Bottled Faeries Inc.: Part Two
I know that people pay a lot of money for a neohome with a nice, ocean view.
To me, it doesn’t seem worth it.
After twenty-four hours at sea in an enchanted glass bottle, I was pretty sure I had gotten the gist of the ocean; it was just a giant mass of green, choppy, salty water sprinkled with the occasional fish or piece of trash.
I was so bored.
Marty was curled up on the bed, flapping alternate wings in an odd manner. “What are you doing?” I asked him.
The Bartamus looked up at me. “Flapping my wings.”
“Because there’s nothing else to do!” He groaned, his eyes glancing out the glass walls. “At your health exam, they asked you if you got sea sick. You really should have told them yes. Then maybe you would have been sent to somewhere besides the middle of the ocean with nothing for miles aro—”
Before he could finish, there was a crackling sound, like static, and suddenly a chipper voice was floating through the bottle. “Hello Bottle Faeries Inc. employees! Here is your hourly announcement! Always remember to give a big smile when you are released from your bottle! Remember: gratitude, not attitude!”
“GAH!” Marty cried, curling his wings over his pointed ears. “Make that infernal noise stop!”
“You think I like these announcements?” I spat back, massaging my ears. The broadcasts had occurred every hour—save for the hours we had spent sleeping—and filled my body was an uncontrolled rage. They had ranged from reminders about from where we could summon food, to the specific spells we needed to cast once we were free. I had appreciated the information the first few times, but by now, I was aching for the voice to go away.
Marty flapped his wings and flew up to the neck of the bottle, hovering in air as he squinted at the glass. “Aha! I found it!”
“The device that’s making those announcements!”
“Device?” I blinked. I had assumed the voice came with the enchanted bottle.
“Looks like Virtupets technology.” He suddenly flew straight into the glass, and I heard a metallic crackling sound. “Definitely Virtupets. I’ve never seen such shoddy craftsmanship!”
“Marty!” I berated, standing up off the bed. “Did you break it?”
“What?” he said, floating back down to perch on my shoulder. “Don’t act so upset. You know that voice was driving you crazy.”
“Yeah…” I muttered. “But you better hope they’re not going to charge me for the damages, or else...” I trailed off, my eyes locked on something out in the ocean.
Marty snorted. “Or else what?”
“Or-else-land? What is that, some magical world where you make empty threats to people all day?”
“No, I see land!” I shouted, gesturing out the glass walls of the bottle. Out in the distance, just a line on the horizon, I could make out a thin strip of brown, contrasting with the blues that surrounded it.
Marty actually looked like he was about to cry. “Thank Jhudora!” he shouted, wheeling around mid-air.
I rushed to the edge of the bottle and pressed my face to the glass. “What land do you think it is?”
Marty smirked. “Considering how many places border the ocean, I’m only ruling out Kreludor.”
We spent the next hour staring at the horizon as the speck of land grew larger and larger, branching left and right and arching upwards. Soon we could make out craggy cliffs, tall ships waiting in the harbor, and a distant city supported by tall white columns.
“Altador!” I cried out triumphantly, throwing my fist upwards. It was one of the lands I had always wanted to visit, ever since I had first read a book about the ancient game of Yooyuball as a child. I peered through the glass as the ocean carried us closer to shore.
When we entered the harbor, the bottle was tossed this way and that between the bows of ships tied to the docks. Only one ship had a crew onboard, and they seemed too busy to notice a small glass bottle getting tossed by the waves. But I could see them all. The men and women were hard-working sailors, performing their morning duties as they prepared the boat to set out. They were swabbing the decks, checking the sails, and laughing in the bright morning sunlight. I wished that I could leave the bottle and talk to them, but that wasn’t how this job worked. First, I needed to be freed. Then I could investigate.
With one final swoosh, the ocean deposited us on the beach. The bottle tilted, and then fell over, its side pressing into the sand. Marty and I barely recovered in time; our wings reflexively started beating so that we were hovering as our home shifted 90 degrees.
Though the docks were fairly empty, the beach we had washed up upon was not. There were several children running around, kicking up the surf with their bare feet and stacking the rocks that had spilled onto the beach from the nearby quarries. Their parents either watched them attentively, or relaxed into lawn chairs, soaking in the early summer sun.
And then there was a red Acara, strolling along the shoreline, his eyes scanning the shallows.
His eyes suddenly fell on our bottle, and he immediately bounded towards us, scooping us up in his grip.
“Whoa!” I breathed as the bottle suddenly righted. “Easy there!”
“Don’t think he can hear you,” Marty murmured, landing on my shoulder. “Do you think he’s going to release us right now? Seems like a pretty short, anti-climatic job.”
“I wouldn’t mind,” I said honestly, staring up at the Acara as he appraised the bottle. “I’ve always wanted to visit Altador. If he releases us, we could do a little sight-seeing before the BFI Eyrie cab retrieves us.”
“Oooh, Leah, maybe we can visit the Speckled Negg!” Marty said with an excited flap of his purple wings. “It’s an underground restaurant located in the lower quarter of the city. The building is shaped like a giant speckled negg, and all these upcoming bands play there at night.”
