Spheres of Influence: Part Ten
Cole took cover behind a large rock as a shower of stone needles were hurled toward him by the grey faerie. His last fire blast, and every other one before that, had barely done anything to her. And from what he could gather from the ground, no one else was doing any better. He peeked out from behind his rock to see Drake diverting her attention again. If they couldn’t knock the necklace off, maybe he could knock the faerie down. But she had taken everything he had thrown at her so far without so much as a flinch. There was one thing he had left, though.
The fire Kougra summoned up as much magical energy as he could muster. Tongues of flame lit up through his fur as his power increased. He cupped his paws to channel the energy, waiting for the moment to strike...
* * *
Drake swooped around J’Dar as tightly as he could and grasped for the necklace, snarling when he missed and diving away as the grey faerie shot a lightning bolt at him. Cursing himself, Drake thought, not for the first time, of the one thing that would ensure this crazed enchantress would never bother anyone again. He shoved the thought aside. It was far too risky. If he didn’t get caught in what would ensue, someone else might, and he couldn’t take the chance.
Pulling up hard, Drake rushed at J’Dar again, hoping he wouldn’t have to take drastic measures.
* * *
Naia summoned her strength to fire at the grey faerie once again when she noticed Cole across the cavern, glowing with a fiery power beyond what she had ever seen him do before. It quickly dawned on her what he was up to, but she didn’t think that he alone had enough power for this. But two, or more...
She continued to gather her strength, water gathering around her, and hoped that at least Slate would notice what was going on.
* * *
Slate marveled at his siblings on the ground as he dodged a water blast aimed at him. As soon as the faerie was distracted once more, he summoned as many pebbles, rocks, and spires as he could muster, waiting for the moment when all their power would be released.
* * *
Far from the fighting, Jake and Laura entered the chamber where the converters lay. Lin and Cara gaped at the machinery, but Laura warned them sternly not to touch anything.
“So, this is what’s been leeching at our lives,” Jake observed. Laura padded past him to the control panel.
“Yes, they drain our energy. We don’t have time to dally. Don’t touch anything unless I say so.”
Jake nodded. “Fair enough,” he said.
He watched from over Laura’s shoulder as she worked the controls on the machine. It amazed him how familiar she seemed to be with the system. He reminded himself that she was assigned to the upkeep of these things, even though she didn’t know specifically what they were.
“Uh, Laura,” Jake said. “If you knew how to use these machines, why didn’t you shut them down sooner?”
Laura paused in her work, her eyes straying from the console. “If I told anyone about the machines or sabotaged them in any way, J’Dar told me that my sickness would ‘worsen’. You can imagine what that would mean.”
Jake grimaced. “I don’t have to,” he muttered. “It almost happened to me.”
Laura smiled meekly. “I’m glad it didn’t,” she said, glancing at the silver Kougra. With a jolt of shock, she turned her attention back to the console.
“This might be easier than I thought,” she said. “These machines were designed to collect and unload energy. I was worried because J’Dar had modified them so heavily, but I think I can get the system switched around.”
Jake nodded, but he was distracted. The look Laura gave him bothered him. He knew only one other Kougra who had ever looked at him that way before...
* * *
Hoshi dove, narrowly avoiding a jet of water. She couldn’t get J’Dar off her tail, now matter how she flew. Before this whole thing started, she had prided herself on her prowess in flight, but now she was flying for her life. She was relieved as Robin flew across J’Dar’s path, raking her claws against the faerie’s robes. She was further distracted by a blast of dark energy directed at her back. Fuming, she flew after Drake, leaving Hoshi alone long enough for her to land and collect her nerves. Robin landed near her, giving her sister a concerned look.
“Are you alright?” she asked. Hoshi nodded.
“I’ll be okay,” she said. “J’Dar is really something. I couldn’t get away from her.”
“I think she’s using magic to increase her speed and agility,” Robin said. “Don’t fret about it. You’re the best flier I’ve seen.”
After she said this, Robin took to the sky on her pocket of air. Hoshi smiled at her sister’s compliment, but she stayed on the ground, still too shaken to join the battle again. As she rested, her mind was filled with the thoughts of what could happen if J’Dar bested her up there. She curled her paws under her nervously, hoping the battle would end quickly.
* * *
As Robin lifted to the air again, she noticed what Cole, Slate and Naia were doing. She realized it was far too late to join them, but she had to warn Drake so he could keep clear. By the look of things, they were nearly ready to go. Darting around J’Dar, Robin called to Drake. “Try to keep her ahead of you!” she warned, banking in the other direction. Hopefully, he would get the idea.
* * *
“I figured it out,” Laura said. Jake looked around her again at the console. He couldn’t make sense of all the buttons, or the markings on the screen.
“Alright...” he said. “Can you get it done?”
“Yes. Just give me a minute... Yes. Once I enter the command to inverse the power flow, the energy should drain from J’Dar’s necklace very quickly. But...”
Jake’s heart sank. “But what?”
