Travels of a Would-Be Knight: Eddetha the Immortal - Part Eight
Razulon and his comrades arrived at Nox's home just before he could begin the spell that would give him control over all Dark creatures. After a brief struggle, Nox decided to cut his losses and run, leaving the silver Mirror of Dartis to the king and mages, who had promptly contacted Fyora and gotten transportation to Faerieland.
Hansuke had never seen such joy as that which lit up Fyora's face when she saw the Mirror. "You found it!"
"And had quite a time rescuing it again when it fell into Hubrid Nox's clutches," said Razulon dryly. "If you don't mind me asking, Queen Fyora, what will this artefact do that will keep the Veli at bay?"
"The Mirrors of Radtis were created by a wizard known as Eddetha the immortal. They are the original magic mirrors; one can use them to contact anyone who has another mirror, be it the twin of their mirror or even their mirror in the past or future, and they can also be used to enhance spells. Just one Mirror will be enough to magnify the spell I'll use enough to force the Veli to keep to the darkest places of Neopia. With both, I might even have banished them from this world altogether. But that doesn't matter right now. At the moment, I'm grateful to have just one." Fyora smiled at Razulon. "You and your mages must be tired after such a long and arduous adventure. I'll have some rooms and baths prepared for all of you."
"I have long heard of Faerieland hospitality from my ambassadors. It will be my pleasure to experience it firsthand," replied Razulon. Hansuke fully expected Madge to make a whispered remark about how she couldn't believe the king was capable of such politeness. Much to his surprise, the human smiled, rolling her eyes as though in exasperated fondness.
'She must be tired,' decided Hansuke, shaking his head.
Fyora had baths prepared for Hansuke, Madge, and Doug as well, and also sent them a platter of food, though she warned them not to eat too much, as a feast would commence once the spell was complete and the Veli gone.
"You're gonna love it!" Madge remarked to Hansuke as she helped him get ready for the feast that evening. "Faerieland feasts are the best! Everyone in Faerieland comes, neopet, faerie, young, old... and there's games, and magic tricks, and the FOOD! The food is the best!"
"You sound just like Spring," said Hansuke with a grin, then grimaced as the brush she was running through his mane snagged again. "You know, I twice your age. I can brush my own mane."
"You don't do as well on the back by yourself. And you wanna look your best, don't you?" replied Madge.
"I'd just go along with it. You can NOT win an argument with her. Trust me, I've tried," said Doug with a rueful grin. He picked up Ben, "Alright, everyone ready to go to the feast?"
"Feast!" bellowed Ben happily, waving his arms wildly and accidentally hitting his father in the face. "Oops."
"Try to be more careful next time, Ben."
"Done!" said Madge, stepping back and looking at Hansuke triumphantly. "Yup, everyone's ready here!"
As they walked through the palace corridors, a thought suddenly crossed Hansuke's mind. "Madge...?"
"What was it about Jethro you weren't telling me?"
"Huh? Oh. That," said Madge, looking sheepish. "Well... she isn't really a Jethro."
"What big deal over Jethro not being his real name... wait, you said 'she'!" realized Hansuke. His jaw dropped, "Jethro's a girl?!"
"Not so loud! And yeah. Her name's Hafizah. She's really talented with magic, but unfortunately, at this present time, women aren't allowed to be mages. So she had to disguise herself as a boy."
"How you find that out?"
"I knew it the moment I first met her. It's just the sort of thing most women instinctively know, I think. I pulled her aside, and asked her about it, and... well, it took a while, but eventually she told me the truth. I swore not to give her away to anyone who'd hurt her."
"Does Razulon know?"
"I doubt it," snorted Madge, all of her previous fondness for the Qasalan king gone now that she wasn't so tired. "He'd probably throw her in jail to rot if he did."
"Maybe not," said Doug thoughtfully. "He was really opposed to Madge learning magic at first, but now he doesn't question it. He grumbles when she does stuff wrong, sure, but he does that with everyone. So maybe he's more accepting of women mages than he used to be. I've certainly seen clues that he suspects Hafizah, but he's never outright stated his suspicions or demanded the truth. Perhaps that's his way of protecting her; as long as he doesn't know for sure, he doesn't have to punish the best mage he's ever had."
