A Fountain Trail: Part Two
Naia bowed her head as she purchased her Snowberry Crepe, wrapping it carefully so the heat of the pastry had no chance of escape. For the first time in her life, she knew what it was like to complete one of her own quests.
It was a horrendous feeling.
The item itself was easy to obtain, of course, so that was not the problem. The Fountain Faerie's travels were the real problem. As she'd glided across Maraqua, her acute ears picked up several happy cries, the sounds of watery embraces, and almost a constant stream of 'Thank you!'s. These conditions hardly differed when she'd gone ashore, as was expected. Gift exchanges and words of love assailed her ears like the Snowager's breath.
What was worse were the greetings. "Merry Christmas, Fountain Faerie!" Those who were enveloped in their own business and happened to hear the greeting turned around to see her, and they bade her a Merry Christmas and a Happy Day of Giving as well.
Her heart twisted as she gave them all a wave and a faint smile, refusing to slacken her pace in her determination to continue her quest. "Happy Day of Giving to you, too!" she breathed, emotion contorting her throat while she passed them all by.
How strange it was, she thought, to wish everyone she met in Neopia Central a happy Day of Giving when she was withholding the gift the poor Neopets in Faerieland yearned for ever so much.
No. Her Fountain's health was the priority.
Trying to convince herself with this thread of thought, she glided all the way back to Faerieland, clutching the bag containing the Snowberry Crepe tightly to her chest.
Naia glided through the trees, pushing boughs aside gently so as not to break them. She was tempted to smash through them in an effort to get home to her Fountain faster, but she figured her actions had caused enough damage for one holiday. The trees certainly didn't deserve to be broken, especially not with the Day of Giving so close at hand.
The mess of multi-colored water assaulting her ears crippled her for an instant as she, open-mouthed, took in her surroundings. The Rainbow Fountain wasn't so much as dripping, water of every color lay splattered over both the ground and the cloud stones, the poor Lutra squeaked anxiously for its master to recover, but worst of all, the crowd of Neopets lay groaning, splotches of different colors streaked across their surfaces. One unfortunate Chia was half-tomato and half-aubergine, making him look positively ridiculous.
On top of that, Marina was nowhere to be seen.
So overcome was the Fountain Faerie by the destruction of her Fountain that she could not breathe a word nor contribute a drop of salt water to the mess. Trembling, she faced the crowd and stared hard until everybody looked at her. Not a word needed to be said--they had all tried to bathe in her Fountain's waters, and they and the Fountain had suffered greatly for it.
Naia was briefly shocked at herself for believing that the crowd of Neopets deserved their half-colored fate, but the shock quickly ebbed away, transforming into numbness and a feeling of delivered justice. The Fountain had indeed suffered, and had done no ill, whereas the crowd attempted to take the gift she would have gladly given them one at a time had their hearts been more considerate and patient. The Fountain Faerie knew better than any of them that a gift demanded or seized was no gift at all. On second thought, she mused, Perhaps it is they who know this better than I do.
That was the highest degree to which she would soften her sentiments with compassion at the moment. Every Neopet who had jumped into the Rainbow Fountain met her eyes, for fear of looking away and being reprimanded further than they deserved.
The Fountain Faerie pointed away from her, her eyebrows creasing in furious blue furrows.
They departed slowly, the half-Mutant Grundo scooping up the baby Kyrii with the Custard mane. The Faerie felt her mouth twitch in a half-smile at this gesture. Perhaps there was some good in them after all.
That could wait. Naia had a Fountain to heal.
"Naia!" a rather hoarse voice called. The Faerie turned around to see Marina racing towards her, gliding upon her tail so fast she'd splattered the ground's mud on it. That was most unusual, for the Healing Springs Faerie was usually a very tidy creature.
"I've got it!" she panted, raising the bubbling flask in her hand. "They had a water Peophin with them and I was singing, and distracted, they got through the shield and just barged right in, and I tried to stop them but I couldn't do anything, so I fled to create the strongest water healing potion I could, and I... here I am." Marina was visibly exhausted by the end of this tirade and as a result, nearly collapsed onto Naia herself.
