The Gallery of the Dolls
You’ve read a story about my owner’s other pets before. (See "Where Faeries Come From".) Since then, Memeigi has moved to a side account- her ego had gotten so big that Flutter couldn’t quite stand it. I couldn’t stand it, either, and so when she was moved to the account I called home, I begged to be moved away from her. (The only difference? I’m no longer on the same property as Mem in my owner’s multiple Neohomes. It’s a nice break, really.)
A quick introduction by myself, and then we shall move on to the tale I have to tell you, the readers of the Neopian Times. My name is Rayneance- I'm a Darigan Peophin among my owner's several Peophins and two Uni pets, if you can, indeed, call Flutter an 'owner'. She's more a friend than anything else. After all- it is only through Flutter that we are able to have our voices heard in the form of black and white.
This is not a story of finding out where Faeries come from (they come from the clouds themselves- anyone could have told you that), nor of hassling King Hagan (who didn’t know the cloud theory and I am thus no longer allowed in Brightvale Castle). It is, however, of adventure. Intrigue. Danger. Only upon reading Aerliin’s travel diary did I realise exactly how amazing a writer she is- and how much so her intelligence almost- ALMOST- rivals mine. One story in particular fascinated me- and terrified me at the same time. I’ve decided to publish it here, with permission from the cute little Faerie girl. It took up a total of five pages in her journal- which is substantial, considering it’s all on that thin-lined note paper.
Aerliin's Travel Journal
First Museum Encounter- Gallery of the Dolls, 6th Day of Hunting, Y10
I approached the city with much hesitation- its large, towering buildings were much bigger than those in the Faerie City and thus that much more intimidating. I asked one of the residents of this town what it might be called, to which they replied quickly- "Neovia.”
I walked onward, excited to be exploring this beautiful city in all its Victorian glory. The resident who gave me the name of the city soon caught up with me again, saying that a girl of my age and standing might appreciate a visit to the Gallery of the Dolls. Having no idea what a dolls was, nor what a gallery might be, I followed them to it and stepped inside as soon as they allowed me.
"Just a moment, child; I shall return in a moment. Feel free to peruse the area to your leisure- select a doll of your own, if you are in want of one." And with that, the strange man disappeared behind a door. The telltale *click* of a lock told me that he would not be returning to me that night. I had no fear, however- the dolls were cute, in their rodent-like appearance. Their bushy tails and smiling faces made them quite likable, though I shan't say I would be interested in purchasing one. Their prices ranged anywhere from 5,000NP to 75,000NP- over twice and a quarter of what I carried with me!
I quickly grew bored of looking at the small, plastic creatures, but upon trying the door through which I came, found it locked. Gritting my teeth, I tried the door through which the strange creature had left- locked again! I tried a third door that said "Dolls of the Condemned- Staff Only." Seeing as I had no other way out, I opened this door with ease.
"How peculiar!" I stated, finding it odd that this of all doors should be unlocked. I walked slowly into the dimly lit room, eyeing the strange, oddly featured dolls that lined the walls and segments of the floor. They looked like Usuls, but with no tails! The other strange feature that marked these dolls different from those in the opposite room was the fact that not one wore a smile; each pair of eyes was dull and sad. What horrible toys these were!
"Hello? Is anyone there?" I asked quietly, unsure of what lurked beyond the door- it shut promptly, and I heard a reply.
"Just us dolls...”
I turned around as quickly as a Peophin can, eying the room in a bit of fright. A fair bit, actually- no one was in the room, aside from me. And the Dolls of the Condemned.
A few moments passed as I collected my thoughts. I peered at the dolls again, looking each one over with much scrutiny. I begged the question once more, but with a bit more volume.
"Is anyone there?" My voice trembled slightly because I knew immediately what the response would be.
"Just us dolls..." came the reply, just as I had known it would be. It, too, was louder. More shocking was the elaboration that came from the dolls. "Didn't you hear us the first time?"
"Yes, I heard you- I must be going mad!" I exclaimed. I was having a conversation with DOLLS. "How is it that you speak? Dolls, so I've heard, aren't normally able to." The many voices answered me.
"You're not going mad, Aerliin. We speak to only those who can help us. Didn't you notice there are no children on the streets of Neovia?" Only one doll, the largest, answered me with the last sentence. "Neovia is still under attack, but far more sinister than what people realise," she said as she rose to meet me. Had I not a talking petpet myself and met a talking rock earlier in my travels, I might have panicked a bit more. This place, Neovia, was WEIRD.
"Are you cursed?" I queried, though rather asking the obvious. I felt, however, that asking was far better than assuming, as in the case with the rock.
The doll hesitated for a moment, and then spoke as her small, plastic lips curled with much chagrin. "The dollmaker is that of a wizard of sorts. We don't feel- rather, I don't feel- that he is evil. The sound of laughter irritates him greatly, so he has silenced us in this room, where speech does not travel. The dolls which we so greatly loved as children, that we cherished, soon became our prisons.
