Chapter 2: Dusty Trails: Long Road to Ruin
Velden Trails sat in a small cell with three walls and a solid metal door. He could barely cross his legs in the cramped space. Facing the wall, eyes shut, no sound echoed from anywhere, no hope of escape presented itself. The only way out was a solid metal door with no way of opening from either side. He sat in wait for what seemed to be days until the echo of steps bounced off the walls to his ears. His eyes snapped open as the steps stopped at his door.
A strange sound came from the door and he noticed a fine shine reflected across the walls. A panel opened on the door, a panel which was never there before. Velden was fast as he shot up and slid his arm through the door grabbing the fairy just outside. He jumped with fright as Velden's cerulean silver ring began to glow. Before the guard could yell for help, he was done for. The brighter the ring got, the less the guard resisted until finally Velden let go of his arm. Velden’s gritty voice whispered through the door “let me out.” Seconds later the seams on the door began to glow a bright blue as the metal door slowly slid into the ground. Velden was free.
Velden stared into the lifeless face of the guard holding a plate of food in his hand. He took off down the row of cells. Knowing it would only take a few more minutes for the guard to awaken, he was in a rush. Coming to a door with a large window that revealed the guards eating at a table, he had to act fast and smart. To avoid detection, Velden bent down, tearing a piece of cloth from his sleeve. Folding it, he stuffed it between his ring and finger. As Velden rubbed his hands together, the ring began to glow. He blew into his palms and smoke began to rise. In seconds the hall filled with a thick smoke. The piece of cloth was all but gone.
Out of the corner of his eye, a guard noticed the smoky glass on the door. Before alerting the other guards he approached the door. But before he could open the door Velden burst through. He knocked the guard to the ground as smoke flowed in, covering all of them. As the guards scurried in a frantic panic, Velden dashed through the closest door. Whispering to himself “left, left, right, left, right,” as he rushed down hall after hall taking all the turns he could remember. He found the elevator and quickly stepped inside, pulling the rope to the right to began his ascent. “Just three floors,” he reminded himself.
He took off out of the elevator, ran down the halls of each wing, looking. He couldn’t find her. At corner, he almost ran into a woman dressed all in white. He stopped just before crashing into her.
“So sorry, but if you could help me real quick, I’ll be on my way. Where is the medical wing?” Velden asked.
“Just down this hall, sir. And please don’t run,” she said, as he began to walk down the hall with much speed in his step.
“Thank you!” he yelled back. As Velden walked through the door at the end of the hall, a girl at the desk to his right asked,
“Can I help you sir?” He had no time left, his ruse would have faded, the lifeless guard would have come to, and the entire building would be on high alert at any moment. Ignoring the woman, he quickly turned to the first hall he came to.
“Sir! You’re not allowed to enter there until you’ve signed in!” she yelled. Peering into each room he passed as he rushed down the hall until he finally saw them. Sitting up in her bed holding a baby was Fiona. He rushed to her side and held her hand.
“I’m here Fi,” he told her.
“Say hello to your son,” she said, as she raised the baby to him.
“Ah, my boy… my baby boy… Dusty,” he said as he took hold of him. “He’s so cute,” Velden said as he smiled, forgetting where he was for a moment.
“What’s the plan, then?”
“Can you move fast? We’ve gotta go, and now!” Velden sputtered, jumping back to reality.
The cool refreshing feel of water washing against his face woke him. He peeled his eyes open to realize he was still alive. Dusty lifted his head to feel the sharpest pain he had ever felt shoot down his back. Not being able to bear the pain, he rested his head in the shallow water again.
“Let’s try this again,” he said, as he arched his back as fast as he could, pain once again shooting down his back. He heard a series of cracks, echoing through the open air, fading as he found his feet. Relief washed over him in seconds as his energy came rushing back. Dusty stretched his sore body.
Dusty found himself on the bank of a river. A waterfall just upstream flowed from a large concrete pipe. Stumbling up the small slope he found a field of green grass, and beyond, the enormous city he had sent Spit to. He was taken by the beautiful skyline, towering structures covered with growth of all kinds, some even destroyed and crumbling with the rising sun shining through it all.
“Spit, I hope you’re okay,” he said as he turned back to the river. He made his way up the large hill. Using the waterfall for direction, Dusty headed home. Walking through the giant forest was relaxing. Dusty had never seen trees up close before -- they were huge and thicker than he’d imagined. He had only ever seen the tops of trees. Peeking through the small holes of the hatch in the dragon’s den was as close as he had come to the outside world. After walking for what seemed to be hours, he finally came across the manhole Spit had opened.
With no dragon in sight, Dusty dropped down into the lab. The room was a mess, and glass littered the floor like a mine field. Dusty’s heart pounded with each step. Once he entered the tubes, he remained as silent as possible.
Something had stirred up the Brownies. Their screams echoed throughout the Tin-Tin Tubes. Something had them in quite the frenzy.
Dusty reached the gate to his city and opened the door slowly so he wouldn’t get caught. As he stepped into the city, his home, he found it to be a very different place from when he had left. It was filled with fire and destruction, rioting, hysteria and fear. Dusty grabbed the first person he saw. “What’s going on?” he croaked.
“Where you’ve been? Those three kids that left caused all this… Wait, wait you’re one of them! I found one of them!!!” he shouted, but none heard. He forcefully grabbed Dusty, but Dusty pulled away as he shoved the fairy. Dusty took off, ducking down an alleyway. Making his way through the shadows of the back streets and alleys he was headed home.
Ducking inside, he checked to make sure no one saw or followed him. He watched through his peephole for a moment. “You’ve caused quite the chaos.” A voice surprised him as he turned to see a member of the Council sitting at his table.
“Elder! What’s happened?” Dusty pleaded as he sat down.
“Please call me by my name. After today, I don’t think I’ll be an Elder anymore.”
“No! They can’t dismember the Council…” Before Dusty could finish, he cut in:
“We’ve already been divided. There’s so much you don’t know and so little time… Please be still Dusty, let me tell you what’s come to pass,” the Elder calmly said, Dusty held his questions as he sat, opening his ears.
