Temptation: Part Six
"Alright, this is where we set up camp." Artro turned and smiled at his apprentices. They were only a few miles from Faerie City, but the sun was about to set and the forest would soon be pitch black. All around them the woods hummed with magic, fuelled by the faeries that chose to live here. Already they had seen several Earth Faeries and even a Fire Faerie or two, all of which had called out a cheerful greeting. Now however, the Faeries seemed to have deserted them. This would make it all too easy for Kayli to strike, something that Sweetpea seemed also to have also realized.
"Don't you think we should push on? If we keep moving we can make it in another hour or two," she asked Artro nervously, never taking her eyes off of Kayli. Kayli made her face a blank slate, refusing to react to Sweetpea's comment. She no longer mattered in the grand scheme of things.
"No matter, morning will be soon enough, my dear." Artro waved a hand and allowed the suitcases to drop to the ground. He muttered a few words as he unzipped one of the bags and a tent gracefully flew out, growing and adjusting itself as it landed nearby. Artro flicked his wrist and a campfire materialized, as well as three sleeping bags.
"You girls can have the tent. I'll sleep out here under the stars," Artro announced happily as he stretched out on a sleeping bag.
"Good night..." He yawned. Kayli and Sweetpea stood motionless for a moment, watching each other but saying nothing. When Sweetpea finally spoke, it wasn't to say what Kayli had expected.
"Are you okay?" Sweetpea asked. Kayli raised an eyebrow. So this was what had been bothering her friend? Not the fear of an attack, but a foolish worry about their friendship? She'd apparently over estimated the girl. This would be all too easy.
"Perfect," Kayli said. She gracefully turned and sat down next to the fire. Sweetpea stood motionless for a moment, unsure of what to do, before turning and sitting across the fire from Kayli. The girls watched each other silently, neither one willing to drop her gaze. Finally, Kayli spoke.
"You'd better get some sleep. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."
Sweetpea refused to respond, simply staring at her friend, her eyes unreadable. Finally, she shifted her gaze into the fire.
"I'm okay. Maybe you should sleep."
Kayli didn't bother with a reply. She leaned back and watched the stars, waiting for Sweetpea to fall asleep. She was now a creature of the night, and had no trouble resisting sleep. The Dark Vine Potion she'd taken earlier would also help her to stay awake. Sweetpea would have no such luxury. Soon Artro's snores could be heard and Kayli knew her moment was fast approaching. It was clear from her glazed eyes and constant yawning that Sweetpea was fighting to stay awake. Kayli smirked as Sweetpea jerked herself upright for what must have been the third time. Soon it would be time to strike.
Hours later, Kayli pushed herself up. Sweetpea had finally dropped off about an hour ago, but Kayli had waited to ensure that she wouldn't wake up. Kayli breathed in deeply, taking pleasure in the cool night air. She smiled serenely as the branches above her swayed and groaned ominously. She felt no sense of fear, of worry or regret. Her heart was filled with anticipation; finally she would fulfill her purpose, complete the task she was destined to perform. She could practically feel the book urging her forward, whispering encouragements as she took it out from under her cloak and prepared to cast the spell.
"I'm finally getting everything I deserve," she murmured, raising her hooves and turning to Artro, who was sound asleep and blissfully unaware.
At first, as she began to recite the dark script, Kayli could feel nothing happening. For a fleeting moment she feared that nothing would happen, but those fears were quickly put to rest as she suddenly felt the world slip away. Nothing existed except for Artro, herself, and the magic between them. The last thing Kayli heard was Artro crying out, before the spell took over. Kayli had tried to mentally prepare herself for the energy transfer, but nothing could have readied her for this.
It was like every nerve in her body was on fire! Kayli could feel Artro's magic coursing through her veins, building up inside her and mixing with her own power. She felt as if she had been dying of thirst, and was suddenly given a tall glass of water. Her own magic, if you could even call it that, felt like nothing compared to Artro's. She could feel herself getting stronger, the spell pushing her powers into overdrive. She felt as if she could do anything! This new power was the most beautiful thing she'd ever experienced, and Kayli knew she needed more. She hungrily fed on the magic the spell provided her with, drawing in more and more magic until–
Wait. What was that she felt? It was like a whispering force in the back of her mind, pulling at her magic. Kayli struggled to ignore the force, and focus on her new found power, but it kept wiggling around, trying to stop the flow of magic from Artro to Kayli. Finally, Kayli opening her eyes and tuned in to the world around her. She struggled to focus on identifying the invading magic's source.
Kayli felt her eyes narrow and a snarl escape her throat. There, standing between herself and Artro, was none other than Sweetpea. The other Uni had her wings raised, and was quickly and quietly reciting Kayli's spell back at her. What was she doing?! She couldn't use Black Magic, she was worthless! What could she possibly be trying to accomplish? As Kayli felt more of her stolen magic drain away, it finally dawned on her; Sweetpea was reversing the spell! Kayli fleetingly remembered Artro lecturing the two of them on reversing spells ages ago, before any of this had started. No! Kayli desperately flipped through the book, trying to locate a spell to stop Sweetpea.
