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Cruor Stilla: Part Five


by eikomei

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Ruby began her day by being momentarily blinded as usual, then chose a short, black dress trimmed with lace to wear for the day, which thankfully was also corseted in the front rather than back. She went downstairs, ate pea soup for breakfast and went outside for some fresh air by the well.

      Zackwel had said he might come by, so she guessed that meant she was confined to the house if she wanted to see him. Who would have guessed I'd restrain myself from doing things I might like to by leaving the house just to wait for someone I hated only a couple of days before now. Ah, well. There's not much to do anyway. There was a moderately tall tree a few feet away from her, with plenty of branches to climb. Hey, it's something to do, she told herself, and began climbing the tree.

      It had been a couple of hours of Ruby climbing up and down the tree when Zackwel arrived. She could see him flying towards the house, and could tell he hadn't seen her yet.

      "Hey!" she called out. "Zackwel!" He turned his head, and searched bewilderedly for her.

      "Over here! In the tree!" He looked towards the tree and after a moment of scanning it, he found her and flew over.

      "What are you doing?" he asked.

      "Entertaining myself. It took you long enough to get here, you know. I had to find something to do."

      "You call this entertaining? Whatever, let's just go." And he whistled for Caelum, who appeared seconds later.

      "Whoa, slow down. Go where, exactly?"

      "Today I wanted to show you something. It's my favorite place to go, because people won't bother you there, and it snows all the time. Don't worry, it's not nearly as far as the Lost Desert, though it is higher up."

      Ruby stepped onto Caelum from her branch. Snowy? Whatever Zackwel was talking about, it didn't sound like her type of place. She enjoyed hot, sunny places like the Lost Desert. She'd freeze otherwise, since she was so small. They were at the destination in ten minutes, and Ruby was glad when they reached the ground. She wasn't nearly as dizzy as she was last time, but it was still something she wasn't used to. Not only was she dizzy, she was freezing, as she had predicted.

      They were on a snowy mountaintop, next to a frozen lake with trees and wildlife surrounding them. There were many petpets running around and playing in the snow with each other, who couldn't have possibly had owners in an area like this. It was devoid of sophisticated Neopets like the ones in Meridell. Looking out at the frozen body of water, Ruby suddenly had an idea. Without warning, she got a running start and skidded as far as she could across the ice. "Wheeee!" she yelled, now in the center of the lake.

     "You should try it!" she said to Zackwel. "It's fun!"

      So he did. He slid even farther than Ruby had thanks to his hooves, and almost bowled her over in passing. "Hey!" she exclaimed as he came close. "Be careful! I don't want to go home with bruises all over."

      The day went on with them ice skating and throwing snowballs at each other, and trying to communicate with wild petpets only to get confused looks from them. At one point they found an extremely steep hill and went sliding down it on their stomachs and backs, and resulted in getting soaked. They had gone down it the same time once, and landed together in a heap at the bottom. It was then that Ruby remembered what she should be doing; preventing him from telling the Royal family about faeries.

      That didn't only mean befriending Zackwel. He could still just as easily talk to them and tell them about it. He could've been doing that this morning, for all she knew. But how could she get him not to? She would have to convince him, but to do that, she would have to get him to tell her about it. So she came out with the most obvious question she could think of that wouldn't give her away.

      "What was it you remembered yesterday, that made you leave so suddenly?"

      "Oh, I...remembered I had a meeting with the Royal family." He didn't see the harm in telling her that much, so he did. "The reason I made up that lie about knowing them was because I was about to do so, so it was on the tip of my tongue."

      "Oh." She hadn't expected him to come out and say it, for some reason, but this made it easier. "What do you talk with them about?"

      "Just random stuff, really, like how things are going with the country and, well, what type of tea is the best. None of it's all that interesting."

      "Why do you talk with them if it doesn't interest you?" she asked, trying to sound innocent.

      This was getting a little suspicious for Zackwel. Why was she asking so many questions. "Why does it matter to you?"

      "It doesn't." Ruby said quickly. "I'm just continuing the conversation."

      That's true, Zackwel thought. I'm just being paranoid because I know what the real reason behind it is. But now he had to think of an answer. "I just...thought it would be cool to have them as my friends. Even if they are incredibly dull, no harm can come from having powerful friends, right?"

      "Yeah, I guess..." Ruby had run out of things to say. What more could she ask without making him suspect her? She had to get him to admit what he was really doing, but doubted he would fall for anything. So, she decided to drop it for now. Maybe if they got to know each other better, he'd actually tell her willingly.

