Roomies 3: Part Four
After foraging their way through a collection of antique furniture accented with random Meepit Lamps, and reluctantly allowing Jesc to repair the damage she had caused to the floor of the living room, Jhudora was relieved when they finally made their way out of Mrs. Pierce’s house and onto the dark streets of Fire Faerie Crescent. The roads were deserted as it was late into the night and a chilly wind was passing through, making the trees rasp out scratchy lyrics, but in Jhudora’s opinion, being out on a cold dark street was better than being trapped in a cold dark dungeon.
“All right, Jim,” the dark faerie said, pocketing her wand. “Where to?”
The yellow Aisha peered down the street through the shattered lenses of his glasses, discerning which way to go. “I’ll lead the way. Just please,” he added with desperation towards Jesc, “keep the Weewoo away from me. I’m begging you.”
“Got it.” Jesc nodded, the air faerie happily petting the white Weewoo that was perched on her shoulder. Scotchmel hooted softly.
“And no whistling,” Jhudora barked as they set off.
“Fine.” But Jesc wasn’t disheartened at all and instead began skipping after Jim, her feet making light tapping sounds on the ground as she stepped.
“How long should it take to make it to the palace?” Jhudora asked; she’d never admit it, but she had never been very good with directions.
“Well,” Jim started nervously, keeping one eye on Scotchmel, “seeing as it’s extremely dark out and I just about can’t see a thing through these darn spectacles, not to mention the fact that we’ll have to walk the entire way, I would guesstimate a good two hours or so...”
“Two hours?” Jhudora rolled her eyes. “And let me guess: Flying would cut the time in half, right? So why can’t we just carry you there...”
“Afraid of heights,” came the sheepish mumble.
Jhudora angrily crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re just full of phobias, aren’t you, Jim? You know, if it wasn’t for the fact you’re the only one who knows where we’re going, I would just leave you here on this street to face Mrs. Pierce’s wrath yourself!”
And with that as an incentive, Jim hurriedly quickened his pace.
Mrs. Pierce honestly believed this was the best day of her life since she had first gotten her job as the Proper Uses of Magical Abilities teacher at the Faerie Academy so many years ago. Everything was running smoothly: Jan had delivered a near perfect interview blaming Jhudora for everything in the Neopian Times, Jesc and Jhudora were both trapped in the oubliette under her neohome with the annoying Aisha who just happened to be in her way, and by morning she would be given a huge apology by Queen Fyora and treated with the respect she deserved once she delivered Jhudora right to her.
The fire faerie smiled to herself, landing on the dark street in front of her house lightly, the pale moonlight lighting the overgrown stone pathway leading to the door. All that was left to do was alter Jesc’s memory and everything would be set into place. Easy as that.
Mrs. Pierce went about unlocking the front door, but she double-took to her left when something caught her eye: foolishly she had left one of the front windows slightly open. It was nothing more than a few inches, but it nagged her on the inside. But why should I care? she thought to herself. Jhudora and Jesc could never have fit through it even if it was completely open, and besides that, I confiscated their wands.
She nodded to herself, trying to reassure the unease in the pit of her stomach. Her plan couldn’t fail now; vengeance was so close she could almost taste it.
The door swung open easily on well-oiled hinges, and Mrs. Pierce stepped inside, lighting a couple of dark red candles with a spark of magic. The flickering lights weren’t very bright, but she could see fine: the polished antique furniture, her prized Meepit Lamps that the klutzy yellow Aisha had almost broken a couple weeks ago, and then, as she made her way towards the isolated corner, a faint outline on the floor: the trapdoor leading to the oubliette below.
Mrs. Pierce twirled her wand between the long fingers of her right hand. She knew that the slumber spell she had cast earlier had probably worn off by now, and she couldn’t take any chances. Even without wands, she knew Jesc and Jhudora were formidable faeries, capable of strategizing a way to ambush her. I’ll need to restrain Jhudora first and then alter Jesc’s mind quickly after that if I want everything to work out smoothly. And I know just the spell for the job.
