As the sun slowly settled, darkness began to overcome the Earth. Sickness—had come. The sickness slowly but readily crept into each home. It was the Midnight Theft. The destructive plague stole during midnight—it stole lives. Deep in the heart of Tukenasville, people were dying, and the whole country was beginning to perish. The flowers withered as they bloomed. The mountain peaks crumbled under steer weight. Animals fled to holes to live out the decisive moments of their life. People were distraught, and chaos was invading every planet in the macrocosm. People called me Nikolaou Gonfalon. I was the last of the Warriors of Phos. Long ago, the Sisters of Moiré ordained my doomed fate. I tried to bargain with them to change it, but in the end, I captured them and locked them up in a repository on a cliff. I was to lead the expedition to find the cure for the Midnight Theft. That, however, was not the reason why I would go on this journey. My best friend, Tolem, was dying of a rare illness called Takigifeay. It was causing the slow built up of lactic acid on his bones. I knew that death would come to him soon. Legend spoke about a necklace that can bring life to anyone or thing. It was said to have been belonged to an Oceanian, one of the water people. The Lost Jade Necklace of Serenity was what it was called, and it could bring healing to the Earth. Nonetheless, it could be the obliteration of mankind, also. I began to pack since my journey was to start at that moment.
I started going west toward the Moonlight Cave. I was on a dangerous mission, and I needed help badly. I knew that the entrance only revealed itself when the moon glowed. It was already dark. Finally, great light exploded from a side of the cave and formed a faint outline. I sprinted forward and entered. Giant rays of light attacked my eyes and revealed the inside of the entire enclosure. On a rock was a young girl with peach hair resting on an ashen face. Her pallid arms were long and slender, but her legs showed some strength. On her graceful-like wrist rested a circlet of great beauty. It had an emerald encrusted with tiny diamonds on a simple gold band. My chin dropped as a voice came out of her mouth.
"What motive brings you to me?" said the girl in a gentle whisper.
"I have come to seek help in finding the Lost Jade Necklace of Serenity," I spoke with a bold and powerful voice reaching to every nook and cranny.
She laughed softly and exclaimed, "That is a very hard thing to ask of anyone." She shifted her feet and then spoke, "My name is Faded Princess Estella, but I doubt I am the help you are seeking. I am an exile—banished from my kingdom due to my arrogance. My spirit and boldness drove me out to live here in this cold and decaying cave. However, I will do my best to assist you."
"Thank you, my princess," I said as I quickly bowed.
"There is no time to waste," and with that she leapt out of the cave.
Ever since my encounter that night with Estella, she seemed to surprise me everyday. Her ability to defend and protect herself was astounding. Her bow, called Kometes, was a long slender bow made of heartwood. We were heading toward the mountains. Estella said she was confident that the way to find the necklace was hidden up there.
"How far are we to the mountains?" I panted. Climbing mountains was a hard job.
"Depending on the winds, we should be there by sunset," she replied. Unlike me, she was gracefully leaping from rock to rock. Her face split into a grin as she saw my struggle. Of course, she was right. We reached the mountain cliffs just as the sun was about to set. I was about to explore further. BAM! SMACK! UMPH! UGGG! A rugged person leaped out of the trees and sent me sprawling to the ground. As I was preparing to make a counter move, the mysterious person placed a leaf in front of me. It was a rare plant which sent me reeling and left me unconscious.
I woke up and found myself in a strange cage suspended from the ceiling. I scanned my surroundings carefully, but to my despair, there was only one window that was locked. I almost leaped with joy when I noticed Estella standing across the room- not captured and unharmed.
"Estella!" I said making my voice barely audible.
She turned around, and I fell back with my jaw hanging down. Instead of the youthful, pallid face of Estella, there was a wrinkly and sagging old lady’s face.
She laughed a hoarse laugh and croaked out, "Surprised, eh?" "Foolish child, you have led me closer to obtaining the Necklace of Serenity."
My voice was caught in my throat, but pretty soon I was able to recover it. I said stuttering, "Wwwwhat did you do to Estella?"
