Blade of Fire, Blade of Ice: Part Five
"The Hidden Tower is called the Hidden Tower for a reason,"
Ystrana observed, watching Talek's reaction with some amusement. "It is there
somewhere, in the clouds. Do not fret - we will find it. The blade will-" the
Eyrie stopped herself in time. She should not give it all away.
"Yes?" Talek still felt that Ystrana was hiding
something. It could not have just been that she was a shape shifter. He did
not think her a threat, nor did he think her sinister, but he did feel that
she hid something from him. He did not know if he could trust her anymore -
she obviously had not trusted him with her secrets.
"The blade will call to yours," Ystrana said
carefully, not untruthfully, "for they are brethren. All of the swords of the
Swordmasters are so. They were all forged together, and manage to find their
own way to the next Swordmaster. You did not forge Talithir yourself. You found
him, did you not?"
Talek nodded, not for the first time surprised
by Ystrana's knowledge of him and his history. He felt uncomfortable around
the Eyrie - she almost knew too much.
"We've reached the city, and 'tis still dark.
What say you to finding an inn for the night and moving on tomorrow? I for one
am feeling quite tired."
"Good idea," replied Ystrana, automatically
scanning the surrounding area for any promising buildings. "There is one over
there... let us try it."
The Draik moved as silently as he possibly could
through the building towards the door. He felt as if he was betraying Ystrana,
but there was something about her that made him feel uneasy. He did not want
the Eyrie to be there where he prepared to bind the Brothers to the Blade once
more, and this was the only way he could think of the be rid of her.
Looking up at the clouds where the Hidden Tower
was supposed to lie, the Swordmaster was baffled. All he could see were clouds,
clouds, and more clouds, all of them looking identical to their neighbours.
He drew his sword, hoping that the trusty Talithir would provide him with some
sort of clue, but it looked as if nothing was happening. Shrugging, he flew
up into the clouds - it was a good idea to start somewhere, for while it would
take a while, it would certainly be better than standing around doing nothing.
Every single moment the Brothers were rampant in Neopia was a possibility of
more death, or lives being destroyed. He could faintly feel some sort of wrongness,
too - a kind of power imbalance caused by the elements fighting each other.
He flew up to the nearest cloud, still holding
his blade in his claws. Suddenly he realised that even if by fluke he managed
to find the area which the Tower was hidden he would have no way of knowing
if the Tower really was there. It could simply be an invisible wall or a trap
designed to catch thieves. Talek sighed, feeling that his quest was pointless
without Ystrana. He began to descend when he realised that something had been
warming his paws while he had thought. He looked at them automatically. Nothing
was there, except for Talithir... Talithir.
What a fool he had been! Since when was the
only magic of Talithir evident in its light? Fuming at his own stupidity, he
flew to the nearest cloud. As he suspected, the heat increased. He had to be
getting closer to the Tower then. Ystrana, he thought with a wry smile, had
been right. Talithir was leading him to the Tower. He looked up and blinked.
In front of him was the magical Hidden Tower.
He moved back involuntarily at the unexpected
sight, and the Tower disappeared. Talek looked about, perplexed, until he realised
that there was a thin veil of cloud in front of him. He flew through the veil
and sure enough, the Tower was there, inviting him in. Talithir grew hot until
Talek could bear it no more. He sheathed his blade, sighing with relief as the
burning on his paws lessened and died down.
Cautiously he tried the knob on the door. To
his relief it turned, admitting him in. He saw a large staircase spiralling
up, which he took to be the way to the room where the Blade was kept. It was
surprisingly roomy inside the Tower. He looked around for the watch-faerie but
she appeared to be half asleep, occasionally flicking open her eyelids. It was
obvious that she did not expect intruders - he had slipped past her without
even trying too. That was a lesson against complacency, thought Talek. That
He silently made his way up with the pink, shiny
stairs. There seemed to be no end to them, but Talek did not tire. His footpaws
had toughened during the trek across Evanagu Island and besides, he was nearly
at the end of his quest.
At last he caught sight of a door standing innocently
at the end of the spiral staircase. He touched Talithir for reassurance momentarily
but withdrew his paw hastily, for Talithir had nearly set him afire with its
heat. Talek smiled - that was good, for it meant that the Blade was near.
He opened the door and stepped inside, gasping
with wonder. Inside were treasures worth more than Talek had ever imagined.
On one side of the shelves plushies and dolls stood innocently. Talek admired
the intricate stitching on the plushies before tearing his eyes away to the
other shelf. This one was even better - it held bows, spears, swords, and amulets
in abundance. Talek gazed at the beautiful yet lethal weapons, before touching
Talithir's hilt. Priceless these weapons may be, he knew that he valued his
Talithir more than all of these treasures.
But something was amiss. Where was the Blade
with which he needed to entrap the Brothers? It was not there, and without it
Talek's quest was futile. Yet Talithir still burned in its sheath, so the Blade
had to be near...
Talek suddenly realised something. The stairs
that he had taken to reach this room did not stop at the door. They continued
on. What if...
Talek quietly moved out of the room, shutting
the door behind him. He ran up the stairs, sure in his heart that he had found
the Blade's hiding place. There was nowhere else it could be - Talithir told
him that he was closer to it than he had ever been before, and there was nowhere
else in the Tower where such a Blade could be kept. Feeling Talithir's already
burning hilt increase in heat, he moved on.
And there it was. The door was hard to see,
but Talek had spotted the telltale cracks quickly. Carefully picking up Talithir,
wincing a little with the heat, he wedged it in between the cracks and levered
it open. He then sheathed his blade, closing his eyes, trying to lose the heat
that had burnt his paws. Then he carefully pulled the door opened. It swung
without needing any further invitation. Talek stepped lightly inside. Inside,
as he had thought there would be, lay the Blade. Without hesitation the Swordmaster
took hold of the hilt.
The hilt was plain gold, although it was topped
with a shiny aqua-and-red stone. Without the power of the Brothers the blade
was nothing special - just a dull grey half rusty lump of metal. It had been
made hundreds of years ago, but had been preserved by the magic of Elyx.
Talek had no idea what to do next. The Brothers
were not here. Talek knew that waiting would mean that it would take a long
time for the Brothers to stray here on their travels, if they did so at all.
But he needed them to be there. So he called them.
Picking up the hilt he called them with all
his strength. He gripped it tightly in his paws and stretched out his mind.
The whole of Neopia was like a tiny globe, the Brothers a sapphire and a ruby
moving over it. With a stab of fear Talek wondered how to return in this state,
but his fears were soon wiped away - his trusty Talithir would help him there.
His concern now was to bring them back.
Elyx, he called, come!
The formless creature woke to a call. She listened
a while longer but no other sound came. It was time, then. She moved swiftly
across to the place where it was happening.
Talek could not honestly say that he was surprised
when nothing happened. Gasping with the effort that those two innocent words
had cost him, he looked around desperately. In this state of mind all he could
see was the globe of Neopia, as if he was almost on the Space Station. In relief
he saw Talithir, its trusty steadfastness beckoning him. He took hold of it
and pulled with all his might.
And he was back in the Tower. Only this time
something was different. This time an unrecognisable smoke-creature stood not
five paces away, looking at him with icy calmness. The shock made Talek drop
Yet even as Talek struggled to get up he knew
that the figure was one he had seen before.
To be continued...