Jhudora's Fashion Line
Jhudora shifted uncomfortably in her throne. She flexed her wings and rolled her ankles, trying to soothe her cramped muscles. After a grueling day of giving out quests (and then "dealing" with the Neopets who had done less-than-exemplary work), all she wanted to do was prop her feet up on an ottoman, listen to the crackling of her fireplace, and read her latest bookstore purchase: Head Hexes: Spells that Alter the Biochemistry of the Brain.
And yet the dark faerie could not focus on her book. Her violet eyes kept flicking up from the smooth pages to her surroundings. "My lair is such a mess," she muttered. She could see the dust that had settled on her varied knickknacks, covering porcelain vases and priceless heirlooms in grey fur. Even worse were the spyderwebs that clung to the corners of her walls like sticky silk threads.
I really should get a maid, she thought. And yet that was easier said than done. Most Neopets had a terrible habit of shaking whenever they crossed her threshold. How could she expect them to dust priceless porcelain heirlooms if they were too busy convulsing in fear?
Jhudora winced at the sound of her doorbell. "Ugh," she groaned, slowly getting to her feet and dropping the spell book on her throne. "Questing hours ended thirty minutes ago!" she growled, throwing the door open and spreading her wings for dramatic effect.
A Faerie Lenny stood on her stone pathway, dressed in a sharp eggplant-colored suit. She didn't cower from Jhudora's glare, nor run off in fear. Instead, she smiled brightly and held out a white business card. Jhudora's eyes flickered down to the glittering black text: Lucinda Barlé: Fashion Manager to the Stars.
"Whatever you're selling, I'm not interested," Jhudora said bluntly.
"It's not what I'm selling; it's what you could be selling," the Lenny drawled, ruffling her long green and blue tail feathers. "Can I come inside?"
"Well, then we can discuss things out here," the Lenny said, pocketing the card and looking up at Jhudora through a stylish pair of glasses. "I'm Lucinda Barlé—"
"I'm not illiterate. I could read your card."
"—and I have a business deal for you." Lucinda's smile remained the same, completely undeterred. "Do you know how in you are, Jhudora-darling? Why, just last week I asked my coworkers at the office to name a dark faerie, and you were the first one that came to mind!"
"Who else would they name?" Jhudora snorted. "Delina? My quests don't deal with silly feathers and buttons."
"Exactly!" Lucinda crooned. "The masses love you! Even with the dreadful landscaping and wisps of smoke surrounding your lair, you have hundreds of Neopets lined up here each day begging to do quests for you."
Jhudora ignored the backhanded compliment and narrowed her eyes. "Wait a minute. Is this some sort of promotion deal? Slap my name or image or whatever on something, and then you'll give me the profits? Because I've done that before." Her most recent promotion deal had been with a local bakery. They had created an entire confectionary line which had included items like Jhudora's Exploding Muffins, Jhudora's Toffee Rolls, and even a Jhudora Parfait. The line had been a moderate success before hundreds of Neopets began contracting Floppy Tongue. It had been a mess to avoid all the varied lawsuits.
Lucinda waved a purple-feathered finger, outlining a square in the air. "A fashion line!"
Jhudora raised an eyebrow and shook her head. "Not interested. I already have a wig, and it retails for over 64,000 neopoints in most user's shops."
"Oh no no no, Jhudora-darling. We're thinking bigger. We're thinking better! We want to tap into a new market—Neocash."
Jhudora blinked. That certainly made things more interesting. "Go on."
Lucinda cooed excitedly, ruffling her feathers, and then pulled out a pen and a piece of parchment from her bright pink purse. "We'll work on a new fashion line together for just a year. My team will design the pieces—though you'll approve the final product of course—and then we'll sell it as a capsule in the NC Mall. Then we'll have someone at the National Neopian Bank work out the NC Mall/neopoint conversion rate, and you will receive 50% of the profits!" She held out the paper. "You just have to sign this contract."
"90%," Jhudora corrected, leaning against her doorframe. "I get 90% of the profits."
Lucinda's face blanched. "That's a bit much..."
