One Shred of Light: Part One
The battle was raging.
The spectral forces of the Haunted Woods led by Hubrid Nox had seemed poised to expand the reaches of his power to all corners of Neopia. It was apparent that the average Neopians could not withstand his undead army or his formidable necromancy.
It was in that hour of dire need that help arrived from above. The Faeries descended from their domain in the sky above. They led by their general, Anastasia, the Battle Faerie. They drove the spectral army back, out of the other realms of Neopia and back to the outreaches of the Haunted Woods.
It had come down to this; the final battle to decide who would be the victor in this contest. They met in the barren lands outside the woods, the rolling fields where Faerieland would come to rest when it would fall from the sky hundreds of years later.
With Anastasia at the helm, the Faeries were putting up a spirited fight; no one had a doubt that they would win. Their confidence was premature as they did not take into account that while they had faced the spectral army many a time, they had never come up against their master or his chief servant.
The atmosphere of the battle changed before they arrived. Everyone could feel it, a dark malevolence poisoning the air. Anastasia looked up; leading reinforcements was Hubrid Nox, Magax by his side. Anastasia pointed a sword at Hubrid, the Sword of Flame.
"Face me, Hubrid!" she demanded.
Hubrid laughed heartily. "You're not in my league, Faerie. Fell my best warrior and I will grant your request."
Magax bowed to Hubrid, and then drifted to the ground. A cocky grin spread across the Wocky's face. He summoned the Darklight Axe and stood ready, letting her take the first move. She charged at him. He brought up his axe and her swords crashed on it; the sound the enchanted items made as they collided was deafening.
The battle between them was fierce, but Anastasia had no doubts. She was the greatest Faerie warrior to yet live, and she defied anyone to challenge her. Magax had no doubts that he would fell a Battle Faerie. Anastasia might have been the greatest of the Faeries, but she was not invincible, and Magax was better than she would admit. Her arrogance was her greatest weakness; it would cost her everything.
Magax caught her swords against his axe and forced them back, pushing Anastasia's arms above her head. She couldn't bring them back down to defend herself in time. His axe swung. She dropped to her knees, pain coursing through her. A dark liquid dripped off the Darklight Axe.
Valeane, her second-in-command, saw her go down.
"Anastasia!" Valeane screamed at the top of her lungs as she raced towards her.
Magax raised his axe for the final blow. Anastasia's last action was to throw her swords behind her. They landed right in front of Valeane as the axe came down.
Tears of pain and rage poured down Valeane's face as she took up the swords of her predecessor. They simultaneously burned her and froze her, but she ignored the pain. She charged Magax. He leapt backward, but not quite far enough. The tip of the flame blade cut across his right eye, leaving him with a wound that would scar.
Magax brought his axe up, ignoring the pain in his face, and gestured to her to bring it. Valeane looked around; the tide was turning against them. The troops were wavering; the loss of Anastasia had dealt a blow to their morale. There were still so many of the spectral army, Magax had bested Anastasia, and Hubrid Nox hadn't even joined the battle yet. He hovered above it all, gloating. There was no way she could take on Magax and win, and she knew it. If she and her army fell here, there would be nothing to stop Hubrid from sweeping across the world once more.
Valeane knew the battle was lost already. If Hubrid stepped in, they were done for.
She took the swords and spun them around in her hands so the blades faced downwards. She plunged them into the dirt and bent knee. "Fyora, my queen, I beg of you, aid us!"
Magax raised his axe again, ready to fell the new Battle Faerie. He halted as a pink light appeared overhead. He stepped back, his axe at the ready to defend himself from whatever was coming. Fyora appeared, flanked by her royal guards.
She looked down at Valeane. "Rise, child. I answer."
Valeane rose to her feet and retrieved the swords. Fyora looked at Hubrid.
"I propose a challenge. A fight to the death. The fallen's army will back down and surrender. You, Hubrid Nox, against myself."
Hubrid cocked his head to the side. "Hhm, I really didn't think you uppity Faeries would ever think to call on your trump card. Or that you, Fyora, would be concerned enough with the lower world to come intervene personally. I think not. Unlike your late Battle Faerie, I know when I'm outmatched. I'm none too interested in dying this day. I'll just surrender and return peaceably to the Woods. I promise you a hundred years before I will create any havoc outside them. Refuse and I'll just let the battle continue, regardless of whether you join in or not. You'll just lose more faeries."
"Master!" Magax protested.
"Magax, you will obey me!"
