The Wilted Winter Flower
This story was inspired by the fact that the Snow Faerie and Grey Faerie have such similar names!
Baelia yawned and stretched towards the icy ceiling above her. The young water faerie was still sleepy, and the icy air outside the comforting warmth of her quilt was poor motivation to get out of bed. She turned over and went back to sleep. Five minutes later, a resounding door slam woke her once again, and she sat up and glared at her sister.
"Taelia, what hour do you think it is?"
"What hour do you think it is? Far past time to get up. If you hurry, you might be dressed and ready by lunchtime," the Snow Faerie said with a chuckle, leaving her sister's room.
Baelia groaned and got out of bed. She pulled on her dark blue woolen dress, thick to protect from the cold, and all other trappings to keep the icy wind from biting. With her cloak pulled up around her ears, she closely resembled her older sister but for the long black braid that tumbled over her shoulder and down to her waist. Closing the chest at the foot of her bed, she left to look for breakfast goodies, grabbing an apple that was only slightly frozen. Baelia took a bite and went to find her sister on the slopes near their Terror Mountain home.
Seeing a flash of blue against the pale ground made Baelia head toward a small cave in the hill near their house, where her sister was bending down to tend to a small Kacheek with a broken arm in a splint.
"Ah, good, Bae, just in time," Taelia exclaimed. "Help me with Juli here, please!"
Baelia walked to the back of the cave and picked up some binding materials, bending down next to Juli the Kacheek and helping her sister replace the bandages and ensure that the injury was healing properly. After Juli thanked them and happily bounced off, the Snow Faerie pulled a scrap of paper from a robe pocket and handed it to her sister.
"The errands?" Baelia sighed. "I just got stuff for you yesterday!"
"Well, yeah," her sister replied, "I need more today. That's how supplies work—you use them up. Anyway, I'd go myself, but the other faeries like you much better. They see me as a recluse. You know that."
"But you are! If you just ran your errands yourself sometimes, maybe they'd see you like they see me!"
"It's not that simple. I'm a snow faerie, Bae. You at least can do water magic like other water faeries. I'm not too different than everyone else, but I'm just more comfortable when I stay here, okay?"
Baelia sighed. "Okay, I understand. I'll bring back your items by sunset."
With that, the faerie took flight off the mountain and headed into the Neopian lands below. She stopped by Brightvale for some berries, Altador for some fruit, and Shenkuu for some rare roots before taking off for Faerieland to visit her friends; when she arrived, she traveled straight to the home of Malla, an earth faerie who made wonderful healing potions. Baelia handed her a few of her purchases and chatted idly while the other faerie whipped the fruit into a concoction to quickly warm chilled appendages.
Twelve stops and several visits to friends later, Baelia arrived at the last item on the list. She had to stop by a certain Lost Desert cure stand, and when she approached, the heat radiating from the burning sands made her remove the last of her cold weather apparel and store it in the bag slung over her shoulders. As she finished up picking out her necessary items, she spotted a little blue Kacheek—nothing unusual in the busy streets of the Lost Desert. But this Kacheek had a very familiar looking arm splint, and Baelia soon recognized her as the young Kacheek who had visited her sister for help earlier that day. Curious as to why a Terror Mountain Kacheek was hurriedly rushing about the Lost Desert market, Baelia excused herself to the shopkeeper to quickly run up to the Kacheek and say hello.
But one quick step to follow turned into ten, then twenty, and soon Baelia found herself trailing the Kacheek into smaller and smaller alleyways. She wanted to call out, but she was a bit too far away, and her long legs didn't help her catch up any faster. Juli weaved in and out of traffic and quickly sidestepped obstacles, and by the time Baelia was able to gain some ground when the crowd thinned out, the Kacheek ducked into a narrow doorway and vanished. Baelia stopped, feeling silly that she had walked all the way here for what was apparently, from the sounds coming from the doorway, just two friends hanging out. The faerie shrugged and headed back the way she came. When she got to the mouth of the alley, she briskly turned left and headed back into the stream of traffic, winding towards what she thought was the direction of the potion stand. The more she walked, the more she became turned around, and she soon realized she had gone in circles and had no idea where she was anymore. She tried taking off and getting an aerial view, but the only things she could see were rooftops and the crush of neopets walking through crowded streets.
