Looking back on it all, the whole of Brightvale could safely and unanimously concur that it was all the fault of that no good Aisha, Bill. No one knew how or why, but for some reason, he'd angered Jhudora, the one faerie whose temper exceeded the scorching heat of a Neopoint burning in one's pocket – which, as everybody knows, is pretty darn warm.
Her wrath predictably burst forth beyond the normal bounds of irritation and so conflagrated the whole of Bill's hometown, that bastion of peace and knowledge, Brightvale.
It began with Brightvale Glaziers, one of the keystones of our shining economy. We woke to discover every single of the shopkeeper's stained glass windows smashed to crumbs. Oh, what a horrible morning that was. I remember it well: we were all so acutely upset that we couldn't polish off our Breakfast Tea.
Over brunch, which consisted of Chamomile Tea we somehow managed to sip, we all discussed possible theories. The Brightvale Armory shopkeeper suggested darkly that it was the doing of one of those Meridell ruffians, that they'd let a herd of Whinnys loose in the shop as a prank. Princess Roberta postulated that an earthquake had hit town during the night, since she'd found several shattered potion bottles in her basement.
When it came time for the Brightvale Fruits shopkeeper to speak, we stumbled across the second tragedy: he was actually about five or six Feepits dressed in a green Acara costume. Roberta chased them away while the rest of us set aside our Buttered Crumpets to debate this new development.
The Armory shopkeeper howled above the rest of us that it was another hideous practical joke performed by the Meridellians. The Motery shopkeeper agreed and made the call to go to war. The rest of us argued that they were just trying to make a profit, but they drowned us out with their warmongering.
The situation would have turned concerning had King Hagan himself not arrived when he did. He called for order and stared us down over his bushy beard. He asked if any of us knew who could have been responsible for those crimes.
Then was a golden opportunity for Bill to explain to us what had occurred, but he didn't deign to inform us and continued stuffing his face with Jam Scones. Instead, we bantered fruitlessly for several hours until the king declared that he'd heard enough.
"I will have my guards examine the matter thoroughly," he shouted above the din. "In the meantime, it's business as usual, people."
Which obviously meant lunch.
We all headed home for a break of quiet contemplation and alimentary inhalation. My owner, Reyna, returned from her stint in Virtupets just as I was preparing to consume the rare delicacy of a 1/3 Carrot and Pea Omelette.
"Hi, owner," I called from the table.
"0100100001101001," she replied. I waited patiently for her to realize her error and switch back to an intelligible language, but she disappointed me, as usual.
Once I'd gotten over the agony of being only very full, I left to go rejoin the debate. On the horizon, however, a cloud of smoke was billowing, and so I hurried to discover its source.
In what was the final straw for all of Brightvale (except for Bill), the Colouring Pages stand was ablaze. Mothers shielded their children's eyes from the living nightmare of the scenes of King Hagan gazing out the window and an Ixi staring out another window going up in smoke. We roared in outrage. We demanded justice for this despicable act. We turned to our mournful king and awaited battle orders.
"Citizens, I beg you, set aside your distress for a moment," he began, "until I deduce who our true enemy is."
It was an endeavor of substantial effort, but, somehow, we managed to swallow our rage.
"Regard first the smashing of the entirety of Brightvale Glaziers' wares." Some of the less wise of us actually turned to look. "Our culprit is one who wishes to deprive us of the joys of looking through pigmented glass."
A murmur of assent multiplied.
"And, next, the transmogrification of the Brightvale Fruits shopkeeper into a tower of Feepits. I have it on good confidence from both Captain Brynneth and the embarrassed Shoyru Archer of Meridell that Illusen, the protectress of my brother's kingdom, has also met a similar end. Clearly, our culprit is one of no small cunning and power."
The murmur augmented into a current which surged through us all. Illusen, a conglomerate of Wintery Petpets? Unthinkable! As for me, I was surprised that more people weren't aware of that fact, but, eh, whatever.
"And, as this dastardly misdeed proves, she is also capable of unimaginable atrocities. Yes, 'she,' I do not use that pronoun lightly!" he shouted over the outcry. "The one responsible for our misfortunes is none other than Jhudora herself!"
At last silence fell. Our tongues were stunned by this shock, without exceptions; if any still had words, they manifested themselves as hiccups.
And thus a euphonic symphony of hiccups reverberated through Brightvale.
Oscar the Bruce, always a skeptic, broke the spell first. "But, what proof have we of her culpability? I mean, why would Jhudora attack Brightvale? Wouldn't she go for Meridell, if anything?"
"Ah," replied King Hagan, a gleam in his knowledgeable eye, "but that's just it, isn't it? We are Meridell's strongest ally, even more so than Estrunda the Magnificent. In cutting us down into chaos and disorder, Jhudora is chipping away at Meridell's future defenses."
"Yeah, but why now of all times? Surely she wouldn't attack us unprovoked. Unless she's got an arsenal the size of Kreludor, she's just going to waste all her energy on us and draw unfavorable attention to herself, alienating many of her questers and thereby weakening herself."
