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Lion Heart

Lion Heart Sonia’s head ached. It had been doing that a lot lately. But ever since the escape from St. Adelaide’s three days ago, it had been a non-stop, nearly incessant throbbing. She’d tried ibuprofen, maybe more than she should have as she got more desperate, but even four pills at once had done nothing. Maybe it was her lack of sleep. The past two nights had been spent on Aurum the dragon librarian’s couch, amidst her hoard of ancient artifacts. The couch itself was lumpy and simply not designed to accommodate a sleeping human being. Being surrounded by ancient tomes of dark power, blood-rusted weapons of cursed aspect, and other items of various historical and occult significance certainly didn’t help either. But worst of all had been the dreams. They had become even more vivid since the headaches began. Some were the same as usual: the city beneath the waves, the singing. But some were of a wholly different nature. She would dream that she was trapped somewhere cold and dark, where there was nothing and no one there. She would scream and scream, but no one would hear her. Sonia would wake up in a cold sweat, sometimes even sit all the way up in bed—er, couch. The others noticed her deteriorating condition quickly. The witch Cindy, her brother who had not been allowed inside, and two other men who she didn’t know, one with very pale skin and one who always seemed to be smiling, had come in every day to meet with Aurum and her small assistant Servus. They attempted to include her, as she was the only one among them who really knew the school and its layout. But for the most part she was in too much pain to be any help. And she kept seeing things out of the corner of her eye. Sonia didn’t know what was happening to her, and it scared her. Then, on the third night, it must have been worse than before, though when she woke up, she couldn’t even remember what her dreams had been. All she was left with was an utter feeling of loss and hopelessness and the tears streaming down her face. She must also have been making a lot of noise, because she wasn’t the one who had woken her up. Servus, the small, expressionless boy, was shaking her. He didn’t say anything, he hadn’t uttered one word since she’d gotten here, but he almost looked concerned. “Oh, I am sorry,” Sonia apologized, wiping away the tear tracks on her cheeks. “Did I disturb you?” He just stared at her, as if pondering something. Then, in one small, awkward movement, he turned, and gestured to her. “Do you… do you want me to follow you?” she asked. Pausing, he turned back, waiting. Sonia stood, and after hesitating slightly at the sight of all the various sharp and/or dangerous things surrounding her, staring at her through their glass cases, she followed him. The whole library seemed to be circular; the collection-cum-hoard spiraled downwards into the earth, and Sonia wondered if it ever actually ended. Just how deep could a thirst for knowledge be to have so many artifacts, books. The history of the world seemed to be contained here. Scrolls of papyrus were displayed next to Japanese tapestries. A roman gladius shared a case with an old Winchester. On and on it went, down down down into the earth. She followed Servus until the walls ceased to be walls anymore, but raw stone. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Servus stopped. Not just stopped, froze. Like a statue. Sonia followed his gaze, and her eyes fell upon a sword, encased in a slab of stone. Though the sword itself was only mildly impressive, with a few designs carved into its hilt, the reverence with which a spotlight had been placed upon it made it seem more so. What was even stranger was the huge, round chunk of stone around it, as if it had been carved from the floor of some cave and moved here. She felt herself drawn to it, like some sort of magnet. Servus watched Sonia as she approached the sword, fascinated. “What is this?” she asked him, but of course, he didn’t respond. Quite without conscious effort, Sonia found her feet moving her towards the sword. She scrambled up and over the rock, hovered there for a second, then put her hand on the sword’s hilt. And nothing happened. The hilt was cold to the touch, but nothing more. She wasn’t sure why she had thought something would happen at all. Sonia sighed, made to turn, and screamed. There, in the corner of the room, watching her, was a woman, glowing blue around the edges. Not just a woman, the woman, the one who had appeared to her several times now. She didn’t react to Sonia’s scream, just glanced up at the sword with a hopeless expression on her face. Ti onw’t rokw,” her words were garbled and non-sensical. “Why can’t I understand you?” Sonia asked. “Who are you?” Rmeuni. Npissrce fo Latnaist. Het elas sah relaayd eneb orebkn. I ma utske.” “Interesting. Very interesting,” said a new voice, and Aurum emerged from the shadows. “Servus, did you lead her down here?” The automaton blinked once. Sonia almost let go of the sword, but Aurum threw out her hands. “Nonono! Don’t let go. Your contact with the sword is the only thing allowing me to see her.” Her?” Sonia’s eyes widened. “You mean, you can see her too? I am… I am not crazy?” “I’ve sensed a strange presence ever since you’ve come here,” Aurum continued, approaching the figure. “But I never imagined…” The figure didn’t seem to notice her. She just kept staring at Sonia. Aurum didn’t seem to care. She grabbed a book from who knew where and began flipping through it. “If I’m not mistaken, that sword was the one used to seal away the