Ancient

Christa Marian is a senior in high school when reports of the mysterious woman the papers call "the enchantress" begin. She initially disregards it, but the things surrounding this mysterious woman will end up twisting Christa's life in ways she would have never foreseen.

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1. Prologue

          The moon hung in the inky night sky, glowing faintly behind the mask of clouds that harnessed its light to create a melancholy ambiance across the motionless park. A cold wind howled its aching loneliness through the trees as a couple broke the serene stillness of the night with their loud footsteps along the path. The wind tousled their hair and beat at their faces, but the couple paid no mind as the trees hissed in anger at being violated by the chilly breath of a greater force. The couple spoke softly, the breath of the wind muffling their voices as they continued their aimless amble, their fingers interlocked but their feet out of step.
           The girl was petite and beautiful as she spoke quietly to him, her gray eyes focused intently on his face. Though pretty, there was no light their depths, only unhappiness and well hidden emptiness as she rambled on. The lonely feeling that she hid inside spiraled downward through her body and consumed her very soul, raging through her veins like a wildfire of ice. Yet the eyes, the lying eyes, reflected happiness like mirrors to people who didn't care enough to look too carefully into them. She completed the facade with a smile as she continued to whisper words into the man's ears. He seemed not to listen as he did not return her watchful yet inattentive gaze, only nodding and replying in short sounds. His unfaithful eyes, instead of devoting his gaze to her, flitted from one object to the next in a quick moment. They never lingered on one sole object, as though he feared he would be scolded by someone, maybe her, if caught staring for more than a second. The girl spoke on regardless. Her only knowledge of the wandering gaze was signaled by her worried grip on a long strand of her midnight hair that shone dully in the hidden moonlight. She tangled her fingers in it and tugged on the edge as though it pained her to leave it alone, as though the constant motion was needed to sate some other part of her inner turmoil. Her gaze finally noticed the fact that something was indeed not right and roamed his face, searching for some emotion behind his adulterating eyes. When she found none, her voice faltered and the night grew more silent than when they had first arrived. However, he turned and smiled at the girl beside him at the sound of her sudden silence, a smile that was full of lies and secrets, but the girl was too charmed by his handsome looks to see what truly lay behind his own empty eyes.
           The girl, recovering from her companion's smile and remembering that she had found an error in his system, decided to address the problem, her footsteps faltering along the path and slowing to a stop. She gave the man a leveled look, as though she was summoning up confidence, before uttering a few soft words that seemed to surprise him. His brow furrowed as he gave the girl a scrutinizing stare, his shoulders heaving with a heavy sigh as he pulled his hand away from hers. The girl took one step backwards, running her hands through her hair as her grey eyes exploded with a sudden intense mix of indiscernible emotion. If one were to stare only at her eyes, to slow down time to witness all of the feelings that passed through them in barely a second, there would first be confusion as her eyes narrowed, not understanding as the man replied carefully in a low voice. Her hand reached for his, as though it could somehow help her, but she pulled it back quickly as he repeated what he had said. Then there was hurt, hurt that turned to sadness as tears began to roll down her pale cheeks. Her lips parted slightly as to let out a cry to give the world a sign of her grief, as though to call down some pity from somewhere. The man grabbed her arm, but rage had suddenly melted the ice inside the girl's soul as she began to howl, accuse him of things he had never done as though he had extinguished the sun or torn the moon right out of the night sky. She threw off his hand and continued to yell, as though yelling would conjure up the wrath of God or crack open the Earth to unleash some form of divine punishment that the man deserved. Neither of them noticed the stillness that filled the air, the silence that echoed through the empty park and pressed in on them as though to smother them, but the two were too engrossed in their own world that was crashing down around them to notice anything but each other.
