The Broken Soul: Promises and War - Part One
This story is a companion to both Four-Leaf and The Broken Soul: Reawakening.
He had never been incapable of doing wonderous and impossible things. Sarevor Abram De' Velun was born in Brightvale, a startlingly intelligent young mind. It was foreseen from the beginning that he was meant for greatness. Politics, perhaps, or some other form of prestigious leadership. There were many that admired him even when he was young, and would have willingly followed him and helped him along his way had he chose one of the allotted paths.
However, Sarevor grew fast tired of the futures his friends and families envisioned for him. They lacked the certain luster that he craved in his heart. He didn't crave the spotlight, but he did thirst for a noble life. It was in his own visions of himself that he aspired to a greatness that threatened a certain amount of perilous danger. Sarevor craved to be a hero.
When young Sarevor first came across the emblazoned tales of the wise and merciful Cove Macduff, he became instantly eager to meet the Draik of legend and help him in his quest for lasting peace. Though his family was appalled, Sarevor gladly turned himself over to Cove Macduff's army. It was more than his own pleasure to risk life and limb defending those that he cared for most.
As held true his entire life previously, Sarevor's certain innate charm drew even the powerful King into his favors. Taken by the young Usul, his charisma, and his passion and dedication, Cove didn't waste much time before he promoted Sarevor into the title of Captain of his Royal Guard. It was only Sarevor that he truly trusted to keep him safe and secure. He had never before shown such a great display of confidence, and Sarevor was given his due respect from his comrades, who were equally as impressed by this young musketeer, so striking and handsome in his blue, red, and yellow uniform.
From that day forth, nothing was quite as sacred to Sarevor as the seal of his king: the fabled six-armed scarab. The colors of blue, yellow, and brown became the very colors of Sarevor's soul. By this time, Sarevor had given himself completely to his loyalty to the king and to all that he stood for, swearing an oath to uphold the peace of his king's mighty kingdom.
No matter what obstacle should arise.
Sarevor and the citizens he had sworn to protect lived in blissful ignorance for several years without mishap. Everyone that came into Cove's daunting aura would agree that it was impossible to foresee a darkening future when in his glow. And Sarevor, one of the closest to the king, would heartily agree to this.
However, though none may have seen it coming--Cove himself included--there was a dark cloud gathering over the crown, gathering inside the good king. For Cove was so kind and virtuous that his anger and bitterness had to go somewhere, as it was never unleashed. Ever.
It was from these pent up emotions that something bizarre and unexplainable occurred. Though no one, least of all Sarevor, could tell what it was. All anyone was left with, after the storm broke, was the mystifying disappearance of their king.
And the horrible sense of hopelessness.
A hopelessness that Sarevor secretly shared, though he kept up his strong, impassive front to the public. He knew many questioned as to how he could still believe in the good of a king that would disappear in the dead of night, like the most lowly coward, and leave his kingdom in the clutches of a brute.
And Sarevor had no reasonable explanation for this either, though it was a question he lived with in constant companionship. How much was he willing to risk for a king that had deserted to him? Fooled him, even?
Too much. That was the answer. Too much, because he had admired that king. Maybe even worshipped him a little. His wisdom had seemed unparalleled, his kindness greater than any before he had ever encountered. Even in the haze of confusion and hurt, Sarevor couldn’t dismiss the innate affection he held for the king, or the idea that, if he could only find him, Cove could set his world right again.
He had to believe, like so many others, that the king had not left by his own free will.
He would never have abandoned them. He would never have willingly allowed a Draik like Queen Mahyla to claim the crown when her vicious nature was so apparent. She craved war, and Cove Macduff had only ever craved peace. A view that Sarevor shared.
And, as Mahyla’s personal guard—as he’d once been for Cove—Sarevor knew very well that Mahyla was also keen for action. She would not wait long to wage war against the other worlds of Neopia. She craved dominance: a rule that spanned the entire surface of Neopia. He couldn’t let her have it, and there had always only been one clear solution: find Cove Macduff.
But he’d known from the beginning that he couldn’t do it alone. It would require help. Especially since his disappearance from the queen’s side would not go unnoticed. She would suspect, and he would very easily end up in the dungeons. Plus, he had to look out for the citizens that Cove had left defenseless.
Thus, the Scarab Army had been born.
The Scarab had been the symbol for Cove, and could therefore only rightfully be the symbol for an army to return him to his throne. In a clever move, Sarevor had created a way for members to recognize one another, for the whole of Neopia to aid him in finding his vanished king.
There was a Scarab for each Neopian territory that was willing to fight. A Scarab that they would tattoo onto themselves or wear as jewelry: any way that they could brandish their allegiance.
A Darkness Scarab for the Haunted Woods, an Earth Scarab for Meridell and Brightvale, a Fire Scarab for Mystery Island and Krawk Island, a Water Scarab for Maraqua, a Hand-Painted Scarab for Neopia Central, and a Golden Scarab for Altador. The remaining lands had not been eager to join arms, finding peace preferable, but it was only a matter of time before Mahyla would convince them otherwise. Sarevor was certain of it.
