Asteria Nightmare

A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma

Summary: On this island, it's personal. The inhabitants don't just steal your body; they feed on your dreams. Features all Straw Hats. Nakamaship; no pairings.

Note: Aaaand we're back! This one takes place between the Thriller Bark and Sabaody Archipelago arcs and, as usual, the idea was spawned by a few arc themes that I wanted to explore. You will see as we go along. :)

Warnings: Rated T for some language and general...dark creepiness. What can I say, I am a fan of the creepy. Also this fic is going to be long. Like...really long. Yeaaah...

Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, One Piece or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs solely to Eiichiro Oda. The only thing that belongs to me here is the concept for the story.

"Shall I turn pirate king and go raiding in the West Indies, and fill a covert with gold from Spanish merchant ships for you?"
~His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik

Nami knew, as soon as she saw the brilliantly flashing gemstones in the sunlight streaming through the jewel-crafter's shop windows, that she absolutely had to have them.

She considered, very briefly, attempting to pilfer a couple. She quashed the thought as quickly as it came, however. She knew she was a good thief—one of the best out there, enough to even earn her particular pirate title—but good as she was, she knew there was no way she'd ever be able to pull off a jewel heist here. The people of Adamantina, the 'Island of Gems,' prided themselves not only on their rich collection of rare minerals and expert jewelry crafters, but also in their ability to protect their many valuables.

Each jewelry shop on the island that she had seen so far—and there had been dozens in this one section of the town alone—came equipped with at least three geohounds, enormous stone-like canines that fed on minerals and could smell rare gemstones yards away. The creatures were massive, almost as tall as Brook at the shoulder, and guarded each and every exit from the craft-shops they were owned by. Any thief trying to leave with a few pocketed rings or necklaces would quickly find themselves sniffed out and hunted down. If they were lucky, they would walk away afterwards. If not so lucky, they might lose a limb, or worse. Nami had no intention of getting on one of those ugly creatures' bad sides, not if she could do something about it, not even for millions of beri. You couldn't spend millions of beri if you were dead, after all.

Nami had first spotted the enormous geohounds when they docked at Adamantina that afternoon, while trying to ask the locals how long it would take her log pose to reset. After learning that the reset time was very short (a bare twelve hours, hardly anything compared to some of the other islands they had visited in the past) she had started wheedling the local jewel-shop caretakers into conversation to learn about the stone-creatures. Most of the shopkeeps were tight-lipped about the strange creatures, probably preferring the air of mystery they had about them. But Nami eventually found one who was talkative and willing to explain the unusual tourist attraction, in between his attempts to sell her dozens of things in his shop.

They were native to the island, she learned quickly, and had long ago been tamed by its inhabitants. Geohounds were imprinted at birth to specific owners via careful gem feeding, and remained steadfastly loyal to their masters for the rest of their five to ten year life-spans. They would not hesitate to chase down anyone identified through their training as a thief, and indeed reveled in the hunt and the protection of their master's property. It had been necessary, the shopkeep explained, to upgrade their security after pirates and other brigands constantly ran off with the island's valuable merchandise and livelihood on a regular basis.

"But why don't they attack people who buy the gems legally?" Nami asked, eyeing one of the stone dogs snoozing by the doorway a little nervously. The thing was a like a small mountain, and its snoring easily rivaled that of Zoro', more like ten Zoros.

"Scent," the shopkeep answered cheerfully. "When you pay for a piece, I put a special scent on it that the geohounds identify as a neutral warning. People can't smell it, but animals can. They know it means you've paid and aren't a threat. Here, try this necklace, miss...I think it would look lovely with your hair, don't you?"

Nami raised a hand to wave the item away. Every piece of jewelry in the shop was beautiful, to be sure. The store had an enormous collection of emeralds, sapphires, rubies, diamonds, pearls, opals, and dozens of other valuable gemstones, neatly crafted together with gold, silver, and platinum to create a variety of rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pins. This shop alone was a veritable treasure trove of goodies, enough to keep any pirate happy for years, and it wasn't even the largest shop she had seen yet; Adamantina had earned its name as one of the world's leading markets in jewelry after all. But most of the pieces here were a bit too gaudy for Nami's taste, and all of it was far too expensive to obtain legally. It was the reason she inquired after the geohounds, after all. But she didn't think she would be getting anything past them without that special neutrality scent, and no matter how much she wheedled further, pretending to be an excitable tourist, the man only laughed at her and refused to show her how he scented the legal purchases.

