The Seraphic Legion: Foundation
All was still across the farm. Far overhead the stars twinkled peacefully, the beautiful full moon bright and clear, sharing its radiance with all of the land. Some called it the blessing of Ysarie, but Farmer Gilbert knew she had nothing to do with the weather and the majesty of the night sky. Gilbert was a realist, and knew that Ysarie’s power, although greater than anything else in all Neopia, was not without limits.
Wearily the blue Gelert rolled from his bed, feet sliding comfortably into the old boots he always wore. Without a word to his wife, leaving her to enjoy her restful dreams, he took his coat from its hook by the door and stepped out into the chill of the night, its refreshing bite forcing him fully awake.
The flock of Babaa watched him with only mild interest, giving up when they realised there was no extra food coming their way. They were not usually fed until dawn anyway, but the sound of his boots squelching through the mud left by the downpour earlier in the day had been enough to arouse a fleeting hope, and wake them from their simple dreams of jumping fences. They quickly returned to their daring escapes from the field, safe in the knowledge they would still awaken in Gilbert’s farm, ready for feeding.
Reaching the end of his stone walled enclosure, Gilbert just leaned on his pitchfork and gazed out into the night. There was nothing here. It must have been the gentle breeze he heard, whistling through the cracks in his walls and the holes in the roof of his petpet enclosures. He needed to get them fixed before the Winter set in, and making a mental note of it, he set off back toward the small farmhouse. He hoped to build on that next Summer, and had been putting aside Neopoints each time he went to market. Tomorrow would be no different.
Markets were what he lived for, like so many others. The populace of this world was sporadic, which meant he had a lot of land to grow his crops and graze his petpets, but not a whole lot of company to keep nearby either. There was talk of building a city not far from here, a place for pets to gather and create a permanent marketplace, but it was all a dream at the moment. For now he would have to travel far to get to market and fend off the stiff competition. Still, he had confidence in his produce this year.
Suddenly something shot across the sky. Gilbert gazed up, quickly dismissing the first thought of a shooting star. No, this was too bright, too pure to be a star shooting across the sky. Only Ysarie could leave a trail like that in her wake, so radiant and beautiful. Just like the Faerie herself, and her ever growing children.
‘Does she ever take a break?’ Gilbert wondered aloud, before heading back to bed with a smile on his face. A sight of Ysarie the night before market, it could only be a good omen.
* * *
A thick mist hung over the farm as Gilbert piled up the first cart with produce. The Whinnies waiting to pull the cart just patiently ate their morning meal, pondering the mysteries of the world around them. Gilbert had often wondered just where the strange petpets had come from, but the Shoyru who had sold them to him had just said Ysarie was responsible, and left it at that. The pair of them were now bedecked in a dirty green, much like Gilbert himself.
Much of his produce was still piled up, waiting for his sons to bring it along later in the day for when the market was more alive, but for now it was just him and the first load, designed to catch the attention at market. It was a strategy that had held him in good stead over the years, and cost his rivals much business. Of course, in the end, most things were purchased anyway, when the faeries arrived at market at the behest of Ysarie. She had a very hands-on philosophy toward maintaining peace in the lands she had cultivated.
With a last wave to his sons waiting at the gate, he set off into the morning, catching a glimpse of his wife in among the Babaa flock, lost in the early morning work of the farm. He may be away at market but the farm still lived on without him, and when his sons came after him it was all up to her to keep the farm going. Thankfully the markets never lasted long; it would be too cruel to leave her alone for so long with such a task.
The heavy mood hanging over him lifted as the morning began to draw on, the early mist finally rising and allowing the vibrant sunlight of the day to wash over him. Gilbert felt a cheerful rush through his body. The sight of Ysarie soaring through the night sky certainly had been a good omen after all, even if the mist had left him feeling otherwise.
As he was passing through a ravine that cut through the neighbouring lands, a figure suddenly appeared beside the path, sitting on a rock, its head hanging limp against its chest. It was a red Poogle in clothes older and more worn that Gilbert’s own, instantly rousing a pity in the heart of the Gelert.
‘Excuse me, you okay?’ Gilbert called out, bringing the Whinnies to a halt beside the forlorn pet.
The Poogle looked up, an empty chasm reaching out behind its eyes.
Abruptly Gilbert felt something connect with the back of his head and throw him to the mud off the path, at the feet of an irritable looking red JubJub with a dark smile on his face. Frantically Gilbert scrambled away, but soon found a tall yellow Usul behind him, looking down on him with malignance exuding from his entire body.
