The Seraphic Legion: Gelicia's Spring
Clean and pure, a thick blanket of perfect snow covered the lands of Neopia, the trees and plants fighting for survival against the harsh chill that overwhelmed all else, protected fearlessly by courageous Neopians who dared face the elements. Such was the strength of the eternal winter that gripped the world that even the once floating realm of Faerieland had been grounded, the snow so thick about its borders few could even tell it had ever been separate from the lands, its citizens protected only the magical dome of the Faerie Queen.
Standing proud at the gate to the Faerie Palace was a lone Christmas Wocky, clad in robes of an icy blue that suited the frigid atmosphere, watching the late shoppers fighting through the elements that still pierced the magical dome, gearing up for the forthcoming Day of Giving. Faeries used to speak of it as the highlight of the winter season, and even now that winter was a permanent fixture it remained a shining beacon of hope for all.
He shivered against the cold and took it as his cue to leave. Stepping into a brisk march, he passed through the palace and into the invisible Seraphic Tower, home of the Seraphic Legion; the hand-picked Neopets of the Faerie Queen, sworn to combat the forces of an ancient and powerful evil until the end of days.
Enchanted fires burned happily in their brackets, changing colour at will with seasonal splendour while emitting a heat that filled the tower with an almost stifling warmth. In the very heart of the main chamber at the tower’s peak a purple flame blazed with a strangely soothing crackle, maintained by Queen Ollauri herself. The Wocky sighed as its perfect warmth washed over him, his eyes transfixed by the playful gait of its fiery tongues.
‘Anything to report?’ he called across the half-empty chamber; many of the pets in the Legion were given the holiday period off to spend with their families, but always with a stern warning they could be recalled at any time.
Sitting at a desk at the far end of the circular room a snow Bruce spun to face the Wocky; a new colour of pet that only surfaced during the Ice Age as the natural evolution adapted to the climate around. ‘Everything is quiet, Commander,’ he replied, looking up at the magical map of Neopia displayed on the wall overhead.
‘This makes no sense,’ the Wocky remarked, stepping up behind and gazing over the Bruce’s head to the map. ‘Adelbert could not resist an opportunity like this.’
‘Commander Trey, I do not wish to speak out of turn, but are you sure it was wise to make this public?’ the Bruce asked timidly.
Trey nodded firmly. ‘This Ice Age has gone on far too long now, and it is important the world sees the faeries working to help them. Too much happens behind closed doors and it shakes their confidence. Besides, ‘tis the season of giving, and what better gift than that of the spring?’
The Bruce opened his mouth to argue further, but found no words could rise to challenge. Trey chuckled to himself.
‘Do not worry yourself with such things,’ he said, placing a hand on the Bruce’s shoulder. ‘I assure you, we spent a long time debating how best to go about this. Speaking of which, it is time I set off; it would not do to have this delayed because of me. Happy Holidays my friend, and I hope we have seen the spring again before I next say that to you.’
‘Ditto, Commander, and be careful,’ the Bruce replied, Trey waving a hand as he swept from the chamber, pulling a thick cloak from its stand and wrapping it about his shoulders.
No matter the warmth within Faerieland, the bitter grip of the eternal winter remained a deadly force beyond its borders.
* * *
Completed in the days of the second Faerie Queen, the central hub of Neopia was always a picturesque sight during the winter months, the delicate layer of snow that enveloped all giving it a mystical aura that raised a smile to the face of even the most cold-hearted of Neopians. Some of its splendour had been lost however during the perpetual winter of the age, but still Neopia Central was a magnificent sight for Commander Trey as he trudged through the deep snow.
He was thankful Faerieland had come to rest so close to the city, and only a day and a half had been lost to his trek.
He only wished he could have flown and made it in one, for night out in the open these days was a terrible ordeal. Huddled in what little shelter he could find the dying embers of the fire he had crafted were his only company, the flickering light making him want for the land of his dreams, where the Ice Age had already passed.
