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Dive Into The Heart: Zia
(2013-02-02 - 2013-02-06)
No description.
Oathkeeper For many of those out there, it is the night that provides them with the safety and warmth that is sleep - where-as the day is always that time of exploration and new things. But for some rare few, it isn't the night that brings them dreams. For some, dreams are had in a state that is nothing like laying in a bed. For some, their sleep is a curse, and safety is not assured during such a time. Such is the way of the Gargoyle.

It is certain that Zia has had many dreams in the past. Yet when the light touches her body, and stonesleep draws upon her this time, things are different. Instead of the normal feeling of that stone protection forming around her and her body altering beneath, there's also the feeling of falling. Falling down further and further into the depths of darkness beneath her. An inky darkness, that feels... moist. Water bubbles around her, and she can feel its force resisting her descent.

In this dream, her eyes may open, and she may become intimately aware of the fact that her descent continues to slow as she comes upon the bottom of this dark ocean. And though light may not touch this place, her eyes can still see the sand beneath her. She cannot swim up. She can do nothing but fall slowly towards that end... until finally, her talons touch and a beautiful light circles outward from that single touch of contact.

Ever so gently, her body is let down as beautiful doves of light flutter up from all around her, and she is given the ability to move again as she wish. The stiffling feeling of water disappears along with that flock spreading their wings. And beneath her, something new is revealed. Further light, streaming in from a stained glass circle beneath her. The circle is massive, yet still she manages to see what it pictures beneath her.

Beneath her feet, where she'd touched the first light, lays the image of Mickey holding his keyblade up along with Donald and Goofy raising their own weapons to the tip of his. The power of the trinity. And around the edge is a series of emblems of womens' faces. None she would recognize, except for that of Jasmine.

Then, from silence, comes a howling voice.

"So much to do..." The voice states.

"...such a long road ahead..."
Zia For some gargoyles, stone sleep was little different than a human tucking into bed for the night. They could greet the dawn with the knowledge that they would be safe as they rested. Yet, for Zia, it had never been safe. Even as a hatchling, her family had moved all the time, always seeking a new place where the humans wouldn't find them. If any among her kind would have traded away the healing and longevity that came with the gargoyle curse for a normal life, it would have been her. For a time, she had something of the sort, calling upon the crystal's power to keep herself flesh. She had been a daywalker, but not anymore.

Her body tenses with the dawn, as the first rays of the sun shift her body from flesh to stone. Yet it isn't the same. There is a sudden feeling like the world has dropped out from beneath her. It pulls at the pit of her stomach like those sharp drops a person sometimes feels at the edge of sleep, but rather than waking, the gargress is pulled deeper into the sensation. Her eyes open not to the following night, but to something darker. The water, or at least the feeling of it, presses against her. She can breathe, but it feels strained, forced fom her lips as she decends downward. Her wings refuse to move to slow her fall, and all the gargress can do is decend towards that darkness below.

A cold panic hits her at first, but her mind catches up a moment later. It has all the aspects of one of those waking dreams, where your body can't move, yet... she isn't awake. At the end, just as the dark sand looms up beneath her, something changes. Her wings flare out, letting her shift with a single backwing to land softly, first one talon, and then the other. It is such a soft touch-down that it feels unearthy, like some sort of magic. She takes a breath, and it comes easier this time, wings moving back behind her.

Then, there is light. The girl squints as she takes a step back, shielding her eyes from it as darkness turns into brilliant colors. Her eyes follow the flights of those birds, turning in a slow circle as she watches them go. It's a strange thing, but her mind doesn't try to parse it too closely. Something draws her eyes down towards the glowing platform beneath her feet. Stepping forward, Zia puts a hand down to touch the surface, feeling it with her taloned fingers. Confusion shows in her face, only recognising those two faces. The mouse who had come at the end of Manhattan, and the girl who had urged them on in Fluorgis. She had never gotten to know either of them, yet somehow they were important.

