Ruined Library: Part Six
"Wake up, wake up! Lae, we're pressed for time! Let's go!"
An urgent singsong voice broke into Lae's dreams. It was sweet, but harrowed, and had the tone of someone about to commit a desperate act.
It came again, and Lae was jolted awake by the distressed screech. Her eyes met Kiyake's blue ones and she frowned as the Xweetok smiled.
"Good morning, Lae, we should really hurry," said the girl with green wavy hair, her voice now pleasantly calm.
Lae felt like punting her. "Morning, Kiyake," she muttered, rubbing her eyes.
Akorri and Jinny were also roused by Kiyake's voice, and they too looked shocked for a moment until they realised what Kiyake had done. They glanced at each other and Akorri glared at Kiyake, snarling, "What was that for?"
"To wake you up," she replied with a grin. "I sure can act, huh?"
"Keep that up, and that scream won't be an act," Akorri warned. Clearly he was back in his 'Mr. Grumpy' state.
"Say no more, my lips are sealed." Kiyake ran her finger over her lips and winked. It looked like she really wouldn't say anything else, but then she burst out, "Well, except when they aren't sealed, like now! I need to get you guys moving, because we gotta make good time if we wanna reach the library before Akorri becomes Mr. Grumpy forever!"
"Good point..." Lae sighed, standing up slowly. "Shady, how are you this morning? Ready to fly?"
The Gallion snorted in response and nodded. Jinny sleepily climbed aboard, Akorri following with zombie-like movements. Kiyake giggled and crept onto Shady's tail.
"Kiki, you can come on his back here," Lae said as she hopped onto Shady, "there's a saddle for you to sit in."
"His tail is more comfy," Kiyake replied.
"No buts! I'm staying on his tail and that's that!"
Lae just shrugged at the faerie Xweetok's steadfast interest to ride on Shady's tail. This was Kiyake, after all. "Let's just go," she said tiredly to Jinny.
The Kyrii nodded. "Come on, Shady. Fly as fast as you can."
Shady carefully spread his amazing, huge black wings and took off into the air as best he could. Unfortunately he did not have much space for take-off (the cliff shelter had been a bit on the small side) and so with a sickening lurch he slipped and fell, his wings closing from the sudden pressure and heading straight for the sea below.
"OH, FYORA HELP US!" Kiyake screamed as they fell, clinging on for dear life to Shady's tail.
Wait, sea? When did they have a chance to reach the sea? Last Lae checked, there had been nothing but stretches of fields before them. Then again, she hadn't peered down since the ice Korbat attacked them, and that had been a while ago. Still, the crashing of waves or salty tang of the sea should have at least alerted one of her senses to her surroundings...
Those were the only thoughts she had as the group plummeted towards the water with no sign of stopping. It had been a while since Lae had eaten, but she still felt as though anything she held in her stomach would come out of her throat. She closed her eyes, preparing for impact.
"Shady, open your wings!" Jinny instructed, and then more frantically, "OPEN YOUR WINGS!"
The Gallion roared, Akorri held on to Jinny and practically squeezed the life out of her, and Lae clutched Akorri's tail. We won't make it, she thought despairingly.
She barely heard Kiyake shout, "I hope everyone can swim!"
No. There was no crash. No painful smack on the face as they hit the water. Just air, and several simultaneous sighs of relief.
Lae opened her eyes. Shady's wings were unfurled again, carrying them barely above the water, his claws skimming the sea's surface. He didn't hang his tail up in the air though, and it had momentarily hit the water – the proof was on Kiyake, whose soaked fur hung off her like a rack, her green hair covering her face. She coughed, squinting.
"That was close," Lae puffed, wiping her brow.
"Speak for yourself," Kiyake spluttered. "I got a good earful of water. And mouthful. And eyeful!"
Lae chuckled while Jinny smiled. "Your own fault for staying on his tail," the Cybunny said. "You wanna come up here now?"
"Maybe..." And the Xweetok pulled herself up to the saddle, taking Lae's outstretched hand and climbing in to join them. She sighed with relief and shook herself dry, droplets of water hitting Lae's face.
"Whoa, use a towel or something!" the purple Cybunny protested, shielding her eyes.
"I would if we had one," Kiyake said with a shrug.
Lae bit her lip, remembering how pitiful their supplies were. Spare clothes, a blaster and a communicating crystal ball. That wouldn't get them through the week. They needed food and water, and fast. Lae handed Kiyake her blue dress, but the Xweetok preferred Akorri's trench coat and slipped that on instead.