"Then I'm not interested." Jhudora made a move to shut the door, but Lucinda yowled, sticking her foot in the crack to prevent her from slamming it shut.
"All right, all right! 90%!" The Faerie Lenny scribbled on the contract, changing the percentage, and handed it to Jhudora. "So we have a deal?"
Jhudora rolled her eyes and signed the paper with her wand. "Sure." Then she tossed Lucinda the contract and shut the door without another word.
* * *
Lucinda Barlé showed up a week later with a large cardboard box.
"What is that?" Jhudora asked as Lucinda barreled past her into her home before she could stop her from entering.
"The product, Jhudora-darling!" The Faerie Lenny looked around the lair and wrinkled her nose. "My, it's dusty in here—"
"Let me see the stuff," Jhudora said briskly, snapping her fingers. Her long green nails clicked against each other. "I don't have all day."
"Yes, yes of course!" Lucinda placed the box on a coffee table littered with empty bags of Faerie Chips and leaned in towards Jhudora. "For this collection, we're thinking two words: purple and green!"
"Technically, that's three words," Jhudora muttered and gestured impatiently; she didn't want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary with this woman. "Continue."
"We've also come up with a brilliant name for the line!" The Lenny clasped her hands together. "Are you ready? Are you ready?"
The last "ready" was so high-pitched that Jhudora flinched in pain. "As I'll ever be," she mumbled.
"We're calling it..." Lucinda waved her arms dramatically. "Jhudora."
"That's just my name."
"But we're going to italicize it. Italics are all the rage nowadays."
"Okay, that's fine. Whatever." Jhudora was just relieved they hadn't decided to name it something terribly froufrou. "Now can I just see the product so you can get out of here?"
"Someone is a little rushed, I see. Busy woman!" Lucinda smiled. "But all right." She opened the box and began to rummage around inside of it. All Jhudora could see at first was a sea of purple and green fabric. Then Lucinda withdrew a few items.
"So we have three distinct items for the capsule: a wig, a skirt, and—get ready for it—contacts!"
Jhudora could tell from the way she said the word "contacts" that she had italicized that as well. "Let me see," Jhudora said, taking the items to examine them. The skirt was striped with a studded belt. As for the wig, it was cut a little shorter than the neopoint version and came with a little hairclip modeled after her wingspan.
"I actually like these," Jhudora said partially to her disbelief. She held the contacts up to the light. The part that mimicked the iris was a poisonous lime green, and the inner pupil was dark black.
Lucinda clapped her feathers together. "We're thinking of captioning them as: You can dazzle Jhudora herself when you wear these contacts."
Jhudora snorted. "So we're going to lie?" She shook her head. "Never mind. Who cares? As long as it sells and I get the dough." She tossed the items back in the box. "I approve. Now leave."
Lucinda made some high-pitched squeal and picked the box off the coffee table. "Our release date is in two days! Prepare for stardom Jhudora-darling!"
"Don't call me that," Jhudora muttered, and shoved the Faerie Lenny out the door. "And don't come back unless you have the paycheck!" And she slammed the door shut.
* * *
Funnily enough, Jhudora nearly forgot about her up-and-coming fashion line. Instead, she spent the next few days reading Head Hexes: Spells that Alter the Biochemistry of the Brain. She had found a rather nifty mind control spell in Chapter 27 that could be transmitted through a small item; Jhudora had tried casting the spell on a piece of string, but hadn't yet determined whether it had worked or not.
And of course, she continued giving out her quests, enticing Neopets to go out and find potion components for her in exchange for "ultimate power."
Typically Jhudora didn't pay the questers any heed. She had an enchanted clipboard that let her know which level each Neopet was on and whether or not they had met her stringent time limits; this meant she hardly had to remember faces or even glance upwards as they cowered at her feet. However, a few days after Lucinda's visit, a quester caught her attention.
"Miss... miss Jhudora?" a high-pitched voice had squeaked after Jhudora had commanded her to bring back a Stone Golem Neoquest Plushie.