He kept pressing more items at her, enthusiastically trying to make a sale, and Nami sighed and humored him a little, trying on the various necklaces and bracelets while trying to think of how to liberate one without being parted from her—er, the crew's precious beri. Nothing came to mind, though, and she had just decided to leave and try her luck at a new store when a flash of light at the windows caught her interest.

That was when she saw them, and when she knew, more than ever, that she had to have them.

"What are these?" she asked, twisting the current bracelet the shopkeep had her trying on off of her wrist and absently shoving it into his hand. She trotted over to the window display quickly, bending down to get a better look at the pieces inside.

They were exquisite. There was absolutely no other word for them. Nami had long prided herself on her sharp eye for appraisal, and knew she could identify any gem and its worth in only a few moments, but these things stumped her. There were three of the gems, each one fairly small, set in matching rings with surprisingly simple clasps that didn't seem remotely similar to the rest of the store's decor. Unlike the other gems in the store, these ones didn't seem to have any particular color to call their own. They looked almost clear to Nami at first, like glass, but as she shifted position and the sunlight's angle changed, they seemed to shiver through a spectrum of colors—blue, red, green, yellow, purple, red again, all so fast it was nearly impossible to pick the individual colors apart. As quickly as they had flashed past, Nami could tell each color was strong and pure, revealing no inconsistencies or impurities in the gems themselves. Even without identifying them, Nami instinctively knew they were worth a fortune.

"You have an excellent eye, miss," the shop keeper said proudly, coming to stand beside her. "Those are the pride of my establishment. They're called Dreamshards. They're extremely rare, you know? They wash over sometimes, from the nearby island. The local fishermen find them sometimes, or people along the beaches, and sell them to us. I'm lucky I managed to get a hold of these, we haven't seen too many of them in the past years."

"Can I hold one?" Nami asked, and was surprised to find her voice quavering with excitement and awe. The shopkeep cheerfully removed a ring of keys from his pocket and unlocked the glass case the rings were held in, removing the piece with the largest gem and gently placing it in her cupped hands.

It felt almost alive, when she looked at it. It shivered through another spectrum of color again as she shifted it delicately in her fingers to pick it up and slipped it almost reverently onto her thumb (the ring shank was too large for any other finger and had clearly been made for a man). She was almost enthralled by the way the gem flashed, and ran her fingers over it carefully, almost afraid she would leave smudges or scratches. But no trace was left behind, and the gem shone as brilliantly as ever, smooth and warm to the touch.

"How much?" she found herself asking impulsively. A tiny part of her mind screeched that she was being too hasty, but the rest of her mind told herself firmly to shut up and take a backseat. Savings be damned...she was getting this Dreamshard, one way or another.

But when the grinning shopkeep listed the price, her face immediately fell. It was easily five times the price of any other piece in the shop, even the most expensive gem-stuffed gaudy necklaces. Not even her insatiable desire for the Dreamshard would let her spend that much, not even if she had it. Hell, just to afford the ring she'd need to sell at least one or two of the boys for their bounties, and as irritating as they could be about ninety-five percent of the time, she couldn't even justify that to herself.

"Even for the smaller one?" she asked, pointing at the smallest Dreamshard of the three, set daintily into a woman's ring.

"It isn't much less," the shopkeep said. He was now giving her an anxious look, part crestfallen and part irritated, as if he'd suddenly realized that she couldn't afford it and wouldn't take it.

"That's a ridiculous price for a ring!" Nami nearly shrieked. "You actually expect people to pay that much for a single jewel set on one little band of silver?"

