Chapter 16 - Once Upon A Dream
Goth rarely dreamt. Most of the time his sleep was plunged in thick darkness, giving no space for imagination.
But this time a scenery appeared before his eyes. It was nighttime, the sky filled with strange glistening stars. The longer he looked at it, the more he realized the sky was nothing more but the ceiling of a cavern, a really huge one. The air was cold, the trees fake, without any life.
Where was he?
”Goth…,” growled a low and hushed voice.
The prince was on alert, his ears twisting as he looked around him. Everything shifted, the trees falling in a strange earthquake, forcing the Vampyrum to take flight, slightly scared. The ground shattered, a form suddenly emerging from the very depth of hell. The newcomer was immense, almost as big as the pyramid back in the jungle. The creature’s face was long, its jaw wide and filled with sharp fangs. Its eyes were glowing with intensity, glaring at the Vampyrum, as if trying to pierce his soul.
Goth instantly knew. When he landed on the ground, observing the other, he knew this was no other than Cama Zotz.
He felt like bowing, but the prince didn’t dare to move. Was it real? It felt so…
”Goth,” said the god again. ”We meet, at last.”
The male couldn’t help but feel honored to be in front of this dark lord. He wondered if this was how his father was able to speak with Zotz…
The god’s large head went down towards the Vampyrum, getting a better look at him. Goth began to shiver, impressed by all the strength emanating from his sole presence.
”Fear is a weakness, prince, do not let it overtake you.”
Goth seemed to wake, words finally escaping his mouth: ”How, oh great Zotz, am I able to speak to you? Or is it only the fruit of my imagination…”
The lord chuckled, his pointy teeth showing into a grin.
”No one can imagine me. A god appears when he wants, where he wants. Also you are the vessel of my soul, that alone is a good reason for me to appear before you.”
His words resonated into the Vampyrum’s mind. He still couldn’t believe such fate was bestowed on him.
”Why me?” dared to question Goth. ”Was no other Vampyrum worthy of this gift?”
”Why? Would you have prefered me to choose your father instead?”
”Never! He’d do such horrible things with your soul, my lord.”
”And still, I think he’d have more joy than you.”
Zotz’s stance straigthened up, continuing: ”Also you shouldn’t underestimate my powers, Goth. I know everything your father thinks. For very long I made him my champion, giving him strength and powers few of your specie ever had. He was, and still is, of great use to me, but another fate awaits him.”
The prince seemed thoughtful, an amused grin soon crepting on his face.
”As the bearer of your soul, my lord, will this also mean that I will have powers too?”
”When I possess you, yes.”
Goth laughed, knowing the god would answer that.
”No, no, I mean, when I’m my normal self! If you were able to give powers to my father, and he is only a mere servant, what about me? I was chosen for your glorious combat after all…”
”I beg your pardon?”
Zotz seemed offended, which brought Goth to think that he probably made a mistake by bringing this subject, his ears lowering. The god snapped at the male: ”And what do you expect to do with any power I would give you? Giving these costs me a lot, Goth.”
”It all depends on what you’d choose to give me, my lord,” added the prince, his head lowering in respect and fear.
The tall creature showed an evil grin, clearly amused.
”… You are so manipulative, just like your father. But you are clearly stronger. … One day you will become the greatest king, Goth, I just know it.”
The Vampyrum smiled in triumph, his chest growing with pride. He wanted to believe the god…
”… But for such thing to happen, would that mean that Stella would be dead?”
”Yes,” answered Zotz without any remorse. ”One day or another, the Silverwing will need to die anyway. The prophecy will finally be accomplished, at long last!”
”Other bats were in the same situation as us?” questionned Goth, confused.
”Indeed! But the problem was that both vessels were always appart. Mine always here, in the south, while Nocturna’s was in the north. … But this time we decided to bring you two together. The bands were Nocturna’s idea. She wanted the Silverwing and you to develop a strong bond in your travel, which I still think was ridicule. But it did brought you together and now our fateful combat can truly begin.”
