One Shred of Light: Part Two
Caelum opened her eyes, waking from another haunting dream. She sighed, her heart was heavy with unanswered questions. The Air Faerie rose and went to the window, pulling the curtains back. She looked out; it was already late into the day. Below her, in one of the many courtyards surrounding the palace, she saw Valeane and Fiona walking, heads together, laughing as they shared some joke.
She hastily shut the curtains; Fiona was simply a reminder of her distress. She hurriedly dressed and made her way down to the palace library. In the afternoons she was an assistant librarian, and during the nights she helped make potions for Marina to sell to the Neopets who dwelt in Faerieland. There weren't very many, Neopia and the Faeries were rather separate from each other still, but that was changing. Another hundred years or two and Caelum was sure Faerieland and Neopia would have constant contact with each other.
Caelum arrived at the library and nodded a greeting to the head librarian. The librarian nodded in return and pointed to a basket full of books. Caelum spent the rest of her shift returning the books to their proper places. When the day ended, she left and went down to one of her favorite restaurants to eat supper. As soon as she finished eating, she headed to Marina's pool on the edge of the city.
Behind the pool was a workshop, which was where she was headed.
"Good evening, Caelum. I trust you had a good day?" Marina asked as she entered.
Marina was pushing herself about in the wheeled chair she used when she was outside of the water, gathering ingredients for her potions. They had come a long way in only the last few decades. Poultices were a thing of the past; the potions worked far more efficiently.
"I did. I hope you all did, as well," Caelum replied, nodding two the other two Faeries who were already at work.
Caelum sat down and pulled her mortar and pestle towards herself, dumping a handful of herbs in it to grind. The other Faeries chattered to her about their day and she joined in the conversation. The door opened unexpectedly; they all ceased talking turned to look. Fiona stepped in and smiled shyly at them.
"Hello there. I'm sorry to just drop in on you like this. I was just wondering if you'd like some extra help. I'm still trying to find where I can fit in here now that I'm recovered. You were so good to me when I arrived in Faerieland, after..." Her words trailed off. "I have some experience with herbs; I used to grow them for various purposes when I lived in the Haunted Woods."
Marina smiled widely. "Thank you so much, Fiona. We'd love an extra hand. If you seem to be a good fit for it, I'd love to hire you on."
Fiona's smile widened a little, and she sat down next to Caelum on the bench. Marina brought her a mortar and pestle; already with the herbs she needed ground in it. Fiona watched Caelum for a moment, studying how she did it. Caelum smiled at her, turning slightly in her seat and pushing her mortar closer to Fiona so she'd have a better view. Fiona started to grind hers, mimicking Caelum's movements.
They worked and chatted about various things. Finally the topic turned to Fiona's arrival in Faerieland. It had been sudden and dramatic. She had teleported right into a fountain in the middle of one of the palace courtyards. She was barely conscious, her body covered in burns left by Magax's magic. Caelum and two other faeries had pulled her out of the fountain and brought her to Marina. When Fiona was able, Valeane had spoken to her, questioning her about what happened. The substance of it was pretty well known around Faerieland, but all of the girls wanted to hear it from Fiona herself.
"I don't know what to say, really," Fiona replied. "It just happened, without warning or provocation."
"Did you know him beforehand?" one of the faeries asked.
"By reputation. I have given Hubrid Nox some of the herbs I grew in the past. When Hubrid Nox asks something of you, you don't say no, especially if want to continue living peaceably in the Haunted Woods. A Chia would usually show up to collect it; I'd never actually dealt with either of them. I won't pretend I've been perfect. I'm a Dark Faerie; I enjoyed teasing lost travelers and scaring Neovian children, but I couldn't have ever been that cruel. I was in my herb garden when he suddenly appeared. He didn't say anything, and I didn't have time. He just started attacking with bolts of his spectral lighting. I tried to defend myself, but I was nothing against him. I realized all I could do was escape. My mind was a panicked mess, but I managed to seize on an image of one of the palace courtyards as I flew over it years ago. I teleported, and I don't remember anything after that until I woke up here. Valeane told me that you were the one who pulled me out of the fountain, Caelum, and that you helped take me to the Healing Springs. So, thank you."
Caelum smiled. "I'm just glad I was there."
The chatter after that focused on ripping at Magax. The bitterness was just as Valeane had promised it would be; the Faeries would never forgive him. Caelum's mind was distant, as it had been lately, lost in distant memories. Marina noticed Caelum's silence.
"Caelum, will you help me?" Marina asked as she wheeled herself towards the storeroom.
Caelum got up and followed her in. Once in the privacy of the other room, Marina shut the door and asked, "Are you feeling all right, dear? You haven't been your usual self for the past few weeks."
