Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 103,901,843 Issue: 205 | 26th day of Hiding, Y7
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Curses, Inside-Out: Part Nine

by schefflera


also by Dreagoddess


The Darigan Citadel still hung looming over Meridell, shrouded in sinister stormclouds, but nothing unwholesome now grew in its shadow. Walls no longer began to crumble the day after they were built.

     Untangling the curses had taken months of careful, patient work, teasing bits of magic out from under each other and untying knots that had been fused together. Today, there was one last curse to remove, and both Darigan and Meridell had gathered to celebrate.

     She was on a light blue Uni, a very steady companion who had borne her uncomplainingly to the Citadel and back every day. This was their last regular visit, though Lisha rather hoped it wouldn't be her last of all. She'd grown surprisingly fond of the Citadel and its inhabitants over these months.

     The air was growing steadily cooler as they ascended, though it wasn't nearly the abrupt change it had been some months ago. The Citadel still looked imposing at first glance, but the clouds lurking around it weren't so dark and there were hints of green growing bravely now.

     Of course, today there were a lot more colors than just green, with the happy Darigani bedecking themselves and their city with festival brightness. The Meridellian delegation that was following behind Lisha would definitely find a Citadel greatly changed from the one they'd seen before!

     The Uni, Culea, tossed her mane as they crossed the edge of the clouds' shade, leaving the warm sunlight behind but exchanging it for an excellent view of the Citadel's buildings. "Ooh," she said approvingly, skimming low. "They've decorated." She nodded, not at the banners on the walls, but toward a Darigan Uni with electric-blue ornaments complementing his purple fur. "And I think the grass grew since last time."

     Lisha couldn't help laughing. "I think there's more of it, anyway." The first sign of spontaneous new growth, a little pink flower curling determinedly out of a crack far away from the Illusen's Orb Plant, had come as something of a shock. The suggestion that it was something they should get used to had practically electrified the Darigani.

     The Darigani cheered when Culea came in for a delicate landing. The Meridellian sorceress had become quickly accepted and even beloved -- which made Lisha blush fiercely -- at the Citadel when it became clear she was working just as hard as Lord Darigan to restore their home.

     She waved with a little smile, trying not to turn too red. She greeted Lord Darigan with a smile of relief that turned into a laugh at the jaunty red banner flickering from his staff. "Hello. I'm starting to think I should have dressed up more!"

     "Told you so," Culea said under her breath.

     "You look fine." Darigan was grinning when he glanced at the banner. "I was waylaid by a rampaging decorator." That might have explained the banner, but he was also dressed for once in white and yellow robes instead of black and deep violet. It was a startling effect.

     "I see lots of decorators have been rampaging," Lisha told him with a broad answering grin. "Well, Jeran said the delegation was going to leave not too long after I did, so we should probably get set up.... Everyone's very excited. Everyone from Meridell, I mean. I know you all are too!"

     "Indeed." Darigan glanced upward, where streaks of blue sky sparkled incongruously between dull gray clouds. "The last remaining curse may be less painful in itself than many of the rest, but... highly symbolic."

     "Which is why it is the last one," Lisha pointed out. "This way it's more of a celebration. Don't worry. Everything will go fine."

     He chuckled. "It certainly should. We made sure of that." They could, really, have removed it two days ago without all the production, and had made sure the other bits of magic pinning it down were out of the way at that time. But the opportunity to let everyone celebrate instead of presenting it as a fait accompli had been too appealing to pass up -- Darigan could use some celebrations.

     "Then stop worrying. About that, at least. Oh look, here comes the king! And Jeran!" Lisha lifted her paw over her head and waved vigorously at the approach of the Meridellian contingent.

     Lord Darigan may have been somewhat less than ecstatic at King Skarl's presence, but he offered a courteous bow to the delegation as a whole. "I thank you all for attending this celebration, and for allowing us Lisha's assistance in removing the curses on our land."

     "We're glad to see the curse lifted as well," Skarl said formally after dismounting from his Uni-pulled chariot. "And glad one of our own could help. We hope this is the dawn of a new day of cooperation between our two lands."

     "We have already achieved greater cooperation than I would once have dreamed was possible. I believe it will soon be greater still."