“Franklin’s mother, Cherry, caused quite the stir for us. When she noticed he was missing blame went straight to Spit. She gathered everyone to search the Tin-Tin tubes. We the Council told them it was forbidden to leave the city, and if they did the gates would be locked upon their return. She became outraged and gathered half the city to overthrow the Council. The other half of the city fought against it, and the city was torn apart in war. This city is lost, but sadly, it’s for the best… Dusty, there’s something I must tell you… it’s about your father and also me.” He took a long breath, he was troubled as if the words he was about to speak would be the death of him once spoken.
“They call me Elder not because I lead the Council but because I am one of six who holds a very special item, a key to the world’s secrets waiting to be found. We belong to a Council no one of this city knows about, a high Council made of six races of fairies, the group of Elders. Each race holds two seats. We’re called Partners; one stays with the group of Elders while the other lives in his city with a key. Each city’s Council was formed around us Elders. We’ve remained in secret. We gave our names and our lives to protect our key. As of late I’ve lost sight of what it is exactly we’re protecting. Key holders must choose a ‘warrior.’ Your father was a warrior.” Dusty’s eyes widened as he sat up.
“My father was your warrior?” he asked.
“No, just a very good friend I could never betray. My warrior was Spit’s father, Tin. Like your father, you weren’t born here. You’re a dust fairy, Dusty,” the elder told him. His eyes widened with shock as a million questions crossed his mind, but only one left his mouth.
“What really happened to my father?” Dusty asked, as his entire house shook from an explosion. Seconds later the walls rattled with the sound of rocks and bottles. Dusty’s name echoed through the city as the mob just outside his door called for his head.
“It’s time to go Dusty, here take this,” the Elder said as he handed him a small, odd-shaped multicolored piece of soapstone. The stone was smooth and thin, red veins bleeding into a dull teal.
“But my father, what happened?” he asked, desperate for details.
“No time, you must live, you must finish what your father started. I… I never believed him even when I sheltered him, it was only after he was gone that I realized he was right. Now it’s your time, free this world and bring us together. Find an earth fairy named Soul, he’ll know more than I do, he is a trusted friend of mine and your father’s. Go to him,” he said as he walked to the door. Dusty had no time. As much as he would have liked to drag the Elder along, he knew he only had seconds to escape. Dusty hopped over his counter top and quickly slid down the small hole to his basement, sealing himself inside.
He rushed to his room when he heard the door burst open. He opened a hatch beneath his rug and slid in. As he crawled through a small cramped tunnel he stopped under what should have been his front door. He could hear mumbling. Deeper underground than his basement and was lucky to hear anything at all. They started shouting for a minute until all went silent. Moments later he could hear them trashing his place. He rushed through the tunnel and come out near the fountain in front of the main gate. Slipping through the city gate, he never looked back.
Running as fast as he could Dusty felt life chasing him, he was running from nothing. As he slowed down to take a breath he realized he had nothing. No home to go back to, no books for knowledge, no tools to help, everything was gone. Dusty stood in the darkness, cold and alone with nothing but the screeching brownies echoing through the Tin-Tin Tubes. Moving forward was more than just moving his feet, he was attached to the life he had made.
Even knowing there was nothing to go back to, he still had the urge to rush home and try his hardest to fix everything. He couldn’t just give up and move on, he had to try something. Standing idle in the darkness, he turned back to his city. He was going to set things straight before he left.
Dusty failed to notice the silence of the Tin-Tin Tubes as he slowly made his way back to the city. Keeping the ledge to his left while he hugged the wall to his right, he kept an eye over his shoulder. Paranoia continued to haunt him.
A sudden screech drew his attention as a Brownie came rushing up from the ledge. He quickly jumped back as it slammed into the wall. He’d never seen a Brownie this close - it wasn’t much shorter than he was and had a pale olive-rust color. It had shockingly similar features to a fairy but looked deformed. It was as if the Dust took over a fairy’s body. Its skin was dry and flaking off into the golden Dust that once wiped this world clean. Blue glowing veins ran through the cracks and breaks in its skin like some kind of monster. Its jaw hung, drooling, with lifeless eyes as it dragged itself toward Dusty.
Dusty backed away until he bumped into a wall but there was no wall behind him. He turned to see three more Brownies. Pushing them away, he stumbled closer to the ledge. A Brownie reached up, grabbing his leg as it pulled itself up the ledge. Dusty kicked it away as he saw, just beyond the ledge, hundreds of them crawling up towards him. Dusty panicked as he shoved aside the three surrounding on him. He ran without looking back, knowing full well they were chasing him.
At this pace it didn’t take him long to reach the room where he lost Spit. He quickly flew through the open window that bars once blocked. Pipes continued to bellow steam and the constant hiss rung in his ears. The Brownies reached the lab door as they pounded on it to break through. It wouldn’t be long before they piled up to the window.
Dusty rose from the manhole into the giant forest. “Okay, Dusty, how do you find an earth fairy city when you didn’t even know other types of fairies existed?” he said to himself as he looked around. He saw nothing but thick tree trunks and green grass. Then he remembered. “Spit!” he shouted. His best friend still hadn’t come back from the city. “I can’t let him walk into that mess, they’ll eat him alive,” he declared. He started walking toward the metropolis.
Spit found his feet as he continued to stare at his black hands. A loud splash came crashing down in front of him, forming a pool of water. After a moment the liquid began to rise, forming a fairy before his very eyes. Spit watched as fairy’s pure blue bones set into place.
“Damn, that hurt,” Hydro said as his eyes rolled back into place. He stared at the shocked Spit for a moment. “You… you weren’t lying. But what are you now?” Hydro asked still weary.
“Not sure, but I feel like myself again, no thanks to you,” Spit said, preparing himself for a fight.
“Hey, can you blame me? You saw yourself, you looked like a monster.”
“Yea well, I told you what I was,” Spit said as he turned, looking around to see nothing but a black desert with unimaginably huge buildings. He started walking, unsure if he would be attacked from behind, unsure of where he was headed, unsure of what he really was.
“Hey, wait! Where ya going?” Hydro asked, as he ran after him.
“Away from you! You’ve caused enough problems in my life, thank you,” Spit said snidely
“Damn, you don’t have to be so rude. Listen, I think this was meant to happen, it’s destiny, fate, call it what you will….” Spit turned so fast Hydro almost walked right into him.
“No, you listen, leave me alone! It’s not destiny, not fate, just one really bad day. Now I'm going home and you’re not invited, ever!” Spit turned as he continued his journey home.