The shopkeep's expression grew stiff, and he adeptly plucked the ring off of her thumb before she could protest, placing it back in the case and locking it. "People pay it," he said crisply. "I've sold them before, miss. They're worth it. In fact, I probably undersell them, compared to other shops. Dreamshards are difficult to come by, you know? They're extremely rare, and nobody even knows how they're made."

"But they just come from the next island over!" Nami said in frustration. "You said so yourself! How hard can they be to get?"

The man suddenly looked afraid. "They come from Asteria Island, to be sure," the shopkeep said slowly, "But we don't go there. We find them when they wash up on shore, or when the fish eat them and the fishermen catch them. They're beautiful, but they're not worth it—hey!" His eyes widened as Nami suddenly spun away from him, marching for the exit. "Miss! Where are you going?"

"I'm not going to pay that much for one stone when there's a whole island of them without competition," Nami said smugly. "You can stay here and wait for them to wash up on shore. I'm going to go find a few for myself." Well, she'd force most of the others to do the grunt work, while she appraised the worth of the raw Dreamshards, but the end result was the same.

The jeweler looked scared now, and moved as if to grab her arm, stopping only at the last second when she glared warningly at him. "You can't go there, miss," he said anxiously. "Please don't! Look, I can offer you a three percent discount, if you like—just please, please don't go there!"

"What...afraid us pirates will steal your market?" Nami asked, still feeling quite smug.

But the man was shaking his head. "No, no, that's not it. I honestly wouldn't care if you managed to find a few on your own, Dreamshards are gifted by fortune...but I don't want you to sail to your death, miss! That island is very dangerous. Very dangerous. Very few people who sail there every come back. Those who do are empty husks of their former selves, and talk of nothing but terrible nightmares..." He began wringing his hands anxiously, looking genuinely concerned.

That put a damper on Nami's spirit. Adamantina was located smack in the middle of the Grand Line, and like most of the Grand Line's inhabitants, its people were strong and usually fully capable of taking care of themselves. The citizens of this island were especially used to combat; pirates and other brigands attacked it regularly, determined to plunder it and strip it bare, and even the mildest of the locals had some way to defend themselves. Very little scared the Adamantians, but if this island caused them to react so fearfully...

For a second Nami considered forgetting her new plan. Jewels weren't really necessary, she thought to herself sadly. Certainly not worth risking one's life over. But a quick glance in the direction of the window-display strengthened her resolve almost instantly. One look at those beautiful and mysterious gems flashing in the sunlight in all different colors was enough to confirm for her that yes, a little danger was worth those Dreamshards. And anyway, it wasn't as if it would be an impossible venture. Her captain was Straw Hat Luffy for crying out loud, and backed up with the indomitable fighting spirits of Pirate Hunter Zoro and Black Leg Sanji she doubted anything would even come remotely close to causing them trouble.

She took one last glance at the shimmering Dreamshards, nodded resolutely, and then turned to the shopkeep. "The warning is appreciated," she said with a grin, "but we're still going. See you later. Thanks for the info." And, turning, she stepped casually over one huge paw of the still-snoring geohound, leaving the stunned shop keeper standing in the doorway.

Several hours later, Nami was extremely displeased to find her preparations had ground to a halt. Or more specifically, that they hadn't even gotten started to begin with.

Her initial plan had been to get all the information she needed about this mysterious Asteria Island first, before approaching Luffy and the others with it. Her captain would inevitably be completely enthusiastic about the trip—it all but screamed of adventure, and coupled with the very real possibility of finding treasure, it was all the hook she needed for him. And Sanji-kun would swim through shark-infested waters for her if she asked him to, so she highly doubted he would object to the trip, either. But the others—especially Robin and Usopp, and maybe Chopper as well—would probably want more information before they began the trip, preferring a little more preparation. Not to mention she would need something to back up her suggestion-disguised order, just to keep Zoro from digging in his heels and being a general nuisance, since he tended to do that a lot.

Unfortunately, what she hadn't planned on was that no one on the island would have the information she was looking for. Or more specifically, that they would point-blank refuse to give it to her.

