South of Terror Mountain, rolling grandly away from those vast pinnacles of ice and rock, rests a large forest of pine. The forest lies far enough away from the peaks that snow falls but rarely, and yet it is not so far that a chill wind will not lash the conifers' branches each and every night. It is an irredeemable place, fit only for those solemn trees. And yet there rise above the canopy great stone towers, twisting and tilting, cobbled together by imperfect hands and eager minds. They are a patchwork of masonry, created by craftsmen more skilled at weaving spells than thatch. These towers stretch up, up out of the gaunt woods like the withered fingers of some forgotten behemoth, long since laid to rest on the slopes of Terror Mountain. From the windows of these keeps, flickering lights can be seen at night, dotting the horizon as far as the eye can see with fireflies' beacons. The howling winds rush between the bleak pillars, catching hold of mumbled cantrips and ancient sorceries. They scream through the brittle branches and fill the air with a cacophony of roars, whistles, and corrupted incantations. These interminable wastes are the home of the Order of the Red Erisim. These are the Desolate Spires.
The Convocation, a gathering of every witch and wizard who calls the Spires their home, is held in a large room at the top of the tallest tower in the forest: the Erisim's Tail. Littered with dust, debris, and detritus of every sort, the Tail is only used during Convocations and is left absent for years or decades on end. Broken wands cover the floor like twigs in the forest blow, crackling underfoot with every step. Ancient wardrobes prop up titanic cauldrons, still bubbling with the rotten remains of potions long since abandoned. All the Order's leftovers find this room, in time. The unwanted wizardries of hundreds upon hundreds of mages have all made their way to this room, and piled up in the Erisim's Tail. And yet it is here, in a clearing wide enough for five score wizards or more, that the Convocation is held, among the ghosts of wizards past and the promise of wizards to come.
It was Methuselah's Convocation that took place on the 15th of Storing, Y12. The wizened Mynci put forth the call for all members of the Order of the Red Erisim to make their way to the highest heights of the Tail and prepare for a meeting of the utmost importance. He stood there, in front of them, his beard trailing along the ground, intertwined with herbs, ribbons, and enchantments scrawled on pieces of parchment. His skin was pulled tight against his head, and when he spoke, it looked as though the skin around his mouth would rip as if tissue paper. He was old...very old. But when he spoke, his words, though wispy and frail, carried a power that resonated in the listeners' very souls.
"My dearest witches and wizards, sorcerers and mages, conjurers and illusionists of every sort. We have not had a Convocation in close to thirty years. The last was the Convocation of the Seven Scrolls where our dear Alshemar was blessed with his title." At this, the named Ogrin bowed his head in solemn acknowledgment. "But, my Order, today I have called us all together to face the greatest threat Neopia has ever known. The older among you will have felt it, and the younger may well have heard the whispers. The faeries are gone. Faerieland is falling."
A rumble swept through the room as the hundreds of gathered magicians muttered to themselves, their neighbors, or whatever long-dead deities their studies led them to follow.
"Magic is leaving Neopia, my dearest colleagues. I can fell my own power draining by the day...and I am sure that some of you can feel it too. Crysallia, my sweet blossom..." Here, he reached out a withered hand to a young Yurble sitting timidly in the front row of chairs. "It is not your fault you cannot cast even the most basic of spells. Your magic left the moment the faeries did. You are special, my little one, you are. But your magic is not there for you, anymore. It is not there for any of us."
As tears formed in the corners of the old Mynci's eyes, a dour Poogle removed himself from a wall and pushed himself forward through the chairs until he was plainly visible to all assembled. "Your condolences are well and good, Methuselah Silvertongue, but you were elected to take charge of our Order, not condemn us to a life without magic. What is your plan?"
Methuselah turned his watery eyes to the dark-robed Poogle. "Rabalon...you are cynical beyond your years, my young umbramancer. If we do not cherish our youth, who will be left to carry the mantle of the Red Erisim when we are naught but dust and dreams?"
The Poogle had no response and instead cast his gaze to the dusty floorboards.
Methuselah returned his attention to the room at large. "I have a plan, my Order. I could lie to you and say that it is a good plan. I could lie and say that it is a plan where I alone would have but to use my prodigious skills to talk the faeries back to life. I could even lie and say that everybody will live. But I have not ruled so long by shading my friends from the truth, even one so unpleasant as this. We will die, my friends." The powerful voice cracked. "Not only I, but many of you gathered here today. You will not live to see the month of Celebrating. You will leave the Spires...and you will not return. You will never see your friends nor your family nor even your enemies again. This is what my plan requires. If any of you should feel this unnecessary, foolish even, you may leave now. I will not stop you.
