Ruined Library: Part Two
Lae and Akorri found Jinny outside the large room, standing patiently waiting for them by the door. The open sky stretched above them to replace the stifling ceiling inside.
Both she and Akorri were unprepared for what they saw.
"Wow!" she gasped. Standing next to the white Kyrii, peering carefully at Lae and Akorri, was a large black Gallion. Larger than any Gallion Laerya had ever seen. He easily towered over the three Neopets, and was probably as tall as all three of them put together. Lae could only imagine how impressive his wings must be.
"Why is that Gallion so big?" Akorri asked cautiously.
Jinny smiled. She looked the same as when they'd last seen her, with her long grey hair covering one of her eyes and her overly-large purple robe almost touching the grass. "This is Shady," the Kyrii explained, patting the Gallion's neck. "He's my Petpet. The reason he's so large is because Cedric, one of the Greengladers, put a spell on him to make him this big. He thought he could tame Shady in that state."
"But... I guess he couldn't?" Akorri frowned.
"He wanted Shady to be a battle Petpet, in case we had another attack from... Lorelei..." Jinny shuddered at the name, "But Cedric found him too difficult to control. He set Shady free, and I found him close to Greenglade soon after."
Laerya crossed her arms, watching the black Gallion with interest. "Yeah?"
"Shady seemed upset and very, very hungry. So I fed him." Jinny beamed – a rare sight – being with the Gallion obviously made her happy. "We spent more time together and grew to like each other. So now he's my Petpet."
Lae wasn't sure she liked the Gallion's orange stare. He seemed to judge her, though how a Petpet could do that, she didn't know. Her Gruslen Peach was far more forgiving. "He's... cute," she said slowly. He was a little cute, but his shrewd eyes and immense size outweighed most of his adorable factors.
"He's impressive," Akorri added, taking a step forward.
The Gallion's eyes flicked over to the Xweetok as he approached him. "Oh, um, you can stroke him if you like," Jinny said quickly. "He won't bite."
"You sure?" Laerya had her doubts. If Cedric couldn't tame Shady, how could Jinny? The Kyrii was one of the meekest Neopets Lae had ever met. She wasn't sure if Jinny even knew how to instil discipline.
"I'm positive," Jinny replied. "Shady?" As she addressed the Gallion, Shady lowered his head to her eye-level. "My friends want to say hello." At this she blushed, as if she'd made a mistake.
Laerya couldn't suppress a grin. "Yeah, we're your friends," she said. Inching closer towards Shady, she gingerly held out her hand. The Gallion's eyes locked on her expectantly. Lae slowly let her hand rest on Shady's head, thinking that it would be eaten as soon as it made contact.
Shady didn't even react.
Laerya raised an eyebrow and gently stroked Shady's furred head; it was courser than Peach's fur, but still nice to touch. "He isn't trying to eat me!" she breathed.
Shady snorted at this, causing Lae to reel back in shock. Jinny giggled and put a hand to her mouth. "I told you Shady's nice. He's just... scoffing at your comment."
"That was a scoff?" Lae blinked, shaking her head. "He can understand me?"
Jinny nodded. "He can understand most of what I say," she said. "He's very intelligent."
It was Akorri's turn to stroke the great beast. The Xweetok did his part even slower than Lae, to which both Shady and Jinny smirked. As Akorri stroked the Gallion, he grinned cheerfully. "This is nice!"
"You've not been around many Petpets, have you?" Laerya murmured.
Akorri sighed. "Not really, no. I don't usually like them."
Shady blinked while Jinny tilted her head to the side. "Why not?" the Kyrii asked.
Akorri withdrew his hand and narrowed his eyes. "Just don't like 'em," he said, waving his hand dismissively, "You know how it is."
"Well..." Jinny shrugged. "I guess that's believable. It's a shame."
Laerya clicked her tongue as a thought occurred to her. "What are you doing here anyway, Jinny?"
"Uh, I was invited," she replied as Shady lifted his head back up to its normal position, "By Fericeus."
