An Unlikely Group of Heroes: Part Eight
I couldn't see; a blinding white light had surrounded me completely. I closed my eyes tightly, waited for the light to fade, and then opened them. The bubbles in which the faeries were trapped began to shimmer. I could see the vague outlines more clearly, make out smaller details: the red-and-white pattern on the Soup Faerie's bandana, the streaks of green in Illusen's otherwise russet tresses. The bubbles became thinner and thinner until they were completely translucent.
"It's working," I shouted with glee. "Now we just have to find the other staff."
"You'll never find it." A familiar Shadow Kyrii approached us. "Well, you'll never get it, anyway; it's not very difficult to find."
"What happened to Edna? She didn't turn you into a Mortog?" Jared frowned, clearly disappointed that the pet who had broken his beloved Jeran action figure was still walking about on two legs instead of croaking and hopping about on four.
The Kyrii smirked. "No, no. Edna and I are on quite good terms, despite that... argument."
Just then a thundering of footsteps sounded. A round figure, dressed in black with a hood pulled far over his head, leaving his face in its shadow, advanced. Close on his heels was a Darigan Kyrii, whose shifty eyes darted around the room. My eyes immediately fell on a mahogany object clutched tightly in his two paws: the other staff.
"Noit," the cloaked figure barked, "what are you doing back here? I thought I told you to leave."
"You were fired?" Jared chuckled. "Then why'd you try to stop us?"
"Stop you?" growled the faceless pet. "Stop you from what?"
The Darigan Kyrii, I noticed, had begun to slink away towards an exit. From the smell of Juppie Juice and turkey wafting from the doorway, it no doubt led to the kitchen. I couldn't let him escape though, not with the staff still in his possession. Crouching, I took two step forwards, and then jumped.
"BONZAI!" I cried, knocking into the Kyrii and sending him sprawling.
Unfortunately, the staff flew out of his paws as well, and landed right in the arms of the one named Noit.
"Give me that staff!" Jared, with the stone in his paws, charged at Noit, who easily avoided him. Jared wasn't the most agile of Lupes, whereas Noit had clearly been trained in the art of combat. He seemed like the type to frequent the Battledome and challenge even the most fearsome of opponents.
Noit smiled smugly as Jared once more tried to, unsuccessfully, knock the Kyrii down. As Jared lay sprawled on the stone ground, Noit walked over nonchalantly, plucked the brown package from the Lupe's paws, and unwrapped it. The cloaked figure gasped at the sight of the shimmering gemstone.
"That's not... that can't be! Is that the stone?" The voice was raspy, harsh, and full of disbelief. The shape turned sharply and the hood slid down a notch, revealing a slab of dark purple skin and a pair of glimmering white fangs. Large red eyes shone from beneath hood. The thick brow furrowed as the black outline lumbered forward. "Give me the staff," the voice commanded. One purple, clawed hand stretched forward.
"Give me the staff, and the stone," the voice repeated. "You have failed me twice already today, Noit. This is your chance to redeem yourself. To prove that you are not worthless"—the voice was especially sharp and cruel on the last word—"and perhaps bring you into my good graces. Just a tad."
Noit was unmoved, apathetic, through the speech. The dark figure finished speaking, and then the Kyrii looked down at the staff. "I have failed you twice," he whispered, "so I may as well fail you again."
The red eyes widened with horror as the Kyrii spoke: "Luminescera."
Then the blinding light shone, once more.
* * * * *
“Now, class, don’t crowd!” Mr. Norbis was looking rather pale today. Apparently, after Callista, Jared, and I hadn’t returned by four, our parents had informed the principal, Ms. Muscle, of our absences. She’d then Neomailed Mr. Norbis with one of her “I need to speak with you right now” letters. Mr. Norbis had then gone trembling to her office, where he’d received an hour-long lecture on responsibility, followed by a severe warning and deathly glare from Ms. Muscle. Rumor has it that he nearly fainted.
“I can’t believe you guys saved all the faeries and got in the newspaper,” gushed Shelley the Green Usul. “And you guys got to meet them all!”
“I know, right?” Callista was beaming, reveling in all the attention. She was presently enacting a particularly exaggerated fight scene between her and Jared and Noit the Shadow Kyrii, who, she said, “was a rotten negg who came around in the end.”
Jared was looking less than pleased with the attention, staying away from all the other students and spending time alone in the corner of the classroom, staring wistfully at a Jeran poster. He sighed, clearly still in mourning over his broken action figure. Hopefully he wouldn’t be depressed for much longer.
