Unquenchable: Part Five
"I'm sure this is around where we were captured."
Ryddle sniffed around the little stream, trying
to pick up any scent of the villagers - or indeed, his family's or his own.
He couldn't detect any. Then again, Eyries were not known for their wonderful
senses of smell, and it did look like the place. The real answer would come
when he followed his memories to where the village had once been.
It was difficult to say. The only time he had
come this way, Ryddle had been pushed along by Rafette, the Christmas Wocky
who more or less led the villagers, and who would probably be the last creature
he would choose to pick a fight with. He'd come quietly, and he hadn't paid
much attention to his surroundings.
"Captured?" asked Aryallis, blankly and rather
impatiently. Ryddle couldn't blame her. She'd been standing around - well, sitting
on Raquin and then standing around - for hours now as he tried to find some
sign of the villagers. The first step, naturally, had been finding exactly where
the village was or had been. He had yet to complete that step.
He had also, he realized, neglected to explain
anything that had happened to him to her. He paused with his head still out
and one paw raised. "Um, yes. The villagers sort of captured us after we were
turned out of our house. Our owner deserted us. But the villagers were nice;
they let us stay. It was mostly thanks to Scrappy. I think you'll like him when
you meet him."
"That explains a lot," muttered Aryallis dryly.
"Really clear description. Thank you, Ryddle."
Ryddle barely took the time to marvel at the
fact that the Usul could in fact use sarcasm aptly. He mentally tagged it onto
the list of things he never would have believed about her.
Instead, he searched his memory. Where exactly
was the village? Which way had he gone? He closed his eyes, trying to clear
his mind of everything except those few minutes of travel. Everything was hinged
"This way," he said. The short statement was
uncertain. He just couldn't be sure.
Slinking through the undergrowth as quietly as
he could, Ryddle made his way in the general direction of where he believed
the village to be. The rock there, the twisted, gnarled tree there, those three
shrubs forming a perfect triangle - were these things actually jarring his memory,
or was he simply imagining that he recollected them? In his current state of
mind, there was no way of telling. Aryallis dismounted Raquin and slipped after
him, her paws padding more quietly even than his through the leaves and bracken.
Could it have been there, that form that looked
like a giant stone of some sort? Ryddle hurried eagerly forward. "I'm pretty
sure it's right over there."
"Ryddle," said Aryallis. She sounded almost sick.
He stopped, puzzled. "What's wrong?"
"Just… just keep your voice down," she muttered.
"And look over there."
Ryddle turned his head slowly, suddenly dreading
what he might see….
And stifled a scream of shocked terror as he
saw what was also striding through the forest, only a few yards away. Ryddle
recognized its huge, shaggy form, red eyes, and ferocious muzzle from books.
It was a Dire Lupe. All he could hope was that the books were misinformed upon
what exactly befell those unlucky enough to encounter a Dire Lupe.
"What are we supposed to do exactly?" whispered
Aryallis, her eyes round. Even so, she seemed remarkably composed. Much more
so than Ryddle.
"It - it's a Dire Lupe," Ryddle gulped shakily.
"I'm not sure…"
She rolled her eyes. "Well, duh. I could have
told you that. As to what we're going to do, I'd better take charge, or we'll
get eaten. Here, let's move back slowly into that little hole under those rocks."
Ryddle looked in the direction her paw was pointing.
It was true: two rocks, standing tall and touching sides, had formed beneath
them an interesting crevasse. Ordinarily the nature-loving Ryddle would have
stopped to examine it, and marvel at its seeming perfection. Now he was in no
such mood to appreciate it - at least, not for its uniqueness. Instead, he was
simply too relieved at this heaven-sent hiding place to think at all. She was
Cautiously, he began backing into the space,
taking great care not to brush past any stray leaves, twigs, or branches. He
didn't need to turn his head to know that Aryallis was doing the same. Just
a step…and another step…
Suddenly Ryddle's form stiffened. The Dire Lupe
was casting about with its massive head, its blood-red tongue lolling hungrily.
