Unquenchable: Part One
Author's Note: I would definitely recommend reading my first series, Inexorable,
before this. Otherwise you may find yourself slightly lost.
The crystal ball shone almost as a negative against the
white table, its surface almost menacing as dark clouds rolled malevolently
just under the glass. To ordinary eyes, it might seem like an artifact not to
underestimate; to the creature using it, dangerous was not a strong enough
word. She knew that only the thinnest of barriers separated her from what lay
within, an ancient power barely contained by an equally ancient spell. It was
taking a risk to let loose any emotion in its presence - the dark, swirling
forces longed for nothing more than life and the strength it could give - but
all the same, its user turned away from it with a hissed curse. She had not
hoped to see what the crystal showed. It seemed ludicrous, impossible.
But this crystal ball never lied.
Morguss spun around, fists clenched. "Idiot,"
she snarled. "It was a mistake to let that fool of an Eyrie in on anything.
Either one of those Eyries!"
Her first and most powerful impulse was to pick
up that ball and hurl it, speed it on its way to meet the stone wall and smash
into a thousand pieces. Unfortunately, for once in a way, Morguss could not
vent her feelings. It would be most unwise to let the swirling spirits out.
Suddenly there was a sharp rap on the door. Morguss
jumped first, then hissed crossly at her own gullibility. She walked over to
meet whoever it was, stiff with anger. And if that creature angered her…well,
they would feel the wrath of a true witch.
Perhaps it was not entirely old age that she
could blame for the time it took to find the key. After all, nothing had gone
right for her; why should it for anyone else?
Morguss quickly snatched up the proffered key,
gigantic and golden, as she heard an impatient voice from outside that was all
too familiar. "You old hag, if you don't open up the door already…"
"I'm coming, I'm coming," grumbled the witch.
"Even I know better than to keep a dark faerie waiting."
She swung open the door to reveal Jhudora, the
most powerful dark faerie of all, standing on the doorstep with a less-than-pleased
expression on her cruelly beautiful face. Morguss stepped aside to let Jhudora
enter her humble abode. The faerie strode in, arms crossed, and took the liberty
of seating herself on the finest chair. It didn't even creak under her weight,
of course. Everything always went right for Jhudora. Or at least, usually. Despite
her grievances, Morguss grinned at the thought of how Jhudora would react to
Evidently Jhudora had heard some of it.
"What's this I hear about Kass falling out of
power?" she snapped.
Morguss hardly faltered under her withering glare.
"Ah, my dear Jhudora…you don't know the half of it. Of course you'll remember
the orb, that one we gave Darigan?"
Jhudora's eyes widened momentarily with surprise,
although she regained her composure with commendable speed. "How could I not
remember?" she retorted.
"Then you'll remember how we believed it to be
"Get on with it." Jhudora was incorrigibly curious,
but Morguss could see that wasn't going to cure her of her natural bad temper.
"Naturally, my lady," replied Morguss, honestly
doing her best to keep the sarcasm out of her courteous words. "So you know
that much. What you don't know, however, is what happened to one of the
"One of the shards?" whispered Jhudora, her eyes
glittering with suppressed excitement.
"That's right. I did my best to find it, certainly
- but as some time passed and its power grew weaker, unfuelled by a living being,
so did its talent for attracting my vision. I had given it up for lost - when
one day, it was found. I'm not sure how or when, but I do know who found it:
a Darigan Eyrie, Ryddle, born to a rich family of Kass followers and fed all
the appropriate propaganda. It seems that his wealthy and influential owner
fell out of favor with Kass before he discovered the shard, and he was living
with some of the very villagers who had threatened rebellion." Morguss paused
to sniff at a cup full of herbs. Still fresh. "Would you care for some tea?"
"All right. Make it quick," said Jhudora. "You
may not understand this, but I have a lot to do."
"Easy enough," chuckled Morguss, transferring
half the leaves to another cup and picking up an old, rusty kettle to pour hot
water into each.
"They don't take very long," she explained, unnecessarily
and purposely so, as she handed one steaming cup and saucer to the faerie.
"Hmm." Jhudora took the tea delicately, wrinkling
her nose aristocratically at the battered kettle. She was obviously curious
enough about the rest of the story to comment. "Go on."
"Where was I? Oh, yes." Morguss smiled. She wondered
just how much of taunting Jhudora it was possible to get away with. "Ryddle.
