Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 194,228,482 Issue: 750 | 23rd day of Gathering, Y18
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The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Eight


by cosmicfire918

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      This was the longest Pharazon could ever recall walking. His feet hurt. He’d tried flying until his wings hurt, but his feet hadn’t stopped hurting by then, and walking took less energy anyway.

      The hunger didn’t help. Their breakfast that morning, while kind of Kass to retrieve for them, had not been satiating, and Pharazon’s stomach began to complain loudly, as did Celice’s.

      “No, I will not teleport all of us to the inn,” Jhudora said when Pharazon asked her about it. “Teleporting oneself takes enough energy, but four people at once? Good glory, do you want me to have any energy left over to confront the Dark Faerie Sisters or not?” So that, once again, settled that.

      Pharazon was fairly certain that Jhudora, being a being of pure magic, did not quite understand the mortal needs of hunger and fatigue, but he could not argue that she needed to be at full power tomorrow. If teleportation was easy, he thought, one would see people popping in and out of existence all the time. But one didn’t, which was testament enough that teleportation was not easy.

      Kass, however, was more sympathetic, and when his two Neopet companions couldn’t take it any more, he called a halt to the march. Pharazon and Celice collapsed on a flattish rock and a fallen log, respectively, and Kass left to find them some food.

      Jhudora conjured a purple cloud to sit on so she wouldn’t have to soil her clothes, and began to entertain herself by creating shadow silhouettes of Petpets that danced among the trees. Celice stayed silent, lost in thought, still clutching her cloak tightly about her. Her ears were as drooped as her posture. Something about being cut off from her magic made her look more tired and frail to Pharazon.

      “Are you okay?” he asked her.

      She snapped her jaw like she was trying to get peanut butter off the roof of her mouth, then looked over at him. “I wasn’t really expecting this,” the sorceress said quietly.

      “I know,” Pharazon said, “but I’m trying to make the best of what we have, and things seem to be working out well.”

      The Lupe shifted her weight. “… Maybe.”

      Pharazon frowned. “What do you mean, ‘maybe’? Fyora is sending faerie knights to Black Keep, and we’re going back there with Jhudora and—“ He glanced around to make sure their Eyrie companion wasn’t within earshot. “And Lord Kass. I believe they can protect us.”

      Celice looked away again, removed her glasses, and rubbed at her eyes. “It just seems like—there are too many variables. Too many ways this could all go wrong.”

      “But it’s not going wrong,” Pharazon said. “I feel like everything’s falling into place.” When he received only silence as a reply, he said, “Didn’t you want me to believe in myself more? To take action? And now I am doing that… and you’re doubting me.”

      “I’m sorry,” Celice said. “I know what I told you before, and you’re right, there’s a discrepancy. It’s just… I’ve never had such a hard time believing in anything before. I’ve never had to operate like this, feeling so out of control. I… usually wield more power than this, truth be told.”

      Pharazon reached down and held his toes. “You know what I’ve noticed in all the stories I’ve read? The heroes’ real tests come when they need to do something hard—not hard in general, but hard for them in particular. Courage isn’t courage if you just do easy things all the time and pat yourself on the back for it. I think courage is being confronted with a weakness and acting to overcome it.”

      He closed his eyes. “I’ve found that a lot depends on those moments.” He should have been more courageous during his time with the Werelupes, he knew that. When faced with a situation he didn’t understand and would classify as unfortunate, he was tempted to let his fear turn to anger and hatred, and he succumbed to it. Skoll goaded him into taking the easier path and it nearly destroyed him—and everyone else besides.

      But now, things were different. Celice had called him out yesterday when he’d started to do the same thing. He was faced with the choice to either forgive her and himself and put effort into bettering their situation, or keep feeling angry and victimised and helpless. And he made the right decision this time. He could feel it inside.

      “Are you trying to make me feel bad?” Celice asked.

      Pharazon opened his eyes to find her still staring out at the woods. “No—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way. I just… need you to have some faith in me, please. I can’t claim I know exactly what I’m doing, or what will happen, but it feels right. I’m just doing what you asked me to, and I know we both got way more than we bargained for… but I get the impression life likes to do that, if you let it.”