     Looking around, Lisha was happy to see that things really did seem to be going well. The Uni had unhitched himself from the chariot and wandered off to talk to Culea and the Darigan Uni they had passed before, the one with the blue ribbons. The honor guard of Draiks hadn't left formation, but one or two sported unexpected and improbable-looking artificial flowers bestowed by excited Darigani children, who obviously were no longer particularly shy of Meridell's soldiers. And the guests who had been specifically invited had swiftly found their way to their hosts: a yellow Zafara was chatting to General Galgarrath, and while Sally the Usul and her parents were too polite to crowd up to Lord Darigan, Master Vex had quickly ushered them to a place where they could see him easily.

     This happened not to be far from an Eyrie who looked vaguely familiar; Lisha realized with something of a shock that it was General Kass, out of uniform and looking uncharacteristically timid. She had heard that he was "recovering," after Jeran and Illusen had helped Lord Darigan retrieve him from the Three, but hadn't seen him on her previous trips to the Citadel.

     Lisha looked away from him somewhat uncomfortably. He was supposed to be changed -- chastened -- but he had nearly killed her brother. She wasn't going to seek revenge, but she was glad she didn't have to carry on a conversation yet.

     She raised her eyes to Lord Darigan instead, as he lifted his staff and opened his mouth to announce the start of the proceedings, but he stopped before he spoke and bowed again. "Illusen," he said. "I had not presumed to expect you. Welcome."

     Everyone turned to watch the earth Faerie, whose approach left the fragile grass faintly thicker in her wake; Illusen laughed. "I may prefer to keep my feet on the ground, but this was worth leaving it."

     "We're honored. Your gift has helped our city bloom again." He gestured in the direction of the Illusen's Orb plant, where growth was thickest of all. It wasn't quite up to Meridellian standards, but it was quite impressive to the Darigani.

     "I think you deserve most of the credit for that," she demurred, smiling. "You and young Lisha. I'm looking forward to watching you work together."

     "And it is time we began." Lord Darigan raised his staff and his voice. "All the curses laid on our land, save one, have been removed. You can already see that we have begun to heal from their effects: our walls are rebuilt without crumbling; grass grows in ground that was barren less than a year ago... our wings are no longer torn." He spread his own, the ragged rents long gone. "Today the last will be erased, in your presence, and Darigan will be truly on its way to wholeness."

     He planted the end of his staff on the ground again and nodded to Lisha, who wrapped one paw around it, below his, and closed her eyes.

     This wasn't by any means the most difficult spell they'd done. They'd planned it that way on purpose, knowing that failing or even struggling would be disastrous to Darigani morale. So it was only with minimal effort -- and the ease of long practice -- that the two wizards combined their magic and reached out to delicately untangle the last of the twisted spells that had wracked the Citadel for so long.

     There was a twist and a snap only those two heard, then a beam of sunlight pierced through the cloud barrier. There was a moment of silence, then as the beam was followed by another and another, a spontaneous cheer arose among the crowd.

     A low breeze sprang up, warm as a breath, stirring Lisha's antennae -- she glanced over and saw Psellia, perched translucent to the point of near-invisibility behind Jeran. The wind that was soft at ground-level on the Citadel evidently grew to something approaching gale force higher up; the sunbeams grew to a glorious blaze of light as the dark clouds parted and were whipped away entirely.

     The cheers redoubled.

     Grinning so hard her cheeks hurt, Lisha looked down from the sky to Lord Darigan. After a moment, he pulled his own gaze from the sudden expanse of blue to meet her eyes.

     "Congratulations," she shouted.

     He laughed. "Thank you." His voice softened. "With all my heart. All our hearts. This is going to be a new holiday, you know."

     "Thank you, too." Still more quietly, but still just audible under all the rejoicing, Lisha added, "I feel like a real sorceress now. I'm glad you were willing to teach me." She looked around. "Can I still come visit sometimes?"

     "After this?" Darigan's gesture took in the sky and all his people. "I may be busy -- but you are welcome here. Any time you want."

The End

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Other Episodes

» Curses, Inside-Out: Part One
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Two
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Three
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Four
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Five
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Six
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Seven
» Curses, Inside-Out: Part Eight

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