The Door Closes: Part One
Art by ellbot1998
We're here. At the very end of Shadow of the Xweetoks -- as in, if there are any more after this, they will involve a time skip and/or different characters, or even be short stories. In fact, I hope to write a little more for this good ol' newsletter sometime. But I am ending the saga officially for a few reasons. As fun as it was to write all this, I'm quite frankly exhausted. I'm ready to move on to making stories for a different audience. I would rather the saga end on a high note than slowly drift off into nothingness.
I would like to thank the NT for teaching me how to write. I would also like to thank anyone who has read any of this, and also my fellow NT contributors. I always had more reading material than I could ever get through, and plenty of resources for writing. Because of Neopets, I discovered my passion for storytelling at an earlier age than I would have otherwise. Six years later and I think I've made progress.
See you around Creation.
PART 1: RESUSCITATION
I have an unexpected visitor.
He hums his way down the slope, to the tune of a song I faintly remember. Though his voice has been absent from my life for many years, it still sounds unforgettable and familiar. The sound warms me, in a way, but at the same time I get an uncomfortable feeling, like I know he's carrying bad news.
The stone-skinned Mynci softly lands. He wears a purple tabard with curiously-cuffed sleeves, and a travelling guitar strapped to his back. A magic wand with an obsidian star floats in the curl of his tail.
I address him first. "Manor."
He bows with a devilish grin. "Jewel. Or should I call you Creator, as your servants do?"
"I miss being Jewel."
I feel a nostalgic cramp in my chest. It's not just at the thought of being called by my old nickname or being around Manor, but of being around the others, too.
"It's been so long," he whispers fondly, the exact words I'd just been thinking. He crosses his arms smugly, his stone skin shadowy in the torchlight.
I can't help but smile in reply. "You have changed? You can finally trouble yourself to visit an old teammate and best friend?... A sister, even?"
"Oh, Jewel," he pauses. "I am come to visit. There are... politics, but we can talk them later."
"Politics? What are you talking about?"
"Absolutely nothing. It can wait." He abruptly removes the guitar from his back. I have my doubts already. Manor is an excellent actor, but I've learned to see through his show. "Say, how about a song? The song, perhaps?" He strikes a chord and begins to sing the melody a little too loud:
"I'm on the outside, looking in
"Writing my anthems again
"As I start to wonder, who I really am
"When everyone I know best is—"
"MANOR. WHY. DID. YOU. COME?"
He stares at me, stunned. Part of me can hardly believe I interrupted him, but the other part is furiously fixated on him. Slowly, unsteadily, he puts away the instrument.
"You did not come to make music and keep our friendship alive," I stammer, wishing he didn't try to mislead me with memories and our deep bond. My voice, breaking: "What is it?"
The relic Mynci sighs and sits down. "I come," he admitted, "To go through the Door."
"What? The one at the end of my domain? Manor, why would you ever want to go back there?"
He meets me in the eye, with the focus of somebody with a plan and a purpose. "I want to see if our old enemies have survived, and if so, bring our revenge upon them." He cradles his guitar. "We left the land knowing that our enemies would burn in the ruins, as they deserved... but all the years, I have wondered if they did not."
"What?! Manor, this is unlike you!"
"It is unlike the me you knew." His face stays hard and emotionless. "We have let these people go a very long time unjustified. Do you remember what they did to us?"
"How could I forget? The inhabitants of Cutlass Hilt nearly took our powers and lives. But you mean to punish their descendants. They are blameless, Manor."
Manor has his back to me. "I have made my decision. And if you will not give me your permission and blessings to return to the old land... I will find my own way. As I did for the six of us many times before."
And he's gone. Not up the tunnel, but with a flash of light similar to my own magic, leaving me alone with my disbelief and the tune faintly stuck in my head.
Things are different now.
Rubia told him he could stay with us for however long he wanted. Faith and I weren't angry. Two months later and he's still here. We don't mind. He will never be unwelcome with us ever again.
