The Trial of Her Mind: Part Six
When I opened my eyes, I realized that I was in a hospital bed. The fluorescent lights above me were so bright I had to close my eyes for a while to adjust. I was panting from what had happened, so my breaths came in shallow gasps as I surveyed my surroundings. Everything was white, like hospital rooms usually are, and very pristine. There was a machine by the bed that was making a steady beeping sound, and I realized that it was recording my pulse. I sighed in relief; I was still alive! I flung the eggshell sheets off of me and got out of bed, wincing at the cold tile floor as it met my already-chilled toes. Though I had on a hospital gown, there was an absence of socks on my feet. I peeked out the window and instantly almost fainted.
It looked like Faerieland was falling all over again. The sky was a churning eggplant mass against a land that had been robbed of its colour. Even the Rainbow Fountain looked a sickly grey. There were still shocked tourists and faeries running around, most likely crying over the distraught state of the region. I saw an orange Kougra in a Brightvale tunic entering Faerie City with a blue Ixi, and rushed out of the hospital to ask them what in Neopia was going on.
I decided to just open the window and fly down to greet them instead of using the oh-so-slow elevator. They stopped as soon as they saw me, eyeing me carefully as if they didn't know what to do.
Finally the Kougra nodded her head at me in a swift salutation. "Hello, Valeane." She looked me over again. "Did you dye your hair?"
I shook my head. "I'm not Valeane. I'm her daughter, Dira. By the way, if you do happen to meet her, she prefers to be called by her middle name, which is Marian. And I'm guessing you're Brynn and Hanso?"
"Yup," Hanso confirmed, "Where IS your mom, then? And Fyora? And some other faeries that might know what's going on?"
I bit my lip. "I don't know where they are," I admitted. "But I do know what's happening. The Darkest Faerie is taking over, that's what. Man, I wish I had come back to life a little sooner... "
"What?" Brynn asked, taken aback.
"Nothing. Anyway, would you mind helping me find a fire faerie named Beck? I kind of need to talk to her. No, not kind of. I really, seriously, urgently need to talk to her."
I could tell Hanso was about to either decline or question who Beck was, but Brynn nudged him in the ribs. "Of course! Here, follow us. They're holding a meeting somewhere in the castle, so maybe you'll find her there." She beckoned for me to tag along and I did so gratefully. I began to chat with Hanso, who really does have a sense of humor. He seemed to approve of my crazy antics, but his face fell when I told him about my lock picking skills. He even offered to teach me how to do it the correct way, but a stern look from Brynn made him stop.
We walked for only a couple of minutes and arrived at the Faerie Queen's castle. All the buildings were still their bubble gum pinks and lavender purples, so at least it didn't make it seem like I was totally colourblind. Brynn shoved open the door and strode inside, hurrying through the many hallways and corridors until she finally arrived at the Council Chamber, going in there as well.
I shouldn't have been surprised about how many people were crammed in one large room, but I was. I could hardly even shuffle a little bit into the room without getting bumped into or kicked. Hanso seemed about ready to pick someone's pockets, but it appeared he was too squished to try.
Fyora's advisor, an earth faerie named Susan, was answering questions up on one of the chairs so everyone could see her. Amidst all the panicked chatter I could hear her saying something like 'Fyora isn't here right now.'
I raised my hand and stood on my very tippy-toes to be seen a little more, and it worked, thanks to my height advantage (hey, I am the Battle Faerie's daughter). Susan pointed at me.
"Um, just wondering, but did Fyora say where she was going or did she just, you know, disappear?"
The advisor looked at me with a very resigned sigh, studying my face. Then she took to the air so she could fly over everyone's heads and made it over to me. "Uh, miss? May I, er, speak to you in private?"
"Sure," I responded, "But Hanso and Brynn need to come. They saved Faerieland once, maybe they can help save it again."
Susan was too weary to refuse, so she nodded her head and said, "Come along, then." She softly pushed her way through the crowd in a blur of 'excuse me's and 'pardon's.