‘On your feet, farm boy,’ a jovial voice ordered. Gilbert silently obeyed and bought the time to survey his other attackers; an inanely grinning blue Chia was standing near his Whinnies, bearing the signs of a pet with beyond sub-par intelligence, while on top of his cart stood a proud green Lupe, clearly of a very different calibre to his associates. The others were thugs, of no greater purpose than to blindly follow the orders of another, but the Lupe was the giver of orders, the crafter of fates. He did not look as unpleasant as his comrades, his demeanour akin to his light-hearted, jovial tone of voice, but he was unmistakeably not as pleasant company as this all suggested.
‘I’ve got nothin’ a bunch o’ boys like yourselves’d want,’ Gilbert said slowly, unable to tear his eyes from the Lupe. ‘I’m just a farmer.’
‘Search him,’ the Lupe commanded, watching with amusement as the Usul probed through every pocket in Gilbert’s jacket and even searched under his hat, but found only a meagre handful of Neopoints. The Lupe just sighed and looked down at the neatly organised cart beneath his feet.
‘You are sure this is the right target?’ he snapped suddenly at the Poogle. Reluctantly Gilbert watched the Poogle with the soulless eyes close the gaping holes on the front of his face and concentrate, an eerie green aura radiating around him, an unnerving sense of presence rippling out and through Gilbert’s very soul.
The eyes snapped open again. The Gelert farmer shivered under the sight of such horror. ‘This is not the one,’ the Poogle declared distantly. ‘But it is close. That way.’ He pointed into the solid rock face of the ravine. The eyes of the entourage all looked up bar the Lupe, who stared directly at the sheer surface, one paw reaching up and scratching the bristly hairs beneath his jaw thoughtfully.
‘In that case, let us go and find them,’ the Lupe declared at length, leaping to the ground beside Gilbert. ‘Sorry for the trouble, farm boy. Now be good and forget this ever happened, clear?’ he added, placing a paw firmly on Gilbert’s shoulder, a gentle squeeze hinting at formidable strength.
Without another word, the Lupe led his companions away farther down the path. Gilbert collapsed against his cart and slid down into the mud. His heart was racing, the memories of their vicious faces carved into his thoughts forevermore, taunting and jeering. He was going to have to have nightmares tonight, he was sure of it, and that seemingly jovial Lupe would be the star.
Something licked his face. One of his freed Whinnies gave him a look that reminded him of his wife. What would she say if she could see him now, sitting in the mud, lost in despair while two of their Whinnies threatened to escape? It was clear they had no plans of escape, of course, for Gilbert and his family treated them well, but they were still loose.
The words of the Poogle and Lupe came back to haunt him, speaking of finding something, or someone. The very manner of the pets themselves dictated they were up to no good, but the way they spoke sent a shudder through the Gelert’s body. They were out to hurt someone.
Determination spread across his face, Gilbert climbed to his feet and removed his trusty pitchfork from the cart; last year he had used it to successfully deter bandits from stealing anything, and it was now all his wife could do to stop him taking it to bed with him. To Gilbert, it was the symbol of a resistance against those who sought to do nasty things; plus, it was useful around the farm.
Silently he set off in the direction of the strange group, quickly finding the trampled bush that had masked the entrance of a cavern. He took a deep breath before rousing the courage to step into the grim opening, the darkness quickly swallowing him whole.
It was unnerving, slowly making his way through the absolute darkness, fear keeping both paws around the pitchfork and leaving him stumbling blind through the thankfully linear passage. The morning light that shone through the entrance was long since lost behind him, while only silence prevailed ahead, making his task more arduous than he felt it need be, and striking him with a powerful urge to turn tail and flee. Every time the urge rose, however, he saw the face of that green Lupe burned fresh across his vision, and he knew he could not stand by and allow that fiend to do as he pleased.
Following the gentle curvature of the path, he was suddenly faced with a soft light in the distance. Gilbert forgot where he was and hurried toward its hopeful glow. A fresh breeze blew over his face and rejuvenated his spirit, his paws easing their grip slightly on the pitchfork.
He stepped out into a wide cavern. The walls glowed with a gentle blue tone that shimmered softly on the edge of his tool. There was a thick magical taste in the air, the whole cavern crawling with unquestionable power. To his right, an outcrop blocked his view deeper, but a strange sensation seemed to be calling out to him from beyond, beckoning him deeper.
Voices cried out from beyond, causing him to hesitate. The distant, mystified tones of the Poogle rushed over him, excited this time; they had clearly found their target. He was arguing with another voice, a stern yet reassuring voice, brimming with authority and an indescribable power. Yet the Poogle seemed unfazed by the commanding tone.
Whoever she was, that new voice was in danger, and Gilbert was the only one around.
