Chapter 11: Playful Revenge
“Fiera, I…” I began as I jumped up onto the stage, then stopped.
“Yes?” she said, turning around to face me. She held her chin as if she’d been deep in thought, but her eyes were energetic.
“You’re not chewing my ear off for an explanation of how we’re separate.”
She waved it off and looked back at the blank curtain hanging on the wall. “We’ve already had that conversation.” she said simply. “I don’t need one.”
“Oookay. Well then in that case,” I said, walking over to her.
She stopped and stared at me. She shook her head. “You backspaced that History. Wait, no. Twice...three? I'm getting really weird déjà vu. And you can't backspace History!”
“Really? I’m the Narrator, and technically, now it never happened.” I informed her.
“No! You know the rules: no backspacing.” she snapped heatedly. “That’s cheating.”
“Cheating? How so?” I asked.
She crossed her arms. “You’re just trying to get me to say the explanation of how our conversations work. Fine.” She snorted in irritation and shook her head. “Stupid writers. Making promises about their characters like they own us. And don’t even think about commenting on that one.” Her eyes locked onto mine, blazing in challenge.
“All right, all right. Just say it.” I prodded, chuckling.
“Our conversations are spontaneous, with little forethought (as if you had any).” Fiera said.
“Hey!” I protested. “I’m a very good writer. That’s not the point of…You know, they’re actually rather cute and spontaneous, really.”
Her nostrils flared as she stormed across the stage towards me. “I told you not to call me cute!” she yelled as she sprinted at me.
“Well, I called the conversations cute, not you, so you can’t complain at that one.” I teased, dodging her and jumping towards the screen sheet.
“No? Well I’m in those conversations.” Fiera whirled and glared at me, brushing away the strands of hair that settled in her face. Her chest heaved as she caught her breath, and her face was flushed.
“You are…” I started, and she cut me off.
“Don’t even finish that.” she snapped curtly.
I shrugged and turned my back to her, keeping her presence in my peripherals. “Well, it’s true. You’re acting just like a child, and children are adorable, and so that makes you…”
“You know, one of these days I’m going to have to gouge your eyes out.” Fiera stated as she rather calmly walked across the stage to join me at the viewing sheet. “So, what do we have today?”
“Well, I need to introduce the Nexies and the Tower Nick was going to, and I’m thinking that there might be either a new Moderator or a visit from an old one.” I told her, edging away from her elbow.
“There aren’t any old Mods in this world yet.” Fiera pointed out. “Most of them are, what, a few weeks old? A month? Really, you need to get your head checked out, make sure it’s got more than the minimum requirement of the gray stuff up there.”
“Wow.” I said, turning to face her with a surprised expression on my face. “That was probably the longest, most wordy insult I’ve heard you say so far.”
“Shove it.” she spat back through a grin. “I told you: your Knowledge Vaults are communal.” She shivered. “Okay, I think that’s gone far enough. When your vocab starts rubbing off into my speech, I feel like I need a detox. Seriously.” She shook herself again, as if flinging off all the germs. “All right, now that you had your little break…”
“Fiera, I was busy. I can’t help it that I get pulled away from the computer sometimes.” I said.
“That was for over a day!” she exclaimed. “You couldn’t have come back? No, you were too busy reading books to come finish my puny little story.” she said angrily. “And you still haven’t found a name for Nick’s world.”
“Fiera, I’m trying my best.” I told her placatingly. “What else am I supposed to do? You want something good, and anything I come up with on the spur of the moment isn’t going to satisfy you.”
“Got that right.” she muttered. “Fine. You’ve got 24 hours.”
“Thank you. I’ll try my best.” I said, and she grinned.
“No excuses, just results.” she said, as if reading from a sign behind me.
“Yes, Fiera, there is a laminated sheet of paper with those words at my job.” I said, chuckling as I turned towards the viewing curtain.
“All right. What’cha got cookin’ up there?” she asked as we walked over to the screen sheet.
“Well, we’re going to pick up where we left off, or thereabouts.” I said, powering up the display. Suddenly a sharp pain spiked through my shin, and I reached down to hold the spot as I shuffled away from Fiera. “You need to stop doing that.” I said as she began laughing.
“Hey, that one’s for Lacuna.” she said, smiling broadly. “She may not be able to reach you, but I can.”
“Very funny.” I said, gingerly setting my leg down as I came to a stop six feet away from Fiera. She met my glare with a mischievous grin and then looked back at the screen.
“No, hilarious. That’ll teach you to laugh at a girl for dropping her card after you said she would.” she stated, channeling the words towards me, then turned her attention back to the mountainous range projected through the screen sheet. Nick sat astride his horse, carefully guiding it through the last turn of the pass as he entered a great plain which stretched towards the emerald-hued coast in the west. A thin, lone spire stretched into the sky as if it feared to fall back to the earth, the top of its pike glistening with a vibrant cap of quartz.
“I’m assuming that’s the Tower?” Nick called up to us, keeping his eyes on the structure.
“Pretty much.” I informed him.
