A Faerie Tale: War - Part Six
Illusen ran as fast as she could. She knew she had little time. In the distance she could hear the muffled cries of those who had not made it to the Hidden Tower fast enough. There was smoke everywhere. Somewhere, the castle was on fire. To make matters worse, several of the towers had collapsed, blocking passages with rubble. Illusen thanked her stars that she didn’t meet any of the rebel Faeries on her trip up to the high towers. She assumed they were raiding the Hidden Tower, or worse, pursuing the Queen down the secret passageway.
At last she emerged onto a high balcony, strangely untouched by the battle. On the far wall a cannon of sorts was mounted, similar to those used by Faeries when they played games of Faerie Bubbles down in the city... in the peaceful days that seemed like a distant memory to Illusen.
Meridell, Brightvale, Altador, all kingdoms on the face of Neopia had such a beacon, designed to be a final signal, a plea for help. In ages past, Faerieland had answered the call to many of her neighbours’ signals. Now Faerieland was in need of help... Illusen hoped desperately that someone, anyone would help.
She approached the cannon, and aimed it high into the sky. She pulled back, launching the single flare within. It shot out into the sky, burning a trail of rainbow magic across the sky.
“They won’t help you,” a voice sneered from behind Illusen.
The Earth Faerie spun around, readying her wooden staff. Jhudora stood with her staff also in hand, waiting in the doorway.
“No one will dare come to help Faerieland,” Jhudora continued. “After all, if it’s an evil as great as to defeat Fyora... why bother fighting it at all?”
Illusen clenched her fists tight around her staff.
“The Queen still lives,” she proclaimed triumphantly.
“For now,” Jhudora replied mildly. “But we’ll see to that in due course, don’t you worry. But for the time being, it doesn’t matter if she’s alive or dead. I can still place Mavara on the throne either way.”
“So she can be your puppet?” Illusen laughed.
“Exactly,” Jhudora cackled.
She didn’t wait for further conversation. She pointed her staff at Illusen, and dark shadows surrounded her. They swirled menacingly, Illusen trying to fend them off, but it was no good. The shadows deepened, and Illusen blacked out, collapsing to the floor.
“The first prisoner of war,” Jhudora laughed. “How delightful.”
Deep in the Underclouds, the Faeries set up their camp. In ages past, Faeries had made homes in the dense fog, even forming entire communities. When Fyora took the throne though, all Faeries were united and joined together in the sunlight of Faerie City. The Underclouds had been deserted, the Faerie homes falling into decay.
Now Fyora’s throne was in question, and the Faeries had returned to the dark Underclouds. They had lit a fire, but took care not to make it too bright. They didn’t want to attract attention in case Mavara and her supporters were pursuing them through the fog.
The injured were tended to, but without her magical waters the Healing Springs Faerie could do little to patch up the fighters. Still, she tried her best, aided by the Rainbow Fountain Faerie and Nereid.
Around the fire, the whispers began to circulate.
“The castle defences fell far too quickly,” the Air Faerie from the furniture shop began. “They must have been weakened from within.”
“A traitor?” the Soup Faerie gasped.
Eyes glanced from one Faerie to another. One of them was working for the enemy... Who could be trusted? Who was under suspicion?
The shadow of doubt naturally fell on the Dark Faeries. They always seemed so manipulative, so double edged, and so evil. How could it be anyone else?
“Maelstra,” Ilere rasped. “She seemed close to Mavara in the council meeting.”
Iyana the Earth Faerie gasped.
“She was talking to the Grey Faerie’s friend in the castle gardens!” she told the others. “I bet she sent them there, to start the war! She’s been working for Jhudora all this time!”
“It’s true, I saw her,” Fuhnah the Fire Faerie echoed.
There were murmurs of agreement, or anger, around the camp fire. As one, the Faeries decided who their betrayer had been.
Captain Habbard lay on a camp bed, roughly carved out of clouds by an Air Faerie. He was badly wounded, bandaged all over... but with the Healing Springs Faerie’s help, he would recover in time to battle again.
He groaned slightly, and turned to see Captain Smith sitting nearby.
“You should have let me fight,” the Kougra complained.
“You would have been killed,” Smith told him.
“My men are dead, the castle has been taken, the Queen has lost her throne, and I’m no good to anyone like this,” Habbard said, almost hatefully. “How is this any better?”
