I carefully examined The Fallen Star. There was a vague,
worrying thought chewing at my mind that I couldn't quite place, and Elenna
was regarding it with scared suspicion. For some reason, I didn't want to take
it apart to find the Piece.
//It's just my brother. Don't be afraid.//
"Did you say something?" The other pets
frowned, and Immacolata shook her head. Voices again.
"Fair enough." I pulled out my canvas
roll of tools. "I'm willing to be the blade is the Piece. It certainly looks
older than the rest… there's only two pins holding it on, I've got a file somewhere…"
The head was certainly attached in an
odd way, as though someone had found a half-circle of steel, cut a deep notch
in one end of the pole, and then put them together with some metal rivets. I
wouldn't have called it the strongest bond in the world. In fact, it took me
all of thirty seconds to file off the ends of the pins, prise the two bits of
wood apart and slide the blade out. I laid the Piece of Fire next to it thoughtfully.
"Now we just have to figure out how to
get them to join…"
In an instant, our sight blacked out.
There was a brief scent of pine needles and spices, and then our vision cleared.
The Piece of Earth was bonded firmly to one end of the Piece of Fire, forming
a rough sort of T-shape with a half-moon blade as the crosspiece. It vaguely
resembled a weapon I had seen in the Sakhmetian museum, built in the image of
a lotus with the blades as the flower heads.
"Well, that's that problem, like, sorted."
Hina scratched his head. "The Fire bit looks way cooler than the Earth bit.
It's sort of, like, plain."
"The lack of ornament disguises the greater
power. Such is the embodiment of Earth."
There was a long silence. Finally, Immacolata
spoke. "Excuse me?"
Oh, Cheesecookies, I thought, Now they're
speaking THROUGH ME. I thought I was just hearing things.
"It's nothing, Immacolata. Just something
someone told me once."
Although she and Elenna were looking at
me funny, my Kougra was oblivious. Hina stretched, opening the box Illusen had
given us. "Well, don't matter, really. Look at this! This is like, way funky."
It was a sword. Better than a sword, it
was a fantastic two-edged rapier, especially designed to be held in the mouth
of a Uni. Still in her armour, with the scarlet, plumed hat on at a jaunty angle
and the scabbard slung around her neck, Elenna looked like a real fantasy Heroine,
albeit a slightly grubby one. The blade was etched with a design of leaves and
the curling Faerie language. I suspected it was a spell, but for all I knew,
it could be the recipe for Earth Faerie Brownies.
Strapping on our gliders and plotting
a route to Terror Mountain, Hina was the only one who seemed unaffected by the
Weapon's presence. Just as we were preparing for takeoff, Immacolata pulled
Elenna and me aside.
"Do you get the strange feeling that
there is more to this weapon than meets the eye?"
Elenna nodded, slightly afraid. "Yes!
That, that THING took over my father! There are four of them, too, one for each
element." Seeing the Aisha nod in earnest, I replied.
"And now they're speaking through me,
not just to me." I shivered, checking the weapon was secure in its place, slung
across my back. "And you're wrong, you two. There aren't four, there are five.
Remember, Junadila and her pets? Somehow, the spirit of those five got bound
into the weapon. When it was broken apart…"
Oooh, yes! You're smart enough, for sure.
There isn't much left of us now… we aren't even a separate five anymore…
"And the spirits agree with me." I snapped,
thoroughly shaken by having voices in my head. There weren't two separate ones
anymore, now it was like a chorus. It wasn't pleasant. Immacolata and Elenna
gaped, then looked at each other, unable to think of a suitable response. I
ploughed on, although I knew they weren't going to like what I had to say.
"And, by the way, I give you two permission
to hit me over the head or something if they get too strong. If you can't reason
with them or persuade them to let me have my body back… wait until we've got
Waterlily home, then trip me off the edge of Faerieland, or something. I couldn't
stand existing if I'm not in control of my own body."
"Chrissy…" Elenna began, aghast, but
Hina yelled out before she could finish.
"Dudettes? We are, like, missing all
the sweet thermals!"
"Coming, Hina!" I yelled, strapping myself
into Marialysra. As a last thought, I muttered over my shoulder. "And whatever
you do, don't tell Hina unless you really, really have to."
* * * * *
There's an old, hackneyed Pilot saying that gets passed down from
instructor to student, wing commander to fresh-from-graduation-rookie. It goes,
'Any landing you walk away from is a good landing'. It doesn't mention the fact
that there are degrees of good landings, from alighting softly on a cloud, to
ploughing into the ground with some steering troubles, to throwing yourself
out of the cockpit five hundred feet from the ground and hitting it only slightly
after your aircraft creates a crater many meteorites would be proud of.
This landing fitted firmly into the last
"Aw, man!" Hina dragged himself out of
a snowdrift, stumbled to the nearest tree and attempted to rescue his glider
from its branches. We had hit Terror Mountain in the middle of a summer blizzard,
and with visibility reduced to about six inches in front of our noses we, quite
understandably, hadn't seen the forest until it was too late.
"I think we might have to make some repairs
before we continue this adventure." Immacolata lifted the limp, broken wing
of 'The Silence', examining the damage with a melancholy face. Elenna stumbled
through the snow, her thick coat offering some protection to the inclement weather,
but it was still enough to set her teeth dancing a grim fandango. "I agree!
But we really ought to find some shelter first, or we're going to die of exposure."