He saw its leathery nose move as it sniffed the air, obviously finding out whether
there were any creatures near foolish enough to stay on the ground.
Of course! Ryddle realized. How could he have
been so stupid? Aryallis could surely climb, and he could climb and fly. Why
hadn't they raced up a tree while they'd had a chance? Now, however, it was
undoubtedly out of the question. The Lupe would catch them before they even
had a fair opportunity to run.
Well, they could still make it out alive…
Which was when Ryddle stepped on a twig.
The sound was so slight, the situation so ridiculous,
that Ryddle, had he been slightly farther over the verge between terror and
hysterics, might have laughed. But there was nothing vaguely amusing about the
way the Lupe whirled around, ears suddenly forward and blood-red eyes keen with
interest. It padded toward them. Clearly, it had never known a need for stealth.
Its massive paws crushed the leaves and bracken beneath it, and Ryddle had a
very bad feeling that it had spotted them already.
Ryddle shut his eyes, forgetting about Aryallis
and everything else, fighting panic. Why, oh why, did everything have to happen
to him? Not only had he been the one to find the shard, lose his family,
and face the hatred of all Meridell - on the way to possibly finding the villagers,
this happened. He realized with a sort of thrill that this would be the last
thing ever to happen to him. There was no way he would be lucky enough to escape
the clutches of death once again, which seemed to bear against him a particularly
The Lupe took another step forward. A growl was
rising in its shaggy throat, and its crimson eyes were narrowed, calculating
how much power it would need for an accurate lunge. Clearly, it wanted to finish
them off quickly.
Courage, thought Ryddle bitterly. But
what is courage? Would it help me at all to be brave before I die? Or is it
all just the same anyway?
Suddenly resolution flew at him, melting the
ice that numbed his consciousness and froze his movements. A calm came over
him, and he knew that there was a difference. There was always a chance to live.
He might just get away with it if he acted before the Dire Lupe. And…he realized
this with a strange little bloom of joy and sorrow in his heart…he could
Ryddle exploded into action. He twisted around
to push Aryallis out of the way. The Usul gave a cry of surprise and looked
close to flying out in front of the Lupe; but Ryddle knew he could not have
this. With all her spirit, she would fight the Lupe, and she would die. "Aryallis,"
he hissed, "get back now. Run." She stood immobile, staring hard at him. "RUN,
will you, you stupid Usul!"
Aryallis opened her mouth as if to say something,
and Ryddle pushed her violently back. He could only hope that all his strength
was enough to convince her.
"I'll talk to you about this later," snapped
Aryallis. Then she disappeared, with a whisk of her bushy tail that Ryddle hardly
He was too occupied with the Dire Lupe attacker.
It struck him, too late, that it was very strange
the way the Lupe had conveniently waited to attack until Aryallis was safe,
and he more prepared for a battle. Was it doing something already, planning
something that would ensure his death? His head whirled in panic, and he turned
too fast to confront the nightmare creature, feeling a dagger-like stab of pain
in one hind leg.
He was surprised and relieved beyond measure
to see that the Lupe was considering the problem of attack. Now that Ryddle
was attempting to defend himself, bristling his mane and lowering his head,
it was not such an easy promise of victory. Aryallis's flight, also, confused
it; surely it would have chanced upon enough victims to be familiar with the
fact that prey in such a tight bind simply did not try to escape. Perhaps it
was that that delayed the Lupe's reactions, or perhaps it was just natural curiosity
- how many Darigans would it have come into contact with? Whatever the reason,
its hesitation gave Ryddle the precious few seconds he needed to do what was
His fur bristled with what was fast becoming
real anger, and he opened his beak in a menacing hiss. The Lupe took a step
Ryddle, intoxicated by the creature's uncertainty,
surged forward and lashed out with his talons. They struck the Dire Lupe and
Ryddle's confidence started to dwindle as the
Lupe shook itself angrily and started toward him again, fury blazing in its
eyes. It towered over him, lips drawn back in a terrorizing snarl, and he cowered
back, his mane feathers now raised in fear instead of anger.