           Then, they came, drawn to the commotion to which they had been instructed to come; that they had known would happen, told by a being much older than the fabricated passing that humans called time. They crept from the edges of the woods like liquid filling up a crevice. They oozed from every corner, from around fountains and curves in paths, from behind trees and bushes. They split and merged together, forming different hulking sizes and additional limbs, adding only more terrifying aspects to their ghoulish forms. They stalked out of the shadows to reveal their nightmarish forms of twisted long limbs and tar-like dripping faces. They left trails of shadow behind them, their outlines seemingly blurred into the background as they reached out with long, needle-like claws that clacked together ominously with each movement. The man heard the peculiar noise and quickly caught sight of them as soon as they caught sight of the couple. The man gave a quick and sharp shout, shattering the tension that had been hanging in the air for the past couple minutes. The beings' long, featureless faces gaped open to expose maws filled with rows and rows of bloodstained fangs as they let out a unified death cry, a death cry of ear shattering agonized screams that split the heavy air with its intensity. They had locked onto their targets, smelling the fear that tainted the air and locking onto their helpless prey like a shark that tastes the scent of blood in the water. The shadows began moving so fast their forms blurred into each other and the man could not follow one with his eyes. Not even his roaming gaze could catch where one would appear next. The man shoved the woman behind him in a last effort to protect her, but they were surrounded by the seemingly endlessly multiplying beings of fear and destruction, the weaker ones realizing that their attackers' goal was clear: to kill. The air grew cold, so cold the couple could see their hurried and fearful breath. The woman whimpered, grabbing at the man as though he could protect her from the things their minds could barely comprehend. These beings were made of terror, of the agonized final breath of victims that fall prey to their deepest, darkest fears that choked their souls when they went to bed at night and drew them down into the tantalizing darkness.  It turned them black and twisted as they were forsaken by creation and light, becoming slaves to their own fear and the very darkness that had forced them out of the world of the living and into this painful, shadowy existence.
                It was already too late for the man to do anything as the demons of shadows and fears lunged for them in a flash of shining claws and snatched up the woman in barely a millisecond. She screamed, struggling for her life as the claws wrapped around her torso and tugged her away from the man. Her hands reached and stretched towards him, her voice calling his name frantically as her hands opened and closed upon thin air. He let out a cry for her, his empty eyes flickering with some sort of emotion that may have come across as love or care for her, but he shied away from her outstretched hands and collapsed in on himself in a vain attempt to protect his own life, which he selfishly put above the woman's. It was still too late, as death had already decided his schedule long, long ago and took the woman into his cold and uncaring embrace on that dark eve. Her eyes met his in a last attempt to hear his words she longed for as she gave her soft confession again, her body submitting and accepting what was surely coming. He didn't reply, or rather he couldn't reply as the shadowy maw stretched open and the rows and rows of teeth mutilated her neck and shoulder, spraying the man with her blood. The body thumped to the ground, the grass bending but not softening the body's descent to its final resting place. Her pale skin contrasted the red spots that dotted her face as her life drained out of her into the earth, her eyes now staring up and reflecting the barely breathing moon. The man covered his mouth in horror, clenching his eyes shut and preparing for his own demise, but nothing came. No claws piercing his skin, no teeth tearing into his body. He raised his shaky hands and stared at the blood that had spattered them, his vision blurring with tears as he gazed at the girl lying still on the ground. He fell into the bloodstained dirt and drew into his arms the already cooling body of the woman who had accompanied him on this previously innocent midnight stroll. He did not care as her blood soaked his arms and filled his nose with the sharp metallic scent. He did not care as her head lolled back, her eyes reflecting nothing for the sky was dark and empty like the souls of the damned that surrounded them. His tears as he gazed at her were not because of love for the girl, but the horror of the happenings and his fear of the unfamiliar beasts that circled him. He held her only for the fact that she was something to hold on to in the midst of the horror movie-like situation that he was facing. He did not know if he would escape from this alive. He prayed that something, someone would take him away from this.
