All The Colours: Part Eight
Chapter eight - Star Light, Star Bright
Evening fell, and Elenna was panicking.
Immacolata had got her out on the ranges, practicing
against a few common Unis and Ixi that had picked up some skill in jousting,
even a few smaller pets with lances, mounted on Skeiths and Eyries, all honoured
to have a go against a real lady. After a few initial tumbles that were thankfully
quite soft, given that they were using old armour instead of the shiny toys
that would be in use the following day, she had begun to remember her old lessons.
Two hours later, half the field was nursing serious bruises from her jousting
tricks and the other half were trying to avoid the Uni's challenging gaze. Every
time she was hit and knocked to the floor, Immacolata stormed down to her side,
hauled her to her feet, asked her what she had done wrong and made her go back
and correct it. With a meal of complex carbohydrates, potatoes and turnips in
Meridell language, and a healing potion inside her, she was all set for the
competition tomorrow morning. All she needed was her armour, and they'd have
The Fallen Star in no time. Supposedly.
Immacolata was fast asleep, curled up in her
usual Aisha way. She'd worked so hard to get Elenna ready. Hina and Chrissy
were getting their hands on her armour now, though the fact that they hadn't
reached her yet was slightly discouraging. And Waterlily… Waterlily depended
on her! She had to win.
She knew she wasn't going to. The Fallen Star's
influence on her father was too strong.
* * * * *
I dumped a large bag on Illusen's table, suitably annoyed. We'd
been searching all night for her items, and now dawn, and Elenna's tournament,
was fast approaching.
"Sweet mother of Wombats, nice list of things
to make us get, Illusen. I mean, you could have asked us for anything… Faeries,
books, food… but you had to send us for Turmaculus blood, giant Whinny fur and
the skin of a Silver Draik. You're really lucky they shed those, you know, otherwise
there would be a Draik wandering around with no skin. And, PLEASE, what were
you thinking when you asked us for a Demonic Babaa SPLEEN? I mean, come on,
it's a SPLEEN. What does a spleen do, anyway? Do you have any idea how much
damage a Demonic Babaa's horns can do?"
"I know Draiks shed their skins, otherwise I
wouldn't have asked you." Illusen began to sort through the items, casually
ignoring the spleen oriented questions. "Now, this will take me a while. Make
me a cup of tea, why don't you?"
"Your, like, really lucky Elenna's life depends
on this." Hina grumbled, putting a kettle full of water on the fire. "Otherwise
I would, like, SO not be doing this."
An hour later, she handed me a deceptively small
bundle. I eyed it suspiciously.
"It's enchanted barding made from Draik skin.
Take it or leave it."
"I'll take it," I replied quickly, putting the
parcel into my backpack. As an afterthought, Illusen handed me a small wooden
box. "And this is for Elenna. She's going to need it later, and I suppose I
do rather owe you for getting rid of Anuina."
I blinked, nonplussed, but accepted it anyway.
Hina gave Illusen a double thumbs-up. "Like, thanks tons, Illusen. I've said
it once, I'll say it again, you ROCK!"
I looked at the sky. "It's almost dawn! We'll
never make it!"
"Oh, am I going to have to help you AGAIN?"
Illusen sighed, then clicked her fingers. Two huge, shadowed Ixi appeared. "This
is Jaskil and Daskil, they belong to a friend of mine. They may not look like
much, but they're fast. Jump on!"
I rolled my eyes, then vaulted onto Jaskil's
back. Hina did the same with considerably less grace, Daskil snorting in disgust.
Within seconds, we were speeding over the ground, faster than I had believed
possible. We were going to make it. We had to make it.
* * * * *
The tournament was in full swing. Hawkers were selling turnips and
potatoes by the dozen as commoners flocked to see the greatest tournament of
their time, and shadowy pickpockets preyed on the unwary crowd. Elenna sat in
her tent, composing herself. Which, in reality, meant hiding under the table
curled into a little ball and shaking slightly.
"I'm gonna lose I'm gonna lose I'm gonna lose
I'm gonna lose I'm gonna lose I'm gonna…"
"Elenna. You are going to win. You have to win.
Waterlily is depending on you!"
"I know! I can't do it! I can't win! I'm not
good enough… oh, cheesecookies, I've failed my sister, I've failed you, I've
failed my FAMILY…"
"Elenna! If I can be thrust into an ancient
maze, confront mummies, Sphinx and the three-headed-fourteen-eyed-monster of
Ee and come out grinning, with a new look and a spear, then you can win a jousting
tournament! I know you can, you…" They were rudely interrupted by a loud voice
"AND THE TOURNAMENT BEGINS, WITH THE FIRST CONTEST
BEING BETWEEN THE NOBLE KNIGHT, ILANIN OF TURNIP GLADE AND THE CONTENDER FOR
THE GREAT PRIZE, THE WEAPON KNOWN AS THE FALLEN STAR, THE RETURNING LADY, EEEELLEEEENNNNNAAAAAA
"Is it time for my dramatic entrance?" I peered
around the tent flap, looking sleepy and considerably windblown. Elenna almost
fainted there and then.
"I can't do it! Chrissy, I can't! I'm serious,
I'll lose and end up killed…"
"Elenna! Dudette!" Hina grabbed her mane and
pulled her head down to his level. "You, like, can so do this! I know you can!