The Lupe sprang forward; Ryddle closed his eyes
and darted out of the way. The gargantuan jaws snapped shut on air.
Ryddle saw his attacker stumble at the miscalculation,
for where it had depended on Ryddle's mass to keep it on its paws there was
nothing to break its lunge. In that heartbeat Ryddle, an experienced flyer,
had spread his wings and half-soared, half-scrambled into the nearest tree of
a reasonable height.
"That was possibly the stupidest thing and the
most miraculous recovery that I have ever seen."
Ryddle spun around, ready for a new attack, but
it was only Aryallis. She was balancing nimbly on the same branch he clung to,
leaning against the tree trunk, and on her face was a sharp, unrecognizable
"I'm - sorry," he stammered. "I didn't mean to
send you off like that, I just… well, I thought that one dead was enough."
She rolled her eyes. "Can't you get over being
such a doormat, Ryddle? You don't need to apologize. In fact, I find it extremely
irritating, so if you wouldn't mind please stop-"
"I'm s- I mean no, I'm not sorry. But I couldn't
help it. You're quick and I'm sure you're a brilliant fighter, but-"
"Oh, I'm not good enough because I'm a girl,
am I?" she retorted waspishly. "Is that it? It's true, you had me wondering."
Ryddle was taken aback. The thought, indeed,
had never occurred to him. "No, no, no, that's not why at all. I just wasn't
sure if you could fight! I didn't think either of us had a chance, and I… didn't
want you to get killed, Aryallis."
"Didn't you?" she said. There was an awkward
pause, but Aryallis sounded a little softer when she spoke again. "I hope you
don't think I would have run up here if I didn't intend on helping later. Forgive
my faith in the fact that you weren't going to be able to kill that thing."
"Of course I couldn't kill it, nobody could,"
answered Ryddle, feeling rather annoyed.
"Really?" she said, raising an eyebrow.
Ryddle peered down at the Dire Lupe, and to his
astonishment, Aryallis was right. It hadn't just stumbled; it had been killed.
There it lay, and Ryddle knew instinctively that it would never get back up
again. But what had killed it?
He scanned the Lupe for any signs of injury.
He found that if he thought of it simply as an animal - which it was - he could
quell the sickness that burned in his throat. Inexorably, irrationally, and
completely, he hoped that he had not been responsible for its death. Then he
saw what had done the job. A silver dagger curved out of the Lupe's chest. Someone
had used their undoubtedly spectacular aim to send the dagger slicing in a perfect
line, making a clean and fatal cut.
Ryddle turned back to Aryallis, digging his claws
into the bark. Any concern for the tree that he might ordinarily have felt would
have to wait. "Who…?"
"Well, now, Library Faerie, who do you think?
Consider it very carefully. I'll be back in a year or two to hear your answer."
It dawned on Ryddle quite suddenly just how insipid
he was being. "But… oh… you mean that you…?"
Aryallis crossed her arms in annoyance. "Can't
you learn to talk in complete sentences? It's really quite trying for those
you're trying to get a point across to. And yes, Ryddle, I have some news for
you: I'm not helpless because I'm a girl, I'm not helpless because I'm an Usul,
and I'm certainly not helpless compared to you."
Ryddle gulped, resisting the urge to step backward,
especially as his paw would fall on air. He'd been very, very wrong to underestimate
Aryallis. That he could see clearly now. And yet… it hadn't been anything to
do with not trusting her abilities, really. He had believed that it was a battle
neither of them could win, and he had not wanted her to die.
"I know you're not, Aryallis," he said quietly.
"I am… truly sorry. But you don't understand. I didn't push you off like that
because I thought I would do any better than you."
She looked at him intently, her wide, chocolate
eyes confused. For the first time, Ryddle noticed how beautifully shaped they
were, and how expressive. He breathed in deeply all the same, preparing himself
for an outburst and possibly some violence.
