The Dark Faeries' Apprentice: Part Three
10,000 feet above Neopia, perhaps even more, a young spotted Blumaroo named Tirikil was waking up. She hopped out of bed and immediately began to straighten her bed sheets. Leaving her blanket neatly folded at the end of her bed, she glanced briefly at her reflection in a Blue Daisy Mirror and exited her small, cramped but tidy room.
She always woke up very early, so as to get up before her mistress, the current Light Faerie leader, who was a morning Faerie. She trotted down a narrow staircase and went into the kitchen, which was equally small as her room, and expertly began to make Fluffy Faerie Pancakes. They were done quickly, the process sped up by the magical Faerie Kitchen Stove, and soon Tirikil was carrying a place of pancakes, lightly drizzled with syrup, the way her mistress liked it, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice up to the Light Faerie’s room.
“Mistress, are you awake?” asked Tirikil, standing on her feet instead of her tail, outside of an oak door with a rounded top. It swept open to permit her to enter, and Tirikil walked inside. The Light Faerie was awake, which Tirikil had expected, but she looked as if she had been up for a while. The curtains were drawn back, allowing bright sunlight into the room, and the Faerie was sitting at a round stone table, gazing into a glass cube set on a bronze stand. Disgruntled, Tirikil made a note to herself to wake up earlier the next day.
“I have your breakfast,” said Tirikil, holding up the plate and cup. The Light Faerie took them, nodding to show her thanks, her eyes still focused on the cube and the images it was showing her. Tirikil guessed that she was very busy with something important, and left the room.
The Light Faerie leader took a sip of orange juice, still mesmerized by the cube. The unorthodox ‘crystal ball’ was showing a striped Draik sleeping quietly in an attic room. Luck could be a strange entity to deal with, sometimes. Or perhaps... this was fate?
Back down in a small cottage on the edge of Neopia Central, the Draik that the glass cube had shown was waking up. Her soft, dark blue blanket fell off as she sat up slowly, being careful not to bump her head on the low, slanting ceiling. She gazed around the room, taking it all in.
Light was spilling softly into the small attic room through a round window, although it was covered by tan curtains. While the wooden floor was mostly bare, making the room look as if it was fairly neat, the shelves and tables were buried in objects. Magical looking artifacts, thick volumes of books, stacks of paper and more adorned the room. On the walls, Neoangel had hung up a scroll and a couple of magical looking charms and pieces of paper with ancient writing on them, probably to ward off evil or keep the magic contained inside the room. The room had a gentle, mysterious feel to it, but even though it was fairly cozy, Denriada did not feel welcome at all.
She looked over her shoulder at Neoangel’s own thin mattress lying on the floor, but the blanket had been pushed to one side messily and Neoangel was gone. Denriada was glad for that, because if would have been awkward to wake up to find Neoangel already reading, or perhaps tinkering with some magical item.
However, Denriada was unsure of what to do in this situation. Should she go down the rickety set of stairs at the corner of the room that led back onto the main floor? She began to fold her blanket, deciding to stay where she was until Neoangel came and got her. But she felt so, so out-of-place in that room.
“NSQ,” whispered a soft voice in the girl’s ear. She looked up at once; her eyes had been closed, but she had been awake for nearly an hour, just lying in bed.
“Hi Neoangel,” NSQ greeted the Zafara quietly. Beside her in the Funky Blue and Orange Bed, Happiness was still fast asleep. Neoangel beckoned with one finger and the two walked silently out of the bedroom. NSQ closed the door gently. “What’s up?”
“I wanted to have a talk with you,” said Neoangel. “I want to explain what I learned that day when you sped Neofaerie off to hospital and I confronted Denriada.”
NSQ blinked, taken by surprise. “Oh. Okay. Let’s... let’s go to the kitchen.”
As they walked down the hallway, Neoangel, who had noticed NSQ’s astonished look, guessed, “You were expecting me to tell you that Denriada had escaped, perhaps? Or maybe you were hoping that Neofaerie had come back?”
“He didn’t, huh?” sighed NSQ. They entered the kitchen and sat down at a round Zen Table. NSQ filled two mugs, her own Neopian Times Mug and Neoangel’s Mark of Ta-Kutep Mug, with milk.
Neoangel drew her chair closer to the table and laid her arms on it, gazing at NSQ thoughtfully. “I am sure that by now, you have realized that what I said back in the hospital when Neofaerie was injured was not completely the truth; Denriada was not ‘just another villain.”
NSQ nodded. “Yeah, I figured that out.”
