The Beginnings of Taelia
Taelia did not start out as the element she was--namely, snow/ice/cold/winter. Not like the Faerie Queen, not like her elder twin sister, Baelia, who was an air faerie before....
No, she was a--well, colorless faerie. That was all that it could be described as--it was not white, nor black, and though they were often colored prettily, there was something missing. Color, power, wings--all synonymous in referring to the faerie’s magic. All faeries developed wings as they grew up (that’s why there are gray faerie wings in the NC mall) and so did Taelia--hers were beautiful, majestic, but there was color missing. She had magic, but no elemental magic.
At the Faerie Academy, she was not taking many courses. Just the ones that could be taken without any special magic. For her two Creative Expression courses she was taking Creative Expression, sections 1 and 5 (Creative Expression Intro and Majestic Dancing, respectively). You had to take at least one section 5, 6 or 7 in Creative Expression because those were all dealing with how to perform in front of neopets.
During Creative Expression, Majestic Dancing (period 4) Madame Faliaren, dance teacher, said to the class, "There is an annual contest that many of you may be interested in. It is a skating/figure skating contest and is open to all species of neopets, petpets, petpetpets, faeries, and practically everything alive on the face of (and in) Neopia. The winners at each level are featured in a story in the Neopian Times, recognized as very talented people. Now, the contest is a few weeks before our skating unit, but you can still learn how to skate, combine it with our dancing lessons, and enter the contest. Anyway, back to the lesson, what are you supposed to do after being let out of a bottle if you are a light faerie? Yes, Siyana?....”
But those words captured Taelia’s imagination. Recognition for who she was... after all, no one seemed to recognize her for her talents but Baelia and no one else seemed to recognize her as anyone but "the colorless faerie with pretty wings and really good grades”.
So after school let out, she got a flyer detailing the rules of the contest before going to her room and finding the skates that Baelia had given her for the Day of Giving. (Baelia was still an air faerie at the time this happened.) She went up to Happy Valley and rented out a plot of land with an ice skating rink on it where she lives today (it was a rent-to-own program). The faerie slipped on her skates and stepped onto the ice.
Taelia did not fall. The colorless faerie skated like an expert, though this was her first time trying. She attempted a few jumps, axles, and spins. Taelia did not stop until after a particularly tricky combination of triple axles, when Mr. Chipper (who lived up there at the time) called out:
"Miss, that was lovely! I’ve been watching you the whole afternoon now, and you are fantastic! Was that your first time on the ice?”
Taelia skated over to the edge and slipped off her skates. "Yes, Mr., um, Mr.-”
"Mr. Chipper, Ice Cream Salesman, but you can call me Eric. Your name is?”
"No fancy title behind it, like Fire Faerie of Maraqua?”
"No, I’m just Taelia. You see, I’m without a color or an element.”
"Ah. You’ve been skating for such a long time, and without a single fall! You’re amazing, Miss Taelia. It’s dinnertime and I don’t usually get guests up here--would you mind eating with me?”
Taelia thought to Baelia--she had an important appointment with the teachers at the Faerie Academy tonight. Personally, she thought it was to ready Baelia for graduation, but Baelia had said that she would not be back until nearly midnight at the earliest.
"No, of course not.”
Mr. Chipper laid out a beautiful picnic, complete with the food he had not sold. Taelia pulled out a sandwich and a bowl of hot soup that would never run out--a gift from her aunt Anastasia (a water faerie). They ate in silence for a few minutes, being very hungry, and after a while began to talk again.
"You are a wonderful, wonderful ice skater. Did you know that there’s a contest about skating and figure skating coming up in the Month of Sleeping, day 14?”
"Yes, that’s why I started. Mme. Faliaren--she’s the dance teacher at the Faerie Academy--told us about it and I thought, why not?”
"You are going to enter, aren’t you?”
"Yes, definitely. Are you?”
"I’ve entered it since I was only about up to your knees right now. I’ve won a few things, such as best improv, best choreography, worst cheating, most mediocre skater, fastest skater, etc. etc. etc.”
"Right smack dab in the middle of everybody. If there’s an even number of contestants, it’s the one closest to the middle of the first place and last place times.”
"I haven’t seen you skate.”
"I can show you right now,” said Mr. Chipper, standing up and pulling his skates out of the cart. After lacing them tightly, he pushed a few buttons on his cart and glided to the center of her rink.