“But you don’t understand, I'm a warrior for the Elders. There’s this prophecy… it’s said to unite all the fairy races!” Hydro said but Spit kept walking. “Damn it, listen to me! You’re part of it…” Hydro pleaded, watching Spit continue. Then a loud growl shook the city. Spit stopped short and turned to face Hydro. He watched as the city street behind Hydro began to rise and crack. Hydro turned slowly to see a large three-fingered claw break free through the ground. He began backing up as the street crumbled before his feet. “What in the world is that?” Spit mumbled in astonishment as Hydro grew closer to him. It took a moment for Hydro to answer.
“Not a clue,” he said as they watched in awe.
The giant foot slammed to the ground, imprinting its claws into the pavement. It pulled itself up from the dark hole, its long neck rising first, followed by its head. The dragon’s eyes snapped open, its lips rose, showing its teeth covered in saliva. A puff of smoke and fire blew from its nose as it pulled the rest of its copper-red, scaly body from its sleeping den. Its tail whipped into the building next to it, shattering the glass as it snarled. Its eyes shot over to where the glass box lay, broken and drained of its liquid. It stretched its neck over and took a whiff. This was treasure, to be sure, and its head shot back to them with a roar.
They braced themselves as its roar almost blew them away. “Oh damn, this is not good,” Spit said as the dragon charged. Hydro just stood there in shock. Spit quickly pushed him out of the way as he ran toward the closest building. “Ya gotta move! Now!” Spit yelled as the dragon rushed him, whipping its tail, breaking all the glass and some metal beams on the building they stood in front of. Hydro ran as Spit shot his hand at the dragon’s neck. He pulled himself up onto its scales. They were rough like sandpaper. He began climbing up its neck as it thrashed about. Giant shards of glass flew around Spit as the dragon’s claws dragged across the building. The dragon raised its neck as it slammed it into the building. Spit was pressed against the rough scales. The pain was unbearable as he was squeezed between the glass and sharp scales.
“HEY! Over here, ya oversized beast!” Hydro yelled from down the street, distracting the dragon. It turned and charged at him. Spit took this opportunity to climb as fast as he could. Finally reaching its head, he climbed up its muzzle. The dragon skidded to a stop just in front Hydro as its eyes crossed to stare at Spit. He ran up its muzzle, punching it in the right eye. His hand sank into its eye as its lid snapped shut on Spit’s hand. The dragon thrashed about furiously.
Spit tried to focus as his body was thrown every which way. Using his black ink he could feel it like an extra limb stretching through the dragon’s body. Through its veins, over its muscles, he finally found its heart. He stretched his ink hand around and through its heart until he felt fully in control. With all his strength he forced its heart to stop pumping. The dragon slowly stopped thrashing and fell limp to the floor.
Hydro stood wide-eyed, jaw unhinged, as Spit hopped off the dragon’s nose. “Don’t act so impressed,” Spit said as he walked past. Hydro shook himself back to reality as he ran to catch up.
“Wait!” he yelled. “Why did you save me?”
“I figured there was no way I could have taken that thing on by myself,” Spit said.
“But you did, and you could have run… it’s what I would have done.”
“Na, it crushed me, pretty sure it broke some bones…. If I have any,” he whispered as Hydro noticed him holding his side. “Thank you for distracting it but don’t get your hopes up, I'm still going home,” Spit told him.
“No way, you need rest so you can heal… come on, I know a place in the city, it’s safe and we can stay as long as we need to. Then I’ll let you go home and I won’t bug you any more… deal?” Hydro said.
Spit took a breath as he stopped walking to think. Before Spit could answer he noticed the familiar sound of wings buzzing in his ears. Looking up, he could see four fairies descending upon him. He could clearly see each one was from a different race, a Fire fairy, Elf fairy, Earth fairy and a Wind fairy.
The Earth fairy was tall and thick with muscle, his wings made of green grass, while his skin was a dark shade of soil but still surprisingly smooth, with sandy gold hair. The Wind fairy was similar to the Elf, his wings were barely visible. His skin was slightly transparent, like gossamer on top on bones. He was smaller than the rest by at least a foot.
The pain was so bad, Spit could barely stand up, let alone defend himself from four, maybe five, fairies. “What is this?” he grunted as he peered back to Hydro, who simply glanced down, almost in shame. As Spit turned back to the two fairies in front of him, all he was able to see was a blur as the Earth fairy swung something blunt across his face. Spit dropped to the floor unconscious.
“What did you do that for?” Hydro yelled at the Earth fairy. The Earth fairy shrugged.
“He’s got a point, the kid was already injured. I don’t think he was going to put up a fight,” the Wind fairy said.
“Shut up, Tiny, no one asked your opinion,” the oversized Earth fairy said.
“You’re carrying him, Rufus,” the Fire fairy said to the Earth fairy.
“Damn, he didn’t deserve this, he saved my life,” Hydro said staring at Spit.
The closer Dusty got to the city, the more he realized how hard it was going to be to find Spit. He was in awe of the city as he walked onto the black top. He bent down, feeling the ground. “It’s not dirt or concrete, what is it?” he whispered to himself. Dusty examined everything he saw, he was a kid in a toy store. Taking his time roaming the barren streets, he would occasionally call out to Spit hoping he would get a response. After what seemed like hours of roaming, he found himself at an intersection, only to notice a large mass not too far down the road to his left. Approaching with caution, he found it to be a dragon. It was far bigger than the sewage dragon.
He couldn’t help but touch the lifeless dragon. “I wonder what happened, surely not Spit. This dragon is twice the size of the last one,” he said as he lifted its lip to examine its teeth. He found its eye, full of small black spots of ink, most interesting. “Why would ink be here?” he asked himself as he followed the drops of ink down the street. He followed the drops for miles until he reached the outskirts of the city.
A faint huffing and patter of feet reached Dusty’s ears. Someone was running. He turned to see a young fairy who wasn’t paying attention ran into Dusty. She sent herself flying back onto her bottom as she looked up in a panic.
“You okay?” he asked as he offered his hand. He could see the fear slightly fade from her eyes as she took his hand.
“You have to run, they’re coming… they’re going to kill us!” she said as she gripped his hand tightly. She tried to pull Dusty away.
“What? What’s coming?” Dusty asked as he stood there trying to figure out what she was talking about.
“There’s no time, you gotta run!” she said, as she glanced around fearfully.
