Roomies 3: Part Two
Jesc was sitting down at her desk in room 458 back at the Faerie Academy, twirling a loose strand of hair around her air faerie pen as she concentrated on her homework. The large window in front of her was open, allowing a light breeze to flit inside the dorm room and cause the wind chimes hanging on the ceiling to jangle, but she honestly didn’t mind; in fact, the light tinkling sound helped her concentrate as she jotted down the final sentences for her potion class essay entitled, “Undoing the Wrongs of Untimely Counterclockwise Stirs.”
The day she had spent at the Queen’s Palace was still fresh in her mind, even though everything had ended on a high note. It hadn’t taken her very long to send every single neomail that occupied the tower and once she had finished, she had even stopped by the meeting hall on the second floor to see if Jhudora was still there. Of course, she wasn’t; according to the light faerie representative, Jhudora had apparently gotten so fed up with Illusen’s voice that she spelled her counterpart mute and then stormed out. But Jhudora’s departure didn’t upset Jesc too much; she just nodded, thanked the faerie, and then headed back to her dorm to work on some of her mounting homework.
The air faerie smiled as she finished her essay, slipping the completed piece of homework into her school bag, ready for class the next day. She was quite a good student, but even she had to admit that there was a lot of work involved this year; but yet again, no one had ever said being an accomplished faerie was easy.
“Okay, only one more to go,” she muttered to herself happily, looking for a spare sheet of paper to write her final essay of the night on. Unfortunately, her desk was already crowded with so many books and spare pens that it was hard to find what she needed. She checked under a couple of her textbooks, behind the desk itself, and was about to make her way through all of the drawers when she heard a light knock on the door.
“Come in!” she called out, triumphantly discovering a blank sheet of paper in the topmost drawer. The door opened revealing an air faerie with extremely light blond hair cut into a short bob. Jesc looked up at the new arrival. “Oh, hey Jan!”
“Hi,” Jan replied, walking into the room cautiously; she didn’t want to step on the few plushies that had fallen off the bed onto the floor. Jesc noted that she didn’t particularly look too pleased; in fact, her face bore a subtle frown, and the fitted dress she was wearing showed signs of neglect with wrinkled layers and a small coating of grime.
“Is something wrong?” Jesc asked concerned, putting down her piece of paper to head over to Jan. The two faeries didn’t know each other particularly well despite living just a few dorm rooms away from one another, but that didn’t stop Jesc from caring.
“No,” Jan said quickly, her blue eyes darting away from Jesc and her head shaking firmly in opposition. “Everything’s fine, but I... I just found out that our lending schedules were switched. Here.” She handed Jesc the scroll she was holding stamped with the Faerie Academy’s golden seal. “I mean, it wasn’t changed majorly, but you know how you were supposed to go out questing this week with some faerie? Well, they switched it. I’m going questing and you’re heading off to the Neohome Planning Committee to help Neopets with their houses or something...”
“Oh,” Jesc said, not too disappointed; she happened to know a yellow Aisha who worked there. “That’s fine with me. Thanks for the update.”
“You’re welcome,” Jan replied, obviously grateful to be leaving. She gave a quick nod, and then turned around to leave, shutting the door behind her.
Jesc frowned. She couldn’t explain it, but something just didn’t feel right... But she shrugged off the sensation and headed back to her desk. Jan’s always been a tad fickle, she thought to herself, grabbing her pen to start writing her final essay. Maybe I should recommend a meditative class for her... or teach her how to whistle...
“You’ll be working more-or-less behind the scenes today, Jesc. Neopets from all over Neopia send us their neohome requests and it’s your job to sort them out. Got it?”
“Got it,” Jesc nodded with a smile, rocking on her heels. The Neohome Planning Committee’s headquarters was in Neopia Central, a large building with a huge lobby with marble floors and filled with framed portraits of different styles of houses and different views of Neopia hanging on the walls: the cloudy havens of Faerieland, the rugged shacks on the beaches of Mystery Island, and even the spooky Victorian mansions bordered by the scraggly trees of the Haunted Woods. And Jesc loved all of it. If possible, she’d build herself a Neohome in every Neopian world there was, and she personally thought it was cool to get a look of how everyone’s neohome requests were filled out.