It was only a dream, though; like all other Neopets these days, he was a child of the ice. It had been many generations since the snow had settled and neglected to leave.
The sight of the great stone arch into the city warmed his heart and pushed him faster on the final leg of the journey. Around him rushed the sounds of civilisation, the heady smell of life that had been resolutely absent from his journey. It was intoxicating, filling his heart with an unspeakable joy and reminding him of why he had devoted his entire life to the Legion, and to Neopia.
‘Traveller, welcome!’ a gravelly voice hailed, a striped Quiggle secluded in the relative haven beneath the arch beckoning him close exuberantly, his wide-brimmed summer hat out of place with the thick cloak wrapped about him many times. ‘You look worn from your journey,’ he continued, Trey approaching cautiously. ‘Here, a bit of this’ll perk you right up.’
He proffered a thick wooden tankard full of a strange, thick orange substance. Sceptically Trey sniffed of its refreshing smell before keenly sampling of its extraordinary taste. Instantly a burning rush ran through his every extremity, raising a thin layer of sweat to his brow, banishing the chill from his entire body with alarming force.
‘Wow,’ he breathed, half-expecting fire to shoot from his mouth the instant is opened. ‘This stuff is incredible.’
‘Thanking you kindly, traveller,’ the Quiggle replied with a sly wink. ‘Old family recipe, and perfect for what ails you in this weather.’
‘It is truly incredible,’ Trey repeated, fumbling in a pocket of his cloak and producing a large gold coin. ‘For your trouble, sir.’
‘Nonsense, traveller, ‘tis the season and all that,’ the Quiggle declared, waving his knobbly hands dismissively. ‘Consider it a gift after braving the cold, especially on the Day of Giving of all days, and with the faeries setting up for something special. That’s why you’re here I’m guessing?’
‘Indeed it is,’ Trey responded, placing the coin on the stall before the Quiggle. ‘I hear it will be something quite special. I thank you for the drink, and I insist upon giving you this, if for nothing more than the friendly welcome. Happy holidays to you, good sir.’
‘And yourself, traveller,’ the Quiggle replied with a beaming smile, the golden coin vanishing from the stall and into the merchant’s pocket, his mind thinking back to his own family and what help the valuable coin could provide. He tipped his wide brimmed hat as the Wocky vanished into the crowd, making his way into the very heart of the excitement.
Infectious was the only way to describe the excitement of the waiting Neopets, gathered around what had been the village green in the early days of Neopia Central, and had remained a tranquil place for shoppers to relax as the city grew around it. Now it was but another snowfield, with a small tent set up at one end, covered in the ethereal sparkle of magic. Magic always brought a crowd, but faerie magic was truly a sight to behold, and the mysterious beauty that frolicked in the middle of the field was but the icing on this cake of anticipation.
Reaching the front of the crowd at last, Trey’s face split into a wider smile at the sight of the Water Faerie dancing alone, her crystal voice singing perfect pitch nonsense to accompany her movements. Although no longer sharing many traits with her water-loving kindred after decades in the company of the Faerie Queen, she still had the playful aura so prominent among their kind, content to just sing and dance in the snow, without another care in all the world. It was all Trey could do to not laugh with her free spirit.
‘Gelicia!’ he called, trudging out into the snow and leaving the imperfection of his footprints where the faerie left none. She spun to a halt, much to the groaning displeasure of the captivated crowd, and grinned at Trey, rushing over and throwing her arms around his neck.
‘Commander Trey, I am so glad you have come!’ she cried, threatening to drag him to the ground with the exuberance of her embrace. ‘I thought you would have been busy with other things though?’
‘You know I would not miss this for the world,’ Trey replied smoothly, bowing respectfully and making her blush. The red tinge to her pale cheeks stood out clear, and only served to make her more embarrassed. She beckoned him on and together they retreated into the privacy of her tent.