”I refuse to kill Stella,” announced the Vampyrum. ”I- I wanted to believe you brought her to me for a good reason, and I still want to believe so. … That child now means the world to me, my lord, almost like the daughter I will never have…”
Zotz cut him, laughing loudly.
”A daughter?!” mocked the god. ”Poor prince, you have lost your mind! I can assure you one day you will have a child, but it won’t be that weak Silverwing. No, you will kill her, you will win, WE will win! That is the truth, that is your fate.”
Goth’s hands became fists, clearly angered by such words. He defied the god with his glare, frowning, his jaw tightening, but he didn’t dare to replicate.
Zotz’s bright eyes glowed harder, locked into the other’s gaze. He began to growl, the ground trembling at such a sound.
The god seemed to conceed at something:
”… I will give you one power, one that will prove you that I can still be benevolent.”
Goth was still frowning, but that did catch his attention: ”What will it be?”
”Next time you go to sleep, think about someone you love but is no more in this world. Only then will you truly experience the greatness of my power…”
The sun was already high up in the sky when Axel began to wake up. He first felt a presence between his wings, his gaze instantly lowering and meeting Stella’s frame. A sleepy smile showed on his face as he nuzzled the female’s head gently. The Silverwing let out a happy sigh, her eyes still closed, as she cuddled closer to the young Vampyrum.
They were both feeling great, last night’s event still fresh in their memory. When Stella finally opened her eyes, she looked up to Axel, happiness appearing on her features. Her heart was beating fast, still not believing that she was in his arms and that they kissed last night…. She rubbed her nose against his in a playful manner, their lips soon touching. Oh how she was glad she stayed…
Suddenly both bats were seperated by someone else, a loud growl rising in the place. A large frame faced Axel, no other than Hell whose fur was all spiked up. He pointed a claw towards Stella.
”What is the meaning of this?” he snarled. ”What is she doing here?”
Another form came into the place, this one being Flora. She came protectively before the Silverwing, afraid her mate’s temper would turn for the worst.
Axel tried to explain himself:
”Look, dad, she was in trouble. She came to me and I offered her shelter-”
”What kind of trouble?” raged Hell as he turned to the young female.
Stella was first scared, but soon she brought her courage up, getting away of Flora’s protection and facing the chief.
”I did it,” she announced, serious. ”I freed the sacrifices, just as you asked.”
Hell’s face suddenly changed from rage to surprise, his ears perking up. A large grin slowly appeared on his face as he couldn’t contain his laugh of relief.
”I can’t believe it! You actually did?! HA, muchacha, I knew I could count on you!”
He tried to calm himself: ”Now… I believe they gave you the map to their sanctuary? I’d be glad if you shared that information with me.”
Stella’s refusal surprised everyone. Axel rapidly came to her side, questionning her.
”Stella what are you doing? Why are you changing your mind? You said you’d help us!”
The Silverwing sighed, feeling everyone’s gaze on her. She remembered some words Goth once told her, which she quoted:
”The first rule of the jungle is to never trust anyone. … I do feel right with your people, Axel, but my heart tells me that I need to protect my own kind from everyone.”
The chief rapidly approached her, frowning as he laid a claw on the female’s chest in an accusative gesture.
”Liar. I’m sure you gave it to Goth or even Jarod already! And now you want to reveal our position, I’m sure of it!”
Axel growled, backing up his father a little.
”You’re wrong! Stella ran from the pyramid last night, right after she freed the captives, she was escaping from Jarod.”
”He already knew I was getting them out,” added Stella. ”I don’t know how he did, I always was cautious…”
A hand landed on her shoulder, Flora gently turning the young one to her, concern showing on her face.
”Did he read your mind?” she asked.
The Silverwing shook her head, to everyone’s relief.
Hell sighed, bringing the young female’s attention back to him:
”You’re playing a dangerous game, señorita. One day or another I will get this map and you’ll know that’ll be the greatest decision you will have made. We can protect these bats, we can form an alliance with them. … Only good things can come out of this, I can assure you.”