Her reaction was not quite the one he would have
She looked away, gazing down at the delicate
blue flowers that adorned the hillside below. From their high vantage point,
a thick green wood was visible, and Ryddle looked away as well for a moment,
remembering Illusen and how readily she had sheltered him, helped him, advised
him. And all for what? In the end, she had not been able to help him, or not
willing. In the end, what was the difference? If something terrible had happened
to her, Ryddle would not be seeing her again. If she had simply deserted him
by some unknown incentive or her own free will… that was, if possible, worse.
The silence, which was an awkward one but somehow
relaxed, stretched on until Aryallis opened her mouth hesitantly to speak. "I
hope you don't mean that, Ryddle. I know we might even be called good friends
now, but when your life is all you have, nothing and no one is worth risking
"Maybe if your life isn't worth anything without
that friend, there is no other choice," answered Ryddle. His eyes clouded as
he remembered something Scrappy had once told him, when he'd asked what could
be done about a deed so terrible there was no forgetting it: The only thing
you can do about that is redeem yourself by doing the greatest deeds you can,
preferably for others. He would redeem himself for all the mistakes he
had made. Most of all, though, he would learn to take his own advice. If he
lived on the words of others, he might not make mistakes, but he would never
be able to redeem them.
Would he ever see Scrappy again?
"There's always a choice," said Aryallis briskly.
She hopped nimbly from branch to branch until her feet were on the ground. Then
she pulled her dagger from the fallen monster, wiped it off with a handful of
leaves, and sheathed it again.
Ryddle spread his wings and swooped to the ground
beside her. "I suppose there is. That's what makes it so difficult to be a good
person." His tone was half-jovial, half-serious.
Probably because of that, Aryallis's tone rendered
Ryddle momentarily speechless. "Good person!" she snapped. "What's a good person
anyway? Oh, Ryddle, you think you know so much just because you've traveled
a few miles from your own home, but you know nothing. Nothing about the
world, nothing about me, nothing about yourself, and absolutely nothing
- nothing, I repeat - about right and wrong."
Ryddle folded his wings and ruffled his feathery
mane, puzzled and hurt. He stood as still as stone for a second, then followed
her. She was walking extremely quickly. Ryddle picked up the nasty message that
she wanted to leave him behind.
"Where's Raquin?" he attempted.
"Right where I left him, stupid."
Ryddle tried again. "Look, I'm really -"
Aryallis whirled around angrily. "How many times
do I have to tell you to stop apologizing?"
The Eyrie offered her a weak smile. "Apparently
quite a few. I think it's in my nature. No, really, Aryallis, look. I don't
know what I did to offend you so badly." He took a deep breath, preparing himself
for a vicious onslaught. "For what it's worth, though, I really am sorry. Not
just for this, and not just for anything else I've done. For my whole life."
Aryallis stopped. She turned to face him once
again, this time slowly. When Ryddle caught her reflective expression, he had
to admit to a sensation of intense relief. He wouldn't get eaten, at least not
for the moment.
"I can't say I'm sorry," she said simply. "I
didn't really mean that, though. You… you don't understand, and I can't tell
"What?" asked Ryddle with a daredevil curiosity
he hadn't known in quite a while.
"Well, how can I tell you if I just said I can't?"
she returned, her eyes sparking with a flash of her old spirit.
"All right, don't. Just don't hold it against
me, please, if I don't even know what it is."
Aryallis turned away with a sigh, gazing at her
the handle of her sheathed dagger. "If you were a hero, you would be known as
the Incorrigible Eyrie. Very well. I won't hold it against you, and I am sorry,
in a way… it's so confusing… Oh! Just don't make me talk about it. We still
have a while, so let's not worry."
She seemed almost to be talking more to herself
than to him, Ryddle thought uneasily. What did she mean? A while until what?
Until they found the villagers? Or was she planning to leave at some point?
"Halt!" barked a commanding voice. "Are you messengers,
or simple travelers?
