Iyuja: In Which the Unknown is Known Again
AN: For tjwagner, who has libraries hidden in her head and is not afraid to use them.
"Mama? Does the cotton candy forest really exist?" the baby Aisha asked, rocking back and forth expectantly.
"Of course it does, Iyuja. Some say it's right next to Faerieland's Hidden Tower, but those Neopets have looked in the wrong place. Really, all they have to do is look behind it. No one ever thinks to look behind anything, or even to look up. All Neopets these days do is look at the ground and wait for something to happen." The elder Aisha frowned and hugged her child to prepare her for the news. "Iyuja, honey, the forest is not really made of cotton candy."
The young Aisha's tall ears drooped. "It's not?"
She held her daughter tighter. "No, love, it carries Fyora's flowers on its branches, and keeps them there no matter the season. That's why it looks like cotton candy, but truthfully, it really smells like lilacs."
Iyuja's eyebrows scrunched themselves. The scent of a half-rotted flower did not sound nearly as appealing as candy.
Her mother laughed at Iyuja's reaction. "I should know; I got lost there once."
"Really?" Iyuja forgot to be disgusted for a moment and leaned closer to hear her mother's tale.
"Yes. It was there I met a Faerie..."
Iyuja thought lilac smelled an awful lot like cotton candy. She grinned and raced through the boughs, careful to alight on only the thick ones as she was just as tall as the trees themselves, about ¾ the height of a Faerie.
The Aisha took a deep breath of lilac-y, cotton candy air, praying her nostrils wouldn't grow so accustomed to the smell that she'd stop smelling it. After years of hearing the legends from her mother, she'd finally grown old enough to explore Neopia and see it for herself, by herself.
Of course, the first place she was going to find was exactly where most of the legends in her mother's Faerie Tales took place: the cotton candy forest behind the Hidden Tower.
Sure enough, she discovered at least that part of the legend was true. The front part of the Hidden Tower was invisible and reflected the ground in front of her, but behind the ever-so-slightly glowing tower, there lay a hint of lilac in a field of green. Iyuja pursued this speck and was pleased to be surrounded by rows and rows of gentle purple trees, little higher than her height.
Finding the Hidden Tower was no easy task: she had to pore through book after book just to get something that resembled coordinates. What's more, Iyuja read books so slowly and so intensely, that she never missed a word or deemed any part of it insignificant. Books were meant to be read carefully: how often would an author slide in a seemingly unimportant word that carried the weight of volumes of other words? Too many readers devoured stories in minutes. Not Iyuja.
Perhaps that was why she found the Tower so quickly after searching for it in exactly the right place on her map. 936 Hidden Tower Way. That had to be it.
Unfortunately, she'd been so engrossed in her charts that she bumped right into something that felt like stone! The Aisha rubbed her face in pain, then peered over the chart to see... nothing. Just the rest of the Faerie grassland. Curious, Iyuja ran her paw over the invisible stone, and continued to move it around as if to make sure it was not just an invisible stone hovering in midair. Her heart leapt as she found her paw followed the slow, gentle curve of the stone tower.
Iyuja held her paw up, touching the cool stone as she ambled around the tower. Her heart leapt as she scanned the forest, searching for a hint of—
Lilac! Her eyes filled with childhood memories.
And here she was, absolutely enveloped by softly falling flowers and the scent of lilacs and cotton candy. Iyuja took in the shape of every flower, every tree, feeding on their scent and appearance. At once, the Aisha felt at peace. The forest was uniform and diverse all at once without anything to disturb them—but what was that?!
Iyuja blinked and rubbed her eyes to make sure the strange edifice was still there. Four walls, a thatched roof, all a deep pink, and very out of place in the forest. An assault of pure pink. The Aisha frowned and stared for a good several seconds before approaching the building.
Pushing open the door, she was stunned to see books flapping as if they were Pawkeets, books littering the floor, table, and even the ceiling, but that wasn't what caught Iyuja's eye first.
It was a faerie in the center of the whole mess.
Her hair was matted and stood up in almost all directions, her glasses were askew, and her eyelids seemed to be fighting Neopia's gravity in the most intense battle they could muster. Despite her appearance, Iyuja could immediately identify the being in the little pink house.
