An Eternity Unbreakable: Part Eight
Also by 777lehuanani
“Where are they?” Salis screamed in frustration.
She was at the western tower, staring into a crystal orb that revealed Xeresa and her tourists. An unexplained emerald glow, however, obscured the rest of the view. Her expansive castle would prove too much of a hassle to manually search, let alone with her magic being thwarted.
Suddenly, she heard an unmistakable loud crash from the eastern tower. Salis looked at the orb again. This time, the haze having cleared slightly, she saw a dusty book lying near the Krawk’s feet; she knew exactly where they were.
“Only fools would think they could escape my wrath.” Salis had scarcely blinked before she materialized in the library. The room appeared quite empty; the neopets were probably cowering somewhere in the dark.
“Meep.” She found that a tiny, lemon coloured meepit was near her feet, looking up at her. Arching her quiver-tipped tail, she prepared to smack aside the petpet when she saw that it was frantically jabbing its paws toward the hearth.
“Do you know where they are?” Salis quietly asked.
In response, the meepit nodded. Salis followed the petpet until it stopped behind the rotted armchairs and continued motioning toward the large fireplace.
“In there?” Salis demanded, which was met with another nod.
Salis flicked her tail and knocked the meepit across the room as she approached the hearth. She noticed the thick mound of ashes above the timber steadily rising and falling. A curse orb began to form in her palm.
“Splat-A-Slothhhhhhh!” A Shoyru swung from a nearby shelf, crashing into the Aisha. He slammed an ancient, but rigid scroll into her head.
The impact knocked her sideways, causing her to stagger leftwards toward the mirror. She stopped to regain her balance, but felt another shove, tumbling onto greyed grass.
“Sorry I was a bit too early, I was afraid she would finish you off before I got there,” the sorceress heard someone say.
“Nah, you did great,” another responded.
From behind a bookshelf, Xeresa had wasted no time leaping to the mirror. She concentrated while holding her charm, knowing she had to act quickly and flawlessly. An emerald light zipped across the mirror, closing the portal as its glassy barrier was restored in a matter of seconds.
Salis recovered her stance with a gust of air from her wings, only to face the blurred images of eight neopets through the resealed portal. The Cryptians evidently had escaped... Her jaw fell in utter disbelief as her fury mounted uncontrollably.
“Let me out!” the Aisha shrieked. She fired spells at the group, but they only ricocheted off the mirror glass.
How could she be trapped in the mirror prison meant for those foolish, weak Cryptians? Wondering why she could not escape, Salis gazed in horror at the complete diamond on Xeresa’s charm. She clutched at her neck, only to find her pendant was not there.
“At this point, you are never leaving this mirror,” Xeresa hissed, chilling even Kameron and Justin to the bone.
“Please!” Verita cried, unable to hold back seventy five years of emotion any longer at the unbearable sight of Salis. Tears welled in her eyes while she shook with anger. “You’ve caused my dear city such pain, such horror... All I request is for you to repent for the injustice you have caused by restoring my home, and I assure we all will not deprive you of forgiveness.”
“You could never understand what we went through,” Walter joined in, his voice quivering. “I beg of you, look into your heart and reconsider.”
Salis’ eyes seemed to shine brilliantly as her merciless expression relaxed. As suddenly as the first glimmers of good had seemed to come to her, her eyes gleamed with ambition. Locking her gaze on Xeresa’s charm, Salis sneered, “Repent? Neopia has always been destined to serve me.”
“I’ve heard enough from you.” Xeresa clenched her paws into fists while her starry fur bristled.
She was sure that banishing Salis from Neopia would free Cryptia from its curse. As she had warned Justin about earlier, breaking the mirror would destroy the only way out; doing so meant that Salis would then cease to exist in Neopia, condemned forever in the mirror-world she herself had created.
Having come thus far, Xeresa knew what she must do to finish her task, and the complete absence of any regret on Salis’ side eliminated the one uncertainty in her mind. Summoning all her strength, Xeresa grabbed Kameron’s royal staff and firmly struck the mirror with decisive speed.
The last image cast by the mirror was of Salis, her last expression contorted with a wordless shriek of rage. The falling remnants clinked onto the carpet, glimmering as the individual shards now reflected the starlight from above.
“She’s gone,” Xeresa whispered. “And Cryptia is free.”