Neoangel traced the rim of her mug with one finger. “After you left for the hospital,” she continued, “I found Denriada alone. Happiness was not with me. She began to tell me a story of her past- or rather, our past together. This was when I was known as Alithiora. We both attended one of Faerieland’s most esteemed magic academies. However, Denriada was not a strong student. I tutored her regularly, and helped her in almost all of our classes.”
She paused, letting NSQ absorb this information. NSQ nodded again. The story was making sense so far.
“In our second year, the leader of all the Light Faeries came to the academy, seeking an apprentice. Although I was near the top of the class, I was still not the best. However, the Light Faerie leader seemed to like my personality and attitude towards learning, so she chose me. You may have noticed that I use mostly Light magic,” she pointed out. NSQ nodded. She was beginning to feel like a bobble head. “She warned me that I would most likely have to serve under her for quite a while, and I promised her that this was not a problem. My greatest aspiration at that time was to learn as much about magic as I could, and for me, this was the perfect opportunity. I left in the early morning, so that I could avoid saying goodbye to my friends and teachers.”
NSQ drank her milk. That last part puzzled her, but it didn’t seem to be an important detail so she nodded again for the Zafara to continue.
“Well, that is where my side of the story ends,” said Neoangel. “I have many memories of working in the Light Faerie Leader’s tower, but I do not know why I left and how I arrived here.”
“You forgot?” asked NSQ. It seemed to be a pretty big thing to forget.
“I do not think that I merely forgot,” Neoangel disagreed. “I am quite sure that someone has erased that memory from my mind. I cannot imagine who would benefit from doing that, though.”
NSQ placed her empty mug on the table, next to Neoangel’s full one. “What about Denriada?”
“Without my help, she was soon expelled from the academy. This is when a Dark Faerie found her and she began that dark part of her life. And that is basically all I know of the situation.”
NSQ leaned back in her seat and heaved a sigh. “Thank you for telling me what you know, Neoangel,” she said, gazing unseeingly at the two mugs on the table.
“In any case, Denriada truly seems to have changed.”
NSQ met her eyes. “You think she’s shed the influence of the Dark Faeries?”
“I did not say that.” Neoangel took her first sip of milk. “Denriada may still be clinging desperately to her Dark ways, but she has certainly changed. Gone is the bitter, vengeful mutant that she once was. However, she is also not the Draik that I knew back when we were both at the academy. At that time she was anxious and unsure of herself, but hardworking, and always willing to please. Now, I think she is simply shattered and lost.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, until Happiness appeared in the doorway. “Hi-hi, Nesqu, Neoangel,” she yawned. She turned to the front door, which was right beside the kitchen at the end of the hallway. The drowsiness seemed to disappear instantly from her face and limbs. “It’s Neofaerie!” she chirped.
NSQ made a noise that was a cross between a yelp and a squeal, and darted for the front door. Happiness hopped after her and Neoangel stood up, her cloak swirling around her. All that could be seen in the window was Daydream, bobbing up and down serenely, Happiness’s blanket folded up on top of her. NSQ heaved open the door and stared. In spite of all that had happened last night, NSQ had to ask. “Neofaerie? What happened to you?”
The Kougra’s once black-striped green coat had become a swirl of caramel and sand-coloured splotches. Remaining on the doorstep, he muttered, “Bit of a tussle at the rainbow pool. It’s a long story.”
NSQ’s mouth was hanging open. “So... are you camouflage now, instead of green? Like permanently?”
The girl’s face broke into a grin. “That rocks! You know I was planning to paint you camouflage, Faer! Now I don’t even have to buy the paint brush! We should always do this!”
“Neofaerie, come on in!” said Happiness cheerfully.
NSQ seemed to remember why she was greeting her first pet on the doorstep that morning, instead of in the kitchen or living room. She gazed at him for a second, her arms crossed. Then she smiled and asked, “You coming in?”
Neofaerie shrugged nonchalantly. “I guess.” He stepped inside, as NSQ tried not to grin. She closed the door after Daydream had floated in as well, mouthing, ‘Thanks,’ to the fluffy petpet.
Neoangel stepped out of the kitchen, and Neofaerie paused. The two pets regarded each other silently. NSQ bit her lower lip.
Neofaerie tipped his head towards Daydream. “Thanks for sending the blanket. It was raining like crazy last night.”
Neoangel smiled, and the tension melted. “I’m glad you were warm,” she said sincerely.