Stella was thoughtful, truly wondering if she was doing the right thing by keeping the map all for herself.
But when she remembered all those bats, weak and frail, scared… she knew she couldn’t betray them. She couldn’t just bring the banished and create a whole new problem to them.
Stella chose to remain silent, apologizing. She simply couldn’t….
The Silverwing stopped her flight when in the tunnel leading outside of the banished’s lair. Axel had followed her, both bats next roosting against the tunnel’s wall.
Stella needed to exit the place, truly determined to find Goth and tell him everything. Deep in her heart, she wanted to fly far away with the prince, leaving behind all their troubles…
The young Vampyrum came near the female, leaving his hands on her shoulders.
”Stella, please, listen to me,” he continued. ”I don’t fully understand your choice to keep the map all for yourself but I want you to know that I will support you anyway…. Please, remember that if anything ever goes wrong, you are always welcome here. Mi casa es su casa. I will protect you.”
The other’s ears lowered, slightly surprised by his words. She approached him, lifting her hand timidly against his cheek.
”… I respect your people, Axel,” she began. ”Everytime I see you or anyone baring the same mark as yours, I can’t help but see myself back in my own colony. I was rejected, like a banished, feared by my own people…”
”Because I killed my mother,” replied the Silverwing in a low voice. ”She chose my life over hers the night I was born and for that many despised me. … Goth keeps saying I’m a soul warrior, a- a… guerro de something, I don’t remember.”
”A guerrero de las almas,” corrected Axel with a faint smile.
He gently took her head between his hands, leaving his forehead against hers, still smiling.
”… I always knew there was something special about you. Since the first night I met you, I could feel it deep in my bones. You are such a strong and incredible bat, Stella, never doubt about it. … One day you will do wonders.”
Stella smiled in turn, soon embracing the Vampyrum tenderly. She wanted to believe him, she wanted to feel that she could still do something great in this world.
Axel left small kisses on her cheeks, slowly going to her lips. The Silverwing’s breath stopped, her heart pounding hard once again. She felt so safe in his arms, like nothing in this world could do her any harm as long as he held her.
”Mi corazón…” whispered the male in between two kisses.
Stella finally looked at him with confusion, wondering what he just said. An amused smile found its way on the Vampyrum’s face, translating: ”My heart…”
The Silverwing blushed hard, laughing softly at such a nickname.
She declared that she needed to go now, leaving a quick peck on the male’s lips before flying out of his arms.
She couldn’t hide her smile, even after getting on the other side of the waterfall. It was like living in a dream, Axel being the sovereign of that wonderful land. For once all her problems seemed to be far behind her as love was the only thing filling her mind.
And by being in such a state, she never saw the new form following her, hiding between the leaves and branches all around.
Vera was surprised she could easily spot the Silverwing in such a brief delay. She easily recognized her by the copper band on her left wing, shinning with dull tones against the sun’s rays.
The spy moved fast, always hidden. She had to direct the girl towards the pyramid or more precisely towards the royal chamber.
Vera soon began to make noises, moving some leaves here and there, soon alerting the Silverwing. She could see Stella stop for a moment, looking in the spy’s general direction. The female Vampyrum didn’t hesitate to snarl in a low tone, scaring the other who had no idea of who or what was following her. Vera was impressed by the young one’s sudden speed, soon accelerating her own course in order to always have the small bat in her sight.
They were getting closer to the pyramid, a smile never escaping the spy’s face. So close, she could see the Silverwing a wingspan or two away from her, flying with fear. Branches were rapidly blocking the Vampyrum’s view from times to times, and that was when she saw, for a split second, the Silverwing’s head turned to her, her eyes shinning with a bright white light.
Vera gasped, stopping her course.
She observed the young one still flying towards the pyramid. … What just happened? That gaze, it was real! She couldn’t have imagine it.
Shaking her head rapidly, the female growled lightly, finally taking flight. She had lost the Silverwing in her surprise, but at least she knew the northerner must have continued her way towards the pyramid.