      The Lupe stayed silent for a long moment. Finally, she glanced over at the Draik with a small smile. “Your wisdom could put King Hagan to shame, old sport. You’ve figured out more than most Neopets ever do.”

      Pharazon chuckled. “Well, I’ve been through a whole lot already. Like them or not, crazy experiences do end up teaching you something in the end.” He looked over at Jhudora, who seemed to be ignoring them, caught up in the play of her shadow-puppets. “Life’s a lot like magic. It’s not tidy, it doesn’t play by our rules. Sometimes we get asked to do some really outlandish things, like befriend Werelupes or make a pact with a dark faerie. We can either run from these choices and stick with our comfort zone, or take the plunge and discover what we can really make of ourselves.”

      “You say these things with such confidence,” Celice said with a weary laugh. “Did you swallow a self-help book last night, by any chance?”

      Pharazon grinned up at her in embarrassment. “I think it’s a combination of things my family’s always trying to tell me, and stuff I’ve just now figured out. Or maybe that I’ve known for a while now but didn’t really want to believe. I’m sorry, I just—“ He shook his head. “I’m not trying to guilt trip you. I know this must be hard for you. But I also know you’re strong and brave and try hard to do the right thing.” He extended his hand to her. “Can you find it in your heart to trust me?”

      The sorceress looked him over for just a moment, then clutched his hand. “Yes. I’m not one hundred percent sure of anything, either, but if we all waited for that, Neopia would grind to a halt. This feels right, and I’m going to focus all of my energy on that. Doubt is the great destroyer, Pharazon. I won’t let it overtake me.”

      “Me, either,” Pharazon said.

      “Very touching,” Jhudora said from her cloud. She turned to regard them like a smug Kadoatie, and her shadows shivered and vanished. “It’s nice to see Neopets who have a spark of nerve in them, for once. Our dearly deposed Citadel lord is returning, by the way.”

      Sure enough, Pharazon’s ears soon picked up the crackle of paws on dead leaves, and shortly afterward Kass emerged in the clearing with an armful of nuts and carrots. He sat down in front of the other two Neopets and then began distributing the food evenly.

      “Sir?” Celice said as he handed her a walnut whose shell he had cracked with his beak.

      He glanced up at her and tilted his head. “Hm?”

      She smiled. “I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for being our friend.”

      The Eyrie grinned. “The honour is all mine.”

      “And I’m glad you’re here too, Jhudora,” Celice said.

      The faerie waved a hand at her with a smirk. “I know. Congratulations on your personal growth, Miss Anfel.”

      The three ate in silence, focussed more on getting some food in them than on conversation, and set off again as soon as they were done. Celice walked with more poise and confidence now, and Pharazon thought she looked rather stately even though her fur and clothes were a mess. It made him happy to see her feeling better about everything that was going on. He needed her support now more than ever.

      After that, they walked for a surprisingly short time when the trees suddenly thinned out and Pharazon found himself looking at a wide dirt highway. On the other side was a good-sized inn whose chimneys merrily puffed with smoke, surrounded by parked carriages and a Petpet stable.

      Celice let out a gasp of relief. “Oh, finally.

      “Well, we look a sight,” Pharazon said, trying to wipe the dirt off of his scales. “Hopefully they won’t think we’re paupers and refuse us.” Celice’s fine robes were caked in mud, and Kass looked about what one would expect an Eyrie to look like after living in the wild for over a decade.

      Only Jhudora was still immaculate, and she shook her head with a smile. “Most folks in the country don’t ask questions. Especially not about paying customers.” She reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out a small pouch of Neopoints. “Let’s get some food and a couple of rooms, my treat.”

      The inn’s first floor was not particularly crowded, although there were still a number of Neopets eating and talking at tables in front of the large hearth. They mostly looked like merchants and woodspets, which Pharazon thought made sense as the inn seemed to be quite far from any farmland. This must have been an opportune place for travellers on the highway to get some hot food and a good night’s sleep.

