Chronicles of the Chosen: Taking Flight - Part Five
"We are now docking in Brightvale," a purple Shoyru said loudly, awakening any remainder of the exhausted passengers with her shouts. "All ashore that's going ashore."
I had been sitting for at least an hour, now, staring up at the night's dwindling presence as dawn broke across the seashore. Jhudora's words still rung fresh through my racing mind: "You and I are the same."
If that's what Flamethrower's visions are like, she needs some serious help. BIG time.
Most of the morning had been gruelingly uneventful. We didn't even stop to look at Brightvale; we just walked around it and set forth on the path to Faerieland. Things were still uneasy between the bunch of us, though. Maurice, of course, didn't talk to anyone. Johnny had started to open up again, although he purposely avoided the topic of our escape. But I didn't tell a soul about what I had seen the night before.
Flamethrower was acting the weirdest out of everyone -- even me! She kept giving me these weird glances, but they weren't out of anger or anything. They seemed almost... understanding.
Finally, she spoke. "Hey, guys... I think I had a vision last night..."
Instantly everyone turned their heads to face the Zafara, their eyes filled with curiosity and fear... mostly fear.
"It was a weird one, too. It was sort of a vision during the beginning, but after that, it was almost like... like a vision of the past." Her eyes met with mine for a moment before continuing. "Anywho, the vision of the future is what you all would be concerned with. The gem – if I have my facts straight – should be just outside of Faerieland's gates, setting on a pedestal hidden in the trees."
"That's good." Kathryn nodded. "I think we're getting close, so we should come up at it soo--"
The next thing they knew, they were running to catch up with me, whom had spotted the little thicket of trees in the distance. I paid them no mind, however. All that mattered was that the solution to my—to Neopia's problems lay just ahead of me, and it was coming up fast.
"Kendall!" Their voices cried out from the trees behind me, but they were nothing but a roar in my ears.
Just ahead, it had to be! Branches through branches I pushed my way past, until finally I reached a clearing in the surrounding wood. And there, right there, stood the marble white pedestal, right next to...
... Oh no.
"Looking for this?" Jhudora's smile seemed just as cunning as in my dreams, as she held the sky blue gem between her violet fingers. Her purple, leathery wings had just been regenerated, and slid out of her back so beautifully, so innocently... so unlike herself. "Might I say, you catch on fast for someone your age."
"You tricked me," I growled. "You were just trying to lure me out here, weren't you?"
Jhudora shrugged. "Perhaps."
Before I could even react, Jhudora stood right in front of me, restraining my left arm to a tree with one hand and holding the gem far behind her with the other. Desperately I grabbed for the treasure, but let's face it; I don't have extend-o-arms.
"Actually, I've been wanting to make a deal with you." Jhudora's purple eyes met with mine for but a moment, but even today I can still feel it's deathly chill. "Your owner was a supporter of Fyora. She listened to her orders to strip you of your wings. Let's say we bring her out of power, hm? Give her what she deserves?"
"Never." I reached even farther for the gem, but Jhudora raised it even higher over my head.
"Then how about this? I'll give you this gem. I'll return your wings to you... if you form an alliance with me."
I almost said "never" to that one, too, before my brain kicked in and made me hesitate. "Well... I... uh...."
"GET OFF OF HIM!"
Both of us turned our heads at the sound of Flamethrower's voice: Jhudora with a scowl, and I with a smile of relief. My rescuer's arms rose into the air and threw themselves in Jhudora's direction. Immediately the flames ignited and obeyed their master's command, and now dozens of fireballs rained down on the Dark Faerie.
Looks like I didn't call her Flamethrower for nothing.
But the flames did no harm to Jhudora. All she did was create an arc of darkness over top of her, shielding her from the flames. Then the shield melted into six blobs of darkness and sailed over to us. Everyone but Monica ended up getting slammed into the trees.
Kathryn was the first to recover, and immediately stamped her foot into the ground. At her command, a rather large tremor shuttered the ground beneath our feet. But all Jhudora did was fly up to avoid the vibrations.
"H-how w-was tha-at supp-posed to h-help?" Amazing. Even while struggling to keep his balance, Maurice could still sound like a hothead.
"Just wait," Kathryn prompted him, and then urged everyone to keep fighting.
After a few seconds, Maurice got used to the ground's movement and summoned water from the plants around us. The whole clearing's leaves shriveled into a dull, lifeless brown as a larger and larger torrent of water formed high above our heads. Then he released it, sending an almost pinpoint jet of water down on Jhudora.
"Ack!" She didn't think it would work, but still Jhudora raised the gem above her head.
Surprisingly, though, it did work: the water somehow bounced harmlessly off of the gem, so the attack ranged outwards instead of straight down.
"What the Moltara?!" Maurice exclaimed in frustration. Couldn't have said it better, myself.
Suddenly, the ground started to rumble – as in, rumbling more than it had to begin with. Kathryn grinned as two HUGE trees began to topple from the tremor.
Jhudora's eyes widened. "Oh my Zomutts!"
The rest seemed to happen in slow motion. First I saw the trees gradually lean towards Jhudora, preparing to crush her under their trunks. Jhudora, however, threw the gem in a random direction and disappeared in a cloud of purple smoke. My eyes trailed the gem as it sailed through the skies. Then, before I even realized I had moved, my legs sprang to life, and I found myself running to keep up with the Gem of Flight's path through the trees.
Lower, lower the jewel descended, always just inches ahead of me, no matter how fast I tried to sprint. A dozen feet above my head, ten feet, five, three... desperately I leaped forward, my paw extended to the gem right in front of me...
But my paws only brushed the surface of the crystal. That wasn't enough to stop it from crashing onto the ground and shattering into a million pieces.
