Dance of Wind X - FINAL
A Melody of Hope
Ezreal was returned to Heaven's Peak and immediately he was lifted by a pair of golden-feathered harpies. "We will carry you to Andeka Fortress. The world outside has fallen to darkness – the sun has been blotted out by the power of the new King's dark spirits. His armies approach the bordering countries... but his shadow is far more dangerous than he." One of the harpies spoke as she helped carry Ezreal out of Heaven's Peak.
They flew through the clouds, and once they reached the outside world there was nothing but darkness to be seen. The sun was no more; only a thick shroud of darkness remained in its place. This is terrible... Ezreal thought.
Time passes and the harpies arrive with Ezreal at Andeka Fortress; a great storm is raging over the city and the smell of fresh blood fills the air. "We wish you luck, Ezreal. Farewell," The harpies said with a bow and then went on their way, vanishing into the stormy darkness.
Ezreal gazed up at the gates of the fortress – he sensed a great evil within and it worried him to think of who it might be. Just as he stepped forward, the gates flew open with a crash and Ezreal leapt backwards. He looked onward and saw Mareina... but she was not the same.
Great black horns protruded from her head and her eyes were glowing with a maniacal redness; her fangs were pronounced and a thick aura of evil shrouded her body. Her crystals had fallen and her wings were large and black, covered in spikes and stained with blood.
Her long dragon's tail was wrapped around her waist and it was discolored with blood and blackness; a shadowy energy surrounded her tail and fueled her aura of madness. Her mouth was covered in blood from a fresh corpse, and she wiped her lips as she glared forward, her eyes piercing through Ezreal.
Mareina didn't seem to recognize him at all, she simply continued to stare forward, as if she didn't know what to do next. Ezreal couldn't believe his eyes – was he too late? His hand was trembling slightly as he reached for the tin whistle in his pocket, but finally the girl spoke up. "Just what are you reaching for?" she asked snidely, a dark echo surrounding her voice. "You seem strangely familiar..."
"I'm Ezreal. Don't tell me you've forgotten me so soon?" he said with a smirk, his confidence returning as his hand fell to his side. There's no point trying to play the song now; I can't predict her movements. He needed to analyze her actions more before doing something hasty that might lead to his untimely death. The demonic girl seemed to recognize the name, but she was unfazed. "Oh yes, I remember you now. Pardon me, but my old memories are quite foggy after being reborn."
"Reborn?" Ezreal was bold to pursue such inquiry. She strode towards him, trying to intimidate him with her daunting appearance and aura. "I was forced to drink his blood and become one of THEM, but I waited patiently for him to let down his guard. When he cast the spell to blacken the sun, I killed him. It was quite easy; he was a fool to trust me so much. Or perhaps this was what he wanted in the end...?"
She rolled her eyes and walked past Ezreal carelessly. "Now I have been reborn into a new, perfect being. Am I a demon? A human? A vampire? Who knows...? But..." she turned towards Ezreal and came up behind him, whispering into his ear. "I can hear the cries of the souls devoured by Itherion in all his eternal life... they praise me as their savior for granting their wish – vengeance. We are all one... the mothers, the daughters, the sons and the husbands... they have granted me their strength, their hatred."
What the hell is she talking about? Ezreal was unamused. "So you flatter yourself with such words? Only one who doubts her strengths speaks so highly of herself." He was taunting her, curious to see her reaction; he did not desire a conflict, but he had a hunch that she would not strike. Mareina laughed in response and walked in front of him. "Your attempts at angering me are truly entertaining, but I have nothing to gain from killing you. Don't fool yourself into thinking it is because there is some shred of love left in me, because I have no heart left. Such worthless human things are unneeded to someone like me."
"What will you do then, Mareina?" Ezreal asked, his eyes fixated on her. "If you are an all-powerful being, what will you do after you conquer Akandaea? What is to be gained from such foolish chaos?" She raised a brow, "I don't care about conquering this pitiful world. There is no pleasure in crushing the weak," she smirked, mocking him. "What do you propose I do, Ezreal? If only there was a way to return to my old self, hm?"
"Don't patronize me." he scowled. "You've come to use some sort of spell in an attempt to 'cure' me, isn't that right?" Mareina questioned him, cackling madly. "What are you waiting for? Do it, I beseech you to use your little spell!" She's so arrogant, but if she's a completely different being... will this melody even work? Qyendius never said what effect the song has on someone without a pure heart.
