More Powerful than Magic: Part Seven
The next morning, Jazan and Altador leaned over a large map of Faerieland and the surrounding land in Fyora’s main library as Hanso consulted the golem book. The Ixi read, “It says the type of mud best for golems is found on the eastern edge of the Haunted Woods.”
Altador nodded, and ran his hand over the area on the map. “Close to here – perfect for Xandra. She wouldn’t want her creation to have to travel too far.”
Hanso continued, “Five gemstones for the head – diamonds are best, it says. And there’s something about a spell perimeter that she needs a lot of obsidian for.”
Jazan looked over Hanso’s shoulder. “If she fills them with magic, it’ll take more energy, but she can make lesser gems work. I wouldn’t count on finding them to slow her.”
Brynn looked up from something she was reading – Jazan had lost track of what she was looking for. “There was obsidian formed when Faerieland crashed into Neopia – there are deposits in the borderlands.”
Sir Cyrex walked in to the study room they were using. “So Xandra is probably hiding out somewhere in the western borderlands – probably not too far from where we found Aristotle and Abigail.”
Altador asked, “Where are those two, by the way?”
Jazan said, “Nabile’s introducing them to the other children – I believe they’re staying in one of the small gardens close to my rooms. I asked Caspar and Esmeralda to stay close to the younger ones – if anything goes wrong, they may be able to protect the children long enough for us to reach them.”
Sir Cyrex looked at the list. “There are all sorts of charms and things on there – what on earth are they?”
Jazan said, “Xandra was good with improvising charms and focuses – I doubt those will give her any trouble, either.” He looked down the rest of the list – chalk, salt, the items with the essences, some candles... “The only thing that could be a problem is the person who provides the life force.”
Sir Cyrex nodded – he’d just sat down, but he stood up again quickly. “I’ll go put the guard on alert – if anyone goes missing, we’ll know about it at once. Thanks for the information.”
Master Hatora had been leaning back in his chair – Jazan had thought he was asleep. But he said, “It seems simple enough to me. Look within the realm guarded by Jhudora once again. You can hardly send armies of faeries into her lands without facing attack from another source – the threat of the Dark Faerie will keep Xandra undisturbed.”
Jazan said, “Thank you very much, Master Hatora. Now, how will we stop Jhudora from turning us into a pack of Scamanders when we go there?”
Hanso pointed out, “Jhudora doesn’t turn people into Scamanders. She prefers Mortogs.”
Jazan was rapidly losing his patience – they needed a plan, not Hanso’s little jokes. He snapped, “I have a perfect idea, thief. You can be the distraction. If you’re good, I might even change you back later.”
The door swung open again, and Nabile chided, “Jazan, be nice.”
Brynn asked, “How are the children?”
Nabile sat down in an empty chair and reported, “Jessa and Roddy are trying to make a boat to sail to Krawk Island in – that should take them most of the day. Neera and Abby found some Usukis, which will keep them occupied, and Caspar and Aldie are just trying to avoid Aristotle. Jazan, I told her that if she didn’t hurt him you’d let her have a new sword.”
Esmeralda’s temper was, if anything, shorter than Jazan’s – at least she didn’t have to worry about managing the power behind it as he did. “How likely is it that I’ll have to have the new sword made?”
Nabile sighed. “Not very.”
Altador said, “Well, it seems that our next mission will be to arrange another expedition into Jhudora’s lands.”
Master Hatora asked, “Could she perhaps be negotiated with? If Xandra were framed as a threat to her as well as us...”
Hanso shook his head. “Met her once. Don’t want to meet her again. She’d say no just to make Fyora angry.”
Jazan stood. “Perhaps we should adjourn while Altador speaks to Fyora.” He wanted to go see the children – he wanted to spend a little time with people whose faces weren’t drawn and worried. As he walked, Nabile followed. She said, “Jessa said that Queen Fyora was with you last night during the storm.”
He sighed. “She was talking to me. Or, rather, trying her best to irritate me. Bringing up my father, talking about heroism – Nabile, her eyes are like yours. They just see straight through me. Except I know that you aren’t going to torment me with what you uncover.”
Nabile laid a hand on his shoulder. “I know better than to make you talk about things you don’t wish to. You’ll always come to the subject yourself in time. The Queen just doesn’t know how to approach you. I’m sure she meant well.”
Jazan said, looking down at her, “I shouted at the Faerie Queen.”
She giggled a little. “I should have known – you generally end up shouting when you-know-who gets brought up. I’m sure she doesn’t hold it against you. This whole mess with Xandra has to cause her as much strain as it causes you.” Then she said softly, “Jazan, I’m here. You know that you don’t have to fight this battle alone.”
He nodded. “I do. And you don’t know how thankful I am for that.”
She replied, “As thankful as I am that you’re fighting for us. Jazan, whether or not you’re a hero, you’re the children’s hero. You’re my hero.”
He said. “Nabile, if anyone is a hero here, you are. I face danger armed with magic and a sword. You’ve only got your knives. You’re in far more danger than I am, always.”
She shook her head. “No, I’m not. Because I know that if I were in trouble you’d blast through half a dozen golems to save me.”
