CFB: *Insert random blabbering here* Okay, here's the sequel to Guardian Towers! Dundundun! I'm back!
Hopefully I still have some tricks up my sleeve for you...haha. It's only my 2nd Hamtaro fic, but I hope I've improved since GT. More romance this time around...I realize a lot of people like that, and even though I have the romantic capacity of a dead leaf, I'm gonna give it a shot. And some more action.
Summary: When sleep is no longer a pleasant sanctuary, and nightmares rampage nightly across the minds of hamsters everywhere, a new adventure unfolds. Laura's entering seventh grade at long last! Will she succumb to the drama of middle school, or rise above it to establish who she is? And the ham-hams, after a few weeks of peace, are relieved that the whole Legend of Fate ordeal is over. But when a hamster with a mysterious staff shows up at the Clubhouse one day, pleading for help, they find that they are needed once again. Throw in a were-ham, a powerful stone, a dash of romance, and a beautiful land suspended in the clouds, and you've got a recipe for a journey twice the proportions of Hamwall! Can the ham-hams bring an evil hamster to his knees and make sleep safe for ham-hams everywhere again? They better not get caught up in their dreams, or it's bound to be a nightmare! I'm going to beat that line to death...
As for pairings? I'll let you know there will be HB and SM, but the rest are a surprise. No OC's with canon though...I never pair OC's with canon.
Enjoy. Flames, constructive criticism, and nice reviews welcome. As well as advice! I'm always looking to improve.
Disclaimer: Hamtaro and all of it's characters are not owned by me. I own all OCs and concepts not related to the original Hamtaro show.
Prologue: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...
"Fury! Joy! This is a matter of the utmost urgency!"
Princess Hamorette's bell-like voice was strong and commanding as it echoed within the intricate, moonlit throne room, strangely empty for a room of that title. Her expression was stern, bringing a sense of severity to a beautiful, angelic face, and she sat rigid in her golden throne, paws gripping the arms like they were her last link to life. Two male knights, armor-clad, their faces hidden beneath their helmets, stood on either side of her, poised and ready to defend if necessary.
Before the Princess, kneeling on the long red carpet leading from the door to the throne, were two other hamsters. These two were female, each holding a different, but equally beautiful staff. Their heads were bowed deeply, as if they could not bear to look their ruler in the face.
"We understand, Princess!" The first kneeling hamster spoke up in a tinkling voice, her goldenrod ears alert and amber eyes very serious, though she remained staring at the stone floor. A carnation-colored bandana was tied around her neck loosely. In her right paw was a staff, colored white, gold, and pink, with a brilliant yellow sun attached at the top, and intricate patterns decorating the wood. It radiated a faint aura of good cheer, though the bleak mood in the room clearly overshadowed it.
"Just tell us what you need us to do!" The second kneeling ham finished, grey eyes narrowed with focus, and paw tightening around her own staff. Hers was similar to her partners', although hers was black, red, and grey in color, and had a moon positioned at it's top. It radiated a more sinister aura, enhanced by the bleak atmosphere in the room, though it did not affect its' holder. Her russet colored ears were flat against her head with anger, a similarly colored diamond-marking covering her forehead. A pure-black bandana was her choice for attire.
The Princess carefully got to her feet to step closer to the two loyal hamsters kneeling before her, soft golden curls bouncing around her shoulders as she approached them. The two knights moved with her, one of them stiffer than the other, as if he were nervous. With brilliant blue eyes, he glanced quickly and frequently at the female hamster with the reddish-brown ears, as if he were concerned for her.
Princess Hamorette's brilliant green eyes were ice-cold and her voice clipped as she said, standing above the bowed hamsters and looking down on them, "The Stone of Slumber is essential to keep balance among hamster-kind. And now...it has fallen into the paws of a dangerous hamster. This is a very perilous situation. One that needs to be corrected immediately."
The two kneeling hamsters felt their muscles tighten with anticipation.
Princess Hamorette drew in a deep breath, locking her paws together behind her back. She continued, as a gentle rain pelted the highly-arched windows along the west and east walls, "And, as our Protectors of Slumber, it is your duty to bring it back to the right paws. I'm entrusting you with this mission because I know you will not fail me. The Stone of Slumber cannot be in his paws for long, lest he use it to torment innocent, sleeping minds."
Each strengthened their grip on their staff. "We understand, Princess!" The two kneeling hamsters, accepting the duty with no complaints, agreed simultaneously.
Her eyes softening slightly, Princess Hamorette placed one paw on the goldenrod furred hamster's bowed head and said, her voice soft as a summer's breeze, "Joy, I wish you the best of luck. Use the Staff of Dreams to assist you, if you must. Bring the Stone of Slumber back to Dreamland!"
