Out of the Shadows: Part Ten
Fyora was pacing back and forth along a balcony when they reached her. The balcony was situated in the centre of the Palace, and it afforded a sweeping view of the entire city down below. It was a pity that the view was currently obscured by a hulking monster of darkness.
Oblivion stood below them, or rather, in front of them – its head reached as high as the lowest tower of the Palace. It was still except for the dancing purple light that haloed its head. Karl was still standing beneath it.
"Thank goodness!" Fyora said upon catching sight of them. The three dozen or so faeries squashed between her and them – they had backed up to the wall to allow her space to fret – shuffled out of the way respectfully. She seized Cobolt's foreleg and dragged him to the rail.
"You were telling before in your story that the Wraiths ignored you?" she asked, and he nodded. "Good. We've only got about five more minutes until that beast attacks again. We can't get near Oblivion without it trying to blast us out of the sky, but neither can we get close to that despicable Chomby, with Oblivion protecting him.
"If we could just stop Karl from casting whatever spell he's using with my staff, Oblivion would go back to the shadows, but we can't. But you—" she paused to take a breath, "—you can get close to Oblivion without it taking note of your presence. If we could just hit it with one powerful faerie spell, we could obliterate it, but we just can't get close enough to do so. Here."
She produced a colourless glass orb the size of her fist from somewhere in her dress and held it up, then closed her eyes. Her hands lit up and a stream of pinkish-purple light began to swirl around in the centre. She passed it to the next faerie, who added a stream of fiery red. It went along the line of faeries, each one adding their own bit of power to the spell.
When it reached Adele, she grinned her most evil grin and the colours in the orb visibly darkened, then lightened again as a stream of angry purple snaked around inside.
"What am I supposed to do?" Cobolt asked the Faerie Queen, as the orb made its way into the Palace.
"You need to get up as close as you can to Oblivion, then smash that orb." The Queen surveyed Oblivion again. "I'm not sure if it is as substantial as it looks, so if you get the chance you need to get inside and break the orb near its heart. The closer the better."
Cobolt gulped and stared at Oblivion. Empty pools of blackness soaked up the light around its body, but they looked pretty solid to him. And what if it suddenly decided it wanted to attack him? After all, he was no longer under whatever spell had taken over his mind when the Wraiths were still here. Maybe he was no longer protected.
"Your time is up," Karl's voice drifted up to them. "What is your decision?"
A Light faerie flitted onto the balcony, the orb in her graceful hands. By now the entire glassy surface was a riot of colours, shining bright against the night sky. There was absolutely no way Oblivion wouldn't see that thing coming towards it. The magic pulsed, trying to break free, and Cobolt gingerly took it when the Faerie held it out.
"Here," Adele said. She raised her hands over the glass and a dark cloud descended over it, obscuring the light.
"Our answer is no." Fyora's voice was firm as she replied to the Halloween Chomby. "My people, attack!"
The faeries swarmed forward, and now they had been joined by the ranks of the pets from the Academy that had decided to stay. The sky was lit up with enough colours to rival the orb in Cobolt's paws, but Oblivion merely soaked up the magic, once again blasting its purple light at any who stood against it.
"Go!" Adele shouted. She began an assault of her own, but first she casually raised a hand and tossed Cobolt over the edge of the balcony.
He almost lost his grip on the orb, but he quickly summoned a cloud and swooped up into the air. Just as quickly he dropped down again to avoid at least a dozen different spells that had been shot at the shadow creature. Staying low to the ground, he circled behind Oblivion, where there was a remarkably reassuring lack of spells. He quickly covered his glow with a Dark mist, then crept forward, breath caught, waiting for Oblivion to notice him.
But the shadow creature didn't turn around, too busy engaging with the faeries. It was only five metres away now.... three.... one. The body of Oblivion looked so solid; what happened if he was crushed against its side? Then he made contact with it.
He was in an immense shadow. Around him swirled darkness, but looking closer he saw the Shadow Wraiths flitting gleefully around, tiny wings working. It wasn't like a normal shadow; moving through it felt like he was moving through water. Adele's masking spell had been torn away with the contact, and the orb was pulsing brightly against the pads of his paws. The Wraiths saw it and fled to the furthest reaches of Oblivion's body.
He felt something tug at his mind, the familiar jab of pain, but forced it away. No, he wasn't going to give his strength to Oblivion, he wasn't going to toss the orb safely away from Oblivion's body. He was going to finish the task he had been set.
He swam upwards – his magic didn't seem to be working in this vast shadow – until he was in Oblivion's chest. Was this close enough? There was nothing resembling a heart here; the creature didn't have one. Through the shadow he could see tiny specks of light, the faeries, though the view was strangely blurred. He swam up a bit more. This had to be close enough. Besides, he didn't know how much more of the pain in his head he could take.
The orb shone in his hands. A Wraith tried to snatch it out of his paws, but he batted it away, then with no other option left, he crushed the glass between his paws.
There was an explosion of magic.