"No, you cannot switch items," Jhudora growled without looking up from her clipboard.
"I...I wasn't going to ask that. I...I just wanted to s-say that I love your n-new fashion line."
Jhudora raised her eyes. In front of her was a small yellow Kacheek wearing every item from the line: the striped skirt, the short wig, and even the poison green contacts.
Jhudora wasn't quite sure what to say. She settled on: "Great. Wonderful. Get out." But as the Kacheek scurried away, the dark faerie felt somewhat pleased. In fact, as the next few questers entered into her lair, she peered at them from above her clipboard and noted that the majority of them were wearing a least one piece from the new fashion line.
When she closed up for the day, she found a yellow neomail sitting on her kitchen table. She slipped it open with her pointed nail; inside the envelope was a check featuring a hefty sum. It was signed by Lucinda Barlé. "I like this," Jhudora said with a smirk, slipping the check in her dress pocket and heading out the front door. "Let's make sure this is safe in the bank..."
As she left her estate and headed towards the outskirts of Faerie City, the sky lightened from an ominous purple to a more muted pink. Dusk was falling on the city, and the sun was slinking its way downwards to hide behind crumbling shops and craggily mountains.
However, as Jhudora crossed the wooden bridge into Faerie City, some Neopet barreled into her.
"Hey!" Jhudora growled, flaring her wings. "Watch where you're going, kid!"
Any typical green Nimmo would have fled in utter terror, but this one stood her ground. She was wearing the entire Jhudora Fashion Line ensemble; her eyes were poisonous green and she flipped her purple-haired wig haughtily. "Watch where you're going!" the Nimmo bit back.
Jhudora's hands balled into fists, and her eye narrowed pointedly. "Excuse me?" she hissed. "Don't you know who I am?"
"Why should I?" the Nimmo said snippily, shocking Jhudora. Everyone knew who she was. "And by the way," the Nimmo added before turning away. "Your Jhudora wig looks super cheap."
"Wig? CHEAP?!" Jhudora bellowed, instantly brandishing her wand. There was a flash of green light, a puff of yellow smoke, and the smell of toasted marshmallows filled the air. When the smoke had cleared, the Nimmo was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was a lowly Greeble hopping in front of Jhudora on the bridge, swimming in a ridiculously oversized wig and striped skirt.
"Now who's cheap?" Jhudora growled at the petpet, turning around and stomping her way back to her lair.
* * *
Jhudora summoned Lucinda to her lair the next day. The Faerie Lenny arrived looking particularly chipper, but instead of her usual eggplant suit, she too was dressed in the new fashion line clothing. She swirled her way through the front entrance, the skirt flaring outwards. The wig's artificial purple hair bounced on her small head.
"Great news, Jhudora-darling!" she announced, waving another check in her feathered grip. "Sales are going phenomenally! The capsule is selling remarkably well, and the office wants to extend the line! They are thinking of adding graphic T-shirts, and cocktail dresses, and even wings!" She sighed loudly. "Isn't it wonderful?"
"I want out," Jhudora said.
Lucinda blinked from behind her pointed glasses. "Sorry, I think I heard you incorrectly—"
"I want out," Jhudora repeated. "I don't want people dressing up as me. I'm not a fashion icon. I'm a dark faerie who makes potions and scares Neopets into doing what I want. So let's end this stupid line once and for all and we can both get on with our lives."
Lucinda looked at her for a moment and then shook her head. She reached into her purse and withdrew a scroll of parchment. "I'm sorry, Jhudora-darling, but you signed the contract. And the contract specifically stated that the fashion line would continue for a full year..."
Jhudora withdrew her wand and sent a burst of fire towards the contact; the paper shriveled into ash, settling onto the already-grimy floor. "What contract?" Jhudora asked smugly, crossing her arms.
Lucinda's eyes widened as she took in the ash at her feet, but when she looked upwards there was no fear on her face. Instead, her eyes were wide with what looked like glee.
And then the Faerie Lenny began to laugh.