Joy nodded, amber eyes flashing. She got to her feet and stood upright, head held high, Staff of Dreams glowing faintly in her clenched paw. With the other paw, she tightened the pink bandana around her neck.
Princess Hamorette then placed one gentle paw on the other's head. However, this time, her voice was sterner rather than lighter. "Fury, the Staff of Nightmares may come in handy on this mission. But do not let it control you, and don't let it fall into his hands. He will do whatever it takes to control nightmares, but you must not let him have that and the Stone of Slumber, or all will be lost. Don't let him prevail!"
Fury also nodded, though it was accompanied with a nervous intake of breath. Grasping the Staff of Nightmares with both slightly-trembling paws, she also stood up and stared valiantly forward, grey eyes still narrowed.
In unison, Fury and Joy, the Protectors of Slumber, touched their contrasting staffs together and declared, "We will not fail you, Princess Hamorette!"
The Princess nodded at them in approval, and forced herself to turn around. Watching the two young hamsters leave would be difficult for her; especially since they were departing the safety of Dreamland to try and get the vital Stone of Slumber back from the most vicious villain the peaceful settlement in the clouds had ever seen. Fury and Joy were lethal as a duo, coupled with their respective staffs, but Princess Hamorette was still very anxious about sending them off into such a precarious predicament. An uncomfortable knot had formed in her stomach, and she found that she could not even bring her lips to form a fake smile to try and relieve some of the tension that had seized her pounding heart.
Fury and Joy turned to embark on their mission, just as Princess Hamorette headed back for her lustrous throne, oneknight at her side. Joy took off running for the double doors at the other end of the room, mission in mind and carnation bandana billowing behind her. Fury was about to follow her when the remaining knight grabbed her paw and halted her mid-step. Surprised, Fury turned around to see his icy cerulean eyes boring fiercely into her grey ones, though the rest of his face and body was shielded beneath coal black armor, keeping his identity practically anonymous. However, Fury knew those eyes well enough to know who was under the armor. His grip on her paw tightened, as if he didn't want to let her go, and his glacial eyes were so intense Fury almost had to look away, for fear she wouldn't be able to leave after all.
He bent his head lower to be closer to her. "Be careful, Fury..." He whispered, trapping her paw between both of his and giving it a quick squeeze. He made sure to keep his voice low, so neither the Princess nor the other knight would hear his frantic words. "Return safely...alright?"
Fury found enough strength to smile at him, despite the circumstances and her thudding heart. Returning the paw-squeeze, she whispered back, grey eyes losing some of their worry, "I always come back. This time won't be any different."
He released her paw after she gave him another impish grin, and she scampered off after her partner, now more determined than ever to reclaim the Stone of Slumber and return to Dreamland as quickly as possible. Soon, both she and Joy had vanished out the massive oak doors on the far end of the room, the doors slamming shut with a very final thunk and leaving the throne room in an eery state of quiet.
The knight quickly returned to Princess Hamorette's side, before she even noticed his absence, and she sighed gravely, staring out one of the windows at the pouring rain with clouded jade eyes. She had such faith in the young Protectors of Slumber, as they had never before let her down, keeping the nightmares and dreams of hamsters everywhere in perfect balance, even if Fury did slip-up a bit every once in a while. But still, something nagged incessantly at the back of her mind, and no matter how hard she tried to think positively, a feeling of gloom and dread quickly overtook her. Her brow furrowed, and she let her paws fall limply in her lap, eyes now cast to the cold, grey floor, as if she were ashamed.
"...I have a bad feeling about this."
Thunder boomed and lightning flashed across the dark, mournful sky. Midnight had fallen, and with it had come one of the most frightful thunderstorms anybody for miles could remember. Rain pelted any surface within reach, dousing everything in a damp shroud as cold as ice. A vicious gale whipped trees and their leaves mercilessly, and several bodies of water churned and overflowed their banks as the wind pushed the frothing waves against their normal flow. It was a perilous storm, the very worst kind of weather, and anyone, big or small, who was wise stayed indoors, away from the elements that were terrorizing the terrain.
To be absolutely cliche, it was a dark and stormy night.
But one small creature loved storms, and weather like this was his favorite kind, no matter the damage it caused the world. He loved them so much, he had, in his youth, thrown away his old, pitiful name and bestowed upon himself a new, powerful name, a name reminiscent of the power of the storm raging outside his sturdy, elegant castle.
He was Steel, the only hamster in all of the world who could face the fiercest, most destructive downpour and the most hazardous, whipping winds, and even emerge from a flood unscathed. Steel was as positively indestructible and unruffled as his adopted namesake described, with appropriately gleaming grey fur not unlike the storm clouds looming in the heavens, and swirling azure eyes that could match the most vicious intensity of the greatest of tempests.
