Fungal Halo

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A Cycle Broken

The Dark Lady of Nightmares glided silently through the night’s cool air, her body magically transformed into her giant bat form perfectly suited for stealth. As she approached the City of Light, she swept her eyes over it, scanning for the tower where the princess slept.

The ancient prophecy declared that whenever the Dark Lady rose to power again, one born of noble blood would receive the Divine Gift of the goddess to banish her.

It happened. This princess was the chosen one. But she had not yet had time to reach her full power.

If the Lady could end the chosen one here and now, she would be unstoppable. So she flew, silent and steady, to the place where the princess laid her head, her unwary guards not watching the skies nearly close enough as the Lady alighted on the balcony and reverted her form.

Silently, carefully, she crept through the window and approached the bed.

It was empty.

“Hello there, Lady Agna. You are right on time.”

She whirled toward the voice and saw the princess sitting comfortably to the side of the window, fully dressed, open book in her hands.

“My spies within your walls told me to expect you,” she explained, “so I have been waiting.”

The Lady’s eyes searched the room. The princess was alone.

“Foolish to be so unguarded,” the Lady pronounced. “You cannot believe you have mastered the Goddess’s light so quickly.”

“I have not, no. I feel her soul tied up in mine, but I have not strengthened that bond to any degree that could be a threat to you.”

The Lady scowled. Something wasn’t right. “What do you hope to gain by confronting me alone, then? Do you think you can bargain?”

“Yes. I do.”

The princess continued. “My spies have told me much. I learned more about your past defeats from your library than what has been taught to me, and about the powers I am expected to wield, and the noble sacrifices my predecessors made to stop you.

“I do not care for sacrifice.

“Nor do I care for a goddess that would select me for such a fate.”

“Go on.” The Lady was intrigued. “This is new.”

“Well, there was something else my spies told me, albeit indirectly. The longer they stayed near you, the more you seemed to win them over.

“Over time their messages avoided criticizing you…started actively praising you, in fact. They began to urge me to join you.”

The Lady grinned. “My corruptive aura is a powerful weapon, yes.”

The princess nodded in agreement. “I have had to assassinate and replace so many spies when their loyalty wavered.” She suddenly shuddered, grimacing. “Oh, the goddess hates when I think about doing such things.

“In any case, when her soul descended into me, I made up my mind.

“My spies were right. I should join you.”

The Lady’s eyes narrowed. “Trickery is a new tactic for chosen ones, but then so are spies and assassinations. What is this?”

“Not a trick!” The princess raised her hands in a show of openness. “I just want to break this cycle.

“Perhaps something of your corruption passed through the messages from my spies and leaked into me, or perhaps I am simply different from my predecessors. Either way, I believe I have found a way for us both to win.” The princess smiled, gesturing at the book she was reading.

“Take me with you.” The princess stood, closing the distance between them. “Let me stay by your side. As your influence taints my soul, it will strangle the goddess’s within me.”

The princess stood close to the Dark Lady, her eyes catching the moonlight as they locked with hers.

“When the goddess’s light dies inside your most loyal subject, that power will become both fully mine and entirely stained with devotion to you. There will be no hope of stopping you, and I will join you in immortality.” The princess’s eyes pleaded, her lips parted, face flushed.

The Dark Lady noticed her own breathing quickening. “Oh, my… Freedom from the fate your goddess has chosen for you isn’t all you want is it?” Agna’s hand stroked the princess’s cheek as her voice dropped to a sultry whisper. “Why don’t you tell me what exactly you want?”

The princess’s face visibly reddened, and she took a moment to swallow sudden nervousness before responding. “My spies said you were beautiful, but I thought it was just your influence. Now that I see you myself…their words do not hold a candle to the truth.

“I want to prove that I can be the only one worthy to be your partner. I want,” she hesitated, “you. And I want to worship you in ways nobody ever has this disgusting goddess.”

The Dark Lady of Nightmares smiled and pressed her lips to the princess’s.

The princess stepped into her embrace and the two sank into shadows, oozing across the floor and out the window. The pool of shadows reformed into a giant bat and flew, unseen, back into the night

It would be dawn before anyone discovered their chosen one was gone for good.