Jhudora's Biggest Fan
"Casey! Come here, I need your help with something!" the Purple Kacheek barked. She twirled a pen in her fingers and stared intently at a piece of paper covered in scratched out signatures.
Casey walked in from another room, adjusting the baseball cap on her head. She frowned. "What do you want, Gracie?"
"I need to think of a better name."
"Me. Something that Jhudora would approve of. Grace is too... sweet sounding." She pulled a disgusted face.
"Good gravy, what is with you and your fascination with Jhudora? You're obsessed with her!"
"You just don't like her because you like that Illusen better."
"Her cookies are really good, okay?" The speckled Zafara said defensively, crossing her arms.
"Well that's some excuse," Grace rolled her eyes. "Besides, obsession is not the same thing as admiration. I want to become like her, that's all-"
"But Jhudora's evil! Sure, she hasn't done anything yet, but she may someday! She's officially classified as a villain! Villains are not good role models at all."
"But her evilness and villainy makes her all the more interesting!"
"Ugh, you're so naive."
She sighed exasperatedly. You wanna come to the games room with me? Mom's not going to be home until six."
"Nah, I'll stay here. Thanks for the 'help'." She made quotation marks with her fingers.
Casey rolled her eyes again and walked out of the house. Grace twirled a green strand of hair idly as she stared at the paper again. She sat up straighter as a name came through from the confused tangle of possible ideas swirling in her head. She grabbed another sheet of paper and wrote it so her messy cursive filled the whole page. Layla. She loved how the syllables rolled off of her tongue so naturally. She smiled. It's perfect.
The black stone castle loomed over Grace as she followed the winding brick path to the door. The dark, jagged stones seemed to reach towards her and the twisted, spindly branches of the trees with their toxic leaves creaked and rustled in the wind. Green fog floated just beyond them. She stepped onto the worn, black mat at the end of the path and knocked sharply on one of the tall double doors. It creaked as she opened the door. She walked into the long hallway. It was barely lit by flickering candles mounted on the black and dark purple walls with green accents. Eerie shadows danced around her. She heard the tinkle of broken glass and a muttered curse, along with faint grumbling about another quester. Jhudora emerged from the curtain behind her green throne. She sat down on it as Grace approached the carpeted staircase leading to it.
"Welcome to my home, young Neopet," she began exasperatedly. "I see you have been helping my sisters out... For what, a pathetic handful of Neopoints, maybe a level or two? It's not worth your time. I have what you really need: Artefacts of magical power-"
"I sense a hint of annoyance in your voice, Jhudora," she interrupted. "I'm not like the other questers knocking on your door every day. I'm not doing this for my benefit, it's for yours. I don't care about the prizes. I want to help you, and nothing more," Grace pulled the hood from her cloak off her head. "I hope to be more of an ally than a nuisance."
Jhudora cocked a vaguely interested eyebrow. Matching hair... "You are a fan of mine, I assume."
Grace smiled at her recognition. "Yes. Very much so."
"I see." Admiration is a quality easily exploited... Hmm, maybe this isn't so bad. Jhudora smirked. "Good. What shall I call you, child?"
"Very well. Get me Shampoo, and be quick about it! I don't have the patience for any dawdling!"
"Yes, Jhudora." She turned to leave. "I'll have to come by at night a lot to receive new quests from you. My sister likes to do quests for that Illusen, unfortunately." She spat out the earth faerie's name like it was a curse.
Jhudora's lip curled in disgust. "Fine. Chop Chop, what did I tell you? I haven't got all night!"
"I won't disappoint you." Grace pulled the hood back over her head and hurried out of the castle.
"Well, since it's customary for me to say this, Layla, you have completed dark faerie quest number twenty. Congratulations!"
"Thank you, Jhudora," she said politely. "I'm rather curious, what do you do with the items we give you?"
Jhudora's classic scowl darkened further. "That is none of your business. You shan't bring up that matter ever again. Understood?"
"Yes." She bowed her head and left the castle.
Jhudora sank into her plush, purple and green throne. She'd better not find out...
Grace lay on her green bed and stared idly at the collage of Jhudora posters that covered the walls of her bedroom. She heard someone knocking loudly on her door. "What is it?"
"It's just me. May I come in?" She heard her owner's soothing, concerned voice from the other side of the door.
Her owner walked in and sat on the bed next to her. Grace sat up and gave her a hug. "What's wrong? You've been up here a while."
