The Cost of Loyalty: Part Two
“So, Lyra, where do your loyalties lie?”
“My loyalties lie with Queen Fyora.”
“You would betray us, your family, for a queen who is about to lose her crown, a queen you left to face my lord Terask alone?”
When I faced Kiela, I answered her last question by fighting even harder in our duel. As Faerie Palace was stormed, Fyora had voluntarily left to fight Terask on her own, ordering me to stay behind and wait for her.
But she never came.
True to the prophecy of nearly a decade ago, she was defeated, and the enormous red Draik called Terask crowned himself king. The queen was imprisoned in the topmost floor of the southwestern tower, and I fled to the network of tiny rooms beneath her after my own battle. Fortunately, Kiela never pursued me and was obviously more needed by her king as they continued to extend their influence over all of Faerieland.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how to free Fyora from the spell that bound her, and the last time I tried, Terask nearly got me and I barely escaped with my life.
Ever since then, I never dared leave the safety of the tower’s fourth floor, and his minions patrolled every corridor of Faerie Palace. Though I managed to hold my own against Kiela, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fight against the king’s army. Instead, I chose to hide in the biggest room, which had a few beds, chairs and a table, not to mention a stock of potions. It wasn’t very comfortable, and I had more than enough time to think of that fateful moment I had left Fyora behind, even if it was more of her choice than mine and it wasn’t my fault...
I could have made a different choice when Fyora rescued me. I could have turned against her and walked the path other Wingshadows have – the path away from her. I could have run away and returned to the clan. If I made those choices, I wouldn’t be here, stranded as war raged on. I might even be on Terask and Kiela’s side, fighting with them and tasting triumph as we defeated Fyora.
“Lyra, are you even listening?”
Kuri waved her hand in front of me, and I dropped back into reality. She adjusted her round glasses before tapping her notepad with her quill.
“What were you saying?”
“I said, they say that Terask was a sorcerer who sold his soul to the dark faeries for all that power,” the light faerie and one of the Fyora’s best strategists said with a touch of impatience in her voice. “It’s that power that got him warped and huge. We’ve found out quite a bit about him, like how he was one of the best students at the Faerieland Magic Academy and that many of the Wingshadows are on his side – obviously not including you, of course – but it doesn’t help.”
“How is the resistance doing?”
“Just fine, but even if some of us have managed to slip into the palace before the magical barriers were raised, it’s not easy. Terask’s got his twisted minions running around the place. I had to fight my way here to see you and tell you that everyone is glad that you’re all right, and we’ll rescue you as soon as we can. By the way, thank you for telling me about the prophecy. I understand why the queen wanted to keep it hush-hush; prophecies can rile up a crowd like you wouldn’t believe, even if they haven’t happened yet, among other reasons.
“Would you happen to know if Terask is also aware of the prophecy?”
“Since the Wingshadows are with him, I’d have to say yes. At least I now recognize who the warrior of the prophecy is – and some of his friends.” I held up an old issue of the Neopian Times, which detailed the end of constant sunshine on the Haunted Woods and the four adventurers who solved the mystery. “Ever since I heard of his triumph in Meridell, I knew that one day, Rohane will march into Faerieland, along with his comrades.”
Kuri agreed with me. “Indeed... they have been sighted already, but it’ll be hard to break into Faerie Palace. But with our troops scattered throughout Faerieland, the four will have help – a lot of it. Well, it’s time for me to leave and tell Commander Stenvela and the other officers that we’ve definitely got a trump card on our hands. But I bet that eventually, everyone else will find out, including our trump card.”
“I know. Take care out there.”
“I will. Stay safe, Lyra. It looks like there may be a reason for you to wind up here, under where Fyora is imprisoned. You may well be the one to clear things up for Rohane, to separate the actual prophecy from random gossip and whatnot. I don’t know; it seems like proper etiquette to inform someone in a prophecy about their role. Besides, you’re the authority on that, having seen it yourself.”
I frowned. “I wish I could do more. I mean, I’m so close to Queen Fyora, and yet so far away...” The tears were coming, and I couldn’t stop them.
“It’s not your fault,” she said, embracing me tightly. “At least you remain loyal to the rightful queen. That’s one thing you can still do for her. Meanwhile, I assure you, we’ll be working hard to save her. Just because there’s been a prophecy ages ago and that the good part is beginning to come true doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off. Prophecies are fickle things.”