Well, as aforementioned, he found the shard. It was still awhile after that
until I could accurately pinpoint his location, which, to my surprise, was with
Illusen at her Glade."
"Illusen?" snapped Jhudora.
"That's right. Your meddling sister. I'm not
entirely sure why the young Eyrie went to Illusen, and at the time I thought
it was only natural. After all, where else to go when you need comforting that
comes at no cost? Now, though, I think she may possibly have been giving him
"Anyway, back to my brief narrative. Kass sent
out warriors to capture Ryddle, just as I told him to; they captured him successfully,
and that was where I erred.
"I thought that no Meridellian would stand up
to Kass, if anyone. I'll tell you, he wasn't always so easy to control - even
with the aid of the Three. Yet this no one, this Eyrie, this - this child,"
she burst out angrily, "refused to give up the shard. Now, you know that that
part of the curse was negated when the orb was whole. But when it was shattered,
the shards…reverted, shall we say, back to their original shape and form."
"Are you saying that my curse failed? It wouldn't,
without a reason."
Morguss could see that it would be unwise to
anger Jhudora any further. She decided to stick to the absolute truth. "It didn't
fail without a reason. I'm not sure what did it. I have no way of counteracting
or even identifying anything so formidably strong. All I know is that something
must have interfered. It had returned to the most elemental of its stages, back
into the crystal you chanced upon one night in the caves of Terror Mountain.
Before it was forged, before nearly every curse was placed upon it." The old
Moehog paused for a moment to reminisce. She remembered the occasion well; it
had been the first time that Jhudora had found reason to seek her counsel. It
was beyond either of them to say what the crystal shards had once been, but
whatever they were, they were cursed. Cursed in more ways than one. The base
curse of them all stated simply that if taken from someone by force, it lost
all its powers to unravel, dominate, and destroy; instead it would bring terrible
doom on the one to whom it did not rightfully belong. The other curse was less
elemental, less powerful, but possibly more formidable: the curse of the Three.
Their mark had been left on it centuries ago - it was impossible to know exactly
how old the dark trio were - and for them the orb, or the orb that the shards
had once been, served as a gateway into the thoughts and dreams of whoever held
Fortunately for Jhudora, she recognized the power
of the Three at once, and though at the time she did not know them by name or
origin, she saw their strength and was careful to safeguard her mind with all
the spells she could remember. She had then taken the shard to Morguss for advice.
Morguss knew that, if properly reformed, the shards could easily hold enough
power to overthrow the whole of Neopia. So she let Jhudora forge the crystal
back into a seamless orb.
The seeds were planted, and Lord Darigan was
no match for the Three. The theft by the Meridellians had been an unforeseen
event; in the end, however, it had worked to their advantage. The kingdom of
Darigan waged war on Meridell, for Lord Darigan himself had been successfully
ruined by the evil of the orb.
Then Kass rose. He was clever, taking over the
Citadel one step at a time through the lowest, most traitorous methods he could
think of. Morguss knew that she had found the ideal lord of Darigan, and she
set about giving a gift to the Three: an old, virtually powerless amulet. As
predicted, the Three were delighted to adopt it as a tool of evil, and when
Morguss gave it to Kass, it worked its discord as well as the orb itself.
Jhudora's claw-like nails began tapping loudly
on the ceramic surface of her cup.
Morguss started slightly and continued.
"And so, you'll have guessed, there was only
one way to get the shard from anyone."
"It had to be given?" gasped Jhudora, putting
down her cup. "Then that means -"
"Exactly," confirmed Morguss grimly. "I warned
Kass that if he failed to terrorize or coax Ryddle into giving it to him, he
simply could not get it. Also, if he killed the one who held it, there would
be no getting it - from anywhere. It would disappear forever. Convincing him
was…difficult. In the end, he almost killed Ryddle anyway. And when that meddling
little Eyrie threw the shard off the Citadel, our dear Lord Kass really was
about to. That was when Darigan came in. Well, you -"
"Know the rest," finished Jhudora thoughtfully.
She was not reacting nearly as violently as Morguss might have supposed. In
fact, she put her elbows on her knees, cupping her chin in her hands in a typically
pensive pose. "This could be a complicated situation."
"Quite. There's also the little matter of Ryddle
himself, who lives on, and that cursed knight Jeran, who also survived. All
that besides the troubles we'll have either twisting Darigan around our fingers
or overthrowing him."
