The Prophecy Faeries: Part Four
PART FOUR: EXPLANATIONS
“How can you be Marpameus? You’d have to be more than five hundred years old!” Bernadette blurted out before Hentoff could speak.
“Five hundred and fifteen, actually,” Hentoff said calmly.
“You used magic to heal me, didn’t you? Are you a sorcerer?” Clarisse asked.
Hentoff held up his palm in protest. “Please allow me to explain things. Then you may ask all the questions you like.” He waited until all four faeries had nodded in agreement before he continued.
“Yes, I am Marpameus, Khorianna’s younger brother. I remember all of her prophecies, and the fame that followed them. Long before Khorianna was famous, she was an exceptional child. She learned things far more quickly than anyone I have ever met. She learned to ride a bike in two hours, and learned to read in a day. As the younger and less-talented brother, I often felt overshadowed by her.
“At first, Khorianna’s unusual abilities were a family secret. No one outside of our family knew anything about her predictions. Even before she was old enough to talk, we think Khorianna envisioned things. Every time she glimpsed the future, her eyes would change color. Usually they were brown, but when she began a vision they would gradually lighten to sky blue, and finally to a white so pure they seemed to be transparent. When the vision was over, they clouded up and darkened. Once the vision was completely gone, they looked perfectly normal.
“Khorianna didn’t always see important things. On her sixth birthday, when she was excited about opening her big gift, she had a vision of herself tearing off the wrapping and climbing on a bicycle. When the vision passed and it was time to open her present for real, she discovered that it really was a bicycle, just the same as she had seen. That was when she and I both became convinced that she was seeing into the future, witnessing events before they happened.
“At first, the visions were of rather unimportant things, and they would occur minutes before the real thing. They were unexpected and unpredictable, but not very common. She had about one vision a month.
“As Khorianna grew older, she started seeing things on a grander scale. She saw not only things that affected her, but also things that affected other people. Often these visions came weeks or months before the event occurred. When she was fifteen or so, the visions went from about once a month to once a week.
“As the visions became more widespread, she not only saw things but spoke aloud. That was when she started giving out prophecies. The event she is most famous for, the famine, happened when she was sixteen. She was in a crowded marketplace, and suddenly her eyes lightened and she lost focus. As she saw things in her head, she began to speak of what she was seeing. Crowds of Neopians turned and watched her. One of those Neopians was a Defender of Neopia, who worried that the famine Khorianna predicted might be real. It was he who awarded her with credit of predicting the famine, and from then on everyone in Neopia knew of her.
“People lined up for miles to see her. Everyone asked her dozens of questions about their futures. However, Khorianna could not control her visions, so of course she was unable to answer their questions. This made people angry, I think. They wanted to know about their future, and Khorianna couldn’t provide them with answers. She remained popular, however, because she continued to make prophecies about great events.
“When Khorianna was eighteen and I was fifteen, a terrible plague struck Neopia. It was known as the Ghouls’ Death, because victims had hallucinations of ghosts and ghouls attacking them an hour before they died. This was the first tragedy in recent years that Khorianna had failed to predict, and the people turned on her. Some even accused her of witchcraft, and insisted that she had brought the plague herself.
“One night a mob of angry Neopians set fire to our home. Out of fear and desperation, Khorianna and I, as well as some of our friends and associates, went into hiding in the mountains west of the Haunted Woods. We found a cave there that was safe and deserted. We could only hope that a cure for the Ghouls’ Death would be found, and Neopians would forget their anger towards Khorianna.
“A cure did come, but much too late. Khorianna and two others fell sick in the mountains. One of the pets with us was a doctor, but he had never seen anything like this sickness before. It was not the Ghouls’ Death, but it was startlingly similar.
“Khorianna and the others were fevered and delirious for three days. On each of those days, Khorianna gave another prophecy, all of which I faithfully recorded. They were unlike any of the others I had heard from her. Her previous prophecies had been perfectly clear, involving places, names, dates and exact events. These three were vague and unintelligible.
“We all became worried that Khorianna and the others would die if not treated, so we made the decision to come out of hiding and seek help in Shenkuu. We left the safety of the cave and proceeded down the mountain, but we never made it very far.
“There was a terrible rockslide. The very ground beneath us collapsed, and thousands of rocks rained down. When it was over, Khorianna and I were the only ones left alive, but we had fallen thousands of feet into the mountain itself. We could not believe what we found.
“Khorianna had been so sick that she was unable to stand, but she suddenly leaped to her feet and started running down a dark tunnel. I called her back, but she seemed oblivious to my presence. I followed her. The tunnel opened into a huge space, larger than the Altador Colosseum. In the center of this chamber was a huge, golden, glowing sphere. It looked almost like the sun, but less solid. Khorianna was drawn to it.