Both Ryddle and Aryallis tried to hide their
surprise by skulking behind the other, and it did not work very well. In unison
still, they shuffled around, equally embarrassed, to face the speaker.
"Rafette!" cried Ryddle. What amazing luck! They'd
been discovered by one of the very people they were trying to find. Rafette,
the Christmas Wocky. Unofficial village leader.
Rafette stood dumbfounded for a moment, obviously
making an effort to collect her wits. "That can't be you, Ryddle? We - well,
we'd given you up for lost.'
"I'm not," he assured her. "This is Aryallis,
she's come with me and helped me -" Rafette acknowledged Aryallis with a wave,
and the latter gave a slightly stiff nod "- but we're really looking for Sylver
and Flytta and the rest."
"Yes, Sylver and Flytta are still with us."
"And Scrappy?" asked Ryddle eagerly. But his
face fell as he saw her look.
"No, Ryddle," Rafette said sadly. "He never came
"Maybe he will. I wouldn't be surprised, knowing
Scrappy." Ryddle did his best to sound optimistic, burying the unbearable feeling
that he would never see his friend again.
"Maybe. Either way, you had better come with
Rafette turned without another word and led them
down a shallow slope, to where the new village must surely lie. Ryddle and Aryallis
followed silently. Ryddle worried about Raquin for a heartbeat; then he reminded
himself that Raquin was an intelligent Uni, difficult as it might be to remember.
He would find them.
As, Ryddle hoped beyond hope, would Scrappy.
It had been a long day. Jhudora was not unaccustomed
to thoughtless questers, but today had been worse than even she, a notoriously
cynical faerie, might have expected. Nearly every single one of those pathetic
Neopians that had come swaggering to her cloud had gone over their time and
begged for mercy, brought her the wrong item, or clean forgotten that they were
on a quest and then asked her confidently for a little more time, so that they
could right the mistake that was theirs in the first place. Jhudora might be
etched firmly into Neopian history as an impatient faerie; however, this was
not entirely true. It took a great deal of patience to listen to the trivial
complaints and successes of the commoners that swarmed Faerieland. At least
it was free of her unbearable sister, the Earth Faerie Illusen, who delighted
in treating small Neopets kindly, allowing more time to errant questers, and
generally performing every nicety that Jhudora did not.
Now it was evening. Jhudora, in a manner which
she considered most thoughtful and which she did not consider those Neopets
to deserve, had taken the trouble to put a sign on her door: NOT GIVING QUESTS.
Nobody would bother her - or at least, nobody who valued their livelihood.
Taking into account all the precautionary measures
she had practiced, it was much to the Dark Faerie's chagrin that a knock rang
through her hall. If it was someone looking for a quest, Neopians had reached
new levels of stupidity.
She briefly contemplated simply not answering
the door. But no; whoever it was had it coming to them, so why shouldn't she
be the one to give it to them? It was sure to be amusing. Or relatively so.
As amusing as anything could be after such a very dreary day.
Jhudora arose from her throne-like chair and
strode over to the large double doors that sheltered her from the angers as
well as the pleasures of all the other faeries. She pulled them open and saw
She recovered from her shock quickly, leaning
against the doorframe for support. Lord Darigan had done it, to be sure, and
at a time when Jhudora had thought the Three to be invincible. But then, Lord
Darigan had been rather special, and from Morguss's description, Kass was merely
a tool. Another point on which the old hag could be proved wrong, Jhudora saw
at once, for it was clear that Kass was no fool.
Bedraggled and reduced as he might be, Jhudora
knew almost instinctively that Kass was not one to be trifled with, either.
Lord Darigan had blamed his malice solely on domination by the Three; even free
of it, it seemed that Kass was not exactly the most cute and fluffy type of
Darigan Eyrie. Even she would have to watch her step.
"I thought you were dead," she said bluntly.
Kass shrugged coldly. "So did everyone else,
if you'll excuse my saying so."
Jhudora had not been prepared for such a sharp
response, but as she did with all else, she took it with grace and charisma.
