Storm at Sea: Part Three
Lady Vengeance sat on her pillar, which had become her throne. The pearl sat at its base, hovering in a glass jar. Messengers from Faerieland would have to come soon. Fyora was no queen at all if she couldn’t tell that this was a magic storm! The Dark Faerie looked up at the clouds. She much preferred gloom to sunlight. Maybe she would leave them there when she became Queen of Neopia.
She decided that she might even keep this island as her fortress. Faerieland nauseated her, with its rainbows, pastels, sparkles, and happy people. They wouldn’t be happy now, though – not with buckets of rain pouring down on their heads.
Vengeance had never heard the saying, “Pride comes before a fall.” Even if she had, she probably wouldn’t have cared. But she believed there was no way her plan could fail, so she wasn’t keeping a watch on the shores of Pirate’s Horn. If she had, she would have noticed a small ship land in a cove. The Queen of the Seas.
Jaykob, Mayrie, Zane, Vivian, Calder, Alec, Embyrr, and Ivy had been trekking through the overgrown plant life of Pirate’s Horn for a while now – it felt like longer than it probably had been. Their nerves were just about shot from peering through the rain for Dark Faeries. But they hadn’t even seen one.
Vivian was very uneasy. The electric Ixi sorceress whispered to Ivy, “Why haven’t we seen any Dark Faeries?”
The Earth Faerie replied, “They could be closer to the citadel. Any ships at sea will have found ports or sunk. Vengeance will not be expecting mortals to attack her. She doesn’t think they – you – are capable of much. The only ones she will be watching for are Faeries, who will come from the air. Pride has always been one of Vengeance’s great faults-”
“Second only to sheer evil,” Embyrr muttered. Ivy gave her a stern look and continued, “Vengeance believes that any plan she makes is foolproof.”
Zane grinned dangerously. “Well, here comes a parade of fools to test her plan – and crash right through it!”
The shadow Lupe’s bravado had a calming effect on his comrades. Still, Embyrr shushed him. The Fire Faerie said, “Here on the volcano’s feet – we are near where I was captured.”
With a flick of their hands, Embyrr, Ivy, and Vivian cloaked the group in an invisibility spell. Two Faeries and a sorceress were the greatest advantage that the crew of the Queen of the Seas had in the upcoming fight.
Alec looked around. The little Glowing Grundo asked worriedly, “Are you sure that they can’t see us?”
Vivian glared at the annoying little twerp, who seemed only to exist to irritate her when she most needed to concentrate. He looked ridiculous in the hand-knitted mask and gloves that served to hide his glow. “Yes, I’m sure. But they could hear us, so be quiet.”
Then a “V” formation of Dark Faeries flew over. Calder lunged and muffled Alec as the boy gave a little shriek of fear. Mayrie gasped, her big brown eyes wide with terror. Jaykob tried to reassure his twin, whispering, “Remember, Mayrie – they can’t see us. We’ll be fine.”
The two brown Kyrii may have looked almost identical, but Jaykob was brave and bold, while Mayrie was quieter, gentler, more easily frightened. Their friends looked to Jaykob as their leader, and Mayrie as their conscience. Ivy told the little band, “Keep moving.”
They saw more Dark Faeries as they got closer to the abandoned city where they gathered. Embyrr thought that there were fifty or sixty in Vengeance’s flock – it had been hard to tell while she was afraid for her life. Still, the odds were definitely not on their side. Vivian’s estimate was that their chances were cut in half for every three Dark Faeries beyond five. She hadn’t tried to calculate it, though – it got really depressing after ten percent. Finally, after a nervous eternity, they climbed a ridge and saw the city on the plain below.
In ancient times, long before any of the present Neopian worlds had been inhabited, the island known today as Pirate’s Horn had been called Julium, home to one of the first civilizations – the city of Augustinus. The people had built a great city and a strong culture on Julium’s flat plain. But then the mountain exploded for the first time, and the survivors fled, mingling out of existence with the rest of the Neopian peoples. But Augustinus had remained, becoming more battered with each blast of the Horn and the relentless wearing of time, until even the name was forgotten, and its glory was remembered only by the Faerie histories. Only Ivy knew the history of the island, but all could see how splendid the city had once been. The walls, arches, towers, and paving stones showed how grand the place had been in times long ago, when it still had a people and a name. But the towers were tumbling, the arches and walls had fallen, and the stones were shattered, with weeds growing in the cracks.