Then, that voice. Zia's ears move first, then her head lifts as she whirls, moving to her feet. It's a small miracle that she manages to find her voice, "Who's there?" She asks, looking out into the darkness surrounding her. Instinct has her crouching slightly, arms held before her, wings back. Then, she turns again, facing back the same way she had. All sides are darkness, no sign of the speaker. "Wha do ye mean... a long road?"
Oathkeeper The feeling of water fades away, but the feeling of impeding darkness remains around her. She can't see much further than the enormous pillar she stands upon. It certainly is beautiful though, as is the light that continues to bask her figure from below. The voice grows silent not moments after having spoken, giving the gargess a moment to get to figure out the area she is in. The faces she recognizes, and the faces she does not, they all seem important indeed. And so peaceful.

When her own voice rings through this space, it takes a moment for an answer to come. "A journey..." The voice is male and somewhat rough, but a bit hard to place. It seems almost like it might explain more, but then all it does is speak her name. Her name very specifically, "Zia." There's a pause again, as the light around begins to shift a little. Entities are moving up from beneath her feet. "Power sleeps within you, Zia."

The ground shakes a little. Then, those shades break to the surface. Without damaging the actual glass, three pedestals rise, in the directions of a perfect triangle around her - with her at the center. And when they finally come to rest, a light appears above each. One by one, a magical light brings entities to life above those pedestals. They appear, each baring the symbol of the Trinity. A Sword, A Staff, and a Shield.

"If you give it form... will give you strength."
Zia At first, there is no answer, only the sound of her own voice in the vast, open darkness beyond. It sounds strange to her, enough so that her motive ears swivel, as if listening for an echo that never comes. In the silence, she takes a few steps. The ground feels solid beneath her feet, and completely unlike any dream she could think of. She looks down, watching the way that the light shows between her fingers, curious about the source of it. Something tells her that flying off the edge of this platform would be a bad idea, though. Whatever brought her here intended her to stay here, at least for now.

When the voice returns, she spins around again, eyes searching and ears moving, trying to source the location of the sound. Yet, there is no answer, just a feeling that thrums within her. It's a strange sort of familiarity, like a voice she knows. Not just that, but a voice that means something important to her. It's like having someone pluck against her heartstrings, setting them to vibrate to some unknown song. The way his voice speaks her name... "Aye...?" It isn't really a question, her head tilting quizzically.

She might have stopped to ponder such a thing, if it weren't for the fact that the ground had begun to shake beneath her feet. Her wings fan out for balance, her tail held back, stance like some feral creature as she watches those shadows move beneath the surface. When those pedastals rise up from below, she looks between them, one by one. "So... Ah havete choose." It isn't a question this time, as she looks between those symbols: Sword, Staff, Shield. In some ways, she has an idea of what they mean without needing any explination.

What is the strength that lies within? That answer is simple. Magic. He father had it, and she had it after him. It was her curse, and her gift, and above all else it is the one thing that had given her the power to fight back against the things that threatened her and her world. It doesn't take more than a moment's thought to step forward, reaching to touch one taloned hand to the staff suspended there in the air. "Ah know where m'power lies."
Oathkeeper "The power of the mystic.
Inner strength.
A staff of wonder and ruin."

The voice rings through the air a she picks the weapon from the pedestal, and it disappears in a beautiful shattering display of light, flecks of the white ascending up into the air. And somehow, within her heart, she is let to feel... lighter. Like a light entered her heart and fills it with its warmth.

"This is where your power lies. You will walk your path with a mystic's power."

Yet, there are still two pedestals remaining.

"You may know where your strength lies. But do you know your greatest weakness?" The voice asks her, while the pedestal of the staff begins to rumble and descend down into the pane - revealing the glass that it had move through without a shred of damage done to it. "Which shall you give up in return?" It asks her.
Zia That one word rings in her ears for a moment: Ruin. In that brief instance, she's taken back to another time. She was a different person then. Valen's hands rested on her shoulders, his voice in her ears. It was not her own power that flowed in her veins. Like dark fingers, his strength overpowered her own, forced it's way through her a a conduit. He smiled with those pale lips as she brought down his dark magic to his enemies, using her as little more than a puppet with him pulling the strings.

