Alysia's Destiny: Part Three
“Uhh...” I groaned as a bright light stung my closed eyes.
“Alysia, wake up.”
“No...” I groaned again and rolled over in bed, pulling the thick sheets up over my shoulder, and reaching for my quilt that I always slept with, thinking it must have fallen off. But it wasn’t there. And this wasn’t my bed.
I yelped and sat up in shock to find a shadow Lupe sitting on a stool beside the bed. We were in a dark, wood paneled room, without windows, lit by a single drab looking chandelier hanging from the musty ceiling.
“Where...” I began. Then I remembered.
“You... you kidnapper!! Let me go! Someone will realize I’m missing and send the Defenders of Neopia after you...” I jumped up, but saw stars, and had to sit right down again.
“Don’t get up too quickly, you’ve been asleep for fourteen hours,” Master Ferival said calmly.
“What happened?” I asked, dazed.
“Jester touched you with a sleeping spell,” Ferival answered with a sigh. “I couldn’t let you leave, not in the state you were in and not after I found out who you were.”
“Your daughter?” I said, with as much self control as I could muster.
“That and much more.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, my brain muddled by his riddle. “I still don’t understand how I’m supposed to be related to you.”
“It’s a long story,” Ferival said, smiling at me for the first time since I’d woken. “Why don’t I start at the beginning?”
I nodded, and nestled down under the covers for a story.
“You see,” the master began, “I was not always High Master. I was discovered just as you were, by a scout.”
“Scout?” I asked.
“We call them talent scouts. Mostly for cover, since we don’t want to arouse suspicion. Like you, I was brought to the Guild, to be sworn in to the order. And like you, my entrance did not go as planned.”
Ferival paused, and I nodded for him to go on.
“You see, it was on that day that Pellinor, who had once been a respected master of the guild... disappeared. Nobody knew where he had gone, until, just as I was about to take the oath, I went into a trance. The next thing I knew, I was lying at the feet of the High Master, and everyone was looking at me. Apparently, I had revealed a prophecy.”
“What’d you say during your trance?” I asked.
“The disappearance is the start,
Of something great and terrible,
Never fear for I shall come,
To save you from the doom.
On the third harvest moon,
Of the twentieth year,
Daughter strong shall come to me,
To save my life and more.
There is nothing anyone can do,
To prevent the betrayal,
Though the way out is clear,
It depends upon my daughter.
She must lead the rescue,
Into the castle dark,
To retrieve the stolen treasure,
And defeat the lord of evil.”
After he had recited the prophecy, Ferival paused again, waiting for me to catch on.
“What’s a harvest moon?” I asked after a while.
“A full moon,” Ferival answered.
I pondered that for a minute. “So... it wouldn’t happen to be a full moon tonight?”
Ferival smiled and nodded.
“And that happened to you twenty years ago?”
“And it was me that came to you and saved you.”
“But I don’t understand the rest,” I said.
“Neither do I,” Ferival said with a sigh. “Though I have a sinking suspicion that we will know very soon.”
“But then, how did I disappear?” I asked, curious as to how I fit into all of this.
“You and your mother disappeared shortly after you were born,” Ferival answered. “Her name was Lilly, and she was a blue Xweetok like you. I never thought I’d see you again.” I noticed tears at the edges of my father’s eyes.
It was starting to make sense. I must have somehow wound up in the home of my childhood, and placed in the care of my guardian. Then someone at the guild made a prediction that I was going to be at the Poogle races and so they sent Jester to get me and then he brought me here. There were, however, two things that still troubled me.
“But... how did I know about the assassin?” I asked. Ferival laughed.
“It’s in your blood, Alysia. If you learn to become a guild prophet, you will be able to use your powers even more.”
“But, I didn’t know what was happening. That wasn’t me who jumped on you it was... like I was being controlled.”
“No, Alysia, it was you who protected me from my death, just a different part of you. A part that is beginning to awaken.” Ferival paused. “Still, few oracles are naturally so perceptive. I was a natural, like you, so perhaps you got it from me.”
“And how did Lord Pellinor know about me?”
Ferival sighed again, looking rather worried. “I don’t know. He must have known you were my daughter, otherwise he wouldn’t have sent those Grarrls. That Uni seemed to know as well. I don’t see how they found out, but there you have it. We’re both in danger.”
