Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Chapter 1: Dreams & Deception
The illustrious courtyard. After performing a few more hand strokes and leg sweeps, the Edenian Princess finally sheathed the ancient blade back into its case and straightened her posture, waiting patiently for the others to follow suit and bowing respectfully to her.
Returning the gesture smartly, Kitana finally dismissed the young trainees, signalling the session's end for the day. As the groups disbanded sensibly from the training ground, Kitana turned to one of the guards behind her, approached and handed him back his weapon, adding; "Your shift ends now, Yasuo. You've done well."
The guard bowed low. "Thank you, Your Highness," and he made his way to the exit of the courtyard, back to his barracks.
The rich Edenian sun dipped low in the sky, forming a perfect crescent flare around the mountainous regions in the west and the birds twittered vibrantly, as if ending the day with a bright prayer of thanks. Some water splashes here and there as the waterfall that sided the bridge crossing the courtyard to the grand gardens cascaded with never-ending gusto and the steady hums of passersby drifted off as night slowly neared the realm.
Walking over the meticulously carved bridge, Kitana slowly made her way across the gardens, standing within seconds at the back door of the palace. Nodding politely at the two guards who stood on each side, she entered the large structure, and instantly made her way towards the large staircase in the centre of the grand foyer.
Upon reaching the door to her room on the top floor, an instant wave of exhaustion washed over her and she quickly entered. Changing into her rosy nightwear and dropping rather ungracefully onto her king-sized bed, she pulled the blanket over her and stared up at the peach coloured ceilings.
The queen and Jade weren't in the palace so it was just her and the maids and servants. Apparently Sindel had been summoned by Raiden somewhere within the realm and wouldn't be back until evening tomorrow. Jade, obviously as her bodyguard had to go with her and also wouldn't be back until the next day.
She had to admit, it felt rather lonely without them. Normally at this time, Jade and she would be on the balcony together, chatting away amiably about silly or important things. And Sindel – well, even though she never really involved herself with the pair, knowing of her presence within the palace grounds was enough for the princess.
And then, there was obviously Raiden. Without the slightest speck of warning, he could just pop right in front of you and instantly request that you aid him in something. Like this morning for instance, when Sindel was summoned and simply left without a word. If that was a couple of years ago, Kitana would've showered her with endless wishes and safe returns but now, in the face of reality, all she did was embrace her mother briefly and leave the rest in fate's hands.
Kitana felt sleep tug at her eyes more forcefully this time and she unwillingly let them shut. She didn't want to drift into subconscious mode yet. She didn't want to wake up in the morning or in the middle of the night feeling confused again. She didn't want to feel crazy or daft. But like always, she couldn't help it. She would just have to go through it again just like the other nights. So, helpless as she was to the power of nature, Kitana finally allowed her consciousness to shut down and she instantly fell into a deep and unpleasant slumber.
Knee deep in red water. Pulling at a piece of green cloth from a nearby branch of a flesh eating tree. Stumbling forward – trying to escape the unnatural yet familiar force that pushed and pulled her back. Whispers everywhere. Deep, soft, mellow and harsh, all united, the words literally grazed her exposed skin.
But she couldn't feel anything. No pain, no fear, no nothing. It was just her and the feel of the force and the sounds of voices.
Drained from the constant effort, she finally let go.
Falling back into the deep water. Catching glimpses of a dark visage from a grey tree. It looked familiar somehow but stopped thinking once she went deep underneath.
It was just her and the feel of the force now.
Deeper and deeper she went, but was relatively calm about it. She was just in an empty void. Falling slowly into oblivion. Nothing to cling on or look at.
It was just her and the darkness now...
And then the dream would stop.
Gritting her teeth angrily, Kitana got out of bed and walked over to her window. It was still night time she remarked sulkily.
Surprisingly, that dream didn't last as long as those of the past few nights which usually lasted till morning. Nonetheless, it still didn't fail to leave her feeling confused and frustrated. And though none of them has ever made sense in the slightest, Kitana sometimes surprised herself by wondering whether those dreams could be signs.