"Shady, fly higher," Jinny said. The Gallion complied, flapping his wings a few times to get the group away from the water. Lae breathed in the fresh sea air, particularly fragrant when the wind blew the scent over to her.
The group flew steadily but quickly over the sea, and not many words were shared between them. Kiyake made up for it by talking to herself, about how much she loved the smell of the sea, or how she wished she could fly like Shady, or how much she loved Akorri's trench coat... the list was endless. And her mouth never tired, but her mind often moved too quickly for her lips, so she would end up starting one story but stopping halfway to ask a question or tell another, unrelated story.
"And then Fericeus and I went into the Haunted Woods, and we found the ice Korbat, and–"
Lae snapped to attention, having ignored Kiyake's droning as background noise only a moment before. "Ice Korbat?" she echoed.
"Yeah, I think her name was Yuli. Anyway, we–"
"What did she look like?"
"Short black hair, loose silver clothes, nothing extraordinary really. How come you're suddenly interested?"
Lae and Jinny exchanged glances while Akorri blinked in apathy. "We were attacked by an Ice Korbat yesterday. Do you think it was her?"
"There are plenty of Ice Korbats in Neopia," Akorri snorted.
"It might have been," Kiyake said, suddenly serious; the transformation was jarring. "Yuli is in league with Lorelei."
Lae swallowed nervously. "How do you know?"
"Weren't you listening? I was telling you a story!" Kiyake sighed with exasperation. "Okay, I'll sum it up: Feri and I were going to pay a visit to Akorri's old home and we found Yuli there."
"Why did you want to go to Akorri's home?"
"Ever since the famous Red Rogue turned on her, Lorelei has probably been out for his fur." Kiyake glanced at the Xweetok in question, and he did not seem the least bit interested in this piece of news, as if he knew already. "So if Akorri wanted to go home, he would probably find it rigged with traps even he wouldn't be able to detect. And his other name is Trapsmaster Akorri..."
Akorri merely blinked at the reference to his other abilities. Lae had known him as the Trapsmaster before, but as far as she was aware he hadn't set a trap for unsuspecting Neopets in a long time. Apparently he used to do it a lot before he found her in the Haunted Woods for the first time.
"So anyway, turns out Feri's suspicions about Lorelei-related things were right and Lorelei was preparing to turn Akorri's home into one dangerous place, and Yuli was setting up the trigger when we found her. Feri tossed her aside with his magic of course, while I dismantled the traps."
A question formed slowly in Lae's mind and picked at her, but when she tried to reach for it it flew quickly out of reach.
"So Feri asked her in his scariest voice, 'What do you think you're doing?' and Yuli was all, 'My job!' and then Feri asked, 'What is your job?' and Yuli said, 'Finishing something important' and..." Kiyake had to stop to breath. "Um... after Feri kept her pinned to the floor she eventually confessed to helping Lorelei. But it was the weirdest thing, she wasn't even a little scared, not even when Feri put on that scary voice. She was kinda scary herself. Scary stuff."
"If you and Fericeus hadn't been there, and Akorri decided to go home..." Lae paled at the thought.
"Lucky we were there, huh?"
"But you went there because you knew what Lorelei would do, right?" And then flashed the question that Lae had tried to grasp. "How does Fericeus have such good hindsight?" He had been there for every major Lorelei event, now that Lae thought about it. Ever since he told the story of Vacerus at the fire... and Lae had found Lorelei in Greenglade only because he had told her to go there... and it turned out his actions linked with Lorelei behind the scenes too.
Suddenly the magical white Xweetok took up all of Lae's thoughts. Previously in the background, working quietly out of focus, he now emerged like a blinding white flash of realisation.
He was the key to everything.
He triggered Lorelei's appearance through the storytelling, but that may not have been his fault. And sending Lae to Greenglade only to find Lorelei might have been a coincidence, but now that seemed unlikely. He knew exactly where the book for Akorri's transformation spell would be, but he did not have it himself. He knew Lorelei would endanger Akorri's home.
What else did he know about the faerie Bori witch? And how did he know?
"Kiyake... how long have you and Feri been in on the whole Lorelei scene?"
It was a stupid question to ask; certainly phrased stupidly, anyway, calling this dangerous mess 'the whole Lorelei scene', but Lae was too stunned to find eloquence she did not possess. Her tongue and mind did not want to work together.