“Alright, let’s go then,” Dusty said. They ran down the street to the right of the street she came down. After his encounter with the Brownies he was fearful of what this new city had to offer.
Spit awoke to talking as he felt every bumpy step the Earth fairy took while carrying him over his shoulder. He moved his pain-ridden jaw around to make sure it was still intact. Looking around he noticed a beautiful fairy city…, maybe a metropolis. The buildings were made from sparkling glass while smaller buildings and houses were made of earth and wood. Trees, plants, waterfalls, the city had it all, as if it was brand new. This city was unlike the last Spit was in, this was built for fairies by fairies. It wasn’t oversized. Even his hometown was built from scraps and junk; this metropolis was shiny and new, fresh and bright. Even the streets were made of glass. Spit couldn’t help but think of how long it would’ve taken to build such a beautiful city.
Instinct took over as Spit shot out his hand. Grabbing onto a tree, he pulled himself off the fairy’s shoulder. He quickly shot his hand up to a large and very tall pole. He swung out, sending himself flying. Wings spread as he took flight. It felt good as the air lifted his fresh new wings. Black, paper thin and slightly transparent, his wings felt much as they did when he spread them for the very first time in his life. He felt at home as he spun around in loop-d-loops and barrel rolls, eyes closed as he simply enjoyed flying once again.
Opening his eyes to see the Wind fairy fly in front of him took him back to reality. He twisted around the fairy with grace and speed only to run into a ball of fire. The fireball slammed into his shoulder as he tried to dodge it. He twisted out of control as fire spread across his body. Spit felt no pain, no burning sensation. His liquid black skin conducted the fire as he gained control of his fall. He pulled himself up with great speed, smashing into the Fire fairy. They crashed onto the glass street above a thick tree root. The glass cracked with the force of impact as they tumbled to a stop. Spit clamped his right hand around the Fire fairy’s throat as he thrashed around, fighting for his life. A moment later Spit felt that same heavy blunt object the Earth fairy carried across the back of his head.
“Ya know, he’s the lucky one. He won’t have ta remember carrying his ass, he’s surprisingly heavy,” were the last words Spit heard before slipping into darkness. Then all he saw was black.
“What’s your name?” Dusty asked the young girl he cradled in his arms. She was one of the prettiest girls he’d ever laid eyes on.
“Violet,” she said, holding him.
“Nice to meet you Violet, I'm Dusty.”
“Hi Dusty. Where are you from?” she asked. He paused for a moment.
“A city in the sewers…” He didn’t elaborate.
“What brings you out here?” Violet stared into his eyes with an innocence. He was falling in love.
“That’s a good question. I was trying to help a friend when I found my own quest. Now I'm not sure if I should go find him or continue my search for my father…” Dusty said, unsure of what to do.
“What happened to your friend?” Violet asked.
“He lost his wings and worst of all, it’s my fault. To top it off, I'm the one who sent him out here. Now I gotta find him in this enormous city or somehow find the Earth fairy city… both seem pretty impossible.”
“I know where the Earth fairies are, I can take you to them. They’re not too far from here, why don’t you start there,” she told him.
They hid under a large cardboard box. Water had long ago warped and ruined the box. Watching from the small cracks and holes, Dusty and Violet could see the occasional Brownie skittered past. They talked while they waited for a clearing. Once they saw their opportunity they took it and they made their way out of the city.
Reaching a large field, Dusty couldn’t help but think fairies might be too small for this world. Everything was larger than fairies by a lot, including the massive tree they were headed for. Standing in the middle of the field was a massive tree with leaves of every color, blue, green, red, even teal.
They reached the base of the tree. Dusty noticed open doorways all around the trunk. Everything was quiet, even Violet. “You ready?” Dusty asked, making sure she was okay.
“Oh ummm… I can’t go in there with you,” she said as she took a step back.
“What? What are you talking about?” he asked.
“It's nothing. I’ll just wait out here for you. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, I won’t be long… hopefully,” Dusty said as he entered the tree.
The dark tunnel opened to a sight Dusty thought he’d never see. Within the base of the tree was an Earth fairy city three times the size of his own city within the Tin-Tin Tubes. Everything was hand-crafted from the earth -- sandstone buildings, clay houses, wooden markets. Along the walls of the tree ran ramps to various levels. There was more than one city in this tree alone.
“It may take longer than I thought,” Dusty said to himself, as an earth fairy noticed him and approached.
“Who are you? What’s your business here?” his hollowed voice asked.
“My name’s Dusty, and I'm looking for Soul,” Dusty said, unsure of what was going to happen.
“A friend of Soul’s is a friend of mine. Name’s Ore… you did say you’re friends with Soul, right?” Ore looked confused for a moment.
“My father was friends with him. He may know where my father is now.”
“Follow me, I’ll take you to see him. Be warned, you start any trouble with the Earth fairies, we won’t ban you from the city, you’ll just never leave. Understood?” Ore looked back to see Dusty nod as he looked around. “Keep your head down and stay out of sight as much as possible. Fairies still don’t know much of about other races, most don’t even know there are others. I'm not sure why the Elders want this, you probably know better than me,” Ore said as they walked through the streets. Dusty made no comment as he figured Ore had him confused for someone who knew the Elders. Ore thought he probably even thought he worked for them. Dusty couldn’t help but look all around in wonder. He took in all he could.
It didn’t take long for them to reach an old wooden shack. It looked as if it was about to fall down. Dusty expected to walk into a broken-down home, only to find it was a bar. Fairies sat around drinking from wooden mugs while Ore sat at the bar to order a drink “You want anything, Dusty?” he asked.
“No, I'm good, thank you. Where is Soul?” Dusty asked, only for the bartender to answer:
“In the back, in his office, he’s busy right now. So what’ll it be?”
“Ummm…. Well, what do you have?” Dusty asked, not sure what an Earth fairy bar would have to offer.
“Slug jell, earth ale and bark beer is popular with non-Earth fairy folk. I recommend bark beer,” he said as he cleaned out a mug for Dusty.
“I’ll take one of those, thanks,” Dusty said as he watched the bartender pull some crushed-up bark from a barrel to fill the bottom of the mug. He then filled the mug with a green liquid from the tap. A barf-green foam slightly overflowed onto the bar. Dusty waited for the foam in his mug to settle and saw a thick teal liquid bubbling inside his mug. He took a sip. “Emmm… mint and do I taste a hint of sweet orange,” Dusty said, as he took a mouthful.
