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The Return of Destiny


by venused

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Chapter 8: "Enchanted Ruby"

     The three Neopets continued walking for a while across the very long snow plain. Fawse, being a Fire Neopet, was not much affected by the harsh cold that surrounded him. However, the orange streaks of its fur looked very faint and almost dull. As for Osorium, being a pirate, he faced the situation with courage. Although the truth is that he was freezing, poor Ixi, and was shaking imperceptibly.

     The only one holding her ground was the mysterious little White Kougra, walking with her safe and quick stride, her long braid flapping behind her. After a few minutes of walking, the three of them reached the foot of the mountain. And it was at that moment that the Kougra entered a barely visible passageway between the rocks. Fawse and Os followed her (having no choice, of course).

     – Oh, for all the abundance...– whispered Os– What is this?

     The interior of the mountain was so beautiful, so pleasant and exquisite to look at, that it is very difficult for me to describe it in words. Imagine that you have entered the interior of a colossal diamond, bathed in a delicate sparkling light, each reflection multiplied by a thousand in those thin icy walls.

     Well, that's what the Mountain was like inside. Pure, clean and perfect glass, of a clarity so great that it took your breath away.

     – Aska, this is beautiful...– Fawse said with a barely perceptible voice– It's... What's wrong with you?

     The two brothers realised that the girl was crying; thick tears slid down her white cheeks. The funny thing was that, when they reached the ground, the tears crystallised and formed glistening pebbles.

     – It's nothing... I cry with happiness, because this is beautiful. Only that. Follow me

     The little girl continued walking, her two companions following her, slightly worried.

     But the worry would last for a very short time. I mean, there was too much to see and feel to care about. The crystals formed very long vaults of brilliance, and the twisted openings were configured to act as narrow corridors or long slippery stairs.

     The three of them went deeper and deeper into the Mountain, always ascending. Suddenly, and being inside a colossal opening, the girl stopped and sat on the frozen ground.

     "It's time to rest," she murmured.

     It was only then that Fawse and Os realised that they were extremely tired. So, they sat down, trying to ignore how cold the seat was.

     Fawse turned his eyes reflexively closed, thinking about who knows what. But Os couldn't take his eyes off the Kougra. There was something wrong with her, impossible to say what. Perhaps his grey eyes were too melancholy, perhaps his gaze turned too black at the slightest distance. Maybe his body looked very fragile, or his fur looked very clean. But something in the ensemble didn't look right.

     "Who are you?" Asked Osorium, breaking the silence.

     Aska stared at the Ixi with excessively opaque eyes. Fawse looked at them both expectantly.

     – I am who I am.– Aska answered after a long pause– A noble collaborator of the Guardian of Gold, who watches over...

     "That doesn't interest me." Os cut her off. "Those business card words don't mean anything." What I want to know is why are you here, where do you come from... and who are your parents.

     The girl only blinked. Her delicate face seemed shadowed.

     – I'm here because I'm sitting here. I come from where I come from. And my parents are the ones who brought me into the world.

     Osorium was visibly annoyed by those obvious answers. But before he could open his mouth, Aska sat up and said:

     – Let's keep going. The way is long.

      ***

     On the Mystery Island, the fight continued beyond the warm sunset and calm waters. Kadriya was, frankly, a one-person army. Using the lava that was inside the volcano, she drove away all the flying Neopets, who fled in terror before the rain of fire that fell on them. A kind of invisible shield around the faerie was breaking the arrows. With one word coming from her white lips, the spells the other faeries were casting at her were rendered ineffective. Not even Fyora herself was able to get close to Kadriya. Every time she tried, she was shaken by a painful discomfort that threatened to throw her to the ground.

     Hagan and Skarl were on the ground, both leading the armies in general. The truth is that they did not do anything wrong. If it had been an ordinary enemy, they would have already defeated him. But obviously, Kadriya was not about that, but something much worse.

     The one who was most angered on the entire Island was Lord Darigan. With his membranous wings, he tried to approach the faerie to strike her with his sword. But he couldn't. With a whisper from her long black dress, Kadriya stepped out of reach, and then hurled handfuls of molten rock at him. It was downright annoying, and very frustrating. (Besides being terribly dangerous).

     From a safe distance, Merlin and Sheyn watched the fight, still seated on the floating black bench. An invisible shield defended them just like the faerie. However, they were all so busy trying to take down Kadriya that they hadn't even noticed the two Neopets.

     "Wow, look at that!" Sheyn exclaimed suddenly, pointing to a bright line of fire rising towards Kadriya. "That must have been done by a Fire Faerie."

     – Yes, but look what happens.

     The line of fire had turned from yellow to green. And from going uphill... to going downhill. The spell had bounced.

     "This is great, right?" Said the Gelert.

     "Yes, quite a lot." Wocky shared. "And to think that, ultimately, we provoked it."

     – Yes, it's true. We created a monster.” Sheyn commented contemplatively, watching as Kadriya plucked up a bunch of palm trees with a flapping of her wings, and threw them on a group of terrified Draiks.

     The Wocky wore a serious and dreamy expression at the same time. Something was thinking, without a doubt.

     "What we're doing... is wrong," he said suddenly.

     "Of course, I do." Sheyn replied. "You just realised?

     ***

     Inside the Mountain, the three Neopets entered a surprisingly warm enclosure. And at its centre, was...

