The Fire Within: Part Ten
There’s a curious fact about revolutions. They all go well until it seems like you’d be better without the people in charge of them.
The Moltaran caverns had always been fiercly independent, even sealing themselves away from Moltara City for generations. But they had never truly operated in isolation. Since the founding of Moltara, those from caverns and city alike had needed to make supply runs to the surface. The magma Neopets heading up there even gave rise to folk myths about fiery monsters lurking in caves.
It was true enough that those in the caverns could survive without water. Magma Neopets have no need of it when their veins are full of molten rock. But food, they still needed. There were beasts living in the darkness that could be hunted, but they were difficult to find, hard to catch, and more importantly, didn’t taste nice. This deep in the caverns, few mushrooms grew due to the intense heat.
The Font and the outlying settlements could survive, certainly. But it isn’t enough to survive when you have been flourishing under the rule of another.
It wasn’t long before, even among Marbelle's monks, talk of rebellion began to spread. That perhaps they had been mistaken about the Path after all. Maybe Igneot had been right. Maybe Marbelle had gone too far. They only joined her because they were young, after all. They never really believed.
It was transparent. Utterly so, especially with the Daken Nar telling them all what each other was thinking. But that doesn't matter when everyone wants the same thing. Stuff like that gets glossed over and forgiven provided you are on the same side.
Marbelle herself wasn’t blind to the unrest. She could feel it all around her, spreading like an illness. She did her best to stem the tide, launching a bid to reopen one of the tunnels, but it would never work in time. The seeds of dissent had been sown.
Eventually, she called a meeting. Everyone in the Font, resident and Marbelle’s soldiers alike. There was an uncomfortableness in the crowd. Something was going to happen, they all knew it.
“People of Moltara,” Marbelle said to them. “I know you are hurting. I feel your pain, believe me. But I am not the enemy. It is the heathens of Moltara City that have sealed the tunnels. They are the enemy. They are the ones to blame!”
It was foolish to think words could sway the crowd. It was simply an invitation to hecklers.
“They wouldn't have had to seal them if you hadn't attacked!”
“You’ve always been attacking them! Some of us remember Blackmire Gorge!”
“We’ve had generations of peace with the Path of Fire as it used to be! Curse you and your new Path! We need Igneot!”
The chant was taken up. The sense of oneness in the crowd was equaled only by the rage boiling up inside Marbelle.
“Silence!” she screamed, lashing out with her mystical powers to boil the very air. The cavern shook slightly with her rage, and the Magma Pool exploded upwards in a hail of lava.
“How dare you!?” she bellowed, her fire lashing out at the crowd. “I have worked my entire life for this moment and you dare to claim that you would rather have that oaf and his pathetic Path in front of you?! He is nothing, and you are nothing! Insects swarming around something greater. The Path is death! And I will crush every last one of you if I must!”
She gave a roar of rage and a shock wave of fire that filled most of the Font followed. She knew in an instant that she had gone too far, but by then it was too late. She had lost them, and there was no way back. No turning back on the Path.
And then, there was a presence. They all felt it, reaching out like a beacon through the Daken Nar. From the tunnel that led to the deep caverns, Igneot was walking towards them. Long, confident strides.
“You!” Marbelle screamed. “You planned this, somehow!”
She readied a blast of her fire to send his way, but it was that moment that Yardly leapt out from behind her. He had used the white paintbrush, returning to his original colour and freeing himself from the Daken Nar and Marbelle’s senses. Now he wielded the second piece of equipment he had brought with him - a flask of water from the Rainbow Fountain in Faerieland. He uncorked it as he leapt towards her, throwing it over her before she could launch her barrage.
She recoiled, the liquid pouring down her face to her body and extinguishing the fire as it went. Slowly, the magma Elephante disappeared, replaced by one of grey. Cut off from the Daken Nar, cut off from all of her powers. Defeated in popularity and in power. Finished.
“I'm afraid you will have to come with me, Madame Marbelle,” Igneot said gravely. “The only way the Mayor is going to accept this is if he gets you as a prisoner, I fear.”
“You can't!” Marbelle begged.