Currently, he sat perched in a jewel-encrusted throne, set at the base of a long, luxurious, but slightly tattered velvet carpet the color of fresh roses. Across from him, but several meters away, was a tall, multi-pane window, which was being pounded by rain. The furious winds made the glass shake in their metal frames. The throne room, made of a pale blue-grey stone, much like the rest of the castle, was quite dark, with only light from two small candles struggling to fill the room. Atop Steel's head sat a fine, golden crown, and in his mighty paws was a scepter. The scepter was so magnificent it brought more light to the scene than the valiantly glowing candles could ever hope to.
It was long, taller than Steel himself, and made of fine, sturdy wood. Painted a dark azure with cerulean swirl marks all over its' surface, a circle of gold was perched firmly at the top. And embedded in that bright circle was a beautiful stone, the richest of blues, radiating a faint, pale hue. It glittered brighter than any earthly gem, and it's ethereal light, though beautiful, cast a malicious gleam into Steel's narrowed eyes.
The regal ham looked so much like a King, but was, in reality, the exact opposite. He leaned back in his shining throne with a contented sigh, closing his eyes to bask in the glory of his victories. The sounds of the storm blaring outside was just a gentle, calming lull in his ears. At last, he had everything he had ever wanted. A glorious home where no one could tell him what to do, riches beyond belief, and the ultimate power to control every ham-ham's nightly visions. What more could he ask for? There was only one more thing he desired...and with his new power, it would soon be his. And, with it, the path to ultimate destiny...
Just as he was getting lost in his pleasant thoughts, a furious pounding reached his ears. Rousing himself from his dreamy state, Steel listened hard for the sound to come again. Someone, someone with small, but powerful fists, was pounding on the massive wooden door in the entryway below.
"Master Steel! Master Steel!" He could hear a faint, piping squeal between the fierce pounding and the booming thunder, wafting up the steps and to his sharp ears.
Steel rolled his eyes and sighed. It figured...that little idiot got left out in the rain and expected him, Steel, to go all the way down the stairs and to the entryway to let him in.
With much reluctance, Steel hauled himself to his feet and briskly left his new throne room, en route to the entryway, scepter always in paw. He was down the stairs in a flash, the knocking growing louder as the massive oak doors drew closer. When he finally reached the doors, he unlatched them and used both paws to heave the heavy doors open. As soon as there was enough room for him to squeeze inside, a small, tan-colored ball of fur rolled inside the castle, sopping wet and shivering, bringing a fierce bout of rain and wind with him.
Steel pushed the doors shut with great effort, trapping the relentless storm outside once again. Once everything was locked up, he stared, unimpressed, at the quivering ball of light brown fur leaving a puddle of rainwater in front of the stairs. Steel crossed his arms over his chest and began tapping his hind foot, clearly not happy.
"Nikolai...you were to be back before the storm hit."
The ball of fur unrolled itself, revealing a tiny hamster with shaggy tan and white fur, and an oversized, green velvet santa-cap perched jauntily over one ear. Voice quivering and large hazel eyes watery, the little hamster, Nikolai, squealed in a terrified voice,
"My apologies, but I was on my way back when I saw them, Master Steel!"
Steel's eyes narrowed dangerously, making the soggy puffball of a hamster shrink away from his master, before he shook his coat to rid himself of excess water. "Them?" Steel queried lightly, although he had a strong hunch who them was. And if he was right, things were about to become interesting...very interesting.
Waving his little arms like flags, Nikolai squeaked wheezily, "The Protectors of Slumber! They brought the Staff of Dreams and the Staff of Nightmares with them! Princess Hamorette must be on to us!" Nikolai began to tremble from both cold and fear.
Steel absorbed this with a smirk spreading itself slowly across his iron-colored face. A gleam of excitement flashed in his frigid eyes. Despite Nikolai's fear of this predicament, the two female Protectors coming here was exactly what Steel had wanted. "Fear not, Nikolai..." He murmured, heading up the stairs as swiftly as he had descended them, a shivering Nikolai following closely behind. "This is all going according to plan!"
And if his plan worked, he would be the strongest hamster on earth in a few short minutes.
Steel swept into the throne room once more, but instead of returning to the comforts of his throne, he stood in front of the window, which shook as the wind thrashed against it. He found the two little knobs on the center frame, and threw the windows open with a flourish. The storm rushed inside the castle, blowing out the two meager candles and sending poor little Nikolai flying clear across the room. Steel, however, merely soaked in the wonder of the harsh weather, and stepped out onto the stone balcony, which jutted out over the courtyard of the massive castle. With steely eyes, he stared over the edge, and, just as he had suspected, saw two familiar hamsters standing below in the dark grass, holding their own against the elements. He could also see the two faintly glowing staffs they held, and his smirk widened.
"Perfect..." He purred in a gravelly voice, then, louder, "You've arrived!"
