Ascension: Part Four
The door creaked closed, blocking out the grim veil of the night and leaving the tavern more enclosed. Slowly the Bori removed her cloak and put it carefully on the stand by the door, revealing her elegant and dignified black uniform that shimmered in the candlelight and left many of the watching pets awed. Reaching up, she removed the softly glowing silver circlet that adorned her brow and pocketed it, beaming to the villagers.
‘I appear to have “made an entrance” as they say,’ she remarked casually. ‘It has been a while since I last managed to achieve that. I am sorry for startling you all; I was merely in the area and thought this may be a pleasant place to stop for the night. Although it seems I may have lucked out,’ she added, finally resting her eyes firmly on Aria, ‘and found this Rhea everybody I met on the way has been telling me of. The great faerie who saved a villager when even the doctor had been forced to give up. It is a pleasure, my lady.’
The Bori bowed low, but never took her eyes from Aria’s own.
‘Perhaps I might ask if I could have a word?’ the Bori added, the tavern beginning to return to normal.
Stiffly Aria nodded, careful to not look at the Bori as she swept past and back out into the night, her new companion throwing her cloak back around her shoulders and following her out into the crisp darkness.
In silence they walked down the starlit street toward the small village green at its heart, left quiet as the children slept and the adults celebrated. A step behind the faerie, the Bori wore a small, knowing smile the whole way onto the green, finally walking past and sitting comfortably onto the lonely bench by a cheerful fountain.
‘So, I finally catch up to you,’ she remarked simply, leaning back and giving Aria an expectant look.
‘Velvet sent you to hunt me down then?’ Aria retorted scathingly, finding her old contemptuous tone returning with natural ease. ‘I thought it would take you a little longer to find me, but I guess you are sharper than I give you credit for.’
‘Don’t be so quick to judge me, Aria,’ the Bori replied with a nonchalant shrug. ‘Velvet did try and send me after you, but I told her what she could do with her request. I am not a servant of hers after all. No, I am here on behalf of your mother; she worries about you.’
Aria bit her lip. She had thought about her mother several times during the course of the day, but never to think of what effect her sudden disappearance would have. For all her selfless deeds, her selfish heart had still not bothered to consider the most important person in all the world to her.
‘Don’t worry so much,’ the Bori said, leaning forward with a smile. ‘She knows why you have done this, and she is glad to see you doing it, but she was just worried you might get into trouble. That’s one of the reasons I am here, to check up on you and put Lady Fyora’s mind at ease. By the look of things, she has nothing at all to worry about, on any count.’
Aria laughed, gazing out into the quiet village. ‘I never even knew places like this existed,’ she said slowly, sighing at the thought. ‘I thought everywhere was like Faerieland, full of sycophants and nameless pets who had no real purpose. But this place is something else. When I arrived, nobody looked at me twice, except for a Quiggle who wanted my help. I could not believe someone would ask for my help, being the princess, but this Quiggle had no idea who I was. He was so pitiable that I had to help him. It was quite the sensation, to do something without expecting reward; it was intoxicating. Then everyone heard about it, as in a place like this everybody knows everybody else. I found pets I had never seen coming up to me and thanking me, actually thanking me! Not because they felt they had to, but because they wanted to.’
‘It is quite a feeling, isn’t it?’ the Bori replied, appearing at her shoulder. ‘I remember the first time I felt it. It’s why I still do what I do, and why I seek to help the pets of Neopia. It is why your mother and all of your line before her did what they did, and went to any length for the good of Neopia.
‘But let’s get down to business, before it becomes too late,’ she added, dropping her dreamy, reminiscent tone for cold professionalism. ‘Like I said, Velvet tried to send me to find you, and suffice to say it wasn’t difficult. News spread very fast of what you did last night, and with the network of my lot being probably the best in the world, except for maybe Virtupets, I found you very quickly. Velvet will cotton on soon enough.’
‘I’m not going back, Jilleau, not yet!’ Aria insisted forcefully.
‘I’m not suggesting that,’ Jilleau retorted sharply, cutting across further outbursts. ‘I happen to agree with Lady Fyora that what you are doing is important. Instead, I just want to offer some advice: keep moving. If you stay in one place too long, you will be painting a giant bulls-eye on your head that even the most incompetent Turtum could hit without trying. Keep moving between the villages, doing what you are doing, and Velvet will find it a lot more difficult to catch up with you. She won’t be so keen to let you keep going after all.’
Her piece said, Jilleau turned her back on the thoughtful princess and made to leave, when Aria suddenly called her back. ‘Thank you, Jilleau,’ she said slowly. ‘Please, give my best to Mother, and tell her... tell her I finally understand.’
Jilleau nodded and gave Aria a rare wink, before pulling her cloak tighter about her shoulders and vanishing into the night, leaving Aria alone in the tiny village green with only her thoughts for company.