"Kayli, stop please! Look what you're doing!" But Kayli was deaf to Sweetpea's pleas. She could feel nothing inside, nothing but a frantic hunger for Artro's magic. Kayli grinned maliciously at Sweetpea as she located the spell she'd been searching for.
"You want to play with Black Magic? Okay, let's play." Sweetpea's eyes widened and she slowly backed up as Kayli advanced towards her. Kayli could feel the Black Magic coursing through her as she began to cast, twisting and turning within her very soul. As she finished the incantation Kayli gave Sweetpea a final smile, before she turned her wings outwards, sending off a bolt of lightning that was meant to finish off her friend.
Instead of running like Kayli expected, Sweetpea planted her feet and narrowed her eyes, standing ready as the magic raced towards her. Mere seconds before the spell reached her, Sweetpea yelled out a single word. Kayli threw back her head and laughed as she recognised the hex, originally designed to turn any spell back on its castor. A hex Sweetpea had absolutely no hope of performing. Her laughter soon turned into a shriek of outrage as Kayli's bolt of lightning raced back towards its master. Kayli desperately threw her hooves up in front of her face as the lightning hit its mark, blowing both herself and Sweetpea backwards.
As the smoke cleared Kayli looked down at herself, surprised to see that she was unharmed. There was no way she could have survived a blast like that... unless...
Kayli cried out in surprise and dropped to her knees. There, reduced to nothing but a pile of smouldering ash, was her precious book. Kayli waited for the rage to come, the uncontrollable anger that overwhelmed her whenever the book was far, but she felt nothing. She cautiously poked at what was left of the burning cover, waiting for some sort of pull from the book, but again, nothing. Was she disappointed? Kayli couldn't tell. She felt as if she had been underwater for a long time, and had suddenly come up for air. Everything around her seemed so loud and bright, from the wind in the trees, to the chirping of the weewoos, to Artro-
Artro! Kayli felt her stomach drop as she spun around the face the older wizard. He was lying on the ground, his breaths coming in quick, short gasps. Sweetpea was leaning over him, muttering quietly as she tried to heal her mentor. Her words were smooth and confident; however her eyes portrayed a deep sense of fear.
Kayli sank to her knees as a wave of sadness washed over her. She had done this. She had hurt Artro. Artro, who had loved them, taken care of them, and had never, ever, hurt anyone in his life. She had betrayed them. She had betrayed everyone. Everyone she had ever loved, everything she had ever believed in. And for what? The pursuit of power, she thought bitterly. Kayli was overcome with the need to escape, to get away from what she'd done. She didn't deserve to be near them, those who were so pure and whole. She quickly jumped up, causing Sweetpea to glance in her direction.
"I-I...." Kayli slowly began backing up. She couldn't face them. She just couldn't. Sweetpea nodded, her expression solemn. Gone was the carefree girl who had looked to Kayli for guidance; No, Kayli had destroyed her as well. But still, Kayli waited for Sweetpea to speak.
"Just come back, okay? And remember what Artro said." Kayli nodded and turned away. She didn't know what Sweetpea was referring to, but at this point she didn't care. Kayli galloped away, away from her friend and her mentor, away from her life, and, she hoped, away from her mistakes. Kayli ran and ran, past Faerieland and into the Haunted Woods, and then she kept running, until she was past the Haunted Woods and into the desert. As she ran, she allowed herself to give in to the agony of her regrets. Finally, Kayli tripped over a sand dune and collapsed, too exhausted to pick herself up again. Shattered, Kayli finally gave in to the tears, and when she was too exhausted to cry, gave in to sleep.
Years passed, but Kayli never returned home. Even if Sweetpea was ready to forgive her, Kayli wasn't ready to forgive herself. She had done too many bad things, and had allowed too many bad things to happen. She kept a close watch on the news however, until Sweetpea's graduation was finally announced. She considered sending flowers, but quickly rejected the idea. News of Artro's retirement came a few years after that, accompanied by a picture of the acclaimed Wizard. Kayli was saddened to see that he looked much more serious and much older now than he had ever before.
Kayli spent her years searching for answers; if she couldn't explain why she had given in to the magic, she could at least try to explain where the book had come from. She searched the globe for years, looking for any trace of the Black Magic that had consumed her for so long, but time and time again she came up empty handed. Despite her countless failures, Kayli continued to search for the origin of the book in a desperate attempt to heal herself, because no matter how she looked on the outside, Kayli knew she was still broken. It was as if the Black Magic had stained her soul, leaving her a crippled, twisted version of herself. She tried to console herself with the idea that she had never been completely taken over by the magic, for she had never finished the book, so perhaps she had been left with something good within her. Some days it worked, and Kayli felt almost normal, and some days it didn't, and Kayli felt as if she would never be whole again.
The trouble with spending her years wandering was that Kayli had lots of time to think. One day, as Kayli idly considered Sweetpea's final words to her, she came upon the answer, and finally knew what her friend had wanted her to remember. Once upon a time, in another life, Artro had taken them to a secret place, and taught them a very important lesson.
"Just because someone makes a mistake doesn't mean they're abandoned by the ones who love them."