"Ah... yeah, he does know about Greenglade, so he would know you, I guess. But how did you get here?"
"I flew on Shady!"
Lae's ear twitched in surprise. "Um... you flew on Shady?" That must be fun indeed!
"He can fly? I swear Gallions have small wings," Akorri pointed out.
Jinny and Shady exchanged a glance. "Not Shady," said the Kyrii. With that, the Gallion spread its black wings. The sheer size of them blocked the sun (which reminded Lae of Vacerus), ominously shadowing her and Akorri. The massive wingspan certainly was impressive.
"So... cool..." Lae and Akorri breathed in unison.
Shady withdrew his wings with a snort. However the snort quickly turned into a snarl as the Gallion whipped his head around, body tensing up.
Laerya frowned, wondering what had Shady so upset.
A horribly familiar mad laugh answered her question. Purple wisps materialised in the air, forming into the shape of a Bori. A winged witch Bori.
The manic faerie Neopet dared to swoop straight past Shady's head and hovered above the group. Her silver hair settled neatly on her shoulders, the sleeves of her dark purple dress hanging off her arms. She looked gaunter than Jinny, if that was possible. Her recognisable bloodshot eyes flicked over each member of the group before her face broke into her trademark twisted grin.
"Lorelei..." Laerya whispered, her blood suddenly boiling frantically. Such a flurry of anger rushed through her that her vision blurred and she felt dizzy for a moment. She wanted nothing more than to lunge straight at the Bori and rip her hair out. How dare that witch show her face around here! What nerve did she have to spoil a celebration? And how did she know where Lae was? "Leave before I turn that dress into a rag!"
"You won't get the chance!" Lorelei hissed, her hands pulsing with purple magic. Without another word she pointed a finger at Akorri and a dark magic beam shot towards him.
It all happened so fast that nobody could react in time. The Xweetok shrieked as he was struck, doubling over in pain. He groaned as sparks of energy circled his body.
Laerya did not hesitate for a second and immediately leapt for Lorelei, intending to barrel her over, but in a flash the Bori was gone. As quickly as she had appeared and did the damage, she vanished in violet smoke.
Jinny and Shady looked on with wide, horrified eyes as Akorri continued to gasp and hiss, the magic still crackling through his body.
Lae turned to face her fallen friend, her anger replaced by dread. Her limbs turned to lead and she felt as though her heart stopped. "What did she to do you?!" she screamed at Akorri.
The Xweetok stopped writhing and lay flat, his breathing becoming deeper and more regular.
Lae couldn't think. Her mind was in a panic. Everything had gone upside down in just a few seconds. Was Akorri okay? What happened? "What did she do? What did she do? Akorri! WAKE UP!" she cried desperately, knees crashing to the ground, sparing no thought for the pain caused by such an action.
Jinny and Shady stayed completely silent, both too stunned to do anything.
After several agonising minutes, Akorri stirred. Lae's breath caught in her throat as the Xweetok lifted his head. She was about to release a relieved sigh, but the expression on Akorri's face paralysed her throat.
There was nothing nice in his gaze. Red eyes smouldering, he glared at Lae with unrestrained vehemence. He sat up, keeping his stare fixed on her. "Hah," he scoffed, "This is the first thing I see when I wake up. The dumb gaze of a Cybunny."
It was at this point that Lae's brain stopped working coherently. What did Akorri say? Why was he looking at her like that? Like she was his enemy? Why were his eyes so painfully hateful? "Akorri?" she murmured hoarsely.
"Yeah?" Akorri stood up slowly. "What do you want, Lae?" Those words should have been neutral, maybe even friendly, but instead they were laced with scorn.
So he recognises me... but he's acting like he used to, before we were friends. What did Lorelei do?! Lae allowed her thoughts to calm down a little, though she was still tense. "Why are you acting like a jerk?"
Akorri pouted. "I dunno, maybe because you aren't worth taking seriously?"
