“Excuse me, Miss Mara,” a yellow Acara said, entering the
room, “but I just received a note from the director. He said that you have been
selected as the supervisor for the next field trip.”
Miss Mara, a nice-looking cloud Kau looked up
and smiled. “All right then,” she replied, “I’ve been waiting for his reply
already. Thank you very much, Susie.”
Susie ran away and Miss Mara sat back, looking
out of the window. It was her second month as a volunteer at the Neopian Pound
Elementary, a Neoschool for orphan pets, and she really liked it there. The
kids were nice to her and other teachers got along with her very well. But still
she felt a bit worried. The field trip was planned for the same weekend on a
small plain near the pound. And right next to that plain was the Sacred Forest,
a very forbidden place. She was quite sure that at least one of the pets would
get lost. It wouldn’t have been such a problem, the faeries were usually ready
to help… but not in that forest. Actually, she wasn’t even sure if there were
any faeries in those woods.
Besides, there was something about this place
people didn’t want to talk about.
Miss Mara sighed and left her cabinet. Everything
would have been okay if there hadn’t been for Nick, that pesky little Lupe.
She just knew that if someone would cause trouble during the trip, it had to
Nick was a veteran in the pound. Every time when
someone came that could have wanted to adopt him, he growled and hid under his
bed, ignoring everyone and everything. Nick just didn’t want to leave the pound.
The meals were big, the teachers let him chew gum in classes and all the other
pets were so easy to fool… No, he felt just like home there. After all, letting
some stranger to adopt you and take you to Fyora-knows-where is quite a risk.
The Lupe had a certain reputation in the pound, he liked that reputation and
he knew that proving himself is hard work. In short, no adopting for that Lupe
cub, one thing for sure.
“Kids, listen up,” Miss Mara announced, entering
the cafeteria where the pound pets were having lunch. “There will be a field
trip this week…”
“A FIELD TRIP?” The kids didn’t let her finish.
“It’s about time! Woohoooo! The last trip was soooo long ago! Hey Miss, where
do we go this time? Uni Meadows? The Haunted Woods? Maybe Roo Island – oh, we
haven’t been there for AGES!!”
The Kau smiled gently. “Well, this time it’s
the Sacred Plain.” Everybody screamed with joy. “Now listen, I want everyone
to stay calm and not to cause any problems during the trip, okay? I don’t want
to hear anything about Slorgs in Mrs. Willowpeak’s bed again, is that clear?
Nobody will smuggle wild petpets into the house, nobody will get lost and most
importantly, you’ll all behave yourselves. Can I count on you?”
Multiple-voiced “sure, anything for you, we’ll
be nice, promised!” filled the room. Miss Mara smiled again and then looked
at a young Lupe sitting at a nearby table and munching his Mint Ice Cream.
“What about you, Nick?” she asked. “No more chasing
wild Cybunnies and “stuff”?”
Nick grinned. “I’ll see what I can do,” he replied.
“As long as they don’t start getting on my nerves again.”
After lunch the kids returned to their room,
chatting excitedly and making plans for the field trip. (“I’ll take my Headless
Von Roo plushie with me, it’ll scare the daylight out of the girls!” and “Hey,
which dress should I wear, the polka-dotted one or the striped one?”) Nick trotted
down the hallway, grinning and feeling happier that usual. He loved field trips.
Not because he liked to hang around with others or run around the meadows. Oh
no, he always did only one thing during the trips. He got lost somewhere and
spent his time chasing wild pets.
It had been a serious subject for a very long
time. Nick was able to run for hours before he got tired. The wild pets that
he chased often lost their temper and turned against the young Lupe, or just
collapsed, or got themselves hurt. One way or another, it was a big miracle
that he had gotten out of all his adventures clean. Every time the teachers
of the pound met in the staff room to drink coffee and discuss the recent happenings,
Nick was the first order of business.
“Hey Nicky, gonna have a great time at the weekend
again?” the Lupe’s friend, a small Kacheek shouted, passing him.
“You betcha,” Nick agreed, smirked and went into
his room. He couldn’t wait for the weekend.
* * * * *
On Saturday morning, all kids gathered in front of the main door. The day was
beautiful, the birds were singing and there was not a single cloud in the sky.