"Last I heard, this was my idea, my plot, my
plan to take over at least Meridell and get revenge on Illusen at the same time,"
said Jhudora coldly.
"Do forgive me," purred Morguss.
The dark faerie stood up and brushed off her
cloak. "I'll be leaving. But before I go…" Suddenly her face lit up. "Oh, Morguss,
I have an idea."
Night had fallen. Meridell, a pleasant place
at the worst of times, looked enchantingly, indescribably beautiful under the
silvery starlight. A mile or so to the north the land was ravaged by war. Here,
however, the grass underfoot was soft and springy, the trees whole and unscarred.
It was also silent, the silence that prompts all else to quiet. At such times,
one feels almost afraid to say anything. The only living thing apparent in the
forest beside the graceful trees was a dark figure, toiling blindly through
the undergrowth. He was a young Darigan Eyrie, with the red eyes and razor claws
that made the species so fear-inspiring.
But his expression matched his appearance no
more than he was in a state to appreciate the peaceful woodland around him.
Beneath the fierce features he was lost, lonely, afraid. Uncertain.
The outline of Lord Kass against the flamelight
was still vivid in his mind. The sight of the battle raging below the battlement
he had been standing on would not leave his eyes. Most of all, the realization
that he had been about to die was forever burned into his memory.
Why was he depressed, when he had evaded death
It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense any
more. Had it ever, or had it just been some cruel illusion, a combination of
natural ignorance and propaganda? The shard of Darigan's orb had, hopefully,
been shattered beyond repair, and Kass defeated by Lord Darigan himself, back
from the dead, yet Ryddle's happiness was quenched by an inexplicable sadness
too deep to describe.
Ryddle wasn't even sure if Darigan had noticed
him, standing there like a frozen deer about to be slain by a hunting party.
At the time he'd felt nothing but utter delight, shock in its most convenient
form. There had not been much time to consider the darker sides of what another
might call his victory. Why, though? Why did he feel such remorse when nothing
had gone wrong?
His sisters were still missing, Flytta and Sylver.
His friend, Scrappy. All the villagers that had so generously taken his family
in after their owner had deserted them when he fell out of favor with Kass.
Which, of course, led his thoughts to Phantom. Ryddle longed to see his older
brother, Phantom, the majestic Ghost Lupe who had been so kind to them. If it
hadn't been for Phantom, they would surely have been found and killed by Kass's
As always, there came a pang of sorrow as he
remembered Tyger, his Gruslen. He was glad to feel that the aching void was
smaller now. Ryddle was well aware that many would scorn his attachment to his
petpet. But in those years when Ryddle had felt so alone, although perhaps he
hadn't realized it, Tyger had been the best friend he could have asked for.
Eager to listen and uncomplaining. Looking back on it, why hadn't he done something
to ensure Tyger's safety? How could he just have left him there?
You could blame a lot on shock, and yet Ryddle
couldn't help feeling responsible in spite of it.
He had no idea where he was going or what he
was planning to do, either. All he knew was that he had to get away from the
Citadel as quickly as possible. Every instinct within him pulled away from that
dark, floating mass. But the inevitable question kept popping up everywhere
his mind turned. Where could he seek shelter? No matter how docile the Meridell
forests might seem by day, everything was different at night, and there were
Ryddle did his best to shake himself free of
his fears. Obviously there was nothing to fear here, or he wouldn't have gotten
this far. It was the practical side of it he needed to worry about: food, and
the fact that even an Eyrie could only stay out so long in a truly ferocious
There were those who dwelt in the woods, reverting
almost to wild animals. Evolution might have supplied them with intelligence,
but nature equipped them with teeth and claws, allowing them to live in the
forest as bandits of sorts. It was one of these - creatures? - that Ryddle was
most afraid to meet.
Slight panic rose as he thought about it. No,
definitely not. He didn't want to become something like that.
What if you have no choice?
Ryddle shook his head. Now he seemed to be hearing
things. He could have sworn that he'd heard a voice just then - but then again,
his conscience was often far too active for his own comfort. As was his imagination.
Still, he couldn't resist a glance behind him.
There was certainly nothing there, unless it was hiding in the trees, which,
come to think of it, would be most likely. "Oh, Fyora," he muttered. Finding
comfort in the sound of his own familiar voice, although he hadn't used it in
awhile, he continued. "Alone in the forest, and all I can think of is people
behind me. I should be worried about food, not wild stories."