“Breakfast!” shouted NSQ happily, picking up Happiness. She skipped past Neofaerie and Neoangel and into the kitchen. Happiness leaped onto her head and reached into the cupboard, pulling out Neofaerie’s NeoQuest II mug and her own purple Faerie Kougra Mug. She tottered dangerously as NSQ made a big fuss over everyone’s cereal, making sure that Neofaerie had sliced juppies in his, and that Neoangel’s was full of almonds. Neofaerie caught Happiness as she fell, the mugs cushioned in her arms, and Neoangel placed napkins and spoons on the table as NSQ delivered the cereal.
“Tastes great!” chirruped Happiness, scooping up a spoonful of cereal, milk and her favourite chocolaty Heart Fruit.
As NSQ dipped her spoon back into her milk-less bowl of cereal and Starberries, she asked thoughtfully, “Say Neoangel, are you going to get Denriada?”
Neofaerie looked up. “She’s still here?”
“She is,” confirmed Neoangel, before NSQ had a chance to answer. “She will probably be staying here for a while, Neofaerie. As she has said, she is lost. She has no where else to go.”
The Kougra stared at her for a moment, looking as if he was about to retaliate. Then he popped a spoonful of cereal into his mouth and said reluctantly, “Alright, Neoangel. I’ll trust you on this on.”
Neoangel stood up, her cereal barely touched. “I will go get Denriada. Should I bring her down here, or would you like me to take her somewhere else for breakfast?”
“She can eat with us,” replied NSQ, glancing at Neofaerie out of the corner of her eyes as she did so. The Kougra didn’t react, and Neoangel disappeared out the kitchen entrance.
She returned with Denriada a few minutes later. The Draik was still avoiding eye contact with everyone, especially Neofaerie. She sat down at the table, gazing at her paws clenched in her lap.
“Cereal?” asked NSQ hesitantly.
“No thank you,” said Denriada, in her barely audible voice.
“You’ll be hungry,” Neoangel said. Her voice was just as quiet, although much more confident. “NSQ, can you get her a bowl?”
“Sure thing.” The girl rose out of her chair and placed her empty bowl in the sink as she fished around in the cupboard for a new one. She filled it with cereal and milk, and then poured orange juice into a plain glass cup. “Here you are,” she said, setting them in front of Denriada with a falsely cheery voice, “I don’t know what kind of cereal you like, though...”
“That’s fine,” murmured Denriada hastily, taking her breakfast, so different from the family members’ personalized mugs and cereal.
They ate in tense silence. Well, not all of them did. Neofaerie sat rigid in his chair, stiffly eating his cereal, his brow furrowed. Denriada ate quietly, her head bent over her bowl, making as little noise as she possibly could, as if she was trying to make herself invisible. Neoangel, although the calmest of the three, was clearly alert and prepared for something to happen.
Happiness, on the other hand, was humming away cheerfully, her ears waving to and fro to the tune. She stopped when NSQ knocked the pitcher of orange juice over with her elbow, causing the sweet liquid to spread to everyone at the table.
“Silly Nesqu!” giggled Happiness, as the owner yelped and leapt to her feet.
NSQ grabbed a cloth, but Neoangel waved her hand and every drop of juice made its way back towards the pitcher, crawled up its side and dribbled back in obediently, leaving the black and white table damp.
“Sorry,” said NSQ meekly, setting the cloth back atop the kitchen counter and tripping backwards over Happiness’s chair leg. She seemed even clumsier than usual.
Breakfast was wordlessly declared over. Neoangel helped NSQ up, Neofaerie and Happiness cleared the table, and Denriada got to her feet tentatively. She shuffled quickly out of the way when Happiness took her cup, and stood by the kitchen window, unsure of what to do next.
Neoangel waited until Neofaerie was done putting away the dishes before stating, “I will need to visit the forest today. A rather complex potion I am planning to make is missing quite a few ingredients.” She turned to her old friend, still standing by the window. “Would you like to accompany me, Denriada? The forest is very close. It stands beside the fields surrounding our house, and surrounds Main Street.”
The Draik blinked. “A-alright.”
NSQ watched the pair curiously, wondering if Neoangel had been planning this, finding a potion that she knew she was missing ingredients for. Whether she had planned it or not, it was a great way of getting Denriada out of the house while making her feel useful at the same time.
“Good luck,” said NSQ as Denriada and Neoangel stepped out the neohome door and onto the soft grass. She’d settled on that instead of, ‘have fun’.
“Thank you,” replied Neoangel. She nodded to Denriada, and the two flew off across the grass unhurriedly.
Happiness pawed at the girl’s leg. “Cookies, Nesqu!” she said cheerfully. “Let’s bake cookies for them to eat when they get back. I bet collecting potion ingredients is hard work.”
Smiling at the young pet’s thoughtfulness, NSQ responded, “Good idea,” and trotted into the kitchen.
To be continued...