The music began, and he began to dance. It was an energetic dance and looked to Taelia almost as though the ice were throwing him up and catching him again while he spun and laughed and had fun.
When the music finished, Taelia applauded loudly. "Well--wow. That’s pretty much the description of that dance.”
"Eric, can you teach me figure skating?”
"Taelia! How could you even think about that? You don’t need any training--you’re a natural at this!” almost-yelled Mr. Eric Chipper.
"Yes... well....” said Taelia, unconsciously imitating Mr. Chipper.
"Taelia...” began Mr. Chipper, shuffling his feet self-consciously.
"Would you--would you mind if--if we entered the Doubles part of the contest together? Because it just feels right to dance--ice skate--with a partner... and I haven’t had a partner since Hannah started all of those adventures of hers... but even though she was pretty much the best female partner that year, we got so many deductions that we dropped down to last place. Would you mind if we entered--together?”
Taelia’s mind was reeling. Mr. Chipper? Ask her? To enter the doubles? With her being an inexperienced skater and only starting today--
"I mean, if you don’t want to, it’s okay, I’ll understand, but it would be an honor to partner with such an elegant figure skater, which Hannah definitely was not, and one who--well--one who looks so good.”
"Mr. Chipper. I would be honored to dance in this competition with you. But I’m still an inexperienced skater and-”
"Pish, tosh. You are very talented, and you take to skating like a fish to water. Don’t give me any excuses.”
"Well then--yes. What dance are we going to do?”
"First the music. I think a mix of the Faerie Bubbles and the Gummy Dice soundtracks can work, if we put in some Meepit Juice Break here, and then--Oh, it’s getting late. Tomorrow, can I come back up here and have dinner with you again?”
"Sure. Actually, I don't live here, but I'll be here tomorrow."
"Really? What about this rink?"
"I'm renting the land on a rent-to-own program."
And so the times past. Every evening at precisely 5:00 Taelia would go up to her little place on Terror Mountain and work on the dance with Eric. At around 6 they would stop and eat. Then the two would continue dancing until 9, at which point Taelia would go home.
As the Month of Sleeping neared, the two began working on their costumes. Their dance was about a couple who got angry at each other, so Eric and Taelia figured on matching parkas. It was a very neatly choreographed dance.
The day of the competition arrived. Eric brought her to his little house in Happy Valley and they had some soup. Taelia was already wearing the gossamer dress that she would be wearing underneath the parka (which was as much a part of the costume as it was to keep warm--for both Mr. Chipper and Taelia--who wasn't a snow faerie yet). Mr. Eric Chipper put on his similarly colored and textured skating outfit, and after putting the parkas on each other, they set out for the competition.
The competition was held in a little-known place in the Ice Caves, close to the Peak. Taelia and Eric registered for their separate singles performances and the doubles performance and sat down in their reserved seats, the chilly wind blowing about them.
"Are there any prizes?"
"Silly! Of course there are. The prizes are all made of ice and enchanted by faerie magic so that they don't melt. Well, other than the neopoint rewards, anyhow. Top overall performing male and top overall performing female get scepters and the titles Skating King and Queen of whatever year it is. Top three in each section get trophies, four through nine get medals, ten through eighteen get rosettes, and nineteen through thirty get ribbons."
Shivering with anticipation, not from the cold, Taelia watched the Skating Line Dances and the Skating Team Relays go by. All of the participants were really, really good.
"And now, for the singles sprint! Heat one, participants number 001 to 100. Heat two, participants 101 to 200. Heat three..."
Taelia and Eric were in the second heat. Taelia got more and more nervous as she waited behind the starting line, shivering now both from the cold and her nervousness, as she had shed her parka for the more aerodynamic dress that she wore underneath.
"Eric, I'm going to fall."
"Taelia, there's no such thing as a disqualification for a fall, except in the case of an injury, but that's a different kind of disqualification."
"But I'm not going to do well."
"Who said you had to do well?"
There was no more time for talking, so the two took up their places.
