The Golden Globes of Light: Part Seven
Once again, I woke up from an exhausting experience enveloped in pain. (Fortunately, I still had my memories.) I moaned. Ever since I had arrived in this chaotic time frame, I had been subject to a great deal of stress. It seemed like I was always doing something that involved me passing out. “Did it work?” I asked wearily, not quite awake enough to notice we were no longer outside the Temple of Roo.
“Yes, thanks to your help,” a familiar voice said gravely. “We could not have completed it without everyone’s participation. The energy we were trapping inside was tremendous; almost every spell caster of the wizard level had been fighting for the fate of the continent.”
“Really? How many are left?” I asked as I tried not to pass out again.
“Well, if the reports coming in are accurate, we are the only twelve left on the mainland,” Pat replied calmly.
“WHAT?!” I shrieked. “How is that possible?!” I sputtered. I felt ill. “I was not even aware that I was at the wizard level!”
Pat shook his head painfully. “My, but do you have a voice! I can see where you got your name,” he said ruefully. I glared, and he sighed. “Only someone of that level could have survived a casting of a spell of that magnitude.”
I was miffed I hadn’t been informed of that detail beforehand. “But surely there are other spell casters in Neopia,” I protested. “They cannot have ALL been fighting there!”
“Unfortunately, all the other wizards had traveled there about a month ago to aid in the fight. There are other spell casters, yes, but only of the mage level. There are none left on the mainland but the twelve of us that are of the wizarding level.”
“So let me get this straight...” I growled. “The entire Neopian population of wizards has been locked in a battle for months, and we did not come in time to help them?!”
Pat sighed. “We would have been unable to help anyway,” he said flatly. “We are lesser wizards, while the attacking wizards were complete masters of the Neopian alignments. We would have been completely destroyed.”
“Just as all the wizards, excluding the twelve of us, are also destroyed?” I snapped back. The entire ordeal had left me in a foul mood.
“Yes. I know it is hard to believe, but that is what happened,” Pat repeated firmly. “For a while, we thought there might be only eleven of us left. You almost did not make it.”
I slumped back in my bed. None of this made any sense. “Well, now that we have saved all of Neopia, what are we going to do?” I sarcastically wondered aloud.
I was surprised to hear Pat answer me. “Myra and Zan have been talking with some of the major Empire leaders. They think that we should form some sort of Council in order to oversee all of the spell casters on the mainland.”
“What? But we are too young...” I sputtered. This was all like one of Ky’s stories. Nothing felt real.
“It is more the use of ability and responsibility than age that determines a good leader, Shriek,” Pat said with a smile. “Go back to sleep. You’ll feel better shortly.”
I became fully recovered over the following month. I received visits from all of the others that had helped seal the Temple of Roo, as well as a few of the leaders that Pat had mentioned. Most of them were unable to stop and talk with me because of their busy schedules, but Faelinn was a different matter. Somehow, she knew I was worried, and decided to take time out of her activities to explain things the best she could. “Yes, it is true. There are only twelve wizards left on the mainland. There might be more in Faerieland, because that is where all the magic comes from, but currently they are busy with their own war.”
“But why do you want us to form some sort of council? Six of us are too young to be in charge of anything, and all we want is to go home.”
“Too young? I do not think so. According to Zan and Jantal, you are quite up to the task. And as for your home... You have a responsibility now. You cannot just turn your back on it.”
“How will this council be formed?” I frowned. “I have never been to anything so grand before.”
“Oh, it will not be anything like that. Eleus and the others wanted to hold some sort of grand ceremony, but Lilly said that would not be a good idea. It would be costly, lengthy, and for the most point, unnecessary. When you are all completely better, you will meet with the Empire leaders and we will discuss the matter further.”