“The doors are not locked anymore!” Xeresa easily pushed ajar the double front gates that, earlier in the night, had trapped them inside the castle. She guessed they had been enchanted shut during Salis’ rampage.
The morning mist greeted her exhausted amber eyes as she and her group set off into the haunted forest. Luperus was nowhere to be found; perhaps he too shared the fate of Salis. Behind them, the castle vanished silently into a dark vortex of nothingness. A murky haze dissipated from the surrounding woodland as the evil oppression was lifted.
Early morning was approaching; calm shades of red, orange, and pink light beautified the clouds. The star, Lisas, remained in the gradually brightening horizon, its intense purple glow replaced with a tranquil white.
Kameron shook his scepter threateningly toward the mass of moquots swarming above his head. Even the Rubbish Dump in Meridell was better in terms of petpetpet problems in his opinion.
Glass shards clinked noisily in his Jeran backpack with each step he took. Xeresa had worried about Salis being able to escape through the destroyed portal someday; therefore, she had thought it was a good idea to keep the shards for now.
“We’re sorry for placing such burden on you for the sake of our city,” Ingrid sighed as she swatted at the biting petpetpets.
“Not a problem,” Justin reassured her. He flapped his wings and flew above the trees, sighting the familiar swamp not far ahead. “We’ll be out of here soon.”
The eight gratefully exited the woods into the clearing. In the early morning light, the marsh simply became another lake. It did not seem to resemble at all the terrifying bog they had encountered only hours ago.
“You didn’t wade through to get here, did you?” Janyr winced at the quicksand pools.
“We went around.” Xeresa pointed to a winding path connecting the land on their side of the bog to the opposite riverbank.
“How will we find our way back after the swamp, though?” Kameron inquired. “We followed a star to get here, but I don’t think we can work backwards with the same method.”
“Err, I’ll think about it.” Xeresa scowled inwardly, not wanting to run into another wall. Defeating Salis had proved exhausting enough, much worse than when she had to write a boring essay about the principles of mortogs. Completing their trek around the bog, Xeresa paused to examine her surroundings for recognizable visual cues.
“There’s the path we followed last night before we got to the swamp.” She spotted a familiar trail carved through the nearby thick forest brush.
Using their footprints from last night to find their way back, though not without coming across the occasional bearog trail to be backtracked, Xeresa successfully led her companions back to Cryptia. Standing behind a mass of dead brush, the eight anticipated returning to the restored city.
“How I have longed to be reunited with–” Verita began, immediately cut off by a terrible scream and silence.
Xeresa remembered Raulin’s warning that the citizens of Cryptia were forbidden to say the true name of the city while the curse was in effect; the price would be the power to speak. She swiftly parted the branches of the thorny bush to reveal a glass city glistening in the early light.
“No, that cannot be right...” Walter fell to his knees in despair.
Verita sat on a rock, her face covered with her paws. She silently wept while Ingrid, Janyr, and Danleigh stood around her, unable to help despite their most sympathetic reassurances.
Xeresa and her tourists, along with Walter, sat beneath the shade of an oak tree nearby, pondering why the curse remained. She came across an idea, picking up and sharpening a hardened twig. Tapping away the remaining sawdust, she produced a makeshift pen.
“Why don’t we review what we know and I will write everything down,” the Zafara said, her pen poised above a bare patch of soil.
It was more of a challenge than expected, since Kameron and Justin had to avoid saying anything that could betray the Mayor’s secrecy. Xeresa meanwhile was busily scribbling in the dirt, trying to make sense of the situation.
“This doesn’t sound like any spell I’ve ever heard of though...” she looked at the information before her, troubled. She was unsure of how everything connected.
“How odd that they can’t say the true name of their city,” Kameron muttered as he looked past Walter to Verita.
“Wait a minute...” Xeresa, half in thought, began. She sensed a connection between Salis’s hex and something she was familiar with, but what? The Zafara paced back and forth, struggling to pull the answer from the depths of her mind.
“That’s it! The story of Baelia the Grey Faerie is the answer,” Xeresa realized.
“How so?” Justin asked.
“The circumstances are very much similar. You see, Baelia was trapped in her cage until her name was revealed by Tavi. Cryptia is still cursed because its real name has yet to be discovered by an outsider,” she explained. “We’ll have to find and recite its name to lift the spell.”
