The Sorcery Society: Part Nine
As I was being teleported home, I was totally and completely unable to enjoy the colorful sights of the various worlds that I traveled through. My mind was spinning from my run-in with Jhidaya; what, I wondered, in horror, was she planning to do to them? Over and over again, I mentally slapped myself - I'd ruined everything! They'd all been living so peacefully all this time; Ru with his two sons, Merah with her bakery, Vidla with her fashion line... And now it was all going to be ruined, all because of me.
At that moment, I vowed to do anything - anything - to get rid of Jhidaya and make sure all five of them would be safe again.
Well, that was what I was in the middle of vowing when I found myself suspended ten feet above the floor of my bedroom, right before I found myself falling face-first onto the cold, hard ground. As pain coursed from my face and throughout my body, I heard voices - two, to be exact - mingling around in the room and filling my ears. One of them I recognised as Citrus; the other one, I realized, was Athy's.
"Really, Athy!" Citrus squeaked. "Emmie was here - and she was also glowy - and then she just went... poof!" I was sure that, with the words "poof", Citrus was waving her arms exaggeratedly, or maybe she was jumping in the air and crazily waving her limbs in order to demonstrate "poof."
Obviously, they hadn't noticed I was there (maybe I fell silently?), because Athy replied, "Citrus, are you sure? Maybe - maybe you just imagined that she went 'poof' but really - but really she... she climbed out the window or something. Anyhow, I'm sure she'll be back very, very soon."
Irritated that they hadn't acknowledged my presence yet, I let out a loud, exaggerated groan.
"Emmie!" Athy cried.
"Emmie!" Citrus squealed.
The two quickly ran to my side; Athy hooked her arm under my waist and hauled me into a weak standing position, then allowed me to drape my arm over her shoulder. I was still weak from travel, but, after a few moments, I was able to stand, trembling, without Athy's support. I slipped my arm off of her shoulder.
Then the sheer importance of the situation hit me, sharp as a dagger.
"I have to go back to Shenkuu!" I screamed. "Or else - or else Jhidaya's going to kill them!" Well, I wasn't exactly sure of that. But at that moment, I was ready to believe anything.
"Shenkuu?" Athy asked, eyes wide. "Emmie, what are you talking about?"
"I used magic!" I yelled back at her. "I teleported to Shenkuu and met Ru Ralander. But Jhidaya tailed me, and now she's going to get revenge on them! And it's all my fault! I have to go back!"
Athy's expression was one of surprise and sympathy, but I still noticed her eyes steeling defensively. "You can't face a dark faerie alone. I'm going with you."
"Me, too!" Citrus cried out.
I wasn't sure what to do. Was I really going to risk the lives of my little sister and friend, as well as my own, to save the lives of three people - no, five - that I hardly knew?
Of course not.
But I was more than willing to offer my own, especially since the endangerment of their lives was my fault. I decided to let Athy and Citrus tag along - since there was little time for petty arguing - and then leave them outside the treehouse to "lookout" or something like that. Athy wouldn't be happy about it, but Citrus would love it - "I'm playing bodyguard," she'd probably say.
"Okay," I said. "Hold my hands. This is going to feel weird."
Athy and Citrus each entwined their hands in my own. I supposed that the spell would work, even though there were three of us, and I was the only one chanting the spell. I said the spell, and replied "Ru Ralander" - but there was no strange tingling sensation in our hands, and none of us gave off an ethereal glow. I quickly separated from them, resolving to complete the mission on my own.
"Sorry, guys," I said, before they could protest. But even after I'd rapidly spoken the spell again, nothing happened. I felt frustration tying up inside me in a knot. What?! I thought, angrily, Is this a two-time only spell?! What in Neopia is going on here?!
"Maybe Jhidaya put a lock on the spell," Athy said. I gave her a how-in-the-world-did-you-come-up-with-that look. She shrugged. "I read it somewhere in a book, once. She could've put a lock on the Shenkuuvian portal for the spell or something, so now you can't get through."
I contemplated this, before announcing, loudly, "Well, let's get to the docks, people! We need to catch a boat to Shenkuu stat!"
I was standing at the head of the Shenkuuvian flying boat and was leaning over the banister, allowing the wind to sweep through my fur. After a while, Athy joined me. Even though she was four years older at me, I realized with a start that the Faerie Gelert was my best friend.
I'd lived in Neopia Central all my life. I wasn't popular, but I wasn't lonely, either - I had my own small group of friends, which Athy was separate from, of course. But I was not particularly close to any of them, and Athy - Athy I knew. Maybe not in terms of favorite food and color, but in terms of - in terms of knowing. Like, I knew that Athy would do anything for the people she cared about. I knew that Athy loved reading and learning with a passion. That she enjoyed helping people, and making others happy. That she lived for the feeling of satisfying others and meeting their demands and needs. That she was not the type to complain, because she appreciated everything that life threw at her, the goods and the bads.
At one point, Athy said, "I can't believe this is actually happening."
I laughed. "I actually forgot that it was summer the other day, and was panicking that I had missed school because I was concentrating so hard on this adventure.
Athy laughed, too. Then she suddenly became serious and said, "We're almost there."
We were flying over Altador at that moment. In the distance, Shenkuu was a warm-colored dot, red and yellow and orange and pink. "Yup," I said.
We were the first ones to come off the boat; I was the very first. I ran as hard as my Wocky legs would carry me; at my side, but just a little behind me, Athy flew, her wings flapping rapidly as she clutched an excited Citrus in her arms. I imagined what the locals that we passed must've been thinking - maybe "What in Neopia?", or "Was that a faerie pet?", or maybe even "Was that the shadow Usul?" I gulped, wondering where Trish was - was she mad at us? Was she wondering where we were? It didn't matter at that moment, though. All that mattered was saving Ru, Xav, Zach, Merah, and Vidla.