“I tried to stop her. I had a terrible foreboding about this. I was no sorcerer, but I knew powerful magic when I saw it. I yelled her name, and suddenly she stopped, just inches from the glowing sphere.
“She turned to me, and looked right in my eyes for the first time since she’d been sick. ‘I’m sorry, Marpameus,’ she said, ‘but it is time.’
“I knew then what she was going to do. I lunged for her hand, trying to pull her back, but at the same moment she leaped forward and threw herself into the center of the sphere. Both of us were thrown into it, but Khorianna was much farther in than I was.
“I felt very hot, as if I had touched the sun itself. I stumbled away from it, back against the cave wall. I was surrounded by a golden glow. I looked back towards the sphere, and saw Khorianna, suspended in its depths. She threw her head back and laughed. Then the sphere began rapidly expanding. There was a flash of red light, as though the sphere exploded. I shielded my eyes from the intensity of the light. When I was able to see again, the sphere had shrunk back to its previous size and resumed its golden glow, but Khorianna was gone.”
For the first time Hentoff paused. There was silence as the four faeries took in what he had said.
“What happened to her?” Bernadette asked breathlessly when Hentoff did not continue.
“She was consumed by the sphere,” Hentoff said softly.
“Did you ever find out what that sphere was?” Clarisse asked.
“How did you get out of the mountains?” Victoria asked.
“How were you changed after touching the golden stuff?” Bernadette asked.
“One question at a time,” Hentoff said with a dry laugh. “After coming into contact with the sphere I felt very, very weak. I could hardly muster up the strength to keep my eyes open. I’m not sure how long I remained there, unable to move.
“After a while it occurred to me that the very air in the room was tainted with glowing sparks emitted from the sphere. I was breathing it in, and it was making me sick. I couldn’t stand or even crawl, but somehow I managed to drag myself out of the room and into the tunnel. For hours I made my way up the tunnel. The only thing I could think of was putting distance between the sphere and myself.
“The farther I was from it, the better I felt. By the time I reached the end of the tunnel, I felt well enough to think on my predicament, and I realized that I didn’t have any way of reaching the surface.
“That was the first time I realized that I could do magic. I thought, if only there was a rope leading back up, and suddenly my fingertips glowed and a rope appeared. I did not question how it had gotten there, but began to climb.
“Khorianna and I had both been tested for sorcery when we were young, because our family was quite concerned about the nature of Khorianna’s visions. The sorcerer who tested us concluded that neither Khorianna nor I had any magical abilities. Imagine our surprise when Khorianna became a famous prophetess! I had often wished that I had magical abilities. I had even tried a few simple spells, but to no avail. I simply did not have any magical talents.
“As I climbed up that rope, I realized that touching that sphere must have given me magic. I certainly felt different. I had always been afraid of heights, but dangling from that rope I felt no fear. I felt as though even if I let go of the rope I would not die, or rather I could not die. I felt as though I were invincible, immortal, and unconquerable.
“What I couldn’t understand was that if the sphere had killed Khorianna, how had it made me immortal and magical? I was convinced that Khorianna could not be dead. I was determined to research the golden sphere and discover where my sister had gone.
“Once I had climbed out of the hole, I surveyed the damage from the rockslide. I managed to retrieve most of the supplies and possessions that had been scattered about, though falling boulders had crushed much of it. I discovered another hole, like the one Khorianna and I had fallen into, but this one was almost directly above the glowing sphere.
“The friends we had been traveling with were nowhere to be seen, either alive or dead, so I knew that most of them must have fallen down this hole and landed directly in the center of the sphere. They must have been consumed just as Khorianna had been. Since I thought that Khorianna wasn’t dead, I convinced myself that they weren’t either. Perhaps the sphere had transported them to some other place, or even another time.
“Luckily for me, the path we had been following out of the mountains had not been covered in the rockslide, so I was able to continue on my way out of the mountains. I was worried about food and water, but I discovered that all I had to do was wish for something to eat and it would appear, just as the rope had appeared.
“After what must have been several days, I arrived in Shenkuu. The plague had not spread there, and no one knew who I was, so I was safe. During my stay in Shenkuu, I discovered some old texts in a museum that described something like the sphere I had seen.
“The texts called it the Shining Sun. Later I would discover other Neopian sources that called it the Golden Light, but both terms referred to the same thing. You may remember that the prophecy I read to you in class mentions the Shining Sun and Golden Light.