Grace hesitated, then explained what happened the last time she completed a quest for Jhudora.
"...She just blew up on me. I had no idea that was going to happen! I mean, she's the one I want to model myself after, the one I look up to, but..." She struggled to finish her thought.
"You don't know why she was so angry at you for bringing that up?"
Mia paused for a moment. "Maybe you're struggling since you don't know what she's doing with those items, or why she hates Illusen so much. You don't know what she stands for."
"What do you mean?"
"Do you know who she is?"
"Of course! She's a witty, sarcastic dark faerie with a temper who hates Illusen, loves green and purple, and likes collecting stuff."
"No, that's what everyone knows, what she wants people to think. Do you know who she really is?"
"She's... She's..." Her eyes widened in realization. "I don't know." She laid back down on the bed.
"Well, if she won't answer your question directly, then why don't we go find out?" Mia sat up and retrieved Grace's black jacket from the closet and tossed it next to her. Grace sat up and looked at the jacket and then at her.
"Shall we go?" Mia asked.
Darkness surrounded them as they approached the castle. Their white flashlight beams wandered along the cobbled path in front of them or up the creaking trees swaying in the howling wind. The green fog's tendrils licked at the edge of the path, threatening to reach out and curl around their ankles. The castle was pitch black with eerie streams of grey light from lanterns placed around the front door.
"Look," Mia whispered. She pointed to the farthest edge of the castle they could see, and they saw the gentle yellow glow of a lit room with green and purple flashes of light. They continued walking along the path, then stepped into the murky, soup-like green fog that swirled around them as they walked through it to the source of light. They found the window, and crept as close as they could while staying out of sight and the black, thorn-covered bushes that grew against the brick.
Jhudora's eyebrows were furrowed in deep concentration as she chanted incantations over two giant cauldrons. She threw in a few miscellaneous items, no doubt gained from her questers, and threw them in the pot. A thick grey smoke rose from it. She thrust her fingers towards it, and a stream of dark purple and green sparks shot out from her hands, turning the smoke the same color. She wafted the fumes towards her, breathing in deeply with a satisfied smile like a cook who had perfected a recipe. She grabbed a small bottle, and ladled the bubbling, purple, green and black mixture into it. She labelled it and set it aside.
She walked out of sight for a moment, then returned with two petpets and set them on the counter, weighing down their leashes with books. She bent down and retrieved two bowls and a small bag of pet food. She poured the pet food into the bowls, then took two vials of the bubbling potion and poured one in each bowl. She placed them in front of the shivering petpets, and they both began eating. A few minutes after they finished, the petpets had a crazed, delirious look in their eyes. Their eyes began to glow green and purple, and they restlessly scuttled around on the table. Their straight fur began to curl and rapidly grew, turning green at the roots. One let out a bloodcurdling scream that Grace could feel with every inch of her being. Jhudora then gave them each a bowl of water with two different potions mixed in, these a cloudy grey. The petpets slowly drank the water, now suddenly exhausted and struggling to stand up. Their glowing eyes dimmed and returned to normal, their fur straightened and returned to its original color, and they regained their strength, seemingly unaware of what had just happened. Jhudora laughed at the results of her experiment. Grace strained to read her lips as Jhudora spoke to herself.
"...Now all I have to do is make two hundred pots more of each, and success will be mine! Once I distribute it, they will never know it was all me before it's too late and the-"
She interrupted herself, turned and faced the window. She scowled and cocked her head. Grace and Mia ducked down, careful not to brush the thorn-bushes. Grace's heart pounded loudly as Jhudora approached the window.
Mia looked at her, then at the window then at her again to ask if she thought she saw them. Grace nodded with big eyes.
Jhudora pressed the edge of her hand against the glass as she peered out the window. Her eyes met Grace's, and her scowl morphed into anger and shock. The green fog thickened and rose around them, Jhudora pressed both hands firmly against the glass. Purple orbs surrounded her hands. The window shattered around them. Grace and Mia were thrown back by a massive explosion of dark purple. When their eyes adjusted to the light, Jhudora stood over Grace, with a purple orb swirling in one hand. Grace wiped the glass shards and small droplets of blood off her face with trembling paws.
"You!" Jhudora fumed, pointing a long finger at her. "What are you and your pathetic human doing here, snooping around?"
"Uh..." Grace slowly tried to get to her feet as she struggled to come up with an answer.