Laerya felt as though she'd been punched in the gut. She was rarely stung by insults, but this one cut her surprisingly deep.
Before she could reply, Akorri turned to Jinny. "What are you staring at, one-eye?"
The only indication of Jinny being hurt was her ear twitching; she took on a cold expression, narrowing her visible eye. She didn't say anything.
Laerya wanted to whine, but her pride wouldn't let her. At least it's not just me he's going after, she thought, But this can't be good for Jinny. That girl is too fragile. "Akorri, what's gotten into you?"
"A good night's sleep?" the Xweetok offered as a reply. "Why do you ask, twerp?"
"Twerp?" The first signs of irritation sparked through Lae. "Who are you calling a twerp, jerk?"
"You, twerp. Wow, you're dumber than I thought."
"Take that back!"
"Take it back!"
"I shouldn't have to take back the truth." Akorri smirked, folding his arms.
Laerya clenched her fist, tempted to throw a punch at the red Xweetok. "You're starting to get on my nerves now, boy," she hissed.
"U-um... Laerya?" Jinny piped up.
Akorri's smirk grew wider. "Answer her, twerp."
"Don't order me around!" Lae snapped. She took several deep breaths and the two females edged further away from Akorri until they were out of earshot. "Jinny, what do you think Lorelei's done to him?"
Jinny shook her head. "I don't know. Either way, I don't think you should take Akorri's bait. Whatever Lorelei's done, she's done it for a reason."
Lae sighed, watching Akorri. The Xweetok and Shady were engaged in a death glare match. She sighed again, wishing that Akorri would just return to normal. "Do you think he's going to be like this forever?"
"I... I hope not." Jinny swallowed audibly. "But this is a spell. Most spells are reversible. So maybe we could reverse this?"
The purple Cybunny allowed herself a small smile as hope flared in her chest. "Makes sense, Jinny. I'm willing to try that." She glanced back at the entrance to the stage, hoping the white Xweetok she had in mind was still there. "I know just the Neopet who could do that."
Jinny blinked. "Oh, good." She didn't sound convincing. Did she believe her own suggestion?
Laerya wasn't in the mood to question it. "I'm going to go get Fericeus. You stay here and watch Akorri, make sure Shady doesn't set him on fire or something."
At Jinny's nod, Laerya went back into the large room. To her relief, the majority of her extended family and friends were still there. Urgently she scoped the crowd for a white Xweetok, grinning as she spotted him being pestered by the small faerie Xweetok, Kiyake. She strolled up to them both and whispered to Feri, "I need you outside. Please!"
Fericeus and Kiyake looked at each other before Feri responded. "Okay," he said, following Lae out of the room and back outside.
Jinny was standing exactly where Lae had left her, while Akorri was sitting on his own in the grass, drawing patterns with a stick. "Akorri didn't do anything?" Laerya asked Jinny.
She shook her head. "No, thankfully." Her eye widened as she saw Fericeus – surprise and confusion flickered in her gaze.
Fericeus acknowledged her with a nod before addressing Laerya. "What is it?"
Laerya wondered how best to phrase it. She thought about not mentioning Lorelei at all, though she didn't know what good that would do – Fericeus knew who she was by now. But if she told him that she faced Lorelei without doing anything stop her, how would that make her look? I have no choice. Best to just come out with it. "Lorelei appeared, she cast a spell on Akorri and then vanished."
Feri blinked in surprise. "Huh!" The white Xweetok looked at the red one, still drawing on the grass. "He doesn't look too put-out."
"Whatever she's done to him, it's made him really..." Laerya trailed off. Just calling him 'mean' did no justice to how he was acting. "... Really nasty."
"Nasty? As in, malicious?"
"Yes." Laerya thought that was a much better word. She never was one with an extensive vocabulary. "He's malicious. Insulting me just like he used to, and he's even being mean to Jinny."
Fericeus narrowed his eyes. Laerya could almost hear his brain working through the clue she'd offered him. Perhaps he would know what kind of spell Lorelei had placed on Akorri, and might even be able to reverse it?
