Deals with Magax: Part One
Rosemary the Eyrie stood at the gate of the graveyard, heart pounding with fear, dizzy with uncertainty. She kept on switching her gaze from the path she had just come by to the old gate, then back to the path; wondering which was more dangerous. Considering she had been walking around the Haunted Woods for three days now and was still alive and well, her good luck had been nothing short of miraculous. But luck is not known for its consistency and Rosemary was plagued by the thought that hers might have run out.
Her mother had told her that Magax would probably be in a graveyard but no matter what, she shouldn't go in. Even if Rose saw him through the gates, she should never go inside. It was not because graveyards were dangerous, supernatural places; only foreigners would believe such drivel. On the contrary, graveyards could be considered safer than most; ghosts are known to be protective of their descendants and residents of their tribes. In which case foreigners are right to be afraid but Rosemary actually was a native, so she was good on that end. But that was not the issue. If Magax was there then it was logical to suppose that Hubrid Nox might be there as well. And Rose was doing her best not to run into that very Chia.
But if she didn't go in, she might never meet Magax. Wandering around the Woods alone in and of itself was life-threatening; she had to find Magax, and soon.
Somehow, she managed to find a balance between the two: she would watch from the rails and only go in if she saw him. So there she stood, for a good two minutes, in utter torment. Fear was playing tricks on her. She saw scary forms in the dancing shadows and jumped every time an owl hooted.
The reason she was at the cemetery in the first place was that presumably Magax would be found near Hubrid Nox's minions. When Rosemary had sensed a few of them earlier, she had quickly followed them from a distance. She had also thought about how funny her situation was - as she went from tree-shadow to tree-shadow - that she was pursuing her pursuers; about how funny the irony of the situation would have been if she had been in the safety of her home, if she had been doing her chores, walking the streets of her home town or doing anything except just that.
An explosion sounded from inside the cemetery, making poor Rosemary almost have a heart attack. She looked up hurriedly, trying to see what was going on, but it was too dark and she couldn't see much. There was a faint clang like metal on metal, accompanied by high-pitched shrieks that could not have been uttered by any being with breath in its lungs... and the sound of someone fighting. Not the undead minions of Nox but someone alive and breathing: the sound of grunts and battle cries were carried by the wind over to Rosemary. Was it Magax? Dare she believe that she had finally found him?
Now was the moment of truth: venture into the graveyard on a hunch, or stay outside where she was safer? Then - it could have been her imagination - but she could have sworn she saw some green light, like the light of the ax Magax was said to wield. That decided it. Before she could consider the dangers - like what would happen if it wasn't Magax - Rosemary opened the gate and ran towards the sound of battle like the Pant Devil was after her. (In her opinion, though, Nox was a lot worse than the Pant Devil.)
By the time Rosemary reached the battle, it sounded as if it was over. Four shapeless forms, what Rosemary assumed were Nox's minions, lye on the ground, defeated. Their species was indecipherable, they could have been anything when they were alive, before Nox did whatever it is he did to them. The dust was still settling and small rocks clattered here and there. A dark form crouched on the ground.
It was him. Magax.
From the light of the moon, she could just about make out his features. He was bit shorter than she had imagined. He wasn't very short, only Rosemary had always imagined him to be tall and imposing; eight feet or so, she had pictured him. But he was only normal sized. Five feet? Give or take a few, she supposed. He wore an open green vest, with sliver around the edges and no shirt underneath, showing off his ripped muscles; black pants with a utility belt that had a pouch and a sheathed dagger attached. A skull necklace hung from his neck, emitting a powerful aura that Rosemary could feel from twenty feet away. The stories said that Nox had given Magax that necklace and that was the source of his powers. Even though he wasn't as tall as she had imagined, he was still intimidating. He exuded an aura of strength and power. He had a fighter's quick movements and his face held an expression that dared anyone to defy him. But more than all of the above, he held the scariest looking ax Rosemary had ever seen.
It was massive, a double-headed battle ax that, if stood up straight from the ground, would be a bit taller than Magax. It looked like it had been made from silver and steeped in some ancient, forbidden magic, giving it an unearthly green tinge to it that was like gas fire, lighting up nothing but itself in the darkness. Come to think of it, that's probably exactly how it had been made. The tips of the blades were black as death and, unless her eyes were deceiving her, the air was frosting around the tips.
Magax put his ax away onto his back and turned to walk away. Rosemary panicked and shouted out, "Wait!"
Magax whirled around and his eyes instantly homed in on her. He crossed the distance between them and had his ax pointed at her before she could even speak another word.
"Who are you?" Magax hissed.
Instant fear and panic swept through her as she stared into those ruthless, red eyes. Her mind went blank when she most needed it, making her struggle to form a coherent answer.
"I-I'm Rosemary," she stammered, then quickly added, "Sir."
Magax frowned. "I sense Nox's magic. How do I know you're not Nox?!" When she swallowed and tried to form an answer he barked, "Speak up!"
