Celandine: Part Seven
Jedd forced himself into a sitting position. "We'll need Amiranthe's help," he gasped.
Lanshar couldn't speak. So this is what all their efforts had come to. Nothing.
"Who is Amiranthe?" asked Para.
"On the second floor, the door with the warning sign," said Jedd. "Tell her--tell her I need her to defend the shelter."
Para nodded and ran off.
"There's no point. He's sending all his forces. One Neopet will never make a difference," said Lanshar in despair.
"Probably not," said Jedd. "But as long as she is here, they can not hurt my guests or ruin the shelter, even if we are taken."
Lanshar could hear sounds from outside. It was all happening too fast. There was a brisk knock at the door. Jedd, limping, but standing tall despite his injuries, walked to the door, throwing a bright scarf on as he went. He opened the door. "Yes?" he asked, as though he had no idea what was going on.
A tall Darigan Draik brushed Jedd aside as he strode inside the shelter. He caught sight of the Searex and nodded. Other Pets in military gear entered behind him. Lanshar watched in despair. They were hopelessly outnumbered. The Golden Compass in her fist seemed to whir in response to her fury and frustration.
He looked at Lanshar and Jedd. "So you two are the cause of all the trouble I've been through. You are all coming with me. I can't risk any of you alerting anyone about this little... incident. It is most important for me to have sole possession of this creature and I can not let anyone interfere with my plans."
"Do you really think my disappearance is going to go unnoticed?" asked Jedd.
"By the time anyone finds out about what I've done, this creature will be powerful enough to stop anyone. I hear you have information of great value concerning the Searex. We're taking you all and burning this place to the ground. They'll think you perished in the fire."
"You can try, but no good will come of it," said Jedd.
"I believed you will find that you are greatly outnumbered," said the Draik, Terrens, with derision. "It will take little effort to defeat you. I know enough about the Searex to know that it does nothing of its own accord. You should all just surrender, for your own good as well as mine."
"Excuse me?" said Terrens, looking past Narcis at Lanshar. "Did you just say something?"
She stood taller. "I said no." She clutched the Golden Compass fiercely in her hand. Suddenly, she didn't care about the outcome, her heart was racing and all she wanted was battle.
The Draik laughed and she felt a familiar stirring inside her. They usually did laugh before she took them down. Almost every Battledome fight had started out this way. He cut off short, looking at his surroundings without humor.
"I've wasted enough time. Take them all." And he turned to leave, as his guards marched in, weapons brandished.
That was his mistake. Lanshar didn't hesitate a moment; she threw herself at the Draik's back, Compass in hand, summoning forth its powers and throwing a blinding beam of light in his direction. He shouted in pain and she landed on top of him, shoving him to the ground. He swung back at her and she dodged, and lost her balance. Another blow flew in her direction. But it never reached her. She swung up her arms in automatic defense to protect her face and his claws hit an invisible force field. The Compass. So it had defensive powers as well. Lanshar met his gaze over the golden weapon, his dark purple eyes staring at her, livid with anger. He had thought it was going to be an easy success. Her eyes narrowed. He'd thought very, very wrong.
There was a sudden coldness and the lights dimmed. A dark, shadowy creature with red eyes was standing behind her. Amiranthe, she guessed. Even at that moment, the thought of Jedd dealing with that creature made her wonder what other secrets the seemingly bumbling Acara hid. The Draik's companions were watching it warily, not sure what to do next. Para was standing by Jedd, casting a defensive shield about him. It was her and this one strange Neopet up against a hoard of trained soldiers.
"Take down the shadow creature," he told his companions. "I'll deal with this impudent Aisha."
He lunged at her. She fell a few steps back. She knew they were outnumbered. Brute strength alone would do no good. Neither would running. The only way she could think of to end it all required her to be somewhere else and Brea was nowhere to transport her. She used the Compass on him again, the blinding light stunning the occupants of the room, but he was a seasoned fighter, ready for her attacks this time. He drew a fierce, sharp looking weapon from his belt.
