Come dance with the Wanderers... Circulation: 197,832,142 Issue: 1007 | 3rd day of Hunting, Y26
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The Timeless Tale

by chlo26


Two years. It had been two whole years since Rhea's banishment from the Citadel.

     They say nature can adapt to any circumstance, and the little Ixi was no exception. Days passed in the silence and gloom of the cabin, occasionally interrupted by unexpected visitors. It was no different on this winter evening in Year 11. A daring traveller sought refuge from the bitter cold. Out of reflex and weariness, Rhea curled up in a blanket in a corner of his house, waiting for the intruder to depart. However, the visitor, in awe, uttered, "It's beautiful."

     A mix of joy and panic surged within Rhea. Accustomed to isolation, this was his first compliment in two years. He hesitated, torn between the desire to communicate and the fear of scaring the newcomer away. As the visitor continued examining the scattered papers, Rhea decided to go forward. He coughed and asked shyly in a hoarse voice, "Do you really think so?" Not having conversed in months, the sound of his own voice surprised him almost as much as it did his interlocutor, who, though startled, did not scream.

     "What reason would I have to lie to you?" responded the Draik, attentively observing the room. He watched the corner of the room from which he had heard the voice. He hesitated for a moment, and then continued in response to Rhea's silence, "Show yourself, Rhea... It's you, isn't it?"

     All of Rhea's doubts dissipated, replaced by a complex surge of emotions. Shame came over his heart. The shame of this appearance that had caused him so much pain. Shame mixed with a great relief. A relief to have found his friend, and to finally have a chance to end his loneliness. A relief tainted by an ounce of anger. All the feelings that he had sealed deep inside him resurfaced in a cascade of tears that drenched his cheeks. He whispered, "Keraiem? I'm scared... Promise me first that you won't scream, okay?"

     "I promise," assured the Draik, prompting a sigh of relief from across the room.

     As Rhea cautiously approached the candlelit centre of the room, he felt Keraiem's gaze upon him. "Is that all it was? Rhea, you scared me so much, I thought something terrible had happened to you! The grey colour suits you much better than Darigan did..." Keraiem reassured him.

     "But... But look at my shadow," Rhea pointed out.

     "And what about it? It's better to have a Darigan shadow than a whole Darigan body, right?"

     Another sob escaped Rhea, and Keraiem offered comfort for several minutes. Once calm, resentment replaced Rhea's relief. Happy to see Keraiem again, he couldn't help but question, "Why didn't you come find me sooner?" asked Rhea, wiping his cheeks "I sacrificed everything to free you, I went through hell, and you completely let me down. I waited for two years, Keraiem. TWO WHOLE YEARS!"

     "Have you been by yourself all this time?" Keraiem felt guilt washing over him. "You told me you would go to Meridell. Weren't you supposed to meet Illusen?"

     The mention of Illusen's name made Rhea flinch. "As if she would want a monster by her side..." the little Ixi sobbed, tears welled up in his eyes. Then he spoke, and it was as if a dam had burst. He poured out his emotions, counting all his misfortunes without taking any time to catch his breath. Once finished, he looked up at the ceiling from which raindrops were dripping. "All I ever wanted was to live a normal existence; was it too much to ask for?"

     "You are not a monster, Rhea. I bet Illusen was merely surprised. Maybe she didn't have time to see your real face; otherwise, she would never have reacted like this." he hesitated for a moment and then timidly went on "I will never leave you alone again, I promise."

     "Ha, as if your promises were worth anything. Did you try for even a minute to find me during these two years?" Rhea asked, wiping his cheeks.

     "Do you remember what I was accused of that day at the Citadel?"

     "For using dark magic to travel through time?" the Ixi replied, not fully understanding where Keraiem was getting at.

     "Exactly. Time and space travel are skills and an art passed down through my ancestors. The last time I travelled through time was the night you freed me, and I landed a month ago. Since then, I've been looking for you everywhere."

     "Why didn't you turn back time? Before all this happened and before you were captured. You could have come looking for me at the Citadel in the past," Rhea exclaimed, furrowing his brow.

     "It's not that simple... No one can change the past; time travel can only occur in one way: from the present to the future. And the accuracy of the landing depends on the energy provided. If you remember the state I was in that day, then you can understand that I had absolutely no control over the amount of time that elapsed."

     "And instead of transporting yourself back in time, couldn't you just teleport out of the Citadel?" Rhea was beginning to understand that his friend hadn't purposely left him out. However, some wounds are hard to heal, and each answer Keraiem gave brought new questions to his mind.

