Dark Faerie Dreams: Part Three
Once again I found myself dreaming of Faerieland, only I did not find it so beautiful as before. My only concern was getting to the palace but when I reached it I found the front doors locked tight, preventing me from entering. I flew up to the golden handles and grabbed hold of them, tugging with all of my might. The doors would not budge.
My attention was diverted by a soft, melodic voice and I hesitantly moved away from the doors, skirting around the palace walls until I found myself in Fyora's gardens. The faerie Queen herself was there, sitting on a bench. I meant to rush forward to her but found myself frozen with fear when I saw with whom she conversed.
"A flower for you, your highness."
Balthazar sat on the bench beside her, holding out a single violet. "No!" I cried, but was already too late. Fyora lifted the violet and took a delicate sniff of the petals. Almost immediately her face paled and she rose to her feet, swaying as she did.
"Poison," Fyora whispered, staring at Balthazar. He began to chuckle as she collapsed to the garden floor. I rushed forward, moving to stand by her head, trying to ignore Balthazar's triumphant laughter. The faerie Queen was murmuring faintly, her head turning one way and then the other, her eyelids fluttering. I touched her forehead to find it burning.
"What have you done?" I demanded, glaring up at Balthazar. He only laughed harder. Fyora's voice increased in pitch and I moved close to her mouth, trying to make out her words.
At first it was impossible. But soon enough I began to realize she was repeating the same phrase over and over. "Banish them, banish them all..."
"Sunrise, Sunrise wake up!"
I jerked upright, glancing around in surprise. We were still in the Haunted Woods, having traveled only one day on our way to Faerieland. A small fire burned at the center of our chosen campsite, meant to keep the roaming petpets at bay. 'We' was both myself and Viggo, the fire eyrie who had – for reasons I still did not understand – befriended me and joined me on my quest to reach Faerieland and warn Fyora of the pending danger I was so sure she faced. The eyrie was watching me with such a look that I felt suddenly self-conscious and glanced down to avoid his gaze.
"What happened?" I mumbled.
"You must have been dreaming," Viggo explained. "You were so upset I thought I'd better wake you."
"Thank you," I said, raising my gaze to his so he would know I was sincere. My dream was bothering me so I decided to share it with him, hoping I would feel better if I did. "I was dreaming about Fyora again."
"The poison?" he discerned.
I nodded. I had already explained to Viggo about my first dream, about how Fyora had smelled a violet at her dinner table that had, apparently, poisoned her. "Only, it was different this time. Balthazar was with Fyora, he gave her the poisoned flower."
"What do you think it means?" Viggo asked, studying me gravely.
"I don't know," I replied in an equal tone. It certainly wouldn't have surprised me to learn that Balthazar had hatched some plot against the faerie Queen, but I had been captured by him and I'd seen nothing to make me think that he was planning a trip to Faerieland. "I just... don't know."
Viggo coughed as though something was caught in his throat and nodded. "It's nearly sun up; perhaps we should get ready to carry on."
I nodded in eager agreement but my eyes lingered worriedly on his face. "Are you alright?"
"Fine," he dismissed. "It's..." he trailed off when a nearby rustling in the bushes caught his attention. My first thought was of Balthazar and I stepped closer to Viggo. He put his paw down in front of me and watched the bushes intently while I peered around his paw to do the same.
When a fire werhond crawled out of the bushes, eyeing us suspiciously, I was so relieved that I laughed. I stepped around Viggo's paw and reached out to the werhond who was nearly three times my size, speaking gently. "Hey there, it's alright, we won't hurt you."
The werhond backed away, growling uncertainly. "Maybe he's hungry," Viggo suggested, reaching into a pocket and pulling out a cookie. I decided not to wonder why anybody would keep cookies in their pockets. Instead I watched as he held out the treat to the fire werhond who sniffed curiously at it for a minute before eagerly snatching it away, gobbling it up as quickly as he could. Viggo was right in his suggestion; now that he'd eaten the werhond was perfectly happy to let me approach him and scratch the fur around his ears.
"Awww, he's adorable!" I crooned, stroking his wet nose and giggling when he licked me. "I don't think we can just leave him here," I added lightly, throwing my arms around his muzzle and looking up at Viggo, giving him the widest, most hopeful eyes I could manage.
Viggo chuckled, though the sound came out a little hoarse and quickly turned to coughing. I frowned, studying him uncertainly, trying to figure out what could be wrong.
"It's nothing, really."
I wasn't entirely convinced but Viggo didn't seem to want to discuss the matter so I let it drop. "I suppose we should get moving."
"We should," he agreed, struggling to suppress another cough.