"That you should," said someone gravely.
Ryddle whipped his head around, facing forward
again. He felt his hackles raise, more in fear than in anger. Then, seeing the
source of the noise, he just felt foolish.
A Faerie Pteri was perched on a low-hanging branch
he had almost walked into. In its beak it carried an envelope, presumably a
letter. It could not have been more obvious that it posed no threat, although
Ryddle hoped it didn't resemble his Faerie Poogle sister, Sylver. Now Sylver
was something to be afraid of…
The Pteri raised an eyebrow, as best one of his
species could. "I'm sorry if I frightened you," he remarked, very possibly making
a valiant attempt to hide his humor.
"Not at all," replied Ryddle, hoping he didn't
sound like a sulky child.
"Well, if you're not too busy wandering about
the woods, I have a message for you. It happens to be from Lord Darigan."
Ryddle was surprised. Darigan hadn't seemed to
see him crouched by the wall. Then again, Darigan and Kass had been dueling
fiercely, and no doubt the rightful ruler found the Citadel in need of repair,
both the structure and the people within. "Oh. Um. Thanks."
The messenger's other eyebrow went up. He said
nothing as he delicately transferred the letter to a foot and handed it to Ryddle.
"If there's nothing else you might require, I'll be leaving."
"Uh - no, I'm fine, thanks…" His faltering sentence
trailed off as the Pteri flew away. So much for a nice Faerie pet! Well, at
least it had been the opposite of Sylver: where she was hyperactively critical,
the Pteri had just been coolly and unpleasantly sarcastic.
One of the first skills Phantom had ever taught
him was how to open an envelope correctly. For whatever reason, although none
of that mattered now and he might well never see his brother again, Ryddle didn't
seem able to drop the habit. He sliced the top open neatly with a talon, leaving
a clean, straight slash.
Shaking out the paper inside with very little
décor, he was aware that fate had again handed him a reminder of the past.
Phantom's torn letter had been the first sign,
the preliminary step in a chain of events that had changed Ryddle's life. Was
this letter more than just a message as well? Perhaps he would be uprooted once
again…although how he could be uprooted when he had no home, nowhere to go,
and, for all practical purposes, no family or friends. The journey even to Illusen's
Glade would take days. Ryddle was agile, but he was no spectacular hunter. And
all that, of course, was assuming that Illusen was still there in the first
place. Then there was the little matter of finding the villagers, which, with
a little of the same sort of luck he'd been receiving lately, could easily take
longer than he lived.
He paused for a moment to shake his head impatiently.
Maybe it would help to clear some of the ridiculous, self-pitying ideas he seemed
to be having. Unlucky? He had just helped to save Meridell. He'd stood up to
Lord Kass, the most feared creature in all the land. His survival had been sheer
luck, too - he was no more skilled than any other young Eyrie.
Turning his attention back to the letter, he
To the Brave Young Eyrie,
You may not realize this, but I did see you
on the battlement. I also recognize your courage, and I saw the last part of
what you did - so I assume that the stone you dropped off the ledge was of some
great importance to Kass. There is only so much that can be said in a short
note, and I would much appreciate it if you would come back to the Citadel once
again to explain the whole thing to me.
P.S. I am well aware that the last place you'll
want to be coming back to is the Citadel. Taking this into account, I have to
add that I will be most grateful if you cooperate.
Ryddle stared hard at the dark cloud in the sky.
It looked much closer than it had at his house, or the village, and he couldn't
remember seeing it at all during his time at Illusen's Glade, although he might
have. Unthinkingly he released the letter and watched it slip to the ground,
gently floating from side to side before it finally rested daintily on the leaves.
What did he want?
It hadn't occurred to him before just why he
was wandering aimlessly, driven by a purpose but ignorant of what it might be.
Maybe he had nothing left.
The thought frightened him much more than he
cared to admit. He would have to face the facts at some point, though.
Suddenly he remembered, albeit dimly, as he remembered
everything that had happened the day before, the mercy with which Darigan had
countered Kass's malevolence. Darigan must know something of the despair Ryddle
was feeling now. Perhaps he might even be able to help him.
With a slight wince at the sting from the cut
on his shoulder, Ryddle turned toward the Citadel and lifted himself into the
To be continued...