"This did not, of course, occur in a single event- he would lure us in with the promise of a new doll in exchange for the old one. Since they were old and ragged, we were more than happy to trade.
"Once we were in the Shoppe, he would tell us how greedy we were. We didn't cherish our first dolls enough, so once they were dirty and broken, we were all too willing to replace them with new ones." She paused there, wiping a small, nearly invisible tear from her pallid cheek. Dolls that could cry? Weird again. But I digress.
Each doll went on to tell his or her story, never deviating far from the first doll's telling. The newest doll had been their last chance at being rescued and failed- evidently, the chore had to be done at midnight on a full moon while Kreludor obscured some tiny planet without a name. (They called it "Earth", but I laughed. They found the name funny, too!) This phenomenon would occur tomorrow night- not that I'd get the chance to turn them down. A male doll started listing ingredients for a potion they would need, too, and another wrote down a spell they would each say.
I looked at them in a panic, wondering where on earth I would get these ingredients. They grabbed a hold of my satchel after I'd looked at them in dismay. Where in *Neopia* would you find Eye of Frogswort?!
Over the next day, the dolls began converging on the area, and not one taller than my knee. They had found everything they needed in my little satchel, and said I'd done a great job of getting everything in advance.
"We just need the faerie dust," said the smallest, which couldn't have been larger than my hoof. She looked up at me expectantly, as though she honestly thought I could produce this at will. For the record, dear reader, just because one is a Faerie does not mean they have any knowledge of Faerie dust, nor how to produce it. She looked at me crossly, shoving her tiny plastic eyebrows close together.
"SNEEZE." She stuck a fistful of dust into my nostril, and I obliged. I must have sneezed at least a dozen times before stopping, and when I was finally able to open my eyes, the room was covered in a fine, powdery substance. So THAT'S how it's made!
The largest grinned widely, the first time I'd seen anyone smile the whole time I'd been locked up in the room. It, however, was not a kind smile, but one filled with mirth.
"Thanks," they said in unison. Just as quickly as I could blink, they began reciting the spell and stepping into the moonlight, mutating into their Neopet forms- and I meant it when I said 'mutate.' Horrible creatures they were, and terrifying as they began converging on me. As one, they lifted the vat of potion, throwing it onto my metallic coat.
I don't know how long I lay on the floor, unmoving, but I do know it was daytime by the time the dollmaker found me. A small smile was plastered onto my face, which I could see as we passed a mirror. "Don't look at me like that! You're the one who fell for it!" he said tersely. "If dolls start talking, for future reference, don't help them!
He quickly said a few words and I was my old self again- if only slightly taller.
"Now we have to go and find all of them. Just look for the path of destruction," he said with a slight hint of amusement. He brought out two tiny staffs, explaining that they were Usuki Staffs- very rare and unheard of, but very powerful. "When you see one of the mutants, just point this at them."
We spent the better part of the day collecting them again, but in the end, we got each of them contained- in doll form, much to their duress. These, of course, were not your everyday mutants- these were obviously Sloth Minions. Keeping them in the form of a dolly was *much* easier than keeping them contained via the Chia Police.
He explained the Usuki Staffs in greater detail, once we shoved the last, wriggling doll into the room. "When these get into the wrong hands, they become very dangerous. The potion the dolls made to turn you into a Peophin toy doesn't even compare to what the Staffs could do to innocent people.
I correlated something I'd read earlier to what he just said- and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
"So, wait. That room- the Dolls of the Condemned- is 'Staff Only'. What are the other rooms for?"
He smiled evilly, revealing a room full of Usukis. "The Innocent."
The poor shop owner had forgotten he'd given me a Staff, too, and my reflexes were much faster than his. Before his hand even tilted in my direction, he'd already hit the floor with a dull, rubbery thunk.
I return to you, dear diary, Usuki Staff in hand. I've found a way to disable it, and now use it as a nice, shiny pen- along with every other Staff in Neopia- their holders were none too thrilled with the Dollmaker's actions and blew theirs up instantly. How he'd gotten away with harming the innocent for so long, we'll never know.
I'm rather unaffected by my visit to Neovia, though I can't say I'll go there again- at least not until someone finds a way to help those poor Neopets. I tried using the staff one more time in an attempt to free them, but I guess they only worked one way.
So what are the chances of your Usuki dolls being Neopets? Slim to none, really. The dollmaker rarely sold any, because the dolls' eyes would follow you around the room...
I'm afraid I must cut this short- there's a knock at the door and I'm curious to see who it is!
Never once have I ever been so horrified at a story. I did have to ask Aerliin if the story was true- to her shock, of course. She insisted that she would never write an untrue thing- and I'll believe her on that one, for now. If it comes to be untrue, then I shall grant that Liin, for all her childish foolishness, is one of the best authors Neopia has ever seen.
So, it's up to you- DID Aerliin discover a galleria of dolls, only to be tricked by them as they began their escape plan in the single-most scary town in Neopia? She never did finish writing this entry. I'll leave you to ponder this.
I hope you enjoyed "The Gallery of the Dolls", my second NT submission. There'll be more to come!