The Broken Soul: Promises and War - Part Seven
For a moment, neither of them moved. Awestruck as they had been by her house, they’d never seen such a creature as the one before them now. The Aisha was short but slender and pale blue. There was a dim glow about her, hovering just around the outskirts of her fur, that was customary to all ghost pets, but she looked extremely alive. There was something vital about the way that she held herself, the careless way that she smiled and walked.
Her hair was as pink as her house, curly, and long enough to touch her waist. It was swept back from her face by a red, satin bow, and her eyes were a livid gold color. She was wearing a type of dress that was purple and hanging in odd places to look as if she’d covered herself with a curtain instead of an outfit, but it was strangely becoming on her, and it seemed as if it had been made with only her in mind. Her long, Aisha antennae were covered in hoop earrings, and her ears themselves sported one earring a piece shaped like a rose. Large, thick black-rimmed glasses were propped on her nose and magnified her eyes in an eerie sort of way while looking scholarly at the same time.
Not quite sure what to think, Cove was the first to move in her direction, and Sarevor obediently followed as she allowed them into her shack and gestured them into chairs around her small, cramped table. It was covered with a thin, white crocheted cloth that had stars and moons stitched into its fabric. Cove stared at it for a moment in a mesmerized sort of way.
The Ghost Aisha’s many, thick bracelets clanked together on her arms as she sat down across from Cove. It seemed that she had one of every color of the rainbow, each almost neon in their brightness.
“Borovan?” she asked, raising a tea pot from the table.
There was a large smiley face painted on its side. The mouth was slightly crooked, and one eye drooped a little lower than the other. It didn’t look as friendly as it looked lost and slightly dazed. Much like its owner.
“Er—Sure,” Sarevor accepted, and Cove nodded as well.
Both immediately regretted this decision as the contents, when poured into tea cups for them, came out lumpy and looking a lot like mud. Cove could swear that a single bubble surfaced, burst, and hissed at him. He leaned slightly away, as if he half-expected it to attack him. The tantalizing honey and cinnamon smell it released must have been a hallucination. Sarevor certainly wasn’t willing to test it, nor was Cove, though he usually submitted himself to anything to please a host.
Luckily, Tippy didn’t seem to notice. Her eyes were slightly dazed and focused somewhere above Cove’s head, as if the Neopian she was having a conversation with was a foot taller than Cove.
“Now, what can I help you with, majesty?” She grinned as if finding herself hilariously clever for knowing who Cove was. “I saw you coming, but intentions are never clear to me.”
Cove wrapped a claw around his cup, but didn’t raise it to his lips. It was more for show, though it also provided something to do with his hands. Uneasy, he spared Sarevor a glance. The Usul could only manage a half-hearted encouraging, crooked smile. The Usul musketeer knew well enough how much Cove didn’t want to repeat his story again, though his faltering smile might have also had the burbling, murky Borovan to blame as well.
“Well, you see, it started like this...”
And, with a deep breath, he divulged his story once more while Tippy bravely took a large gulp of her own cup of Borovan, smacking her lips even, to emphasize the taste that Cove refused to believe was anything but disgusting.
However, Cove couldn’t quite hold this against her as, unlike the others, her attention did not begin to waver as he spoke, nor did she continue to smile at him like they had—as if he was some foolish child.
She waited patiently until he was done, eyes keen and alert, drinking it all in as if she was enjoying it as much as her Borovan. Perhaps even more so. Unlike Sophie, she didn’t snort, smirk, or show any signs of amused disbelief. It made it easier to rehash the things that hurt his pride so thoroughly, though he couldn’t keep from wincing occasionally.
When he was finally finished, a silence ensued that was entirely awkward or completely comfortable. Tippy appeared to focus on something above his head, her expression thoughtful.
“That explains so much,” she mumbled.
“Like what?” Cove asked.
Her gaze drifted back down to him. “Why your aura is broken. You only glow a little. Like you’re only a half.”
Cove shifted uncomfortably. It wasn’t the answer he’d expected.
She continued on, “And why you left. I never did understand. Your aura before that was so strong and—”
She stopped, sat up straight.
“Puppyblew tails!” she exclaimed suddenly, frightening them both.
She looked back at them with a slightly glazed expression, as if she’d forgotten they were there. Finding them again, she offered up a lopsided smile.
“It’s what little boys are made of,” she giggled. “I’d forgotten it. No wonder my potion was botched! I left it out. Oh! I’ve always wanted a son, you know.”