Rubia has cared for him gently. She does it in the same manner she did to Faith, and before her, myself: except I think Rubia's kindness has only become more fluent with each of us.
Faith has treated him respectfully and demurely: a good reflection of her current personality. The two seem to have a deep, quiet understanding of each other. They are friends, even if it's only because they have extremely similar personalities.
As for myself... I don't know if I can sum up my newfound relationship with him. All I know is that I've finally gotten to know my closest brother, and that's enough for me.
Amadeus certainly shows his gratitude – he spends the first hour or so of his day doing chores and continues to help throughout the day. When he knows we're around, he often holes himself up in the storage area and reads. We're more identical than I would have liked us to be one year ago.
He's still more similar to Faith. I place the stepladder I was holding onto the floor and mount it. Thinking about Faith, I stand up a little straighter.
I turn a shaggy brush of fabric scraps over in my hands and glance up through the smoke vent. The dirt sides slant upwards and veer away out of sight. Amadeus has a lot of life ahead now. I guess the only thing stopping him was himself.
This is the first time I've cleaned the smoke vents since we returned from Benjai. I start brushing out the shaft, only giving it a light once-over.
Amadeus hasn't ventured far from home, but he's getting more get-up-and-go. He has come to one Deepwood County meeting with us. His presence is very unusual and somewhat alarming to the more normal members of Deepwood County – those who have never craved dark magic or spent the first year of their lives in purposeful isolation. Although Amadeus' interactions are clumsy and slow, he's building his friendships and becoming more skilled at socializing.
But when Rubia wanted to see her family at Cloudpoint again, Amadeus chose to stay behind. We let him.
We stayed with Latchet at Cloudpoint. Rubia needed some alone time with her. A lot of it. She also spent several afternoons with Pyrus. I was glad to take long walks through the snowy pines with Faith. We finished more than one day together watching a sunset bleed red and orange across the sky.
I did come to Latchet's a couple of times. We have enough in common, that's for sure. Fiction. Eating. The litter of grey Wherfies which showed up on her porch one day. She raised most of them herself, but allowed me to take home one. Or rather, allowed Rubia to allow me. It was miraculous, but I should give the credit to Latchet for already having the whole litter tamed to the point where they didn't stick their noses into closed cupboards, and only did their business outside. I took the largest one, who seemed more lethargic than the others, and named him Anders.
And when we came back, Rubia's spirits higher with confidence and my cloak heavier with the newest addition to our household, the house was like we'd never left. Amadeus had kept it well, told the neighbors where we were, and even started to organize some of the clutter in the storage area.
He is on the mend.
I am glad when they return from Cloudpoint. Anders amuses me, and my housemates are in good spirits. And I must confess: I missed them.
It doesn't last, however. I feel that my time with them is winding down... and so it happens when Rubia pulls me aside one day and says she has something for me.
Her eyes light up as she rummages through the cabinets. "I can't believe I didn't think of this before–" several scrolls bounce onto the counter– "I just rediscovered some of my research yesterday–" gemstones and junk spill out of the clutter– "that may be of great interest to, more than anyone else, you."
I wince. The mess has become very unbearable. Rubia, however, is oblivious. I've rarely seen her more driven than this. "Well, what is it?" I ask, somewhat uncomfortably.
"I can't find the map," she huffs, "I may as well just tell you. There is a door in the South at the end of the Last Peninsula. It is plain and looks to have nothing on the other side, but as nobody has ever opened it and it's stood for as far back as history can indicate, many speculate to the contrary."
"And the door is real?"
"I have touched it."
Rubia turns back to the cupboards for a few moments. "You mention you had research," I repeat.
"I have had research for years, but it's never been enough to make a connection, until now. It's a connection between the Door and Dromiay. I have mentioned before that there is a place one is sent, when they would be otherwise obliterated?"
