The Gift of Winter: Part Three
Evening had already come and the day was beginning to draw to a close. The castle in which Taelia lived was dim but cozy, lit by candles along the walls and heated by fireplaces built into the cold, stone walls. It was not the most ideal home, but it was one which suited the Snow Faerie and what she was accustomed to. She loved the snow that created a heavy blanket over Terror Mountain in the wintertime; during the spring, she felt empty when she would look out of her open bedroom window and gaze open the barren ground of dark grey rock. Her castle was built specifically to still contain that feeling of wintertime; although many did not enjoy the dwelling, those who lived there grew accustomed to it over time.
Taelia and Insa were huddled around the fireplace. The chef cradled the bundle that contained the Baby Draik in her arms, hoping to comfort the young Neopet. She assumed that Draik had been lying in the cold for quite a while, judging by the amount of time between the screeching she and Insa had heard. She imagined the chill travelling through his body, how cold he must have been during all that time.
“Miss,” Insa began, “what do you think this means? Finding a Draik in the middle of the snow is quite unusual.”
The Faerie stared into the fire, captivated by the dancing flames. “I am not positive, but for right now, it is our responsibility to make sure this Draik is healthy and that he finds his owner soon.”
The fire crackled softly as the two remained quiet, the chef rocking the young Neopet gently. A draft from one window swept through the room as Taelia wiped a melted snowflake from her cheek.
“Here, let me hold him,” Taelia whispered, holding out her arms. Insa smiled weakly and handed the Draik to her mistress. “He’s so small,” the Snow Faerie observed, her eyes sparkling. “It’s like he was a gift from winter itself.”
The Faerie and her chef fell silent, eyes resting on the Draik, who was now beginning to slip into a peaceful slumber. The Draik yawned with a soft, high-pitched squeal. Insa giggled and affectionately observed the Neopet squirm, trying to find a more comfortable position.
Suddenly, the Draik’s eyes shot wide open and he began to screech. Taelia froze and Insa jumped up from her seat and pressed a palm to her thudding heart. The Draik began to roll around uncontrollably. Taelia stood up and pressed the Draik against her thick, blue coat. The noise grew louder, no matter what she did to try and calm him.
“Miss!” the chef exclaimed, “What should we do?”
A pounding from somewhere in the castle began. Taelia knew it was probably a visitor knocking on the door, but the noise was intensely loud; there was probably more than one visitor. But who would come to her door so late, and in such bad weather?
“I’m not sure,” the Faerie responded, her lips pursed. She paused, clenching her eyes shut tightly as the pounding grew more urgent and the young Neopet’s cries grew more unbearable. “Call Farden and tell him it’s urgent!”
Flustered, Insa rushed out of the room to retrieve the Eyrie. She rushed into the nearby servants’ quarters, where she, Farden, and other various servants resided. She scrutinized the room, expecting him to be in plain sight, but the room was eerily empty. Clutching at her apron, she called out to him from all corners of the room, but no such luck.
The chef rushed out of the room, trying to think about where Farden would be. She assumed he had not left yet, as Taelia would have known if he had. But wasn’t there a possibility that he might have slipped out? Insa shook her head; it was highly unlikely for such a loyal servant as him.
She ran blindly forward, overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation. Suddenly, she came upon a firm object in her path and tripped. She fell to her knees and reached out a hand, feeling along the ground for the obstacle that had stopped her search. She finally came upon the villain: a large, round snow globe that had been a gift to Taelia from one of her fellow Faeries; Insa couldn’t remember who had sent it. She picked it up and was captivated by the scene inside the glass: three Aishas—seemingly sisters—were building a snowman together. She shook the snow globe and the Aishas were overcome by an enormous blizzard that almost covered them completely. When the snow cleared, their painted smiles were even brighter than before.
Insa heard footsteps and suddenly remembered what her task had been. She shouldn’t be sitting on the ground thinking about snow globes! There were more important matters at hand. She slowly got up and brushed off her apron, still holding the snow globe carefully in one hand. She looked up to find Farden slipping out of the doorway on her left that led to Taelia’s chambers.
“Farden, where have you been?” the chef asked indignantly, “I’ve been looking for you all over.” She tapped her foot impatiently, the noise echoing through the hallway.
“May I ask why?” the Eyrie responded gently, refusing to look at Insa.
“Miss Taelia wants your help. You’ve heard all the commotion, I’m sure.” The Techo frowned.
Farden looked around the narrow hallway, as if caught up in his own thoughts. “Yes, I was wondering what that was,” he commented finally.
“Well, don’t just stand there!”
Farden jumped at the sudden exclamation and hurried off in the direction Insa had come from.
Insa turned around to follow him. “Wait!” she called out, all of a sudden.
Farden stopped in his tracks.
“What were you doing in your mistress’s chamber, may I ask?”
“Nothing that concerns you.” Farden began to walk away briskly, the chef following.
When Farden reached Taelia, desperately trying everything she could to hush the Draik, an amused smile grew on his face. He observed her struggles calmly, standing in the back of room where she had not yet noticed him. Insa entered right after him, putting the slow globe she still had in her apron pocket, and pushed the Eyrie forward.
“Madam, I am here. I apologize that it took so long for me to come.” He bowed.
“Take care of this one, will you Farden? Neither Insa nor I can seem to figure out to stop him from making that horrendous noise.” Taelia quickly handed the Draik over to him, relieved. “Insa, will you answer the door? It must be of some importance, as that pounding has been going on for ages.”
Insa bowed and started to head towards the castle entrance. “Oh, I’ll answer that. I’ve been expecting someone,” Farden suddenly blurted out, rushing to give the Draik to Insa. As he rushed across the room, something fell out of the pocket of his coat. He wheeled around and hastily attempted to pick the item up but could not, due to the large bundle in his arms.
Taelia glided over to the Eyrie and bent over to retrieve a small, green envelope. She held it up in front of her to read the writing on the front; it was addressed to her. Turning it over, she traced her fingers over the broken seal. “This is the letter Illusen sent me.” She placed the envelope in her coat pocket. “Why do you have this?”
Farden’s cheeks flushed and the Draik suddenly ceased his screeching. The Eyrie looked down at him in amazement. “It must have fallen down from wherever you put it. I found it on the ground and took it so I could give it back to you. I knew it was probably an important letter, so I wanted to make sure you put it back where you wanted it.”
Taelia closed her eyes and sighed. “It didn’t fall, Farden. I kept this in a very safe place.” She shook her head and sat down in a nearby chair. Why would Farden lie to her?
“I promise you, madam. I would never read your letters without asking permission.” The Eyrie walked to her side and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, balancing the Draik in one arm.
The Snow Faerie shook his hand off and turned her head to look at him. “I never mentioned anything about reading the letter,” she stated accusingly.
Before Farden could respond, Insa burst back into the room with three visitors trailing behind her. “Miss, they say it’s extremely urgent!” she announced. She stepped aside to allow three Darigan Aishas enter into the room.
The visitors slipped through the doorway and stood together in a line. They were identical, both in appearance and in expression; it was almost as if someone had copied one of the Aishas twice.
The Aishas bowed. “Please allow me to introduce myself,” one Aisha hissed, stepping forward, “We are known as the Three Sisters.”
The Baby Draik in Farden’s arms began to shriek.
To be continued...