At first she thought they were really just ignorant. Nami questioned a number of other jewelcrafters and shopkeepers, but no matter how she wheedled, bartered, begged, or batted her eyelashes, none of them would divulge information about Asteria Island. They all looked anxious when she asked, and changed the subject as soon as they could politely do so, looking fearful. A few more, guessing her intent to try and travel to the island, gave her similar warnings as the first shopkeep: that it was dangerous, and that if she traveled to the island, she would die. At the end of hours of questioning Nami had nothing to show for all her attempts but a headache. She still did not know why the island was dangerous, or how the Dreamshards were created, or even where Asteria Island was.

She did pick up on one thing, though. The villagers weren't ignorant—they were trying to protect her. Several of them did seem to know answers to her questions, but avoided them nervously, or tried to sidetrack her by showing her items from their stalls and shops. The few jewelcrafters exhibiting Dreamshard pieces seemed to avoid her questioning the most at all, and most frequently were the ones to warn her of the dangers. It seemed nobody was sharing anything because they didn't want her to go to the island, for one reason or another. Most claimed it was because it was too dangerous, but more and more Nami was beginning to wonder if it wasn't simply to protect their own economic interests.

In the end, frustrated at her lack of knowledge, Nami finally gave up and resorted to the last of her skills: theft. While she couldn't steal from any of the jewelry shops, and was not foolish enough to try it, with the geohounds towering by the doors and watching each and every person fiercely, that did not mean she could not steal from Adamantina at all. The geohounds were only useful for guarding precious gemstones and metals; they seemed curiously inept at smelling parchment. Nami was easily able to snatch a map of the nearby islands from one of the navigation shops, when the owner was distracted by another customer. She'd had to pilfer it from behind the counter—it was the only map in the place that showed Asteria's coordinates, and the man had refused to show it to her—but it was a worthwhile, er, investment in the end.

She made for the Thousand Sunny quickly after that, still careful to dodge and duck down extra streets and between houses to throw off any possible followers (she knew she hadn't been caught stealing, but better safe than sorry was her motto). Other than Chopper, on ship watch, she was the only one there. It gave her plenty of time to study the map closely and prepare a little incentive speech for her venture to the island of the Dreamshards, and by the time the rest of the crew arrived back on the Sunny that evening (she'd predictably had to wait longer than anticipated for Zoro) her game plan was as ready as it would ever be.

Nami approached the subject at dinner, once Luffy's usual eating binge had slowed to a more tolerable, contented pace. "I have a new heading for us," she said.

Several of the crew, those not immediately preoccupied with protecting their plates from Luffy, gave her puzzled looks. Usopp asked curiously, "I thought the Log Pose wouldn't finish setting until later tonight?"

"It won't," Nami admitted, "But that's fine. I've got a better plan, anyway. There's an island near this one that has a treasure trove of rare jewels called Dreamshards. No one ever bothers to go there, so I think this is a great opportunity for us instead!"

A few of the Straw Hats groaned, and Zoro scowled at her as he said, "What...trek all the way to this other island just so you can get a few rocks?"

"Don't insult Nami-san's brilliant scheming!" Sanji-kun snarled back, and the two glared at each other over the dinner table. Had dinner not conveniently been between the two, Nami was sure Sanji-kun would have thrown himself headlong at their swordsman to begin one of their bouts; that was why she had chosen dinner as the best time for this little announcement.

Luffy was looking up curiously now, and managed to say through a mouthful of his (and judging from the irritated scowl, Franky's) dinners, "How come nobody goes there if there's treasure?"

Nami grinned; Luffy had perfectly segued the conversation to its next part. "That's the thing," she explained. "Nobody who goes there every comes back. Or most of them, anyway. But I don't think that'll stop us. If anybody tries it, Luffy, you can just knock them around a bit until they get the message that those Dreamshards are mi—I mean, ours."

Luffy looked enthusiastic now, but it was Usopp who spoke up next, while waving his arms wildly and then crossing them into an 'X.' "Are you crazy, Nami? If everyone who goes there never comes back, then if we go there we'll never come back either!"

