Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 174,865,621 Issue: 378 | 6th day of Awakening, Y11
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Her Majesty's Champions: Part One


by saphira_27

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Thanks to torkie10 for use of her character Kyrouge and for all her help with the Darigan Citadel. Happy reading!

Queen Fyora gazed into her scrying glass. What she saw worried her. It’s nothing but smoke... black, choking smoke. Something’s being hidden from me. Something bad. But what?

      This was not a situation that the faeries could handle by themselves. They didn’t know enough yet, and it was very difficult for faeries to go abroad without being noticed. Their help would have to come from mortals.

      It was a time for Champions. Six mortal heroes with ties to each of the six elements, who were sworn to obey the Queen and fight for good. But there were none... the last of the Champions had died fifty years ago.

      She shut her eyes, and began to search Neopia with magic. It was time for a new generation to take up the mantle. She would have to gather them together. But they were needed.

***

      On a Krawk Island beach, a young pirate Bori shaded his eyes against the sun as he dragged his boat up on the sand. At eleven, Esteban was the one of numerous urchins who hunted for treasure lost in wrecks along the coral reefs. He called proudly, “Look at this! A Scorchstone!”

      An eight-year-old ran up to him first. “And I got a doubloon!”

      “Good job, Petey!” The other younger boys clustered around him, all wanting to show him what they had found.

      The leader of their band, Bernardo, held out the bag, and Esteban dumped his finding into it. Bernardo said, “Good job. The smugglers will pay well for this one.”

      Then Esteban heard the calling in his mind. Come, Water’s Champion. You are needed.

      “What on Neopia...”

      Come to Faerieland. The Faeries will send you good winds and smooth waves. You must sail here as quickly as you can!

      “What... who...?”

      I am Queen Fyora. Esteban, do not delay!

      He knew his friends were looking at him oddly, but this magic voice was impossible to resist. He said, “I... I think I remember where I saw something glinting underwater. See you!”

      Then he jumped back in the boat and paddled where the current would lead him.

***

      In the city of Qasala, a small sixteen-year-old desert Pteri lounged in the shade. His friend, a desert Ixi, slumped down next to him and asked, “How’s the sword training going, Benjamin?”

      Benjamin said proudly, “I beat the captain of the Scarab Squad today. He’s going to talk to General Nightsteed and see if I can be accepted into the Qasalan Guard early.”

      “If they can write off the incident with the ugly Grarrl...”

      Benjamin scowled. “You know and I know that the fool deserved it.”

      “He was only mouthing off...”

      “He was questioning my fighting skills... I was only proving to him that I could defend myself.”

      Fire’s Champion, fly quickly to Faerieland! You are needed.

      Benjamin looked around. “Did you hear anything?”

      “No.”

      Benjamin, Neopia is in trouble. I, the Queen, wish you to serve me with your strength and your sword.

      Benjamin looked around a couple of times. He wasn’t dizzy... it wasn’t sun fever. The reality of the voice in his head was hard to ignore.

      He said, “I’ll be back. Don’t let the Cobralls bite!”

      Then he flew off into the sky, headed east to Faerieland.

***

      By the edge of the forest in Meridell, a brown Lupe carefully patted the soil down around a tender green sprout, his tenderness belying his huge size. Sartos had spent all of his fourteen years on his parents’ farm, helping his father till the land and his mother make potions for healing.

      He looked over the neatly tilled field and grinned. It was a good day’s work. He liked the plants... they were much quieter and more understanding than people.

      Earth’s Champion... Sartos... you are needed.

      Sartos had heard Illusen tales... he knew a faerie’s voice when he heard one. He dropped to his knees. “Yes, milady?”

      I am Queen Fyora. I would like you to go to Brightvale Castle, and accompany Light’s Champion to Faerieland to meet me.

      “The castle, milady?”

      Yes, the castle. Go get what you need quickly... you must reach Brightvale before night falls.

      “Yes, milady.”

      Sartos shouldered his trowel and headed back to the farmhouse to grab a few things. He had no idea how he was going to explain this to his parents, but he was going!

***

      In the Brightvale Library, Lady Mathilde was deep in study. She wrote notes from the thick spellbook on her lap in the notebook on the table beside her. The seventeen-year-old royal Kyrii muttered a few words, and a light shone in the air before her. She peered into it intently... she could only see the faintest of images, too indistinct to tell what it was. Mathilde muttered to herself about fickle scry-magics, and reached for her cup of tea, only to almost spill it on herself when a voice sounded inside her mind.

      Light’s Champion, your time has come.

      Mathilde knew that certain powerful Faeries had the power to communicate mind-to-mind with whomever they chose. But she had no idea what Light’s Champion meant. “Excuse me, ma’am?”

      I must speak to you in Faerieland as soon as possible. I am sending Earth’s Champion from Meridell to meet you at the castle gates. He will be there in less than an hour. He is Sartos – a farmer’s son. You must help him come to my castle. You have traveled to Faerieland before... you know where the ferries are along the coast.

