Shattered Sunlight: Part Four
Rulers of the Neopian worlds, I have sent a copy of this message to each of you. I will be your new master, your leader in a new age of peace. I simply ask that you submit to me quietly. I do not want war. I just want the world to be a more ordered place than it is right now. Can any of you argue with that?
~ Lord Franklin Sloth
PS – I have Fyora
Val looked up from the note, expressionless. “Are we sure about Fyora?”
The Light Faerie in front of him nodded. “The meeting...” Her voice shook, close to tears.
Sighing, the black Kougra rose. “A meeting is called, and I will come.” He smiled at the Faerie. “Please tell the rest of the Faeries that.”
The Faerie left the room quickly, flashes of light trailing behind her golden wings. Val stayed where he was, acting calm and in control until he was sure the Faerie was out of sight and hearing. Then, slumping back into his chair, he read the note again. This time, anger was evident in his eyes and the claws that delicately pierced the paper. “Sylvanias,” Val said, “tell them to ready Kazeriu’s Pride.” The soft-footed servant peered into the room. Val looked up from the paper at him. “I’m going to Faerieland.”
Without a word, the Faerie Xweetok nodded and disappeared.
Val set the note aside and rose to his feet. Dajian was unlikely to be happy about this, seeing as the Krawk had been letting Val run Shenkuu ever since the first attack. Val shook his head, padding towards the Emperor’s rooms. If Dajian really needed the help, he could conscript Vesper. Or even Arriell. Val half-smiled at the thought of Dajian conscripting his father. Seeing as Arriell had avoided being the heir, it was unlikely he’d agree to help Dajian.
Reaching Dajian’s rooms, Val stopped upon seeing a spotted Lupe sitting against the door. “Fideus?”
The Lupe glanced up, silvery eyes half-shut. “His Imperial Majesty wanted to be alone.” He shrugged, movement lazy and fluid. “His Imperial Majesty asked me to be sure nobody entered his chambers. But he’ll probably make an exception for you.” Fideus rose, red and gold robes falling around him. Barely making a noise, he slipped into the Emperor’s rooms.
Val crossed his arms, staring at the door. He trusted Fideus. The Lupe had been Dajian’s servant for as long as he could remember. But the Lupe wasn’t always the fastest at getting things done, something Val attributed to how long he’d been in his position and how much everyone liked him. Everyone except Cassie and Val himself, that was. Neither of them could quite figure out why they were immune to his charm, but they were.
The spotted Lupe opened the door again, waving one white paw to gesture Val in. Val followed him into the Emperor’s rooms. There was barely any furnishing, despite the garish clothing the Krawk wore. As he stepped through the blue and gold curtain separating Dajian’s study from his main room, Val smiled. “Uncle?” He spoke softly, not wanting to disturb the purple Krawk’s study any more than he had to. “I’m going to the Faerieland council.”
“I thought you would.” Dajian looked up from his paper-covered desk. “I’ll send someone to retrieve Vesper.”
“He won’t like it.”
“He doesn’t need to.” Dajian rose, green and red robes falling around him. “How long do you expect to be gone?”
Val hesitated. “I don’t know. I’d guess five days, but a week is more likely.”
Nodding, Dajian laid a hand on Val’s shoulder for a moment. “Good luck making them see sense.”
“Thank you, Uncle.” Val bowed, retreating from the Emperor. Fideus appeared beside him without a sound, following him to the door. Val gave the Lupe one last glance before stepping into the main palace. Sylvanias would have readied everything by now, he knew. The Xweetok was wonderful about things like that. Without making it too obvious that he was hurrying, Val made his way down to the docks.
Kazeriu’s Pride waited there, red-brown planks and pale edging making it beautiful. The white and blue wings were extended, beating softly as they held the skyship in place. A rope ladder dangled from the ship’s side, tassels brushing the ground. Val took hold of it, climbing up even as the ship rose into the air. Sylvanias darted around him, not speaking but worrying just the same. Val smiled at his little servant, trying to reassure him.
As soon as Val stood on the deck of Kazeriu’s Pride the skyship accelerated, heading for Faerieland. The clouds that bore the Fae city were over Mystery Island, according to the Light Faerie that had called Val to council. He hoped that the Faerie was right about the coordinates she’d given the captain of Kazeriu’s Pride. If she wasn’t, it wasn’t too bad – masses of cloud large enough to hold a city weren’t hard to see – but it added time to their journey.