"You were trying to figure out what I was doing, weren't you? Neopets like you, or any being for that matter, were never supposed to know except when you came and ruined everything! You never wanted to help me, did you? You just wanted to use me, just like everyone!" Another orb materialized and floated in her hand.
"They have a price to pay, and so will you."
Grace jumped up as the the green smoke thickened and thin, green tentacles rose from it. They reached and grabbed for her arms and legs as she scrambled away in panic.
"Grace, run!" Mia struggled to get up. She screamed as a tentacle wrapped around her ankle, holding her in place.
"Grace, is it? Why on this miserable planet would you lie to me about that?" Jhudora sneered. Two tentacles grabbed Grace and pulled her to the ground. She struggled to get free as they pulled her towards the faerie.
"I thought you would like it better- let me go! Let us go!"
She smirked and shook her head. "So loyal... Too bad that had to change. Why should I let you go, anyway?"
"I won't tell anyone about this or anything, I promise!"
"And how do I know this?"
"Please, Jhudora!" she begged. "I won't return here ever again, too!"
Jhudora cocked a skeptical eyebrow, then a thin, sinister smile spread across her lips as an idea came to her.
The green tentacles loosened their grip around Grace and Mia, and Grace immediately sprang up.
"Thank you so much, Jhudora-" A giant purple orb rushed up to her face and everything went black.
Grace gasped and sat up in bed. Daylight streamed into the room through her green curtains. Was I dreaming? She looked down to see she was wearing her black pajamas. She looked around to see that her room was in it's usual state of disarray, but nothing seemed to be out of place. But it was so vivid, so real... Her mind swimming, she hopped out of bed and walked over to her mirror. Her face and paws were covered in partially-healed scratches, mostly covered by her fur.
"How did I get these?" she whispered to the posters. She looked up to find one of them staring vacantly at her with a faintly mischievous expression. She shuddered, reached up and tore the poster down, throwing it in a crumpled ball on the floor. She looked at it for a moment, then left the room and closed the door.
She walked into the kitchen to find Mia already up and making breakfast and Casey groggily emerging from her room.
"Morning, everyone!" Grace said.
"Morning," Casey yawned loudly and sat down at the kitchen table. Grace got herself a glass of orange juice.
"Morning, you two," she placed two plates of scrambled eggs in front of them. They each took one and Casey ate ravenously while Grace stared at her food and sipped her orange juice.
"I had the weirdest dream last night," Casey began between mouthfuls. "Kevin, Zoey and I were playing Cheat somewhere, I'm not sure where, but all of a sudden the ground started shaking and this enormous band of Meepits armed with water guns burst in and started randomly spraying us for no apparent reason."
"That is weird!" Grace laughed.
"I had a weird dream last night as well." Mia sat down with them with her own plate of food. She turned to Grace. "You had realized that Jhudora wasn't everything she seemed to be since she wouldn't tell you what she did with the quest items, so then we went off to see what she was doing. She was making some sort of brew with them, but then she saw us and was absolutely infuriated. I remember there were green tentacles growing out of the smoke, too."
Casey made a surprised face. "Well, looks you win the weirdest dream competition. By the way, where'd you guys go last night? You were gone awfully late and I don't remember hearing you come back in."
Grace's eyes widened. "...The thing is, I remember having a dream like that. Exactly like that, actually."
Casey gave her an incredulous look, cuing her to continue.
"I remember being conflicted about Jhudora, then going to see what she was doing, the chanting, throwing those things in this giant pot, then her seeing us and confronting me... and..." So loyal... Too bad that had to change. The faerie's words echoed in her mind.
She and Mia exchanged worried glances. Grace gasped as a thought came to mind.
"...What is it?" Casey asked, the Zafara's eyes as big as theirs.
She hesitated. "...I don't remember returning home from wherever we went before that, or putting on my pajamas or getting into bed or anything. I just remember going over there, then waking up here."
"Oh my Fyora." Mia's voice trembled. "It wasn't a dream."
Grace jumped and yelped as sharp pain shot through her arm. Mia rushed to her side. "What is it? Are you okay? What happened?"
Grace slowly pushed up her sleeve to find a long, X-shaped scar up her arm.
If you tell anyone about what happened, all of you are dead.
Grace shuddered as the dark faerie's haunting words rang in her mind again.
"Did you hear that?" she whispered.
Mia and Casey nodded slowly.
"Who was saying that?" Casey's voice trembled.