They lowered their bodies into defensive stances, ready for an all-out war, staffs held tightly in their paws with no signs of relinquishing them. "Steel!" The bright one, Joy, hollered up at him accusingly, amber eyes fierce. "We've come to reclaim the Stone of Slumber!"
Steel feigned innocence, holding his scepter, embedded with said Stone of Slumber, up and queried in a nonchalant voice, "Stone of Slumber? You mean this little thing?" He saw rage light up on their faces as they glared through the rain and wind at him and his prize, and he began to chuckle.
Eyes aglow, he sneered down at them and taunted, "Well, if this is what you mean, I'm afraid I can't let you have it...I went through quite a lot to steal it, you see, and I'm not going to let it go without a fight!" The last word was a promising snarl.
The russet-furred one, Fury, pointed the Staff of Nightmares at him and bellowed, "Then fight it is! We'll get the Stone back no matter what it takes, you villain!"
Steel eyed the Staff of Nightmares she flourished at him with desire in his eyes, and ran his tongue across his lips.
"As you wish!"
He thrust his scepter out in front of him, face set in a malicious scowl. Instantly, it shot a ball of bright blue energy directly at the two Protectors of Slumber. It hit the ground between them, making them jump away in order to avoid the attack, and separating them from one another. Joy, determined, recovered and raised the Staff of Dreams over her head. A beam of bubblegum pink light hurtled toward Steel, but he ducked down in time, so it seared over his head. Nikolai, unfortunately, had been jumping up and down behind Steel to try and see the action, and wound up hurled across the room yet again as Joy's attack struck him instead, knocked out cold.
Fury tried a different tactic. As Joy continued to shoot beams of energy at Steel, attacks he always evaded and countered with his own, much stronger attacks from the Stone of Slumber, Fury scurried over to the side of the castle and began to climb the dark ivy that clung to the stone walls, and snaked itself up to the balcony Steel was on. She kept the Staff of Nightmares clenched tightly between her teeth, as she needed both paws to climb, and she ascended carefully, praying that the howling winds would not send her reeling to the ground.
Steel, however, was very observant. Despite the fact he was jumping and ducking all over the place to avoid Joy's frenzied attacks, he noticed the absence of Fury, and realized her plan instantly once he caught sight if the ivy that climbed up the side of the castle. Mouth twisted into a satisfied, yet sadistic grin, he continued to elude Joy's attacks and waited patiently for the opportunity to claim the last piece of the puzzle; the last thing he needed in order to make all his dreams, or, in this case, nightmares, come true.
But first, he had to get the pesky Joy out of the way...
Fury reached the second-story balcony swiftly, and clung to the side like a determined, furry spider. Panting, she felt the cool rain pelt her face, and she tried to calm herself down. This was her chance to finally prove herself; to show Princess Hamorette and everyone else in Dreamland that she was capable of controlling the Staff of Nightmares. This was her chance to prove herself as a real, reliable Protector of Slumber, equal to Joy, who was already regarded highly. This was the chance to prove those doubters wrong, show them that it didn't matter who or what she was, and she could not afford to mess up, especially on such a crucial mission.
Carefully, she hauled herself up onto the ledge of the balcony, where Steel's glacial azure eyes and cunning grin were waiting for her.
"Hello, Fury," He said in a fake polite tone, taking her by surprise, as she had thought she would be able to catch him off guard. "What a pleasure! I was hoping you'd drop by my new home soon...it's been ages! How is your precious Princess Hamorette?" He bared his teeth when he hissed the royal's name.
Fury realized instantly that the attacks from Joy had stopped, as Steel was standing still, no more beams of bright pink light anywhere. Taking a moment, she transferred the Staff of Nightmares to her paw and stared with wide eyes down to the courtyard. Joy lay sprawled out in a shallow crater, the result of Steel's energy attacks, her bandana frayed and fur smeared with dark mud. The Staff of Dreams was still clutched tightly in her paw, but her eyes were closed and her body was limp.
"Joy!" Fury shouted, bewildered.
"She put up quite the fight..." Fury whirled around to face Steel again, her eyes narrowed with hate and nostrils flaring angrily as his suave, but cruel voice teased her. "But, sadly, she didn't know when to give in. Now, I believe you have something for me?"
"It's mine!" Fury rebuked him, holding her staff tighter to her chest, glaring at him with burning eyes. "I'm the rightful wielder!"
He clicked his tongue in a dissatisfactory manner, though he couldn't help by smile a wry, conniving smile at her expense. "I know you are...how fitting that someone in your condition be called upon to control the Staff of Nightmares! It suits you perfectly!"
Steel's taunt wreaked havoc on her patience and made her blood boil in her veins. Voice infuriated and face contorted in a vengeful grimace, a shuddering Fury snarled darkly at him, "My condition has nothing to do with this, Steel!"
