Shades of Darkness: Lights in the Shadows - Part Four
The Storm Clouds Darken
"You let them escape!"
"Sir, it wasn't my fault! I can't take on two
Unis, a Zafara mage, and a human!"
Torono, the massive, blue Eyrie had his back
towards the Living Shadow. He looked out the window. Down below on the grounds,
Yoco, the Tyrannian Techo, was training some of the army. One young Bladack,
a large, black, Dariganesque creature, was being punished as a Shade officer
was screaming at him. Torono drew out his space station ray gun.
"Do I really need to remind you," he whispered,
"of THIS!" Torono spun around and shot Jak in the chest. The bullet pierced
his chest, right where his heart would be. But Jak did not bleed. He did not
even wince. There was a black shadowy material beneath his skin. The wound began
to close up.
"It is very rare that we come across an immortal,"
said Torono. "You need to start using your gift. And I would hate if we had
to lock you up in the dungeons, or... even more... unpleasant things... "
"I'll do whatever you ask of me, Sir!"
"Darn right you will. But first, tell me what
you have discovered."
"Azlan is going to request aid of Meridell and
other kingdoms if we attack them first; otherwise they're just going to ignore
us as long as possible. Second, their army isn't huge, as we've been expecting.
Their once glorious army that could smite all within its path is gone. They've
got an estimated one thousand at the maximum. Third, the password to get into
the secret passageway into the village is just three taps with your fist on
a rock. They thought that we might imagine it to be something much more complex.
Fourth, they're trying to get a Guardian of Neopia into action. The one they're
trying to train is the girl that helped our prisoner escape. Finally, they're
going to send out a search party for the Lightstone of the Faeries. I'm sure
they're already at it."
"This is good. You've managed to fill in your
hole, Mr. Morgan, but... some of this makes me angry... YOU LET THE GUARDIAN
OF NEOPIA ESCAPE WHEN SHE WAS RIGHT HERE UNDER OUR NOSES!"
"I'll fix it! Just don't call me Mr. Morgan again!
That name is behind me. It's just Jak."
"I'll call you Mr. Morgan if I want to!" snapped
Torono. "Go get Yoco. Bring him to me. I need to speak with him. And I have
an idea that will enable you to pay off your misdoings..."
* * *
"Keystones have existed as long as Mt. Spectrum
has," explained Tal. "They were created by Kilay, Guardian of Magic, who resides
there. She is immortal, but some say a very strong spell might be able to destroy
her. She lives in a cave on the highest peak of the mountain, and hasn't left
it in thousands of years, so nobody even knows what she looks like. Back in
the olden days, she handpicked those with a talent for magic to carry out jobs
that helped keep both magic and their users under control. But the few who were
chosen lived more than just a few months. Spells backfired; enemies, overuse
of magic, etc. caused their downfall. So she created the Keystones in order
to test one's magic abilities before they came for her final test. Her cave
is sealed by a door, and only the Keystones can open it."
"What do you mean by jobs?" I asked him. The
sun had just come up as we made our way east.
"It's like a pyramid," he said. "At the top,
there is Kilay, head of all magic. Then, there comes the Sub-Guardians. One
controls each type of magic. Then there comes you. After you comes Xal; he fixes
mistakes made by magic users, such as giant spell waves, curses, that sort of
stuff that was made by inexperienced mages. Poor guy. I met him once when one
of my spells went completely wrong and I opened a magic porthole to some random
place. Practically ripped my head off with his lecture. He's also the only person
who's ever yelled at Jak and lived... besides me. Then you have the mages that
have control over the magic in regions, like the Lost Desert. Finally, you have
your village wizards. "
"Then why couldn't any of these Magic Guardians
do my job?"
"They're neutral and can't take sides in a war.
For example, Torono uses dark magic, but the Dark Magic Guardian can't stop
him, even though Torono is using it for an evil purpose. They can't take sides;
otherwise we could have dictators on our hands. You can however, which is why
you are being tried for this position."
By noon we were approaching the outskirts of
a ruined village. Crumbled houses were everywhere and ivy and other wild plants
grew out of the oddest places.
"This was once the proud kingdom of Faydor,"
said Tal. "It was once more powerful than Meridell, mostly because all its warriors
were trained in magic, as well as the king. The king liked enchantment magic
a lot, and was always putting enchantments on the crops so they would grow better,
cloths, so their colors would be brighter, metal, so it would shine more, etc.
But then one day, one of his spells backfired. Nobody ever knew what he was
trying to do, but it was very powerful. And when it backfired, a wave of magic
swept over the kingdom, changing the way the other enchantments worked. Crops
became poisoned. The river that flowed through the kingdom dried up. Petpets
and Neopets alike were turned into monsters. The king was one of them. The ones
who were spared fled or died. It became a city of monsters and terrible enchantments.
Perfect example of magic improperly used!" And then Tal rambled on about careless
magic users while I dozed listening to the clopping of Raindash's hooves.
When Tal had finally finished with his speech,
he said, "Well, we better get started."
"On what?" I asked.
"Studying. For the challenge ahead."
"You're giving me homework?"
"I wouldn't put it that way. I'd say it's more
of, making sure that you survive work. Now, I'm going to give you a situation
and you have to tell me what would be the best type of spell to use in order
to benefit yourself."
"Are you going to grade me too?"
"I'm not. Your grade will be how well you get
out of the dungeons that you are sent into."
I leaned back in the saddle. This study session
was going to probably be the longest one I'd ever had.
"Okay," began Tal. "You're in a narrow tunnel,
so narrow, that two people cannot walk side by side through it. Up ahead there
is something shooting at you with a bow. What do you do to avoid getting hit?"
