One Shred of Light: Part Three
Caelum exited her house on the surface of the planet of Neopia. If she looked hard, she could just make out a speck of cloud on the distant horizon. That speck of cloud had been her home for the last few hundred years, but for the two months it would be banned to her.
She walked slowly down the steps from the small cottage, through the long grasses that were swaying in the wind. Her paws made no noise; she may have changed her appearance, but her Air Faerie grace remained unchanged.
She found a large rock sticking up out of the ground. It stood up to almost level with the tops of the grass. She climbed it and sat down, looking out over the fields. She felt a deep pain inside of her as she surveyed the land. It was beautiful, lush, and full of life; it was as if it had forgotten the faeries who had fallen on that field, protecting the world from the reign of a cruel necromancer.
Or, maybe it hadn't. Perhaps its abundant life was a tribute to their sacrifice. Caelum closed her eyes, drawing up cold faded memories of her early childhood. Anastasia had been much older than she, and she had admired her with everything in her. She had been the older girl's shadow from the time she could walk. Anastasia had been kind to her always, even when having the small Faerie trailing around after her must have been a nuisance.
She opened her eyes turned her eyes away from the field and to the forest. It loomed ominous over everything, its dead wood and eternal cloud cover polluting the sky to that horizon. It was not far from her cottage, but far enough to be safe. Few denizens of the forest would come to bother her.
She wondered how she would get the one she wanted to come calling. She got up and stood on the rock, looking out into the field again. She couldn't see it, but she knew that the fields rolled out untouched until they reached the sea.
"Anastasia, guide me. Help me to accomplish this last wish you made of me. Help me to find that one shred of light you say yet glows within dark within him," she whispered.
The wind took her words and carried them away into the woods.
Caelum was kneeling in her garden the next day, working hard weeding it with the tools she had been given. Her work was clumsy, and she wished she had been born an Earth Faerie instead of an Air Faerie. She was going to have to live on this garden and her own cooking for the next month. She had no magic, and she couldn't go shopping. The nearest village was deep in the Haunted Woods, and it was not a trip she dared risk.
As she was working, a shadow suddenly fell across her. She looked up to find a Wocky standing at her fence, looking in at her. Caelum felt something run through her, something that was similar to an electric shock and a chill, but neither. She examined his face, noting the scar across his eye. She had only seen Magax for a split second in the vision, so she wasn't entirely sure what he looked like, but she had heard about the scar that Valeane had dwelt him, which this Wocky had.
She knelt there, just staring at him, afraid to break the silence. He was the one who broke it.
"What is a Faerie doing in these lands?" he asked, leaning a little forward as he asked the question.
"I beg your pardon?" Caelum said, knowing she had to play dumb.
She knew that at the beginning, after she finally met Magax, if this was indeed Magax, she had to pretend that she was unaware of the history of the area or even of who he was.
"These lands are cursed," he said, waving a hand out towards the rolling fields where the ancient battle had been fought.
"No, those lands are cursed," she said, pointing towards the Haunted Woods. "These are fresh and full of vitality." Caelum pulled a carrot from the rich soil and showed it to him to make her point.
"You don't know anything about these lands, do you?" he asked.
She got up off her knees and looked out across the fields as she wiped her hands on her apron. She shook her head.
"No, I don't. I was unaware they had a history. All I knew was that they were verdant and I was looking for a place like this. Are you a neighbor? I have seen no other dwellings within an hour's walk in all directions, except into the woods."
"I am a neighbor of sorts," he said, his face unchangingly blank and somehow menacing.
"I am Caelum," she said, holding out a hand for him to shake.
He ignored her offered hand and replied, "I am Magax."
She want to cheer, or give a relieved sigh that she had somehow encountered him so soon after coming to the surface, but she could do neither. She simply dropped her hand and smiled brightly at him, telling him it was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.
"You don't know anything about this land or the people here?" he asked, a tone in his voice told her that he suspected that couldn't be true.
"Of course I don't," Caelum chuckled. "I just moved here. How could I know anyone? I hope that we shall know each other before long, neighbor. Would you like to come in for some tea?"
He just looked blankly at her, which she took as a no.
"Then, how about tomorrow?" she asked. "I'll bake biscuits."
Magax suddenly stiffened and she felt a moment of panic, afraid she'd done something to anger or concern him. He relaxed again a moment later and, before she could say another word, leapt into the air and began to fly away. She ran to the fence surrounding her cottage and leaned on it.
"Tomorrow at eleven! Remember!" she shouted after him.
He gave no sign as to hearing her and simply disappeared into the woods. Caelum looked after him a long while, hoping he would come.
"You summoned me, Hubrid?"
