Awakening: Part Four
A muffled thump drew Jhudora from her thoughts. She glanced at the door, annoyed. No doubt one of the idiot tavern workers, offering another round of achyfi, or whatever it was that they had served her.
She would have preferred to discuss these matters in the safe confines of her Cloud, but there had been a number of suspicious faeries milling around her home lately, and who knew? It was harder to eavesdrop in a place like this.
She ignored the noise.
Another thump, followed by what sounded like a curse.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
The dark faerie frowned and exerted her will, expecting to see some zany or halfwit grinning up at her from behind a tray laden with foaming cans, amazed at the door flying open.
Instead, a small white figure charged in and jumped onto the table, screaming incoherently and waving some sort of dagger around.
She jerked the dagger out of its paws and relaxed, expecting the pet to cease fighting. Again contrary to her expectations, she was bowled over as the pet leapt onto her. Her apprentice spat out a binding spell which whizzed an inch from her face as a fireball crashed through the window and Aijna ducked to avoid it.
The newcomer, a Peophin, jumped onto her, mouthing another binding spell wildly—
“STOP OR HE DIES!”
Aijna was on top of Dethrin, the dagger now gripped in her hand.
“Stop,” she panted. “Stop, or his heart does.”
“Let him go, Aijna.”
A moment of stunned silence, then Jhudora continued, “You as well, Peophin.”
Aijna rose to her feet and threw the dagger on the floor, giving the Peophin a contemptuous glance.
Annette grudgingly extinguished her spell and pulled Dethrin to her side.
“Well?” Jhudora whispered. “Who sent you?”
“No one!” Dethrin squirmed out of Annette’s clutches. “Tell me where Massie and Raven are!”
“Who sent you?” the dark faerie repeated, looking at Annette.
“Wings for the breaking, wings for the breaking...” the Peophin whispered.
Jhudora stiffened. “Where did you hear that?”
“Fyora!” Dethrin glared at the faerie. “And she knows you’re behind it, so you might as well give up right now!”
“...Fyora told you that I was the one behind the disappearances? ...I think not.”
“She did! We heard her talking to her assis—”
“No, we didn’t.” Annette interrupted him, staring past Jhudora. “We heard her assistant telling her that all of the disappearances had occurred near your Cloud, and that no one could doubt that you were behind it, but Fyora didn’t seem to believe it... then we reported Raven’s disappearance, and... she told her assistant to alert troops...”
“Oh dear.” The words sounded ridiculous, coming from Jhudora’s mouth, “Let me guess—this Raven was the hundredth disappearance?
“Aijna, go and find Fyora. Tell her to save her troops for something else...”
“Hey, hey, wait!” Dethrin protested as the faerie jumped out the window. “How do we know you’re not really the one behind all this? And how do we know your apprentice hasn’t just gone to hire a group of assassins? And why would anyone need the wings?”
Jhudora deigned to look at him, as an indication that she was not deaf. Dethrin met her cool gaze defiantly, waiting for her to laugh and say that he was fiery and would be a mighty warrior, then hand him an ancient sword and tell him everything (like in the stories!), but he was sorely disappointed.
“You don’t need to know.”
“Who’re you to say so?”
“As an immortal, I can confidently tell you that it doesn’t matter to you whether or not the Breaking succeeds—your kind age so quickly, you probably won’t even live to see the Making take place.”
“Well—that doesn’t answer my other question! How do we know if you’re behind this or not? As a mortal, I can rightly tell you that if you get a life sentence, your punishment will be way longer than any I could get.” Dethrin grinned at the dark faerie.
“We faeries have ways of divining the truth, you idiot... our trials are truly fair. So even if you were to go running around, yipping that I was the mastermind behind this plot... it would only take a simple spell, and you would be the one in a cell for slander.”
“Then why’d you attack us?” the Zafara demanded. “Why did you try to kill us if you weren’t afraid we found something?”
“I attacked you?” Jhudora appeared genuinely puzzled, “When did I attack you?”
“Last night!” Dethrin was outraged that the faerie had forgotten him so quickly. “You set a bunch of snakes on us!”
“Oh... I didn’t attack you... those were illusions.”
“Well, why’d you try and scare us off then, if you weren’t guilty?”
“I thought you were one of the enemy’s agents, trying to throw suspicion on me... hmm... Aijna should have returned by now.”
She rose to her feet, pulling an ashy-colored cloak around her. As she strode towards the door, she glanced over her shoulder at them.
“Well? Aren’t you coming?”
“Uh... why are you going that way? They’re not gonna let you in... there’s a place we can sneak in together...” Dethrin tapped Jhudora’s shoulder and pointed, earning himself a scathing look.
Jhudora passed through the triple-locked and bolted gate as easily as if it were rain, disarming the enchantments with casual gestures.
Curiously, no guards were present to challenge her entrance.
“Did you turn them into Snorkles?” asked Dethrin, struggling to keep up with her long strides.
“The guards, of course!”
Jhudora ignored him. As she strode towards the Palace, one of the many doors flew upon and Aijna marched out, a sword dangling from her hip, palms sparkling dangerously. Behind her clustered an assortment of pets, all looking fierce and war-like... until they saw Jhudora.
“Get her!” Aijna shouted as her eyes fell upon her mistress.
“Er—who’re you talking to?”
“My battalion, you idiot! Seize the two pets as well!”
“What battalion?” asked Annette innocently.
Aijna whirled around, turning pale—oh, the cliché-ness... thought Annette.
“My Lady—this isn’t what you think it is.”
“Not what I think? What is it, exactly, Aijna, that I am supposed to think?”
Dethrin looked at Jhudora and saw the shock sliding off her face, replaced by something new: a cold fury. A storm seemed to be gathering behind her eyes, threatening to engulf all. Dethrin was impressed by Aijna’s nerve in meeting those burning orbs.