She quite remembered Sindel sometimes having dark dreams too. A thump or a thud from upstairs and Kitana would end up witnessing her mum on the ground, at the window, or simply facing the wall. And though she's never heard her yell or scream in her sleep, she would sometimes hear her talking softly or in hushed menacing tones.
The dreams would usually start off as normal nightmares, but then as time progresses, they would lash at the 'victim' with more excruciating images and haunting visions. Prior to the invasion of Edenia for example, when Sindel had been so shaken that she couldn't speak for days and refused to sleep at nights.
Could the heiress be having visions too? At first she thought it was just normal – simply coincidental to have the same dreams three nights in a row. But now, she was no longer certain. Once she happened to wake up in the middle of the night with a hand tightened around her throat, and was surprised when she blinked to realise that her eyes were already opened.
Edenians, as known, are direct descendents of the Gods. Therefore, it is also known that they differed greatly to other beings; possessing greater affinities with magic, having much longer life expectancies, etc.
But haunting dreams? Visions even?
Could the Elder Gods somehow wanted to share something with the princess? Like the way they've done so with the queen? Via chaotic telepathies? Did that only happen to those with greater control of the realm – those who can perhaps make changes?
Kitana knew that these things weren't to be taken lightly yet still thought that she should give it a few nights or so to check if her 'theory' was right. If the dreams/ visions didn't stop then she would have to consult someone about it.
A searing bolt slashed at her back and seconds later she was crashed into a nearby tree, almost blacking out from the sudden force. Stumbling back onto her feet, Jade searched frantically for the site of her attacker.
What the-? Surely it couldn't have been Sindel. Havik was the only one they were dealing with so where was he now? Or more importantly, where was Sindel? They were fighting together a minute ago but now her presence within the environs has vanished.
Unless of course, the cleric's brought some more companies with him.
Battle stance straight, senses sharp, brown eyes scanning over green surroundings, staff poised defensively in front, grip tight, searching, ana-
A tap on her shoulder. Warrior instincts kicking in, Jade immediately ducked and slashed her staff behind, willing to hack off the legs of the invader – but was instantly taken back when she noticed the familiar white streaks of long hair that slickly wrapped around her Bo, halting it from touching the owner.
Sighing with relief, the tanned warrior shrugged helplessly at the queen. Returning the vague gesture to indicate that she was as confused as her, Sindel pointed at the half destroyed village a couple of metres ahead of their positions, "We should go back in there," she said.
Jade raised a dubious eyebrow but nodded nonetheless – might as well.
"Any signs of Lord Raiden?" Jade asked as they began to sprint towards the ruined, burning entrance of the village.
Sindel shook her head. "No, but he did say that he'd be scanning the other end of this place to search for any survivors."
Jade nodded. About nine hours had passed since the Thunder God had appeared before them at the palace to inform them of a threat in the far eastern area of the realm. Shocking as it was, the fact that Havik was responsible proved the most startling. Though there was no doubt that he intended on causing trouble for the folks there, the obvious question 'why' was arisen. Why Havik of all people?
Nonetheless, the two women had departed as quickly as they could without informing Kitana about the mission – she was too busy training young fighters to be interrupted and doing so could only lead to complications. So being the loyal friend she was, Jade had relayed a brief note to a maid to inform Kitana about their absences.
They would've prepared a small band of soldiers to come along but Raiden was strangely against the idea, insisting that time was of the essence and bringing soldiers would only be a waste of time.
Eventually, just the three of them had arrived at their destination. And as expected, half the village was already in debris. But knowing their places as Edenian royals, their instant reactions were to search for those who had survived.
But of course, none of it was made easy as the cleric of chaos had already seemed to be expecting them. Tutting in mock disappointment, clapping mockingly at their attempts to thwart his plans, chuckling good naturedly at the looks of misery on their faces at the horrid sights, Havik and his small band of warriors spared no time into charging and fighting them, intent on making them suffer the same fates as the unfortunate villagers.