And with that, Kuri was gone, notepad and all.
* * *
I sat up, realizing I had dozed off on my table. A piece of paper was stuck to my nose – a note from Vitrini, a fire faerie who was one of the army’s bravest officers. I lost track of the number of times I had reread it, waiting for the day I would have to reveal the prophecy to the one chosen to pave the way to Terask’s destruction. The message had been delivered by a very brave Kougra and two earth faeries, as Vitrini could not leave the third floor of the palace to send it on her own.
Peeling the piece of slightly singed paper off my face, I scanned it yet again.
They’re on their way to free Fyora; you’ll meet them very soon. But it won’t be easy; the magical wards are still up and Terask’s followers are still around. It’s odd; I thought Terask was done for, but... oh, we’ve still got a long way to go before this war is truly over.
Hope you’re doing fine,
Through the single small window of the tower, I saw the breaking dawn and sighed. Not for the first time, I wished I wasn’t so isolated. Whenever I heard about the war, I only got news from a handful of messengers and brave heroes of the resistance who needed potions from my stock and possibly a short rest in my little room.
Some of those heroes were the adventurers who had been gracing the front pages of the Neopian Times for a long time. The good news was that they claimed to have defeated Terask; the bad news was that the spells holding Fyora were still unbroken. Perhaps, since they managed to defeat him, they also had the power to free the queen...
However, when your kingdom has been taken over by a twisted megalomaniac, nothing is ever easy.
At first, they only passed by for a short rest and to replenish their potion supply – they were my best customers, hands down. Before I could say anything about the prophecy, they were gone in the blink of an eye, eager to free the queen and add another victory to their already impressive record. I had to admit, I also wanted to shoo them as soon as possible just so I could see Fyora again and everything would be right with Faerieland.
My suspicions were confirmed when they returned, supporting each other and looking so much worse than when they left, claiming that Terask had become bigger and more powerful, and gained two more arms. They decided to spend the night nursing each other’s wounds – well, the red Techo they called Velm did much of that, since he was a seasoned healer, and I have never been good with healing magic. I knew which potions in my supply did what, but that was pretty much it.
I stretched out my arms; it was never comfortable to fall asleep in a chair. Why hadn’t I dragged myself to an available bed last night?
“Miss Lyra, are you awake?”
“Yes,” I mumbled, turning around to face the yellow Blumaroo standing behind me, sword in hand and clad in a simple ensemble of shirt, trousers and boots. “Good morning.”
Pushing myself away from the table, I stood up, yawning. I scanned the room; three beds were occupied by a blue Acara, a green Eyrie and a red Techo. All of them were sleeping soundly.
The fourth one was unoccupied, neatly covered, and beside it hung a gold-washed suit of armor that glistened even with the little daylight streaming in from the little window. On the pillow was a gilded scabbard that matched the armor.
Even though it was undeniable, I was still amazed that Rohane was the prophesized warrior, whose destiny and whose friends’ destinies were entwined with Terask’s. He looked so much younger than when I saw him in the vision nearly a decade ago, and when I asked him how old he was, he answered with the innocent air of a young lad, “I just turned eighteen.”
Heroes were getting younger these days.
I blinked. “Sorry for spacing out,” I apologized. “Why are you up so early?”
Rohane grinned, leaning on his sword – a shiny blade neither too broad nor too thin, with an ornate, gilded hilt. “I was practicing.”
“I thought you hurt your wrist when you last faced Terask,” I remarked. “What happened to that bandage... and the one that was on your left leg?”
“I’m fine,” he reassured me, flipping his blade into the air. The sword spun a few times before the hilt landed neatly in his hand. That proved his point, and I tried not to wonder what would have happened if the weapon did not fall the way it should. “You said you had something to tell me last night, but I think I fell asleep...”
“I did.” I realized that now was the moment of truth. Though I never revealed a prophecy to one involved in it before, I could imagine that it might be a little hard to swallow, even if Rohane had already seen his share of action, adventure and megalomaniacal villains and could have been able to predict his future of international fame as an intrepid adventurer, swordsman and hero. “Have a seat. Would you like me to make breakfast?”
He shook his head as he pulled up the nearest chair, still clutching his sword. “I’ll wait until everyone is up. Is this something I can tell Mipsy, Talinia and Velm?”