He was beginning to have second thoughts about the god's guidance. Mareina turned away from him, raising a hand towards Andeka Fortress. "The home of the fiend who took away your happiness and mine. I want to forget everything from my human life and truly be reborn... don't you?" Ezreal shook his head, "Memories forge us into the people we are. You can't forget something that is bound to your soul."
"Soul? What was once mine was lost in a sea of blood," Mareina sighed. "Now that vengeance has been done, I am not quite sure what there is left for me." Things can't stay like this... without the sun, Akandaea will wither. How can this be undone? I don't understand why Qyendius refuses to offer his aid in a time like this. Damn it, it was stupid of me to rely on something so...
She flicked her wrist towards the fortress, and dozens of massive black-ice spikes rose from the ground and destroyed it. She laughed as the ice rose and rose around the building until finally it was completely covered in ice. "To become a mindless being, perhaps that is what I desire. Without a meaning, there is only one road..." Mareina muttered, shattering the ice with a movement of her hand. There was nothing left of the fortress but tiny bits of unrecognizable rubble.
"I'm still here, Mareina. I won't let you forget," Ezreal was filled with determination. She turned slowly towards him, "Then I will have to wipe your existence from this world." Two icy onyx-colored swords materialized in her hands and she looked upon Ezreal with sorrowful eyes. "It is true... perhaps there is no way to forget." Ezreal stepped towards her slowly and she did not move. "Perhaps it is I who must be forgotten."
"No..." Ezreal stood before her now. "Even if there was a way to return me to who I was, how could I ever live normally after what I've done? Hmph..." she shook her head. "Being in your presence makes me too soft. There is no turning back anymore." Mareina flew away from him and tightened her grip on her swords, "Farewell, Ezreal. Greet my family in Aslande if you ever travel there," she laughed softly.
"What are you doing?!" Ezreal cried. "Without you, I--!" But it was too late; she drove the swords through her chest and a mass of black fog escaped from the wounds. "They're... free now..." she was barely able to stay afloat. "Heh, looks like my soul is still...here..." Dark blood poured from her self-inflicted injuries as she plummeted towards the ground and landed in the dirt with a loud thud.
Ezreal ran to her and lifted her. "Mareina, why...?!" Mareina smiled at him, "This is as close to being myself as I can get... with all those other spirits gone, I'm--" She coughed up a bit of blood. "I'm... me..." He sat down in the grass and took out the tin whistle given to him by Qyendius and propped her head up on his lap. Even with those wounds, she can't die. I can't watch her suffering like this though... I pray that this works. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "I guess I can't die... but it sure hurts a lot... my mind feels really weird..." Mareina had no idea what was happening to her. "That person before... was that really me...?"
She had a flashback of when she was standing in the courtyard of Andeka Fortress after the King's death; she stood beside Itherion, who gathered all of his Crusader puppets and sacrificed them all in order to cast a demonic spell to block out the sun. As he was performing the ritual, Mareina drove her blade through his heart and sunk her teeth into his neck when the sun faded to black.
She remembered that Itherion did not struggle against her, but instead he seemed quite pleased with Mareina's choice to kill him. He smiled as he began to wither and his blood dripped from her lips, and after the dust of his corpse blew away in the wind, his last whisper filled the air: Now we are one. Her eyes widened as she returned to reality. Because I drank his blood... but he didn't have a soul. He was... empty.
Ezreal began to play the Dance of Wind and he felt himself becoming lightheaded as the song went on. Mareina became extremely confused and soon after, very exhausted. "What is this song...?" He could not hear her voice over the music; his mind wandered away as he continued to play. This song is extremely powerful, he thought. I hope it has some effect on Mareina.
Something wicked stirred within Mareina and she felt frightened. "Ezreal, stop... stop playing that song...!" Her plea fell on deaf ears, and when she tried to move she noticed that her body was paralyzed... just like when she first contracted the Thornwood Curse. Finally, it dawned on her... she remembered something Itherion had told her: "I created the Thornwood Curse by spilling my blood in the thicket."
Mareina drank his blood, all of it. In doing so, she not only absorbed every drop of his power but his dreaded curse as well. Th-then, that means... You've figured it out, my dear. But it is too late! Don't worry, it is time for you to sleep for a while... but don't fret, you'll be able to see everything when you awaken. After all, we share the same mind now! Isn't that wonderful...? Itherion's voice echoed.
