An Eternity Unbreakable: Part Nine
Also by 777lehuanani
Suddenly, every neopet jumped at the sound of shattering glass. Shards from every direction rained downward, but vanished before hitting the ground. The rumbling trembled the city, shaking away the glassy remnants of the curse.
Within mere minutes, where glass vegetation and cobblestone-textured streets once were, lawns and roads were revealed. Plants seemed to rapidly regenerate in the sunlight as they were freed from their glassy confines. Despite the cold fall air, the landscape blossomed before their eyes in a beautiful splash of color. Xeresa watched in fascination as a single white bud opened its petals for the first time after seventy five years of waiting.
Next to be transformed were the houses. Countless glassy encasings exploded into nothingness. The decaying, neglected state Xeresa had remembered them to be in was restored by an unknown force of memory, memories of Cryptia, or rather Eternity’s old glory.
Finally, when no traces of the blue-white glass remained, the shaking ceased. Kameron felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, the bag of mirror shards having vanished during the city’s transformation. And to everyone’s relief, Walter had become a regular neopet again.
Xeresa then noticed that outside the city, the thorny bushes once blocking the entranceway were gone. Now, a friendly earthen trail led from the woods to the gates. The surrounding trees were no longer gnarly and lifeless, instead quite stunning in their autumn foliage. The final aspect of Salis’ terror had been undone; Eternity was no longer in exile.
“You just broke the curse,” Walter stammered at Xeresa. “...you just broke the curse!”
“Yikes!” she cried as she received six individual bone-crushing hugs. Despite Kameron and Justin’s lack of fondness towards hugging, they had decided to join in as well in the moment of triumph. Finally, when the commotion died down, Xeresa saw that her charm still glistened with energy.
“Would this have worked when we first came here earlier in the night?” Justin asked, shuddering at his memories of moquot mobs in the swamp. He eyed Kameron’s brochure.
“Nope. Without defeating Salis, none of us would have been able to lift her curse,” Xeresa explained after a few moments of wistful thinking. “Salis had complete control over her own curse, so as long as she was around, no one else could choose to end the spell. Now that she had been banished, though, that became possible. Not to mention we needed her locket too.”
“My voice, it’s back!” Verita suddenly squealed shrilly.
Without warning, gasps of disbelief from within the buildings startled them. Soon, regular neopets, bearing no resemblance to their glass selves from only hours ago, burst out of the houses cheering. Xeresa saw Wockies, Usuls, and every type of neopet discovered replace the former population of fragile glass creatures. The woodland town of Eternity had awakened from its seventy five years of slumber.
Xeresa turned only to see that the five former mirror pets had long vanished into the crowd.
“Look, there’s the Zafara and her friends who saved us!” she heard an excited citizen shout.
A rapidly growing crowd gathered around the three bystanders, who returned the thunderous clapping and cheering with flattered looks. Kameron abruptly felt self-conscious, wishing his royal servants had had the opportunity to groom him beforehand.
“Oh, it was nothing.” Xeresa beamed. Never in her life had she received such recognition.
“Hooray!” the citizens of Eternity cheered. The neopets near Xeresa, Kameron, and Justin hoisted the three upward and bounced them around in the air.
“Err, I feel nauseous. Could you please let me down?” Justin felt seasick, though an ocean was nowhere in sight. “Really, please!”
“Whee!” Kameron felt the opposite.
Several houses away, even the humble Xeresa was enjoying the moment of glory. The citizens of Eternity passed the neopets all over the city. As the minutes turned into an hour, the merriment did not die down.
The crowd eventually lowered the three and led them to City Hall. There, a ceremony was ready for them, courtesy of the Mayor and city officials. Balloons and banners decorated the white marble walls.
While the citizens were crammed amongst the pews, the city officials were seated on the stage, facing the breathless crowd. However, Xeresa noticed that a few upstage seats were empty, as if two neopets were missing.
“But how did you know we would defeat Salis?” Xeresa stammered to the Mayor, shocked that the celebration had obviously been prepared before they had arrived back.
“Faith.” The yellow Blumaroo smiled before rising and heading to the podium. Xeresa couldn’t help but feel as if a part of the truth was missing. Regardless, she smiled back.
“When you speak, remember to use your best judgment on what you will include,” Mari quickly whispered to the three, implying about the city officials’ secrecy and the Stars.
The Mayor soberly began with a remembrance speech, recalling the sorrowful events leading up to their lasting suffering. He praised the citizens for helping keep control and order despite the hardships.
