Unrest: Part Eight
Jhudora stepped over Fyora's still form on the floor; the creature in her mind had left her so swiftly and suddenly that her mind had been left a void and would remain so for many hours.
Few beings—if any—in Neopia were harder to possess than the Faerie Queen, and few beings were easier to possess than her air-headed apprentice. And Jhudora was positive that, at a time like this, the only being around more desirable than the Faerie Queen was Massie.
The black sparks ceased, and a piercing cold entered Massie's heart, as though an icicle had been thrust into her chest. But the cold also brought a sudden clarity to her mind, and some feeling in her limbs.
She could actually see the magic leaking from her, clouds of silvery runes slipping into the air and igniting, charging, ramming, vibrating, and she tried to grab the magic, to keep it from causing more damage, tried to embrace the haze, grabbing at individual runes and even attempting to swallow them.
Then her left side—the side that had a chapbook in its pocket—convulsed, and her senses sharpened, really sharpened. She realized that her previous "clarity of mind" was only an illusion, a trick, to keep her from realizing that actually they really were spells, not just leaked magic.
Even as she grasped this, her mouth muttered and her arms gestured, releasing more destruction into the world.
And her right side froze for an instant, then started moving again, starting to cast some other spell.
Massie felt herself literally being torn apart. Her left side writhed and flapped, straining to fly to the fancy ship; the other half was busy making sure she did no such thing by hooking her foot around the doorframe, casting a grounding spell, and trying to call for help with half a mouth.
Jhudora frowned. Massie had sworn the Vow, when she first became apprentice, and if Jhudora invoked the power of the Vow, then Massie would have to obey her. But she wasn't, obviously—if she were obeying, there should have been some spectacular flashes by now.
Something else in the Shoyru's system had somehow usurped her position of control. Half of it, at least, and it was trying to make Massie fly over, presumably to do something that she wouldn't like, while unravelling the grounding spell she had so meticulously woven with casual flicks of the wrist.
She had a strong suspicion about who this mysterious controller was, and planned to check it as soon as possible, right after she assumed complete control of Massie, or the storm engulfed them all, whichever came first...
Without warning, the force trying to make her fly withdrew, with the suggestion of a cackle, and Massie found herself filled with a grim sense of purpose that did not belong to her.
She stumbled along, knocking Dethrin over, who leapt up at once and gave her a hug. "Massie!" he yelled enthusiastically. "I've been calling you for five minutes! Ellmel had a plan... "
Only five minutes? Massie wondered. It seems a lot longer. Her arms and legs seemed pumped full of lead, her head throbbed, and her power was bubbling in her like Edna's cauldron.
But it was under control. She drew a little, allowing the warmth to suffuse her mind, and watched it blossom into a light globe.
"That's very nice," said Dethrin. "What's it s'posed to do?"
A drop of rain hit her in the face and slid down, onto her mouth. Massie licked her lips, then spat as a searing sensation spread from her mouth to her throat. It made her aware of veins and nerves she hadn't known were there, and filled them with dark fire.
She wiggled her tail slightly, and the light became transparent as it stretched, covering herself and Dethrin. "It's a shield," she said, legs hurrying towards the fight.
"Don't worry. I'm in control," she said, unsure of who, exactly, had voiced these words.
Jhudora was angry. Oh, the struggle for control of Massie's body had ceased, all right, but not because she had defeated the opponent.
Oh, no. The opponent had withdrawn, right after which the storm cloud had come sailing over and dumped its poisonous cargo all over her.
She could already feel the rain eating through her shield.
And it wouldn't be long before her shield broke and the rain started gnawing at her.
I need to end this, she thought. Fast.
"I have to end this," Massie said, to the group of river-pets, faeries, sibling and Queenmb. "Or else this rain will burn us all."
"Can't you feel it?" Massie asked the Usul, confused.
"Okay, well, it will burn some of us, and that's bad. So we have to get away. And I think I can make them go away."
"And then?" demanded Queenmb, who still looked faintly resentful of having his position of authority stolen from him. Twice. Or maybe it counted as three times.
"Um... we go to Krawk Island, and hide?"
"The faeries are expecting us there!" Queenmb puffed himself up. "That's a ridiculous plan! They'll find us all in five minutes and eat us alive!"
"Actually, most faeries are vegetarians," Elwyn muttered. "You should know, after living in Faerieland for so long. Or maybe you were too busy stuffing your face with meat."
"—stick us on spears and bake us and—"
"Mister Queenmb," Ellemel said loudly, emphasizing the Mister. "Do you have a better plan?"
"I—I'm too tired to have a better plan!" the Tonu blustered.
"Very well then." Sarle nodded once. "Massie, the deck is yours. Everyone else," she raised her voice. "Get ready!"
All at once everyone bustled into action. The river pets picked up the arrows Elwyn had charmed for them with reluctantly awed expressions and climbed up onto the crow's nest to shoot at the by-now almost bare spot; the faeries took up positions around the boat and threw up a multicolored shield—to protect her, Sarle said, but which Massie suspected was actually supposed to protect everyone from her; and Massie was hustled into the kitchen by the cook and given a plate of food.
"Why are you giving me this?" Massie asked.
"'Till be a while 'fore th' shield breaks, hey?" The Grundo smiled. "Yeh'll need all th' strength ye kin git. Try th' food. 'Tis good."
"Good, maybe, but made in the same pots you melted grimy statues in," came Raven's grumble.
"War ye doin' in me kichin?"
"Sarle told us to stay with Massie." Annette nodded at the huge Grundo. "Your food smells great, by the way."
"Know it does." The Grundo nodded back politely. "Bes' be on me way up."
"Go ahead, Mass," Dethrin urged. "Eat up! It sure smells good."