Truth all those years ago, so if you touching it has summoned this spirit, then…” Sonia had no idea what she was muttering about. The dragon flipped the book to a specific page and held the book up to the figure’s face. “Yes!” she continued, laughing in near hysterics. “I can’t believe it. Yes!” “What?” Sonia asked, growing nervous. “Can you understand her?” Aurum insisted. “Do you know what she’s saying?” “I… I-no, it is, it is just gibberish.” Sonia shook her head. “What is going on?” “That sword, and that spirit, are very powerful,” Aurum said. “They could help us find the Truth.” “The Truth?” Sonia blinked. “I am so confused.” “You may be a vessel for an ancient hero,” Aurum said plainly. “That hero.” She pointed a long, red fingernail to the figure. “Tell me, do you know anyone who calls himself a… oh, what was it?” she muttered, glancing down at the page again. “Ah yes, a ‘warlock’? “Gil!” Sonia’s eyes widened. “He’s my… my friend.” Aurum practically jumped in the air, then grabbed Sonia by the shoulders. “Would you allow me to perform an experiment?” “I… uh…” “You won’t be in any danger. At least,” she blinked, “I don’t think you will.” “What are you going to do?” “Communicate with it. But I need your cooperation.” “Al… right.” This time she did jump into the air, then grabbed Servus’ hands and spun him around. He looked decidedly nonplussed. “I need a witch,” she said, half to herself. “A proper witch. I know! I’ll call Cindy. I… hope she’s not in bed yet.” She whipped back around to Sonia. “Could you meet us in the main room in twenty minutes?” Sonia nodded numbly. She had absolutely no idea what was going on. And here she was about to be a guinea pig to two women she barely knew. Sonia wished that Niko wasn’t in the hospital, that she wasn’t surrounded by strangers, and that her damned head wasn’t trying to kill her. She almost collapsed right then and there from the stress of it all. But then she saw the figure staring at her, a concerned expression on her face. “Why are you following me?” she asked. The figure did not respond, yet with a start, Sonia realized that now she might have a chance to get some answers. She just had to keep going a little while longer. As scary as it was, she had to put her life in Cindy and Aurum’s hands. By the time she found her way out of the depths of Aurum’s hoard and back up to the library, Cindy was already there, her pajama bottoms peeking out from under her coat. She looked grumpy, but curious, and had apparently already been briefed on the circumstances. When Sonia emerged from the back rooms, Cindy was down on the floor, drawing an ornate circular design with chalk while Aurum was scrambling to and fro with a book in each hand, muttering half to Cindy and half to herself. “There you are!” Aurum grinned, as she saw her enter. “Are you about ready, Cindy?” “You’re not very patient, are you?” Cindy replied as she bit her lip in concentration. “I can’t help it,” Aurum beamed, her glasses sliding an inch down her nose. “I never thought I’d get an opportunity like this. Imagine! The chance to speak to an actual Atlantean, especially one who was so close to the Truth.” “Why didn’t you just ask Lucius to help then? I know he’d be more than interested.” “Because he can’t make a magic circle.” “Excuse me,” Sonia interrupted. “But did you just say ‘Atlantean’?” Aurum approached her, drawing her closer to the chalk circle. All of this was frankly seeming more than a little insane to Sonia. “Yes, dear. That’s where the sword is from.” Sonia didn’t know why she spoke next, she had never told anyone about her dreams, not even Gil. “I’ve been having dreams, about lights beneath the sea. Like city.” The librarian’s eyes grew so wide that Sonia was afraid that might pop right out of her skull. “Have you now?” she asked. “That’s brilliant. See, Cindy? I told you, didn’t I?” “Whatever you say.” Cindy stood, and dusted off her hands. “Alright, it’s all ready.” “What are you planning on doing?” Sonia hesitated. “Just a magic-assisted trance-state,” Aurum waved the question off as if a “magic-assisted trance-state” was a perfectly normal response. “Sit right here in the middle of the circle, close your eyes, and listen to my voice.” She did as she was told. “Cindy, the incense please.” Cindy snapped her fingers, and the candles around the circle came to life as a strong, musky smell filled Sonia’s nose. She closed her eyes, and Aurum began to speak. She talked in a low, soothing voice, and as Sonia listened the incense began to make her feel light-headed. Cindy righted her once as she almost swayed into the candles. And then, at some point, she was someplace else. It was one of her dreams. Sonia floated, a few feet above the water of an endless ocean. Below the surface, hundreds of blue and purple lights were coming to life. She watched them for a moment, mesmerized. But then, something happened which had never before occurred in one of her dreams. Someone spoke. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Sonia looked down, and much to her surprise, replacing her reflection in the water was the woman, the figure who had followed her for months now. “I haven’t seen those lights in so many years.” “Is it… Atlantis?” Sonia’s tongue finally unstuck. “Did you live there?” “Aye.” The figure nodded, her pale face glowing in the depths of the water. “My name is Muirne, Princess of Atlantis.” “Aurum… er, friend of mine thinks that you are… hero of some kind.” “I don’t know about that,” Muirne smiled sadly. “When you’re responsible for the destruction of an entire continent, most people don’t call you a ‘hero’.”