Kiyake actually hesitated, a rare sight for those who knew her, and this made Laerya feel uneasy. "Uh... ever since the Vacerus episode," she replied nervously.
"What do you mean by 'Lorelei scene'?" Jinny asked; Lae jumped, forgetting the Kyrii was there. It seemed the only thing important now was Kiyake and her answers.
"Feri directed me to Greenglade to hone my magic, where I found Lorelei. He's directing us now to the ruined library. And he sent you to give us the crystal ball so we could talk to him." Lae felt like she was in a trance. She spoke slowly, deliberately. She needed to get this information into Kiyake, who was normally a little dense and so would not see where Lae was going.
But she did see. The faerie Xweetok knew that she'd said the wrong thing, and that Laerya was now suspicious of her and Fericeus. She looked away anxiously.
"What is Fericeus doing?" Laerya crossed her arms, frustrated with Kiyake's response – or lack thereof. "And why are Akorri and I a part of it?"
"Y-you're not!" Kiyake protested, blue eyes wide. "At least... not on purpose... not... not at first..."
"Not on purpose, not at first?" Lae echoed, her irritation rising.
"I really think it's best if Fericeus explains everything," Kiyake said quickly. "In the mean time, let's just focus on this task. Get the spell book for Feri, change Akorri back, and then we can talk."
"Why can't we talk now?" Lae challenged.
"I don't know how much Feri would want me to say."
"Let me save him the trouble. You're going to say everything." Any friendliness Lae had for Kiyake vanished with the revelation that she had been spying on her and Akorri, letting Fericeus send them on dangerous missions for his sake.
"Um..." Kiyake shook her head. "Laerya, I swear to you that Feri has a reason for doing all this."
"He's sending us into danger for what reason?"
"It's to do with Lorelei, I know that much. He keeps some stuff even from me, so I don't know what he's doing. But I trust him to keep you safe, and he'll make sure you never get into too much trouble."
Lae felt sick.
"We can ask him when we get back." Kiyake closed her eyes.
"He gave us the crystal ball for a reason! We can talk to him now."
Kiyake didn't argue. Laerya thrust the ball out and blew on it, marvelling for a moment as it increased in size and fogged from her breath. And then the image of Fericeus appeared, his white face staring calmly as always at Laerya.
"Yes?" he asked, his voice trailed by a faint echo from the crystal ball. "I see Kiyake's given you the ball."
"The proper thing to say would be 'hello', Fericeus," Lae snapped, suddenly angry to see him.
"All right. Hello, Laerya. What can I do for you?" Still calm and unreadable as ever.
"Why did you send me and Akorri to Greenglade when you knew Lorelei would be there?"
He paused only for a moment. A delicate moment, but Lae was pleased that he at least considered her question and was taken by surprise. "I didn't send you."
"Please don't play dumb, Feri. I still have a little respect for you, so don't be stupid and make me lose it."
Fericeus sighed, green eyes peering through his turquoise hair (for he did look different from other white Xweetoks). "I did it to gather information on Lorelei."
"How were you spying on us?" Laerya asked through clenched teeth. Having Fericeus admit the truth made her feel worse.
"Through a crystal ball similar to this one. I powered it through magic, found your location... and watched you."
"So you literally were spying on us!"
"Please understand that I would have kept you safe, never let you go too far into harm's way."
"I would have flown over there myself."
"Magic, Laerya. I've been told I'm quite adept at it."
"Feri..." Lae trailed off, glancing at Akorri. He glared at her. She turned back to the crystal ball. "Fericeus, did you know Lorelei would appear at the gathering the other day?"
"To zap Akorri? No, I had no idea."
"But you knew about the spell she used, and exactly where the book is, where the library is..."
"I had honestly been meaning to go over there myself. Then the opportunity to send you both presented itself, and I took it."
"We were attacked by Yuli."
Fericeus frowned at this; his first proper expression. "I should have guessed Lorelei would try and stop you. She must know about the library as well."
"What if she's already taken the book?!" Lae didn't want to think about that.
"I don't know. Either way, now that I know Yuli's after you, I urge to you go cautiously. I can't accompany you, since I'm caught up here, but I have faith that you'll be okay."
"Feri... you seem to know so much about Lorelei. How come?"
Fericeus looked away. "I'll explain everything when you come back. For now, my duties are calling me and I must depart. Good luck to you."
The white Xweetok disappeared from the ball and Laerya stared at its beautiful crystal face once more.
To be continued...