“And then we rushed back to the Darigan Citadel in our cloud racers—Shirley’s a much better driver than I am, really—and there we met our good friend Norbert! He’s quite a funny fellow. I thought he was sort of strange, at first, but he’s really funny,” Callista was saying. “He works in Neopia Central now, at a book shop. It turns out he was an expert on all sorts of magic spells and curses and whatnot—that’s why he was so helpful—and was more than happy to settle down in Neopia Central. He was originally from Mystery Island, you see, but he’d grown rather tired of there.”
“What happened next, then? After you arrived back at the castle?” A Green Ogrin was sitting, eager-eyed, in front of Callista, taking in every word that came out of her mouth.
Callista fluffed her tail a little (she does love the limelight), and continued with her story. “Well, we arrived at the chamber, where we saw one of the magic staffs lying in the middle of the room on a table. Shirley—she’s so clever—remembered hearing a magic spell from earlier that day, so she whispered... whispered.... Oh, Shirley, I’ve forgotten it. What is it, now?”
“Luminescera,” I replied, half-listening. She’d related the tale over a dozen times now, first to Norbert, who’d completely missed out on the Haunted Woods portion (she narrated the whole story, even the parts where Norbert had been present, and Norbert had “ooh”-ed and “aah”-ed at all the right moments), then to her parents, then to my parents, then to Rhonda, and so on and so forth. Each time she stopped and asked me to repeat a single word: Luminescera.
“Right, right, ‘Luminescera,’” she repeated. “Anyhow, then the room was filled with this bright light and the bubbles the faeries were trapped in became shimmery and see-through. Then Noit, the Shadow Kyrii, showed up again. We thought that he was going to...”
I tuned Callista out, choosing instead to stare out the open window. A cool breeze lapped against my face and rustled the Meridell grass outside of the classroom. Far in the distance I could make out the melodious sound of Illusen’s voice, and I smiled.
* * * * *
“Thank you for your help,” the Earth Faerie said, placing a firm hand on my shoulder. “Without you, Neopia would be in grave danger. You have saved us all.”
We had left the Citadel and were now standing a short walk away from Meri Acres Farm. The sun was sliding into view, casting golden beams of light onto the lush green fields of Meridell. The sky was a mixture of colors, orange, red, yellow, with slight touches of purple and blue.
I smiled bashfully at the faerie, afraid to meet the gaze of her piercing green eyes. “Y-y-you’re welcome,” I stuttered.
Suddenly, in front of me knelt Queen Fyora. In her hand she held a series of gold medals. I counted them quickly: seven. She smiled at me, slipped one around my neck, and proceeded to present the others to Callista, Jared, Norbert, Henry, Dylan, and finally Noit.
“M-m-me?” the Kyrii stammered. “But I was a bad guy!”
“No, my dear. You are a hero, and for that I award you this medal.” The Queen’s voice was song-like, angelic even, and I felt myself succumbing to its soporific powers. Nearly twenty-four hours without sleep was making me feel a bit woozy. The Queen must’ve noticed, for she gently tapped her scepter on my shoulder and I felt the soft blankets of my bed magically appear around me.
* * * * *
“No peeking!” I glared reproachfully at Jared as he attempted to remove his blindfold. Callista had managed to tie the cloth around his eyes while he was distracted, no doubt in some sort of daydream involving Jeran and him fighting off the evil Lord Kass.
“Where are you taking me?” he protested, stumbling over a stray Turdle and nearly falling. “I hope you’re not going to let me walk into a tree or something.”
“No, no, they wouldn’t do that,” a deep voice chuckled.
Jared gasped as we removed his blindfold. He looked up into a familiar set of yellow eyes. He took in the rich blue fur, much like his own, the pointed ears, the bushy tail, and smiled. “This is the best dream ever!”
The deep-voiced Lupe tilted his head bemusedly, and laughed again. “I’m afraid this isn’t a dream, my boy.” He patted Jared heartily on the back and then removed an object from a brown satchel.
“Here,” he said, handing the toy to the young Lupe. “Shirley here told me that yours broke, and how you were really torn up by it. It’s even autographed.”
Jared looked down at the Jeran action figure, then up at the face of his hero. Then he turned at me and squealed, “This was totally worth putting up with you all day yesterday!”
Scowling, I took off my shoe and threw it at him.