Shad and Saura: The Story of Elversti - Part Ten
And they went. Mostly through the forest, but also on Elversti – the White Path, one after another, silently and confidently, ready to defend what was theirs or go down trying. Shad and Saura were pretty much carried along with the flood, quietly wondering to themselves why the Faeries they had known so far never showed that side of theirs: the meaner, prouder, more powerful side.
“Perhaps because the Faeries we’re seen live in peaceful areas,” Shad whispered to his brother, knowing what they had both been thinking of.
“Or because they haven’t had anything that precious to defend,” Saura whispered back. Someone touched his shoulder: “Hey, you two...”
The brothers turned around. It was the Light Faerie who had been sitting on the path. By her side came an Earth Faerie, clad in dark green and with bluish green wavy hair.
“We’ll take you to the northwestern tower,” the Light Faerie said. “I believe we should hurry.”
As they rose above the Haunted Woods, Shad caught a glimpse of the actual sight. The forest was moving as widely as the eye could see. There weren’t that many Faeries to go but it seemed as if the forest itself was waving along in order to make the assault seem more ominous – or perhaps grieve the possible loss of its defenders. The Fortress was there in front of them, gigantic even from this far away, the ancient walls shining in the morning sunlight. Saura pricked his ears up. He could easily hear sounds from the stronghold at this height where there was nothing but a few miles of thin air between him and the Fortress.
“They’re preparing for the attack,” he said.
Shad nodded. “And they’re almost ready. I can smell the iron... and the excitement and eagerness. They should be out soon.”
The two Faeries made a huge circle to avoid being noticed from the Fortress. When they neared the stronghold from the northern side, the pets could see the massive gates open – this time as widely as they got – and gather on the plain in front of it. The army seemed busy enough so nobody noticed them as they neared the northwestern tower.
“How are you planning to get in?” the Earth Faerie asked, eyeing the narrow windows that were definitely not meant for climbing through.
“The roof is basically sitting on the carcass of logs which is built on the cylindrical tower top so there’s some room between the roof and the tower,” Shad remembered. “Just get us under the eaves and we’ll climb through.”
“I’m not sure how near it’ll let us,” the Light Faerie commented, descending a little. There was indeed a gap, wide enough to climb through, providing that the climber hadn’t eaten much recently. Well, that’s not a problem, Shad thought grimly as the Light Faerie floated around for a better position. Haven’t eaten anything since last evening. Bleh...
After some tedious moments, frantically scratching the wall with hind legs and glaring at the curious Barbats the two brothers were inside the Fortress again, already tired and nervous, knowing that a lot rested on their shoulders now.
“Smell the way,” Saura whispered as they opened the door. “I don’t wanna encounter anyone right now.”
”They should all be outside right now,” Shad hissed back, galloping down the stairs. “We don’t have much time and I don’t know if my theory works, so let’s step on it.”
They saw nobody all the way down the stairs, out in the courtyard or in the dungeons. Yet when they reached the dungeons, Shad suddenly stopped.
“The janitor,” he said. “He’s still down here.”
“Do you think he’ll be a problem?” Saura asked, scared by the rude sound of his own words.
“Wouldn’t want him to run off and call everyone down here, ‘cause then we’d be nicely trapped like Miamice and I don’t have to tell you what they’ll do to us then,” the Lupe grumbled. “Eh... pssht, in here!”
The two quickly retreated into a small room that turned out to be an empty hold, possibly for coil when judging by the dust in the corners. Saura left the door open just a little so they could see as the old Lupe limped by, murmuring to himself:
“Little good-fer-nothings, messing with the forest folk... no good has ever come from this, I say. And thay won’t listen, that’s fer sure, but it’ll still be wise to go where I can see things better, aye...” His quiet mutter faded as he went up the stairs and the two brothers came out again.
“The coast is clear,” Shad whispered, carefully sniffing the air and trying not to sneeze. “Let’s see now...”
He pushed the chamber door open. Everything was just like before, the torches were burning and the water was running. Shad looked around, nodded contentedly and went to a farther corner. He reached out and took something from below the ceiling.