* * *
Forever wrapped in tranquillity, the only sound in the enchanted glade was the gentle trickle of running water, the tiny stream running through feeding the many plants that Illusen raised in her sanctuary. A soft breeze caressed her face as she back on her bed of leaves, gazing up at the open air and crystal sky far above, dreaming of the wonder all around her.
Beneath her relaxed visage however, Illusen felt a discomfort. There was only reason for such an uncomfortable feeling permeating her very soul, and it was the darkest thought the gentle earth faerie could imagine: Jhudora was having a good day.
When first Fyora had created the twins, who were to be her very first creation as the reigning Faerie Queen, she had made a mistake. They were originally only meant to be one, and instead had split into separate beings with their own minds and souls. Yet their emotions were forever bound together, intertwined into an intricate scale with one at either end. It had been the root of Jhudora’s anger for her entire life, as Illusen had discovered that her joy served only to worsen Jhudora’s mood, and tormenting her sister gave her greater pleasure than anything else.
As they had grown, so too had Illusen’s amusement at her sister’s displeasure. Yet Jhudora had learned to fight back with moderate success, only never to the same level as Illusen managed. But if Illusen was ill-at-ease, it had to mean Jhudora was scheming. The powerful dark faerie was only happy when scheming.
Suddenly clouds began to stir overhead, a storm brewing over the glade. Lying on her back, Illusen rolled her eyes, knowing what was coming.
‘What do you want, Jhudora?’ Illusen asked lazily, looking up to where her sister had materialised, a devious glint in her dark eyes framed by an evil, scheming grin.
‘No pleasantries today, Illusen?’ Jhudora asked with mock concern. ‘It is not like you to want to cut to the chase like this. Having a bad day or something?’ She cackled at her own enjoyment, Illusen rolling to her feet and shooting her sister a filthy look of utter disgust.
‘Get on with it,’ she snapped irritably.
Folding her arms, Jhudora grinned triumphantly at her sister. ‘Have it your way. I see this little... problem of ours is finally starting to get to you. How would you like a way to be rid of it?
‘I do not know if you have been keeping up-to-date with developments in Faerieland, but Fyora’s time is almost up, and Aria has decided it is a good time to run away into the sunset. This has given us a unique opportunity to do something that no faerie has ever managed, in the entire history of our race dating back to Lady Ysarie herself. One tried a long time ago, but failed catastrophically, leaving only a loose record of what she tried.’
‘You mean usurping the throne?’ Illusen interrupted, laughing at her sister. ‘Jhudora, that is idiotic even for you. She almost destroyed herself trying that one, and taught us that you cannot take the throne from the rightful heir. It is as simple as that.’
‘You are the idiot here, Illusen, never forget that,’ Jhudora sneered, feeling the emotional balance they shared shift once again. ‘Of course you cannot take the throne by force. However, according to the... less read texts she left behind, which happen to have fallen into my possession over the years, there is a way to change the heir to the throne. All it requires is for the true heir to abdicate before she ever takes it.’
She rolled her eyes at the blank look received from Illusen, feeling herself grow more irritable with each moment she spend in the company of her cretinous sister. ‘Look, I need you to convince Aria to turn down the throne, and then I can use a bit of magic I have learned to put us on the throne in her place. It has happened before now that two faeries take the top spot, when Lady Iscarie had twins.’
‘Which led to the Great Faerie War,’ Illusen mumbled under her breath.
‘When we have that sort of power, we can finally fix what went wrong at our births and sever this ridiculous bond,’ Jhudora persisted. ‘Now as you know full well, there is an exceedingly long list of things I would rather do than work with you, including kissing one of those revolting Mortog things you have in your swamps around here, or whatever this place has. But sometimes special circumstances call for special needs, and we need each other for this.’
‘You are so socially useless that you could not convince Aria to take a stroll in the sunshine, you mean?’ Illusen retorted with a sickly sweet smile. ‘While without your magic there is no way I could take the throne? That’s why we need each other, right?’
‘Exactly, you slow-brained moron!’ Jhudora spat, her anger toward her sister growing to insurmountable levels.
‘Except there is a problem with it,’ Illusen remarked with a shrug, a manic glint in her eye that Jhudora did not notice until too late. ‘I can learn your magic.’
With a snap of her slender fingers, the ground suddenly rumbled ominously. Screeching into the tumultuous storm brewing overhead, Jhudora was left helpless to watch as the earth rose on all sides, sealing her inside of its impenetrable stone cocoon. Still the muffled sound of her cursing reached out to Illusen, who clapped happily and sent her sister’s new prison back into the earth from which it had come, leaving only the distant memory of her cries lingering in the glade.
‘I’ll be back to dig you out again later, Jhudora,’ Illusen remarked to the unmoving ground. ‘Although you will have to call me “Queen Illusen” by then!’
With a light-hearted laugh Illusen took the skies toward Faerieland in search of Jhudora’s spell-books. After she had what she needed, Aria would not be difficult to track down on the Endless Plains, and at long last Illusen would have the power to torment Jhudora in new and imaginative ways.
The time of Queen Illusen beckoned.
To be continued...