I woke up to a loud "HOOOOO!" outside the window of my life house. Groggily stepping out of bed, I realized that it was Merle Ambrose's annoying and creepy owl, Gamma. Cursing a little under my breath, I stumbled around until I had my life-patterned outfit on and my spellbooks organized, grabbed my staff, and hurried out the door.
Gamma said something about Ambrose wanting to see me, so I teleported to the Commons and into his office. I hadn't been in here since defeating Malistaire, and the books seemed a little messier than usual. I found the headmaster polishing his eyeglass thing, looking tired and a bit dirty. There were little bits of dirt and what looked like glitter in his beard.
"Ah, Kestrel, how good to see you." he mumbled, sounding even more tired than he looked. "I've been thinking a long time about this, and I've decided that you would be best for the job I have in mind."
He stood up and hobbled over to a shelf, hidden behind multiple dusty piles of books. Opening the cabinet and brushing away the spiders, he pulled out a leather scabbard.
"Here you go," he said, "I want you to have this. Now, where to start, where to start? All right. Long before Malistaire, this school was devoted to dark magic. This was when I was a young wizard, eager to learn spells. You see, the arts of ruthlessly killing and going against the great magical current used to be much more common than they are today."
I fingered the leather scabbard nervously, trying to imagine the kind of magic he was talking about.
"This dark magic evolved into the death school, but not before a very important event occurred. Far out in the spiral, another world exists, secret from all but Bartleby and me. I will have to make you swear not to tell anyone."
I vigorously nodded, making my hat bob up and down.
"All right. This world is called Celestia, and is so dangerous, not even I dare to venture there anymore. But I fear that Celestia is becoming ever more powerful, and it may be trying to force its dark magic onto the rest of the spiral. We have waited too long to solve this problem, and it has become much worse. Celestia used to be fairly nice to live in, and it was inhabited by wizards and some undead who kept their distance. Then, however, there was an uprising. The undead wanted the same rights and resources as the wizards, and rebelled, overthrowing the entire wizard population and killing every other living thing. But they didn't stop there. Breaking the natural current of magic, they somehow managed to tear Celestia away from the rest of the spiral, setting it completely apart. Everything you know now will be turned upside down when you arrive. Monsters are everywhere, except for a few safe hiding places, which won't be safe for long. There aren't sidewalks, and you will have to figure out what to do for yourself, as there are no other good creatures in Celestia. That scabbard you hold in your hands right now contains the way you will get there." Ambrose sighed and looked like the old man he was.
"You must overturn the fabric that binds the spiral, and plunge the sword in that scabbard into Bartleby's remaining eye."
I gasped. Bartleby was the symbol of life itself.
"Yes, I didn't think you would like that, but if you don't do it, the whole spiral might be eliminated forever."
Shuddering, I nodded.
I nervously tucked my pets safely in cages, preparing for the dangerous journey ahead. I was so scared, my fingers were trembling as I latched Sir Whiskers in his cage. He twitched his nose, and I knew that he could sense my unease.
My biggest fear was of the unknown. I knew there would be no sidewalks in Celestia, so how would I avoid the terrible monsters the headmaster had mentioned? And, without quest givers, what was I supposed to do? Merle Ambrose had provided me with another potion, an amulet with an ice armor charm for protection, and a new set of super powerful gear. It shimmered a little as I unfolded it and put it on. The hat came down just over my eyes and had a pointy top. The robe was a long, flowing dress, patterned with leaves. The shoes were practical green boots.
The last thing I packed was my blue raptor blade. I had a hunch it might come in handy. I had everything I needed in my backpack, so I set off, the scabbard I had been given the night before in my arms.
Arriving at the headmaster's office, I silently said goodbye to all of the spiral that I had come to know and love. All my devoted friends, all my teachers, all the civilians I had helped. A tear silently crept down my face as I forced myself to go into the office.
Merle Ambrose looked - sad.
"Now, Kestrel," he said, "once you get to Celestia, you will want to find Bartleby's sister tree, Raven, and give her the sword with the blood of Bartleby on it. I think she will be able to restore some peace to the Spiral, but currently, Celestia is in a state where she has no control. Her roots were broken away when the undead rebellion tore Celestia from the spiral. Good luck. I have spoken to Bartleby, and he knows that this is of the utmost importance. Be careful, Kestrel."
I nodded, fearing that if I tried to talk, I'd burst out sobbing. I really didn't want to go to Celestia and lose everything I had worked so hard to achieve. I quietly put on my wings and flew to Ravenwood.
"It's been quite a while, hasn't it, young wizard," said Bartleby as I approached. "I know you don't want to do this, but if you don't, I fear that the whole spiral may be doomed. Please, do it quickly, young wizard."
Steeling myself to do it, I took the shining green sword out of the leather scabbard and squeezed my eyes shut as I plunged it into Bartleby's eye. I quickly took it back out, and was not happy to see that it was covered with brownish sludge that I assumed was tree blood.
A portal had formed at Bartleby's mouth. I grabbed my luggage and stepped through it.
I had to be in the wrong world. Ambrose had told me Celestia was dangerous, overrun with undead, torn away from reality. Where I was standing right now was ... beautiful. I looked around, in rapture. A gleaming light shone bright in the sky. It glistened with every color of the rainbow. I assumed it was the sun. I noticed that it was raining. No, not raining. I held out my hand and a few tiny crystals lay gleaming in it. I picked one up and it turned to mist, curling off of my fingertip. Weird. Raining mist crystals. The ground was misty, too.