Madge shook her head. "I disagree, but you're entitled to your opinion."
"I think--" began Hansuke, then cut off and stared at his hands when he saw a familiar green glow emanating from them.
"What--?" stammered Doug, he, Madge, and Ben all staring at Hansuke in shock.
Hansuke slowly grinned. "This must be time-traveling spell! It time for us to go home!"
"But--" began Madge.
There was a flash of light, and 590 B.N. disappeared, quickly replaced by Year 15.
When Roxias, Scout, and Spring burst into Gorunda's hut, she and Theaded were both sitting at a table, playing chess.
"Oh. You're back. And you brought friends," noted Gorunda.
Feeling too tired to be angry, Roxias tossed the bag of plants towards the old Nimmo, who caught it. "There. There's your plants. It's two minutes to midnight; I don't have time to complete any more tasks, and it would be unfair to ask me to do the impossible. Now, if you have any sense of honor, PLEASE bring Grandpa Hansuke and Madge and Doug back to their right time."
Gorunda and Theaded exchanged a glance that seemed to communicate a world of meaning. Then, Gorunda chanted a spell, and with a flash of green light Grandpa Hansuke appeared.
The Ogrin looked around slowly, blinking owlishly. Spotting Theaded and Gorunda, he scowled. Soon he was in the middle of a furious rant. "You old coots! And you, Theaded, you TRAITOR! You send me and two humans five hundred years into the past just for the fun of it, then demand Roxias to go on mad quest to save us?! Where ARE Madge and Doug?! Bring them too, or I'll--"
"The bargain never included that I'd bring the Bryants back as well. The bargain was that Roxias would do various tasks till midnight, and if I was satisfied, I'd bring you back," said Gorunda. "Don't worry, I'll bring the Bryant back as well, when the time is right."
"And when's THAT?! The end of the world?!" spat Spring, shaking with rage. "Bring my parents back! NOW! It's like... like MURDER, keeping them in the past!"
"As I said, I'll bring them back when the time is right. And that will be a few months more, I'm afraid," said the wizened old Nimmo calmly.
Roxias held Spring back from attacking Gorunda, though he was tempted to, himself. Instead, the Lupe asked, his voice trembling slightly from anger (it turned out he wasn't too tired to be angry, after all), "Why wait a few more months? And what was the purpose of all this, anyway? Sending our friend back into the past and sending us on a wild goose chase?"
"We only sent YOU on that quest. It wasn't our intention that your friends followed you," pointed out Theaded. "As for the purpose... as I said, I wanted to test you. Make sure you're worthy."
"Worthy of what?!"
"Of taking on the task ahead of you," said Theaded simply.
"What does that mean?! Who ARE you, anyway?!" demanded Scout.
"I am Eddetha the Immortal. An ancient wizard who's made several mistakes, which will, in just a little while, contribute to a darkness rising up and casting its shadow all over Neopia. A darkness that, according to prophecy, only seven specific individuals can defeat: Eddetha's heir, human Blumaroo, one of royal breed, timidly brave Grundo, and time travelers three. Spring Inezstep, Lila "Scout" Capernaum, Xinsarqusay the Grundo, Hansuke Smith, Machiko "Madge" Bryant, Douglas "Doug" Bryant... and Roxias Brown Elbuort." Theaded looked at Roxias with a grim smile. "I couldn't have any children of my own. So, when I learned my heir would be part of the team that stopped the darkness that took power due to my foolish mistakes--would be the main one to actually stop that darkness, in fact--I decided I would try to find the right person to name my heir. But nobody I could find in my time fit the bill, and of course "humans" and "Grundos" hadn't come around yet, so I had to wait. I waited and waited for centuries, using the Elixir of Youth I'd created to make myself young, then letting myself age again as I lived out a life in a certain neighborhood. I don't know how many different lives I've lived, how many different people I've been, waiting for a worthy heir to rise up, but finally, you're here, along with four of your future teammates."
