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The Power of Twelve

by herdygerdy


The mist always hung thick in the streets of Neovia, obscuring the townsfolk as they rushed about their business, only the glow from the oil lamps on the street managing to pierce the gloom.

     Kelland walked through the freezing fog, his cloak fast tight around him to shield him from the chill. He didn’t need to ask around for directions. Ilere had been clear, Oberon’s mansion had been destroyed by the people of Neovia centuries ago. Now, only the catacombs that once lay below it remained, and they stretched far and wide below the town. The Earth Faerie said there was still one way through to the ruins that didn’t involve a trip into the town’s sewer system, from a crypt in the graveyard that sat on the hill above the town.

     Kelland marvelled once he was up there. This place was not all that far from the Forgotten Graveyard deeper in the Woods. The Darkest Faerie had almost come full circle in her journey after being discovered by Fyora.

     The crypt in question was easy to make out. Its door hung open invitingly, torches burning inside. The grass outside was trampled, and would have succumbed to mud had the frost not kept the ground hard. Footprints, and a lot of them. Ilere had mentioned that cultists often used the upper chambers of the catacombs as meeting rooms for their arcane rites.

     Kelland took one of the torches, and plunged in.

     He had no idea what he was looking for, of course, and the catacombs were rumoured to be home to all manner of dark and dangerous creatures that once called the Deep Woods home. Some probably even evolved down there, or breached in from some sinister dimension. Either way, it was not a place to linger.

     The Darkest Faerie couldn’t have known what she would find down there either, though, even if she had suspicions. Therefore, it stood to reason there must have been a mechanism to her discovery. Some means of tracing a route.

     Kelland was no Faerie but he understood how they thought. Magic was a way of life for them. She would have attempted to sense any background magic in the place in the hopes of finding a route to whatever it was she was searching for. Kelland had been around those skilled in magic for long enough to recognise the after effects it left in the world. The Techo closed his eyes and let the senses of the world wash over him.

     He brushed a hand over the wall to his left, and felt the strange, half-remembered tingle he had hoped for.


     It was a breadcrumb trail. A path to follow through the catacombs, laid for those who were looking for it. The Darkest Faerie had walked this way. And Kelland would follow.

     He followed the path down around a half dozen levels, pausing periodically to trace the magic and confirm he was still on the right path. Eventually his progress came to a dead end, a solid brick wall staring back at him. Kelland tested the magic again, but there was no doubt, the Darkest Faerie had entered this passageway.

     He ran his fingers against the wall and, for the briefest of moments, he felt the twinge of resistance that marked a magical locking mechanism. A key code for access.

     He hoped it would not need a significant magical charge to unlock, for he held no such power. But time with the council had given him some very basic knowledge. Enough to feed a little raw magic into each of the locks as he ran his finger over it.

     With the final lock, he felt the internal magical click of the mechanism reacting, a sort of pull on the magic that felt akin to gravity. The wall began to react, stones sliding back on one another until they disappeared into the walls of the passageway, revealing a natural stone cave beyond. Clearly part of the original cave systems that the catacombs were later constructed from. Whatever lay inside, it was part of the original foundations of the place. The oldest of the deep, dark magic.

     Kelland plunged on, following the passage until it opened up into a large cavern. The air hung heavy and stale in the air, and from the flickering torchlight the Techo could make out a carved stone throne ahead of him. The skeleton of a Kyrii was sat on it, as if the creature had died while ruling some long-forgotten subterranean kingdom. From the throne, wires snaked out to machines and vats spread across the cavern. Some looked mechanical, others filled with liquids that struck Kelland as magical in nature.

     They were all, uniformly, dead. It looked like a mad scientist’s laboratory that was abandoned centuries ago. Perhaps it was, the lab of the dark wizard who had founded Neovia. And the Kyrii on the throne, perhaps, the final resting place of the monster when the townsfolk turned on him.

     The Tomb of Oberon, it would seem. But what was he to the Darkest Faerie? And what was she seeking in this dead place?

     Kelland ventured further into the Tomb and must have tripped some invisible alarm, as suddenly the contraptions spread across the cavern began to respond to his presence. Arcane bolts of lightning arced between towers. The vats began to bubble and boil, while dials began to spin. Magic coursed along the wires, converging on the skeletal figure on the throne.

     The focus of the magic became immediately clear. Projected from some unknown source, a ghostly glowing figure appeared in front of the throne. It was clearly a rendition of the Kyrii as he had been in later life, skinny and heavily wrinkled, the fur hanging from his aged skin. He had a cruel and unapologetic smirk on his face.

     “Oberon?” Kelland asked.

     “Who dares disturb me, Oberon the Arcanist, greatest Wizard of all Neopia!?” the conjured projection demanded.

     Something twigged in Kelland’s mind. Oberon the Arcanist, that was a title that meant something. He had been one of the Circle of Twelve that ruled and destroyed Ancient Neopia. Long before the time of Altador. Long before anyone, really.

     Except Faeries, perhaps. They were long lived enough to have been around during the age of the old Empire. Did the Darkest Faerie know him?

     Kelland at once understood. Oberon the Arcanist. A man who possessed forbidden and forgotten magic. The Darkest Faerie had sought him out for the destructive power that Ilere had mentioned.