Just then, there was a knock at the door and a blue Kacheek appeared in the room.
“Sir, there is someone who wants to see you,” the Kacheek said.
Ferival nodded and stood up to go see.
“Wait,” I called after him. Ferival turned.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you... Father,” I said. Ferival’s eyebrows went up. Then he broke into a smile.
“You don’t have to apologize for anything.”
Then he left, and closed the door.
I lay in silence for a long time, thinking about everything Master Ferival had told me. I believed him. There was no other way to account for my perceptiveness other than that I was an oracle, and my father’s daughter. I’d wanted to know who my parents were my whole life, and now I finally had the answer. But I was scared. Scared that my father had almost been killed, scared that he was High Master of a top secret guild, scared that there was someone after him, and scared that he had already sputtered out a prophecy twenty years ago that somehow would become my destiny and that there was nothing I could do about it. I began to get drowsy again. Before I fell asleep, though, I promised myself that I would do what I could for my father. Even if that meant putting my own life at danger. Though I had just met him, I knew that I loved him, and I also knew that he was in trouble. I had to protect him, and I didn’t want him to vanish like my mother had. I told myself that I would take the guild oath the next day, and then I fell asleep again.
I woke to Jester shaking me roughly.
“Alysia! Alysia, wake up!”
I groaned and opened my eyes. Jester had a panicked look on his face.
“What?” I asked, sleepily.
“Your father’s gone!”
I sat up with a start.
“When?!” I cried.
“Sometime during the night, I don’t know. The last time anyone saw him was after he left your room,” Jester said.
“What do we do?!” I asked.
“My master, Nathaniel, has assembled the council to discuss the matter,” Jester answered. “Follow me!”
I shot out of bed, ignoring a wave of dizziness that washed over me as I made my way to the door. Jester led the way down a long hallway and up a flight of stairs, down another hallway and through the oaken double doors to the meeting room.
Master Nathaniel was speaking as we entered, and, I noticed, sitting on my father’s throne. I felt a pang of anger, upset that the Eyrie had so pointedly taken Ferival’s place, but a look into his eyes told me that he was hurting just as badly as I was.
“Where has he gone?”
“Was there no security?”
“How could he just vanish?”
Murmurs wafted through the crowd, and I cringed as the whispers ceased and everyone turned to look at me.
“Alysia,” Master Nathaniel said with a nod of his head.
“Master Nathaniel,” I said with an awkward bow. “What happened to my father?”
“We believe he has been captured by Lord Pellinor,” Nathaniel said bluntly.
“C-captured?” I squeaked. That was the last thing I wanted to hear.
“There is no other logical explanation,” the Eyrie continued. “Our headquarters has been infiltrated, we know because of the Uni assassin, and we also think that the Dark Lord knows about the prophecy, otherwise he wouldn’t be as focused on you and your father as he is. The last line of the prophecy says that you will defeat the lord of evil, Alysia. It would be, I believe, safe to assume that that means that you will, in the end, be the one to defeat Lord Pellinor, and he has taken measures to see to it that you never get the chance.”
“What do you need me to do?” I asked.
“Simple,” Nathaniel answered. “We are sending a group of spies to the castle. You must go with them and fulfill the prophecy.”
My head swam. Me? Defeat a dangerous dark prophet? Like I had a chance! A member of the audience stood up and personified my thoughts.
“Surely you do not expect this yet-to-be-tested Xweetok who has not even had an apprenticeship yet to go on an important mission into enemy territory?”
“She has shown her worth by saving the life of her father,” Nathaniel answered calmly. “I have full confidence in her abilities. Besides, the prophecy clearly states that she will lead the mission.”
Jester bit his lip beside me, but respected his master’s judgment.
“Alysia,” Nathaniel asked. “Would you be willing to accompany us to the Dark Lord’s fortress?”
“Do you really think it’s a good idea?” I asked, still unsure of the whole ordeal.
“Alright then,” I said. “But what happens if we get attacked? I have no way of defending myself.”
“I thought of that,” Nathaniel said, seeming to have the whole thing under control. “To shield you from harm I have guild robe for you.” He handed me a dark blue cloak with the silver stitching on it. “This cloak has a charm on it that will protect you from enemy magic. Also, I have a sword for you.” He handed me a silver sword with a shinning sapphire in the hilt. “It... was your mother’s, before she disappeared. My apprentice will show you how to use it.”