We finally got outside once more and the advisor whisked us up the stairs and into her quarters, shutting the door behind us. "Sit please." We all found a seat somewhere, even though I gave up mine for Brynn and just plopped on the floor.
She paced back and forth for a while, but finally said something. "How did you come up with a question like that?" she asked.
I tucked my knees to my chest. "Well, I just wasn't sure if she'd been kidnapped already. And before you get all confused, let me explain what happened."
About five minutes later, I was standing in front of my mom's shop with a lock pick in my hand. With Hanso's instructions I was able to safely open the door without breaking any of my fingers. I led them inside and wasn't very surprised to see that no one was there, considering that the shop was locked up. Even though it was five in the afternoon, which actually would have been time for me to go help my mom run the store, every single building in the whole city seemed devoid of people.
"What exactly are we looking for again?" Hanso asked, eyeing the shop and especially the most valuable weapons.
I started to look around, too. "Light armor that I can actually walk or fight in. Where's Brynn?"
"Over here," the Kougra said, gawking over a knife labeled 'Nuria's Golden Dagger'. She tore away from it and turned to join us. "Doesn't your mom have a record of everything she stocks?"
I ran to the counter and checked underneath it. "Good idea." I pulled out a huge cherry binder and dropped it right beside the cash register. I flipped to the tab labeled 'Light Def.' and scanned the pages. There were pictures and descriptions of various types of armor, but the only one that caught my eye was a set of leather armor. I quickly asked Susan to find it and then set myself to work by finding weapons for everybody. Brynn was ecstatic that she got to use the dagger she was looking at before, and Hanso was a little less excited when I gave him a Light Faerie Shield.
"It's so bright," he whined, "And why do I get a shield instead of a sword?"
Brynn laughed. "Because you are as horrible of a fighter as a Puppyblew! Come on, you know that you'd rather be protected than to go up on the front lines."
The thief hesitated a bit. "...Alright," he pouted. "But it's still really bright." Brynn rolled her eyes and lightly punched him in the arm.
I couldn't find anything very suitable for Susan, seeing as she called everything I brought her 'too sharp'. We finally settled on a strong wooden bow made for earth faeries, and she was still a little cautious with the arrows, poking them with the tips of her fingers as if they were Sloth's greatest weapon.
The only thing I knew was that I liked to swing things, so anything was good for me (who cares about strategy when you can flail around like a fish on dry land?). I instantly stocked up on a variety of bombs and a sword. I rushed into the bathroom to change into the armor and walked out with a proud stride.
"I feel tough," I stated. When Hanso tossed something at me, I clumsily caught it and examined what he had just thrown. "What in Neopia is this?"
"Face paint," he said simply.
"Why would I paint my face?"
He paused. "Why wouldn't you paint your face?"
I shrugged. "Good point." I went back into the bathroom so I could apply the paint.
Susan was still prodding the arrows when I came out for the second time. When she saw my face, she paused to examine it. Finally, she nodded her approval. "Interesting."
I lightly fingered the golden crest I had drawn around my right eye. "Do you like it?"
Brynn giggled. "I wonder what the Darkest Faerie is going to say to that," she said. "But you look cool, I guess. Either way, we should get going. Susan, Hanso, I suggest that you guys stand behind us, since I'm more accustomed to fighting and Dira can actually use magic. No offence, Susan, but you don't look like you have ever fought in your life."
I suddenly remembered my wand and groaned; I didn't have it on me. And even though, when I was in my mind, I could control all the elements, this was in the real world and I was just an air faerie. Without my wand, my spells weren't nearly as effective, and 'effective' is what I'd be needing.
Susan seemed to read my mind. "I don't think she can use too much magic right now," she declared, "I'll go to the hospital and send her wand to her. You'll have to go on without me." She sounded relieved that she found an excuse to miss out on the action.