Making quick work of the chaotic group, the two women had realised then that Havik had already vanished from the spot. A 'distraction' was the first thing that they thought of. Nothing happened then until Jade received that mysterious blow. Havik was no doubt playing them as fools.
But what of the Thunder God? Surely, he must've heard the battle cries and clashes of steel from his position. Why didn't he come to their aid? Probably because he had finally located some survivors? Simply because he trusted the Edenians to get the matter sorted out without him?
Well whatever it was, the two female warriors knew that they should keep their guards up. There's no telling of what Havik may be up to now. Aside from the occasional drip dropping of bloods and other fluids or the hissing of flames around them, everything else was too quiet. A silence that one could mistake the place to be deserted, abandoned.
Jade winced as she accidently stepped upon the red squelchy torso of a dead denizen. Millennia of witnessing horror after horror have indeed done nothing to toughen up her reactions towards such sights yet.
"What now?" she asked the senior lady as they stopped; standing on the brink of what was once Prylyn's most noteworthy feature.
"We try to find Raiden?" Sindel enquired rather uncertainly. An uncertainty that left the general slightly shaken. The queen's indecision and ambiguity was not really a positive sign.
"Actually, I was thinking we start scanning the place," Jade said, gazing sadly at the crimson lake ahead. "We've taken care of Havik's men so shouldn't we try searching for anyone who might've survived?"
"I don't think anyone survived," Sindel responded indifferently after a short pause.
Jade stiffened. "Of course they mightn't, but still, shouldn't we try?"
Sindel shrugged. Jade narrowed her eyes. The queen wasn't acting her normal self.
"Are you alright, my queen?" she dared to ask.
Sindel started, looking at her as if she had sprouted a foot on her face. "Of course I am. Why ever should I not be?"
"You're very indecisive."
"That's hardly a reason."
"It is to me and I'm quite certain that it also applies to the rest of the Edenians who look up to you."
Sindel paused and then answered. "You're worried Jade. Your tender mind is muddled and I'm quite certain that you're aware of my rapid ageing. My weary mind is steadily dissipating and eventually, the Sindel you have grown used to shall be no more."
Jade tried to search for ways to reason with her but what the queen said made sense. She bowed her head apologetically.
"Whatever thoughts you may be beholding Jade," the queen continued. "Let them not be too judgemental towards me. I must admit, I am relying on you for this mission. Listen to your mind and do what you think is right. Do so and I'll follow your lead."
Jade nodded and felt her insides break. "Yes, my queen."
Sindel smiled a smile which the general didn't return. "Let's try searching for Lord Raiden like you said then. I'm guessing he must've found someone by now."
Sindel nodded. "Where do we start?"
"We'll have to split up."
"Good idea. I'll stay here while you search the other end then?"
And then they were off. A few hours passed and after searching through some huts and fallen buildings, Jade was on the brink of giving up and returning back to Sindel. But she forced herself to continue, despite it seeming like a waste of time now.
Now and then, the black fumes cloaked her and the cracks in the earth caused her to stumble. Her cloth mask didn't help much and her airways clogged with the polluted air.
"Just where was he?" she thought, climbing over some more fallen trees in her path.
Then she stopped. Squinting her eyes, she looked up.
Energy renewed, Jade jogged towards a still standing sentry post and instantly used her staff to haul herself into the small window. Crouched low on the creaking plank, the air felt slightly cleaner now that she was at the top. Coughing a bit more to clear her lungs, Jade stood up and searched out of the gap. Spotting the same mess and a few mutilated corpses here and there, everything else seemed indifferent. The place was indeed very quiet.
Then – a loud gasp. Jade suddenly felt a massive prod inside of her. Like as if something was jabbing her soul. She spun around. No one was behind her.