“All righty then.” Jim nodded. The yellow Aisha adjusted his round black glasses and looked up at the air faerie in front of him. He had helped Jesc and Jhudora back in the summer after discovering them hiding under a Tombola stand, and since being promoted as the head of the Neopian Planning Committee, he needed all the help he could get. Residential sales had increased five percent in just the last month and Neopians were increasingly wanting rarer materials to build their homes and in more exotic locations. He couldn’t do it all on his own and he was grateful for Jesc’s assistance.
“I’ll be working up front today,” he told her, gesturing to the long counter behind him, “and you’ll be working in the back sorting the request forms. It’s not too hard, but with the onslaught of requests, there’re quite a lot of papers...”
“That’s okay,” Jesc said, pushing a piece of hair behind her ear. “I work fast.”
“Good.” Jim nodded, feeling relieved. Last week the Faerie Academy had sent him a third-year earth faerie who instead of working had spent her entire day protesting the committee’s use of non-recycled paper and claiming that they were such violent un-environmentalists that she couldn’t stand being in the same building as them. Storming out of the Headquarters, she had then started a very loud protest in front of the building, picket signs included, drawing a huge number of curious stares and scaring away most of the customers. And her lack of assistance had made the alarming stack of paperwork get even higher than ever. “You’ll find a stack of papers you can start with in the back. Just sort them all based on where the buyer wants to have his or her house built; it’ll say so on the top-right corner of each page. Once you’re finished, I may even give you a customer to help. They tend to dally a bit when it comes to filling out the paperwork...”
“Okay,” Jesc said happily, “and I promise I’ll be done faster than you can say ‘Chocolate-covered Chias cry cheerfully chewing Blackcherry Chia Pops’ five times fast!”
The yellow Aisha’s eyebrows furrowed. “Er... yes. You do that...”
Jesc smiled, slung her bag over her shoulder, and skipped her way behind the counter to the back room, her grin widening as she heard Jim mumble under his breath, “Chocolate Chias cr... what?”
The back room wasn’t as decorated as the foyer, but as with everything else she had seen so far, it was quite big and filled with numerous small working cubicles complete with desks and a few chairs for the potential buyers and sellers to sit at as they worked with a trained Neohome Committee member one-on-one.
Jesc found her own stack of papers on the only free desk, a beautifully carved wooden piece that was devoid of anything except the starch white sheets and a small plaque that read “Intern”, unlike her cluttered desk back in her dorm. The stack was a good four inches thick, but Jesc wasn’t intimidated at all. Whistling to herself, she pulled out the chair to sit herself down, took her wand out of its spot behind her ear, and recited, “Hovlera!” The stack of papers immediately rose into the air at her command, lingering a few inches above the desk’s surface. “Now,” she addressed the papers, drawing curious glances from the other workers in the room who had never encountered an air faerie that talked to inanimate objects, “all request forms for a Mystery Island Neohome, form a neat stack on the desk right here, please.” At her will, the selected forms settled down into a neat pile to her right while the remaining ones remained hovering. “Now Lost Desert abode forms, please form a pile just to the left of that one,” she requested politely, her blue eyes sparkling as the papers obeyed. “No pushing. Please and thank you!”
Within a matter of minutes, all of the forms were sorted and put away, much to the amazement of everyone occupied in the back room. Jesc even offered to sort more once her pile was done with and most of the room’s occupants lined up at her desk for some assistance. “You’re amazing,” a blue Wocky marveled, his eyes wide as she sorted through his papers in a matter of seconds. “It would have taken me at least an hour to do that! Thank you very much, young lady!”
“You’re welcome!” Jesc responded, stowing her wand away and smiling as the Wocky wandered back to his own station. It felt good to help people, even if it was just sorting forms. It made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “Let’s see what Jim wants me to do next!”
It was as she stood up from the desk and skipped her way out of the back room into the main lobby that she saw someone entering the building that made her bright mood up a couple more notches: Jhudora. The only problem was that Jhudora didn’t appear to be in a very good mood herself. Of course, the dark faerie never looked quite cheerful, but this time it was obvious that she was annoyed; the air around her shimmered with power, the marble floor growled and groaned as if there was about to be an earthquake, and the portraits on the walls shifted, swinging from side to side like the pendulum of a clock as she stormed her way to front.