As much as I needed my magical tool, the fact that I would be the only one able to fight with spells was making me suffer a panic-racked agony. Even though my mind was still jumbled, I was able to grab the phrase *SCREEEEEEEEEAAAAM!* out from all the chaos. In my alarm, my fingers flew up to wrap around the dark jewel tied about my neck. Or to be exact, I was just fumbling around my collarbone with nothing to grab except for air.
"The Bead!" I gasped, still trying to find it, "Where is it?! It's not here!!!" PANICPANICPANICPANICPANICPANIC!!!
Susan seemed more or less unfazed. "I'll go ahead and get it while I look for your wand," she said, already out the door.
Brynn couldn't help but stare at the doorway where she had stood, even though the advisor was long gone. "Well... I have to hand it to her, she really did keep her cool that time."
"She was too happy to get away from any fighting," Hanso said grumpily, trying not to look at the shield too much in fear that it would blind him. "Lucky her. She doesn't have to have a dumb Light Faerie Shield."
"Look on the bright side," I choked out, still wishing I could just scream at the top of my lungs and get all that distress out of my system. He gave me a dirty glare before I could continue. "Excuse the pun. But think; you'll have a chance to be even more of a hero."
I could almost see the cogs rolling in his head (MORE fangirls?) before he reluctantly agreed to shut up and quit whining. Satisfied with his lack of noisiness, I sat down on the counter to think. "I would say that we should get going, but I have no idea where we would go in the first place."
Brynn shrugged. "I don't know, someplace... dark? Secret? Uncharted? Isn't there any place you can think of that hits all three areas?"
After a while, I snapped my fingers. "The Secret Cavern!" I exclaimed, already striding towards the door. "Come on, follow me!"
"Isn't it in a, well, SECRET location, then?" Hanso said doubtfully.
My pace didn't even falter; I was far too eager to give the Darkest Faerie a piece of my mind. "My mom gave me this map. It's at my house, but I promise, I'll make this trip as quick as I can. Oh, come on, you guys can walk faster than that!"
I was true to my word, and we were in and out of my Neohome in no time. I was slightly unnerved by the emptiness of it. Naturally, if I was taking Prism somewhere with me, the house would be empty; knowing he was in danger was the only thing freaking me out.
Shaking worst-case-scenarios out of my head, I unfolded the map and looked at the dark markings. "Let's see... what direction is north? Wait, never mind. Hmm, so all we do is go through here and make a left and go there... Alright, then, let's get moving!" I led the two saviours of Faerieland around the crater, checking the map quite often for reference and reassurance.
Eventually, we arrived at a large cave, somewhere at the base of a hill and behind a large pile of rubble that we had to shove out of the way. I looked at the map again and nodded. "This is the start of it," I confirmed. "We have to make a whole bunch of turns. I mean, a WHOLE bunch of turns." I began to walk inside, but paused. "No, seriously. A HUMONGOUS amount of turns... scratch that, so many turns that you'll--"
"--Can we just continue?" Hanso asked, still a bit cranky from the whole shield thing.
I took a deep breath and the first step into the cave. "Yeah, sure," I muttered.
It was darker than I had anticipated. I had imagined it to be considerably dark, of course, but I hadn't expected it to be as blacker than ink. Luckily, Hanso's shield had an upside, which was that it gave off a good amount of light. Still, it was hard to read the map when the stone corridors were only dimly lit. I was right, though, about the whole 'turn' thing. There were so many of them that I was beginning to think we were lost.
"Take a left here," I mumbled to myself, "Keep going... go to the right passage, then enter the big archway to the side." I shrugged and wheeled around to my right, walking straight into... a stone wall. "OUCH!"
Brynn's voice echoed throughout the cave. "Are you alright?"
"Of course I'm alright," I snapped, sarcasm woven into my words. "Maybe we should go the other way."
"Agreed," Hanso said, already going through the arch. We decided to follow him. "Are you sure we're not off course?"