But beneath it all, she still had that strength that kept her fighting. She grew more powerful every day, and he never noticed those subtle forms of rebellion. Not until it was too late. Time skips forward again, and she's standing in his study, the streaming through the windows. Valen's eyes are wide as he stares at her, the realization only just dawning on him that the girl had just used one of his own spells against him. Yet, it had gotten out of her control. The dark wound in his chest was a sign of that. It takes only a matter of seconds for his eyes to go blank, his body crumpling forward.

She had never meant to take his life, only to fight her way to freedom. Yet there is blood on her hands. Among so many others, Zia acutely knows the price that magic can cost if you don't know how to control it properly. She still carried that touch of Valen's darkness with her, and the guilt for his death. No matter how cruel he might have been, he had saved her from the priest. Even if it had been for his own dark purposes, she had never wished him dead.

Yet, something feels different when she opens her eyes and returns to the present. In some ways, it feels like some of that guilt has been lifted from her shoulders. She had learned in the years since then, and her strength is all her own now. Taking a deep breath, Zia lets go of that memory, knowing that the only way left for her is forward from here.

But she is posed another question by the voice that seems to ring in her ears and in her heart. The two things that remain: The Sword, and Shield. Again, it is her own memories that call to her. Working with the training dummy in the courtyard, only to falter time and again. Trying to go toe to toe like so many of the warriors out there who fought the Heartless. Yet, Zia is a different sort of warrior. She doesn't /have/ to fight on the front lines to make a difference. It's figuring out where her own strength lies and how to use it.

As for the shield, no... she could never give that up. She had latched on to Skoll's leg to keep him from leaving. She had faced her fears and fought against the Shadow Lords in the Labyrinth. And all of that had been to defend the things she held dear. In the end, Zia is a gargoyle, and it is part of their nature to protect. "Ah will always protect the things tha are important te me. It's just wi' a different sort of strength." With that, she touches the pedastil for the sword, bowing her head as she relinquishes that power to whatever force bids her to answer.
Oathkeeper "The power of the warrior.
Invincible courage.
A sword of terrible destruction.
This is the power you forfeit."

The sword disappears too, much like the staff had done. But this time, no new light joins her. Just the knowledge that this somehow was an important gesture - to give away that blade. The shield remains 'with her', as it sinks into the ground along with the pedestal. And the sword's pedestal too dives down into the ground. And as if a strain was finally introduced to the pillar, the plate the gargess stands on begins to crack. There's a suddenly 'breaking' sound, as an immense amount of fracturelines spread across the entirety of the stained glass bottom, before it shatters into a burst of light and she once again falls.

But beneath her, she can already see new light, even as she falls down at a sickening speed at first... and then is left to hover slowly down towards the new stained glass pillar. This one is fitted with an image that is all-together more recognizable to her. The image of New York city. At its center, herself sleeping with her back against the circle of icons. And before her, the image of a beautifully lit sun - basking her in light. A second blue light comes dangling from chains around her neck - moving unnaturally far from her body, holding the crystal that gave her the ability to 'sleep'. The icons themselves are item like a book of spells, a little garbage bin with a fishbone in it, a staff of magic, a wolven icon, a set of gargoyle wings, a little cupcake, the Heart of Manhattan, and even the crystal once again.

"You've accepted your power to fight." The voice states dutily, further recognition coming to mind. The voice truly seems like a howl now. Like it's calling out to something very deep within her. What tries to take away from this connection are the figures that come out of the ground around her. Heartless, little shadows, slowly rise up from the ground. "Many a time you'll be expected to fight to protect the things that are important to you. But. No matter what, Zia..."

With a beautiful flash of light, the staff suddenly materializes within Zia's hand, feeling heavy and crackling with power. The heartless begin to approach her, their bodies swaying a little left and right. "Keep your light burning strong!"
Zia It feels strange to give up a symbol of courage, but in some ways, Zia had found her own courage over these past few months. She's no longer the girl who would sit and watch from the rooftops, letting the world go by. There are still times when she can be skittish, but even a single step is progress. Yet, with that sacrifice, also comes the knowledge that her own path is clear. She needs to learn to fight in her own way, not just imitate others. She still has the heart of a fighter, but you don't always need a sword to protect the things that are important.

