..."Destroy the orb."
"How do we do that?" asked George.
"I have studied the orb for many years," Nicki replied. "And the only way to destroy this object of magic is to smash it. Destroy it. Pick it up, and throw it very hard against the rock."
The Gelert nodded with determination and picked up the artifact. He held it high above his head, ready to give the hardest toss he had ever done in his life...
When he paused. Something wasn't adding up.
"Wait," George started as he lowered the orb. "If it was always this easy, why didn't you just smash it yourself?"
"Oh, er," Nicki fumbled, "it is very magical and dangerous, I didn't want to touch it myself--"
"So you were just ready and willing to put ME in harm's way instead?" The Gelert wasn't sure who he should be more upset at. Nicki clearly didn't mind putting him in potential danger, and Myria wanted to destroy Tyrannia--
"Where did you even find out 'the truth' from?" George folded his arms and stared right through Nicki, the Ixi's eyes now wide and frightened. "You've clearly been here in this cave for who knows how long?"
Nicki gulped. "Yes, well, I... er... OK, you caught me." The weak voice was gone now, replaced with one of more confidence, one with hints of anger.
George watched in horror as the elder Ixi before him started to melt, and then disappear...
In a small puff of smoke.
"Well done, Gelert," came the voice of Myria, followed by slow clapping. "You have seen through my feeble conjuring."
The faerie walked through the cave mouth to greet him. "Well, looks like I'll have to find some other sap." She adjusted the bone in her hair.
"What do you mean, 'sap'?" George asked furiously. "What was all this? That? What are you doing with Jhudora?"
She nonchalantly stole a glance of herself in her fingernail. "There was never any Jhudora in all this, that was all part of the narrative made up to try to convince you to smash the orb." She looked at him. "And yes, it would have killed you. Had I done it myself, it would have killed me."
The Gelert was still angry, but was even more curious. "And why was smashing this orb so important?"
"Well, for one," she started, "it doesn't actually smash. A huge hit will just 'disturb' the forces within it... forces that tear its wielder apart, and cause earthquakes. It was disturbed by one of my followers in the times of prehistoric Neopia, when our people started to leave Tyrannia in droves in search of the 'new' and 'exciting'." She air-quoted the words spitefully. "The earthquake buried our civilization, hopefully preserving it against the peopling of other lands."
George kept listening intently, his arms crossed. This faerie, while he disliked her, seemed genuine in her speech.
"And it was one of the rebellious ones who disturbed it again," Myria continued. "Thought Tyrannia should interconnect with other lands. Good riddance to him I suppose, but his followers placed the orb to be guarded by the beast, and the earthquake he caused exposed Tyrannia to the modern Neopian world and started this mess of cultural loss." She frowned and looked away. "George, I did not lie to you before when I said you were the only one who wished for a Tyrannian item. I didn't want you to end your life, especially considering you're the type of Tyrannian citizen I am trying to preserve."
He frowned too. "Then... why did you ask me?"
She looked back at him, tears down her face. "You were the only person who WOULD do what I ask... everyone else, 'Myria? Who is Myria? There is no Myria in the Neopedia, you must be a fake! Help me out of this cage!' Things like that. I mean, I get I've been away for a while, but STILL! How can Tyrannia forget its own FAERIE?"
"Look," George began, his anger diminished, through her sobs. "It's terrible people forgot you. And culture is very important. I know that as much as you -- I've wanted to be painted Tyrannian for many years."
"See, George," she interjected, almost hysterically, "we're a good team. We could get someone else to disturb the orb, and you and I could rebuild Tyrannia on Tyrannian culture and principles--"
"I'm not done," the Gelert interrupted. "Tyrannian culture is important to Tyrannia. Mystery Island culture is important to Mystery Island. And on and on. But they don't close off their lands to others. And many other lands love Tyrannian culture, like they love their own -- look at the attendance of the concert hall! Look at the MUSICIANS in the concert hall! Everyone comes from somewhere. And yet there's something that unites us as Neopets on this planet."
Myria just frowned at him, but she stopped crying.
"As it stands, the Tyrannian economy and the happiness of many of its citizens is tied to an interconnected Neopia." But then George smiled. "This said, there's nothing wrong with appreciating Tyrannian culture, our shared heritage, in the land of Tyrannia, and being proud of who we are. Maybe, rather than scorn the captives for wanting dubloons or neggs or the next big thing, bring them an omelette or a small obelesk, tell them and show them how neat it really is."
And with that, George started to leave.
"Wait," Myria called after him. "Please... take this." She waved her arms, and in front of him appeared a Tyrannian Paint Brush. "It's the least I can do what with what I almost put you through."
The Gelert grinned and took it. "Thank you so much, Myria."
The faerie smiled back at him. "Thank you."
George used it on him right in the cave. He felt himself change and become the Tyrannian pet he was born to be.
The Gelert roared back at her impressively, enthusiastically, and dashed out of the cave.
The Lair Beast could wait for another day.