Smiling, Vermillion knelt down to pull the solid iron ring hooked on the trapdoor, using every ounce of strength to pull open the heavy piece of wood while still keeping a firm grasp on her wand. Within a few seconds, the door was raised and she could see down into the oubliette, the flickering lights from the candles illuminating the dark space inside. There was only one problem: it was empty.
“No,” she breathed, disbelief crossing across her features followed immediately by anger. Behind her the candles blazed menacingly, roaring upwards in a flash of flame and scorching the walls. “This can’t be!” She didn’t understand how it could’ve happened; there was no way they could’ve escaped.
Wheeling around, she raced over to one of the side tables in the living room only to find it already slightly ajar. It didn’t take her long to realize that they had somehow managed to swipe back their wands as well.
“Well, two can play at this game,” Mrs. Pierce snarled, pocketing her own wand angrily and storming out of her house. The night wasn’t over, not yet, and she took off into the blackened sky, her heart set on vengeance.
“Want to play charades?”
“What about ‘I spy’?”
Jhudora growled menacingly and glanced up at the sky. It was slowly lightening from pitch black to navy blue: morning was eagerly approaching and they had walked all night. It wouldn’t be long until most Neopians would be stumbling out of their beds, preparing breakfast, getting ready for the day ahead... and reading the latest issue of the Neopian Times, an issue that labeled her as a kidnapper and put her one Neopia’s Most Wanted list. She would be ruined and Mrs. Pierce would finally win; she couldn’t let that happen. “How much farther, Jim?” she barked.
“Not too much,” Jim said, glancing at the tree-lined streets littered with fallen burgundy leaves through the broken lenses of his spectacles; he decided that he would have to pay a visit to Donny’s Toy Repair shop to get them fixed later. “The gates that line the city are no more than a few minutes away now, and the palace is only a half-hour walk from that.”
It was no sooner than he said that that the gleaming gold gates appeared on the horizon, the slowly rising sun lighting them from behind and making them sparkle as if made completely out of glittering magic rather than a semiprecious metal.
“Thank Fyora!” Jhudora exclaimed, her face melting into a countenance of relief; she hated walking with a passion and her feet were sorer than they had ever been before in her life.
“Come on, Scotchmel!” Jesc cooed to the white Weewoo flying lazily behind her. “We’re almost to the city!”
Scotchmel chirped happily, and within a few minutes, the two faeries, yellow Aisha, and Weewoo were past the golden gates and looking out across the winding streets that lined the ancient city nestled in the center of Faerieland.
Jesc smiled widely, taking everything in. No matter how many times she’d been there, she loved the look of the city, the mixture of ancient architecture and magic that was flawlessly combined to produce magnificent towering buildings and winding streets that held as many mysteries as those of its inhabitants. Of course, this early in the morning, hardly anyone was out. In fact, the streets were bare except for a few early risers strolling by to watch the sunrise and some early birds who were already opening their shops for the day. But no one paid the quartet any attention which, in Jhudora’s opinion, was good.
“Okay, okay. Now to the palace. We need to get this all sorted out as soon as possible.” Jhudora raked her fingers through her long streaked hair, her violet eyes alighting on the distant purple palace standing majestically from its spot in the center of the city. They were going to make it; they had to. “Come on.”
“Wait,” Jesc suddenly blurted, her head whipping around so fast that a startled Scotchmel darted away from her to hover by Jim, who started hyperventilating at the sight of the petpet until the Weewoo finally settled on top of a nearby tree bright with autumnal foliage.
“What is it?” Jhudora snapped, not wanting to postpone their trip any longer, but Jesc had already started sprinting down one of the cobblestone roads, her long blond hair and bedraggled scarf streaming behind her.
Jhudora rolled her eyes; she didn’t have time for this, but without Jesc’s testimony, Fyora would never believe that she was innocent. “Come on, Jim,” she said, preparing to follow the air faerie.