“The sources seemed to think that the sphere was pure magic. In fact, some even ventured to suggest that it was all the magical energy in Neopia. Sorcerers and faeries have the ability to use magic, but the magic itself is drawn from this sphere, or so the sources suggested. The magic was so powerful that just a slight contact with it could give one magical powers and longevity, which is what happened to me. However, too much contact with the sphere would be deadly. If someone went too far into the sphere, they would become part of it, in a way, because it would feed off of their living energy.”
“So Khorianna and the others definitely died?” Victoria asked.
“Yes, it would seem so,” Hentoff said softly.
“Are you really immortal? Is that how you’ve lived for five hundred years?” Bernadette asked.
“No, not quite immortal,” Hentoff replied. “It seems I absorbed some of the sphere’s magic, and I now have a small store of it. Each time I use my magic, a little of it drains out of me. Now I can feel that most of it is gone. It has always sustained me, but I can tell that it will not be able to do so for much longer. Someday soon, it will be gone, and without it I will most likely die immediately.”
“How much time do you have left?” Victoria asked breathlessly.
“I cannot be exactly sure. It depends upon how much magic I use within the coming weeks. If I use no extraneous magic at all, I would hazard a guess at a year.”
“So how did you become Hentoff, and get a job at Faerie Heights?” Bernadette asked.
“Well, I had many different aliases throughout the years. Every thirty years or so I’d fake my own death and create a new identity from scratch. I’ve had many different professions, but my sole aim for many years has been the acquisition of knowledge and the defeat of the evil forces predicted in Khorianna’s final prophecies.
“I created Hentoff’s identity about thirty-five years ago. I fabricated evidence that suggested I was sixty-eight years old, and a scholar, studying primarily in the Altadorian Archives. Of course, it was easy to pretend to be a scholar because I had lived through so much Neopian history, not to mention all the things I had studied. Five hundred years is quite a long time to gather information.” Here he chuckled dryly, almost to himself.
Hortensia, who was the most observant of the four faeries, suspected that he was enjoying himself. She wondered how many people had heard this story in the past five hundred years. Was this the first time he had ever revealed his true identity? How long had he waited to tell someone the truth?
“Before long I began to get various requests from Neopia’s finest institutions. One such place was Faerie Heights. I decided to take the offered teaching position, because I knew that five hundred years had almost passed, and the evil would soon emerge. I also knew that there would be ‘four faerie heroes’, as described in the prophecy, and I was determined to discover the identities of the heroes and the villain. Taking a teaching position in Faerieland’s best academy seemed a good way to keep an eye out for anything suspiciously villainous or heroic.
“Soon after I arrived at the academy, Dinusa arrived as well, but not by invitation. Dinusa is a deadly and powerful sorceress, who possesses not only ambition and determination, but also a fair bit of insanity. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time. However, after a series of suspicious events granted Dinusa the head teaching position, I discovered that she acquired it through treachery. I seem to be the only Neopian to have reached this conclusion, unfortunately.”
“So that’s how she got the job,” Bernadette mused. “You know, we always used to joke about how a Wocky could become principal of a school for faeries,” she added with a humorless laugh.
“Well, I’m afraid now you have your answer,” Hentoff said, looking amused. “Anyway, I suspected her right from the start, but until now she had never had a workable scheme, so I bided my time and waited, keeping a watchful eye on my students in the meantime.” Here he paused, and looked kindly at Clarisse.
“Clarisse, I noticed you right from the start,” he said. “You see, I’ve come across a few others in the past with prophetic talents, and I recognized strong similarities between you. However, your gift seems to be quite different than any other I have come across.”
“Yes,” Clarisse agreed, “I’ve never heard of anyone who can do what I can. Visions of the future seem to be commonplace among famous Seers of Neopia’s past, but I haven’t heard of anyone who...” Her voice trailed off as she struggled to describe her most peculiar talent. She had never actually acknowledged the existence of it until now.
“I feel things in people’s minds,” she said finally. “I don’t read minds, exactly. Most of the time I just sense emotions; it’s like I know exactly what they’re feeling. Sometimes I know what they’re thinking, but it’s not like I hear their voice in my head, or go inside their mind or anything. I just... know. The longer I’ve known someone, and the better I know that person, the easier it is.
“Tenny and Dette and Tori each have a unique sort of feeling. Even when they’re far away, I can sort of search for that feeling, and then I can tell what emotions or thoughts they’re experiencing. When I searched for Tori’s mind tonight, I knew all the things you were telling her, about being Marpameus. I didn’t know where she was or how she got there, but as soon as she thought something, I knew it too, so when she thought ‘Hentoff is Marpameus’ I knew it just as she did.
