Scarlet Shadow: Secrets and Reunions - Part One
The blizzard swept quickly across the valleys below Terror Mountain. The storms barely gave any warning as to when they would strike. All one could see was blinding white; all one could feel was stinging cold. Very few escaped these blizzards when they were caught outside. Countless had perished within the storms.
Four travelers, however, had just arrived at their destination. The large castle loomed over them. Its form would fool most as a small mountain, yet our trekkers knew its secrets. They spoke not a single word as they were led inside by other forms, unrecognizable as the storm continued its rampage.
The four were led wordlessly down the corridors of the caste. On the walls were countless works of art. The cold air was lessened in intensity inside, although the biting chill never truly left. The halls were lit by the rare illuminating gems on the ceiling. As the light bounced off the walls, it seemed to spread its shine in a pattern of beautiful lights.
This beauty was lost on all but one of the travelers. The Lupess walked quietly beside her Guild Master, gazing with awe at the beauty of the palace. It seemed so long since she had last been within these walls. She sighed, holding her cloak tighter as a chill seemed to descend upon her. She wondered silently when the endless halls would halt and when they would finally see the one who had summoned them to the snowy wasteland...
The doors opened wide to announce the arrival of the travelers; trumpets roared in recognition. The room they were now in was simply, yet elegantly, furnished. The walls were of white marble and had been carved by expert hands. Images of gallant warriors were all embedded in breathtaking accuracy upon the stone. Unlike the corridors, there was but one tapestry inside the room. Upon it was the image of an Island Aisha. Her piercing eyes were a stunning, icy blue and her strawberry blonde hair fell down to her shoulders. The very same Aisha now sat atop the throne standing before them.
The Lady Cios stood silently. She bowed in greeting. “Lord Kanrik,” she began, “I do hope your trip was uneventful?”
The Guild Master of Veneration dropped his hood and did a quick bow. The Gelert was well-built and had sharp black eyes. These eyes, once solid in their shade, now had a small streak of red in them, as though a red shaft of light was shining from an unknown source. “It was,” he stated, “until this blizzard hit. It was a good thing we were already nearing your palace, Lady Cios.”
Kanrik dusted the snow from a beautiful golden scepter. The clasp had a simple appearance of having thorny vines entwine it. The top of the scepter was decorated by a breathtaking, blood-red gem. It was the King’s Scepter, an ancient relic acquired three months back. It was only when the scepter had come into the Gelert’s possession that his eyes acquired their strange red glow.
Cios then turned her attention to the Lupess. Her long black hair was tied neatly in a braid. Her slim figure was dyed Shadow, a trait she had acquired on her previous journey to Terror Mountain. She gazed at Cios with stunning indigo eyes. One thing Cios didn’t notice was the small birthmark on her cheek. The mark was of a sun with eight rays. None had ever noticed it safe for her steed, Shade.
“It is a pleasure to have you here once more, Scarlet,” Cios stated, dipping her head slightly, a habit she had picked up from the young thief.
Scarlet dipped her head in the same manner, smiling. “It is an honor to be here, Milady.”
Cios hopped off the throne and walked over to the two thieves and their Unis. She snapped her fingers. A Green Nimmo had been standing silently by the Lady’s throne. Now, she stepped forward. “Kanrik, my Captain shall take you to the assembly hall,” Cios said. “Scarlet and I have a few other matters to discuss and will follow shortly.”
Cios turned to the other two travelers. One was a muscular Shadow Uni and the other a Checkered Uni. Both had been silent since arrival. “You two may stay here, but if you require rest, please do not hesitate to tell one of the guards.”
“Thank you, Lady Cios,” Shade responded, bowing his head.
Cios smiled as she took Scarlet’s hand. “Come,” she beckoned, pulling Scarlet to the corridor.
The two walked down the shining halls in silence. Neither said a single word, each waiting for the other. Needless to say, Cios was not one for patience. “So, aren’t you supposed to ask me something?” the Lady asked finally.
“Am I?” Scarlet said.
“He’s alright, thanks for asking.”
Scarlet knew exactly who Cios was referring to. “That’s good,” she responded.
“He wanted to come, but he’s quite busy.”
“I’m sure. Kreio had many skeletons in his closet. Add that to all the drama in Sakhmet lately and, well...”
Cios pressed her lips together. “So, how’s your life going?” she asked, changing the subject abruptly.
“I infiltrated Meridell Palace.” Scarlet’s lips strayed close to a smile. “It was... interesting.”
“I heard about that,” Cios stated. “I also heard you had quite the talent with the harp.”
“You could say that, I suppose,” Scarlet said.
