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Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Eight

by cpmtiger


"Now this," Quaz said, raising a dark purple sword with a Kougra on its hilt from the Kougra display case, "is a Faerie Kougra Sword. Long blade, very strong. Good in far range battles, especially effective on canines."

      Ash growled. She and Avalon were sitting in the field in the center of the Cave. Quaz had spent the past week showing the two different swords from all of the different cases, explaining when it was best to use them. Avalon was bored. He wanted to actually learn the fighting part of sword fighting. Scarback was probably planning how to get his paws on the Noil Gem, and all they were doing to prepare was studying different types of swords.

      "Now if you want something for both close and long range battles, you'll want a medium length sword, like this one." Quaz went over to the Pteri display case, pulling out a long, slender sword with a pair of golden wings on the hilt. "This is the Golden Pteri Sword. Very useful, as I said, in all ranges of battle. Most Guardians prefer this kind, nice and easy to grip, but it takes practice to use a weapon like this. Actually, when most apprentices become Guardians, the Guardian Faerie grants them their own version of this sword. Avalon, are you listening?"

      The starry Kougra shrugged and nodded. "But when are we going to start actual sword fights?" he asked before he could stop himself.

      Quaz looked at him sympathetically. "I understand that this isn't the most exciting thing in Neopia. But if you want to be a Guardian, you have to understand what you're doing. Knowing how to use a sword doesn't mean anything if you've got the wrong one for the situation. It takes years, Avalon, to learn everything required of a Guardian."

      "And what if I don't wanna be a Guardian?" Avalon snarled, his temper getting the better of him.

      "What're you talking about?" Ash exclaimed, looking at him in bewilderment. "If you give this up, then Scarback's gonna get the Gem, duh!"

      Quaz nodded. "She's right. Scarback wins. I don't have much time left on my paws. I'm old, you can tell. Scarback killed the pet who was supposed to take over after me, but before you. I've been guarding the Gem for two generations, longer than I should've had to. Soon, I'll be too old to raise a sword at all. Without you, there'll be nobody to guard the Gem."

      Avalon looked down at his paws sheepishly. He hadn't really meant that he was going to bail out of guarding the Gem, but the constant reminder that his whole life would be spent protecting it, at times, seemed more like a burden than a gift. But Avalon could tell that Quaz was nearing the end of his life. If Avalon gave up, nobody was there to take his place.

      "Sorry," he muttered. "It's just…"

      "Overwhelming?" Quaz interjected. Avalon nodded, reluctantly. "Sometimes this job seems more trouble than it's worth. But believe me, once you become an actual Guardian, you get your fair share of excitement. The training is long and boring at times, but being a Guardian is all the thrills and dangers you wanted."

      Just then, a loud sound, like the wings of zillions of Buzzers filled the air. Quaz's eyes widened, and he shouted, "The Guardian Faerie's warning!"

      "THE WHAT?" Ash shouted over the noise.

      Quaz was staring over by one of the walls of sword display cases. A patch of fire had appeared-in midair! A second later, the fire took shape, and vanished, leaving a purple Lupe with patched, muddy fur standing there, looking anxious. He had a long, thin scar running down his muzzle. Like Ash, his tail waved in various ways to express his mood.

     "Quaz," he said, spotting Quaz by the field and nodding respectfully.

     "What is it, Valor?" Quaz asked sharply.

     "I was just at Scarback's headquarters. Well, just outside, but anyways- Scarback and the whole pack came past. They were all covered in mud and stuff, two of the bigger ones bleeding."

      Avalon bit his lip. Those must have been the Gelerts from the swamp.

      "Those must be the Gelerts Ash and Avalon fought off. Is that all?" The purple Lupe jumped slightly at Avalon's name, but shook his head in reply to Quaz's question.

      "No, that's not all. See, Mange wasn't with them, Quaz."

      Quaz blinked for a moment. "Are you SURE, Valor?"

      Valor nodded. "I'm sure."

      "Who was leading the pack?" Valor gave Quaz a meaningful, tragic look. "Brazen?" Quaz guessed, sounding tired.

      The Lupe nodded. "I think so. She was wearing Mange's old battle helmet. But what happened to Mange?"

      "He's probably been killed." With a sigh, Quaz closed his golden eyes and muttered something. Avalon leapt back as another flame appeared next to Valor. It, too, hovered for a moment before taking shape and disappearing, this time becoming a fierce looking Darigan Zafara.

      "Yeah?" the Zafara grunted. Avalon was surprised at his indifference to his method of transport. Valor frowned slightly at the Zafara, tail waving in an annoyed thrash.

      "Do you know what's happened to Mange?"

