Tatterwings: Part Six
Lucine said, “I don’t like doing this.”
Rafe reminded her, “It’s not as if we have a lot of other options.”
The eight travelers sat at the edge of a cove on the beach east of the Haunted Woods. Ioni looked out at the ocean as Rafe and Lucine continued to debate taking a public ferry to Faerieland, chartering a boat, or simply stealing one.
Sophie crossed her arms. “We’re safe from Jennumara. But the Darkest Faerie or the Dark Sisters might come after us if they catch any word. Far, far better to attract as little notice as possible – at least, until we have a restored Faerie on our side.”
Bruno added, “Rafe, Ioni, and I have all had experience with boats... enough of us to direct the rest of you. It’ll work, and we’ll return it when we’re through.”
Baelia nodded with a wide grin on her face. “I was always good at calling and sending things – I’ll be able to return it here with magic once I have my wings back!”
Rafe pointed at a small craft floating a distance away from the rest. “I know how to steer that one – we’ll go for it. Now!”
As they ran toward the ship, Ioni noticed Lucine looking around. “What is it?”
Lucine said sadly, “I kept hoping, these last days, that Tolya would rejoin us. Yet she has not, and now she will not be able to follow as easily. Each passing day makes it less likely that she will return at all.”
Ioni didn’t know what to say to the older Faerie... She settled for, “I’m sure she’ll be back... you’ll find her again someday.”
Rafe had already climbed onto the deck of the ship. He called out, “Welcome to the Seastar!”
Ioni shouted back, “May we come aboard, Captain?”
Lucine shook her head and smiled. “You two play like children.”
Ioni caught the ladder that her best friend threw down for the rest of them. “You have to have fun when you can – otherwise life just gets too hard.”
They climbed aboard, and Baelia headed straight for the crow’s nest. Ioni followed her, and soon the three Grey Faeries were standing high above the shore. Baelia spread her arms out wide to catch the wind. “Oh, it’s almost like flying!”
Ioni hugged the other Faerie. “You’ll be flying for real, soon.”
Baelia promised, “So will you. And you, Lucine. When I have magic, I’ll help you both.”
Rafe called, “I need the crew down here on the deck – since you’re messing around up there, you’ve all been demoted to cabin Faeries!”
Ioni started to climb back down. “That’s hardly fair, Rafe!”
“Captain Rafe to you, missy!”
Bruno, Gilly, and Tavi all laughed out loud, and soon everyone was laughing as they prepared to set sail.
The voyage had begun!
In Jennumara’s tower, the Shadow Queen drifted around her topmost tower, now little more than the palest of reflections. She knew all too well what had happened, and there was nothing she could do for her condition now – not until she was stronger. It’ll be months! And that detestable little tatterwings and her friends were talking with Ilere – they went straight for the talisman – she’ll have restored herself by then. Argh!
That was when the air shimmered, and four other faeries appeared.
Melanthe, the Darkest Faerie, stood in front, flanked by the three Dark Sisters. The Darkest Faerie threw back her blue-black head and laughed. “Look at what’s become of you, Jennumara!”
Malice taunted, “Who was it who made you like this? Who was it who wrecked your precious armor?”
Spite asked, “Was it a mage with charms and spells? Was it a hero with an army at his back?”
Vanity cackled. “No! It was a little ragtag band of mortals and tatterwings! Jennumara was bested by tatterwings!”
Jennumara looked up at the four Faeries and screeched, “And you will be, too! I know their names – Lucine, Ioni – and I could tell you turned them! Melanthe, Vanity, I can see you wearing the wings! They came after me – they’ll come after you! They’ll break you and leave you a shadow on the floor!”
The mood changed. Malice said, “We ought to find that little Light Faerie whose power we took.”
Spite added, “We ought to make sure she can’t do this to us.”
Vanity asked, “Will you join us, Melanthe?”
Melanthe paused. Jennumara accused, “That tatterwings you made was the one who did me in!”
The Dark Faerie stood up straight. “I shall go with you. If Jennumara’s tatterwings is trying to restore herself, she shall go to Faerieland. We shall meet them there. Let us fly, sisters! Let us fly!”
The four Dark Faeries took to the sky. Behind them, the pale shadow of a fifth watched them go, dark hate in her heart for both her enemies and her tenuous allies.
