Read Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart Online

Authors: Ashley Du Toit

Tags: #Children's Fantasy

Nemesis and the Fairy of Pure Heart (6 page)

Bella moved towards the oak, treading lightly as she felt an unseen power sizzling around her. This ancient glen held powerful magic. Bella sat down at the venerable oak's roots and lifted her face to it. She removed Pirogue's parchment from her charm bag and unrolled it. Placing her hand upon the tree, she began to read:

O ancient oak

Remove the yoke

Deep within your hidden depths.

Show them to me

That I may see

The treasures that you keep.

Open up your hidden void

So that I may return what lies within

To where it should be.

Test me now, O ancient oak

That you may know

All is as it should be.

Bella felt the atmosphere charging. The ground rumbled beneath her. Scrambling to her feet, she hastily stepped backwards as the roots of the ancient oak began to move, slowly at first, ripping their way clear of the ground until finally they were free. She moved closer, staring into the chasms they left behind. Shining crystals were neatly lined within.

Bella stared in awe at the crystals. She could sense the ancient, potent magic whispering, calling, drawing, commanding her. Shaking her head to deny its siren song, she carefully picked up a crystal, wrapped it in a large oak leaf. She said a spell over her charm bag and watched it double, then triple in size. She put the crystal inside. Soon she had secreted all twelve crystals into the bag. Angling the strap from one shoulder across her chest and securing it at her hip, she was ready to return. Once more she placed her hand upon the tree, and chanted the words that would again cover the hidden place:

O ancient oak,

Friend to elfins past,

Seal your hidden depths once more,

Until another one should call.

I thank you for giving me passage free,

For letting things be as they should be.

Again the ground rumbled beneath Bella's feet. Moving away from the tree, she watched as the roots righted themselves and returned where they belonged. Saying a small thank you to the glen for allowing her entrance and safe passage, she heading back the way she had come. Without needing to turn to see, she knew that once again the glen had disappeared, hiding its existence once more.

At the river's edge, Bella slowly lowered herself into the cold water, again hoping to reach the other side before dark. She dunked her head under and set off. As she neared the centre of the river bed, she looked about for Zeis and his followers, but saw no sign of them. Relieved, she continued her uneventful journey until finally she reached the other side.

Dragging herself free from the water, she sat on the river bank. Bella was resting her head against her knees for a moment to get her breath, when she heard a sudden noise. The King of the Water Sprites lifted his head out of the water in front of her.

“Fairy of Pure Heart,” he yelled loud enough for her to hear, “word has reached us of your quest, of your willingness to fight for your mortal, even in the face of death. We have tested your strength and courage, and have found no lack. You have gained our approval. Should you ever have need of us, rub this stone beneath water and we will answer your call. Good journey, Fairy.” With those words ringing in her ears, he threw a small object into her lap, and then disappeared.

In Bella's lap lay a small opal. While smooth and lacking detail, its shape was undoubtedly that of a sprite, and she could feel the power that lay in its blinking blackness.

Bella was bemused by the speech and the gift, especially after the way the sprites had treated her on their first encounter, but she was glad to have passed their test, and any offer of help was welcome given the nature of the task she faced.

The sun was beginning to set by the time she reached the glen's edge. All the elfin folk were waiting for her. She could smell the excitement in the air.

How could they know I found the crystals?
She wondered, and even as she did, the answer came to her.
Of course, they must be able to sense their presence.

Pirogues rushed up to her, taking her arm and leading her towards a mushroom, motioning for her to sit. All the elfins were talking and laughing at once and Bella smiled to see them. Turning, Pirogues asked one of the elfins to bring the magical charm that Bella needed.

Bella took the crystals from the bag that hung around her neck, unwrapped them from their protective leaf coverings and handed them over to Pirogues. He accepted them reverently, passing one to each of the other eleven tribal leaders. The twelve joined in a circle, lifted their crystals high above their heads and chanted a little song, while the crystal absorbed the twilight's magic rays. When dusk gave way to night, they lowered their arms and returned each crystal to the covering that Bella had provided.

