Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 197,796,040 Issue: 1004 | 22nd day of Running, Y26
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The Timeless Tale


by chlo26

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Somewhere in the woods surrounding Altador, Y11.

     "Alright, it's my turn now!" a small Bori shouted with enthusiasm. "I choose dare!"

     His two friends exchanged sly glances.

     "Alright," the Aisha said, grinning. "You have to go inside the wooden shack and come back."

     "And bring back something from there to prove that you did it and that you are not lying!" the JubJub added.

     The poor little Bori started shaking. He had never been to this place but had heard the terrible rumors about it. "You… You mean the haunted shack? Come on, guys, you've heard what people say about it…"

     "Oooh, so you're afraid of the monster? Bouhou, you're such a baby!" the Aisha laughed.

     "Wh… What?? No, I'm not! I was joking! Of course, I'm not believing these stories!" the Bori exclaimed, almost shouting, as if he wanted to convince himself.

     "Adam is a crybaaaabyyy! Adaaam is a crybaaabyyyy!" the JubJub started singing.

     "No, I'm not!! Shut your mouth! I'm going there right now!"

     No sooner said than done. Adam leaped up and set out without turning back, his face bright red. He was a grown Bori now, and there was no way he was going to let himself be ridiculed in front of his friends. He followed the path out of the glade where he had been playing a few moments earlier and went into the forest. The hut was only a few meters away, yet the journey seemed to last an eternity. The further he walked, the more his limbs trembled, and his breath was panting. To reassure himself, Adam began to whistle softly.

     The cabin was now right in front of him. The hut, so small and yet so imposing. The hut, from which no sound came out, and yet it seemed to sing because of the wind blowing between its ramshackle planks.

     "Come on, Adam, you're brave, you're a big boy now!" The Bori tried to reassure himself. He took a deep breath and went for it.

     The door opened with an icy squeak, and Adam went inside the shack. As soon as he entered, he stopped, frozen. Cold sweat started dripping from his face, and he felt chills down his spine. Never in his life could he have imagined what was in the infamous abandoned place.

      ********

     "Oy! Stop daydreaming and go down to the dungeons. The new prisoner has arrived," an imposing Graarl grumbled while kicking the door open.

     Inside the room was a young Darigan Ixi, lounging on his bed, fur disheveled from his long nap. He blinked several times to adjust his gaze and detailed the room surrounding him. Purple bed sheets, grey walls, grey floor—a cold, empty room with only one small window over a dusty desk. Oh, Fyora! How he hated that room. He had been living here for so long now that he couldn't even remember when or how he arrived. But a sudden thought lit up his face. Only he knew the secret of this unfit chamber: his treasure chest hidden under the bed. The mere idea of opening it and marveling at its contents for the thousandth time made his heart pound. But no time for that; his duty couldn’t wait.

     He sighed heavily before getting up, dressing in his dull uniform, and dragging his feet out of his room. Why did someone have to be captured today? Couldn’t people just, like… keep out of jail? What a pain… He hated his job even more than his room. He went down the stairs, mumbling to himself as his mind started wandering once again. But a hard blow to the shoulder brought him back to reality and hurled him against the wall of the tower.

     "Watch your step, loser!" a Darigan Gelert shouted before storming away.

     The Ixi wiped the dust off his shirt with one hand and silently cursed his colleague. Today was going to be a rough day. He finally arrived in the dungeons, where the laments of the prisoners mingled and resonated in a sinister melody. But what used to be an unbearable sound had become such a part of his routine that he didn't even hear it anymore. He just walked straight with his gaze set in the distance, until he arrived in front of a small cell where the new prisoner was detained, both arms handcuffed to the wall. Oddly, the prisoner was completely quiet, which was very unusual for someone spending his first day at the citadel. The Ixi opened the door of the cell and approached the captive Draik slowly.

     "Are you awake?" the jailer asked softly. "It is time for your meal; wake up, please."

     The prisoner opened his eyes suddenly, and his piercing gaze completely paralyzed the young man. Slit pupils embedded in irises of a deeper blue than even Maraqua had never known. The Ixi took two steps back with a sudden jolt. He started to open his mouth, then changed his mind, looked frantically around to make sure no one could hear him, and moved closer to the Draik again.

     "Are... Are you a faerie?" he whispered, full of hope.

     "Do I look like one to you?" the Draik asked sarcastically. He sketched a smile, but it had the effect of reopening the wound at the corner of his lips, causing him great pain. It's true that his arrest had not been a tender one. His pastel green scales were speckled with red droplets; one of his eyes was surrounded by a purple shell, and his whole body screamed of exhaustion.

     "I'm sorry, please forget it... But anyway, it's time for your meal; please don't struggle." The Ixi took an old piece of rancid bread and a kind of greenish mashed porridge out of his bag. "Sorry, sir, that's all there is... Can you open your mouth, please? I'm not allowed to untie your chains."

