The Atlas Saga, Book One - Return to Neopia: Part Three
I sank to the ground in pure anger. How could I have let that happen to my pet?
Now, Prophetical07, my mutant Grundo, was stuck on Mystery Island, which was being invaded by an unknown enemy. He was probably going to get captured, or worse.
"No!" I yelled, and brought my NeoCom up. "I'm going back for him!"
"Don't, Atlas!" Powertank780 cried, as he tugged on my arm. "We don't know where this new portal will open. It could open anywhere on the island. If the invaders enter it, they could come here as well!"
My finger hovered over the image of Mystery Island. I was shivering in anger and worry.
"Argh!" I put my NeoCom away. "How could I have done that? I should have stayed there with him!"
"If you did, you would have suffered the same fate as Prophetical did," Spyder876 told me.
"Calm down, Atlas. Here, have some water," he said and handed me a flask.
I angrily swiped the flask away from the Lupe, and took a few long swigs.
After draining half of the flask, and after taking several deep breaths to calm myself down, I rose from my knees and handed the water flask back to Spyder.
I looked around, and let a ghost of a smile play on my lips. I think I picked a good location for safety.
We were in Faerieland.
Multiple Faeries swooped across the sky, each one a different colour. They waved and giggled at us as they flew over, leaving multi-coloured streaks of light in the sky.
It felt good to see Faerieland again after many years, but the feeling was bittersweet from the loss of my Grundo.
We watched the Faeries dance in the sky, enthralled, for a moment, before we turned our attention back to the subject at hand.
"So, what should we do?" Powertank asked. "Anyone have any ideas?"
"Well," I proposed. "Since we're in Faerieland, I suggest that we seek an audience with the Faerie Queen to tell her about this incident. Maybe she can help us get Prophetical back. Also, maybe she can help shed some light on how I got back here in the first place."
Spyder nodded, and said, "Good idea."
Powertank agreed as well.
We moved as a group through the massive archways that marked the entrance to Faerie City. Even in the celestial city, the market was bustling. Vendors called out, trying to snag the attention of potential customers.
As we walked, I looked at a few sights that I recalled. The Employment Agency was well-known to me, as I and Spyder had spent a lot of time looking for jobs there. The Faerie Bookshop held a lot of memories for me as well, as Prophetical and Powertank always fought over who got to read the latest book. Spyder usually ended up reading the book though, due to their squabbling.
As we neared the steps that led up to the castle doors, I told my Neopets to stop for a while.
"There's something I have to check. Wait here for me. I won't be long," I told them, before I jogged over to the left side of the majestic building.
"Let's see," I whispered to myself, reciting from memory. "Eighteen paces west, forty paces north, five paces east, and finally two paces south."
I came to a stop right in front of thin air.
Or so it seemed.
I raised my hand, balled it up into a fist, and made a knocking motion a short distance in front of me.
My hand made contact with something solid. Invisible, but solid.
Great, I still remembered where the Hidden Tower was.
Satisfied, I rushed back to my waiting Neopets, and together, we ascended the white marble steps.
At the massive doors, two Faeries stood guard. As we approached, one of them spoke.
"Halt! Please state your business here! It has to be important!" she said.
"It is. We just came from Mystery Island. The attack has undergone an invasion. One of my pets is stuck there, and he needs help. In addition, I was also hoping that the Faerie Queen could answer some of my questi-" I replied, but was cut off.
"Her Majesty Fyora knows of the situation on Mystery Island and is holding council with the other leading Faeries. I'm afraid she has no time for you right now. Please come back later, when the meeting is over," she said, and gestured for us to leave.
"Hey, yo, hold up a second. I didn't come all the way here just to get turned away by some uptight Faerie." She visibly fumed. "My pet is stuck on Mystery Island which is currently under fire. He needs help. I just got transported back to Neopia for no apparent reason, and I want to get back home. I came to see the Queen, and I want to see her now."
"Atlas," Spyder whispered. "I think you'd better watch your attitude around them."
I kept my steely gaze fixed on the Faerie guard who had spoken to me. She was beginning to show signs of impatience, which was a very rare trait among Faeries.
"Now listen here, you," she said, as she raised her voice. "I told you nicely. Please leave until-"
She suddenly stopped, her gaze fixed upon my throat area.
Her eyes opened wide, in what I perceived to be a mix of wonder, confusion and fear. She looked at her guardmate and gestured to my throat. The other Faerie tossed a glance at me, and her eyes widened as well when she focused on my throat area.
"What? What's going on?" I glanced downwards, wondering what they were looking at.