A good thing, Nick thought to himself, it’s so hard to run in the mud…!
“All right then, kids,” Miss Mara said, walking
up to the bunch. “You’ve been to a field trip before, you know how it goes.
Mrs. Willowpeak and I are coming with you.”
Some pets started to whisper. “That old witch
is also coming? Oh brother…” Mrs. Willowpeak was an old and grumpy Meerca who
didn’t like children at all. Her field trips were usually something like “Look
children, it’s a dandelion. Although they may look rather nice, they’re a very
irritating weed, a big trouble for every gardener” and so on. The only comfort
was that Miss Mara was also coming. Her field trips were “Look kids, a dandelion
– so pretty, just like a tiny sun, eh?”
As they went, Nick felt that he was full of energy.
He just HAD to let it out somewhere… but the plain seemed to be miles away.
He couldn’t wait to get there and start chasing all those little Ixi and Usuls!
Nick had never thought what he would do if he would catch any of them one day.
He just enjoyed the running.
Finally. They were there. The adults started
to unpack the food for the picnic while the pets ran around the meadows, catching
butterflies and admiring little Snowbunnies hopping around here and there.
“Uhh, those packs are heavy!” Mrs. Willowpeak
complained and straightened her back. “Let’s call those little brats now.”
“Not yet,” Miss Mara replied. “Let them run a
little. The school’s territory is just so small, they never have a chance to
live themselves out.” She was looking around with slight concern. Nick was nowhere
to be seen.
Mrs. Willowpeak frowned; she didn’t like the
young Kau. Miss Mara got along with kids, they listened to her and admired her…
and she was always sticking her nose into things she had nothing to do with.
Nosy little girl, that’s what she is, the Meerca thought grumpily.
“Has anyone seen Nick?” Miss Mara suddenly shouted.
The pets nearby stopped running and thought for a moment.
“Probably sneaked into the forest” a little Aisha
said. “That’s what he always does.”
Miss Mara’s eyes turned big. “We must find him!
The Sacred Forest is dangerous!”
“Oh please…” Mrs. Willowpeak laughed. “Do you
really believe in that superstition? It’s only a big forest. That brat will
get back eventually. Let’s eat already!”
The Kau sat down, shivering a little. Not only
had she heard things about the forest, on one day years ago she had seen something
in those woods she will never forget… Miss Mara really hoped that Nick would
do fine. As long as he won’t scare or chase any wild pets... but she knew that
he would do it. She also knew that she should go and look for him, but she didn’t
stand a chance. The Sacred Forest decided itself who would find a way out of
it and who would get lost forever.
* * * * *
This is LIFE!!! Nick thought to himself, running along a narrow path
in the forest. He noticed a Mortog and barked at it, scaring it back into the
pond; he saw a herd of Unis and chased them until they flew away over the treetops
where he couldn’t follow them; he even saw a small Dark Faerie and growled at
it. That was a mistake, the Faerie sent out an instant beam of black lightning
that hit Nick right against his nose.
“Oww… stupid Faerie!” the Lupe grunted, sitting
on the ground and holding his nose. “Wait until I tell my uncle Balthazar!”
It was a lie and the Faerie knew it; she just
laughed and flew away. Nick got up and ran onward, looking for someone fast
to chase. He saw an Ixi and tried to race it, but it vanished so quickly that
he couldn’t believe his eyes. After getting away from an angry Buzz he stopped
for a moment and looked around him.
“Wow… what a strange place!” he admired. The
trees were obviously very old, their trunks were massive and the canopies disappeared
into the heights. It wasn’t dark, however, the forest was bright and living.
It seemed like there would be an eternal spring in those woods. He went on,
looking around and trying to understand why the place felt so, well, MAGICAL…
And then he saw something... or someone. It was
hard to identify, something silvery white standing between the trees, behind
the bushes and all sorts of lianas. It was looking straight at him, then it
turned around and, well, left. Nick blinked with great surprise. He wasn’t able
to describe the way the creature was moving. It looked like quiet sliding through
the forest, ignoring the bushes and tree trunks like they were thin air. The
Lupe snarled and followed the creature.