There is a sudden lurch as those pedastils disappear again. Those little cracks radiate out from where her feet touch, and the gargress quickly moves back away from them. There is no place to run as the entire pillar starts to give way. Unlike before, she has enough time to dread the fall, and when her feet get pulled out from under her, there is a strangled sort of cry that comes from her lips, hands grasping for those bits and pieces of the stained glass plate, as if they were lifelines she could clutch onto. Yet, instead of grasping hold, they slip through her fingers. There is no way to prevent the fall.

She doesn't notice the light beneath, not at first. The sensation of falling is as frightening to a gargoyle as it is for a human. Her wings had always kept her aloft, but without them there is nothing but that sickening feeling that comes from not knowing when the ground will come up to meet you. Even as she slows, there is that feeling that her stomach has been left behind somewhere. Blue eyes turn to look down at the images below, even as her feet come to rest again. "Wha in the world...?" She whispers to herself, and once again the gargress is left in wonder of all this.

It isn't often that she's looked at herself in the mirror, but it's easy to recognize the image of herself in the glass. Her hand goes to her neck, to the crystal that had all but lost it's power to protect her as it once had. Then, that same hand touches the one on the glass as she crouches down again. This place is strange. Each of the images that surround her are ones she recognizes. Spellbooks, places she'd scavenged for food, the pastries she'd shared with Deidra the first time she'd ventured to reach out, her father's wings, the crystal, and... the wolf.

This time, when the voice speaks, her ears swivel and the gargress rises to her feet, turning, "Skoll?" No, she doesn't quite understand yet why he would be the one speaking to her in her dream. His voice sounds different here, but there is still that wolfish quality to it that makes it all too familiar.

Then the Heartless come, oozing up out of the ground like shadows reaching to snuff out the light. She growls low in her throat, turning in a slow circle as they move in, starting to surround her. Even before the staff materializes in her hands, the girl's eyes glow red, hissing a warning. "Ah willnae let ye have m'heart. Ah'll send ye back te wha'ever hell ye came from." One of them leaps, and she braces herself for the attack. It is in that moment that she feels something warm beneath her hand. The staff, although it had changed somewhat. The heartless is thrown back by a barrier of fire around her.

Staring, Zia takes in the staff in her hand, then the remaining Heartless. "Fire..." She had never been able to use this sort of magic before. It had always been storm magic that flowed in her veins, and yet... this feels familiar. This is glow of the pyre she set for her father and mother, breathing in what remained of them so it became part of herself. This is the warmth of the sun's glow that she had learned to love, even as a creature of the night. This belongs to her, and she isn't going to give it up without a fight.

The Heartless hesitate, but Zia does not. She rolls in the direction of the space opened by the smoldering Heartless, turning to blast a tongue of fire against those dark forms, sweeping them like some great lash that extends from the end of her staff. In this dream, the power flows through her, like an extension of herself. There is no uncertainty, or hesitation, only the knowledge that this is something she could be. Something she has to be.
Oathkeeper The wolfish voice does not answer her as she tries to reach out to him with her own voice. It might seem just as likely that this is even all in her own head - that she's hearing his voice only because she wants it to be there. It wouldn't be surprising, with all the strangeness of this particular situation. Yet the wolfish quality is there - and that it's Skoll voice is something that is hard to doubt. It is there as a warm and supporting presence.

Before the gargess, the heartless are met with the magical pyre that erupts from the staff she wields. It's a strange force she'd never wielded before, yet it is natural. It is something that comes from deep within, and with those flames powered by the light within her heart, the heartless are washed over one by one. There's a little popping sound each time that she lets the flame touch one for long enough, and the heartless is eliminated. With each defeaten, her heart comes to feel a little lighter - as if she were cleansing her own soul. Just those little flecks of darkness, but something is not nothing.