“You got quite the taste buds there kid,” the bartender said. Dusty laughed as Ore turned to the back. He nudged Dusty as he pointed to the back room. Dusty took it that Soul was ready to see him. He quickly finished his drink, then walked towards the back room.
Violet found herself standing in front of a large fountain in a square in the glass city. The largest building in the city stood not far from her. She checked her surroundings before pushing down a loose stone. A hole just big enough to crawl through opened near her feet. She slipped in and it closed behind her. After a few feet, she dropped into a hallway filled with voices.
“Shut up, Tiny! What did you do? Nothing, that’s what!” Rufus said.
“If you hadn’t attacked him in the first place maybe he would have come with us. Then we wouldn’t have had any of this mess,” Hydro said. Rufus threw Spit down as he turned to Hydro with speed and force.
“The day you tell me what to do will be the day I get to crush your squashy little body, got it?” Rufus said, as Tiny jumped in between them.
“Knock it off, now!” he said. Sparks watched them when he noticed Violet drop into the hall.
“Well, look whose back. So, anyone looking for him?” Sparks asked, as Violet approached.
“Not sure, I ran into a fairy but he was looking for a friend he sent into the city. He said his friend was wingless, not a black ink fairy… something could have happened to him though, and this could be the fairy he’s looking for,” she said.
“You give him the whole ‘innocent girl, running-for-her-life’ bit?” Sparks asked.
“Yea, works every time,” she laughed, as Rufus picked up Spit. They all headed down the hall to two large doors.
Dusty walked into the room to find it filled with a light green smoke. Soul sat on pillows in the middle of the room. “Soul?” Dusty asked as he slowly stepped into the room.
“Yes, who are you?” he said as smoke bellowed from his mouth.
“Dusty Trails!” Soul exclaimed as he stood up.
“Umm yea, how did you know?” Dusty asked, as Soul wrapped his big arms around Dusty.
“I knew your father Velden, he spoke of you often. Come sit, relax,” he told Dusty as he took his seat.
“I'm looking for answers,” Dusty said, sitting.
“Then you came to the right place. I'm full of information,” Soul told him as he took hold of a small bucket filled with water. Bobbing inside it was a jug with small round holes on its lower half. Soul ignited a spark at the end of his twig finger and held it over the jug opening. Loose leaves and stems nestled on top of a screen within its neck quickly turned to embers, filling the jug with smoke. As he pulled the jug upwards, water ran back out into the bucket through holes, sucking the smoke into the jug. He then let go of the jug, allowing gravity to slowly push the smoke out of the bottle as it sank back into the water. Smoke filled the room. “I knew your father had every intention of keeping things from you but I didn’t think it would go so far as to give you fake wings,”
“What! What do you mean, fake?” Dusty asked as he raised his right wing to pull it around and examine it.
“You’re a Dust fairy, Dusty. You don’t have wings. You’re the only fairies that can fly without them,” Soul told him as he ran his hand along the fake wing. It felt real enough to him.
“Where is he?” Dusty asked, not sure if he really wanted to know.
“I'm not sure, Dusty, sorry. It’s been four long years since we spoke.”
“I was under the impression he died when I was just a baby.”
“He did that to protect you. See, he was a warrior for…”
Dusty cut in; “For the Elders, I know. What I don’t know is why he went missing and what he was after.”
“The Elders hold a prophecy. It says there is a weapon hidden in this world that will unite us. Some believe it will kill us all, no one knows for sure since it’s never been used. Velden was the only warrior to know about almost every artifact. He even knew where the weapon was hidden and who held the keys to it. He did believe the weapon had been used and it destroyed the world once already. The Council had him imprisoned, but he had to escape for you. He wanted to protect you. He didn’t want you wrapped up in all this so he disappeared,” Soul told him.
“So where is he now?” Dusty asked, as Soul took a deep breath.
“The last I heard was two years ago from your mother. She told me he was going after the Elders… she told me he never came back. I'm sorry Dusty,” Soul said.
“Yeah, me too, he never shows his face once in all the years I’ve been alive… I thought both of them were dead… where is my mother?” Dusty asked.
“As far as I know she followed Velden… I think he knew you would be here one day. He left this for you,” Soul said, as he pulled out a cerulean silver ring. “He said it’s not just a ring but something special that helped him in tough times,” he told Dusty as he gave him the ring.
“It’s an artifact? Do you know its power?” Dusty asked as he slid it onto his finger.
“Afraid not, I can tell you the Elders are not anyone you want to mess with. They may be hidden to most of the world but that doesn’t mean they’re not powerful enough to get whatever they want. They have eyes and ears everywhere,” Soul told him.
“I have to find out what happened to them and what they were after. If it’s important enough to leave your son alone, then it’s important I learn to forgive them and finish what they started. Thank you for your help,” Dusty told Soul and he stood to leave.
“Be careful, Dusty, and don’t be a stranger,” Soul said.
“I’ll be back, promise… I got a friend in a large city not too far from here, his name is Spit Shine. If you get any word on him I would owe you big.”
“Spit Shine, that’s not Tin Shine’s son, is it?” Soul asked.
“Tin and Velden were rivals, almost killed each other in that city. I'm surprised you’re friends with his son.”
“Best friends, sometimes you can’t choose who your friends are…” Dusty said.
“Yeah, ain't that the truth. Oh, and careful what you say around Ore. His father is the Elder of this city. Ya know, now that I think about it, you’re lucky. If Spit is anything like his father, he’ll be one hell of a fighter. He’ll have that fighting spirit. As we like to say, strong heart, strong fists,” Soul laughed.
“Thanks, I think,” Dusty said with a laugh as he left.
Dusty walked out into the tall thick green grass with the sun beating down on him. Violet was nowhere in sight. Dusty couldn’t worry about her, he was distracted by other things. “My life has been a lie,” he said to himself as he raised his wings. Reaching back he took hold of the base of the wings. With all his rage he pulled. He could feel the smooth metal parts shift under his skin. The pain was unbearable as he fell to his knees. Blood ran down his back as his skin split open. They slowly ripped through his skin inch by inch. Jerking his wings from his back with a yell of pain, he threw them to the ground.
