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from the beginning!
Time passed. Soon Jonothan healed completely and the two friends were at their
old games and adventures. One evening they were in Azurel's chamber and Jonothan
was looking out the window, thinking. He looked up at the beautiful princess
whom he had come to care for so deeply in just a little over a year. Sighing,
he looked back towards the forests, and distant lands unseen.
"What's wrong, Jono?"
"What? Oh, nothing's wrong, I just..." Jonothan looked up at the princess as
he let his voice trail off. "Azurel," he said cautiously. "Do you love me?"
"What," the princess asked, in a surprised voice. Jonothan turned away only
to have the princess gently place her hand under his muzzle and made him look
at her. "Don't look away from me like you did something wrong, Jono," she said
"It is just that you startled me with your question." She bent down, and kissed
him on his forehead. "I have to believe that I do love you, Jonothan. I know
that I would care for you the same way even if you were a nem, a human, or a
dancing Blumaroo." She finished with a small laugh and Jonothan smiled back
at her, but his smile soon disappeared as emotions clouded his crystal blue
eyes. He rose, walked over to the window and looked off into the distance.
"It is time," he said.
"Time for what," Azurel asked.
"When we first met in the clearing, I told you that there would come a time
when I would require you to do something. Do you remember that?"
"Yes," she replied hesitantly.
"Then you mean..."
"I mean it's time for you to honour your word to me."
"What is it you would ask of me, Jonothan?"
"You must destroy me, Azurel."
"No! Jonothan you cannot..." Jonothan turned on Azurel so quickly that, for
the first time since they met, she pulled away for fear of the mighty Eyrie.
"Azurel! You swore to me that you would do as I asked, no matter how you felt
about my request." Jonothan stopped as his voice broke and his eyes filled with
the pain that he felt.
"But you can't... I love you, and you want me to destroy you," the princess said,
tears flowing down her cheeks.
"I know it hurts. Do you think it hurts me less to ask you to do this? Azurel,
I have loved you since the moment I first laid eyes on you. I hate seeing you
cry. I hate being the cause of your tears even more," Jonothan cried out as
faced Azurel, his voice cracking as he spoke. "I am sorry," he said quietly,
turning away as he spoke. Jonothan knelt down before the princess, as he had
done many times before. "Azurel, please. Get on my back." Jonathan's cracking
voice was so quiet it was very nearly a whisper.
"Where are we going," the princess asked, her voice cold, and tight.
"To the stables," was the simple reply. Azurel got on Jonathan's back for what
she knew would be her last time. Jonothan rose, and quickly and quietly moved
through the castle to the stables. He stopped in front of a stall inside which
was a large, young, but well-trained gelding, and allowed Azurel to dismount.
"Quickly, get him ready to ride. I must go get something. I will return in a
moment," he said softly, answering the unasked question in her eyes. True to
his word, Jonothan returned in a short while, carrying something in his mouth.
Jono placed his small package at Azurel's feet as she led the gelding from his
stall and into the cool night air. "Take it," he said, as his voice filled and
cracked with his tightly controlled emotions.
"What is it?" Jonothan turned away as she picked it up.
"Open it." He continued to speak as the princess began to open the bundle.
"It is the blade you will need to use to destroy me." The princess looked at
the dagger she held in her hand. It was a dagger. Its blade was twice the length
of her hand, and the hilt was just that length. The dagger appeared to be a
single piece of carved black stone that glittered in the light of the gentle
full moon. A full moon that was only just appearing in the beautiful evening
sky. Two carved images were on the hilt, one on either side of the hilt. One
image was that of a Eyrie, and the other was that of a man. "Mount up, Azurel,"
Jonothan's voice broke through the princess's reverie. "It's time to leave."
"Where are we going?"
"We're going back to the clearing." Jonothan began to move off towards the
gates, and Azurel mounted the horse and followed. Soon they arrived at the clearing,
and Azurel dismounted, tying her horse to the limb of a nearby tree. The princess
looked around saw how the shafts of moonlight made the clearing seem enchanted.
Jonothan did not move as Azurel approached him and knelt down in front of him.
Azurel leaned over and embraced her friend.
Jonathan's cry shattered the gentle quiet of the clearing. As he pulled away
from Azurel's arms the dagger fell from her hands to the ground, staining the
grass. Jonothan looked at the blade and then at Azurel who burst into tears
as she turned away from him.
