A flash of light. A rustling of thick jungle leaves. A green figure steps out of the brush, footing unsure, gaze dazed. The Grarrl examines her bare wrist, then sighs and looks up through the canopy's foliage - directly into the blaring sunlight. She turns away, muttering grumpily and rubbing her eyes. Once the pain is gone, she drops her claws from her face, and gasps in shock.
Three Days Prior...
Life on Kreludor's moon base was not unlike life on the hub planet of Neopia: there was still a lot of sweeping to do. That was Cynthia's calling.
There was no proper explanation for it; she just wanted to sweep all her life. A Grarrl sweeper on the moon. She felt a pull towards the idea of possessing the wise knowledge of someone who kept to themselves quietly while observing others. There was no time for heroics, or living one's name down in history forever. She would be forgotten, but she would be satisfied.
This was not going to be her destiny, no matter how bad she wanted it.
A letter arrived one day in her mailbox. With anxious excitement, Cynthia took the letter to her oxygenated apartment, sliced it open, and emptied the contents upon her bed. The handwriting was amazingly neat and the stationery felt like velvet in her hands. And it was addressed directly to her.
"Cynthia Grarrlsbane, Kreludor City, block 40, #254 - Congratulations! Your presence is requested at the Faerieland Gardens on this very Fifteenth of the Month of Gathering. You have been randomly selected from a group of Neopians. Travel fares and other expenses will be provided."
There was no return address.
Cynthia was normally not fooled by these fancy party invitations. They meant more than just being honored or chosen - they would come to represent being a somebody, which was Cynthia's least favorite thing. She enjoyed the life of a nobody, and sought to defend it. But this time was noticeably different. She could deny it no longer: there was a yearning to get around, to see new places, to take a vacation. She hadn't seen Faerieland since it was still in the sky. The complications of somebody-ness were nothing compared to perhaps trying a Faerie Pancake that wasn't freeze-dried in a tube. And that is why, on that very Fourteenth of the Month of Gathering, she packed her bags and made for the nearest flight deck.
In a matter of hours, she had landed at a spaceport located in Happy Valley. She could not contain herself upon seeing the town at the base of Terror Mountain with its various festivities and happy citizens. The various visions of sugar plums danced in front of her eyes, bright and jolly, and she was engrossed in emotion. She dragged her space boots (adjusted for gravity) in the snow with abandon as she headed towards the docks, preparing for her next voyage to the mainland on the way to Faerieland. It would, again, take only a few hours.
She was on board the Faellie's Tail, a small boat accustomed for passengers instead of goods. The pets! There were Neopians of all shapes and sizes, ranging from Terror Mountain-native Bruces leaving their hometown to a sizable group of Skeiths returning from their holiday vacation. Cynthia was used to orange and purple Grundos and neon green Aishas with four ears wearing space suits and meandering about their interplanetary business. But this ship and its variety, it was refreshing. She hated to admit it, but she had never felt as good back on Kreludor, alone and sweeping. She couldn't even form this sentiment into words. It just felt good.
Once the world of Faeries finally entered into Cynthia's line of sight, she was more overcome than even before. It was beautiful, in a sad sort of way. Everything looked lopsided, tossed about, and generally distorted, but the essence of Faerieland was still there. It was still the home of Neopets with beautiful wings, the meeting place for the most interesting and benevolent beings in all of the universe. She stepped into the city, and paid for a good night's rest. Tomorrow was the fifteenth, and she was going to show up at the party, whether or not she liked it. She hadn't come all this way just to gawk at the ruins. She tugged at the covers of her bed and turned over, concentrating on getting some sleep.
Sunbeams gazed into the window panes. Cynthia's eyes opened, and she sat up in shock. The sunrise. She had forgotten what it looked like during her time on Kreludor. It was beautiful, but she had somewhere to be. She put on her work overalls and boots (her only clothing) and headed out to the Gardens, which she had glimpsed the day prior while looking about at the great towers of the once floating city.
The Gardens were just a park, with fountains and remaining scraps of cloud mixed in with soft grass. Trees of strange and magical hues grew everywhere. Cynthia admired these as she walked along.
