Battle Quills... ready! Circulation: 145,228,152 Issue: 305 | 17th day of Hiding, Y9
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The Dark Faeries' Apprentice: Part One


by neo_star_queen

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Author's Note: This story is a sequel to The Light Faerie's Apprentice, and it is recommended that you read that story first, to better understand this one. Enjoy!

The moaning came from deep within the shrouded forests of the Haunted Woods. No one who heard the moaning could help her; she was in way too deep. No one would risk that much for someone that they didn't know.

     "Noooo... please, no... I ha-have nowhere to go... please, let me stay..." the figure dropped to her knees, her two front claws gripping the wet earth. They were caked with mud, and crinkled, as if the owner of them was very, very old. Much too old.

     The Dark Faerie in front of her snarled. Long, shiny black hair dripping with rain, she pointed a cruel, heartless finger at the pitiful neopet who was hunched over in the mud. "Let you stay? You have betrayed us... you, who we took in when you were in pain... you are weak!"

     "I never did!" sobbed the creature. Her blue-and-pink striped wings shuddered, raindrops sliding off them like tears. "I never betrayed you! I... I fought the best I could... I am no traitor..."

     "It may seem like you never betrayed us," hissed us a second Dark Faerie, "but you did... we see it in your eyes. You have chosen your path. You gave in... you gave up."

     "I..." whispered the pet. "I..." But she had nothing else to say. She had no excuses; everything the Dark Faeries had said was true.

     "Goodbye," said the last Dark Faerie coldly. "You are too weak for us to even bother eliminating... goodbye, Denriada. Such a shame... you were really turning out to be a good student."

     A wave of the Dark Faerie's hand, and the pet was gone, leaving only an aura of misery and the claw prints of a helpless Draik.

     ***

     It was raining in Neopia Central. It was the sort of night where no one wanted to be outside, all alone and abandoned. Perhaps the only living creatures who would choose to be outside on a night such as this would be Neopia's bravest adventurer's, and Neopia's biggest fools. But even they were inside, warm and cozy.

     "I roll... a 6!" shouted Neo_star_queen. She leapt to her feet. "I WIN! I WIN, I WIIIIIIN!" The owner of 3 neopets began to dance around in her slippers.

     At her side, a green Kougra slumped. "3rd time in a row! You sure are lucky tonight, NSQ... I wish it weren't raining, then we could go and buy a scratchcard. Play again?" Without waiting for an answer, the Kougra, Neofaerie, placed all the little playing pieces back at 'start'.

     Neo_star_queen, or NSQ, cackled as she helped her neopet reshuffle the cards. "I'm going to win again," she teased her pets.

     At her side, a small rainbow Cybunny named Happiness suddenly placed both of her multi-coloured front paws on the game board. "The cards are trying to escape, Nesqu!" she cried, using her favourite nickname for her owner.

     "The playing cards lay motionless on the board, trying to look innocent," NSQ narrated aloud. "Curses!' cried the leader. 'Foiled again by that Cybunny! We'll have to do something about her!" Suddenly looking inspired, NSQ pulled a notebook and a pencil out of her sweater pocket and immediately started scribbling away, muttering incoherently to herself. Neofaerie and Happiness watched her silently for a while, and then started to clean up the game.

     Neofaerie picked up the board with his teeth. "I guess I'll go upstairs and read or something," he said quite clearly, even though his mouth was full. It was a special talent of his. He might as well have mumbled, though, considering the attention of his audience. NSQ was still writing furiously, and Happiness had started to play with her fire Magaral, Furzy. Neofaerie sighed and pawed his way up the stairs.

     NSQ's mad flow of inspiration seemed to have slowed down a bit. She stopped every now and then, looking thoughtful, before putting her pencil back to paper. Happiness did a string of somersaults across the living room. Furzy gnawed on the carpet.

     Ding-dong!

     The bell rang through the house, a light, sweet sound. NSQ stood up, stretched her back, and crossed the hallway. The owner opened the door with a welcoming, "Hello, how may I-"

     She let out a gasp. Huddled at her feet, shivering, drenched in rain, was a striped female Draik. It lifted its head, but when it saw NSQ, it seemed to freeze. Its pitiful brown eyes widened. "I..." it whispered, but nothing else came out.

     "Ohmigosh!" cried NSQ, immediately hooking her arms around the Draik and dragging the trembling Neopet inside. "You poor thing!" She had no idea who the Draik was, but she was most certainly a Neopet in need of help and shelter, and there was no way that the doors of the Neo_1 house would ever be closed on a pet like that.

     The Draik curled up, trying to speak. "I... I'm s... so..." she started weakly.

     NSQ picked up the pet, who was unhealthily light, and carried her into the living room. "Happiness, bring me a blanket!" she called. The Cybunny hopped off the couch with a large, fuzzy blue blanket, which NSQ draped around the Draik.

     Happiness watched quietly as NSQ rubbed the blanket against the Draik's skin. The dripping neopet was staring very hard at the floor, as if she would rather look anywhere than at her rescuers.

     "Th-thank you," the Draik finally whispered, so softly that NSQ had to strain to hear her, and Happiness couldn't hear her at all. "I'm... quite warm now."

