Before the Scars
The beginning of this story will make more sense when my multiseries comes out, so keep your eyes open. NM welcome!
Master Vex looked out into the clouds from his only window. Sighing, he closed the shutters as it began to rain. It was a gloomy, erosive rain that showed promise of eroding off another few square feet of the Citadel. Scowling, he turned around and sat at his stool to go over the Citadel treasury reports. He was in the middle of figuring out the profit margin when his door rattled from someone pounding on it. “Enter!” Master Vex snapped as he eyed the trail of ink that had been left when his hand jerked in response to the sudden noise. He was surprised to see a very wet Christmas Shoyru step through the door. “Lady Kyrouge? What are you doing here in the middle of this downpour?”
Kyrouge1234 the Christmas Shoyru smiled. “I’m glad to see that scar of yours has healed over. It was a great surprise to learn that you didn’t lose your eyesight.”
Master Vex winced. “Oh, you heard about that? That was greatly exaggerated. It was only a scratch.”
Ky snorted. “A scratch that caused you to black out and be bedridden for several days. But that isn’t the reason I came.”
Master Vex raised a scarred eyebrow. “I should hope not. Why did you come in the middle of this storm?”
Ky sat down and brought out a notepad. “I was wondering if I could ask you about what the Citadel was like before you got on the Council.”
Master Vex looked stunned. He sat speechless for a few moments, then ran his hand along his scar. “I don’t know what to say. You were one of the Founders. I think you would know more than I would.”
Ky shook her head, sending a few drops of water flying. “I left shortly after the Founding. I am compiling a history of the Citadel for a friend of mine, and this is one of the last parts of the history. I want to know what you remember of the old Citadel.”
Master Vex laughed. “I am not sure I want all of Neopia to know of our numerous antics. My friends and I were quite the rascals when we were younger.”
Ky raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Are you serious? It is hard to imagine any of you as rascals, particularly YOU, Master Vex.”
Master Vex smiled. “Oh, I got Draconis into trouble so many times that he pulled a very elaborate prank on me on my birthday. That in and of itself got him into a lot of trouble as well.” He folded his hands together and rested his chin on them before he continued. “I remember when Celestial and Morguss got into an argument and ended up turning themselves into Chias. It took a few days for the spell to wear off, and by that time they had forgotten what the argument was about in the first place.” He sighed and looked over at Ky, who was scribbling notes. Smiling, he waited for her to look up. “I think the most interesting story was the competition of talents.”
Ky seemed to light up with curiosity. “What was that all about? Did lots of pets participate or was it just the six of you?”
Master Vex laughed and began to pace around the room as he began to recount the story. “No, it was just the six of us, back when Lord Jamir Darigan was head of the Citadel Council. Celestial, Draconis, Galgarrath, Kass, Morguss, and I were very competitive, but each had different talents. One day, we decided we would have a competition to see who had the best talent and have the rest of the Citadel judge the results...”
Vex was playing a set of pan pipes when he heard an explosion. Sighing, he rolled his eyes and scampered along the treetops, following the sound of arguing. At last, he reached the site where Celestial and Morguss were arguing. He smiled as he listened to the banter. “It was SO not my fault, Morguss! You were the one waving that wand of yours around!” Celestial yelled, shooing away some scarabs.
Morguss stomped her hooves. “Well, I wasn’t the one playing with magical alignments, Celestial. Just because you are a Draik doesn’t mean you are above responsibility. I’m glad you didn’t melt my wand with that hazardous display of yours.”
Vex did not hear Draconis sneak up behind him, so he was unaware that the Korbat had any idea of what was going on. When Kass came onto the field, Darzul Vex couldn’t help but laugh. Kass was carrying a canvas sketch of the Citadel and muttering something about the price of paint. When the Eyrie saw the sea of scarabs, he raised an eyebrow in surprise and looked warily at Celestial and Morguss. “Have the two of you been playing with faerie magic again? I still can’t fathom why you argue so much when it is all the same thing.”
Morguss and Celestial glared and shouted at Kass in unison. “It is NOT the same thing!” Surprised, they stared at each other and blinked.
Morguss took the chance to make a comment. “I deal with magic that has been focused and channeled through my wand. It is much better than blasting raw faerie magic all over the place.” She finished, sticking her tongue out at the Draik.
Celestial stuck her tongue out too. “Well, I don’t have to rely on a wand. I can use the spells all by myself.”
Kass rolled his eyes and flapped his wings to create a wind to encourage the scarabs to leave. “Just don’t do anything ridiculous. May I suggest the two of you work in separate areas of the Citadel?”
Celestial and Morguss huffed and stormed off in opposite directions. Kass shook his head and brought out some charcoal. “Finally, some peace and quiet,” the Eyrie muttered as he began to carefully sketch in some shadows.
Vex smiled and was about to blow into his pan pipes as hard as he could when the branch he was occupying snapped in half and dumped him on the ground. Kass jumped in surprise, but since his charcoal was not touching the canvas, his picture remained intact. Darzul Vex, on the other hand, was not so lucky. A Korbat came fluttering down from the branches and looked at the Mynci that was trapped between two very heavy branches. “Are you alright, Darzul Vex? Sorry that my talent fell on you and broke the branch you were sitting on.”