“My citizens, today Salis has been defeated and we are forever free. I hereby recognize that all of Eternity is indebted to these brave neopets,” the Mayor concluded, respectively stepping aside to usher the Zafara, Krawk, and Shoyru to the stand.
Xeresa began by telling how they first had stumbled across Eternity, crediting Justin with the find. The trio took turns telling their tale, careful to avoid references to secrecy and the Stars. Their complaints of the moquots while in the swampy forest were received with laughter. Soon, however, the audience was left on the edge of their seats, stunned at the details of how they encountered Salis.
The Zafara briefly relished about how she defeated Salis’ locket to free the citizens in the mirror. Then, Kameron and Justin covered their passage back. Xeresa ended by explaining how they restored the city’s name, smug at her triumph of having discovering the correct word.
“But you must remember this before you exalt us with gratitude. In spite of the terror unleashed upon you by Salis, your faith and determination allowed this city to keep going. No curse will ever manage to defy the truth; Eternity is truly unbreakable,” Xeresa elaborately finished.
An unprecedented applause erupted from the crowd. Xeresa, Kameron, and Justin stood on the platform, smiling and waving modestly as colourful streamers rained down from the ceiling.
“Xeresa! Justin! Kameron!” the crowd chanted as the true festivities began.
A starry Zafara yawned and stretched as she awoke from a much-needed nap. Her left wrist complained from signing hundreds of autographs. Also, Xeresa felt overstuffed from the countless slices of cake and bottles of cider she had consumed after her speech. Several red and gold ribbons still lined her fur.
The complimentary free stay at the town inn was nice, especially since she was given an option to stay in her own room. The cozy fireplace and fluffy pillows had allowed her to drift to sleep in no time.
But despite the comfort, a cloud of gloom clung over her. Her hectic neoschool schedule, not to mention her job as a tour guide, had already been disrupted by her adventure, though it had taken but a day. Kameron and Justin’s remaining vacation days from the Employment Agency were also coming to a close.
As a result, they had reluctantly decided that they must depart no later than this evening. This had been met with equal sadness from the rest of Eternity.
“Miss?” a voice called before a series of knocks.
Startled by the sudden disturbance, Xeresa rolled off the edge of her bed in alarm and fell with an impact that noticeably shook the room.
“Coming.” She rubbed her eyes. She took a few moments to straighten out her fur before opening the door.
“Sorry to interrupt your rest, but the Mayor has summoned you to City Hall,” a Lenny chirped. He handed a formal certificate to her.
“Thanks.” She nodded back, struggling to stifle a yawn.
Xeresa found Raulin and Mari waiting for her on the steps to City Hall. They silently guided her past the main auditorium into an elegantly furnished hallway. A few corridors later, Xeresa found herself in the Mayor’s office.
Near the center of the room, the Mayor was seated behind a large pine desk with papers crowding its sides. A golden plaque depicting a flaming moltenore rising with the morning sun, possibly the emblem of Eternity, hung above the large window behind him.
Scarlet chairs filled the rest of the room, divided into two sections to create an aisle way. Around the Mayor’s desk sat Kameron and Justin. The rest of the neopets were the city officials, whom Xeresa had already been acquainted with at the previous night’s impromptu meeting.
“Come, Xeresa.” The Blumaroo motioned at the empty chair between her tourists.
“What’s going on?” she asked. She wondered what good news was in store for them, noticing that Kameron and Justin had been eagerly waiting for her to be seated.
“Now that the curse has been lifted– and I can not thank you three enough– we have been able to send our summons to the new Circle of Sorcery. Neomails have also been delivered to the Defenders of Neopia,” the Mayor started.
“That’s wonderful!” Xeresa cheerfully interrupted.
“Yes, indeed. However–” he replied.
“However?” Justin groaned. “Is there another curse you’d need us to break?” Xeresa cast a glare at him at his lapse into insolence again.
“Fortunately not. But another grave matter remains at hand...” the Mayor’s expression turned serious. “It’s only a matter of time before the Neopian Times will showcase our story for all of Neopia to see. Therefore, we wanted to ask permission to use the story of your journey.”
“Permission granted!” the trio chimed in unison.
“I am not finished yet.” The Blumaroo’s tone became graver. “We cannot tell anybody about what we did regarding the Stars.”
“But wouldn’t hiding the truth just complicate things further? I think your citizens deserve to know too, after all this time,” Xeresa protested, terrified at the web of lies she was now tangled in. The spyder of regret and guilt loomed ever closer. Kameron and Justin too became unsure.
“Xeresa, please understand it pains us to do so.” The Blumaroo sadly looked at the city officials, whom all seemed weighed with sorrow. “But for the safety of the Stars and Neopia, it must be done. I plead this one final request, and it is for you to bear the burden of knowing with us.”