Ivy said, “She will likely be at the center of the city, and the spell’s center will be with her.”
Alec gulped. “I’ve always wanted to die young – I guess that going into a Dark Faerie-infested city is the best way to accomplish that.”
Calder muttered, “Quiet, Alec. We’re all worried enough without you making it worse.”
Embyrr told them, “The storm spell will have a physical representation – the spell center. Destroy that, and the spell is destroyed.”
Zane asked, “What’ll it look like?”
Ivy told him, “There is no way of knowing. Look for something that Vengeance seems to hold precious.”
They started off into the ruins of Augustinus, knowing that their quest was about to end – one way or another.
Vivian was going through every spell she knew for protection. It took a lot less time than she would have hoped. This was a joke – a half-trained sorceress expecting to be able to fight a centuries-old Faerie! She shook her head and sighed. Any of the six mortals trying to fight a Dark Faerie was a joke. This was madness. Lunacy.
Vivian felt a gentle touch on her shoulder, and looked into Mayrie’s eyes. The brown Kyrii whispered, “You know all of the stories. Million-to-one odds go in favor of the one. Good guys always win. We’ll come through. Haven’t you heard the saying that something’s just crazy enough to work? We’ll be fine.”
When Mayrie wasn’t being frightened out of her wits, she was one of the most optimistic people that Vivian knew. Right now, she wished she shared that sunny lookout. But those calming words did a lot to untangle the hard knot in her stomach.
A young Dark Faerie narrowly dodged her lady’s scrying glass as Vengeance threw it in a temper. The mirrored circle shattered against the stones as Vengeance screamed, “NO!”
The sentries around the central square where the Dark Faeries held court trembled, scared to be here when their leader was in such a foul mood, but even more scared to leave, knowing how she treated deserters.
Vengeance looked frantically around, expecting to see her enemy coming out of the maze of stones. Ivy! Again and again over the centuries that infuriating Earth Faerie had showed up at the last minute to destroy her spells, decimate her plans, and make the Dark Faerie lucky to escape with her life. Lady Vengeance would have been ruling all of Neopia for generations now if not for that aggravating, meddling, insufferable...
And she was here! Vengeance had seen her in the scrying glass, with the Horn at her back. The Dark Faerie stood up and began to pace around her pillar. No, no, no, no, no! Ivy was not going to spoil everything again!
She called out into the ruins, “Come here, Ivy! I’m ready for you this time! I know you’re here in my fortress – come and fight me!”
The sentries exchanged looks and crept away, deciding that they’d rather face a punishment later than deal with their mad leader now. Hopefully, their replacements would show up before the lady got back to her - well, not sane, but normal frame of mind.
Zane grinned as he spied from behind a pillar. The sentries were leaving! The old one would be easy to handle if she was alone – mighty Lady Vengeance looked like a strong wind would blow her away!
Mayrie peeked out from behind him. She whispered up to him, “Look at that thing hovering in that glass over there. That must be the thingamajig Embyrr was talking about – the spell center!”
Zane turned his attention from their enemy to their goal. He caught himself just before he whistled in admiration. There was the biggest pearl that the Lupe boy had ever seen by a pretty good margin. He had never seen a gem close to that large – it was the size of a ping-pong ball!
They snuck back to where the rest were hiding – it was too risky to have an invisibility spell this close to a powerful Faerie who could easily sense it. Zane told them, “The old hag’s alone with the spell thingy – a huge pearl. She’s off her rocker. Yelling for you to come and fight her, Ivy.” He gripped his sword. “If a fight’s what she wants, I say let’s give it to her!”
Jaykob frowned. “No. If there’s a fight, someone could be hurt or killed. Better to go in quietly, grab it, and get out before the witch catches us.” He flashed his friends a grin. “Think of it as commandeering a ship.”