     "The Heart of the Mountain!" Exclaimed Fawse and Os at the same time.

     The huge red stone was located on a kind of ice pedestal, which, despite the heat emanating from the mineral, did not melt. The walls of that sector of the Mountain exhibited a curious transparency, which allowed a glimpse of the black exterior, and the gently falling snowflakes.

     – Well, the procedure is simple– Aska announced in a cold voice– All you have to do is approach the stone with this...

     Then he handed Fawse a kind of heavy silver hammer. It looked oddly old and new at the same time. It was probably a very old but very well-preserved object.

     – Did you have this on you all the time? – He asked, surprised – What else do you have in that coat? A faerie sling, a pirate cutlass, an Adam stuffed toy...?

     "You must approach the stone, climbing the frozen pedestal," the girl continued, ignoring the Ixi. You hit it with the hammer, and then wait. If the stone breaks a little, and a small piece falls, it is because the heart feels ready to help you. If it does not break at all, it is because it has no intention of being useful to you. And if, on the contrary, all the stone breaks and ends up shattered...

     – We will be stone killers. – Os contributed.

     – Yes, and you will have to live with guilt for the rest of your lives. With the regret of having destroyed a millenary Neopians force.

     "Promising," the Ixi smiled.

     – Enough, I'll do it. Fawse resolved, dropping the heavy backpack he carried on his back.

     The Neopet hurried up to the pedestal, and climbed it effortlessly. Come on, Xweetoks are forest creatures with an innate ability to climb. Of course, the fact that a fire–coloured forest Neopet ends up scaling a pile of ice on Mountain Terror, to reach a red gem that exudes heat but doesn't melt the ice... well, all of that will be ignored.

     Once he had gotten close enough, Fawse found himself face to face with the Heart of the Mountain. (... Since when do stones have faces?). The truth is that this stone seemed to have a face, since the Xweetok's own features were reflected dyed in scarlet.

     – Well... here I go.

     And lifting the heavy hammer, the Neopet struck the gem with all his might. A tremor shook the room, causing Fawse to almost lose his balance. In order not to fall, he held on to the Heart of the Mountain, which was shining brighter than ever. The surprising thing was that that glow passed to Fawse's body, now the Neopet also emitted a reddish glow. Unbearable heat rose through his body, distilling energy and power. The shaking ended, and the stone stopped glowing, as did the Xweetok. But now, he had a shard of crystal encased in his hand.

     "Fawse, you did it!" Exclaimed Osorium jubilantly.

     Unexpectedly, Fawse fell from the top of the pedestal, and Os had to run to catch him just in time. His brother had passed out.

     "He's a very weak young man," Aska whispered. "The energy from the stone has overwhelmed him." But don't worry, he will wake up shortly.

     Osorium deposited Fawse on the ground, concerned. Behind him, the girl continued speaking, to the surprise of the Ixi.

     – I am here because I am faithful to the Guardian of Gold, Eskein. He entrusted me with this mission, that is, to help you find the Heart of the Mountain, and I accepted it. I was born in the Happy Valley on the other side of the Mountain, but I never met my parents. For as long as I can remember, I have been in the Thieves Association, as its members found me abandoned in the Snowy Forest and decided to adopt me. Soon, I began to manifest my powers: I could withstand the most extreme cold without complaining, freeze the water just by touching it, and force people to tell the truth with a simple look. Of course, I became a very helpful member... and still am. But my abilities also caught Eskein's attention. He appeared to me in a dream, and asked me if I wanted to serve him. And I gladly accepted.

     Since then, I have cooperated with the Association of Thieves and the Guardian of Gold. I cannot tell you more, because there is nothing else to say. I really don't know who I am or where I come from. Eskein never told me anything. My existence is a mystery.

     Osorium was still staring at his brother's face, but it was obvious that not a word had been missed.

     "Everyone's existence is a mystery," he said suddenly, surprising the girl. "You know the name they gave you, but not the name you have." I read that in a book, and it is a great truth. Do not worry about that. After all, I used to be a yellow duckling Lupe, and look at me now: a Darigan Ixi. Quite a gallant, by the way.

     The Ixi looked at the girl with a smile, and she couldn't help but return the gesture.

     – Life has many surprises in store for all of us, not just for you. You are not the only one with existential doubts. But my real question is: Why were you crying a while ago?

     – Oh, it's because... in your company, I felt very lonely. I mean, you are brothers and... I don't know...

     – Great, you are hesitant for the first time! Ha, it happens to all of us. –the Neopet clarified before Aska's blush– But, if you want a consolation, I will tell you this: I formally declare myself your friend. And I think Fawse will want to be too. He also needs friends.

     – Did someone say my name?

     Fawse's thin face had begun to regain its strength. The Xweetok opened its eyes, which glowed strangely red.

     – The Heart transmitted its energy to you. Now it's inside you. “Aska murmured with wide eyes.”

     Indeed, the stone was no longer in the Neopet's hand.

     – But, what do we do now, friend...? – Os began to ask.

     The Ixi could not do anything other than display a face of astonishment so large and perfect that it should be displayed in a dictionary.

     The girl had disappeared. Behind her, a huge hole had formed in the ice. But the warm rays of the sun passed through the opening, and the sounds heard on the other side were typical of a battle.

     At the foot of the door, a long lock of grey hair rested, entangling an icy tear.

     To be continued...

     To be continued…

 
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