An Eternity Unbreakable: Part Ten
Also by 777lehuanani
“Yes. The charm which you possess holds the seventh Star, the gem thought to have been destroyed in the Battle of the Moor,” she answered, gesturing to the beautiful jewel.
Xeresa barely noticed her surroundings anymore, intent on finding answers. New questions formed in her mind quicker than she could ask them.
“You were the one who had given me this charm,” the Zafara stammered, “and told me I had a destiny of greatness ahead. Had you possibly known that, in the future, I would help free Cryptia?”
“It is much more complicated than that, Xeresa,” Ilere explained in a low voice. “You see, when I was a young faerie, I had come across a certain prophecy as old as the Woods themselves in the mysterious Scrolls of the Swamp, an ancient collection of writings which, if interpreted correctly, reveal the future.
“The manuscripts were, and still are, extremely difficult to decipher, even to the most gifted of the elders. Yet, as my eyes fell upon a certain page, I was immediately given understanding: A league of the most powerful of protectors, then an entire city, would all falter in attempt to save the Forest Stars from the clutches of evil. However, a young, extraordinarily talented student was destined to restore the peace one day.
“I had thought nothing more of it, regarding it as a mere coincidence that its meaning had come so clearly. But the day I recovered a fragment of the seventh Star by chance in the swamp reeds, shortly before the old Circle of Sorcery’s downfall, I knew it was no longer a light matter.
“The other half, however, I never had been able to salvage. As I see now though, both pieces have been united. May I ask where you had found it?” Ilere gazed in wonder at Xeresa’s charm.
“Salis had hidden it in her necklace,” Xeresa replied. She described briefly how she had gotten a hold of Salis’ pendant and conquered its dark powers before it relinquished the other half of the Star.
“I presume then that Salis only managed to find one portion of the seventh Star, but failed to locate the other, the piece I later found,” Ilere nodded. “Anyways, from the find, I understood I possessed a role in this prophecy, but where did the limits of my responsibility lie? The prophecy had not mentioned any word of me, but such an artifact seemed out of place in my possession all the same.
“I kept the gem safely with me for many years, with not a soul knowing of it, and I had nearly forgotten of its presence. Three summers ago, this changed when the Neopian Times announced that you, Xeresa, had won the most prestigious award in the name of witchcraft, and the youngest to ever do so. I became certain that you were the student of the prophecy.
“To be truthful, I did not know how to proceed. But Sophie, the closest acquaintance of mine, had provided me with an idea when she announced your school had requested for our attendance at the awarding ceremony. At this point, I had to ponder a way for the Star to be with you at all times, but unbeknownst to you, as I felt it was too early to reveal such secrets.
“I crafted a charm with my most heartfelt wishes and personally granted it to you, Xeresa. I now see my efforts have succeeded,” Ilere concluded. “We, the new Circle of Sorcery, would like to extend our infinite gratitude to you and your companions.”
“I must confess that we were aware that you had the seventh Star before,” the Mayor hung his head in shame, as did the rest of the city officials. “After several unsuccessful attempts to free us, which all had sorrowful endings, your abilities as a witch and in the guiding light of the Stars seemed too promising of an opportunity to pass up. Please find it in your hearts to forgive us.”
At first Xeresa was deeply angered, the officials of Eternity having knowingly sent them in a dangerous mission. If she hadn’t been so fortunate and had met the fates of the other adventurers before her, then would the officials have simply moved on and asked the same of the next travelers?
Her fists were clenched tightly, but as she looked to her softly glowing charm, her fury subsided. What would she have done instead, cursed for decades, without any other hope, and always burdened by the guilt of secrecy? She relaxed, her expression now resigned and remorseful.
“What do you think?” Xeresa finally whispered to Kameron and Justin. The three wordlessly agreed on their verdict and declared, “We forgive you.”
“Again, I cannot thank you enough for all you have done...” the Mayor trailed off, his eyes shining. The other officials of Eternity murmured gratefully in agreement.
“As do we,” Ilere said, nodding towards the shadowy Circle at the back of the aisle.
Her expression had softened enough that one could almost make out a smile, the closest to a smile the faerie had ever been. Abruptly, her tone became grave. “However, we do require the seventh Star, for the jewels were never meant to be separated.”
“No– I’ll be merely an apprentice again!” Xeresa stifled a sob. “Also, it’s been my personal luck charm since the day I received it.”
“Xeresa, remember it was the charm, not the Star, which you cherished,” Ilere sympathetically responded. “You had been deemed worthy of wielding the power of the Forest Stars, a privilege reserved for only the truest of sorcerers. But now, your task has been fulfilled.”
Xeresa wanted to fret in protest as she watched the seventh Star detach easily and drift into the jeweled box. She looked down at her charm, expecting to see an empty indentation and braced to feel the same emptiness inside– a gaping void where her confidence, pride, and optimism once were.
However, that void never formed, for despite the absence of the crystal, she glimpsed a familiar emerald glimmer from within the charm. Her eyes swallowed their stubborn tears as she realized that Ilere was right. As if the faerie had sensed this, she, and the rest of the Circle, faded from view along with the Stars.
After the meeting, three neopets spent the remainder of the day bidding their farewells. When they headed back to the inn to find yet another ceremony dedicated to them, this time held by the citizens in the town square.
Eternity’s finest orchestra played sorrowful, deliberate music, while the autumn breeze blew past as the sun sank beneath the horizon. Xeresa, Kameron, and Justin tried to go about celebrating modestly, though on numerous occasions, received gifts from the citizens. They returned the kindness by offering their finest autographs.
The Neopian Times journalists by then had arrived, interviewing every neopet they saw. Justin had nearly remarked about the Stars’ beauty, but thanks to a quick swat from his brother, not a single hint of Eternity’s dark secret would be printed.
As the last of the sun’s rays were swallowed by darkness, the three stood at the entrance to begin their departure. Every inhabitant of Eternity, even the petpets, huddled around them.
The city leaders and the Mayor were at the very front of the crowd, along with the five neopets who were rescued from the mirror world. The trio stood in their small semi-circled space, looking sadly back at the residents of Eternity now that their hectic, spooky adventures had finally come to an end.
”Thank you for everything,” the Mayor croaked, his eyes visibly shining even in the dim light. In those few words, he expressed the infinite gratitude shared by himself and the rest of Eternity. Then, a doleful silence fell.
“And thank you as well,” Xeresa finally answered in a trembling voice after a seemingly long moment. She nodded, followed by Kameron and Justin. “Farewell, and take care.”
Xeresa smiled, before she and her tourists headed beyond the arch to leave the city. While she glanced at the mournful crowd a last time, she also noticed that the engravings of the arched sign had altered. Now bearing the beautiful city emblem, Xeresa’s stars glowed with a feeling of warmth and welcoming as she felt as if the spirit of the city itself stood at the gates to admit any visitors.
She set off on the departure with Kameron and Justin into the grey-blue shadows, following the glass compass as the cries of good-bye faded with the light. To her surprise, her companions each slung an arm around her shoulders and for the first time, she was no longer the unappreciated "witch" in the eyes of Justin.
"We did it, guys! And you know? Even after all we’ve been through, I'm glad we had this adventure,” he said proudly, not a shred of swashbuckling impudence left in his voice.
"Sure beats winning headless von roo plushies at the fairgrounds," Kameron agreed, straightening his robe. He looked up to the beautiful night sky.
As the clouds dispersed to reveal the brilliant moon, a new, lasting friendship had also been revealed. And as if the Stars themselves approved, Xeresa’s charm sparkled beautifully in the starlight.