“I... I think I’ll pass... I’ll stay right here,” Jim murmured, his full attention on Scotchmel who was happily whistling a tune from the top of the tree. “I’ll.... I’ll catch up.”
“Fine,” Jhudora barked, starting a sprint after Jesc’s distant figure.
Jan wandered aimlessly down the early morning streets of Faerieland, her short blond hair ruffling in the light autumn breeze and her eyes brimming with tears. She still was in shock: the fact that she had betrayed Jesc to Jhudora and the possibility that she was never coming back was a thought too horrible to dwell on. Even being allowed to stay in a luxury suite at the palace for the night hadn’t made things better.
She glanced towards the horizon and the sun that was beginning to make its way upwards into the sky. She hoped that morning would come faster, that the sun would swiftly make its way upwards into the sky and immediately wake citizens all over Neopia, allowing them to discover the latest issue of the Neopian Times on their front doorstep that would help right the wrongs she had done and get Jesc back safely.
But she was interrupted from her misery by a shout.
Jan turned her head. An air faerie with long blond hair, sparkling blue eyes, and sporting a long woolen scarf that was darkened with dirt was darting towards her from down the street. It took her a full minute to realize who it was.
“Jesc?” she breathed, unbelievingly, and then, before she could stop herself, she was hugging the air faerie and sobbing into her shoulder.
“Jesc! I-I’m so sorry! I... I didn’t mean to... I just... Jhudora’s letter... How did you escape?”
It was then that Jan noticed a slight frown on Jesc’s permanently happy features. It scared her. “Jesc... what is it?”
“Jan,” Jesc said slowly, twiddling with her scarf, “it wasn’t Jhudora who kidnapped me. It was Mrs. Pierce.”
Jan frowned. “No it wasn’t. It was Jhudora. Mrs. Pierce had nothing to do with it.”
“Yes, she did,” Jesc insisted. “She was the one blackmailing you. That letter you got was signed by Mrs. Pierce, not Jhudora! I saw it last week when I was helping with the mail system at Fyora’s palace, but I didn’t know it was meant for you at the time! And afterwards she captured me and Jhudora and then must’ve altered your memory so that you’d think otherwise.”
“She couldn’t have,” Jan breathed, backing up slowly. “I don’t remember...”
"Of course you don't remember; this is Mrs. Pierce we’re dealing with.”
Jan immediately whipped around at the new voice, her wand extended at Jhudora who had just caught up with them.
“Stay back,” the air faerie hissed at Jhudora, her arm shaking slightly as she pointed at the dark faerie. “Whatever you’ve done to Jesc, stop it now!”
Jhudora raised an eyebrow, fury building at the insolent faerie before her. “What can’t you get through your skull, girl? I didn’t kidnap Jesc! Mrs. Pierce did. She’s the one who sent you that letter and then fiddled with your brain to make you think it was me. This is her whole scheme to make me look bad and make her a hero.”
“I... I...” Jan stuttered, looking from a pleading Jesc to a glaring Jhudora. She was so confused and didn’t know what to trust anymore: her memories or her friends. And before she could make up her mind...
“What a touching reunion,” came a sneer from above.
The three faeries looked up and emerging from the sky, outlined in the brilliant blood-red sunrise as if lit by flames, was Mrs. Pierce, her mouth drawn in a thin line, her eyes cold, and her wand out.
Jan gasped, her eyes widening, and Jhudora and Jesc quickly pulled out their own wands, but Mrs. Pierce once again was too quick for them. With a quick jolt of magic, the wands were yanked out of all three of their grasps and sent spiraling across the road.
“Well, well, well,” Mrs. Pierce murmured, landing lightly on the cobblestones. “It seems that the truth has finally come out.”
Jhudora’s eyes glowed with fury, her hands balled up in fists and the ground beneath her trembling. “Lies and deceit. That’s all you are, Vermillion,” she spat, “and you obviously don’t care who gets hurt in your way.”
“And why should I care?” Mrs. Pierce scoffed, her eyes sharp. “You and Jesc don’t seem to care that I lost my job based on your own lies.”
