Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 191,735,390 Issue: 617 | 18th day of Collecting, Y15
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Troubled Past - Nox: Part Three


by karen_mckenzie

--------

My vague predictions were right; Magax did indeed turn out to be powerful. Even without magic he managed to thrash almost all who challenged him, wielding his weapon with deadly skill and accuracy. He displayed remarkable control, too – while many fighters often got frustrated and injured or even killed their opponents, Magax succeeded in having them pinned at the edge of his axe without any harm done except to their pride.

     It took me less than a week to make the decision. I was certain the Wocky was loyal and deserving, so I approached him one night, listening to the quiet noise of the whole, huge group of people gathered here for who knows how long.

     He was in his shelter, using a whetstone to methodically sharpen the blade of the axe. It gleamed; he took good care of it. He looked up as I entered, surprised.

     "Nox. I didn't expect you... May I ask why you are here?"

     Flashback. Clandestine, in the woods, all those years ago.

     I shook myself back to the present. "Yes, you may. I saw you fighting, Magax. Very impressive."

     He inclined his head slightly, acknowledging the compliment. "Thank you."

     "And I wondered how much better you'd do if you had... An advantage."

     His eyes narrowed. "Depends what kind."

     "Magic, perhaps?" I cut to the point.

     Magax's expression changed to open shock. "...Magic? You would give me magecraft, Nox?"

     I nodded, not really seeing what he was so surprised about. "Sure. It would make you near invincible."

     He still looked stunned. "I... I... Thank you. "

     I moved to his side, and placed a hand on his shoulder. He turned to look at me. "Now?"

     "Yes. Have you never seen a sorcery transfer before?"

     "... No."

     "It'll be fine. Don't worry."

     I stood there for a moment, feeing fairly stupid – I'd never actually given magic to someone, only watched others do it. I muttered the incantation under my breath.

     A second passed. I wondered if it had worked.

     And then there was a sudden drain in me, as if someone had pulled my soul out in strands and eaten it. I gasped – it wasn't quite pain as such, but it was empty, so empty-

     It stopped. I let go of Magax and leaned against a wall, drawing in panicked breaths and wheezing.

     The Wocky seemed to have had an entirely different experience. He was looking amazed, staring at his hands and almost hyperventilating. Before our eyes, a small green spark flicked across his skin and winked out.

     Then he looked up at me, noticing my fatigue, and said chokingly, "Thank you."

     **

     The first thing he did with his new power surprised me. He imbued his axe with the magic, letting it wash over the metal's surface and embed itself into it, filling it full of sorcery until it glowed bright, eerie green. I had never seen this done before – usually people who had just been given magical powers threw it around a bit, or blasted things. But not Magax. His care for his blade came first.

     Of course, now I had to take him on as an apprentice. There was no telling what the other mages might do.

     He turned out to be a good pupil, although things I had picked up automatically when I was first learning took him weeks to perfect. He learned, I taught, and I spent much more time away from the encampment of mages.

     And I enjoyed it. Roaming in the quiet woods once more, not advancing much in my own magic but helping Magax excel. He wasn't a natural, far from it, but he put a lot of effort into it and I think that worked. He had a skill for globes though, almost as good as mine.

     The rest of the magic users kept to their own devices, plots and schemes. I was still amazed that they had nothing to say on the fact that there was absolutely no advancement on when we were going to 'take over the Haunted Woods,' but I guessed they were too wrapped up in their minor power play, all striving for a higher importance. But they still viewed me as the highest, because I was the most powerful.

     And so life went. The darker, eviller of us had begun preying off outsiders some time ago, but always (and I had allowed this) in the name of Hubrid Nox.

     The mortals grew worried. My name became well known as a symbol of evil, terror. It was no longer safe (well, it never really was) to wander in the woods.

     Our spies and intelligence gatherers, mostly ghosts, told us of the public's movements – but they never launched an attack, probably because there weren't enough of them to pose any sort of threat.

