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The Sleeper's Wave


by linda_reincarnated

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It was a cool and cloudy day, which was a relief after the heat wave that had smothered Faerieland for most of the previous week. It was scorching hot almost every day, and though it was just barely the second week of the Month of Hunting, no one could deny that summer had most definitely arrived.

      But today, the heat had finally broken, and there was a slight breeze that made it almost feel like autumn already, crisp and fresh and just the right temperature to make one want to be outdoors.

      Resa loved days like these. Now that the heat wave had finally broken, perhaps there would be more like them, though she rather doubted it. So she was enjoying the weather while it lasted, taking a stroll through the streets, passing by the occasional newspaper dispenser and shop. She briefly considered picking up the week's issue of the Neopian Times, but then decided against it; it was too nice out to spend the day engrossed in news.

      She turned a corner to pass by the park near her Neohome, but took it too sharply and collided with a short, stocky Eyrie dressed in a white robe and holding a sign almost as large as he was.

      "Sorry!" she said, leaning down to help the pet to his feet. He pushed her hand away and stood, leaning his giant sign against the building and brushing himself off. Resa's eye caught the words inked carefully in black marker on the sign and she raised an eyebrow.

      "The end of the world is coming, is it?" she asked innocently. The Eyrie nodded briskly and grabbed his sign.

      "Yes! The end of the world is nigh, and this time it is for truth! Never mind all those fools in the past, this is the real thing! The world will end in mere days, and only those who can manage to destroy the Sleeper's Statue, or are party to the destruction of it will be saved!"

      "And how will the world end, may I ask?" Resa said. She didn't usually talk to these people, avoiding them whenever she chanced to see one. But now that she had run into one, she figured she'd take the opportunity to find out just how nutty he was.

      "Usuls," he said in all seriousness. "They will sweep the land like a plague and shall leave nothing alive. It will be the end of everything: Despairweaver, the Sleeper's Wave, the final curtain, whatever you want to call it." His voice was dead serious as he said this, his mouth never twitching toward a smile, and Resa found her own grin beginning to feel a bit forced. She opened her mouth to say something, though she wasn't sure quite what, when the Eyrie's breath suddenly caught in his throat and he backed away, pointing accusingly at the sidewalk in front of Resa's feet, his eyes wide and staring.

      Resa blinked. She looked down.

      A Baby Usul sat on the sidewalk between the two Neopians, calmly nibbling on a Fruity Usul Acorn, ignoring the world around it. As she watched, it turned the nut in its paws, as if examining it for imperfections, its ears and tail twitching constantly, looking for all the world as if it was highly hyped up on caffeine. In other words, it appeared to be a completely ordinary Usul. This one was colored a pale lavender.

      "Rodent," hissed the end-of-the-world nut, holding his sign out in front of him as if to ward off the Usul.

      Resa gave the Eyrie a funny look. "It's just a Usul," she said, cocking an eyebrow.

      "It is the Sleeper's spawn!" the Eyrie said, backing further away, his face pale and sweaty despite the cool air, his eyes wide and darting.

      Resa shook her head, trying not to laugh. She reached in her pocket and smiled as she felt a Bag of Nuts left over from earlier. She took it out, opened the bag, and tossed it down to the Usul.

      The Neopet jumped away at the movement, then turned and sniffed at the fallen piece of food, its nose twitching a hundred times a minute. Quick as a flash, it dropped its acorn and grabbed up the bag, devouring the contents in less than thirty seconds. It retrieved the fallen acorn and, without so much as a backward glance, raced off like furry lightning.

      "Funny little guy, isn't he?" she asked the Eyrie conversationally, but he was still standing there in shock, staring at her.

      "You... you... you fed it," he said, as if he could not believe what he had just seen. "Do you understand what you have done? You are doomed now, do you hear! No amount of redemption will save you!" He noticed then the stares of passing pedestrians, and Resa's amused smile, and closed his mouth with a snap. He turned one last glare in Resa's direction, then turned and stalked off, holding on to what shreds of dignity he could muster.

      "Conclusion," Resa whispered to herself as she continued walking. "On a nutty scale of one to ten, that Eyrie is an eleven." A Floud chittered down at her from above her head, as if agreeing.

      * * *

     Resa checked her mailbox when she got home, finding it empty save for two Neomails: one with something scribbled on it in red ink, and one telling her she could get a Darigan Paint Brush if she bid on a certain item in the Trading Post. She rolled her eyes and reported it before deleting it, heading for her room.

      She smiled at the story lying on the Fyora Inspired Vanity Table her friend had sent her the day before: Demon Usul of Doom. The encounter with the end-of-the-world nut earlier only made it more delicious.

      Examining the envelope of the other letter, she saw the name ProphetOne, the subject of which proclaimed "SLEEPERSPWAN!!!" in all capitals, complete with three exclamation marks and misspelling.

