Traitors And Warriors: Part One
My name is Preluna.
My story is an extraordinary one, filled with twists and turns, allies and enemies, kindness and cruelty. It is a story of infamy... but perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.
I should start at the very beginning, when I was a student at the Faerie School. Back then, so many years ago, not one of the faerie teachers had ever known a student quite like me. I was the most difficult young air faerie they had ever encountered. Wilful, disobedient and sullen, I refused to comply with any of the school rules. I shunned the company of other faeries and I did not have a single friend.
At that time, I liked to think of myself as fearless. Nothing, and no one, fazed me. My tough, no-nonsense attitude got me into plenty of arguments and even the occasional fight. But mostly, other faeries just left me alone. I did not go around asking for trouble except if I felt like it. My classmates and teachers kept their distance. None of them had no idea what this icy, glacial air faerie was capable of doing.
* * * * *
When I was at school, there was a legendary hatred between light and dark faeries. They avoided each other at all costs and it was quite common for a light faerie to refuse to attend a class held by a dark faerie teacher - and vice versa. Generally, the light faeries were polite and well-mannered, whereas the dark faeries were wild and rebellious. The worst of them was Sharrabah.
Even by dark faerie standards, Sharrabah was bad. Our teachers had given up all hope of redeeming her, and Sharrabah would have been expelled years earlier had she not been a distant relative of Jhudora. Solely for this reason, Sharrabah was tolerated in spite of all her misbehaviour. She seldom attended lessons, preferring instead to lurk in the corridors and cause all kinds of trouble with her rowdy friends. These friends consisted of four other dark faeries whose names I have now forgotten. But their names are of little importance. They only lived for creating trouble, and I remember them only for that.
Because I was so distant and guarded, and famous for my occasional wild tempers, Sharrabah decided that I would be a good influence on her little gang. Once she actually asked me if I wanted to join them. I told her that I would rather be left on my own. I saw no fun in making other faeries’ lives miserable. Sharrabah probably realised this for herself and was not very surprised when I turned her away. She was not very disappointed, either. I certainly would have changed the image of her group, after all: she and her four friends would seem less threatening with a blonde, blue-eyed air faerie among them. And although I had never done anything to annoy Sharrabah, other than refusing to join her gang, she was openly hostile towards me after my refusal. Snubbing her dark faerie gang was evidently something which was not to be forgiven or forgotten.
As we grew older, Sharrabah’s pranks grew more serious. She set fires, almost burning down part of the Faerie School; a few months later, many faeries were robbed and, although there was no evidence against her, Sharrabah was considered to be the culprit. She particularly liked to harass light faeries and her practical jokes often took a cruel turn. I often heard stories about light faeries being assaulted in the corridors as they went to lessons; one faerie even had burns on her arm after Sharrabah had scorched her with a wand. The teachers made a few feeble attempts to stop the bullying, but they were mostly too afraid to punish Sharrabah. They knew that if Sharrabah turned against them, she would run to Jhudora for help - and then all kinds of dreadful things might happen.
The consequences of letting Sharrabah have her own way proved dangerous for a light faerie named Posy. She was a timid, nervous little creature who had attended the Faerie School for almost a year without getting into trouble with dark faeries. She was very eager to please others and so the teachers trusted her, often asking her to run errands for them. And one ill-fated summer afternoon, a teacher asked Posy to deliver a message to the librarian.
Posy found the library empty; the librarian had gone out. As she wondered what to do, she suddenly heard the sound of wings beating and, all of a sudden, Sharrabah and her four friends swept down from overheard, landing in a circle around Posy. They had been hovering in the air, up against the high ceiling where the small light faerie had not noticed them. They now moved around their hapless victim, their eyes glinting maliciously. Small, trembling Posy was an easy target for them.
“Posy, Posy, puny Posy,” Sharrabah said in a singsong voice, putting her hands on her hips and leaning down to sneer at the little light faerie. “How frightened you look.”
“I’m not frightened,” Posy said, her voice wavering.
“Oh really?” Sharrabah said, snatching the note out of Posy’s hand and reading it with a disdainful look.
“You give that back!” Posy cried, reaching out.
“Always doing favours for teachers,” Sharrabah said, holding the note up where Posy could not reach it. When the light faerie fluttered her wings and rose up to take it, two of the dark faeries grabbed her arms and held her down. Sharrabah smiled, crumpled up the note, and threw it away with contempt.
“You’ll get into trouble!” Posy said weakly. “I’ll tell on you - ”
“No you won’t, you little snitch,” Sharrabah said. “I’ll get a lot of satisfaction out of beating you up, believe me.”
How, you may be wondering, did I know about all this? Well, I was there. As a general rule, I only attended lessons when I felt like it, and the teachers seemed to have given up on me. I was a loose cannon, they said, and it was better to just let me do what I wanted. On that particular afternoon, I wanted to read in the library. I had hidden myself away behind a high row of bookshelves and no one knew I was there. When I heard the dark faeries teasing Posy, I quietly got to my feet.