He led the way to a narrow path which he began to follow. Instead of riding on his shoulder I scampered after him, giggling as the werhond in turn scampered after me, sniffing at me and licking at me every so often. "I think we should call him Sparky."
Seeing the look on Viggo's face I smiled and shrugged. Viggo laughed and nodded his agreement, though I saw the way his breath caught as he did so.
"Alright," he whispered. "Sparky it is."
We carried on in silence for many hours until we came across a small shack which Viggo seemed to know for he pushed the door open without hesitation, holding it open to let me in ahead of him. I walked into the shabby little structure with Sparky sniffing furiously at my heels, wishing immediately that I could do an about-face and leave. The place reminded me terribly of Balthazar's shack.
"We don't take strangers here!"
There was a shadow Gelert behind an uneven wooden counter, glaring at us through narrow blue eyes. He looked intimidating with a scar stretching from the bottom of his left eye down across his cheek and flecks of silver fur dotting his muzzle. I would have been perfectly happy to apologize and leave but Viggo reached into his jacket and pulled out a golden chain. Dangling from the chain was a pendant; an emerald surrounded by a golden cobrall. "We just want to buy lunch and supplies," Viggo muttered.
The Gelert smiled and nodded, turning around so that I could not see what he was doing. Viggo held out a paw to me and when I climbed onto it he lifted me onto a stool that stood on our side of the counter. "What is this place?" I asked quietly. "What was that necklace? Why-"
"A dark faerie and a fire eyrie, huh? Unusual travelling companions." I jumped as the Gelert set down a tiny plate in front of me, containing a bit of bread and cheese. He was watching Viggo out of the corner of his eye, smiling slightly. "Hasn't he told you who he is?"
I glanced at Viggo, who focussed on his plate and did not look at me. The Gelert laughed. "Why, that necklace – as you put it – is the sign for the Thieves Guild! I'm old and retired from such things now, but I'll always welcome a fellow thief. Are you afraid now, travelling with such a companion? No, likely you are not, you are after all a dark faerie." The Gelert chuckled and nodded towards Viggo. "Perhaps it is you who should be afraid, friend."
I was certainly surprised by this revelation, but perhaps more surprising to me was how little I was bothered by it. After all, what right had a dark faerie to be suspicious of a thief? I assumed us equally dangerous – at least in theory, for I knew that there wasn't really much I could do to be threatening – and since the fire eyrie had never given me a reason to fear him I saw no reason to start.
I ate gratefully and then stole bits of food from Viggo's plate to feed to Sparky. I watched Viggo out of the corner of my eye throughout the meal, noticing how quiet he was. I guessed that perhaps he was unhappy to have had his identity revealed to me and I hoped there wasn't more to it than that. We left with me waving a cheerful parting to the shadow Gelert in the shaggy shack.
Once outside I found myself stuck by a sudden longing to fly. Even with my wings still aching I was tired of being grounded. "Can you help me get the bandages off my wings, please?" I wanted to see how well they had healed. Viggo nodded and I turned around, letting him undo his handiwork while Sparky circled around us, sniffing the ground as seemed to be his custom. It hurt a little when Viggo finally pulled the bandages away but I was glad just the same. I moved my silvery, gossamer wings slowly, stretching them out.
"How do they feel?"
"Better," I said. "Thanks to you." I flew up a short ways, cringing from the strain. "Not perfect though."
Though I tried to maintain my height, I instead faltered and then fell. Viggo reached out to catch me, settling me back on his shoulder. "Just for a little while longer," he said, and I nodded. Viggo glanced upward and I followed his gaze, wondering what he was thinking. "The canopy is thin enough to break through here," he explained after a moment. "I was thinking we might fly above the trees."
"Yes!" I agreed without hesitation. Flying above the trees was something I'd wanted to do for as long as I could remember.
I caught Viggo smiling at my enthusiasm as he reached out and scooped up Sparky, tucking the werhond under his arm. Then to my amazement he lifted a paw and sent a ball of fire up through a clump of dead branches, burning them away and creating a hole in the canopy. Within seconds Viggo had shot up through the gap and we were above the trees. A squeak of delight escaped me and I clung to Viggo's mane to keep from being blown away by the strong, fresh winds. Below us the Haunted Woods spread out in every direction like a dark, worn out blanket. The trees didn't look so frightening from up above where I couldn't see what they harboured. I raised my gaze to the horizon and squeaked again, lifting a hand to brush away my silvery hair as the wind threw it in my face.
"Faerieland!" I cried. I could just see maroon towers, rising in the distance.
Viggo's condition worsened all through the night so that by morning I knew he needed some proper help. We had camped at the very edge of Faerieland and I figured we couldn't be too far from the Healing Springs if only I could figure out how to get Viggo there.
