Legend Seekers: Mysterious Magic - Part Six
Out of reach of the Faerie, Jen stopped to catch her breath and take stock of her surroundings. On her left side stood a collection of rickety abandoned houses, their grass roofs collapsing inward with age; on her right, an old stone tower overrun with creepy-crawlies. Neither of these things held her interest, for directly ahead of her stood an enormous step pyramid crowned with a crumbling temple.
“Wow. It must have been beautiful when it was built,” she thought aloud. “I wonder how long it’s been abandoned.” As she drew closer, she saw that nests of silky cobwebs almost completely covered the ancient stone surface. Extending a cautious paw, she pressed down as hard as she dared on the first step. It held firm, so she began the ascent on light paws, keeping her ears open for any signs of trouble.
It took ten minutes of climbing to reach the temple. It was much bigger and more impressive than it looked from the ground—carvings of mythical beasts snaked over the walls, telling the legends of an ancient people, a legacy so long forgotten it would soon be beyond remembrance. Vines obscured the sunken door. Jen walked into the gloom, front paws outstretched until they landed on cold stone. The door swung open with bizarre ease.
Three arrows zinged past her left ear; she threw herself to the ground just in time to avoid a fourth. When no more arrows appeared, she stood and stepped through the gateway. The door swung shut behind her, leaving her in darkness. Soft rustling echoed around the room with her every footstep, and the air was thick with dust.
“Is anyone here?” she whispered. No reply. Hands still outstretched, she crept forward at a snail's pace, feeling her way along the walls and listening for any sign of life. In this fashion she spent nearly three hours in the tomb; having found nothing, she decided to turn back... only to realise she didn’t know which way back was.
Panicked, she broke into a run. Every shadow was suddenly a demon in waiting, every corridor an endless maze of traps and trouble—then, suddenly, daylight flooded in from the far end of the long tunnel. Is it a way out?
Racing on all fours, the young Wocky dove for the patch of light, ignorant of her lingering exhaustion. After what seemed like an eternity, she skidded to a halt—in the centre of a large limestone hall. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Pillars of glowing marble lined the walls; stained glass mosaics patterned the floor and twinkled like stars in the daylight, which poured in through holes in the carved ceiling. Four pathways led to a central plinth. Upon that plinth sat a large scroll of dusty parchment, sealed with red-and-gold wax.
The atmosphere was so strongly magical that Jen bowed her head, reverent despite her situation. This is the real temple. Everything else is just the protective shell.
Head still bowed, the young Wocky padded up to the pedestal and placed a paw on the scroll, suddenly hesitant to take it. It belongs here. Not with me. But our situation is growing more desperate by the second...
Placing the scroll carefully into her bag, she turned to leave the room, but when she turned she realized the rest of the floor had fallen away, leaving only the tile she was stood on. Panic twisted her stomach into hard knots as the solid surface at her feet began to tilt, then fell away entirely, leaving her to clutch the altar desperately. No! Oh no! I’m going to die! Why did I have to take the scroll?...
Jen’s grip finally failed. All below was blackness, all above out of reach. At the last second a silver paw seized her wrist and pulled her into a side-room just below where the tiled floor had been.
“Thank... you...” Jen sighed, still half-choked with panic and relief. “You... saved me... ” She looked up into the face of her rescuer. Her eyes met with the face of a silver Lupe. He looked ancient beyond imagining, and his eyes told tales of eras long past.
“For so long I have called, hoping someone might hear me,” he said quietly, pleadingly. “Now, one such pet—one gifted enough to sense my terror—has found me here.”
She stared into the face of the ancient Lupe, desperately afraid but also curious enough to remain silent. Slowly, she began to understand.
“You... called me here?”
“Why did you call me here? What use can I be to you?” Jen asked, speaking more to herself than to the Lupe.
“I need a new host...” it said sadly. “I am as old as the planet itself. I am its primary source of power. Do you know my name?”
“Magic,” she said at once, taking several steps back into the candlelit corridor. “You... are magic... personified?”
“In a word... yes. But it is far more complicated. You see, I was once an ordinary pet. This magic is my blessing and my curse, and now it is also yours.” His paw shot forward and snatched her wrist again before she had a chance to scream. It’s just a crazy old Lupe, she told herself frantically, he doesn’t have any real power!
“Ah, but Jen... you have no idea how wrong you are!”
Golden light poured from him in a vast aura, filling the room yet not chasing the shadows away. Now, she saw that his eyes were empty... completely devoid of any emotion. Pure terror filled her heart, and she tried to find her voice to scream, but it was useless: her voice had deserted her.
Jen closed her eyes and slipped into the other consciousness, feeling for the stream of magic. It was impossible that she was doing this. She had never tried to command live magic herself, and yet now... now she had no choice. As she reached into her own mind and tapped into that mysterious light, she felt rather than saw the Lupe’s eyes widen in shock.
“You...” the Lupe whispered poisonously. “How dare you presume to be more powerful than me?”
“You’re not who you say you are,” Jen retorted with a small, knowing smile. “For a pet to channel that kind of power... is impossible. You are very powerful, but you are not Magic. It was a mistake to think so.”