It took Dusty a moment to stand on his feet, when he noticed his wings on the floor. They were attached to thin metal bars with a green fluid feeding the wings. He noticed a small black tube above the green fluid, only in the right wing. He pulled it from the clamps that held it in place. Dusty found a soft spot in the grass to rest against a root from the large Earth fairy tree, and he opened the tube to find a note.
“Dusty, my boy… writing this letter is the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. In writing this, it means I may never see you again. It means you’ll grow up without me, it means you’ll have to go through pain just to read the only words you’ve ever seen from your father. If you’ve found this without me, then I'm sure you know you’re no Elf fairy. There is a lot to tell and only so much paper, so please forgive me if I get to the point.
“If you haven’t done so already, seek out an Earth fairy named Soul, he’ll have something for you. I hope you held onto those tech books I left you. I wrote them and left the locations to each artifact I’ve ever found in them. Keep them safe and away from the Elders… there’s not enough room to explain about them. There is a weapon hidden away in this world that I must find and destroy. If I fail, then there is no way to destroy it and you must get the six keys from the Elders… I’ve already tried to destroy these keys with no luck. If I have not returned, then I'm more than likely dead or capture. Either way I’ll be in the glass city floating in the sky. It’s hard to see, but you must find it, you must find my body… I know you’ll know what to do… be careful my son and know I will always love you.”
Dusty looked into the endless blue ocean of sky. There were no signs of a floating city anywhere. “Great,” Dusty sighed. “How am I supposed to get to a floating city I can’t see with no wings? Damn it, dad, why couldn’t you lead a normal life?” Dusty whispered to himself as he scanned the sky with no luck. “Maybe I can see it from a building in the city, maybe I can find Spit too,” he said as he started walking.
Dusty’s emotions were exploding on the inside. He didn’t know if he should hate or love his father. Should he find his best friend or his father, or should he search out these mysterious keys? His best bet was toward the city, even if he was unsure of what he would do once he got there.
Ore watched Dusty from one of the many shadowy entrances to the Earth fairy city. He cringed as Dusty pulled off his own wings. “How could someone do that to themselves,” he thought as he watched Dusty walk toward the city. Running back into the city, turning down streets until he found his home, Ore burst through the door. “Father!!!” he called out as he ran to the study and found his father reading at his desk.
“What is it son?” his father asked without taking his eyes off his book.
“A kid named Dusty came here today. He came looking for Soul. After they spoke, Dusty left and he pulled off his own wings. Then he found a note inside them. Father, I’ve never seen an Earth fairy do any such thing. Do different tribes of fairies do this?” Ore asked, and his father finally redirected his attention. “Now he’s on his way to the city,” Ore finished.
“Follow him, go now!” his father said, and Ore rushed out the door.
The Elder stood calmly as he closed his book. He took hold of the odd-shaped object hanging from his necklace before shifting through his desk. He pulled a solid diamond ring from his top drawer. Using his power over the earth, he raised an ornamental basin from a hidden room under his dirt floor. The basin held a strange liquid. It was cloudy with strands of color flowing through it. Placing his diamond ring in the liquid, he watched a bubble of color form in the center. He held the ring carefully as he blew on the bubble gently, causing ripples. The ripples suddenly stopped as a voice came from the bubble.
“Has Rufus returned from the city?” the voice asked.
“No, I called you to tell you I believe someone is searching out the Dust fairy city, Name Dusty, tribe unsure, but I believe him to be a Dust fairy for he has no wings… my son watched as he pulled his own wings out and claims a note was hidden within the wings. He talked to Soul, which is all I know,” the Elder said.
“Could he be looking for the one we had the warriors pick up, possibly a friend? Or is he after Velden?”
“Could be, he also could be out for the Council. It’s all too unclear at this time.”
“I’ll have Dustan look into it, he sees everything.”
“I'm concerned about this one. I’ve never heard of a fairy pulling off its own wings,” the Elder said as he raised the diamond ring from the liquid
“Yes, that is strange. Thanks for the info, we’ll see you soon.”
“Bye,” he said and popped the bubble.
Ore tunneled through the earth feeling for vibrations from above. Once he found his direction he continued to push forward through the earth for hours. He knew that when he got to the city, he would be able to feel the large buildings through his fingers but wouldn’t be able to feel the vibrations of Dusty’s footsteps. He launched himself to the surface, closing the hole he had made.
Dusty was nowhere in sight. He looked around for the tallest building to get a better view, only to find Dusty climbing his way to the top.
Dusty pulled himself up onto the black tar top of the building. Scanning the sky for the floating city, he finally saw the shine of its glass. The city was to the right of the sun, only a few buildings away. The city was easy to miss -- the glass bottom helped it blend with the sky well and the bright sun hid it from view. “Now how do I get there?” he asked himself as he thought of flying.
Dusty watched as the floating city began to move. He closed his jaw, realizing his only chance might be if the city moved closer to the tall building Dusty stood upon. It grew closer as Dusty made his way to the edge of the roof. As he reached the edge, a fairy flew up and bashed into him. They tumbled to the ground, but Dusty was quick to his feet, Ready for a fight, only to hear the laugh of an old man. Dusty watched as the fairy slowly stood. Dusty couldn’t help but notice their similarities -- they were both wingless.
“You’re mad, boy! What ya doing about the edge?” the old fairy said.
“Me mad? Why don’t you look where you’re going, how is it you can fly anyway?” Dusty asked.
“Fly! What, who’s Fly?” he said looking around franticly.
“And you called me mad,” Dusty said as he watched the old fairy pace with jittery movement. Dusty looked back to the city, only to be grabbed by the old fairy, his boney fingers digging into Dusty’s skin as he shook him.
“What ya thinkin’? Ya crazy, no one goes up there, if they do they don’t come back!” the old fairy said.
“Get off me, ya mad ol’ man!” Dusty shook free of him as he backed away. The old fairy stepped back as he bent down holding his head in his hands. He began mumbling to himself. All Dusty could make out was something about dust particles, white water and green tonic. Dusty stared at the insane fairy, wondering what could do this to someone.
“I wouldn’t get to close,” a familiar hollow voice said from behind Dusty. He jumped as he turned to see Ore standing before him. “He’s a mage and a dangerous one at that,” Ore told him.
“What!? What’s a mage and why are you following me?” Dusty asked as he prepared himself.
