Herald of Darkness: Part Four
Veliant the earth faerie walked slowly through the small forest, smiling serenely. The Faerie Court could be so troublesome at times, especially since she was expected to represent the entire race of earth faeries. Sometimes she wished that she could just... get away from it all for a while, longer than it took to take a stroll through the woods.
The faerie skipped over a small stream, and continued her walk. The sun shone brightly that day, and the gentle rays warmed her check. A small Angelpuss flitted by, and Veliant absentmindedly cast a simple spell that took away any hunger the small creature might be feeling. It was a beautiful day out, and the Queen had just called another Court; the second in as many days...
Suddenly, a dark shadow fell across the sunlit path, and Veliant turned in surprise. There, standing above her on a ledge, was a tall, dangerous looking dark faerie. It took a second for Veliant to register who it was, and when she did, she frowned, and planted her feet firmly into the ground.
“What business do you have here, Jhudora?” The question was not at all welcoming or nice in any way. It was a well known fact among the faerie gossipers that Jhudora meant nothing but bad news--even though she had never done anything to be convicted of. That is, Veliant reminded herself, Fyora was never able to prove anything. Everyone knew the dark faerie was responsible for the disappearance of the group of five little Kacheeks who had come to her bluff.
“Do I have to have a reason for being outside on such a nice day?” Jhudora asked, jumping down to land beside Veliant. “Why does everyone seem to despise me so?”
“You know better than any of us, witch.” spat Veliant. The earth turned on her heel, and started to stroll away.
“Veliant, don’t leave.” Veliant knew as soon as the words were uttered from Jhudora that they weren’t just words. Magic echoed in the background, and the earth faerie found it hard to resist the dark faerie’s call.
“I... I have to...” Veliant struggled, but it was no use. She used her last moments of free will to send a patchy warning to Fyora in the form of a small, shimmering magic Buzzer, then succumbed to Jhudora’s will.
“Good... very good,” purred Jhudora, opening a gateway to the small pocket dimension in which she and Xandra were storing the captive faeries.
When Jhudora had proposed the idea to Xandra, the young Xweetok had had no idea what the dark faerie was talking about. She described it as thinking of the world as a giant aquarium filled with water. Creating a small space somewhere else in the folds of reality was rather like creating a tiny bubble in the middle of the aquarium, but filling it, too, with water.
Meanwhile, the space between two old, gnarled trees transformed into a doorway to a small, dark room in which sat six other faeries, all bound by different magical means. Seria the light faerie was out cold, and Chleofa the air faerie was trapped in a small, impenetrable bubble, for example. Jhudora ordered Veliant to go into the room and sleep until she was awoken by either her or Xandra. Then, the dark faerie sealed the passage to the dimension, and flew away to her bluff.
“Seven out of seven,” she muttered, cackling evilly in midair. “Now for the crown jewel.”
“Mistress, you have a visitor,” the small serving faerie said softly to the door leading into Fyora’s private chambers, a place where she had spent considerable time lately. Inside, Fyora was listening to a little Buzzer talking rapidly in an earth faerie’s voice, warning her of something...
“Very well. Send her in.” The answer was a weary one, a voice that sounded like it had been dragged through a ten-mile long obstacle course full of mud, mountains, barbed wire and deep trenches. The Faerie Queen sounded absolutely drained.
The serving faerie swept her hand inwards, allowing Chleofa, the representative of the element of air on the Court, to step inside the tower waiting room.
“Hiana, dear,” the chubby faerie answered, smiling up at the taller guest. She had always liked the air faerie and the feeling only improved by the fact that she was taking concern in the Queen’s recent ill-like behavior. “And don’t mention it. You just go right ahead through that door there, that’s a good girl.” Hiana smiled as Chleofa walked past her and gently entered Fyora’s chambers. The serving faerie ambled away, humming quietly to herself. A broom swept the stone floor by itself at her ankles, and she absentmindedly dusted the railing on her way down the stairs. The motherly faerie never heard the blast of magic above her through the silencing spell that the Chleofa-puppet had cast, nor did she notice any signs whatsoever of the violent struggle taking place as she cleaned, humming her little song.
Fyora watched the rope-bound Chleofa struggle against her bonds, snarling viciously. Just a few minutes earlier, the normally gracious, good-natured faerie had attacked her, trying to... to...
“Chleofa, what do you think you’re doing?” asked Fyora, eyes narrowed. Here, before her very eyes, was another strange event to add to the list of recent days. The Queen wasn’t stupid enough to still assume that this was actually Chleofa. No, she had to act like it to make whoever was really tied up in front of her think that the Faerie Queen still thought she was the real air faerie.
However, at Fyora’s question, the faerie started to laugh madly, hair whipping around her head in a wind that wasn’t there. Small purple sparks swirled through the air, consuming the insane air faerie. A high, evil voice spoke through the whirlwind of sparks, not at all that of the normal Chleofa’s.
“Until next time, Queen.”