More silence loomed over the two. A familiar hall soon greeted Scarlet. And soon enough, they came to the entrance of the assembly hall. A large glass table stood in the center, its see-through property lost due to the thick layer of frost formed atop the large surface. Those who were supposed to be seated were all standing, all arguing. It was utter chaos.
Everyone was talking at the same time and all anyone was interested in was being heard. The only silent one was Kanrik. Cios noticed Scarlet’s uneasiness, and she knew why. The Gelert was renowned for enjoying a good argument. “Ok, that’s ENOUGH!” Cios yelled. It quieted down... slightly. “Are we in a marketplace or a meeting?”
“Lady Cios,” a desert Shoyru began, “Lord Razios claims that I called this meeting! The last thing I wanted to do was travel from my desert home to this snowy wasteland! It was he who called the meeting, was it not?”
“No, it was Captain Mizzen!” Lord Razios, a purple Grundo exclaimed. “Either him or your brother!”
“As I recall, it was Lord Kanrik!” a faerie Techo, Lady Sies, interjected.
“It most certainly was not me,” Kanrik said calmly. “It was you, Lady Cios, who called me, was it not?”
Cios rubbed her temples. “I received a letter from each of you requesting a meeting here!”
Silence hung over the council. Just as some of the other Guild Masters began opening their mouths, Scarlet interjected. “Ok, we all need to calm down.” She glared about the room. “And, I mean the calm we stay in, not the calm in the middle of the storm.”
Cios had to agree. “Why don’t we all rest for a few minutes? We can continue these proceedings afterward...”
Scarlet’s head was aching. She was tiring quickly of the arguing and the shouting. Even after the recess had been called, the Guild Masters REFUSED to overlook the issue as to who had summoned them. She began to tap the glass table. What on Neopia was she doing here anyway?! Kanrik had requested her to come along. Even after saying she would much rather stay in Meridell, the Gelert had simply insisted that she go.
The Lupess watched the debates go on. Nothing could prepare her for what lay ahead. Kanrik raised the Scepter. The gem caught the light, blinding them all for crucial moments. Her eyes accustomed themselves quickly and Scarlet’s whole body seemed to chill.
Atop the glass table stood the most beautiful Dark Faerie the Lupess had ever seen. Her hair was black and flowed down to where she stood atop the table. Her eyes were charcoal grey. The long purple robes she wore were made of silk with trimmings of lace. Her wings were black on the edges and silver on the innermost portions. Her emotion was obviously of anger; hatred burned in her otherwise beautiful eyes.
The faerie stretched out her hand toward Scarlet and a blast of indigo fire leaped toward her. Scarlet ducked, missing the blast by mere centimeters. The Lupess tumbled under the table, thankful for the concealing frost. The faerie’s melodic voice beckoned to her. “You are strong,” she stated. “It would be such a waste to turn you into a mindless minion.” With this she indicated to Kanrik.
“Minion?” Scarlet let out a chuckle, hiding her fear. “More like slave.”
The Gelert stepped forward; his eyes alight with the strange red glow. “It is better this way, Scarlet,” he said. “The Lady Betrayal seeks to bring this world to peace.”
“That’s what they all say, Kanrik,” Scarlet retorted. She risked a glance from where she knelt under the table. The thieves around the chamber all had the strange glint in their eyes. Another blast of fire hurtled toward her and the Lupess was forced back under. She saw water dripping to the floor. The frost was melting. Soon the glass would be see-through once more.
Scarlet knew the chamber had but one exit, and that exit was at the other side of the room. Without warning, the Lupess’ head throbbed. She shut her eyes as she felt another presence in her mind. It was clawing at her memories, twisting her thoughts. Her actions were not her own.
The pain stopped and Scarlet looked up. She was standing before the Lady Betrayal, her hands engulfed in indigo flames. The faerie stared at the Lupess in disbelief. Her eyes were wide with surprise. Scarlet took the opportunity. She quickly directed the flames toward the faerie and let them fly.
The thieves around her stepped forward, grabbing her arms. Scarlet struggled fiercely, her eyes growing darker...
Shade waited inside the throne room. The Uni was growing weary of waiting. Perhaps now was the time to retire to his room, just as Sable had done. As he made his way to the door, the Uni couldn’t help thinking of Scarlet. She should have been back by now. Meetings weren’t her thing. Shade stopped. Perhaps he should wait just a bit longer.
The doors to the room seemed to creak as someone pushed them from the other side. Scarlet entered. Shade reared up in surprise as he studied the Lupess. Her clothes were ripped and she had numerous cuts. Her breathing was heavy and she seemed about to fall in exhaustion.
“Scarlet!” Shade exclaimed, rushing toward her. He could hear shouting from the hall.
Scarlet mounted. “Illusen’s Glade,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. “I need to go to... Illusen’s...” Scarlet’s breathing worsened. “Now, Shade!”