Steel frowned, though he was very pleased to see that his words were irking her. "Really? Well, to be frank, I think the Staff made a mistake choosing someone so...unstable, and, dare I say, dangerous, to control it's great power. How about letting someone more capable have it, hmmm? I swear, I'll take good care of it!"
He reached for the Staff of Nightmares, but Fury flitted out of reach, narrowly avoiding falling off the balcony. Heart pounding, she retorted hotly, a courageous fire burning in her grey eyes, "I'll never let you have it! The Staff of Nightmares is my responsibility, no matter what I am! I would never willingly give it to anyone, especially not you, Steel!"
Steel stroked his chin with mock thought. "Hm...not willingly, you say?" He eyed Fury with an evil glint in his azure eyes, sending chills up her spine. "Then I suppose I'll have to take it by force. You know how I hate violence, Fury...but, if I must..."
"You can't force me to do anything!" Fury raged at him, grasping the Staff of Nightmares as tightly as she could, trying to keep it safe at any cost. Her heart was thundering in her throat, and her nerves were making every muscle quiver. It was all on her now, to defeat Steel and bring the Stone of Slumber back to Dreamland...and she had to emerge victorious, even if she was without Joy as support. She had promised him she would be back, and that was a promise she never wanted to break, no matter how difficult it would be to beat the odds against her.
Steel chortled. "Well, my dear, I'm afraid you don't have any say in the matter."
Fury didn't even have time to react. In the blink of an eye, Steel pointed the softly glowing Stone of Slumber directly at her eyes, and she didn't have enough time to avert her gaze. Slowly, her eyes began to droop shut, and her limbs began to loosen. She swayed for a brief moment, and then was sent teetering off the ledge and onto the stone cold floor of the balcony, right at Steel's feet. She was sound asleep, and the Staff of Nightmares clattered to the floor a few inches away from her.
Once he was certain Fury was out of commission, Steel bent down and picked up the object of his desire, the Staff of Nightmares, with his free paw. As he held that in one paw and the scepter with the Stone of Slumber in the other, he could feel a jolt of power shoot through his veins. Leaning his head back and letting the rain pelt his face, Steel reveled in the moment, breathing deeply and feeling the coursing energy throughout his body. It had been all too easy. Now, he had all things he needed in order to achieve his goals...the Stone of Slumber, the Staff of Nightmares...
"At last!" He sighed contentedly against the storm. "My moment has come!"
Down below, Joy stirred. Blinking bleary eyes, the injured Protector of Slumber sat up, fighting against the gale to take in her surroundings. With a start, she looked around frantically for Fury, but her russet-furred partner was nowhere in sight. When she looked up at the balcony, where Steel stood proudly, she was horrified to see that he had both the Stone of Slumber and the Staff of Nightmares in his possession, and she still couldn't see Fury. An overwhelming feeling of dread and despair overtook her, but she refused to give in to hopelessness.
Wincing, Joy got to her feet and bellowed, "Steel! What have you done with Fury?"
Steel, displeased that he had been interrupted in his moment of glory, cast narrowed azure eyes onto the remaining Protector of Slumber, who was barely able to hold up one arm, the other useless at her side, her legs shaking and mouth twisted into a painful grimace. Sly smirk spreading across his face, Steel put his prizes together in one paw, and picked up a sleeping Fury by the scruff of the neck with the other. Joy's eyes widened in surprise as she saw Fury, captured and helpless, in Steel's ironlike paws
"I'm sorry..." Steel taunted his wounded opponent, sneering. "Fury seems to have...dozed off. But she left the Staff of Nightmares in my capable paws, so you needn't worry about that. Run along back to Princess Hamorette now...she'll be dying to know that you've all lost!"
Steel threw Fury's limp body back into the castle, where it landed with a thud near a waking Nikolai. Steel then turned his attention back onto Joy and said, "But I'm afraid you'll have to make the trip back to Dreamland alone...I know perfectly well that the Staff of Nightmares needs it's proper, rightful owner to wield it...so I will be keeping Fury here with me, to fulfil my wishes."
Joy's eyes widened further, but her expression quickly morphed to one of helpless anger. "You can't!" Even as she yelled, she knew that it was futile, as she would never be able to stop him now that she was alone and he had so much power in his paws. Steel knew it as well, and couldn't contain his evil, resonant laughter as he looked down at her horrified face.
"Goodbye, Joy. Sweet dreams!" Steel shouted in a sarcastic voice, a look of pure evil on his face.
He raised the Stone of Slumber high over his head, and it began to glow a bright blue in color. Before Joy could react, a beam of crackling, sheer blue energy, much stronger than his previous attacks, hurtled toward her. It struck her with so much force she was thrown into the night air like a rag doll with the Staff of Dreams still clenched in her paw, and she soon disappeared from sight as the fierce winds and resonating attack from Steel sent her careening off into the black forest beyond the castle.
