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The Garden: Part Two


by digital_microwave

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Fyora was seated on her usual spot one day, when her violet eyes caught a purple shadow falling with alarming velocity through the clouds. Swiftly, with unnatural bursts of speed, she charged forward, the air whistling shrilly around her ears. In a snatch of movement, she caught the falling creature. It was a Darigan Eyrie, eyes glazed over, sweating profusely. On his back there was a quiver of arrows. His wings were slightly injured, and Fyora supposed that contributed to the fact that he could not fly. With some effort--for he was quite large for his age (he looked quite young)--she flew him back to the garden. She did not know why, since she had taken such lengths to protect it from being seen, but she supposed that the garden would help him heal faster after all, and that it was the nearest place did help.

      Fyora placed the injured Neopet on the bench and waited for him to recover. His eyes flickered in twitchy jerks, but otherwise, his breathing was stable, and so Fyora started on healing his wing. It took a while, but she managed it in the end. The Eyrie's eyes were wide open now, shining with gratitude. "T-thank you," he said, voice hollow.

      Fyora propped him against the railing, and he promptly huddled up, knees tucked under chin. "Not to worry," she said gently. "Now, would you mind telling me how you got here?"

      He stared at her in awe with apprehensive eyes, and coughing, began to relate. "You may know me as Serik. I was flying out in the morning from the Citadel to Meridell to see King Skarl. As you know, our kingdoms are not the friendliest of neighbours and that's why I had arrows with me. I went to see him personally, to try and arrange a truce. But he, Skarl, did not want to see me, even though I surrendered my arrows temporarily to ensure that this was purely a diplomatic visit. He sent troops after me when I persisted. I ran, but they gave chase. So my only option was to fly. I did, but they shot arrows, trying to bring me down to keep prisoner. I evaded them by hiding in the clouds, but when I was flying over this area, a mage spotted me. She aimed a fireball that worsened a minor wound by an arrow. And that was when you saved me, Queen Fyora. I am most indebted to you."

      "Let me get this straight. Why did they do that? I am sure King Skarl would not act like that if he knew you were sent by Darigan. Did you not state so?" Fyora asked. Serik kept quiet.

      Fyora's voice hardened. "You didn't? You went there by yourself? You weren't sent to make peace?"

      "Aye," Serik nodded sadly.

      "But why? Why put yourself at risk when you know your kingdoms are like this?" Fyora questioned.

      "Because, your Highness, I do not like the tense string that keeps us hating each other. Sooner or later, something will make that string thinner and thinner until it breaks, and war will be unleashed upon the lands. Darigan remains obstinate. He does not like them, and he does not like Meridell. I, as one of the sons of his generals, have tried to persuade him but he does not listen. I hate it, your Highness. I really do!" His voice rolled into bitter rage.

      Fyora considered what Serik had said. She bit her lip in worry. He was right. If something was not done, Meridell and Darigan could go to war, and that would devastate many, and there was nothing to prevent it. There was nothing she could do. What, turn up at the doorstep of the Darigan Castle and say that she didn't like them and that they could start a war any time? Serik had been foolish in doing that to Meridell, and a repeat wasn't necessary. No. She had to wait until Darigan actually did something, or Meridell. Then she could stop the war, with a good reason. The kingdoms were in relative peace anyway, albeit a rather tension-laden peace.

      She explained her theory to Serik, but he protested stridently. "What? You are just going to sit here and wait? Queen Fyora, you rule the sky, over us, who rule the earth. Does that not give you some extension of power? Are you not going to do something?"

      Fyora said levelly, "Serik, listen. I cannot just go and confront either ruler. It would make it seem like I was the one causing the war instead. You did a foolish thing, I must say. Your kingdoms are not bothering each other anyway. It would be better if I stopped it when they actually do something."

      Serik nodded, words sinking in. He sat down, pensive; mind running over Fyora's words. "You're right..." he muttered.

      Fyora was relieved that Serik had understood her. "Thank you, Serik," she said. "Are you well enough to fly?"

      "I'll see," the Eyrie replied, testing his wing gingerly. He managed to hover a few metres up, but then suddenly collapsed. "A little more time perhaps. My wing should recover by then," he said, picking himself up.

      "Oh dear," Fyora said. "I shall send for one of the coaches."

      "There is no need to hurry, your Highness. I detest my home. Yes, these words may shock you, coming out from one who is stained purple by his home. But it is that way. Besides, Your Highness, you do keep quite a lovely assortment of flowers."