The gleaming golden medallion that the injured Cybunny had presumably given me as a present for saving her in the tomb earlier. The medallion that bore the image of a sunburst.
"Umm... J-Just a minute, S-Sir," the Faerie stuttered, and bowed her head. She quickly opened the doors and rushed in. The other guard stared at my medallion for a minute before quickly shutting the doors behind her comrade.
I wondered if the medallion somehow symbolized something of ill will. I could find no other explanation for the Faeries' actions.
"Guys," I whispered. "I think we should back away slowly. We may be in trouble here. We'll find a way to rescue Prophetical ourselves."
They nodded, both having noted the Faeries' reactions at the sight of my medallion. We all slowly started backing away. I kept my eyes fixed on the remaining guard, who did the same.
Seconds later, the doors burst open and the Faerie guard ran out, looking excited.
"The Faerie Queen will see you now, Sir," she said, and invited us into the palace.
I narrowed my eyes. "I thought you said she was in a meeting?"
The guard replied, "Yes, Sir, but after I informed her of... a few other circumstances, she has agreed to see you now. She deems it important."
Suspecting something, I continued backing away, along with my pets. "It's all right, we'll see her some other time..."
"Please, Sir, you must see her now!" the guard took on a tone of desperation.
I was surprised. Did she really want to see me that badly, or was this a trick to make sure we never came back?
I nodded slowly, and strode forward. "All right, I'll take your word for it. Let's go."
I stood in the middle of the great, marble hall. Spyder stood to my right, and Powertank stood to my left. I looked around. The Faeries sat in one straight line on a golden platform in front of me. Fyora, the Faerie Queen, of course, sat right in the middle.
The beautiful Queen smiled graciously down at us. She radiated an aura of brilliance and leadership, that all the other Faeries seemed to admire and envy, even Jhudora, the Dark Faerie.
"Thank you for taking the time to visit us," she said in a gentle tone.
"Well, thanks for seeing us. We really need your help, your Majesty," I said. "Permission to speak of our plight?"
"Granted," she replied.
"Good. Well, it started like this..."
I told the Faerie Queen all about how I returned to Neopia, and about how I had lost Prophetical in the heat of the attack. All the while, she nodded patiently and kindly, while the other Faeries whispered amongst each other. The Queen seemed to take special interest in my medallion as well.
"So, that's how we came to be here, your Majesty," I concluded.
Fyora nodded grimly. "That is a sad tale you bring to our hall, but I am glad that you are here."
"Thanks," I replied.
She continued, "Now, Neopia may have one last glimmer of hope. We have a Champion now. Neopia has a Champion. Atlas... you are our Champion."
My eyes nearly fell out of my skull. "What?! Me?! How is that possible? Why me, of all people? Why me?"
She smiled at me. "The prophecy, child, the prophecy."
"What prophecy?" I and my pets asked in unison.
"It is fairly old, and it states that when Neopia's moon fell into darkness, Neopia would soon follow, unless a Champion could be found. This Champion would be returning from a long absence, after Neopia's moon fell, and he would be of exceptional heart and spirit, forsaking greed in favour of kindness," she said.
I was shocked.
When Neopia's moon fell into darkness? That had to mean when Kreludor got invaded.
Neopia would soon follow? The invasion had already begun on Mystery Island.
A Champion? Returning from a long absence? I was just mysteriously transported back to Neopia after three and a half years.
Of exceptional heart and spirit? Forsaking greed in favour of kindness? Was she talking about how I had saved the Cybunny instead of gathering the treasure for myself?
I shook my head. This was unbelievable. There was no way I was the 'Champion' she was talking about.
"Look, with all due respect, there is no way that I can be this Champion of yours. I think you have the wrong guy," I stated, still a little bit shaken. "I mean, I didn't want to come back here in the first place. I got transported back here. I'm pretty sure that there have been plenty of others who have willingly returned after long absences. Besides, you Faeries are the most powerful beings in all of Neopia. Surely you guys can stop this invasion by yourselves."
Fyora shook her head, and said, "No, dear Atlas, I've been monitoring all the Humans who have ever been in Neopia. You were the only one who decided to leave quite some time ago. No one else left Neopia for as long as you did. There was no one else besides you. I used my magic to transport you back to Neopia. That was how you came to be here. We are powerless to do anything against this dark army. Our powers do not work against them, for unknown reasons. You are our only hope."
My eyes widened, and I felt anger rising inside me.