      She changed the subject. "Where do you live? I was just wondering, since you know where I live and everything. Maybe we could go to your house sometime."

      "Um, that's not a good idea...I share the place with someone, and they aren't very nice about people coming over." Which, technically, wasn't a lie. Jhudora would freak if Zackwel told anyone the location of the castle, especially after the incident with the Neopet who ratted her out. No one went wandering far enough to find it except for that one case, and if it ever happened again, Zackwel would be the one to be blamed. Still, he didn't see why he couldn't tell her the general area. It wasn't as if she'd go looking for it..."It's in the Haunted Woods, so I doubt you'd like to go there anyway. You'd probably end up getting lost, it's so big."

      "Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I don't think I wouldn't like it there, I just wouldn't like the 'getting lost' part."

      "Yeah," he said, not knowing what else to say. Then came silence. It went on for a few moments, both of them having run out of things to discuss. Zackwel was debating on what he should do. He could tell Ruby, and Jhudora wouldn't know. Just to have someone to talk about things with, nothing harmful would come from it. But, then again, something could. What if she told someone else, and he ended up in trouble with the government? But that couldn't happen, unless it was a Draik, but they were so full of themselves that they wouldn't believe an Aisha. She was just a peasant, so he felt pretty confident that she wouldn't be able to do anything about his and Jhudora's plan even if she wanted to.

      Ruby was wondering what would happen at the end of all this. If she would get back to her own time, how it would happen, or if she would even end up convincing Zackwel not to go through with the plan. The only thing she could think of in that area was to get to know him more. Where to start...Well, for now she guessed it would just take time. But he could tell the Royals any day...This had to happen faster. "You know what?" she said suddenly, not believing what she was about to do. "I have a big secret to tell you. I can't believe I'm going to tell you this, but you're my friend, after all. Friends have no reason to hide things from each other. So, here goes: I'm not from this time period."

      Zackwel didn't know what she meant. "What?" he said dumbly.

      "I am from the future. I don't know how many generations ahead it is, but I am a descendant of someone named Rose. I took over her life from where she died, which was a couple of days ago--the day I met you, actually. She created the necklace I'm wearing as a device that would take someone of her blood to her life, so they could accomplish what she didn't have time to do..." She contemplated telling him about his role in her mission, but decided against it for now.

      Zackwel couldn't believe his ears. Such a magical device could be made, he was certain--he had seen Jhudora do great amounts of mind-boggling magic before--but he just couldn't believe Ruby was telling him about her situation. "Why?" he said aloud, not realizing she'd have no idea what he was talking about.

      "Huh?" she questioned.

      "Why are you telling me this?"

      "Because...well, just to have someone to tell it to. A lot has happened to me in the past couple of days, things I never could have expected and I had to deal with them on the spot, and I still am. Maybe I should start from the beginning and tell everything..." So she did. She told him about finding the necklace in her attic and how she unknowingly put it on, of how she woke up bewildered, wondering what she could possibly do and why some stranger was calling her "Rose", then of finding the diary and what it had contained, how the message left there had given her some hope, but...

      "But what?" he asked her anxiously. "What did it say?"

      Ruby thought of what she was doing before she answered. If she told him what it had said about him, he would be hurt. She didn't know how she knew this, but spending the past couple of days with him had really brought her closer to him, and she knew he'd think that the only reason he was important to her was because she had to stop him. But that wasn't true. If she chose not to tell him, he'd be indignant and wonder why she was hiding things from him when the point of this whole speech was because "friends don't hide things from each other." So she took a deep breath, and told him the truth.

      "It mentioned you. I'm reluctant to tell you, because I'm worried you'll overreact and think I'm not really your friend. Just remember the past couple of days and how much we've gotten to know each other, and know that you are a very important person to me, not because of what I'm about to tell you, but because of who you are.

      "The diary said that you would be trying to befriend the Royals, so that you could tell them about the existence of faeries, then suggest that they are evil. Because of the Royals' favoritism towards you at this point in the plan, they will believe you and be convinced by you to lead an attack on the faeries. The dark faerie, Jhudora will in turn use the attack to convince the faeries to help her in building Faerieland, where she can attack and control Neopia, defenseless against something so far out of reach."

      Zackwel just sat there. During her explanation, his face had become more and more frustrated. He didn't know what to do now. Somehow, amazingly, the plan was out, and he certainly didn't expect anything like this. He was stumped. He knew now that Ruby had befriended him to stop him, but before he let himself get angry with her, he reminded himself that she also said that after she had gotten to know him, he had become a truly important person to her. And he believed her. She really is my friend. Why else would she tell me all of this? She doesn't know how much her plans could be ruined by her doing this, but knowing the risk she told me because I'm her friend.

