LEVEL 5: Sweet Dreams are Made of These.
She feels the draw of the knife across the surface of her skin- going from her right shoulder towards her heart- skipping a faint breath as if a reprieve just before drawing a sharp cut through the flesh.
The blond hair of the younger sibling seems to flow in a wind that cannot be felt. Her eyes shimmer behind her glasses- no, wait. Where are her glasses? Why are they missing?- with a dedication that the girl does not understand.
“O..Onee…” Louise tries to ask her why. Why is she doing this.
She seems to get the point regardless. “Because, Louise, you are a monster.” With every word, Lousie can feel her body changing. Her ears grow long and tall, her hips feel like they’re breaking as her spine elongates into a tail. “You are tainted. Covered in Hircine’s damned markings. You are a beast, a danger, just waiting to be put out of your misery.” Louise can feel the fur sprouting across her bare skin. Where are her clothes? Wasn’t she wearing at least pants a moment ago? “And that’s why I’m going to kill you now.” Before Louise can question this sudden discrepancy, Eleanore drives the dagger down into Louise’s heart, completing the X shape to its core.
Louise screams as she wakes up, only for a hand to be shoved over her mouth a moment later. Quen- silencing her, lest they draw the attention of the werewolves. Louise pulls Quen’s hand away and takes a few shaky breaths before she gets up to walk it off.
They are presently in some church along with a handful of other survivors. That Darrien fellow managed to get them all together- being part of the Lion Guard and thus a point of rallying for any survivors of the werewolf rampage that began…
Louise looks out the window up at the moons, and gauges their phases….
Three days ago.
Louise finds her way to the nearest wash room with a mirror- because what church doesn’t have a wash room for the in-church staff?- and striped off her shirt as per the usual ritual after one of these terrifying nightmares. They were worse now, since the Werewolf attacks began. She turned so that her back was to the mirror, and moved her hair over her shoulder so that she could see the latest addition to her ‘scar collection,’ as Darien had joked. Five long lines dragged down from her right shoulder down towards the bottom left corner of her rib cage.
A Werewolf’s claws made a too close strike- deep enough to leave her bleeding, but it wasn’t deep enough to cause an INFECTION. An infection that Louise had seen take hold in a frightening amount of people since this nightmare had begun.
How she had lucked out, Lousie wasn’t sure.
She turned back around and threw her hair back over her back to look at the scar over her heart. It was unchanged since the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that.
It was an X- a target on her heart.
She didn’t have any shirts to cover it up now. The one she’d been wearing during the middle of that night three days ago had been the one she’d been wearing when she’d been clawed across the back. One of the other survivors had leant her a tank top, the piece of leather her hands now gripped tightly in a death grip as she thought back to that terrifying moment, but it left an embarrassing amount of her chest exposed.
It was something Kirchie would wear, Louise was sure. And… she might not have had a problem with wearing something like this in this exact same situation if it weren’t for that damned X over her heart.
It was just so… visible. Taunting. Daring anyone who saw it to hit her there.
Louise still wasn’t sure if her miraculous survival of death by soul-stealing was something she could rely on in the future. Sure, someone back in that prison had mentioned something about resurrecting, but Louise had yet to put that theory into practice. She didn’t want to risk waking up in chains on a table once again, having her sister digging a knife into her chest for no reason other than to-
“Admiring the collection?”
Louise nearly jumped out of her skin, arms flinging themselves over her chest as she turned to glare at Darien. “No! I am not!” She hissed at him.
“It’s alright to stare at them,” Darien remarked. “Scars tell stories. Sometimes not pleasant ones, but… they all end the same way.”
“And what’s that?” Louise asked.
“You survived.” And with that, he turned his back so she could put her shirt on. “Every scar our bodies carry shows that we survived something. It may be something as mundane as a knife cut, or as exotic as a werewolf’s claw. Maybe it’s a bunch of burn scars covering half your body- or maybe you’ve lost sight in one eye. But whatever the story is, the scars mean that you’ve survived it.”
“And I suppose that means you’ve got your own scars?” Louise asked, readjusting her hair so it wasn’t caught between her shirt and her skin.
“I’ve got a few,” Darien chuckled. “I’d show you them if it didn’t require taking my armor off, and we all know I need to keep it on in-case a wolf breaks in.” The jovial and also teasing tone to his voice implied other reasons for not taking it off. “But lemme tell you about this one really… private one I got on my hip.”
“I’m not sure I want to hear it or not.” Louise scowled as she turned on the sink to splash some water onto her face.
“Well, it’s nothing dirty, or sexual, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Darien answered, his voice going quiet for a moment. “I was playing with this girl my age, back when we were kids. Knights and Bandits, we were calling it. She was the knight, I was a bandit. We were playing with wooden toy swords but, my dad had a collection of training knives. I decided that the next game we’d play was me being a thief and swiping them, and she’d have to stop me.”
“I’m guessing she did?” Louise asked as she and Darien both turned back to face each other.
“Yeah. We weren’t thinking- lost track for a moment that these were real knives and not wood toys.” He shook his head. “Gabbie managed to knick me across the hips. It wasn’t terribly deep, but damn if it didn’t hurt, and bleed, too. We ended up really stealing that particular knife- and burried it. Neither of us wanted to tell my dad that we’d done all of that, and I didn’t know how to clean steel yet. I ended up lying to my dad that we’d been out in the forests playing tag when I tripped and cut myself on an old sign post someone had stuck a sword through!”