It was not difficult for Naia to piece together what had happened from both Marina's haphazard fragments of speech and her appearance. Marina's hair was drooping, something it seldom ever did, which had to mean--
"You used a lot of your own energy to make this healing potion, didn't you?!" Naia yelped, prying the large flask from her hand and inspecting it. The contents of the flask had the bubbles and consistency of seltzer water, but it emanated a small humming glow which all magical items did. "Marina, you're crazy."
The Healing Springs Faerie shook her head. "Administer it, quick!"
Naia aimed the top of the flask at the Fountain's source, nearly bursting into tears when she saw how slowly it was moving and how close to grey its colors were. "Hold on, please hold on..." she murmured, uncorking the potion.
Instantly, the water in the cork shot out with surprising force, eliciting a scream from the Rainbow Fountain as the former created a hole in the latter. Moments later, sounds not dissimilar to a purring Kadoatie were coming from the Fountain, and within the span of a blink, the Rainbow Fountain was flowing nicely with all of its colors intact.
Streams flowed from Naia's eyes as she embraced the Fountain, then the Healing Springs Faerie. "Thank you so much," she whispered, unable to say much more.
Marina nodded, grinning widely. "Glad to be of assistance!" she chirruped, waving at the Fountain Faerie as she departed. "Now if you'll excuse me, there's probably a line at the Healing Springs right now." Naia understood.
"Of course!" she called in reply, waving back.
"Merry Christmas!" Marina yelled out, sinking into the trees.
"And a Happy Day of Giving to you, too!" Naia echoed in reply, sighing as the peace of the Day of Giving settled on her. And I'll make sure it stays that way. The Faerie took a deep breath and snapped her fingers, focusing on sending her energy into the new dome of water forming over her head. This wall shimmered with magical energy, ensuring that even water Neopets wouldn't slide through. There. That would let the Fountain rest.
"Oh!" Naia started, suddenly remembering the Snowberry Crepe. "This is for you." The Faerie reached into her bag and gently handed the crepe to her Fountain. A wave not unlike the Esophagor's gaping maw opened wide and eagerly swallowed up the crepe. The Rainbow Fountain splashed in thanks and Naia could have sworn its colors began to sparkle.
Naia laughed. "I haven't seen you this happy since Suez got you that plushie to play with." She stroked its surface lovingly, glad that her fountain had peace at last.
"Still, there are those Neopets to deal with..." Naia pondered, a brilliant plan coming to mind. "Can I borrow your Lutra again?" The Fountain Faerie asked.
This time, the Rainbow Fountain happily acquiesced, sending its friend forward to the Faerie with a small wave.
"I need you to gather your petpet friends and help me send some letters. Can you do that?" Naia asked, her voice smooth as the inside of a seashell.
The Lutra chirruped cheerfully, ready to do her bidding.
"Great!" Naia leaned over her desk of slate and began to pen several letters. About half of them went something like this:
To a very special Neopian,
You have demonstrated courage in a way I don't think I've ever come across in all my years of tending the Rainbow Fountain. Your actions, rest assured, have not gone unnoticed.
Although you and those with you have contributed to damaging my Fountain, I am willing to let it pass because of your boldness. Not many Neopians have bothered to come by asking for a Fountain Faerie quest. Technically, that is against the rules, but today I will show you that there are exceptions to every rule. This applies even more so around and on the Day of Giving.
Enclosed is a potion which will alter your appearance, hopefully in the way you desire. It is a gift, after all.
Let this be a lesson to you. Which lesson? You'll find out.
Merry Christmas to you, and a Happy Day of Giving!
--Naia, the Fountain Faerie
Naia rummaged in her treasure chest at the base of the Fountain, where she kept her most prized possessions. Several arc-shaped, colorful bottles clinked as she pulled them out of her chest and laid them on the nearby stone very carefully. She smiled and tucked an arc-shaped potion into each one of the bags containing the letters, tying their tops securely. "That should do it," she grinned.