Deed done, Steel heaved a calming sigh, satisfied. However, he still had more work to do. He turned around and walked back into the castle, shaking his coat to dry off. The windows blew shut with a jarring clatter behind him, and his throne room, dark and eery, was swallowed into near-silence. Using the pale blue light from the Stone of Slumber as a guide, Steel made his way to the back of the room, where Nikolai had regained consciousness and was staring with curious, but worried hazel eyes at Fury, who sat slumped against Steel's brilliant throne, still out cold.
"Why did you capture this one, Master?" Nikolai asked, nose twitching as he nervously adjusted his green hat. "Princess Hamorette will send her whole fleet of knights out to save her!" He began to anxiously wring his paws.
Steel rolled his eyes. "I've told you before, Nikolai! I cannot use the Staff of Nightmares; only its rightful wielder can. I need Fury to complete my plans. While I use the Stone of Slumber to control the sleep of hamsters everywhere, Fury will give them nightmares. Soon, even the bravest of Dreamland's knights will fear me! And then, I will have no trouble building my empire and capturing Dreamland, Hamelot, Hamopia, and the rest of the world's greatest hamster kingdoms!"
He chuckled then, glancing at Fury with a mysterious gleam in his eye. "Besides...nobody knows about nightmares more than a nightmare herself."
Nikolai shuddered slightly at his words. "B-but...Master?" He cringed as Steel's cold gaze fell on him. "How do you know Fury will...will...listen to you?" He'd encountered Fury on a couple of other occasions, and she had never seemed to be lacking in the 'sheer will' category, nor was she bereft of anger or her namesake.
Steel barked a laugh, making an anxious Nikolai wince again. Steel knelt down on one knee before a slumbering Fury, unable to stop smiling a malicious, twisted smile. "Fret not, Nikolai..." He murmured, focused, as he lowered the Stone of Slumber so its faint hue cast itself gingerly across Fury's sleeping face.
"She won't have any say in the matter. Her will belongs to me now."
At his words, the Stone of Slumber began to glow brighter, and turned a vivid, violent crimson color, its aura illuminating the entire room. Nikolai cowered behind Steel, shivering, and pulling his hat over his eyes so he didn't have to watch. Steel focused solely on Fury as she began to stir. Her whiskers twitched, and soon, she had sat up, her grey eyes starting to flutter awake. Nikolai, unable to deny his curiosity, peeked around Steel's side and lifted his hat to see the captured Protector of Slumber. He was surprised at what he saw.
Fury's eyes, once gleaming with determination and anger, were now dull and lifeless, and her face held no trace of emotion. She looked blank, and aloofly vacant. It was as if...as if she were a puppet, mindless and unable to move without help. The sight of such a valiant warrior drained of life and vigor made his shaggy fur stand on end as chills ran up and down his spine.
Steel seemed pleased by the change, however, and he dropped the Staff of Nightmares at her feet. She stared at it absently as it landed with a wooden clatter, like she didn't even know what it was or the power it contained. Steel commanded her, voice strong and unwavering,
"You know what to do, Fury."
Abruptly, as Steel's order wafted to her russet ears, Fury's face became focused and alert, but her eyes remained blank and void. She got swiftly to her feet, picked up the Staff of Nightmares, and, as her paws closed around it, the moon perched at its top began to glow the same bright red as the Stone of Slumber, filling the room with even more blood-colored light. It glinted off Steel's fangs as he smiled victoriously, eyes narrowed with both concentration and malice. Nikolai began to shudder even more violently, as he could feel the power emanating from the Staff held by a zombified Fury and the Stone held by Steel, now unified into one intense, unstoppable force in the wrong paws.
In a robotic, monotonous voice, void of all feeling, Fury replied,
It took a wounded Joy a good hour and a half to return to a slumbering Dreamland. The instant her carrier dove alighted down on the land in the clouds, passing through the gate that had been left open for her, she staggered through the desolate streets alone, headed for the castle in the center of town, clutching a wounded arm and the Staff of Dreams and praying that her legs would not give out on her.
Princess Hamorette and her two knights were waiting in the castle for the Protectors of Slumber to return, having not budged an inch since their departure. When a battered Joy threw the doors open and fell forward in an exhausted, muddy heap in the entrance to the throne room, unable to proceed any farther, the three were so surprised they raced forward to her aid, the black night and drizzling rain sweeping over the entire party through the open doors.
"Joy!" Princess Hamorette, not even caring that her luxurious hair and dress were getting wet, examined the warrior worriedly, propping her head up with one gentle paw. "What happened?"
