One Shred of Light: Part Eleven
Hubrid Nox walked out of his laboratory and through the halls, coming to the top of the grand staircase and looking down. He saw Fiona lounging alone below him in the foyer. He could tell from her pose that she was sulking.
"What troubles you, Fiona? I assume it has nothing to do with your mission, as you would hardly be foolish enough to return here should you fail me," Nox asked as took the flight of steps.
She turned to look at him, bowing her head respectfully. "No, Master. Valeane is completely wrapped around my little finger. I am almost ready to move my mission into the end stages. I hope to bring the swords to you within the next two weeks."
Nox nodded, looking pleased, and she did her best not to squirm with pleasure at having earned his approval.
"What is your problem, then?"
"I suppose you have noticed that a certain someone is absent often of late?" she asked.
"Magax? No, I have not. My attention has been elsewhere. Why should this concern you. Magax is free to come and go as he pleases when I do not need him, and I have not had need of him in the past few weeks," Nox said.
"He is meeting with that girl who you set him to watch. I think he might be friends with her. It is utterly disgusting. I saw him helping her with chores and eating her food, food from outside of the Haunted Woods," Fiona said it with great distaste. She hated the fare she was forced to eat in Faerieland.
Nox regarded her with a look of wry amusement. "Fiona, are you jealous that there is someone he would rather be spending time with?"
"Master, how could you accuse me of being jealous of some Neopet girl?" she asked, recoiling as if he had smacked her. "I just think it is unseemly; I worry about the effect it is having on Magax."
"Your concerns are noted. If I think steps need to be taken to deal with this, I will take them. For now, put Magax and the girl out of your mind and focus on your mission. I want nothing to distract you from your mission. Those swords must be brought to me."
Fiona rose and bowed low. "Yes, Master."
She teleported herself back to Faerieland, and Nox put Fiona's concerns out of his mind. He would deal with the Faerie girl if she became a problem, for now he was willing to allow Magax to have his distractions.
Caelum was laughing so hard she thought she might throw up. "It does not say that," she forced out through her laughter. "You are making that up."
"It does so," Magax insisted, somehow managing to keep a straight face as he read through the ridiculous passages.
She leaned across the table and tried to snatch the book from him, but he leaned back and raised the book out of her reach. "You don't trust me?"
"Not in the least! Let me see that book," Caelum said, finally managing to bring herself under control.
He hid it behind his back and insisted that she simply had to trust him. She scrambled out of her chair and tried to get behind him, but he jumped into the air and floated up to the ceiling.
"No fair flying! You know it is too cramped in here for me to fly up there after you!" Caelum protested.
"Well, then, I might as well go back to reading it to you then, since you'll never get it back to read it on your own as it is," he told her.
"No, you can't. If you make me laugh any more, my sides will split and I will quite literally die laughing," Caelum said.
"There are worse ways to go," he reminded her.
"That there are, but I really don't care to die tonight thank you. Especially not when I would have lived for far longer if you had just read the book properly."
"Should I do voices?" he asked. "Let's see, I think Captain Bloodhook would sound like this," he affected a high falsetto and said, "Arrr, I be the most fearsome captain on the five seas!"
Caelum collapsed to the ground as she tried to contain the laughter. She couldn't keep it in and she burst out laughing, alternating between hearty peals of it, and gasping for painful breaths, her sides aching from the laughter.
"You are a cruel, cruel person, Magax," Caelum gasped out. "I will be hurting for a week."
"Arr, but princess, if ye jump into the sea to escape me ship, the Water Faeries shall drag ye down and subject ye to endless tea parties, which makes no sense in all o' that water, how does they keep tea in the cups, and bore ye with endless rambles on the wonder o' healing potions!" Magax read, or pretended to read, in the same falsetto.
"Have mercy, Magax! Mercy," Caelum's voice was a whisper and there were tears flowing down her face. She was too tired to keep laughing, but she couldn't stop.
Magax floated down and landed next to her, sitting on the floor by her head. He held the book over her. "One chance."
She tried to glare at him through the next fit of laughter his taunt caused. He pulled the book back and shut it, placing it on the floor next to him. He took her by the shoulders and raised her into a sitting position, telling her to take slow deep breaths. Once she had calmed down, he let go of her shoulders and handed her back the book.
"I made it all up as I went along. I never even actually looked at the first page of it," he admitted.
"You know how to spin a good yarn. I have never been so amused in my life," she told him, accepted the book.
"And I have never made someone laugh out of actually good-natured amusement like that before. I've gotten the occasional chuckle from you before, but nothing like that. It was almost as amusing for me, I think," he told her.
"You kept a straight face through all of it. That might have been what sold it," she said.
"I believe that is the first rule of comedy."
"I'm going to be sick, I'm sure of it," she giggled, feeling her stomach churning.
"Well, there are also worse reasons to be sick," he said.
"There are," she agreed.
Magax glanced out the window; Caelum had not drawn the drapes. It was full night out; all traces of the sunset had vanished from the sky hours ago. Magax turned back to Caelum and smiled regretfully.