"I assume you're not here to fetch my organic tomato, so why don't you step
Kass did so, warily, as though he expected Jhudora
to have laid a trap for him somewhere. She could have chuckled. She was face-to-face
with one smart Eyrie; and not only was he intelligent, he had the greed, ambition,
and lust for revenge that she could use. And he had one very important quality
that she had felt the necessity for since before she could remember: he was
willing to act himself. No lowly servants to commit his evil deeds - if he wanted
something done right, he did it himself. Jhudora remembered Morguss commenting
on this, when Lord Kass was firmly under her thumb. She hadn't paid much attention
then. Morguss was as much a pawn as Illusen, albeit a voluntary one, and the
faerie had little time for her self-based advice. Besides, the way Morguss had
"So, what do you want?" Jhudora interrupted her
"You catch onto the point very quickly," said
Kass. "What I want, as you put it, is no more than anyone with my reasons would
Something in the way he said it sent the slightest
chill down Jhudora's spine, although she did her best to ignore it utterly.
"Revenge against who, exactly?"
"Haven't you guessed? Don't play the fool, Jhudora,
because you know as well as I do that you are familiar with the Three. In fact,
one of them is a Dark Faerie just like you."
Jhudora caught Kass's look and made a hasty decision
not to remind him of the fact. "Yes, I know about them," she replied. "Revenge,
Greed, and Ambition, unless I'm mistaken."
"You're not," he said shortly. "So I'm sure you
can imagine exactly why I might want to get back at them. Not to speak of that
fool Darigan, and that sickeningly good, brave Knight Jeran."
Jhudora allowed herself a smile. "Oh, I think
I see what you're getting at. Indirect revenge on the Three. If you can get
yourself to where you were before - or higher - it will be as good as revenge
on those greedy, scheming spirits. Yes… that will make them angry… Tell
me, is there anyone else in particular that you would like to vent your hatred
Kass raised an eyebrow. "Three guesses, Jhudora,"
Suddenly it struck Jhudora like a physical shock,
and she staggered back into her chair. This could affect things badly. Very,
very badly. For who else would Kass want revenge on but the one who had given
him the amulet? But she had to play dumb, for now at least; it would certainly
not do to let Kass know that the ally he was seeking had in fact schemed the
whole scenario out with the old Moehog hag, Morguss. So all she said was, "I've
no idea. That little Eyrie, maybe?"
Still impassive, he raised an eyebrow. "Ryddle?
Not actually. More like the one who threw me in the path of the Three to begin
There was icy hatred lurking beneath his every
word. Jhudora was at a loss as to which tactic to use. Should she directly propose
the idea of including Morguss? Would subtle insinuation be better? Or… should
she simply fail to mention her altogether? It took her only a few seconds to
decide on the last option.
"Ah, the infamous hag Morguss," said Jhudora,
trying to sound casual. She decided that she was doing a fair job, although
it was difficult to tell what Kass was thinking. It disconcerted her. As a Dark
Faerie, she was more than used to idly reading the emotions of any quaking Neopet
who came to her Cloud. Despite her practice, however, Kass was impossible to
read; a dark barrier of spirit seemed to stand around him, repelling all invasion.
Perhaps he was lying about having escaped the Three, but Jhudora did not think
so. They had old scores to settle with her - all the same, not enough to strike
for payback from the inside out; and they were not on quite satisfactory terms
with her to seek her support without ulterior motives beyond their own success.
No, it would seem that Kass was freed from the dark trio. How, Jhudora could
"The same." Was that a slightly suspicious look
in Kass's red eyes? Jhudora decided to steer the subject away from Morguss.
"I can only imagine the torments you endured
in the claws of the Three, and I understand impulse better than anyone, but
you realize that cold revenge is always more effective," she pointed out. Testing
him, of course; if he was over-eager he would be more gullible yet ultimately
"Do you think I'm not aware of that?" Kass said
darkly. "I've waited, Jhudora, oh yes. I've waited. Now it is time to act, not
sit and do nothing. I will teach every single idiot I've ever come across a
lesson they'll remember. However," he added, "I'm with you on the subject of
cold revenge. It works ever so much better to be calculating."