Do you know why? Because I have seen you try to lynch a freaking UBER FAERIE
to get your big sis back! There isn't a dude alive that can stop you when you're
fighting for your sister." He held out the armour. "And YOU are gonna go out
there, you're gonna put these threads on, keep your cool and win us a funky
Glaze. You can, because YOU'RE my big sis and you can do anything!"
Elenna gulped, slightly shocked, but then tossed
her head defiantly. She shrugged into her new armour and trotted out, head held
high. I gave Hina a thumbs-up; we grabbed some healing potions, some towels
and a bucket of water and ran out to watch.
The opponent was a brown Ixi. Although Ixi didn't
have the reach of a Uni's horn, their two smaller weapons allowed for a clever
two-pronged assault. Elenna faced him down, the look on her face enough to shake
any would-be knight in his greaves.
Elenna could hear her own breathing, light and
measured despite her near panic. She could hear the Knight's breathing, hoarse
as it echoed in his metal armour, as they bowed, barely a foot away from each
other. The world had suddenly become acutely detailed. Every leaf was etched
in verdant green, every blade of grass casting a shadow like a sword. A vague,
slightly amusing thought drifted across her still mind. There isn't a Role Playing
Game in existence that is this good, she thought.
Though 'The Gilded Throne' came close. The sequel
was tacky, though. I suppose that one in Feudal Japan, uh, 'Song of the Jade
Dragon', had some pretty cool Kung Fu, but that's not really the right genre.
For medieval fantasy, I'd have to say 'Dragonspawned' or that one that Chrissie
ran with The Fellowship of the Wombat and me, uh, the one with the reawakened
fiendish paragon Dragon, the lost dwarfish city of Dundiggin', the crashed spaceship
and the Admantium Tulips. Though that had ray guns, so it's not technically
medieval fantasy either.
Why am I thinking about fantasy games when I'm
about to die at the hands, well, hooves, well, horns of a small brown Ixi? Though,
he is a terribly small brown Ixi. I COULD beat him. But what are the odds?
The horn sounded. They charged.
A few, brief seconds later, Sir Ilanin was flat
on his back with a sizeable dent in his armour, a light concussion and breathing
difficulties. Elenna's horn had caught him between helmet and back plate, smashing
his windpipe and probably chipping the base of his skull. She skidded to a halt,
turned and trotted back to his side, looking down in concern.
"Sorry about that. A healing potion should fix
you up fine… no hard feelings?"
The Ixi wheezed an affirmative. He wasn't about
to argue with a Uni that had almost killed him.
Knight after Knight fell under Elenna's charge.
Although a shadowed Draik mounted on a Mutant Lupe made us groan, and Hina couldn't
bear to watch Elenna facing off against a huge Skeith, greatest jouster in the
land despite his lack of a true horn, she won every round. Finally, a silver
Uni in pure green armour trotted up to the other end of the range. I didn't
need telling who it was.
Maybe it was the three-foot staff of mystical
wood slung across my back. Maybe it was woman's intuition. Maybe I'm just plain
crazy. But the moment he stepped into my line of view, I knew that this was
Elenna's father. This was the current wielder of The Fallen Star, no half forgotten
spirit but a fully powerful Neopet. He glowed, surrounded by a dazzling emerald
aura, when I looked at him just out of the corner of my eye. He looked up…
In retrospect, I think it must have been a kind
of telepathy. I knew then that The Fallen Star had a stronger hold on his mind
than I had thought. It was so tightly bound into his head, that he would do
anything, even kill his own daughter, to keep hold of it. I've never been more
scared in my life. Partly because Elenna's life was at stake, but partly because
I feared my part of The Spear of the Ankh was doing exactly the same thing to
//I wouldn't do that. Trust me, I wouldn't
I had the feeling I should say something profound
and meaningful about the fact that there were now voices in my head and Elenna's
father had been taken over by an ancient weapon. However, there was only one
thing that came to mind.
"Sweet mother of all Wombats. We're doomed."
As Elenna met the eyes of her father, she found
something entirely different staring back.
Vibrant emeralds replaced those familiar, deep
brown eyes. A presence, like a cold claw, reached out to her mind, digging into
places she'd rather have kept secret.
Shut up, you. This is for my sister. No stupid voice in my head, no mad spirit
taking over my father, NOTHING, is going to stop me from saving my sister from
the clutches of that Faerie, Elenna thought back with as much venom as she could
muster, So shut up, stand aside and watch. ME. WIN.
I watched with hawk-like intensity as they charged
each other, hooves drumming the ground, the stadium deathly silent. There was
a brief scuffle, a flash of dusty silver and fresh green, and then a loud squeal.
The dust cleared, and it was Lord Silver Fall flat on his back.
The stadium erupted. We were yelling the loudest
as we ran toward Elenna, hugged her, thumped her shoulders, our throats raw
with screaming, "You did it! You won! I knew you could do it!" Elenna grinned
and blushed for a few moments, then trotted free to where her father was scrambling,
rather ungraciously, to his feet. The two Unis looked at each other for a few
minutes, in silence. Then, slowly, as though he was battling some other thought,
the Lord spoke.
"Today, I am proud to call you my daughter.
The Fallen Star is yours. Use it wisely."
To be continued...