Neopia, Year 200 Book II: Earthly Winds - Part Ten
Chapter Ten: Hope
Voices swirled around Yorick’s hazy mind like flotsam and jetsam caught in the aftermath of a storm, the Draik reaching out wordlessly each time to try and grasp them in his claws but always falling short.
“That was quite the storm... I’m surprised nothing else happened.”
“Well, can you blame them for trying? I mean, look at what they’ve done so far... this hardly compares.”
“It’s going to be a shock when they wake up... look; I think his eyes are open!”
Yorick’s eyes fluttered open and were immediately greeted with some sort of harsh white light. After closing and opening his eyes several more times, the Draik adjusted to his surroundings and sat up, feeling for the first time the mattress of the bed beneath him.
“What...?” he asked, half-conscious of the Buzz and Kau across from him.
“Good to see you’re awake, Yorick,” Braxis said, standing next to Kauthena at the foot of the Draik’s bed. “You weathered a pretty bad storm.”
“What?” Yorick sat up straighter. “I only remember Empesta conjuring up some sort of orb... and then there was this big wind or something...”
“That was the whirlwind that got you here,” Kauthena said. “Well, it didn’t bring you here, to be precise. Luckily we were next door.”
“Next door?” Yorick said, frowning. “What do you mean?”
“Empesta was imprisoned in the Wishing Well,” Braxis said. “It seems that there was a hidden chamber beneath the well’s supposed bottom, and Fyora used it to hide Empesta there. It was on all our maps of Neopia Central, but we never paid attention to it. We thought it was a design error. Who knows, maybe Fyora requested the chamber herself.”
“Whatever the case, it’s gone now,” Kauthena said. “The blast Empesta summoned took care of that. Strangely enough, the well itself was mostly untouched— I guess whoever built it knew what they were doing.”
“All of Neopia Central’s in an uproar,” Braxis remarked. “Want to read about it in the Times? It came out early today.”
“Not right now,” Yorick said, holding up a claw. “Where are my brothers and sisters? Where’s Brianne? And whatever happened to the Cloak? Shouldn’t you guys be out chasing him by now?”
“One question at a time, kid,” Braxis said, chuckling. “Layla, Kayna and Cillo are doing well; they went through the same things you did, and are in other beds here. Brianne’s here too, but she should be up sooner than your siblings. I think she helped herself along with Faerie magic.”
His face grew unreadable. “As for the Cloak, well... we haven’t found him yet. Orig went out for recon half an hour ago, so perhaps he’ll spot something. We can only hope.”
A third figure made the trek through the blazing white of the sickbay, its orange dress leaving no question as to who it was.
“Ah, Brianne,” Braxis said, turning towards her. “You’re awake. Had time to think about what happened?”
She nodded. “Do you think it was the right thing, I mean? Waking her?”
Braxis nodded. “That was something you had to do, despite the consequences. There was no other way Empesta could have been captured.”
“Empesta was captured?” Yorick looked from Braxis to Brianne and then to Braxis again. “Did you get the...?”
The Buzz nodded and produced an Air Faerie Doll from behind his back. “I guess causing her to release all that pent-up energy from being frozen did the trick. Whoever imprisoned her actually did you five a very big favour.”
“You mentioned everyone being in an uproar,” Yorick said. “Can you show us?”
“Certainly,” Braxis said. “Right this way.”
“I’m sure that one thing’s on everyone’s mind today: the burst of air that erupted from the Wishing Well this afternoon,” Laura said, sipping a cup of Purple Juppie Java.
“Oh yes,” Marissa said. “I’ve talked to countless pets over the last few hours, and all of them have different takes on the story. Some claim they saw a few pets being taken away from the well after the event, but nothing’s for certain...”
“As you can see,” Braxis said as he took the front page of the Times from Yorick, “it’s quite the story. The Times hasn’t been this busy since the Cloak first appeared eight months ago.”
In the control room, Braxis, Kauthena, Yorick and Brianne were now joined by Cillo and Layla. Kayna had not woken yet.
“Yeah, I guess not,” Layla said. “Is there any news from the rest of Neopia?”
Braxis paused, considered for a moment, then went over to a pile of publications from other regions and began sifting through, reading snippets as he went.
“We haven’t been receiving news as frequently as he used to,” he warned, “so a few of these may be outdated.”
“The two of us are working hard at restoring the items to their original owners. Isn’t that right, Vaiglor?”
“You can bet that the Faeries and Neopets have grown closer over this short period of time, and are actually starting to work together on matters pertaining to the Island.”
“Business in Happy Valley is certainly booming! Local businesses have reported a seventy-percent increase in sales..”
“Here in Altador, the curse is—”
“Blue Draik Egg.”
Braxis started as he dropped the Altador Sun onto the pile. “Orig isn’t supposed to be back yet...”
The hidden door slid open, revealing a tall, purposeful figure wrapped in a maroon cloth.
“It’s the Cloak!” Cillo cried, first to react. “Get him!”
“It’s not just the Cloak,” Layla said, sighing. “It’s Judge Hog.”
“That’s right,” the figure said, taking off his cloak.
Braxis stepped back, his mouth forming words that he couldn’t find the impetus to say. Kauthena, caught in a similar position, was spluttering.
“But— how— sir, we were chasing you?!”
“It was a necessary part of the deception,” Judge Hog said. “When we faced growing pressure from pets all over Neopia to disband, stating that Defenders weren’t needed anymore, I made the final declaration of our split to the Times, and then went quiet for a few months. When I suggested that the Defenders regroup, after most of our members had already vanished— Torchio on Terror Mountain, Captain K among the stars, Mammoth in the City of Geraptiku— you two enthusiastically agreed, along with Orig.”
The Moehog turned around. “Speaking of Orig, where is he?”