I could not be sure exactly how to tell if a fire eyrie was running a fever, but from the way Viggo shivered and the sweat that had gathered on his brow I could guess that he was. He slept fitfully, mumbling incoherently from time to time, and no matter what I did I could not wake him for more than a few moments. I also could not possibly hope to move him myself, being that I was no larger than his paw. It was one of those times when I severely detested being such a small faerie.
I began to consider the option of going into Faerieland alone. I toyed with the idea of going to the Healing Springs and finding Marina in the hopes that she would come to Viggo and heal him. But I had been told that, for obvious reasons, water faeries rarely left their chosen abode. Sparky whined and my attention was drawn to the fire werhond as he pressed his black nose into Viggo's cheek, pawing at the eyrie's face.
"I'm worried too," I whispered, reaching out to stroke Sparky's dark fur.
If I could not get Viggo to the Healing Springs and could not bring Marina to him, then I figured that left me with the option of trying to bring the healing waters themselves to him. "Stay with him," I urged Sparky. The way he whined and nuzzled Viggo made me sure that he would. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Though I had never before been to Faerieland it wasn't hard, once reaching the edge of the crater, to spot the Healing Springs and fly down towards the beautiful place. I flew with as much speed as I could force from my aching wings. I was frightened for Viggo, frightened because his sickness reminded me terribly of what happened to Fyora in my dreams. I couldn't imagine Balthazar had poisoned him, as far as I knew he'd never been anywhere near Balthazar.
Deciding the cause of the sickness was irrelevant I landed myself beside a large chunk of maroon stone, waiting in line with others in need of a cure, glad for a chance to let my wings rest. They were still sore and tender and I knew I really shouldn't be flying at all.
The line moved swiftly but it was long and I had a hard time not becoming impatient. To divert my attention I gazed around me. Golden statues lay haphazardly about along with the maroon stones, reminders of the once great architecture that had been a symbol of Faerieland's might and beauty before it had fallen. In a way it was sad to see, but I could also see the beauty in it. Vines had begun to creep up over the stones, blossoming with flowers that made them far more beautiful than they had ever been as part of a structure. The sparkling, turquoise waters of the spring itself wound between the rubble, glinting in the sunlight far too beautifully to allow the scene to be a depressing one.
When my turn arrived I forgot the allure of my surroundings and went up to Marina. As quickly as I could I explained about my ill friend and begged her to give me some sort of potion or perhaps a bit of her healing waters that I could take back with me. She didn't seem entirely convinced of my candour, and I suspected that was likely because not many dark faeries ever came looking to help their friends. But she must have figured there was little harm I could do with healing waters and so she obliged me, handing me a tiny vial.
If I had thought it hard to fly before the vial, I thought it nearly impossible after. The strain on my wings was incredible and I flew low over the ground, hardly able to get enough height to rise out of the crater. It took me nearly twice as long to get back as it had taken me to get to the Healing Springs and I worried I might have taken too long. When I caught sight of Viggo, his breaths shallow and forced, my worry turned to renewed fright. Sparky barked at the sight of me and turned an anxious circle. I felt like doing much the same. Instead I settled myself down beside Viggo's face, carefully prying open his beak. He moaned and turned his face away.
Groaning, I dragged the vial around his head to be near his beak again, pulling the cork from the top and carefully lifting it up, letting the contents spill out into Viggo's mouth. He swallowed and then coughed, his eyes flying open as he choked on the waters.
I jumped back as he began coughing violently; watching in alarm, fearing at first that I'd somehow made things worse. But finally the coughs subsided and Viggo lay back. He looked exhausted but his eyes were open and fixed upon me with clarity. I hurried close to him, touching the feathers on his cheek. "Viggo? Can you hear me?"
He nodded slightly.
"Do you feel any better?"
He hesitated but finally nodded again. Even though the movement was a stiff, forced one, I was glad of it. I found my gaze drifting momentarily to the spires of Fyora's castle. Finally I turned back to Viggo. "I'm afraid that whatever is going to happen to Fyora might already have happened to you. I have to warn her. Will... will you be alright if I go?"
I half hoped Viggo would should shake his head. I felt terrible for even suggesting that I would leave him when he was most in need of my help, especially since he had not abandoned me when I'd been in need of his. But I couldn't go any longer without giving Fyora my warning. Viggo nodded for a third time and I threw my small arms around his cheek, hugging him as best I could. "I'll be back as soon as I can," I promised. "Sparky will stay with you until then, won't you boy?"
The fire werhond lifted his head at the sound of his name and barked an eager agreement. I hugged his muzzle and then hurriedly set off for the palace before I could allow my regret to change my mind.
To be continued...