Trey collapsed into a comfortable chair and looked around the assortment of various trinkets, flowers and potions that filled the tent, before turning his attention back to Gelicia. She bore little resemblance to the Water Faeries any longer, choosing to walk upon the lands and frolic in the snow, her body wrapped in a warm blue cloak, her snow-white hair hanging gracefully from her face, from which a pair of deep blue eyes looked out; the only thing that reminded you she was still a Water Faerie. They called her the Snow Faerie now, the mistress of the frozen waters prevalent in the world today.
‘I know you, Trey,’ Gelicia said conversationally, placing a piping-hot cup of tea on the table between the two of them and sinking into her own chair. ‘You still believe there is a danger here, and that is why you have come. Normally you would have stayed in the warmth of Faerieland.’
Sipping his tea, the Wocky met Gelicia’s knowing gaze and nodded. ‘Adelbert and his associates have been relishing in the Ice Age, ever since it first began. It stands to reason they would not like to see it come to an end before it absolutely has to, so I would say it is a safe guess that you are in danger here, Gelicia.’
‘So why not send someone else? Why come personally?’
The Wocky just chuckled to himself. ‘You have always been good with those disarming questions,’ he remarked with a smile, ‘but I already know you are aware why I have come personally. As much as I want to witness this, you are correct that I normally would not have done so. Lady Ollauri will be coming soon to watch, and I am officially here as her protector.’
Gelicia nodded understanding. ‘I had almost believed she would not be coming,’ she admitted, ‘but I should never have doubted the Queen. Truly this will be a glorious day, and our gift to Neopia will be the greatest we have ever achieved. I do so love the holiday season!’
Trey just took another sip of his tea and listened as she continued to speak, allowing his mind to wander. She failed to understand the danger she was in; Adelbert was the right-hand of the Overlord, an enemy of untold power, kept in check only by the powerful seals that still bound him away. Adelbert was protected by the Overlord’s magics, making it easy for him to move and operate while the ice and snow ruled Neopia; he was not going to hand back his freedom without a fight.
Suddenly there was a fresh commotion outside, saving Trey from the torment of Gelicia’s endless ramble. He immediately feared the worst and rushed from the tent back into the deep snow, but all his fears were assuaged by the lilac glow that filled a raised podium to one side of the field, Gelicia rushing past him and up to where a tiny figure had just sprouted into a tall, beautiful faerie.
‘Lady Ollauri!’ Gelicia squealed gleefully, embracing Ollauri like a mother. A serene smile adorned the aging face of the Faerie Queen, shaking her fading purple hair out of her eyes with one slender hand and surveying the crowd with a loving eye.
‘Gelicia, it is good to see you again,’ she replied as the pair separated, looking her up and down with an approving nod. ‘I trust you are ready for this?’
‘I have just been practising with some nonsense, but I feel I am as ready as I will ever be,’ Gelicia replied cheerfully, dancing off over the snow again.
‘Your Majesty,’ Trey declared, bowing before his Queen as he approached, his eyes automatically following the path of Gelicia. ‘I am glad to see you have arrived safely. I feared Adelbert may try and strike you down.’
‘Do not be foolish, Sir Trey,’ Ollauri replied. ‘I am not likely to be his target today. As you know full well, Gelicia is the one at greater risk.’
Together they turned to watch her continue in her carefree dance, much to the adoration of her awestruck audience. ‘I just wish she would understand that fact,’ Trey said solemnly.
‘It is better she remains as she is, free and innocent to these evils,’ Ollauri replied sagely. ‘That is our gift to her, Commander, to not let her experience the evil of the Overlord. You must just ensure you play your part, and then we can preserve her as she is now.’
Trey looked uneasy, but gave her a silent nod and trudged back across the snow to Gelicia, his face breaking out into an encouraging grin again before her infectious cheerfulness. All around the crowd fell into a revered silence, the air thick with excitable anticipation for what was about to come. Such stillness was almost eerie in Neopia Central, and made even Gelicia look slightly awkward as she looked up at the Christmas Wocky.
‘We are ready whenever you are, Gelicia,’ Trey whispered. ‘I just need you to do one thing for me; no matter what happens, whatever you see or hear, do not stop. Please, just do that for me.’