“Tower of what?” Fiera asked, zooming in to study the building. After diminishing the size of the square patch in front of her, she began inspecting the walls and brickwork of the lighthouse.
“Well, that’s the…” I began, then sucked in a breath as Fiera dumped a pitcher of ice water down my back. I gasped twice more to regain my breath as Fiera laughed, flinging away the bucket. “That’s cold!” I hissed through clenched teeth, shaking my hair to get the wetness out.
“Hey, Lacuna got you, so I figured it was my turn.” she said, and I shook my head.
“That was a youth group activity, Fiera, which you’re not a part of.” I informed her. “And you’re either too young or too old, depending on which time you use.”
“Whatever.” She crossed her arms and tilted her head as she leaned towards the viewing sheet. “Since you were taking too long to name the Tower, I’m calling it the Overthought Tower, since you were over-thinking its name too much.”
“But that’s not…” I protested, and she interrupted me with a look. “Fine, since it’s already written down.”
“Thank you. Now, do you have a name for Nick’s world yet?” she asked.
“No, but I found out what the thieves’ guild in this world is called- Nith.” I said, then grinned. “Oh, and then there’s also the Ennui Trolls with the trident-buckler weapons, but they’re not coming in yet.”
“You really need to start writing your notes somewhere else besides our story.” Fiera scolded.
“Like the Flying Pigs?” I asked, and she growled in frustration.
“Just finish this chapter, since you’ve been dragging your feet about it.”
“All right. Oh, maybe Nick will meet the Asrai Elves or the Spriggans…” I said teasingly, and Fiera punched me in the arm. “Ow! You’re being really violent today.” I pointed out.
“You’re really trying to push my buttons today.” she retorted.
“Um, I hate to interrupt such a lovely conversation,” Nick called up as he crossed the field on horseback, “but I kinda want to know what I’m supposed to be doing.”
“Go to the Tower.” I instructed him, and he nodded and waved.
“Thanks.” he called back, then spurred his horse to a faster trot.
“She needs a name.” Fiera said, looking at the horse thoughtfully.
“She?” I asked, and Fiera glared at me.
“Yes, she. Every horse has to have a name.”
“How about Cloud?” I asked, and Fiera shook her head in disgust.
“Are you trying to insult the poor thing?” she asked menacingly.
“Well, I just…”
“You didn’t even think! The poor mare’s a nice brown, and you want to call her Cloud. Are you trying to say she looks like mud?” Fiera asked.
“How did you draw that conclusion?” I asked, scratching my head.
“Clouds make rain. Rain makes mud. The horse is brown.” Fiera stated simply, then sharply held up her hand. “No comments!” she scolded. “I don’t care; clouds make rain.”
“Well, technically,” I began, and Fiera’s nose flared as she inhaled.
“I. Don’t. Care.” She punctuated the words. “This is a story, not a science…”
“Scientific.” I interjected.
“Science textbook.” Fiera finished with a huff. “Just write the story.”
“And I thought you were all concerned about me ignoring you for Nick.” I tutted as I stepped up to the screen sheet.
“I’m not even going to comment on that one.” Fiera said, irritated. “I’m just going to end up backhanding you again.”
Chuckling, I submerged my hands in the flickering image and shortened the distance to the Tower. Nick rode his horse up to the base of the Tower, and looked up.
“Hey! You never named the horse.” Fiera interrupted, blocking any forward progress in Nick’s world.
“Fine.” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Her name is…”
“Don’t you dare say ‘Chestnut.’” Fiera scolded. “Come on, you can come up with something more original than that.”
“Do you want me to finish this scene for Nick or not?” I asked, looking over at her.
“I do, but I also want you to name the horse.” she said, smiling innocently. “Come on, you’re just getting a taste of your own medicine.”
“Fine.” I grumbled. “The horse’s name is…Portia.”
“Portia…hmm, didn’t expect you to go there. But I like it.” Fiera said.
“Now, can we please get back to the story?” I asked emphatically.
“You’re the only one holding us up.” Fiera said accusingly as she withdrew her toe, allowing the story to flow again.
“Right. Anyway…” I shifted the focus back down to the Tower.
Nick sat astride Portia, glancing up to the reflective top of Overthought Tower. The stones, carved from an unmarked gray rock, interlocked to form the structure. An archway sat like a temple arcade facing away from the see, protecting a maroon colored door from the elements. Nick dismounted and walked up to the door, thinking it made of wood from the thin, plank-like ruts running up and down the door, but when he knocked on it, discovered it was made from metal, or at the very least encased in a scabbard of metal ore. No one answered the door, and as Nick stepped out of the alcove, a flash of glitter caught his eye. A small creature, the size of a sparrow or a wren, flitted past him, leaving a trail of sparkles in its wakes. Whatever was catching the sunlight to create the glittering quickly flicked out of existence, but then another one of the tiny creatures zoomed by, leaving a new sparkle trail. Nick walked back to Portia’s side and glanced up, and saw that several dozen of the small beings circled the Tower, their graceful bodies glistening in the sunlight. He stepped into the shadow of the Tower, shielding his eyes with his hand as he tried to catch a glimpse of the small creatures flitting around like humming birds. One arced towards him and hovered a foot from his face, inspecting him curiously. The elven creature was small, perhaps as tall as Nick’s hand was long, and was robed in a dress that looked like sea foam made into clothing. Thin, bubbly wings, the shape of a butterfly’s, flapped back and forth, casting off small foamy bubbles that glistened in the air, creating the shimmering cloud of sparkles Nick had seen earlier. [“Will you please just call her a Nexie already?” Fiera snapped. “I was getting to that.” I chided, and returned to the narrative.] Her long, wavy hair, an emerald hue, fell around her delicate face, framing soft, hazel eyes and smooth, unblemished, cerulean colored skin.