"I never meant to hurt anyone," he said in a hoarse voice. "You give me no choice."
The weapon flew in his hands, headed straight for her. Lanshar could hear Para screaming over the thudding of her heart in her throat but she barely registered the sound. She leaped nimbly on top of the weapon and, grabbing hold of it, twisted it roughly out of his hands. She fell with the weapon to the floor. It was far too heavy for her to wield so she kicked it aside and faced the Draik again, Compass held aloft in front of her, like a shield.
"This is the second time you've endangered my family. Never again." Brea was not going to take them away now. They weren't going anywhere. She had to protect them. She had to, or somehow she would end up lost again, without any memories, wandering with nothing but nightmares to haunt her nights and long, confusing days. "Never." She was only vaguely aware of Amiranthe flitting with ease amongst the intruders, effortlessly batting them away.
The Compass was white hot, burning her hands with the sheer power held inside of it. Wondering distantly how she could bear to hold it, how it could become so hot and yet not melt away, she forced every last bit of energy and magic she had in her entire being into her weapon. A beam emerged from the Compass so bright that, for a moment, it seemed as though dawn was breaking. It hit the shocked Draik directly and he was knocked to the ground. And then Lanshar was grabbed from behind.
One of his guards. She hit him desperately. He cried out and let go. She spun to finish him off, but another grabbed her. She spun in confusion not knowing why they weren't being held off when she saw the shadow Pet, Amiranthe backing up in the doorway to the guest rooms, her eyes glowing bright red. She had been injured. There were a few guards standing before her, holding their weapons to keep her back but looking unsure. Jedd and Para were being held down by large, angry looking Neopets. Para's shield had at last broken down.
"Don't--don't even try going through Amiranthe," coughed Jedd. "You can take me but you will not harm a single member of the shelter; she is sworn to protect them."
The seething Draik was being helped to his feet by some of his soldiers. "Leave her be. We have what we need. Bring the Searex to me." He'd had more than he had bargained for and was eager to get out of there before they could spring any more surprises on him.
Lanshar struggled against the soldiers holding her, to no avail. One of the Pets handed the Searex in her bowl to Terrens. Lanshar realized that Rainne and Buttercup were nowhere in sight. She could only hope that they had made their way to safety in the confusion. Lanshar met Celandine's eyes from across the room. She was confused and upset. She turned around in her bowl as if struggling against something. The look in her eyes was frantic. Lanshar could feel the magic tension in the room building. The Searex was going to let loose and none of them were going to make it out unscathed. It was strong enough for them all to feel it. A sort of static tension, rippling in the air. Everyone could feel it.
"What is that!?" shouted one of the soldiers. He looked afraid.
"Magic," said Lanshar in a low voice. "Old magic, older than any of you could ever imagine. It will destroy you all before you even have the chance to think about it."
There was a sharp thunder clap, a stab of pain, and then nothing.
Lanshar opened her eyes. Darkness. The events of the past few days came slowly to her, one thing after the other. The Compass. Jedd. The Searex. And the end. Where was she? Had Celandine at last released the full extent of her energy? Had everything been destroyed? But that was absurd.
She moved, trying to discern her surroundings. She was underwater. In complete and utter darkness. There was something around her neck, besides the Golden Compass on the chain. It felt like a pearl. A magical breathing apparatus.
There was movement, she sensed. She fumbled for the Compass in the darkness and held it close, summoning but a small share of its powers. It lit up and she squinted in the sudden dim light. She could see nothing but murky waters beyond.
Celandine was right there, facing her.
She could see a difference in the creature. She was no longer staring blankly about. She looked directly at her, with compassion in her eyes. She purred sadly. Lanshar felt waves of mixed emotions from her, sadness, loss, regret. She reached out and touched her, then pulled her close.
"Celandine," she whispered. Tears filled her eyes. "We've failed, haven't we? It’s all over. All for nothing."
The Searex stared at her, searching her eyes as if trying to tell her something. Lanshar stared back helplessly. "We gave you hope, didn't we? I'm sorry."
