An Eternity Unbreakable: Part Three
Also by 777lehuanani
“She never sleeps and never will until she has the Stars,” the aged Poogle spat. “Salis, that vile witch, visited us shortly after we found out about the Circle’s disappearance.
“Our town council never wanted to abandon our duties, not after learning of the Circle’s sacrifice in order to protect those diamonds. We began organizing a wide-scale evacuation of the civilians to protect the innocent. Then we were to remain behind alone, but we were too late.
“The day that witch came... I shall never be able to forget. She stormed into City Hall demanding the whereabouts of the Stars. But, to her surprise I believe, no matter what threats and hexes she promised upon us, we would not disclose the location.
“We were basically imprisoned in our own City Hall building for the next year while she took over the town, wreaking misery upon every single citizen. No one could leave the city limits, as she had placed a powerful enchantment along the city borders.
“We the city officials suffered not only because of her terrible curses upon us, but mainly the fact that no one was spared the terror of that time. Oh, the terrible destruction wrought on our city, the endless nights– I cannot even begin expressing my sorrow for my citizens.
“Salis added to our horror when she magically exiled our whole town to the edge of the Woods itself. Her actions were perhaps done to avoid suspicion, as the Woods’ Werelupe forces had been regularly checking on every town ever since the Circle’s disappearance.”
Raulin paused for a moment, and it was a visible struggle for him to begin again.
“Salis renamed our town ‘Cryptia,’ meaning condemned tomb in an ancient language, because... who knows why? We also were forbidden to state the former name of our city, as attempting to do so would, well– you’d lose the power to ever speak again. To this day, we cannot even have the comfort of saying the true name of our home.
“Once she had us out of sight of the world, and completely in her own control, her search for the Stars began in earnest.
“The Stars’ location was unknown to the citizens. Even more so, they had not the faintest knowledge of what she was talking about. We hated the fact that they were also being punished alongside us. Yet for the power of the Stars, and their own sakes, we were all relentless in keeping our secret.
“Salis’ horrible reign lasted maybe five years– until she gave up,” Raulin coughed and then paused. “Please– some water.”
Xeresa recognized in awe the strength the withered Poogle had to retell such a heartbreaking tale– a true and personal tale. Kameron and even the detached, uncompassionate Justin looked sadly at their glass companions. A cloud of gloom hung over the conference.
A Kau from the other end of the table reached for the pitcher and goblets located near her. She poured the pitcher, and Xeresa’s eyes widened in amazement as glass flowed as gracefully as liquid water.
“May I have some too?” Xeresa asked. Though deep sorrow gnawed at her, the Zafara’s eagerness to learn took over instead.
“Not a problem, if you can manage to drink it of course,” the Kau responded, but poured her a glass anyway.
Xeresa’s jaw hung open with disbelief as she shook the container and the glass water easily swayed along. She stuck a paw into the goblet and tried twirling the water around her fingers, but her nails painfully clicked against a hard, cold surface instead. She wished she knew the science behind the enchanted glass.
The Cryptian officials and her two companions pushed past their melancholy for a moment to look curiously at her odd investigation. Noticing this, she pushed aside the goblet, embarrassed.
“I can’t drink this, it would probably clog up my insides,” Xeresa announced and promptly choked on her words at seeing the Poogle gulp down his glass of water.
“Thank you, Mari,” Raulin croaked. “Anyways, I do not know how the rest of the town survived, but thankfully, we all pulled through. At this point, Salis summoned every citizen to City Hall, warning us a final time of the mistake we’d make if the Stars were not handed over immediately.
“Salis told us that she would do whatever it took to find those diamonds. Upon making this dreadful declaration, there was a blinding flash of light radiating from her locket. I remember feeling cold all of a sudden and saw that the pew I was seated upon turned into glass. So had the walls, the ceiling... myself... everyone else...”
Raulin remained silent while several other officials began weeping at reliving the upsetting memory. Glassy tears formed in his eyes, but not a tear was spared. Xeresa couldn’t help but try imagining what it would feel like to be suddenly changed to be like them. She and her group pitied the Cryptian leaders, though unsure of how they could even help.
After a few minutes, the visible grief subsided and Raulin once again started telling the rest of his terrible tale.
“I still remember the paralyzing horror of that moment. Salis advised us to surrender the Stars; otherwise, who else would reverse the spell? Knowing of our iron will and determined to undermine that morale, she vanished without waiting for a final answer, leaving us struggling to escape from City Hall with our new glass limbs. We’ve been like this ever since, decaying away, yet frozen in time to seventy five years ago...” Raulin looked sadly at the floor at the end of his story, a single teardrop finally shed, shattering near his feet.
“What about the citizens, how did you explain this to them?” Xeresa asked.
The secrecy of the Cryptian government, though with honorable intentions, had ultimately led to the curse; shouldn’t this have already led to the fall of Cryptia? The poor citizens surely would have had no room to understand, not after the injustice done to them.
“Quite simply, we told them that the despicable Aisha had confused us with the wrong town and had made a dreadful mistake,” the Mayor admitted reluctantly. “What else could be done without causing more harm to our ravaged city?”
