The Book of the Twelve:Part Ten
X-I. Lamora, the Beautiful
Lamora was known as a beauty of Sunny City, one unrivalled in all of Ancient Neopia. But it was only when Xantan visited the city that it became known that Lamora’s appearance was a deception. She had learnt powerful magic of illusion and mind control, allowing her to implant the appearance she desired into people’s minds. Impressed with such talents, without any obvious schooling in the arts, Xantan invited her to his Circle when he founded the Great Empire.
Within the Circle, she worked with others at the Empire’s Research Facility near Neopia City on the projects to uplift the pygmy Petpet tribes of the south. She hoped to cool their natural hotheadedness with her magic, and early signs showed success before the Circle called her back to Neopia City to deal with Xantan.
The Kau stumbled through the mud and the rain, thankful at least that there was no lightning. Nothing there to shine a light on her. Show her for what she truly was.
She glanced back, into the night. She didn't think she was being followed. The raiders, when they had come to the village, went house by house. They had taken her family from her, but then she had stepped into the lamplight and they had been taken back in horror.
They had called her a monster. Tried to hurt her, and she had run.
Her mother had always told her she was beautiful. But there was a look in her eyes that Lamora knew well. It was the look of a mother’s love, and that told her how everyone else without those eye must see her. An ugly, repulsive, mutated creature. She couldn't help it, of course, but neither could she stop it. So she had hidden herself away, and now she was fleeing her home. Into the dark, and the unknown night.
How she dreamed of somewhere safe. Somewhere where she wouldn't be judged. How she dreamed of looking normal, just for once.
Light in the distance ahead of her. Travellers on the road, at a junction by the looks of things. Lamora doubted that the raiders could have gotten ahead of her without her noticing. If she warned them perhaps they would turn back and be safe.
She paused a little bit before she entered the circle of their torches. She had never met anyone from beyond the village before. She did not know how they would react. If they saw her face, they may chase her away like the raiders had.
She tried to hide her face, and she wished, she wished so hard that she didn't look like she did.
She stepped into the circle of light, and she heard the gasps. But not of horror, as she had been expecting. Concern, instead.
“What is a pretty young thing like you doing out on the road all alone?” a Korbat was asking.
“Are you from around here? Lost?” a Faerie Pteri asked.
None of them seemed remotely bothered by her appearance.
“I - I live in a village not far from here,” she explained. “We were attacked by raiders. Everyone is gone now. I ran, but I think they may still be on the road behind me.”
The Pteri narrowed her eyes at the storm.
“Oh, really? We were just about to head that way. Thank you for telling us. Your name?”
“Ifuli Jomm,” the Pteri said. “We have been victims of raiders, too, all of us. Together, we are looking for somewhere new. Somewhere off the beaten track where raiders will not bother us. You are welcome to come with us. There is safety in numbers if nothing else. Myself and Zhadoom, that Elephante, are wizards. That gives us an advantage over most. Tell me, do you know any magic?”
“No,” Lamora said truthfully.
Unless, was it magic somehow that they were not seeing her for how she truly was?
“There is something about you,” Ifuli said. “A sheen of magic. Potentiality, I think. If you wish, I may try and teach you a spell or two.”
Lamora grinned enthusiastically, letting her shawl fall from her head.
As she travelled with the little group she learnt that they saw her as a beautiful pink Kau with long, silky hair. She wore the most pretty gowns and spoke in a voice like flowers on the air. It was so far from the truth that Lamora struggled not to laugh — or cry — when people spoke of it. When she looked at herself, she continued to see the same ugly mutant. Whatever magic she was working, it altered only her appearance to others, and not to herself.
Still, she liked this new group and they seemed to like her. By the time they came upon the site that would be Sunny City, they were already firm friends and Lamora could not have dreamed of leaving them.
Lamora woke with a start. She had been snoring in her chair by the fire.
“I'm coming! I'm coming!” she answered reflexively.
She scrambled up, but her tutor was nowhere to be found. In the rainbow Pteri’s place, a strange Sludgy wearing a cape was stood in the doorway.
“I have travelled far to meet with you,” the Sludgy said.
“You have?” she asked, quite sure this was some sort of dream. “Why would you do that?”
“Word has reached my ears of the magic lighthouse at Sunny City, and Ifuli Jomm who tends to it,” the Sludgy said. “I simply had to meet her.”
“Good,” Lamora said. “But then why would you come and see me?”
“You aren't Ifuli Jomm?”
“No,” Lamora snorted. “Why ever would you think I was?”
“Well you are in her house,” the Petpet remarked.
Lamora looked around, frowning.
“Well, yes,” she admitted. “But I'm her apprentice, I'm allowed to be here.”
“My apologies,” the visitor said. “I only assumed because of the magic, I've never seen it done quite so well.”
“The illusion,” the Sludgy said. “The way you are making yourself appear.”
“You can see it is an illusion?” she asked. “No one else has been able to see, they all think I really look like this.”
“Ah,” he replied. “Well I am a wizard of some skill, and perhaps as afflicted as I am, it allows me to see beyond the images other people project if themselves. I didn't always look like this, you know. Xantan. A pleasure to meet you.”
“Lamora,” she replied rushing forward to shake his hand. “If you know the magic, why do you choose to look the way you do?”
“I have little opinion of what others may think of me,” Xantan said. “What matters to me is my work.”