From the beginning, Itherion knew that some day Mareina would kill him and destroy his physical body by drinking all of his blood, but he didn't care... he knew either way that they would be together for all eternity. "Ez...real... Ezreal..." Mareina tried to warn him, but his eyes were closed as he concentrated on playing the beautiful melody. It was too much, she could not resist the song's enchantment and so her spirit fell into slumber.
Ezreal completed the song and sighed deeply, putting the tin whistle away. "Mareina?" he asked, hoping that the song had helped. The demonic essence from Mareina was easily cleansed by the song now that the spirits she was holding within herself were released, but her draconic features remained. She had crystal blue horns and crystalline growths protruding from where her ears used to be, and her tail and its energies turned light blue in color. The wings were also blue once again, but still the crystals were missing.
He was relieved, "Are you sleeping...?" he smiled a bit and brushed the hair from Mareina's face, thinking that she had been saved. He raised his head to the gray sky, gazing at the black sun. "It's not over yet... Akandaea is still wallowing in darkness." Ezreal was exhausted from the song's melody; he set his backpack down and laid beside Mareina on the grass and exhaled, closing his eyes. At least she's with me again... He reached for her hand and held it gently. That's all that matters for now.
After Ezreal drifted off to sleep, Itherion took control of Mareina's body and stood up. To think I am inside the body of my beloved! There is truly no way to be closer to the one you so adore. He glanced back towards Ezreal, glaring at him through Mareina's eyes. "Tch... Mareina's mind is full of flowery memories of this fool. What's so special about him?" He stood over the young man's sleeping form and frowned.
"Perhaps toying with him would be the best option. Oh, and then I will kill him of course... Mareina will wake knowing that she killed him and drank his blood! He deserves a miserable death for worming his way into my beloved's heart..." Itherion smirked. "I will not allow another to love her, even if it earns me Mareina's hatred forever..." So let it begin. I will mock him and use his feelings against him... to give him such a shameful, mocking death will be delightful.
"Ezreal." Itherion spoke through Mareina and sat down on his stomach. "Wake up." Ezreal opened his eyes, half-asleep. "Mareina...? You're awake already?" That's odd, shouldn't she have been asleep for a long time? The spell was extremely powerful... "Yes. I wanted to see you." Itherion forced a smile on Mareina's lips. "It makes me so... happy... to look at you."
Ezreal raised an eyebrow, even in such a lethargic state he noticed something was odd about her, but he assumed that her strange attitude was due to trauma. "How do you feel?" he asked. "...Happy. Did I not say that? I am happy. Quite." Itherion was having a hard time speaking like Mareina usually does. "...Are you going to get off of me?" Ezreal chuckled nervously – he had a hunch that there was something very wrong.
Itherion stood up, "Oh. Sorry. Do you not like being close?" Ezreal yawned, "Not THAT close, and not when I'm sleeping. I can't believe you're awake already... I'm exhausted even though I tried to block out most of the melody." Hmph, it was thanks to your silly song that I was able to take control; I suppose I have to thank you for that. "Yes, it was because I wanted to be with you. It's been so long, Ezreal. Didn't you miss me? I missed you dearly. You are so special to me." Mareina's voice sounded so monotone that it made Ezreal cringe.
There is definitely something wrong with her, Ezreal surmised. What could make her act this way? "Why don't you let me give you a kiss, dear Ezreal?" Itherion smirked. An enchanted kiss that will paralyze your body. Quite a merciful death for you... such helpless prey. Mareina pulled him up and tried to kiss him, but he turned his head. "Mareina, can you stand still for a second?" Ezreal requested. "...Anything... for you." Itherion was growing impatient.
It will be easy to tell if there's still an evil spirit somewhere inside of her, but didn't she release them all already? No, there's definitely something wrong with her. Ezreal placed his left hand on Mareina's forehead and for a moment the amulet glowed intensely bright, but then it dimmed. Damn, somehow he can sense my presence?! "I guess playtime's over," Itherion said with a smirk. He used Mareina's magic to summon two crystalline swords and tried to kill Ezreal in one swift attack, but he avoided the attack and teleported away in a golden flash.
"Hmph, quite the slippery one." Itherion growled. "Who the hell are you?" Ezreal snapped. I need to think fast, but how can I free her? Damn it, is this what the harpies meant by 'his shadow is far more dangerous than he'? "I am Itherion. Surely you've heard of me? High Commander of the King's Crusaders and the King's own personal-- well, it doesn't matter since he's dead." Itherion... Ezreal knew that name – it was the name of the man who led the Crusaders to destroy his city.