Spotting what she thought might be the Cobrall-shaped alleyway where Juli had gone, she landed and started backtracking that way. One alley led to another, and after five minutes, the city had quickly disappeared as she sank into the labyrinth of tight passages and sand-colored buildings. Sensing that she had lost her way completely, she knocked at the nearest door, intent on asking for directions.
The door swung open to reveal a room bathed in darkness, shadowy in the dim light cast by the open door. A pair of green eyes swam malevolently above Baelia's own, and she backed away when she realized a dark faerie, and powerful by the looks of it, was staring her down.
"S-sorry to disturb you," stammered the water faerie. "I'm lost, and I was just wondering if you might direct me to the potion stand near the fountain plaza outside of the Sakhmet spice market."
The dark faerie grimaced and motioned her inside. Baelia entered with caution, trusting the other faerie but still a bit nervous about the situation. When she walked in, the dark faerie gently closed the door, and darkness filled the room until she snapped her fingers to light the fireplace with ghostly green flames.
"Lost, you say?" the faerie purred. "I can always help out lost faeries. Where do you hail from, child?"
"T-terror Mountain," squeaked Baelia, thoroughly scared now. She edged towards the door and felt behind her for the handle.
"Terror Mountain! The only faeries I know from that region are those little brats Taelia and Baelia. You wouldn't happen to be the younger one, would you? The elder has shorter hair."
"I- Uh- That is-" Baelia scrambled to twist the knob and leave, but her hand closed on empty air. Somehow the doorway wasn't keen on letting her out.
"You see, child, there are plenty of faeries who go around helping neopets with mundane problems like battle wounds and tummy troubles. But you two have an entire region to manage, and while I'm impressed, I smile to think of the chaos that might happen if the two of you might vanish suddenly. All those little Kacheeks and Chias with sprained toes, frostbitten and cold, would have no one to turn to, and I would wager that the Darkest Faerie wouldn't mind me taking the initiative to do what I can do."
"Chaos? Isn't helping people more important? Tae always says—"
"I don't care what Taelia says; I have my own queen, and she isn't Fyora. I've been staying in this hovel to learn more about the mummification process, but I suppose I could take a break to experiment on what happens when you capture a little faerie girl," said the dark faerie, lazily inspecting her nails as she took a step towards Baelia.
The latter gasped as noxious green smoke spiraled up and around her arms. Her arms, now fastened to her sides, strained against their constraints as the smoke twined around her legs and held her in place. The faerie approached with a large pair of scissors and neatly trimmed Baelia's wings, preventing her from struggling.
The effects were immediate. Baelia's hair appeared to wilt, fraying out of the neat braid into a hank of unappealing grey locks. Her skin became wan, pale and grey instead of its usual robust light brown color. She seemed to shrink. The dark faerie's lips curled into a smile, and she shoved Baelia aside to open the door. Pulling on the ethereal ropes of green smoke, she tugged Baelia up with her as she shot into the sky, gaining altitude and leaving the city behind.
"Where are you taking me?" Baelia yelled, limp and defeated but still afraid.
"Just a place I usually keep for... experiments... like you," replied the faerie.
"Experiments," muttered the water faerie. "Why does that sound familiar?"
Suddenly, she realized who her captor was, and dread began to set in. "Jennumara? I thought you were defeated with the Darkest Faerie!"
The faerie above her chuckled and slowed her flight, alighting on an outcropping of rock on what appeared to be a low mountain west of the Lost Desert. The air was chilly, and a light dusting of snow suggested that the weather got cold at night, but the sunlight warmed the outcropping during the day and illuminated a large metal cage with a sinister looking lock.
Jennumara swung open the door and unceremoniously shoved her captive inside. The lock grinned when Jennumara whispered the spell to close it, and Baelia's throat tightened.
"Don't worry," the dark faerie consoled, "I'll be back in a week or so. Until then, ponder what it's like to live without wings and your pretty little name."
Without further ado, she jumped from the rocks and flew away, leaving the water faerie to a slow descent into despair.
Minutes ticked by, then hours, then days. The elements punished the caged faerie, and her beautiful dark blue dress became frayed, faded, and torn. At first, she wondered what her sister would do without her. Where would she get the ingredients she needed? Would anyone help her? Will she rescue me?
But as the days passed, her world sank into gloom, and the Grey Faerie gave up hope as she slowly forgot her name.