“Can’t?” Igneot said, more disappointed than angry. “You have raised your fist in anger at your own people here, in the Font. Our most sacred of places. You know the rules. You are to be exiled.”
Marbelle sobbed as her former soldiers picked her up, leading her down the collapsed tunnel towards the city.
“Marbelle said that even her power could not move the rocks,” Yardly said to Igneot as they walked.
“That was her,” Igneot said. “The Path of Fire has more to offer to those who embrace the peace it can offer. The lava, after all, is merely liquid rock. If we can move the lava, we can move the rock.”
They came to the wall of collapsed rock and Igneot held out his hand, a pained look of concentration on his face. It was a few moments until anything happened, but gradually the rocks began to roll to the side and back up into the roof of the tunnel, taking some of the lava up with them to act as mortar. It was a temporary solution - the tunnel would need reinforcing soon - but it would do for their purposes.
When at last the final rock fell back into place, they could see a ship waiting on the other side. It sailed closer to them, and Yardly could see the Mayor of Moltara was aboard, the Chomby joined by Andesite. The Kyrii must have sense Igneot coming and raised the alarm.
“Madame Marbelle is no longer in control of the Font,” Igneot announced to them as he stepped on the ship’s deck. “Her followers have abandoned her and returned to the true Path. They wish no harm to others. I can offer only my apologies, and a prisoner.”
The monks bought forwards Marbelle, broken and beaten.
“This is...?” the Mayor asked.
“Madame Marbelle,” Igneot said. “Robbed of her power and her threat. You know enough about our ways to know that, in this form, she is cut off from the Daken Nar, from her own soul, from her entire heritage. In my eyes, this would be punishment enough. But her crimes are grave and I understand if you need to imprison her.”
“I knew as soon as it happened,” Andesite said. “I’ve already spoken to Third Cog. They are dropping plans to mine the Shining Chasm.”
Igneot supplied a kindly nod as Moltaran soldier led Marbelle away.
“You are welcome back, Andesite,” Igneot said. “As are all exiles. We should never be apart again, regardless of how far to the surface you have ventured.”
The Mayor and Igneot moved off to talk in private, leaving Yardly and Andesite alone.
“There are myths that there are people known as Stonehearts,” Andesite said. “People who, when they join the Daken Nar, can hide not their presence, but their emotions. Lie without being discovered. But one has not been recorded in living memory. How did you know you are one?”
“I am not,” Yardly said.
“Then how?” Andesite asked. “I felt you, during the battle. If seemed like you believed in what you were doing. That you believed Marbelle was right.”
“It seemed that way because it was,” Yardly said. “At the time, I believed she was right.”
“Before I came down here, I looked up your culture on the Space Station's servers,” Yardly explained. “There wasn’t a lot there, so I went to Brightvale. The Seekers had a complete archive, I learned everything I needed about the Daken Nar from them.”
“Then why ask me all the questions about it?” Andesite asked.
“I needed you to trust me,” Yardly answered. “I needed you to believe that I had turned against you. Because if you didn’t, then neither would Marbelle. I knew if I joined Marbelle you would run back to the city and warn the Mayor. And I knew what his response would be and that that would be Marbelle's undoing. As for how I hid it, I had myself hypnotised after I had learned everything. Conditioned so that I would forget the plan until I felt Marbelle’s whisper in the Shining Chasm, a trigger to undo it. And conditioned so that I would be swayed to her argument and join her.”
“So everything about you was a lie from the off...?” Andesite asked. “Your name isn't even Alex Yardly, is it?”
“No,” Yardly replied. “I’m sorry if that causes you offense, I know how you like using people's full names. But not everything was a lie, Andesite. When I told you why I do what I do, I was telling the truth. I honestly could not live any other way - and if you doubt that, a part of me will always be whispering in the Shining Chasm.”
“How does it feel?” Andesite said. “Being away from the Daken Nar after tasting it?”
“Quiet,” Yardly replied. “But I only spent a few days with it. For someone like Marbelle who was born to it... Igneot was right, she has her punishment already.”
With that, he went to the side of the ship with the Moltarans. His work was done, he would be returning to the surface. Andesite moved to stand with Igneot. He would return to the Font. The two parted ways, strangers, but perhaps also friends.