     "Time and space travelling adhere to strict rules to avoid mishaps or crimes. Space travel is limited to a specific network of portals. When a traveller jumps through time, they are also transported to one of them. Each portal is monitored by a guardian who ensures the travellers' eligibility and motives," explained Keraiem, keeping his eyes on his friend to make sure he was still on track. "Space travel is exclusively from one portal to another, and time travel can happen from anywhere, but the arrival destination will necessarily be at a portal in the future. The portal that used to be in the Citadel has been condemned for years, so the night I escaped, I teleported to the nearest portal, to the rainbow pool in Neopia Central."

     It took Rhea a few minutes to process all this information. "You never really explained why you went to the Citadel. Did you want to reopen the portal that had been condemned?" Rhea asked.

     It was Keraiem's turn to be silent for a few seconds. "No, I didn't. Even if I could find the portal, it would be unusable without a guardian. To tell the truth, I was at the Citadel for my research on travelling to the past."

     "But you said it was impossible! That what had been done could not be changed! Why would you want to go back to the past?" the Ixi inquired.

     The Draik smiled a mirthless grin, full of melancholy. "You are quite talkative suddenly..."

     "Yeah, sorry about that. It's been two years since I've talked to anything other than the spyders that sometimes settle on my floor. I'm not used to people answering my questions anymore," the Ixi retorted with a hint of resentment.

     Keraiem ruffled Rhea's hair. "Do you want me to tell you about my past?" Rhea nodded frantically, causing the Draik to sigh. "Well then, I don't have much choice..."

     "It has been far too many years since I was born for me to keep track. My mother was a Petpet breeder, my father an archaeologist, and we had a small farm in Meridell. I was just a baby Draik when Lord Darigan attacked my village and turned it to dust. Along with some of my parents' friends, we escaped the war and were taken in by the people of Geraptiku, on Mystery Island."

     "Geraptiku? The extinct civilization?"

     "The one and only, yes! And despite the rumours, it was a very advanced civilization. So advanced that they discovered a way to go from one end of the planet to the other almost instantly. They were obsessed with their research, worked on it day and night, and finally managed to build the portals. The first time they succeeded in making a temporal leap was when I was just a child. It's an event I'll remember for the rest of my life. The whole village was gathered around the temple, and one of the members of the Council of the Twelve was surrounded by a bright blue halo. Glowing symbols began to swirl around, and his eyes were as if possessed. Then, suddenly, he disappeared! The clamour that followed was spectacular. A huge banquet was set up in his honour, everyone was eating, drinking, and singing, and a place of honour was reserved for him in the middle of the table. But this seat remained eternally vacant. The villagers began to have doubts as they did not see him coming back, and the joy was gradually replaced by dread. Why didn't the first traveller return? A few days later, another candidate was sent to find him. He didn't come back either. The fear that time travel was not reversible began to spread. Day after day, more and more candidates left hoping to find their families and friends in the future. I hope they found them, but only Coltzan knows if they did...

     At that time, my best friend was a Camariller that my mother gave me at birth. When there were only five of us left in Geraptiku, I used to play with my Petpet alone near the temple. One day he wandered too far into the maze of corridors, so I went looking for him. With the carelessness of a child, I did not think it was necessary to warn my parents, and I ended up getting lost myself. I don't know how many hours I spent in this temple. It was cold, and I was hungry. I was crying my eyes out when finally I saw a light. I rushed after it and finally reached the exit. I rushed to my parents' house, but I found it empty. And so were their friends' homes. No one was left in Geraptiku, only my mother's abandoned petpet shop remained. I'll skip the details of the days that followed. The loneliness, the anguish, and the fear, you know this all too well. I finally understood that my parents were not returning. Not seeing me coming back, they must have thought I had travelled to the future and gone to look for me."

     A long silence followed Keraiem's last sentence. Rhea was so immersed in the story that he had forgotten that this was not fiction but the life of his friend.

     "So you want to return to the past to keep them from leaving?" the Ixi asked timidly.

     The Draik nodded slowly. "I just want my family back."

     He looked his friend in the eye and went on, "What about you? What do you want to do from now on?"

     Rhea had asked himself that very same question a hundred times. Go back in time and return to his life on the Citadel? A chill ran through his spine. Never. To carry on with his lonely life in the woods of Altador? Teardrops filled his eyes. Not that either. "All I want is to find my place. Not to be afraid of other people's stares and never be alone again. Is that an acceptable answer?"

     Keraiem grinned and replied, "The first part is up to you, as for the second part, perhaps I can help you! My journey may be hazardous, but would you still want to join me?"

     Rhea returned his cheerful smile. "Just give me a minute to pack, and I'll be ready."

     No sooner said than done. The Ixi picked up a few pads of paper he had crafted, his pigments, his brush, and what little grooming supplies he had, stuffed it all into a bag, and stood in the doorway. "Okay, I am ready," he turned around to look at the Draik before asking, "Where are we going?"

To be continued…

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