A Thousand Years
Also by dan4884
Art by ssjelitegirl
"Farewell, your Majesty," the old Gnorbu Emperor said with a deep bow. "May your travel home be safe and swift."
Fyora the Faerie Queen bowed in return. "Thank you for your gracious hospitality. Hopefully those magical wards will protect your people's crops from the predators.”
The Emperor bowed again. "Again, many thanks. If you ever have need for anything, do not hesitate to ask. Shenkuu will not forget about your help in our time of need."
Fyora smiled. "I must be off. If I don't leave now, it will be dark by the time I return to Faerieland. Goodbye, your Highness."
With that, the Faerie Queen stepped into the enchanted carriage, letting the door swing shut with a soft click. The Faerie Peophins that pulled the carriage bristled with excitement as Fyora gave them the command. With an abrupt tug of the ropes, the carriage was lifted into the air and sent flying between the peaks of the Shenkuu Mountains.
"To Maraqua," Fyora told her steeds. "We have some business with King Kelpbeard before we return home."
"Yes, your Highness," they replied and adjusted their course for the underwater metropolis.
As the misty mountains of Shenkuu became lower and smaller on the horizon, the Faerie Queen leaned back on her seat. It was light purple, just like the rest of the carriage, just like her clothes, just like the swift wings of the Peophins. She liked that color. It soothed her mind and helped her to concentrate - as did the sight of the glittering ocean that now whizzed by behind the window. She traveled a lot as she had many responsibilities, so she had learned to treasure those quiet moments.
Fyora gazed out of the window, letting her mind drift. The sight of the ocean brought back many memories. She was old, older than she liked to admit, and had seen a lot in her life. Like that time when she flew home to Faerieland over that same ocean, still a young faerie and a fresh queen, hopeful and determined in this new burden of responsibilities. She hadn't had many chances to prove herself yet, but this time she was forced to.
"Your Majesty, come quick! She's gone too far! We need you!" This was all she had gotten before the magical bond of the transmission broke, and this was all that pounded in her head as she flew across the sea. The wind whipped her hair and the blood rushed in her ears and she had never been so terrified before.
"Your Majesty... Your Majesty!"
Fyora, startled, pulled out from her daydream. "What?"
"Maraqua, Your Majesty," shouted one of the Peophins, impatience echoing in his voice. "You need the air bubble."
"Right," muttered the queen, casting a semi-transparent air bubble around the carriage and sat back again as the world around her turned greenish blue when the carriage submerged. Why had she suddenly gotten that flashback, out of all her memories?
Oh yes... Maraqua. This was the place... but she didn’t have time for these thoughts now, as the carriage had completed its descent to the ocean floor.
"Queen Fyora, what a lovely surprise," the Koi monarch said when the carriage arrived at his palace, encased within the enchanted air bubble. Fyora smiled kindly and stepped out after performing a simple air spell on herself.
"Hello, Kelpbeard," she said. "I came with hopes we could discuss your policy on importing Faerie goods, perhaps? There are a few of my people who are, shall we say, disgruntled with your taxes imposed on said products."
"But of course," Kelpbeard said, smiling, albeit a little strained. "Follow me to the throne room."
The two monarchs strolled through the courtyard, catching up on lost time. Fyora had had very little connection to the kingdom of Maraqua from the start. It was a beautiful, yet isolated, different land that had always been a bit distant. She had only begun to visit it more often after it was rebuilt, so she hadn't even been to the ruins more than one or twice... when was it again? Oh yes, the last time was almost three decades ago, and the ruins had been everything but impressive, grim and dull, the only spot of color being...
Memories rushed back again.
She hurried into the palace, thankful that nobody had seen her. It was dark; the flight had taken a while, so the first stars shone in the sky as she arrived, but those gave no light compared to the flames that licked the sides of the beautiful purple towers of the city. Faeries were powerful and proud, and yet she had seen plenty of them fluttering across the streets in panic. Come to think of it, that was probably the most frightening part...
Fyora barely paid attention to the nervous shouts and victorious cackling outside as she ran into her rooms and plunged into the depths of her closet in the most unqueen-like way. "It has to be in here somewhere," she muttered to herself. The one and only thing that could help, the most valuable item in Faerieland, given to her on the day she became the queen, by someone even more powerful than her... found it!
Her hands were shaking and she was completely breathless when she picked the pendant up. Jerdana's Orb. "Don't lose it, young queen," the Aisha had said to her. "It can be very useful."
The Faerie was brought out of her daydream abruptly. She blinked, trying to remember where she was. Kelpbeard faced her, wearing a look of genuine concern.
"Are you alright, m'dear?" the Koi asked.
She nodded. "I'm sorry, Kelius, do continue. You have my full attention now."
"As I was saying," he said, returning his gaze to the portraits of famous Maraquans hanging in the throne room, "I do wish there were more Maraquan heroes, don't you? It feels incomplete."
Fyora gazed at the paintings of Talek, the Draik who had taught hundreds of Maraquans how to wield a sword, and Isca, the Aisha who could foresee the future. She frowned as she glanced at each of them.
"All these paintings are heroes from your war with the pirates," she said. "Are you saying you want more heroes like that?"
"No, of course not!" Kelpbeard replied quickly. "That isn't what I meant at all. I was simply saying more Maraquans should be honored for their deeds well done."