"Not everyone who goes there doesn't return," the navigator said defensively, arms crossed as she scowled across at Usopp. "If nobody ever returned, where would all these stories come from?"

"What stories?" Chopper asked curiously.

At the same time, Usopp—looking only slightly more reassured than before—said timidly, ", the people who came back are the ones who brought these Dreamshards with them? I...I guess it can't be that bad, if they come back and get filthy rich..."

Nami was completely ready to go along with the story Usopp had unwittingly provided to her, since it would make it much easier to convince the more fearful members of the crew, but before she could even nod her agreement she was interrupted.

"But that doesn't make sense," Franky said slowly. "I saw some of these Dreamshards Girlie's talking about today when I was looking for industrial-grade diamonds, but when I asked the shop owner he said they drift ashore, or fishermen find'em. He said nobody ever goes willingly hunting for them."

"Dammit, Franky!" Nami hissed in frustration, but her curse was drowned out by an enthusiastic laugh from Luffy, and the twin wails of Usopp and Chopper as they flailed about in a new bout of panic. It took several minutes to quiet them all down, requiring a few irritated kicks on the part of Sanji to shut them up 'while beautiful Nami-san explains her brilliant plan,' and ended with matching lumps on Luffy's and Usopp's skulls and Chopper firmly attached to Zoro's head.

"I think we'd better hear these stories," the swordsman managed to mutter around Chopper's fur, looking sorely put out after his attempts to dislodge the reindeer from his face failed miserably.

Nami sighed in exasperation, but the entire crew was leaning forward now in excited (and in some cases, fearful) anticipation, and even Luffy had momentarily stopped swiping food in favor of paying attention. So, grudgingly, she divulged what she had managed to gather from the shopkeepers.

"There isn't much to tell," she said slowly. "Like I said, most people who go there don't come back, according to all the people I talk to—but that could be for any number of factors, not because the island itself was the cause. This is the Grand Line after all. And people do come back. They just...aren't in very good shape when they do." Frowning, Nami added with a look of slight confusion, "What I heard wasn't very clear. Supposedly the men who come back rant about nightmares stealing their dreams. And it sounds like they waste away not long after. The doctors on Adamantina have examined the people who return, and can't find anything physically wrong with them, so they just called it nightmare-death and leave it at that." She shrugged. "It's not like it affects us anyway. After Thriller Bark, I don't think anything could be more nightmarish."

"This is insane, Nami!" Usopp countered—apparently he did think the stories were a big deal. "Look, even if you might be right, and the people who disappear could have just died, I don't know, a storm or something—we still know something about that island is dangerous. Why else would people come back and have this...this...this nightmare sickness? We shouldn't go near this place!"

Chopper looked nervous too. "I've never heard of anything like nightmare-death before," he offered timidly. "It's not in any of my medical books. I know some mental illnesses can be dangerous, and depression can be really problematic if it's not treated, but I've never heard of it coming on so strong all at once like this..."

"The ghost girl could do it," Zoro pointed out, his voice slightly muffled due to his head still being partly encased by the reindeer's fearful grip.

"But that was a devil fruit," Chopper said with a frown.

"And? We don't know what causes this thing at all," Zoro argued back. "It could be a devil fruit user, for all we know." Across the table, Sanji nodded reluctantly in agreement.

Nami had thought of that too, and she had to admit it made her more than a little nervous. Especially since, unlike Perona's Negative Hollows, the sickness the men gained from the island didn't seem to eventually wear off. From what she had gathered at the shops today, the doctors had never found a cure for this so-called dream-eating that the victims ranted about.

But she wasn't about to share that with the already terrified Usopp and Chopper, so she said instead, "Zoro's right, we don't know. But if it is a Devil Fruit user, I'm sure we can beat them. Usopp, you of all people should know. Didn't you beat Perona at Thriller Bark?" Usopp blinked, looking caught between wanting to argue with her reasoning and wanting to brag about his amazing victory, and ended up saying nothing.

Nami moved on before he could recover. "And if it's anything else—a trick, or marines, or something—I'm sure we can beat them too. Sanji-kun, you wouldn't let a simple trick or devil-fruit user keep me—I mean, us, from getting the treasure I—I mean, we, deserve, would you?"