"No!" She tried to hold up her hands in protest but he swung his battle ax closer to her. She could not move.
Rosemary had predicted and feared many horrible situations, but not this. She had always imagined Nox or something equally horrible would get a hold of her, but she had never even considered that Magax might not believe her! Now that she thought about it, why would he believe her? How could she have been so stupid not to predict this? That even if she got past Nox and all the other monsters and threats of the Woods, Magax was also a problem to be dealt with.
All this ran through her head in seconds, she blurted out before Magax could get any more impatient, "I'm Rosemary and I wish to be your partner!'
Magax frowned with confusion. Of all the things he was expecting, she could tell this was not one of them.
"Please, Magax, sir, if you could just move this ax away a bit, I could explain..."
He gave her a suspicious glare, then slowly lowered his ax. It was still in perfect striking distance but at least she could talk now. Rosemary took a moment to thank her lucky stars, then cleared her throat.
"I should start at the beginning. That would be when I first discovered my powers. One year ago I heard voice calling to me from a graveyard, late at night. It woke me from my sleep and I crept out of bed to be closer to the voice. When I answered, it answered back. We had a conversation, though I can't remember what it was about. Next thing I knew, I woke up in my bed so I thought it was just a dream. But I realize now it wasn't."
Magax gave her a questioning look but didn't interrupt.
"Up until two weeks ago, I didn't give it another thought. Even though I would know things about Neopets long dead, what they looked like, who they were friends with, I ignored it. I convinced myself it was an over active imagination. But two weeks ago..."
She shuddered, "I had an argument with a friend. I went to the graveyard to calm down; I wanted some time alone. I started to circle a random tombstone, muttering to myself about everything that had happened and complaining. And then..." Rosemary closed her eyes, taking a deep, calming breath to ease her fears. The memory was still fresh in her mind and relating it to Magax was like reliving the awful experience.
"I heard a voice, someone responding to me. At first I thought that it was just somebody hiding and playing a trick on me. We talked for a bit, about the argument and all. When I became annoyed that he was still hiding I ordered him to show himself. So he did. But he wasn't a live 'pet like I thought. He was a soul, all white and glowing, with red eyes."
Rosemary shuddered again and her eyes went off into the distance as she remembered. "I didn't know it at the time but it was the Neopet I had talked to that night, long ago. H-he stared at me; his red, red eyes looked right at me." She wrapped her arms around herself, feeling chilled suddenly, even though the temperature hadn't changed. "Before I could say anything, he said, 'You summoned me, Rosemary. You summoned me here a year ago and now I am here again because of you'."
"And then I heard someone approaching. It was Rob, the town butcher. He was staring at the two of us and he looked so pale. He was scared of me. Me! Like I was a monster. Then he took off and ran back to the village. I ran after him. I called to him to stop, to help me but he just kept running.
"Rob reached the village a minute or so before me. When I finally arrived, there was a crowd in the square and they were all looking at me. My mom and dad were there. I didn't know what was going on. The mayor told me to come with him. I didn't know what else to do so I followed him and he led me to the town jail. They locked me inside a cell. No one was willing to tell me what was going on. I spent a couple of days down there not knowing what was going on and what was going to happen.
"On the third day of my imprisonment, I woke up to the sound of steps on the stairs. It was my mother. She was there to explain. Mom told me that everyone was afraid because of the ghost that I summoned. I asked her what she meant by that. I hadn't summoned anything! Mom looked at me sadly and she said, 'Do you remember that night one year ago when you went to the graveyard? I followed you, that night. I saw everything that happened. When you told me about what happened the next morning I convinced you that it was all a dream. Rosemary, honey, you have necromancy magic. It is a very rare magic. The only other live Neopet that I know of that has it is--'"
"Hubrid Nox," Magax cut in, his voice tight.
Rosemary nodded sullenly, looking at the ground, not meeting his eyes. She didn't want to look up and see his expression, afraid that she might lose courage to go on.
"Mother went on to tell me that Rob was an old Neopets and had been around when Nox had attacked our tribe a long time ago. He knew firsthand what necromancy looked like, so he recognized the similarities between myself and Nox. And he knew that if Nox learned of my powers then surely he would try to kidnap me and force me to be his apprentice. So they had locked me up for my own safety. And theirs. The tribe was divided between the people who feared Nox's wrath, and those who didn't want me hurt. Mom left me then, telling me that my fate would be determined in a few days' time.
"Eventually they let me out. It seemed that the mayor had been able to reach an agreement that satisfied both sides. Everyone knows about you and how you're Hubrid Nox's archenemy. So the mayor said that the safest place for me would be with you; plus, if I'm with you, you could help me control my power and maybe I could even help you in your war against Nox.
"They searched around until they found your whereabouts. And then they sent me off with directions. And, well, here I am."
There, the story was over. Still, Magax said nothing. Come to think of it, he hadn't said much of anything, had he? Was he just being polite? Rosemary glanced up at him. He was still standing there with his ax poised, ever ready to strike at her. Rosemary felt fear overwhelm her. What if Magax didn't believe her? What if he just decided to strike her down and be done with it? If, if, if.