"You..." I pointed at the Faerie Queen. "Let me get this straight: you're telling me that you basically transported me back here against my will, just to fulfill some nonsensical prophecy of yours? You're telling me that you brought me back here to be a so-called 'Champion of Neopia'?"
She nodded her head sadly. "I apologize for bringing you back like that, dear child, but you were our only hope. Please forgive me, I had no other choice. I had to do it, or else Neopia would fall."
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself down.
"Prophecy, huh? Well, what about that kindness bit? What act of kindness did I exactly do, in the first place? I'm not some goody-two-shoes Boy Scout, with all due respect. I can't be your Champion," I argued back.
"That medallion around your neck gives me all the proof I need. You fulfilled every single part of the prophecy."
"Wait. How do you know what this medallion stands for?" I asked.
"Oh, I should know." She smiled once more. "I gave it to you, you know. The symbol on the medallion marks you as one of my favoured."
I must have looked incredulous. Spyder was looking at me wide-eyed, and Powertank had his mouth hanging open.
"You gave this to me?! But how...? The Cybunny..." I stammered.
The Faerie Queen simply stood up, smiled, and closed her eyes. After a brief flash of light, a very familiar creature stood in her place.
It was the Cybunny that I had rescued!
"I am sorry that you had to miss out on the treasure, Atlas. I truly am, but I had to test you, you understand? I focused on you when I teleported you back, and I was desperate. I needed to see whether or not you would fulfill the prophecy. I noticed you going into the tomb, so I thought that it would be the perfect time and place to test you. I guided you through the maze to that particular hallway. If you had gone for the treasure first, then tried to reach me, you would not have gotten to me in time before the teleportation belt expired," she said, as she turned back into her normal form.
"Look, I came here to save Prophetical, not Neopia."
"But you have to, Atlas. It is your destiny."
This was all getting too ridiculous. I let out a chuckle, which soon turned into almost-maniacal laughter.
"Are you all right, Atlas?" Fyora asked, worry etched on her face.
"Oh, I'm fine. Apart from me having to save Neopia, I'm all right. Yup, everything's just peachy," I responded sarcastically. "Well, it's all been really fun, but I really have to leave. I'll rescue my pet some other way. After that, I'll find my own way home without your help. See you. Come on, guys."
I turned around, and walked towards the door. I heard Fyora attempt to call me back, as did many of the other Faeries, but I paid them no heed. This was all too nuts. I was going to find someway to rescue Prophetical, then find my own way back home, and forget about Neopia forever.
Before I could leave the palace, my Neopets were in my way. Both of them had stern looks on their faces.
"Where do you think you're going?" Spyder asked.
"I'm going to rescue your brother. After that, I'm leaving, and I'm never coming back to this crazy world again," I sternly said.
Spyder and Powertank were both taken aback. They looked at each other in shock.
"This is not the Atlas I know," Spyder finally said, after a brief moment of silence.
"Excuse me?" I said, not fully understanding his statement.
"This is not the Atlas that I know and love," Spyder spoke more forcefully this time. "You're running away? You can't escape your destiny, Atlas. You have to be our Champion... my Champion. Even if you just rescued Prophetical, but left Neopia to its fate, wouldn't that be just as good as having left him to rot with his captors? Or are you just going to save him to ease your guilt about losing him? I'm sure Prophetical would want you to save Neopia too, if he were here."
I was speechless. The whole revelation hit me like a ton of bricks. Was I going to let a whole world just die off like that?
In addition, what about Prophetical? Spyder had a valid point indeed.
"So leave if you want to. We're not going to stop you. Come on, Powertank. We'll go in his place. We can try to save Neopia, while he figures out a way to save our brother. Then, after that, he can leave us, just like he did before. Tell Prophetical to meet us back at the NeoHome. That is, if we come back," Spyder spoke softly as he walked away. I could swear that I saw tears in his eyes as he said that. Powertank slowly shook his head, and followed his older brother back to the center of the room.
I was still standing facing the door. Behind me, I heard Spyder shout, "Your Majesty, I and my brother will go in the Champion's place."
I heard Fyora sigh. She spoke in her gentle voice, "You will most likely not survive without the Champion's aid..."
Spyder cleared his throat, and continued with a hoarse voice, "But we will try, at least, to stop this invasion. Just tell us where we need to go."
The word was out of my mouth before I knew it.
Everyone in the hall turned to face me, bearing hopeful faces.
I walked back to the center of the room.
"If you both are going, then I'm going too!" I proclaimed. "There's no way I'm missing out on this. He was the main reason that I was brought back here, and I want some payback."
All the faces in the hall lit up immediately.
To be continued...