"Yes," was all she could think of to say. Jhudora,
who always had sharp words for everyone, was at a loss. What was it about Kass,
anyway? Defiantly, she did all she could not to admit it to herself; but in
the end there was no denying it: Kass frightened her. Perhaps it was something
in his cruel hooked beak, his sheer size, maybe his red eyes that seemed to
reflect the world like polished stone without letting anything in. It was impossible
to read his emotions, and his thoughts were unguessable.
Kass, looking very Kass-ish with a slightly sardonic
expression and a very imposing stance, glanced at Jhudora and then spoke again.
"I almost get the feeling that you don't trust me, my dear faerie. Maybe there
is some way I could… prove my loyalty?"
"Hmm," said Jhudora thoughtfully. Ah, bribes.
Back in her forte. His logic was chilly, clear, and inescapable - he would do
something she needed done, and she would help him. Of course, it was all meaningless,
because both knew that the other could hardly refuse. It was necessary all the
same. "Well, as a matter of fact, there is a little something that nothing of
those pathetic Neopets seem to be able to retrieve on their quests. It could
be risky. The little something also happens to be guarded by a vicious mutated
Darigan Draik, but I'm sure that won't stop an Eyrie like you."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that if I were you,"
Kass returned coolly. "After all, what do you know about me - besides that ludicrous
propaganda that the citizens of Darigan fell for?"
Jhudora shrugged. "They weren't as gullible as
they might have been. You knew what you were doing, I'll give you that. And
the very fact that you escaped from the Three…"
She had certain misgivings about bestowing on
Kass what was, for a Dark Faerie, extremely high praise. She consoled herself
by considering that not only was it true, she needed to get him thoroughly on
her side, if that was possible. It would never do to have even one of a naturally
suspicious nature be suspicious of her. Her entire plot stood on the edge of
a knife: if one small thing went awry, all her carefully laid plans would collapse
like a pack of cards.
"Since when have you been so quick to offer consolation?"
was all Kass said.
Jhudora was taken aback. Consolation? Yes, she
supposed it was, after all. Kass's empire had fallen around him and he had fallen
with it. She guessed that even the most confident of leaders would not forget
that in a hurry. "Oh, don't take it like that," she replied. "I'm sure there
could be unpleasant consequences if you were to mistake my indifference for
being nice. Don't worry, Kass. I am sure that I have something to gain from
this, and I wouldn't miss out on it for worlds. So, tell me, what exactly are
you planning to do?"
"Neopia is falling to pieces. The Defenders of
Neopia no longer function; they chase the Pant Devil and Ghost Lupe - who, in
fact, is doing his royal best to help his land - instead of striking at the
heart of crime and villainy. The system is corruptible. Not just Darigan's,
or Meridell's. No, I would say that the time has come when the entire planet
needs a fresh start. All we have to do is plant the right people in the right
places. Then everything will fall at a word."
Jhudora listened, thinking hard. It can't
be true, all this, she marveled. And yet… it was. Why hadn't she seen it
before? It would take no effort to speak of, just the right minds. And they
had the right minds now. Kass might not like her, nor she him, but they could
work together. They had the same ideas, the same ideals, if not the same motives.
Kass wanted revenge on the Three and everyone else, which he could do by showing
the dark spirits that he could be great without them. The rest would be struck
without any deviation. All in all, it worked, and it worked perfectly.
"Your ideas are sound, Kass," she said. "I believe
that with time, you will add Lord to your name again. In the meantime, you'd
better rest before conquering the world," she added cattily. "That wing of yours
looks ready to fall apart."
"Hmm," said Kass. "I'll take that as an invitation,
shall I? Good. Then everything is settled between us. And Neopia won't have
to wait long."
No, Jhudora realized with a thrill. It
won't at all.