"But remember this, you who would leave our desolation. Magic is gone. If we fail here, magic will continue to be gone. You will go, back to your home, your town, your life that you gave up, and you will want to practice magic, and you will not be able. You will say your incantations and perform your elegant maneuvers and write scroll after scroll until your fingers have bled to the bone..but magic will still be gone and the world will be a shambles. And you will close your eyes, and you will see the face of Methuselah Silvertongue before you, and you will wonder...you will wonder what would have happened had you stayed. Would there be magic? Could you have saved the faeries, magic, and all of Neopia?
"There is not a single pet in this room who could give up magic. There is not a single pet in this room who could stand by idly and watch Neopia fall prey to some dark power. We are wizards. We have secluded ourselves here, away from everyone we ever loved, in order to master the sacred arts that have the power to protect those we left behind. We are the only ones who can save the faeries. But...if any of you should choose to leave, I will not prevent it."
The Mynci paused here, waiting for someone, anyone to speak up against him. Feet were shuffled, heads were pointed deliberately at the floor, but no one left. No one even stood.
Methuselah allowed himself a small, sad smile before he continued. "I will lead the best and the bravest of us to the ground directly beneath Faerieland. It is falling...but we shall hold it up. We will hold it in the sky until the faeries are freed. There is no magic I know of that can free the faeries from their stone prisons, but I have heard of a band of adventurers whose design it is to find a way to restore them. That is their mission...and ours is to give them time. Below Faerieland we will sit, buoying that once-great land with what power we have left."
"Who will go?" The simple question struck the room silent. It was not said loudly, but it was said silently in the minds of everyone present. The answer would be a death sentence.
"I will go," Methuselah said, each word seeming to stick in his throat. "That is all I will say. I cannot make anyone else come with me. All I can do is beseech you, my dearest friends. If you have faith in your abilities, if you have faith in your convictions, then join me. Alone, a tired old Mynci can do nothing to prevent the collapse of Faerieland, but bolstered by his comrades...much can be achieved."
Time ground to a halt, then, in the candle-lit room far, far above the tops of the tallest trees and far, far away from anything even hinting at civilization. They were alone, an insignificant group of wizards, playing at magic they could never understand and about to condemn themselves to death.
A Gnorbu near the front of the group stood. "I'll go." He shouldered his way through the pets in front of him and placed himself humbly at Methuselah's side.
Two dozen followed the Gnorbu's example, old and young alike. Not a word was spoken as the group grew larger to hold those who would go to the site of Faerieland's potential demise. When the last of the volunteers settled herself comfortably next to Methuselah's side, the old Mynci bid everyone farewell and asked that they leave the group to their planning.
The others left, each with something different in their eyes. Some were holding back tears, others had eyes as dead as a crypt. And at least one, a quiet, scarlet-haired Bori, had an insatiable hunger in her eyes. But despite these differences, they all left, one at a time, never again to see Methuselah Silvertongue or his chosen ones.
And within the hour, they were flown. Twenty-five figures, casting brilliant shadows across the moonlit sky. Some rode brooms, some rode carpets, some kept themselves aloft using magic known only to themselves. Onwards, they drifted, stopping only to sleep for a few restless hours as the day began to break. They did not eat. They did not drink. They passed over an ocean, then a beach, then the sprawling villages that hinted at Meridell Castle appearing before long over the horizon. Days had gone by without a drop of water or a morsel of food having passed the wizards' lips, but they would not stop. Faerieland sank lower every day, and the bottom of the magical cloud could just be seen parting the mass of the ordinary white ones. And then they arrived, exhausted and weakened, but ready to use the last ounces of their power to hold up the greatest city in Neopia.
It is not known whether or not these wizards, these disciples of Methuselah were able to slow the inevitable crash of Faerieland. Perhaps their efforts were meaningless, or perhaps the city would have crashed days earlier had they not been there. But they were there until the end. As the great city bore down upon them, flaming and screaming in torturous agony, those twenty-five sorcerers held their ground and threw spell after spell at the great mass that was no more than a mile away, hoping that by keeping it up for only a few seconds more, the great heroes they had been counting on would find a way to free the faeries.
But the heroes could not come. And there was a crash that shook Neopia. And there was smoke and flames and wreckage that are not cleared to this day.
And there was a laugh.
And there was a sob.
And Faerieland had fallen.
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|Sun vs. Moon|
Let's see, you guys did pirates vs. ninjas last year; what other great rivalries are there in Neopia?