Following the Wind: Part Three
Also by noob
Months turned to years and Elora wandered, exploring the lands of Neopia with nothing to her name but a ragged cloak that was always fastened around her shoulders. Nobody knew who she was nor cared to find out; most pets shied away from the bitterness her very posture exuded. It was said that time heals wounds, but Elora disagreed deep within her heart. Her long exile had made her feel nothing but numb and cold, and a frozen heart was not a healed one.
Her eyes narrowed in a deep scowl as she entered the Haunted Woods, the icy aura around her effortlessly holding anything that lurked in the shadows at bay. She picked her way through the trees looking for a hollow to stay the night in. As she searched, she heard the crackling of fire and the sound of two voices coming from up ahead of her. She froze for a moment to listen and her blood ran cold; even from far away she recognized one of the voices. It was a voice that sent chills down her spine even after all these years. It was the voice of her attacker and the woman responsible for her banishment; it was the voice of Jhudora.
Transfixed, Elora moved forward, careful not to make a sound as she cautiously picked her way through the underbrush. Her heart pounding in her throat she inched closer and closer, finally stopping when she caught sight of the fire and a pair of cloaked Faeries standing around it.
“Why do we have meet here of all places?” the voice she didn’t recognize asked crossly. “It’s freezing cold and we have chambers back at the fortress to do this in.”
“There was no time.” Elora recognized this voice to be Jhudora’s. “The plan will quickly be set into motion and there is no time left for silly etiquette or trivialities Thestra. I also don’t want to risk that girl overhearing.”
“Ahhhh... the girl,” Thestra replied. “I forgot all about that old prophecy... that she of no element will wield the staff of creation and unite the warring races as one.”
“I would prefer you not speak of it at all,” Jhudora snapped as she walked closer to the Dark Faerie that had spoken.
When she stepped into the firelight Elora had a hard time holding back a gasp, the flickering visage that she saw resembled nothing of the Jhudora she had known back at the cloud. The hair that Elora had thought to be golden was dark purple, and the streak that ran through it a livid acidic green, even her skin had taken on a purple hue.
“She’s a Dark Faerie!?” Elora exclaimed under her breath, leaning in closer so she could get a better look.
“My apologies, I suppose you don’t wish to tempt fate, yes?” Thestra said serenely, looking Jhudora in the eyes.
“Of course I don’t... I’ve come this far and I don’t want a single sentence to ruin our plans.” The words dripped like poison from her mouth. “So tell me, how are things going on your end?”
“Very well... I set up a situation where a couple of Earth Faeries were badly injured, and it looks like the Air Faeries are responsible.” Thestra laughed harshly. “They’re all ready to go to war with them... though it does help that they think I’m the head of their council. Ha!”
“What of the others? You’re supposed to be speaking for them too,” Jhudora snapped impatiently.
“Ahhhh yes, similar situations with the Light, Fire, and Water Faeries have all been executed by our agents; they’ve also all managed to take a position on each council... and how are things on your end, Jhudora?” Thestra said, brushing strands of purple hair out of her face.
“As well as can be expected... Lady Atrik grows too powerful and unpredictable... I no longer hold her with the same strength I did before, but that’s also the main reason for this attack, is it not?” she sneered.
“Yes, I suppose it is. Those fools won’t know what hit them until we’ve already blasted their whole cloud out of the sky,” Thestra snickered, a smile of smug satisfaction spreading across her face.
Elora felt her heart sink into the pit of her stomach. If what these two Faeries had said was true, then the city she had once called home would be reduced to bits of cloud fluff in a matter of days. She shook her head suddenly, trying to clear it. Logically she should just let them go about their business; she hated Atrik and the rest of the city that had branded her a traitor. She shouldn’t care if they were all blasted into the far reaches of oblivion.
The only problem was she did care; she cared very much even though she hadn’t identified herself as one of them for ages. It suddenly dawned on her that Thestra had mentioned a prophecy regarding unity; if she could find that Faerie, then perhaps she could free her and together they could make this right. That would allow her to save her race as well as try to heal them and help them see the error of their ways. The only problem was she didn’t know how to get into the fortress that Thestra had spoken of where the girl was being kept.
She turned back to listen to the conversation again and realized that the two were almost done talking. She cursed herself for not paying closer attention to their exchange and began listening again.
“It’s settled then. We will have them all attack at dawn,” Jhudora said, her eyes twinkling with humor. “The Air Faeries have their days numbered.”
“As you wish, I’ll convey the message to the other three then while you make all the other arrangements.”
Both of the Faeries then began to weave spells, a glowing purple shadow pooling at their feet as they chanted. It began to creep up their legs and cover their bodies in a thick film that seemed to bleed color into their skin and clothing. When the spell was complete the shadow dissipated and in its wake stood what appeared to be the beautiful Air Faerie Elora had once thought Jhudora to be and an older looking Earth Faerie that was actually Thestra.
Jhudora took flight immediately, heading off to finish whatever preparations she had spoken of. However, Thestra put out the fire before turning around and heading through the trees opposite to where Elora stood watching. She waited for a few minutes in silence before she started following behind her, making sure the distance between them was enough to prevent her from being noticed.
After pursuing her for around ten minutes, she saw Thestra pause at a large rock and a brush her fingers across its surface. As Elora watched the rock seemed to ripple and shudder, a fissure growing from the center and expanding outwards until it was large enough for Thestra to walk through. She did just that, stepping quickly into the portal and vanishing from Elora’s sight.
As quickly as it appeared, the portal began to vanish, and Elora ran forward to try to get to it in time. She was so set on following Thestra that she didn’t notice the creature lurking in the shadows until it was too late to hide. Its three pairs of eyes followed her hungrily, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce.
Luperus struck, leaping from the shadows with a vicious snarl upon all three of its faces. Elora had just enough time to dive away from the hulking beast and scamper back in the bushes before it landed with a thud where she had been standing moments before. Angry at losing sight of its prey the beast howled, one after the other the heads voiced their frustration, the sound chilling Elora to the bone.
After peering around the beast began to sniff the air with all three of its heads, crimson fur rippling in the half-light as it searched for its prey. Quickly Elora began to conjure up an air spell that she hadn’t used in ages, cupping her hands and whispering into them before opening them with her palms facing upwards. The spell circled around Luperus in the air and blew behind it where it was triggered, causing a cacophony of laughter to rip through the air. Confused, the beast whirred around and galloped off into the woods to investigate the noise and hopefully find the prey it had lost.
Quickly, before it had time to return, Elora ran over to the boulder that had moments before displayed the portal that Thestra had gone through. Frantically she ran her fingers on its surface until she found a very faint indent in the middle that when pressed clicked inward very slightly.
There was a soft grinding sound and Elora fell back a step, amazed that the same entrance that had opened for Thestra had opened for her. When the portal finally grew large enough to permit her passage, Elora peered into it. It looked like she would be stepping into a void or a dark tunnel with no end, but she really felt she had no other choice but to take the path that lay before her. With only a moment’s hesitation she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and stepped over the threshold and into the complete unknown.
To be continued...