More Powerful than Magic: Part Two
Jazan stood still as the stone statue that Xandra had once turned him into, unable to fully comprehend the Faerie Queen’s disastrous news. He hadn’t spared the Xweetok sorceress more than a passing thought in years. She was a statue in Fyora’s garden, transformed by her own backfiring curse and left to sit in still silence as punishment for her crimes. Nabile cried, “How? She’s been a statue for fourteen years! How in Neopia could she have gotten loose?”
Fyora sighed again. “Two apprentice faeries, playing with magic where they shouldn’t have been. They somehow managed to accidentally undo the spell that turned her to stone. She changed them to statues for their trouble, and then fled – by the time I found the little ones, she was long gone.”
Jazan knew what he had to do – that insane Xweetok with her dreams of destroying the faeries and ruling Neopia couldn’t possibly be allowed to roam free. “I’ll leave at once. We need to track her down while she’s still disoriented – it’ll take her a few days to catch up to how Neopia is now.”
Fyora said, “King Jazan, I would recommend that when you come to Faerieland, you bring your family with you. I would not have even considered releasing Xandra until all of you that she traveled with were dead – I probed her thoughts as she gradually regained consciousness in her prison, and they were of vengeance.”
All the meaning of her words hit Jazan. Xandra’s going to come after us. Altador, Rosen, Guildus, Master Hatora, Hanso, Brynn, their son...
And myself, Nabile, and all the children. We’re all in danger. Fyora continued, “I am summoning all of you to Faerieland – not only will your talents be invaluable in recapturing her, but it will allow us all to be safer. Xandra wants revenge, King Jazan. Brutal revenge. You should leave no later than dawn.”
Caspar asked, “Father, does that mean we’re going to have to miss the festival? I don’t mean to sound whiny, but...”
Jazan knew that if Caspar would even think to bring it up, the girls weren’t going to be happy about it at all. “I will do everything in my power to hunt that rogue mage down as soon as possible. Milady, I shall bring my family to the Faerie City by magic at dawn tomorrow.”
The scrying-spell ended, and Fyora vanished into the night air.
Jazan’s two centuries and more weighed heavily on him suddenly – he leaned on a table, feeling old and weary. I’m still strong. I can beat her.
But could he? She’d been frozen in time while he’d been growing older – with all that time to plot and to stew in her dark thoughts. She’d probably look younger than Hanso and Brynn now – there was a strange image.
Caspar asked, “Father, how bad is it? I know she crashed Faerieland, but she needed an artifact to do that, right? She’s not that powerful on her own, is she?”
He set his hands on Caspar’s shoulders – he and Esmeralda were both old enough to know the truth. Jazan said softly, “It’s bad, Caspar. Xandra is a gifted mage, incredibly powerful, and more than a little mad. Her confinement will not have weakened her, nor helped her to be reasonable – Caspar, she’s very dangerous. I’ll want you to help me make sure your sisters are safe – Neera and Jessamine are too young to comprehend how grave the situation is, and your twin is prone to foolhardiness without you to talk sense to her.”
Caspar smiled weakly. “Aldie will be fine when you tell her what’s happening, Father. She’s overconfident, not stupid.”
Jazan told Caspar, “And neither are you. I’m trusting you with this because I want you to help me keep our family safe. That’s what being a king is about – keeping people safe.”
Caspar nodded solemnly. “You can count on me, Father.”
Nabile smiled. “With the two of you looking out for us, I feel safer already. Now, let’s see if my knives are in the same place I left them, or if Aldie was messing with them again – I’m not going to Faerieland to hunt down a sorceress without my knives!”
His first instinct was to somehow stop her, to protect her from Xandra, but he knew that he couldn’t. Nabile wanted to be by his side, to protect him just as he wanted to shield her. And both of them fought to protect their children and Qasala – as much as he hated the thought of Nabile having to face the power-mad sorceress, he knew that she had as much right as he did.
Though it didn’t keep him from worrying that night as he tossed and turned, trying to guess where Xandra was now, and what her next move would be.
When the strike would come.
The next morning, Jazan scooped up a still-mostly-asleep Jessamine onto one shoulder and balanced the bag Nabile had packed for her on the other, making sure that he hadn’t forgotten her beloved wizard plushie. He could hear Nabile and Neera arguing in Neera’s room – she’d insisted she was big enough to gather her own belongings for a visit to Faerieland, but it seemed she’d been slightly off the mark.