“I can’t figure out how to get the power to the collars on the rest of the pets. If the power isn’t channeled back through them, the entire system will overload. I’ll need another minute or two, but I think I can figure it out.”
Jake flicked an ear nervously. “Please do,” he said.
* * *
Hoshi looked up at the battle above her again. Drake was flying ahead of J’Dar far enough not to be caught by her. But he didn’t seem like he was trying to shake her. Was he in trouble? She couldn’t decide. He must need her help. Pushing down her fear, Hoshi took to the sky and charged directly for the grey faerie.
* * *
Robin flew around the edge of the cavern, watching the battle in its entirety. Any moment now, Cole, Slate and Naia were going to blast the faerie from the sky. Hopefully, there was enough power between them to at least stun her. She was optimistic that they could knock her out of the sky.
The moment came. The three Kougras on the ground unleashed their powerful blasts, flying true to their target. Fire, water, and rock. She only wished she had the time and energy to contribute. A flash of movement caught her eye, and she watched in horror as Hoshi darted at J’Dar. What did she think she was doing?
“Hoshi, NO!” Robin cried.
Too late. All three elements met with J’Dar and Hoshi at the exact same moment. There was a brilliant flash of light, and Robin had to shield her eyes. For a moment, she thought she saw J’Dar stop in mid air, but she couldn’t tell. As the blast subsided, Robin looked desperately for the Faerie Kougra. She watched, horrified, as the limp form of her sister fell to the bottom of the cavern.
* * *
Jake glanced up at Laura as she grunted approvingly to herself. “That should do it,” she said. “J’Dar’s power is waning. Now, all we have to do is wait.”
“I hope we were in time,” the silver Kougra said.
Laura smiled meekly. “So do I.”
* * *
Robin could only stare in horror and shock as her sister plummeted to the ground. She watched as a shadowy form chased after her, grabbed her, and brought her gently to rest. Drake, to Robin’s relief, had seen what had happened. But then it hit her: Where was J’Dar?
She looked up and gasped when she saw the singed faerie burning in rage, with her arms up, guarding her face. A sphere of swirling air surrounded her. She had shielded herself from that blast? It didn’t matter now. That was the best they had to throw at her.
“Curse you all!” J’Dar growled. “You will pay for...”
The faerie stopped, her eyes growing in disbelief. “My power! What have you done?! My energy is being drained!”
Drained? Robin wondered. She rolled her eyes mentally. Why didn’t we think of that sooner? Laura or Jake must have rigged those energy collectors Slate mentioned to work in reverse. She had to applaud the ingenuity, but she didn’t have the time to. She bristled as J’Dar went on.
“I still have enough power to cast you all into oblivion!” she screamed. “May you rot for all eternity!”
As she said this, she waved her arms in the air, and a disk of darkness opened up in the ceiling. Subtly, but in growing strength, everything in the room, including the air, was being drawn toward the portal.
What has she done? Robin asked.
* * *
“No!” Drake cried as J’Dar opened the portal. “Even you can’t be that foolish!”
Drake cursed the day that this kind of power was ever discovered, and it was the one thing he feared he would have to do. He was glad he wasn’t the one to cause it, but it didn’t make the situation any better.
He looked down at Hoshi, scorched and beaten by the power inflicted upon her and J’Dar. She was barely conscious. Her body was being drawn slowly into the air, but Drake held her down.
“I won’t let you fall into oblivion,” he growled. He looked around the cavern to the other Kougras. “Not any of you. Not if I can help it.”
There was only one way to stop J’Dar. He looked up despairingly, seeking for another solution. There was none. It had to be done.
“You were right,” Drake muttered to Hoshi. “I was mad at everyone, but I was the one who betrayed your trust. I fell away. But even that didn’t make me stop loving my family.”
Hoshi rolled her head to look up at Drake through her half-closed eyes. “What?” she gasped in confusion.
Drake embraced his sister. “I will always love you. I... I only ask that you remember me. Promise me this.”
Carefully setting Hoshi down, Drake looked up again. Then, taking a deep breath, he flexed his powerful wings and shot into the air, his speed boosted with what energy he could channel behind him. Faster he flew, directly toward the grey faerie. J’Dar never saw him coning. Reaching out to her, Drake grabbed the faerie and rammed into her, propelling with her skyward, and into the portal that lay beyond.
The weather on Mystery Island was sunny and cheerful despite the fact that it was grey day. The sound of playing pets could be heard all across the clearing where Aaron and Chelsea’s house was. Lin and Air were playing with Cara and her siblings in the sandy pit while Robin sat with Jake, watching.
“Those two were so innocent,” Robin said. “I’m sorry they got caught up in all of this.”
“If they weren’t,” Jake said. “You would have never found me.”
Robin smiled, nuzzling Jake. “We couldn’t have that, now could we?” she asked.
Jake smiled as Robin leaned against him. Then he shot an awkward glance across the clearing where Cole and Slate sat across from the now yellow Kougra, Laura, who was giving the other two Kougras a sympathetic look.
