"Inconsistent Memories" is a thread written November 23, 2014. It leads to "Valkyrie's Challenge."
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Akkey Black: Nix stretched, breathing in the crisp, cold air. The room where she was staying was stifling, especially after that conversation with that wretched king. She figured that if she were to spar with him the next day, she’d try to see if she can remember a few moves. Her memories may be returning, but the techniques have not. Consciously, anyway.
She fingered the hilt of her sword, wandering aimlessly and looking for open space. One second she was eyeing a clearing beyond, and the next her face was in the snow, her head throbbing painfully.
What the Hel…!
She writhed on the ground, tears streaming down her face. This was unlike her past headaches, those she could handle. This… this was worse.
Another excruciating stab and she almost blacked out. Make it stop! Aaah!
She started crawling, she needs to find someone. She cried out in a weak voice, “Help me…”
Treepelt Halfpaw: The weak voice caught Treepelt’s attention instantly as she wandered back from the woods with a few dead rabbits slung over her shoulder, a fur half-cape over her shoulders and upper arms. She whirled around and saw someone near the edge of the woods, lying on the ground and moaning.
Tree threw down her kill and raced towards the black-haired girl. She looked vastly different, but her scent was the same, and her eyes as well. “Akkey!” she cried out, dropping to her knees and carefully taking her shoulders. “Where have you been? What are you doing here!? Why—? They told me you lost your—!” Then she realized that the Chief was in serious trouble. “Akkey? What’s wrong?”
Akkey Black: She felt slender hands (or rather… paws?) firmly gripping her shoulders and supporting her. She glanced at the newcomer through bleary eyes several times, attempting to blink away the tears that were still flowing from the pain.
She heard the girl speaking to her, and she could only make out the words. Who is this? How does she know…?
She stared at her so hard, trying to take her features in. Black and orange hair, cat ears… I saw you at the lake… Who…?
Her head was pounding non-stop now. Blood trickled down her chin as she bit her lip, trying not to scream. It hurt so much.
Wait… I know… she’s…
She couldn’t think straight. Breathing heavily, her scleras turned black momentarily and she jerked her head. She stared up at the other girl.
Carefully, delicately, she whispered, “Tree…?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: "Yes!" Relief flushed through her and she helped Akkey up further, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and helping her sit against Tree’s side. "Yeah, it’s me, Akkey. Just…just stay awake. What’s going on?" She wiped at the blood gingerly. "Did someone hurt you?"
Akkey Black: "N…no." Akkey sat, leaning heavily on Tree, "I don’t… what happened?"
She rubbed her eyes, suddenly overcome with fatigue, “Haddock was about to interrogate you in the ice fortress… Vox returned on time, too and pleaded… for you… you!”
She suddenly glared at the half cat and tried to unsheathe at her sword. She was too weak though, and almost fell the ground, “You are not Tree! The Warden… you cannot fool me!”
She tried to get away and put some distance in between them. She had to warn the King that she was free! But her head throbbed again and she fell forward, her hair covering her face. That’s when she noticed how much shorter it was… It felt… lacking? She ran her hands through it hesitantly.
"What happened to my hair… where are my ears?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Akkey’s words fell one after another like blows to the gut and Tree scrambled back as Akkey did, the familiar hurt rising in her heart again. No. Stop. Stuff it. Stuff it down. She’s just…confused.
"I—I’m not the Warden," she stammered, tail swishing anxiously. "She’s gone…we got rid of her…your memories were erased at the lake, Akkey, it’s why you don’t remember anything…and I don’t know what happened to you after that." She gazed at Akkey’s missing ears in pain. "Come on, let’s just…get to a healer, or—or something." Tree cautiously reached out a hand, keeping her claws firmly tucked in.
Akkey Black: She narrowed eyes and weakly slapped her paw away, “What are you talking about? No… we are in the middle of the Rebellion and you surrendered! You were chained up… as the Warden! How on earth did you randomly get rid of her?”
Akkey scanned her surroundings, trying to find a way to get away from her. Strength was returning to her legs, she would be able to stand soon. She glared back at the stammering girl, “You lie! Memories? Lake? Does anything you say even make sense?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Treepelt closed her eyes, pressing her lips together. “Akkey, that was…that was almost two months ago. Long story short…” She grimaced. “Yes, I was possessed. Vox died, but he came back to life through the sacrifice of your memories. You gave them up so he could come back. And the Warden is trapped in Hel now. We’re all safe.”
Akkey Black: Akkey stared at Tree, her eye wide. It was like time had stopped. Nothing moved, no one made a sound. She’d forgotten about leaving now.
"What… what are you speaking of, War… Tree?" she whispered, trying to keep her voice even, "The Warden is in Hel? And however did you manage that?"