      "Thank you for telling me this," he told her, meaning it. She didn't have to, after all.

      Ruby didn't seem to be expecting that. "That's all? 'Thank you?' Well...you're welcome. But aren't you a little...angry with me? I thought I'd have a harder time convincing you I'm really your friend," she said honestly.

      "You don't have to," he stated. "I believe you. But now what do we do? As much as I hate to tell you this...I don't want to disobey Jhudora."

      This surprised her. "But why? You have nothing to be afraid of if you don't go through with her plans. She'll be powerless without you."

      "That's not it. I'm not afraid of her, I just...don't want to disappoint her. She's wanted this for so long, and I'm the only one she can count on."

      "But you're the only one I can count on! Isn't that good enough? Do it for me, your real friend, not Jhudora. She could be tricking you, for all you know. Usually the people who want to take over the world by force aren't the most trustworthy types."

      Zackwel didn't know what to say, so he stayed silent as Ruby continued. "And then what? She ends up being the most powerful, unstoppable creature and breaks whatever promises she's made to you. I know she must've promised you something, why else would you do what you're doing? What is it she told you?"

      "She said...that I'd be treated as her only equal. She's told me everything that she hasn't to others, like her little Mutant soldiers she used in the first attack."

      "Isn't that a hint that she's not telling you something as well? Trust me, Zackwel, you're only being used. Once she has the power to control everything in the world, you'll be history along with the rest of us. All that can be prevented, however, if you just don't let yourself be used by her!"

      Zackwel knew what Ruby was saying made sense. She was probably even right about Jhudora lying to him as well. It was a fifty-fifty chance, and he had chosen to trust in Jhudora because she told him he was special, not like the others, that he would be rewarded in the end. He knew that that's what the 'others' must've thought as well, but didn't want to think of it. He had no one but Jhudora to rely on, and his only way of gaining satisfaction for himself was by pleasing her. But now he had better. Ruby, someone he liked and appreciated him for the way he was, was depending on him now. Am I really gonna let her down? he asked himself, already knowing the answer.

      "No," he said.

      "What?" she said, confused.

      "I mean, yes, you're right. I won't let her use me. But what do I do now? If I don't go through with her plan, I can't live with her anymore, or even near her. Normally I would go back to my own shabby cave in the Haunted Woods, but she or her minions could find me there."

      "I know," Ruby said brightly. "We can do what that other Neopet did last time. Only most of the Mutants were caught and imprisoned, so she still has supporters."

      "Yeah, but none of them could take my place. The Royals are afraid of the Mutants and would kill one as soon as look at one."

      "That's not what I meant. She's already come up with two schemes in this little amount of time, who's to say she won't try something else? We need to take out all the supporters she has, and get the faeries on our side first in case she finds some other way to convince them to join her after she finds out you abandoned her.

      "Oh, and you can live with me. Sorry to ignore you earlier, I was just busy thinking. I'm sure Delia wouldn't mind if you stayed with us. Uh, you might have to sleep in the kitchen, though."

      "I don't mind that. It's better than living in a cave in the Haunted Woods, that's for sure."

      Ruby laughed. "We've been sitting here for an awfully long time. I think my butt went numb." She stood up. "Yep, it did," she declared. "We should head back to my house, it's almost getting dark already."

      When they returned to Delia's house, Ruby went up to her and introduced Zackwel.

      "I'm Delia," she said to him in response. "It's nice to see that Rose has finally found a friend."

      "There's something else, too, Delia..." Ruby said, not so certain of what she had told Zackwel earlier. "Zackwel doesn't have a place to stay, and I was wondering if you would let him stay here. Just for a little while..." she added cautiously.

      "Of course, dear," Delia answered warmly. "I took you in, didn't I? You can stay for as long as you need to, Zackwel."

      "Thank you," he replied.

      "I'm afraid I have no comfortable place for you to sleep, but you're welcome to use the sofa in my room if it's moved into the kitchen."

      "Okay," said Ruby. "We'll do that now." And they did. They had a difficult time finding a place for it in the small space, and ended up slanting it in the corner across and to the right of the stairs. After that, they all had a dinner of roast chicken and bread, then Delia shooed them off to bed.

      "I trust you've both had a long day of adventure, knowing Rose, and need your sleep," she told them as they walked lazily to their couch and bed respectively.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Cruor Stilla: Part One
» Cruor Stilla: Part Two
» Cruor Stilla: Part Three
» Cruor Stilla: Part Four
» Cruor Stilla



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