"Wait, wait... are you saying Roxias is your heir?" questioned Scout, eyebrows shooting up. "As in, you're adopting him?"
"In a sense." Theaded--or was it Eddetha?--suddenly stood up, and walked over to Roxias, seizing his hand. Roxias yelped as what felt like electricity surged from Theaded's hand into Roxias's arm, then throughout his entire body.
Theaded slowly stepped back, nodding in satisfaction. "There. It's done."
"What's done?" asked Roxias, bewildered and angry.
"You'll find out soon enough," said Theaded, waving his hand.
There was a flash of light, then suddenly, Roxias, Scout, Grandpa Hansuke, and Spring were standing in Eliv Thade's kitchen. Thade himself was nowhere to be found, but Xin was sitting at the table eating a snack.
"You're back! You weren't eaten!" cried Xin joyously, tackle-hugging Roxias. He looked up and noticed the expressions on the group's faces. "What... what's wrong?"
Spring stormed silently out of the kitchen. After a moment they could hear the little human kicking some unfortunate piece of furniture, screaming like an angry meowclops the whole time.
"...I'll go check up on her..." muttered Scout, slinking off to find the younger girl.
"What happened?" asked Xin, eyes wide. "Is she okay? Why do you guys look so angry? And why's Grandpa Han in those funny clothes?"
"...It's a long story, Xin," sighed Roxias. "And too bizarre for me to even think about right now."
"Let's just find the girls, and head back to ship," suggested Grandpa Hansuke. "We all too emotional to think straight right now. Tomorrow, when you kids rested and we're all cooled down, we can try to sort this out."
"Sounds like a plan," said Roxias, heading in the direction of Scout and Spring's quietly talking voices. Confused, Xin followed.
They wouldn't be able to sort out what had happened to them that strange Valentine's Day, though. Not the day after, nor the day or week or month after that. It would be months, in fact, before they could even make a little sense of what Theaded and Gorunda had been trying to do.
But for now, they collected a distraught little girl crying for parents she'd never really known, and headed back to The Nomad.
Madge stared gloomily at the disappearing sun. If she could cry any more, she would, but she'd seemed to have used up all her tears over the past three days.
Three days. That's how long it had been since Hansuke had disappeared, back to his own time... and Madge, Doug, and Ben had been left behind. Still stuck in Faerieland, centuries away from their loved ones, including their daughter, now just a couple years short of adolescence.
It wasn't fair!
Madge sighed, and leaned against the wall, musing that the oncoming night perfectly reflected her dark mood. Her dark life, really. What had she done, that she deserved to be punished like this, separated from everyone and everything she held dear?
"I thought I'd find you on our balcony."
Well, ALMOST everyone.
"Well, you know me. Whether I'm happy or sad, to the balcony I go at sunrise and dusk," said Madge with a forced smile as Doug joined her by the wall. "Where's Ben?"
"Avani's looking after him. I figured we should spend a little time alone together, to sort this mess out."
Madge snorted. "Sort it out how? No matter what we try, we apparently aren't getting home without Gorunda's help, which she obviously won't give anytime soon."
"You honestly don't think Hansuke coming here was a sign?"
"A sign of what? That Gorunda is able to take us back home, but won't?"
"A sign that she's GOING to take us back home fairly soon. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next month, but at some point we're going home."
Madge looked at him skeptically, then gradually realized he was completely serious. "You really believe that."
"I do. Just as I believe we were sent to this time for a reason." Doug took Madge's hand. "We're in the middle of something beyond our control, Madge, but that doesn't mean we can't control our own actions and thoughts. We can either make the best of this situation, or sit around and sulk and make everything a thousand times worse. I don't know about you, but I'm choosing the first one."
Madge sighed. "...I guess I should, too, then. Though I'm not sure I can."
"I'm sure you can. You've always been the fieriest, bravest, craziest, most stubborn person I know."
Madge grinned. "And you've always been a shameless flatterer."
The two smiled at each other, then watched as the sun vanished over the horizon. The night would be long, and full of shadows, but they knew the sun would reappear eventually, and in the meantime, they had the stars, pinpricks of light fighting against the darkness, to give them hope.