As she combats the little shadow heartless, the voice continues to speak to her. "You must not forget, Zia..." It speaks, as she destroys another, and a red heart lifts up into the skies from it. "You must never forget... Do not be afraid." Another heartless falls, and finally the place stands clean of heartless... and that light beneath her burns brighter than ever, giving her another moment to stare at the beautiful glass pattern beneath her. She must know that another fall will be coming soon.
Zia No answer, but in some ways she doesn't really expect one. Maybe it's only her wanting to hear some familiarity in that voice, but something in her heart makes it hard to doubt it. Skoll was one of those closest to her, one of those who had lead her out of Manhattan and into the greater world beyond. It's no small wonder she might hear him now as a guide through this strange place. Yet, he isn't really here. This isn't anything like the easy banter that they sometimes had, filled with laughter and light and hope. This is something else entirely.

Fighting in such close spaces doesn't come naturally to a girl who is prone to use her wings rather than fighting on the ground. Movements that would have otherwise seemed alien, come naturally, like she's channeling someone who has practiced for years. Perhaps if this is a dream, she's dreaming of someone she could become, and the path is one that she has to take to get there. There's little enough time to dwell on it as she's forced from one opponent to the next, catching a blow with the staff, turning to send a torrent of flame in the other direction. Yet, even as she might have never fought like this before, they begin to fall.

At the end, she stands alone, watching the last of those hearts float up and vanish into the ether. It's a strange thing to see, and one she's never witnessed before. Could the Heartless somehow carry hearts within them? Maybe the hearts of the people they had once been? There are no answers, only more questions as she stands there, hand clenched on the staff, trying to catch her breath. A few beads of sweat cling her pale hair to her face. Did people sweat in dreams?

The voice bids her to be unafraid, but she can feel that fall coming. Ears slicking back, the gargress steps away from the middle of the platform, her wings flaring out. "Ah'm nae afraid." The words are a lie, in themselves. Of course she's afraid. Most people would be if they were thrust into a place they don't understand, forced to choose, forced to fight. Yet, she still stands there with fire in her eyes and a determination that shows in the set of her lips and her grasp on the staff. The difference between someone who is scared, and someone who is brave, is just a matter of choice. Right now, she chooses to stand against that fear.

"Ah'm ready." She takes a deep breath, then closes her eyes, preparing herself for whatever comes next.
Oathkeeper With her desire to continue, and her heart prepared, the girl will be allowed to 'step' further once more. As if abiding to her very words, the glass beneath her experiences the same as the former. A massive crack, and then an explosion of light that sends her falling once more. One last fall for this part of the journey. But it's the most important part of her journey, this part...

Below her, that last station comes clearly into view. It is an image very similar to the last. Zia, this time, in Stone Sleep, her wings stretched out and her claws at the ready. A mighty roar aimed at her. And with that coming into view, comes a mighty howling roar that speaks to her heart. Not one of her own, but one of the voice, the one who has been journeying with her so far. That invisible passenger who is along for the ride.

Behind Zia in that image, the sun is displayed in beautiful partitions of orange and yellow, peeking up behind the high rises of Manhattan. It truly is a beautiful scape to look upon as she continues to float down. Does she remember it? Her world, beautiful. The crystal around this Zia's neck is out however. It's a strange mix of current events. And a slight hint that Manhattan still exists out there. That it is still there... waiting for her. Waiting for her to come back and protect it once more.

Around her are figures within the circles. This time, those are people. Not just items that belong to her, but /people/. Faruja, with his proud stare. Skoll, with a hand to his heart as he looks out forwards. She knows what those seeking eyes are looking for. And it is, in a ways, ironic that those eyes stare towards the stained glass sun. But it's not just him. There's others intertwined in her fate. Mickey Mouse is there too, as is Brooklyn, some of the Shard Seekers. And there, the beautiful faces of her family - those she knows best. Her father, her mother, and that smirk on her brother's face is also there.

Her fall slows, and she is set gently down upon this last station within her heart. Beautiful light shines from beneath her, and there is also a door. A white door with a star crowning it - and is slightly ajar. Light streams out through it. A brilliant light that feels warm and magical. A shadow is drawn behind her from only that light.