She put her head on one side and giggled to herself. ‘You worry too much,’ she said, ‘but if it will make you feel better, I promise.’
Masking his fears behind a final confident look, Trey retreated back to Ollauri’s podium and gazed over the crowd, his eyes falling onto a number of hooded pets in their number, their faces shrouded in darkness. Forcing it to the back of his mind, he turned his attention back to Gelicia again, standing motionless in the heart of the snowfield, waiting.
As one the audience let out an awestruck sigh, the first notes of Gelicia’s beautiful, melodious voice washing over them and casting them into a trance-like stupor. Slowly at first she began to dance to the song, casting aside her thick cloak to reveal a shimmering dress as resplendent as an ice sculpture, but radiating a warmth that ice could not comprehend. The air crackled with magic as she built speed, her neat hair unfurling and dancing on an unfelt breeze, the plethora of enchanted rings on her slender figures glowing with a captivating iridescence.
The first ripple of magic discharged. The snowfield lifted from the ground and dispersed in the air, every individual snowflake shining like a diamond before the hypnotised audience, who gasped at the sight. The shine was reflected in the unblinking eyes of every pet. On his podium Trey glanced back over the crowd and saw the hooded figures again, unaffected by Gelicia’s dance, tensed against the sound of her beautiful song.
Faster still Gelicia continued to dance, the snowflakes sparking with the magic that danced alongside the Snow Faerie, jumping between her fingertips and from the sleek ends of her hair into the frozen snowstorm and back again, wrapping delicately about her, moving to the rhythm of her steps and the flow of her words, ensnared by its majesty.
Suddenly a warm breeze rushed through the crowd, disturbing an unseen figure detached from the rest at the back. Looking up, a green muzzle protruded from his hood. A paw reached up and stroked it thoughtfully. He turned to look up at the blank expression of the speckled Grarrl beside him, and let out an audible sigh.
‘It seems this is actually going to work,’ the first figure remarked in a light, cheerful voice. ‘A pity, as it seems we now have to do something unpleasant. Get rid of the faerie.’
Without need for any thought, the Grarrl bounded into the crowd, throwing aside the mesmerised pets with ease. On the far side of the field, Trey leapt into action and soared through the air with a magnificent leap, unnoticed by the crowd, and slid to a halt in the path of the charging behemoth, unsheathing his sword to bar the advance of the monstrous Grarrl. His feet dug into the frozen earth as the titan crashed against him, the thick magical presence all around aiding his stand and forcing the Grarrl to a halt, looking down with deadly, wroth stupidity.
‘Commander Trey, I will admit I did not expect to see you here,’ a jovial voice declared, the hooded figure stepping up behind his companion. The hood fell to his shoulders, revealing the sly smile of the green Lupe Adelbert, running a paw through the bristly hairs on his jaw, contemplating wicked thoughts.
‘I cannot say I share your sentiments, Adelbert,’ Trey retorted coldly, keeping his attention on the silent giant of Adelbert’s cohort.
‘Yes, well, this Ice Age has proven so very productive for us, it did not seem right to let you end it before its time. I find myself troubled, however, that you would come alone to stand against me, Commander; your lot have always felt it more prudent to send an army to stop me.’
‘I do not fear you, Adelbert,’ came Trey’s curt response. The Grarrl unnerved him with its relentless glare.
‘A pity,’ Adelbert lamented, though no sadness was felt in his heart. ‘Still, perhaps I can change that, what with my having all these innocents around, oblivious to our very existence. They make such wonderful... leverage, would you not agree?’
For the first time, Trey looked over to the calm, laid-back Lupe and shot him a disbelieving look. ‘Even you could not be so stupid as to try and use this crowd as leverage.’
‘Evidently you need to brush up on my entry in that encyclopaedia of yours.’
To the Lupe’s surprise, Trey just laughed. ‘You misunderstand me, Adelbert,’ he explained slowly. ‘You physically cannot use this crowd as leverage.’