Jesc frowned and leaned in towards a startled-looking Jim, whose entire focus was on the dark faerie making a beeline towards him. “I told her that she should take a meditative class, or at least learn how to whistle, but she never seems to listen to me...”
“JIM!” Jhudora shouted, her violet eyes steely and her leathery wings raised, making her look more intimidating than ever. If she even knew that Jesc was there, she didn’t show it; all eyes were on the petrified yellow Aisha who was turning paler and paler as the seconds crept by. “That’s it! I’ve HAD IT! Those stupid petpets are ruining my LIFE and I want them GONE NOW!”
“P-petpets?” Jim croaked, confused and terrified at the same time.
“THE BLASTED WEEWOOS!” Jhudora bellowed, the lights above their heads flickering wildly. “Now listen to me,” she hissed, “I want them gone and I want them gone NOW! Because guess what just happened? A terrified Gelert came to my lair ready to do my bidding, and you want to know what she was doing when she left? SHE WAS LAUGHING! BECAUSE THE BLASTED PETPETS SWARMED MY LAIR, AND THE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING PETPET PROTECTION LEAGUE CLAIMS MY ‘KEEP AWAY’ SPELLS ARE AGAINST PETPET PROTECTION LAWS! SO, JIM, YOU ARE GOING TO HELP ME GET RID OF THESE BLASTED WEEWOOS, AND WHEN I SAY NOW, I MEAN IT!”
Jhudora was breathing heavily, her eyes fixated on Jim who was shaking like a leaf and could have at that moment easily been mistaken for being painted white. “I’ll... I’ll get right on it, Jhudora. Um... J-Jesc, grab a form, please, and take Jhudora to the b-back if you will...”
“Certainly!” Jesc said brightly, unaffected whatsoever by Jhudora’s rant.
Jhudora wheeled away from Jim and caught sight of Jesc for the first time. “You have got to be kidding me... I thought you were out questing today?”
“My schedule was changed,” Jesc answered simply. “Now breathe, Jhudora, and I’ll help you fill out these forms before you can say ‘Chocolate-covered Chias cry cheerfully chewing Blackcherry Chia Pops!’”
“Fyora help me,” Jhudora muttered underneath her breath, massaging her weary face with her hand, but before Jesc could drag her into the back room, the bell attached to the lobby door tinkled once more and in walked another customer.
Jim, who obviously seemed relieved for some normalcy and a customer who wasn’t about to yell at him, adjusted his glassed and greeted the faerie walking in. “Ah Vermillion! Lovely to see you again.”
Jesc and Jhudora paused together as if on cue, the name striking a chord that sent chills down their spines. “Vermillion...” Jhudora breathed, turning around slowly. “It can’t be...”
But a single glance at the fire faerie revealed that it was indeed who they had feared: Mrs. Vermillion Pierce, ex-Proper Uses of Magical Abilities teacher at the Faerie Academy. Her graying auburn hair was pulled back into her customary tight bun, her eyes were as red as fire, framed by pointy black glasses, and her red wings blazed behind her like a smoldering inferno. But they weren’t looking at her hair, her eyes, or even the horrid dress she was wearing. Instead, Jesc’s, Jhudora’s and even Jim’s attentions were all on the slender black wand she held out menacingly in front of her.
Jim paled once more, stepping back. His eyes were wide. “Wh-what’s going on?”
“Well, well, well,” Mrs. Pierce spat, her voice harsh and a sinister smile creeping across her face. “I had only expected on encountering Jesc here, but my, what a nice surprise to see Jhudora, too. Makes things so much more convenient, don’t you think?”
Confused and angry, Jesc reached for her wand and was about to demand what was going on, but before a single word could escape her lips, Mrs. Pierce shouted, “Slumberlia!” A white wisp of smoke suddenly escaped from her wand, permeating throughout the entire room within a matter of seconds, and before anyone could even attempt Jesc’s strange tongue-twister, Jesc, Jhudora, and even Jim had all collapsed on the spot, completely submerged in Mrs. Pierce’s magically-induced deep sleep spell.
Mrs. Pierce smiled as she glanced at the sleeping bodies crumpled on the floor. “Good. Everything’s going according to plan...”