“Don’t flatter yourself, I’ve got business on the floating city. I can take you if you like…”
“LIES!!!” the old fairy shouted, as he jumped to his feet. “The dust reads me. I know you, know your intent.” The old fairy turned to Dusty. “Back stab you he will.” Dusty took a step back, not sure what to do. He failed to notice the floating city almost on top of them.
“Dusty, come with me, I know the way, I know where it is, what you seek,” said the old fairy. For the first time Dusty saw a sane fairy before him, his eyes unshaken, his hand steady. The old fairy reached out for Dusty to take his hand. “You only have moments.”
“How do you know my name?” Dusty asked.
“The dust, it reads me,” he said.
Dusty feared his only choice, the old insane fairy. Was he to put his life in the old fairy’s hands? One thing was for sure, Soul had told him not to trust Ore.
Dusty grabbed his hand. The old fairy pulled a glass orb filled with a gray liquid from his pocket. Before Dusty could pull his hand away he smashed the glass orb on the ground. Smoke clouded everything in seconds. It was thick and widespread. Dusty couldn’t see a thing, but he felt his arm being pulled up as the rest of his body followed. Seconds later he was clear of the smoke. The old fairy was soaring higher and higher at incredible speeds toward the floating city. The fairy let a second glass orb fall from his pocket. Dusty followed it down to watch the smoke cloud suddenly freeze.
“Who are you?” Dusty called up to the old fairy who was laughing with the joy of flight. His smile went ear to ear, he seemed to really love flying. Dusty’s question went unanswered as he noticed they were flying straight into the glass bottom of the floating city. “You do know that’s glass, right? You can’t fly through it,” Dusty yelled up to him. He may as well have been talking to himself.
The city sat atop a giant floating glass plateau. The bottom looked like a rock only transparent. The old fairy stayed on course as Dusty shut his eyes, expecting the worst. After a moment of no pain, no death, Dusty opened his eyes to a blinding light. They were flying through a crack. The walls shined with the reflection of the sun. They shot through the crack into the middle of the city. In seconds they flew to the top of the tallest building for a soft slow landing. Dusty had never been so relieved to be grounded in his life.
As he shook off his adrenalin, he turned to the old fairy with much frustration. “You're not crazy, you’re out-of-your-mind insane! You’re gonna start answering my questions or face your own mortality,” Dusty demanded. The old fairy’s smile faded as he looked around.
“Can’t be here,” he mumbled, as he stumbled around the rooftop. “They’ll find me! The dust knows, they know the dust,” he said as he began to run.
“You’re not going anywhere!” Dusty said as he grabbed his arm. “You’ll answer my questions!” The old fairy suddenly stopped, the little life left in his eyes faded. Dusty noticed a glow coming from his father’s ring. “Old man?” Dusty asked, confused at what was happening.
“Yes,” he responded, like a lifeless vessel. Dusty laughed.
“I think I just figured out how to use this thing. Okay, what’s your name?”
“What kind of fairy are you?”
“A dust fairy.”
“What’s a mage?”
“A fairy who studies and experiments on all kinds of things. They develop cures, poisons, potions of all kinds.”
“How do you know who I am?” Dusty asked, eager to hear a real answer.
“The Dust spoke to me.”
Anger crawled up his spine. “Tell me the story!”
“I was experimenting on samples of Dust I found, a flash and bang, visions flooded my mind of you, your father, the Elders, Spit Shine… everything. The Dust knows all,”
“What is Dust?” Dusty asked.
“The particles left behind from the race that ruled this world once. Before us,”
“This is the ‘Dust’ they speak of in legend, the Dust that settled after the destruction, bringing about a new age,” Dusty said to himself.
“Yes,” Luster answered.
“Now if only I could restore your mind with this ring…” As Dusty spoke he felt a surge flow through his body into the ring, finally passing into Luster. Dusty let go out of fear he may have done something fatal to him.
Luster stumbled back, shaking his head. He looked up to Dusty. “The voices… they’re… the voices are gone, the Dust no longer there, no longer corrupting me. Thank you, Dusty.” The old fairy said.
“You’re welcome… I guess,” Dusty said, as he noticed Luster was still a little twitchy. “Umm… look, my father never… well he was never around and somehow managed to craft me a set of wings. I never knew I was a Dust fairy so what I'm trying to say is, can you teach me how to fly?” Dusty asked, slightly ashamed.
“Anything for you. Dust fairies are unique, we can see magic particles in the air. They look just like common dust, only with a colorful shine. We can control it,” Luster told him.
“First you must see it, simply focus, and know what you’re looking for,” Luster said. Dusty took a deep breath and stared off into the sky. It took him a few moments until his eyes became unfocused, as if there was something being held not an inch from his face and he was trying to bring it into focus while everything else became a blur. Small sparkling dots littered the air all around him.
“I can see it!” Dusty exclaimed with excitement.
“Now use them, pull them around your body, attach them and have them fly for you,” Luster told him. Dusty watched as the particles gathered to his will, around his body. He felt each one embed itself into his skin as he slowly lifted off the ground.
“Ha-ha, I can fly again!” he exclaimed as he spun around with delight. “Alright, no more time to mess around. I’ve got to find my father,” Dusty explained and was about to fly off.
“Wait!” Luster stopped him. “I need to tell you, I knew your father… I trained him to take my place. I was the Elder’s Dust warrior before him…” Luster told him sadly.
“Come with me, help me save him,” Dusty urged.
“No, I can’t… I’m no good at fighting anymore. That’s why I became a mage. But I can tell you where you’ll find him… in the very building we stand on top of. In the basement, there is a dungeon. He’ll be there. Your father will understand why I cannot help. This building is a torture chamber waiting to take your very soul.”
“Thank you, Luster. I hope we meet again.”
“As do I, Dusty. Take care of yourself,” Luster said, as he flew off.
Dusty jumped off the building, flying toward the ground. Halfway down the building he turned into a window, breaking through it by slamming it hard with the ring. Stumbling to his feet, he ran after the first fairy he saw. He grabbed the frightened fairy and slammed him against a wall, making sure his ring touched the fairies skin. The fairy’s fear vanished as Dusty asked, “Where is Velden being held?”
“The basement,” he answered lifelessly.
“Wanna pay him a visit?” a voice whispered in Dusty’s ear. He turned to see nothing but black.
