“Are you the Dark One?”
The little creature pulled a blanket around itself. Underneath the sound of beeping security sensors and the crackle of monitors all switching off, their teeth were chattering. She was cold and scared. A small, furry kid, her first antlers not grown in yet. Fur was missing from around her arm and neck, shaved away so needles could reach her skin.
“What’s a Dark one?” Arkay asked as he stepped into the room. As far as guards watching in were concerned, nothing was going on. The Veth Prime was invisible to them and their cameras.
“The Dark One kills evil beings. Punishes the cruel. Those who use magic bad. Ones that live too long. Do the Immortal Spell.”
Arkay wasn’t sure whether to answer truthfully. His mission hadn’t been clear. He’d been told to take the life of someone who had been experimented on to become immortal. He hadn’t been told that this being was just a kid. After a moment of hesitation, he decided not to lie. After all, lying was wrong.
“Well, I fit that description,” Arkay sighed.
“So you are here to puni-”
“No. Not to punish you…” Arkay tapped his staff, hiding the bladed parts, then sat down on the bed next to the little creature. “What’s your name?”
The kid was slightly less scared, but she didn’t want to answer at first. “My name is Sofi. What’s yours?”
“You can call me Arkay.” The Veth Prime let out a little smile. How long had Sofi been here? The room around her suggested she had been here for decades. Yet she seemed barely a few years old. Just about the age to start Junior Stratos.
“Are you here to kill me?”
Arkay couldn’t lie to her. She deserved better.
“I know… But I want to talk to you first.”
“Why?” Sofi seemed puzzled. “I just live here. Always have. I had friends once. I think you took them. I don’t get old. Not like everyone else. Just wanted to go to magic school! But daddy wouldn’t let me!”
“Is your daddy still alive?”
“No. But like, the king’s magicians are. They… They kept me here. They want to be stuck like me. I never get older. All my friends, they got old and died. I wanted to be an adult one day.”
As Sofi spoke, she gripped the sheets, nearly tearing them. She may have seemed like a child, but she’d lived through a lot of pain and suffering.
“I DIDN’T WANNA BE A KID FOREVER! I JUST WANTED TO BE WITH MY FRIENDS!”
Arkay carefully put his hand on top of hers. “Believe it or not, I understand your pain. I just wanted to be with my friends. Then I was killed and now I do this…”
Sofi whimpered, only catching small glances of the being that was going to take her life. “It’s not fair.”
“I know. It’s really not fair. You should have had a proper life.”
“But now I’m gonna die.”
“Yes, but you’ll be reincarnated as something else. Your next life will be better.”
This time, Sofi looked directly at Arkay. Some of that fear had faded away.
“Of course. You’re not evil or bad or anything. You just… got caught up in things. Just wanted to live your life like the good kid you are.”
“You don’t think I’m bad?”
“No! You’re just a kid!” Arkay explained. “They abused you. They hurt you. None of this was ever your fault. You tried your best to be a good little kid. You don’t deserve to suffer.”
Sofi rubbed her eyes. “You mean it?”
“I mean it.”
“Does… Does dying hurt?”
“I won’t hurt you. It’ll be just like going to sleep.”
“Oh, okay… But what about the evil ones who made me? And their bad machines and things?”
“About that…” With a smile, Arkay stood up, taking Sofi with him. He wrapped her up in a blanket and held her in his left arm, gripping her tightly. Above them, a glowing, yellow portal formed, leading them both to the gloomy world outside. Suddenly, the two beings were floating high in the sky, the ancient castle which had contained Sofi standing ominously below them.
“You want to see some fireworks?”
“I do!” Sofi beamed. A genuine smile made her tired face glow.
With his free hand, Arkay pointed his staff down at the castle. After a second of silence, the fortress erupted in colour, with blasts of yellow and gold lighting up the sky. Sofi watched with amazement, counting each little explosion, mesmerized by the glittering sight.
Slowly though, Sofi was getting sleepy. She pulled the blankets around her, nuzzling Arkay’s body for warmth. She looked up at the strange, yellow and black being, grinning. Arkay smiled back at her, and the pair started to descend, down towards a hill in the distance. Even from there, they could see the explosions at the old castle that had long been Sofi’s horrible prison.
Once they had landed, Arkay sat her down in the tall grass, wrapping her up tightly in her blanket. It was getting cold. The wind was harsh. A storm was coming. Rain, maybe snow too. None of it would be able to put out those fires. Not yet.
As the fireworks finally died down, Sofi closed her eyes one last time, drifting off into an eternal slumber.