I sat in my glade one autumn eve, as the trees swayed in
the breeze and the flowers inclined their delicate heads, their jewel-bright petals
falling like soft rain or angelic snow. I could hear the lonely, distant cry of
a Lupe, the haunting sound ringing with what was and what will never be again.
As the familiar, prickling sensation of tears trickled down my cheek, I felt again
the weariness of the earth and knew that it would soon fall into sleep, oblivion,
until spring's reviving thaw. The wind whispered to me and I answered back, "I
am Illusen, and this is my home."
Every autumn, as the leaves change color and
begin to fall, Earth Faerie's weep with sorrow. Our bind with the earth is so
deep that we feel the stress and apprehension of every creature as they struggle
to prepare for the coming cold, and the exhaustion of every single rock and
plant. We know that the earth will sleep for months, enveloped in icy veils,
until the first Pteri cries or the first Sponderola blooms. While this solemn
change brings quiet melancholy, it also brings us great joy, for we know that
nature is regaining strength and will emerge, bursting with life, in the springtime.
This particular autumn, however, things were
much worse. War was raging in Meridell, uprooting the fertile soil and wrenching
raw potatoes from the earth. Farmers neglected their duties to defend the realm,
and young peasants replaced the Chia Police as law enforcers. Famine was reigning,
for without farmers there was no food, and the pant devil and lava ghoul were
striking from town to town. They stole everything they saw, for peasant Neopets,
while skilled at counting potatoes and weighing marrows, had little knowledge
of defending people from deranged, spectral thieves. But everything was worth
it, because Meridell was winning.
I knew very little of the war, but no one could
mistake the evil, looming shadow of the great stone structure that hovered over
our land. The grass and flowers shrivelled beneath it, and if you stood with
one foot upon the shadow and one outside it, it was as if you stood on day and
night. It was the Darigan Citadel, and I knew it to be the cause of our war.
I didn't know why we were fighting it, but I knew that I would support Meridell
to the end.
One afternoon, Iyana, the Earth Faerie prophetess,
came to visit me. Her appearance is somewhat unusual, as she was completely
green, with glossy emerald tresses, luminous, jade-like wings, and iridescent
wings that flickered delicately. Such was the mark of a prophetess. (All Dark
Faeries are prophetesses, but none of them can be trusted.) As she stepped inside
my glade, I could tell that something was wrong, something that she was trying
desperately to hide.
Iyana was very quiet as she sat down on a mossy
log and sipped the borovan I handed her. She fingered the flowers absentmindedly,
with a wistful, dreamy-eyed expression on her face, but I could see the secret
in the tightened lines of her shoulder.
"What is it, Iyana?" I whispered at last. I
watched her apprehensively as she nodded, evading my question
Iyana sighed. "Do you know of the king's orb?"
she asked finally. I nodded, confused. The orb was Meridell's greatest legend,
fabled to bring prosperity to whatever land possessed it, but what did that
have to do with anything?
Iyana watched me silently, then suddenly burst
out, "It was stolen!"
I gasped. Stolen! I had always thought it had
been given to us! I had been proud of our warriors' daring! How dare Skarl lie
to me, to all of Meridell? Our greatest legend was a joke! I could feel a whirlpool
or indignity and shame swirling inside, spiralling inside my heart until it
consumed every ounce of respect I had for the king. Eventually, however, I pacified
Suddenly, I was struck by a new idea. "Wait!
You don't mean-" I stared, open-mouthed, at Iyana, feeling a flood of understanding
wash over me. "Our orb, Meridell's pride, is Darigan's?"
"Yes. That's why the citadel is here. That's
why Darigan at war with Meridell." Iyana started to rise, then looked over her
shoulder at me. "I came to see you, Illusen, because I heard of your great loyalty
to Meridell. I was told that you would support it through everything, till the
end. I thought you had the right to know both sides of the story." And with
that, Iyana left, leaving me an empty cup of borovan and an ocean full of puzzled
Does Meridell deserve the orb? Should Darigan
attack us just to retrieve it? Whose side am I on? Do I have to be on a side?
These questions, and many more, chased each other through my brain until I finally
made a decision. King Skarl was wrong for taking the orb and wrong for lying
to his subjects, but did an entire kingdom of innocent Neopets deserve to die
for his folly? Lord Darigan was being terribly extravagant, and Meridell still
held my support.
Instead of withdrawing from the war scene, I
became more and more involved. I healed wounded soldiers, gave food to poor,
and donated weapons and healing potions to the money tree. I even presented
the defenders with leaf shields and honey potions. Everything was going well
until Iyana returned.
She came bursting into my glade one day while
I was baking a batch of Illusen's Cream Cookies for the civilians. Droplets
of sweat fell from her hair as she panted for breath and sat down on a large
rock. This time, she didn't even bother to conceal the fact that something was
"Meridell is losing!" she exclaimed as I served
her a cup of Snowberry Tea.
"What?" I dropped the cup, and the periwinkle
clay shattered into a million pieces. Ignoring this, I sat down next to her,
feeling dazed. "But we had such an enormous lead! What happened?"
Iyana was calmer now. "The defenders found out
about the stolen orb. Many of them deserted and joined Darigan's army. I'm afraid
there is little hope for Meridell now."
I waved aside the last statement. I just wasn't
ready to accept it. "Who told them?" I asked instead.
"They said it was a Dark Faerie prophetess.
She was tall for her kind, with green streaks in her hair, hostile and merciless."
I allowed myself a gasp of fury. "Jhudora! Did
she do this just to spite me?"
Iyana shook her head. "We don't know, although
it is common knowledge that she is your sworn enemy, and you hers. I just wanted
to let you know." Iyana waved at me and left just as abruptly as she had come.
Two weeks later, Iyana's prophecy came true.
Lord Darigan's final wave was deadly, ruthless. They wreaked havoc everywhere
they went, tearing innocent Neopets from limb to limb. Within hours, Meridell
lay in shambles.
I could not weep, I could not shout. My beautiful
home was dying around me, and all I could do was go about my day as usual. I
baked cookies and gave out quests with numb fingers and an even number heart.
Try as I might, I could not find the strength nor courage to help.
The next day, my glade was destroyed. I covered
my ears to block out the dying shrieks of the flora in my glade and examined
the area with wide eyes. My cottage was smashed to bits; pieces of cracked china
were scattered like hail. Streaks of filthy soot rested where there was once
living grass. I looked all around me, but there was nothing I could do but cry.
Over the next few days, it was as if I was a
zombie, a slave under a spell. I hid among the trees by day and slept on cracked
boulders by night. It was as if the earth was no longer beautiful and that life
had lost its purpose.
Suddenly, a Pikis flew onto my shoulder and
the spell was broken. I breathed in the delicate scent of perfume mallows and
began to notice the beauty that remained around me. The sky was as blue as ever,
and earth as alive. I heard the cheerful whistling of a Beekadoodle and realized
there was a meaning in life.
I had the promise of spring and the hope for
tomorrow, and no one could take that away from me.