Darkest of Diamonds
"Urani? Urani, please hurry up! We need to aid the Maraquan
The Air Faerie was struggling to collect her
battle gear as her friend's words rang through her home. She smoothed out her
dress and stuffed several Air Tokens into her satchel, ready to be given out
to worthy pets. Wand in hand, she was about to dash out the door when Lynre
"Take off your jewels!" her friend exclaimed.
Urani gasped and rapidly began unclasping charms and shaking off bracelets that
might distract her during battle. Lynre slipped the necklet of diamonds off
"Sorry, I wasn't thinking--"
"Don't worry about it," the Water Faerie said
with a quick smile. "Ready?"
Urani nodded, and as one they glided from the
remote cloud to the churning waters of New Maraqua below. As they flew, however,
they were accompanied by a shimmering necklace that dropped through Urani's
Cloud and fell down, down, down…
* * *
The battle for Maraqua was raging.
Sword Master Talek led the forces of good, defending
the reincarnated underwater city. Dozens of Maraquan pets flooded the waters
just outside the walls in a lash of Maractite and steel that would have shaken
Neopia to rubble had the battle been on land. Faeries swam frantically to and
fro as swift, luminescent stars that brought healing and calm. Small armies
of Petpets followed them adoringly, ranging from eager Bubblisaurs to serene
And gradually, Scarblade's army of Pirates was
A Grey Kacheek snarled in dismay as the Maraquans
continued to take down the companions of her original group. Only Starsz_7291,
a vicious-looking Halloween Cybunny, and Merri22, a trembling yellow Lupe, remained.
The Kacheek had defeated more opponents than the other two combined, but the
Maraquan scum were beginning to wear her down.
"E-Eclipse?" Merri asked nervously, eyes never
leaving the oncoming warriors. Their part of the battlefield had grown silent--the
calm before the storm--as they waited for the next wave to leap upon them. They
couldn't afford to waste energy on a charge, not now.
"What?" Eclipse snapped, shaking her grey limbs
out in preparation.
"D-Do you think we should r-retreat?"
"No!" The Kacheek rounded on her comrade-in-arms.
"We stay, and we fight!"
There was no time left for Merri to protest.
In the next instant the Maraquans were on them, roaring their challenge. Eclipse
swung her Portable Kiln off her back and began to blast them to ashes, the fire
slicing through the water like lava. She remained silent during the rest of
the fight, as was her way. But her eyes were glinting.
In the end, the Cybunny had been beaten by a
Shadow Eyrie, and only out of sheer luck had the little yellow Lupe survived--only
to withdraw at the last minute, fleeing towards land. Eclipse had finished off
the horde herself.
'I could join another group…' But she shrugged
off the thought. She worked better alone.
As she dispatched a solo Maraquan Chomby, a glimmer
of light was caught out of the corner of her eye. The Chomby and its demise
long forgotten, she swam over to meet it as it sank deeper into the ocean. Enamored
by the shine, she recognized it as a diamond necklace and slid it over her head.
What a find! As a Pirate, she would claim a share
of Maraquan treasure once the city was conquered, but this necklace was worth
as much or more! Grinning, feeling fully revitalized, she charged her next unwary
Then something unusual happened. As she drew
closer, the pets paused in their actions, weapons no longer whistling death
in their hands. Eclipse let the fourth survive long enough to note the slightly
unfocused eyes and frigid limbs. When she followed their gaze, it led to the
diamonds pulsating darkly at her neck.
* * *
The Faeries were convened in a tight cluster
as the news of a Kacheek wearing a mesmerizing necklet trickled in from the
wounded pets retreating to the city to heal. Panic was spreading through the
ranks, enough to make even the toughest warrior quaver at the thought of becoming
as useless as stone in battle against a merciless creature such as Eclipse.
"How did she get one in the first place?" one
Light Faerie demanded in a shrilly voice, wavering her hands for attention.
It did little good, however, for the waters were dark and confusing, and her
arms moved as if through the Giant Jelly.
"Does it matter?" one Dark Faerie argued. "The
question is how to get it away from her!"
"I'll bet," another mocked her sister Faerie.
"You'd like to add it to your collections of dark toys, wouldn't you?"
"It's a Dark Item! It rightfully belongs to the
Dark Faeries!" The Dark Faerie clenched her fists in frustration, crippling
the black rose that was her Dark Token. The amulet around her neck throbbed
heatedly, but she made no move to use it.
A Fire Faerie surrounded by a bubble of air decided
she had heard enough. Cutting into the argument, she stated, "The point is,
we need to stop that Kacheek--and stop her now, before she obliterates the whole
Stunned silence met her outburst. Suddenly the
Faeries found that they could not look at each other out of shame. During the
darkest hour of New Maraqua's short life, they had been sent by Queen Fyora
to help… and here they were, not helping, but instead squabbling like children.
Duly humbled, the Faeries settled, minds centered
on their grim task: devising a solution.
* * *
Eclipse was enjoying her new sense of power.
It was absurdly simple to wreak havoc on so many of the Maraquan scum at once.
All she had to do was turn toward her targets, let them catch sight of the gleaming
diamonds on her neck, and rush forward as they froze in total enthrallment.
The necklet continued to grow darker as she used
it, the evil aura enveloping her slight form. And as every pet became ensorcelled,
her Portable Kiln burned them back to Maraqua in shame.