Around the same time, Jan was back in her dorm room, her face buried in her pillow, bawling her eyes out. Her wings were trembling as she breathed in and out curled in a ball on top of her bed, her wand lying next to her, and her nails dug into the pillow so hard that small tears had started to form, revealing the soft feathers stuffed inside.
“I... I can’t believe I did it,” she murmured to herself angrily, clenching her eyes shut to stop the flow of tears. “I... I betrayed Jesc, and it’s all because of stupid Mrs. Pierce!”
The first letter she’d received had been a huge surprise; she hadn’t seen or heard from Mrs. Pierce for a good six months since she’d been suspended and consequently fired, but a single glance had shown the note to be nothing more than a threat: get the administration to switch her schedule with Jesc for one day, or else the neohome she shared with her two sisters would be destroyed, signed Mrs. Pierce.
And I actually listened to her, she thought to herself, disgusted. As soon as the letter had arrived, she’d set off to get her schedule switched, not caring if Jesc got hurt in the process as long as she and her sisters were safe. But now it had finally sunk in. She had betrayed Jesc. They had never really been friends, but betrayal... that was too much for Jan, and she had been so distraught with herself that she had even skipped out on her scheduled questing trip with Psellia, the renowned air faerie.
I should have just told someone in the first place, Jan realized, dread filling her stomach. But she knew it was too late; Jesc had already left for the Neohome Planning Committee a good hour ago, and Mrs. Pierce probably already had her long pointy fingernails on her. The thought made Jan want to crawl in a corner and cry even more, but she was interrupted by a harsh voice.
“Well, lookie here. Having second thoughts, are we, Jan?”
Jan opened her eyes and sat up immediately, her eyes on the fire faerie that had seemingly materialized out of nowhere. “How did you get in?” she demanded angrily, but it was then that she noticed the window in her room was slightly ajar.
Mrs. Pierce smirked, leaning towards her so that she was just a few nauseating inches away from her face. “I happen to learn from my mistakes, Jan, and I figured if Jesc could get out through the window, I could just as easily get in.”
Jan stood up abruptly to face her ex-teacher, her blue eyes still watery, but ablaze with fury. “You’re a horrible witch, Vermillion, do you know that?! An evil, backstabbing, horrid faerie with no respect for anyone...”
“Respect?” Mrs. Pierce repeated icily, her eyes suddenly as cold as frost. “Did you think it was out of ‘respect’ that Jhudora and Jesc humiliated me last winter?”
“You deserved it, and no matter what you say, you’re still a sad excuse for a faerie,” Jan bit back. “And I realize it now more than ever. Forget our deal; you’re not going to get away with this. Right now, my house can burn for all I care. Within three minutes, Queen Fyora’ll know what you’ve done and you’ll be paying for all of your crimes.”
“Really?” Mrs. Pierce said casually, a smile playing across her lips as she pulled out her wand, “because I honestly think not.”
“And why is that?” Jan demanded, reaching for her wand only to find it not on her bed where she’d left.
Mrs. Pierce smirked even more, withdrawing another wand from her sleeve: Jan’s wand.
“How did you get that?” Jan asked quickly, feeling her stomach sink.
“It doesn’t matter now,” Mrs. Pierce said calmly, silently congratulating herself on how easy it had been to distract Jan with her “I learn from my mistakes” line to grab the wand. “In fact,” she continued, “the only thing that matters now is the fact that you have the wrong faerie.”
“You’re delusional,” Jan spat, glaring daggers, but Mrs. Pierce just continued to smile and extended her wand.
“Actually, you are.” And well before Jan could respond, Mrs. Pierce shouted, “Modifacta recollatora!”
Bright white light exploded from the end of her wand, flooding the room with unearthly intensity, and once it died away it revealed a very still Jan, her eyes wide and her pupils dilated as the memory alteration spell kicked in.
Mrs. Pierce pocketed her wand; she had never imagined how easily her plan would take shape. “All right, Jan,” she started, giddiness flooding through her veins. “Now that you’re so much more cooperative, we a have a few details in your memory to sort through before we pay a visit to the dear old Queen of Faeries. For starters, Jan, is that from now on, you won’t remember that it was me who threatened you with those nasty letters. Oh no, it wasn’t me at all... You see, from now on, you’ll believe that it was all Jhudora’s fault...”
To be continued...