"Where have you been?" Hubrid asked as Magax floated through a window and landed on the first floor landing of staircase. Hubrid was paused at the top, his hand on the railing, ready to guide himself to the ground floor.
Magax jumped onto the railing and sat there, looking over at the warlock.
"I was revisiting old hunting grounds," he said with a cryptic smile.
"Magax, you know I do not care for riddles," Hubrid said with a frown as he began his descent. "If I want riddles, I will go see that madman who speaks in anagrams."
"I felt a call and I went to see what it could be. If found that a Faerie is making her home on the old battlefield. She is a Neopet, not a proper Faerie, and she claims no knowledge of the history of the place. Hundreds of years and no one has willingly set foot in there, let alone lived there, and now suddenly a Faerie appears," Magax explained. "Do you think it is mere chance, an ignorant pioneer, something more? She claimed not to know me, she did not fear me, and she even invited me to tea."
Hubrid frowned, pausing again halfway down the stairs. "Perhaps Fiona has set something in motion she did not mean to. She might have failed her mission and been exposed, or they might be taking your supposed attack against an innocent Faerie as the last straw. This girl might be a spy. They wouldn't send a proper Faerie to do that, after all."
"Should I get rid of her, then?" he asked, raising his right hand and making the spectral lightning jump off his fingertips.
"Not just yet," Hubrid said. "Turn the tables on them; watch her. If you keep her under constant surveillance, you'll learn her true motivations soon enough. If the Faeries plan to move against us at last, I would like to know ahead of time. Keep her under watch until we hear from Fiona next, or until she does something to reveal herself if she is some kind of spy or trap."
"Do I have to have tea with her?" Magax groaned in distaste.
"No, you don't have to interact wit her. Simply don't do anything that could prevent you from unmasking her if she turns out to be a spy. I leave the method of your surveillance to your discretion, my friend," Hubrid said as he finished his descent, finally alighting on the ground floor.
"As you wish."
Caelum awoke the next morning and did the usual chores. It had been three days since she had taken the potion, which left her the better part of two months until it would wear off, but every day that went by still brought the knowledge that time was limited. She had met Magax, but now it was up to her to somehow bring out the shred of light that Anastasia had told her was in there.
She was still adjusting to her body, that of a Faerie Wocky. Fyora's potion had allowed her to choose what she would become, and she had chosen a Wocky in hopes that being a similar species would warm him to her when they met. She didn't know if it would help, but she hadn't been able to think of anything better.
Caelum went about her day, eating breakfast, tidying the house, and getting ready for the proposed tea. She had everything ready by eleven, but she still kept fussing about even though there were no more details she could think of to attend to. She finally sat down to wait, but he didn't come.
She walked outside to look for a sign of him. As she scanned the edge of the forest, she noticed someone sitting in a tree. She focused on the figure and realized it was Magax. She walked around her house to stand closer to where he was. She realized that from his tree, he had a perfect vantage point to look into her house from the side window.
She frowned, wondering if he had been there all morning. She hadn't been paying close attention to what was going on outside. If he had been, and looking in, he would have known she was ready for him, so it was strange that he hadn't come.
"Magax?" she called. "Why aren't you coming?"
He didn't answer; he just sat in his tree looking up at the sky, a blank look on his face. She felt flustered; she could feel her face getting hot. There was no doubt that he could hear her; it was a quiet day, and he was only a few yards away.
"Magax, are you ignoring me?" she asked.
He still didn't answer her or make any move to imply that he had heard her. She stood in the silence, which had now become awkward, and waited a few more moments. She felt incredibly embarrassed, uncertain of what to do. He was sitting there in sight of her house, in a place that had a clear vantage of her movements both inside and outside, but he was avoiding actual contact with her. It was very disconcerting, and she didn't know how to react.
"Are you coming?" she asked, her voice shook with uncertainty.
He kept the straight face, like he was the only person in the world and she wasn't talking to him. Anger flared up in her. He was the creature who had slain her sister; she was offering him kindness and he was ignoring her, mocking her in a way. He might not know that she was Anastasia's sister, which would have certainly changed how he was treating her, but it didn't matter to her.
"Be that way then!" she shouted as she turned on her heel.
She stomped back into the house and began clearing away the tea she had set out. As she did so, she glanced out the window and, sure enough, he had a clear view into her house. He was watching the sky, same as when she had left him, but she was certain that there was a smugness on his face that hadn't been there previously. She pulled the drapes closed on that side, hoping to deny him his ability to watch her, if that was his aim in sitting there.
She put her back to the wall and blew air out from between her lips in a sigh.
"Really, Anastasia, him?" she said aloud. "I'll do better tomorrow; I'm sure I will. Perhaps tomorrow he'll be in a better mood. We'll see."
To be continued...