“Untruthfully, we reassured them that Salis would realize this and undo her destruction. Finally, we explained ‘the Stars’ as the actual stars in the night to convince them that she was an evil enchantress seeking control of the skies,” Raulin added.
“The citizens seemed to have accepted the lies and have lived with it for the last three quarters of a century. They’ve always been less trusting of us ever since, though, and eventually realized Salis was never coming back.” Mayor sighed. “We had to tell you this in secret in order to protect the citizens... they are better off not knowing.”
“The curse sounds too complicated. I don’t think I could help you in any way!” Xeresa was on the verge of tears. She knew Cryptia’s curse was far beyond her Level 3 knowledge of witchcraft, but felt waves of heavy guilt at the thought of leaving the city in its torment.
“But talented witch, you must! Look at us; we all are going to lose this battle of life even though we are not aging. We can’t risk breaking ourselves, yet we must attempt to continue “life” as it should be called, though it is not what we possess,” the Mayor mourned. “Instead, we are cursed with life inside, which the outer shell carries out; we’re barely more than moving sculptures.”
“We are forever trapped in our city, for Salis said we cannot walk where ‘glass is not the ground’,” Raulin bitterly concluded.
“What happens if you break?” Kameron inquired. Xeresa and Justin had been wondering the same.
“We do not know. Salis, that wicked Aisha, she told us that we ‘do not deserve the blessing of surviving as shards’...” Mari the Kau trailed off, too stricken to even finish.
Then, she recalled miserably, “Several beloved citizens have been lost so far. We worry endlessly about the young ones and frail old who are more prone to shattering themselves. According to witnesses when one of us breaks, the shards vaporize within a few seconds and no trace of them is left afterwards.”
“Walter...” a Wocky near Kameron stiffly covered her face with her armoured paws and began weeping.
“That explains your armour,” the starry Zafara gasped, seeing the thickness of the armour plating. The Mayor showed her the layers of protective padding inside his helmet.
“We have hope that they are still out there, though, somewhere in the Haunted Woods,” a Lenny tax collector briefly offered a bit of optimism.
“How many have you lost?” Justin asked.
“Five have completely shattered and were never seen again,” the Mayor closed his eyes in a moment of remembrance. “Most of us who have fallen suffer major damage, but are lucky enough to survive the disaster.”
“Our last loss occurred just days after Salis initiated her spell. Then– thank the faeries– we discovered that our underground armoury was somehow unaffected,” the chomby next to Xeresa pointed to his plated chain mail. “We handed out the available armour to the citizens. Luckily, a supply of unused metal was also left over, so our blacksmiths worked day and night to make protective gear for those of us remaining.”
“The only way to break our curse is to banish that witch into oblivion,” the Mayor hopelessly announced. “As long as Salis exists, so does her curse. I doubt she has thoughts of ever lifting the spell herself.”
Nearby, Kameron could no longer bear the Wocky’s sobbing. He felt he could relate, remembering when Lord Kass’ army had overrun his kingdom during the Battle for Meridell. Though the horrors of nearly losing his home and family was little more than a blur after many years, he understood how fortunate the aftermath had been thanks to Jeran and the other brave knights of Meridell. Now that Cryptia was in such dilemma, who else would be the ones to make a difference for the better?
The Krawk lacked his brother’s enthusiasm, being overly cautious, but broke from his usual prudent nature.
“We have to do something,” Kameron burned with fiery determination. “Come on, Justin and Xeresa, we must help them!”
“But– but how? I am just an apprentice, “ Xeresa began, tears of despair shining in her amber eyes. She had reached a brick wall, no longer knowing what to do anymore.
“I know you can do it. Together, we can do it,” Justin quickly joined in. Reina glared in response, but her coldness quickly faltered once she saw that he was serious.
The Zafara wiped her tears and grasped her wand charm. Feeling its comforting warmth, she reminded herself that no deed was impossible despite any daunting obstacles.
“Let’s go teach that Salis a lesson!” she cried. The Cryptian officials only attempted to smile, though their tenseness went unnoticed as the three imagined themselves as the unlikely heroes for a brief moment of excitement.
As Xeresa and her group left the conference room to begin their search for Salis, they stopped in their tracks when the Mayor suddenly objected. The rest of the conference seemed to wait in anticipation of what he was going to say. The Mayor stumbled over his own words, unable to begin, when he saw that Xeresa’s lantern was extinguished.
“It is nearly midnight– you will be unable to navigate without the use of a light source,” the Blumaroo awkwardly stammered, as if he had meant to say something else instead. “Please take one or two of these lanterns.”
“You are right, the fire’s completely out,” Justin agreed and grabbed a glass lantern from the wall. They thanked the Mayor for his kindness before heading back into the auditorium.
Meanwhile in the conference chamber, the Mayor paced back and forth in distress. The rest of the officials were equally ill at ease.
“I only hope that we hear from them again, to say the least, unlike other brave souls before them.” The Blumaroo was weighed down by guilt. “Even the guidance of the Stars may falter in the darkness of evil.”
To be continued...