"I believe you have." My memory is faint, but there. When we were sent to Benjai's forest, Rubia had speculated that realm to be the place. However, since our return she has discarded the idea, supposing getting out from such a place would have been nigh impossible even with a sacrifice from Dromiay.
Rubia explains, "The Door may be a surefire way through to that place."
"How can you possibly expect me to get through this door?"
"One way or another. You've never been normal." Rubia pauses to place a hand on my shoulder and look me in the eye. I shrink back, but I know that if I don't have enough confidence in myself, she has plenty to cover me. I'm going to need it, I silently lament. It's not like I have anything to go on.
She speaks again. "You'll be fine, Amadeus. You're worthy of Dromiay, and if anyone can get her back, it's you."
My heart faintly soars. "Thank you, Rubia." I glance back down at the mess. "...When can I leave?"
"Any time you want. But please, let me pack for you. Do you want food? Spare clothes? Toiletries?"
"No, I don't need any of that." It's true – I don't even like eating.
"Then have some jewels and a light. Everyone needs some money." She puts a pouch onto the counter. "And even though this is magic, your life force should be enough to activate the stone."
She dumps the pouch's content onto my open palm. As soon as the glassy yellow fragment hits my skin, it lights up brightly. "A lightstone? Don't light mages make these? Where did you—"
She presses a heavy sack into my other hand. It's modestly filled with medium-sized aquamarine gemstones.
"This is very generous of you. Th-thank you."
I put the things away in my coat.
"And you ought to make a stop somewhere else before the door." Now Rubia opens up a generic world map. "Shinedune, in the deserts. I have never made my way down there, but they will know more about something like the door than I ever would. I would advise you spend that money there, if you need to."
Cerulean and Faith walk inside close in conversation. The two have matured since I first bothered their tranquility. Faith looks a young lady now, standing just a head below Cerulean's height, with a lithe posture and older face. As for my brother, he has definitely surpassed me in appearance. His jaw is square, his shoulders thick... and he just might be a hair taller than me now. I feel humbled.
"Amadeus is going on a trip." Rubia's wing again makes its presence on my shoulder. It doesn't feel as awkward as it did. "He's going to fetch Dromiay for us."
"Wait, what?" Faith asks.
"What did you find?" Cerulean interjects.
Rubia's mouth crinkles into a smile. "...Oh, just a little research."
Cerulean shakes his head. "No way."
"I wanted to know her better..." Faith remarks. "Maybe I can."
"I can't promise I can get her back." I glance through the open doorway, into the foyer. "But I can promise to do whatever I can."
They walk me up the stairs. I feel hopeful. More importantly, I feel close to them: even if I fail, I'll still have a home and family here.
On the doorstep, I look back at the house. Cerulean and Faith are practically adults, but Rubia is the same as always. I hug each of them in turn. Cerulean thumps my back.
"Rubia?" I ask, finally. Cautiously, I mumble: "...Thank you."
"You've already thanked me, Amadeus." She smiles in her almost-elderly manner.
"No... I mean... for..."
Taking me in. Being nice to me before I deserved it. Introducing me to wholesome books – not my dark tomes and corrupt magical theorems. Giving me a chance.
"Oh, Amadeus..." She moves in and puts her arms around me. I sob weakly into her shoulder. Mom...
It has been several hours since I have left.
I pull my admiral's jacket around myself, shielding my chest from chilly drops of rain. Leaving feels hard, but it feels so right. I may have ties to the forest, but I know that when I return, I'll be picking up ties, not chains. I look back for the last time at the Forest, with all its lofty tree trunks, boughs of soggy green leaves, and the disk of fluffy stormclouds cursed to hang above it.
Awhile after Amadeus leaves, Faith turns to me.
"Rubia," she starts, "I've been meaning to ask you something."
"Did you... Did you ever give Amadeus that... I believe you referred to it as a 'stern talking to'–"
I smile as she drifts off. "No, I didn't. Why not? He didn't need it."
All his life needed was an open door.
To be continued...