“So much for that,” he stated, coming back to the door on his hind legs. “Here, I can’t walk when holding it.”
Saura looked at what his brother was giving him. It looked back and blinked.
“A... Spyder?” he asked slowly.
“The janitor told me that there were no bugs in this chamber,” Shad explained as they left the chamber and closed the door very carefully, as if fearing that the whole castle might suddenly collapse. “And in a room where all objects were parts of the six symbols, a Spyder felt so... out of place. But it wasn’t. Saura, this Spyder is the soul sealing the spell.”
“This sounds too simple,” his brother muttered.
“But it makes sense,” the Lupe claimed. “Think: the Spyder population of this castle is ancient. Even if the chamber gets damaged, even if the Spyder gets killed, it wouldn’t take long for its heir to enter the chamber immediately – and everything else in there cannot be completely destroyed that easily. Saura, I think we’re looking at a contract that’s centuries old.”
“So any of the other Spyders are free to enter the chamber right now,” Saura said, carefully sealing the little petpet between his arms as if fearing that it may spread the word somehow.
Shad frowned in concern. “True, though I doubt word moves that fast along them. They can surely tell when the one in the chamber is getting too old or when something horrible shatters that room, besides, I doubt that any of the others would enter while this one’s still alive... eh, let’s just get out there and see what’s going on.”
As they entered the courtyard again, seemingly nothing had changed but Shad’s nose started twitching at once. “The Faeries are there now,” he whispered. “I think they’re talking right now.”
“They sure are,” Saura agreed grimly. “Generally they’re just throwing insults at each other, you know how things are before great battles.” His ears moved a little. “The Faeries are most likely trying to tell them that they mean no harm but heh, do those boneheads listen? Makes me feel ashamed to be a Neopet.”
Shad looked at the wall by the opened gates. “I wonder how to get up there?”
“Probably through that little door over there; come on!”
The two brothers hurried over and climbed the narrow stairs, Saura still keeping the little Spyder who struggled restlessly, possibly following some ancient instincts that had been coded into its ancestors ages ago. It wanted to go back to the chamber. “Sorry buddy, not now,” the Zafara whispered when they came to the top of the wall and peered out at the plain.
It was only now that they saw how huge the Fortress’s army actually was. The Faeries, who had left the forest and were facing them at the other end of the plain, were obviously outnumbered. Yet they looked strangely self-righteous and wild there, ready to face their defeat of victory, whichever would come. It was clear that they were all powerless, the troops of seven had ensured that – or was it just that they hadn’t noticed the change yet? Was there even a change?
Saura squinted. Three Faeries were standing in front of the rest: the black-haired Dark Faerie, the brown-haired Fire Faerie who had led them and the straggly-haired Water Faerie who was sitting on the ground as she had no magic to keep her up. Yet – and Saura could see it even to that distance – she looked in no way more vulnerable than the others. Something told the brothers that the only reason the Faeries hadn’t been turned into arrowcushions yet was their overflowing pride and confidence that impressed everyone. The Faeries were talking to the Neopets’ council at the moment.
A dull, yet strong “clank” somewhere above their heads suddenly echoed through the clear air, making the whole army of the Fortress as well as the Faeries look around for a confused second. But only Shad and Saura could see the bright yellow flash quickly whizzing away behind the treetops while frantically gesturing at them.
“The power of Seven has a range,” Shad whispered. “That Light Faerie still has her magic.”
“And she attacked that tower roof when she saw us, to see if we succeeded,” Saura muttered, “which we apparently didn’t. The rooftop is still there. Remember what the Faeries said? Duplicate meaning. The spell is harder to break that way. There’s still something we need to do.” He thought for a moment, not paying attention to the negotiations any more. The Faeries were trying to talk the council into their senses but they didn’t have many strong arguments. They were powerless and the Fortress Neopets wanted their land. Not much to argue with there.
Saura thought fervently. Duplicate meaning. The spell must have a bigger, deeper, stronger meaning at some point. All rely on one another, okay. The clans. But they all rely on one... the soul, okay. Should be six but there is Seven as it is in all of them, wait a minute... what if behind all those tricky pronouns was the real meaning? Worth a try.
To be continued...