"The closer you get to the light..." The voice then howls to her. Something presses against her heart, and there's this sudden feel of dread as something begins to appear behind her. "The greater your shadow becomes." And there, from the darkness, a figure slowly erects. Pitch black, but she still would recognize this creature. Valen, with a wicked grin and yellow heartless eyes stares back at her, spreading out his arms, then turning to point at her. "You!" It calls to her. It doesn't speak its reason for calling out to her. She knows... she knows deep within.
Zia Even though she knows the fall is coming, it doesn't make it any less abrupt and unsettling. There is less fear this time, though. The muscles in her wings still want to catch her, but she leaves them caped around her shoulders, depending on whatever it is that guides her to lead her safely to the ground yet again.

Her talons click and her eyes take in those faces. Her ears slick back, nearly hiding within her white hair. Some of these are faces that she hasn't seen in years. The door and the light are forgotten in that instant as she walks over towards the images of her parents. If there was ever a photograph of her family, she'd never found it, so this is probably the first time that she's seen them since she was a child. The sight alone brings tears to her eyes as she crouches down next to them.

Zia's hand goes to the pendant dangling from her neck, the one that contains those small shards of bone. This was all she had left of her mother and father. "Da... mum..." Unlike many gargoyles, she had been raised by her biological parents, and their loss was something she still carried with her. Her taloned fingers touch the glass, but it's nothing like seeing the real person again. It leaves a sad sort of longing in her heart. Wiping her palm across one eye, the girl stands and turns, taking in the others.

The Shard Seekers, the other gargoyles: Deidra, Brooklyn and Percival - these were things that were important to her now. The Seekers had given her a place to stay, and the other two were some of the few gargoyles left out there. She had to keep them safe. Then there is Skoll and Faruja - her friends, people who had touched her heart in ways she didn't yet understand. And it is the wolf's howl that speaks to her, sending a shiver through her as she turns away from the light. It's a strange feeling, like a chill going down her spine.

There, before her, is the mage. Her breath catches in that moment, causing Zia to step back away from this strange Heartless form. "It cannae be..." She whispers, "Yer dead." As he points towards her, Zia growls low in her chest, knowing full well what he is accusing her of. She can still remember the way his warm blood felt on her hands. She had tried to save him, but what she'd done could not be undone. "Ah'm sorry. Ah never meant fer tha te happen. All Ah wanted was m'freedom." She doesn't back away from him, but she doesn't move to fight, either.
Oathkeeper It's heartbreaking in a way, to see the poor Gargess kneeling down at the image of her parents. How long must it have been since she'd last seen them? Such cruel fate had befallen her family - thanks to those known as Humanity for those of 'Manhattan'. Yet she'd come to know some humans who were trustworthy too, at least amongst the Shard Seekers. Yet her greatest friends remain people of a different kind. People - yet not... humans.

But there's a good reason for her to have come to fear that humanity. And when she turns around and gazes upon that heartless figure that has formed, she may very well be reminded of just why she fears it. "Ye were never meant te have 'yer freedom. Ye were a tool, nothin' more." The man slowly steps forwards, her own shadow disappearing, swallowed up into this man.

That staff within her hand continues to crackle with power, especially as this dark Valen reaches out with his fingers. And from his very fingertips, dark little strings reach out towards her, trying to attach her her body. If they'd touch her - physically touch her - they'd take over that part of her body and make it go limp for him like a puppet. There's quite some strings too, at least ten. "Become my tool once more!"
Zia The words cut into her as they had so many times before. Valen hadn't rescued her out of any sympathy for what the priest had done to her, nor out of any kindness. He had kept her as little more than a talisman to focus his own dark magic through her into something he was never able to become. His magic had always been about control, and she had been too weak to fight it. He wanted more. He wanted that thread of elemental power that the girl had, and he wanted to figure out how to make it his.

"Never." Zia's voice takes on a low tone, followed by a cat-like hiss as she draws one step back into a fighting stance. Her eyes flash demonic red, tail lashing behind her like some angered monster. Though the threads reach out towards her, they don't seem to be able to take hold. There is an aura around her, it causes the ends of them to sizzle when they touch it, sparking with small hints of flame. "M'mum 'n da didnae die so tha ye or anyone like ye could use me. They died because they loved me, 'n Ah willnae let ye shame their memory ever again."

