Tatterwings: Part Seven
The Dark Faeries were outnumbered two to one, but Ioni wasn’t comforted. They’re stronger and they have more magical firepower... we have to try and push through them, because we can't stop them like this.
Rafe ducked down next to her as he tricked Spite into soaring over his head. “Bruno, Sophie, Tolya, and I will keep the nasties distracted... the rest of you get Baelia to the Rainbow Fountain!”
Ioni grabbed Baelia’s arm and pulled her forward as the Dark Faeries regrouped.
When Ioni started to see the top of the fountain, the Darkest Faerie screamed, “STOP THEM!” Ioni looked back just long enough to see Rafe and Bruno both fighting ferociously to keep her from having any time to cast a spell.
As the bank became visible, Melanthe broke free of them and shot toward Ioni and Baelia. Ioni cried, “Baelia, run! I’ll hold her off... you’ll be more help as a Fire Faerie!”
And Ioni tackled Melanthe as she tried to fly past.
It was a good thing that the magical cloud was still soft, or Ioni would have been badly hurt when she and Melanthe crashed into it. But she was too elated to worry about it – she had caught sight of her wings, on a cord around Melanthe’s neck.
The Dark Faerie grabbed her wrists with a strong, bony hand. “Oh, no you don’t. Don’t even try it, or I’ll blast you to Kreludor!”
Ioni responded by using her elbows to keep Melanthe down as she tried to stand. “You aren’t getting away from me – we’re finishing this here and now!”
Melanthe reached for Ioni’s throat with her free hand, Ioni dodged away and tried to reach for the wings, and the two fighting Faeries tumbled across the cloudscape. I have to keep her too distracted to use magic... if she curses me, I’m finished.
But the brawl gave Ioni the perfect opportunity to see what happened next – a bolt of magic from Tolya knocked Vanity from the air as she tried to stop Baelia from entering the water. Baelia shouted, “I am no longer Baelia – I am Rielle!”
And a plume of fire shot up from the Rainbow Fountain.
The first thing Ioni noticed was the laughter. Baelia’s laughter had always had a tinge of bitterness to it, but the voice of the one riding the column of flame was full of nothing but joy. The sound was richer, fuller, as a figure bright as a coal shot down toward the cloud. “I’m coming, Ioni!”
As Melanthe tried to pull herself away, Ioni heard Gilly scream. She allowed herself a brief glance up the road, and her stomach sank. The Dark Sisters had conjured up imps – little spectral creatures that had allied themselves against her friends. Oh, I’m so glad Baelia – Rielle – is restored... we need her right now!
And as Rielle shot toward them, the fire shot out and the cord holding Ioni’s wings crumbled into dust.
Ioni grabbed them first – Melanthe snarled, “You’ll pay for this, tatterwings!” She knocked Ioni over and started gathering magic in her hands for what Ioni knew would be a killing blow. Ioni had fallen oddly... her leg hurt, and she knew she couldn’t get out of the way in time...
A fiery shield flared up between them. Rielle cried, “This’ll keep them from attacking you... quick, to the Pool! The others will need us to defeat the imps!”
Ioni limped toward the water as fast as she could.
The water seemed even more ethereal as she got closer... it threw off rainbows in every direction, until the banks seemed bathed in iridescent light. With her leg crying out for attention, she ran the last five steps until she was up to her knees in the water.
She had wondered exactly how she would complete the final step... she didn’t know how one changed their name. But now, the words to say seemed clear. She whispered, getting gradually louder, “I give up my old name, Ioni, as the price for my restoration as an Earth Faerie. With my powers, I take the new name Iris!” She ended in a shout.
It happened immediately. Power rushed into her – the feeling of magic filled her completely, giving sallow flesh a healthy glow, turning stringy grey hair a long, vibrant chestnut, and flaring into a pair of green wings. Even her dress turned from grey to green, and the knife in her hand turned back into a long sword the color of sun through leaves.
Iris laughed. I know this body! I know this sword! I held it under a different name before – but this is mine! This is really me! I’m me!
She shot into the sky, reveling in the feeling of flight. And even my wounded leg is whole again... the waters don’t do the job halfway!
Then she heard Rafe shouting, “Gilly, Tavi, run for it!”
She looked down. All the joy vanished in an instant. They’re being overrun!
And I can stop that from happening. Rielle and I can stop that from happening.
Iris cried, “I’m coming, Rafe!” as she dived down to the cloud.
There weren’t a lot of plants that grew on the cloud for her to work with, but she knew how to make the ground obey her, as well. All the old knowledge she had had before – forgotten when it became too painful to remember – returned, and she sank her power into the cloud below her, making it twist and shake.
The imps drew back from the earthquake – Iris could see that it was all her companions could do to keep their own footing. Lucine lunged after the Dark Sisters – Vanity hovered just out of reach, holding Lucine’s wings in one hand. “Come on, tatterwings – use your powers to catch it! Oh, wait – you don’t have any! Ha-ha!”
Dark magic poured from Spite, Malice, and Melanthe into the imps, which grew even bigger. Tolya pointed her staff at one, and it disappeared with a scream and a burst of light. Light. Light. We need light! Iris screamed, “RIELLE! FIRE!”
