Troubled Past - Nox: Part Five
Time passed. I had spent it terrifying travellers, researching and thinking. Thinking a lot. On the subject, to my shame, of raising ghosts from their graves.
As I said before, it wasn't a hard procedure. It was only once I had read about it fully that I realized quite how easy it was, though. One simple incantation to raise the spirits and bind them under my command. One simple, easy incantation to create chaos in this world.
I did not tell Mirion Black of my plans.
Some weeks later I received an unpleasant surprise. A meepit came to the door of my castle, a note clutched in its small pink paws. It handed this to me as though it were as intelligent as a neopet itself, and then scurried away.
It was the first time I'd received a note ever.
An untidy scrawl of writing on it informed me;
'The Wocky you removed from your Company has returned, and is lurking in the old Middlestone Graveyard. But he is a Changed Neopian, he banished spectres and does his best to protect the Citizens of the Woods from unlawful harm & it is rumoured that the Faeries themselves have granted him further powers in exchange for a Vow he cannot break. He claims his Ultimate Purpose is to Rid the Woods of All Evil, and is fast becoming known as a Doer of Good, although he stays away from people often.
He is becoming a threat to Operations.'
A grubby potion stain filled the lower half of the paper, and added to the handwriting led me to believe that it had been sent by one green Zafara witch who had been in the 'army' before. I hadn't spoken to her much, and had no clue as to how she'd found my address. I mean, it wasn't as if mine was the only huge fortress in this area; all the upcoming sorcerers had them those days.
But... Magax was back. Hmm. With new powers, and was removing ghosts?
How had this happened??
I would pay him a visit, I decided, sneak up on him and show him that resistance was useless.
That night I cloaked myself in many spells, altering my appearance, voice and character to the most innocent I could think of – a young Cybunny who had been in my childhood village, who I could barely remember. What was her name again? Cherith, Cherry, Cheery...
"Cheelee," I said aloud, a thin, girl's voice emerging from my white mouth. "My name is Cheelee."
I left the fortress and made my way down to the graveyard described.
Although it was not a long journey, my method of travel – hopping – made it fairly difficult. I kept getting stuck in the undergrowth, most of which was higher than my head. But I couldn't risk giving away my deception by floating, so I kept at it.
When I eventually arrived there I was very much out of breath and bedraggled, although this probably aided my appearance. It didn't take me long to slink through the imposing gates and find refuge behind a gravestone. And then I saw him.
Hovering high above the graveyard, watchful, like some sort of otherworldly entity, his hands glowing dully with green light. I noticed that the space around him was very slightly distorted, like water, and presumed that it was some sort of magic that enabled him to summon his axe from wherever it was being kept; probably a slightly higher but reasonably close branch of reality. He wasn't holding it, anyway.
I wondered what he thought he was guarding this place from. Ghosts? Monsters? Me? Well, I'm sure he was doing a fine job, anyway.
I gave an almost silent laugh and was surprised to realize that Magax had heard it; he was now gliding down towards me, a suspicious look on his furred face. As I watched, his axe materialized in his hand – my assumption about it had been correct.
But when he saw me, in my sweet, innocent form, he immediately let his axe disappear – almost guiltily, as though he didn't want to frighten me. Fool. I widened my eyes and strove to look as scared and naïve as possible.
"What are you doing here? Don't you know how dangerous it is out here?" he asked, all genuine concern. Ha ha ha.
I gave a loud, tearful sniff before answering. "I-I'm lost. We came out to the Carnival on a dare... And now..." I let my words trail off. Hey, I wasn't bad at this.
"What's your name?"
"Cheelee," I replied, my voice still shaking.
"We've got to get you out of here," he told me, picking me up bodily from the ground. "No telling when Nox might show up."
Oh, so he knew I would appear sooner or later? Interesting. I gave a small shiver and allowed my tone to become slightly slyer. "Hubrid Nox?"
He turned yellow eyes on me. "What do you know..." he began, but I cut him off.
I let my form slip, felt my eyes beginning to change, and grinned. "I know a great deal about Hubrid Nox," I hissed, leaping out of his arms and throwing him backwards into the ground. He slammed into a gravestone, splitting it with a violent 'crack!'
He stared up at me, slightly bleary, before shaking himself and exclaiming, "Hubrid Nox!"