"But, who's to say that she hasn't made some nefarious alliance?" King Hagan looked away wistfully, tugging his beard. "Foul times are a-stirring upon us all, citizens. The appearance of that mysterious obelisk, the closing of Lutari Island, the sparse participation in the Neoboards . . . it's as though a great evil circles above us.
"Actually, no longer above us, since Faerieland crashed," he mused. "In any case, we know our enemy: Jhudora."
"Oh, sure, speculation is all fine and dandy, but it's not concrete evidence," protested Oscar. "We can't just blame our bad luck on Dark Faeries whenever the occasion suits us."
"Yeah, and we haven't even done anything to enrage her recently," piped up another. "It'd make more sense for her to pick on the Darigan Citadel; it poses a larger militaristic threat. It's literally a floating rock armed to the teeth with scary-looking fellows. The worst offense we could provide would be a barrage of Ice Motes and minor paper cuts."
"We could shout some riddles at the enemy and thoroughly confuse them."
"Oh, yeah, we could do that."
"Enough!" roared none less than Captain Brynn. We all started to cheer as our heroine appeared on the scene, looking wonderfully dashing in her purple cloak. She knelt before King Hagan. "I bring you news from Faerieland."
"Alas, I feared as much," sighed King Hagan. "Speak, Brynneth."
"While, ahem, investigating," she blushed, "Jhudora's Bluff for dangerous artefacts a few days ago, Hanso and I overheard a conversation between the faerie and an Aisha."
"It was a heated one, to be sure. I didn't hear many specifics, something about completing one of Illusen's quests, or maybe eating one of Illusens Cream Cookies in Jhudora's presence, but she promised a heavy retribution for his impudence. I'm afraid– hey, it's him! He's the Aisha!" She pointed to Bill, who was trying to sneak out of the crowd.
Like the enlightened, educated commune of scholars we were, we formed an instantaneous angry mob and seized Bill. We threw him before King Hagan and awaited his piece.
Before the king's vehement glare, Bill caved and admitted to his invocation of Jhudora's displeasure, adding that she had threatened to place a curse on all of Brightvale. That, of course, endeared him to us greatly and put us in a merciful state of mind – not.
"Since you brought this upon us, it's up to you now to set it right," glowered the king. "Go and beg Jhudora's forgiveness. Make it up to her however you can. The whole of Brightvale doesn't deserve to share in your punishment."
Captain Brynn and several intimidating guards grabbed Bill about the antennae and dragged him away, to general approval.
Exhausted by the day's excitement, we all filed into Brightvale Castle for a refreshing dinner. Over our menagerie of fruit, we swapped stories about that ne'er-do-well Bill. By the time the meal had concluded, all of Bill's past wrongdoings, from the time he'd frightened Old Woman Frederica's Angelpuss Snuggles up a tree to the many occasions when he'd cheated Brightvale's shopkeepers out of their profits with his incessant haggling, were common knowledge.
I returned home to find my owner completely unaware of all that had happened in Brightvale. I got her up to speed, although it took until bedtime to relay all the events.
She contemplated my story as she tucked me into bed. "Yes, Jhudora," she agreed. "It was all her doing, and no one else's, no doubt. Jhudora."
For about twenty minutes she kept me awake, typing away furiously as she was on her Virtupets Issue Laptop, but at last she went to bed, too.
The following morning Brightvale awoke to the joyous news that the curse had been lifted. We all gathered around Captain Brynn as she informed us of the previous night's proceedings: Jhudora had feigned ignorance of the curse and had even tried to pin the blame on Dr Sloth, claiming ridiculously that such activity was characteristic of him.
"Absurd!" screeched Reyna, loudest of all.
Captain Brynn nodded and went on. She'd called upon Queen Fyora to intervene, and so the Faerie Queen visited Jhudora and got her to back down. Jhudora still wouldn't let up her preposterous assertion of innocence, but she agreed to lift the curse to the best of her abilities.
As we, satisfied, walked back to our daily lives, we were of such lighthearted spirit that we cracked jokes, saying that Jhudora's bluff had finally been called, and things of that nature.
Only Oscar was unconvinced. He shook his head and drew some lines on the ground in contemplation. "Yes, it could have been a bluff . . . but more likely she was telling the truth, no? Or else, why wouldn't . . .? Maybe it was all just a round of normal bad luck, or . . .?" He stalked off, muttering to himself and squinting at the sky.
Reyna sent me to Brightvale Fruits to pick up some celebratory Floranges and Tangellas. Unfortunately, as I found out when I arrived, the shop was still closed, no doubt due to the trauma of being impersonated by Feepits. I flew away to Neopia Central to request the services of the Shop Wizard.
From the air, Brightvale was its usual tranquil, majestic self. Not a trace of the curse could be found; even the Colouring Pages stand had been rebuilt to its former glory during the night, with no expense spared in its speedy yet quality construction. All was right in the world – except for Bill.