Inexorable: Part Six
Predictably, it had started to rain as soon as Ryddle got
a good distance from the ruins of the village. Ryddle hated rain. It was bad enough
for the average Neopet, but much of his front half was covered with feathers,
and they itched intolerably when wet. They were screaming at him to land and do
something - anything - to relieve their burning. Still he flew on, scanning the
forest beneath him as carefully as he knew how. Scrappy had sent him to find Tom,
and he would. He would. He would…
Night was falling, and Ryddle was finally beginning
to realize that he was going to have to admit failure. There was no chance at
all that the diminutive Blumaroo would have come this far, and there was as
little or less chance that he was going to find anything in the dark. Eyries
possessed night vision to some degree, it was true, but not the kind he needed
now. In darkness his eyes were suited only to seeing things close to him. He
could search walking through the forest. That was about it. And it wouldn't
be much use either.
So now, thanks to his general hopelessness, he
was alone, lost, dejected, and in the rain. Moreover, he hadn't found Tom and
he hadn't helped the villagers at all. Even though they had given him a home
and much more besides.
Where was Scrappy? Where were Flytta and Sylver?
What had happened to the villagers? All questions that could not be answered,
no more open to him than the fate of Phantom.
Ryddle remembered his last landing with a pang
of depression. Now that he was wet and tired, he would have to settle for little
better than a crash landing. There was no point in flying further.
Although it was rather strange…
It was rather strange, he observed with interest,
that the forest seemed to be thinning. And what was that up ahead? It looked
"Illusen's Glade!" he cried joyfully, spiraling
down toward the beautiful little cottage the kind Earth Faerie called home.
As he had foreseen, Ryddle landed badly, one
wing crumpling painfully under him. It wasn't badly hurt, though, he could tell,
and there was no time to worry about it now. He stumbled up to the doorstep
and battered on the green door with a weary paw.
It opened and a pretty Faerie dressed in delicate
shades of green and brown stood over him. Illusen herself, he saw blearily.
He was glad that her smile looked sympathetic and good-natured, because he was
tired and felt unable to cope with anything.
"Here, why don't you come inside for a hot drink
and warm bed?" she said, her smooth voice beautifully melodic. Ryddle dragged
himself in, barely aware of his surroundings. Ah, something soft and white.
A real bed. It was nice to see one after so many years…or had it only been days?
He flopped down it, everything fading into blackness.
Ryddle awoke with a yawn, feeling cared for and
comfortable. Illusen sat by his side. "I thought you'd never wake up," she said
with a smile. "When you feel like sitting up, there's a cup of hot chocolate
waiting for you.
Ryddle immediately sat up. The Faerie handed
him a steaming mug and he sipped it eagerly. The taste was heavenly.
He drank for a few minutes before he could think
of anything else. Suddenly he realized how rude he was being. "I'm sorry," he
muttered. "I didn't mean to come here, actually."
"That's perfectly all right," she replied cheerfully.
"Why would I give out quests if I didn't like young Neopets about the place?"
Then Ryddle remembered, and he put the hot chocolate
hastily on a bedside table. He scrambled out from the warm covers and felt his
neck to make sure the shard was still there. It was. Ryddle turned to Illusen,
wondering where to begin.
"It's wonderful here," he said honestly. "I only
have to be awake for ten minutes to know that I could live my life here happily.
But I can't stay any longer, I'm afraid. I have to find my companions, who are
missing somewhere in the forest - or beyond, I don't know - and I have to deal
with this." Knowing instinctively that he could trust her implicitly, Ryddle
held up the shard that was strung around his neck. "It's a shard of Darigan's
orb. I don't know what to do with it. Apparently Kass is searching for it, and
I know I could buy my safety with it…"
The twinkle left Illusen's green eyes, and she
stepped backward, grasping the back of a chair. Ryddle was surprised at her
shock. "That - thing!" she said venomously. "There were those who thought that
Morguss made it…but if only they knew how dangerous it really was. Jhudora's
favorite plaything, shall we say."
Now Ryddle was shocked as well, and somewhat
awed. "Jhudora?" he repeated pensively. That certainly explained its power,
even if it existed now in only a shard.
"Oh, yes," Illusen replied. There was a note
of grimness in her voice that Ryddle would not have imagined possible. "How
it ended up in the hands of Darigan, I do not know. You have probably heard
that my main reason for moving to Meridell was that I wished to distance myself
as much as possible from the scheming Jhudora."
Ryddle nodded. Every young Neopet in Meridell
had heard this tale; however, as he grew older and a little wiser, he had believed
this to be nothing more than a rumor.
"Well, that's true. It may sound radical to you.
All the same, anyone who has met Jhudora would sympathize with me. Now, Kass
is a different proposition entirely."
Doing his best to brush away everything he had
been told about Lord Kass as a small child, Ryddle waited silently for her to
"It's my belief that someone has Kass under their
thumb, because I remember meeting him at one point. He was never exactly the
nicest Eyrie in Neopia, even the nicest Darigan - but he would never have taken
control of the Darigan Citadel underhandedly. I don't think he would have gotten
rid of Jeran like that, either."
"Gotten rid of Jeran?" Ryddle knew that a few
days ago, he would have been overjoyed to hear this. Now he wasn't sure what
"Haven't you heard?" Illusen gestured rather
hopelessly toward a stack of newspapers on the table. "It's all over everything.
I'm as sad to hear it as anyone; Jeran was brave, and a good knight."
"Oh," murmured Ryddle. There didn't seem to be
much he could say. After an awkward silence, he asked, "So what do you think
I should do with the shard?"
"Only one thing can I tell you. Whatever you
do, whatever happens, whoever you meet - never, ever let Kass get his hands
Ryddle looked for a moment at the Faerie, trying
to calculate just how far he could push her. He didn't mean to be disrespectful.
He just needed to get everything straight, and make Illusen see that he couldn't
do everything she said. He decided to risk something bold. "What if I decide
that it's worth it to gain safety for the ones I love?"
'I don't think you understand just how ruthless
Lord Kass is - or has become. There is very little chance that he would keep
his word. Of bribes and promises, he has offered many; few have ever been fulfilled.
And naturally, he has to silence those that have been betrayed, or his rule
would topple under him."
"Ah," said Ryddle.
After another short pause, Illusen roused herself.
"You're not going to find anyone in your current condition. I would suggest
- and you are free to choose as you will, for I can see that your are one of
those independent spirits who do not take orders very kindly - that you stay
at my Glade for a few days. Get yourself rested and well-fed. In the meantime,"
she added with a hint of amusement, "you might try and get a few of those burrs
out of your tail."
Ryddle was taken aback. Wasn't he the one Sylver
had called a "doormat"? He had always obeyed orders without questions. Depending
on them was part of his nature.
Or was it? He thought back to the elation he
had felt, standing up to Sylver, and then the feeling of being a free, equal
citizen in the village, bound by nothing except a general sense of duty owed
to his family and companions.
"I'll stay. For a day or two," he decided. Whatever
happened, he had proved himself beyond anything he had ever expected. Tragedy
had struck, and then more of it. Now he was stranded, grasping for straws as
he wondered what had become of all he held dear. But he had come through it.
He was alive, and he was strong. And no one could make him give that up.
To be continued...