“This is no time for you to get high and mighty about being Captain of the Hidden Tower. I still outrank you,” Smith told him.
“You think that’s what it is?” Habbard asked. “I only ever switched to the Hidden Tower to get out of your shadow.”
Smith glared intently at the Kougra.
“You’ll be ready to fight again,” he said, getting up. “When you are, I expect you to give it your all. After, maybe we can have a talk about your position.”
“My position?” Habbard coughed.
“Seems to me that there won’t be much of a Hidden Tower left after this, let alone a Hidden Tower unit of guards,” Smith answered. “If we survive this, there’s a place waiting for you in the palace guard... if you’re willing to join us.”
“I thought you hated me!” Habbard laughed, coughing from the pain at the same time.
“This is no time for hate – this is war,” Smith told him as he left the makeshift tent.
Outside, he took a deep breath.
The fight for the castle had been hard fought, Smith wondered if they’d have the strength to even make it to the castle a second time, let alone retake it. They’d need everyone, but they’d already lost so many...
Mavara walked through the ruined corridors of the castle, Jhudora marching smugly by her side.
“Where are the Drenched?” she asked. “There are still fires that need putting out!”
Jhudora seemed to return from her own thoughts, thoughts of evil victory.
“They went to the Healing Springs, I think...” Jhudora answered. “But you don’t need to bother with putting out the fires. We can build a new castle, a better castle. We can build a castle that better befits our new, noble and just Queen. There are too many memories of that greedy pink woman here.”
Jhudora turned her nose up at the thought of her. All the pink marble was giving the Dark Faerie a headache.
“I sort of like the castle as it is,” Mavara said, running her hand along the wall as they walked.
Jhudora glared at her Faerie puppet. What was wrong? Mavara seemed to have regained some of her sense of self... she wasn’t blindly following orders any longer. The sense of rage that Jhudora had managed to instil in the rest of the Faeries also seemed to be dwindling; now many were having second thoughts about their supposed ‘cause’.
Were Jhudora’s spells coming undone? No, she reassured herself that her magic was flawless... perhaps their will had grown? Was there something about Faerieland that ran through them all?
“The Dark Faerie Sisters are certainly being helpful,” Mavara remarked as the two emerged into the ruined courtyard.
Vanity, Malice, and Spite, former servants of the Darkest Faerie, were helping the gardener Vyline dispose of most of the rubble that had claimed the once magnificent gardens.
“And look, it seems that Fiona and Aethia are back on speaking terms!” Mavara continued.
The Battle Faerie was deep in conversation with Fiona the Dark Faerie, who once long ago had challenged Aethia for the right to wield the dual blades of the original Battle Faerie, Valeane. The two had rarely spoken since, always appearing to be at loggerheads.
“Do you see?” Jhudora asked slyly. “Do you see how your rule has already made Faerieland a better place? Old differences are being cast aside. You can usher in a new era for the Faeries. You can unite your people under one flag for all time. You can be better than Fyora ever was! All you need do is take the throne; Fyora doesn’t even need to be dead. She fled the castle. That’s as good as abdicating.”
“No,” Mavara said flatly. “If I am to rule Faerieland, I will do it fairly. I want no part in games of political fine print.”
Jhudora scowled. How could her magic be failing her?
“My ladies!” a voice from across the courtyard shouted, interrupting their discussion.
There was a Faerie Meerca running across the rubble.
“Our spy in the Queen’s ranks has returned!” he proclaimed. “They are hiding in the Underclouds, preparing to storm the castle once more!”
“The Underclouds...” Mavara mused. “That will make finding them difficult.”
“Nonsense,” Jhudora scoffed. “Psellia can easily clear the mists with her magic!”
“Still, getting to the Underclouds will be problematic,” the Battle Faerie told the Dark Faeries as she walked over. “If we could find the passageway they used to escape, we’d have no problem... but I fear it will have been magically sealed. Our best bet is to march into the Underclouds from Faerie City.”
“We would be leaving the castle unguarded...” Mavara worried.
“It’s a worthless shell now,” Jhudora sneered. “We have no need to protect it. Begin rounding up our forces to march on Faerie City immediately.”
The Faerie Meerca nodded and ran off.
“What of Illusen?” Aethia asked. “We can’t leave her in the castle alone.”
“She is one weak Faerie, magically locked in the dungeons,” Jhudora cackled. “What could she possibly do to hurt us!?”
To be continued...