Vex glared at Draconis. “Get your carving off of me!” he growled, struggling beneath the massive block of wood. Kass ran over and helped Draconis lift the unfinished piece of art off of Vex. Draconis sighed as he surveyed the damage that his carving had received. Vex carefully inspected his pan pipes and found them unharmed. His left leg, on the other hand, was broken. Kass lifted him up and helped carry him over to the healer’s house before returning to his painting. Vex sulked in his room and began practicing the song he had in mind again. He wouldn’t be able to spy on the others now because he was restrained to his room. Perhaps it was just was well; it left practicing his talent the only thing to do.
In the following weeks, he was visited by his five friends. They were holding off the judging until he was better, and this allowed them all to hone their talents even more. The Citadel was abuzz with excitement over the six ambitious youngsters. Rumors flew everywhere about the talents, ranging from a claim that Celestial and Morguss had accidentally switched places to several farmers insisting Draconis was carving a life size replica of the Citadel out of ice. When Vex was deemed able to walk again, the Citadel made haste to set up decorations for the competition. Harvest time was drawing near, and the Citadel Council decided to turn the judging into a festival. Stalls were set up, wares displayed, crops bought and sold, and six platforms were set up in the middle of it all to place the competition at the center of attention. At last, the Citadel gathered together to see the talents displayed on the last day of the festival, beginning at noon.
Morguss went first. Curtsying to the crowd, she smiled and waved her wand. Day seemed to vanish as the moon rose and the stars came out of hiding. Novas sprouted from her wand and the crowd gasped in delight. When the novas began to dance, they went crazy with excitement. The novas swirled and bowed, dipped and jumped, performing one of the most complicated and oldest dances on the Citadel. Morguss was dancing with them, smiling and laughing. The novas themselves were humming the tune that went with the dance, and the crowd clapped the beat with them. To their great delight, more novas sprouted from the wand and flew over the crowd. As Morguss danced in a ring of novas, the second group of novas encircled a very surprised Aisha and turned him into novas. The crowd roared with delight as the novas rematerialized as the Aisha on the platform next to Morguss. Morguss curtsied again and held out a hoof shyly. The crowd cheered as the Aisha grinned in understanding and bowed to her. He took her hoof and the two began to finish the dance. The novas continued to vibrate with music and perform tricks until the dance was done. They then soared off into the sky to join the stars. The illusion of night slowly dissipated, leaving the crowd under the sun once more. The crowd roared with applause as the Aisha stepped off the platform and Morguss sat down on the chair provided.
Kass was the next contestant. He was already on his platform, guarding two items that had been covered in sheets. When the crowd was quiet once more, he grinned shyly and pulled off one sheet dramatically to reveal a very large book. The crowd whispered in confusion. Kass was not known as a writer. Kass raised his hand for silence and opened the book. There was a gasp from the crowd and a small Scorchio squealed with delight. “That’s me, that’s me!” she yelled. Smiling, Kass pulled away the second sheet to uncover a box of framed paintings. He pulled out the one on top and handed it to the eager scorchio. By now the crowd was anxious to see what other paintings Kass had made. In the next few minutes, they were all delighted to find that Kass had made a painting for every single person on the Citadel.
As the pages were turned and the crowd applauded the picture, pets were pushed to the front of the crowd to receive their painting. It took nearly an hour to hand out all of the paintings, but the crowd didn’t mind because Kass’s paintings were true works of art. They almost seemed alive the way the shadows reflected off of those depicted. Kass had also truly captured moments from everyday life. One farmer received a painting of him gathering the harvest; another accepted a picture of his family eating dinner. Finally, Kass was down to the last painting. A lone Eyrie stepped forward to receive her gift. The crowd gasped with delight when Kass turned the last page. The last two pages were both pictures of the lady Eyrie. Unlike all the other pictures in the book, these two were in full color. Not only that, but they had been painted using faerie paint; the rarest of all paints, it allowed a painter to create moving pictures. The crowd applauded as he pulled out the last painting and handed it to her. The painting was in color like all the other paintings, but it was the largest and the most detailed. Blushing, the lady Eyrie accepted the painting and stepped off the platform. Kass sat down on his chair and everyone turned to Celestial.
Celestial smiled and waved to the crowd. The crowd looked expectantly at her and lapped when she raised her hands and columns of earth shot up. Displaying a show of complicated hand motions, the Draik used her unfocused magic to hollow out the columns and turn them into stone pipes. She blew a jet of fire over the pipes, and the crowd hooted with approval when the stone pipes began to play by themselves. They had no idea Celestial was using air magic to create the wind that resulted in the music. The music played was another Citadel dance, but this dance was performed only by pets that could fly. Launching herself into the air, Celestial began the dance by herself and used her faerie magic to enhance the performance. The pipes continued to play, and fire shot from Celestial’s hands. The crowd cringed in horror, but then applauded heavily when they saw that Celestial was not burning anything. In fact, Celestial had created a dance partner entirely out of flames, and the two continued the dance together. Water swirled up beneath them and hovered in midair, twisting and turning as it morphed into different shapes and pictures. Although her dance was over much faster than the previous two demonstrations, it was no less extraordinary. The crowd cheered in approval as Celestial curtsied and took a seat.
