Masks and Roses: Part Ten
Kat and Eira tumbled out into the front of Gwendolyn’s main camp, and before Kat could even inhale the cool afternoon air, Eira had broken into flight. Gwendolyn’s startled guards didn’t even give chase; they simply stared up at the two as they rose above the treetops and into the thin clouds that coated the sky.
By the time the villain’s camp had become a speck in the distance, Kat was crying. Her stomach churned, and her head pounded. How could she have left Rose there, to suffer forever in servitude? She’d come to rescue her mum. She shouldn’t have left, no matter how much the Wocky begged. She should have been a hero...
“It’s okay, you know,” Eira said, almost vacantly, staring down at the jungle.
“No. She’ll suffer forever,” Kat replied through broken sobs.
“Perhaps,” Eira said thoughtfully. “But Kat, she wouldn’t have wanted you to suffer with her. She loves you enough to sacrifice herself. I can’t say I have anyone who would do the same for me.”
“But it’s my fault,” Kat said. “I’m the one who pressured her into searching for Gwendolyn. If it wasn’t for me, she’d still be free.”
“You can’t kid yourself, Kat,” Eira said. “Gwendolyn was searching for your mum. She would have found her eventually. She would have been in servitude eventually.”
“But not now.”
“You don’t know that, Kat. Many things could had have happened in the days since you left.”
Kat closed her eyes, unable to argue any longer. She’d been with Rose for such a short time since she’d found her, but the Wocky already missed her mother terribly. To be away from her for the rest of time...
“I’m still going to stay with my mate on Krawk Island for a while,” Eira said after a bit. “You can join me if you’d like.”
“Gwendolyn’s minions will be looking for us, Eira,” Kat said. “You’d better hope your mate’s place is invisible, or you’ll be captured again.”
Eira chewed on the thought for a while before saying, “He’s got a hoard of paint brushes and morphing potions, Kat. I figure I can coax one out of him, change my appearance a bit. They’ll have a hard time finding me if I’m not... me.”
Distantly, Kat wondered why her mum had never employed such tactics, but the Wocky dropped the thought after just a few seconds. Mulling over the past wouldn’t change it. It would just make Kat even more depressed, if that was even possible.
“Do you want a morph or ‘brush for yourself, Kat?” Eira asked. “My mate’s got some mighty nice ones, of all species and colours. I’m thinking an Usul, for myself. Who would suspect a cute little Usul of thievery?”
“I suppose,” Kat said with a sigh. Just like always, she was unable to think of any alternative.
“I think you’d look nice as a Pteri,” Eira prattled on. “Faerie, maybe, or cloud. And then you’d be able to fly. It’s quite the luxury, Kat. I think it’ll be the only thing I miss about being a Shoyru.”
“Faerie Pteri... that would be nice.”
“One cleverly wheedled morphing potion and paint brush coming up!” chirped Eira, and then she dived lower into the clouds, giving herself to the cool island wind.
Eira’s mate was a withered pirate Cybunny with yellow teeth and a terrible hacking cough. After a bit of arguing, he gave Eira the morphing potions and paint brushes she wanted, free of cost (although that was only after Eira threatened to turn him over to the Defenders of Neopia for illicit activities). Soon after the seedy apprehension of the items, Kat was a faerie Pteri and Eira was a plushie Usul, which she called the ultimate ‘cute’ pet.
After she was changed, Eira said Kat was still welcome to stay at her mate’s place with her for a bit. But Kat didn’t want to. She had to leave, had to get far away from Eira, the constant reminder of her captivity and her failed mission. She liked Eira, but being around the Usul was too painful. She needed to be alone...
Kat put her new wings to use, and she flew away from Krawk Island in the dead of night. The silver moon illuminated her multicoloured feathers, and her purple eyes gleamed in the starlight. She was headed towards Faerieland, towards her home – her father. She knew some of Gwendolyn’s followers might be watching the house, but Kat didn’t care. She wouldn’t stay for long. She just wanted to let her dad know that she was okay.