“I’m sorry,” she said. ‘It’s just, with all that’s happened, I need some time alone. I... I can’t make a decision now. I hope you can understand.”
Neither replied for a moment. And to Cole’s surprise, Slate nodded calmly to her. “I understand,” he said. “I can wait a little longer.”
“Thank you, Slate,” Laura said. “Goodbye then. We’ll see each other again sometime. Goodbye Cole.” She padded away from the two Kougras, glancing wistfully toward Jake before disappearing into the jungle.
“Bye,” Cole said distractedly as the yellow Kougra padded away. When she was gone, Cole glared at his brother. “Last time she disappeared, you were silent for a full four months. What’s the matter with you?”
Slate smiled at his brother. “This time,” he said. “She didn’t disappear.”
Cole rolled his eyes. “I will never understand you, my own brother.”
“You’re a mystery yourself, Cole,” Slate retorted with a smile.
By the house, Naia sat with Scott, who watched his pets at play. “I’m glad you brought her home safely,” he said. “I’m in your debt.”
“Forget it,” Naia said. “I guess it was our destiny to deal with J’Dar. Whether Cara was kidnapped or not, we probably would have found her eventually. I’m just glad that not many pets were hurt in this whole affair. But still...” She looked toward Hoshi. “I wish it had gone better.”
Hoshi was sitting alone in a sunny patch of grass, looking up at the sky. Bandaged across the chest and around the wings, this was the first time since the conflict that she had been allowed out of bed. She was silent and unmoving except for an occasional twitch of an ear or a wing. She barely noticed Illa and Kyran behind her. It was her mentor who spoke first, using a calm tone of voice.
“Everyone who was afflicted by those energy converters has recovered,” she said. “There were a few grey pets remaining who weren’t actually being drained. We found out that most of them were actually working with J’Dar almost from the beginning, having been promised power for themselves.”
“Knowing how ambitious that faerie was, I doubt she really would have shared her power,” Kyran commented. We did learn, though, that J’Dar was planning on invading the rest of Neopia with the army she had gathered, even if they didn’t know it at the time. The deadline was today. A fitting day, Grey day, for the grey pets to emerge from the depths and take over Neopia. Not that it would ever happen, mind you,” she added quickly.
“Why didn’t Cara and Lin turn grey?” Hoshi asked silently without turning.
Illa looked to Kyran before responding. “We still don’t know,” she admitted. “But Laura’s speculation was as close a guess as we can muster. After all, Neopian magic doesn’t really present itself until one comes of age... at least, not normally. There wasn’t enough magic in them to siphon, and they never turned fully grey, even though their color did fade.”
Hoshi twitched an ear. “And the energy converters?” she asked.
“They are being dismantled,” Kyran said. “I’m sorry I didn’t find her sooner. I was trying to chase down a grey Pteri so I could find out where J’Dar’s lair was. It wasn’t until I sensed her portal that I found it. If I had met you on the plains as I promised...”
“It’s alright,” Hoshi said. “Even if you were with us, I don’t think it would have gone much differently.”
Illa cocked an eyebrow at her apprentice. “How do you know this?” she asked.
“If I were J’Dar,” she said. “I would think little of a common pet and just erase their memory like all the rest. But another faerie... I don’t know what she would have done with you, Kyran, but it would have been a lot different... perhaps even worse.”
“If I were caught,” the Battle Faerie grunted.
Hoshi cracked a small smile and glanced back to Kyran. “I’m sure she would have found a way,” she said.
Illa knelt down next to Hoshi. “Are you alright?” she asked. “You’ve been like this ever since you got back. You’ve changed so much, and you have me worried.”
“She sounds more grown up to me,” Kyran said.
Hoshi shrugged. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’m just... a little sad.”
Illa nodded. “Yes,” she said, standing up. “I’m sorry Drake is gone. We will all miss him.”
Hoshi lowered her head. “And he will always be remembered,” she muttered.
Illa nodded to her apprentice, understanding that the young Kougra needed some time alone. As she turned to go, she heard Hoshi state, “I wish I could fly again.”
“All in good time,” her mentor said. As Hoshi fell silent again, Illa looked to Kyran and, with a silent protest from the Battle Faerie, the two left Hoshi to be alone with her thoughts. The Faerie Kougra was grateful to Illa for that. She wanted to be alone, at least for a while. She saw how Drake entered the portal, and how the abyss closed, enveloping him and J’Dar. But somehow, despite this, she felt that he could return. She didn’t know how, or when, but it was a feeling that would not leave her. It was something she knew to be true.
He still loves us, Hoshi reminded herself. And I will always remember him.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Marie_Apricot and Lorna_Leigh for the use of their pets in this story (Uaebenyar, Araguoka, and Kittylinx), and for their input on the basic storyline and a few grammatical errors. No consonants were harmed in the making of this story... to the best of my knowledge...