"The Library Faerie?!" Iyuja shrieked, still startled at the presence of another being, much less an important Faerie.
The Faerie gazed at her stupidly, as if belatedly realizing there was someone else there. "Thank Fyora, someone finally got my letter! I've been waiting for someone to inherit this library for ages! Running two libraries isn't so easy, you know, especially with this one being so lively.
"Inherit?!" Iyuja exclaimed. "What do you mean, inherit?" The Aisha whirled around, feeling trapped by the abundance of books, and the overabundance of moving books.
The Library Faerie dusted off another tome and sighed. "These books are more finicky than those at the Faerie Library—those are taken out, taken care of, read, and returned before they disappear, and I have to prevent that. That's why we never get late books, you know," she hastily explained before flitting about to catch a loose page. "These, however, are much more unruly because only the curious of mind and young at heart can enter this library. As you can see—" She grunted and flew to a corner of the house, grabbing the loose page and sticking it into a book. It wriggled for a few seconds, and stayed there. "It's a vicious cycle. The books get restless from never being read, the pages fly out, their contents spill—" The Library Faerie jerked her thumb in the direction of a Snowbunny. "And the pages and stories get all mixed up. Because of that, no one really wants to read the stories." The Library Faerie gestured at one of the books, and Iyuja, feeling more than a touch overwhelmed, gingerly picked one up.
"The hopped inside the pirate caves, its white fur clearly marking it as a thief eager to steal treasure hidden eons ago." Iyuja looked at the Snowbunny and her long ears twitched. "Are you supposed to be in here?" she asked it incredulously.
The Snowbunny wrinkled its nose and yawned as if to answer, "Yes I jolly well do, but that place has gotten so boring. I'd rather be here, outside, where I can see everything."
"Dear Fyora," Iyuja murmured softly. "Do you really manage both libraries at once?"
"Yes!" The Library Faerie beamed proudly in the midst of her exhaustion. "Oh, hold on. Someone's finished a crossword of mine. Be right back!"
She vanished in a puff of silver sparks that lingered in the air before fading away. Iyuja was left alone with pages and pages of flying books, petpets, creatures, and characters, all making a ruckus like she'd never imagined would exist in the cotton candy forest. "Wait until Mother hears about this," she thought.
Iyuja picked up a book. "His paw struck the ground with a mighty thud—" she managed to read before a small earthquake tore through the library.
"What in Neopia?!" Iyuja turned to see an incredibly large, red Lupe.
"Put em up! I'm ready for you, Dr. Hornsby!" he snarled, holding up his two front paws balled into fists while bouncing on his hind legs.
"Where'd you come from?!" Iyuja shrieked.
"Heck if I know. I'm here for a fight! That's what I was born to do on this... page...." he trailed off as he stared around him, slowly taking in the flapping of book-wings. "Where's my page?" he gulped, lowering his fists.
In response, Iyuja held up the book she was holding, Ira the Irate in: Dr. Hornsby's Revenge.
"Oh, my." He leafed through the book, his mouth ajar the whole time. "The description of this guy sounds exactly like me! I like this book!" The Lupe grinned.
Iyuja shook her head. "Can you go back inside?" she pleaded.
Ira flattened his ears. "And how am I supposed to do that?" he asked, growling.
Iyuja took a step back in defense. "I don't know!"
Her mind raced with countless thoughts. The Library Faerie had just disappeared to the library in Faerie City, she was stranded with stampeding petpets and a mess of books and a Lupe who looked like he wanted to hurt her. But... why did the Faerie choose her?
Iyuja had no time to dwell on this as she picked up a book and held it in front of her as a shield. Neopian Weather Patterns and How to Track Them. The Lupe lunged at her, and she opened the book to essentially double her shield. Hailstones began to fly out of the book's open pages at a pace she'd never deem natural if they'd been falling from the sky.
Ira howled with pain and tried to pull the balls of ice off of his fur.
"Did I do that?" she asked herself, horrified. She flipped the book open and felt it get slightly heavier in her paws, but her paws also started to become... moist?
Fog poured out of the book and filled the library from end to end.
