It's hard to say exactly how Nowah knew something was wrong that night, but he did know, and in the middle of his own dream he rose from his bed of leaves quite startled. All the other children were soundly sleeping with their little nightlights decorating the cozy cave in which they took shelter, but soon Nowah realized there was another there amongst them.
Nowah saw a tall, dark figure lurking over the children as it passed them by, one by one. It would sweetly push their hair aside as if checking their faces to see who they were, and when it came to Sarah's patch of leaves, the lovely girl began to squirm.
"Sarah," it whispered with a raspy voice. "Lovely girl, I'm here."
Nowah drew out his dagger and growled. When the figure turned, he saw that it was in the shape of a woman, made completely of darkness like a shadow; and what's more, she then turned into a hart and quickly pranced out of the cave.
Sarah was now beginning to whimper. "No," she moaned. "I "" I can't."
"Sarah," Nowah said as he nudged her shoulder. "What's wrong? Wake up."
But Sarah would not wake, and at that moment, he instantly knew why. It was a Nightmare that had visited her all the way from the mainland. But these sinister creatures take different forms on the island, and thus are sometimes called Nightharts.
Nowah grabbed a bow and a quiver of arrows as raced out toward the moonlit mouth of the cave. Standing there he saw the Nighthart just as it disappeared into the brush. A bleeting tribe of goats sat to his left; most of whom were greatly bothered after having seen the Nighthart. Nowah took the least frightened one and rode off into the night.
Nightfall in the Neverlands is a special time. When most ought to be sleeping, the island begins to shuffle itself anew. There are butterflies of an unusual size that emerge and flutter about a march of wildflowers migrating to another part of the woods, and the rivers themselves stretch and bend until they arrive at a more comfortable position. Also at this time are the many puddles that appear, glowing quite brilliantly in the shaded darkness under the canopy. These are no ordinary puddles, no, they are the windows to the wishful future.
Nowah peeked into one of them and saw his own reflection, but behind his shoulder was Sarah's smiling face. "Hullo, Sarah," Nowah whispered as she waved at him. He then thought to wave back before hearing a cracking sound that made him continue on through the woods.
Nowah and Peter had spent countless adventures coursing the nightly Neverwoods together, and as result, not even hunters of the Serengeti could track a mythological beast quite as well as he. Although having never killed one before, Nowah knew that Nightharts leave behind a trail of dead grass wherever they step. And so, wherever the moonlight broke though the canopy, Nowah followed the signs. Moments passed before anything was heard, and then finally it happened. Nowah found the creature prancing from the cover of the woods up to a very high cliff.
He took the reins of his scapegoat and raced after it full speed, and as he neared the peak he skillfully knocked his arrow ready to fire the instant he saw the thing. But when the top of the hill revealed itself, Nowah saw the lady again, and she was nearing the edge of the hill, frighteningly backing away from him.
The shrill scream it let out quite literally scared his goat frozen stiff so that it stopped abruptly, sending Nowah flying. But the determined lost boy didn't even skip a beat. He hit the ground rolling, and in the blink of an eye, was back on his feet racing towards it with his arrow knocked. The moment Nowah let the arrow loose, the woman fell off the cliff and he missed her. Finally Nowah stopped in his tracks, but only for a moment.
Perhaps if this was a story of any other, we might have end the chapter here, but this was Nowah, and so of course, he leapt after it without a second thought.
After Nowah landed the ground, the Nighthart, now on the ground and back to its deer form, stopped surprisingly to see the resulting cloud of fairy dust glinting in the moonlight. Moments passed without any change whatsoever, and then "" in a fairy's second "" an arrow flung out the dust, striking the dark deer square in the heart! A loud crow let out as Nowah sprung from out the cloud with another arrow already knocked on his bow.
"Sweet dreams!" he shouted. "I have slayed the Nighthart!"