      The four put in an order for dinner, and then sprawled out at the nearest free table. Pharazon laid his arms on the old wood and soaked in the heat from the fire, and Celice hung her cloak over the back of her chair to inspect the mud.

      “I’ll have to get a water mage to give it a good cleaning when we get back to Brightvale,” she said. “Sadly, there are some problems that being a pyromancer doesn’t solve. Such as laundry.”

      Neopets did give them weird looks, especially Kass and Jhudora, but no one said anything. Pharazon presumed nobody really wanted to ask what a dark faerie and a disheveled Darigan Eyrie were doing in their midst.

      The Draik felt like he’d only just begun to rest when a Kyrii server arrived with their food. Of course, the aroma alone was enough to perk Pharazon up. He’d ordered the Ixi Soup – so named because of its status as a traditional Ixi Day dish, not because of its contents – and could barely restrain himself from shoveling the cheesy, creamy vegetable soup down his maw at an unhealthy pace.

      For a long while they just sat and savoured the simple delight of good food, made all the better by a day and a half’s trekking through the woods. Celice and Kass ripped into platters of meat and beans smothered in gravy, while Jhudora, who did not need to eat, contented herself with sampling some Cackleberry juice.

      It was only after they had eaten their fill, and a Kacheek at another table had started on the second verse of her ballad about Brightvale knights, that Celice sat up and ran a paw through her hair. “I ought to find us a Uni driver,” she said, “before I forget. Best to hire one now, before they likely leave in the morning.”

      “Do you want me to do it?” Pharazon asked. “I don’t mind.” Usually he would mind, but he wanted to make a conscious effort to get out of his shell more. And he had already done so many crazy things lately, talking to a stranger seemed like small potatoes in comparison.

      The Lupe looked over at him and shook her head with a smile. “No. You’ve already done more than enough. Let me take a turn at something for once.” She glanced around the room, seemed to see something she liked, and excused herself.

      A verse and a half later she returned with a grin. “I’ve found a nice fellow who’s agreed to take us to Market Town tomorrow morning.”

      “Oh, excellent,” Pharazon said. “I just hope we get there before sundown…” He thumbed the edge of the table. “Why can’t we leave right now?”

      “Because we’d arrive at midnight,” Jhudora said, “and I’d rather you all get a proper night’s sleep before everything goes down.” She had her wings draped over her shoulders like a cloak, and the claws on their joints flexed before locking back together. “Trust me, Pharazon. We’re getting there as fast as we’re able without sacrificing too much.”

      Swirling the contents of her mug, she looked over at Celice. “I swear, you mortals and your instant gratification. ’Haste makes waste’, that’s the saying, right? Did Hagan really coin that phrase, or is he taking more credit than he should again?”

      Celice chuckled. “As far as I can tell, it’s been around far longer than Hagan. I think we’ll get there with time to spare, if we set out early in the morning. Accounting for stops, we should arrive at Market Town well before sundown.” She yawned and rubbed her eyes. “And I really could do with sleeping on a bed for once. I don’t know about the rest of you.”

      “I can’t sleep in carriages,” Pharazon admitted. “It gives me motion sickness. I think you’re right. We should be fine leaving tomorrow.” Not that getting a good night’s sleep meant that he felt any more equipped to take on three malevolent faeries. But the fact of the matter was that it felt right, and he had to keep moving forward with that.

      Kass managed a small smile. “It has been nice to indulge in civilisation again. After the fine meal Lady Jhudora has treated us to, I think I’d like to take her up on her hospitable offer of lodging, as well.”

      “Who knows,” Jhudora said, draining the dregs of her juice. “Maybe it’ll jog your memory.”

      Pharazon and Celice shared a nervous grimace that they tried to disguise as a polite smile. The sorceress had a valid point—no one could predict what Kass might do if he remembered who he was. Pharazon began to wish the Eyrie never would find out.

      The Kacheek’s epic finally ended, and she held the last note for as long as possible before applause erupted from her audience. Pharazon and his companions clapped as well.

      “Oh, I love that ballad,” Celice said. “Not the least because it’s about Brightvale.”