Caelum leaned against a wall and sighed. "I've had something on my mind for the past few weeks, but I'm not sure what to do about it. I also don't know if I can even talk about it, because what I would have to say... I have a feeling it would upset my fellow Faeries."
"Does it have something to do with Magax?" Marina guessed. She had noticed Caelum never participated in conversations about him. It wasn't surprising that she didn't, but she had been especially distant since Fiona showed up.
"It does," Caelum admitted.
"Go see Fyora, Caelum. She will know how to set your mind at ease and set you on the path of whatever it is you feel you need to do. Valeane has certainly taken her time about mastering those swords and setting about avenging Anastasia. It has certainly been a long wait for you."
Marina's advice was good, even though her guess about what Caelum wanted was completely wrong. Caelum nodded slowly, seeing the wisdom in her words.
"Go right now. I'm sure she'll see you," Marina encouraged her.
Caelum smiled. "You're right. Speaking to Fyora is the best thing to do. Thank you, Marina."
"Just, be careful, and don't do anything that would make us lose you too."
Caelum walked into the palace and stopped one of Fyora's attendants in a hall to ask where Fyora was. She directed her to Fyora's sitting room. Caelum went there directly and knocked on the door. Fyora called to her to enter. When Caelum walked in, she saw that Valeane was there too. Caelum faltered for a moment, then took courage. Valeane would know before long if Fyora gave her blessing.
"My Queen, I need your counsel on a matter," Caelum said. "That is, if I'm not interrupting."
Fyora smiled at her. "No, you're not. Valeane and I were just talking. Sit, dear, and tell me what troubles you."
Caelum sat on a sofa and Fyora turned her chair from the desk to face her.
"Fyora, I wish to seek out Magax," Caelum said.
Valeane frowned at her. "Caelum, you know that I intend to find him and punish him when the time is right. He is too powerful for you to face on your own. When the time comes, though, I will gladly accept your aid."
"I'm afraid that is not my intention," Caelum said, unable to meet their eyes. She twisted her hands in her lap, knowing that what she was about to say would not go over well. "I do not wish to fight him, or punish him for what he did my sister. I want to try to... change him."
Fyora's eyebrows rose and Valeane exploded with wrath.
"Change him, Caelum? He's nothing but a monster, a monster who tried to enslave the entire world. The monster who killed your sister. Look at what he did to Fiona just weeks ago! Have you gone mad?"
"Valeane, that is quite enough," Fyora said in a calm voice, waving at the faerie to be seated again. She turned her attention to Caelum once Valeane had returned to her seat and said, "Caelum, I think you need to explain. What brought about this desire?"
Caelum rallied and looked Fyora in the eye when she spoke next.
"After my sister fell in battle two hundred years ago, Valeane returned with the blades of fire and ice. She placed them in Anastasia's crypt and left them with her for a time, unable to bring herself to wield them. Not long after she was laid to rest, I went to the crypt. I wanted to see the swords; I was hoping they would still have a little of my sister's essence. I touched them, and as my fingers came in contact with them, a scene unfolded before my eyes. I saw Magax as he brought the final blow down upon my sister." Caelum stopped to take a few calming breaths, and then began again, "After that scene unfolded before my eyes, I heard a voice. It was Anastasia's voice. She said, 'There's one shred of light in him, fighting against all the darkness, and it may just win.' I knew then, she was speaking to me. She desired that I seek him and try to find a way to help that one shred of light win. I pushed it to the back of my mind after it happened. Something in my heart told me it was not the right time to act. However, since Fiona appeared, I feel that something has changed. I dream of that vision every day. My heart now tells me that it is time, that this is perhaps the only time I can fulfill my sister's last request. However, I will not act on my own. I need your blessing, my queen. If you deem it unwise, I will not go."
Fyora sat silently for a long while, thinking over what Caelum had told her. At last she spoke. "As unwise such a course of action may be, if that voice came from the swords, Anastasia's or not, then we should heed its wisdom. They are deep magic, and only they know what ability they granted Anastasia in that last moment, or what she might have seen in him in that time."
Fyora rose and went to a chest of drawers. She took a potion from a middle drawer and brought it to Caelum.
"As a faerie, you stand no chance in his eyes. Our race as a whole will never forgive what he did, and he knows that. He will have no sympathy for you if he knows what you really are. As a Neopet, you might have a small chance. He will not see you as a threat. This will transform you into one for two months, no longer. I will summon you again when things are ready for you to begin your quest. Do not drink it before I summon you."
Valeane gave no protest, though she looked like she wanted to. Caelum took the potion, holding it tight.
"I don't know if I can do anything, my queen, anything to change him. Still, if this was Anastasia's last request of me, I have to try. Thank you for understanding," Caelum said, her voice shaking with emotion.
Fyora put a hand on the top of her head. "Good luck, my child. The blessings of our people go with you."
To be continued...