Iyuja began to hyperventilate and search for a way out, but the grey fog was too thick for her to see either the windows or the door. All she saw was a thick cloud everywhere she turned, but, to her dismay, she could still hear everything. The Snowbunnies were eating some of the books themselves, the books were still flapping but were getting wet, the Aisha couldn't see anything, and, judging by the roar of Ira the Irate, the Lupe was still out to get her. The Library Faerie really expected her to be able to handle all of this?!
Iyuja's lips trembled and a white fury built up in her chest, making her shake violently. Only her ears were absolutely rigid.
"Enough!" she cried, and spread her forepaws apart. To her surprise, a white flash erupted from her paws and ears, and everything was still.
Another flash of silver sparks hovered in the air for a moment before transforming into the Library Faerie. "I knew you had it in you," she grinned, patting the Aisha on her head.
Iyuja bristled. "It would have been nice to know that I had this kind of magical ability," she said dryly.
The Library Faerie laughed, a high, loving bell laugh. "Come now, abilities are meant to be discovered by oneself. You could pull things in and out of books the whole time." She pointed to the incapacitated Lupe covered in ice balls. "You just need a little practice with getting them back into their places. Let me show you."
Iyuja made no objection as the Library Faerie picked up Ira the Irate in: Dr. Hornsby's Revenge. "You just have to feel the book you're reading as you're holding it."
Iyuja blinked and swallowed back a "but I'm already holding the book!" as she tried to feel the book of weather patterns. Her mind swirled with weather patterns--snow and the crackling of thunderclouds thousands of feet high above her seemed to be taking shape right in her paws. She could practically make a snowball with the book--
Sure enough, a snowball came flying out of the book and hit the Library Faerie in the face.
"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry!" Iyuja yelped, reaching up to try and wipe the snow off of her.
To her relief, the Faerie laughed and shook off the powdery snow. "That's all right; that ability does take a little bit of practice. Now how about getting this poor, misguided lad back into his book?" The Library Faerie jerked a thumb in the direction of the unconscious red Lupe with matted, icy fur.
"Right," Iyuja murmured, wondering if she truly had the power to do such a thing.
"Just shake the book and put it slowly over him, as if you're putting a blanket over him." She chuckled. "In a way, you are sending him to sleep, but in another way, it's as if you're waking him up again."
Iyuja held up Ira the Irate in: Dr. Hornsby's Revenge and gently placed it onto Ira's rear paw, not expecting anything to happen. He twitched and murmured for a moment, but then resumed his unconscious state. His paw was still outside of the book.
"Just try again," the Library Faerie coaxed.
The Aisha creased her brows and took a deep breath, concentrating her thoughts to make him go back to sleep, almost as if he was a Baby Lupe. She wiggled the book over his tail and focused her mind once more. Ira was nothing but a lost child, outside of his world, outside of his book. Iyuja let out an audible gasp as his tail sank slowly into the book as if sinking into quicksand.
"I did that?!" Iyuja dropped the book as if it was a steaming dish from Moltara.
The Library Faerie. "I knew you could as soon as you walked in here. Now, would you mind helping me with the rest?"
The sun rolled over and draped a blanket of stars over it, threatening to fall off of its bed in the sky.
"That's got to be the last of them," Iyuja panted, wiggling a Drackonack back into a book about Meridell Petpets.
"It is! I've never finished a day's work so fast!" The Library Faerie whooped and raised her hand in a high-five gesture.
Iyuja raised an eyebrow for a moment at the Library Faerie's unbecoming motion, but she grinned in return and returned the high five. "It was... kind of fun, actually!" The Aisha smiled.
"It's time to eat something, don't you think?" said the Faerie.
As if on cue, two steaming plates of noodles materialized on the desk in front of them--almost the only place in the library not covered in books.
"Did you get them?" Iyuja asked, reaching out to tentatively touch a bowl.
"I didn't. The library did. It knows we're helping it, and it's merely doing its part to help us back."
Iyuja grabbed a fork and reached for the bowl in front of her. The noodles were real! She chewed in contemplation and swallowed the mouthful. "So... it's alive?"
"I think you know the answer to that question."
The Library Faerie took her steaming bowl into her arms. "I'll come back tomorrow."
She closed her eyes and began to flicker. In mere moments, a cluster of Lightmites were flying around the library, escaping through the interstices of its stained glass windows.
Iyuja couldn't help but stare at her method of departure. "Wow," she breathed dreamily, taking another bite of noodles.