                The air grew tense again as a person emerged from the midst of shadowy creatures, entering the ring they had formed around the man and his fallen companion. The man turned his tear stained face toward the person in a vain hope they were there to help, but instead shied away at the menacing aura that surrounded him. He let the girl's body fall to the ground again and gripped his arms as though he was protecting himself. They walked with elegance and mystery, almost gliding over the silvery moonlit grass. It came to stand in front of the man, who looked up with eyes full of horror and fear over who the figure could be. The tall figure was of female stature, wearing a long, form-fitting black lace dress. It was covered mostly by a cloak that seemed to be made of shadows, glossed in an almost oil-like way. Her face was covered by a featureless mask that was accented by blood like tears dripping down from the eye sockets. The eyes that lay behind the holes in the mask stared at the man like two holes that swallowed existence itself. They raised a gloved hand slowly, a slender finger pointing at the man, barely inches from his nose. He shuddered as though as sudden chill had grasped him and run its fingers down his spine. He thought his heartbeat could be heard by all the monsters that surrounded him, and hoped that would not lure them in closer to take another victim.
                The wind began to howl, shaking the trees so their branches hissed threateningly. Leaves formed small tornadoes around the park, whirling towards the sky as though they were attempting to escape the woman's intimidating presence. With the hissing of the trees, a hiss left the mouth of the woman, forming into a single, precise word: "Liar".
                "Traitor. Adulterer. Fraud. Fake," The hissing grew louder as each word was added, the shadowy beasts twisting into beautiful women of many ages, wearing elegant dresses of every color and style of many decades lost into the faded images of the past. Their beauty was marred by horrendous wounds that leaked black, sticky blood, their eyes and skin milky white as they hissed at the man in front of them. Their dresses were torn, bloodstained, and muddy, their colors somewhat dulled by the various amounts of time each dress had been deprived of sunlight. Their hair was matted with dirt, and on closer inspection, some of their skin seemed to be rotting, their bodies decaying. The man was past tears at this point, fear overwhelming his body and clogging all his senses. He became eerily calm, as though the shock of the situation had faded away, and the hissing abruptly stopped, the women becoming as still as lifeless dolls, emotionless and porcelain.
                "Who are you?" he asked in a strained, nervous voice to the woman in the black dress. She lowered her hand and let it fall under the folds of her cloak. She threw back her shoulders and with a soft swish, two massive dragon-like wings extended from her back, leathery and pitch black. She stretched them above her head, blocking out most of the silvery moonlight and casting the man into shadowy gloom. Some light shone through the holes torn in the membranes of her wings, evidence of many battles and only making her seem more sinister. He cowered away from her form as red plasma-like energy sparked off her body as she raised her arms to pull back her hood, letting her stunning blonde hair tumble down over her shoulders and her back. It showed that she held a living quality that the other women did not. Then she gently removed her mask, letting it tumble to the floor.
                Her soulless eyes met the man's terrified gaze which filled with a mix of unrecognizable emotions as he looked upon her terrifying beauty. She began to laugh, a low and emotionless sound. His lips parted as though to speak, but in that moment the ghostly women's faces contorted into scaly, bloody messes and they converged upon the defenseless human.
                
                He squeezed his eyes shut and–

                Even from behind his eyelids the unprecedented flash of bright light blinded him, causing him to drag himself backwards. When he managed to open his eyes and clear his vision, he was stunned by the view he was greeted with. A different woman, beautiful and elegant in stature, stood with her back to him. She pressed a long and lethal scythe against the menacing woman's neck, the curved blade encircling her so she could not escape. The ghastly women seemed to shrink away from the new contender, creeping away to hide in the dark night. As they were distracted, the man got a better look at his savior. She wore an elegant, billowing white gown that just barely grazed the soft grass, giving the illusion that she was floating. It seemed to move by itself, emitting a soft, warm light as it shivered in the night air. Her hair reached down to her lower back, a silky and shiny brown that shimmered in the pale, milky moonlight. However, he could not see her face from where he stood, but from the way she looked and carried herself, he was sure she was beautiful beyond compare. Her entire existence shimmered in an ethereal aura, giving the man a vibe of calm and composure.
                She stood completely still, the scythe frozen as its paper thin blade stayed pressed against the enemy's exposed neck. The weapon itself was a grand creation; its silver blade was glistening as though it was filled with starlight, with a bright red gem set into the blade near the long handle that seemed to glow in the darkness. The handle was composed of a dark mahogany, reinforced with a worn black leather wrapping that clearly showed signs of excessive use. Just above the blade the handle split into two curves, and in between them rested a small sculpted dragon head, with bright green scales and piercing orange eyes. He could've sworn he saw it move toward him and blink, before blowing smoke out of its tiny nostrils. The handle rested on the mysterious woman of light's shoulder as she gripped her weapon with evidently much skill, perhaps from years of battle or training for some enemy. The woman in the black dress smiled, her wings rustling against the grass as she tilted her head away from the curved blade as the smile shifted to a smirk. Something in her eyes had changed. They were hungry, craving some sort of action or violence at the appearance of this mysterious figure.