No, they hadn’t known, but Sarevor exchanged a silent look with Cove and shrugged. Frowning, Cove reminded himself that one absurd Neopian was worth dealing with if it resolved the problems of many.
“Oh.” It was the only thing he could think to say.
Tippy smiled and waved her paws in the air.
“Anyway, as I was saying, there are several ways to reunite a soul.” She pursed her lips. “Or several theories, I should say. This is very rare. There aren’t many cases to go by.”
“What are they?” Cove asked, warily.
Tippy straightened her glasses. “Some fathom that merely forcing the two bodies to collide with one another will force the soul back into the body, merging the two again.”
A surge of hope, foreign as it was, forced its way through Cove. That sounds easy. All he had to do was run into Mahyla. Tippy seemed to catch the look of reluctant hope on his face, and she made a quiet tsk-tsking noise in her throat.
“It’s ridiculous, of course,” she went on. “Nothing concerning the soul is that simple.”
As quickly as the hope had come, it was deflated. In his own corner, Sarevor was frowning skeptically.
“Then tell us a method you believe,” he insisted.
Tippy nodded. “I believe that the only way to merge again is the method in which the souls must reconcile their differences and make a joint decision to return to one another.”
Cove sighed before he could stop himself. Thinking that Mahyla would ever admit a fault was ludicrous.
“Both must fully acknowledge that they will never work in complete form or perfection without their opposite halves, and there must be a unanimous acceptance of one another,” Tippy explained, sounding a lot more scholarly than she appeared. “Then, and only then, when body and soul realize how vital one is to the other, they will reunite in much the same way as they were separated.”
Absently, Cove ran a claw over his scarred side. To think he’d believed that there was a way to redeem his throne. Mahyla would never agree. She would never confess to needing him, because she so obviously believed that he was the weakest link in her existence. Cove closed his eyes.
“It will never work,” Sarevor voiced what Cove was thinking.
“There’s no other way,” Tippy told him, her voice suddenly as bright and cheerful as it had been when she’d greeted them. “Peace requires reconciliation. Acceptance is the only answer.”
Suddenly, Cove felt as if he were back on the peaks of Shenkuu’s mountains. He was no better off now than he had been then. Returning to his throne seemed like an impossible dream again.
Would he ever be able to make it a reality?
“Fine,” he conceded grimly, “I’ll go to the Draik’s Claw. I’ll try to speak to her.”
Sarevor caught his eye across the table, but Cove couldn’t muster up a return smile.
Mahyla’s long snout was wrinkled in distaste as she sat on her throne. The throne room was deserted, save for her, and she stared with unexplainable dislike at a large, stained glass window directly across from her. At least, it would have been unexplainable to anyone that didn’t know her. The window depicted a striking image of a shadow Draik dressed in regal armor with a sword raised high into the air in triumph. It was Connan, Cove Macduff’s grandfather.
Mahyla had the lingering bad taste of a memory concerning him that had been told to her when a young Neopian had offered her a four leaf clover. She wanted to chew it up and spit it out, but it would not disperse.
She should have been celebrating. Within the past month, though news of several sightings of Cove Macduff had surfaced, she’d continued to reign supreme while taking over Brightvale and the Haunted Woods. Meridell would be next. They’d only managed this long because they’d wisely backed off when she’d moved to take Brightvale.
From Meridell, who knew what would be next, but there certainly would be a next. It didn’t matter that, even as she sat here now, she was acutely aware of the proximity of Cove Macduff’s presence. It was an uncomfortable, almost disorienting sensation. She hadn’t been so aware of him since she’d separated from him, but perhaps that was because he’d been so far away from her until now.
And what did he hope to prove by seeking her out now? She’d warned him to stay away, but now he apparently dared to defy her. He was lucky that she hadn’t alerted the guards, lucky that she was too curious to know what had given him the guts to face her after having run scared before.
Mahyla shifted in her seat, disturbing the ruffles in her red dress. He was almost within the castle walls now. It was like part of her own body was with him, and she moved as easily and as undetected as he did. It infuriated her that he was sneaking inside so easily, but he knew the castle well, and she should have expected it.
She swallowed, not from fear but the unease of having an out of body experience. Though she’d once been a part of him, she’d thought that, having separated from him, she was a body and soul of her own, no longer dependant on him.
When—not to her surprise—Cove finally stepped through a secret tunnel that was hidden behind a suit of armor and into the room with her, Mahyla’s sense of discontent only magnified itself twofold. Even standing in the far corner of the room, she felt a strange, magnetic pull to him, while, at the same time, another sense of her repelled him. She couldn’t decide if the push or the pull was stronger, but the ground was suddenly very shaky underneath her feet.