"Thank you, my beloved," Jonathan's gentle voice was no more than a whisper
in Azurel's ear. "I will always love you, and no matter what happens, I will
always be with you." With those words he moved to the middle of the clearing,
where the light was the least, lay down his head, and he died. Azurel spun around
and looked to the sky, hearing a bloodcurdling shriek, and saw the silhouette
of a Faerie fall from the sky. Moments passed as the princess continued to cry.
She did not see that where the clearing had once been dark, and a golden Eyrie
had once lain lifeless the moonlight shone upon a handsome young man, who was
just beginning to rise. The young man turned to Azurel.
"Why are you crying Princess?" At the sound of his voice Azurel turned, pulling
away at the sight of the young man.
"Who... who are you," asked the princess, her voice shaking. The young man's
expression became haunted and seemingly anxious.
"It's me, Azurel." At this Azurel started, but she took a closer look at the
young man standing before her. He was lean and well built, with deeply tanned
skin accented by his blond hair; hair the colour of... gold. It was then that
Azurel looked into his eyes. They were the luminous blue that only exists at
the exact moment of dawn.
"Jono?" At the mentioning of that name the expression on the young man's face
became one of relief and of pure and open love.
"Yes, Azurel, my love. It's me." With this confirmation Azurel took a step
forward and became caught up in Jonathan's passionate embrace. "I love you Azurel,
and I will never let you go." Azurel tilted her face upwards, towards him. She
did not have to go far on tiptoe to kiss him. It was a soft kiss, but not at
all short. Finally, Jonothan lifted his head from the kiss. "It's time to go
back, my love," he whispered as he pulled away from their embrace keeping his
right arm around Azurel's waist. He led her over to the gelding and helped her
into the saddle. With Azurel comfortable Jonothan untied the horse, and mounted
up behind the waiting princess.
"Let's go, my love."
"I like the sound of that." Jonothan kicked the horse, and the two rode off
under the light of the full moon. As they made their way back to the castle
Jonothan told Azurel the story of how he became the golden Eyrie that she had
known for the last eighteen months."
"Azurel, I am Jonothan, Prince of Thaetar. About a week before my sixteenth
birthday my mother held a masquerade ball in my honour. Towards the end of the
night a caped stranger approached the throne where my mother sat. He bowed and
extended his hand towards my mother. This was, for us, a custom. However, what
followed was not."
"Once my mother placed her hand into his he demanded her hand in marriage.
My mother pulled her hand back, and found that it magically bore his ring. She
ordered him to leave, but he laughed, and told her to reconsider his offer and
agree within two years--or pay his price. My mother called for the guards, but
by the time she had finished the order the man had disappeared."
"After two years had passed and the stranger had not returned my mother had
another masquerade. This one was to celebrate my eighteenth birthday and her
naming me heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the stranger visited us again,
this time with a cloaked companion. Near the end of the night my mother called
for all to remove their masks, the stranger did not comply, nor did his companion
remove her hood. Instead they approached my mother. I saw them make their way
towards her and I too started to move towards the throne. I reached my mother's
side at the same moment he kneeled before her. Everything occurred as it had
before, except for his reaction."
"When my mother refused him a second time he stood up and threw back his cloak,
revealing a long, black sword hanging at his side. Everything about him radiated
with evil. His clothes were tight, well made, and as black as coal. When he
revealed his sword I moved to draw my own, but when my hand touched my hilt
I found that I could not move at all. His companion turned to me and spoke,
her voice cold and dark."
"'Do not be so quick to fight young prince, lest you give people cause to believe
that you were raised by wild animals.' A fire had filled my chest and the pain
was so great that I fell before the stranger. Even as my hands touched the ground
I began to change. What had once been blond hair became golden fur, covering
my body. In a matter of moments, though they seemed an eternity of agony, I
had been transformed from a man to a massive golden Eyrie As I opened my mouth
to speak an unearthly shriek emerged from my beak, and it was joined by the
cruel laughter of the Dark Faerie, and her lord."
"He turned to my mother and told her that I would be restored to my human form
if she married him, or if I was destroyed by one who could fall in love with
me. However, the maiden could not have any knowledge of either my stature, or
that I was ever a human. As he spoke these words a large collar appeared around
my neck with a chain that ran straight into the Faerie's hand. She gave the
chain a pull and I walked over to her and lay down at his feet like a trained
"The stranger walked over to us, and pulled his cloak tight as the Faerie threw
down a small vial that shattered on the tile. Suddenly I was so cold, but it
wasn't like winter--it was far colder. The cold of being surrounded by nothing.