Stella sighed in relief when she saw the familiar sight of the Vampyrums’ home. For a moment she really thought the predator would get to her, which reminded her that she always had to be vigilant when flying in the jungle.
She rapidly flew towards the Hole, hoping Goth would be there.
Small joy filled her when she saw a form standing in their home. Stella had difficulties to see him fully, but she just knew it was him.
”Goth! I need to speak with you now, it’s really important,” she began when landing inside.
The presence moved, revealing itself from the shadows. The Silverwing gasped in horror when she discovered the bat to be none other than Jarod, a cruel smile showing on his face.
”Well, well, well,” he exclaimed with amusement. ”Ain’t this a happy accident? I came here to see Goth too, and here you appear, which is far more better.”
Stella wanted to escape, but she had no time to move that the king grabbed her by the throat, blocking her to a wall.
”I searched for you all night,” he continued with a hiss. ”I don’t know where you hid, but that knowledge will be mine soon enough. I will gladly take by force what I need. … I don’t care that you’re a child anymore, you are a menace.”
The Silverwing frowned, still slightly struggling from the Vampyrum’s grip.
”I’m not scared of you anymore, Jarod,” she defied. ”You may be a Vampyrum and a king, but that doesn’t hide the fact that you’re only a pathetic fool and a murderer!”
The male growled, his hold tightening.
”I could break your neck easily for saying such profanities,” he threatened.
Stella then saw him close his eyes, as if trying now to concentrate on something. She knew he would soon start to try reading her mind! The Silverwing began to move harder in both fear and rage. She was so angry, she couldn’t let him know where the northerners were and especially where the banished were!
As fury crossed her mind, Stella soon felt a strange pulse of power growing in her, as if she were about to puke her own heart from too much excitement. She couldn’t breathe anymore, panic filling her.
Jarod opened an eye, wondering what was happening with the child. He slightly gasped when noticing the now familiar white glow coming into her eyes. The king snarled, shaking the small bat a little, trying to reason her.
”Push her away! I have no need for your miserable goddess right now!”
But Stella didn’t listen, finally letting that strange power invade her.
After inhaling deeply, the female looked straight at Jarod, an invisible force soon seperating them, backing the Vampyrum harshly to a wall. The king was surprised by such strength, next frowning when getting straight back up again.
”What is it with gods and pushing others to walls…,” he mumbled to himself, remembering his first meeting with Zotz.
He was now observing the Silverwing, noticing the same change in her as in Goth when he was possessed. She seemed calmer, prouder and wiser, something weird for a bat her age.
Insecurity showed on the king’s face when he saw the small goddess smile.
”Thank you,” began Nocturna.
Her voice was lower than the child’s, stronger and ancient. Jarod couldn’t help but shiver at such sight.
”For what?” he replied, harshly.
”For liberating me. Stella’s fear, mixed with pure hate, was enough to bring me out. … The child was too scared to let me out, thus forbidding me to appear in this world.”
”Alright, I get it now,” rapidly agreed the giant. But he still was furious. ”I have important matters to attend with the Silverwing and I won’t mind if you’re in the way. She’s keeping a map from me, an important one!”
Nocturna stopped the Vampyrum with a single gesture when he was walking towards her. She slowly shook her head, explaining herself:
”It will be of no use if you try to read her mind when possessed. Stella’s mind is absent when I take place. You won’t be able to see the map to Statue Haven or even the banished’s lair position.”
Jarod’s eyes were round as plates, not believing a word she said.
”… She knows where the banished are?” he asked, unsure.
”Yes,” answered the goddess peacefully. ”Since she arrived here with your son, she’s been meeting with Axel, son of Hell, their chief. Stella hid with them last night.”
”Why are you telling me this? Have you got any idea of what troubles you’re putting the Silverwing in right now?”
Deep down inside Jarod was screaming with glee.
”These matters are of no use to me,” replied Nocturna. ”All these mortal rules don’t apply to me, my vessel may do as she pleases. What preoccupies me much is the upcoming battle I will take part of against my brother, Cama Zotz.”