“Well, at least our lies never hurt anyone,” Jesc piped up angrily, glancing at a fearful Jan and feeling guilt build up in her stomach. Jan had nothing to do with this confrontation; in fact, she shouldn’t have been dragged into it at all in the first place. But Mrs. Pierce didn’t play by the rules and Jesc knew that she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted, no matter the cost.
“They hurt me,” Mrs. Pierce snarled, her hand shaking. “They hurt my pride, and now I’ll gain it back!” With the final words, she slashed the air with her wand, and thin chains of fire wrapped themselves around the wrists of the three faeries.
“Ahh!” Jesc gasped, white hot pain shooting from the flames through her wrists. Jhudora winced too as she was shackled, and glared at Mrs. Pierce with hatred.
But it was Jan that completely lost it. Her tears started up again, flowing freely down her face and dripping onto the road. “I... I don’t un-understand!” she sobbed, looking up at Mrs. Pierce desperately and shaking. “Wh-what...?”
“Stop sniveling,” Mrs. Pierce barked without remorse, her eyes deadly and cold. “You’ll be fine in a moment once I re-alter your memory. I have to hand it to Queen Fyora for keeping memory spells legal; I always thought she was a bit of a softie believing in ‘second chances,’ and all that nonsense.” She glanced at Jhudora. “But I’ve never believed in such a thing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people never change.”
“That’s not tr-”
“Quiet!” Mrs. Pierce snapped, interrupting Jesc. “You know nothing of the brutal facts of the world, child. People never change; they forever stay as vile as they were and nothing can change that. Memories, on the other hand,” she added with a twisted smile, “are fleeting.”
“What do you-”
But Mrs. Pierce cut her off once more, turning her gaze on Jesc and Jan and roared, “Modifacta recollatora!”
“No!” Jhudora gasped, recognizing the spell, but it was too late. A flash of light echoed down the alley, burning her eyes and lighting up Mrs. Pierce’s war-like features like some horror novel. And by time it faded, Jesc’s and Jan’s faces had both become expressionless, their eyes blank as their memories were unwillingly taken away from them.
Jhudora turned to Mrs. Pierce feeling anger so intense that she hadn’t even known it was possible. Blood rushed to her head and she couldn’t even feel the pain from the fire shackles she wore anymore. “I hate you,” she finally spat.
“Good. Then the feeling’s mutual.” Mrs. Pierce turned away from her, her pointed glasses glinting in the sunlight as she bent down to retrieve the wands spewed on the cobblestones. “It’s finally ending Jhudora. After so many long years, you’ve finally lost.”
Jhudora grit her teeth. “I’ll never lose to you...”
Mrs. Pierce smiled. “I don’t think you have a say in the matter anymore. In fact, I think that it’s young Jesc here who has the final say. And speaking of our little annoying friend, I think she’s coming to.”
Sure enough, Jesc and Jan were slowly reawakening, their faces displaying confusion as they reacquainted themselves with the surroundings.
“Jesc!” Jhudora suddenly cried out desperately, trying to make eye contact. “Jesc! Jesc! Please tell me you remember what really happened!”
But upon seeing the dark faerie, Jesc’s face had already contorted into a frown and tears were spilling out of her eyes. “Jhudora...” she breathed. “How could you?”
With those final words, Jhudora knew she was done for. The memory spell had worked; Jesc was sure to testify against her, and she had no proof of her innocence, none at all.
“Come on,” Mrs. Pierce said gently, her voice completely changed as she addressed Jesc and Jan. “It’s time we finally reveal to Neopia all the wrongs Jhudora has committed.”
Jan and Jesc nodded solemnly as they took back their wands, and Jhudora, who felt for the first time completely helpless, could only curse Mrs. Pierce with every foul utterance she could think of as she was dragged away towards the palace.
And Jim, who had seen the entire occurrence from his spot on the other end of the street, felt his stomach lurch with dread.
To be continued...