"It is late; I should be making my way home now."
She wanted to argue, but she knew she couldn't. It was probably close to midnight. She saw him to the door and stood in it waving to him until the dark swallowed him up. She closed the door and stood against it, giggling a little as her mind ran back over the last few hours.
She walked around the house, closing the drapes at the two windows. She picked up the book off the table and moved to put it away. As she slipped it onto the shelf, she finally caught sight of the name of the book: The Blue Tiki Sands of Time.
All of her mirth died away by the unexpected reminder. She had exactly a week left until the potion from Fyora faded away and would return her to her true Air Faerie self. She sat down on the bed and opened the drawer in her bedside table. She pulled everything out and pulled out the false back, retrieving the item stashed in the back.
It was a small jewel. To the casual observer it looked ordinary, not even that valuable. She carried it to the table and set it down, seating herself in front of it. She placed her hands a few inches apart on opposite sides of the gem.
"I want to speak to Fyora," she said.
The gem glowed and after a minute's wait, a little hologram of Fyora appeared above jewel. She smiled at Caelum.
"I am sorry to disturb you at such a late hour, my queen," Caelum apologized.
"Do not be distressed, my child. You are not disturbing me. You have need of us?"
"No, well, I have need of you. I have to ask that you extend my time here, as a Neopet," she said.
"No, Caelum, I cannot do that. If after this time, you have made no headway, then I must deem it a futile mission."
"No, it is not that! I have made much headway. Anastasia was right, there was a shred of light, and I found it in him. It has become far more than a shred, and the darkness has been pushed back so far. I know when it comes to it, when he has to choose, he will choose the light," Caelum said.
"Why would you need an extension if that is the case?" Fyora asked.
"Because, I don't want to return to Faerieland. I've come to like it here, and to like Magax a good deal. He is my friend, and I don't want things to change," Caelum explained.
Fyora shook her head, a patient look on her face. "No, Caelum. You are free to stay wherever you choose, but you must return to your true form. You must be honest with him. If his friendship for you can endure knowing your true form and your true history, then his reformation will be complete. Deceiving him as you are forever can only leave doubts in the validity of it."
"He won't- he's good! The light is there. I know, I don't want anything to change. I'm afraid he won't be able to see me past the curse we laid on him, the ever present threat of the collective wrath of the Faeries. Especially when he learns who my sister was. I know he has changed for the better, and he will take the right path when the day comes to choose, but I don't want to lose him in cementing him on that path."
Fyora reached out like she wanted to wipe the tears off Caelum's face, but she was an illusion and could not.
"Caelum, don't wait until you revert to tell him. That is all the advice I can give. My blessings go with you. Tell him as soon as you can."
"Fyora, please!" Caelum cried.
It was useless. The image of Fyora vanished and the gem's light died. Caelum put her head down on the table and cried, clutching the gem so tightly that if it had not been enchanted it surely would have shattered.
Valeane paced around the room, unable to stay seated for more than a minute at a time. Fiona had noticed that she seemed increasingly worried and distracted for the last few days, but tonight she was a mess.
"Valeane, tell me what troubles you!" she cried, sounding genuinely concerned. "I am your friend, the least I can do is lend you an ear."
Valeane looked at her and looked away again just as fast. She returned to pacing the room, looking genuinely troubled like she wanted to tell Fiona, but wasn't sure if she should.
"Valeane, please, it distresses me to see you looking so troubled. Is there any way I can help?" Fiona pushed.
Valeane threw herself down onto the chair across from the one Fiona was sitting in. The Battle Faerie ran her hands through her hair, sighing deeply as she did so.
"Caelum isn't away training. Fyora let her go on some insane quest because Caelum thinks Anastasia wanted to go and try to redeem Magax. She's been down there under the guise of a Neopet for close to two months now. However, her time down there is ending. I know that monster. Once he learns the truth about her, he'll destroy her. I feel so guilty. Fyora had ordered me not to act, not to step in. How can I just sit her knowing that doom is steadily creeping towards the sister of my later mentor? I should have fought harder to change Fyora's mind in the first place; Caelum should never have been allowed to go down there. I can hardly live with myself, and I don't know I'll be able to if something terrible does befall her."
Fiona's reaction to Valeane's confession was the first real reaction she had given the Battle Faerie: pure shock. It took her a moment to get over it, and she worked her face into a concerned frown, telling Valeane that she was right to be worried and shared her hopes that Caelum would come back safely.
Inside, she was celebrating. It was the revenge against Magax she had been yearning for. Learning that he was being deceived would be a humbling blow to the proud creature. It was also the perfect way to lure Valeane to the Haunted Woods and into the fangs and claws of her Werelupes.
She left Valeane's company soon after and immediately sent word to Nox about what she had discovered about Caelum. She didn't know when he would see it, as he was so often locked in his study of late, but she couldn't go and wait around to give the information to him in person. She had plans to set in motion.
To be continued...