“I can feel memories, too. I don’t know how that one works, so I’ve never done it purposefully. When someone remembers something, especially something particularly powerful, I suddenly have access to the memory. Memories and thoughts work backwards from each other; I have to really try hard to hear distinct thoughts, but memories come on their own. Also, I feel emotions almost all the time. When my attention is focused on someone, like if I’m talking to or looking at that person, I feel what they feel.”
“How interesting,” Hentoff said softly. “I’ve never heard of such uniqueness.” They were all silent for a moment as they contemplated Clarisse’s gift.
“How about the rest of us?” Bernadette asked. “You said you noticed Claire right away. Did you notice anything about us?”
“Well,” he said slowly, “I’ll admit that you, Bernadette, did not particularly catch my attention. I knew that you seemed different from the other dark faeries, and you were outcast from them, but your lack of attention in class and failure to turn in assignments was not particularly impressive. I knew you were intelligent, but you rarely put that intelligence to use within my classroom, so I’ll admit that I did not pay you much attention.
“Hortensia,” he said softly, turning to look from the indignant dark faerie to the silent earth faerie beside her. During this entire time, Hortensia was the only one who had not spoken a word. Hortensia felt immensely shy in front of Hentoff. She felt the familiar sensation of tightness in her throat that didn’t permit talking, and the beads of sweat on her face and hands. As Hentoff turned towards her, she felt heat rush to her cheeks. This was how she always felt when focused upon by people she did not know, and it was part of the reason that she had such difficulty making friends.
“You, Hortensia, were most certainly intelligent, as well as determined and attentive. One of my brightest students, and for that, I noticed you, but I didn’t think you made a likely candidate for the predicted group of faeries. I’ve had many good students, after all, and handing in excellent schoolwork does not make one a hero, so I remained undecided. I thought perhaps I should learn more about your character, but information about you was scarce. It seems your friends here could have given me the best insight, but I was not clever enough to realize that I should ask them.
“Victoria, you were most intriguing. Tell me, did you really create all of that water in your dorm room? Conjure it out of thin air?”
“Yes,” Victoria said, looking puzzled.
“Well, that proves a theory I have had about you for quite some time.” When Victoria still looked puzzled, Hentoff added, “No faerie your age has ever been able to conjure up so much water in such a concentrated area before. Not any that I’ve heard of, at least, and in five hundred years I’ve heard of many.”
“What do you mean? Everyone knows I’m the worst faerie in my age group. Besides, conjuring that water was pretty easy. Vanishing it might have been tricky, but conjuring it was nothing.”
Hentoff smiled knowingly. “And that is where you differ from every other water faerie. I have suspected for quite some time that your magic is decidedly unbalanced. You see, faerie magic is carefully concentrated. Most faeries find conjuring and vanishing equally difficult as they learn, and equally simple after they’ve mastered it. You, on the other hand, are so adept at conjuring that you conjure even without meaning to, and do it much better than any other water faerie in the academy, but you find vanishing water especially difficult, correct?”
“I suspect that your magic is unbalanced in all aspects, not just conjuring and vanishing. This is not, however, a bad thing. You simply have not been taught properly. Your teachers use the same method for you as all of their other students, because it is all they know. With proper instruction, you could easily be the most powerful water faerie in the academy.”
“No. I have seen others with unbalanced magic such as yours, and they all became the most powerful faerie of the age, excluding the Faerie Queen.”
Victoria looked awed. She started to speak, but Bernadette interjected.
“Wait a minute. During class you said that you didn’t believe in Khorianna’s prophecy! You said that she wasn’t a prophetess,” Bernadette said accusingly.
“Yes, I did,” Hentoff admitted. “Dinusa has undoubtedly discovered the prophecy, and realized that she is the villain mentioned. That means she also knows that four faeries will challenge her. I feared that Dinusa would not be happy if I mentioned the prophecy in class, alerting the intelligent minds of my students to the existence of the prophecy, and I was quite correct. Rutherford stopped by after the lesson and made it very clear that Dinusa would not allow any mentioning of Khorianna or prophecies in my classroom. Having foreseen this ahead of time, I thought it wise to feign disbelief.”
“So, you pretended not to believe in the prophecy so that Dinusa wouldn’t suspect anything? But of course you really do believe?” Clarisse asked.
“Correct,” Hentoff said with a nod.
“I have another question,” Bernadette said.
“Ask away,” said Hentoff with a smile.
“Should we call you Hentoff, or Professor, or Marpameus, or what?” she asked.
