Ascension: Part Six
First established by a Cybunny from Shenkuu who had left the imperial life behind him, the charming tea house sat out of the way on the village outskirts, yet found a thriving business from the nearby area. Simple and unassertive, it was just “there”, one of its many charms that drew its custom with almost worrying effectiveness.
At one of the simple wooden tables sat the two faeries, steaming cups of rich tea waiting before them, an awkward silence resting over them both. Frozen in place were their cheerful smiles, forever watched by the awestruck villagers, who had taken to tailing Aria around the village; a faerie in their part of the world was rare at the best of times, but two appearing together was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
‘Thank you,’ Aria remarked politely as the pretty blue Cybunny appeared to refill their cups. Illusen just nodded and smiled wider, not daring to take her eyes from Aria.
At length the faerie princess asked, ‘Are you ever going to get around to explaining what you were talking about?’
Illusen placed the cup back on the table and gave a small laugh, playing the charade to the other pets in the tea house. ‘I have... come across a few things,’ she answered awkwardly. ‘I went for a look around the Brightvale library the other week, and found a few things of real interest. One of them was an ancient scroll telling of... a way of giving up the throne. You know that your line is bound to it, right? Well, there was a time when there were two who were set to take the throne. Do you know of this?’
Aria shook her head and gave Illusen a half-bored, half-expectant look. She had little love for history, but knew Illusen would recount the story whether she wanted it or not.
‘Lady Iscaris had two daughters, the only Faerie Queen throughout history to do so,’ Illusen explained as Aria settled into her tea and tried not to let her mind wander too far away. ‘However, only one could ascend to the throne. So she looked for a way to break the link with one of her daughters and free her from the throne. Luckily one of them, Vylare, did not want to take power. So Lady Iscaris used her magics to find a way to sever the bond, and Vylare was allowed to live her life as she pleased without the burden of rule.’
‘An enchanting tale, but it does little to help now, does it?’ Aria interrupted irritably.
‘Like I said, I found an ancient scroll about giving up the throne,’ Illusen persisted. ‘It contained details taken from one Lady Iscaris’s old spell-books. One of the spells was the enchantment that would sever the connection to the throne. With it, you can stand down and let someone else take over the throne in your place. Someone who won’t resent the position and can help to guide Neopia just as you are doing here for these villagers. Meanwhile, you can travel these plains as you are now, only without having to worry about someone coming to drag you away to the throne.’
Suddenly a bell rang out over the pair, both leaning back in their chairs again and exchanging a cheerful laugh, masking their true intentions. Yet it was only the young cloud Acara, looking around for his new faerie friends, and firmly lacking a Kadoatie named Toby.
‘Think about it,’ Illusen whispered, waving to the Acara with Aria as he spotted them.
Yet it was not only the Acara that passed through the door beneath the jingle of a bell. Hurriedly the purple Bori swept down the main village street, slipping past the villagers without breaking pace and making her way back to the small inn. Automatically she flicked a golden coin to the innkeeper as she made her way past the reception desk, the red Elephante looking resolutely blank to her presence but carefully pocketing the coin.
The lock slotted into place behind her, and Jilleau leaned back against the door and tried to compose her thoughts. Few in the village truly cared what two faeries had to speak of and understood far less of their rambling conversations, but Jilleau alone was listening to the pair with growing horror. Illusen’s presence was always one to be wary of, the trickster sister to Jhudora’s forthrightness, but there was only way she could interpret her words.
Illusen wanted the throne.
Reluctantly she took the delicate glass orb from her pocket and placed it upon the dresser beside her small bed, stepping back and regarding its peaceful sheen for a long moment, contemplating her actions. At length she whistled, finally reaching her conclusion.
Instantly the orb glowed golden, before a liquid image rose from its shining surface and hovered unaided in the air, forming the face of a troubled water faerie.
‘I need you to find Velvet,’ Jilleau said quickly. ‘I am sorry about last time, but it is important that you find her and bring her here.’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ the water faerie replied unhappily, the image disappearing from sight as she left the grand chamber back in the palace.
Jilleau collapsed onto the bed and stared blankly up at the grim ceiling, waiting for the call from the orb. After the abrupt end to her last conversation with Velvet, she knew there would be repercussions to come yet from the speckled Xweetok, but she had too great of a hand in events to involve any other pet in all of Faerieland in this affair. She was bound to the royal line, as was the throne, and though she showed nothing but dislike for Lady Aria would always work in the princess’ best interests.
‘Finally had the guts to show your face again then!’ a wroth voice called, Jilleau rolling back onto her feet and into the view of the orb. Velvet’s sneering face was now floating suspended above the golden glow, a fury beyond anything Jilleau had previously seen from her exuding through and into the room of the inn.
‘Velvet, I am aware you and I are going to have to sort out a few things when this is all over and done with,’ Jilleau replied quickly, spending as much time on pleasantries as her opponent, ‘but I am afraid that it must wait for now. Lady Aria may be in danger, and I can’t do anything to help from here, not yet. I need your help.’
Velvet’s mouth opened to retort before her mind could catch up, the image freezing as she realised what the Bori had said. ‘What sort of danger?’ she asked, forgetting her troubles with Jilleau in an instant.
‘Illusen has shown up, spinning a tale of lies,’ Jilleau explained. ‘She is trying to talk Aria into stepping down from the throne before she has even taken it, and spinning an intricate web of lies and tales to do so.’
‘You think she wants the throne for herself?’
‘I would bet a lot of neopoints on it. She mentioned something about a spell that could sever the link to the throne, but I’ve never heard of such a thing actually being used. Have you?’
Velvet shook her head. ‘Not personally, but... Illusen came to Faerieland a few days ago and visited Jhudora,’ she mused, ‘but she didn’t stay for long. Thinking about it, Jhudora hasn’t been seen for a few days anyhow... I wonder if there isn’t some connection to it? What mood was Illusen in?’
‘Far too happy, ever since she first appeared,’ Jilleau answered darkly. ‘If Jhudora was in the equivalent bad mood, she would not be keeping quiet about it. You need to go and see what’s happening on her cloud.’
‘You need to tell me where you are and then send one of your lackeys to deal with it,’ Velvet replied sharply. ‘My place is with Lady Aria.’
‘Velvet, we cannot confront Illusen without some form of proof of her activities, or she’ll just talk her way out of it and try again!’ Jilleau retorted. ‘Go and see Tyras first; he’ll give you one of our miniature orbs. If you find anything on Jhudora’s Cloud, use it to contact me straight away. Anything you think might be of use, however small. All we need is something to shut Illusen up. Find it, and I will tell you where we are. Much as I would hate to betray Lady Aria, her safety comes before all else. Do you understand me?’
For a long moment the air in the room grew tense, Velvet’s floating head glaring at the Bori.
‘Fine,’ she snapped, ‘but you had best make sure nothing happens to Lady Aria in the meantime!’
‘Naturally,’ Jilleau replied, watching as the image of Velvet was absorbed into the glow of the orb. Gently it faded into silence once more, leaving the Bori to collapse back onto the bed. Until Velvet returned from Jhudora’s Cloud, there was little she could do to help Aria, but while the princess had still not agreed to Illusen’s scheme, they had time.
She just hoped they had enough of it.
To be continued...