The Rainbow Fountain suddenly swirled and Naia paused in her work to look at it. Its colors seemed to look swirled in the form of a question mark. The Fountain Faerie patted the water reassuringly. "Don't fret, I've got this," she crooned. "I'm only making sure that what happened to you today won't happen again. If there's anything I can rely on, it's the fact that Neopians are loudmouths. They're bound to tell their friends."
The Fountain seemed to chuckle a watery chuckle at this.
"Now, to write the other letters." Naia bit her fountain pen, muttering to herself. This set of letters would prove much more difficult to write. However, after several drafts, she managed to write a series of letters which sounded both courteous and unstilted.
My dear Neopian,
You saw me passing you by not too long ago, and may or may not have noticed my distress.
I won't get into too much detail about what was going on, but it was incredibly sweet of you to wish me well in my time of need. In the past few days, I've come to realize something: that it is the smaller kindnesses which should be rewarded in addition to the larger ones. You knew the importance of respect when others didn't, and greeted me as a figure of rank.
I'm sorry for not stopping to say hello and reciprocate my well wishes, so I think this will make it up to you. It is a flask of water from my Rainbow Fountain, which is enclosed with this letter. Don't let its small size fool you--the flask contains just enough water to turn you or anyone you like into a random color. Because you didn't stop me but greeted me, you allowed me to make my purchase which healed the sick Fountain.
You may utilize your reward in any manner you see fit. If you choose to give it to someone else, I will not be offended, but rather, I will see it, and will commend you from afar. However, if you choose to drink, don't fret if the color you are changed into wasn't what you expected. Every color is beautiful--that is why my Rainbow Fountain has them all.
May you have the merriest of Christmases and the happiest Day of Giving.
Naia, the Fountain Faerie
"Dear one, might I borrow some water from you, if you are feeling healthy enough?" The Faerie asked, concern heavy in her voice. The Rainbow Fountain burbled and heaved itself ashore, almost as if it was trying to fill the empty flasks by itself.
"Take it easy, there, Kougra," Naia laughed. "You're healthy, I can see that."
Naia dipped the flasks into the water and removed them once they were full. It was always remarkable to see that the stripes in the water did not merge together upon being contained; rather, they settled into even, horizontal stripes.
"There you are!" she chirped, noticing the Fountain's Lutra and several other Lutras with it standing outside of the enchanted dome shield. The Faerie snapped her fingers, allowing the water to part in a triangle toward the bottom. In came the petpets, chattering and looking at Naia as if they didn't have a clue as to what they were doing.
Placing the flasks of Rainbow Fountain water into the bag, Naia whispered to each of the petpets, instructing them to take a bag to a different Neopian...
The screams of dismay and gasps of happiness emanated out from the houses of several Neopians in tiny ripples. Those who received the first letter were overjoyed to see a Rainbow Swirly Potion in the bag, and they thanked the deliver petpet profusely. The reactions of the Neopets who'd been turned into half-colors varied as much as the colors of the Fountain itself. Some shivered, some wailed, and some were overjoyed as they each turned red, yellow, blue, or green.
The baby Kyrii in particular lamented the loss of his charm and youth that came with his small stature and large mane, but he was grateful that his custard mane no longer dripped into his eyes. It was a dignified shade of blue, as was the rest of him. He smiled an awkward smile and made a note to bring a gift to the Rainbow Fountain, but when and only when it was ready.
The reactions of those who received the second letter were much more auspicious--a few of the recipients did indeed give the flask to another in honor of the Day of Giving, and some even wrote the Fountain Faerie letters in thanks.
Back in Faerieland, the Rainbow Fountain slept, bubbling quietly in its slumber. Naia smiled and stroked the waters, then settled down beneath her enchanted water canopy, glad that both she and the Fountain were finally having a holiday.