”
“What the hell are you thinking!” Shun growled, baring his teeth.
“Darkness,” Luna replied. “There’s none here in this city. Everyone is too apathetic. But if one of you got hurt, you’d feel the pain, you’d get angry, and your body would try to heal you. All those things come together to create potential, darkness. Then, I channel your darkness through that sword and into the king’s body and end him.”
“You’re insane, queenie!” Bruno said, pointing his gun at her.
“What’re you going to do, shoot me!?” she said spreading her arms out.
BANG! The sound echoed through the chamber and luna fell to the ground, blood seeping from a wound in her head.
“You idiot!” Shun yelled, snatching Bruno’s gun from his hand. “Do you want her help, or not!”
“Not if she’s going to get us killed anyway!”
Luna inhaled sharply and pulled herself to her feet as the wound in her head knitted itself back together. “So apparently you were going to shoot me. Oh good, Shun has the gun now. Shun, would you mind...” she inclined her head toward Bruno.
“Shoot him. I don’t care where, just make it hurt and don’t make it so bad that the light puts him back together.
“Whoa, can we talk about this, queen-”
BANG! Shun fired a shot into the ram’s knee and Bruno fell, screaming and howling.
Completely numb to Bruno’s screaming and swearing, Luna stepped forward, placing her hand on the hilt of Shun’s sword. And then, with as much of her being as she could, reached out looking for darkness. And there it lurked, deep down in Bruno, the part of him that was slowly trying to heal him, the part that swore at her and the part that wanted to attack her, but couldn’t. She grasped that darkness, taking it into herself and channeling it through the sword and into the king, a blind spot. The darkness filled him, and as it did, his light dimmed. Slowly, as the light dimmed, the king’s body started to bleed and then, flake away like a rotting log. And as it did, a cloud of darkness rose from him. Slowly, it grew, pushing all light from the room, then the castle, and then the sky. As it rose into the sky, Luna got to her feet, and walked past her two comrades. “It’s been unforgettable, you two,” She said, flexing her wings. “If I run fast enough, maybe The Dark won’t be able to catch me.” With a smile and a nod, she turned and sprinted off down the hallways of the castle.
As the last rays of light faded from the skies of Djastra’a, The Dark swept in, searching every house it could, but leaving the people unharmed. It knew who it was looking for. But it gave up upon seeing a figure taking flight over the castle. It knew that was Luna, and gave chase.
So that’s the end of the story. Am I entirely satisfied? No, but that’s not really what this was about. There will probably be more stories, but I’ll try not to have any of them be so long.