BANG! The cap pistol went off and the skaters flew. Taelia easily moved ahead of most of the competition in the first three seconds. This was a sprint, and sprint she did--pulling ahead of everyone. She literally flew across the hundred meters of ice, breaking the pale blue tape almost as though it were a belt made for her. She wrapped it around herself like a sash. Pausing to tie it up, Taelia turned around to see Eric in the lead, neck and neck with a yellow Bruce. Eric gained one yard, and then another, and--
SLAP! Everyone heard the sound of flesh on flesh. The crowd gasped, for the yellow Bruce had slapped Eric, gaining a precious few seconds. The blue Lutari winced and held his side as he fought to regain his balance. He managed to get up again and tried to regain the lost distance, but the yellow Bruce was already just a few yards from the finish line. Eric hadn't quite gotten his balance back, and again he slipped. His blades went skidding across the ice, shoving up snow, and the Bruce fell sideways. Eric fell heavily, too, but he controlled his fall so that with one finger he tapped the ice on the other side of the finish line.
"Eric!" Taelia gasped, for the rest of the skaters were coming in a big herd. She skated over and grabbed the Lutari, pulling him off to the side just in the nick of time.
He gave her a cheeky smile. "I'm all right, Taelia. Did you see that?"
"Yes," she said, "but you're sure you're fine?"
"Yup," he answered with another cheeky smile. He stood up and skated over to his seat. Taelia followed.
The two watched the rest of the sprints, Taelia healing the Lutari's bruises as they did so.
"And, Taelia, you won. No one's going to be able to match that speed, not even the other faeries."
He was right. There was an enchantment on the ice that neutralized almost all magic (other than healing magic, of course). Taelia sighed and tugged her new "sash" off. Stuffing it into a parka pocket, they waited for the judges to finish their deliberation.
"Thirtieth place... Mindela of Maraqua!" This was a young red Acara who squealed with delight as she accepted the ice-blue ribbon.
"Oh yes," said Eric. "Um, I registered you as Taelia of Terror Mountain, is that okay?"
"And I'm registered with my full name."
"Your full name?"
The Lutari looked embarrassed. "Torirek Chipper. My mom said it sounded like the day I was born."
"Twenty-second place... Madeline of Happy Valley!"
"Wow... who was your mother?"
"Okalia of Lutari Island."
"Where's that?" Remember, this is long before Lutari Island was discovered.
"It's an island pretty much directly opposite Tyrannia. Southern hemisphere on the other side of Neopia."
"Fourteenth place... Wavedancer of Mystery Island!"
"So how did you get to Terror Mountain?"
"I swam. And walked. I didn't want to stay on Lutari Island...."
"Sixth place... Mimi_della_Sachara of Neopia Central!"
"Fifth place... Irin of the Lost Desert!"
"Conditional fourth place... Porri of the Ice Caves!" This was the yellow Bruce who had slapped Eric.
"Third place, just a millisecond from second is... Orlina of Shenkuu!"
"Second place... Torirek of Terror Mountain!"
Eric got up to accept the trophy.
"And first place... by more than a second... is...
"Is... TAELIA OF TERROR MOUNTAIN!!!"
Taelia went to accept her trophy. She gripped it by the base, the wooden base, for fear of damaging the intricate ice art.
"A thousand neopoints for first through third, five hundred for fourth through ninth, two fifty for tenth through eighteenth, and one hundred for nineteenth through thirtieth! Have fun, ladies and gentlemen!" Thirty bags of neopoints fell at the feet of the contestants. Each picked up his or her bag and returned to their seat.
"One thousand neopoints..." gasped Taelia, as they returned to their seats. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Why indeed?" smiled Eric, opening a box. "We've got a little time before Single Figure Skating. Have a truffle?"
"Thanks, but no thanks."
"All right," shrugged the blue Lutari, putting the chocolates away.
"Anyhow, you were saying?"
"How you didn't want to stay on Lutari Island."
"Oh. About that. I didn't want to stay on Lutari Island. All of those formalities..." He shook his head. "There is a celebration for every birthday, and everyone still alive in the known extended family must come. At the celebration... well, there is a strict ceremony code that must be followed, and everything is just so... stuffy there. The celebration lasts an hour at minimum, and everyone's extended family is just so... humongous. There were precisely 928 in mine, and every day we had to attend celebrations. Gah...."
To make a long story short (I'm pretty sure you're getting bored here) Taelia swept all the opposition away. Eric landed second in most, but slipped down to 15th when it came to the improv section of the singles figure skating.
Taelia had lost most of her nervousness, and her self-confidence was utterly complete. Until it came to the doubles.