Ezreal filled with rage and clenched his fists. "You are so weak that you have to control another's body?" Itherion laughed through Mareina, "Weak? No, it is merely a desire to be one with the person I love more than anything. To be together with her, forever. I thought you would understand!" Ezreal summoned his magic bow and raised it, but he knew that he couldn't attack – even though she was possessed, it was still Mareina he would be firing at.
"You're disgusting." Ezreal said scornfully. "I suppose I can understand your jealousy... after all, I will be the one to live with Mareina for all eternity – not you. What are you going to do with that bow? You can't attack Mareina... you wouldn't." Itherion was enjoying himself. "You speak as if Mareina is an object to be owned... it pisses me off. You don't have the slightest idea of what love is, you monster." This bastard... I have to control my anger or I won't be able to think properly. How can I possibly rid her of this demon? There has to be a way...
"Oh my," Itherion said with a snicker. "I was looking through Mareina's memories... so you escaped from Voinera, hm? Your mother was Arice... oh I remember how I killed her husband before her eyes as I--" Ezreal couldn't control himself, "YOU BASTARD!" he charged forward, blinded by his rage. What could he do? His bow was useless, but maybe... maybe he could knock Mareina unconscious.
"Hahaha, that's right! Your anger and hatred brings me joy!" Itherion exclaimed. Ezreal stopped immediately and left himself open for an attack; Itherion used one of the swords to cut into his leg, but he teleported out of the way before he took too much damage. He glanced towards his backpack. The Star's Tears I gathered, maybe they can help? It's worth a shot...
"What are you doing?" Itherion sighed as Ezreal opened his pack. "Idiot, I don't understand why Marei--" He was shocked when he saw a glowing mass float out of the backpack. "Those are... Star's Tears?!" He was alarmed. He seems afraid of them, and the Star's Tears are definitely reacting. Still, alone they aren't powerful enough...
Ezreal closed his eyes and focused himself, I will add my power to the flowers... and my love... "Saying your prayers before you die?" Itherion scoffed. "Those silly flowers can't stop me." He was only bluffing though, because the Star's Tears were made to ward off evil spirits. Still, he didn't think it would be enough to banish him forever.
If this fails, there is no plan B. Ezreal opened his eyes and raised his towards the light of the Star's Tears and unleashed a gigantic wave of gold and white energy that fused with the flowers and rushed towards Mareina – the wave blasted into her and threw her backwards as it disappeared and temporarily forced Itherion's essence out of her body.
Ezreal acted quickly and leapt forward as Itherion tried to return to Mareina's body. He shot it with a white arrow and then vanquished it with a small wave of condensed magic energy. A deafening screech filled the air as the last bits of Itherion's essence vanished into nothingness and Ezreal fell onto his knees, his bow disappearing into broken bits of blue energy. "I...can't..." He was exhausted; he collapsed onto the ground and the tin whistle fell out of his pocket.
The wind began to pick up as he crawled towards Mareina, "Mareina..." he put his hand on her forehead and the amulet glowed brilliantly. He smiled weakly, knowing that she had been fully restored and fell unconscious at her side.
A strong breeze continued to blow around them, and the sound of a distant song approached and became louder and louder:
"Wings of hope prevail,
Love conquers once more,
Freedom from the vile,
Two fight as one.
Against all odds,
They emerge victorious;
But it's not the end,
The faeries were coming to escort Mareina and Ezreal to somewhere safe where they could rest and recover from their injuries. Their journey was far from over – Akandaea needed them to free the sun from its black prison; without the light of the sun, the minions of darkness will rise and the world will soon wither and die.
Qyendius smiled from his home, "Well done, Ezreal. You both deserve a good rest." the giant bird-god said to himself. "There is still much to be done and many questions yet left unanswered, but I have faith that the two of you shall continue to restore Akandaea. To think that their fates would be intertwined in such a way..." He paused as he watched the pair from the clouds. "...I fear for the future, for it is clouded even to my eyes."
The god lowered his head, "May the Winds forever be under your wings and guide you to safety. You both have my blessing. A cheer for the mortals and their mighty wills!" Qyendius let out a loud squawk and his Harpies echoed him. "Let us sing!" The god began to sing in his beautiful bird-voice, and the Harpies sang along.
It would be a short respite for Ezreal and Mareina, but at least they would not bear their struggles alone anymore. Side-by-side, they were destined to hand-carve a new, bright future for Akandaea, but this would not be an easy road.
"May the Winds forever be under your wings, Ezreal and Mareina!" Qyendius and his Harpies cawed.