      The Zafara shrugged carelessly. "No. Why?"

      "Can you give me a status?" Quaz asked, ignoring the question.

      The Zafara grunted and looked at the ceiling. Avalon blinked in surprise as the Zafara's eyes began to glow orange. For a long moment, the Zafara stared silently at the stone roof.

      "Oh, for the love of asparagus!" Valor snarled. "Get on with it!"

      The Zafara's eyes glowed brighter, than he muttered, "Mange, leader of shadow-ghost Gelert pack, all that stuff… Wait a minute…this can't be right…"

      "What is it?" Quaz and the Lupe demanded in unison.

      The Zafara's eyes returned to their original dark gray color. "Mange is dead!" The puzzled expression on the Zafara's face looked unnatural. "But how-?"

      "The Guardian Faerie, of course." Quaz said smoothly. "They must have attacked right after she gave Avalon the Noil Gem. She must have killed Mange when he attacked,"

      The Lupe nodded. "Makes sense. Listen, Quaz, I really need to get back." Quaz nodded, and the Lupe disappeared in a whirl of fire.

      Turning back to the Zafara, Quaz ordered, "Find Mange's body, if you can. I want to know exactly where he is, where he was killed, everything. Do I make myself clear?"

      "Yes, sir!" The Zafara spread its wide red wings before a tornado of fire surrounded him, then vanished. Quaz sighed and rubbed his forehead.

      "What was that all about?" Ash asked, tail swishing concernedly.

      "Mange was the leader of Scarback's Gelert pack. He's been the leader for almost his whole life. And now it looks like he's been killed by the Guardian Faerie, and Brazen's taken his place."

      "So? What's the big deal about this Brazen dude? Who is Brazen, anyways?" Ash asked, raising an eyebrow.

      "That Gelert commanding the pack in the swamp, remember?" Avalon replied.

      "Brazen's Mange's sister." Quaz added, "She was the co-leader of the pack. Well, so to speak. Nobody really controls the pack, other than Scarback. The leader's really just a commander in chief.

     "The big deal is that Mange was always very loyal to Scarback. He never disobeyed an order, never questioned one either. But Brazen…well, she's been known to take a small group all the way to Terror Mountain to kill someone Scarback was tracking. Some say that she doesn't want to serve Scarback, that she was one of the Captured ones with some memory-"

      "The Captured ones?" Avalon repeated, puzzled.

      "Not all of Scarback's Gelerts became shadow-ghosts willingly. Lots of them were other pets he captured, brainwashed, and then transformed into the shadow-ghosts. Valor, spying on the tower? He used to be one."

      "But if they're brainwashed…"

      "The process isn't always flawless," Quaz explained. "Sometimes there are a few scraps left over. Most of the time, that's all they are: scraps that eventually fade away. But other pets have enough scrap memory to pull together a blanket, and remember who they are."

      "So what then?" Avalon asked.

      "They revert back to their original form. At that point, most are killed. But there are some who manage to escape. Those who escape are led here, and then they join our side, and begin spying for us."

      "Do any just leave?" Ash inquired.

      "Some. Not many though, usually just the ones with severe injuries. The rest stay on, like Valor, the Lupe you just, er, met."

      "What about the Zafara?"

      "Some pets find out on their own about Scarback. Some, like you Avalon, were attacked. Others saw Scarback's tower. That particular Zafara is a former prisoner of Scarback."

      "So you think Brazen remembers who she is?" Ash asked.

      "No," Quaz replied, after a moment of thought. "Not exactly. I do think she's aware that she isn't what she appears to be, though."

      "So she doesn't have enough memory to revert back," Avalon suggested.

      "It's not that, I don't think. I believe Brazen has the ability to remember what happened. But she may be too afraid to face it. From what the former Captured ones have said, it takes a while for the memories to come."

      "And that has to do with her disobeying Scarback because…" Ash let the question hang. Avalon studied Quaz carefully.

      "A part of her realizes that she was ripped from another life by Scarback. Not obeying him is her way of getting revenge, even if she doesn't realize that."

      Avalon blinked for a moment, trying to understand what Quaz meant. It had sounded like he was describing two Gelerts, one who was too afraid to change back, and another who got revenge for being changed in the first place. And the not realizing part didn't make sense, either. From the look on Ash's canine face, Avalon could tell that the Lupe didn't get it either.

     After a moment of puzzled silence, Quaz turned back to Ash and Avalon, and said, "Well, let's get on with the lesson. There are still several swords we need to go over."

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part One
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Two
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Three
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Four
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Five
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Six
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Seven
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Nine
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Ten
» Avalon and the Emerald Noil Gem: Part Eleven

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