      “Another!” called a voice from the crowd, and it was echoed by several more of the inn’s patrons.

      Someone stuck a lavender fin in the air. “I’ve got one!” shouted a purple Koi. “The Legend of Sir Jeran Borodere!”

      Pharazon felt his stomach jerk.

      “Aye, let’s hear it!” another Neopet said.

      Kass’s feathers fluffed. “Jeran Borodere… I feel like I know him.”

      “We should get some sleep,” Pharazon suddenly said, standing up from the table and grabbing the Eyrie’s arm. “C’mon—long day today—lots of hiking—“

      Kass looked up at him as the Koi took a spot by the hearth. “I want to hear this song, it sounds interesting.”

      “It’s—it’s not interesting at all, really,” Celice insisted, standing up so quickly that her chair fell over. “Pharazon’s right, we all need our rest.” She shot a desperate glare at Jhudora, who merely watched with an amused smile.

      “It’s filled with unpleasant things about the Darigan Citadel, anyway,” Pharazon added, trying to push the massive Eyrie toward the stairs. “All about the wars and stuff.”

      Kass stopped on the first step and furrowed his brow. “What wars?”

      Pharazon swallowed hard, feeling like he’d just made things worse. “Bad wars. You wouldn’t sleep well if you heard about them. Trust me.”

      It was too late. The Koi had opened his mouth and begun to belt out a tune describing the life and feats of a certain blue Lupe knight, starting from Jeran’s stumbling into the Meridell time warp as a child.

      “Leaving so soon?” Jhudora asked. “It just gets better after this.”

      Pharazon glared at her from behind Kass and mouthed “why are you doing this”.

      She leaned her head in her hand. “Why are you denying him what he wants to know?”

      The Draik ducked his snout. He was afraid. Not just afraid of Kass as the Eyrie had once been, but afraid of losing the friendship of someone he really had grown to consider a friend. Pharazon felt like he’d already inadvertently been instrumental on unleashing one villain on Neopia. He could not mess this up again.

      “You can read about it when we get back to Market Town,” he said, lashing his long tail. “We should sleep now, while we have the chance.”

      The Koi had moved on to verses about Jeran’s quick rise to knighthood and various heroics in the service of King Skarl, and Kass looked down at Pharazon with a piercing crimson stare, as if trying to figure him out. Finally the Eyrie nodded. “If you think it’s best, we’ll sleep now. I didn’t mean to upset you—“

      An Usul banged his mug on his table. “Oy! Get ter the part about the Kass War!”

      Pharazon groaned. If he made Kass move any faster, the Eyrie would definitely suspect something. All he could do was hope Kass was not paying attention as the Koi skipped a few verses and began singing about a cruel and ambitious Eyrie general who assumed control of the Citadel after Lord Darigan’s defeat.

      Kass was riveted. His eyes were wide and the tip of his tufted tail twitched, and Pharazon could not get him to budge any further up the stairs.

      Celice was already on the top floor, looking down at the two in horror. “Oh please, let’s just leave it alone,” she begged. “You can read about all the history you like after we take care of the Dark Faerie Sisters, I promise!”

      “This all sounds familiar,” Kass said. “I think I was there—“ He gasped and put a paw to his head like he’d been struck. Staggering back, he nearly fell down the stairs, but caught himself by digging his claws into the wall. As he recovered, his breathing became laboured. “I… I think you’re right, Pharazon. I need to lie down.”

      Feebly, the Eyrie made his way up the stairs, and Pharazon showed him to the room the two would share. Kass collapsed on one of the beds, rubbing at his face like there was something there he was trying to scrub off.

      Pharazon backed out of the room and shut the door behind him, spinning around to see Celice lingering in the hall. The two stared at each other in silence. From here, the singing could still be faintly heard, but the words were impossible to discern.

      The Lupe’s ears were pinned back and her tail curled low. “What do we do?” she whimpered.