Lamora didn't think she could ever be so brave as to let people see what she really looked like. Not after last time.
“Mistress Jomm is in her study,” she said. “I can see if she is free to speak with you, if you like.”
X-II. Lamora, the Bewitching
Lamora went with Mastermind’s forces at the battle of Kal Panning, to put down the insurrection of the Archmagus and his priests before they could reinforce the Kal Panning lines. She was instrumental in distracting the priest’s magic by conjuring imitations of the Empire’s army to take their fire while the real army got close enough to strike.
After the fall of Jahbal, she briefly returned to the Research Facility and saw the beginnings of a revolt in the pygmy population. Seeing the potential of this magic to form an army, she sought out Bamon-Sal on the Chia Spur, who had thought of the same idea. She cut the Profaner down, using her magic to bewitch and control the army of monsters he had created. But she never got to use their power, as Mastermind in turn ended her reign, seizing the army and sending them to the imprisoned Jahbal, so he could gradually send them out into the world and weaken the surviving cities of Neopia.
The fireball impacted only metres from where Lamora has been standing.
“They have our position!” Zhadoom called down from above them where he was summoning the storm. “Their shots will be wide for a time due to visibility, but once they hit us, they will know where to strike.”
Ahead of them, sheltered in the desert dunes, the Priests of Roo we're launching magical fire bolts like artillery. They were well bunkered in.
“There’a still too much farther to go!” Ifuli Jomm shouted. “If we were closer, perhaps I could do something.”
Mastermind frowned, reaching out with his magic.
“They are too far for me, as well,” he admitted.
“Then what you need is a distraction,” Lamora said calmly. “That, I can do for you.”
“You?” Zhadoom called down.
He was from Sunny City, just like Ifuli. Everyone there agreed that she was a talented wizard, but nothing on the scale of the others. She was just a pretty young thing they had found on the road one day.
It was a comfortable lie, one that provided Lamora with a level of safety she enjoyed. But Xantan’s words all those years ago had meant something to her, and she understood just what her power was capable of.
“Yes, me,” he replied.
She turned to their soldiers, a legion perhaps five hundred strong. She captured their image in her mind and focused on it. Willed it to be real like she had on the road that night.
Then, like an artist with paint, she carefully placed that image in the sand a few hundred metres away.
She heard the gasp from Ifuli and knew she had been successful.
Again, she took the image and placed another, this time on their opposite side. And again. And again. All told she conjured half a dozen of the things before she opened her eyes.
They were surrounded by soldiers. On all sides, perfect copies of them marched forward in unison. A force of almost three thousand bared down on the Temple of Roo and the priests were suddenly overwhelmed with targets.
The fireballs began to go wild, firing at the far off soldiers. They continued to march on, the illusions that they were impervious to the magic.
Mastermind looked at her, impressed.
“I think Lamora has been holding back on us.”
“You have your distraction,” she replied. “Let’s not waste it.”
After the battle, Lamora followed Mastermind’s instructions and did not return to Neopia City.
He had told them to gather what forces they could, and Lamora had King followed the efforts of those at the Research Facility to modify live to their ends. The researchers there, properly swayed, would give her what she needed.
She arrived long after they had lost their final battle with Rollay and the Meepits. Most of the facility lay in ruins and the creatures roamed the remains like animals hungry for a fight.
It was then that Lamora struck upon another idea. The creatures themselves could be her army. But for that, she would need the help of Bamon-Sal.
She made her way southward to the Chia Spur, hoping she would find him there. The villages were deserted, it was clear the old Chia had been experimenting on the locals.
When she found him, her course was clear.
Once the deed was done she left the hut and her old illusion behind. She walked now as the twisted, broken thing she had always been. What use was the deception now? With Bamon-Sal’s army at her command, there was no one left to fear.
Xantan’s words, those years ago, had done more than give her confidence in her power. Her magic, ultimately, was about making people believe in things that were not there. And what were ideas but things? Mind control, that was what she could do.
She had only ever used that aspect of her power to calm those around her. To spread joy. But now, she would use it to bind the monsters to her will.
She reached out to the tortured souls in the cages around her and soothes them, lacing her will with theirs until all the growls had stopped and the creatures stood there waiting, peacefully.
“Remarkably well done my dear,” said a voice from behind her.
Lamora wheeler round. Mastermind was stood in the doorway of the hut.
“I’ve not seen anyone capable of that level of control since the Archmagus, or myself,” he added. “It is a speciality of the high priests. One they do not teach to others. Yet here you are, self taught and so powerful. It is a pity you never told us, Lamora. To think we wasted you as Ifuli’a apprentice. If I had known, I would have taught you such things. We would have been unstoppable.”
“What are you here for, Mastermind?” she asked.
“The dame thing as you,” he replied. “Bamon-Sal and his creatures.”
“They obey me now,” she said.
“I believe they will obey anyone who knows the magic,” Mastermind corrected her. “With the Temple of Roo dealt with, I believe that means you, or me.”
“I will use them to retake the Empire,” Lamora said. “I am leaving.”
Mastermind shook his head.
“No, you aren't,” he said. “You and I both know what is going to happen next.”
There was an awkward moment of silence.
Mastermind moved first to end the standoff. A powerful blast of magic that knocked Lamora from her feet. She did not get back up.
To be continued…