I stared down at the countless shards in front of me, and the feeling of hopelessness took its toll. I could feel the magic presence of the gem fading, escaping into the pine-scented air. Maurice, Johnny, and the girls finally arrived and circled around me. They, too, had the essence of defeat lingering around them.
"We... lost..." For once, Monica's thousand-watt smile had dulled to a melancholy expression.
Maurice glared in my direction. I could tell what he was thinking: I told you so, you Barbat!
They were upset, all right, but their lament was nothing compared to mine. I had one chance, this one and only chance to get my wings back. I could've soared through the clouds, just as I had always dreamed. At last, I'd have something to remind me of my old life, something from before I came to the pound. And now it lay in shambles around me.
Finally, Flamethrower sighed heavily. "Let's just go. Rose is probably worried about us, by now."
It felt like ages had passed before we could tear our eyes from the shattered gem at our feet. Eventually, we turned around and trudged out of the forest, Jhudora's victory weighing down each of our shoulders.
Why did the return trip always take twice as long? Why did the day have to be so bright and beautiful, as if just to mock us? And why did that pain in my back – the ghost of my old wings – have to ache the whole time, beating in and out, in and out? Sometimes, life just doesn't seem fair.
"Oh, there you all are!"
Rose trotted over and hugged each of us joyously, but even her happiness didn't lift our crushed spirits. But still she dragged us into the Transfer Hissi and Dr. Death's offices, just to show him that we were all right.
The Transfer Hissi probably didn't even know we had left. He sort of does his own thing in the Transfer Office, and hardly interacts with anyone but the pets and owners he caters to. But even so, he stepped away from the strange transfer technology and smiled a robotic smile at each of us. But, since he was a robot, I guess that's a good thing.
Dr. Death, on the other hand...
"I will NOT have any Neopets leave the premises! Do you understand me? You six have caused enough trouble as it is, creating such havoc by sneaking out. If any of you step even a hair out of line, I will make certain that your lives will be miserable here till the day you're adopted!"
"Isn't it like that, already?" I snorted.
Rose laughed nervously, then mumbled something about leaving the water running in the bathroom and hurried out the door.
Dr. Death gave me a good, stern glare before he turned to Johnny. "And as for YOU, I don't know what you were trying to pull last night, but nearly blinding me didn't cover up a thing." He narrowed his eyes at all of us, his voice dropping to a threatening growl. "I saw you three escape, break the window, everything. I've seen your convergence of an employee area into your little clubhouse. I may not know what you all are up to, but remember, I am always watching."
He looked straight at me. "ALWAYS."
A long, awkward silence passed between us. No one dared speak up to say anything – not even a snide comment about how stupid I am. Finally, Flamethrower gathered enough courage to back away slowly to the door, open it, and leave just as silently as she had come. The rest of us soon followed, our gazes locked firmly on the ground at our feet. Nothing will ever be the same, after all that has happened.
And it was all my fault.
--Two Days Later—
"So, you guys really are leaving."
I glanced down at my roommates' suitcases and piles of belongings sorrowfully. Seven years of memories had filled this room, and now only a third of it is being left behind.
Maurice glared as he picked up his luggage. "I'm not talking to you."
"But Maurice!" I exclaimed – not out of anger, but pleading for him to stay. "We've been here for seven whole years... together! You can't just leave this all behi--"
"Watch me," was Maurice's only reply before walking out the door, which was now stripped of his photos.
Desperately I turned to Johnny. "Johnny, please... I..."
"I'm sorry, Kendall." Johnny avoided my eyes as he spoke by closing his own. "I put my trust in you once. We can't afford for me to do it again." And he, too, left me standing there in my now empty dormitory.
I was proud of myself, though. I had kept my composure till the moment their footsteps faded in the distance. Only then did I collapse onto the bed and cry.
I was alone. There was no way around it, now. My teammates, the pets who have been my friends for as long as I can remember... they now hated my guts. Everything I had tried to do to make things better... all it did was make it worse. All. My. Fault.
Just then, a knock on the door silenced my brooding. Despite my objections, I stood up from my mourning and trudged over to the door, then opened it to reveal Jamie's smiling face.
"Morning, Kendall!" Jamie grinned, somehow ignoring my puffy, red eyes and tear-stained fur. "I have a delivery for you!"
"A delivery?" No one ever sends gifts to us pound pets, let alone me. "Who's it from? Fyora?"
"You'll see." Jamie winked, then dropped the package and envelope inside my dorm room and closed the door behind her.
Honestly, as I stared down at the brown box before me, all I wanted was to throw it out the gaping hole where our—my--window once was. But the longer I waited, the more curiosity nipped away at me, until finally I could take it no longer.
I opened the package carefully, and then pulled out the item: a pair of big, green Shell Faerie Wings. For a moment, I just stood there, puzzled, then slowly picked up the envelope and read the letter inside:
I know that all this isn't your fault. You were just trying to help. I've seen what you've been through in the past, and I know how alone and unwanted you must feel, right now. These wings may not be your old ones, but they are as close to it as you'll ever get. I hope you enjoy them.
Anonymous? Surely it wasn't Fyora, then. She always signs her name on everything, being the Faerie Queen, and all. If it wasn't her, though... who was it?
"OKAY, WHO DID IT?" Kathryn's voice sounded through the walls of my dormitory. "I JUST FOUND MY SHELL FAERIE WINGS LAST NIGHT, SO WHICH ONE OF YOU VARMITS LOST THEM?!"
Looking down at the wings in the package, I couldn't help but grin. Maybe Flamethro—Maybe Sandra isn't so bad, after all.