...Iris stopped dead in her tracks. That voice... the second voice, the softer voice, the voice of a little girl... it was her. It was Iris, barely eight, barely an apprentice.
Fear and frenzy gripped elder Iris as she ducked behind a corridor and struggled to remember this event. She had been here, yes, when she met P.J. and gave the parchment to the jester, the parchment on which she had written a line likening Harole -- bless him, for he never did discover that potion of youth -- to a Turdle in terms of his speed... he was advanced in age, after all.
Alas, no memories between then and her reprimanding surfaced. The day had went by in a blur... and then it dawned on her. She must have been hypnotized by whomever possessed the gruff voice.
"Now," the voice continued, slightly more muffled to elder Iris's long ears, "take this piece of bread to your mother and tell her to deliver it to the king."
"I will take this piece of bread to Mother and tell her to deliver it to the king," the little Poogle said, her voice ringing out.
The Poogle hiding in the corridor almost cried. She had been used, it had been her... Sshe, the only Neopet, by now, whom her mother trusted, was ultimately the reason her mother was incorrectly blamed. The reason her mother... she shook herself. She could be the reason her mother was saved, too. If she had taken the food to Mother, then she could stop herself... couldn't she? Mother wouldn't take the food to Skarl, the documentation suggesting "A discovery of poisoned food by a Darigan double agent" could not be forged, and all would be well... right?
"Right," the gruff voice finished. "Now go, Iris."
"I will go," the little Poogle absently proclaimed before footsteps were heard.
Iris waited in the corridor until she was sure both had departed before dashing off in search of her younger self. Mother would be in her room... younger Iris was going to her room.
Iris navigated toward the residency towers and caught little Iris just before she went in the entrance corridor. "Stop!" she called out to herself.
The younger Poogle turned around, her eyes blank. Elder Iris's heart nearly wrenched to see herself in such a condition.
"Iris," the Poogle from the future started, "whatever you do, you cannot deliver that food."
"But it is my destiny," her counterpart replied mechanically.
Elder Iris almost cried. "If you deliver it, then it will become your destiny to travel back in time, to this very moment, and try to stop yourself, just as I am doing right now. If you do it, then your 'destiny' will be one without Mother."
Younger Iris tilted her head to one side. "I do not understand."
"I..." the Iris from years ahead continued, pleadingly, "am you, and I'm telling you, you need to snap out of this."
Younger Iris's eye twitched. "But... that would be impossible," she started, her voice more young and carefree; she then, again flatly, added, "I cannot go against my function."
The mind of elder Iris raced, trying to think of some spell that could un-hypnotize without causing damage, especially to an individual so young... she could not think of one, however. Any great harm caused to her former self BY herself could have who-knows-what kind of universe-altering consequences.
"Listen to me," Iris stated almost harshly. "You love Mother, correct?"
"Yes, I love Mother," Iris agreed.
Elder Iris gulped. "Would you ever kill mother?"
"Why would I want to kill mother?" younger Iris started, her voice beginning to crack.
"Because of what you are doing, right now, Mother will die." Iris was almost in tears now... but they soon became tears of joy as she realized younger Iris was crying, too.
"I don't want to kill mother," the little Poogle uttered through sobs as she ran up to hug her older self, who only hugged back. "I'm sorry, whoever you are."
Iris of the future merely smiled. "Think of me... as a friend from another place, somewhere distant."
"Kreuldor?" little Iris asked as she looked up at herself with wide eyes.
Elder Iris couldn't help but laugh slightly. "Sure, Kreludor..." She paused as she took in this new memory... she remembered being hugged and now hugged simultaneously; the experience was almost mind-blowing.
A new idea then surfaced... by going back in time she had erased her need TO go back in time. What if the Iris who was hardly an apprentice didn't return to the past to stop all of this? Universal Law might not like the consequences of that. "Iris," she told herself as she scribbled some instructions on a small piece of parchment she had in her star-dotted robe before handing it over to her younger version: on this paper contained her formula for time travel. "Open this in exactly 14 years."
Little Iris nodded with some uncertainty. "Okay, ma'am."
Elder Iris smiled. She did not remember herself being so polite. "Now, go run off."
Little Iris, handing the food over to her larger self, giggled and did as instructed. Soon, the echo of her excitement died into nothingness.
The only Iris left in the corridor released a contented sigh. She had done it... she hoped. Staring down at the piece of bread in her hands, she walked into the residency tower and found a waste bin. It then dawned on her that her mother was upstairs.
She could see her again, she could feel her warmth again, she could... no. It would only cause heartache, and if all really was well in the future, then she didn't need this. She struggled to remember more, to let her two timelines run together... she needed to know if Mother had survived. Alas, all her memories seemed blurred together and nothing was recognizable anymore.
Pulling a vial out of her robes, she tilted its liquid into her mouth and let the fire burn her throat... and all the while she uttered the spell that would mark her return.
A timeline fix'd,
She opened her eyes but collapsed on the floor. Fireball ran over to her and barked in a sort of, "Are you okay?" kind of way.
A return to the norm;
The future is warm...
She patted him and a wan smile spread itself across her face. Where had she been? What had she done? What had she done?!?
Something was different. Something seemed off. She couldn't place what it was, though.
Maybe it was the bag of chocolate chips lying on the floor, cast among some paper? Fireball must have been munching on them. She really didn't like that, as it wasn't good for him.
Her crystal ball then started to buzz. She was getting a magical message.
Picking herself up off the floor, she navigated toward it. "Hello?" she asked into its cloudy surface.
"Could you deliver some Slumberberries to me? The Magocracy Labs are in short supply and I really need it for this potion," resounded the feminine voice through the orb.
"Sure thing, M--" Iris began, but then hesitated. Something was off... she couldn't quite tell what, however. She quickly dismissed it. "Sure thing, Mother."
For some reason that she really wasn't quite sure of, Iris smiled.