Hentoff laughed. “It would be unwise to call me Marpameus, in case we are overheard. Hentoff will do fine when addressing me. If conversing amongst yourselves anywhere outside of this house, do not use either; no one must overhear and know whom you are talking about.”
“So...” Victoria said after a long moment. “Do you really think we’re the prophecy faeries? This is all a little farfetched.”
“Most definitely,” Hentoff replied without hesitation.
“How can you be sure?” Victoria pressed.
“After seeing all the things the four of you did tonight, I am absolutely certain. No faerie in the history of Faerie Heights Academy has ever managed to escape the school at night. The fact that the four of you were able to accomplish this through teamwork is what convinced me.”
“But I was captured by Rutherford, and you helped us out a lot,” Bernadette pointed out.
“But suppose Rutherford and Dinusa were not at the school. If any ordinary principal were at Faerie Heights, all four of you would have made it without my help. That is something no student has even come close to achieving.”
“We were lucky,” Victoria said dryly. “That doesn’t make us heroes.”
“I’m sure any hero will tell you that luck had much to do with their success,” Hentoff said with a smile.
“What if Dinusa’s luckier?” Victoria muttered.
“So, what exactly is Dinusa planning? We need to know that before we can do anything,” Bernadette said logically.
“Good point,” Hentoff said approvingly. “Unfortunately, I do not know the exact details of her plans, but I will tell you all I know.
“When Dinusa first gained her powers as a sorceress, she was apprenticed to a Hissi by the name of Baerlin. Baerlin was, at the time, the only fully trained sorcerer in Neopia. During his lifetime, he chose three apprentices. The first was an Aisha called Nicosia, the second was a Kougra named Goulart, and the third was Dinusa.
“Baerlin is probably about a hundred years old now, and his powers are waning. These past few years, I believe he acquired a powerful object, an object that could wreak havoc upon Neopia if the wielder so desired. It was Baerlin’s wish to use this object to gain control over Neopia, but he is far too weak to do so. Since his first apprentice, Nicosia, has vanished without a trace, and his second, Goulart, was recently captured by Fyora, he decided to entrust this object to Dinusa. It seems Dinusa and Baerlin share the same insane ideas.”
“So what does this object do?” Hortensia asked. As soon as she said it, her cheeks burned red. This was the first time she had spoken.
“I cannot know for sure, but I have reason to believe that this object holds within it a powerful curse. An ancient sorcerer created this curse centuries ago. The sorcerer’s name was Vinessien, and the curse has been given his name as well. Vinessien enclosed his curse within a talisman of immense strength. The Vinessien curse creates an almost hypnotic control over all Neopian species, including faeries. It is only rumored that the Vinessien even exists, but in the hands of someone like Baerlin it could be disastrous.”
“Dinusa had some kind of object when I overheard her,” Bernadette gasped. “The reason she left is because she was taking it to someone, because it had to be activated under a full moon!”
“Yes. I believe Baerlin may have found it, but he no longer has the power to activate it by himself. I believe he and Dinusa would use their combined magic on it under the light of a full moon, since that is when spells are most powerful. Tonight Baerlin and Dinusa will activate the object, and the remainder of her trip will be spent ensuring that the object works correctly. Then, Dinusa will put her plan into action. Other than what I have just told you, I know nothing about Dinusa’s plans.”
“So we have two days to stop them,” Victoria said.
“Yes,” Hentoff agreed. “She will probably first use the object upon the faeries residing at Faerie Heights, and will then attempt to control all of Faerieland. From there, all of Neopia could easily be within her grasp.”
“Then why are we just sitting here talking?” Bernadette demanded. “Let’s go!” She rose eagerly and headed for the door.
“Go where?” Victoria called after her.
“To Fyora, of course! Isn’t that why we escaped school in the first place? We have to tell her what we know!”
“What if she doesn’t believe us?”
“It’s worth a try!” Bernadette was already headed off across Hentoff’s lawn. Hortensia and Clarisse rushed after her. Reluctantly, Victoria rose from her chair.
“Won’t you be coming with us, sir?” she asked when Hentoff remained seated.
“Unfortunately, no one must know of my involvement in this. I will do my best to protect the school at all costs, and to do so I must remain there. At any rate, I have very little life force left, so I’m afraid an old Draik like me would be more hindrance than help. However, if you should require any assistance, place water inside this crystal.” Here he produced a small, blue prism, completely hollow within. “Use it sparingly, for it will drain my life force to come to your aid each time.”
Victoria nodded and carefully pocketed the crystal before hurrying after her friends, following them to the palace of the Faerie Queen.
To be continued...