When Kat rang the doorbell, it was just about dawn. The weak sun shone down upon her, and the pink sky was sweet and simple. The Pteri buzzed the bell twice before her father answered. He was clad in a thick terrycloth robe, and after he swung open the door, the Wocky studied Kat critically for a while before speaking.
“It’s a bit early for door-to-door soliciting,” he said.
“I’m not selling anything.”
Her father stepped back, recognizing Kat’s voice. “Katalynn?” he asked.
Kat nodded. “Hi.”
“What... what... happened?”
“It’s a long story,” Kat whispered.
“You found your mother, didn’t you?”
“What did she tell you?”
Kat’s father massaged his temples. “Come in, Katalynn, love. We have a lot to talk about, don’t we?”
Kat sighed and glanced around the area. “I don’t know if... if coming in would be such a good thing, Father.”
“The... people... who were looking for Mum... they’re after me now.”
Kat’s father closed his eyes. “You’re a Pteri now, Katalynn. Even if someone was watching the house, they... they wouldn’t know who you are.”
“They could put two and two together.”
“So what are you going to do, love?” Kat’s father opened his eyes again. “Are you going to go off like she did?”
“I don’t know what else to do,” Kat said with tears in her eyes.
“I could come with you,” her father ventured. “I could morph myself. I can’t lose you, Katalynn. Losing your mum was unbearable. But you, Kat... you’re so much more...”
“Could you afford a paint brush?” Kat asked. “A potion?”
“I could find a way.” Kat’s father took a deep breath. “Come in now, Katalynn. Pack up some things. Maybe no one’s come to observe us yet. Maybe we can get out before they arrive.”
“That’s a big maybe.”
“It’s a chance we’ll have to take.”
“Okay,” Kat whispered. “Okay.”
Then she stepped into the house.
A few days later, in an ordinary neighbourhood in the middle of Terror Mountain, a father and daughter Pteri moved into a charming little house. When the neighbours came to greet them, they were friendly, if a bit cautious, and they accepted all housewarming gifts with gracious smiles and an appreciative thanks.
After the initial welcome, most of the neighbours left the Pteris alone. The two gladly returned the favour; they kept all to themselves, emerging from the home only to buy groceries or to take short strolls around the area.
No one watched them too closely, but that was fortunate. After all, though they didn’t show it too clearly, the family was really quite broken. The daughter was in a constant state of subtle sadness, while the father looked on, unable to help her. There was no evident reason for the unhappiness, but had one really known the family, they wouldn’t have even blinked at the melancholy. They would have understood.
And some nights, if one happened to be passing by the family’s home at just the right moment, they would have seen a peculiar sight. Bathed in golden candlelight, standing in the front room of the dwelling, the daughter Pteri would stand before a floor-to-ceiling mirror, twirling slowly in a lavender gown that was covered with diamonds and beads. It fit her poorly, crumpling around her feathers and stretching peculiarly over her wings. The dress appeared to be made for a larger pet, a different pet, but the Pteri didn’t seem to care. She would continue to twirl, as her father watched on with a smile, seeming, at least for the moment, fully at peace.
Indeed, the only time the young Pteri named Katalynn was truly happy was when she wore that dress – her mother’s dress. It no longer made her look like a queen, but that didn’t remove its sentimental value. Now, with Rose’s art collections abandoned along with the family’s old house, the dress was the only reminder of Kat’s lovely mum. The only reminder of the silver Wocky who had given her freedom for her child, who now wilted away as a silent prisoner of the cowardly villain called Gwendolyn.
Kat would never forget her mum. She would never forget what Rose had done for her. She’d given her life for Kat, and the Pteri would not let that die away as an untold deed. Some day, when she was old enough, she’d tell the story of her mum. The story of her heroics.
Yes, she’d tell the story of masks and roses.