Joy coughed, and her eyes opened slightly. "He was...he was too much. He knocked me all the way into the forest...I was...no match..." She wheezed, breathing heavy as she tried to sit up. Hamorette convinced her to lay down and relax, and she lay limply on the cold marble floor, utterly exhausted.
The knight with the icy blue eyes stared out through the doors, which were still slightly ajar, waiting for the other Protector of Slumber to make her way into the room. A moment passed, and there was no sign of her in the dark night; just the whisper of the wind and the empty, damp streets. Instantly, the fur on the back of his neck stood up, and he asked Joy in a muffled voice, trying to keep his composure lest he let the Princess know just how concerned he was for the absent hamgirl,
Joy's face was instantly overcome with a look of regret and sorrow. Staring knowingly into the knight's eyes, she remarked, "I...I wasn't able to do anything. He captured her...and the Staff of Nightmares. I'm sorry...she's gone."
The knight's eyes widened, and he was barely able to prevent himself from falling to his knees. The other knight, sensing this, placed a strong paw on his armored shoulder and gave him a sympathetic glance with piercing red eyes. The blue-eyed knight was not consoled, and was soon overcome with a wild anger as he punched the nearest stone wall, not even caring that the punch made tiny ribbons of pain shoot up his arm. He wanted nothing more than to charge out into the storm, fly to Steel's castle, and save Fury, but he knew that as long as Steel had the Stone of Slumber and the Staff of Nightmares, it was a futile effort without a sufficient plan and some backup. Sorrow swallowed him again, and he was barely able to keep his composure, standing in a numb shock by his red-eyed companion.
Princess Hamorette's angelic face had fallen. A look of concern and sorrow swept over her perfect features, and she instructed the red-eyed knight, "Please take Joy to the infirmary and see she gets the best medical attention possible." Not needing to be told twice, the red-eyed knight cast another quick glance at the other, grief-stricken knight, and he carefully lifted an exhausted Joy up into his arms and dashed quickly through a pair of doors on the east side of the room, pattering footsteps soon vanishing into silence.
Princess Hamorette's jade eyes glazed over with a mixture of emotions, from sadness to anger to regret. She stood up and walked out into the calming storm, now reduced to a gentle drizzle and a slight summer night breeze. Her ears began to droop, as she looked up at the moon and murmured,
"I should have known. Steel will stop at nothing to have what he wants..." She trailed off, wringing her paws. "This is all my fault."
The knight joined her outside, rain striking his armor with various plinking sounds, still distraught. Trying to keep a measured tone that would not reflect the turmoil inside, he said gruffly, unable to tear his eyes from the velvety night sky, "Don't say that, Princess. We will find a way to defeat him, save Fury, and get the Stone and Staff back." He sounded the most determined about the second task, but his voice was strangely hollow, as if he didn't fully believe the words he said.
Princess Hamorette smiled a humorless smile, face grim. "Steel will not give up quite so easily. He has been after the Stone for a long time, and now, he will harness its power, combined with the Staff of Nightmares, to strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest hamsters. Even you, the bravest knight in Dreamland. Then, with the Stone of Slumber, he will have the power to control the sleep of all hamsterkind. I fear that there is nothing we can do to stop him..." She stared down at the perfectly carved stone steps, curls falling, wet and stringy, into her face.
And then, she seemed to have a total change of attitude, as her head snapped straight up and her face lit up like bright neon. The knight, surprised, peered at her expectantly. She looked like she had just had a major revelation.
"Do you have an idea, my lady?"
She seemed not to hear him, but began to mumble incoherently for a moment while the knight waited for her response."Unless..." The Princess finally murmured for him to hear, tapping one paw to her chin as he eyes began to dance with an anxious fire.
"Unless...we had some help."
The knight's ears pricked forward. "Help?" He queried, a bit surprised. "What do you mean by help?"
Princess Hamorette smiled as she turned to face him with shining jade eyes, a sharp contrast to her mood mere moments before. She shared her idea in a voice brimming with confidence. "I'm speaking of reinforcements, of course."
The knight's expression darkened. "My lady, you do, of course, know that none of the other hamster kingdoms will lend their aid to Dreamland."
Hamorette smiled sadly. "Of course they won't...not after what happened four years ago. However, I am speaking of help outside the kingdoms. You remember a few weeks ago...we heard from Watcher Nimbus that the Legend of Fate had been fulfilled by the Guardian of hamsterkind and a powerful group of hamsters, including a very skilled swordsham? Nimbus saw it with his own eyes, and he said that they were very brave. They stopped the evil Spyke from hamster-world domination! If anyone can help bring Steel to his knees, it's going to be them!"
The knight looked a little hopeful, but it soon faded into wistfulness as the rain began to die. "It is a very good idea, my lady..but...how will we find these hamsters? They could be anywhere...it'll be like looking for a needle in a haystack, even if we assign all the Watchers and the knights to the job. By the time we even find them, Steel will be too powerful to stop."
