“No! Let me go, you beast!” Cynthia cried, her tiny fists beating at the unforgiving paw of her captor. The air faerie’s blond hair was frazzled, her blue eyes wide in panic. “Let me go!”
Suddenly she was brought upwards, to stare into a sinister, red eye. The sickly- coloured blue Lupe that owned it answered her cries with a sneer, his lips curling backwards over pearly fangs. “Why would I do that?” Balthazar crooned, his black claws reaching for Cynthia. The tiny faerie struggled madly, but she was a mere insect compared to the Bounty Hunter, and she felt her wings being clasped together. She was roughly shoved into a glass jar, her slight body crashing hard against the glass.
Balthazar pierced a bunch of holes into the lid of Cynthia’s prison with his claws, and as he did so his malevolent eyes faded back to their dull yellow. Without another word to his captive, the Lupe placed her on a shelf that protruded from the small wooden room’s wall. Balthazar snatched his net and again left the hut, leaving Cynthia alone and in silence.
“No!” she cried out, her desperate voice echoing in the jar. Tears began to pour from her eyes, and she sat heavily down on the glass. Would she ever see her family and friends again? Would she taste fresh air, would she ever again feel the wind on her skin?
“Stop being so dramatic!” a voice reprimanded her, severely muffled by the glass but still clear enough to make out. Cynthia turned. Through her tear-blurred eyes she could see another faerie on the shelf next to her, her arms crossed. As her sight cleared she could see it was an earth faerie, with long brown hair and clothes of leaves.
“I’m not being dramatic!” Cynthia protested, pressing her face against the glass. “I’ll never see my family again! Balthazar caught me!”
“Hello, he caught me too.” The earth faerie frowned. “I’m sure we can get out of this.”
“But how!?” the air faerie wailed, her gossamer wings shivering with emotion. How could that earth faerie stay so calm? She was about to be sold off like some kind of item!
“Shush,” she replied coldly. “Tell me who you are and maybe we can get somewhere.”
“My name’s Cynthia,” Cynthia offered tearfully, brushing a strand of hair from her eyes. She and the earth faerie were the only ones that had been placed upon the shelf, but there were other faeries decorating tables and small ledges about the hut.
“Kate,” the earth faerie replied shortly. Her jagged, leaf-like wings were held perfectly still, giving her the appearance of complete calm.
Cynthia managed to quell her sobbing gasps, and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve. “Do you have a plan?”
Kate pursed her lips. “I’ve been trying to loosen the lid of this jar the whole time I’ve been here. I think I was getting somewhere before Balthazar came in with you.”
Cynthia scrutinized the lid of Kate’s jar. It seemed to be just as tight as hers. “It... kind of looks pretty secure still.”
Kate shrugged. “Watch,” she said, and jumped up as high as she could. As her outstretched palm struck the lid, it wobbled slightly. She jumped again, this time twisting her hand a bit as she hit the top, seeming to loosen it more. About five jumps later she was exhausted.
“It’s... working,” she told Cynthia between gasps, “but... I don’t know... if I can... get it loose before Balthazar... sends us to Neopia Central.”
Cynthia frowned at the thought. To be auctioned off in her pitiful jar, given to someone to do what they wished to her... not exactly appealing. She stared at the lid of her jar, through the tiny holes that taunted of fresh air...
Suddenly, an idea struck her. She pressed her palms against the jar and looked down, assessing how far it would be to the floor. The rough wood seemed very far away...
Kate had noticed Cynthia’s expression. “What?” she asked earnestly, trying to see what her air faerie companion was looking at.
“You know,” Cynthia said slowly, “If I could blow wind through those air-holes, then I could probably tip this jar over the edge.”
Kate stared dubiously off the shelf. “Why, so you could kill yourself?”
“No, so the jar would break and I could escape.” Yes, it was all coming together in her mind now- the rush of air, the plummeting fall, and the crash that would symbolize either her release or her death. If she spread her wings at the right moment, she could avoid the shatter and escape. Then again, if not...
“Seriously, Cynthia, this is too serious just to go on a whim.” Kate hadn’t noticed that the petite air faerie had already began her reckless plan. “Cynthia!?”
Cynthia could no longer hear her above the loud wind that rushed through the jar. She called it to her, to her glowing fingertips, and soon enough the jar began to wiggle. She encouraged her element and it began to swirl in and out of her prison even stronger, rocking the whole thing back and forth. Suddenly, almost unexpectedly, the jar tipped precariously on the edge of the shelf. With a startled yelp, Cynthia felt her prison plummeting to the ground.
The fall barely lasted a second. It was through instinct that she flared her wings as the wooden floor zoomed up to her, and through instinct that she threw her arms around her face. With a crash that seemed to shake the whole world, the glass jar shattered into a million pieces, which flew up around Cynthia like crystalline insects. When she peeked over the edge of her forearm, she realized that she had unintentionally created a rush of air around her that had diverted the glittering shards.
She let out a sigh of relief. She had survived the fall! She tucked her mussed hair behind her ears and soared up to Kate, breathing in the freedom.
“I can’t believe that worked,” the earth faerie mused, staring at the jagged shards of glass.
Cynthia perched herself on top of Kate’s jar and began easing the lid to one side. It was a good thing the other faerie had been loosening it- the cool metal slipped off with barely any hassle at all.
