A Renewed Hope: Part Two
"I... I do not understand."
That was the first thing that the Shoyru said after she was told she was the Enchantress of Florae. Ria raised an eyebrow. She approached the Eternal Gardener, feeling as though she was going to get in trouble for threatening to blast the Protector. "Janice? What do you mean, you do not understand? Is that not the Rod of Mysti that you hold in your palm?"
Janice looked baffled and glanced down at the staff in her paws. "What?" she said, clearly confused.
Gareth walked up to her, trying to elaborate. He had put away his daggers in order to look less menacing. "Your name is Janice," he began. "You can work Mysti. Your spirit is of an emerald-jade-green glow. You're the Protector of Calladamos. Does... any of that sound familiar?"
Janice gave him a blank stare. Her spirit glow dimmed. "What do you mean, I'm the Protector? I've never even heard of a silly place called Calladamos."
Ria tried to be patient with her. After all, she was the Empress. She was supposed to be regal and polite. She was regal and polite; it was her nature. But to hear this Shoyru – Protector or not – belittle her city made her spirit glow rise a few feet and snap like a flame on a candle. Ria took a deep breath. "Janice, come with me. Perhaps this will refresh your memory." Before I have to hit you on your head with my staff to do it, she thought.
Ria lead the still dazed Janice down another long hallway, instructing Gareth to keep watch over the library. Dear Gareth. A little blunt at times, he was, but also an excellent warrior and Ria's best friend and advisor. She could only hope that there were no shadow creatures in the library that he couldn't take.
The hall was long – so long that Janice couldn't see the end of it – and wide – or, at least, wide enough for Ria and her to walk a few feet apart from each other. It was very much like a cave, and looked similar to the room Janice had woken up in, with words written in silver and the cosmos themselves as a ceiling. Janice walked up to one of the inscriptions and ran her hand across the wall's rough surface, then recoiled as though the wall had burned her. She turned to Ria. "I know this place."
Ria nodded. "This is the Hall of Calladamos. It is our history. You should know it; you were a part of it." She gestured to some words and pictures ahead, and walked towards them, placing her staff on the wall. Something like an electrical current coursed through her, her eyes glowed red, and she began to chant what the inscriptions had said.
"Here lie the forgotten remains of our great city. Once proud, strong, marveled about, envied – now in disremembered ruins, never again seen by the sun. A musty scent hovers near the ground – it is the little-known aroma of defeat. Some know of it. Some do not. Some have smelled it, tasted its bitter tang, like snowflakes on the tongue. None speak of it. This forsaken city – eternally lost, forever gone, always missing – is ours, Calladamos. It has never been found. Why? Why is it crumbled, hidden, unknown? Whatever happened to its remarkable legacy?
"It's nothing out of the ordinary; our city of old fell because of greed, envy. This often happens, or so the Guardians say. They want to believe – they want Neopia to believe – that corruption is what caused the city's downfall to occur. But that is not the entire truth.
"The stories have been retold so many times, by so many people – some of them Guardians, trying to keep the secrets hidden, some blissfully ignorant – that it is impossible to remember what really happened to Calladamos, even for us, it's long time citizens.
"But it is not impossible to find out.
"The Protector is one who will find our city, will uncover our history. She has been called by many names: the Enchantress of Florae; the Protector of Calladamos; the Possessor of the Mysti.
"The simplest one is Janice. The Eternal Gardener."
Ria's eyes went back to normal, and she turned to the Protector. Janice had a hint of wonder and homesickness in her eyes. "You know," she said, "We have something like this in Altador, except for our history is in a book, the Book of Ages. Not to mention that it doesn't shock people or change their eye colour."
Ria smiled. "That was not an electrical shock, Janice. The history was just going into me; I was absorbing it. All citizens of Calladamos must do this every so often, lest we forget our history. Or our Protector." Janice narrowed her eyes.
"What do you mean, forget?" she asked.