“Definitely,” I said, closing my eyes as I tried to recall everything I knew about Altador. “Or maybe we can catch a live Yooyuball game. The season just started; I bet tickets aren’t too hard to come by.”
“Or we can go to the archives!” Marty exclaimed.
I opened my eyes. “Since when do you like to go to the library?”
Marty batted his eyelids. “I happen to be a very learned Bartamus. How many other Bartami do you know who can hold such riveting conversations?” He suddenly shook his large purple head. “Actually, I just want to mess with Finneus. I heard he’s terrified of Bartami and I want to see if it’s true.”
“Oh stop it,” I said, laughing. I looked out the bottle and saw that the Acara had started walking away from the beach, carrying us towards the city. “Well, looks like we’re getting a tour right now!”
The entire town was surrounded by a tall octagonal stone wall that carried water to the citizens. Once we passed under an archway, we got our first real glimpse of the city. The buildings were almost all made of a pale white stone with beautiful carved columns and burnt orange roofs. In the center of the town, the tall Hall of Heroes building stood proudly, glinting in the sunlight. I knew that its curved dome housed twelve statues commemorating the heroes of Altador. I longed to see them in person, but contented myself to continue to gaze out the bottle.
The Acara carried us past the great coliseum where all the Yooyuball games were played. There was a line leading out of the building, teeming with excited fans. Several of them wore jerseys in either red and black, or blue and green; apparently there was a match between Krawk Island and Maraqua today.
We moved onwards, passing under another archway into a different quadrant of the city. This time, we entered the shopping district, known for its buildings with distinctive purple roofs. We could hear clanging coming from Illustrious Armory, a battle shop run by an intimidating-looking Elephante, and I stifled a chuckle as I watched a harried blue Yurble chase an Altachuck around the perimeter of Legendary Petpets.
We wove down the sandy yellow streets, passing by outdoor vendors selling handcrafted jewelry and freshly baked sweets, until we reached a small shop with ivy running down its stone front. A bell jingled as the Acara carried us through the door and to the front counter, where a blue Techo smiled warmly at him through a pair of thick round glasses.
“Zachariah!” the Techo greeted, setting down a copy of The Neopian Times. “What have you brought me today?”
“Only a few items,” the Acara responded. He dug into his bag with his free hand, placing a few things on the counter. “Mostly some collectible shells and a few dubloons that somehow made their way from Krawk Island.”
“Probably fell out of the pockets of the sailors in the harbor,” the Techo said with a nod. “Or maybe from the tourists coming in for the Yooyuball match today.”
Zachariah nodded. “Probably. But the most expensive thing I found was this.” He suddenly lifted me up and placed my bottle on the counter. “Trapped light faerie in a bottle. I feel a little bad for the poor thing, to be honest. I almost set her free, but decided to bring her here first.”
The Techo steepled his fingers. “I wouldn’t feel too worried. I’ve never had a bottle faerie sit on a shelf here for more than two days. They sell quickly, and are released almost instantly. I can’t count the number of times someone has released a faerie right on doorstep of this shop. It’s like they can’t wait a second longer to learn Flash!”
Zachariah laughed. “Okay, okay. So, have a price for me?”
They negotiated for a while, and after receiving some neopoints for his work, Zachariah left. The Techo picked up the bottle and placed us on one of the shelves. He wrote up a small label—Bottled Light Faerie—and then placed that beneath us. Then he returned to the counter and continued to peruse the latest issue of The Neopian Times.
“Well, we had some fun for a half hour,” Marty grumbled, sitting down on my bed. “Back to a life of boredom.”
“At least it’s not the ocean,” I pointed out, reclining on the bed as well. I looked to my left and saw a bottled water faerie on the shelf next to us. She was sitting on her bed, reading what looked like a magazine. She caught my glance, waved, and then returned to her book.
“And,” I added to Marty, “according to the shop keeper, faeries sell quickly. Give us another day or two, and we can explore on our own. Okay?”
“Fiiiine,” Marty moaned. His green and red eyes fell on the Techo at the counter. The blue Neopet was blinking at The Neopian Times in confusion. After a moment, he stood up and came over towards us with a pen. He scribbled something on our label, and on the label of the faerie next to us, and then returned to the counter.
I blinked. “What did he just do? Did he change our price?” I peered out, and noticed that he had scribbled the word “fading” on our label. “Fading Bottled Light Faerie?” I read aloud, narrowing my eyebrows. “What does that mean? I’m not fading!”
Before Marty could offer me an explanation, a young orange Kougra burst into the shop. His eyes fell on the shelves, and he rushed towards us, plucking both my bottle and the bottle of the water faerie next to us. “I would like to buy these!” he announced to the shopkeeper, dragging us to the front counter.
My heart raced as the Kougra slammed some coins on the counter. The bottle jerked around crazily as the Kougra’s hands shook with excitement. “What is going on?” I demanded.
“Maybe he’s just some battle-crazed Neopet who’s about to let us go right now?” Marty offered.
I looked over at the water faerie next to us, trying to get her attention, but before she could even glance up from her magazine, the Kougra shoved us into his backpack and we were doused in complete darkness.To be continued…