     The Draik started smiling again and giggled softly. "Sir? Is this how we talk to prisoners around here?"

     "Well, I don’t know any other way to address you…"

     "You're a rather strange fellow, aren’t you. What’s your name?"

     "My name?" The jailer’s eyes widened in surprise. "I don't have a name, just a number. I'm not important enough here for people to bother naming me."

     "What? What can I call you then? We have to find a name for you!" The Draik looked up at the ceiling and tried to rack his brains. "... You asked me if I was a faerie earlier, didn't you? Do you like them?"

     The Ixi threw himself on his prisoner and blocked his mouth with both hands. "Shhh!!! Someone might hear you! Imagine the trouble I'd get into if someone in the Citadel heard that." He whispered with concern.

     "Sorry, sorry, I’ll be careful… So, does Baellia sound good to you?" The Draik went on lower.

     "No way, that sounds like identity theft. I respect faeries, but I am not one of them. I mean, look at me?" Indeed, with his purple fur and his black horns, no one could ever mistake him for an inhabitant of Faerieland.

     "Yeah, not very faerie-like… What about an astral name then? No identity theft this way" The Draik smirked a little. "Like Lunaria, Kreludor, Rhea?"

     "Rhea? Never heard of this one… Is it a planet?"

     "It is a star from a very far away galaxy; the universe is not limited to Neopia, you know?" After a brief silence, the Draik went on. "So it is Rhea then. Nice to meet you; I am Keraiem. I’d love to shake your hand, but... well, you know what I mean" He accompanied his words with a shrug of shoulders, his hands still handcuffed to the wall.

     "My pleasure. So tell me, what have you done to end up in this cell? Lord Darigan must have been enraged to go so far as to deny you the use of your arms." Rhea inquired.

     "Well, I may not be a faerie, but I can do some kind of magic. Truth is, I don’t come from this era."

     "So you are like a time-traveler? Do you think I’m dumb enough to believe that?" The young Ixi started scowling. He was beginning to appreciate the Draik, but even he was making fun of him now. "Just because I like faeries doesn’t mean I believe in childish faerie tales."

     "No, no, I promise it is not a joke! I was born about 310 years ago, but I have traveled a lot… However, I need both my hands to do so; your boss did a pretty good job of tying them up."

     "I see… But that doesn't explain what you came to do in the Cita….."

     The sound of steps getting closer put an end to their conversation. The Ixi suddenly got up and put his belongings awkwardly in his bag.

     "Sorry, I have to go; I’ve been staying here for too long; people are going to get suspicious. I’ll come back tomorrow; hang in there."

     "Not like I can go anywhere else…"

     "You know what I mean." Rhea helped Keraiem drink one last cup of water and left the cell cautiously, hoping that none of his coworkers noticed anything strange.

      *******

     The next day, Rhea returned to the prisoner's cell. Seeing Keraiem still asleep, the young Ixi cleared his throat and said in a clear voice:

     "Wake up, mister traveler, it's time for dinner! Did you sleep well?"

     The Draik raised his head and let out a grunt. He tried to stretch and wiggle his head to relieve his neck. Have you ever slept sitting against a wall with your arms tied? It makes sleeping rather difficult...

     "I've had better..." the Draik answered with a yawn.

     "Oh. Sorry, that was a bit insensitive of me." Rhea apologized, embarrassed.

     "No problem" Keraiem replied, amused to see the Ixi so timid. "Spatial travel is even more unpleasant, believe me."

     The guard's ears perked up, and his eyes lit up with a glint of curiosity.

     " Spatial travel? Do you mean... Going to space? Or teleportation?"

     A smug smile spread on the prisoner's lips. "Teleportation, of course. You want to know more about it?"

     The Ixi nodded frantically.

     "Well, where to start.... Okay, you may have noticed, but there are some places in Neopia that emanate a very strong energy, like the Obelisk in Tyrannia, or the Rainbow fountain, for example. These places are what we call portals; they are interconnected, and there are 11 of them to my knowledge. The travelers’ tribe can use these portals to teleport from one place to another."

     "Who are the travelers? Are they the same people who travel through time?"

     "That's a good question... I was born a traveler, but I lost contact with my family so long ago that even I don't know much... However, as far as time travel is concerned, I just know that the energy needed is the one present in the traveler's own body. Someone who is very experienced and at the top of their game can even carry a passenger!"

     "Does that mean you could take me away from here?"

     "Have you seen my condition? I could barely carry myself..." Keraiem replied with a sorrowful smile. "But one day we'll get out of this, for sure!" He added as he saw the Ixi's face darken.

     "For sure! In the meantime, please describe the outside world to me!"

     "With pleasure, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. Your colleagues will start to suspect something if you stay here too long... And if I share everything with you today, what am I going to tell you tomorrow?"

     The Ixi was a little disappointed but couldn't counter the logic. He said goodbye to the prisoner and returned to his quarters. "I can’t wait for tomorrow," he said to himself as he walked away.

To be continued…

 
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