Celandine shook her head vigorously and pushed at Lanshar. She could feel a wave of understanding, that she was grateful, that she had woken up from a dream by being with them, and that even misery was preferable to the empty existence she had been living before.
"Lanshar? Are you awake?"
It was Breanja's voice. Lanshar's heart skipped a beat.
She swam downwards, taking Celandine with her. It was Brea, sitting on the ocean floor near a locked metal gate. So they had been captured after all. Maybe Celandine had suppressed her powers so as not to harm them.
Lanshar dove into her arms. "I'm sorry," she cried,"about what I said, I--"
Brea held on to her tightly and shushed her. "Don't worry about it."
"Where are we? What happened?" asked Lanshar, holding back tears.
"I was captured," she said. "By Romaine. As were you. You might say he saved you."
Lanshar stared at her.
"Romaine is the original owner of Celandine, he's known of her powers all along. He sent his men to retrieve Celandine. Narcis and Jaime helped me to defeat Lilith only to be apprehended by his men in the ruins afterwards."
"He said he's going to keep us here until he'd decided what to do with us," came Para's voice from a dark corner.
Lanshar willed the Compass to brighten and she could make out the dimensions of the underwater cave. Para sat by Jedd, Jaime and Narcis. Narcis was lying in a heap, heavily bandaged.
"He doesn't want the rumors about the Searex spreading any further," said Jaime. His gear was damaged and he had a cut above his left eye.
Brea told her what had happened.
Right before Celandine had lost control, Romaine's men had reached the shelter. They'd transported them to this cell, out of the reach of Terrens. They'd tried to separate them but Celandine had refused to be taken. She had not left Lanshar's side.
They had also met Romaine, who told them about Celandine and himself. His family had, for generations, known of the Searex's sad history and of the magic that occasionally surfaced in the creatures. And so they had created ways to find the powerful creatures when they appeared, every century or so. When they found them, they took them in captivity. It was for their own good, Romaine had said. Searexes were obedient and eager to please by nature. They were easy to manage and taken advantage of. If word got out that they had great powers, the whole world would be on the look out for them. The entire species would be in danger. Romaine's family had managed to care for the creatures and keep their secret for hundreds of years. Until Celandine.
Celandine had been reckless and spirited. She, from a young age, had loved leaping into the air and breaking the surface as few Searexes ever did. After Romaine had caught her and put her in her new home, a giant underwater cage, she began to rebel. Romaine's family had found ways of controlling their powers over the years and soon she was a broken spirit, giving up hope of everything she had dreamed of, forced to live a life of captivity. Romaine taught her but one thing; to repress her magic at all times. During one last escape attempt, word got out about Celandine. Rumor warped and twisted over time and soon it was said that Romaine was harboring a powerful weapon.
"Which led to Jaime stealing Celandine away," concluded Breanja. "Now we're trapped until we can think of a way to escape or Romaine lets us out. My transport spells don't work in here for some reason. There's some kind of barrier preventing magic usage in here."
Lanshar let all this information sink in. The plan that had come to her in Jedd's shelter, seemingly so long ago, could still work. Only it would be so much harder to do. She decided to share her idea with everyone. They listened quietly as she spoke, listing the basic details of her plan.
Narcis was nodding by the time she'd finished. He had been treated by Romaine's healers but still needed a long time before he would be fully recovered. Lilith had inflicted quite a bit of damage on him. "It should work, they'll never even guess what happened. And I know how to help you," he added.
"Do you?" asked Lanshar.
"Yes. I'll need the Golden Compass. Romaine left it with you because magic doesn't work in this dungeon. But that won't matter. I need it for something totally different."
"A bargaining chip. This Compass will be our trip out of here."
There was a time when she would have been skeptical. She would have challenged his plan, or rejected it. But seeing the wounds Narcis had suffered for Breanja made her trust him. Para had said he could be trusted. She needed to believe in her friends. Yes, that sounded right. They were her friends.
She handed the Golden Compass to Narcis.
To be continued...