Despite my inability to conform and be a good student, I had always had a strong sense of justice. Posy meant nothing to me, but the thought of her in trouble filled me with a need to set things right again. Sharrabah had no right to harm anyone as far as I was concerned. And so, when the dark faerie raised her hand to hit Posy, I suddenly emerged from the bookshelves and said, “Leave her alone.”
The dark faeries - and Posy too - turned to look at me. I stared defiantly at them, a cold and resolute expression on my face. I was not intimidated by Sharrabah and I wanted her to know it: my wings arched above my back, and I stood tall and unyielding. I did not blink and my eyes seemed to challenge everyone in the room. But the dark faeries were not frightened yet.
“Oh look, it’s the faerie bookworm,” Sharrabah teased, knowing that I had a reputation for loving books. “What will you do if I don’t leave her alone?”
“You don’t want to find out,” I said firmly.
“You want to be a hero, do you?” Sharrabah sneered, clearly not intimidated by my threats. “I’m really scared, bookworm.”
With that, she raised her hand again as if to slap Posy. Immediately my own hand shot out, catching Sharrabah’s wrist in a vice-like grip. The dark faerie struggled to free her hand but I did not let go. My strength must have been immense, for Sharrabah was by no means a weakling and was now flailing at me with her other hand.
“Let go of me!” she hissed.
I did. Free to attack, Sharrabah forgot about the defenceless light faerie and focused on her new opponent. She shot out her hand to strike me, but I was too quick. With barely a movement from my wings, I rose into the air and kicked Sharrabah squarely in the chest. The blow was so powerful that Sharrabah flew back ten yards, crashing into a bookshelf before tumbling to the floor.
Sharrabah’s gang watched, intrigued, as I landed soundlessly on the floor. They were motionless for a few bewildered seconds before rallying to their helpless leader’s defence. One of the dark faeries flew up into the air; I flew upwards too, lashing out with my fist. Struck on the jaw, the dark faerie plummeted. The other three flew up, cold fury in their eyes. Posy, trembling on the floor, could only watch in amazement as I knocked one faerie on the forehead with my elbow, and kicked another in the stomach. The fifth faerie kept her distance for a few moments, clearly unsure of how to attack. I raised one hand above my head and balled the other into a fist. The dark faerie flew at me in a rush, but was not fast enough. I merely grabbed my opponent’s wrists and flung her away. The dark faerie spun through the air like a top before collapsing on the floor with her defeated friends.
I waited in the air, my wings beating as quickly as my heart as I surveyed the scene below me. Posy was standing bewildered on the floor, staring up at me in amazement. Slowly my mouth turned up into a smile of satisfaction. Then, without a word, I flew upwards to an open skylight. I rushed up into the sky and soared away to freedom.
* * * * *
Where did I go? It hardly matters now. I had never bothered with the school rules, but I had always obeyed the most important one: ‘No pupil is permitted to leave Faerieland without a teacher or senior pupil to accompany her.’ I was completely alone and I was flying high above Faerieland with no intention of coming down.
For a week I did as I pleased. I knew that returning to the Faerie School was not wise. I had always kept a low profile, but I knew that Posy’s story would spread like wildfire. Within hours of the incident in the library, everyone would be talking about it. Faeries always got excited over such things. The defeat of Sharrabah would fuel the fires of gossip for days.
So I stayed away. I had plenty to eat and always had somewhere to sleep, because faeries are generally kind-hearted and willing to provide for others. I did not tell them that I had run away from school. I did not tell them that I had beaten up one of Jhudora’s favourite minions, that I had secretly studied martial arts from books in the library.
After a week, I decided to return. I waited until the mid-afternoon, when it was hot and hazy and everyone would be dozing in lessons. Then I flew to the school and landed on Miss Jopherra’s balcony. Miss Jopherra was an elderly earth faerie who walked with a cane and never used her wings: she was quite severe, so the younger faeries all told tales that she used the cane to beat disobedient students. I had never listened to such stories and I had never been afraid of Miss Jopherra. In fact, she was one of the few faeries I liked.
Her balcony led into her office, which thankfully was in a quiet part of school. She was sitting at her desk but looked up when she saw me. Without sounding surprised, she said, “Ah, you’ve come back at last. Sit down, Preluna.”
I sat down opposite her, and she was silent for a while. I felt as if I should speak. So I began with: “Miss Jopherra - ”
“There is no need for you to explain, my girl. I have a fairly good idea of everything that has happened, although your classmates all tell different stories. Some say that you lashed out at five innocent dark faeries - with the word ‘innocent’ being used in its broadest possible context, of course. Others say that Posy had joined the dark side, and was secretly in league with Sharrabah until you started spying on their private meeting and decided to break it up. The teachers, myself included, have a different theory altogether,” Miss Jopherra concluded. “We imagine that you are a hero. We all seem to agree that Sharrabah and her friends, finding themselves in a deserted library, decided to take the opportunity to victimise Posy. They had not counted on you, secretly skipping classes, to intercept them.”
I smiled. Miss Jopherra’s good sense was a quality I admired.