      Bemused, Resa ripped it open, curious to see why someone had decided she was a minion of the Darkest Faerie's. The letter was short and to the point, proclaiming in all caps and not a few misspellings that Resa was the Darkest Faerie, for she called herself the demon Usul. That she displayed the title with such pride was even more of a sign that she was evil and should either give up the title and destroy the statue at the bottom of Maraqua or suffer. It went on to promise doom if she did not mend her ways.

      Resa considered deleting the Neomail, but decided in the end to save it; it would give her a laugh whenever she went back to read it. She then spent the afternoon in her room reading books and playing with her Cirrus and generally avoiding any real work for the day.

      * * *

     The next day was Sunday, which meant she could sleep in late again if she so choose. Despite this, she awoke at half past eight NST, and, rather than turning over and going back to sleep, decided to get up and face the day. She threw open the drapes, but instead of sunlight streaming in as it usually did through the east-facing window, she was faced with the sight of a completely overcast sky, the clouds so thick that it looked more like predawn outside rather than several hours after the sun should have appeared.

      She shrugged and left the drapes open, padding out of her room to take her morning shower. There was usually nothing much to do on Sunday, so after she ate breakfast, she grabbed her coat and stepped outside to take a short walk.

      There was a stiff breeze blowing, tugging hard at her coat and causing the trees to sway and creak. There were very few people walking about, most preferring to stay indoors and out of the dark, windy weather that seemed to fit so much more in winter than summer. But Resa liked this sort of weather, especially after a heat wave as bad as the one they had just endured, so she kept walking.

      She didn't have anywhere in particular to go, and so wandered at random, passing by the park near her home. As she walked by, she heard quiet chittering noises, and she looked up to see the park crowded with Usuls, far more than usual, many of them seeming to watch her with their uncannily large eyes. She grinned and waved at them, remembering the end-of-the-world nut from before and that Neomail from ProphetOne.

      "You shouldn't do that, you know," a soft voice whispered from behind her. She started, and whirled around, staring at the tall, skinny Disco Aisha standing behind her, dressed in a dark sweater and a red skirt. She carried a wrinkled several-page newspaper in one hand and clutched a Wand of the Light Faerie even taller than herself in the other. Resa could just make out the name of the paper, the Neopian Times, on the front page, though she couldn't read the headline of the article.

      "Oh?" Resa said, for lack of anything better.

      "They'll bring the end of the world about," she whispered. "It has been prophesied. The end is near, miss, and all must act quickly lest they be cast into eternal doom. Have you been to the statue?" She stared at the Light Faerie with piercing eyes, as if trying to see into her soul.

      Resa shook her head, trying not to smile. "Not lately, I'm afraid."

      The Aisha shook her head in disappointment. "You had best do that, lest you be left behind when the trumpet sounds. I'm off there right now, to try and destroy that statue."

      "I'll keep that in mind," Resa said, and turned away. Two nuts in two days, she mused as she walked. Certainly a record. Something must have happened to set them off.

      She saw a newspaper stand up ahead, and very nearly passed it by as she usually did. But then she stopped, shrugged, and dug in her pocket for Neopoints to feed the box. There was nothing about "Despairweaver" on the front page, she saw as she walked, holding the paper open in front of her. Instead, there was a grainy photo of the shell of a large building, gutted by fire only the day before. She could just make out the remains of a logo: a blue octagon preceded by some five-letter word, charred too badly to read. "Shop Burns Down in Mysterious Fire," the headline proclaimed.

      It was on the fifth page that she found what she was looking for. The article was very short and lacked a photo, but she was sure that it-or a similar article-was what had caused the surge of Usul nuts and the Neomail from the day before. A few days previously, the author claimed, an amateur archaeologist had uncovered a stone slab somewhere near the coast of Mystery Island that gave a detailed description of the end of the world. The article did not say how old the slab was, or whether it was being viewed by the scientific community as genuine or a silly prank, but the one thing it did say, and forcibly, was that the end of the world would come about by Usuls.

      Resa grinned at that. She paused in her walk and looked up at the tree she had been walking under. A large red Usul stared back at her.

      "Are you the Sleeper's spawn, then, little buddy?" she asked, grinning. "Are you going to bring about the end of the world?" He made no reply, simply staring back at her. Resa laughed and continued walking, dropping the paper into the first trash bin she came across.

      * * *

      When she got home, she again checked her mailbox, smirking at the memory of the previous day's Neomail. There was nothing quite so interesting today; simply a few Auction Successful! Neomails and a mysterious magazine. She skimmed over the Auction Neomails and set out to read the magazine.

      Several moments into browsing the Table of Contents, one of the gold sponsored items caught her eye. "Mourning ProphetOne," it said, between "Fyora-Magical or Maniacal?" and "Sloth Revealed." Resa read it curiously, and found it to be an article for the friends of ProphetOne, who had apparently died of Spyder Bite the day before. Resa turned the page without saying anything. She hadn't known ProphetOne after all, and she could hardly think of anything nice to say about him.

