True Sisters: Part Six
The day was warm and the sun was bright, yet our hearts
were cold with fear. We were standing in front of the infamous King Skarl, and
he wasn't happy.
"What do you MEAN, you need troops? What do
you think I am, made of money? I hardly have any left from the last war we had!"
"I told you, the legend has come true and Fanteni
is coming not just to take over Meridell, but all of Neopia! You need to help
in order to save your people."
"I don't need to do anything; I do as I please.
Now, GET OUT!"
Cinpate cocked an eyebrow but stood his ground.
"I told you, your Highness. I must receive these troops. Did I mention I would
throw in a reward?"
An hour or two of this convincing from Cinpate
and we had Skarl's support, barely. King Hagan was easier, as he highly respected
Cinpate for his personal wisdom. They both agreed to send soldiers to help us
when we needed it. In the meantime, Cinpate decided it was time for us to be
trained. He began, not surprisingly, with a lecture. Sitting on the grass in
a glade not far from Illusen's, we listened as he explained.
"All warriors must have at least these three
attributes: skill, bravery, and common sense. From what I've seen of you, you
have the last two down. However, you lack skill, and that is what I intend to
teach you. You will learn many things. For you, Tid, we will concentrate on
the arts of speed and agility, as well as some beginner's magic. Morbid shall
begin by learning to control her teeth, claws, and tail while concentrating
on her fire-breathing ability. Fan shall be learning archery and the ability
to fly with more agility, while focusing mostly on learning the full powers
of Fanteni's flute. All of you will learn to master the skills of swordsmanship
and numerous attacking skills. Now, Aaron tells me that you have armor and weapons;
is this true?"
"Yes, Cinpate," we muttered, unsure of how to
"Good. Your first lesson will be to care for
them. Morbid, if you would please fetch me the grease behind that tree..."
And so began our training.
I flipped through the air, spinning and twirling
in a complex series of corkscrews and loops, dodging speeding blocks Cinpate
threw at me. The air streamed past me as I pushed my wings closer to my body
and flew up into the air. My chest heaved with exhaustion but I did a U-turn
and came right back at Cinpate, a wild cry escaping from my beak. I flared my
wings at exactly the right second and slashed out with the Pteri Blade I held
in my talons. Cinpate dodged, but not fast enough. My blade cut through his
fur and muscles, forcing him to cry out in pain. Blood poured from the wound
as I quickly laid down my weapon and rushed towards him. "Cinpate! Are you alright?"
I cried, worried for him and for myself.
He smiled up and me and healed his shoulder
with a flick of his paw. "Fine. That was a great move you did there. It's not
many Pteris that could have pulled that off." He sighed and pulled himself up
from the ground.
I blushed at his compliment, but picked up my
sword, returning it to its home at my belt. I then nestled into the grass, awaiting
the words I knew had to come. Cinpate's eyes shone with admiration as he spoke.
"You have done well, young Fan. I can teach
you no more with the blade or in the sky. All that remains is for you to learn
the true secrets of the flute and to master them, a task that I cannot assist
you in. Go now and learn all that you can."
I nodded slowly and took off into the dark red
sky, flying straight towards the sunset. As I neared the castle, I saw Morbid
and Tid practicing in the field. Tid had turned out to be an excellent archer,
and quick on her feet as well. Anyone who fought her with a sword knew that
she was harsh and merciless, all the while sending beginning attack spells in
your direction. Morbid could slash your nose into four pieces before you could
say "jack-in-the-box" now, and could successfully breathe fire for up to three
minutes without stopping. Her tail was as good as her hands in a sword fight,
an advantage she readily improved. At the moment, they were practicing their
archery skills, and Tid was teasing Morbid.
"Ha! You missed," she cried, after a particularly
bad shot on Morbid's part. "Not trying to insult you or anything, but you were
aiming for the target, right? 'Cause it looks to me like it's in that direction,
At that point I heard a yelp and maniacal laughter.
Apparently, Morbid had tackled Tid, who dodged her easily, prancing up a tree.
She was currently sitting in a branch cackling evilly and clutching the branches
for support while Morbid was pacing below. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Morbid leapt
into the air and burned off the branch Tid was resting on. With a surprised
"Oh!" Tid tumbled to the ground, growling with anger. Morbid's eyes became wide
with exaggerated fright, when she changed her expression and began to laugh.
Tid joined in and I flew away knowing they couldn't stay mad at each other for
long. I only wished it was the same with Fanteni and I.
I was sitting in my room at the top of the tower,
cursing this flute and all of its ancestors. How I hated it! I could get it
to play, but it played what it wanted to play, not what I wanted it to play.
How could I use it to attack, defend, and heal our army, if all it wanted to
do was send people to sleep? (Which had already happened three times.) Sighing,
I replaced it on its usual place on the table.