The doors burst wide. Kanrik and Cios sped inside. “Shade, Scarlet’s not well!” Cios exclaimed. There was something off about the Aisha.
“She started seeing things, then attacked us!” Kanrik continued.
“They’re with her, Shade,” Scarlet rasped. “We need to get out of here.” Shade hesitated for a second longer, then charged right for the door. Despite all the thieves blocking his way, the Uni was unstoppable.
“This is Scarlet,” Shade said silently to himself. “This is the princess I helped train.” He narrowly missed being hit by a spear. So they were going to attack him now, were they? “This is the girl who saved my life.” The front doors were slammed shut. He turned right, taking the long staircase. “This is the girl who gave everything for her people... For MY people...” A shower of arrows sped toward him. “This is the one to whom I owe a great debt.” Finally, he reached the top, a large balcony. As he leapt off, the words escaped his lips like an arrow off the bow, “Illusen’s Glade it is, Milady...” Another rain of arrows sped toward their target as Shade sped into the awaiting blizzard.
Scarlet’s eyes opened. Her body ached. Slowly, she rose. Her body practically screamed for her to lie back down. Stubbornly, she sat up. Her trained eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness. She was near Illusen’s Glade, alright. The trees here were thick enough to block out a full moon. Scanning her surroundings, she gasped. Shade was a little way off watching her. A large scar was across his face.
“Shade!” Scarlet yelled, ignoring her pain as she ran toward the Uni. She collapsed just short of reaching him. Shade trotted to where the Lupess sat. “What happened?” she questioned.
“Nothing you should worry about, Princess,” Shade responded. At least the scar across his face was the only injury he sustained. “I should be asking YOU what happened.”
Scarlet rubbed her head. “I-I don’t remember,” she said. “I don’t remember anything except...”
“That faerie,” Scarlet whispered. “Those flames...” Shade listened intently as Scarlet relayed what had happened in the throne room, from the appearance of the Dark faerie to the strange attack. “When I felt her clawing into my head, I also heard her thoughts... her plans...” Scarlet raised her head to look directly into Shade’s eyes. “Shade, did you see any oak trees around here?”
The two arrived at the oak tree with much difficulty. The ancient tree was bent over. Its roots were tangled in heaps at its base. Scarlet kneeled beside it. Her weary hands slid over the coarse roots until she found what she was looking for. The gap was slim between the roots. She reached in and uncovered a bottle. Laden with moss after so long under the tree, she could not see its content. Trusting fully in Illusen’s words, she put the bottle to her lips and drank...
Jeran plopped on his bed, ridiculously exhausted. His mind was plagued by all the things he would have to do the following day. Everything had been scheduled, down to the last detail. The celebration would be held in the fairgrounds and all were welcome. The Darigan-Meridell Peace Anniversary was an event no one would miss.
The blue Lupe’s thoughts drifted deeper until the face of a lovely young Acara found its way into his mind. He smiled as he watched her running through the streets at night, chasing the crook who had stolen her bracelet. He saw himself in front of her, waving his small sword around. The events continued to play until it came to the face off. He watched as he charged and as his sword caught fire – indigo fire...
Jeran shot up and tumbled out of bed. Indigo fire?! “Lila used indigo fire,” he stated out loud. The image of the pretty Lupess was still etched in his mind. The pretty black eyes, the long black hair... Her sudden show of power in overcoming the tyrant Galem seemed to remind Jeran greatly of the night in the alley. Could it be possible that the Lupess, Lila, was somehow connected with Crystal, the long-lost heir to Meridell’s throne?
“Impossible,” Jeran said, but then his mind began to meld the pieces of the puzzle together. Her love for the harp, her skill with the butterfly swords, even her chiming laugh that had seemed so familiar to Jeran – all were so closely similar to Crystal! In the depths of his mind, a memory once again stirred. Lila’s black eyes were looking at him, but through Crystal’s gaze. Lila’s eyes weren’t black, they were a deep indigo!
Jeran was out the door in a matter of seconds. He raced for the king’s bedchamber. It was impossible, yet so obvious! Just before reaching the chamber, he collided head-first with none other than Tor. “J-Jeran!” the yellow Lupe stuttered.
“Tor, give me a minute, I need to speak with King Skarl!” Jeran stated hastily. Leaving Tor open-mouthed, Jeran quickly threw the chamber doors open, the Draik sentries not daring to stop him.
The loud sounds woke the king. He sat up in bed. “What is all this noise about?!” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
“Milord, I believe I know how we can find Lady Crystal!” Jeran exclaimed.
“You’ve got that right!” Tor responded. “She’s waiting in the Marble Chamber right now!”
Both Jeran and Skarl turned to Tor. “WHAT?!”
To be continued...