Princess Hamorette was too determined to be put down by his negativity. "Fear not..." She declared proudly, staring with narrowed jade eyes at the silvery moon and holding her regal head high. "Nimbus followed them back to their home after they left Hamwall, and he gave me the coordinates. I marked them on a map, just in case we ever needed to drop by. Surely they will help us stop Steel, save Fury, and restore Dreamland, and the rest of the hamster world, to balance. I will do whatever it takes to keep my subjects safe. If we join forces with another strong group of hamsters before Steel gets too powerful, we have a good shot at victory."
The knight still seemed doubtful, but wanted very much to believe that the Princess was right.
"I always come back. This time won't be any different."
As Fury's promise rang in his ears, the knight's cerulean eyes narrowed into deep concentration and he instantly began to believe firmly that the Princess's plan would work. It had to work. He would not let it fail, and he would not give in until Fury was safe and sound, back in Dreamland, where she belonged. He would not rest until he had her back.
"Very well, my lady!" He stated, voice now brimming with confidence as well. "Shall I take a carrier dove to the home of these brave hamsters? We must begin right away if we are to stop Steel before he grows stronger!"
"No.." The Princes shook her head, glancing at him with clouded eyes. "I need you and the other knights here, in case Steel attacks. Once morning comes, I will send someone else to find them. Someone just as capable." The knight seemed disappointed that he would not be going on the search, but realized where his duties lay, and did not argue.
"Of course, my lady. But, if not a knight...who will you send?"
"What was your prognosis?"
Princess Hamorette, now wearing a clean dress and fur re-curled into golden perfection, gazed worriedly at a bandaged Joy as she lay, Staff of Dreams resting at her side, in her hospital bed. The two knights, not leaving the Princess's side for very long, hung in the back of the infirmary, letting the two females have private time to talk. Joy's left arm was in a sling and one ear had a bandage around it, but, other than that, she had only sustained minor scrapes and scratches. Her spirits, however, had taken quite a large hit, and her shoulders were stooped, expression bleak.
Joy offered the Princess a weak smile, still clearly down about having lost her partner and not being able to stop Steel, and replied, amber eyes lightless,"I only need to stay the rest of the night. My arm will be fine in a couple of days, it was just badly bruised. I'll be ready for anything you need me for tomorrow, Princess."
The Princess smiled wryly. This worked out well for her plan. "If you mean that, and you're absolutely certain that your injuries are not severe, then..." She bit her lip, still a bit concerned. "I have a very important mission that I would like to send you on. It may very well determine how the battle between us and Steel will end."
In an instant, Joy had picked up the Staff of Dreams in her good paw and the fire had returned to her vivid amber eyes. "Name it Princess! I will do anything if it means saving Dreamland and rescuing Fury!" Her voice was resilient, face set with unwavering resolve. The nurse hamster shot her a look, and, not wanting to get in trouble, Joy reluctantly settled back down.
Princess Hamorette was thrilled by her enthusiasm. "Very well. I knew once you heard, you would want to go..." She reached down under her chair and drew out two pieces of paper.
The first she held up was a map of Japan. As Joy leaned forward, for a better look, she could see the name of a town was circled in red, and the words 'Oak Tree Park' had been scribbled next to it. Joy's eyes were confused as she looked to the smiling princess.
"'Oak Tree Park', Princess? Why are you sending me there?"
"Because..." The princess replied, handing a befuddled Joy the map as she held up the next paper with one paw. "Oak Tree Park is where you will find these hamsters."
It was a picture, taken by Watcher Nimbus a few weeks before on his scouting trip to Hamwall, the same time a certain Legend had come into fruition. On it, a surprised Joy could see the Guardian from the Legend of Fate taking flight on a hill, an orange and cream-colored hamster with a powerful-looking sword, and a group of very confident hamsters standing on the grass by a huge, eroding tower. Instantly, Joy realized Princess Hamorette's intent, and a huge grin wound it's way onto her face.
She and the princess exchanged a look of understanding, both of them smiling broadly, their faith restored.
"Get some rest, Joy. You leave tomorrow morning."
CFB: And a new adventure has begun! Sorry for the lack of regular Hamtaro characters in this chapter...but it's important! I have to set things up before I bring them in, right?
Next time: Steel strikes, but not directly...exactly how much power does he have over the hamster world, now that he can control how they sleep? And how will it affect the ham-hams, who are trying to enjoy some vacation time after defeating Spyke? When Joy shows up at the Clubhouse, their world is about to be thrown for a loop! Are they even ready for a new adventure? And Laura's first day of school has arrived...what happens when Kana delivers some very shocking news?
There's at least one character in this prologue that you've met before, to some degree...if you read Guardian Towers. Can anyone guess? Haha.