She decided to go onto the roof. Grabbing the wooden edges over her head, she hauled her body upwards till she made it to the top. She placed a hand on her chest. Her heart was beating wildly. She waited for that prod again. It didn't come.
She couldn't see anyone or anything out of the 'ordinary' on the street levels. Anything that could have caused that strange intrusion.
"Maybe it was just my imagination," she thought, trying hard to persuade herself. Raiden – she needed to find him fast. Or maybe Sindel had already found him? Drat, they didn't even think of a suitable place to meet up. "I'll just wait for them outside. After all, I've already done my bit."
Once on street levels however, Jade – with her magical energy now renewed – slipped out a hidden senban shuriken out from her thick messy bun and proceeded with light steps. She wasn't stupid – she was aware that she was being followed. But by who, she hadn't a clue. Nonetheless, she began to recite a protective spell in case she might feel that strange prod again – even though she was unsure if the spell would even be able to protect her.
After clambering over a massive tree, Jade suddenly paused in her tracks. Her grip on her Bo tightened. She held her breath. Her stalker was not so far now.
Another gasp. Jade spun around. Sindel was running towards her. Alone.
"What?" Jade shook her head slightly, perplexed. "You-? What was the point of you being so stealthy?"
Sindel frowned, obviously confused as well. "What do you mean?"
"I thought I felt someone following me but now I suppose it was you."
Sindel shook her head.
"How very strange."
"The mission is a failure, don't you think?" said Jade wretchedly.
"Unfortunately yes," answered the queen.
"Should we head back now?"
"Back to the palace?"
Jade nodded. "Yes. We could bring some of our men this time. To give these folks here proper burials."
"Yes, I suppose we should."
"I'll create a portal then. Can you please watch my back?"
"Yes...of course Jade," replied Sindel slowly.
Jade turned her back on the queen and immediately set to work. Creating portals have never been quick or easy. It required intense concentration and exceptional timing – a simple slipup on a particular spell sequence and the whole process would have to restart all over again. And doing so would mean twice the effort as the first attempt would have ebbed away a great portion of the 'mage's' energy.
A long time has passed but Jade has lost track in the hours and the time of the day. It could be dawn or almost that time as far as she was concerned. She didn't care. This portal was nowhere near finished and she could already feel her energy draining fast. She had to get this done quickly.
Already a few multicoloured lights were pulsing in existence where her hands were moving. Nice. Just a little more push, a few more spells, a few more gestures, an –
The lights vanished. Jade fell to her knees and clutched her chest tightly. Instant agony overwhelmed her. The prodding was back again. Stronger and harsher than before. She gasped loudly. Both in pain and shocked recognition. She knew that feeling all too well. She felt it once before, thousands of years ago, when she fought him.
She tried to get up but her knees wouldn't budge. With all her energy drained and her life fast depleting, she knew that she was helpless. She knew that she was now at his mercy – not that he had any to begin with. Either she accepted this fate or not, she knew that this time, her end was nigh.
But Sindel... Kitana...
Her eyelids grew heavy. What a very poor way to die. And it was all because she didn't assess her surroundings properly... who would've thought that the great magnificent Jade would die at the hands of Shang Tsung so recklessly...
A hand on her shoulder. Dread filling her, vision blurred, consciousness rapidly shutting down on her, Jade weakly turned her head upwards. Whatever last strength she may have had left quickly disintegrated as newly found shock conquered it...
...before darkness finally consumed her.
What a very poor way to die indeed...
A/N: I can't write about such scenes well. My brain's not working well. I'm not feeling well. It's well past my bed time. I'm well exhausted. I don't think I wrote this chapter well. But then again, I haven't written in well over a month. =/
Have a great day - or night, whatever! :)
P.S: Sorry if I rushed things. :(
P.P.S: Thank you so much Paritheikae for correcting me!
P.P.P.S: Thank you so much for that AWESOME review Mr. Havik! I'll definitely keep them in mind! :D