Bella was watching them respectfully, feeling very privileged to have been a part of something so momentous, when Pirogues bent low before her.

“Oh Bella, Fairy of Pure Heart, you are truly named. Thank you for all you have done for us. We wish you luck on your voyage and safe speed. We will not forget you.” And with those words he presented her with the magical wind charm.

Bella felt a quiver run down her spine as her hands reached out to take the beautiful charm. It was crafted from wood, the exquisite, intricate carvings etched deeply into the grain portraying how ancient it really was. She raised tear-filled eyes to Pirogues and gave him a watery smile of thanks, knowing that she was now one step closer to setting Arthur free.

“Let's celebrate,” shouted Pirogues, raising his hands in triumph.

Bella grabbed his hand once more before he started the festivities, “Pirogues, can I ask one more thing?”

Pirogues smiled. “Yes, fair fairy. If we can be of service to you, then we shall be. Any help we can bestow is yours. You only have to ask.”

“Oh, Pirogues, would you know where I can find the fire's heart?”

Still smiling at Bella, Pirogues simply told her, “Bella, everyone knows that fire's heart can be found deep in the Cave of Forgetfulness, in Dark Mountain.”

By the time the celebrations had begun to get lively, Bella and Teague had slipped away into the night to continue their quest.

8

Fire's Heart

H
igh in the air, Bella and Teague flew, letting the wind sweep over them. Bella stretched out on Teague's back, her hands clasped firmly within his soft fur.

Raising her head slightly, she gazed at the millions of stars scattered across the sky. Teague's wings fluttered up and down, a soothing motion that soon lulled her into a deep sleep.

Day broke, and for the first time since Bella's quest had began, the sun wasn't shining. She looked at the dark, angry clouds that threatened to open and rain down upon them any minute.

From high in the air, Bella could see that they were nearing Dark Mountain, where lodged the Caves of Forgetfulness. The mountain certainly was dark and sinister-looking, with an icy coldness in the air surrounding it.

As they landed near the foot of the mountain, Bella noticed that the icy coldness extended even down to the forest floor. She shivered. Heaviness lingered all around them. It crept up and wound its way up her spine, cutting off contentment. Bella wondered if it was a spell to frighten intruders away.

Teague moved restlessly. Bella climbed off his back and stroked him gently, seeking to soothe him.

I can't stay here, Bella,
his thought entered her mind. He moved into her touch for a moment before backing away edgily.

“I know, my friend, you need the light. Go to the other side of the forest where the sun still shines and wait for me. As soon as I am able, I will call you, and then you can come back for me.” Bella smiled a little sadly at him.

“Be safe,” she whispered, and watched him flutter his wings in agreement a moment before he took to the open sky, leaving her behind.

I wonder where I've come to this time,
she thought as she looked around. Tall dark trees surrounded the forest, giving it an eerie feel. Shadows haunted every nook. The icy coldness slithered up to her, winding its cold fingers around her feet and climbing up her legs. Bella shuddered.

The mountain, silhouetted in darkness, loomed ahead. She squinted her eyes to make the most of the pale light in the mountain's shadow. She could just make out a darker area, ebony on black. Since it was the only feature she could see, she headed in that direction.

As she approached, the darker patch revealed itself to be an opening in the mountainside. Bella walked up to it and looked closely. There was writing etched in the rocks that surrounded the entrance, and she was startled to recognise that it was formed in the ancient script of the dwarves.

The dwarven folk were all but extinct, the few that remained having gone into hiding many years ago. Their language, long not heard in the immortal realms, was almost forgotten. But only almost, for the fairy folk kept alive the knowledge of all the immortals, and fairy children learnt all the spoken and written languages before their coming-of-age.

Bella moved closer towards the etchings, wanting to glimpse the intricate curvy inscription. It flowed whimsically, the words plainly etched clearly for any who could heed its words. This must have taken a long time to carve, she thought as she lifted her hand to run her fingers lightly over the markings, in awe she began to read.

