I had lost everything.
They had taken it from me.
I don't know how long I sat there, in that Timeless
place between Neopia and Beyond. I don't know how long I drifted aimlessly between
the stars, through galaxies gone by. I could still think. This came as a bit
of a numb shock to me. Even after I was blasted to a pile of sludge, I could
still think. But what should I think about? My mind grew numb as the stars slowly
faded into peaceful blackness.
* * *
Gathelianne, Lady of Ambition strode around her moonlit chambers in an angry
huff. That pathetic wretch of an Eyrie! Down on his knees, begging for mercy
like some sort of child. If he had shown a bit more dignity, perhaps she may
have been easier on him.
"My lady," grunted Nuntio, Master of Greed.
The hideous, ogre-like Skeith sidled up to the faerie cautiously. "My lady,
Meridell is burning, just as you wish."
"But it'll be rebuilt again!" Gathelianne said,
her ghostly white hand lashing out and shattering a porcelain lamp. "Those Meridellian
fools don't know when to give up! See, already they're putting out the fires.
I need something bigger, the biggest blaze Neopia can give me! I need the fire
that will end the world once and for all!"
"Calm down, my lady," said Ranagro, Lord of
Revenge. The muscular Gelert drew a shining violet blade from his sheath. It
was Nalarus, the sword he had given to Kass and taken away again. Carefully,
he examined the blade for cracks, then sheathed it again. "You'll get your chance
soon enough. We all will. After all, we have all the time in the world. We're
Gathelianne was silent. Nuntio shivered. The
lady had the power to change the mood in the room with just a glance, or a snap
of her fingers. She held a hypnotic power over other people. Almost as hypnotic
as Ranagro's. Though, for reasons unknown to the Skeith, Gathelianne was the
dominant of the two.
The air was tense. Nuntio watched with baited
breath. What would his lady's next move be? "Where did we go wrong?" The faerie
asked, twirling a lock of raven-black hair on her finger. "Did we choose the
wrong person to possess? Was there a fault in the plan?"
"My lady, you're pacing," Ranagro said nervously.
"Of course I'm pacing, you twit! But anyway,
I know the answer. The fault lay not with us, but with those Meridellians. Too
smart for their own good. Especially that Aisha with the glasses. Breaking the
spell on the Court Dancer. That dancer was a key part of my plan. She was to
occupy Skarl. Once Skarl knew what was going on, the whole plan fell to pieces."
"And that wretch bat creature had to get involved."
Gathelianne nodded. "Darigan. It seems he has
become quite the hero. He must be so proud of himself." There was a trace of
mockery in the faerie's voice. "So very proud."
She sighed and continued to pace. "But we'll
crush his pride soon enough, my friends. We'll reduce his Citadel to rubble,
just a legend lost to time."
* * *
A road… a path opening up before me. A glittering, twinkling path of stars.
I stepped onto it. It felt cool to the touch. Sharp, but not sharp enough to
cut my feet open. I looked down. My paws were my own again. Real paws. I ran
my hand through my head feathers again. They felt slightly surreal. Like they
were there, but they shouldn't be.
Something was seriously amiss. Why wasn't I
dead? After all I had put my Citadel and my people through, I deserved to die.
But instead I stood here, suspended between life and death, between harsh reality
and the land of spirits and demons.
"Welcome to our world, Kass," said a sweet,
melodic voice. I turned to see Lady Gathelianne floating towards me, hovering
slightly over the path of stars. She glowed a pearlescent violet color. Approaching
me, she touched my cheek, and a bit of that glow rubbed off on me. Slowly, in
a confused trance, I wiped it off. What was going on?
"Welcome to Everlife, where restless spirits
are doomed to wander all their days, or until their restlessness is put to an
end. Welcome to the world of horrors and haunts. Don't cringe so, Kass. It takes
a little time to grow accustomed, but you'll do so."
"Why did you bring me here?" I demanded, unsure
of hat else to say. I was certain that it was she who brought me to this place.
"Wouldn't it have been more merciful just to kill be and be done with it?"
The faerie laughed, a sound that held no joy.
"Kass, when have I ever been merciful? Besides, my Eyrie. You're needed here."
Behind her appeared Ranagro and Nuntio. The
Skeith wasn't too happy to see me. But Ranagro, Ranagro was grinning from ear
to pointed ear. He enjoyed watching me suffer like this. Gathelianne was an
ice block, her emotions unreadable.
"Needed?" I asked, "Needed for what?" A gnawing
feeling in my stomach told me that I didn't want to know the answer.
"Why, to help bring down Meridell, of course."
Gathelianne said coolly, playing with a lock of her hair. "After all, you died
in a war against them. It is their fault."