There are tears in her eyes as she levels the staff towards him. Her guilt over his death wars with the part of her that rightfully knows that what he did to her was wrong. No one was born to be a tool. No one deserved that. Her breath comes heavily, her chest lifting and falling from the effort of fighting the Heartless earlier. Yet, she doesn't back down from this, no matter how much it shames her. "Yer jus' a phantom. A dream, and a bad one at tha'. But ye know wha happens wi' bad dreams?" She asks, still holding back those reaching threads with the strength of her magic.

"They go away when the sun rises." It seems like such a strange thing for a gargoyle to say, but somehow it seems right on her lips. The staff in her hand flares to life a bit brighter, focused into a blast of light and fire that erupts from the end, blasting towards Valen.
Oathkeeper He wanted more. He wanted more, but could never attain that which came so natural to the girl. Disgusting, dirty, filthy jealousy had touched this man's already dark heart. Yellow eyes continue to stare ate Zia in anger as those threads extend towards her, trying to entangle and grab her. But every time it tries to get too close, it is burnt by those almost invisible flames!

Louder and Louder, the heartless Valen's screams become as it fails time and time again to control the girl's body. "I dinae save ye to betray me! Te /kill/ me! Ye ungrateful beast!" The shadow screams at her. It's obvious that it's about to change its tactic. The thin rope-like lines that dangle out disgustingly from its fingertips tred back and start trying to create a form, in an attempt to control Zia otherwise...

But before that form can even form, the gargess brings up that staff and lets those flames burn bright! A brilliant corona of white and red spreads from the staff out towards Valen, and the black body starts to physically deteriorate and disintegrate. The flames lick across its body, and she can just barely see the figure he'd tried to use against her. The form of her brother, his features obvious enough even amidst the flames. Who knows what he would not have done with that fake puppet had she not just brought everything she had to bear upon that figure.

When the flames finally fade, she stands alone amidst her final heart's station, that door of light still open behind her. Her shadow is gone, and with it, a shadow within her very heart. Perhaps some of those doubts and that feeling of guilt remains... but internally... she may feel to have grown stronger. Such a shame that the staff she wields now will not follow her out, nor will that ability with flame.

Not yet.
Zia The words are not unfamiliar ones, even if they are spoken with such darkness, venom, and anger. Valen had never cared for her speaking out against the tasks he had for her. She was never meant to have a mind of her own. He had thought that she was tame - broken, but there were always those signs that her heart remained strong underneath. While she doesn't know what he has in store, it is mere luck that she happens to disrupt his plans. The lingering after-image of her brother gives her pause, though.

Valen had never seen her brother... nor had she ever told him. Perhaps it could be just a trick of her own mind - the dream playing tricks on her. Even so, it unsettles her to think that it might be possible for her own kin to be used against her like that. Zia's eyes look towards that image of her brother, smirking. She hadn't seen him since the day he left home, bravely heading off to seek other gargoyles somewhere in the lands to the South. Could he have fallen victim to Valen's magic even before she had?

The thought is troubling. Even as the shadow form of that Heartless disappears, her heart doesn't feel any lighter for it. Different, yes, but there are so many more questions now. She lets her eyes settle on the staff in her hands, closing her eyes. "Ah still have a long way te go." The strength she showed here is still somewhere deep within, and not something she'd easily come to master. Holding her hand out the staff vanishes, taken back into some part of her that understands what it is for, even if her conscious mind can't fathom it yet.

Valen may lay in ashes, but like all the others shown here, there is a part of him that will always remain with her. He is that dark streak across the light, both here, and in her true heart. She may never rid herself of that taint. Still, even if her heart is never as pure as the name he had once given her, it doesn't mean that she can't find her own 'light'. It is still the strength that sends her forward, taking the first steps on the journey that starts with walking through that door.

This scene contained 16 poses. The players who were present were: Oathkeeper, Zia