The Vampyrum couldn’t retain a small laugh, clearly amused by something.
”And how, exactly, can a host like yours face Zotz who has taken my son, a strong Vampyrum adult? Your body will be crushed in a matter of seconds!”
”Oh don’t worry, Stella and Goth both acquire powers when taken by us. They become equals in some sort.”
”Are the bands they’re wearing a sign of that power? If I took the Silverwing’s one away, would it weaken her?”
The goddess lightly frowned, observing the object on her host’s left wrist.
”No, these bands are only a reminder of how they met. My brother and I decided of that fate for them. It has no real use and I won’t let you touch that Silverwing’s body!”
Jarod growled: ”I don’t take orders from a weak goddess.”
Nocturna was soon outraged, her eyes shinning with a brighter intensity. A halo of light exploded around her, blinding the giant for some moments.
”WEAK?” she roared. ”I created the world, Jarod, I created you!”
”No! Cama Zotz is my creator,” replied the king with the same ferocity.
”Zotz is only the guardian of your impure souls,” added the goddess, still enraged. ”He stole many of my creations only because he is jealous; he can’t create a thing. The weak god is him! The only world he was able to create was his hell, that death place. He is jealous because I reign on a world of light and darkness, while his is cold and pitch black. He wants to take his place back under the sun, his element. But I won’t let him.”
Jarod’s fur was spiked up, unsure of how to react to such a revelation.
”That still doesn’t make you my goddess,” growled the giant. ”Zotz will always be my god, forever. He will win this combat and rule over this earth!” he ended with a cruel joy.
That outburst made the Silverwing’s face contort with pain, her white eyes flickering only to shut down, bringing the female back to herself.
Stella collapsed on the ground, obviously worn out by all that energy and power. The Vampyrum frowned, getting near the small bat and nudging her slightly with his foot.
”Get up,” he ordered.
The female didn’t move a muscle, still out of this world. The king sighed, not hesiting a second to take her with him, going straight to the royal chamber. He was certainly not done with her.
Goth was exhausted.
He searched for Stella all day long, flying around the pyramid and even risking to get further into the jungle. He couldn’t catch her smell anywhere and nobody seemed to have seen her.
She must have done something wrong, he knew it. Maybe she went back to the catacombs? Maybe she flew away…? Many questions rose into his mind, but for now he needed to rest, his eyes closing by themselves.
Too tired to fly back to the pyramid, he decided to rest in the jungle, hiding himself inside a tree hole, covering the entrance with leaves.
Everything was incredibly quiet, remembering him of how alone he actually was right now. As he started to give in to sleep, he remembered Zotz’s word about the power he said he would give him. He had to think about someone he loves but is no more in this world…. Someone dead?
As soon as he closed his eyes, his thoughts shifted to the only person he once held dearly to his heart….
Nothing truly dies, ever.
Goth’s gaze opened, next surprised by the new sight he had now before him.
He could see a huge waterfall cascading into a large lake down below. The trees around were abunding in luxurious leaves and colorful flowers. The sky was of a pure blue hue, some clouds here and there. And the sun was reflecting on the water’s surface, leaving it as sparkly as the jewels ornementing the royal chamber back at the pyramid.
The Vampyrum had seen this place before.
His mother had showed it to him when he was young. How could he have gotten here? Goth was starting to believe it was part of the power Zotz was lending to him.
”Everything is so full of life here in the jungle. The wind always blows, water always flows and hearts always beat. This is what I love the most…”
Goth turned around to the voice’s source and he suddenly froze.
A female Vampyrum was near him, a smile showing on her friendly face. The prince had difficulty to breathe again.
”M-mother?” he whispered.
She was still smiling while approaching him.
”I congratulate you, hijo; you can speak with the deads!”
The male was surprised, but his expression suddenly changed when he rushed to Lluvia, hugging her in his wings and slightly taking her off the ground.
”It’s impossible!” he exclaimed.
He looked at her in the eyes: ”How?”
The ancient queen was amazed but her child’s strength (and even so that he would hug her). She could feel the prince’s joy in his eyes and that was enough for her to feel emotional.