      “Yes, ma’am – I will come.”

      Mathilde set her tome aside, but picked up the notebook with her spells in it. She was already making up her story about a scholar’s journey to Meridell to please her father and deciding what she would need to bring at the same time... she loved the intellectual challenge of it.

      Finally, a chance to use her magic!

***

      In Faerieland, Fyora sighed wearily. It was almost night, and she had had to contact her Champions from all across Neopia. She was very, very grateful that the last two were siblings... they would be easier to contact together.

***

      In a wooded area east of Kiko Lake, a mutant Ixi and a faerie Shoyru were setting up their tent for the night. The thirteen-year-old Shoyru told her older brother, “I think there might be a rip in the canvas, Cyrex.”

      Cyrex crouched and held the canvas up to the light – or what little of the late afternoon sun cut through the clouds. It was still enough light to make out the long rip in the cloth, with its rapidly fraying edges. “Curse it – of course it’d rip on a night when rain’s coming. I can’t fix it before we sleep tonight, Keedie... we’ll have to make do and get wet.” Cyrex sighed. He was only twenty, far too young to have to take care of his sister. It only seemed to get more difficult as the years went by, and being a mutant didn’t help any. He adjusted his eyepatch... it was slipping out of place and over his remaining eye.

      Cyrex, Keedie... Darkness’s Champion and Air’s Champion are needed in Faerieland.

      Cyrex started upright from where he had been hunched over with the fabric, banging his head on a branch. As he muttered under his breath, Keedie asked the air, “Who are you?”

      I am Queen Fyora. I beg of you, come to Faerieland as quickly as you can. There is a boat waiting for you in Kiko Lake.

      They both waited to see if the Faerie’s voice would give them any more instructions. Eventually, Cyrex pulled their battered map out of his pocket... “Let’s see, southeast...”

      “We’re going, right, Cyrex?”

      The Ixi said, “Well, it’s not like we have a whole lot keeping us in this Fyora-blast-it forest. If there really is a boat to Faerieland, we might as well. I bet you’ll like it there.”

      Cyrex had to smile as his sister flew around in spirals of excitement. She had little enough to be happy about with their lives as vagabonds... a little fun would do her the world of good.

***

      Finally finished, Queen Fyora slumped back into her chair. Her Champions would be completely assembled in a little over a week. For now, she would...

      Her lavender eyes fell shut before she could even think the word “sleep.” Her power was mere embers now from the exertion of searching Neopia, but her task had been accomplished.

      The Champions were coming.

***

      The people gathered in an underground room. They were all dressed in black cloaks, with black masks covering their faces. The lamps on the walls were made of red glass – it was impossible to see much. They sat at the tables, turning their chairs to face the front, even as they moved themselves as far away from the throne-like chair at the head of the room as they could manage – or perhaps they merely kept away from the multitude of skulls from unfortunate Neopians that made up the back wall.

      The heavy wooden door slammed open against the stone wall. Two huge cloaked men swept in bearing torches. But it was the small figure, almost hidden in their shadows, which the others in the room shied away from, and it was this figure that took the place upon the throne. He was smaller than anyone else in the room – little bigger than a child – and he spoke with a cracking, weak voice. “So, my dear friends, how goes the war?”

      A masked Gelert stood. “Milord Drusus, we are bringing more and more mages under the banner of the Skull. There are many who believe the Faeries have no right to rule... they help us to keep our actions hidden from Faerieland.”

      A Grarrl stood as well. “Milord Drusus, we are gathering fighters to the Skull as well. Many believe that the age of Faeries is over. They see that it is time for mortals to rule.”

      There was a period of silence. Drusus turned his head... his face was hooded, but he appeared to be looking in the direction of a Lenny. “Well? You are in charge of money. Surely you could not fail something so simple.”

      The Lenny looked down, and said very softly, trembling, “Milord Drusus, a man I trusted with a stash of Neopoints has disappeared.”

      Drusus’s voice did not change. “How much did he steal?”

      “Two hundred thousand...”

      The people around the unfortunate Lenny moved as far away from him as they could. Drusus stood and threw his hood back.

      Though the members of the Skull who met here had seen this before, they never could get over their revulsion at the sight of the zombie Aisha’s empty eyes and pale, unhealthy face. He looked straight at the Lenny and pointed. A bright flash of light filled the room, and when they could see again, the only thing left of the one who had lost the money was his mask.

      Drusus said coldly, “There is no room for fools here. I am going to search for the thief. You may go.”

      The other Skulls filed out as quickly as they could. Finally, Drusus dismissed his torch-bearers, leaving himself alone in the chamber. He thought, I am coming, Fyora. The day is near when your high-and-mighty cloud will be brought to the ground, and I, Drusus of the Skull, will rule Neopia!

To be continued...

 
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