"And… tell me if I heard this correctly, because I imagine I didn’t," she laughed hollowly, her voice rising, "I sacrificed my memories? To bring Vox back… because he… he died? Vox is dead?"
She stood up, swaying a little, “How?! Why?! What are you telling me, Warden?!”
Treepelt Halfpaw: It had been weeks since her last surge. Now that the Warden had disappeared from her mind, she had pretty much reverted to her former temperament.
Or so she’d thought.
"I’M NOT THE WARDEN!!"
Her voice scraped and broke as she yelled the words, and she turned to hit the tree nearest to her, but she lost the willpower halfway through the punch and she ended up weakly tapping the wood over and over with a closed fist, resting her forehead against the freezing bark. “I’m not! They think I haven’t changed, they don’t believe me! She’s gone!” Her words cracked again.
"You wanna know why Vox died?! I KILLED HIM!"
Her knees buckled and she crumpled to the snow, starting to shake. “Sh-she made me…she made me stab him…and he died right in front of me…but there was a hooded figure…said we could get him back…for a soul…s-so we all went to the lake and I…you pushed me in to save me from getting killed, but I went to Purgatory…and the Warden stayed and I got back out. And Vox did, too. We’re both…we’re both fine.” Treepelt sniffed and wiped at her face. Odin, I’m never getting over this. Not even Vox stopped me from being guilty.
Akkey Black: She stopped in her tracks, taken aback at Tree’s sudden outburst. She was silent as her friend fell to the ground. Instinctively she reached out towards her, remembering the peaceful days before the Rebellion. She had connected with the half cat as she trained her; and after losing her own sister, with whom she was very close, she was glad of the company. Their friendship was important to her, and it broke her heart to see her taken by that blasted Warden.
Hearing all of this… how the Warden is continuously controlling her, limiting her free will. It boils her blood so much, she can’t stand to see Tree suffer like this.
But… how much of this is the truth? Partly? All? None? So much has happened these past few days… or rather, months, as she just learned, she doesn’t know what is going on in Tree’s mind anymore.
She clenched her fists, trying to keep her temper, and inched slowly towards her, “Tree… you need to calm down. Remember what I taught you. Breathe.” Follow your own advice, chief…
"So… you killed him? The Warden… made you do it? I thought you… love him…” she closed her eyes, willing her pulse to slow. This is not the time to bring that up. She stopped a foot away from Tree’s shuddering figure.
"But he’s back… thanks to a soul? And my memories? A hooded figure… helped you? And now the Warden is back in Purga-? Mmmmm… how is that…"
She shook her head, fidgeting with her hair, “I… I don’t know, Tree. This is a lot of information to process. I thought we were still in the midst of the Rebellion but you tell me that it’s actually two months after now. How do I know what is true and what isn’t?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Treepelt took a deep breath, bringing her racing, throbbing heart to a regular beat once more. “I…guess…you could look for inconsistencies in your memory. Do you remember anything after the Warden surrendered?”
Akkey Black: She shook her head, “No. The last thing I remember doing was walking towards your.. uh, room, where His Majesty and Vox were and then… I was here.”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Tree ran her hands through her hair and exhaled again, getting back to her feet. “Then there’s nothing I can do to convince you,” she said miserably. “I could get others…Haddock knows what happened better than I did. Or Stonegit, or even Vox, they all know the story.”
Akkey Black: Akkey mimicked her, tugging at her hair, and sighed, glancing towards the huge fortress rising above camp, “Perhaps…” She flicks her eyes towards Tree, and stares at her thoughtfully.
"Tree… defense!" she twists her hand and throws a rock that she picked up earlier towards the half cat’s surprised face.
Treepelt Halfpaw: There wasn’t even time to think about it. Tree’s legs automatically sprang into a solid stance and her claws flashed out, and her hand jabbed out with enough speed to break the rock into clattering fragments. She stood there with her arm outstretched for a second, breathing hard, and glanced up at Akkey in shock.
Akkey Black: She turned the other way, trying to hide her grin and failing. She carefully stretched, massaging her limbs. She wasn’t about to fall over again. Plus her headache was almost gone.
She looked back and held out a hand, “Shall we? To… wherever you were planning to go?”
Treepelt Halfpaw: Treepelt took it hesitantly and raised her eyebrows. “What was that for?” she asked, in reference to the sudden attack.
Akkey Black: Her gaze lingered a bit on her hand, where Tree’s paw comfortably rested. She was glad that she took it. She remembers being this close with her a long time ago, until it stopped, thanks to the Warden. They were almost like sisters, although Akkey would never admit that.
"Muscle memory is a great thing," she responded. "The mind may forget but the body does not."