Silently, he advanced to the end of the outcrop, his path taking a sharp right toward the source of the commotion. The blue Chia that had inanely grinned at him lay dazed at the base of the wall, still wearing that infuriating inane grin. Before him was the Poogle, back toward Gilbert, while the Usul and JubJub had formed a triangle around two figures trapped in the middle of an open expanse at the heart of the cavern, illuminated by the pale glow.
It was Ysarie. There could be no mistaking the tall and proud being that was the Faerie Queen, matriarch of the entire species, clad in her resplendent dress which shimmered in the glow and changed hues with but a slight glance. In her hands she clutched her mighty sceptre, its radiant orb glowing with a purifying white luminescence, exuding the fury of the queen herself.
Behind stood another, a spotted Tuskaninny that Gilbert had never seen before, clutching a staff that glowed with a pale hue similar to that which surrounded them, a large droplet of water seemingly frozen within its head. She seemed to quiver with a fear Ysarie herself could not feel, but Gilbert knew the queen could indeed feel fear, even if she did not show it. The odds were stacked against them, and it was only this fact which kept her from making a move. Clearly the Chia had been an early strike.
‘Hand her over, Ysarie,’ the Poogle commanded sharply, flourishing a staff of his own. ‘We do not want you, not yet anyway. Surely you are aware that this is the only way this can end in any sort of good terms. The Overlord has dictated we need her power; alive is preferable, but not essential.’
‘If you try to harm her, I will destroy all of you!’ Ysarie warned, but the Poogle just laughed.
‘You cannot hit all three of us at once, Ysarie, even with your power,’ he scoffed. ‘We will strike her down before you can eliminate all of us, and it will be on your hands!’
‘I don’ think so, laddie,’ a fresh voice supplied. The Poogle suddenly found three points pressed firmly against his back, trembling slightly against his body.
‘Please, do not get involved in all this,’ Ysarie pleaded, hastily glancing between her opponents. ‘Gelert, you do not know what sort of danger you are in while here. Please, I can handle them.’
‘Can’t do that, ma’am,’ Gilbert replied, his words ringing with more confidence than he felt. ‘If we gonna make this world work, we needs to stand up to scum like this!’
Laughter reverberated through the cavern. Gilbert kept his gaze firmly locked on the Poogle and the pitchfork he held to the pet’s back, but in the centre of the cavern he saw Ysarie and the Tuskaninny look up onto an outcrop, the faerie’s expression souring further at the sight of the laugher.
A green Lupe dropped into their midst, brushing himself down theatrically. He regarded Gilbert with a sly smile, chuckling again at the predicament of his colleague, yet entirely unperturbed by this turn of events.
‘Who would have thought an error of judgement would bring us this far?’ he declared in his usual jovial tone. ‘Farm boy here has proven to be the champion of the faeries, standing up for Ysarie herself in this hour so dark. Go home, farm boy, you are no hero. Do not make me think twice about letting you walk away on the path outside.’
‘I ain’t goin’ nowhere,’ Gilbert replied, surprised at his own words. ‘I ‘eard what you said, and I ain’t gonna run away while you hurt either of those two.’
‘Perhaps I should teach you a bit of respect then,’ the Lupe snarled, unsheathing a long, slender sword.
‘Adelbert, if you even think about harming that Gelert I will give you a singular taste of my power!’ Ysarie snapped, pointing her sceptre at the Lupe. ‘I do not believe the Overlord would be pleased if you not only failed to deliver Clandesta here, but you also threw your life away over something as trivial as this. He will not have this magic, not today.’
Adelbert turned his attention back to Ysarie, shooting the Tuskaninny Clandesta a scathing look. ‘You would rather share the magics of this world with... these?’ he asked incredulously. ‘What that staff contains is the first sample of Neopia’s power to be conveyed to us, and not gifted to you and your kind. You would see it placed in the hands of uneducated rabble? My master can control that power, and use it for the betterment of Neopia. You would rather see it used by those who are more likely to blow their own feet off?’
‘Do not delude yourself, Adelbert, and do not treat me as a fool,’ Ysarie retorted, ‘for we both know the Overlord would only use the magic for the betterment of itself. The rest of Neopia may yet be children, but they are learning. I have long since underestimated their courage, and their determination. This farmer is the perfect example of what the Overlord stands against; a pet who is willing to do whatever it takes to stand up to a tyrant such as your master. I have been a fool for treating them as children so long, and it is time I rectify that mistake.
‘Crawl back to your master, Adelbert, for you will have no trophy this day!’ she roared, her sceptre flaring with power that caused even the formidable Lupe to recoil. He was suddenly aware of Clandesta holding herself differently behind Ysarie, prouder, the droplet aglow in the head of her staff.