Several days later and many miles away from the Haunted Woods, the Seastar and its passengers came in sight of the Faerieland cloud. Among them, Tavi, Gilly, Sophie, and Bruno had never seen it before, and while the two siblings wouldn’t let their amazement show, the little Usul and her new Kyrii friend had no such inhibitions. Tavi gaped, wide-eyed, as Gilly breathed, “It’s beautiful.”
Lucine set a hand on the little Usul’s shoulder. “It has always been a beacon for the rest of Neopia. In times of darkness, light. In times of uncertainty, power. In times of chaos, order.”
Baelia hugged Tavi. “I wish I could have brought you here before – but Jennumara kept it from us. I promise you; once our wings are restored I’ll show you everything!”
Sophie murmured as she looked up at the cloud, “I may have to take you up on that.”
Ioni leaned against the rail next to Rafe at the tiller, watching her friends and the rapidly approaching city in the sky. “Home.”
Rafe asked, “Is Faerieland home to you?”
She smiled. “It’s home to all Faeries, Rafe. And it’s been far too long since I was here... five years. We came here right after I met you, remember?”
He looked out at the water. “Does that mean you’ll stay here after you’re restored?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll give it a try – I’ll be able to give whatever I want to a try!”
He sighed. “And I guess I’ll go back to the Tyrannian plateau... visit my siblings, see if there’s any cave-lord or canyon-master needing a warrior.”
He wants to leave? But he’s my best friend! “Rafe!”
But she didn’t have time to question him further, because at that moment an Air Faerie lighted on the mast. “Craft, state your business!”
Lucine stepped forward – the Air Faerie’s face went white with shock. “We come to go to the Rainbow Fountain. We shall not stay long. We mean no harm to Faerieland and its people.”
The Faerie said, “Ah – uh... go in peace, then.” She flew away as quickly as she could.
Bruno growled, “There was no call to treat us like that – you’d think we were all carrying plague!”
Ioni sighed. “We make other Faeries nervous. This is a horrible fate for a Faerie, and they really prefer not to think about it, so it’s easier to just ignore us.”
Soon, their ship was moored below Faerieland and the eight adventurers started walking across the cloud. Between the three Grey Faeries, Rafe’s and Bruno’s imposing statures, and the murderous glare Sophie shot at anyone who dared to jostle her, they were given a wide berth.
Bruno soothed, “There’s no need to be quite so cranky, Sophie.”
Sophie snapped, “I’ll be glad when we get out of this crowd of new arrivals. I don’t like crowds – I had...”
Bruno and Gilly rolled their eyes and chorused, “A bad experience.”
The roads leading to the Rainbow Fountain were almost deserted – very few Neopians had business there. Among Faeries, it was considered a place of last resort – great healing could be found there, but at the price of something lost.
Ioni knew better than to fear that sort of story. I know already what a Grey Faerie must lose to regain her powers – her old name. I will have to take a new one.
She had already decided on a new name – Iris. Short, and similar to her old one, but something new – something different. A flower name... Earth Faeries most often take flower names, and now I’ll get to have one, too!
A new name as the price for regaining my wings and my powers?
It’s a price that I’m willing to pay.
Baelia was walking very quickly – almost running as they got closer to their goal. Tavi ran behind her to keep up. Ioni could see the telltale shimmers in the air above the magical water... they were almost there!
Then a magical shockwave knocked the two backwards off their feet, and Melanthe and the three Dark Sisters appeared on the road before them.
Rafe and Bruno drew their swords and Sophie raised her staff as Baelia and Tavi ran back to join their companions. Melanthe laughed. “There’s no need to be quite so hasty, friends.”
Malice asked, “Why do you go to the Fountain in such a hurry?”
Spite asked, “What is that charm you hold in your hand?”
Vanity sneered, “Do you hope to restore yourself, little tatterwings?”
The three cackled together, “Oh, not a chance!”
Rafe snarled, showing his teeth. “Oh, yes there is. I’m getting Baelia to the fountain even if I have to fight every Dark Faerie in Neopia. And we’ll get the talismans from you, too.”
Melanthe laughed. “Of course you will. You have three tatterwings, two children, two mortal warriors, and one mortal sorceress. You don’t stand a...”
Someone shouted from behind them, “Two sorceresses!”
Lucine whirled around and shouted, “Tolya!”
The Faerie Ruki shot down the path and hugged Tolya as she lighted on the ground. Then she held her staff out before her. “Care to finish, Faerie, or should we skip the talking and fight?”
Melanthe responded with a ragged screech of rage, and the Dark Faeries attacked.
To be continued...