”Zotz spoke to me. He knew you would try to call me on the first night!”
”Wait… you spoke with Zotz?” added Goth while releasing his mother.
”What do you think? I live in his kingdom now!”
Lluvia placed a hand on her son’s cheek. Goth slightly shivered, only noticing now how cold she was.
”You’ve changed. … You seem so strong, so different.”
She saw the band on his left wrist, suddenly taking it to a better view: ”What is this?”
”It’s the reason why the humans took me away, mother,” answered the prince. ”They took me to a northern land, caging me and torturing me.”
”And you managed to escape…”
The queen huffed a laugh: ”I’ll have to give you that, hijo, you are brighter than your father. He would probably still be there as we speak, if he had ever been taken in your place. … You are strong and intelligent, my son, never forget that.”
As she had brought the subject of Jarod into the conversation, Goth had to ask the inevitable:
”Mother, who killed you? Please, tell me the truth. Was it father?”
Lluvia sighed, her ears lowering.
”… No, your father has nothing to do with this. When you disappeared I knew Jarod would claim you as dead and would want a new heir. … I didn’t want him to touch me again, I didn’t want to bare another child from him.” She was slightly trembling, as if about to cry: ”I lost faith, Goth. I really thought you were dead! Jarod couldn’t speak with Zotz when you were away, the god was silent. He couldn’t get news about where you were and if you were still alive. … With help I managed to find a snake and let myself take by him. I HAD to die, I just-”
”Who helped you?” cut Goth, frowning.
”I will not say,” replied the queen with a stern voice, trying to calm her emotions. ”For the bat’s sake and protection, you don’t need to know.”
The prince was growling, his gaze shifting to the horizon. He couldn’t believe it….
Lluvia brought a hand again to his cheek, bringing him back to her. She was serious this time.
”Hijo … believe me, if I knew you were alive and coming back home, I would have never done such a thing. Especially since you brought that Silverwing to the pyramid, she’s not safe around Jarod…”
”You know about Stella?”
”Yes,” added the female with a soft smile. ”And I am so proud of you. You care about this girl so much, I can see it. Love is a powerful weapon, dear, never forget that.”
”But it can’t protect her,” added Goth in a bitter voice. ”Love is for the weak. Yes I care about Stella, I want her to be safe and be happy. Love from me won’t bring that to her.”
Lluvia smacked the palm of her hand against her son’s forehead in a quick gesture, as if to correct him.
”Tonto! Stop this nonsense. If you care about her, that means there’s love somewhere. You are not a heartless monster like your father! … She’s like you, hijo, I can see why you want to keep her close.”
Goth huffed a laugh, smiling as he looked pensive: ”Ha, yeah, she can be a little pest at some moments, I remember being the same around her age.” His traits soon came back to a frown. ”… I can’t see myself without her anymore, it’s so weird. It’s like I was meant to meet her, to be with her. … Probably because of that stupid prophecy. … I’m so scared, mother, I can’t hide it. I don’t want to kill her.”
”Remember, Goth, love is the strongest weapon you will ever have…”
The prince suddenly saw the background beginning to fade, trying to get back to the blackness of his mind. Lluvia was starting to disappear too, which scared the male.
”What’s happening?” he asked, getting nervous.
The queen showed a saddened smile: ”We can’t speak forever, Goth. We will meet again, I don’t know when, but I know we will…”
”No, please, don’t go!”
He couldn’t stop himself from hugging her once again, almost not feeling her ghostly form.
”I’m always with you, hijo, be sure of that. Nothing truly dies, ever…”
She hugged him in turn, trying to calm the male who was now trembling.
”You are the best thing that could ever happen in my life, Goth. I love you so much…”
When the prince opened his eyes he was now facing reality once again, surrounded by dense vegetation. He was shaking, noticing the emptyness between his wings.
He missed her so much…
This time he couldn’t stop his tears, truly mourning his mother’s death for the first time since he came back to the jungle. He felt weak and pathetic.
He felt alone.