      Fyora was rather flattered by this remark. She smiled, and then said, "Well then, you could stay here until your wing heals."

      "In this garden, your Highness?" Serik asked.

      Fyora considered saying no, but afraid that it would trouble and make Serik feel hurt, decided to agree. After all, she had brought him here in the first place. "Yes, Serik," she said gently.

      The Dariganian just gave a slight smile, and a little incline of his head. Fyora, strangely, was feeling quite relaxed and peaceful in his company. He was a good conversationalist, and she enjoyed trading opinions with him. He was also polite and diplomatic, despite his harsh appearance. They spent the afternoon chatting quite animatedly and had a good talk. Fyora saw him off, watching him fly out from the railing into the old afternoon sky, feeling most content. He was a good being, that Eyrie. She could only hope that things would work out the best for him, and also between Meridell and Darigan. She had grown up lonely, in an austere world of books, marbled hallways and domed meeting rooms, and besides Shardi, he was the only individual that she felt connected to as a friend.

      And he did show an appreciation for flowers.

      ***

     Neopia built stronger foundations, surfacing above tumultuous events victorious under Fyora's rule. She settled disputes, and offered help to every nation. The roots of reinforcements went in deeper and deeper, until Neopia became as stable as a two-ton rock. Trade and business flourished like large buoyant flowers of honeyed money. Neopia was, in one word: prosperous.

     ***

      Fyora pushed her glasses further up her nose, scanning the list that rolled down to her feet. "Terror Mountain is doing very well in tourism," she murmured. It had been a long day, and still she had Neopia's annual business reports to check. More complaints about the lack of water in the Lost Desert; they wanted magic to create rain. Fyora picked up a pen, and started scratching a letter out to say that magic did not remedy anything and that she would try, though, to send a few water faeries from time to time.

      Suddenly, Fyora felt an internal tug, a sickening yearning for her presence, like a waning, squealing cry. Instinctively, she rushed out, flinging down her pen, and quickly ran to her garden.

      There was no one there, only the small orange light spheres that she had created to illuminate the area at night. Paranoia had struck her mind again. She really had to cut down on reading those lists...

      A swift blur flew forward and pinned her arms down. Dark tendrils clamped themselves to her wrists, sapping her energy. A struggling, sluggish fuzziness packed itself into her brain, destroying sentience, emotions and vision. Or maybe just that little bit of sentience stayed, because the next moment, she heard a voice. Of not too long ago.

      "Esmala!" Fyora spat. She looked with blind, swollen hatred at the buzzing, bulging shape in front of her, who just laughed. Esmala's cloak billowed in the wind, rippling like her unctuous voice. "You shouldn't have done that," the dark one snarled bitterly.

      "You deserved it," Fyora said coldly. "Anyone who sells magic in the name of greed is well and properly banished, powers stripped. I see someone gave you a new name, and new powers."

      "You're right," Esmala sneered. "Ambition is now my name, for what I did to him. Given by Greed, and bred by Revenge." Three shadows stepped out, previously invisible, the wind of evil howling about their silhouettes. Revenge and Greed, Fyora thought. Her eyesight had recovered enough for her to catch sight of them. One was a thick-set Skeith, with heavy jowls and wrinkly, sagging skin. The other was a sinister-looking Gelert, lanky and proud. But then who was the third one flanked by them?

      He stepped forward, reaching a sphere, dark, harsh shadows striking his face. The light showed his calculative eyes, blank, hollow and red. Fyora gasped.

      It was Serik.

      Esmala glided along the ground, mocking. "Never thought your friend would join us, huh? Surprising what Ambition can do."

      Fyora bubbled over with molten rage, heart burst and slashed into ashes. "Serik!" she cried, voice raspy and rough. "How could you?" The Three skirted around them, forming a circular prison.

      "Because I can, Fyora. I can. Ambition taught me about gold and control; lovely, luscious control. Greed spurred me on with tales of legends I was to create. Revenge... he told me to come. Come to see you again, like that time," Serik said, his voice sharp and unreal.

      "He's right, you know. Shame you let him in on your hideout. We knew exactly what would bring you here. See your wasted friend at our mercy. See him? That's not him. But then again, it is," Esmala cackled, enjoying watching Fyora's face becoming taut and white.

      "You made him a puppet!" Fyora screamed. "You're the ones behind all this!"

      "Well made guess, your Highness. Meridell is in our way. More reason for war. We'll annihilate that kingdom. But without interference from you. Look at your precious Serik for the last time," Greed rumbled.