                "So nice of you to join the party, miss... Who are you this time? Doesn't matter, I'll find you eventually. Long time, no see. What has it been, over two decades? Quick to protect the innocent as always, I see!" When the villain spoke, her tone was heavily sarcastic and dripped with centuries of hatred for the new arrival. Her ravenous dark grey eyes narrowed as she focused on the woman, the man's savior, who had intercepted the path to her prey. The savior was quick to follow her enemy's neck with the blade, but the other did not seem to even mind. The villain laughed again, a cold and cruel sound, one that sent chills down the man's spine. Her eyes flicked about the clearing as she realized she had been abandoned by her army, donning her mask once again. "Well, if you aren't going to move, then I'll be off. I was hoping to get off with a meal..."
                The cloaked woman blocking the man moved so quickly, it was almost a blur. She went to bring down her weapon upon the evil scourge that had tempted her with her words, yet the villain had drawn a thin rapier at a similar speed and blocked the larger weapon's advance. Both exhibited reflexes beyond any human ability, like a cobra lashing out to poison its prey. When the dark woman raised her wings above her head and hissed angrily at the other woman, she mimicked such an animal. The ground shook at the two weapons collided with a loud clang of metal on metal, a sound that echoed the clearing like the screeching of the dead. A ripple of light exploded from where they had met, knocking the man flat onto his back and dazing him for a second. As it hit the shadows where the demons had retreated to, their forms were exposed and dissolved upon contact, their pained screeches of desolation and contorted faces of suffering beyond words that exist, or comprehension by a human mind for that matter. It made the man's blood run cold and his heart race at the fear that he, too, might suffer like those beasts. Yet he remained, now the only witness to the two women fighting it out in the park, his earlier companion still lying on the ground lifeless. Her eyes reflected the moon, making her look like one of the nightmarish women that had appeared before. He was thankful when she made no movement, and for a moment was thankful that she had perished.
                The continuous clanging of the cold metal meeting one another brought the man back to his senses, looking on as the two women battled it out. It was hard to tell who had the upper hand, as both women were avoiding nearly every blow the other lashed. Every fiber in his body was telling him to run and escape this battle so he didn't die a brutal death like the girl before him, but he was almost awed by the sword dance that played out in front of his eyes. It was not normal, not in the slightest, and part of him thought he was crazy, but the sharp scent of blood in the air and the shouts of battle convinced him otherwise. Dust clogged his lungs as the two women flung bursts of light and ancient spells at each other, which hit the ground and sent up clouds of dirt and grime, making the battle seem like a hazy illusion. The lighter woman, in her angelic appearance, twirled her weapon and deflected the darker woman's messy attacks. The winged woman's attacks were meant to kill, yet the elegant opponent seemed to be experienced with the attacks that the other sent her way.
                Eventually, the winged woman, with an insane grin and shining grey eyes widened, landed a decent blow on the others shoulder, causing a spray of silver liquid to erupt in an arc out of the wound. The next moment, the cloaked woman was slicing the winged woman across the chest. The cloaked woman's white dress was covered in the black blood of her enemy, who fell backwards with a scowl. The wound on the man's savior healed over in seconds as the sinister subdued enemy let out a cry of that similar to a wounded animal, lonely and pained, before she flung a wing around herself and became one with the inky night sky, gone from their sight.