"Of course not, Nami-san!" Sanji trilled enthusiastically. "Just point the way and I will happily reveal any schemes and put down any obstacles in your path all in the name of love!"

Zoro opened his mouth to crack some sort of insult, but Nami cut him off before he had the chance. "And you," she said, addressing the swordsman, "are you actually going to refuse a potential fight, just because of a few scary stories?"

"Of course not!" Zoro said, scowling. The scowl transformed into a grimace of irritation as he realized he'd been baited, and Nami grinned triumphantly at what was essentially (to her) an agreement to go.

"Trust me," she continued, turning back to Usopp and Chopper, but her words were directed to the others as well: Luffy (not that she had to convince him), Robin, Franky, and Brook. "These Dreamshards are absolutely worth it. One little shard was worth five times as much as a whole gold necklace studded with diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. That's almost as much as Zoro's bounty. Think of how much money that means to us!" Well, mostly for her, but maybe if she was feeling generous she'd let them have a few of the smaller runty ones.

"We'd have enough money to keep the ship in repair without problems, and even have extra for additions and experimental modifications." She eyed Franky as she said this; he loved to play around with engineering and building, while she considered it a waste of materials if the experiment turned out to be a failure, and they'd had more than a few (perfectly reasonable) arguments over where to allocate funds for those ventures. The cyborg seemed to consider her words, looking thoughtful.

"There'd be plenty of money in the ship's funds to keep us well-stocked with food, too," she added, listing another practical benefit. "The Grand Line is getting more and more unpredictable now, so it'd always be good to have more storable supplies as backup—"

"And more meat!" Luffy interrupted enthusiastically.

"Yes, that too," Nami said with exasperation, but if it got Luffy even more interested than before, she was willing to put up with it. "Plus, if these Dreamshards come from this island, what's to say there aren't tons of other really amazing things hidden there? If nobody's been there in ages and survived to tell about, there could be other treasures hidden away there as well!"

"I am very curious about the island's history," Robin commented, speaking up for the first time since the conversation started. "From what I could gather from the local legends on this island, it sounds as though Asteria once had a thriving culture, but it unexpectedly disappeared some time ago." From the traces of determination in her voice, it was clear she suspected that 'disappearance' was somehow linked to the Void Century, and she intended to investigate if she could.

"The thought of these nightmares frightens me," Brook admitted, "But I simply must help you all find these Dreamshards if I can, since I have seen the brilliance of them in town today with my own eyes! Ah...even though I have no eyes."

"Oh, man," Usopp whined. He looked first at Zoro (still with attached Chopper), then Sanji, Nami, Robin, Franky, and Brook, before nearly groaning, "We're going, aren't we?"

Almost as one, the entire crew turned to face Luffy. The Straw-Hat captain was grinning from ear to ear, and Nami gave herself a congratulatory pat on the back for doing such a fine job enticing their captain. Adventure, treasure, and more meat? Luffy couldn't pass it up if he tried.

"Nami," he ordered, still grinning enthusiastically, "Set sail for this nightmare island! We're gonna steal these dream rocks from them instead!"

She was so happy she didn't even bother to correct him, and so caught up in her own glee she could easily ignore Usopp's panicked wail, or Zoro's coughing grunt as Chopper clung more firmly to his head and cut off his airflow. They were officially on their way, and soon enough she would have a whole pile of Dreamshards to call her own. She grinned smugly to herself as she began giving orders for setting off at first light in the morning, imagining the stunned looks on all of those jewelers' faces when she showed off the gems she'd already gathered in her imagination.

This trip would definitely be worth the hassle.

Adamantina comes from 'adamantine,' a mythical unbreakable metal. Asteria Island's name comes from the term 'asteria,' a star-shape that appears in some gemstones.

As always this fic is pretty much completely written but for the last chapter, so it will have regular updates. If you feel like leaving a review, please tell me what you think...what is good, what is bad, what you like, what you don't! I like hearing it all.

Hey owe me cake!