No one talked as the vampire led us through the forest.
I kept my eyes firmly on the vampire, watching his cloaked form carefully. If
he betrayed us in any way I wanted my spear to hit its mark first try. Behind
me was Terraile. She hovered a few feet of the ground, bow notched and ready.
MoonFall took the center with Un-eairkagh and Sabreur taking up the rear.
Hardly any light made it through the forest
canopy. It grew steadily darker as we neared our goal. The darkness did not
disturb me. As unstable as the currents of magic were, the deep purple and white
glow of light and dark lit the surrounding area. Sabreur and the others were
having some difficulties, though.
"Hold up," I ordered the vampire as Sabreur
dissolved into incoherent threats as he tripped over another tree root.
"Ve are almost there," the Count said impatiently.
"But ve can't see," I replied sarcastically.
The vampire sniffed to show what he thought
of me mocking his accent.
I ignored him and cupped my hands over MoonFall's
horn. A soft light arose and then grew steadily until my family could see the
ground safely. I turned back to Von Roo. He had himself wrapped in his cloak
so that only his head showed. His eyes glittered blackly in the light and I
could see his hatred of the stuff.
"I do not like this," he said tersely.
"Want your forest back or not?" I snapped.
He didn't press the issue but returned to guiding
us to the forest center.
Eventually we reached out destination. Up ahead
I could see where the trees dropped away suddenly. Light filtered into the clearing,
the hazy sunlight of pre-sunset. I gestured and the light from MoonFall's horn
"This is as far as I go," the Count whispered,
"Goodbye, Essence. Farewell, mortal. Perhaps ve shall meet again…"
"I look forward to it," Sabreur said grimly,
"I've been wanting to try my hand at vampire slaying."
The Blumaroo chuckled and vanished back into
the forest. My brother turned to me.
"See, this is why I keep my door locked," he
"I still maintain that it's cause you're an
obsessive-compulsive freak," I replied, and led the way into the clearing.
It was as I remembered. Shrouded by the neighboring
trees, letting in only the barest of light. The shattered remnants of the obsidian
obelisk littered the clearing. At the base of the small hill where it had stood
crouched a Zafara. He was a deep red with jagged batwings and black claws. His
head was bowed and I could only see the tips of his spiky fur.
"Stand up. Turn around," I ordered.
The Zafara obeyed. He drew himself up to his
full height and stared at me with fever-glazed red eyes.
"What have you done in Neopia Central?" I demanded.
"I broke up a fight."
His voice was soft and it raised the hair on
the back of my neck. Something was very, very wrong here.
"You destroyed a good portion of the shops and
hurt a lot of people."
"Those things happen. They… wouldn't listen.
None of them would. None of them believed me."
My brother shifted uneasily beside me. Something…
"Where is Aldrai?" I whispered.
The Zafara looked at me and something familiar
sparked in his eyes.
"Look what they've done to me… I've only tried
to help. Ah, wretched ungrateful world…"
"Aldrai? Where is he?" I whispered, sinking
to my knees in the grass, not believing what my heart was telling me.
"Aldrai… is here. He's always been here. Him
and his magic. His power. Ungrateful… all of them…"
"Please. What have you done with my pet?"
"Nothing. I'm what I am. Do you not want me
"I want my Aldrai!" I cried, "What have you
"This is what I am!" he screeched in defiance,
to me, to my family, to Neopia, "I am Aldrai! I am ALDRAI!"
"No," Un-eairkagh said fiercely, "Our Aldrai
would never hurt anyone else. He would never put his power above other's safety.
He has wings! White wings! Not those things!"
"I thought I could trust you," Aldrai spat,
"Brother. Traitor. What have you done to me? I had white wings. Now I bear these
because Neopia does not care for me and my magic! Child_dragon! You are Neopia
incarnate. Why have you done this?"
"I have done nothing!" I cried, "You aren't
what you were Aldrai! Your magic… you're using it for the wrong reasons. You've
gone too far and now… you're not Aldrai. You're something else. Something evil."
"I am not evil!" he howled, "I knew you wouldn't
understand! You've never understood! I'll make you understand. I'll make them
all understand. If my wings must be these than so be it! We all pay a price
for our power and this is mine. The world will be good, whatever the cost!"
And he leapt into the air, the light magic gathering
around him like a torch. His eyes went completely white and the power surged
"I am tired of this!" he howled to the sky,
"Tired of the hurt. Tired of the sorrow. Deealoe killed my mother. Rycio cursed
me. WeatherWolf betrayed all of Neopia and tried to kill my owner. His pack
tried to kill all of us. Infernus nearly died. Melody nearly died. Child_dragon
nearly died. We ALL nearly died. AND THAT IS JUST ONE DROP IN AN OCEAN OF SORROW!"
He took a deep breath.
"By what magic I have there shall be NO MORE!"
And he shot into the air, a burning candle flame
of raw magic that was quickly lost to my sight.
I knelt in the grass, stunned. Aldrai. My Zafara
was the one who had caused the explosion. The one everyone was hunting for.
Nobody messes with family, I thought.
Aldrai has fallen.
Aldrai is family.
I'm the Guardian of Neopia.
I protect Neopia against evil.
I wrapped my wings around myself and cried.
Nobody messes with family.
To be continued...