Orbs of Blue
Author's Notes: The events in here take place after the fall of Kass, when Darigan regains control of the citadel and the Zafara Double Agent mysteriously disappears. This story is written in reverse chronological order.
The dry fronds shrivel and curl, once golden leaves now a dead brown. What were previously glimmering orbs of bluish-green become muted as they shrink into shriveled blueberries.
In the city's greenhouse owned by a Blumaroo outfitted in blue apron, the azure Orb Plants are uprooted and tossed into the growing heap of organic matter as Stars of Paradise replace them in the patch of soft earth.
Along the rocky shores of Maraqua's waters, heavy waves slap against the roughened faces of stone. A small Orb Plant nestled between the crevices of two rocks is ripped from its station, fragile stems and roots twisting with the surge of the tide. As the orbs skid harshly against the sharp pebbles and juts of rock, they crack and crumble, shattering as they become one with the ultramarine depths of the sea.
At the base of Terror Mountain, a solitary Orb Plant is crushed under the melted snow that cascaded down from the heights above, forever frozen beneath its pristine blanket of fluffy white.
There is no Zafara in sight.
Her muffled footsteps fall completely silent as she steps out from the trees, the dull greens and reddish-brown of her threadbare robes providing the best possible camouflage. In the clearing of wood, the plants rustle and bend as the cool breeze guides its wispy fingers across the field.
She then proceeds to fall, to simply collapse down with her back lying on the blades of grass, her blue ears flopping slightly due to the momentum. She looks up, and is greeted by the sight of a clear blue sky and the orb plants hovering just above her lying figure.
She doesn't know why she came back to this place. She had let her mind zone out for a brief moment, and her feet had automatically wandered back to this old haunt of hers.
It was that time again, the month of Running when this field of wild orb plants would bloom, when crystal cerulean spheres would dazzle and mesmerize for the span of a week. As the sun's rays struck polished glass, it was bent and refracted within the round prisms, resulting in glowing orbs of ethereal blue. The field was a myriad of these small orbs, twinkling stars rather than luminous planets, and as she brushed a hand over dry crispy gold, she knew the orb plants were approaching the end of their week.
Shades of cerulean were reflected in her large eyes as she lost herself in the sparkling hues of forget-me-not blue.
She couldn't remember her own name anymore.
And as a soft sigh drifted from parted lips, she figured that such things were of little concern, this fading into nonexistence, as she lay in the field among the swaying orbs of that all-encompassing color.
The orbs were innumerous, reflecting the vast emptiness of the Sky in broken fragments of glass, and she knew that they symbolized Impermanence.
She shivers slightly as a chilly gust blows through her thin frame, clothes flapping slightly in the wind. Deciding that she is ill-equipped to continue her climb North, she turns on her feet to head Southeast instead.
As she briskly walks down the gentle incline, she catches a faint glow from the corner of her eyes. She adjusts her steps to head for its direction, and comes across a lone Orb Plant glazed with a thin layer of frost.
She stoops down and observes the frigid steel blue orbs, running a bony finger across its icy surface.
After a brief pause, she stands up again. The Orb Plant remains there as it was, a fresh covering of frost quickly coating its surface. As she departs, the numbness remains in her fingertips and in the frozen chambers of her heart, mirroring the Coldness of the piercing blue orbs shimmering in the snow.
The color of the sky melts into oceanic blue, and she smells nothing but the salty tang of Maraqua’s waters as grey pebbles of the rocky shore crunch beneath her feet. While walking along the coastline as she gazes out to the endless expanse of water, she loses her footing briefly and stumbles a bit before she recovers her hold on the slippery rocks. However, the orb she pocketed isn’t as lucky. It lurches out of the folds of her robe and flies in gravity’s arc to a sharp protrusion of rock.
An ear-splitting crack pierces her ears, and she winces slightly as she instinctively darts her delicate hands forwards to press her long ears down tightly against her figure in an attempt to block out the noise.
The sapphire orb splits and shatters into an explosion of crystalline fragments as they are propelled into the air before sinking into the sea. She stares as frozen tears dip into the dark waters, but her face remains professionally blank.
There is only the slightest tint of red in her eyes as she continues to move ahead, leaving the unshed tears and Sorrow behind her retreating back.
She slinks into the crowd, slipping amid the throng of excited shoppers. She glides past giggling Usuls and chattering Xweetoks with graceful ease, passing by like an unnoticed wraith. As always, her movements are sharp, precise, reduced to the barest minimum. She was no longer the Double Agent—had ceased to be for almost a year—but such practices of stealth had already been engraved deep into the core of her being.
She makes her way down the cobbled street, once-vivid stepping stones coated with a layer of dust that settled from the smoggy air. Her eyes flicker over the buildings that line the street—some are picturesque cottages while others are more eccentric in design. Her gaze falls upon the display of one window, and her pattering feet come to a stop before the shop's door.
She steps past the threshold into the Neopian Garden Centre as the bell tinkles above to signal her entrance. A laid-back Blumaroo tilts the brim of her straw hat back as beady black eyes trail away from her copy of the Neopian Times to welcome this potential customer. The blue Zafara gives a polite nod of greeting in return before stepping forward to the botanical piece that caught her eye back on the Bazaar's streets.
She gently lifts the small pottery vase off the shelf and paces up to the head of the counter. She procures five-hundred neopoints from her pouch, and the shopkeeper accepts. With the transaction complete, she makes quiet steps out the door as the bell chimes once more in farewell.
A few more minutes of walking, and she settles the vase down on a patch of grass right beside the stone slabs of the Catacombs with a weary sigh. She is about to turn and leave when she suddenly whirls back to pluck the largest orb—four centimeters in diameter—from the dwarfed plant, pocketing the sphere as she ghosts away from the patch of green.
It happens in a flash. As she walks down the alleyways lit by spluttering torches, a nimble brown Gelert springs forth from the shadows of the Art Centre’s stone walls. She expertly side-steps the thief and cuts him down with a quick sweep of eerily glimmering silver. Another swift, efficient swing of her blade, and she neatly cuts the red coin pouch from the dust-coated Gelert before she sheathes her dagger again.
She resumes her walk down the alley as she casually abandons the unconscious Neopet behind her, her calm pace giving no indication to the fact that such an incident ever occurred. But as she walks forward, the glowing orb, midnight blue beneath the folds of rough linen, feels heavy in her pocket as she is reminded of the dead weight of Cruelty.
That brilliant shade of blue, reminiscent of the colors that painted all skies, was a symbol of Peace. Once upon a time, she had danced among the plants with matching eyes of aquamarine. But as time passed, the colors of her own orbs had darkened and dimmed, while the plants blossomed with the same radiance year after year.
As she watched the orb plants sway in the breeze, she knew that she had lost her place of being as a double agent. Here, in Meridell, and also up above in the looming Citadel. Lord Darigan had returned, sane, and the plants had bloomed just in time to give testament to better and brighter days.
She lifts the green hood to cover her head as she faces away from the iridescent glow of the field, spinning on the soles of her feet to leave for the direction opposite of the setting sun.
A piece of the sky,
a drop of the ocean...
An orb so blue,
it swallows you whole...