Walking a little further under the crimson sky, I spotted the edge. All worlds have edges, you just have to find them. I made my way to where I had seen it, and gasped. Celestia wasn't misty. It was a giant cloud. If this even was Celestia. In the distance I could vaguely see a building. On a whim, I checked the map in my spellbook and was immediately taken aback. It was blank. Well, I guess no one had really been here before.
I decided that I had to get somewhere at least relatively safe before something bad happened. Celestia or not, I was bound to get attacked eventually. I headed towards the building type thingy in the distance, wondering if this was really a good idea. I started to shiver a little, my shoes and feet wet from the cloud mist. Looking up, I saw that the "sun" was at the other side of the sky. The building was becoming more clearly defined in the misty distance. As I trudged closer, I realized what it was. Things here were very deceiving. The "building" was actually a giant cave made of some sort of shining rock. Maybe metal, even. I broke into a sprint, ready to rest. The sun had almost disappeared, and the crimson sky was now a lot darker.
Finally, I reached the cave. I stepped inside, put my backpack down, and sat on a rock. I had been walking nearly all day. I lit a small fire (by magic, of course) and set my wet shoes out to dry. I took my magically heated sleeping bag out of my backpack, laid it out, and was asleep the minute my head touched the pillow.
Click. Click click. Clackity click click clack. I awoke from a dream in which Malistaire was using my hairbrush, only to be greeted by a giant crab. I let out a shriek, and the crab scuttled into the shadows at the sides of the cave. I quietly got out of the sleeping bag and peered into the darkness.
"EEEEEEEKKK!!" The crab squealed, and started snapping his claws, trying to ward me off.
I ran to my backpack, got out my blue raptor blade, and brandished it at the crab. It toppled over and played dead. At least, I assumed that was what it was doing.
I poked at the crab with my sword, and suddenly, it started to TALK.
"Please, please, don't hurt me!" Squealed the crab. "I don't have the information! I obeyed the law!"
Surprised that the crab was afraid rather than unfriendly, I tried to comfort it.
"It's okay, it's okay!" I cooed, "I just came from a different world. I don't want anything from you, and I don't want to hurt you."
The crab slowly stopped shaking and looked up at me. "Really?" It asked meekly.
"Yeah, I got sent here by the headmaster of the Ravenwood Academy for Magic, Merle Ambrose. I kinda have a mission, if you know what I mean."
It nodded. "I have heard tales of the Merle one. They say he is kind, and rules fairly. I'm afraid that here in Celestia, things have gotten very, very bad."
I was curious. "What do you mean, 'very, very bad'?" I asked it.
"Well," it said, "first, what is your name? And are you a wizard?"
"Call me Kestrel," I said, "Kestrel Shadowthistle. And yes, I'm a wizard. Level fifty theurgist. And do you have a name?"
"I'm Paul." he said. "Now, I suppose I can tell you what has happened here, but only if you swear never to tell anyone. It's against the law to speak ill of the Shadow Lord."
I solemnly crossed my heart, then waited for him to speak again.
"Well, Celestia was not meant to be inhabited by my people, the Crustaceal. Our true home is in Aquaria, the world under the sea. But, our world was destroyed when the Tritons fought in the great war, so we fled to Celestia to seek refuge. I don't think we can ever go back to Aquaria. Anyway, once the Crustaceal arrived, it turned the balance of power upside down.
"You see, Celestia used to be one of the fairest worlds of the spiral. It was home to the Pegasi, and also to the Griffins, Naiads, and Nymphs. Wizards and undead were spread throughout the land, tending to their daily business and teaching the Astral schools of magic. Life was peaceful when my ancestors got here.
"But, my ancestors wanted power. We were angry that our ancient home had been destroyed, and soon started a battle for the Celestial throne. At that time, it was ruled by Maximus, the great Griffin who kept peace in Celestia. The Crustaceals overthrew Maximus in a rage, but, not knowing how to properly rule, soon let the world fall into chaos.
"The overturned Celestia was just waiting to be corrupted. Soon enough, the undead, wanting rights for themselves, started a rebellion and threw the already chaotic mess into a state of utter turmoil. Without a leader to keep the peace, Celestia was torn away from the rest of the spiral, and is where it is today.
"But now, there is a leader. The Shadow Lord. I've heard that somewhere along the line, an evil Djinni did so many wrongs that he lost his essence, and became nothing but a shadow. From there, he brought balance to Celestia. He gave the undead all the power, and makes us Crustaceals live in pain and sorrow to pay for the wrongs we inflicted. He enslaved the original Pegasi, Griffins, Naiads, and Nymphs in his secret cave, and whenever anyone speaks wrong of him..." Paul paused, shuddering.
"What does he do?" I asked, hungry to know the state Celestia was in.
"He-he takes your soul." Whispered Paul. "He comes. He comes and finds you. And he puts your soul in a jar. Then you're just an empty shell, and your soul is in a jar in his cave." At that point, he broke down and started sobbing.
I didn't really know what to do in order to comfort a crying crab, so I took off my cape and let him dry his eyestalks with it.
"Paul," I said, "I promise, I promise with all my heart that I will get your people back their freedom. It may not be easy, but I think this is part of my quest. Are you in this with me?"
Smiling a little in a crabbish way, he nodded.
"I'm in it with you, young wizard," he said sincerely.
I silently cursed at the mention of "young wizard".
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