Massie picked at the garlicky mashed potatoes. "I'm not really hungry," she mumbled, pushing the steaming plate away.
Raven groaned. "It isn't because you're afraid of lead poisoning, is it?" she asked. "Trust me, even if you were, it wouldn't make any difference."
"Massie." The Shoyru looked up at Annette. "No one will blame you if you don't do this."
"That's not true, is it?" she whispered, and dug her fork into the Conkerberry pie.
"It will be all right, Massie."
The green and golden-brown swirled together, and she felt her mouth go dry. "Thanks," she whispered, and ate her pie.
"Let's end this."
Massie stepped onto deck and heard a respectful silence fall. She was wondering whether or not it would be right to make small talk with them, to ease the tension in their faces, when a large wave pounded against the boat, reminding her that time was clinking past, with every little raindrop against her shield.
It has to end, she thought, for maybe the kazillionth time that day, and flew onto an upright barrel.
Instantly, good lucks and various other benedictions filled the air, although she wasn't sure whether or not fare thee well counted as one.
If she wanted to drive them away, she had to be brutal, and cruel. It will be easy, she thought. I know it will be.
She could see the shield, flickering lightly—it would crumple easily beneath her power. The pets would give little or no resistance, and the faeries were exhausted. And... she closed her eyes. Yes. Fyora was still unconscious, and Jhudora had retreated into some deep, dark recess of her mind.
It will be easy. It will almost be pathetic. Jhudora was right, Faerieland really has gone downhill.
She raised her arms gracefully, starting to form a pattern in her mind.
It will be so easy. I just don't know what will happen next.
She could crush that ship into firewood with ease, but she didn't know what would happen after that happened. Her magic, once tapped, would not stop flowing willingly, and it would probably consume this little boat as well.
And then what would happen?
It just has to stop, she told the doubts. I'll turn the power on myself, or control it, or something. But this has to end, right now, before someone else gets hurt.
A bright pattern flowered in her mind; a flower, cupping the ship with three layers of petals woven from fire.
As the petals spread, Massie closed her eyes. It's out of my paws now, she thought, pouring all the power she could into the spell. I just hope it's all out.
Faint screams rose from the ship. Several pets tried to jump, but Massie held them on the ship with her remaining magic. They would probably stay alive if they stayed on the ship; if they didn't, probably not. As the first layer hit, the shield cracked. Sighs and gasps rose from the river-pets as shards of broken magic shot into the air.
A few moments later, the second wave hit. The ship glowed blue for a moment, as the faeries on board tried to beat the flames back, then the light faded and the waves around the ship boiled as the final wave hit and the ship exploded.
Massie watched as the spell residue thrashed in a hectic seizure—waves tugging at the wind, clouds deafening, splinters swimming up as if to impale—and she drew up a shield.
She threw up a shield and blocked it all, easily, composedly. Not a tittle of stray power leaked from her, not a shiver of emotion passed through her mind.
"Well done, Massie," Sarle said softly, new respect—or maybe it was wariness—in her eyes.
Massie shuddered and allowed her shield to vanish. "Are they—is anyone—"
"They're all alive," the water faerie answered, gesturing at the burning craft. "See? No spirits."
Massie looked up and saw no smoking spirits screaming into the air. Good, she thought dimly.
Then—Maybe Sarle cast an invisibility spell.
"Jhudora still has enough magic to take them back to Faerieland," Sarle reassured her. "No one will die, Massie."
"Never mind them now." Annette came closer. "How do you feel?"
Massie tilted her head and considered. "Um... hungry?" she suggested, and fell asleep.
The last thing she knew was a soft voice whispering to her. That was very well done indeed... sleep now... you have exhausted your store of magic, and all will be well, for a while, at least...
Ten minutes later, Massie opened her eyes, and was faintly surprised to see her family gathered around her. She was lying on a creaky but comfortable bed, and, when she turned her head, she saw what appeared to be the contents of the entire kitchen piled up on the floor and bedside table.
"How are you?" asked Annette anxiously.
"Lucky," whispered Massie.
"I didn't blow the ship up and I didn't kill anyone." The Shoyru smiled. "And I'm still alive."
"I'm happy." Massie pointed at herself, specifically at the big smile on her face.
"So, how was fighting a faerie?" asked Massie as Dethrin wolfed down two or three ham sandwiches. At the same time.
The Zafara swallowed noisily and rolled his eyes. "It was just like that," he said, taking a swig of Conkerberry juice. "Like, when I first throwed a muffin at the faeries, I felt this buzzing in my stomach, and I thought it was because I was so happy and excited. What's that word again, Raven?"
"Exhilarated." The Uni grunted.
"Right. That. But then after I threw four or ten muffins, I sorta realized that it wasn't acceleration, I was just sorta getting hungry from looking at all the muffins."
"It's EXHILARATION, you idiot."
"Yeah, something like that."
Massie tuned them out and looked over at the river (technically now sea) pets, working to repair the damage she had wrought, to make sure they—she—stayed safe.
She looked over at Dethrin and Raven, arguing over the correct way to move one's mouth, and Annette, setting the enormous table on deck with the Grundo chef. The faeries were somewhere, trying to figure out how to brew Healing Potions from Conkerberries, and Inman wasn't actually dead, he had just been lying down so they wouldn't shoot him.
All was well, for a while at least, and Massie smiled as the sunlight bloomed on her face.
She had managed to control her power, and she would be ready for whatever came next.
At least, she hoped so, and in all the fantastic adventures she'd ever read—and this was definitely a fantastic adventure—hoping made something so.
Oh yes. Everything will be all right. You don't even have to hope... everything was set into motion so long ago that hope has become fairly redundant.
And believe me, everything will be all right.
A dark laugh erupted, ripping holes in the current. In fact, you will love everything that is to come so much that you will become part of it... you will BE it...