     “My name is Kelland,” he said. “I am a councilor from Altador, to the east. I doubt you will know it if you are who I think you are.”

     “I know of Altador!” the spirit snapped. “I am no provincial dolt!”

     “I apologise,” Kelland added. “I am tracking the journey of a visitor I believe you had. I do not know the name you will know her by, but we call her the Darkest Faerie. The Betrayer. The Sleeper.”

     “I know her,” Oberon said. “All of her names. Even the ones she didn’t tell you fools. Yes, she came to see me recently if that is what you are here to demand of me.”

     “What did she want?”

     “You know what she wanted,” Oberon said. “For me to remove the ring on her finger so she could return to her old ways. And you know what I told her, if that is to be your next question. That I could not help her, that only your witch, Jerdana, can break that particular spell. I told her the options she had. Spend her remaining days plotting futile little revenge schemes in some backwater, or seek redemption with you.”

     Kelland gave a grim nod. Then her change of heart had been one of necessity.

     “Thank you,” Kelland said. “You have been most helpful.”

     Kelland had no interest in Oberon himself. The creature had been irrelevant for a thousand years before the Techo was even born, let alone now, and had a literal interest in entertaining whatever schemes he now plotted from beyond his grave in this Tomb. He provided a small, curt nod and turned on his tail, heading back towards the catacombs.

     He didn’t dare touch the locket around his neck until he was above ground and well clear of the malignant magic of the place. When he was clear, he opened it. It was a present from Jerdana, all of the councillors that went beyond Altador’s borders had them. A sample of her magic, engineered to teleport them back to her side if they ever needed a swift escape and return to the safety of the city.

     He felt the swirl of magic, and he was away.


     Jerdana opened the doors to the Darkest Faerie’s chamber and her face fell when she found only a solitary guard standing inside.

     “Where is she?” she demanded.

     “Lady Siyana escorted her to the Park District some time ago, My Lady,” the guard replied.

     “She has been allowed out!?” King Altador bristled.

     “She is not under house arrest,” Sasha said. “Not yet, at least.”

     “Find her,” Altador instructed the guard. “Return her here this instant. She has questions to answer.”

     The guard saluted and marched out the door, leaving the three councillors and Finneus alone.

     Jerdana took a few paces further into the room to look out of the window, but paused as if sensing something.

     “Kelland?” she whispered.

     Only a moment later, the air in the middle of the room began to swirl and coalesce into a solid form - their Techo friend. He smiled in relief when he saw them. Even returning home, the magic of teleportation was not his favourite.

     “You have returned,” King Altador said.

     “I have successfully traced her steps, as I said I would,” Kelland reported. “I am afraid it is not good news. Shall we summon the council?”

     “Tell me,” Altador said, his patience with the Darkest Faerie quickly evaporating.

     “She found shelter in the Deep Woods,” Kelland reported. “There, she attempted to remove the ring by force. When that failed and she felt her power waning, she sought out the Earth Faerie Ilere in the hopes she could prevent the draining nature of the ring. Ilere, of course, failed. From there, she travelled to Neovia to seek out the enchanted remains of its founder - Oberon the Arcanist. He informed her that only Jerdana could lift the curse. I am afraid it is as we feared. She is here because she knows we are her only chance.”

     Jerdana nodded sadly. Sasha sighed. But King Altador looked enraged.

     “Oberon?” he demanded. “Oberon the Arcanist, of the Circle of Twelve?”

     “The very same,” Kelland confirmed. “He seemingly survived the attempt on his life by the townspeople, though barely. He survives now as an enchanted skeleton in the depths of the town’s catacombs. Alive for a certain value of the word.”

     King Altador nodded gravely, turning to Jerdana.

     “Then this explains it,” he said. “Oberon the Arcanist was the worst of the Twelve. The Empire might have survived their civil war were it not for his actions. It is him, I am sure of it. The last of the Circle. Why else would this Book of the Twelve have activated if not for his machinations? He sent the Darkest Faerie here. You said she may not even be aware of her actions, didn’t you, Finneus?”

     “But why?” Jerdana asked. “This is a nuisance, nothing worthy of the evil of the Circle.”

     “We are not yet at the conclusion of the spell,” Finneus considered. “There’s no telling what may happen at the end of it all.”

     “Nothing good, if he is involved,” Altador said. “The entire Circle was cursed by Xantan. Corrupted beyond any hope of salvation. It is me. I am his target, I must be. Revenge for slaying three of his friends. I must finish what I started. Xantan, Jahbal, Mastermind. They all fell to my blade back in Two Rings. I thought I had rid Neopia of the Circle’s corruption forever. I was wrong. I will make this right. If I finish him before his spell is complete, his efforts will be for nothing.”

     Jerdana nodded in agreement.

     “Then we have him on the back foot,” she said.

     “Indeed,” Altador told them. “I will find Torakor. We will take a detachment of our finest soldiers to Neovia and grind the creature’s bones to dust if we must. When the Darkest Faerie returns she is to be locked down in this room - monitored in person until all this is done with. If she cannot leave to complete the graffiti, the spell cannot come to fruition.”

     It wasn’t until much later when Jerdana began to question why he had not suggested taking her to deal with one of history’s most dangerous sorcerers.

     To be continued…

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