I couldn't remember the exact location of the treehouse - Ru had mentioned the address at some point, but I couldn't recall what it was. All I remembered that it was in the middle of a sparse cherry blossom tree forest, which were very rare. When I finally admitted that I had no idea what direction we were supposed to go in, Athy made me stop; she asked directions to the "Cherry Blossom Forest" from a young blue Cybunny dressed in a glamorous pink kimono.
"The Cherry Blossom Forest?" she asked, confused. Then her eyes lit up. "Oh! You mean the Sakura Woods." She laughed. "You foreigners are so amusing." When it was obvious that we weren't amused, her light-hearted smile vanished. "That way," she said, pointing to the right side of a fork in the road we were traveling on. "You can't miss it."
Without even much of a thank you, we continued on our way; the Cybunny was right. It was impossible to miss the wide, sprawling meadows, speckled by gigantic cherry blossom trees and littered with fields of tall, sweeping grass. The treehouse loomed in the distance on one of the taller trees; we were about a hundred feet away from it when Athy caught my shoulder and threw me to the ground.
I was surprised by her strength. But I was also annoyed.
"What are you doing?" I cried through gritted teeth.
"Ssssh!" Athy hissed. "Look! It's guarded!"
I clumsily got onto all fours and looked at the direction of the treehouse. Athy was right. The treehouse was surrounded by maybe a hundred, two hundred Barbats, all of them making strange squeaking sounds that sounded like high-pitched versions of Jhidaya's evil cackle. They looked bloodthirsty.
I turned to Athy. "How much of a fighter are you?" I asked.
The Gelert shook her head. "I'm perfectly capable of defending myself - my level's in the hundreds," she said, and, then, a little softly, she added, "But it's you I'm worried about."
I felt my fur bristle. I was offended, but it was obvious that Athy was right. I was only level one or two at the time - after all, I'd convinced Trish to completely ignore training me and to instead spend codestone money on books. I deeply regretted that decision.
"I'll distract them," Athy offered. "They're obviously itching to fight. While I hold them off, you can get into the treehouse."
"I'll help!" Citrus suddenly cried out with determination.
"No, you won't," I warned her. "This is for the big girls. Got that?"
The Uni pouted and turned away.
I was nervous. The Barbats didn't look ordinary - they looked fierce; they might've even been bewitched.
"You ready?" Athy asked.
"Yeah," I lied.
Athy flew out first, whacking four Barbats to the ground with two powerful punches. The high-pitched squealing of the Barbats instantly intensified, and they began to swarm around her like a great, angry cloud. Actually, the Barbats didn't seem angry - they seemed pleased. They wanted to fight.
I gulped before running, as fast possible, out into the open - they didn't even notice me. As quickly as possible, I began to climb the tree, concealing myself among the cherry blossoms (although this was a little difficult, since I was painted shadow). After a while, I felt safe enough to cast a glance at Athy every now and then - and found my little sister among the mess, furiously punching and kicking Barbats in the face with a loud "Hi-YAH! Take that, you little vermin!"
And, despite my worry, I couldn't help but feel proud. After taking a single second to watch, I turned away and refocused on my ascent of the Ralander tree.
When I reached the trapdoor and tugged on the rope, it didn't budge. With all of my strength, I pulled but it still wouldn't move, not even a little. Then I got an idea.
Sorry, Merah, I thought as I removed the silver chain from my neck. I slipped the length of rope through the ring and tied a tight knot. Then, with a little pulling, I was able to slide the chain over one of the lower cherry blossoms.
Then, desperation clawing inside of me, I climbed to a higher branch, resisted the urge to close my eyes, and jumped.
I landed right on top of the branch, and my paws gripped it on impulse. The trapdoor was pulled back just a little - just enough to open it a crack. The branch, however, went soaring downwards and broke from the pressure; I quickly reached for another branch and found myself hazardously dangling two hundred feet in the air as the branch, as well as Merah's ring and necklace, plummeted to the ground.
My eyes widened when the Barbats began to swarm around the broken remains of the branch; a moment later, I found a hundred or so pairs of little red eyes staring up at me.
And then they began flying up.
I swung myself onto a nearby branch and pawed my way up toward the trapdoor. But the Barbats were fast. They were only twenty feet or so away, their high-pitched squeals at full volume, as I desperately tugged on the only slightly opened the door - but it opened. I pulled myself inside and slammed down the door; on it lay a shattered latch. I pressed the weight of my body down on the door as the squealing Barbats slammed hard against it, shrieking so loud that my ears felt as if they were going to explode. After a few minutes, however, they lost interest, and the squeals began to fade away into obscurity, as did the pressure on the trapdoor.
I collapsed on the floor, sweaty and exhausted. After a few minutes, I realized that something was strange about the inside of the house.
It was pitch black.
Outside, sunset had only just begun - how could it be pitch black in this window-filled house? I wondered. Even after waiting a few minutes, my eye still hadn't adjusted to the darkness. I assumed that it was just something that Jhidaya had conjured up.
I felt around for something, anything, give help me get a grip on my whereabouts. What I found was a strangely shaped item that was like a rod with a flat head on top. It had a switch. When I pressed the switch, a beam of yellow light cut through the darkness. It was a flashlight.
I waved the flashlight around before discovering a small white note in the spot where I found the useful item.
To My Dear Emmie,
In the attic dealing with Ru. Good luck finding the brats, the pink furball, and the annoying island girl. It'll be nice seeing you again. None of this would've been possible without you. (-;
To be continued...