      “I don’t know,” Pharazon said, feeling sick to his stomach. “I—I didn’t really stop to think this far ahead.” He wandered over to her and leaned against the hallway wall. “I kind of hoped we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

      Celice held her arms. “I’m afraid—I don’t want him to remember anything.” Her golden eyes wandered to the door. “I have family who lives in Meridell. I recall how badly they were affected by the Kass War…” She ducked her head. “I don’t want to see them go through that again—“

      Footsteps creaked on the stairs, and Pharazon turned to see Jhudora striding toward them. “Well, that was fun,” the faerie said.

      Pharazon scowled. “Do you have any decency? Why didn’t you help us?!”

      “Because you’re making a mountain out of a Symolhill,” Jhudora said, folding her arms. “He’s going to remember sooner or later. I think he would rather his ‘friends’ not try to hide the truth from him.”

      The two Neopets exchanged guilty glances, and Celice looked back at the faerie with a growl in her voice. “But he’s a tyrant! He was merciless even to his own people!”

      Jhudora shook her head. “He was a tyrant. And he certainly wasn’t hatched that way. Maybe he grew into the role after one too many Neopets betrayed him.” Her imperious gaze fell on Pharazon. “What are you going to do, run off and leave him, too, because you fear his potential?”

      The Draik only had to think for a moment before saying, “No. I think that would make things worse. We’re his only friends in the world right now… and friends don’t abandon friends.” He straightened up. “I am not a coward. Not any more. It makes no difference what Kass did—I’m not giving up on him.”

      Jhudora smiled. “So all that big talk about faith and trust wasn’t just you spouting empty platitudes.” She looked over at Celice. “And what will you do? It would be so easy for you to return to Brightvale alone at this point.”

      “It would be easy,” Celice said, staring at the floor. “I… I don’t know. Pharazon, I’m sorry, I don’t know right now,” she said in response to the Draik’s pleading look. She cradled her head in one paw. “I need to sleep on it.”

      “Celice—“ Pharazon said as she turned to leave.

      “Not right now, please,” she said, her tone strained. Brushing him aside, she stalked into hers and Jhudora’s room and shut the door behind her.

      For a long moment, the Draik and the faerie stood in the hallway alone. Finally Pharazon looked up at Jhudora. “Am I doing the right thing?”

      “You tell me,” Jhudora said. “You’ve gotten yourself in this far, boy. Will you see things through to the end, or duck out?”

      “Celice is upset with me,” Pharazon said.

      “So you’re going to change your mind,” Jhudora said, “on something you feel so strongly about, because one imperfect person is upset with you? She has her own struggles to wrestle with. That doesn’t make all of her perceptions or conclusions correct. Far from it, in fact.”

      Pharazon frowned. “Does that mean my perceptions and conclusions are correct?”

      Jhudora took her wand out of her pocket and absently inspected the Korbat-like wings that stretched from it. “I’ve found it’s best not to entirely trust either your perceptions or your conclusions.”

      “Then what doI trust?!” Pharazon asked, stomping the floor with one foot in frustration.

      “You tell me,” Jhudora said again.

      The Draik grimaced. “Are you trying to help me by making me think out my own answers to my questions? Because it’s really annoying. It would be so much less effort if you just told me what I need to know.”

      Jhudora laughed. “And then what? You’d be dependent on me for all of your answers for the rest of eternity.” She moved past Pharazon to grab the handle of her door. “If you really want to grow, you’ll have to learn to not always take the easy way out.”

      Pharazon balled his fists and stared at the floor like a petulant child. He did know the answers—he just didn’t want to admit them. Because Jhudora was correct. It was hard, and it looked unreasonable on the surface. How could one justify doing things just because they felt right, with no guarantees as to the result?

      How else could one justify anything in the end, Pharazon thought. Neopets were not machines that could perfectly calculate every outcome in the universe. And life, he knew, was full of surprises that no one could account for ahead of time. As illogical as it sounded sometimes, in the end, moving forward on faith created better results than relying solely on emotion or reason. There were some problems that neither could ever solve.

      “I have to trust my heart,” he said as Jhudora turned the handle. “It’s been telling me that Kass is okay. And—“ He gnawed at his lip. “Even if Celice disagrees, even if she goes home, it won’t change my mind. I know what I need to do. Black Keep is calling me.”