“That’s insane,” Louise shook her head. “That’s nearly twice as bad as admitting to stealing the knife!”
“We were kids,” Darien shrugged as he gave a quiet laugh. “Didn’t want to get into trouble… although I’m sure my dad knew, deep down, once he figure out that a knife was missing.” They were quiet for a moment, then he continued, “So, whatever story that cut on your chest holds? It just means you’re stronger for it, even if it was gotten for a really, really stupid reason.”
“I suppose,” Louise mused. “You don’t tell everyone this story, do you?”
“I don’t even tell the fake sword in the forest one because that’s somehow even lamer than the real story.” Then, Darien wriggled his eyebrows, “I tell anyone who gets to see it that I had a wild night with a Dark Seducer in disguise, and I caught on just mere moments before she tried to kill me in a dark ritual. Got nicked, but I swiped the knife and returned the favor.”
Louise scoffed. “You’re insane! Who would believe that!?”
“Maybe one day I’ll show you the scar,” Darien gave a smug looking smirk, “Then you’ll see why I tell people that. It’s… quite the interesting shape.”
Louise gave him a blank expression before replying, “Yeah. Sure. Maybe after five or ten bottles of the strongest wine around.”
The Fourth Night she awakens from the same nightmare, she does it without screaming. She thinks she’s managed to avoid waking anyone else, but this time, it’s Darien she finds looking in the mirror. He’s not wearing anything above his waist, and yet Louise can’t see any scars on him.
“Nightmare?” He asks once he sees her reflection, and his voice sounds hollow.
“Yeah,” Lousie nods.
“About that scar?”
“I wish my nightmares were the same,” his voice continues to be quiet, hollow. “It’s always different, and yet the same. It ends with a bright light. Sometimes I see vampires, sometimes daedra, others just plain ordinary folk who have been turned into monsters.” He lists off items that sound like they’re from a nightmare. “Anchors fell in my dreams months before they did in reality. And yet still I’m plagued by these… visions.” Before Louise was sure how to respond to that, he continued. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve done this same song and dance a thousand times over and over again. Not just this werewolf business but everything that comes after it too. Why? What’s so special about me? I’m just a Lion Guard who has a General for his Papa. I’m normal! Aren’t I??” He slammed a fist into the counter, nearly cracking the stone-like material it was made out of. “If I am- then why do I have these nightmares!?”
Silence fell between the two of them for a moment, then Lousie spoke.
“I lived in a country you’ve never heard of,” she said, “I went to an Academy for teaching Mages how to use their magic… but I couldn’t do anything but make explosions. I had no affinity for water, fire, earth, or wind. People called me a Zero.” Darien turned to look at her, confusion forming on his face. “I wanted to be the best mage there- but I had nothing to back it up. Then, came the Springtime Summoning Ritual. We all summoned a familiar and bound it. Everyone else got normal animals, frogs, moles, dragons even! But me?” She scoffed. “Apparently I opened a portal to a Plane of Oblivion. The worst part is I’m not even sure how much of it was me doing it and how much my sister had to do with it.”
“Your nightmares then…?”
“The events are the same, though the words are different,” Louise took a steadying breath. “It’s me on a rack, getting my chest carved up by my own sister. It always ends the same, too.” She shrugged off the left shoulder of her top so that the longest line could be seen in full. “She drags the tip across- then a skip, before it touches down again.” She mimes with her finger, skipping over the spot where it always skips. “Then, she says something. She always says different things. I can’t even remember what happened originally, it’s all so plausable. Then, she punctuates it,” she clenches her hand into a fist and pounds it against the crossing line. “With a stab. That’s when I wake up.”
“Torture by family,” Darien said quietly. “That’s messed up.”
“The worst one was where she said she did it for the sake of our sick sister.” Louise admitted. “I would have gladly sacrificed myself for her if that were really the case.”
“Nightmares suck, huh?” Darien asked rhetorically.
“Yet for all of that, I know the worst time was the first, when it really happened,” Lousie took in a shuddering breath as she pulls her left shoulder back on. “She called me a Zero. I was sure that she’d never do that. It had to be a nightmare, right? Except… she’s never once said it in one of my dreams.” She paused a few moments, then asked, “Do you think I’m naive for that?”
“No more naive than I was for hoping my nightmares weren’t prophetic.” Darien admits.
That was the moment when a Time Traveler changed the future and both of them fainted from the sudden headache that formed in their skulls as two sets of memories tried to settle their differences in mortal combat.
The first thing Louise noticed when she awoke was that Quen was missing, or rather, had never been here in the first place.
The first thing that Darien noticed was that there were three more people than there had been the night before.
The second thing both of them noticed was that the bathrooms no longer had mirrors.
Neither of them were sure what this meant- but everyone else who was the same had been asleep at the time, and so never noticed anything different. But whether or not that was due to them being asleep, or due to anything strange attributable to Darien and Louise personally… Nobody could say.
A.N.: Some more Louise adventure. Because I gotta do some writing somewhere, ya?