The crowd looked warily around for Galgarrath. No one was certain what his presentation would consist of because he had not been seen ever since the competition was suggested. All they had heard from him was to expect him at the festival, and there were some concerns raised as to what the Grarrl had in mind. No one expected to see him coming from the opposite direction, pulling a line of food carts. Each cart carried almost a dozen complete meals. The crowd parted as he pulled them up in a zigzag pattern to his platform. Galgarrath then went around and disconnected some of the carts so that the carts were lined in neat, parallel rows. Many suspected he was going to eat everything, but they were shocked when he turned to Celestial and said, “Would you care to provide benches for our fellow citizens?” Celestial looked stunned, but raised some stone benches next to the rows of carts.
Grinning toothily, Galgarrath faced the crowd. “This feast you see before you I have toiled on ever since the competition was announced!” he boomed. The crowd muttered about the status of the food, but Galgarrath laughed. “Fear not, my friends! I have used faerie magic to keep each meal preserved exactly the way it was when the spell was cast! In addition to my great cooking skills, I have shown you my strength by pulling ALL the meals by myself from my secret kitchen a mile away to the festival!” The crowd roared in appreciation and Galgarrath bowed. “Let the feasting begin!” he bellowed, and the crowd rushed hungrily to the bounty spread before them. By this time, it was dinner for most families, and everyone was thrilled to get a free meal. The feat lasted another hour, and the cleaning that followed lasted an additional thirty minutes. When the crowd had settled at last, they turned to the fifth platform where Draconis was standing next to an enormous wooden box shaped like the Citadel.
Draconis smiled and waved to the crowd. “How many of you have a birthday today?” he asked happily. The pets in the crowd turned to one another, whispering and shrugging. No one raised their hand. Draconis laughed and hung upside-down from a corner of the box. “Gee, that’s too bad! I guess I’ll just have to rename the birthday presents and call them festival presents!” A cheer from the younger pets rose as they realized they were getting toys. Draconis opened the carved doors, took out a handful of hand carved toys, and began to pass them out. When he was done passing out all of the toys, the box was half empty. Draconis then began to hand out gifts for the adult pets. They ranged from sets of dishes to a new rocking chair, but everyone received a gift. At last, he was left only with the box itself. He lifted the box and set up the wheels that were hidden underneath, and pushed the box into the crowd. Finally, he reached a very extensive family of JubJubs. “This is for you and your family to store items in or to play in as you wish.” Draconis explained. The JubJubs were overjoyed with their gift and thanked Draconis profusely. Draconis smiled and flew over the crowd and back to his platform. The sun was setting, and the last contestant was up. The crowd looked expectantly at the recently recovered Mynci.
Vex took a deep breath and brought out his pan pipes. The crowd fell completely silent as Vex began to play the first notes of his new song. The song was of a style they had never heard before, and it almost seemed to tell a story. The music danced and the stars seemed to pulse in rhythm and Vex began to dance and play at the same time. His music was filled with emotion; it rang with joy beyond words that only music can tell, and it moaned in despair with sadness beyond hope. It roared with the tale of faraway battles that had taken place centuries ago, and hummed with the peace that had lasted just as long. Vex never stopped playing, and continued dancing as the sun sank beyond the horizon and the moon rose into the sky. Ten minutes after moonrise, the song faded away and he bowed. The applause shattered the night and the crowd began to break up as the citizens of the Citadel headed to their homes for the night. The competition had lasted many long hours, but the day was a memory that would last for a very long time.
Ky looked up from her writing, confused at the pause in the story. “Well? Who won the competition? Was it Lord Draconis Darigan?”
Vex shook his head. “No, when the votes were all counted, everyone was amazed to learn that all six of us had received the exact same number of votes.” He sighed and looked sadly at Ky. “Although that day was one of the best that anyone could remember, many of the gifts given from it were lost when the Citadel was raided decades ago. They burned with the houses they occupied,” he said flatly.
Ky sighed wistfully. “You mean there is nothing left of that day? Nothing at all to show future generations a glimpse of what happened? Nothing at all from the days of prosperity?”
Vex laughed. “I only know of one thing that remains.” He reached into his coat and pulled out a set of pan pipes. Ky was astonished. “Mind you, I can’t dance as well as I used to, so I won’t try. But I guess I can still play, so I will attempt that.” Ky put down her notepad and listened as Master Vex started to play the music he had written himself long ago. Outside, the storm lifted and the sun came through the eternal clouds surrounding the Citadel, casting rays of light onto the dark and barren lands. At last, Vex put down his pan pipes and smiled. He barely heard Ky bid him farewell, and he looked out the window at the illuminated grounds, humming a song. “Back when time was new,/ when we danced with stars;/ I used to dance with you/ back before the scars.”