She could tell by the slightly frazzled expression on his face that he felt it too, and she was certain that that strange awareness of her that she felt with him was what had led him to find her. Slowly, like a Draik not entirely certain of his boundaries, Cove moved across the room until he stood directly before her, his back to the window she’d been staring at with such hostility before.
Though it gave her an immense amount of satisfaction to see him in pauper clothing of brown, worn pants and a once-white shirt, she couldn’t quite dispel the ever present feeling of power he radiated.
They stared at each other for several long moments, two halves remembering a whole.
“You haven’t called the guards,” he noted.
She grinned, baring her teeth in an unfriendly gesture. “Curiosity kept my tongue still for now.”
“But not forever,” Cove mumbled, voicing what she hadn’t said.
Mahyla chuckled, but didn’t confirm the truth. Her intentions and feelings toward Cove were no secret. Which was why it had taken him so long to infiltrate the castle since she’d first heard of his resurfacing. He was a wanted Draik with a hefty reward on his capture.
“So, let’s make this fast, shall we?” she suggested.
“Fine,” he agreed roughly. “Then let’s be frank. I know you feel what I feel right now. This weird force trying to pull us together.”
Mahyla frowned, all amusement lost. “And do you also feel the push that’s compelling us away?”
Cove didn’t answer for a moment. Though this feeling wasn’t as strong within him as it was with Mahyla, he felt it well enough.
“We’re of a different nature, but not a different core,” he conceded. “I’ve come here to ask you to realize that.”
Mahyla cocked her head to the side. “You enjoy wasting your time?”
He was slightly unnerved by her unwavering green gaze, just as Mahyla intended. She was a part of him, and so contained the same sort of unspoken strength that he harbored.
“You don’t have to pretend to be so callous in my presence. I’m not one that condones weakness,” he told her, and she snorted. “All I’m asking is that you admit that you don’t feel whole—not in the way you expected—and that maybe you need me.”
He’d overstepped his boundaries there, and the displeasure on Mahyla’s face was a quick sign to prove this. He thought she needed him? It was laughable. What was he getting at with such talk? It was an absurd conversation to risk breaking into her castle for.
There had to be something else he was really hedging toward.
“You’re a fool,” she replied, and enjoyed insulting him. “What would even hint that I might need you? Have you not heard, Cove? I now rule the Lost Desert, Brightvale, and the Haunted Woods.”
Cove’s eyes darkened. “And don’t you understand what that means? You’re making more enemies than friends, Mahyla. A tyrant never lasts long without adversity.”
Mahyla scoffed. “I’m trembling now. Let them try.”
She knew he thought her a fool, but she revelled in it. Doing something he would not have dared to do himself gave her an great sense of satisfaction. That had always been her desire: to do what he was afraid of doing. She wasn’t a coward that hid behind false smiles as he did.
“All you see are your own successes. You don’t see the possibility of failure, and that is your greatest weakness!” he snapped, almost causing her to recoil. “Until you admit that you need me—that you’re just a weak shell of someone else’s soul—you’ll never reach your full potential, and you’ll just be pathetic!”
Mahyla inhaled a deep breath, every word he spoke turning her cheeks a deeper shade of red. With a growl, she shoved to her feet, whipping out a claw to jab accusingly in his direction.
“I thought to humor your insolent speech, but you have overstepped your boundaries!” she hissed. “GUARDS!”
Cove lifted his chin. “I should have known better than to attempt to reason with a savage.”
Mahyla turned fully red. “Guards! Seize him!”
The door burst open, several hulking guards burst forward, armor clanking, swords raised. Cove spared them one scornful look, turning that glare only once in Mahyla’s direction, and then turned, surprising them all, and threw himself through the stained glass window.
Multicolored glass burst in a dazzling explosion of color, and Cove’s lean, brown body seemed to hover mid-air miraculously for a moment before he expanded his wings and soared away, whirling up into the blinding rays of the sun so that they couldn’t decipher in which direction he’d fled.
Mahyla stared at the broken fragments of Cove’s grandfather’s window reluctantly impressed and deeply unsettled. The glare with which he left her seemed to be burned into her skull. Never had she seen him look so ferocious, never had he seemed so close to losing his temper.
She decided then and there that the wisest course of action would be to take Meridell quickly. She would rest easier with more forces on her side to protect her from that angry determination she’d just seen in Cove Macduff’s eyes.
To be continued...