Who is it? he thought with surprise, rushing
through the bushes and trying to keep up with the bright figure. Looks like
a Faerie, but they’re never so fast. And how come it’s not flying away? But
it’s a rapid one, whatever it is! He speeded on, feeling the wind in his
fur and the soft earth under his paws. Yeah, he thought again, that’s
life! I’ll have to thank it when I catch it!
That made him think. Who knows what that thing
is? What if it’s too much for him? What if it’s dangerous? However, he didn’t
give up the chase. In contrary, he added speed. Now he wanted to see what the
thing was, no matter what.
The chase went on. Nick felt like he had run
through whole Neopia already. He started to get weary. But the white figure
kept moving on with the same tempo, tirelessly and serenely. I must catch
it! Nick thought. This time it’s not a game; it has to do with my pride!
Suddenly the figure vanished. Nick gasped and
tried to stop, but then he pushed his head up and ran on. I’ll find it, no
matter what! a thought crossed his head.
Half an hour went by before Nick saw a silvery
white figure between the trees. He hurried on, boosted through the last bushes…
and stopped with great surprise.
What he saw is hard to describe. It was a tiny
plain in the middle of the forest, surrounded with huge trees. On the plain
there was a small pond with water lilies floating on the surface. The water
was crystal clear so Nick could see that the pond wasn’t too deep. Soft light
filled the area; it looked like a dream. But Nick knew it wasn’t a dream, he
never had such girly dreams.
The figure he had chased was standing in the
middle of the pond. The Lupe had been right, it was a Faerie, at least it was
very similar to one. She was tall and slim, with a silvery white dress and big
dark eyes. And the wings! Nick had never seen such wings. They were just humongous,
reaching out over the whole pond. Some glittering dust was floating in the air.
“Who are you?” the Lupe suddenly asked.
“Who are you, trespassing into my home?” she
asked back. “You’re not allowed here. And you were bothering the pets in this
“It was for fun!” Nick explained, feeling offended.
“How are they supposed to know?” the strange
Nick blinked. “Eh… But I… Well, it’s their problem
when they don’t have a sense of humor!”
“It’s funny when you get chased by your friends,”
the creature said. “But when you have to live in a forest and fight for your
survival, being chased is not funny.”
The Lupe looked down. “Who are you?” he asked
then again. “You look like a Faerie.”
“Yes, I am a Faerie,” she replied. “I live here
in order to protect all the living beings in the forest – all the pets, petpets
and faeries.” She laughed a bit. “The faeries don’t care much about my protection,
“But…” Nick started.
“You must go now,” the Faerie said. “Miss Mara
is worried. Take the path over there.” She pointed to a small trail to the right.
“Move it – hurry up! It may be too late when you wait for too long.” She turned
around and faded into the forest, leaving nothing but some glittering faerie
dust floating behind.
Nick had no idea how he got out of the forest,
met the others and went back to the school. But in the evening when he lie in
his bed and looked at the full moon shining in the sky, the door quietly opened
and Miss Mara came in.
“You saw her, right?” she asked, sitting on the
edge of Nick’s bed.
Nick nodded. “Who is she? Have you seen her too?”
“When I was a little girl,” Miss Mara started,
“my granny told me a story of a Dark Faerie that was sent out of Faerieland
and decided to stay in the Sacred Woods. But she didn’t know that this place
was magical, so in time she lost her dark powers and magic and turned into the
serene creature you saw. She’s still evil though, in the inside, and that’s
why people prefer to stay away from the forest, just in case she decides to
stop being the guardian of the forest and get back to her old life again. I
think that the only reason she’s still living there is the fact that she was
bored of the darkness and shadows.”
Nick frowned. “How come she didn’t try to hurt
“She did,” Miss Mara replied. “She was hoping
that you would get lost in the woods forever while chasing her. But somehow
you made it to the heart of the forest and that impressed her, so she let you
go. This time.” She stood up and left.
Nick didn’t say anything. For a few next days
he was a bit more quiet and thoughtful than usually. Then he got his good mood
back and was the same reckless and playful young Lupe as before, though everyone
noticed that his habit of chasing wild pets had vanished. But whenever he happened
to see a Faerie, he growled quietly, turned away and looked at the sky for some
moments, obviously thinking of something very complicated.