Her Majesty's Champions: Part Two
Mathilde, Sartos, Esteban, and Benjamin all waited in the top chamber of Fyora’s Hidden Tower. It was a huge circular room, completely surrounded by windows. They didn’t see any doors or stairs... Fyora had brought them here by magic. Though the view was beautiful, only Benjamin and Mathilde dared to look out the windows at the view of the sky outside and Faerieland below. Sartos and Esteban stayed as close as they could to the center, their eyes on the mosaics laid into the floor.
The room was completely empty. None of them could think of why Fyora would want them in such a place. All that she had said was that the last two Champions would be arriving today, and they would all meet up here.
No one talked in the room... Mathilde shuddered, trying to dispel the heavy awkward feeling. She thought, It’s normal. We’ve only known each other a few days. But one wishes that Fyora would at least stick around and help us try to make conversation. Or tell us what’s going on. That would be nice, too.
The Faerie Queen’s words had been few. “The Champions of Air and Darkness are arriving today... I will speak to all of you together, and explain your purpose.”
The Meridell farmhand had asked, “Darkness? Isn’t darkness a bad thing?”
Fyora had merely shaken her head. “Darkness has its place in creation, as does everything else. Night, after all, is when we sleep and dream... a time of peace. The good Dark Faeries still work for peace, as does the Darkness Champion. But too many faeries and mortals turn to the darkness of death rather than the darkness of life. That is the darkness you know as evil.”
Cyrex pulled his cloak tighter around himself as he and Keedie walked through the pale, shining halls of the Faerie Palace. He felt horribly out of place here with his dingy green fur and his reddened eyes... he kept waiting for someone to mistake him for a Sloth minion and call the sentinels. It would be a setback, to say the least.
Keedie was still darting around in circles in the air around him... she couldn’t decide which of the many windows had the prettiest view, so she looked out all of them as often as she could. Cyrex called to her, “Come down to earth before you do someone an injury!”
She laughed, but lighted beside him and said, “How much farther do we have to go?”
Then the Queen’s voice sounded in their heads again. Go to the Grand Council Chamber... I will lead you from there to where we are meeting.
After a half-hour, several wrong turns, and a bunch of seemingly endless hallways and flights of stairs, the brother and sister finally found the Grand Council Chamber. Cyrex leaned against the wall of the massive room and let his hood drop away from his face. “I hope it’s not much farther...” Keedie slipped down to the floor beside him.
Just as they caught their breath, a point of lavender light began to glow in front of them, growing and solidifying into the figure of the Faerie Queen. Keedie jumped to her feet and curtseyed as Cyrex stood up straight and bowed.
“Welcome, Cyrex. Welcome, Keedie. You are the last of the Champions to arrive... the others are waiting.” She flicked her hands and the room around them faded out, to be replaced by another place.
The circular room was surrounded by windows and completely empty besides four people... the other Champions, Cyrex presumed.
Mathilde sized up the new Champions who had arrived. One was a little faerie Shoyru – not all that much older than little Esteban. Why does Fyora pick little children as Champions? It just strikes me as odd. The other was a... well, she was pretty sure he was an Ixi, but so ugly that it almost made her eyes hurt to look at him. He only had one eye, but as strange as his reddish eyes were, perhaps that was a mercy. There was a long moment of silence before he spoke in a grating, gravelly voice. “Hello. I’m Cyrex. This is my little sister, Keedie.”
They all introduced themselves, and then Fyora waved her hand and six chairs appeared. “Sit. I am sure that you have many questions, and I will try to answer them.”
Mathilde nodded eagerly.
Fyora began to speak. “Champions rise up when all of Neopia is in trouble. They have done this since the beginning of time. They are always six... one for each of the elements. You know the elements as Faeries...”
Keedie said, “Yep! Fire, Air, Earth, Water, Light, and Darkness!”
Mathilde glared at the child, warning her to be silent. They needed to find these things out! Keedie shrank away, and Cyrex glared back at the Kyrii. She’s definitely some sort of snobbish noblewoman.
Fyora smiled at the Shoyru and continued. “The six Champions are mortals, always. As mortals, they can understand things and work with each other in ways that Faeries cannot. When they work as one, they are the most powerful force for good that Neopia has.”
Cyrex asked, “Then why us? Half of the people here are children still!”
“I do not pick the Champions, Cyrex. You were shown to me, just as your predecessors were. The Fates have ordained you as Champions... it is your duty now to rise to accept the mantle.”
Fyora looked at her assembled Champions. They always came to her like this, young and confused. They would grow, though, into the best of Neopia’s warriors. It was how it always was. They would defend Neopia for as long as they lived... she just had to help them survive now, while they were still unsure and vulnerable.
