Legend Seekers: Mysterious Magic - Part Four
“Thank you,” Jen stuttered cautiously. The Krawk seemed friendly, but she was not used to trusting pets on principle. Nonetheless, her feet carried her forward and into the small boat. It rocked crazily under her weight. A flashback memory filled her mind of the day she and her friend had cast away in their stolen boat, a time that seemed years distant now, to her.
“Don’t be scared,” the Krawk said. “Ye have nothing to fear from me. We might encounter turbulence when we get near the island, though, so be ready for that.”
“I’ve travelled in a storm before,” she said, again recalling the previous journey.
Jen and Farren each took one of the resting oars and pushed the boat out. With almost delicate care, the neutral waves carried it away from the shore; soon the land was out of sight.
Silence reigned for an hour or two. Jen was pleased for the chance to calm her nerves and steady her shaken senses ready for the ordeal that lay before her. Somehow, she had to know – the answer could destroy her, or worse, but it would be worth it. Dark magic had taken her friend from her, and would separate many thousands of pets – families and friends – before it ran its course. If she could somehow stop all that, she would do it; no matter the cost.
Her mind raced back through pages of magic lore, absorbed with the fervour of one completely devoted to her subject and recalled with the same desperate energy. Everything has a place in the world, even the smallest of creatures... we can all make a difference... we all have power within us. The difficulty is in unlocking that power...
“And once you do, nothing is impossible,” she said aloud, in wonder.
“Oh. Nothing.” It wasn’t nothing; not to Jen. To Jen, it was everything. This mystery was deepening still, to depths incomprehensible, and yet, as always, magic held an explanation. Not a complete one, though. Responsibility for finding the missing piece had landed squarely in her paws.
“It didn’t sound like nothin’ to me,” the Krawk said under his breath. Jen made no response, and the boat swept on, ever closer to the shores of the ruined Mystery Isle.
“Help us – more specifically, me – get hold of something. It’s very well guarded, but we’re confident in our abilities.” The fire had not left his gaze, but now it was focused on the rest of the small group. They seemed to be frozen in place, terrified statues with silently neutral expressions. It’s at least half-true, the Kyrii thought to himself.
“W-What will you offer me in return?” The stammer betrayed his misgivings. He could show no weakness. His new allies were dangerous, and he was not as powerful as they seemed to think he was.
“Training, gourmet food, luxury - and all the reward money you could want. Anything else you need, no problem. But first, you have to help us.” Pemero, of course, had no interest in material possessions. The only thing he could possibly want was something beyond the reach of any pet.
“The only thing I want is,” he started to say, but the imposing, vindictive Kyrii cut him off sharply.
“We’ll discuss it later. There is only one thing you need to focus on now, and that is the mission we have given you.”
Again, Pemero kept his sight firmly focused on the light at the end of the tunnel. Adventure, this was adventure – something he loved, partly for the risk involved. If he knew how to be careful (and he had honed this skill almost to perfection) he could come to no harm before the Faeries found him.
“I’ll help you, then,” he said. “What is the thing you want me to help you get?”
Another significant glance passed between the gathered pets.
“If we told you, it might spoil the surprise,” the Kyrii said at last with a venomous grin. “Now, for introductions. We already know your name, but you don’t know ours yet. If this is going to work we need to know what to call each other. Right?”
“Right,” Pemero said quietly.
“My name is Sethorias, but Seth is easier.” One by one, at Seth’s prompting, the rest of the group stood and gave their names.
“I am Angela,” said the female white Eyrie.
“You can call me Harold,” snapped the Grarrl.
“Afton,” came the final voice, from somewhere near the floor. Pemero looked down and saw a flame red Meerca, almost swallowed by the cloak he wore, with equally red eyes glaring back at him.
“Okay, now that we all know each other, it’s time to get ready.”
“Yes, so soon. Time is exceedingly precious,” Seth said dangerously. Pemero nodded hastily and looked at the floor.
The three Fire Faeries moved quickly, and with an informed grace – few people, pet or human, realised their presence until they were already past. Those who recognized the signs of bad news took note of it, and rumours spread like wildfire across the many worlds.
“Faeries never travel that fast. They must be onto him.”
“I don’t think so. Something bigger is afoot here, mark my words.”
“What does it matter, it doesn’t affect us!”
“That Kougra is a menace. The sooner e’s caught, the better, I say!”
“You hear what they’re saying? He’s not safe out there,” Samila stressed. “Hurry, hurry!”
“The trail is getting cold,” Peonie said, motioning the magical compass, which was slowly losing its glow. “They could have covered it up with magic of their own.”
“For all our sakes, I hope not, but... did you inform the Queen before we left, Lisa?”
“There was no time to fly up to the tower, but I left the message with Jhudora.” The older Faeries tried not to glare at their sister. “She’s not as bad as you seem to think. Just give her a chance, okay?”
“I only hope she’s learned her lesson,” Peonie sighed. “Do you remember what happened the last time we relied on her?”
“That was a nasty mess. This time, more is at stake. Still, there’s nothing to be done about it now... keep moving!”
Scorched sand drifted into the sea, turning it a sickly grey-black; the colour of storm clouds. Here and there, the shattered stump of a tree jutted out of the ground. The air was thick and humid, full of bleak magic; it did nothing to dispel Jen’s feeling of despair.
“Here we are,” Farren pronounced loudly. The bellow returned three ghostly echoes before fading. Jen shot him an exasperated look.
“Thanks for getting me here safely. I...um... don’t have any money on me, but if you—”
“No worries,” the Krawk grinned. “Consider it a favour.” The final word was punctuated by a loud crack of thunder. “I wish I could stay here, but this boat’ll never survive a storm of this calibre. My best chance is to move for the shelter of Krawk Island. I advise ye be careful; strong magic is at work here still, and it may not approve of your company. Farewell, Jen, and good luck!”