I shook my head. Her voice was so tangy sweet,
but I knew there was poison in that honeyed fruit. "They weren't the ones that
released the lightning bolt. They weren't the ones who saw me fade away. You
"Lies. Kass, dear, we're on your side. We gave
you the power and magic you needed. And in turn, you got rid of the wretched
knight for us. He was a danger to your people, Kass. And now that he's gone,
the Citadel is safer."
It was so easy to surrender, so easy to believe
her. My mind raced through a million thoughts. Why make things harder for
yourself, Kass? Just go with the flow. You've got no other choice. Come with
me, it won't hurt a bit…
"No. The Citadel was never in danger, was it?
You just whispered those lies in my ear so I would start this war."
"Oh, but the Citadel was in danger, Kass," Gathelianne
said, her palm glowing pale silver. "Let me show you a future that might have
been." She raised her palm in front of my eyes. It became a mirror, and I saw
myself, silvery and wavering. Insubstantial, not even sure if I was real.
Then, the screen changed. Fire blazed. Smoke
plumes fled from the screen, enveloping my senses, wrapping me in this thread
of time-to-be. I heard the screams of my people. A Darigan Uni ran by, his wings
ablaze, while a peasant farmer chased him with a pitchfork. Lord Darigan, my
old friend, drew his sword, his mouth set in a grim line. A Meridellian Wocky,
(I remember him. Jeran's friend, Danner.) drew his crossbow and let the arrow
fly. The ruler of the Citadel collapsed.
Another sound made me whirl around. The sound
of thunder in the mountains, reverberating and powerful. A sound that made my
heart leap into my throat. I turned around. The engines that kept the Citadel
aloft roared like a thousand angry beasts. Then, with one feeble sputter, they
The ground beneath my feet shook with the vibrations
of screams and the motions of pattering, frantic feet. As if in slow motion,
the Citadel fell from the sky. The old hag, Morguss, grabbed her young daughter's
paw and tried to bolt, but it all happened too quickly. They were done.
The last thing I saw as the vision faded was
a tiny purple and white banner on the Citadel's ruined tower, waving at me ironically.
"A threat?" Ranagro asked with a smirk. "Admit
it Kass, they were a threat."
His voice, so powerful and commanding. It would
be so easy to submit to his will. But I fought. "Lies. You're showing me lies
again. That's all you Three do, is lie. All you've ever done for me and my kingdom.
I don't want to be on your side, never meant to be on your side…"
"But you are," Nuntio growled. "You embody,
erm… embodied, us," He said, taking a look at my pale, ghostly form. "You were
Ambitious. Vengeful. Greedy. And foolish. Now you're on our side. Whether you
like it or not."
"But Darigan broke free!" I protested.
"He had strength that you could not hope to
possess in a thousand years," Ranagro said bluntly, putting his paw to the hilt
of his sword. He sensed my growing anger and indignation. Foolish Gelert,
I thought, no sword can harm me now.
"Then where do I get that strength? How do I
"You don't," Gathelianne sneered. She
was clutching something at her neck with one hand, using the other to take it
off. A ghostly replica of my amulet, a tiny bird skull with green feathers.
I watched it, entranced. The thing she and her vile companions had used to track
me. To control me, like a puppet on strings. Another lie, another dark drop
in an already poisoned well. I had lapped it all up mindlessly. Only now was
the bitter aftertaste catching up on me.
Common sense struck me like a thunderbolt. The
amulet was destroyed! They no longer had a hold on me! How could they harm me?
Another bolt. They had controlled Kass through
the Orb. And using the Orb, two faerie sisters had been able to bring Darigan
back to life.
What if the same could be done with my amulet?
What if someday, I could escape this false life, this half-life, this world
I held out my paw in an offer to take the amulet
from Gathelianne. Grudgingly, she agreed. "I've no more use for it." She said,
putting gently in my hand as though we were old friends. Yet her voice remained
ice-cold. "If you can figure out how to get out of here, then you're a more
deserving Eyrie than I ever dreamed you'd be. But you'll never find a way out,
Kass. Never. Not unless you help us."
I shook my head. They were lying again. It tuned
my back to them and began to walk down the star-strewn path, dangling the ghost
amulet in front of me. Once a symbol of my imprisonment, it had turned into
the key to my cage.
As I walked, I stared at the amulet and saw
the reflections of a world gone by. The flaming spectre of Lord Darigan, with
the Orb I his hand. The Orb shone like a miniature sun, yet the light it shed
was not warm. I saw their faces reflected. The Three, beautiful and terrible.
I saw the blazing of the Sunblade, shedding a light that warmed even my ghostly
self. I felt the tears of a sister on my shoulder, heard the whinny of a Uni
steed. The bell-like laughter of a faerie.
This amulet was my second chance, my link to
the world I know.
This time around, I'd be vindicated. This time
around, I'd learn from my mistakes. This time, I wouldn't listen to the lies.