“It is the right of the Faerie Queen to give a gift to each Champion... a gift that will aid you.” She gestured to Esteban. “Youngest first.”
The Bori boy shivered as the Queen placed her slender hands on each side of his throat. “I give you a gift so that Water’s Champion will never fear drowning.” Then she took her hands away, and Esteban’s eyes widened as he felt the gill slits on his neck.
Keedie was next... she felt very small and shabby in her threadbare dress. Fyora touched her wings. “Air’s Champion will have the gift of fast flight... you may fly faster than the eye can see.”
Keedie felt her wings herself as she sat back down, trying to see if anything was different about them. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”
“Sartos.” The farmhand stood there shyly... he didn’t know what to do or say. The Queen took his hands in hers. “I give Earth’s Champion the gift of healing. Healing herbs will have more strength in your hands then they would in the hands of another.”
Benjamin wasn’t shy... rather, he came eagerly, curious as to what would happen. Fyora smiled at him. “Brave Benjamin, you will fill the role of Fire’s Champion well. As your gift, you will be able to manipulate fire, and it will not harm you.” He nodded his appreciation before returning to his seat.
Mathilde curtseyed gracefully as she approached Fyora. The Queen told her “Light’s Champion has always had the role of advisor to his or her comrades.” She placed a hand on each of the Kyrii’s long ears. “I give you the gift of discerning truth from lies.” Mathilde’s eyes widened. Was it polite to ask someone to tell her a lie?
Esteban shouted out, “I’m the princess of Faerieland!”
Mathilde saw a red light flash around his head for a second. She curtseyed again, barely able to control her grin. This is really neat! “Thank you.”
Finally, Cyrex made his way up before Fyora, and bowed. She placed a hand over his good eye... he stiffened, disliking being unable to see what happened around him. “Cyrex, you are the oldest of the Champions. It is your duty to protect your comrades. Though I cannot restore your missing eye, I give your remaining eye the gift of keen sight... neither distance nor darkness nor fog or rain will be able to hide your surroundings from you.”
She took her hand away, and he looked around, slightly disoriented. He looked out the window... what would have been a blur in the distance was now sharply defined until it became too small to be seen.
Queen Fyora smiled, satisfied. “My Champions, do you swear to obey me and to uphold what is good and right?”
They all stood and said as one, “I do.”
“Then bear your mantles wisely and well, for you are the new Queen’s Champions of Neopia.”
They stood in silence for several seconds... anything they could say seemed like something of an anticlimax. Finally, Fyora nodded and said, “You may leave... Cyrex, Keedie, I will send a Faerie to show you where you can stay. I will call for you again on the morrow.”
The empty room flashed white, and when the six Champions could see again, they were in the Grand Council Chamber. Keedie summed up what they were all thinking. “Wow.”
The rest all had to nod. Wow indeed.
That night, Fyora was in her private rooms when she heard a knocking at the door. “Milady Fyora!”
Fyora recognized Aethia’s voice. She quickly let the Battle Faerie in.
Aethia was a mess... her clothes were dirty and she was gasping for breath. “I flew here from the Haunted Woods as fast as I could... Ilere’s doing her best to keep things under control...”
“Aethia! What’s happened?”
“The town of Fogdale has been burned down... Edna’s tower is rubble... Bogshot Village has been attacked by masked men... and we found these at each spot.” She took the bag off her back and handed it to her Queen.
Fyora’s heart sank lower and lower as she took three skulls out of the bag. Each had a design drawn onto it... twisted figures that she had only been told about and had hoped never to see. “The Skull!”
Aethia nodded, slightly bemused. “Yes, they’re skulls, milady.”
“No, the Skull. You are too young to remember them, but they were a band of mortals who wanted to exterminate the Faeries... and take over anything else they could in the process. They used the blackest magics you could imagine. They had no objection to using fear as a tool. But the remainder was executed long ago... who brought the Skull back? We wiped every record of them off the face of Neopia...”
A light appeared in the air in front of them. It widened to give a view of Taelia. “Queen Fyora!”
“There have been sightings of hooded figures lighting bonfires in the Ice Caves... the structure could become unstable! These are always found with the ashes...” Fyora knew what Taelia was going to hold up before she could see it. The Snow Faerie asked, “Milady, is it possible? Could the Skull really come back?”
“Taelia... they’ve been sighted in the Haunted Woods as well. Yes, they are.”
The light eclipsed itself, and the image of Taelia was gone. Fyora said to Aethia, “Go. Go back to the Haunted Woods... Ilere will need your help.”
When she was gone, Fyora dropped her head into her hands. Her new Champions would have to fight the Skull... one of the most evil bands to ever ravage Neopia.
Could the Champions possibly survive? And would the rest of Neopia manage to stand if they fell?
To be continued...