He himself wore a Scarab Medallion under his uniform, the only Neopian in the Lost Desert brave enough to sport a Scarab under the very nose of Mahyla. Even if it was hidden by his clothing. It was his last sign of rebellion, his last sign of hope that there could still be peace, that Cove Macduff could still return.
The addressed Usul stiffened slightly, feeling the guilty weight of his medallion against his chest as Mahyla called his attention from across the table. She had been talking strategy in the war council room, and he had been thinking of her undoing. For a moment, he had the uncomfortable feeling that she was reading his mind, or, worse yet, that she could see the invisible outline of his scarab medallion under his uniform.
“Yes, my queen?”
Addressing her so still left a bitter taste in his mouth, as if he’d just bitten into an extremely sour lemon, but Sarevor had conformed to her rule in every outward manner. It was the only way to successfully overthrow her when the time came. He knew the element of surprise was key.
Blatant traitors ended up in the dungeon. A fact embellished by the one empty chair at the table. One which had recently been occupied by Articus, a Skeith which had once been the Commander of Cove’s army that now resided in Mahyla’s dungeons. He’d been bald enough to outright support Cove in their last council meeting, and Mahyla had promptly demoted him.
“I was just informing you and Vyen that Ice Claw will be filling in Articus’s recently evacuated position,” she told him, gesturing to the Darigan Bruce at her side.
Sarevor didn’t know how Vyen, the Ixi weapons master, felt about Iceciile—or Ice Claw, as his friends called him—being the new commander, but Sarevor was far from pleased. The Bruce was a merciless brute, and would surely create massive destruction as the head of the army, which, Sarevor was certain, was what Mahyla wanted.
If only Articus had kept his mouth shut.
“I see,” Sarevor replied stiffly.
Mahyla, beautiful as the Speckled Draik was, smiled, and the smile, so tainted in wickedness, was slightly disarming and overwhelming to Sarevor. The Draik didn’t have to speak a word to instill a powerful impression upon her audience. She barely had to lift a brow. It was something Sarevor found himself—disgustingly enough—admiring in a reluctant sort of way. Though he would have never admitted it out loud.
“Of course, that will be of little use to you, Sarevor, as you deal with my personal protection, but I thought it would be rather important to our friend, Vyen, who will be working hand in hand with our new commander.”
Sarevor chanced a glance at Vyen and saw that the Ixi looked less than pleased.
However, though he might not have liked it, Vyen did know better than to protest the arrangement. Articus’s fate was still very distinct in his mind as well, and he had no desire to join his old comrade in the dark, damp dungeon. Though he shifted in his seat—as if the idea was even physically uncomfortable—Vyen nodded.
“As you wish.”
Mahyla smiled, and Sarevor felt the fur on his tail stand on end. He looked away from the expression, as disturbed by it as he would have been a sneer.
“Very well, then we are done here for today. I do expect a report back from you, Ice Claw, and you too, Vyen, on the strategy you work out for our conquest on Brightvale.”
The Draik waved a dismissing claw, and the group stood to go.
“Sarevor, I need you to stay. There are things we must discuss.”
Half out of his seat, Sarevor froze. For a moment, he thought panic might have flashed across his furry brown face, but he hoped he was wrong. Recovering quickly, he managed to nod and return to his seat as the Bruce and Ixi left their company.
Mahyla did not speak until they were alone. During that short span of time, Sarevor thought his heart might burst from his ribcage. It was drumming too loud and hard to go unnoticed. Was this it then? Had she figured him out? Had she gotten wind of the Scarab Army he’d created? If so, he was doomed.
He kept his face as impassive as possible, though his paws were digging into the arms of his chair under the cover of the table. The weight of the scarab medallion against his chest felt heavier than ever.
“Now, then,” Mahyla began finally, “there are some things I would like to speak to you of, but, first, why don’t we move this discussion into the gardens? It’s stifling in here, don’t you think?”
Sarevor could only nod. It was an innate reaction: something that was expected of him and that he had learned to do on cue. Still, his mouth felt impossibly dry as he rose from his seat to follow Mahyla out of the castle and into her garden.
Why did she want to talk to him there? Though her gardens were a truly beautiful sight, he’d never known her to favor them. The landscaping had all been done by Cove’s wishes, and he’d made it an awe-inspiring slice of nature, but Mahyla had hardly ever seemed to have notice it. He’d never seen her walking along the stone paths, bending to smell the roses, or lounging on the bench that Cove Macduff had spent many hours of deep thought upon.
A great sense of foreboding overcame Sarevor as the scent of roses intoxicated his senses, blown into his face by a rare, albeit hot, breeze. There was a riot of colors out here, splashed on nearly every plant that had grown from the soil. It was one of the few places that flowers could grow in abundance in the Lost Desert, and it was mostly because Cove had paid to make it that way. The serenity of it all was almost disarming, and a horrible contrast to what Sarevor felt the atmosphere should be like for a private meeting with Mahyla.