“The spell, it must be woven, my Lady... ultimate powers... stone will crack like mud under the powers... and... a glorious new age will dawn when we are done... or rather, an old one...” she hissed in anticipation.
“Actually, I sorta like the age we’re in now...” Dethrin blurted. “And if stone turns into mud, what’re we supposed to use to build our houses?”
Aijna pointed at the Zafara. “Lower orders and feeble fools like this one will be eradicated, and Neopia will once more come under the sway of the Faeries, my Lady...”
“Then why is your sword pointed at a faerie?” the feeble fool in question asked. “And why are you dressed in Fyora’s colors?”
The faerie’s eyes gleamed madly. “Anyone who stands in the way of Queen Fyora’s great vision must be disposed of, oh yes—”
“Enough!” Lightning seemed to crackle around Jhudora’s plum-colored hair, and the light breeze kicked into high gear around her, billowing her cloak. Verdant fires leapt from her fingers, burrowing into Aijna.
“Well.” Jhudora wasn’t looking at her erstwhile apprentice. “At least now we know the source of all this...
“We have to find where all the kidnapped pets and faeries are, free them, find out where the war will be starting and attempt to fight off a group of Neopia’s elite mages and warriors.”
“And then?” Dethrin gripped his dagger, feeling the grooves dig into his paws. Maybe, just maybe...
“You’re very optimistic.”
“’Course I am! The good guys always win, and we’re the good guys. It’s one of the oldest rules of story-writing!”
“Oh? And what makes you think so? People will always assume that what they are doing is right... ”
“Well... only baddies call other people nasty names and attempt to wipe ’em out! And since we’re against them, we’re the good guys!”
“That is the very worst justification for one’s actions I’ve ever heard. Define bad.”
“A—” Dethrin floundered. “Doing wrong things without being sorry about them later.”
“And how do you know whether an action is right or wrong?” Jhudora had entered the Palace and was looking around, nose wrinkled. “Illusen was right, we really have gone downhill. Hmm... this way, I suppose.”
“You ‘suppose’?” Annette asked sharply, as Dethrin struggled to think up an answer to the faerie’s question.
“I’ve never been in the Palace before... but if this place is anything like the Darigan Citadel, what I’m looking for is in this direction.”
“My conscience tells me so!” Dethrin yelled triumphantly.
Jhudora was silent for a while, before speaking. “Why do you search for food as soon as you are born? You have no consciousness of before or after when you are newly spawned, you don’t know that food is vital for living. A conscience, as you call it, is only consciousness in another dimension, the dimension of time. What the mortals call conscience, we prefer to call instinct. You scream for food without understanding why, without weeping about how all that lives must die—”
“What’s that got to do with food?”
“All that lives must die, so your foraging for nourishment is merely a way of gaining a bit of time. You will return to the Other side one day. As I was saying—”
“We can live for a hundred years or something, it’s not ‘a bit of’ time—”
“To immortals, calling it a bit of time would be far too generous. As I was saying—we do what we do with similar motivation: the movement in the gut towards food, fairness and safety. Leaves on a tree, you mortals.”
“And you faeries are...?”
“We faeries did not categorize and define things the way you beings do... huh! You waste what little time you have on trivial things. These concepts of good and evil are still relatively new to us.”
“That’s—that’s—” Dethrin wanted to say impossible, but another question rose to his mouth.
“What was the glorious old age like?”
“What?” Jhudora stumbled and turned to Dethrin, a storm of emotions burning in her eyes. “What did you say?”
Was it possible, Annette wondered, that it was actually—respect? Fear, In those eyes?
“Aijna said Fyora would start it, remember... a glorious new old age....”
“Oh...” Jhudora let out a breath. “Idiot, spouting ancient secrets in front of pets...”
“What is with your faeries-are-better-than-pets attitude? ‘Cause you’re not really.”
“No, we’re not,” Jhudora agreed slowly, causing Dethrin to trip and fall flat on his face. “If it were possible, I’m sure all of our old secrets would be burned from our memories... our policy of silence is upheld to keep people from yielding to temptation... however... since I’m sure you will hear this from Fyora sooner or later when we meet on the battlefield...”
The dark faerie took a deep breath, and began. “Long ago, Neopia was at peace with itself. Tranquil and harmonious, as only a completely pure world can be. It was a place where death was merely a rebirth, a changing of forms, and nothing affiliated with the grisly specter Neopia has come to know today. It was a land in which nothing and no one was superior, save the very existence of life itself...
“Among this paradise, we faeries lived, far before the arrival of the humans—and Neopets.
“The faeries were the creators of music, art and poetry. We grew the first grape that would eventually become juice, and we hummed the first note in which the wind itself is said to have stolen and made its own.
“Yet our beautiful world was marred... by the birth of your kind, and with it, imperfection... anger, hate, jealousy, greed, despair, malice... some of our kind’s appearances changed... no longer were we the beautiful, ivory race with hair of molten gold—
“Is that why the other faeries don’t like you dark faeries? ‘Cause you’re like us?”
“Do you mind?” Jhudora snapped. “Here I am, defying ancient laws in order for your miserable education, and you have the nerve to—to—”
“Yes, that is why. We are the most closely related to your kind... before, dark merely meant that we had an affinity for the night... then we were tainted... and I have your kind to thank for this.” She indicated her purple-tinged skin.
“Many dark faeries were driven mad with grief and loss... the Faerie Queen saw them as dangers and stripped them of their powers... thus, humans were created.
“One among us was at the Queen’s side at the time of the birth of pets and humans, and saw the act of humanizing. It was quite a shock... but She went mad with such calm and dignity that nobody noticed.
“At least, not until it was too late.”
To be continued...