The Elemental Forge
There was hardly any reason to swim now. I brightened
the globe of light so that it lit the area around me, the light shifting and
distorted in the water. But it was light and I was not so alone.
I could feel the water pulling me on, rushing
ever forwards. It started to get hot. It didn't bother me for as Essence I was
immune. But it was distinctly getting hot. Faster and further the current carried
me. Now the water was too hot for most creatures to handle. It was stifling
and the water was poisoned from gasses and minerals picked up. I concentrated
on the water directly around me, summoning air and water magic to cleanse it
from the toxins.
They were right, I thought, no one
could come this way and live.
But I was the Essence of Neopia. And I would
have Aldrai back.
Up ahead I could hear the roar of something…
water, and something else. A constant pounding of noise. I braced myself for
now the water was tinged with beams of red light. I was almost there. The water
grew steadily lighter and I could now see where the tunnel ended. It shot out
of a hole in the cavern wall and frothed just like a waterfall top. I prepared
my wings to stop me from falling. I could see nothing beyond the red spray and
mist. Mere feet now -- there!
The current threw me out and I flared my wings
and flapped, allowing my momentum to pull me away from the waterfall. I could
feel currents of blazingly hot air fill my feathers and dry me off in a heartbeat.
The air was turbulent and everywhere were rising columns of steam. The area
was huge, easily the size of two large Gormball fields and at least a mile high.
The light was tinged red and shifting shadows of light and dark marred the cavern
walls of stone. And below me…
I gasped and felt the gritty hot air fill my
lungs. I fought down the impulse to cough. Below me was a pool of liquid magma,
but it was not all liquid. The waterfall was falling on superheated stone, cooled
magma. It spread out from there, running into the magma and evaporating or creating
new stone. Every now and then the surface of the newly formed rock would burst
and dissolve back into magma. It was a never-ending cycle of fire, water, and
earth. The turbulent air currents I felt were from the evaporating steam and
thermals generated by the heat of the magma. And all around me were shifting
patterns of light and dark. The Elemental Forge. Where all the elements meet.
I looked around me some more. If this was where
Aldrai was… The veil of steam lifted for a moment and I could see into the center
of the cavern. A floating island of rock. And in the center a multi-hued prismatic
crystal with a dark shape imprisoned inside. I spread my wings and made for
The area around the island was calm. I landed
on the bare stone and noticed that the heat had dropped to tolerable levels
as had the quality of the air. Nothing was holding this island of calm up but
sheer magic. I walked towards the crystal, enamored with it's ever-shifting
surface of color. All the elements. And inside, curled in a fetal position,
a Darigan Zafara. He was apparently in some kind of suspended sleep.
"Go no further," a familiar voice ordered.
I turned and glared at the black pony-tailed
form of Shi'tri.
"I've come for my pet," I snarled.
"We know you have," a new voice said.
A lithe female with a white gown and white hair
appeared next to Shi'tri. The element of light; Shi'kly.
"It grieves us that you have come this far for
nothing, for you know we cannot release him," a third voice said, female.
Next to Shi'kly a woman with a green dress,
green hair, and dark skin appeared.
"I am Shi'mio, earth," she said.
Another element appeared. A teenage boy with
freckles and red hair that stood out every which way.
"I'm Shi'eus, fire."
A fifth appeared. Another woman with pale blue
hair that seemed to just flow down to her knees.
"I am Shi'kit, water."
"And I am Shi'viv, air," said the last, a man
with pale hair that seemed almost translucent one moment and then deep blue
He hovered a couple inches above the ground.
All six of them regarded me in silence, arranged in a semicircle around me.
I gripped my spear tighter and waited. "What do you know of the Elemental Forge?"
Shi'kly finally asked.
"It's where all the elements meet. The only
place you can manifest physically."
The light element nodded.
"It has been here since the birth of Neopia,"
Shi'eus said, "You know there are wells of power in Neopia, natural places where
magic seems to pool. Well, this is a well. Except it's the biggest well ever
and it contains all the elements. It is where all magic comes from. It seeps
up to the surface through the vast underground."
"All magic you know of originates here," Shi'kit
said, taking over for the fire element, "It is also where the crystal that houses
the key to becoming the Essence of Neopia was created. It was where the Elemental
Spear was forged."
"Whenever there is an upheaval in the Forge
something is created. When Aldrai burst through the ceiling of this place there
was one such upheaval. We used the outpouring of magic to imprison him such,"
Shi'viv said, nodding towards Aldrai's crystal prison.
"But why did you imprison him?" I cried.
"See, I told you," Shi'tri said with a trace
of arrogance to the other elements. "She's too dense to get it."
"Either that or she has too much hope to admit
it," Shi'mio countered.
"I maintain that it's 'cause she's human," said
the fire element with a dismissive wave. "They're not the most perceptive bunch."
"Will you stop talking about me like I'm not
here?" I growled.
They returned their attention to me, completely
"Now, why on Neopia did you imprison my pet?"
"Because he tried to rework the fabric of Neopia,"
Shi'viv said bluntly, "And we are here to protect Neopia and keep it as it is."
"I was going to be destroyed," Shi'tri sulked.
"You think I'm going to allow something that aims to destroy me loose?"
"But he's not really like that!" I cried.
"Yes, I know," Shi'kly said gently, "but he
allowed himself to be consumed by the magic."
"But you're light magic," I snapped. "Why didn't
you stop him?"
"Because I can't," she replied coldly. "We can
only take independent action when we are summoned or where there is sufficient
power to appear."
"Aldrai was channeling a heck of a lot of power!
Why didn't you appear then!?"
"Light magic is supposed to be good. Aldrai
was using it for evil."
And Shi'kly turned her back to me.
"So none of you could manifest," I said softly.
"That's why you first created me as the Essence. To take care of situations
where you couldn't."
"Exactly. Like with BrightSong. We had been
summoned for a certain purpose and were forced to obey the confines of the spell,"
the earth element said gently.
"But we're not bound to any purpose here," Shi'viv
interrupted, "so I'd suggest you finally take Shi'tri's suggestion and leave
-- without Aldrai."
Shi'kly shuddered slightly. Shi'mio turned away,
as did Shi'eus. Shi'tri closed his eyes as if in pain.
"Then you give us no choice…" he said softly,
turning to regard his fellow elements.
"I fought you once, I can fight you again,"
I said, dropping into a fighting crouch.
"We aren't going to fight you, child_dragon,"
Shi'viv said in a strained voice. "You are the Essence of Neopia. We created
you to uphold and protect Neopia. You did this admirably. But now… you seek
to unleash something that will tear Neopia apart. We cannot allow this."
"So what are you going to do?" I challenged.
"I tried to warn you, I did," Shi'tri said,
"But you won't listen. Child_dragon… Essence of Neopia… we cannot allow you
to hold that title anymore. We created you and we can destroy you just as easily."
To be continued...