Ivy said, “If she wishes to fight me, she will have her chance to fight me. Embyrr and I will distract her. She will instinctively try to protect the spell center - the pearl, as Zane and Mayrie said. If I can get her to keep her back to the pearl, you six can steal it.”
Calder shook his head. “That doesn’t explain how we smash the stupid thing.”
Embyrr replied, “If we’re fighting Vengeance, your best course is to take the spell center to the Horn and throw it in. The fires will destroy it and the magic within it.”
They all touched their weapons together. Jaykob said simply, “Here we go.”
Alec added, “If you get killed, I’ll never speak to you again!”
Vivian rolled her eyes, but Mayrie giggled and Jaykob raised a wry eyebrow. Ivy shushed them, and said, “You know your mission. It is time.”
They would be one of two things – heroes of Neopia, remembered by all, or dead, and remembered by none. There was no middle ground, and no going back.
Vengeance stalked around her throne. She hadn’t noticed that she was alone. Her only thoughts were of Ivy. She muttered, “Come to me, Ivy! I am becoming weary of waiting!”
“Here I am.”
Vengeance spun and cackled, throwing a burst of magic at Ivy. The Earth Faerie deflected it - thankfully she hadn’t forgotten how fast Vengeance was. The Dark Faerie drew her blade, and the two enemies sprang into battle. Embyrr watched – she wasn’t to interfere unless someone was in real danger. Vengeance had to think that she had an even chance.
Vivian dashed to the pearl and turned the glass case to dust with a flick of her hand. She could sense her friends behind her, ready to do all they could to help. But this was the job of a sorceress. She reached out and grabbed the hovering pearl.
A rush of power flooded her senses. The might that this bauble contained was a lake, a sea, an ocean. She was drowning in it, transfixed, seeing nothing but light, hearing nothing but the roar of that blazing sea.
Vengeance realized what had happened. How could she not – the power of her spell freed from its container? The case was not to protect it from the world – it was to protect the world from all of that pent-up power. If it was let loose all at once, Neopia would be ripped apart. The Lady turned, dodged Ivy’s blade, and hurled a blast of magic at the paralyzed sorceress. She didn’t see it. Even if she had, she couldn’t have moved to avoid it.
Vivian was shocked out of her trance by hitting the cold, hard, wet flagstones of the old courtyard. The pearl still tingled in her hand, but the sea had been dammed – pushed back by the fall. She looked up to see Alec on top of her. Zane dragged her to her feet. “Our cover’s blown, Viv! Run to the volcano!”
The six dashed off as Vengeance screamed, “FLOCK, TO ME! TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
The last word was a high-pitched keen that Embyrr and Ivy knew would be heard by every Faerie on the island. The Fire Faerie darted out to help her companion. Both knew that they had to give their six young friends as much of a head start as they could get. Their mission depended on them reaching the Horn and destroying the pearl before the might of the Dark flock overwhelmed them.
As they ran, Vivian asked, “What happened to me?”
Jaykob told her, “I don’t know, but the hag nearly killed you. Alec knocked you out of the way.”
Vivian looked at Alec in shock. “You saved me?”
Alec shrugged. “That’s what friends are for. We look out for each other.”
Guilt washed over the Ixi girl as they all ran. She hadn’t been his friend. All of the times she had insulted him, treated him like dirt – it all came back. She replied sadly, “But, Alec, I didn’t deserve that. I haven’t been your friend at all. I’ve been horrible.”
She said, meaning every word, “I’m sorry, Alec – can you forgive me?”
Zane added, “I’ve been a jerk too – sorry.”
The glowing Grundo grinned at both of them. “It’s fine. It’s always been fine. I always knew you guys cared about me, whatever you said.”
Jaykob was immensely thankful for innocent people like Alec. The world needed those little lights at times like this when all seemed dark. The six friends ran on through the pouring rain, as the terrain grew steep and rocky and they started up the forbidding slope of Pirate’s Horn.
In Augustinus, Ivy and Embyrr faced the horde of Dark Faeries, thoughts on their six comrades. As the magic flew and the swords flashed, the two hoped fervently that all eight members of the crew of the Queen of the Seas could survive the battle ahead. They had to survive.
The future of Neopia depended on it.
To be continued...