I'd like to thank my hubris for goading me into posting this without benefit of beta readers.


The Warrior Awakens


Galen Hardesty


She floated in the soothing mineral waters of the Warm Spring of Wellness, delighting in the sensation as the sand grains roiled by the spring's upwelling tickled her toes. Then, with lazy finlike motions of her hands, she slowly crisscrossed the pool until all parts of her body had received their share of tickling.

At length she climbed out, careful not to slip on the mossy stones along the edge. The diaphanous garment she wore clung to her like a second skin. It covered her torso in iridescence like a dragonfly's wing but, dripping wet, it contributed very little to the cause of modesty. She lay down on a bed of massage moss and reveled in the sensation as the moss slowly conformed to the contours of her body and began delicately probing for points of tension and stiffness.

Her eyes wandered lazily over the Glade of Repose, finding everywhere something to delight them. Here a baroque filigree of fern fronds, there a fantastic furry beast formed of moss-covered stones, everywhere the many varieties of lilies. By the brook, the little spider lilies in their hundreds, their pure white arms and pink-streaked white petals drawing the eye into their violet-speckled hearts; on the higher spots the tiger lilies, fiercely guarding their territories; beside the path the tall pure white kind, so bright they seemed to be giving off light of their own.

Tree trunks stood on every hand, some rough, some smooth, in every imaginable shade of silvery gray, some rounded, some fluted, but all about the same girth, like the columns of a temple so vast that its ceiling was lost in the mist.

The mist. Thin and bright, little more than a haze, but shimmering, sparkling, caressing, embracing, drawing everything here together into a unity, a wholeness.

And in the mist, something moved. A figure walking, approaching along the path. It entered the glade, vanished and reappeared behind the trees, then rounded a bend so that it faced her directly. It was Elvon.

With long, slightly wavy greenish gold hair, complexion paler than a frostbitten Norse maiden, more lissome and graceful than any human woman, yet definitely masculine, Elvon was achingly, inhumanly beautiful. She still could scarce believe he loved her.

His eyes were upon her. She was acutely aware that her wet garment was almost completely transparent. As he came closer, she could see exactly where his gaze rested, and subtle nuances of his expression hinted at what he was thinking of doing at those places. She fluttered her eyelids and gave him a slow languorous smile.

Elvon's eyebrows did something impossible to mere humans, and a mischievous smile illumined his face, but then a look of sadness dimmed it, like the shadow of a carrion bird. He knelt at her side, lifted her hand, and kissed it tenderly.

"Arise, my love. Alas, it is time. You must away hence. You must seek the Black Pool and drink deeply of the bitter waters of Remembrance."

"Oh, no, Elvon! It is too soon. My wounds still ache, my soul still bleeds."

"And my heart aches for you. But you are the champion. There is no other whose mind is keen enough to see through the lies and schemes of the enemy, whose heart and arm are stout enough to stand her ground against all odds, and whose blade is keen enough to cut them and their mindless minions down. Without you, this place could not exist, and alas, you must leave it to defend it. Your folk need you too, though they do not yet realize it."

"Aye. I remember vaguely, as if it were a dream. The pits, the snares, the hordes of trolls and golems. The evil strategies to find out and foil. But I am so weary still. I must rest yet a little while."

Elvon began to speak again, but just then there came a very unpleasant grating sound, a sound that grew louder and more unpleasant, like a locust from hell. A cold dank mist arose, filling the glade and hiding its beauty from her sight. She identified the source of the sound, a thing like a black toad with evil red eyes. Her fist smashed it and silenced its vile stridulations, but too late. Elvon was gone, the glade of repose was gone, the warm spring was gone, vanished in the chill mist. Torn by loss rendered no less painful by its inevitability, she stood, and was not surprised to find her feet upon a path.

As she stumbled through the dim, dank mist, more by feel than by sight, the sound of falling water came from up ahead on her right. Somehow she knew that the waters would be refreshing, but that way was blocked now. Continuing on the path, she turned left and descended into a small valley, somewhat less dim than the higher way. The path cut back to the right, and she saw what looked like an arch up ahead, with brighter light spilling forth from it.

A small bent tree beside the path looked somehow familiar. She knew that the place she sought was near. Ignoring her weary limbs and aching feet, she trudged on through the archway. The mist here was bright, too bright for her murk-accustomed eyes, but now a stoneware vessel was in her hand and her object was in sight. But hold. Another warrior barred her way. An Amazon, by the look of her, in battle gear of crimson. "Not a fight, not now. I'm so weary, and have not my armor." She thought. The Amazon scowled at her. But she couldn't turn back now. She must reach her goal. Acting on instinct, she mustered her reserves of strength and courage and advanced a step, but made no overtly hostile move. The Amazon snarled something and stepped out of her path. Another step, and another, and she was there. A different mist rose up in her face, warm and fragrant, further clouding her vision and disorienting her, yet drawing her onward. She reached, fumbled...

When her vision cleared, she was looking down. The vessel in her hand was filled with blackness. Black... black pool... she remembered Elvon's voice saying "...seek the Black Pool and drink deeply of the bitter waters of Remembrance." She lifted the vessel to her lips and drank. Bitter it was, and hot, but it seemed to dispel the dank mists. She drank again, deeply. Then came the remembrance, bitterer than any drink. She was Daria Morgendorffer, and this was a school day. She groaned and sagged against the counter.

Refilling her mug from the carafe, Daria shuffled disconsolately over to the round table bathed in the cruel light of a Lawndale morning. Slumping into Quinn's chair because it was the closest, she looked over at her mother in her crimson power suit. Helen was scowling into the black depths of her coffee mug, as if hoping that the answer to life's great question would float to the surface.

Daria felt uncharacteristically moved to speak. Eschewing banalities of the "good morning" variety without a thought, she asked, "Will it ever get any better?"

In that moment, Helen knew exactly what Daria meant, and she almost spoke her mind with complete honesty. But something... pity, mother love, lawyer training... stopped her. She willed her face to smile, and one corner of her mouth obeyed. "Where there's life, there's hope, sweetie."

Daria replied "mm." Somewhere above, the sound of falling water ceased. "Quinn's getting out of the shower. If I don't get in before she gets dressed, she'll do her makeup in there and I'll never get a shower." Swallowing more bitterness, she headed back up the path to prepare as best she could for the day's battles.



La la LA la la.



1. This story is about the sadness and loss of waking up from a really beautiful dream, and the courage it takes to face the cold, ugly real world.

2. Elvon is not a 'Mary Sue' character, but his physical description is a description of me.



"Daria" and all related characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, inc. The author does not claim copyright to these characters or to anything else in the "Daria" milieu; he does, however, claim copyright to all those parts of this work of fiction which are original to him and not to MTV or to other fanfic authors. This fanfic may be freely copied and distributed provided its contents remain unchanged, provided the author's name and email address are included, and provided that the distributor does not use it for monetary profit. (as if.)

Galen Hardesty [gehardesty@yahoo.com]