Sadly, this victory of his was short-lived. For soon after the Nighthart was again on its feet, and this time, when Nowah shot his arrow it passed straight through the creature as it danced off into the night.
"No!" Nowah shouted as he ran off chasing after it.
It is well known that Nightmares "" be it on the island or the mainland "" feed off the fear of others, and so it is only naturally that they are often found around one of the most easily spooked animals in the woods. This made things horribly difficult for Nowah as he came across large clearing in which a herd of deer were grazing. All of them froze upon Nowah's arrival, and Nowah sat looking at the fifty or so identical faces eerily staring at him. One of them he knew was no deer, but the Nighthart.
Nowah was sure that it was taunting him.
"Sarah," called a voice somewhere amongst the herd. "I'm so scared. Someone is chasing me."
This angered Nowah to no end, and at that very moment he wanted to scream out in rage. But just when he was to open his mouth, a number of hands muffled him, and pulled him back into the shadowed woods. The lost boy's had found him.
"What are you doing?" said Thrice. "You were about to ruin a perfect opportunity."
"Thrice?" Nowah said baffled, surrounded his lost boys. "What are you all doing here?"
It turns out that Tidbit saw the whole affair take place that night, only he was too afraid to make a move. But the moment Nowah raced out of the cave, he woke the others and told them what had happened. He himself, chose to stay and guard Sarah while the rest went out looking for Nowah. And Tidbit was so angry with himself. Had only he taken his safety-blanket before they set out on their journey, perhaps none of this might have transpired. But out of fear that Southpaw would taunt him again, Tidbit left it on his bed.
"We have the Nighthart right where we want him," said Southpaw.
"It's no use," said Nowah, defeatingly. "Arrows cannot harm it."
"Not those arrows," he replied, reaching into his bag and grabbing a fist-full of sharpened fire opals. "You must use these." Nowah gazed upon the glowing stone in awe; it seemed like a great firestorm was raging inside. "Usually it's Tidbit's Nighthart we have to deal with," he added. "but since we live underground, his Nightharts really easy to hunt. Out here though, in the woods, it's almost impossible to catch them."
Nowah snatched the stones and quickly began fashioning arrows. It was clear to the others that Sarah's Nighthart greatly bothered Nowah, to say the least. He seemed madly obsessed with the idea of taking it down, which is why they were hesitant to tell him what came next. The lost boys kept glancing at each other, hoping someone else would speak up first. Finally Half-right came to the fore, and the others sighed with relief.
"N-Nowah," said Half-right, timidly. "There is something else."
"What is it?" he said, aggravatingly.
"You can't just shoot it," he said. "If you do, Sarah will lose her memory."
Nowah stopped now. "What are you saying, Half-right?"
"It's just "" killing Nightharts is fine for us." he said.
"We have no one to recall, you see; because we are already lost. But Sarah Lovely has a mother and a father. If you slay the Nighthart she will forget them."
That was the catch. Nightharts "" though malicious and grim, should not be killed, rather they should be quelled. The children suggested they instead catch the beast and lull it to sleep. They thought for sure once Nowah knew, he would not wish to rob Sarah of her precious memories. But Nowah was not alarmed by this, in fact he was more intrigued than anything.
"If Sarah forgets," he replied. "she will not leave." The others became very silent. "Don't you want Sarah to stay too; with us?"
"Well," said Half-right. "I do, but would it be right to steal her?"
Given his unsure nature, Half-right was the moral compass of the group, and we dare say if it wasn't for him the band would likely all have been slayed long ago by Dusky Trouser's crew or perhaps some other outlaw on the island. You might have known a "Half-right" yourself growing up. They are always the type of children to question the morality of things, where you were willing to go with whatever was more fun. Nowah was not this kind of child; for these children are always the first to grow up.
"It's not stealing," Nowah said. "Sarah wants to stay with us." Nowah saw all the letdown faces of his lost boys and felt the light of shame cast directly upon him. "Fine!" he said. "Then what shall we do with it?"