Before long, she noticed that she was alone in the park. It was only morning, after all. The invitation never specified a time.
"Welcome, esteemed guest," said a high-pitched voice behind her. She turned around, startled. It was a baby Acara, dressed in a black tuxedo, standing there, giving her a half-lidded but welcoming expression. It coughed into its sleeve. "I congratulate you again for being chosen."
"Are you... the person behind this event?" said Cynthia, bewilderedly.
"Indeed, that would be myself," said the Acara. "I have invited you, and you alone, to this party. Thank you for coming."
Cynthia looked around, a little confused. A party just for her and this... kid? The park was completely deserted, except for the two. "So..." she asked. "What exactly do we do at this party?"
It smiled up at her knowingly. "Let me begin with this statement: you were not randomly chosen. I espied you during one of my trips to Kreludor; a steadfast, lonely Grarrl, who thought she was satisfied with her simple life. You were the one I was searching for. I looked into everything about you, and requested you visit me here in my home."
"This... your home?"
"Correct, Cynthia. The Gardens are my only property. I... need a bodyguard, to put it that way."
"You tricked me into coming down to Neopia... to offer me a job as your bodyguard?" Cynthia said incredulously. "I almost don't believe it. It makes so little sense. Why?" She gripped the invitation in her hand, hard, crumpling up the luxury paper enough to give any member of high society a shock.
The Acara smiled. "I was expecting you to respond like this. Rest assured, I only want what is best for you; and I know, eventually, what will be best. Trust me, Cynthia."
Cynthia couldn't help but raise her voice. "Why trust you? I don't even know your name! You're a scary little kid who goes around inviting innocent Neopians into your magical garden! You expect me to trust you after being lied to?"
"You'll see eventually," said the Acara. "I am sorry about making you this angry, though. It pains me to have to do this again. But let it be known, Cynthia, that I am offering you more than just a bodyguard position and a considerable amount of pay. I am offering you the adventure of a lifetime in a history that will never be known, an adventure where you will never have to become a Somebody - filled with danger and emotion and battle and friendship. The payoff for accepting this offer is more satisfaction than you will ever get by sweeping away the motes in a dusty corner of Kreludor's book shop." It extended its hand. "Please, Cynthia."
Cynthia instinctively reached out her hand, but stopped and pulled it back in hesitation. "How... how did you know about what I want?" she said suspiciously.
"This is why you need to trust me. I know things because you trusted me once, at one time, and I know in my heart that you will trust me again, Cynthia."
"I've never met you before..."
"You will see."
They shook hands. The Acara's name was Beatrice. Beatrice went off behind a tree and retrieved a small wrapped box. Cynthia pulled the bow off and lifted the lid as Beatrice held it. Inside was a pair of watches.
"These," said Beatrice, "are our ticket to adventure." She slipped one onto her wrist, and Cynthia took the other. The Acara grabbed hold of Cynthia's wrist and pressed a series of complicated-looking buttons, then repeated the action on her own watch, and pressed a decisively large-looking button.
They disappeared. The watches fell to the ground.
One Day Later
Cynthia awoke to blinding sunlight and intense heat. She laid on solid ground carpeted in grass. ...Where was she? What was she doing here, of all places? What time of day was it? For some reason, she instinctively checked her wrist, but could not remember why. Frustrated, she stood up out of the bushes and looked into the sky. The sun was huge, and it almost felt like her eyes had been scorched by its rays. She recoiled in pain and covered her eyes. Where was she? She looked upwards, and as recollections began to hit her hard, she witnessed a colony of shaggy-looking Neopians building stone structures and primitive huts... and she looked around, and there was Beatrice, smiling in self-satisfaction.
"Do you like it?" said Beatrice.
"Ah, but this is a very special Tyrannia - it is the Tyrannia that the modern world will never know."
Cynthia gaped. "You mean... those watches... we're really..?"
"Yes, back in time. This is what I meant. Do you trust me now, Cynthia?"
Cynthia stood there, in dusty overalls and boots, once a sweeper, now a sweeper lost in time, probably never to return, standing at the side of this uncanny Acara. "I trust you," she said. "Thank you." And they became the best friends the world would never know...