     We were strong. We controlled the darkness of the Woods. And I still had never raised a ghost from its grave.

     It wasn't dangerous. It wasn't hard. Almost all other Dark mages did it... But I didn't. There was just something distasteful about it, something wrong. There were ghosts on Neopia anyway, so surely they were the only ones who should be?

     Something like that anyway. I knew they had feeling and, in a hidden and twisted sort of way, I think I still cared about them.

     I told all this to Mirian. As far as I could tell, she agreed.

     Also, if I ever got bored with this half busy life, I could retreat up to my fortress and explore it, or plan furnishings. It turned out I had a thing for long rugs and large paintings I had never known about previously.

     And then something happened. It knocked my whole existence around, in the space of about ten minutes.

     I met Count Von Roo.

     **

     It was a day that I was sparring with Magax in the woods – both to improve his magical attacks and my own low-skill close hand fighting – and he had managed to hit me in the side with a nasty amount of force, so I was lying low in the shadow of a tree and trying to get my strength back up. Unfortunately healing magic is not in any way a Dark attribute, and I was failing miserably at it.

     "Can my eyes be deceiving me?" a voice, crawling and evil, spoke right beside my ear. I jumped and whipped round, staring straight into the glinting scarab-black eyes of the Count. The one denizen of the Haunted Woods I had hoped never to meet.

     "Is the esteemed Hubrid Nox really hiding behind a tree, in the darkness, all by himself? As if sent to me by the Faeries."

     "I thought you lived on Roo Island?" I spat coldly, struggling to find a way out of this situation. Ghosts had no effect on vampires...

     "I fancied a change of scenery. And the diet of Roo Island really is restricting. I needed something... Different." He grinned, baring his sharp teeth at me. I almost flinched.

     It was at this moment I realized something. True evil did not reside within the hearts of certain ghosts, or even in the shrivelled souls of black necromancers. No, true evil was currently standing here, right in front of me, eying my throat with an expression that made me want to break down.

     "You don't want to do this," I said weakly, winning the Nox Award for Most Unoriginal Line of Defence.

     This just made him grin wider. "Oh, I think I do."

     Then he lunged forward, faster than I would have thought possible, and only then did I start firing blasts of magic at him. They missed. Stupid, stupid.

     Pain flared as he sank his teeth into my neck, and I cried out, blinded. Helpless. I couldn't feel my magic, I couldn't move or even think properly.

      I am going to die. I am going to die, I am going to die-

     Light. Power. Heat, energy. It blasted past me in a glaring surge of acid green and knocked the Count away violently, and he vanished with a shriek into the shadows.

     I opened and shut my mouth like some sort of fish, raised my hand shakily to my neck and held it over my wound. I sank to the ground and watched unfeeling as Magax sprinted out of the trees and knelt at my side, eyes wide in horror.

     "Nox!" he gasped. "I think- I think I'll try and stop the blood."

     The words got through to me, just. Sound faded and blared in my ears and I was half aware of myself muttering, "Magax. Magax. If I die, Magax... You lead them. Lead. Magax. You need to lead them if I die."

     I think I repeated that a few more times, amongst other jumbled nonsense. Tiny coloured dots danced and scattered across my dim vision, and I numbly realized I couldn't see anything else anymore. I could feel now, though. My neck...

     My neck? What about it...? I had to remember who I was. Yes. Or I'd lose myself. Who was I...?

     Nox. Hubrid. Of course. My parents... One of them was holding my neck, no I was alone in the woods, no one could be here, they'd all abandoned me...

     Ghosts figured in it somewhere. And blood. My blood? I couldn't tell. Who was I...

     I couldn't remember. My sight fell inwards and there was no light, no coloured dots. There was only black.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Troubled Past - Nox: Part One
» Troubled Past - Nox: Part Two
» Troubled Past - Nox: Part Four



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