The Meeting of the Council of Twelve
COUNCIL CHAMBER, Altador.
The magic of 1,000 years flowed through the Protector's body and the woman knew that, finally, a hero had arisen to break the spell that the magician herself had cast those long, dark years ago...
Jerdana awoke with a start from her tumultuous daydream. Despite the fact that the event that had freed the slumbering world of Altador had occurred almost ten years ago, the memory of the day was still as new in her mind as if it had occurred yesterday. The sentiment was not surprising. The city had been in a magical sleep for 1,000 years. What were mere years compared to centuries?
The Council Chamber shone in the center of the ancient city of Altador. It was surrounded by the Hall of Heroes, a tribute to the past, the Observatory, once its only link to the future, and the Altadorian Archives, where Finneus watched over the library and Altador's storied history with its mystical Book of Ages. To its right was Exquisite Ambrosia, a shop for food and drink, and to its left was Magical Marvels, an antique shop of various enchanted items, Illustrious Armory, a store of weapons, armor and potions, and Legendary Petpets, a quaint outlet providing companions for any Neopet. Spread about the countryside, port and forest were many other areas too numerous to name. Altador was indeed a great and vast city-state, but its center was always the Council of Twelve.
The bright chamber with its white marble columns, high arches and wide, open windows made it seem like it was on fire itself, just like the city's symbol, the sun, that marked the center of the eleven thrones that surrounded the room.
Each chair was unique and had a name inscribed:
Jerdana, the Protector. Siyana, the First to Rise. Kelland, the Thief. Florin, the Farmer. Torakor, the Gladiator. Marak, the Wave. Fauna, the Gatherer. Psellia, the Dreamer. Gordos, the Collector. Sasha, the Dancer. And at the honored position, King Altador, the Hunter.
One space, left empty in the lone circle, once bore the name of the Darkest Faerie, also known as the Sleeper, but was now ruined and none knew if it would ever be occupied again.
The Aisha who sat under the second largest throne in the Council Chamber could not muse for long for, around her own chair that read "Jerdana, the Protector", there were ten other seats. Only one was unoccupied – the largest chair, that of King Altador, the Hunter.
The meeting of the Council of Twelve was a standard in the government of Altador. Although Altador had a monarch, affairs were still decided by the Council. And the Council's first issue of discussion was, in fact, to be about the missing King.
"The report on our present predicament?" Jerdana asked without further ado. No further explanation was required. All present knew what she had asked for the King's quest to find the one known now as the Betrayer was on the mind of the entire city that the brave Lupe had founded. You see, the twelfth Councilman, the one whose stone chair had long since been removed from the Chamber and whose likeness in the Hall of Heroes had been stripped, had mysteriously disappeared from her prison in the now fallen city of the Faeries.
The first to speak was a light faerie and one so opposed to the dark faerie – indeed the Darkest Faerie, the now named Betrayer – that her position was now head of the party dedicated to finding the cursed Statue. Siyana, the First to Rise, as was her throne title, glistened as she spoke, the light of her kind barely contained. "I have sought the dark one out, but have found no clue to her fate. Oracles, nor magic, nor light have betrayed her presence. I am afraid she knew well to conceal herself from us and I fear the worst."
"You cannot give in to fear or darkness," a young Cybunny, indeed the youngest member of the Council, replied. It was Sasha, the Dancer, and none could ever shake her eternal optimism. Not even the King's absence. "We will find both our King and our fallen comrade."
"It is one of the hardest things in Neopia for a faerie to betray her true nature," replied a dreamy-eyed air faerie aptly named the Dreamer, Psellia. "The wind has not called of harm to Altador. Perhaps our Darkest is not always so."
"A report from the field is in order." Jerdana motioned to three members of the Council, each knowledgeable of the world in his own way.
"There is no report from the various adventurers that I have met." The Grarrl Torakor, the Gladiator, bowed as was his custom. "The nations of Neopia appear peaceful, an event the Darkest Faerie would loath to see."
"You speak only of your narrow vision, my friend," cried the Peophin Marak, the Wave, ever a rival to the warrior. "You speak of only the land. What of the sky, oceans and depths? Surely, she could be anywhere by now."
"I have heard nothing from my network," a stealthy Techo, Kelland, the once Thief, who sat in the farthest corner chimed in. "If someone knows of her whereabouts, a source will come to light from the varied back alleys of the world. It always has."
Perhaps, no news was good news, thought Jerdana, wistfully. "And what of our kingdom in our lord's absence?"
"Nature still runs its course, like always," replied the Farmer, Florin, a Kacheek, followed by the Gatherer, Fauna, an Acara. "And the little creatures of the land could not be better, especially the local Yooyus."
"Speaking of the Yooyu, the annual tournament continues to be a success and a constant source of revenue," replied a Skeith, one called Gordo, as he habitually counted the shiny gold coins in his hand. "Trade is well, travelers continue to visit and renovations are to start soon." The Collector laughed. "You worry too much, Jerdana."
"Perhaps," Altador's greatest mage replied in thoughtful contemplation. It seemed nothing had changed. It was as if King Altador had disappeared in an instant when he vowed to chase his once best friend and advisor, the Darkest Faerie, to the ends of Neopia.
Jerdana thought of the time before the Great Betrayal, a time of longevity, culture and enlightenment, and the fateful events that followed due to the turning of the Darkest Faerie. It seemed to her at the time that the kingdom would never be freed from the enchantment she was forced to cast to save the history of Altador. But the city had been saved and light fell on Altador once again due to the efforts of just one fated hero. How had they passed the old, disgruntled janitor, found the bookish librarian and his odd book, found the right stone on the Flat Rock Quarry, lit the Hall of Heroes once more, found the Observatory and its faithful club, learned the secret of the Constellations, discovered the Restive Tomb and the lights on the Hall's ceiling, the pattern in the clouds, the circle on the ground, the broken windmill, the lights at the dance, the timed crashing of the waves, the combination of drink in the Coliseum, found the coin, purse and scales, grasped the hidden dagger, rescued the poor creature, saved the city from a flood of the aqueducts, gained access to the amulet, revealed the last clue and, finally, destroyed the statue of the Sleeper with the amulet and spellbook, thus freeing Altador from the grand puzzle of her own design?
For that reason, Jerdana knew in her heart of hearts that things once lost, no matter how long, distant or hidden, will always return to light again.
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