I clutched the master’s gift in my trembling paws.
“You two are dismissed to practice your sparring, and Jester, also teach her a few of our foresight techniques. I will now assemble a team to go to the fortress with Alysia.”
Jester ushered me out of the meeting room and down the hall.
“Wow,” he said to me. “Do you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into?”
“A life threatening mission to save a father that I didn’t know I had? Yeah, I kind of figured that out,” I snapped at him.
“You’ve got quite the attitude,” he snapped back at me. I looked down in regret.
“I’m sorry. I just...”
“Don’t apologize; I know what you’re going through,” Jester said.
“Well, yeah. Do you think it was easy for me to be brought into a guild on account of a secret talent that I didn’t realize I’d had? Everyone goes through this. You just had a long lost father and a prophecy added to the mix. Here we are.”
Jester led me into a large, mirrored room with a dirt floor, and white lines painted across the dirt, like in a sports field. Then he loosened the golden, carved sheath and sword from his belt, leaving the sword securely covered.
“I like to leave the scabbard on the sword while I spar with the other apprentices,” Jester said to me. “It allows me to practice without the fear of injuring my opponent and it makes the sword seem lighter when I actually have to use it. You don’t have to, since you probably won’t be able to hurt me and you haven’t built up the strength yet.
“Now, I know you haven’t exactly taken the oath yet, but, in the oath, you must promise to defend the guild and its secrets with your life. Therefore, every young prophet-to-be must learn to spar. Let’s begin.
Jester flicked his sword up in front of his face then down to his side, with a bow.
“That’s how you begin any proper duel. You try.”
I drew my thin, silver sword, and copied Jester’s movements.
“Good,” he said. “Now, attack me.”
I nodded and took a step towards Jester.
“No, no, no,” Jester said, shaking his head at me. “When you advance or fall back, never leave the side of you without your sword closer to your opponent. Step like this.”
Jester quickly shuffled forward, then backward with one foot in front of the other. I tried to copy him.
“Faster!” I shuffled my feet as fast as they would go.
“You’re too far down into the floor. Don’t crouch; it won’t help. Advance like you mean it!” I straightened up and scurried forward with quick, purposeful movements.
“Good. Now attack.” I advanced and slashed at Jester. He blocked my attack cleanly, and knocked me off of my feet.
“Don’t lean forward so much,” he corrected me as I got up. “Keep your weight between your feet.”
I tried again.
“That was too slow; don’t give your enemy time to think.”
I tried again.
“Attack where the weak point is. It was easy to move my sword to block you there.”
I tried again.
“Come on, Alysia, focus!”
I tried again.
“You’ve got to think!”
I tried again.
“I don’t get distracted.”
“I’m not distracted!” I roared at him, frustrated. “Give me a break, will you!? I’m tired, and this is my first day.”
I threw down my sword in a huff.
“A break?!” Jester growled. “In a few hours, you’re going to be in one of the most dangerous places in Neopia, and I don’t have a lot of time to prepare you.” He tossed my sword at me roughly. “Again.”
I attacked again, and Jester quickly parried and attacked me back, but this time, I ducked and shot him in the stomach with the hilt of my sword. Jester fell onto his back with a groan of pain and I pointed my sword down at him. He smiled.
“Good,” he said, getting up. “Now, I also was told to teach you some foresight techniques, though, after seeing you save your father like that, I don’t see why I would need to.”
“Okay,” I said, sheathing my sword.
“The first thing I’m going to teach you is to see how long it will be before you encounter someone. This is important if you are waiting for someone, or you have however long before you are intercepted. Obviously, this is important if you are in enemy territory, because you never know when one of Lord Pellinor’s minions is going to be sneaking up on you. When you do this, try to imagine time like a stack of cards, and you are on one of those cards, and the ones above you in the stack are moments in the future and moments in the past are below you. Focus on the card you are on. Then, very slowly, switch to the next card. You should be able to read the card, and discover if you are in the presence of the person you seek at this point in time. Then, keep flipping cards until you find the one where you meet the thing you were wondering about and figure out how far away it is. Can you do that?”
“Um... I’ll try,” I answered, kind of confused by Jester’s explanation of time and the cards.
“Okay, how long will it be until a blue Kacheek comes through that door to get us?” Jester asked, pointing through the door we’d come by.