During the days it took to reach Faerieland, Val did his best to be helpful to the crew. He had never learned how to control a skyship, but most Shenkuan knew the basics, and his status as Lord-Heir had given him more time on them than most. The crew did their best to suppress their bowing and simply show Val what to do and why, but their speech was still stilted and full of phrases like ‘my lord’ and ‘if it pleases you’.
About the time Faerieland came into sight, Val just told the crew to shut up if they couldn’t talk to him normally. The crew took this to heart, and the final hours passed in nearly complete silence. Upon landing, Val leapt off the skyship, heading for the palace. A few words to the palace guards, and he was admitted to the council chamber. He was, if not the last, one of the last to arrive. Val sighed, hearing the heated words shouted across the room. If he didn’t have a headache by the end of this, he’d be surprised.
Two full days passed without anything getting done, other than the sides clearly defining themselves. Sabre-X and Galgarroth argued for opposing Sloth and letting Fyora stay his prisoner. Talek and the Keeper of Time murmured agreement with them, but didn’t join in the debate.
Aethia, the Battle Faerie, led the side who wanted Fyora back and would roll over and beg to Sloth for her. Jeran and Rolan, the heirs to Meridell and Brightvale, stuck with her. As did Jerdana, Jazan, and the Techo Master, though they weren’t as outspoken.
Edna, a witch and perhaps the most respected member of the Haunted Woods able to travel, and Val himself as the only two not taking any part in the debate. Their quiet discussion off to one side was simply a way to keep occupied; both knew the arguments being thrown across the table and the reasons behind them.
On the third full day, however, neither side began the shouting match. They just sat in their chairs, weary, and looked at the table. Val glanced at Edna. The green Zafara rose to her feet and cleared her throat. All the members of the council looked at her. She looked back at them, green eyes narrowed. “You,” she said, “are a disgrace to the society you are supposedly a part of.”
Surprisingly, nobody spoke against her.
“You are supposed to be agreeing on a way to either accept Sloth’s offer with grace or take up arms against him. You are not supposed to be fighting like rabid Zomutts.” Edna’s withering gaze swept over the rulers and their representatives. “That is all I will say to you.” She sat, contemptuous tone echoing through the room.
Val waited for the effects of Edna’s voice to take hold. Rolan sat up straighter, the yellow Kougra looking at Val. “What do you have to say, then?” Rolan asked, voice echoing through the chamber. “Will you deride us too, just as your friend did?”
“No.” Val smiled slightly. “I’ll just offer you a way out.”
“How?” Galgarroth’s deep voice came out from the babble that arose. The orange Grarrl crossed his arms. “And why do you have a solution and the rest of us not?”
“Because I wasn’t endlessly repeating the same thoughts in different words.” Raising his voice, Val continued over the uproar. “I’m just answering a question. Now. How do I offer you a way out? That’s the more interesting part, isn’t it?” He smiled, relaxing into his chair. “I offer you this: Resistance. Accept Sloth’s offer. Submit to him peacefully. But prepare your populace for war. Give Sloth a year to get settled. And then let the citizens of each land rise up against him. That is the solution I offer.”
For a moment, there was silence. Then Judge Hog spoke. “I do not know if he will let the Defenders go.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jeran said. The blue Lupe leaned forward, eyes bright. “Sloth can’t be everywhere at once. If only given a year, I doubt he’ll have enough troops to defend everywhere at once. If we can retake even one of our lands, we can begin defending Neopia.”
Judge Hog nodded slowly. “Very well. I will accept this plan.”
One by one, each land’s representative agreed to Val’s plan. At last, when harmony reigned, Val stood. “Prepare your lands,” he said. “In a week, we submit. Aethia. Send Faeries to each ruler, telling them what we’ve decided. They’ll need as much of a head start as they can get.”
Aethia nodded, turning and leaving the council chamber. One by one, each of the other dignitaries did the same. The Techo Master lingered, and when everyone else had gone, and he and Val alone stood in the chamber, the Techo spoke. “If your plan does not succeed...”
“Then we will hope that resistance rises up and overthrows Sloth without us.” Val gave the Techo Master a tired smile. “There’s nothing else we can do.”
To be continued...