I pondered this for a while; considering that the prophecy was about to be fulfilled anyway, I answered with a nod, “Yes, I believe they are trustworthy enough. Before I start, you should know that I am part of the Wingshadow clan, one of the faerie families that possess the Sight to some extent. I will be telling you about a prophecy made when you were, I think, only a child.”
I didn’t know if I was surprised to see that Rohane barely flinched or not. Perhaps other seers have already shown him quite a few omens... mere speculations compared to the fuller prophecy of the gathered Wingshadows on that fateful night.
“Faerie prophecies tend to be more exact than those made by Neopets with the same gift,” I added. “They may have caught bits and pieces, and the vision may have come much later to other seers, but I have the entire picture. I was there when we saw your destiny and Terask’s destiny, bound together.
“We saw Terask take over Faerieland, the picture of success.” I scowled; saying it left a bad taste in my mouth. “Then we saw you with your friends and the resistance, supporters of Fyora, by your side as you all put an end to his hegemony. It is possible, then, that he has been planning to keep you from fulfilling the second half of the prophecy, but I wouldn’t know. How did you get here?”
“Air faeries and their magical carriage,” Rohane answered. “They fetched us from the Haunted Woods. They told us that there was trouble in Faerieland; from Edna’s tower, we could already see the chaos. But they disappeared after they dropped us off. If you think they were bringing us to our deaths, I don’t think so; they said they were part of the resistance. One of them was a sergeant of Fyora’s army.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now. Anyway, that’s all I wanted to tell you. There are grains of truth in the visions revealed to you by other diviners. But we, the Wingshadows, saw it first. That’s how prophecies work, I suppose; they choose to show themselves at certain times. The Sight is perhaps the most mysterious and unpredictable magic known to us.
“But that doesn’t change one power you have that can overshadow the prophecy and make a difference. You have – or should I say, had – a choice. I’ve heard your life story. You left home to avenge your father’s death – and possibly also for the sake of adventuring. But you could have chosen to stay home with your mother and older brother, am I right?”
It was his turn to nod.
“You were faced with many, many more choices on your journey, I could imagine,” I added, wondering if, despite my inadequate Sight, I could pass for a seer from the way I was talking to him. “They would have affected the outcome of the prophecy. And yet, with your good heart and level head, you managed to make all the right decisions... right, in terms of the prophecy, and in terms of the fate of Faerieland.”
When I said that, I realized that I may as well been talking to myself. I also had to make important decisions for myself – leaving the Wingshadows, only to return as Fyora’s spy in time for a prophecy I also had a role in – as the seer who would cross paths with the hero.
“So, yes, if you’ve been hearing a lot from fortune tellers and local gossipmongers, I’m afraid they are indeed talking about a real prophecy – if not in the same way I do. It’s quite a burden to bear, but you have risen to the occasion and transcended everything. You’ve been very, very brave, and I have faith that you will be able to face Terask again – and fulfill your destiny.” I felt that strange sense of omniscience again.
Rohane chuckled. “I don’t like prophecies. But I suppose I can’t choose to not be in one. Thank you, Miss Lyra. I promise we’ll do our best to defeat Terask and free Fyora, prophecy or no.”
And like a protective big sister, or maybe a mother, I said, “And I promise that everything will be over soon, and everything will be back to normal. Whenever you or your friends need anything, I will do my best to help.”
Even if I was sure he didn’t need the reassurance, or the words of a prophet, or even luck.
* * *
Many months had passed ever since Terask’s downfall.
Faerieland was rebuilding, and doing a very good job with it, with Fyora at the helm once more. Rohane, Mipsy, Talinia and Velm were rewarded for their work with the resistance, and had begun to pursue more normal lives; I heard that Mipsy and Velm toured Faerieland as tourists instead of powerful mages.
As for me, I was only too glad that everything was over, just as I had promised Rohane during my days in the southwestern tower of Faerie Palace. I returned to my duties as the queen’s personal attendant, and my days as a spy were over.
But I was sure that Kiela, upon recognizing me, informed the other Wingshadows about my new alignment. That also meant an end to the life I spent largely in the palace, virtually unknown to the public. At least I would be living proof that not all Wingshadows – and not all dark faeries – were evil and worked against Fyora.
And despite everything I’ve gone through ever since abandoning the Wingshadows and experiencing Terask’s takeover, and the costs of the choices I’ve made along the way, and no matter what lay ahead for us, I knew that my loyalties will always be with Faerieland... and Fyora.