Rielle hovered gracefully above the still-shaking ground as Rafe grabbed onto Iris for support. The Earth Faerie whispered, “One moment – then I’ll stop it.”
Rielle started gathering fire into her cupped hands... the light became bigger and brighter until Iris could hardly bear to look at it.
Malice asked, “What is the pretty thing in your hands, Faerie?”
Spite asked, “What do you hope to accomplish with that?”
Vanity asked, “Do you...”
Rielle cut her off. “I’m sick of your taunting threesome! And, for your information, I’m going to do this!”
And she threw a huge fireball right at the amassed imps, which squealed and disappeared.
Iris let the earthquake go, and Rafe lunged forward at Vanity. The warrior Lupe could jump higher than Lucine, and he grabbed the wings out of the Faerie’s hands. He tossed them to the former Light Faerie as he fought off Vanity with the other hand. “Go, Lucine! Go!”
Lucine didn’t need to be told twice – she ran for the waters of the Fountain.
Iris knew how to make protective shields – she threw one up around Rafe as she charged Vanity herself. Her brave friend collapsed to the ground, completely spent, as Iris said, “He’s saved my life more times than I can count – it’s my turn to save his. So get out of here or fight me, you monster!”
Vanity snarled and swung her sword – Iris blocked it, and the fight began again.
The Dark Faerie was a ferocious fighter – it took all of Iris’s strength and cunning to keep ahead of her. She wasn’t able to give any attention to anything else, until a burst of blinding light sent her to her knees.
A voice called over the storm of light, “I am now Orianne!”
Iris heard Sophie cry, “Dark ones, there’s nothing left for you here – you’re outnumbered in sword and in magic. Go back to your hole if you value your lives!”
And as the Earth Faerie blinked away the spots from her eyes, she realized that the Dark Faeries were gone.
Bruno spat. “Bunch of rodents. As soon as they have to fight people their own size, they’re out of here.”
Gilly clapped. “That was amazing!”
Tavi and Tolya ran to Rielle and Orianne and hugged them. Orianne said, on the verge of tears, “I knew you’d come back!”
Tolya was just as tearful. “I never should have left at all – I know that now. I’m so sorry... so, so sorry...”
Ioni left them to their reunion and knelt down next to Rafe. He was unconscious, but his breathing was normal. Just used more energy than he had to spare... I can’t believe he lasted as long as he did, trying to be the silly hero and save everyone. She smiled fondly as she set her hands on his head and sent healing magic through him. Open your eyes, Rafe. We want you to come back.
Soon, the Lupe’s yellow eyes opened. He murmured, “Ioni – no, Iris. Iris!” He sat up quickly.
She reassured him, “You’re okay, we’re okay – after Orianne was restored, the Dark Faeries ran for it. Everyone’s fine.”
Sophie commented, “We need to be getting back to the Haunted Woods soon – we’ll take the boat. Otherwise Balthazar will start stealing my Meowclopses again.”
Iris said, “Tell Edna that we’re restored... she’ll be happy to hear it.”
Sophie rolled her eyes, but Gilly promised, “I’ll do it.”
The three from the Haunted Woods started back down the path. Orianne watched them go, radiant with golden light. “I think I shall stay in Faerieland for a while... I’ve missed it here.”
Rielle nodded. “I may stay with you.”
Rafe said, “I think I’ll head back to the Plateau and see if there’s anything left there for me.”
Iris grabbed his hand. “Rafe, what are you talking about? You hate the Plateau – you’ve always said that! So why do you keep saying you’ll go back?”
Rafe shrugged. “It’s obvious, isn’t it? There’s nothing left for me anywhere else. You can take care of yourself just fine... you don’t need me anymore.”
Iris said, “That’s nonsense. You’re my best friend! I’ll always need you around – someone to travel with, someone to laugh with – and, of course, someone to cook the meals. I never have been any good at that.”
Rafe laughed out loud, then hugged her tightly. “Thanks, Iris. I’ll be glad to hit the road again with you. So where are we going?”
Ioni looked out, where the cloud disappeared into the blue horizon. “We’ll go find other Grey Faeries. We’ll make sure each library in Neopia has information on how to restore them. We’ll fight the Dark Faeries. There’s so much that needs doing – we’ll have no shortage of work to do.”
Tavi asked, “Could I come with you? I’d like to help some more?”
Rafe grinned and patted her head. “Of course, kid. Glad to have you.”
Tolya stepped forward shyly. “I know I acted poorly before... I’ve learned better now. I’d like to travel with you, if you’ll have me. A mage could be useful.”
Iris was surprised when Rafe said, unasked and with only a tinge of gruffness, “It was a large part my fault, too. Feel free to come along.”
Rielle promised, “If you ever need anything, just call on us and we’ll be there.”
Orianne nodded. “I swear it.”
Iris hugged her two friends once more. “Goodbye, you two. I promise that we’ll all come and visit often.”
Then the Earth Faerie stood a little apart as Tolya and Tavi said their final goodbyes. Rafe clapped her on the shoulder. “Ready to go, boss?”
She laughed. “I can’t wait to get started!”