The hidden door opened almost as quickly as it could close as a viridian Lupe bounded through, muttering hasty greetings to those he passed.
“Hello, Braxis, hi, Kauthena, hello, Layla, greetings— JUDGE HOG?!”
The Lupe’s face was equal glee and consternation as he stared at the former leader of the Defenders of Neopia.
“Where have you been?”
“Not now, Orig,” Judge Hog said, the corner of his mouth twitching with a smile. “We can talk about that later. Now that Empesta’s gone, we can—”
“He was the Cloak,” Layla said conversationally to Orig, whose eyes widened as if he had just been told he’d won the Neopian Lottery, his mind searching for the proper word for the occasion.
“Why?” was what he came up with after several moments of silence.
“I’ll tell you later,” Judge Hog said firmly. “As I was saying, now that Empesta’s gone and the Cloak has obviously been found, we can—”
“I knew about that before all the rest of you did,” Layla said gleefully, then caught her siblings’ expressions. “Oops.”
“Is there anything else you’d like to share with us, Layla,” Yorick said, raising an eyebrow, “that you know?”
“I get the picture,” Layla said, raising both front paws. “I should have told you. But Judge Hog made me promise not to tell anyone. He felt it would make things too complicated.”
Judge Hog nodded. “If you hadn’t become caught up in finding the Cloak, you would have never found Empesta... and what then?”
“I guess it’s another hole in the floor,” Cillo muttered.
“What did you say?” Judge Hog stared at Cillo.
“It’s irrelevant, sir,” Cillo said, suddenly standing rigidly. The Moehog nearly burst out laughing.
“No need to address me so formally, Cillo,” he said. “I’m your friend, not your leader.”
“How do you know our names?” Yorick asked, edging his way into the conversation.
“I know everything about you,” Judge Hog said proudly. “You five have done some incredible work. But there’s only four of you here... where’s the fifth?”
Kayna stumbled into the room just as one of the objects on the table, a dusty and cracked Fyora’s Looking Glass, began to glow.
“This is a message for Yorick, Cillo, Layla and Kayna of Neopia Central, as well as Brianne of Faerieland. Can you hear me?”
“They sure can, Your Highness,” Judge Hog said before turning to the others. “Ah, one of Fyora’s old possessions. I remember retrieving that during...”
“Let’s save nostalgia for later, Judge,” Fyora said. “It’s so good to hear you again after all these years. I trust you and the Defenders are well?”
“We’re well, Your Highness,” Hog said. “What message do you have for the five?”
“Strange lights have been seen on the southern side of Kreludor. We can only assume it’s the work of Laylith. I’m sending the Space Faerie to bring you up there as soon as I can. Stand by.”
“How do you know her so well?” Layla asked as Fyora vanished from the glass.
“We share the same fundamental principle,” Judge Hog said as he inspected the looking glass. “Neither of us use our power for self-gain. It was that bond with the Faeries that forced us to disband in the first place.”
He looked up at the trio of Defenders. “I see you’ve kept the place tidy.”
“Clean as a whistle,” Braxis said. “Just a thought, sir: won’t the Space Faerie appearing here break the guidelines established by the Banishment Protocol of Year One Hundred and Ninety-Eight?”
“Yes, well, it could,” the Moehog said. “As long as she stays in the confines of this building, I don’t think it should be a problem.”
No sooner were those words spoken than the Space Faerie appeared in a corner of the room, much to the amazement of all, wearing a bauble around her neck.
“The Faeries have some new amulets,” she said casually. “Are you four coming with me?”
Layla frowned. “Four? What about Brianne?”
“Fyora’s called her back to Faerieland to discuss an important matter,” the indigo-haired Faerie explained, “or so a member of her staff said. She’ll be using the same item as we are, just with a different destination in mind.”
She handed the siblings and Brianne medium-sized spheres on golden string, each glowing with pale blue light.
“You hold the sphere in your hands and say the name of the place you want to go, and you’re off. Ready?”
As soon as the four pets were each holding an amulet, the Space Faerie led them off.
“Kreludor,” she announced as she vanished in a flash.
“Kreludor,” the siblings said simultaneously as they, too, vanished.
“Faerieland,” Brianne said glumly as she glanced wistfully at the empty spaces where her friends had just stood, and vanished into air.
“If she’s serving tea, I hope Her Highness doesn’t use porcelain again...”
Three Days Later
“Your Highness!” A Faerie messenger burst into Fyora’s throne room in the late evening and fought to catch her breath as the Queen of Faerieland spun around from a window. “Your Highness, something’s wrong!”
“Aurelia, what is it?” Fyora asked.
“The Space Faerie’s gone missing on Kreludor!”
There was an uncomfortably long pause. Fyora’s mind raced with thoughts.
“Do we know what happened?” Fyora said finally.
The messenger shook her head. “I’m afraid not, Your Highness. We can’t locate the group she was accompanying either.”
“Thank you,” Fyora said graciously. “You are dismissed.” As soon as the messenger had curtsied and left of the throne room, Fyora returned to her window.
Some terrible thing had clearly happened to the Space Faerie and the group on Kreludor, but what? The moon, despite being known about for decades, still had its mysteries. Had Laylith managed to overcome the five, even with assistance from the Space Faerie? What about Brianne? Hadn’t she gone along with them? Surely six could overpower one?
As the Faerie Queen locked eyes with Neopia’s moon, orbiting in the faraway sky, only one thing was apparent.
The sky was growing darker, and, with it, the slightest chance of hope.
A great big thank-you to all those that sent me Neomails about the Year 200 series since the first book ended; you helped me stick with this project as I’ve worked with it these many years. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading this second volume as much as I enjoyed writing it. The third book is in the works. Thank you for your support!