If you've travelled around Neopia and back, if you've got a keen eye, you might have seen her. Might have, only - the white hair, grey hat and grey clothes do nothing to liven up a Sketch. On a good day, she'll be on a bench; on a worse one, against a rock or a tree, but always with the same things in hand. One a pad of paper, one a pencil, pretty once upon a time but worn down until there isn't much more of it left than a stump. There's never an eraser. She doesn't need one. Not a single line that finds her page ever leaves it, and she likes to think that maybe one day, one of these sketches will reach out of the page to her. Oh, she knows that it's impossible, but everyone has wishes, right?
The wet days are the worst, she thinks. Water makes her feel unstable, but hiding in a cave gives her nothing to draw but deep shadows and creases in rock, not to mention the time she picked the wrong cave up in Tyrannia and almost became a snack. Flying could work, but as a Buzz, she doesn't have much to lean her pad on while she's up there, and she never dares to go too high. The rain splatters and pings onto the rocky crags, grass and delicate architecture of Faerieland, and she wonders if this day would be the same if it had never crashed. Probably not. She isn't sure how to feel about that, but hidden under the rocks by a pretty waterfall, she can't bring herself to think about it too much. There's more to draw, after all.
When she draws, it's like she's in another world. Nobody can distract her, and nothing will interrupt until she finishes. Some pets have tried, but strangely, the very lands she draws seem to conspire against it. Even if the world does little else for her, in her mind, that's all she needs. Today feels the same, and she's glad. Sameness is good, except when it comes to the subjects of her pad.
She isn't quite finished when the dull vibe of speech registers in her mind, and something so unusually cold it makes her leap and flutter up washes against her tail and legs. She looks wildly around for a moment, swishing the cold off her lower body, before she hears someone call out, louder this time.
"Sorry, my fountain's flooding!" It was the pretty faerie who lived in this pool, who she'd seen sadly turn away pet after pet, but let the Sketch Buzz stay after realising she wanted something else. "There's a cave just over the cliffs if you can make it, though!"
Brightly coloured water, mingling in colours she can't even identify, washes over the shore where the Sketch had just been sitting, and slowly, she nods. Darting over the rim of the falls is a quick matter, and the first cave she sees will be her refuge, as soon as she shakes herself off. It's then, though, that she notices something she'd never seen before.
Where the strange water hit earlier, there is now an uneven wash of varying colours, like a watercolour painting left unfinished. Under her greys and whites, it makes a jarring contrast, and for a moment, she can only stare. One foot twitches, scraping against the cave floor, and when her claws come back blue, it breaks the spell. Blue is all around the cave, and for the first time in her life, it occurs to her that maybe she can use it. A handful of stone dust and mite of water is all it takes before her sketchbook is bursting with messy blue painting, and she's too enthralled to hear her own laughter. Colour! She has no time for colours, she insists to herself; she seeks the perfect landscape, the most flawless Neopian form. But she wonders, as another page is filled with a bursting river and a cascading sky, how she can hope to find perfection without them. Colour has been everywhere she's travelled, after all, even if she paid it no notice. Maybe the pretty faerie she had shared the fountain with so many times could tell her more. Maybe that's why she had been lured there so often, looking for a place to expand her horizons and draw something great.
It's long after dawn, and the rain has long gone before her childish giggles stop echoing around the cave, and her sketchbook is dripping with drying blue just inside the door.
The next day, when she talks to the pretty faerie, she seems to understand immediately, but all the answer she gets is a wink and a cheeky, "There's more colours to be found in Faerieland, and even more around Neopia. Why take my word for it?"
So she starts travelling again, and it feels new, this search for colours that can only be found here and there. The reds, blacks and metallics of Moltara and the greens, blues and purples of Maraqua are the first to take her fancy and be taken along with her. Dusts and plants, ground and mixed in endless combinations, become her new tools, and it takes her months to get used to it again, how to make this new palette enhance her old pencil lines. Along the way, she abandons one by one her old garments, and you might not be able to recognise her if you see her again, in a rainbow wig one day and a petal-lined dress the next. The faded wash on her tail and back claws is still there, and she has had so many questions about it that she's begun to simply wink, smile and sketch out a reply, "Maybe one day, you'll find out for yourself." From time to time, she'll leave them an artwork, and many more times, she's traded one for a simple glass vial or wooden cup, to add to her growing cluster of colours hidden in her backpack. People ask about that too, and again, she won't reply. A claw dipped in a jar and a quick, bright sketch of their bemused face is usually enough before she laughs and leaves.
Another year passes before she returns to that spot once again, where the fountain had broken its banks, and though she has changed, the pretty faerie still recognises her. She understands what this place is now, though; the faerie must have seen many colours and changes come and go. She shows her the pages she has filled, and the faerie looks pleased beyond measure that she took her words to heart so well. The faerie cannot let her go, though, without a parting question.
"You have so many colours now; I wonder if you could paint my fountain?"
The Sketch Buzz looks at the place on the shore she used to sit, just the right spot so that the fountain itself would never be a part of her sketches. The endless colours of the water run through her mind as she watches it hammering down into the pool, breaking the surface and sending rough foam and ripples across, tiny droplets flickering over the rocky edge of the pool and into the grass, leaving slight stains wherever it does. She smiles, without really realising it.
She sits, leaning against a mossy rock. She draws, pencil and colours flickering across the page. And she knows, as something entirely new begins to come to life out of her hands, that her wish has come true.
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|Hotshots: Part Eight|
Mortman didn't like their chances against pirate-trained fighters. What did they have? What could Mortman use to turn this fight to their advantage?