"Whoa! Wait a freaking second, dudettes!
Where in the name of the Faerie Queen is Chrissy?"
"Err, little help?"
They looked up. A branch snapped, and
Marialysra, with her one, suitably petrified passenger, slid a few inches closer
to the ground. Elenna gaped, then almost laughed. "S-sorry, Chrissy. Wait right
there, we'll be up in a moment…"
"Cheesecookies, too late," I muttered,
as with a derisive sound of tearing silk, two hundred pounds of bamboo and flesh
plummeted towards the snow.
"Chrissy! Are you alright?" Immacolata
flung her weight against the body of the glider, flipping it over. A spearhead
shore through my straps, and I was hauled into a sitting position.
"Ow," I mumbled blearily, clutching my
shoulder. The weapon had slipped and sliced open my skin, almost to the bone.
Thanks to ice and shock, it didn't hurt too much. I couldn't move my arm, but
it didn't hurt too much. What worried me more was the fact that although my
shirt was stained with blood, the weapon was sparkling clean. "Great," I muttered.
"The Spectrum absorbs blood."
There was a brief flash of panic in Elenna's
eyes, a deep, disturbing knowing in Immacolata's, and pure confusion in Hina's.
Quickly, my dull sense of survival took over.
"Healing potions and cold weather clothing
is in the backpacks. Find a big pine tree… dig under the branches, there should
be a space… Immacolata, do you have any of those chemical heat packs?"
We managed to find a tree big enough to
hide under. Struggling into our warmer clothing and wrapping ourselves in lightweight
space blankets, we settled down for a cold night. I twisted so my back was to
the other pets, talking in quiet voices about hot drinks, hot food and hot summer
nights. Unwrapping the weapon, I turned it over in my hands, a familiar, uneasy
presence in my head.
"Are you my ally or my enemy?" I mused.
"You have a name now, don't you… Spectrum."
* * * * *
Waterlily glanced up to where Deathstrike was watching her, with
the blank stare of the terminally bored. Nightwing was flicking his lantern
over the names of various exotic books in the darkened library. Having mastered
the basics, Anuina had insisted on locking Waterlily in the Library of Dark
Magic until she learnt something useful.
"Question?" The Ixi's voice was surprisingly
loud. Nightwing looked up, his usual blank stare firmly in place.
"Okay, firstly, I'm not getting this
Dark Magic stuff, so could you possibly let me out a little early?"
"No." The Shoyru turned back to the books,
selecting a particularly arcane looking volume. "Anything else?"
"Yeah. There are seven libraries, right?
Fire, water, earth, air, light, dark… what's the seventh?"
"The Seventh Library is one you will
not be entering for many days yet."
Many days meant nothing to Waterlily.
She'd already lost track of how long she'd been here… time didn't pass normally
in the Limbo-bound castle. She could have been studying for hours, days or even
"But what's in it?"
"The magic that does not belong in any
category. The magic that is so powerful, it spans all elements, all divisions."
Nightwing placed the book in front of the little Ixi. "This castle is a good
example, crafted from the Limbo."
"Yeah, but what's it called?" Waterlily
began flicking through the text with a bored expression. "It's got to have a
name, doesn't it?"
"And that name is…?"
* * * * *
We ate slushies for breakfast. We found a few, kind Neopets that
agreed to let us store our gliders in their basement, and even managed to find
someone who sold bamboo and silk so we could repair them later. Silly, stupid,
meaningless details to cover up the fact that we were walking into certain death.
We've all heard of the Snowager. We all
know how dangerous it is. We all know how incredibly brave, foolhardy or just
plain crazy you have to be to try and steal from it. We all know that sitting
in front of the entrance to its cave and tiptoeing down the tunnel every few
minutes to check on it, just like we were doing, is guaranteed suicide.
But we did it anyway.
After waiting about two hours, that huge,
icy serpent fell asleep. Hina, minus his skater punk clothes and thickly covered
in a layer of snow, had volunteered to try and steal the piece. We hadn't stopped
him. He was probably the only one capable of doing it, if his exploits at pilfering
the cookie jar were anything to go by.
Smooth as a Skeith's lie, Hina tiptoed
into the frost-formed cavern. We watched, breathless, just in case the sound
of our heartbeats woke the monster. Pausing by the edge of the treasure trove,
my little Baby Kougra glanced over the entire pile. There were scratch cards,
neggs, even a good few thousand key rings. Nothing that looked like a piece
of a several thousand-year-old weapon. Slowly, testing each step on the insubstantial
slope, Hina began to climb. He searched every inch with increasing exasperation,
totally aware that if the Snowager woke, he was dead.
Even I, borne into a numb state of hypersensitivity
by a sleepless night and the presence of voices in my head, barely heard the
clatter as a single key ring tumbled loose. With a roar strait out of a nightmare,
a thousand feet of almost translucent ice rearing up into a column of frigid
death, the Snowager struck. The last thing I saw of Hina was the look of terror
on his face as icy coils twisted round him, obscuring him totally.
I was running, like I had never run before.
The Spectrum almost leapt into my hand, driving me on. In that moment, I would
have done anything, including fling myself into the Snowager's open mouth, to
save my Kougra. Then it looked strait at me, and I skidded to a halt, dumbstruck.
"AH," it hissed, like a tinkle of snowflakes.
"THE SPECTRUM. I MIGHT HAVE KNOWN."
To be continued...