      "Serik!" Fyora called one last time to the Darigan Eyrie dressed in armour. Gone were the clothes of a tactful, well-meaning citizen. He was gone as well, swallowed into the abyss of the hypnotizing Three. She could feel the attack coming on from the Three, and drew her energy, but to her shock, she could not! It pooled around her in useless mists, and every time she felt like grabbing it, it went away. Oh, she could kick herself! While she was being disappointed by Serik, the Three had denied Fyora her ability to use magic.

      Then blindness returned, accentuating the hateful voice of Esmala. "Defeat, Fyora. Sheer defeat."

      And then a close breathing. She heard Serik's voice. "Oh, by the way, I'm no longer Serik. Lord Kass is my handle."

      Fyora felt totally and utterly vulnerable. No coat of magic was there to protect her. Serik had been traded over to the dark side. The garden! She had been such an idiot. She had brought Serik here, and he had squealed! And only Shardi knew about this. She was probably in bed by now. The patrol faeries probably couldn't see or hear her too. All out of the love for plants, and it would cost her so much.

      A blast zipped by her. Fyora was immobilized, but managed to bend her head in time. She fought strenuously, little twitching movements showing her evasions. Fyora strained. She had to do something quickly, but what? Stupid garden. Nothing but trouble.

      Garden... wait! There was something that she could do after all. Shardi had mentioned drawing magic from the surroundings, like she demonstrated with the Blaz Aoka. This garden, essentially, was earth. And she also was earth. In magic, anyway. Since she was too weak to draw from the major source, this was the next best thing. It was dangerous, and no one really attempted it unless absolutely necessary, but this was.

      Fyora aimed for the first rose bush she had resurrected, drawing energy and magic. She felt a hot, sweeping flow, for the magic had bred and grown stronger over the years. Warmth and power replaced the stiff, empty coldness that she had felt just now. A stunning clarity flew into her eyes.

      Clenching her fists, Fyora burned away her restraints. She stood up and began retaliation. She regained her own magic and started blocking attacks. Esmala screeched. She raged, and tried again to pin Fyora down, but this time the faerie queen was on her guard and stopped the darkness. Serik joined the fray, sword swinging in the air.

      Fyora was aware that she was outnumbered. However, the thought of seeing Serik so poisonous enraged her to a great extent. She forgot her benign disposition and flared, spells terrifying and powerful. Strong sinuous creepers erupted from the ground beneath them, a lashing fury of wrath, pent-up anger unleashed. Betrayal thundered in Fyora's ears, pummeling her mind with fiery hate, pushing her energy, waxing and growing to a dangerous climax.

      Dark leaves appeared, choking, stifling. Venomous buds blasted into attacking flowers, drooling gloom. Fyora herself was in the web she had woven, unreal, plants combing her hair, entwining her limbs, crawling all over her dress. Her eyes glowed green, and she achieved many a wandering thought: a non-existence, part of her garden.

      The Three screamed, loud, sickening lurching screams, Serik's strength evaporating as well, all of them ensnared in the maze. Attempts were hurriedly made to escape this nightmare, but it prevailed. Fyora looked haunted in her triumph, shadowed cheekbones and highlighted glints in her eyes giving her a maddened appearance.

      She shot an ugly glare at Serik, and fired missiles of admonishments and held-back rage. "Why did you do this? Liaising with the Three! What sort of peace-seeking Neopet are you? Just bent under their thumb, like that! You don't deserve to have so much power! You were just a backstabber and a liar!"

      The Eyrie breathed heavily, eyelids half-closed. "Y-you're..." he spluttered, voice laced with fatigue. Fyora kept her unrelenting stern gaze locked. That's it... if she could break him...

      A heavy sensation rushed immediately to Fyora's head. It enveloped her mind, stifling it and rendering her senses useless. She saw a faint golden glimmer, and Serik whispered again, viciously, "You're powerless. You can't stop me. War will come." A rapid rush of wings and wind, and the quad disappeared into the starless, ominous night.

      Double-crossed... the lump on Fyora's head where Serik had smote was suddenly less painful than inside, where the inferno of green still blazed.

      ***

     It was still there, that garden, in its sweet, lovely glory. However, a faint tang of darkness still permeated the air, bringing with it the lost memories of a former friendship, forged under the most spontaneous of circumstances, and crumbled quickly by deception. So much has happened in so little.

The End

 
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