Rosemary was desperate. She started babbling, "So, I wanted to go with you. I think I could help you, what with my magic and all. I could, I don't know, dispel anything you want me to or - um..." he still wasn't saying anything, "Please, Mr. Magax, if you don't take me with you then - then Hubrid Nox will come and take me o-or something else will. I don't have a home! I don't have anywhere else to go to! You are my last resort. If you don't take me with you, then..." Rosemary trailed off, wondering what she would do if he refused her. Her own home had thrown her out. They didn't want her any more. All her friends, family, she couldn't go back anymore. What more was there to life? She had never really thought about what she wanted to be when she grew up but she still had dreams. Dreams of being a ballerina, dreams of love, dreams of being a poet.
It was as though her powers had smashed her life, leaving her with nothing that made sense. She had never wondered whether she would have any breakfast, if she would have any rest that night, if she would be safe while she slept. All these things that she had been fortunate to take for granted; safety, food, a place to sleep, a roof; she might just never be sure of having them again. No, if Magax did not take her on then she was a goner. Nox would find her, she was sure of it. And then, bad things would happen. Rosemary had heard the stories about Hubrid Nox, she could guess what would happen. He could kill her, for one, to stop any form of opposition in the future. But she was sure he wouldn't do that, it didn't seem his style. No, he would probably come take her and try to convince her to join him. It would work too, she was sure. With his persuasive powers, there was no doubt. If she had to choose between life as Nox's apprentice and certain death in this horrible place, what choice would she have?
All the desperation drained out of her, leaving her with just a heavy dread of something unavoidable. Fear clutched her chest, making it hard to breath. Suddenly, she felt very, very tired. She bowed her head. All was lost. Was there anything that could be done? Perhaps, perhaps. She would think about it another time. But not now. Definitely not now. That would be too much.
"That's still not proof that you're not Nox," Magax said, though he didn't sound nearly as suspicious.
Rosemary looked up and realized that all was not lost. Magax might not believe her but he still hadn't killed her - that had to be a good sign! She still had to try; all was not lost.
"What could I possibly do to make you believe? I'd do anything! Please, Magax, just try me. I won't let you down!"
Magax was silent for a while but this time Rosemary was sure that it was because he was trying to think up a way for her to prove herself. This she could deal with! She felt a stab of hope.
"Um, I don't know, maybe I could..." Rosemary stopped. What could she do? Promise to always do good and feed homeless Puppyblews?
Magax, quite unexpectedly, put away his ax. Rosemary's eyes snapped up at him in surprise. He didn't meet her gaze and turned around. "Follow me."
"Um... where are we going? Do you believe me?"
Magax turned around and looked her straight in the eye. After a second or so he said, "Nox is an ancient Neopet. He uses his necromancy to cheat death and prolong his life, among other things.
"Nox uses his magic purely for death, and so, you can feel it when you stand around him. It is like standing next to the grim reaper himself. You can feel your life being sucked out of your body, as he turns his surrounding energy into his own life force. But you - you are still full of life, sustained by your own life force. You are not cheating death. You have not passed the day you should have died. You are, as of yet, alive. You give off a life-giving energy and so, there is no way you could be Hubrid Nox."
He looked back and continued on, not looking back to see her follow.
* * *
Rosemary stood at the door to her house, thinking about what her life had been like when she had lived under its roof. The simple, happy childhood she had known was over. It was as though she had grown up and moved out. That wasn't a bad way of looking at it. She knocked on the door.
Her mother opened up. If Rosemary had made any decision or promise to herself not to cry, it was broken then and there as they shared a tearful but happy hug. Rosemary's mother called to her father and then the hugging and crying started up again. Her father saw Magax standing outside and called for him to come inside. When Magax hesitated he declared that they didn't have all day and any friend of his daughter's had better come inside and have some tea! So Magax came inside and Rosemary's mother made them all a cup of tea.
When they were all sitting on couches, sipping their mugs of tea (Magax was looking highly uncomfortable and Rosemary figured it must have been a long time since he sat in a living room, let alone sip a mug of tea), Rosemary stopped talking of trivial things and got down to the final words and goodbyes.
"Mom, Dad, I know you're worried about me. Frankly, I'm worried about myself. I won't lie: I've started seeing some pretty dangerous situations. But I don't mind that much. I have a chance to really do something for the world. I've talked to Magax and he told me that my powers would really help him, not only to defeat Nox, but also to reverse the affects that Nox has created. Don't worry about me. Magax is really strong; he'll protect me."
They all got up and the family shared one last hug while Magax stood off to the side. When she left her family's arms and headed towards to door, Magax followed. Her father stopped him at the door and looked in his eyes.
"My daughter, take care of her."
Magax nodded, "I swear it."
Her father nodded, satisfied, and let go of his arm.
The two walked off into the night.
To be continued...