Coronation: Part One
Co-written by bookworm7
"This meeting could provide us with the aid we need to solve this case," I said while pulling my long, black hair into a ponytail. "This is why I need you to look professional."
My Pteri, Yuruyuki, tugged at her newly-purchased skirt uncomfortably. She wasn't used to dressing so formally since her job as my news assistant meant she was always behind the Neocam. She began pulling the sleeves of her dress coat neatly over her red feathers.
There was a knock on the door as it gently opened. I turned to see the Library Faerie gazing at me through her spectacles as she stated, "We are ready for you. Please follow."
Yuruyuki picked up my shoulder bag from the coffee table. I reached for the door and held it open for her as we exited the quaint sitting room and went back into the spacious entrance of Faerie Palace. A sudden wintry breeze entering the building though the main doors shattered my confident posture, yet my shoes clicked fervently with every step as I proceeded down the grand, marbled hallway.
The Library Faerie stopped in front of the courtroom doors and turned to me saying, "You two will be seated at the prosecution table on the right. Please remember that this is both an honor and a favor." She pulled one door open and stepped to the side.
I walked forward down the aisle towards my seat; I could feel every pair of eyes turn on me. The room was half-filled with faeries of all elements waiting for the meeting to begin. I took my seat at the table at the front of the room. Yuruyuki placed my shoulder bag on the table before taking the seat next to me.
The Library Faerie walked onward to the judge's bench and resumed her position as the scribe. Next to her sat the Honorable Queen Fyora, ready to begin the meeting.
The Faerie Queen waved her wand and announced over the subsiding voices, "Welcome, everyone, and thank you for attending this unexpected meeting on such short notice. Let me introduce to you Sin Hui and Yuruyuki, reporters from the Neopian Times who bravely risked their lives earlier this year stopping the Clockwork Negg from harming both Neopia and our good friend, Zaira, the Negg Faerie Assistant. Sin, since this meeting was at your request, you may take the floor."
I stood up and walked out from behind the table. "Thank you, Your Majesty. I requested this meeting because I firmly believe that Neopia is once again being threatened." I turned away from the judge's bench and looked at the audience of three dozen faeries scattered throughout the courtroom.
"My investigation began two months ago. During the Month of Collecting, the Neopian Times always gets numerous neomails from Neopians who think that their latest 'ghostly encounter' or 'mysterious experience' deserves headlines in the newspaper. We've learned to sift through most of these Halloween shenanigans; however, this year we got mails all throughout the first week of the Month of Storing about masked Neopians causing serious trouble. I was asked to revisit Saskia's cart in the Haunted Woods to investigate the relationship between the masks and the crimes, and that is when I discovered the truth behind them--I strongly believe that the Masks of Dread are beginning to alter and corrupt their wearers."
A chair somewhere in the room scraped abruptly against the floor, creating a deep screech. "So you intend to villainize me?" the Cybunny remarked calmly while planting her paws firmly on the table. "This is going to be splendid fun."
Queen Fyora cleared her throat audibly and waved her wand for silence.
I turned to face the left side of the room and saw Saskia the mask maker leaning forward over the defendant's table. Her long ears were nearly as stiff as the satisfied smirk she wore, yet her dark, baggy clothing seemed too oppressive for anyone to wear comfortably. Her fingers pressed firmly against the tabletop like surfaced roots; her arms locked like two ghastly tree trunks.
I did not trust Saskia and had no intention of doing so. Even though she didn't seem capable of causing trouble, her masks were a serious threat.
"No, of course not," I said to her with a forced smile. "I want you to side with me for just a moment and see things from my perspective. Once we've cleared this mishap up, then I can get out of your hair."
The intense daylight pouring in from the oval window behind Saskia caught my attention. The view from Faerie Palace of the snow-covered city below was magnificent; Taelia the Snow Faerie had brought the chilly northern flurries with her to the meeting.
Today was the Day of Giving, one of the few days out of the year when the faeries weren't so busy with everyday tasks that they couldn't take a little time off. It also meant that all of these different faeries could be available for an official meeting, and here I was keeping them hostage from the holiday festivities to plead for them to believe in the results of my investigation.
"Everyone, I will try to keep this meeting as brief as possible," I continued. "All I ask of you today is to inspect these masks carefully and let me know if you sense anything, whether it be magic, ghosts, or technology... anything at all that could alter the wearer's behavior.
"If I may?" I said, pointing to my bag.
The Library Faerie glanced up from her notepad at Queen Fyora who was listening intently. The Queen nodded to me and raised her wand into the air. The bag on the table unzipped and my Toothy Grin Mask began drifting compliantly through the air towards Fyora's wand.
Yuruyuki in turn reached into the bag and picked out the Mystical Geraptiku Mask, which she handed to the first faerie seated behind her, Psellia the Air Faerie.
I resumed my exposition. "The first suspicious characteristic of the Masks of Dread is that they are indestructible, even to you faeries. I have spent weeks investigating them, and they cannot be broken by any means." I walked back to my seat next to Yuruyuki but did not sit down. "Second, they were granted en masse just as the Ultimate Neggs of Destruction were from the Festival of Neggs earlier this year without being approved by TNT beforeha—"
"I'm sorry," Saskia interrupted unapologetically, "but this is simply a misunderstanding I should have resolved with Sin earlier. I'm just a hobbyist trying to run a business!" she said as she sat back down. "Please ask Jhuidah."
