Before the Fall

Fanfiction of When the World Falls to Darkness by DragonSoulJess.

The fall has begun. alliances are being formed, and guardians are being rounded up. In a small outpost called Ryoko, a small number of guardians still fight for their freedom.

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8. Hylla

 

    Hylla paced the inside of a small cave as a wolf, growling to herself. Miel sat off to the side, watching silently. She knew better than to interrupt Hylla when she was angry.

    Hylla was still in shock from the fight. She had known it was a losing battle. But she had never thought it would end like this! Either she and Kylora would flee together, or they would die together. She had never imagined that they would be separated. Again. Now they were apart. Without Kylora, Hylla had no idea what to do.

    She felt tears prickling at the corners of her eyes, and she forced them back. Kylora never cried. Kylora never was weak. When she was afraid, she just got angry. I can do that. I will be angry too. I’ll make her proud. I… I have to make her proud. I have to do this. I have to be strong. I can’t give in to weakness. Not now. I just… have to keep going.

    “Hylla, we need to keep going,” Miel said quietly. They had been retreating deeper into the mountains, to hide from the humans, but the army was coming this way, searching for any guardians that had run away. They weren’t necessarily safe yet. But Hylla didn’t want to run! Kylora would never run. Kylora would have fought until the end. Hylla would do the same. She had to be as brave as her sister.

    “Kylora wouldn’t run,” Hylla snapped.

    “Kylora is gone, Hylla,” Miel said quietly. “She would want you to escape, and save yourself. She wouldn’t want you to be hurt.”

    “She would want me to do what’s right!” Hylla insisted. “She wouldn’t have let the humans take her alive if she had a choice, and neither will I! She wasn’t a coward, she just got overwhelmed. Miel, you can run away if you want, but I’m staying here. Kylora would do the same thing if she were here. I’m going to stop those humans before they hurt more of us!”

    Miel stood, lifting her hands frantically. Hylla recognized that gesture. Miel was about to try and talk her out of it. She crossed her arms, and stared Miel down with determination. She wouldn’t let Kylora’s memory go to waste. She was going to stand firm, and do what her sister would have done.

    “Whoa, whoa, slow down a minute Hylla.” Miel insisted. “They outnumber you. There are a few thousand of them, give or take, and all of them would love nothing more than to capture you. You could get hurt, or even killed. You’re just one guardian. That doesn’t make you invincible. Even Kylora wasn’t invincible. They took her down. You won’t be able to do any better.”

    Hylla was about to protest, when Miel kept going.

    “Besides, Hylla, if they captured you, they saw you and Kylora fighting side by side, and you look like her. They might use you to get Kylora to do what they wanted. You know she would never surrender on her own, but if they hurt you then that might be enough to get her to surrender. You don’t want that to happen, do you?”

    Hylla hesitated. She hadn’t thought about it that way before. Miel had a point. She didn’t want to be used against her sister. But she had to do something! She ground her fists against her forehead in frustration. Was there any good option aside from running away?! Would she always have to live like a coward, just because of what she was? That wasn’t fair! Life shouldn’t be like that. They should be able to live free, not hounded like animals. Hylla hated running. She hated being afraid. She hated waking up at night searching frantically for Kylora, worrying that her sister would be taken away again. That couldn’t always be how her life worked. She had to do something meaningful, or she would go crazy! Like Kylora, she would make the humans remember her name.

    “We’ll be stealthy,” she said firmly. “We can sneak in, and kill their leaders at night. In and out. No one will see us.” She wished she had a better plan. Kylora was the strategist, not her. She had always been content to follow her sister’s lead. But now Kylora was gone, so it was up to her to make the decisions. It gave her a taste of responsibility- a taste that she wasn’t sure she liked. But she had to keep going. For Kylora.

    “That’s insane,” Miel said softly. “They’ll find you, and kill you. You won’t do Kylora any good getting yourself captured or killed by the humans. Keep running with me. We have to survive. I know you want to do something meaningful, but it’s not worth dying for!”

    Hylla gritted her teeth. How could Miel sound so selfish?! She was Kylora’s best friend. Shouldn’t she be trying to help Hylla instead of convincing her to stop? Kylora had trusted Miel with everything- even with secrets that she wouldn’t share with her own sister! How could Miel really think that it would be best if they left her to die?

    “They’ll kill her, Miel!” Hylla insisted. “Or… I don’t know, they’ll hurt her. Those scars on her back… the humans did that to her, didn’t they? What if they do it again? Kylora’s brave, but what if they keep hurting her? What if they… Miel, they’ll kill her,” her voice got weaker. “She’s my sister. I lost her for half my life, I can’t lose her again she’s going to die and I can’t do anything…” Her voice became frantic with grief. She had been struggling to stay strong, but in the face of so much impossibility, her composure began to crumble. She sank to her knees, wrapping her arms around herself. She began to choke softly, then her composure crumbled as she began to sob openly. She barely heard Miel kneel next to her, but she felt the angel put an arm around her.