As usual, I was the last one to recover. When I was finally released from the custody of the Swamp Edge City healers, the meeting that Faelinn had mentioned was already in progress. I had to fly in order to get to the town hall before they locked the doors. As it was, I was almost half an hour late for that day’s session. Luckily, the topic was an ongoing argument about building a bridge between the Grarrl Peninsula and the Kal Peninsula, so I hadn’t missed anything too important.
Ky looked bored out of her mind. We were all at the far end of the table because we were the lowest ranking in terms of seniority. Apparently, the matter of a council of wizards had not been broached yet because other formalities had to be cleared up first. As the leaders nattered on and on, I found that the wood the table was made out of was incredibly soft... “Shriek! Wake up!” Ky hissed. I gave her a bleary look, and was startled to see that the sundial indicated that several hours had passed. “Thank goodness. The meeting continues in five minutes, and I did not want you to still be asleep. That would be embarrassing,” she muttered.
I yawned. “Ky, I’m exhausted. Can this not wait?” I mumbled. For some reason, I did not feel well.
“Wake up, will you?” Ky growled. “See, here they come! The meeting is starting again!”
I groaned inwardly and tried my best to stay awake. Unlike the discussion a few hours before, this one would be very pertinent to me.
“As I am sure you all know,” Eleus began, sweeping his gaze across the table, “the Temple of Roo has recently been the site of a most terrible battle between wizard level spell casters. Thanks to the bravery of the twelve wizards before you, the aggressor has been sealed within the building until they give up their powers and learn to live peacefully with the rest of Neopia.” There were looks of admiration, gratitude, and doubt from the other end of the table. I tried not to frown. “Unfortunately, the battle has left a terrible toll on mainland magic. The only surviving wizards are present with us. Except for these twelve, every wizard on the mainland perished in the battle.” There were murmurs of protest and disbelief around the table, and Eleus had to tap his staff to call attention to the meeting. “It has been suggested that they form a ruling circle of power in order to oversee the training of the spell casters on the mainland. In order to do so, they need our consent and our support.”
“The Empire has no need for outside influence on the city leaders,” snorted a rather elegant Draik. “We have no need for a wizarding circle.”
“Do you wish the tragedy of the Desert of Roo to repeat itself in your city, Jorm?” Faelinn hissed. “They are not here as rulers, but as teachers.”
“Half of them look like students themselves,” pointed out a wizened Pteri. “I do not see how they could teach anybody.”
“If they are not going to be ruling the Empire, then why do they need our support and consent?” A Jetsam frowned. “It is not like wizards have ever needed it in the past. They have always acted of their own accord.”
“Which is probably why the tragedy occurred in the first place!” Faelinn countered. “And besides, since they are wizards, it would be a good idea to give them authority to teach other spellcasters so that young mages do not go cavorting off and destroying half of the Empire on accident with the few remaining magical artifacts.”
This comment caused a tremendous argument among the city leaders. Eleus had to slam his staff against the table so hard that it shuddered in order to bring order to the meeting. “All twelve of them are fully capable of handling the responsibilities that would come with such authority. They are neither here to replace us nor to rule over us. However, they will be in charge of all the spell casters on the mainland. In addition, they will be the guardians of magical artifacts so that such articles would not be misused by lesser spell casters. In order to be recognized as such leaders, they will need our consent and our support! Is this clear? I am not asking whether or not you agree; I am asking if you understand the matter at hand!” the elderly Kyrii growled. The other leaders slowly nodded, and he sighed in relief. “Good. Now, while we hold a vote on this, I would request the twelve wizards in question to please vacate the premises.”
I was only too glad to comply. Something had been wearing me out for the entire meeting, and I longed for a place to rest without being constantly prodded by Ky in order to stay awake in a meeting in which I had no say. As soon as I entered the room that had been prepared for me in the local inn, I immediately fell into a deep sleep. My dreams were very odd; it felt as if someone was looking for something inside of my mind, and I did not like it. I was not upset when I woke up and Ky guided me back to the town hall.