Magax was silent, humbled.
Fyora seemed to consider the proposal. "I grant it. You fail to uphold your promise and I will lay waste to all of the accursed Haunted Woods."
"Oh, Fyora, you're such a naive child. Do you really think I would care what or whom you lay waste to? But, still, you can expect a hundred years at least. I'll need plenty of time to figure out how to get the advantage of all your little faerie-selves," Hubrid explained in a teasing tone.
"I will be keeping a close watch on you," Fyora warned.
"Do!" he chuckled.
Hubrid summoned his army back into the abyss he called them from. Then, he turned to depart, calling for Magax to follow.
Valeane raised the ice blade to point it at him. "We will never forgive what you did this day, and I will see justice done."
Magax smirked. "Whenever you're ready, you know where to find me, girl."
Magax sat on the railing of Hubrid's elaborate mansion, watching his master as he stood below, casting some spell. It seemed a little odd. He didn't usually do it in the middle of the foyer, keeping his spells secret in one of his many laboratories. A Dark Faerie materialized by his side. She leaned over the banister and looked down on Hubrid.
"What is the master up to, Magax?" she asked.
Magax shrugged. "I don't know. I'm a warrior and an elemental mage; I don't understand the dark arts other than the base structure. I think you're closer with your dark magic."
"I don't know," the Faerie replied. "Never thought about it."
"So, what brings you here, Fiona?" Magax asked.
Fiona shrugged. "I don't know. The master summoned me. I suppose he has some job for me. I'll wait until he is done, though. Wouldn't want to be rude; he seems preoccupied at the moment. Maybe you can help me with it, friend?"
Fiona often teasingly called Magax 'friend', not because they considered each other friends, but because Magax was so despised by the Faerie community for killing Anastasia two hundred years before. Fiona had no allegiance to her people, so she actually stood somewhat in awe of Magax for what he had done.
Hubrid Nox suddenly looked up and noticed them there. He turned, coming up the stairs to join them. They both bowed when Hubrid reached the top of the stairs. Wordlessly, he grabbed Fiona's wrist and slapped a bracer on it. Fiona let out an involuntary wail of pain.
"Master, this burns me!"
"Give it a moment, it'll pass," Hubrid replied dismissively.
Fiona held up her arm, examining the bracer. It had fused together, making it impossible to remove and was burrowing into her skin, fusing with her arm. She looked questioningly at Hubrid.
"This will allow you to control the Werelupes at will," Hubrid explained.
Fiona gasped in delight. "Oh, Master! What have I done to deserve such a privilege?"
"You've proven loyal, and I am in need of a Faerie to carry on the next stage of my plans. Valeane may have succeeded Anastasia as the Battle Faerie, but she has yet to master the blades she carries. We cannot allow her to ever do that," Hubrid told her.
Magax snickered. "That explains why she's never come to make good on her threat of punishing me for my terrible crime."
"So, you want me to take the Werelupes and hunt her down?" Fiona asked.
"I want you to lure her here, to the Haunted Woods, and take the blades from her. The Werelupes will assist you when that time comes. Go slowly, win her trust, and then lure her here to do the deed. Do not let me down," Hubrid said.
Fiona bent knee. "I shall not, Master!"
Hubrid nodded, and then swept by them, up the next flight of stairs to one of his libraries. Fiona rose and grinned at Magax.
"Soon you won't be the only one who has bested a Battle Faerie!" she crowed.
"I'd advise some caution, Fiona. Skill-wise, Valeane is no Anastasia, but she's far less arrogant. She won't fight you until the end, like Anastasia would have. If she knows she can't win, she will turn to other methods to keep you from getting what you want. Be very careful how you proceed in this matter."
Fiona shrugged, overconfident. "She's a goody-two-wings, Anastasia wannabe. How hard could she be to take down? Besides, I doubt even Anastasia could last forever against the might of the Werelupes. I'll just make sure to gather as many of them as I can possibly find. This time, three months from now, I'll be bringing those swords to our master."
"Oh, I figure that is about how long I'll need to buddy up to her enough. By the by, would you mind attacking me? Like, really going at me, as if you meant it? I figure if I teleport into the middle of Faerieland in a horrible state and tell them that Magax attacked me," Fiona's voice suddenly became weak and weepy, "unprovoked, in my own home," her voice returned to normal, "Valeane will be awfully sympathetic."
Magax grinned. "I see why Dark Faeries have a reputation for being so crafty."
To be continued...