It was even worse that she didn’t turn to him, but instead bent to one of the rose bushes to scent the red blossoms that grew from it. Sarevor knew this was a ploy to set him at ease, but he wasn’t buying it. He really doubted Mahyla even smelled the flower.
“Because I find that you are a highly intelligent creature, Sarevor, I will cut to the chase,” she told him, as she cradled a rose in her palm to smell it. “I know that you were perhaps the most loyal to Cove Macduff, that you admired and loved him like any truly dedicated soldier. I know that he also trusted you, above all others, and that you were perhaps his only confidant.”
She paused, smiling at the rose, and Sarevor felt a suffocating tightness in his stomach. He didn’t think she really expected him to reply to this, but he couldn’t have anyway. Where was she going with this? She seldom ever discussed Cove, as if his name alone could send her into a fit of rage. Now she was discussing him and Sarevor’s loyalty to him as calmly as though she was discussing the flower in her hand.
“But let me ask you, Sarevor, did Cove Macduff bother to tell you where he was going or why? Did he care or hesitate, even a moment, before he fled and left his citizens with a tyrant?” She chuckled darkly. “Yes, I know that’s what I am referred to, but do I deny it? No. I am not the fraud that Cove Macduff is.”
Sarevor couldn’t seem to breathe. Not only because of what he felt Mahyla might be hedging toward, but because she had, more or less, hit the nail on the head. She had voiced the betrayal that he felt deep in his heart, though he still attempted to refuse to believe that it could be true. He had known Cove. He couldn’t believe that he’d secretly contained that kind of weakness.
Mahyla, whether she’d interpreted his silence for agreement or not, pressed on.
“I make no game of hiding what I am. I am exactly as you see me, and I always will be. I know that I have created enemies in doing so, but at least I don’t pretend.” Mahyla ran a claw over one of the delicate rose petals. “I have allowed you to stay on as Captain of the Royal Guard, because you are so qualified, though I’ve known all along of your relationship with Cove Macduff.”
Sarevor didn’t move or acknowledge the truth of this. He’d wondered it himself, many times. Why had she kept him as her royal guard when it had been a well known fact that he was the most loyal supporter of Cove Macduff? Were his qualifications really that impressive? Or would she feel that she had truly dismantled Cove when even his most loyal supporter gave up on him?
“But now, things have become serious. A war is approaching, and I must gather my forces. I must have the best at my side. Will one of those Neopians be you, Sarevor?” Finally, she turned toward him. “Cove Macduff is gone. Wishing or working for his return is fruitless and naive, I assure you. You can leave now, and chase that memory, or you can stay here and realign your allegiances.”
Sarevor stared, almost transfixed. There was something about the tone of her voice. Did she know about the Scarab Army then? Was this his chance to redeem himself in her eyes though he had betrayed her in the worst way? Perhaps that was what this was. If he agreed to conform, the idea and purpose of the Scarab Army would surely dwindle and die. There would be less to oppose her.
And what if he refused? Would he be thrown in the dungeon as well? He would not be able to help anyone from behind bars, nor would he be able to protect the citizens from Mahyla’s wrath. Her rule would become undaunted. All the cards would be in her claws.
“What do you say, Sarevor? At my side, you will be more powerful than you have ever dreamed of becoming. Rich in both title and gold. I will rule the whole of Neopia, and you will be at my side.”
He caught the gleam of greed in her green eyes, and for a moment he was frightened that it reflected in his own. It wasn’t the gold. It was the power and title, the right to control so much. It would have been an impossible possibility for anyone to truly deny. Even Sarevor, the most pure of heart. And was he not fighting a losing battle? Cove had not returned, and it had been so long. Was he chasing ghosts?
Sarevor started uncomfortably as Mahyla suddenly lifted her claw, extending it toward him, waiting—he knew—for the handshake that would seal his allegiance. He stared at her green, spotted claw for several seconds in silence.
He could take it and really agree to become her ally, or he could take it and lie. There was no other option but to shake the claw unless he wanted to end up behind bars, but would he really mean the promise that it would make? He could continue on, still working behind her back to return the gentle, peace-loving king.
Who seemed almost boring in the shadow of Mahyla, and the thought sent a shock of unease through Sarevor. Had he really just thought that? Believed it, even for a second? Mahyla was a tyrant. Neopia had to be rid of her! He couldn’t possibly have considered for a moment the benefits and excitement that came with her continued rule.
“All right.” His voice sounded hoarse and dense with emotion.
Feeling a mixture of sickness and excitement, Sarevor lifted his paw, clamped it around Mahyla’s hand, and shook.
But what was he agreeing to? True allegiance, or merely the chance to continue running the Scarab Army in hopes of Cove’s return?
He couldn’t quite tell, and this sent a dark feeling down his spine.
To be continued...