One Shred of Light: Part Five
Caelum was now into the second week of her transformation, and four days into her campaign of kindness towards Magax. He was still fastidiously ignoring her and her efforts at friendship. She had taken to sitting under his tree after she was done in the garden and with the housework in the afternoons and reading a book. He had paid as much attention to her as he did the food, but she was hoping that he would warm eventually. At some point he had to break and tell her what was going on. Or maybe he wouldn't, but he would just start interacting with her.
These were the thoughts that were occupying her mind while she worked in the garden. The day was bright and the sunshine strong and hot on her back while she dug out the roots of the stubborn weeds that continued to try to take up residence in her plant beds.
A shadow darkened the ground next to her, and she looked up. Magax was standing a few feet away, again just beyond the fence, looking at her. She started to smile at him, remembering the day he had first appeared. Maybe he was ready to talk again. The smile and that notion faded as her eyes made their way to his face.
She had never seen anyone look so devoid of emotion and so cruel at once. His hand was raised to the level of his eyes and spectral lightning was jumping from the tips. She felt herself freeze, terrified of what it meant.
"Why are you here?" he demanded.
"What do you mean?" She had to force the words out and they shook violently.
"What are you doing here? What is your purpose and plan?" he said, his face darkening.
"I don't know what you want me to say," she lied. "I'm just trying to make a life here. I don't understand what you mean."
Magax fired a bolt of lightning at her. She was quick, diving forward out of the path of it. It tore through the ground behind her, raking a deep path of destruction. She saw him fire another and dived backwards, again it missed; burnt carrots and dirt flew into the air as the ground exploded as the bolt tore through it.
Caelum considered taking to the air to avoid to try to escape, but she knew that he could fly too, and his aim might be better up there. She ducked under a third bolt and it shattered a shutter on her house, splinters rained from the house and into the dirt below. A fourth bolt tore through another section of her garden.
She turned to face him, looking him in the eyes. "Why are you doing this? What is wrong with you? I never did anything to you!"
The lightning stopped jumping around in his hands, and his eyes went blank. She dropped to her knees, and started to cry from the shock and stress. He took a step backwards as she wiped at her tears, leaving a dirty smudge across her face from the earth on her glove.
"Why did you do this? I only wanted to be your friend," she whimpered. "I'm sorry, but I'm not here with some great plan; I only wanted to be your friend."
Magax looked at her for a long moment; Caelum was sure she saw some level of horror in his eyes, but she couldn't tell what had caused the emotion in him. The stare-down lasted another minute. Without another word, he jumped into the air and flew away, leaving her alone in the destruction he had made.
Magax stalked through the front doors of Nox's castle, slamming the door open and shut behind him. He had made it halfway to the stairs when a voice stopped him.
"Rough day, Magax? You look like someone prevented you from kicking Puppyblews."
Magax glanced over to the foyer; Fiona was lounging on a sofa picking at the tassels on a pillow. She looked somewhat concerned, but mostly bored.
"You're back. Is that a good sign or a bad one?" he asked.
"A good one, I'm happy to report. I'm waiting for the master to return; he seems to be out. I've integrated myself quite well into Valeane's life. She considers me a friend. They don't suspect a thing; their hatred for you really is a boon in this ruse. I've decided that I'm safe enough that I can spend a few hours here now and then," Fiona replied. "What have you been up to?"
"I've been keeping an eye on a false alarm at the request of Hubrid. I've wasted the last week, apparently," he said, his face settling into a grim frown.
"Well, that is a shame. Why didn't you just destroy the target of this possible problem when they showed up?" she asked.
"He wanted her watched in case she was part of some bigger plot. He thought your appearance in Faerieland might have set something in motion against me," Magax explained, leaning against the banister.
Fiona threw back her head and let out a long, contemptuous laugh. "Not likely. Valeane is no closer to mastering those swords than she was when Anastasia bequeathed them to her. She'll never come against you, or, at least, not until I convince her to. I just need to figure out the proper bait to lure her here. Anastasia's sister maybe. I was trying to get cozy with her, but she has gone on a sabbatical or something of the kind. She won't be back for another two months or so, which puts her return right around when I felt would be a good time to launch my attack against Valeane. I might bring you a little present, if you want to complete what you started."
Magax shook his head. "No. I'll help you take down Valeane if you desire, but I'm not going to be a part of that plan. If she can't fight, or has no plan to, then it would be cowardly involve her."
"Magax, since when have you had morals?" Fiona asked mockingly, not really believing he did.
"I'm not you, Fiona. You can be as crafty and manipulative as you wish, I'll not stop you. I have some level of honor when it comes to battle," Magax replied.
"Did the innocent girl you finally got fed up with today pose a threat to you?" Fiona asked with a mocking laugh.
"I didn't kill her," Magax growled. "I didn't even hurt her."
"You should have. She'll tell people you've gone soft," Fiona replied.
"You supposedly survived me, and you supposedly were not a threat and were attacked unprovoked. I've let you do more damage to my supposed reputation than letting some friendless Neopet go unharmed," Magax said with a shrug.
"A Neopet? Master Nox was concerned about a Neopet? The Faeries as a whole don't have any contact with them if they don't dwell in Faerieland itself. The few who dwell on the surface, myself, Illusen, Taelia, but on the whole, we live separate lives. They would not have involved a Neopet, especially not on a mission as dangerous as one involving you would invariably be. Does Master Nox know something I don't?" Fiona asked, her voice strained.
"I have no idea. I didn't really understand his concern either. I suppose you can ask him. It is entirely possible that he is simply extra paranoid since we're in the middle of this mission of yours to secure the swords. I don't think you should be concerned; I'm not."
Fiona's face lost the tightness it had taken on and she began picking at the tassel again. Magax left her, heading up to his own room. Once there, he locked himself in, though that didn't do much good if Nox wanted to come in. He simply unlocked it with his magic and walked in wherever he wanted whenever he wanted. Usually he summoned Magax to him, but on occasion he did simply let himself in.
He flopped on his bed and stared up at the ceiling. The grey light of the Haunted Woods day was doing little to brighten the room. He closed his eyes, but all he saw was the bright, golden, warm light of the sun in the meadow. He felt it warm on him as he had stood just outside Caelum's garden. He saw her smile, as warm as the sunshine, before it had faded into abject terror.
He opened his eyes again, but he couldn't quite shake the image. It hung before his eyes in his memory. Her voice echoed through his mind, asking him why he would do that to her. The thing that haunted him most was her apology. She had done nothing wrong, she had stated that, but she still had apologized for somehow, inexplicably, incurring his wrath through her kindness.
He got up and stalked to the window, looking out into the woods. It was day; the world below was still. On the hill where Nox's castle resided, nothing crawled during the day. It was only busy at night, when all manner of foul creature came out of the woodwork to walk in the dark.
He rested his head against the cold stones of the wall, wishing he could erase her face from his mind. Never in the past had something he had done haunted him the way this had. He couldn't understand it, and he didn't want to.
To be continued...