Fyora was quiet. Come to think of it, how good were those deeds? Talek was a warlord, an excellent one, most definitely, but could a war ever be considered a good deed, no matter what the purposes? When she had hurried outside back on those long forgotten days, clutching the orb in her hands, she knew that in order to save her land, no, the whole of Neopia, she would have to confront one of her own. Not that she hesitated. She had no other choice.
And anger was beginning to seethe. Fear and panic were unavoidable when she could still choose between running away and facing her duty. Now she felt calm, cold rage boiling in her royal veins. It was her land, her people, her responsibility. Hers to protect. And that witch was going to annihilate it all?
She could already see the Darkest Faerie standing in front of the gates of Faerie City, casting flames to burn down the nearest buildings, laughing maniacally and enjoying her blind destruction. She looked so proud and strong, so invincible to the young queen. And yet so... overblown. Too arrogant, too sure in herself.
"So the young brave queen has arrived," she welcomed Fyora, aiming another little fireball at the Hidden Tower. "Came to save this planet or die trying, eh?"
"Yes," the queen replied simply, unable to find better words to express herself.
"Cute," said the Darkest Faerie, grinning. "Very cute. Too bad I'm stronger than you."
"Maybe," said Fyora, feeling a sudden burst of anger raise inside her. All the polite Faerie princess manners that had been a part of her whole life evaporated and gave way to emotions as her eyes narrowed and her face twisted into a fierce grimace...
The old feelings were so strong that Fyora could feel her face tingle, trying to replay the scene and reform the grimace. She gave herself a mental slap for forgetting her place and position as her attention focused on Kelpbeard again. The last thing she needed right now was insulting him with her constant absence.
For now, she blocked the incessant memories. She had business here, and she was determined to complete it. The Koi completed his impromptu lecture on what it means to be a hero and the two adjourned to a more comfortable setting to negotiate the tariffs. After an hour or two, the Faerie Queen managed to coerce the Maraquan king to lessen the tariffs, and in exchange Fyora would send some heavenly roast turkeys, his favorite food. The Queen left the palace with Kelpbeard watching from the courtyard, beaming.
"Back to Faerieland?" one of the Peophins asked as Fyora stepped into the carriage.
"No. One last little thing to do," she replied. "Take me to the Ruins."
"...but your Highness," they protested.
"Please," said the queen. "I have to see them."
Silently the two swam forward and the carriage was off once more, whooshing through the water rapidly, leaving behind a trail of churned water.
The place they headed to was darker and grimmer compared to the brightly lit and colorful New Maraqua. The ruins had practically no light, deserted as they were, but it was still possible to see something.
There it was again: a glint through the water. Partly hidden behind a vast rock stood a statue, made of grey stone and extremely true to life, with shrouds of kelp and seaweed floating around it. Fyora left the carriage and faced the statue. There she was, after all this time. And Jerdana's Orb was still around her neck. When she had taken it out back then, the being who was now the statue had simply jeered...
Fyora couldn't think straight any more. Everything in her concentrated into rage and took her over. She raised her hand and the red orb, falling down on its chain, stopped halfway through and remained floating below her palm.
"Relying on magical gadgets, are we now?" smirked the Darkest Faerie. "Let's see what you got then. Come on, I'll just stand here. Give me your best shot."
It was the biggest mistake she made. The orb radiated a sudden burst of golden light, reflecting Fyora's own fury just perfectly, and so she pushed all her power and magic out, into the orb, which bound it with its own magic and, quite simply, gave the Darkest Faerie her best shot.
It had all passed so very fast. Fyora could still remember the expression of shock, disbelief and then a mixture of fear and rage, the latter still being preserved in the stone face in front of her as the transformation had taken place within seconds. She turned into stone. Just like that. And the orb had flown from the queen's hands to throw itself over the statue's head. Easier than complete annihilation, yet so effective.
She stared at the statue for a long while. The world around her seemed to freeze as she simply stood there taking in the sight before her. Nothing in her reign had troubled her as much as this. It was too much to bear, imprisoning one of her own like this. But it had to be done.
One of the Peophins whinnied. "Your Highness, it's getting late. If we do not leave now, we'll be flying in the dark."
Fyora's trance was broken. "Yes, you're right. We should go. I've been wasting too much time."
She returned to the carriage and the Peophins jerked it forward rapidly. The Faerie turned to once again look at the statue, which was now disappearing in the darkening water.
As the carriage dashed out of the ocean, Fyora leaned against the window to look down. This was more or less the spot where she had dropped the statue, having carried it alone all the way from Faerieland as everyone else was too scared to even go near it. This was the spot where she had fluttered in the air, watching as the red glint of Jerdana's Orb faded into the green depths. How long ago was it now? Some eight hundred years. No, more than that. Over nine hundred. Definitely over that.
She sat back with a frown.
"Highness, are you feeling all right?" One of the Peophins was peering in through the window in front, his eyes full of concern. "You've seemed absent all day, if you'll excuse my directness."
"I'm fine." The queen turned her gaze towards the dark purple sky where the first stars had lit up. Funny thing, that memory. The more time passed, the more clearly she remembered what else had Jerdana told her when giving her the orb.
"Remember, though, it is only powerful enough to hold a spell for a thousand years."
Fyora rubbed her forehead and took out a list of errands, trying not to think of the microscopic cracks she had seen in the golden chain of the pendant. Over the soft squeaking of the carriage, she could still hear the Darkest Faerie's victorious cackling, and she knew that one of these days she'd hear it again.