So, this was indeed the entrance to the Cave of Forgetfulness. While Bella had been concentrating on the words etched into the rock, she had slipped her small hand into her bag to find the shimmering blue protection dust. She sprinkled it over herself, then once more reached into her bag. This time she withdrew a bright yellow bracelet and wrapped it around her wrist. The bracelet would hopefully ward against losing her way within the dark walls of the caves. Straightening her shoulders and lifting her chin, she entered the cave's mouth.

An even more bitter cold cloaked itself around Bella, and she realised that there was no light at all to guide her. She shuddered. For one brief moment, she considered going back, but then Arthur's face flashed before her and reminded her why she was doing all this. She felt for her bag, reached inside and sought her light crystal. She moved her fingers over the precious stone, and then lifted it high above her head, lighting the caves.

And found herself in a large cavern, from which several small tunnels appeared to lead further into the mountain in many directions. Bats hovered above her head and spiders swung in their cold webs. Bella listened for any other sounds within the walls of rock, but found none. She walked further into the main cavern, trying not to think about the cold seeping into her bones, the silence, or the cave's inhabitants—those already encountered, and any as yet unseen.

Having no idea where she was or where to go, she stared at the many tunnels that lead off form the cavern, and decided that the safest path would be to investigate the largest. After some minutes of groping her way towards it, she could look into the tunnel. It stretched ahead, wide and straight for as far as she could see with the small light crystal, so taking a deep breath, she entered.

She had travelled along the tunnel for several minutes when the faint sounds of singing and giggling reached her ears. Her feet stilled. Someone was in these caves with her. Bella's heart thumped wildly and she had to strain to hear over it. So as not to give her presence away before she knew who or what she was facing, she shielded the light crystal with her hands. She could then see a dim glow in the distance, spilling out into the main tunnel from an opening to the right.

She inched along one wall until she was just outside. She cautiously moved her head until she could just see inside. She saw a naturally rounded cave room. Then her eyes widened with shock as she spotted two of the biggest goblins she had ever seen.

Slowly, so as not to draw their attention, she extinguished her light crystal and returned it to her bag. She wanted to observe them for a few moments before making herself known.

Sitting on the dirty floor, the goblins sang at the top of their voices and then burst into loud fits of laughter. From this distance Bella could not quite hear what they were laughing about, but she stifled the sudden urge to laugh herself at the way they were behaving. Bella had always believed that goblins were dim-witted, hairy and fat. She had never seen any who were as light-hearted as these two; goblins had always seemed so serious to her before.

After watching them for a few more moments, she decided that it would be safe enough to step out of her hiding place. These goblins did not seem dangerous at all. She stepped inside the room. The goblins didn't even notice.

“Ahem!” she said.

Both goblins got such a fright that they fell onto their backs. They looked at her and then at each other, as if not believing that this was happening. They tried to stand, but only managed to tangle their legs and fall over each other again, which set them off in even louder fits of laughter. Bella found herself laughing too at their silly antics.

After their laughter died down, Bella introduced herself.

“My name is Bella, Fairy of Pure Heart,” she said, wondering if they could understand her. The first, bigger goblin stood up.

“Pretty fairy wairy,” he giggled, then looked at the other goblin, who was also standing by this time.

While the goblins turned their attention to her, Bella took a good look at them. The first thing she noticed was that their bodies were a bright burnished orange, and they were very dirty. They wore no shirts, and their huge pot-belly tummies hung over the tops of their pants.

The first goblin wore blue pants, sheared at the bottom and secured around his waist with a ratty old brown string. The second had green shorts, also frayed at the bottom, with the same kind of worn brown string holding them up. They wore no shoes on their massive feet, so she could see ugly toes with thick black toenails peeking over the edges. Her gaze travelling to their faces, she noted the long, sharp, yellowed teeth, large hooked noses and pointed ears, long matted hair springing out from the back of their large heads. They were two very ugly fellows, and would have looked completely fearsome except for their big, expressive eyes. Their eyes held just a glimpse of childish mischief and delight, an air of innocence that seemed totally in contrast with their huge bodies.