I smiled again, and replied. "Yes, foolish Magax. You are so easy to trick. Those of good hears are always willing to drop their guard to protect an innocent." I finished with an evil laugh, as a flash of inspiration came to me as to what I would do next. I began the incantation.
"Stop!" cried Magax, trying to struggle up again. "What are you doing?"
I ignored him, pushing onwards. I could feel them beneath me, approaching, being pulled into this realm...
Magax stood, but he was too late. With a final, short word, the ghosts of this graveyard rose, ghastly from their graves, empty, controlled.
"What have you done?" he yelled, floating upwards through the air. Was that fear in his voice? I hoped so.
"An army of shades, spectres and shadows to serve me!" I shouted back, matching his upward movement and gliding above the thunderous clouds. "And their first act... Will be to destroy you, my old servant."
Regretful indeed, but he really was asking for it.
"I was once your slave," he said darkly, his axe reappearing, "But no more!"
"You still seek redemption for your past?" 'Still' was perhaps pushing it – I had no idea what he had been doing whilst away – but I had to challenge him. "Don't you know there is no forgiveness for you, Magax? The Faeries will never forgive the crimes you committed against them."
Crimes in my name, by my direction, but hey.
"Perhaps," Magax replied, "But, I have to try."
Ah, so they hadn't forgiven him. Excellent. I wondered what powers they had granted him other than floating.
Although I could no longer see below the clouds, I could feel each and every ghost's position – and there were a lot of them. They were unlike and spirits I'd ever encountered before. Their minds were devoid of any emotion or thought, wanting nothing, expecting nothing. They would do as I commanded because they had no reason not to, whatever it be.
I sent them at Magax. It really was a shame.
But he fought back, angrily, blasting bolt after bolt of bright power at the ghosts, taking them out.
When they were hit I felt the fragile links of necromancy snap like twigs, and my energy levels drop.
I flew off, unseen, to watch the battle from a safe distance. Slightly cowardly, but I had to observe carefully, see how effective a fighter he was now.
And oh, he was effective indeed.
Wielding his glowing, deadly axe in one hand and spewing out magic with the other, he was an incredibly formidable opponent – even more so than he had been before. He was clearly much stronger than he had been when I had known him.
Oh dear oh dear.
I watched him defeat the last of my spectres and then glare up into the sky where I had disappeared, yelling, "Face me, Nox, you coward!"
No, not with my magic this low, thanks. I silently swooped away, like some sort of overgrown chia-shaped Korbat, back to my castle and safe place. On the way I summoned a very small number of bound ghosts to my side and bade them guard Fort Nox with everything they had, just in case. I would summon more as soon as my strength was recovered.
Magax was going to be trouble.
Over the next few weeks, with my fortress safely secured, I began keeping tabs on the Wocky. Spies sent out to plot his movements. He didn't appear to be doing much – lurking in graveyards, banishing any ghosts he came across, indiscriminately, and tackling any necromancers unfortunate enough to cross his path. He helped random citizens of the woods too, and while they had at first reacted with fear and suspicion – as well they might – they had begun to trust him, after a fashion.
He raised their awareness of me, much to my annoyance. Taught them about me, what I could do, how to avoid my attacks.
So, yet again, I had to face him.
Several times we fought, evenly matched usually, my ambushes becoming more open and powerful to match his. I realized that he could probably be described as my nemesis, and half wondered whether I should find that amusing or terrible.
I began forming elaborate plots in an effort to get rid of him. Something in my convoluted mind, twisted as it was by then, hated his being there, the single ting opposition, the flaw in my plans. It was perhaps this that made me somehow reason and decide to summon the army and its resulting apocalypse after removing Magax.
Nice going, there.
He didn't know this, of course. He repeatedly destroyed my means of communication with the rest of the world, unused though they were; although he never launched a direct attack on my fortress. He presumably knew that in that situation, he stood no chance.
Oddly enough, we both seemed to have developed a sort of fan base; mostly owners or young pets who thought the one or both of us were 'cool', inspiring, or just plain misunderstood. Sometimes I had to fight off reporters for the Times.
But by then, I didn't care about such things. My feud with Magax had become something bordering on an obsession; he had to be gotten rid of, changed, trapped. Anything to displace him from my own path.
I had stopped talking to Miriam, to anyone really by then, and looking back I wonder if that fuelled my madness.
And through my madness, my demise.
To be continued...