Caspar and Esmeralda were already waiting, leaning against the wall by the door and whispering to each other. Their eyes were both wide and solemn – Esmeralda’s the same gold as Jazan’s own, and Caspar’s a purple only a shade or two darker than his mother’s. They were so alike in the rest of their looks that even Jazan was occasionally startled looking into their faces and seeing the difference there. He noted that both of them were wearing their swords. At least they were prepared, even though he hated seeing his children – they were just children, still, even though they saw themselves as mostly grown – having to walk around armed.
Caspar took Jessamine’s little satchel from Jazan, leaving him free to balance the Kacheek more comfortably in his arms. He started checking things off to himself – not only had he gone to bed late last night, he’d had to get up early to delegate his responsibilities. “Nightsteed’s my second-in-command – he can sign things and settle disputes in my case. General Sambar’s got the army under control – he has final say over military matters. Lord and Lady Scarabai were willing to take more responsibility with the festival, and Mirzah has the mages under control – Caspar, Esmeralda, Nabile, can any of you think of anything I forgot?”
Nabile crossed her arms. “You forgot to sleep. Jazan, promise me that you’ll get some rest tonight. Altador will be there to cover any noble heroics that need taking care of.”
Jazan shook his head. “I’m not the type of man who engages in noble heroics – you know that, Nabile.”
Neera asked, “Mama, now am I ready?”
Nabile asked, “Did you put back all of those Usukis?”
“Don’t take that tone with me. But if you did, then I suppose we’re ready. Jazan, do you have the spell set up?”
Jazan nodded. “Caspar, Esmeralda, if you’ll anchor it it’ll be easier on all of us.”
While neither of his oldest children were especially gifted mages on their own, few things in Neopia could match the sheer strength of twin mages pooling their power. They didn’t have nearly enough training to be a real force yet, but they were useful anchors. If only Xandra had waited another ten years to escape – then she wouldn’t have stood a chance.
That’s about as much use as “If only I’d stopped Father in time.” Or, “If only I’d come to my senses before I attacked Sakhmet.” What’s done is done. What’s now is to deal with it.
The magic swirled easily up around them, and in a matter of seconds the light of power dimmed and they were standing just within the gate of the Faerie Palace.
Jazan looked at his children – they’d never been here before. Neera’s eyes were as wide as saucers. Esmeralda asked, “Can we go to the Faerie Weapons shop? I promise I’ll watch Jessamine all week without complaining if you just let me go to the Faerie Weapons shop once!”
He held up a hand. “Peace. Maybe, Esmeralda, once we know a little more about where Xandra may be. But right now we need to go to the Faerie Queen. And maybe-”
A voice boomed, “Do I hear my favorite Qasalan prince and princesses out there?”
Jessamine wiggled out of her father’s arms. “Uncle Altador!”
The tall Lupe strode out of an archway and was immediately jumped on and hugged. Jazan smiled. His fellow king had taken the role of a grandfather to the children, who had accepted him eagerly as part of the family. Altador pulled a small bag out of his pocket. “Now, are any of you too big yet for a sugar Vaeolus?”
According to the ensuing clamor, none of them were, and as they were all occupied with their sticky treats, Jazan took the opportunity to shake Altador’s hand. “It’s good to see you – though I wish it weren’t under these circumstances.”
Altador nodded. “Rosen and Guildus are here as well – they were helping Master Hatora get settled. He’s not nearly as strong as he used to be, and I could tell that the apprentices who brought him here were worried about him. He’s still sharp as a razor, but he won’t be able to track down Xandra with the rest of us.”
Nabile nodded. “I’ll be joining you, though – I’m not sitting on the sidelines and waiting to find out what happens.”
“Good. We could use an extra pair of sharp eyes and capable hands.”
Jazan knew that Nabile was far more than merely capable – perhaps Altador hadn’t seen her using her knives. She did generally prefer to leave them as an unpleasant surprise for people who thought she was merely ornamental.
“Altador! Nabile! King Jazan!”
Captain Brynn walked down the staircase from the doors to the main building of the palace. “I’m glad you’re all here – Hanso and Master Hatora are with Fyora already. We need to get to work – children, Roddy’s over through that gate. There’s a nice little pond and garden in there, and I think he brought his toy boats.”
Jazan nodded – even if Roderick took more after Hanso than Brynn, the little Blumaroo couldn’t be too bad of an influence on his own children in the time they’d spend together. “Go – I’ll come as soon as we’re done.”
Nabile rubbed her eyes and took a long drink from her canteen of Neopia Central coffee, which she liked so strong it could probably corrode metal. “What are we waiting for, then? We have a sorceress to catch.”
Jazan nodded. A sorceress to catch quickly.
If only we can.
To be continued...