     NSQ sat beside Happiness, so she could face the Draik. "Now," she said kindly, "let's get a good look at you."

     The Draik might have assured them that she was warm, but she was still hunched over, and her wings were folded tight against her body. Her striped skin was not smooth, but wrinkled and lined, yet somehow she seemed to give off the impression that she was young, young and ignorant. But the worst were her eyes... eyes wide with fear, regret, and vulnerability... eyes that made her seem like she was trying to run away from an inescapable fate and an inescapable past... eyes that made her look as if she wanted to go back to a time when she was innocent, because she had seen too much, and far too many horrible things had happened to her than one creature could possibly bear... NSQ couldn't see it. Happiness couldn't see it, and Neofaerie, for all his travels, couldn't see it either. There was only one member of the family who could look so deep into the Draik's eyes.

     NSQ could only see a scared Draik. "You'll be fine now," she said cheerfully. "Now, what are you doing out on a night like this, all by yourself?"

     Before the Draik could answer, someone came clomping back down the stairs. "What's with the racket?" he grumbled. "I'm trying to read."

     The Kougra froze as he turned into the living room. A look of indescribable resentment came into his eyes. He dug his claws into the carpet, all the fur on his back rising. His mouth curled back and he bared his teeth. "You," he snarled with the deepest loathing. He seemed to be having an extremely hard time speaking. "What are you doing here... you... you miserable wretch..." He struck the floor with his paw, and the force actually sent Happiness a few millimeters into the air.

     "Neofaerie_1!" said NSQ, standing up and staring at the Kougra with shock. "You have no right to speak to our guest that way!" But her heart was thumping quickly inside her chest. She had never seen Neofaerie so angry... had she made a mistake letting the Draik in?

     "YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!" roared Neofaerie. No ounce of self-restraint left, he lunged at the poor Draik, claws fully extended. NSQ let out a piercing scream and leaped back, clutching Happiness as she went. She shielded her eyes and her mouth trembled as she waited for the blow to strike... but it never did.

     NSQ opened her left eye cautiously. The Draik was bending over on the floor, her arms thrown over her head. Neofaerie was suspended in mid-air, surrounded by a very odd, shimmering blue veil. And someone was standing in the doorway of the living room, an unfathomable expression on her face. She looked deeply troubled, relieved, inquiring and unbelieving at the same time.

     "Neoangel!" said NSQ, dropping Happiness. She had never been happier to see her third pet, the only one who could sort this complicated mess out.

     Neoangel, a Christmas Zafara wearing a tattered brown cloak, stepped into the room, her arm raised to keep Neofaerie in the air. She looked from NSQ and Happiness, to Neofaerie, to the terrified Draik, and her look of confusion only seemed to grow.

     "Put... me... down," snarled Neofaerie, his eyes glowing with malice. NSQ looked at Happiness and saw that she was looking at Neofaerie in fright. Of course, the young pet would be intimidated by her usually level-headed brother's actions. NSQ bent down and scooped Happiness back into her arms.

     Neoangel didn't move an inch, gave no sign that she had heard her younger brother, who had before cherished her advice, helped her fix a magical amulet, stuck with her through thick and thin and once hugged her closely and told her that he loved her, had just spoken to her so hatefully. "Not until you promise not to hurt her," she said calmly, "and until I understand what is happening here. I think you can see, Neofaerie, that Denriada is not what she is before."

     NSQ blinked. "Denriada? She was the one who trapped us in the volcano caves, right? I remember that..." she winced, trying to get rid of a rather painful memory. "But that can't be Denriada," she said incredulously, nodding her head at the Draik lying immobile on the floor, "she's striped. Denriada was painted mutant."

     "I'll never forget that face," hissed Neofaerie, glowering down at the figure lying on the floor, "I will never, ever, ever forgot that horrible face..."

     "Denriada is not what she once was," said Neoangel, still in the same calm tones, her eyes now on the lump of stripes lying on the floor. "I think we should hear out her explanation."

     "I think you owe us an explanation too," said NSQ loudly, starting to regain her composure. "I mean... Neoangel, you said she was gone. I'm thinking you didn't tell us the whole truth."

     Neoangel sighed. "Yes... I am sorry, NSQ. I do owe all of you an explanation."

     "What explanation!?" yelled Neofaerie. "How can someone explain why they tried to kill someone!? Nothing can ever change that! Who's to say she won't attack us on the spot, while our guard's down!?"

     "I will never allow it, Neofaerie," swore Neoangel. "Trust me. Please. I am begging you... I need to know as well."

     Neofaerie fidgeted and twitched, and he grumbled and growled. He did not sigh and nod as he usually would when giving up to the female figures of his family, but Neoangel knew that by his silence he was surrendering for now. She let him down gently and cautiously.

     The Zafara flew over to Denriada and knelt beside her. She placed a paw on the Draik's forehead. For one breathless moment, nothing happened. Then, the Draik slowly opened her eyes. She sat up, but upon seeing Neoangel, immediately shrank away, her eyes focused on her hands, twisted up in her lap.

     "Don't shy away from us now, Denriada," said Neoangel sternly. "Speak up. We all deserve a thorough explanation... I want every detail. I want to know everything."

To be continued...

 
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