Ria stopped smiling, and gave a sigh. "After we got defeated – no one remembers how, but we assume it was a war – the Guardians began erasing Calladamos from Neopia. Technically, to the rest of the world, our kingdom doesn't exist. Slowly, as Neopia forgets us, we forget our history, our roots. Our identities." She drew herself up. "It is difficult, being the queen of a fading city. Do you know--" She looked at Janice. The sadness in her eyes was almost tangible. "Do you know that I haven't seen the sunrise since my coronation? Some of the younger Calladamiens do not know what the sun is. We don't even know how this happened, but one minute it was day and the next an eternal night." Her silvery glow trembled. For a moment, Janice thought she was going to cry. But then Ria regained her composure. "And that is why we need your help to defeat the Guardians. It matters not whether or not you can remember. Perhaps the Guardians rid you of your memory. But you will defeat them, as the only Possessor of Mysti." She paused, looking expectant.
Janice took this as an opportunity to protest. "But I only know how to grow flowers! What am I supposed to do, make them laurel wreaths to wear on their heads? And besides, that lightning-staff-thing of yours is pretty powerful. Why don't you defeat them?"
Ria shrugged, and her very shrugs of indifference were elegant. "I cannot. Guardians are impervious to light. I know this from past experience." She showed Janice a huge scar on her forearm. "This is from the last resistance. We've tried without you in the past. Needless to say, it didn't work."
"Like I said, all I can do is make flowers grow out of the ground."
"Then you will be trained. We have a room to help those with magical abilities hone their skills. I'll help you." Ria felt exasperated, and frankly a little worried. If Janice was not willing to protect their kingdom, who would? There was no other in Neopia with Mysti. She wondered if she would have to blast her with her staff to get her to cooperate.
She was brought out of her troubling thoughts by a sigh from Janice. "I'm going home," she said. "Try to stop me, and turn into a plant. Understood?"
Ria understood just fine. She flew up in the air and twirled her staff in repeated circles, and beams of light, like a dance ribbon, spiraled downwards, creating a yellowish bubble around Janice and her. Then she flew back down. Through gritted teeth, she said, "I will only allow you to leave if you defeat me in a duel. The force field around us will not break unless one of us loses, so escape is not an option. If I win, you stay. Train. Help us. If you win, we'll send you back."
Janice's eyes were wide, as though taking in the situation, then she made the first move, one that Ria had not expected – she dropped her staff. Pointing her paw directly at Ria, Janice chanted a spell: "Surai Eniæ!" The ground beneath Ria's feet shifted, and simultaneously, several trees sprouted around her. Janice quickly picked up her staff again and a greenish light burst forth from it towards the little grove of trees she had created. She hoped that that spell had turned Ria into a cherry blossom or something.
The hall was silent. Janice dusted off her paws, knowing she had won. "And that is why you should never mess with Janice," she said, smiling at her quick victory and her soon return home. She did not notice that the force field was still in place.
Ria, who had flown up into the air as soon as the trees began to grow, smiled and blasted Janice with a beam of white light from her lightning staff. Janice looked up at the last second and rolled to the side, thinking that Ria had missed or that somehow she had managed to dodge. Unfortunately, the beam made a mini U-turn and hit her directly in the chest, its force knocking her down. It didn't hurt, strangely. Maybe Ria had used the wrong spell, which she could use to her advantage.
Janice began to mutter another enchantment when she realized that she couldn't talk, couldn't even make a sound. She stood there in shock while Ria landed, a smirk playing her lips. "You haven't practiced much magic lately, have you Janice? The only thing you can do now that you're silenced from spells is to use your staff, and--" she waved a paw and Janice's staff flew towards her, landing in her palm, "--I've got it now. You know, you'd look lovely as a fern, with your emerald green glow. Let's try that out, shall we?" She shot a spell at Janice, enveloping her in vines, getting ready to change the Shoyru into a fern.
Just then, the force field broke.
To be continued...