Things Best Remembered: Part Eight
Janice twisted herself so that she was facing skywards. There was no reason to watch when she knew that her impact would be inevitable... but no! She was not going to fall, not now, not when the city needed her the most! She was the Protector of Calladamos. The least she could do was go down fighting.
Janice gave an attempt to flap her wings. The best she could manage was getting only one to work, but its size compensated for the loss of one wing, sort of. It slowed her down, if only a bit. But that was all she needed.
She climbed a few centimeters, then plummeted by a few feet; she had to do the dance quickly, because this was kind of counteractive.
Despite her clumsy, horrible, one-winged, barely effective flying routine, she managed to do a less-than-graceful dance to change her gravitational field. She would have preferred to simply cast an anti-gravity spell, but again, she was no use to anyone when unconscious. Instead of causing herself to float, she drew leaves from the approaching forest to create a softer landing.
When Janice stood back up shakily, brushing leaves and twigs off of herself and out of her hair, she could see that the reveal spell that had caused her so much trouble had, miraculously, worked – a section of the impersonations flickered momentarily, then miniature, wispy versions of the Guardians rose above their familiar heads. She started to go to help the Calladamiens – on foot, for her wings were still basically unresponsive – but she found that she could not go a step before collapsing in exhaustion. Apparently the cost of the spell had been more than tiring out her wings; the rest of her was tired, too.
But she could yell, and she yelled her heart out. "Everyone!" she bellowed. "Attack the ones with the wispy figures above their heads!"
Gareth – or another red Lupe; she couldn't distinguish features too well from this distance – perked up his ears. She shouted again, "Attack the ones with the smoky things on their heads!"
He didn't seem to have seen her, unfortunately, but he turned, apparently to relay the message to the rest of the Calladamiens. Within no time, Guardians were being reduced to dust (or, at least, a quarter of them).
She found herself smiling wearily. Good. Now all Janice had to do was find a way to get up. She knew some spells that could give her energy, but that option was ridiculous to consider: she'd gain energy from the spell, but she'd lose it again due to using it. Janice wondered, idly, who had been silly enough to think up such an annoyingly counteractive spell.
She sighed in exasperation. Her limbs and wings were useless, spells would just drain her energy more, and the army was too preoccupied with fighting to rush to her aid.
Or were they? She was the Protector of Calladamos. The citizens always had enough time for her.
But she couldn't distract them; what if someone got hit with a sword as he or she looked for the owner of the shouts? Besides, she could just as easily attract a Guardian as a Calladamien. It wasn't worth the risk.
But she had to get off of the ground somehow. Sure, her yelling could bring a Guardian, but it could also bring help, which she really needed. And her choices were either risking a Guardian getting to her before a citizen, or risking a Guardian happening upon her as she lay there helplessly. The latter did not sound very good, but the former was far from being a good choice.
Janice wrestled with her decision for a while longer, then decided that her best choice was to yell for help. That, at least, had a chance of rescue. It may not have been a good choice, but it was her best.
Once again, she found that her only option was to shout. Being the screaming damsel in distress did not appeal to her, but Janice ended up swallowing her pride anyways and yelling loudly, "Help!" Then she stopped to watch the crowd to see if anyone was coming closer, or looking around for her voice. No one was. She shouted, "Help! Hello? Over here! Help me!"
Once again, she waited to see if someone had heard her. It appeared that no one had.
Janice continued to scream herself hoarse, but nothing happened for a while. 'Screaming herself hoarse' only took a few minutes, as she was not Neopia's best screamer. It was only when her shouts had turned into croaky whispers that a figure broke out of the crowd and started running towards her. Further inspection revealed that the figure was none other than the Empress of Calladamos.
"Ria!" Janice exclaimed, greatly relieved. She paused to cough. All that screaming had dried out her throat. She sorely needed a cup of water.
When her coughing fit had ended, she continued raspingly, "Thank goodness you're here..."
She faltered as Ria grew nearer, making quick, purposeful steps that looked nothing like Ria's elegant strides. Her eyes were a dark grey; emotionless, devoid of warmth, and worst of all, not Ria-like. Her spirit glow was matched her eyes, flaring up every so often.
It was a Guardian.
If there was anything more nightmarish than this, Janice could not think of it.
She struggled to run, to fight, to utter a spell, to do something, anything, that would delay her fate. But she was speechless with fear; her limbs were as heavy as lead from the reveal spell.
Once again, Janice berated herself for doing magic on such a large scale. She may have helped the army, but at what cost? Even a quarter of the Guardians was too much for her.
The Guardian advanced slowly, knowing that she could do nothing to stop it – how pathetic, it was, that the Protector could not protect herself. With every step it took, Janice grew more and more terrified and less and less hopeful. It was torturing her by doing this. Irony was cruel, but Guardians were much, much crueler. The fact that it was in Ria's form, who had encouraged her before the battle, made it even worse.
She found herself whimpering as 'Ria' approached. She heard the sharp, scraping sound of a sword being pulled out of a leather sheath; she could smell the spicy scent of conifers in the forest; she could see the smirking image of the Guardian standing before her; she could feel the scratchy grass beneath her; she could taste the bitterness of defeat. Her senses – and her dread – were the only things that were working.
Suddenly, the Eternal Gardener felt something pierce her side; in her eyes danced sparks of light and dots of darkness. She heard a scream from the battlefield, a horrible, heart-rending, scream filled with pain. It was the very sound of fear.
Her last thought, as she began to lose consciousness, was to realize that the scream had not come from the battleground. It had come from herself.
The Shoyru shivered, and everything went black.
Janice was surprised to find herself awakening, and even more surprised that she was lying on a soft bed of moss. Its softness and its scent made her want to go back to sleep, but something was compelling her to get up, something that she could not ignore. So, grudgingly, Janice rose from her bed and took in her surroundings. What she saw shocked her.
She was in her garden.
"This doesn't make any sense," she murmured out loud. "My garden is in Altador. Altador," she repeated, emphasizing every syllable. "This is Calladamos."
Nonetheless, Janice wandered, dazed and trippingly, through the place that she knew so well. She didn't have a destination, but the thing that had forced her to get up was pulling her... somewhere.
Janice stumbled around for ages. When she thought about going right, something almost yanked her in the opposite direction. When she turned east, she ended up heading south. Janice thought that her walking patterns were looking quite erratic: When facing the north, she was heading west, when facing left, she ended up going right. It was silly and annoying, and she was getting tired of being pulled around on invisible strings like a puppet. She wanted, at least, to meet the puppeteer.
She didn't reach her destination, wherever that was, for a while, because her garden was really more a wood. A large wood. The Possessor of Mysti would not simply keep a small flowerbed to satisfy her gardening desires. For the first time, Janice regretted the size of her garden. It really did seem huge now, as though she were being pulled through the dense jungles of Mystery Island – or even the Calladamien Forests – rather than a wood hand-and-magic-planted by herself.
Lost in her thoughts, Janice hadn't realized that she was speeding up, but it was noticeable now: she was running – and tripping over roots – at an alarming rate. Apparently her puppeteer hadn't thought of the terrain she was going over.
"Where am I going?" Janice asked the trees. It wasn't like there was anyone else to ask.
Needless to say, they had no answer.
To be continued...