“Farewell, Farren, and a safe voyage home!” Jen called after the fast departing figure. Then she turned and faced the plain of black sand, an arid wasteland that had taken the place of lush vibrancy and teeming life. A strand of long black fur drifted from the back of her head to join the dust, disappearing, blending into the gloom. It was the most desolate thing she had ever seen. But she did not look away.
“I will fix this. I will stop this.” These statements, whispered fervently to the unhearing charcoal, were powerfully simple – for at the core, she believed, all life was a net of simple building blocks, placed one on top of the other until something much more complex emerges. All creation, it was told in Faerie lore, followed this pattern. And yet... and yet something was missing. Maybe she had been wrong. The grey expanse yielded no answers.
“Who are you? Whose heart is so black that it could harbour such destruction?” These words were whispered, barely audible; for she no longer expected an answer.
“All of us are prepared for the journey. Take this.” Seth handed him a hooded cloak similar to his own. “And this.” The second item was a reasonably large black velvet box. Pemero let it rest in one paw and favoured it with a curious stare.
“Er, what’s this?”
“Another thing I’d like to leave a surprise. You’ll know when we get to our first destination. Don’t panic, and whatever you do, don’t show your face. This is for our safety as much as yours.” Seth had a habit of talking quickly and quietly, yet no one in the room dared miss a word of his speech.
“Got it.” The cloak was ridiculously overlarge for a pet of Pemero’s size, but it served the purpose perfectly.
“Then let’s go.” In silence the five cloaked figures moved, a single-file line of pets marching on quiet paws. Out of the living room, through the front door, past the garden. Looking up briefly, Pemero saw a narrow, cobbled street with looming, gloomy houses and a cloudless sky. It was deserted.
No one spoke a word; the line began to move again, more cautiously than before. The dark cloaks fit the mood of the street so perfectly that they almost blended into the brickwork.
Before long, they had reached the far side of the street; just around the corner from Neopia Central. The light stunned Pemero momentarily after the darkness of the dingy alleyway. It was almost noon, so the shops and streets would be combined in a moving mass of people – with any luck, they would slip through unnoticed.
“Keep your eyes on the ground. We don’t want to take any chances,” Seth hissed.
The cub obliged, pulling his hood down further for good measure and flattening his ears to his head. All five pets moved faster and less carefully, now, with the cover of the crowd to hide them. It was still nearly ten minutes before they finally stopped.
“Where are we?” Pemero sensed that they were still surrounded, and kept his eyes determinedly down.
“You can look up now. It’s not as crowded as the streets.”
Uncertain, the cub lifted his head slightly and glanced around. A huge, stone pool brimming over with clear water stood before them; behind them a gated wooden fence. It took only a moment for the cub to realise what was happening.
“... wait... why are we at the Rainbow Pool?”
Before Seth could say anything, Pemero produced the black silk box. It was tied loosely with a piece of red string. Extending one claw, he removed the thread and flipped the lid back. In the centre of the box sat a cushion, and at the centre of the cushion sat a paintbrush every bit as dark as its container.
Angela shuffled her wings nervously. “Hurry up. We’re getting strange looks now.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about this?” With calculated feline grace, the cub lifted the brush from the box and examined every inch of it. The handle was mahogany in colour; the paint and the bristles jet black. Far behind them, the crowd parted way for three Fire Faeries as they darted past. Seth’s sharp ears pricked.
“Not an issue right now, cub! Put the brush in the water!” For the first time, a note of panic was audible in Seth’s voice.
“O-okay,” Pemero responded, shaken by this change in demeanour. All grace forgotten, he reached forward and brushed the water, causing a ripple to run across the surface. It was ink-black now, the antithesis of light.
At that precise moment his paw slipped, and the brush was lost beneath the glimmering, threatening liquid. Pemero imagined the darkness folding over him, coating his fur, tarnishing the silver shine. He started to back away, but Seth and co. had other ideas.
Harold and Afton gripped Pemero’s back foot and shoved him over the pool wall. Miraculously, in the fiasco that followed, not a drop of the water was lost. He closed his eyes and felt the magic working on his fur. When he rose again, it no longer glimmered in the sunlight – instead, it was the colour of obsidian. A perfect disguise in shadowy streets and hidden dusky places. His eyes, once the brilliant blue of a twilit sky, were now a baleful and searching lime green.
Then, it stopped. The pool began to clear, and the crowd that had gathered to watch the transformation had already dissipated.
“Good work? Good work!? Why didn’t you just ASK me for once?” Those piercing eyes were narrow slits, now; sharp and deadly.
“Sorry about that, cub, but we can’t trust you yet. It had to be done.” As an offering of peace, Seth offered to help him out of the pool. “Quits?”
“I guess so. Don’t do that again without warning me first. And stop calling me cub.”
“Look on the bright side. No one has reason to suspect you anymore. The hardest part is over.” Smiling slightly, the white Eyrie also offered to help him out of the pool.
“Thanks, but I have a feeling you’re wrong about that.” The muscles of his back felt coiled and tight, as if they were trying to make themselves smaller. He tried to relax with little success. Then, as if nothing had happened, he hopped out of the pool and shook his fur. To his amazement, it was already dry.
“RUN!” Seth bellowed, and the five pets darted as one into an alleyway. Moments later, a trio of brilliantly-glowing Faeries (one holding a golden compass) sped onto the scene. Lisa peered into the face of the compass anxiously.
“They’re headed for the pipes,” she informed the others at last. “Oh, Fyora... I hope we’re not too late.”
To be continued...