      Opening the door a crack, the dark faerie smiled. “You really are far stronger than you give yourself credit for. Keep it up.”

      “Thanks,” Pharazon said. “Oh—tell Celice I’m sorry. And that she’s a good friend.”

      “I’m not a Weewoo,” Jhudora said. “But she’ll get the message.” She slipped into the room and closed the door.

      Pharazon felt so alone right then. It seemed like an eternity that he stood in the hallway, out of options. He didn’t want to go to his room and face Kass. He didn’t want Celice to leave him, as understandable as that course of action would be. He even wished Jhudora wasn’t so frustratingly helpful.

      But then he heard feet on the steps, and decided he would rather take his chances with Kass than someone surely wondering what all the ruckus had been with the Darigan Eyrie who’d nearly fallen down the stairs. Shaking his head, Pharazon grabbed the handle of his door and pulled himself inside, closing it behind him.

      Kass was asleep, or at least appeared to be. He had one arm draped over his face, and his breathing was slow and steady. Not even his tail moved, which Pharazon knew was a sure sign an Eyrie was totally out.

      Numbly, the Draik made his way to the other bed and sat down on it, thoughts and doubts and fears buzzing relentlessly in his brain. Doing the right thing wasn’t just hard—it was excruciating. Even more so when it was so absurd-seeming that it made Pharazon begin to doubt that it really was the right thing.

      Maybe, he thought, he was just doomed to fail every time. Maybe he was nothing but a miserable, wishy-washy loser.

      A tap on the window not only broke him out of his thoughts, but made him nearly jump out of his skin. Putting a hand on his racing heart, Pharazon looked over to see a white Weewoo rapping its beak on the windowpane. In one foot, it clutched a letter.

      Pharazon opened the window a crack, and the avian Petpet deposited the mail in his hand and then took off in a flurry of feathers. The Draik retreated to his bed and turned the letter over. It was addressed to him.

      He opened it and began to read, instantly recognising his owner’s handwriting.

      Hey Pharazon!

      How are you doing? I hope you’re having fun in Brightvale! Don’t worry, everything’s cool here. Blynn’s gearing up for the Festival of Neggs, and her idea of practice is hiding Neggs around the villa. Gwyneth usually finds them first, though. We’re taking good care of her, although I think she misses you. She’s been sleeping beside your bed every night.

      And Hyren’s still totally pumped for the Altador Cup. He just went down to the stadium to double-check that our seats are still reserved. I know, they’ve been reserved every year for years, but sometimes I think he uses the double-checking as an excuse to walk around the stadium.

      Anyway, I’m really proud of you, Pharazon. I know it wasn’t easy for you to travel to Brightvale alone, but I had a good feeling about it and I think a lot of good will come of it.

      Pharazon stopped reading and looked up at Kass, and felt something well up inside of him. It was a burning determination. If he could trust anyone in this crazy world, it was his owner, and he knew she was right. He felt it in the very core of his being. He was doing the right thing. He didn’t know how or why, but everything would be okay as long as he didn’t give up.

      The Draik let himself bask in that wonderful feeling for a moment before reading the rest of the letter.

      Sorry it took me so long to write to you, but I had a lot of errands to run, and the weather here has been so beautiful that we’ve done a lot of hiking around the hills and beaches. I’m excited for you to get back so you can join us on our picnics!

      You have a strong heart, Pharazon. I believe in you, and so do Blynn and Hyren and all of our friends. You’ll have to tell me all about your time in Brightvale when you come back.

      Much love,

      Terra

      Pharazon reached up to wipe away a few tears. Count on his family to be there for him right when he really needed it. There were no coincidences in Neopia.

      He sat in silence for a second before pulling open the drawer of the bedside table. Inside was a stack of paper, a quill, and a bottle of ink. Even the most remote inn could be counted on to keep these supplies stocked, Pharazon thought with a smile. He set the paper down on the table, dipped the quill, and began to compose a reply.

      Dear Terra,

      I’m so glad everyone’s doing well. I’m okay. The situation in Market Town turned out to be a little more complicated than Celice expected, but we’re on our way to solving it.