I will never forget Faelinn’s words when she announced the decision of the city leaders. “In view of your brave actions and selfless sacrifice regarding the incident of the desert of Roo, this council finds you worthy to preside over the spell casters that remain on the mainland. This responsibility is entrusted to you with the expectation that you will take strides to ensure nothing similar ever happens again. We now present the new Circle of Twelve with the Staff of Ni-tas as a sign of our willingness to help and a show of our trust. May you become the best teachers a spell caster could hope for.”
I nearly fainted. The Circle of Twelve! Impossible! Then something happened that caused me to ignore all else that was happening around me. Myra and Amber grinned at one another, and the grins were not pleasant. When I blinked to clear my thoughts, I was annoyed to see that they were no longer looking at one another, and had returned to their normal selves. Little did I know that it would only be the start of the decline of the Empire.
Over the next few months, we spent several weeks at locations throughout the Empire. The closer we got to Neopia City, the stranger Myra and Amber seemed to act. I began to notice little things here and there as time passed that caused me to become more and more suspicious. Since our activities were not of much consequence other than the visits to the Empire’s cities, I shall spare you the tedious tales of teaching mages how to control their powers and settling squabbles between farmers and magicians. Instead, I shall zero in on the events that wove together to a disaster far worse than what occurred at the Temple of Roo.
After we spent nearly two months in Swamp Edge City, Lilly suggested we visit the Mountain Fortress in order to see if Myra, Amber, Pat, and Avery had missed anything in their initial visit. This brought a few protests from Ashiel, who believed that the journey would be pointless, but the rest of the Circle outvoted him. I must admit that I was a bit uneasy myself, but I was incredibly curious as to what lay inside the infamous structure. In order to get to the Fortress, however, we first had to pass through the Techo Caves. I pity anyone who tries to enter the Techo Caves without a map. After the first few days of traveling through the caves, Ashiel volunteered to go ahead alone so that he could find a quick way through the caves. We all readily agreed. It took him a few days to go through all the winding tunnels and multiple passages, but he eventually had memorized the entire area.
When he returned and we started the journey up again, we made a great deal of progress in much less time than before, even though we were traveling through a far more confusing area. For some reason, the efficiency seemed to upset Amber. I had a feeling she wanted to see the rest of the caves, but that analysis made no sense.
Before I could ask her what was wrong, Alex started yelling and casting fireballs ahead. I felt myself transform, and I was astonished to see a manifestation of light faerie magic attacking the head of the group. It took some effort to drive it off, but we managed to do so before it chose to call for help. Kassiel raised a shield and turned to glare at Myra. “You did not mention monsters the last time you discussed this!” he snarled.
Avery huffed in anger. “Well, we did not know what was causing them! We thought it might be a defense spell. The kind that dies off with the caster.”
“You still should have mentioned it to us. Besides, following that theory, that means the wizards are still alive,” I snapped, clacking my beak in annoyance.
“Well, we came to see if Myra had missed anything. We will not be able to find out, so don’t waste your time arguing,” Lilly said soothingly.
“What do you mean? We have to see if there is anyone still in there,” Alex glared. I had to agree with her logic.
“No, we do not. This would be a good way to test the higher order of mages; they can keep a watch on the place, so that nothing can escape without being discovered, but they will not risk their hides over something that may not exist,” Lilly replied firmly. “There must be thousands of beings like the one we saw inside the Fortress itself, and we are only at the outer doors. I do not think it would be wise to risk journeying further into the building to confirm a theory.” She glanced over at Pat with a frown. “In the future, however, incidents such as this can be avoided with a bit more communication.”
Amber glared, and she almost looked like she wanted to strike. I could feel my whip forming crackling with energy. At the sound of my whip, Amber’s scowl softened and she sighed. I looked over at Ky. I could tell that she knew something she was not saying, and hoped that she would keep Lilly’s advice in mind before such secrets became dangerous...
To be continued...