In an instant the sensation disappeared, and I found myself in an enormous throne
room that was not my own. The Faerie dropped the chain, but though I tried to
move I remained where I was, my body responding not to my own will, but to the
hers. The dark lord removed his cloak and held it away from him and in a moment
a young boy, no more than five years my junior, took it from the man and disappeared.
The man sat down in the throne and the dark Faerie led me away to a small tower
"'Do not feel too badly young prince,' he said. 'I could have turned you into
anything I wanted. I have put princesses into enchanted sleeps, turned maidens
into Pteri, princes into Techo, and men into Chias. I simply became bored with
the mundane. Anyone can keep hold over a Pteri, a Techo, or a Chia, or keep
a sleeping girl from being awakened, but I believed a Eyrie to be an interesting
departure from the ordinary. So make yourself comfortable, for this is your
home until I decide otherwise, and the form of a Eyrie is yours until you are
"At that time the young lad reappeared and the Dark Faerie commanded him to
take me into his care. I soon learned that the boy's name was Alex, and that
he was her young apprentice. After some time it became clear that Alex was studying
behind her back because he kept showing me spells that I knew the Faerie had
not shown him. Anytime that I was with him, I felt more free somehow. Anyway,
one night at the start of my second year with the lord, and Dark Faerie I was
alone with Alex. He was, as always, experimenting with some new spell, and he
motioned for me to come over to him. Of course I did, and he asked me if I wanted
to be able to talk. I'll never know if he was originally joking or not, because
when I nodded yes, and shrieked, he laughed and said okay. He started to recite
some incantation, and for the first time in nearly a year and a half I could
"I explained to Alex the predicament that I was in, and he told me that even
though he could not totally release the hold the Dark Faerie had over me he
could loosen it. I would only be subject to the lord's, or Faerie's, will when
they were present, and it wouldn't be a strong control until they were within
twenty feet of me. I agreed, since this truly was more than I would have hoped
for from an apprentice. After Alex cast his spell over me we both ran, for we
knew that when they found that I was gone they would know exactly who to blame."
"After I left Alex in a small hamlet, I kept running, putting as much space
between the dark Faerie and myself as I could. I had been running for only a
few weeks when I found you, my love."
"How long were you a Eyrie, beloved?"
"I have spent these past three years as a Eyrie, Azurel." Jonothan pulled back
on the reins, halting the horse at the edge of the forest. "Princess, I love
you and would ask only one thing of you."
"What is that, beloved," asked Azurel as she turned to face Jonothan. He dismounted
and reached up to help the princess to the ground. As Azurel stood in front
of him Jonothan took her hand in his and bowed down on one knee before her.
"Azurel, would you marry me?" Azurel looked down at Jonothan and knelt down
in front of him.
"You had only to ask it, beloved." At her response Jonothan looked at her and
"Than let us go get your father's consent." So saying the two rode the horse
up the hill to the castle, passing through the gates as a beautiful sunrise
celebrated their love and welcomed their return. The two left the horse in the
care of the groom and hurried into the dining room to wait for the king and
queen... and breakfast. Finally her parents arrived. Their shock at seeing Jonothan,
at seeing any young man, at the table was immense.
"Daughter, what is the meaning of this... this outrage," sputtered the king.
"Who is this impertinent youth?"
"It is Jonothan, father. So please, sit, calm down, and eat your breakfast
before it gets cold." The bewildered king did as Azurel suggested, and after
breakfast they went into the throne room where Jonothan related to the king
and queen the tale of his curse.
"And so your majesties, I ask only for you to allow Azurel to become my bride,
and my queen." At this the king rose.
"I will grant my consent and give my blessing to you, Prince Jonothan of Thaetar,
to marry my daughter, but you will find that it is not my permission, but Azurel's
that you must seek."
"It is already given father, and thank you for your blessing." Azurel turned
to face Jonothan who was trying to speak to her again.
"Azurel, would you accompany me on a trip to Thaetar?"
"Beloved, I would go to the ends of Neopia with you."
"Majesties, I believe that we will take our leave of you now." After some small
arrangements and last good-byes Jonothan and Azurel went outside to a waiting
coach, and left the court of Camau.
To be continued...