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From Fire to Ashes


by trappedelements

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Valeane had always loved fighting. That was pretty much essential if you were going to be the next Battle Faerie. She had to learn fencing, archery, how to fight on horseback... Knowing how to use a spear was also good. She also had to master Battle Magic, the art of combining elemental and spectral magic to form a destructive surge of power. Valeane, being the hot-headed Fire Faerie that she was, was a quick and eager learner. Then of course, she had to learn how to defend herself, it wouldn’t be particularly impressive if she got hurt or killed barely before the battle started in earnest because she had made a mistake on one of her protective spells. Not that that was likely, but a determined opponent would usually manage to do at least some injury, sometimes too serious to cure with the basic healing magic she was required to know.

     Valeane was almost certainly going to be the next Battle Faerie. She vowed she would go to any length to be. Almost all odds were in her favor, but nevertheless she never let her concentration slip or let anything distract her. She would not ruin everything after coming this far. And she would not permit anyone else to destroy her hopes for her.

     But despite her efforts, someone did.

* * * * *

Valeane pushed a lock of dark red hair out of her eyes. She could not - would not - afford to spoil her chances now, not when she was at the point of perfection and at her last test. Few had ever made it this far, this time only her and two others. Whoever proved best at this would be the next Battle Faerie, welded of the Sword of Flame and the Sword of Ice, riding at the head of the Queen’s army.

     The young Fire Faerie also knew that once proclaimed Battle Faerie, there was no turning back. You must solve the riddle of the Swords, written in the Faerie Tongue to be considered worthy. The question changed with every Faerie, so the answer was hers alone to find. She was also aware that some of the Battle Faeries of the past had not been able to solve it. She did not want to be one of them. She wanted to live up to her name. And Valeane knew that if someone else figured out the answer and spoke it aloud, that would be the end of her as a Battle Faerie. This was what happened to those battle mistresses who used their powers to their advantages and against the Queen. For Fyora was the only Faerie alive who knew the answer to these riddles, and so she held the Battle Faerie’s future in her hands, at any moment able to snatch it away.

     The Swords were kept by Queen Fyora, she let no one handle them for fear someone would someday master their secret and be able to make the next Battle Faerie fall.

     As for Valeane, she thought the risks would be worth it. She trusted her Queen, something not all Battle Faeries fully did. These had been the words of Fyora herself: “Know this, Valeane, I consider you not as a mere Fire Faerie like any other, as I know other do, but as a friend. I would not use the secret of the Swords against you, unless there is no other choice and it would be better for you, too. I cannot help you become Battle Faerie, but I trust you will manage alone. I hope that you will someday find the answer to this riddle, to succeed where so many others failed.”

     Valeane had no intention of failing.

     She concentrated on summoning her powers, to conjure a storm made from pure magic - all the more dangerous. She called on three elemental magics; Water for the torrent of rain, Air for the howling wind, Fire for the water-resistant flames that would soon set ablaze the entire practice grounds. Thunder sounded throughout the sky. Then for the spectral magic, Light, for the streaks of lightning shooting across the sky and adding to the fire wherever they struck a tree.

     Slowly, she commanded them to subside, then to disappear entirely. However impressive they had been, she would have failed had she been unable to stop them.

     The other two Faeries performed impressive acts of Battle Magic, in Valeane’s opinion, but she surpassed both of them, though just barely. The ‘teacher’, a Water Faerie, nodded at her and smiled. “Well done, Valeane,” she said. Then, signaling to the two others to follow and for Valeane to wait, she walked toward the Palace.

     She had done it. She would be Battle Faerie in just a few minutes. Though half of her expected it from the beginning, she could hardly believe it now. Smiling, she walked toward the Queen now emerging from the Palace doors, holding one sword in each hand.

     “You’ve done well, Valeane Battle Faerie,” said Fyora. She handed the former Fire Faerie the swords. Both burned in her hands, then eventually subsided. She looked at the writing on the Sword of Ice, translating the Ancient Faerie Tongue.

Wield me, Faerie, if you will.

But keep in mind, still:

If you cannot answer the riddle asked,

When you face opponent yet unmasked,

My help will not be mine to give,

So find the answer if you wish to live.

     A shiver ran down her spine. She did not know her life depended on this answer. Then her gaze fell on the other blade.

     This one held the real riddle, the question still unanswered. The riddle solved in thirteen breaths. Valeane glanced at Fyora. Did this mean her time as Battle mistress would be up if she did to figure it out in thirteen breaths, or that it was merely possible to find out within that short span of time? She did not want to lose her rank moments after she aquired it. And it was more than a rank, it was a new life for her. But the Queen’s face was emotionless, apart from the slightly sad eyes. Valeane could make out nothing else. Breathing very slowly, she struggled to find an answer.

     “You needn’t solve it now, Valeane,” said Fyora. “It is not vital, and as long as none other finds it, a Battle Faerie you will remain.”

     “But it says here ‘Find the answer of you wish to live’,” Valeane answered.

     The Faerie Queen shook her head. “The swords cast a powerful defensive charm on the Battle Faerie if she solves the riddle. Needless to say, you can survive without it. But come, do not trouble yourself over it now.”

     And, however hesitantly, Valeane did come. And time passed, but she could not find an answer. She cast the strongest charms over the swords, which only she or Fyora could ever hope to break. No one except her would be able to read those words until the spell was lifted. Or so she thought and hoped. She fought and won many battles and wars, including the great Faerie War. As in her dreams, she rode at the head of the faerie soldiers, and soon became one of the best known Battle faeries of all Neopia’s time. But all this while not knowing the answer to that riddle posed to her so long ago. It tugged at the back of her mind constantly, until, little by little, she began to understand it in a new way.

     Valeane unsheathed the two swords, studying the markings by their hilts. Would this be yet another vain attempt at coming to some conclusion? But no, not this time. Not again. And as she opened her mouth to speak the answer, the swords burned in her hand like fire. But she held tight and spoke the sole word that would make her a worthy Battle Faerie.

     “It’s too late, my dear Valeane... no longer are you a Battle Faerie,” came a sinister voice. “For I solved it before you.”

     Valeane yelled in frustration, dropping the swords and falling to her knees. But it was to no use. It was already too late. She saw her reddish hair slowly turn gray, her skin pale until papery white, and felt her hazel eyes turn black. A Grey Faerie. She had been reduced to that. Valeane caught a glimpse of two glowing red eyes before they disappeared.

     What happened after that is not know for certain. Some say that she was banished for all eternity from other faeries. Surprising what people come up with to explain thing they do not know the answer to. Others believe that she slowly faded away and the two blades with her. But where is the truth in those rumors? As for the story which is the most probable, perhaps the only one even a bit likely, is that she fled into the Haunted Woods with the swords, for the next worthy Battle Faerie to find and claim.

The End

 
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