"Oh Jhudora-darling, you are quite silly if you thought that was the only contract I had in my possession! We have hundreds of copies scattered throughout varied office locations. You'll never be able to destroy them all."
"Then you'll destroy them!" Jhudora growled, prodding Lucinda's chest with her wand. "Or else I'll turn you into a Mortog!"
Again, Lucinda simply laughed. "I've been a Mortog more than once, you know." She smiled, her teeth unnaturally white. Jhudora found it somewhat frightening. "We have faeries in our employment; they'll turn me back. And if you trap me here, some others from the office will come to retrieve me. In the end, we'll still have a contract, so there really is no point." She adjusted her wig. "Now, why don't we stop all this silly talk, and get back to business?" She pulled some sheets of paper from her bag. "I have some concept art for the new shirts for you to approve..."
Jhudora clenched her fists. She felt powerless against this puny Neopet and her fashion company, and yet she didn't know what she could do. What good were threats when they had no effect?
Jhudora's eyes flicked over the concept art, wincing at the images of Neopets and faeries alike modeling the new designs. They grinned in the sketches, wearing purple shirts with terrible catchphrases and wings modeled after her own pair. It was sickening. She turned away, needing to get away from the horrid images flooding her eyes, when her eyes fell on a book resting on her coffee table.
"Lucinda," Jhudora said suddenly, "I think I have a new idea for the fashion line."
"Really?" Lucinda paused, appearing somewhat skeptical. "What were you thinking?"
"Bracelets," the dark faerie said simply.
Lucinda's eyes widened. "Ooh, a jewelry line! Now that sounds quite promising!" She eagerly dug into her bag, withdrew a notepad and a pen, and began jotting down ideas. "Something gold perhaps?" she thought out loud. "Or purple leather with green gems?"
"Actually, I was thinking something a little simpler," Jhudora said, slipping her hand into her pocket and withdrawing a plain piece of beige string. "Something like this. What do you think?"
Lucinda leaned forward; her beak scrunched up. "It's rather plain..."
"The plainer the better," Jhudora said, forcing her face into a smile. "Think of how cheaply something like this would cost to produce. You could jack up the price and make a fortune!"
"You're very business savvy, and I like that about you," Lucinda said with a condescending smile, "but if it's ugly, no one will buy it."
"I'm sure once your design team gets to it, the final product will be stunning. And we can even make them in purple and green and..." The dark faerie paused for dramatic effect. "Italicized!"
"Italics are very in..." Lucinda said slowly.
Jhudora gestured for Lucinda's feathered wing. "Why don't you try it on? But imagine it purple. And italicized."
Lucinda hesitated for a moment, but then held out her wing. "Sure, let's see it."
With a dark smile, Jhudora tied the string around her wrist, knotting it with a tight bow.
Lucinda looked down at the string as it began to glow orange. "Oooh, how prett..." she started, but her voice trailed off as the magic seeped into her skin. Within seconds, her eyes glazed over and her head tilted to one side, inquiringly. "How may I serve you?" she asked, her voice dull.
Jhudora crossed her arms over her chest, feeling a surge of triumph. "You are to destroy every single copy of this fashion line contract. And you are to make sure that I don't have to deal with any annoying lawsuits."
"Yes, Master." Lucinda nodded.
"But first," Jhudora added, looking around her lair and the pile of ash at her feet, "clean this place up, will you? It needs a good dusting and mopping and... well, everything. But don't you dare break anything!"
"Yes, Master." Lucinda nodded again and wandered to the corner of the room where she found a broom and dustbin. She then began to sweep the stone floor, gathering up the ash and dust and grime with each stroke.
Feeling inordinately better, Jhudora sat down in her throne and picked up Head Hexes: Spells that Alter the Biochemistry of the Brain. She made sure to bookmark Chapter 27 for future uses. As she dog-eared the page, she glanced up. Lucinda Barlé, Fashion Manager to the Stars, seemed to be managing a broom and dustbin rather nicely.
"Oh Lucinda-darling," Jhudora said with a smirk, propping up her legs on an ottoman and returning to her book, "you really shouldn't be such a slave to fashion..."