Bella felt the urge to laugh at their bizarre appearance, but she didn't want to hurt their feelings, so she said, “Kind Goblins, I am Bella, Fairy of Pure Heart. What are your names?”

The smaller of the two answered her, “Me name is Pronkzie, and this be me brother ... hmmmm.” He paused, then as if a light had been turned on, finished his introductions: “Gariz.”

“What are you doing here?” she asked them, although by this time Gariz was sitting singing to himself again, and Pronkzie, hunched over, was picking something that looked to be alive from under one of his toenails.

“I's don't knows,” said Pronkzie, “but I's sure it's something important.”

“Important,” echoed Gariz, nodding his head solemnly.

“Are you looking for something?” she ventured.

“Looking,” said Pronkzie, the bewildered expression on his face belying the conviction in his tone.

“Something,” said Gariz, and he peered around the empty room as if what he was seeking would be found there.

From the way they were speaking, Bella realised that these two would be of no help to her. Either they were very simple, or something was making them very foolish. At that point, the significance of where she was came to her: The Cave of Forgetfulness. Of course, the goblins were being affected by the caves; they were being made to forget. She decided she needed to keep moving before she ended up in the same situation.

“Thank you for your time,” she murmured, “I hope you'll remember why you are here and what you are looking for,” she said as she walked past them.

They stood and began to follow her.

“Why's we's following the pretty fairy wairy?” asked Gariz from behind her.

“Shssss,” hissed Pronkzie. “She'll hear you,” he whispered.

Bella could not help but grin at this, but impatient with the delay, her humour had faded by the time she turned around. She tapped her foot, and said with mild irritation, “I'm sorry. Is there something that I can help you with?”

Pronkzie had just opened his mouth to speak when Bella's loud gasp and look of horror made him pause. Seeing that she was focussing on something behind him, he looked over his shoulder to see Gariz drawing a fat finger out of his nose, with a long sticky stringy strand of grass-green rubbery snot trailing from it. It unravelled from his finger and flew forward, straight towards Bella. Bella jumped out of the way.

“Grrr,” growled Gariz in obvious irritation. He reached for his nose again.

“Stops that,” growled Pronkzie, reaching for Gariz's hand, but he was too slow and his brother's finger shoved its way into his other nostril, tugging down. This time he managed to keep the strand wrapped around his finger.

Bella wrinkled her nose in disgust as she watched him pop the sticky snot straight into his mouth.
I'm going to be sick,
she thought.

“Mhmmm,” said Gariz blissfully.

“Yuk,” growled Pronkzie with disgust.

“How delightful,” drawled Bella. “At least he found lunch all by himself.”

“Listen,” she continued, “it was lovely meeting you both, but I really must be going,” and she stepped past the brothers. Pronkzie tugged Gariz's arm and the two of them began to follow her. Bella stopped again.

“What is it that you want?” she asked, the exasperation now clear in her tone.

“We doesn't knows whys we's in these caves,” groaned Pronkzie “We doesn't knows how to get out eithers. We thinks it woulds be bestest if wees stayed with yous.”

“I don't have time to help you, I need to find something in these caves,” she began, then sighed.
But who knows how long you could be lost down here by yourselves, walking around as if your heads were up in the clouds, so you might as well come with me,
she thought.

“All right, come on then,” she invited. “But we need to hurry.”

The goblins fell into step behind Bella. They made jokes and laughed and sang silly songs, and before long Bella again found herself laughing. As they moved further along the tunnel, Bella realised that it was becoming warmer. She rubbed her hands over her arms. “We must be close to fire's heart,” she whispered.
Although I'm not sure exactly what fire's heart is or what it could do,
she thought as they walked on.

After some time, they reached another opening off the main tunnel, and entered it, to find themselves in a large cavern. Bella looked around. Rock shards lay scattered around, and natural rock formations that resembled miniature mountains dotted the floor. Her eyes travelled upwards to see more of these formations hanging from the cave roof. They shone, reflecting red and orange lights. Trailing up the wall was a series of notches, obviously not natural formations, which led to a high ledge.

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