      At around eleven, her stomach began growling and she closed the magazine, thinking of what to fix for lunch. As she stood and stretched, she heard a sound outside her window and leaned across her desk to pull the drapes aside.

      A Christmas Usul sat in the bush outside the window, perched carefully on one of the thicker branches, staring at her and holding a Fire Muffin. She blinked. He stood motionless for a moment, then cocked his head to one side and stared into her eyes with his intense, eerily dark ones. Resa stared back. After a moment, the Usul seemed to come to a decision and, making a funny underhand motion of his tiny arms, threw the weapon at the window, then turned and scampered off, vanishing within seconds up the tree in her backyard.

      Shaking her head, Resa continued on to the kitchen.

      After lunch, she was considering whether to return to her den or perhaps read a book when she heard the sound of voices outside her door, hushed, yet rising, as if a debate was being held on her doorstep.

      She peered through the peephole, and rolled her eyes at the sight of the half-dozen Despairweaver pushers standing outside, each with their own sign, the two foremost arguing about something, probably who would be the one to knock on her door.

      "May I help you?" Resa said, opening the door and putting on a smile. The arguing stopped immediately as the two turned to stare at her with the rest. None spoke, and Resa shifted restlessly in place, waiting for them to explain why they had congregated outside her door.

      The silence might have gone on longer had a chitter not made them all turn and look up at the tree standing behind them in the yard. Sitting in the branches were no fewer than two dozen Usuls, each staring intently at the small group below. As the group looked up, the furry Usuls grew silent, and their eyes seemed almost to grow, as if drinking in the sight of the Neopets staring at them, shivering with fear. Relishing it. The wind picked up suddenly then, carrying a chill that made the group shiver, and something else, something not quite placeable. The sky overhead was as dark as ever that day, but only now did it suddenly seem more ominous, more sinister that the sun was not visible, dark though it was not even midday.

      "Ah," the pet nearest to her, a Kougra suddenly said. The others turned to look at him. "I understand now," he continued, releasing his grip on his sign and letting it fall to the ground.

      "Oh?" Resa asked, raising an eyebrow. "What do you understand?"

      "We came here to warn you of the coming end, as we are warning everyone." The Kougra was pale and clearly terrified, but he stood straight as he spoke, forcing any stutter of fear from his voice. "But I see now that you are not the one we should be warning, but the one we should be warning of. Your close camaraderie with the Sleeper's beasts shows that." He pointed shakily at the tree full of Usuls as he said this, never taking his eyes off Resa.

      Resa smiled bemusedly. "What are you talking about?"

      "Yes! You are the Sleeper!" another shouted.

      "You are the one who will end the world! You must be stopped!"

      Resa's smiled widened, and the wind suddenly grew fiercer still. The sky darkened further, until it was more than just the clouds; it seemed as if the sun itself had been put out by some dark, malevolent force. "If that is so, then just how do you intend to stop me?" she asked softly, baring all her teeth in a feral grin.

      They fell silent at that, as if in shock. "What did you say?" said a Kacheek after a moment, disbelieving.

      Resa's grin grew even wider. "Just how do you plan to stop me, little mortal?" she mocked, her eyes beginning to glow faintly scarlet. "With paper signs and promises of fire and light? With my two darling sisters, Siyana and Psellia?"

      The Neopets before her said nothing, too terrified to speak, their mouths hanging silently open in shock. Resa laughed, relishing the scent of their fear, drinking it in, feeding off it. She had waited a long time for this, living among these creatures, biding her time until the signs were right and the preparations were complete.

      And now, at long last, everything was ready.

      She drew a circle in the air with her forefinger, and it turned instantly black, sitting motionless in the air at eye level. With a roar like that of rushing water, a flood of furry bodies poured out of the newly-made portal. Red and Brown and Cloud, large and small, each with the same tiny beady black eyes and each baring white and yellow fangs. Mutant Usuls, Faerie Usuls, Rainbow Usuls; all flew forth from the portal to flood the streets, each with eyes of glowing red, chittering madly in unholy bloodlust.

     Swirls of deep purple poured from the portal and surrounded Resa, and in a moment, her golden hair turned ebony and periwinkle and blue, her eyes gleamed red, her skin became palest grey, and her glowing sunshine yellow butterfly wings turned large and bat-like.

      The sky grew darker yet as the demon Usuls raced through the city, and screams began to sound in the distance. And still more of the demonic pets poured forth from the portal, faster and faster, more and more.

      And suddenly the rush ended. And Resa lowered her hand and saw before her six Mutants standing in tattered rags, eyes dull, signs torn to shreds. And she laughed, and laughed, as her devilish minions began to scour the world clean.

      The Sleeper's Wave had come.

The End

 
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