"Positive," I said. "I've been following the stupid map for every single step. Wow, when they meant 'Secret Cavern' they really should have emphasized the 'secret' part."
I wouldn't have known where he was if it wasn't for the shield he was holding. That is, until it suddenly slipped from sight. I instantly knew he was falling, judging by the way he was yelling "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!" like a maniac.
"Hanso!" Brynn cried, lunging forward. Her shrill screams quickly rang out also.
"Seriously, guys?!" I ran towards them, and the second my foot couldn't find any more ground to step on, I let my wings do the work. Down I flew, hoping that no one had reached the bottom yet. Apparently they hadn't, since they were still shrieking at the top of their lungs. I headed for the dim yellow light, hoping that if I caught Hanso, I might catch Brynn, too.
Actually, I found the Kougra first. I was still trying to get to him, but I felt something bump into my arm and noticed that the screaming had grown a bit louder. I allowed my instincts to make me stretch my arms out and try to grab her. She somehow found her way onto my back, in the narrow space between my wings.
Then I got a hold of Hanso. He was too far ahead for me to actually catch up, so I put all my energy into thickening the air below him so he'd fall much, much slower. By the time Brynn and I had found the bottom of the trench, Hanso was sitting on the floor with his knees tucked into his chest, rocking back and forth. The Light Faerie Shield lay beside him, still emitting a yellowish glow.
Brynn jumped off my back and I stretched. "That was really awkward," I said. "It's like the whole 'riding a Uni' thing. You just shouldn't do it."
"Sorry," she apologized, shrugging. She ran over to Hanso to make sure he was alright. The thief seemed more than a bit traumatized, and I figured that maybe it was best if we took a small rest.
I paced back and forth impatiently, though I was trying to be as patient as I could. "Are you ready? Can we go? You done? Should we get moving?" I asked. I had my twitching palms on the bag of bombs I had brought along.
"Not yet," Hanso whimpered. Apparently, he has a great fear of heights. I wished he'd told me that before he took a tumble off a sheer cliff, but now didn't seem to be the right time to lecture about it.
Brynn tried to coax him out of his disturbed and disturbing state of shock, but for a while, he refused to do anything but rock back and forth. The only thing that got him moving was the promise of anything he wanted from the Hidden Tower, but I had crossed my fingers when I was telling him that. After all, I helped Xavier get something once, and while Fyora was more than happy to give him a reward, I wasn't sure she'd be willing to do it again.
After we got the Ixi to get up, a small purple envelope floated gently down the cliff and landed in my open palms. I gathered near the bright shield to read the message, which was from Susan. It explained how she had found one of the things I had asked her to get for me, but she would look around for the other item and send it to me as well. Digging deeper into the envelope, my fingers wrapped around a purple satiny ribbon and I pulled it out to reveal the Bead. I didn't want to tie it around my neck out of pure laziness, so I just stuck it in one of the few pockets of my armor.
Hanso stood up. "What's that over there?" he said, pointing behind us. I figured it was just a trick so he could bolt, but he was telling the truth. Behind us was a large door that was decorated with six sections, each showing the symbols of the basic faerie elements and glowing a different color.
Man, I was so sick of mysterious doors.
I checked the map again. "This is it," I confirmed. "Are you guys ready?"
Brynn gulped in nervousness. "Well, there's no turning back now. I-I'm ready, I guess."
Hanso picked up the Light Faerie Shield and saluted me. "Ready when you are, Commander."
I couldn't help but giggle at that, and it cracked a smile out of every one of us. The tension was lessened for a few moments, but it immediately returned and I took a deep breath as I walked to the entrance. "Alright, I'll go first. Brynn, you follow, and Hanso, you take the back."
"But Dira!" Brynn gasped, "You don't even have your wand! How are you supposed to--"
"--I'll figure something out," I interrupted, not even looking back. I delicately placed my hands on the doorknob and pulled.
To be continued...