Xeresa sighed, turning to her companions. Kameron and Justin both stared silently back. Frantic thoughts raced through the Zafara’s head; would letting Neopia know really allow evil to triumph again? How would Eternity react?
In the midst of her indecisiveness, she felt a comforting warmth in her wand charm and her mind relaxed with ease. Without saying a single word, Xeresa and her group knew.
“Yes,” the trio, quite simply, answered.
“Thank you,” the Mayor could only nod in infinite gratitude.
“Are you sure you really want to leave us so soon?” a Lupe from the back room suddenly asked in disappointment. “You are welcome to stay as long as you want.” Murmurs of agreement followed.
“I’m afraid so,” Justin sighed, though sincere. “Kameron and I have to get back to our jobs, and Xeresa has to finish becoming a real witch. And a better tour guide.” Xeresa glowered.
“How would we get back, though?” Kameron inquired. He certainly did not like the idea of traveling through any part of the Haunted Woods again despite the daylight.
The yellow Blumaroo, without hesitating, opened a drawer in his desk. He retrieved a crystal compass, which he gave to Xeresa. She saw that along the edges, it was adorned with sparkling vines that met at the pinnacle.
“We are deeply sorry that we cannot accompany you back.” The Mayor looked at the floor guiltily. “There is just so much to do, so much to take care of... Eternity needs to be restored.”
“Another compass? The first one we used got us lost,” Justin snapped, annoyed that the Mayor seemed blinder than a pirate meowclops.
“This navigates with the light of the sun and stars, which never mislead,” he explained. “Southwest of here, there’s a busy seaport. Perhaps you could bargain with the traders and manage to find your way home.”
“Very kind of you,” Xeresa quickly thanked him to excuse Justin’s impudence, though she was equally untrusting of compasses at this point.
“Before you go, we’d like you to show you something,” the Blumaroo added. Rapid, worrying whispers broke through the officials, but he nevertheless continued. “You will see in a moment.”
A side door opened several tense minutes later and two weary officials, a mud-streaked Draik and Cybunny with pickaxes and mining helmets, entered. They carried a tattered scroll and a large silver box wrapped with heavy chains.
The box had carvings of a spooky, moonlit forest on its sides. Tiny crystals dotted the background, like the stars in the night sky. A set of claws on the front side of the box seemed to be gripping the lid shut.
“The potion of invisibility really helped us not attract attention,” the Cybunny whispered as she and the Draik set the two mysterious items on the desk. Flecks of dirt fell to the ground as she brushed at the mud on her paws.
“So that’s why they weren’t at the ceremony,” Xeresa thought to herself. She recalled the two empty chairs onstage. Her charm suddenly shook, sparkling as it never had before. Xeresa saw that the Mayor had noticed, but he did not seem surprised.
The Mayor thanked the two and opened the scroll first, reciting aloud its text in an ancient woodland language. A ghostly glow surrounded the chains as an invisible force lifted them. They dissolved into nothingness while the silver claws lifted, the lid creaking open to reveal six shimmering jewels.
“The Stars,” Xeresa, Kameron, and Justin all gasped in wonder.
Into a perfect hexagon, six of the stunning gems were arranged. Words alone were incapable of describing their beauty. Each jewel was a perfect octahedron shape, its edges glistening emerald in the sunlight.
The presence of the gems alone was overpowering. Xeresa sensed a mystifying aura of promise in their splendor, promises of fulfilled dreams beyond imagination. It was as if all the troubles in the world had vanished, the gems’ magnificence reassuring that perfection was possible after all.
Xeresa suddenly felt a tug at her neck. She couldn’t bring herself to tear her gaze from the exquisite sight, but to her amazement, saw that her necklace was floating in the air. The diamond at the end of her charm was gently pulling towards the Stars.
A shimmering light spread over her cloudy jewel and as if a layer of dust had been removed, and a striking gem beneath was revealed. Xeresa trembled with awe, wondering if it had really been with her for the whole time... the seventh Star.
Abruptly, a wave of drafty coldness fell over the room. A shadowy apparition materialized in a haze of black and green smoke at the end of the aisle. Darkness was draped over most of its members, their gleaming eyes only visible.
“The Circle of Sorcery...” the Xeresa thought.
A faerie in the center came clearer into view, transforming into the form of Ilere. She emerged from the group, drifting toward the desk until she was only a meter or so from Xeresa. Then, she raised her hands and the box floated to her grasp.
“Ilere!” Xeresa blurted out. “Could this be...?”
To be continued...