“Who are you?” the Nexie asked, looking through the misty cloud of sparkles at Nick.
“I’m Nick.” he replied, and the Nexie smirked.
“I can read.” she said. “I meant what are you, and what are you doing here?”
“I, uh…well,” Nick stuttered, and Fiera jumped into the world with an annoyed huff.
“He’s an elf, mainly,” she informed the Nexie, “but he’s also a Moderator.”
“And I’m not sure what I’m doing here.” Nick said, looking up at me for help. Jokingly, I held up my hands, as if he were on his own, and he shrugged.
“You probably want up the Tower.” the little Nexie said, glancing up at the glistening crown of the Tower, where the other Nexies had congregated.
“Yeah. Let’s go.” Nick said, walking up to the door again. Fiera followed him into the alcove, but the Nexie [“Give her a name.” Fiera scolded me. “I’m getting to that. Be patient!” I retorted.] hovered just outside, looking in.
“You won’t get up that way.” Naia, the Nexie, told them.
“Really? Cause I’m really sure I can get through that.” Nick said, pushing the door open. Naia looked startled, then flitted in, leaving a foamy trail in the air that shimmered and sparkled before all the bubbles popped.
“There aren’t any stairs.” Naia said, watching Nick cautiously.
“Easily fixed.” Nick said, glancing at the stony sides of the stairwell. Where once had been nothing but crumbling ruins or empty foundations, suddenly there was an entire flight of stairs, spiraling up the inside of the Overthought Tower to the top. Torches appeared in the once empty sconces on the wall, flaring with fire the moment after appearing. Nick began climbing and Naia zipped up behind him, keeping an uncertain eye on him and the torches as they ascended. Fiera watched Nick climb up several of the steps, shook her head, and exited the world, returning to the platform in the gymnasium.
“I’ll just wait till he reaches the top.” she informed me with a somewhat smug grin.
Nick kept climbing, ignoring Fiera’s jab that he was wasting energy, and eventually reached the top landing. Two metal poles rose up from the floor, standing sentry in front of a thick, wooden door held together by cast iron bands. Old-fashioned lanterns sat atop each pole, housing dancing flames that matched the flicker of the torchlight as Nick stepped up to the door, reaching for the iron ring used as the door handle.
“Wait!” Naia cried, flying in front of his hand. Nick pulled up and looked at her, confused.
“What?” he asked.
“You don’t want to go in there.” Naia said, her eyes taking on a haunted, terrified expression.
Concerned, Nick knelt down to the height at which she hovered. “What’s wrong? What’s in that room?”
“Elytron.” she said, her voice quivering. She hugged her shoulders, which were left bare by the dress, and pulled her knees up by her chest, the hem of her ankle-length dress hiding her feet. The delicate Nexie started to sink like a balloon loosing helium, and Nick caught her gently in his hands. Nick cupped his hands as Naia started to shiver, and held her up.
“Hey, it’s okay. Who’s Elytron?” he asked soothingly.
“Not who, what.” Naia stammered, her body quaking.
“So Elytron is…?” Nick said.
“Sword.” Naia muttered, curling up into the fetal position. Her shaking diminished in magnitude, and her breathing slowed.
“That’s not good.” Fiera said, concerned, as she jumped back into the world [“Codicil!” she yelled up at me. “There. Now Nick’s world has a name.”], her attention focused on the fading Nexie.
“What’s wrong with her?” Nick asked.
“I’m not sure,” Fiera said softly as Nick gently slipped Naia into her hands, “but I’m sure someone,” she emphasized quietly, glaring up at me, “is going to explain.”
“Get her out of the Tower, Fiera.” I said gently, and Fiera nodded, gliding through the walls as if they were immaterial.
“She’s not going to fall?” Nick asked, watching the segment of wall through which Fiera had just passed.
“No.” I shook my head. “She’s a Mod, remember.”
“Oh, right.” Nick said, taking a firm grip on the door ring at his waist as he stood back up. “So…what’s behind door number one?” he asked nobody in particular as he pulled the door open.
“Okay, that’s no way to end this chapter.” Fiera scolded me, still gently clutching the tiny Nexie.
“Well, it will suffice for now. I’m out of space. Okay, it’s just going a little long.” I corrected, and saved before she could protest.