    “Shh, Hylla,” she murmured. “It’s okay. You can cry, you know. You don’t have to be strong.”

    Hylla tried to speak. She tried to say, Kylora never showed weakness, but she couldn’t. The words just wouldn’t come. All she could do was sob helplessly. Miel put her other arm around her, and Hylla found herself sinking into the angel’s embrace. Was this what a sister was supposed to do? It reminded her of the nights she’d spent lying awake with Kylora, comforting her like Hylla was the older sister. Shouldn’t it have been the other way around?

    Just for a moment, she felt a surge of regret for what had been lost. Kylora had never been able to fully fulfill the role of ‘big sister’. She had been scarred and traumatized by her time as a captive of the humans. She never told Hylla what they had done to her, but Hylla had a pretty good idea. She had helped Miel drag Kylora back out into the light when she was shaking and screaming from nightmares.

    Then she pushed the thoughts away. It was disrespectful and greedy of her. Kylora was an amazing sister. She tried as hard as she could to protect Hylla. It wasn’t her fault that she had endured terrible trauma, and suffered at the hands of the humans. She deserved Hylla’s respect. They were guardians. Their lives were hard enough as it was.

    And yet, she still found herself relaxing into Miel’s arms. She felt safe and comforted for the first time in a long time. She began to breathe evenly. Miel began to hum softly, and Hylla felt her eyes closing. She struggled to open them, but Miel murmured, “It’s okay. Go to sleep. You’re stressed, and frightened, I know. Go to sleep. I’ll wake you soon, and we’ll decide what to do.”

    We’ll decide. She’ll help me. I won’t… have to do this alone.

    Hylla drifted off into a deep sleep.

 

    Hylla didn’t often have dreams, but when she did they were strong and vivid. This time, it was a memory.

    Most times when Kylora was woken by nightmares, she would send Hylla away so that she could talk to Miel. Normally Hylla accepted her orders without question. But there had been that one time…

    Hylla wasn’t proud of it, but she had been so tired of being left in the dark that one night, when Kylora had sent her away, she had snuck back and eavesdropped on her conversation. She found herself reliving the one night where she had lied to her sister, and betrayed her trust. But she had been so desperate to know…

    She was crouching behind boulders. A cool breeze stirred her hair, and she could see the outlines of Kylora and Miel against the sky.

    “We don’t have much time,” Kylora was saying. “We’ve been lucky so far.”

    “We were bound to draw attention,” Miel agreed. “This many guardians in one spot…” Her tone brightened some. “But maybe they’ll be too afraid to come after us. You know how humans think of you. They’re fine to attack other guardians one by one, but there are so many of you here that they might not want to risk attacking you. They’d suffer heavy losses, and that might not be something they want to risk. Maybe they’ll stay back and leave you alone.”

    “Leave us alone.” There was scorn in Kylora’s voice. “When have humans ever left guardians alone? They won’t be happy until they’ve enslaved all of us. They’ll come after us. They’ll just do it in unfair conditions, when they outnumber us. It’s hopeless, Miel. There are more humans than guardians. We’ll be annihilated.”

    Hylla stared in shock. Kylora was never negative. She had always been confident and brave in front of the army, telling them that the humans were too afraid of them to attack, and that together they could stand against the humans. But now Kylora was showing a more scared, vulnerable side. Hylla wanted to leave, but if she moved now, Kylora would see her.

    “We have to run,” Kylora kept going. “Move deeper into the mountains. That will give us a chance.”

    “The others will resist,” Miel warned. “They don’t like the idea of running. They’ve got pride too. And they don’t know what the humans will do to them.”

    “It doesn’t matter. We have to run. I don’t care what we tell them.”

    “And what about Hylla?”

    Hylla froze when she heard her name.

    “I don’t know,” Kylora’s voice got weaker. “I just… I want her to be safe. I can’t let the humans do to her… what they did to me.”

    “We won’t let that happen,” Miel promised softly. “We’ll keep her safe. I promise.”

    “Can you be sure?” Kylora replied. “Hylla… we’re growing apart. I know she doesn’t know what to think of me anymore. If she stops… if she stops trusting me…” Kylora shook her head. “She doesn’t remember when we were separated, Miel. she doesn’t know what we saved her from. If she starts resenting me for brigning her into this life… I can’t… I can’t lose her.” Kylora’s voice broke with misery, and Hylla knew she had heard too much. She crept away, praying that Kylora wouldn’t hear her, and the dream dissolved into darkness.

 
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