Many turned their heads to see Jhuidah the Island Faerie, who leaned forward in her chair and responded, "Yes, I am the one who made the masks indestructible. Saskia asked me to brew a potion that would allow them to be handled by Neopets of all ages without breaking."
Saskia quickly added, "And thank you very much for doing so. Damaged merchandise can be a costly loss," she said while turning to face me with a crooked smile. "And for your second point, Sin, why should I let TNT muddy up my business with regulations? Pardon my putting this so brashly, Queen Fyora, but ignoring the rules is the only way to beat out the competition in the Haunted Woods." Saskia rested her elbows on the tabletop and tapped her fingertips together.
"Thank you for informing us on the origin of their imperviousness," I stammered, "but there is still reason to be wary of these masks. There have been worldwide reports of changes in behavior when the masks are worn, especially when worn at night. We have been informed of increased violence, neohome break-ins, and even neopet disappearances. Whether Saskia is aware of these things or not, you must trust me that the masks are yet another evil force creeping its way into Neopia."
I turned to monitor the progress of the Mystical Geraptiku Mask which had been passed around the room and into the flaming hands of Fuhnah the Fire Faerie, who had apparently been unsuccessful at incinerating it.
"Very unlikely, my dear," Saskia said back to me before speaking to Queen Fyora. "Y'see, she's been bugging me for weeks, interrogating my customers and even knocking on my door at night. Aye, at night!" she said emphatically with a smile. "Every other week she shows up at my doorstep endlessly asking questions while I'm standing there in the doorway in my nightgown, and every time she visits all she ever gives me is nightmares. Really, if you want to find out if there is something possessed and mysterious running loose in Neopia, you should be checking her."
The Library Faerie, who had left her position at the bench some time ago to speak to some of the faeries and to retrieve the second mask, briskly walked through my view of Saskia and back to the side of Queen Fyora. They exchanged whispers.
Yuruyuki slowly rose to her feet. "Sin has been really worried about this, and I just know that she's right," expressed Yuruyuki. "She would never make up a story; it's part of her duty not to. Queen Fyora, is there any way you can help us?"
The Faerie Queen smiled kindly at Yuruyuki while the Library Faerie continued whispering to her. After a brief moment, Queen Fyora announced, "Thank you for your patience everyone. My apologies, Sin, but we faeries neither see nor sense anything more than ordinary, beautiful masks created by a very talented Neopian. You have brought to our attention a very important situation, though.
"Saskia, even though you have created these masks out of love and talent, there could very well be criminal organizations masking their identity with your masks given their indestructible nature and commonality. You will join Sin and see for yourself if there truly is a connection between your masks and the recent outbreak of crime."
"Understandable," Saskia replied, "but I see no need to pair me up with this girl. Y'see, I was serious about her giving me nightmares."
Queen Fyora turned to me, saying, "Sin, do not weigh yourself down with our prognosis, for I see no reason to forsake your investigation." She picked up her wand and gently pointed it at me. A brilliant flash of light sparked in front of me, and Fyoras Looking Glass descended into my hands.
"Sin, this mirror will help you see the truth of things. If your investigation of these masks brings to light that the masks themselves are corrupting Neopian behavior, you may also use the mirror to contact me and I will respond immediately. Until then, I will not assist you."
"Thank you, Queen Fyora," I replied.
"Saskia, I will only oblige you to be with her seven days," she said resolutely. "If Sin cannot confirm a connection between your masks and the escalation of crime by New Years Day of Y15, then you may return to the Haunted Woods and continue preparing your business for next year's Haunted Faire in peace." The Queen rose from her seat and announced, "Thank you again, everyone, for being here! Meeting adjourned."
Within seconds, the Library Faerie had briskly walked to me and thrust the two masks into my hands, catching me off-guard. Though the room had begun to swell with the background noise of chatting faeries, all I could suddenly hear was a piercing, tormented scream ringing in my ears.
I could feel the masks' warm flesh pulsing with anger and vibrating with vitality under my grip. I looked down and stared into the eyes of the Toothy Grin Mask, which stared not back at my eyes but into my mind. Its eyes began to bulge and twist; its teeth began to chatter and quake but I could not let go of it.
"KILL!" it screamed in unsatisfied torment.
"KILL!" mimicked the Mystical Geraptiku Mask.
Yuruyuki leapt from behind the table as quickly as she could and knocked the masks out of my hands and to the ground. I shut my eyes, expecting them to hit the floor with a repulsive thudding sound like that of a small Petpet accidentally falling out of its owner's hands and onto a hardwood floor.
The masks hit the marble with a soft click like lightweight pieces of wood. They rested on the floor motionless.
Yuruyuki quickly picked them up and stuffed them into my shoulder bag, where they would remain hidden from me along with the others. I stared at the ground and could not stop the screams from replaying in my mind.
I was the sole victim... the only one who could hear the murderous cries of the Masks of Dread! Not Saskia... not even faeries, the most magical and powerful beings in Neopia, could sense the masks' thirst for destruction. It was only me.
I had no idea what unseen, maddened force was driving these masks to the brink of insanity, but it seemed that I was the only one who could solve the mystery of the malevolent masks...
To be continued...