A second later, the ropes that had tied her to the bed hung loose, and the Chleofa imposter was gone. Fyora stood, staring at the spot where she had once been, clutching her staff tightly in her right hand. How had Jhudora infiltrated Faerie City like this? How had she allowed this to happen? What was she doing now, after her failed attempt on the Queen’s life?
One thing Fyora was sure of. She wasn’t going to stand idly while dark forces once again stirred on the soil she controlled. The Queen was fed up with the attacks on her land. She was not going to watch Faerieland crumble once again. This time, she would take action before it was too late. Fyora waved her hand over the glowing pink orb in her staff’s center, and a picture of a gruff, scarred faerie appeared in it.
“Captain Riggs,” the Queen said, her voice shaking with a fury she hadn’t known for years, “prepare the Scorch Wind for takeoff.”
Two and a half hours later, a massive Shenkuu flying ship broke through the cloud line, rising magnificently up to meet the shining sun. It was three hundred feet long, with huge canvas sails billowing in the winds. The hull was painted orange-red, and streaked with a dark, beautiful purple, making the ship look like a flying sunset. A figurehead of a faerie clutching a sun in her cupped hands sat on front, with the sun being a lantern to guide the way. Two dozen battle faeries lined each side, swords drawn, purple hair whipping around their grim faces. There was no need for any crew besides the captain, as the Scorch Wind mainly took care of itself. Captain Riggs herself manned the wheel, a slight smile on her face. Fyora stood beside her, looking as beautiful as always, but in a different way this time. Her tired, haggard face was set in anger, and her crystal staff hummed ominously.
After about a half hour, the air itself seemed to darken, and smog choked all aboard the ship. The land below took on a sickly, unhealthy look, and, a couple miles ahead, a gloomy, broken castle loomed.
“This is the place, Captain,” Fyora whispered, readying her staff. The previous surge of anger she had felt in her chambers was gone, replaced by something more like a solid determination, a determination to stop another threat to Faerieland before it could strike...
“Jhudora!” the Queen called down from the flying ship, her voice magnified. “Show yourself!” Every faerie on board the Scorch Wind held her breath, waiting for a reply. It was a rare occasion that Fyora visited the dark faerie herself, much less demanded her presence in her own property.
After ten minutes, nothing had happened still. Fyora called twice more, and waited again the sixth of an hour, and still Jhudora did not answer, or call. The Queen yelled a fourth time, and when nothing so much as moved below, the determination that the Faerie Queen felt cracked and broke, and turned into a mounting rage, one of protectiveness for her faeries, and one for Jhudora; the insolent faerie had never thought of answering to her queen before, thought that she could do whatever she liked.
Not this time, thought Fyora, tightening her grip on her staff. This time, she pays.
Without much thinking, the Queen screamed a spell, and a mighty surge of bright pink energy shot from her staff and hurtled towards the castle. Several of the battle faeries on board gave a start at the sudden movement, but made no further attempt to stop their Queen. A faint purple bubble flickered to life as the bolt of magic neared the castle, but as soon as it touched the ward, the bubble froze over and shattered, like a giant glass dome being broken by a thrown rock. The pink glob broke through several more barriers, and finally collided with the heart of the castle, making a shining light so intense that the crew of the Scorch Wind had to cover their eyes, lest they be blinded.
When the light died down, a massive, smoking crater sat in the center of the castle, surrounded only by a few lone towers that had managed to survive. Even as the crew of the Scorch Wind watched, one of the highest towers gave way, and slowly toppled over, like a giant, ancient tree finally giving up after thousands of years. The tower hit the ground with a mighty crash, and all was still.
“Jhudora, I ask you one last time. Speak to us, or have the rest of your land destroyed.” Fyora yelled this, but her heart was no longer in it. Now, her chest was only filled with a sinking, dreading feeling. What in Neopia had she just done? Why had she just blasted apart a sister faerie’s home on the account of a few suspicions? She was the faerie of kindness, equality and truth, not of destruction or hate or rashness!
“Captain Riggs... take us home,” the Queen whispered, conjuring up a chair to sit in. She sat down hard, staring at a knot of wood in a board. What would the Faerie Court think? She would surely have to stand trial... but everyone hated Jhudora, so maybe she would be let off? But even as she thought that, Fyora shook her head in disgust. No, she deserved whatever punishment would befall her, no matter the account of her vicious, sudden attack.
No one looked back. Not one head turned south. None of the twenty battle faeries, or Captain Riggs, saw the fake castle image dissolve in a flurry of dark purple sparks that took to the wind, leaving the actual one behind, perfectly intact. Fyora, however, watched it happened, but thought it might just be her, going mad at last. Troubled, she turned and whispered to Captain Riggs, telling her what she had just beheld.
“Something is seriously wrong, Captain,” Fyora said, mouth almost touching her ear. Then, on an impulse, “I want you to go and search for the seven faeries of the Court, no matter what you hear about me, understand?”
Captain Riggs nodded, and spun the wheel of the Scorch Wind northward.
To be continued...