Ascension: Part Seven
A chill always permeated all else in the heart of Jhudora’s darkened cloud, her miniature palace upon its storm-ridden host naturally unwelcoming to visitors. Jhudora disliked visitors, the naturally chirpy disposition of Faerieland’s inhabitants serving to interfere with the migraines her sister’s boundless happiness always yielded, and she had felt an imposing and ominous abode the best way to deter them. Instead it had attracted them faster than ever, so she left them to shiver on the outskirts while she sat alone in her chamber, ignoring everything else.
Taking no notice of the waiting pets wanting to see the powerful dark faerie, Velvet stepped into Jhudora’s chamber and felt the heat strike with tangible force, the sudden shift knocking all breath from her body. The air was thick and stagnant, the purple fire burning strong in the grate going untouched for many days.
Quickly she made her way across the room and pushed open the blackened window, the clear sunlight struggling against the dark spells Jhudora had wrapped about her home to keep the unwanted guest. Yet the crisp breeze managed to slip through the open window and envelope the Xweetok in its cooling grace, allowing her to breath easy again. She suddenly found herself remembering why she rarely bothered to visit Jhudora.
The image of a speckled Xweetok was reflected back at her from the many surfaces of the chamber as she set about searching, leaving her uncomfortable under such a dangerous stare. Jhudora was notoriously vain, but the mirrors had also long served a purpose in magnifying her power; one of the many devious arcane arts she was loathe to teach to any other.
Under their all encompassing eyes, Velvet quickly surmised that Jhudora would not wish to hide anything of value, knowing the power of enchanted mirrors. Instead she found her attention slowly being drawn toward the only other door leading deeper into the palace, the room beyond rumoured to stretch away into eternity; like Jhudora’s ego, the palace was far bigger on the inside than the outside could ever hope to comprehend.
If Jhudora had anything to hide, that room was the only place she alone knew the contents of.
Showing no respect for the faerie’s privacy, Velvet kicked the door open and marched into the silence beyond, immediately feeling ashamed for her actions as she stared into the room.
It was a library.
On the edge of sight a dusty purple haze filled the air, the rows of neatly ordered bookshelves reaching back far into the unknown shroud and beyond, bathed in an eerie silence. Above each row of books hovered a softly glowing crystal, alternating between Jhudora’s choice colours of purple and green, illuminating the many faded titles in their unnerving sheen, casting a fresh mysticism over the magical aura that coated each tome.
Velvet stepped forward, her gentle footfall echoing ominously. She started at the unexpected sound, cringing as it resonated back to her. Only as it faded did she realise the silence was not the perfect, unbroken type people imagine when they think of libraries, but the true silence that can only exist with the susurration of life as its undertone. On the cool draught that filled the ghostly passages she could hear the sound of pages turning, the rhythmic scratching of a pencil upon paper, and the ever-present buzz of a failing light that filled all libraries throughout the universe.
Dearly wishing her footsteps did not echo so prominently, Velvet pressed on deeper into the sacred passages between the shelves, desperately searching for anything that would help guide her to what she sought. All she had to go on was Jilleau’s reference to a spell-book; little use now as she walked through shelves filled with identical, nameless and faceless tomes.
A sensation made her turn, feeling all her hair stand on end. There was nobody else in sight, the many passages through the softly whispering bookshelves deserted. She shuddered and tried to block out the unnatural sound, growing louder the deeper she travelled into Jhudora’s lair.
Suddenly something lunged, the quick Xweetok diving aside and stumbling. From the gathering haze the shadow leapt again. Velvet scrambled backward as it snapped before her, bound tight by a strong chain attached to its spine. It was a book, veiled by an ethereal crystal glow, snapping viciously at the intruder. Mesmerised, Velvet just stared in wide-eyed horror at its blackened pages, the edges curled into fangs to bite and scratch, desperate to rip its foe apart.
Without input from her mind, her body took control. One hand reached out slowly across the floor, searching for anything of use. The cold touch of steel reached her grasp, closing about the sturdy poker. An attacking book was impossible, but the steel of a fire poker was impossible to deny.