The paws of an elderly Aisha padded softly on the parchment floor as she shelved several books at once without touching them. The books flew to their respective locations: history books went into their section, the fiction books went back into their section, and the juvenile books went into a special nook which received light from a stained-glass window.
The Aisha smiled a wrinkled smile and curled up in an overstuffed chair with a childhood favorite: book 6 of Ira the Irate.
Few Neopians wandered into the forest's library, which allowed her towerloads of time to perfect what she'd learned and to keep the books happy by reorganizing the pages. It wasn't an easy task, but she knew her books so well, she had a general idea each time.
The magic she learned and the places she'd visited over the years were phenomenal--her abilities were said to rival Kauvara's, as rumored by the population of Faerieland.
Rumors of the library spread through Faerieland as well, allowing more visitors than there had been in her youth to enter and read the books before they disappeared. Iyuja knew the spell to prevent the books's disappearing into puffs of smoke--the Library Faerie had taught her well.
The Aisha did leave the library ever so often, but she'd always returned to it by the end of the day. It, after all, needed someone to take care of it. She daresaid that she did a better job at it than the Library Faerie, who was already running one library in Faerie City.
That wasn't to say that the Faerie never visited to help her, too. The Aisha was always bursting with questions, but they dwindled in number with each visit and as she grew older.
The most recent visit, however, was the one that stuck in her mind even now, besides the first encounter in the cotton candy forest.
"If the library is alive, don't you think it can speak or breathe? We should be able to hear it."
The Faerie shook her head. "You hear with your eyes better than anyone I know. Really, that's all you need in a library."
Indeed, it seemed as though the library was breathing peacefully. Iyuja took a deep breath of her own, and let out a raspy sigh. She rose from her seat and stretched, listening to the almost melodious creak of her back.
"You need to decide now," the Library seemed to be saying.
Iyuja nodded. You're right, she thought. Do you have any suggestions as to who I should select? What about Moira? She was always such an eccentric Korbat. Or perhaps Esterhazy? He's an unusually voracious reader.
A hush filled the library, and Iyuja's thoughts, too, fell silent.
A knock on the door shattered the placidity of the library.
"Hello?" a young boy's voice soon followed. "Can you tell me where I am?"
Iyuja's face lit up as she raced to the door, forgetting all about her rheumatism. As she raced by the Atlas section of the library, the Aisha waved a paw and a book on Faerieland maps followed her.
She gleefully pulled open the door and eyed her newest customer: a Gelert whose ears still dragged the ground. He looked as if he'd just started Neoschool the day before.
"I got lost from Mother again but that was because I smelled the sugary trees! So... here I am," he finished, looking down bashfully.
An echo rang in the Aisha's soul at the words "sugary trees." Her face crinkled into a smile.
"If you'd like to borrow this book, I can certainly lend it to you. Here's where you are--where only the most observant of Neopians can find the forest, and the keenest of the keen find this library." She stared at the child, captivated by his curiosity: he craned his head to lean into the book, as if there was a detail he needed that he was determined to find.
The Aisha pointed on the map. "There's here, and there's Faerie City."
"Thanks, Teacher!" The small Gelert chirruped, and suddenly looked startled at his exclamation. He paused and his ears twitched. "Sorry, you just look a lot like a teacher."
Iyuja felt the echo again, and her eyes filled at the reminder of her youth--specifically, the day when she'd discovered the library. "Indeed," she said softly. "Oh, dear--I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"Roger," he said timidly. "Sorry, uh... wasn't there a Goldy right there? On the surface of that book of maps?"
Iyuja looked down just in time to see the Goldy splash back down into the depths of the book.
"Well, Roger, if it's okay with your mother, do you mind if I teach you a few things about library magic?" The Aisha trembled and practically heard herself asking the question as though it was another entity entirely--as if the library was speaking through her.
The Gelert's eyes nearly turned into saucers. "Gee, that'd be swell!"
"Good. Now you take this book and show your mother what you can do." Iyuja smiled a wrinkled smile, and felt at peace.
"Thanks Miss! I will!" He dashed off through the forest, kicking up fallen flower petals as he went.
Iyuja stared after him. Such vitality, she thought, and took a slow, deep breath.
They really do smell like cotton candy...