The sound of metal scraping rock rang in Dusty’s ears. He could sense with his ears a rock wheel turning as a blade slid up and down. “Awake so soon?” spoke a cocky confident voice. “You’re tougher then you look, I’ll give you that,” he said, as the wheel stopped.
Dusty found his arms bound together, being stretched back under the table he lay across. He cracked open his eyes as he shifted his jaw about. He tried to lift his head, only to choke himself with the collar strapping him to the table. There was no point trying to move his legs; he knew they must have been strapped to the table as well.
“For the son of Velden I expected more, but I guess I should be lowering them expectations, huh?” His face came into view as he raised his blade over Dusty’s head, slamming it into the wood table. Dusty cringed as he felt the blade shave his right ear. The fairy stared at him through one eye. “Oops, did I get ya, my aim must be off,” he said as he walked away. Dusty felt for his ring, relieved as his thumb glided over it. Thick stone chains jangled between his fingers. He was unsure if his ring held any power over stone.
“I’ll be honest, it’s hard filling your father’s shoes. He went down as a legend among us warriors.” Dusty let his shackles hang. He was intrigued, he wanted to hear more. “He was the first to make friends with all the races. He found most of the artifacts we hold today, some even say he found the weapon of legend.
“I’d kill to be his kid… then again, that would mean I’d have no pleasure in torturing him.” Dusty held his rage in place. This sick twisted fairy wouldn’t get the best of him. “What do you think? You think he’ll crack? I offered him death, a way out… still hasn’t said a word… he even managed to get loose on me once, what a fighter. I honestly felt bad taking his hands,”
“What did he take of yours? That eye?” Dusty asked.
“He got lucky!” he shouted with a rage Dusty never knew. Dusty laughed.
“For a tortured, malnourished old man, he’s still better then you,” Dusty taunted him.
His steps were loud and aggressive as he approached Dusty. He stomped on a switch. The table shot up vertically for them to be face to face. It all happened so fast. The one-eyed fairy grabbed his blade, sweeping it across Dusty’s chest. Blood soaked his shirt as it ran down his body. He grabbed Dusty by the throat, holding the tip of his blade to Dusty’s eye.
Dusty took hold of his chains with one thought on his mind -- “melt.” In seconds he was free. With his left hand he took hold of what was left of his chains, as his right came around to grab the blade. He tried to pull it away from his face, only to end up dragging it down across his cheek, scratching his own eye in the process. He swung the chain so that it wrapped around the fairy’s neck. He caught the loose end to pull it tight.
They were locked in a struggle to the death. The fairy fought to bring his dagger to Dusty’s chest. Dusty’s grip was slipping and the blade sank deeper into his hand. Thinking his life was over, he realized he could turn the blade to liquid. The fairy watched Dusty’s ring glow as his blade melted before his eye. He was in awe of Dusty’s power as Dusty used all his strength in one swing, knocking him out cold.
Dusty was free in seconds as he dropped to the floor. His left eye was nothing but a blur. Keeping it closed as he felt the deep cut running down his cheek. The cut on his chest was deep enough to draw blood but nothing that would slow him down. He was quick to fit the fairy into his own torture device, and he sealed the room by melting the locks together.
Making his way down the dark hall, he peered into each cell and torture chamber. He passed a cell that caught his interest. At first it looked as if black sludge was piled in the corner. After a closer look he realized it was a sleeping fairy. It was some kind of ink fairy, the likes of which he had never seen. Continuing on, he passed cell after cell until he found the only fairy prisoner without wings. He was locked in a room similar to the one Dusty had just escaped from. He broke down the door, only to stop short in shock.
His father, Velden lay on the table, feet chained together. Dusty took slow steps, not believing his eyes as he watched breath draw in and out of Velden’s lungs. “How is he still alive?” he thought, as he stared at the heart pumping away. Velden’s chest was cut and peeled open. His ribs lay bloody on a small table off to the side. A bucket of water hung above him, dripping ever so slowly onto his exposed heart.
Dusty took slow steps as he looked upon his father’s face. His lips were swollen and bruised, his eyes shut with welts blacker then the walls, his nose broken in three directions. It took all of Dusty’s strength to look upon his father. His voice escaped him an even if he had found it, he was unsure of what to say.
“Come to finish the job yet?” Velden mumbled through his broken teeth. “I’ve never heard you so speechless, must be proud of your work,” he coughed.
“Fa….. Father,” Dusty said, as tears filled his eyes. Velden’s head slowly turned as he pried open his right eye to look at his son.
“Dusty my boy! Oh, my baby boy… I had hoped to see you one last time, not like this of course,” Velden whispered as Dusty watched his heart pound a mile a minute.
“What have they done to you?!... Dad I'm so sorry, I wish I had looked for you sooner, I wish I knew sooner…”
“Dusty, it’s not your fault, it’s mine, I hated not being there for you… I wish the circumstances were better. There is so much I want to tell you, so much I wish to talk about.”
“I'm getting you out of here, then we can do all the talking you want,” Dusty said as he went to release his chains.
“No! No, it’s too late. Besides, you’d never be able to drag me out alive without getting caught. Listen, I left a note inside your wings…”
“Yes, I found it,”
“Good, then you know what must be done. You must find the keys the Elders hold, and you must find a way to destroy the weapon. The world depends on you now. I need to ask something of you, something selfish of me, something you’ll refuse…” Tears rolled down Dusty’s cheeks, he knew what his father would ask of him.
“No! I can’t… I won’t. I can save you,” Dusty said. Velden laughed weakly.
“It’s okay Dusty, it’s for the best… I know it will be hard but you must save yourself and finish what I could not. Please Dusty, do this for me.”
“I… how… how am I supposed to, anyhow?”
“Rip out my heart,” Velden told him. Dusty looked at his father one last time as he slowly held his hand over his father’s heart.
“I love you dad.” Tears rolled down his cheeks.
“I love you too, son.”
Velden spoke his last words as Dusty grabbed the thumping heart and tore it from his father’s body. Life drained from Velden’s body and Dusty fell to the floor in tears with the still-beating heart in his hands. Blood continued to pump out of the heart, dripping down his hands.
Every bone in Dusty’s body wanted to carry his father out of that sick place to bury him properly. He pulled himself together as he placed the heart back in Velden’s body and covered him with a rag he found in the corner.
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