She laughed wickedly as she stood alone in the
murky depths of the battlefield that no longer raged with battle. The other
Pirates were chanting her name--her name, not Scarblade's--as they invaded the
city. The Maraquans were no longer in control now, and if Eclipse had her way,
they never would be again.
Following her army's lead, she began her descent
into the city and ascension to the Maraquan throne, trailing tragedy in her
* * *
"It's not your fault."
"It is! It is!" Urani insisted bitterly. She
hid her face in her hands as Lynre hovered at her side, trying to be comforting.
"I found the necklace, I took it home--"
How could she have known that the seemingly innocent
necklace, once half-buried in the sands of Mystery Island, wasn't really pure
at all? How could she have known that she would contribute, if indirectly, to
the downfall of Neopia's sole underwater world?
"And I'm the one who probably lost it," the Water
Faerie admitted quietly. "So if you're going to blame yourself, I'm equally
to blame, too."
"No!" Urani shook her head, pellets of water
flying from her hair and eyes. The wind whipped them away, the surf crashing
into their perch on the jagged rock until her tears were unrecognizable. "It's
not your fault."
"Then it's not yours, either," Lynre told her
The Air Faerie wiped her eyes. "What're we going
to do? Eclipse is going to destroy Maraqua!"
"Not… destroy. Take over."
She winced. "That necklace of hers is an abomination."
"One that we need to destroy," her friend pointed
out, going on to explain, "It enthralls anyone who goes near it."
"Can't we simply warn pets not to look at it?"
"They've been trying that, but it's like their
eyes are drawn to the diamonds' glitter."
'Glitter?' The word pricked Urani's senses, and
she murmured in wonderment, "What if Eclipse's eyes were drawn to her own jewels?"
Lynre caught on, eyes wide. They exchanged excited
smiles and plunged back into the ocean riddled with war, ready to make life
for the Pirate leader as difficult as they possibly could.
* * *
It took Eclipse a long time to realize the tides
of war had changed. Too long, in fact. By the time she had reached the palace,
it had been almost too late to save what was left of her army.
"WHAT is going on here?" she shrieked, grabbing
a Tonu by the horn in an attempt to get some answers. The Tonu shook her roughly
off and ran in the direction she had come--in a retreat.
One of Scarblade's ex-commanders beckoned her
over, a wizened Techo painted Fire. Eclipse barely avoided the catapult of Sticky
Snowballs coming from the palace as she made her way over.
"Well?" she prompted impatiently. The Techo gulped
then froze, eyes drawn to her neck. She clapped her grey paws in front of his
face and he immediately began talking.
"The Maraquans, sir--no, ma'am--fighting back--defending
Eclipse snarled her outrage, but otherwise said
nothing in reply. This was why she preferred to work alone--incompetence, around
every corner! It was a wonder old Scarblade had been feared, with such an under-qualified
Well, she didn't need them anyway. She had the
Spinning around, ignoring her cowering Pirates,
she approached the Maraquan Palace slowly. The Snowballs continued to be pelted
at her, and a few even connected, but they didn't stop her advance.
The Pirate army had grown bolder with her example
of bravery and contempt. Gathering themselves, shields at ready, they followed
not far behind the Kacheek who would bring them the day's conquest.
The Maraquan Palace stood tall and defiant, its
Maractite walls strong and daunting. Eclipse wisely assessed the structure,
but refused to let fear sink its poisonous claws into her blood. The diamonds
strung around her neck glittered evilly, and her chin lifted with arrogance.
She would win more than treasures this day; she would gain a reputation more
widely known than Scarblade had ever achieved, and as the desperado of the Neopian
'Nothing can defeat me!' she thought smugly,
and passed through the double doors of the palace, her warriors now no more
than five short paces behind.
Silence greeted her entrance. At least a dozen
Faeries stood in the middle of the long hall that was the throne room, dozens
more pets backing them. Remarkably, the throne itself was empty.
"Where's your King now?" she sneered.
The pets shifted uneasily, but then a voice called
out: "Here." The King of Maraqua swam swiftly to claim his royal seat, and,
every inch the regal Koi he was, settled upon it. He gazed levelly at her, to
which she returned with a curt nod; he would die before giving up the throne.
Exactly as she intended.
"Forward," Eclipse commanded quietly, no longer
needing to shout to gain her troops' attention. She was not yet close enough
to the wall of pets and Faeries to mesmerize them; they would have to advance
farther into the room for the effect to take place.
The easy invasion of the palace had been her
first mistake. Her second was underestimating any creature sworn to defend its
home--and as her crew swam ever closer, the living wall lost its hesitation
and uncertainties, replaced by a desire for revenge.
She knew it was over the moment the Mirror Shields
were brought out, but continued to fight anyway. The Maraquan Army surged forward,
crashing into the stunned Pirates like a tidal wave. Her body wouldn't work,
the limbs of a Grey Kacheek frozen, mouth unable to release the scream of terror
she felt clawing up her throat.
'It's over, all of it--it's over--'
As the final battle roared its fury, the dozen
Faeries remained in their positions, Mirrors held securely in front of them,
faces grim and stony at the destruction. Eclipse continued to gaze straight
ahead, seeing that of her own reflection, the bloodthirsty diamonds mocking
her as she fell prey to her own darkness.