I closed my eyes and envisioned the stack of cards; fully aware that this would be the first time I would try to see the future voluntarily. This was the card we were on, here, sitting on the dirt floor of the sparring room. Now, present, now, with Jester, learning, sparring room, now, now, now. I thought this in my mind until I could clearly read the present card in my head. Then I envisioned the blue Kacheek and flipped to the next card. Nothing. I tried the next one. Still nothing. Then I flipped to the third card and I felt something. It was a congruency, like the Kacheek matched up with this moment in time. Three cards. How long did that feel like? I felt each card again. Three minutes, I decided. I opened my eyes.
“Three minuets,” I said to Jester. He starred at me, bug eyed.
“How’d you figure that out so fast?” he asked me.
“What do you mean?”
“That only took you, like, fifteen seconds.” Jester narrowed his eyes. “You aren’t just making that up?”
“No!” I said, surprised that he thought I was lying. He’d find out in a few minutes if I was, anyway.
“Usually it takes me several minutes,” Jester said jealously. “Ferival was right, you are a natural. Still, there’s one more thing I think I should teach you.”
“When you try to exercise your foresight, you need to be in the right state of mind. That’s easy when you’re here, and no one’s pressuring you, and you’re not being pursued by evil forces, so here are some techniques I use.”
Jester went on to talk about how to calm down under pressure, like twirling your fur on your finger to let out negative energy or breathing deeply and imagining void; but I’d heard most of it before in classes at school.
Just then, and what I judged to be three minutes later, as I had predicted, the blue Kacheek knocked on the door and escorted us to Nathaniel’s room where he had assembled the mission team.
We entered a dark room with a long table, and sitting at it were a pink Zafara master and her striped Pteri apprentice, whom I recognized as Lyra, the Pteri I’d sat next to back in the meeting room, the one who’d reminded me of Shelby, a red Kougra who didn’t seem to have an apprentice, and Nathaniel himself.
“Alysia, Jester, I’m glad you’re here,” Master Nathaniel said as we entered. “Both of you will be joining us in our mission to Meridell today, so I think we should have a few introductions. The Zafara is Master Herenia, and her apprentice is called Lyra. The Kougra is Master Thomas, and does not presently have an apprentice. Everyone, this is my apprentice Jester, and Ferival’s daughter Alysia.”
Jester bowed, slightly, and I followed suit, clumsily. Then we took our seats across the table from the other oracles.
“Now, to review our plan,” Nathaniel began. “We will approach the fortress from the left side of the main gate. There is a hidden entrance in the forest, which goes underground under the moat and comes up in a chamber under Pellinor’s throne room. From there, we will make our way to the throne room. Spies that have been sent to the castle previously say that there is a room opening only to the throne room which has a record of the prisoners and where they are being held, as well as a map of the dungeon. Because the cells and dungeon are so extensive, I believe we should make it our goal to get this information and then use it to rescue the high master and avoid being detected. Any questions?”
I raised my hand.
“When do we leave?”
“After dinner. We need the cover of darkness in order to accomplish this mission,” Nathaniel answered.
“And... how are we supposed to get all the way to Meridell?”
“Jester is skilled in teleportation.”
“Oh,” I said, not at all comfortable with the thought of transporting millions of miles across the ocean in the blink of an eye.
“If that is all, you are dismissed.”
We got up and left.
Later that night, I was picking at a roasted Nerkin leg in the mess hall with Jester, Lyra, and the other apprentices. I wasn’t in the least bit hungry, being so distracted by the mission to Lord Pellinor’s castle, and my stomach was churning with the way everyone was staring at me.
“So, Jester taught you to spar, huh?” Lyra said through a mouthful of roast meat.
“A little,” I muttered, sticking my fork into the Nerkin leg and ripping the meat up into little strands.
“Nervous?” she asked.
“Well, you really should eat,” Lyra chastised. “You’ll be sorry later when your growling stomach gives you away to Pellinor’s guard.”
That comment was enough to get me to stick a large chunk of meat in my mouth. I took a Faellie cake off of a platter in the center of the table.
“Don’t worry, Alysia. We’ll be there with you, and everything will turn out all right. I swear,” Jester reassured me. Still, I wasn’t feeling very reassured.
“I sure hope so,” I said.
The other apprentices looked at me in sympathy. That didn’t make me feel much better, either.
To be continued...