Adele was hovering in the air, a glowing nimbus between her hands as she waited for a chance to assault Oblivion. But really she was just searching for some sign of what had happened to Cobolt. She saw the instant the orb broke. Different coloured beams of light broke though the blackness of Oblivion's body. It stood there, beams of blue and green and white and all the colours of the spectrum shooting into the night sky, then it dissolved into nothingness.
Not quite nothingness. From where the creature had stood poured hundreds of Captive Shadow Wraiths, fleeing from the angry faeries. They scattered throughout the city, and Adele didn't think there would be a single one left come morning.
Something else appeared where Oblivion's chest had been. Without even thinking Adele swept forward, wings working furiously as she stretched out her arms. A warm bundle of fur fell heavily into them, making her drop several metres, but with an immense effort she remained airborne. Cobolt seemed unconscious, and his fur had been singed in several places from where the magic in the orb had rushed past him, but after a few seconds he blinked his violet eyes open. Even without pupils she could tell exactly where he was looking.
"Thanks for catching me," he murmured.
"No problem," she said, trying to make her tone bit more acidic, but failing utterly. "But you haven't gotten any lighter since the last time I caught you."
"Then put me down. I can stand up on my own."
He was quickly proven wrong, as when she placed him on the cobblestones he immediately toppled onto his side and lay there, eyes sliding shut again.
Adele looked up to see that the fighting had stopped. The faeries had converged in a multicoloured cloud above Karl, who had fallen to one knee, Fyora's staff still clenched in his fists. A pinkish light separated itself from the cloud, and Fyora came forward and gently peeled it out of his grip. The Halloween Chomby stared at her with fear, then immediately leapt to his feet, thrusting his hands forward.
"Ladies, escort this gentleman to one of the disused store rooms in the Palace. Set a guard on him at all hours." Fyora's voice was steel, and the faeries she had indicated dropped out of the sky to obey.
After Karl had disappeared inside the Palace with his escort, Fyora swept over to them. Adele nodded her head shortly, but refused to bow to someone who had put her friend in so much danger. Fyora nodded back and placed a hand on the Wraith Ogrin's forehead, causing him to stir fretfully. Her staff was back to its normal purple and sky blue, and it was glowing gently.
After a few moments Cobolt's eyes fluttered open, and she smiled at him, her face kind. "Thank you," she said.
It had been two weeks since Oblivion had been destroyed, and Cobolt was still inclined to spend several extra hours in bed instead of attending class. Not that anyone begrudged him, as he was still trying to get rid of the last residues of magic still imprinted on his body, and his paws were still healing from where shards of glass had cut the sensitive pads. He lay in his bed and stared up at the cloudy sky, before a tap on his door interrupted his thoughts.
Adele had changed. Her anger at him attacking her had been completely annulled by her concern for him (not that she didn't try to hide it). Now, she no longer knocked at his door like she was about to blast it into smithereens. And she actually waited for him to answer it, which was also some sort of miracle.
He snatched up his new wand and waved it at the door, which smoothly swung open. Adele stepped inside and closed it softly, carrying a tray full of his favourite foods.
"How was class?" he asked her, sitting up with a leisurely stretch.
Adele probably could have skipped class as well without the teachers batting an eyelid – after all, she had helped discover and free the faeries underground – but she chose to attend class instead. "Not everyone can be as disgustingly lazy as you," she had told him. One of the reasons for her change had been the newfound respect that everyone gave her. Not that people hadn't respected her before, her being a Dark Faerie and all. Only now people tried to start friendly conversations with her despite being assaulted by a withering look.
"Mariel's acing everything, as can be expected without that stupid necklace on," Adele said, picking a morsel off the tray and popping it into her mouth. She sat down on one half of his bed without asking permission and put the tray on his legs. "She should just skip straight up to third year now. It's not like she hasn't been taught the spells; she just hasn't been able to perform them properly until now.
The Pink Lutari had indeed improved, so much so that even after two weeks barely anyone could remember her hopeless attempts at magic before the Oblivion incident. Her brother was a different story. Somehow when Oblivion had been destroyed, his magic had gone with it, and he could no longer cast a single spell. The faeries had him working in the Palace where they could keep a good eye on him.
And Cobolt had gone back to the Academy. Fyora had offered him rooms in the Palace, as well as tutoring with however many of the faeries there he felt like learning from, but he had wanted to return to his studies with Adele. Other than the faeries and those in the Academy, the rest of Neopia was in the dark about his role in what had happened. They simply thought the faeries had sorted everything out themselves. And he preferred it that way. His owner would probably withdraw him from the Academy if he ever found out how Cobolt had risked his skin.
"You really should come to class sometime," Adele said, giving his rumpled bed sheets a significant look. "It's so boring without you, and we need to play midnight tag soon."
Cobolt smiled at her. She scowled back. "Sure. How does tonight sound?"
"You know you're going to lose," she replied, smirking. "And I'm not holding back anything just because you're crippled."
"I didn't expect you to," he said with a smile.