Backing away half a step he found his composure again, losing it almost instantly as he cast his gaze over Gilbert, the Gelert no longer quivering as he held the pitchfork to the Poogle’s back, his body radiating a warm aura while his eyes burned with a new light.
‘The blessing of the faeries?’ Adelbert whispered, turning his attention back to Ysarie. ‘You believe in the rabble so much you would actually share your own power with them?’
Defeated, the Lupe sagged. ‘So be it. It seems we have been thwarted on this operation, my friends, but no matter. There is always another day, and another operation. I assure you of but one thing, Ysarie: before my time on this world is up, I will see your power forever lost.’
‘Try as you might, Adelbert, but the seal which binds your master is locked by more than just my magics. Do with me as you will, but it will not release the Overlord.’
He gave Ysarie one final look of disdain before his turning his back and brushing past Gilbert. ‘I will not forget what you have done either, farm boy,’ he snarled, ‘and I will have my vengeance.’
Gilbert felt a dread land heavily on his heart at Adelbert’s words, but still the blessing of the faeries held strong and protected him. He gave Adelbert an impassive look that struck a fierce blow to the arrogant Lupe. Releasing the Poogle from the tip of his pitchfork, Gilbert just leaned against his trusty tool and watched Adelbert’s entourage leave the chamber.
Suddenly there was a surge from deep within, and he felt consciousness fall from his grasp.
* * *
A beautiful smiling face met his eyes as he awoke, flat on his back in the heart of the cavern. Ysarie leaned back and allowed him to sit up and take in his surroundings, his last memories seeping through his fingers. How could he have stood up to the Lupe like that?
He turned to face Ysarie, who still smiled at him, but her eyes showed a concern. He just nodded mutely, putting her more at ease.
‘Thank you, Gilbert, for your assistance in dealing with Adelbert. Not only that, but for showing me that you Neopets are far greater than I had imagined. For so long I have worried about you, and gone to such lengths to protect you, but now I can finally see that you can protect yourselves, and can even protect me. You have given me inspiration, Gilbert, inspiration for the future of Neopia. You have my deepest gratitude.’
Gilbert mouthed in soundless shock and awe at the kind words of the Faerie Queen. Ysarie helped him to his feet. The spotted Tuskaninny Clandesta appeared by his side with his trusty pitchfork, giving him an encouraging smile as she handed it back. With it back in his paws, he felt more like himself, the magical properties only he could see spreading through him again and relaxing his nerves.
‘I am sorry to have to leave you so abruptly like this,’ Ysarie continued, ‘but Clandesta and I must find somewhere safe for that staff, before Adelbert and his master set their sights on it again. I will return to speak with you again soon, to properly show my thanks for what you have done. Farewell, Farmer Gilbert. May all your future harvests be bounteous.’
With that, she placed a hand on Clandesta’s shoulder and together they shrank to a minute size, the tall and formidable faerie reduced to a small blob of light, and as they shot from the room, Gilbert’s sharpened senses spotted that really she was just a smaller version of herself. A feeling of immense relief and satisfaction swept over him, and with a skip in his step he left the cavern behind, failing to notice his newfound gift to see in the dark.
It seemed Ysarie’s blessing had not been fully lifted after all.
* * *
True to her word, Ysarie visited Gilbert a few days later, after his trip to the market had proven his most successful and profitable ever. His produce seemed to have improved even since he had been placing it on the cart, and he had a strong suspicion the Faerie Queen had a hand in it.
The night before Ysarie’s visit, another Neopet proved true to his word: Adelbert found him at last and attacked the farm in the night, intent on burning it to the ground. The faith Ysarie had found in the general populace of Neopia was reinforced then, however, by the courage both of Gilbert’s sons showed in fending off the skilled Lupe, who had expected an easy attack. Still reeling from his defeat at Ysarie’s hands, he fled to lick his wounds, and Ysarie found what she was looking for.
One of Gilbert’s sons agreed to leave the farm and work for the Faerie Queen, for the betterment of all Neopia. Ysarie had seen the power of the typical Neopian, their courage, their determination, and their undying strength, and now she felt she could use their help. Hand selected by the Queen herself, answerable to no other, they became Ysarie’s private army, destined to spend the rest of time standing in the way of the Overlord’s plans, and preventing that which sealed its insurmountable power from ever being broken.
They were the Seraphic Legion, the pinnacle of the noble spirited warriors and wisest minds, forever vigilant, for as long as it took. Though their numbers would change, though their guiding star would move on with the ascension of subsequent queens, from Ysarie all the way to Fyora, still the Legion would remain, for the protection of Neopia.