Inside the Bottle
"Here you go kid – I guess you earned it.” Rough hands reached into the large blue bag and grabbed the earth faerie’s bottle and a codestone. Both were immediately placed into another set of hands.
“Oh boy, theses will sell fantastically! Wait until I get home to show mom!” the young Kougra exclaimed, and took off towards his home. Aethia bounced around in her bottle, having been shrunk down to a little over the size of an apple. It was difficult to see out of the green tinted glass, but she watched her bottle being placed on a shelf next to bottles similar to hers. A small white sticker was then placed on the glass, over most of her field of vision. Aethia struggled to make out the letters – 100 neopoints.
Aethia never meant to get caught up in this mess. She didn’t even really remember how it happened. She remembered running off to play in the forest, wanting to pick flowers to bring home to her friends. Natalie, a water faerie, never got out much to really enjoy the forest. Aethia would trade her flowers for coral, which she made all sorts of cool decorations out of. It happened before she realized it, but suddenly Balthazar had her corked up tightly in a bottle. She still remembered his chuckling as he put a protection spell over it, rendering her magic useless. The giant blue bag she had been placed in had been her home for months, maybe longer. Time was hard to tell when you couldn’t see the sun.
Life on the shelf wasn’t fun. One day, some pet would buy her and let her go, only for Aethia to likely be caught again later and have to go through this process again. It was disgusting the way that many pets exploited a faerie’s trapped state to gain their magic. All those pets were going to do was fight again, and the Battledome would hand out dozens of her sisters every minute.
Because many of her kind would be handed out for free, Aethia sat on the shelf for weeks. Another sticker was placed on her bottle – 50 neopoints. Was that all she was worth?
While taking a nap one day, she was woken up by the sound of shouting.
“HUGE SALE! EVERYTHING HAS BEEN DISCOUNTED! I’M SAVING FOR A PAINT BRUSH PLEASE BUY MY THINGS!” She hadn’t even noticed the sticker on her bottle had been partially erased, leaving only the 5. Neopets stormed the store, armed with their allowance money from their parents. She watched a small Lupe in particular get shoved around, helpless under the mob of people rushing to get a good deal. Oh, how she would have helped him if she had her magic. She always had a soft spot for those in need.
Suddenly, she was pushed behind the shelf and fell to the floor. She closed her eyes tightly as she was kicked around by the clueless people buying swords and codestones. A small blue paw stopped her, and held on to her tightly.
Once all the commotion quieted down, Aethia dared to open her eyes again. The blue paw was still gripping her bottle, but she could see outside now. Her beautiful nature! Oh, how she had missed it! Now that the boy had bought her, maybe she could finally be freed!
Much to her dismay, when the boy returned home, he promptly placed her bottle on his nightstand. She couldn’t believe it. Most pets buy faeries in bottles to benefit from the magic each kind of faerie possessed, and he was going to let her rot in that bottle! How dare he! Aethia flew at the sides of the bottle, hoping to gain his attention, but sadly, it was in vain. The boy had already curled up with a tattered copy of Illusen’s Novel and was fully immersed in the book.
For weeks, she watched the boy go about his daily life. His mom would send him to do errands and small jobs, and he always stuck her bottle in his backpack before he went. She got to see parts of Neopia she had never seen before, albeit from behind green tinted glass. It was hard to admit to herself, but she found it sort of exciting. She watched the boy read before bed each night, never reading the last page, before he placed the book beside her on the nightstand and fell asleep.
Every day that went by made her grow a little more resentful. Some nights she would dream that she was free again, flying around the trees and playing with the Babaas in the fields by her childhood home. Some nights she would dream of Balthazar, and his merciless laugh as he locked her away. She would wake up shaking, and would have nothing but the boy’s soft snoring to lull her back to sleep.
After weeks turned to months, and months into a year, Aethia began to muster the courage to try to get out again. She discovered if she flew at the inside of the bottle hard enough, the bottle would rock fractions of an inch towards the edge of the nightstand. If she could fall hard enough and break the bottle, then maybe she could free herself! She put her plan in action as the boy cleaned his room one morning, working her way over every time the boy turned his back.
One time, she flew too hard and the bottle fell on its side. The boy heard the clatter and turned around, but he was too late. Her bottle was already rolling off the nightstand. She could almost see sadness in his eyes and the bottle smashed into pieces on the floor.
Instantly, she was full size again. The young Lupe looked at her with a mixture of awe and horror. Aethia didn’t see why he needed faerie magic to begin with, as he didn’t look like a fighting type, but she didn’t want to argue. She just wanted to go home.
“I guess you want your blessing now, huh?” Aethia remarked, trying to push the sarcasm out of her voice. The boy looked to be on the verge of tears. “What’s your name, boy?”
“C-C-Colin,” he stuttered, choking back a defeated sob.
“Do you really want my magic, Colin? Or did you just enjoy keeping me as a knick-knack?” She rolled her eyes.
“I didn’t really want magic. I just wanted…” Colin trailed off, looking at the ground. He shuffled his paws a little and sighed.
“Just wanted what?” She asked. She was losing her patience. Either the boy wanted a blessing or he didn’t.
“I just wanted a friend,” he sighed, looking back up, “I’m sorry I kept you for so long, but I knew if I opened the bottle you would just fly away. Mom can’t afford any other pets, and I always feel lonely walking around outside without anyone. I guess I just liked having you around, even if you couldn’t talk to me.”
Immediately her demeanor softened. It all made sense now. He did errands for his mom because it took the both of them to put food on the table. If he read the last page of his book, it would disappear, and they likely didn’t have the neopoints to buy a new one. There was no way they could afford to send him to one of those fancy specialty schools, or even for training. Aethia felt terrible for resenting him. She was his one small joy in life.
“You’re going to leave me now, aren’t you?” Colin asked, looking back down at his paws again. Aethia thought for a moment.
“Why would I leave? I think I’ll stay here a while. After all, isn’t that what friends do?” She smiled. Colin beamed and hugged her. Aethia really did have a soft spot for those in need.