“Come on!” Kate had just pulled herself up from the jar when heavy footsteps thumped the ground outside the hut. “Hide!” Kate hissed, pulling Cynthia into a notch in the wooden wall.
Soon, the massive form of Balthazar had re-entered the room. His lacklustre yellow eyes scanned the place unenthusiastically, falling on the shattered jar lying on the ground. A muttered curse escaped his lips and he reached for a stiff broom lying against the wall.
“Hey! You escaped!” a high-pitched, surprised-sounding voice exclaimed somewhere behind them. The two faeries turned to see a small orange tigermouse, his dark eyes wide open in awe as he sat in the inside of the wall.
“How did you get in here?” Cynthia asked, confused.
“Oh, we tigermice are everywhere.” The creature grinned. “I’m Danny. If you guys managed to get out of the jars, you must be great escape artists.”
“Yeah, sure.” Kate frowned impatiently. “Do you know a way out of here?”
“Yeah!” Danny had just turned to show them the way when Cynthia interrupted him. “But Kate, what about the other faeries? We have to let them go!”
Kate pursed her lips. “Well, I don’t see that there’s much we can do. Balthazar’s in there, he’ll see us, and we’ll end up just getting captured again. It’s not worth it.”
“But we have to try!” Cynthia protested. “We can’t just leave them all! If you were still trapped in that jar, and some others escaped, wouldn’t you want them to help you too?”
Cynthia’s point fell in silence for a few moments. “All right,” Kate eventually agreed. “I guess we can try.”
As the two inched back towards the notch they had entered the wall through, Danny stared admiringly. “You’re going to try and set all the faeries free?”
“Yes,” Kate snapped, peering through the opening. Balthazar could clearly be seen, leaning back in a weathered arm chair with his eyes shut.
“Can I help?”
Kate glanced critically at the tigermouse, but before she could disappoint the petpet, Cynthia chimed in with a “Sure!” The earth faerie rolled her eyes and returned to her observing of the bounty hunter, who appeared to be sleeping.
“Okay,” she whispered, “we can go and try to open everyone’s jars. But be very quiet.” She fixed her gaze on Danny, whose mouth had split into a whisker-fringed grin. “Very quiet.”
“Quiet is my middle name!” the petpet exclaimed, jumping down onto the ground of Balthazar’s hut. The small tigermouse stole over to a faerie’s jar, quickly twisting off the lid with his nimble paws.
Balthazar grunted and flicked one of his ears, but didn’t wake up.
“Now or never!” Cynthia whispered, spreading her wings and swooping down towards a trapped water faerie. Kate followed her, and the two worked on removing the jar’s lid.
Soon the three had made up a system: Kate and Cynthia would release a faerie, who would then be escorted outside by Danny. Soon there was only a single fire faerie left, her orange eyes fixed on Balthazar as Cynthia and Kate attempted to free her.
The blue Lupe let out a grunt, and his paw twitched. “He’s waking up!” Danny hissed, his eyes glittering with the thrill of danger. “Hurry!”
Cynthia gave the lid of the jar one final twist, feeling it give beneath her fingers. The fire faerie fluttered out and, with a whispered word of thanks, followed Danny through the crevice and out to freedom.
Balthazar muttered something and his dull yellow eyes flickered open. As soon as he saw that all his faeries were gone, he let out a blood-curdling roar. His fur suddenly spiked up in all directions, his hears flattening themselves to his skull. The pupils in his eyes thinned, and a bright red colour seeped into them.
His gaze fell upon Kate and Cynthia, still hovering over an empty jar. “At least I’ll have two faeries to sell!” he bellowed, and leapt towards them with a snarl.
The two faeries swooped away with terrified shouts as the beast’s claws loomed towards them. Balthazar crashed into the wall, but he seemed not to notice- he just turned around again, chest heaving with rage.
He suddenly let out a roar and leapt to one foot, stumbling to his right. Danny had nipped him on the ankle, and was going in for another try. “Out the crevice!” he shouted to the faeries, as Balthazar’s paw swooped towards him. With an agility common to his species, he hopped out of the way and managed to bite the wrist.
Kate and Cynthia hurried to the notch in the wall. They had to rely on their feet to walk through the passages- it wasn’t large enough to fly in- and they had to feel their way along the sides of the pitch-black tunnel.
Soon, moonlight filled the tunnel and the two friends emerged into the outdoors. Danny wasn’t far behind, grinning like he’d just had the time of his life.
“Man! That was awesome!” The tigermouse grinned.
Kate sighed, but allowed herself a smile. “I can think of many ways to describe that, but ‘awesome’ is not one of them.”
“Hey, lighten up,” Cynthia admonished the earth faerie. “We just saved, like, twenty other faeries, not to mention ourselves. Pretty good for a night’s work, eh?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Kate pulled herself to her feet. “Well, my family is going to wonder where I’ve been. See you around, Cynthia.”
“Bye, Kate!” Danny and Cynthia called at the same time to her retreating form.
“Yeah, I should probably be getting back too,” the air faerie told the tigermouse.
Danny frowned. “Can I come visit you sometime? You live in that forest over there with all the faeries, right?”
Cynthia laughed. “Exactly! Come over when you can!” And her petite form was silhouetted by the moon for a few seconds, until she faded into the night to find her friends and family.