Well, she was half right. "I know what's wrong with Akorri. Lorelei's sapping his original energy and replacing it with something else." Fericeus' brow furrowed. "Something darker."
"Original energy?" Laerya and Jinny exchanged confused glances.
"Everything he was before Lorelei zapped him – his personality, his memories, his physical body – all of this is slowly being altered by magic."
Lae's heart dropped. "And you say it's being replaced by something darker?" She felt a bitter taste in her mouth: realisation and disappointment was a horrible combination. She could already see Akorri's personality had changed.
"Dark magic has manifested in Akorri and will continue to do so until he's a different Xweetok," Fericeus explained.
"Please tell me it's reversible," Lae rasped, unable to think about Akorri as a different Xweetok.
Fericeus sighed. "Yes, it's reversible," he said. Before Laerya could cheer, he went on, "But I can't reverse it. I don't know how."
"Oh. Oh, no. But Fericeus, you have to know!" Lae knew she was being unreasonable by making such demands, but she was desperate. "You must know! You know everything!"
"Relax," said Feri. "I don't know how to reverse it, but that doesn't mean I can't learn. Unfortunately, I don't have the book I need to learn it from."
Laerya felt like she was on a roller coaster ride with this conversation. With every piece of good news, her heart soared, and when the bad news came in all hope came crashing back down. "Um..."
"Don't worry. I know where the book is."
"I'll go get it for you!" Lae snapped to attention. "I'll bring it back in the blink of an eye!"
Fericeus chuckled at her eagerness. "It's not that simple. The book is far on the other side of Neopia, on an island between Moltara and Lutari Island. It would take you a month to get there if you travelled by boat, even at your impressive running speed."
Laerya shook her head. "I don't have a month. Akorri could be well into the darkness by then."
Feri's solemn gaze bore into her before glancing at Akorri. "You're right, you don't have a month. Flying is the quickest way to get there." He turned to Jinny, not batting an eye at the massive Shady standing beside her. "Can this Gallion fly?"
"He flew me here," Jinny replied.
Fericeus turned back to Lae. "Then take the Gallion and fly to the island. On it is a ruined library with the book I'm looking for. The book is purple with delicate wispy patterns. You'll know which one it is, no other book looks like it in the library."
Laerya was about to dash off – to where, she didn't know, but her legs were fired up to run – but she stopped herself. Fericeus was extremely knowledgeable, but how on Neopia did he know about such a specific book? And how did he know what was in the library? "Why don't you have the book already?" the Cybunny asked.
"I've been meaning to fetch it, but recently I've been too busy to do so. Honestly, I've been doing as much research on Lorelei as I can these past few months, because this Bori is too dangerous to ignore." Fericeus closed his eyes and continued in a grave tone, "You've seen what she can do. Performing a spell to completely twist someone's personality is only the tip of the iceberg."
Laerya could not shake the sense that she was going into something far out of her depth. If Feri said Lorelei was dangerous, she could only imagine how much of a threat the Bori must be. It didn't help that Lorelei had a personal vendetta against her. "Why do you think she's done this?"
"To either mess with you or distract you." Fericeus sighed. "I hope it's the former."
Precious time was being wasted by talking it out. Laerya knew all she had to by now and was ready to leave immediately. "All right. I'll go get the book."
"Take Akorri with you. The magic works slower if he is in the company of friends. Watch him carefully. Sometimes he'll show signs of his former self, and you must encourage that as much as possible to stave off the magic." Fericeus' deep voice reassured Lae. "I wish I could go with you, but I have duties here to attend to. I know you're fully capable of bringing the book in a short space of time. May luck be with you!"
Laerya didn't much fancy taking Akorri with her in his current state, and by the looks of it Jinny didn't either. The Kyrii eyed Akorri warily, almost coldly. "Well... let's do this. Let's all hop on Shady so he can take us to the island."
To be continued...