      There was no reason to give his family the full story, he thought, not yet. They were in no position to help him, and he would not drag them into something they probably could not handle. Although the thought of Hyren storming Black Keep, sword in hand, made Pharazon grin.

      The weather sounds lovely. It’s been rainy and dreary here, which I know you like, but it just freezes my scales off. I’m so glad we live in Altador.

      I know you worry about me. I’m feeling better than I ever have. I’ve come to some important realisations lately, and I’m sorry for all the times I’ve resisted you trying to teach me anything about life. It didn’t fall on deaf ears, I assure you. Thanks for not giving up on me.

      I should be home by next week, but I’ll shoot you another Neomail if plans change. I look forward to seeing you guys again.

      Love,

      Pharazon

      The Draik waved the paper so the ink would dry, holding it close to the lantern on the table. The Fire Mote inside the lantern rolled around lazily, savouring the last bits of some tasty kindling.

      After a few moments, Pharazon folded the letter and secured it with string. He looked over at the window and paused before ducking back to the paper and ink. Tapping the quill on the side of the ink bottle to prevent drips, he put it to work again.

      Dear Suhel,

      I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you lately. You know how life gets in the way and

      Pharazon frowned and crossed that sentence out.

      It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with everything that happened at the Werelupe Burrows. Not just my situation, but my reactions to it. I’m sorry I treated you poorly. Despite your sense of humour, I know you were taking care of me like the Werelupe King asked you to.

      I should have paid attention to the way you distrusted Skoll, and I did some things when I was angry at you that I’m not proud of. Please forgive me.

      I’m okay now. I’m not angry at you any more. By the end of it all, I could tell you really cared about me, and I don’t want you to think I hate you. So I’m dropping you a line to get back in contact.

      Terra’s been talking about going back to the Burrows for another visit after the Altador Cup ends. I’m looking forward to it. I imagine you’ll have all sorts of stories to tell me.

      Hoping to hear from you soon,

      Pharazon

      The Draik felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He felt better by leaps and bounds, and a relieved smile worked its way up his snout.

      Riding on that feeling, he opened the window again and stuck the two letters out into the dusk. The flapping of wings told him a Weewoo had seen him, and a moment later the mail was grabbed by one of the Petpets – possibly the same individual from earlier – who took off into the sky, over the treetops.

      Weewoos had an uncanny ability to locate virtually anyone in the world, which was why they made for the best Neomail couriers. Years of research, both biological and magical, had been unable to determine just how the Petpets did it.

      Pharazon thought, as he closed the shutters and returned to his bed, that it probably had to do more with magic than biology. After all, Weewoos could not read, and yet they still managed to deliver mail to the correct person with unnatural accuracy. Curling up under the blanket, Pharazon wondered if they used ley lines.

      He took one last look over at Kass. Reason told him he should probably be more afraid about sleeping in the same room as a deposed warlord recovering from amnesia and insanity. But Pharazon was done letting his thoughts and feelings drive him to doubt and despair. He was doing the right thing, and that meant everything would work out, one way or another.

      Reaching over, he shut the door of the lantern, leaving them in darkness. Then he curled up and tried to get some sleep. It did not come easily, but at last it came.

     

***

      Pharazon didn’t know why, but he found himself awake again. He always was a light sleeper, and any sound or movement might break him out of his sleep cycle. Face scrunched in confusion, he turned over and sat up.

      The lantern was still closed, but the window shutters were open, letting in the feeble starlight of a near-moonless night. Standing in front of them, gazing out the window, was Kass.

      He looked different, Pharazon thought. The Eyrie carried himself higher than the day before. His paws were folded behind his back, and as he turned to regard Pharazon, his crimson eyes held a keenness and ferocity like a Horus’s.

      Pharazon sucked in a breath. A horrible realisation washed over him even before Kass opened his beak.

      “I remember who I am,” he said regally. “Lord Kass of Kass Citadel.”

      To be continued…

 
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Other Episodes


» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part One
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Two
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Three
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Four
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Five
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Six
» The Spirit of Black Keep: Part Seven



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