My stomach was growling and my head hurt from
all this music, so I wandered downstairs to the kitchens, wondering if there
was any leftover food. I shouldn't have worried. Obviously, King Skarl had literally
tons of food just lying around, waiting for him to lift a finger. The cook was
an old, fragile, checkered Lenny, who had worked here since Neopets started,
nearly seven years ago. She smiled kindly at me when I asked if there was anything
to eat, and served me an especially big portion of apple pie. As I spooned its
hot, sticky sweetness into my mouth, she questioned me softly, asking about
my training, my sisters, but most of all, the flute.
"Fan, dearie," she began, after I explained
to her my predicament, "I've seen many things in my day. Things that would make
you shout with joy or weep with sorrow. I've even seen that flute once before,
though in the beginning, it was used only for the good of others. You must understand,
the flute doesn't respond to you because you're a Pteri, or because you and
Fanteni have similar names. It responds to you because you have identical hearts.
Hearts that yearn for happiness, and love, and acceptance for all of Neopia's
creatures. Fanteni's heart has been clouded with sorrow and shame, but I know
she can be saved. The flute knows this as well, and only when you are willing
to forgive her, and save her, will the flute respond to you and help you save
the Neopia you love."
With that, she shooed me away and began to scrub
the dirty dishes once again. I now understood; it wasn't that difficult. All
I had to do was concentrate my energy on saving everything, and I mean everything,
that anybody had ever loved, and the flute would help me. That everything included
Fanteni, and the shadow Skeith who caused her disappearance. It included the
other kids at Neoschool who had teased me because of my allergies, and the rotten
Jhudora who wanted only evil. In order to save Neopia, I had to want to best
for every one of them.
I hopped up onto the nearest window and spread
my wings. A warm updraft of air lifted me off of my feet and I soared, warm
breezes whipping through my feathers. With each flap, my wings took me higher,
until I reached the uppermost tower in the very corner of the castle. The window
was open, and I soared in, regretting not being able to fly a little longer.
Still, I had a job to do.
I turned towards the flute, and began to study
it more closely than I ever had before. This flute had a history, and in order
to understand these people that I must love, I must understand them. The quickest
way was through the flute.
It was a fairly simple piece of work, four air
holes over which one would place one's feathers, a beak-piece for the air to
enter, and a hollow end where the air escaped. All of these things combined
made music so powerful it could heal whole villages or even defeat whole armies.
But look here, on the side. There lay a small dent in the wood, and it came
to me that it came from a time when the old grandmother, while making the flute
herself, had dropped it in her haste to hide it from Fan and keep it secret.
This scar in the wood-grain related back to the tree, a hunter had begun to
chop it down, but faltered for some unknown reason. The more I looked, the more
I learned. Why, according to the flute, Jeran himself had held it!
After gaining this knowledge, I was interested,
but not helped, from what I could see. Ah well, it was worth a try. Anyway,
it was getting late, and I just wanted to figure this thing out. So I switched
into my meditating pose, feet flat and claws extended, wings spread, eyes closed.
I breathed deeply, cold air rushing into my lungs, exhilarating yet calming.
The activity in my mind faltered, slowed, and ended, leaving me as an empty
shell, one with the world and its occupants. My thoughts reached out and made
contact with... a caterpillar? Yes, it was so. A small caterpillar, clinging
desperately to the window ledge, was commanding my attention. I was about to
skim over this unimportant creature when it hit me. This was what I had to do.
Take the time to care for this small, insignificant caterpillar and every other
seemingly unimportant being, and then, I could control the flute.
So I did.
Flying to the window, I plucked the small caterpillar
from his rocky perch underneath the sill and brought him inside, laying him
on the cupboard. He curled up, satisfied, and I let him be, going back to my
meditation. This time, I concentrated not on one being, such as the caterpillar,
but all of them. Images, feelings, smells, sounds... all these came flooding
in to my body and I embraced them, let them surround me. Suddenly, we were one,
the world and I. We were amazingly and inexplicably connected and nothing could
tear us apart. As if in a dream, I picked up the flute and concentrated. What
I really wanted this flute to do... was help my little caterpillar friend. So
I picked it up and played.
The sounds that were emitted were soft and low,
comforting and gentle. I glanced over at the caterpillar and stared, he was
making a cocoon! As I continued this song, I saw him complete his little house
and close himself up, only to emerge, seconds later, as a full-fledged butterfly!
As I laid down the flute, I sighed with happiness. He flew out of the window
and away... free.
When I next sat down, I concentrated on calling
my master, Cinpate, to show him my new skill. A few tunes later, Cinpate himself
stumbled through the door, looking dazed. I smiled mischievously and full on
embraced him, wings tight around his neck. He was shocked, but hugged me back.
When I pulled away, he inquired of the occasion with a slight cock of his head.
Grinning, I told him the whole story, starting with the cook and ending with
the butterfly. So happy was I, I hardly noticed the grave look on his face.
"Fan, that's great news, and I'm very happy
for you. But we have a bigger focus right now, and it's not good."
Way to burst my bubble.
"Fan... she's here."
To be continued...