“What happened?” She took a breath in, slowly. “My compatriot, a warlock named Gilveidan, and I faced a terrible evil, and in the process of sealing it away, sank the whole continent of Lemuria under the sea. Those lights you see? No one has lit them, they come to life as soon as the sun sets, automatically. They’re the last remnant of a great empire. Just ghosts, nothing more.” But Sonia hadn’t even heard many of her words. “Gilveidan,” she said, instead. “You… know him?” “Aye. And you seem to as well.” “He’s my friend. He is just normal boy named Gil Trenton though. He likes to pretend he is powerful wizard.” Sonia smiled at the thought, before a frown crept back into her features. “But, he isn’t pretending, is he?” “The man you know is not Gil Trenton. That boy died years ago. Gilveidan is just… using his body.” Sonia looked down at the lights for a second. She knew that something had happened to that dorky, asthmatic boy she’d met all those years ago in that cave. Now she finally took a second to mourn Gil Trenton, probably the only person who ever had. “I… am sorry,” Muirne said. “But you know what has to happen now, don’t you?” “Gil Trenton was Gilveidan’s vessel,” Sonia replied. “And I’m yours.” “It should have happened years ago,” Muirne confessed. “Before you’d had time to grow up, form wishes and dreams and friendships. That’s why your head feels like it’s going to split in two. You weren’t meant to last this long. If you go on much longer, you’ll die. And I can’t let that happen.” Sonia hesitated. “I… I understand. It’s just that… I don’t want to go.” Muirne blinked in sympathy. “None of us do. And I have no right to tell you what to feel. But Gilveidan is lost, I can feel it. And I know that I can save him.” Drawing in a shaky breath, Sonia let out a small, choked noise. “I know,” she said. “I am not strong enough. I can’t do anything. But you can. Is it…?” she implored the water. “Is it selfish to keep hanging on? Even when you know it’s over?” “Not at all.” Sonia sobbed, her tears forming ripples on the ocean’s surface, making the lights dance. “Just. Promise me one thing.” “Anything,” Muirne said. “Tell Gil that I… I—” she broke off into a sob. She hugged herself, alone in this dark void. Would she be here forever? Alone, lost, with only the ghost lights for company? Muirne nodded. She understood what Sonia meant. “I will. I promise.” “Okay.” Sonia took one last, shuttering breath. “I’m ready.” “Then come to me,” Muirne told her. And as she had tried to do so many times in her dreams, Sonia reached down towards the water, towards the lights so far below as Muirne reached up to meet her. But this time she got closer, closer. Her hand broke the surface… And everything stopped. From a long ways away, back in the library, the smell of incense burning her throat, she felt herself being stripped away. Her fears, desires, feelings, everything, consumed by a soul much stronger than her own. And then there was nothing. For a time, there was void, and dark, and cold. But through the nothing came a flash of red hair, and a voice: Do not be afraid. Follow me.” ~~ o ~~ Cindy, Aurum, and Servus watched Sonia for a good hour. Suddenly, the girl began to spasm, her eyes rolling back into her head. “Aurum, what’s happening?” Cindy stood. “I… I don’t…” But she didn’t have a chance to finish. Because just then, Sonia stopped, and lay still for a moment. Then, she lifted her head, and opened her eyes. They could tell immediately that she was not Sonia anymore. But who was she? The answer came from a most unexpected place. Servus, who had never before done much of anything of his own accord or uttered a single word, kneeled in front of her, blinked once, and nearly smiled. “Muirne.”

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