Fiercely she swung it at the monstrous tome, connecting with a heavy and satisfying crack. The tome fell silent instantly, crashing to the floor and falling open for all to see, at peace again.
Velvet allowed the poker to slide from her grasp and roll along the floor, gingerly lifting the tome and placing it back upon the lectern from which it had leapt. Little more than a simple wooden stand, the only feature that separated it from its kind was the heavy chain bound to its base and wrapped to its top, perfect for holding secure such a dangerous artefact. For something so dangerous the Xweetok had expected more, had she expected anything, knowing Jhudora’s penchant for the extravagant.
‘Of course!’ she breathed, grinning triumphantly as she pored over the tome. It was such a departure from Jhudora’s normal tastes that it meant the lectern had to belong to the book, not vice versa. That meant whatever was in the tome was something more powerful than Jhudora, and had been bound by a far more powerful force.
Cautiously she closed it to reveal a smooth silver cover, the gilt lettering faded over the years. Only two words remained, bearing the name of “Alexia Lyrishoul”. It was strangely familiar.
She reached into a pocket and produced the small orb the fearsome magma Grarrl named Tyras had given her, tapping it carefully and waiting for it to surge into life. Tyras had said she needed to whistle a certain tune, but in the dusty air of the library her mouth was dry, and any semblance of a tune was impossible. Thankfully it obeyed her command, a golden glow radiating from the orb.
Jilleau’s face appeared in the air above it, giving Velvet a hopeful look. ‘Well?’ she prompted.
‘Have you ever heard of an “Alexia Lyrishoul”?’ Velvet asked, unable to take her eyes from the peeling name.
‘Lyrishoul?’ Jilleau repeated thoughtfully. ‘I remember a faerie once named Lyrishoul. She was a water faerie who rose to power during the days of Queen Vylare, after the Great War, and used her power to try and usurp the throne. The Queen defeated her and trapped her forever in ice, turning her into a comet to pass through the skies for eternity. You’ve found a reference to her?’
‘More than a reference,’ Velvet answered ominously. ‘Jhudora has her spell-book, or so it seems. I can’t read anything of it, but it attacked me as soon as I drew close. And what’s worse is it seems to be missing a few pages.’
Under her fingers the rough edge of the torn page trembled, as though she were stroking a sore wound. At last she realised why it had attacked: it thought she was the one who had removed its pages, who had stolen a part of its soul. Even to someone who rarely frequented the libraries of Faerieland, Velvet knew the sanctity of the books of Neopia. For someone to desecrate such an ancient tome was unthinkable. Something Jhudora would never do.
‘Alexia Lyrishoul spent a long time trying to break the bond between the line of Ysarie and the throne of the faeries,’ Jilleau mused aloud, her image flickering as she passed to and fro from her orb. ‘A book of her magics would undoubtedly contain her research into that. But without those missing pages, we don’t have a lot we can use against Illusen.
‘Is Jhudora there?’ she suddenly added, looking worried. Velvet just shook her head, finally meeting Jilleau’s shimmering gaze. ‘I was kind of hoping you would do something else,’ Jilleau concluded, an involuntary shudder running through her body.
‘You think Illusen did something to her sister?’ Velvet remarked sceptically. ‘She isn’t really the type for that sort of thing, not like Jhudora.’
‘You don’t know Illusen like I do,’ the Bori retorted distantly. ‘She has a darker side, just as Jhudora has her lighter side. In order for her to get into that library and steal pages from a book, she would need Jhudora out of the way. That means we need to find her, before Illusen can do anything to Lady Aria.
‘Go and see Tyras; he knows where I am and will be able to help you get here. I’ll get a couple of my lot to go to Illusen’s Glade and see if they can’t find Jhudora there.’
‘What do you think Illusen might do?’ Velvet asked slowly, dreading the answer.
‘I don’t know,’ Jilleau answered honestly, ‘and to be frank, I’m not entirely sure I want to.’
As the ghostly image of the Bori faded away, Velvet felt another shudder run through her body. Jilleau had stood against a lot in her days, and whenever she was worried it was the worst of omens.
They had to stop Illusen, before it was too late.
To be continued...