He took her hand and promised, “Half a dozen and more.” He looked into those stunning eyes, meeting his with the quiet determination she always had, and knew he didn’t have to say anything else. She understood.
When they opened the gate to the little garden, Aristotle was talking – Nabile and Jazan crept up quietly and listened as he said, “You only beat me because that’s not a real game. Real games are on computers.”
Esmeralda scoffed, “There’s nothing real about computer games. Watch this!” From the sound in the air, she was making a few fancy passes with her sword. “I’m going to be a warrior princess – I don’t need any computers for that.”
Aristotle retorted, “The Games Master has far more honor than either of you ever will! Grubbing around in the sand and playing with swords and nonsense!”
Nabile put a hand to her forehead as Esmeralda cried, “Swords are not nonsense! My father’s the best swordsman in Qasala – he’s so good that whole tribes of bandits will turn and run the other way if they see him coming, and he’s teaching me everything he knows!”
Jazan’s pride in the compliment vanished as Aristotle replied, “You mean your father’s a violent brute.” As Esmeralda spluttered, he continued, “I’m sure I could use a sword – I’m the Games Master! I’ve fought my way through whole armies in Neoquest II! I can do anything you can do – and do it better! Just watch and see!”
Then Jazan pushed through the bushes and into the open space of the garden. Esmeralda and Aristotle were standing not too far from a bench where Caspar sat, his book by his side as he watched them. He could see Neera and Abigail in a little pavilion with their dolls spread around them, and Jessamine and Roderick down by the pond with some lengths of wood and rope.
Caspar looked up. “Father! I’m reading that book on illusion-magic you gave me, but I don’t understand some of the spells it refers to, so this whole chapter made no sense.”
Esmeralda turned up her nose and said, “I’m going to go practice. Mama, I swear I didn’t hurt him, so I could still get a new sword! Father, will you spar with me when you’re done helping Caspar?”
He looked up at the sun – Altador had asked for him to return to the library before noon. He’d have time. “Certainly, Esmeralda.”
Aristotle crossed his arms. “I could do it. I’m certain I could.”
Caspar pointed out, “Aldie’s been practicing with swords since she was five. You’ve never even touched one.”
“Neoquest I! Neoquest II! Attack of the Revenge! Neopian Battlefield Legends! I’ve single-handedly defeated more armies than you could ever hope to face!”
Jazan wished he could give the Blumaroo a piece of his mind, but that would be setting a bad example for the children. Instead, he looked down at Caspar’s book. “This? Oh – this is a different light-making spell than the one I’ve taught you. Illusion spells have a lot in common with those. Now, if you look at this spell here...”
Little Roderick ran over. “Sir, will you look at our boat? We need to be sure it’s safe before we go to sea.”
Jazan looked at the little boy, trying to picture Hanso ever asking whether something was safe. He takes after Brynn then – thank Fyora. “In a moment. Now, if you look at this, see the roots of this light-making spell within the illusion?”
Caspar’s eyes lit up. “Oh! Now that makes sense.”
Nabile shepherded Roderick off. “Try it in the shallows, Roddy, where you and Jessa can still touch the bottom. That’ll let you know.”
Jazan stood. “Call if you have any more questions – Esmeralda, I’m ready!”
That night, Jazan was jolted awake where he’d fallen asleep at his desk by the feeling of one of his magic connections snapping – one of the protective spells that he’d put on his family had failed!
He threw open the first door – Nabile was sleeping. He cried, too anxious to wake her gently, “Nabile – one of the children is in danger!”
She was awake in an instant – she threw herself out of bed and ran with him to check the bedrooms. Jessamine was there, as was Neera – when they got to Esmeralda’s room, she was wide awake and getting dressed. “Mama, Father, something bad’s happened to Caspar! I felt it!”
Jazan nodded. “I did as well. Here – with your connection to him, and my power, we might be able to find out what happened.” He took Esmeralda’s hands, trying not to grip them too tightly, and guided her into the spell.
When he tried to touch Caspar’s mind, he found himself turned away. It was as if his son was encased in something hard, unyielding...
Caspar had been turned to stone.
At that moment, he heard banging on the outer door. It was little Abigail, calling, “King Jazan! King Jazan! My brother’s gone! I can’t find him anywhere!”
Esmeralda said quietly, “You know what always happens – Caspar always gets into trouble when he goes along with my plans because he wants to keep me safe. Ari wanted to prove himself... what if he tried to go after Xandra?”
Nabile continued in horror, “And he managed to get Caspar to go with him, because Caspar wanted to keep him from getting hurt.”
Jazan said, “And Xandra overpowered them and turned them to stone.” He pulled the lapis stone with Caspar and Esmeralda’s shared power in it out of his pocket. “In the process, giving me just what I need to track her.” Xandra should have known better – there was no power in all of Neopia that could keep a mage from finding his child.
Esmeralda asked, “What are we going to do?”
Jazan set his hands on her shoulders. “You’re going to stay here – stay awake. Be a sentry. Keep your sisters safe.
“Your mother and I are going to go get your brother back.”
To be continued...