                The remaining woman gave a frustrated cry, her shoulders heaving from effort of the hectic battle she had partaken in. The man wanted to speak, to call out to her, but she turned and he was left speechless. She was beautiful, the most beautiful creature in perhaps all of universe. Her large, almond shaped eyes were a bright blue, inhumanely neon in color and seemingly glowing in the dark. Towards the pupils it blended into a bright orange color, which swirled and twisted unnaturally among the bluer dominance. They were very wise, surprisingly, gazing over him as though one look could discern his very existence and read him like an open book. Her strange eyes were framed by long, dark eyelashes, and her skin looked soft and unblemished under the mystic moonlight. Her lips parted slightly, and the blue eyes he was locked on grew sad concerned, her pink lips forming words after a moment. She spoke, but it fell on deaf ears, as he was too entranced with her beauty. She seemed too young to experience this sort of battle and hold such a wizened look. She spoke again, and this time he listened to her deep and elegant tone.
                "Are you alright?" her voice was so caring, almost motherly, as her eyes grew concerned, gazing him over again but this time checking for injuries. He could hardly nod as he quickly shut his gaping mouth. She smiled in relief, and after a moment, she stood straight up and became serious before speaking again.
                "Don't look at me." It was an order, a commanding tone that was gentle at the same time, melancholy and echoing through the clearing even though it seemed to be whispered. It was as if the wind had carried it to his ears and delivered the message for her. Even as entranced as he was, he felt compelled to look down, only hearing the soft swish of fabric as she neared. She had donned a cloak now, of which she had pulled from thin air in a flick of her wrist. It was a rich royal blue in color with swirling silver patterns that moved on their own. She took a slender finger and tilted his face towards her, her face now lost in the large hood of her cloak. It had mysteriously cast her face into pitch black shadow and already he could not remember the woman's face. He turned his gaze to his fallen companion, feeling the pain of loss grip his heart in its clutches once more.
                "Can you bring her back..?" He needed to ask in this small moment of conversation, the loss of his female companion striking his heart with a twinge of intense pain as the fear melted away at the absence of a threat. He had hope; with the power this girl had just exhibited she knew she had some sort of power, but did not know its limit. He felt comfort from her; she had no threatening intentions about her. The girl was quiet, as though contemplating her options as she withdrew her small, pale hand. In the moment of passing thought the man took a better look at her and assessed her better. She wore a necklace with a small, teardrop shaped sapphire on a silver chain, and her skin seemed to faintly change with patterns of moving silver tattoos, giving him insight to just how strange and inhuman she was.        
                "The dead must remain dead. I am sorry for your loss, but it is better she stay in the land of peace than the land of the living. Too much unwanted suffering lies here," she replied definitively, her voice soft and kind as though she spoke to a child. He was shaking with anger now at her seeming ignorance to how he was feeling, the pain that constricted his chest as though the great claws of the now absent beasts were crushing his lungs in an attempt to reach the beating vessel that controlled his existence. From her cryptic answer, he assumed she meant she could do something about his fallen companion.
                "So you can bring her back though? You're just choosing not to?" He was standing now, looming over the girl, whom he had not realized was so much shorter than him. She stepped back and placed a hand on his chest gently. He instantly calmed at the soft feeling of her hand, and crumpled to the ground again as the emotions became unbearably overwhelming. He struggled to keep his composure as the woman sat down gently beside him and placed a hand over his. Her face was serious but her eyes were sympathetic as she brushed a stray bit of blood off his face with a sigh.
                "I could bring her back, but chances are she does not want to return. The afterlife is a place of rebirth if wanted, a place of true bliss if desired. If it was truly meant to be, she is not truly dead to you. You will return to one another, though unaware of it until you pass and remember who you were," she consoled him. He nodded, unable to speak as she rose again and smoothed out her dress. He could make out her face under her hood in a mere moment as saw that it had a more charming look to it, showing her true age as she gave him a smile. She placed a finger to her lips before speaking again. "Let's keep this our little secret, sir."
                "Wait-" He tried to speak quickly before she left, as to ask who she was or learn something about her, but she whirled her cloak around her and dissipated in a flash of light, leaving just as she had came. He scanned the clearing just to make sure she was not there anymore, as if a shred of hope was reaching out and pining for one last moment or another encounter, but all he found was the cold, forsaking darkness. She was gone, as though she had only been an illusion to him in the night of mystical shadows and flitting dreams, the only proof the body on the ground and his memories of the strange encounter.

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