The aura faded completely. The Lupe fell to his knees.
“Jen, you know more than you think... you have passed the first test.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” she asked, frowning. “It’s not my knowledge. It doesn’t belong to anyone. Magic has a life of its own, and those who use it must learn to understand that.”
“That’s what I mean. You understand. All others before you... were searching only for power. What are you searching for, Jen?”
“I sensed that something is happening, and it started with Mystery Island. It may be a futile hope, but... I--I wanted to... put a stop to the destruction. My friend and I were adventuring here before... you know. Somehow, I survived, but... I don’t think I’m ever going to see him again.” She sighed. “Families have been torn apart by this, friends have been separated—in some cases forever. I don’t know how I know this, but I feel that if nothing is done to prevent it, more tragedies will follow...” The Lupe listened, and raised an eyebrow.
“You did right to follow your instincts. They led you to the one pet with any chance of helping you.” A kindly smile spread across his face, but Jen remembered the emptiness in his eyes not two minutes previously. It was difficult to trust a pet so unpredictable. “Hope is still frail, but if you just hold on to it... perhaps there is a chance.” He gestured to the scroll which still hung limply from one of Jen’s paws. “Take a look at that tome. It might help you understand.”
With a shaking paw, the young Wocky broke the red-gold seal and allowed the parchment to unfold. Its smell brought back memories of wandering in old libraries, staring out through dusty mullioned windows and watching snow drift past with a cup of hot snowberry tea in one paw. The text was hand-written in a flowing script; the ink, once black, had now faded to a dull grey-brown. It was written in ancient magical code language – of a kind that she had, thankfully, studied extensively in the past.
A pattern exists in life, which everything follows and originates from, and magic is a part of this pattern. It dictates that for every darkness in the world there is a light just as strong; and likewise, for every truly noble and good-hearted individual that tries to make the world a better place, a being of pure hatred that would seek only to cause destruction and despair. This pattern is, of course, not limited to one analogy: there is fire and water, for example; the land and the skies; joy and anger.
The greatest downfall of magic is just this: When you bring light into the world, that light casts a shadow. Long after the light dies, the shadow will remain, and will spread to every corner of the world. The only way to stave off disaster is to keep the light shining, that the shadows may be ever kept in check. There is no way to completely prevent destruction, but it can be reduced, managed and dealt with, and such measures are necessary if Neopia is to remain safe or sane for long. Sometimes, if the darkness is too great it can overshadow the light and all hope can seem lost, but remember this: all the darkness in the world is powerless before the light of one single candle...
At that point, the page fell away to dust, as if the magic holding it together had finally fled. All that remained was the memory of the words, echoing forever in the dark silence. Jen allowed the ruined parchment to fall to the stone floor. Rather than answering her questions, this strange and ancient scroll had created more. Once again, she looked into the Lupe’s eyes, hoping he would be able to provide a better understanding of what was happening.
“Who are you, really?” she whispered finally. “Do you have a name?”
“It is of no consequence, but yes. I have a name. You may call me Kail Selvar.”
Pemero crouched beside the limpet-covered rocks at the base of the huge cliff, and watched anxiously as Angela stopped by the mouth of the tunnel. Two figures clambered onto her back with some difficulty, and once again, she launched herself into the air to begin the spiral down.
“You know, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” Afton glared up at the descending Eyrie. “Seth promised me great things, too, but he never delivered. Now I’m stuck working for him, and I never get anything in return. Never.”
Pemero smiled. Afton had a habit of exaggerating his complaints. “So, where have you been?”
“What?” the Meerca snapped.
“I mean, where have your travels taken you?”
“Oh.” He paused in recollection for a moment or two. “All over Neopia,” he said at last. “Not like we get to see any of it, unless it’s in a jail cell of some description.”
A crunching thud nearby—Angela had landed. She looked very out of breath, and anxious, too. Seth’s eyes were cold and hard. Pemero’s stomach clenched in fear. How much of that did he hear?
“Come on,” the Kyrii said coldly. “Let’s go. If we are recognized now, there’ll be no hope.”
For the rest of the evening, they walked along the sands and watched the tide retreat. Finally, as it reached the turning point and doubled back on itself to repeat its timeless journey, Seth turned towards the sea and simply pointed. Pemero followed his gesture and saw an isolated tower of grey brick, apparently emerging from the ocean with no land for support. It had the look of a nightmarish illusion.
“See that little building over there?” Seth said quietly. “I want you to go over there, Pemero. I can’t go there myself. None of us can, but you are different... you have power we can only dream of.” His eyes shone with envy and loathing. “You have magic.”
“No,” Pemero stuttered. “No, I don’t have magic. I used it once. That’s all.”
“You listen to me, Pemero. If you use magic once, it stays with you forever... even if you never tap into it again for the rest of your life, it will always be there.” Seth drawled, gazing fixedly at the cub, who took several steps back.
“Okay,” he said nervously. “I believe you. I’ll go to the tower.”
To be continued...