"Ha! Even now you still have no idea what’s going on," cackled the old lady, "I am Estella! You were fooled by mere illusions." With this said, Estella raised her hand to reveal the bracelet on her hand. I almost slapped myself in sheer realization. On the bracelet were ancient runes describing the process of alteration. The young face of Estella was a hoax; she really was an old lady. Then out of the room came the rugged person who had attacked me.
"Father, you made it!" shouted Estella as she embraced the mysterious person.
"What!" I almost broke the cage as I jumped in surprise.
"Hello, daughter," said the man, "I see the prisoner is awake. We need to hurry and get on with the plan."
"Who are you?" I said darkly. "You have no right to capture me like this. I have never done you wrong! Release me!"
"Haven’t done me wrong!" roared the man whose voice rattled the ground. He marched over to my cage, grabbed the bars, and said, "You humans are the cause for my misery! Long ago, I was locked up in an asylum where I waited for thirty-nine years to be released. That asylum altered time. I stayed young while my daughter grew feeble and weak. I lost thirty-nine years to spend with my daughter all because of humans! I deserve those years, and now I will get them. You are the key to obtaining the Jade Necklace of Serenity. The necklace is enclosed in an orb of magical threads that will not open. Only a Warrior of Pros can will the threads to unravel, and you are the last one."
"Then, you are Bartiusmus Lokin The Terrible," I said trying to hide my fear. He ignored me and roughly grabbed me like a limp doll across the floor to a small chamber. Estella was grinning ear to ear, mocking me in my hopeless situation. In the center of the room was a great orb full of light I had never seen before.
"Will the threads to unravel," said Bartiusmus, "now!" He fanned out his large hands and slapped me in the back. I was sent crawling toward the light. I knew I needed to buy some time.
"What good will the necklace bring to you?" my voice said chillingly. "Surely, you are not dying."
"Still your arrogance continues to make a fool of you." taunted Bartiusmus. "You should know that the necklace also gives the gift of youth to anyone."
"Estella," I murmured.
"Yes, and it gives the power to decide the fate of mankind."
While Bartiusmus was busy laughing, I planned my move. I bid the treads to unravel and quickly closed my eyes. Spider-like beams of light seemed to be released from the threads blinding Bartiusmus temporarily.
"Ahhhhhhh," uttered Bartiusmus loudly, "my eyes!"
The scream awoke me from my trance, and I vaulted out of the room with the necklace clutched in my clammy hand. Standing there in the hallway was Estella with her bow and an arrow directed at my undefended chest. She looked dainty, but I knew she was deadly.
"Step no further, or risk your life," Estella coldly said.
Deep inside the wrinkled face of Estella I still saw the youthful face she would once have again with the necklace. I knew what I had to do. I tucked in my head and dived toward the ground sending Estella onto the ground muttering curses. I placed my fingers on her wrist prepared to yank off the circlet. I closed my fingers and tightened my grip. I looked at Estella’s face once more and saw a look of utmost fear. Yet, her eyes still were cold and reserved. As she laid there powerless, the Sisters of Moiré’s words echoed in my ears—you will kill the one who deceived you. I could not run away from fate. I yanked off the bracelet, and Estella disappeared in a shower of sparks and smoke. She was gone and so was Bartiusmus. I placed on the bracelet, changed into a peregrine falcon, and started toward home. I was hovering above my town when a stray arrow whacked into me. I saw myself change back into human and plummet in a spiral to the ground. Blackness enveloped my eyes.
"Niko! You’re ok!" shouted a familiar voice.
Through my hazy view I saw my best friend, Tolem, shouting and clapping his hands.
"Tolem, you’re ok, too!" I exclaimed in sincere surprise. "What happened to your sickness?"
"They found you unconscious with the necklace thingy, and they placed it on me. I feel much better now."
"That’s a relief to hear, Totem."
"Where have you been? You were gone for three weeks!"
"Well," I said weakly, "it’s a long story."
"Oh! A story!" shouted Totem with glee, "I want to hear the story!"
"Ok," I said as I sat up in a more comfortable position, "It all began like this. As the sun slowly settled, darkness began to overcome the Earth . . . ."