He snapped the fingers of his free hand, and suddenly the air behind Adelbert was full of discarded cloaks, the hooded figures that had prowled through the crowd finally revealed as members of the Seraphic Legion, clad in their icy blue uniform, brandishing weapons at the evil in their midst. Trey had not come unprepared.
‘Impressive, and a noble gesture most certainly,’ Adelbert remarked calmly, but his eyes were full of pity for the Wocky before him. ‘Nonetheless, a fruitless exercise. You see, you remain the only thing between us, and that faerie. Get rid of her!’ he commanded, the Grarrl surging into life once more.
‘Trey, move!’ a new voice suddenly cried. The Wocky obeyed instantly and dove aside, Adelbert sharply following suit.
Just as nobody had noticed the confrontation between Adelbert and Trey, they had not noticed the end of the dance, the waves of magic contorting around Gelicia and falling to her command. At her behest the full force of the Ice Age had been condensed before her, unleashed into a single torrential blast against the threatening Grarrl and striking him full in the chest. Around him a blizzard spiralled, a fountain of snow launching into the heavens and exploding into a final, magnificent display that earned rapturous applause from the crowd, now free of the hypnotic effects of the dance.
Snow fell around them, Trey rising to his feet and gazing up into the descending flurry of snowflakes. Almost daring to hope, he collapsed to all fours and scraped away at the snow that had fallen over the once grassy space before him, revealing the first blades of grass to grow in that place since the Ice Age had settled.
It had worked.
‘Gelicia!’ he cried, rushing over to the fallen Snow Faerie. Tears were running down her cheeks. ‘It’s okay, Gelicia, you’ve done it! It has not snowed in Neopia Central since this all began, and even the grass is beginning to grow! You’ve done it, Gelicia; you have saved us all.’
Silently she just looked up and pointed behind him. The Wocky spun to face the Grarrl again, only to find it had vanished. Crystalline in its shimmering beauty, a tree now stood in the Grarrl’s place, crafted from the most perfect of ice by the most skilled artisan, from the most delicate twig to the finest knothole of the trunk. Cautiously Trey approached and caressed its frigid bark, the tree squirming under his paw.
‘That is the spirit of the Ice Age,’ Ollauri explained, appearing behind and helping Gelicia back to her feet, ‘channelled into a lost soul, and restored to its full glory. It is tame now. It is safe.’
‘What do we do with it now then?’ Trey asked. ‘If it is safe, it would be a disgrace to have it cut down, but we cannot risk it spreading again.’
‘Terror Mountain, in the north?’ Gelicia suggested, blinking away the tears. ‘It will be safe there, and it will not be able to repeat what has happened here. I will make sure of that myself. The spring is coming, now that the spirit of the Ice Age has been contained again. They call me the Snow Faerie, and for one like me... I do not belong in the spring. Neopia deserves this gift, but I need to feel the snow beneath my feet. Lady Ollauri, will you permit me?’
Ollauri smiled and nodded. ‘Of course, my dear. But it will be some time yet before the spring truly arrives. You still have time to enjoy the winter, before it passes.’
Gelicia beamed and rushed over to the tree, leaving Trey and Ollauri alone, the watching crowd still mesmerised by the falling snow.
‘Adelbert has vanished,’ he whispered.
Ollauri just nodded. ‘He will strike again one day, Trey. All that matters is we stopped him here, and we will do so again. Adelbert has lost his playground, and it will serve a sore blow to his quest.’
Trey just shrugged, but suddenly a hand closed about his own and dragged him back into reality. ‘Come on, Trey, dance in the snow with me!’ Gelicia cried, pulling him with surprising strength away to where the crowd was starting to realise what was happening.
‘Enjoy yourself for once, Sir Trey!’ Ollauri called after them. ‘’Tis the season after all!’
She just watched them dancing happily, feeling the snow fall about her. It was unlikely Gelicia would ever fully understand what she had given Neopia on that day, by taming the wild ravages of the eternal winter: she had given a future.
She had given the spring.