"Slow his arrows down with an enchantment, and
then turn the heads into cotton."
"Good, but stopping the arrows in mid air would
be better. Now, what do you do if you're falling off a steep cliff?"
"Slow myself down and try to find a good landing
Just as I said that, a yellow Lupe jumped out
from behind a crumbling barn and yelled "Stand and deliver!" His clothes were
brown and had several holes and frayed marks on them. He wore a black cloak
that was tattered and in his hand was a rusty metal sword.
"Highwayman," muttered Tal. "Leave him to me."
"STAND AND DELIVER!"
"Fine," said Tal, jumping off Shadowlance's back
and drawing his sword. "We'll have it your way." And with one quick flick of
his wrist, Tal's sword clashed with the Lupe's, and the rusty metal of the Highwayman's
broke. The Lupe gaped at what just happened.
"I'm giving you two choices," said Tal. "Either
you run, and don't ever come across our path again, or, we can do things the
hard way. There's a little rope in my pack and I believe we passed a tree back
there. It just tall enough for us to tie you up and hang you by your wrists
without your feet touching the ground."
Needless to say, the Lupe bolted.
"Dang it! They always choose the run option!"
complained Tal as he sheathed his sword and climbed back onto Shadowlance. "Worthless,
them Highwaymen. They like to attack strangers on the roads, most of the time
the victims have never handled a sword in their lives, so they just pay them
a hefty fine."
Around nightfall we were getting close to Faydor
Village. Tal, who didn't want to press further, said it wouldn't be a good idea
to get too close to the castle at night.
"We'll get moving as soon as the first lights
appear," Tal said. "We'll get there around seven in the morning. Then you'll
have all day to get the Stone. But you have to be far away from there by nightfall.
I don't think whatever's in there would hesitate to chase us."
We spent the rest of the time studying before
we went to sleep.
I woke up the next morning with a groan. I hate
waking up early. This time it was especially worse since today might be the
last slumber I might have for the rest of my life.
I pulled myself onto Raindash and Tal handed
me something that he called a 'Breakfast Ball'. It was really some sort of bread,
mashed nuts and berries all squeezed into a ball. It didn't really taste that
great. Tal said Azlan soldiers ate it during wars when they couldn't cook a
After what seemed like forever, we arrived at
the main gate that marked the entrance to Faydor Village. It was a wreck.
Houses were falling over and random objects were scattered everywhere. In the
middle of the road was a piano.
"This is as far as I'm allowed to take you,"
said Tal. "The rest you must accomplish on your own. The Stone is located in
the highest room in the tallest tower. The castle has lots of monsters inside
it, and there is probably something big guarding the Stone. And remember, be
out before nightfall."
I dismounted Raindash and stared up at the castle.
I gulped. I never liked haunted houses.
* * *
"Now listen carefully Yoco," said Darkshadow
as he unfolded a map of Meridell. "Every moment we spend here is precious time."
Yoco nodded, fingering the Darkstone.
"I just received a Neomail from The Order of
Villains, down in the Haunted Woods, consisting of Count Von Roo, Edna, Balthazar,
etc. Since they rule the place, we've decided to set up an alliance. Neopia
has shunned them for what they are, and they're tired of it. So now that the
Haunted Woods are on our side, we have a clear shot of Neopia Central. I've
dispatched a large amount of troops for its eastern border, and Haunted Woods
creatures will attack it from the south. Then, once we have Neopia Central,
we will go for the Lost Desert. But right now we need to focus on things a little
closer to home."
Torono pointed at a little spot on the map.
"According to my assassin, Azlan will only attack
us if we attack them first. And they will ask for help from their alliances.
As you can see, they are at the southernmost tip of Meridell. You have your
small tower to the east of them, Yoco, and I'm in the north. So, we need to
wipe out the little country of Narn to the west. Meridell will go to them first,
as they're the closest. Then, once we have them cut off, we attack. About two
thousand men should be able to take them down. One thousand of mine, one thousand
of yours, deal?"
"Yes, alright, but I'll fight too. I'm incredibly
bored and Celestra isn't that fun to talk to. She's been very angry at something
lately and I can't figure out why."
Yoco left the room, slamming the door behind
him. Torono slumped down in his chair. "Man I hate that guy."
* * *
"You look really pathetic in that armor."
"Can't you shut up for one minute, Celestra?"
muttered Yoco to the dark faerie as he pulled on his plate mail. "I don't see
you fighting. What? Afraid the Faeries our going to outcast you for siding with
the enemy?" teased Yoco.
"Hah! Shows how much you know! I've been an outcast
of Faerieland since the great war to bring back that stupid medallion that you
absolutely have to wear all the time," snapped Celestra.
"You Faeries live way too long," complained Yoco.
"We're immortal unless blade or poison takes
us, thank you very much!"
"So you guys could have a death penalty if you
wanted. Why didn't you get it?"
"You don't get the death penalty for stealing,
"You were outcast just for stealing something?"
"I stole a very valuable item. Now would you
please get a move on? You do have to get to Narn before the next century," said
"Alright, alright, I'm going," grumbled Yoco
as he fastened his sword to his belt.
* * *
I crept through the village as the morning light
was starting to shine upon it. Everything was in ruins: houses, shops, a school...
thorns and ivy grew everywhere. The glass in almost every window was broken.
Remains of what was once someone's library lay scattered near a house. Nothing
I drew out my sword. The castle loomed overhead,
it's dark towers casting shadow on the buildings near it. I walked towards it.
All I could hear was the padding of my footsteps.
A loud screech filled the air. A form jumped
out from behind a building, bearing an incredibly large sword.
To be continued...