Although she trusted Eric wholeheartedly, there were a few throws and catches in the dance that needed a little more fixing up. He did almost drop her once, but managed to catch the belt of her gossamer dress in time. That messed up their entire routine because they were way too far away from where they should have been. However, Taelia managed to keep a stage smile on, and Eric was used to mess-ups, so they got back on track just in time for the finale, which was a spin to the haunting strains of a song that Taelia and Eric had made. Never is another way of saying always...
Afterwards, Taelia pulled her parka back on and waited for the judges' decision. She had done so well today it was almost a fairy tale.
Almost. Taelia popped off to the bank to deposit her neopoints and convert them into Ilia (the currency that the faeries use when not interacting with the rest of us) because, after all, it was quite a large amount and several of the ghosts in the audience were looking her way rather greedily.
When she had come back, the time had come to see who had won the choreographed doubles contest. And after that, it would be time to see who would be Skating King and Queen of that year. Taelia began to fidget. The judges seemed to be taking a rather long time.
This time, instead of announcing the names (there would have been 60 names to read) all the names up to the top 3 were projected onto a screen.
"3rd place... Porri of the Ice Caves and Miramel of Mystery Island!"
"2nd place... Irian and Molana of Faerieland!"
"And in a tie for first place are Onnima and Unnalous of Shenkuu and Torirek and Taelia of Terror Mountain!"
Taelia knew why they had been docked points: the inelegant prevention of her fall to the ground. Still, some part of her kept saying that they should have gotten more. She shook it off.
"And the announcement you've all been waiting for: the Skating King and Queen for this year are...
"TORIREK OF TERROR MOUNTAIN AND TAELIA OF TERROR MOUNTAIN!"
The crowd erupted into cheers. Taelia just sat on her seat, unable to comprehend what had just happened.
"Taelia? Get up. We've got to go accept the scepters."
Suddenly, she understood. Grabbing Eric's hand, she dragged him out onto the rink where they were handed their scepters by the Master of Ceremonies.
It was unreal. The faerie felt the scepter and realized that this was the first time she had ever touched ice. Color flowed into her cheeks. Then she gasped. The next instant, she was unconscious. Taelia fell as only faeries could fall, ever so gracefully.
Eric grabbed the limp form of the faerie and skated off the rink. Kicking off his skates and grabbing them in his hand, he ran like crazy, up, up, up, out of the ice caves, until he reached his cart. He pressed a button that extended a canopy which acted as a lean-to. Tenderly placing Taelia's still body onto a carpet that he had snatched from his cart, he stared down at her. She was still clutching the scepter. The blue Lutari leaned his own against the cart and resumed staring at her.
"You might want to light a small fire," said a voice behind him. Eric turned, too numb to feel alarm. But it was just the soup faerie.
"I was watching the contest," she explained. "Taelia's my little sister."
Between the two of them, they got Talia's head propped up on a pillow and a little fire going near her feet. The soup faerie made some soup and started spooning some into the younger faerie's mouth.
After a few minutes, Taelia's eyes fluttered open.
"Where... where am I?" She saw the soup faerie bending over her. "Sister... what are you doing here?"
"Taelia, it has happened."
"You know perfectly well, Taelia."
And she did know. But she did not want to accept it. She shook her head.
"What's going on here?" came Eric's nervous voice.
Taelia could not keep it up any longer. She stood, looking sadly down at Eric.
"I'm sorry, Eric. I must go."
"It is a part of a mandate that the Queen passed many, many years ago. Once a faerie has discovered her element, she may not have contact with any neopet, petpet, or petpetpet for a year. I am sorry."
"But--to never see you for a year? Not even letters or contact on the boards?"
"Not even," said the faerie, and for the first time, the blue Lutari noticed that she was weeping. "Farewell, Eric." She turned to go.
"No! Please, Taelia! Don't go!" he cried, but she had already disappeared into the swirling clouds of snow. It was a blizzard.
The soup faerie gave him a little soup. Handing back the bowl, he walked out into the snow, calling, "Taelia, Taelia! Please, come back!" But he got no answer more than the wind and howling snow.
And in the snow's voice, he heard the strains of music. Music made from Taelia's voice.
"Never is another way of saying always...!"
"Al-ways..." he echoed sadly, recalling the words of the song: Never to see you again/means to always remember...
Author's note: I am not sure of Mr. Chipper's real first name, so I gave him a fictional one.