“Sharrabah has disappeared,” Miss Jopherra continued. “She had an aching head and several bruises, as well as a deflated ego. Her gang skulked about for a bit, refusing to confirm any of the stories about what had happened. After a few days, they disappeared too. Everyone seems to think that they are hiding away with Jhudora, biding their time until they can wreak their vengeance on you. I suspect that this is the reason why you vanished without a trace. It was very wisely done, Preluna.”
I smiled again.
“What an enigmatic little smile you have,” Miss Jopherra remarked.
“Thank you,” I replied, unable to reply any other way.
“But the problem still remains of what to do with you. If you stay here, you are an easy target for Jhudora’s wrath. If she and Sharrabah unleash dark magic upon the school... well, I don’t think anyone would want that to happen. As a result, Preluna, I think we had better send you away. Although you must not think,” she added, “that you are being punished. Far from it. We are doing this to protect you. I can say in all honesty that I am proud of what you did. Assaulting other faeries is never acceptable, but when it is Sharrabah... well. She has been roaming this school and causing trouble far longer than we should have let her.”
“It’s easy to say that,” I observed, “when she isn’t here.”
Now it was Miss Jopherra’s turn to smile. “Naturally,” she agreed. “Like you, Sharrabah is young - but already she has a very powerful friend. Obviously, you know that Jhudora is not a good faerie. And despite what she claims, Jhudora is very vulnerable. With most faeries supporting the cause of good over the cause of evil, she would be severely outnumbered if we officially turned against her. Indeed, considering that nearly everyone in Neopia is aware of her scheming and her evil plots by now, Jhudora may not be so powerful in the future. So she took a few precautions for the years to come. Many years ago, she gathered together about a dozen dark faeries to become her heirs, if you want to put it like that, in case anything happened to her. She wanted these dark faeries to be as ruthless and cruel as she was, so that they could carry out her wicked plans. As it happens,” Miss Jopherra concluded, “nothing has happened to Jhudora, and she is quite happily continuing her evil work. But her band of wicked little dark faeries is still in Faerieland. And one of them, as you know, is Sharrabah. She is one of Jhudora’s heirs, and a distant relation too, and since we do not want the school to be turned to ash, we have tolerated her all these years. It seems that you,” she finished, “were not so concerned about all that.”
“I’m not,” I said firmly.
“She is capable of destroying us all if she asks Jhudora to take vengeance on you,” Miss Jopherra said. “I hope you have grasped by now that your situation is not an enviable one, Preluna. For the next few years of your life, you will have to lie low and keep attention away from yourself. You had better not provoke any dark faeries for a long time. I hope that this will not be too difficult for you, considering how bold and brazen you have always been. You’re not easily frightened, but I suggest you learn to act humble from time to time. Your toughness will only get you into further trouble.”
“I’m not afraid,” I said quietly.
“I know you aren’t. But you have neither the strength nor the experience to take Jhudora on - and you’re too clever to get yourself onto her hit list. Trust me, Preluna. You have a great deal of potential. Don’t throw it away and die young. Grow up, and learn as much as you can, and only make your move when you are completely sure that it is the right thing to do. Jhudora is very powerful; but one day, if you let yourself, you will be very powerful too.”
“I certainly hope so.”
Miss Jopherra looked at me very carefully. “You know, it is a mystery to everyone how you managed to defend yourself against five very strong dark faeries and escape without a scratch. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you...?” Her voice trailed away.
“I started reading books on self-defence,” I explained. “I just read them until I knew every move by heart. Putting it into practice was easy.”
“Not necessarily,” Miss Jopherra remarked. “You must have been very strong to begin with, in order to master such moves. And you’re young for martial arts.”
I shrugged nonchalantly. “I’m not frightened to push myself to the limit. That’s all.”
“I know,” Miss Jopherra said at length. “We could send you to the Faerie Palace. Since you seem to like fighting so much, you should become one of Queen Fyora’s personal bodyguards. It would be the ideal place to conceal you for a few years. Even if Jhudora and Sharrabah discovered your whereabouts, they could not do very much about it. Queen Fyora would never let them storm her palace. And it sounds like an ideal profession for you. What do you think?”
“I do not know if I could follow orders willingly,” I said uncertainly.
“Well, every faerie must follow Queen Fyora’s orders, whether she serves at the palace or not,” Miss Jopherra said. “To tell the truth, Preluna, I don’t think you have any other choice. It is only a matter of time before news of your return reaches Jhudora’s ears. She will be after you in a flash. I think you had better go to the palace at once. Even if you don’t want to work for Queen Fyora, I am sure that she will offer you protection. Even the high and mighty Jhudora must obey her, you know.”
Seeing that I had no other alternative, I nodded.
“To be perfectly honest, Preluna, I have no idea what anyone is going to do with you,” Miss Jopherra finished. “But if Queen Fyora cannot help, I do not know who can. You are a fool indeed if you think you can defeat the strongest dark faerie of all. But I have to admit, Preluna,” she said as I rose to my feet, “you are a very brave fool.”
To be continued...