"We'll stop it with a dreamcatcher!" said Thrice
"A dreamcatcher?" said Nimble.
"Yeah, remember?" said Thrice. "Just like Dawnstar taught us that one time."
"Oh yeah." Nimble replied.
Thrice and Nimble, as they were the best at arts and crafts, then began making dreamcatchers, setting them up all around the clearing. Nowah, Southpaw, and Half-right circled the clearing at different ends, carefully watching so that none of the deer secretly stole off. The minutes that passed by were quite frightening; every now and then they heard the sobbing of a woman in distress from somewhere within the herd, and also the awful, deathly, gut-wrenching coughs that made even the bold Southpaw feel uneasy. Finally, Thrice and Nimble had finished warding the meadow and whistled for the others.
As the gang gathered, Nowah looked ponderously at the sparkling rods Thrice and Nimble held.
"What are those?" he asked.
"They're Pixie Sticks." replied Nimble. "For the sprite-works, of course."
"Might as well make a spectacle." said Half-right.
We shall not ask how they acquired such items, but you can be sure had Mab found out about it, she would have scolded them fiercely. "It's time we feed the fear!" said Thrice as he and Nimble sneaked into the heart of the herd. Nowah and the others watched from a tree branch as they went about setting pixie sticks here and there until the preparations were complete.
"Nowah?" said Half-right.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Did Peter ever have Nightharts?"
"Sometimes," he replied. "But they were much to fast to kill. And they had wings."
Now that the meadow was warded, and the pixie sticks were set, Thrice and Nimble lit a single match, staring at it as if witnessing the birth of something beautiful; and it was, in a sense, the calm before the storm.
Nimble glanced to Nowah for the go-ahead. At his nod, the fuse was lit and the two lost boys joined the others on the tree. The children were all filled with a thrilling anticipation watching the sparks crawl their way down the fuse. For one last moment, silence remained in the meadow. And then, the lost boys crowed very loudly as the spriteworks shot off bursting in the night sky, making brilliant displays of fairy shaped features.
The meadow was thrown into a state of panic as the deer stampeded out of the clearing. It was quite charming really, to see the lost boys up in the tree, laughing and shouting out and smiling as it all went down. If only Sarah could have been there with them.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to see witness was the wretched Nighthart attempting to leap out with the other deer, but every time the dreamcatchers threw it back. Very soon it was the only creature left standing in the meadow.
"Help me, Sarah." it said.
With great fierceness in his eyes Nowah leapt down off the branch while the others had to carefully climb down. And when they saw him grab the special arrow, they frantically called out to him. But Nowah would not hear them now, only the sound of rage rung his ears.
As he approached the dark hart with his arrow knocked, a strange moment passed between both he and the Nighthart. The spriteworks burst in the air above them, and the Nighthart, in all its wickedness, transformed back into the lovely lady. The other children were completely shocked by this, but Nowah's countenance had not changed not one bit.
"You can't have her," he said. "You are old and will die soon. So just "" "
"No!" said Half-right as they Lost Boys came into the meadow. "You mustn"t!" Nowah stood silent, staring at the woman who stared back at him. The others were quiet now. Truth be told, they all wished him to go through with it so that Sarah would stay. But no one wished this more than Nowah, who thought of all the days he spent alone in his nest.
"Sarah will forget everything," Half-right said.
As the last sprite-work exploded in the air, Nowah's decision was made.
"Not everything, Half-right," he said. "She'll not forget me."
All the lost boys slowly crept into the cave that night, and slipped into their beds with the most guilt-stricken looks on their faces. Tidbit yawned watching Nowah come in last. "The lady sleeps," he said, finally lying his head down.
Nowah then took to his pile of leaves next to Sarah. As all the others fell to silent slumber, he remained awake, quietly watching her as she murmured in her sleep.
"Don't worry, Sarah," he said. "I'll be right here always; whatever dreams may come."