“Any ideas, though? After all, we can’t even utter a syllable of the name.” Walter shook his head, shuddering. His pale eyes shimmered with tears as his gaze lowered to the sight of Cryptia. “I will risk delivering an indirect clue, though.”
“Are you sure?” the Zafara tour guide worriedly questioned.
“Very.” Walter straightened upright his cane and arose, determined. “After what my city has been through, I could do no less.”
“Alright. We’ll have to use this opportunity wisely; let’s go decide our question,” Kameron said.
Moving a few steps away, the three discussed amongst themselves what to ask, but lacked any leads that they were truly confident about. Xeresa sighed in near-defeat, when she remembered the mystifying quote she had noted before...
“Wait a minute, what about that quote on City Hall?” she exclaimed. Taking a few moments to recall the exact phrase, she recited, “‘The sands of the centurial hourglass shall fade, for time is infinitely immeasurable but to destiny.’”
“Possibly.” Kameron and Justin nodded in unison.
“Does the quote on City Hall relate to your city’s name?” Xeresa turned to Walter and asked.
Walter’s stomach churned with fear, but he slowly nodded. However, a flash of blinding light engulfed him and within seconds, he had become a glass sculpture just as he had been seventy five years ago.
“Walter!” Ingrid gasped in alarm, her group rushing angrily to Xeresa. “What did you do to him?”
“No reason for alarm,” the glass Xweetok responded, attempting to smile. “I believe they have found the key to freeing our city.”
“What do you think the quote means?” Xeresa asked her tourists. They pondered, trying to shed understanding over the mysterious phrase.
“It might be a definition of a word along the lines of ‘forever,’” Kameron suggested. “It talks about time being measured by destiny, which is also infinite.”
“Brilliant!” Xeresa responded. “I doubt the city is named ‘Forever’, though, so why don’t we think of some of its synonyms? But first, I’m guessing we’d have to be in the city for this.”
Deciding to attempt the idea, the group of eight crossed the thorny bushes to enter the glass city. Kameron and Justin helped Walter across, unsure of what it meant for his fate if he shattered at this point.
The early morning sun was just sending its first rays over the horizon. The glass glistened magnificently as the beams of light shone over the city. Cryptia still retained a silent aura, its citizens not yet awake.
“Let’s begin.” Xeresa stepped forward and felt as if she could gaze into the spirit of the city. The three each clutched her charm, reciting aloud their guesses.
“Forever!” Justin shouted his first attempt, his voice echoing in the empty streets.
“Not that loud,” Xeresa shushed him. “Ceaseless... umm– Infinite.”
While the five citizens of Cryptia watched, the trio tested many words fitting the criteria they had determined. After half an hour spent in vain, Kameron reached to his backpack and grabbed his royal vocabulary volume, which he had ‘borrowed’ from King Hagan. He tried out a string of fancy versions of the words they had tried before, though this was met with an equally disappointing result.
“This is hard.” Justin glared at the book.
“Umm, no. It could be worse,” the Zafara scoffed, thankful that the city’s name was a real word that a dictionary somewhere probably contained.
“Infinity? Perpetuity?” Kameron flipped a few pages. “They sound more sophisticated.”
All eight neopets stared dully at the glass city, unsure of what kind of response they were to look for if the correct word was uttered. Xeresa sighed, rubbing her wand charm. It seemed to increase in warmth, though she did not know why.
“Why don’t we take a short break? Maybe refresh up a bit?” she suggested. The three retreated to a nearby lawn, weary from the guesswork, while the other five neopets exchanged anxious murmurs.
“What can we do now, though?” Kameron asked, worried now that even King Hagan’s dictionary had failed them. He unzipped his backpack to put his book away, but several brochures he had collected last evening, now seeming so long ago, fell out in the process.
“All this did was tell you to ask for directions, explained over two whole pages,” the Krawk scoffed, looking at the Lost: Now What? brochure. He tossed it aside.
“I don’t think we should waste our time reading brochures, Kameron.” Xeresa frowned, when a sepia colored packet caught her eye. Her charm quivered furiously.
Snatching it from Kameron’s lap, she stared incredulously at the bold words on the cover. “The Lost city of– Eternity!” she read, raising her voice at the last word.
Emerald light brighter than the sun radiated from Xeresa’s charm. Then, the ground began to rumble more mightily than the strongest earthquake felt by Neopia in centuries.
To be continued...