Naia and the Maraquan Moehog
The whispered comments, the giggled gossip, the sidelong glances – Naia heard and saw it all. She would love to be bold, to say she didn’t care, but it wasn’t true. It bothered her, at least a little, that the other Faeries didn’t take her job seriously. If she had more of that infamous Fire Faerie spark, she’d snap back. I mean, come on, the Light Faeries spent all their time hoarding cards for, what? Vague, wishy-washy visions of the future? To her, the present was more important. You could shuffle cards and prophesy all day, but if you weren’t trying to affect change, what was the point?
But she was a Water Faerie, and she was the one who got the snickers and the eye rolls. Her fountain didn’t repair cracked buildings, didn’t build houses for homeless Faeries, didn’t feed Faellies or Boweens. Marina’s Healing Springs didn’t do those things either and still managed to get less grief, despite all the times Naia had seen a wheezing and exhausted NeoPet get rewarded with nothing more than an Exploding Snowball.
Not that it was necessarily Marina’s fault – most of the young Faeries had an element of surprise to their spell casting. They would pull their magic, focus on the outcome, and certainly do their best, but whatever came out was what came out. It took years of practice and learning to cast blessings as thoroughly as Faeries like Aelia or Mira. Naia wasn’t a very old Faerie herself, but she had learned to focus her abilities into the already naturally magical waters of the Rainbow Fountain, and in this way could fulfill requests very specifically.
Any color a NeoPet wanted to be, she could make it happen. Well, almost any color. There were still limits, but there were limits on anything. The other Faeries could give their speed boosts, their health bumps, their level ups – and those were all great things, but her gifts were just as important.
In the end, though, justifying the importance wasn’t worth it. It was easier to let it roll off, and to cutely shrug her shoulders or wave a hand. Easier to be the girly gossip. If it got under her skin, it would chip her away.
“Must be nice!”
Naia turned her head. She was floating in the multicolor waters, looking comfortable and aimless. Walking by was Keela, an Air Faerie, arms full to the brim with various make-up products.
“What’s nice?” Naia asked, but she already knew.
“Floating around in the sun all day,” Keela said, nearly dropping a rainbow assortment of lipsticks. “Some of us have to work.”
Naia thought that was funny, considering Keela was carting around cosmetics, of all things, but rather than explain her purpose – that she was channeling magic into the water, working delicately to keep the balance correct so NeoPets wouldn’t emerge a random hodgepodge of color, or worse, as mutants – she smiled. “It is nice, thank you. Care to join me?”
Keela sniffed. “Unfortunately, I’m busy.” With that, she sped off, haughtiness in every step and wing flutter.
“Busy hoarding eyeliner,” Naia muttered, pulling herself onto shore. She met eyes with a trembling, terrified brown Moehog, and immediately changed her expression from bitter to pleasant. “Well, hello there! What’s your name?”
“H – Hialeah,” the Moehog said, nervously digging a hoof into the ground. “We, uh, we met already.”
“Of course,” Naia said, sweeping blue-blonde hair out of her face. “Did you bring me what I asked for?”
Hialeah glanced at a box she’d brought with her, sloppily and haphazardly wrapped in shimmery green paper. “My, uh, my friend helped me wrap it,” she said, stammering to explain, “He’s a lab ray pet and he was a Grarrl at the time, so he wasn’t so good with, uh. Fine motor skills. But I wanted to – to make it look nice.”
Naia ran a long finger over the smooth, glossy paper. “I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “May I?”
Hialeah nodded, emboldened by the compliment, relaxing just a little.
Delicately removing the paper, Naia uncovered a book – Chomby Poems, a thick and pricey tome she had requested from Hialeah some weeks ago. If her memory was correct, and it usually was, it ran about 300,000 Neopoints on the market, and she was sure it had taken no small amount of scrimping, saving, and Battledome fights to purchase. Her taskings tended to be pricey and difficult, which was necessary, since the Rainbow Fountain’s waters weren’t infinite.
“Perfect!” She said, delighted, and she pressed her hands onto the cover of the book. It lit up, shining white and blue, and then disappeared, gone to The Library Faerie’s stores. All the books she requested went there, and everything else was distributed in kind – clothes to homeless Faeries and Neopets affected by the Fall, food to the Earth Faerie that ran Faerie Foods (and sometimes to the Soup Faerie, if she was running low on donations and ingredients). It all found purpose, even if her sisters didn’t think so. “Have you thought about what color you’d like to be?”
Hialeah snorted, a sound unique to Moehogs and Kaus that came out like a stuttering puff of air. “I – yes, but …”
“If you need to think about it longer, you can,” Naia said, leaning back into the waters, her hair pooling around her. “I don’t want to rush you.”
“No, I, I know, but …” The Moehog hesitated. “It’s silly, maybe.”
“I promise it’s not! What is it? Disco? Snot?”
Hialeah managed a small laugh. “No, uh.” She hoofed at the ground again, and then added in a very low voice: “Maraquan.”
“Why, that’s a wonderful choice,” Naia said. “A rare color too! You’ll be the envy of all your friends.”
“But I’m a Moehog,” Hialeah insisted, brow furrowed. “I’m supposed to like dirt and mud and running around in mountains and fields. Not … swimming.”
“You can like whatever you want! Obviously I think swimming is a superb sport,” Naia said, playfully backstroking. “Just because you’re a Moehog, it doesn’t mean you have to be a certain way.”
“I’ve always liked the water,” Hialeah said, for the first time smiling. “I went to Mystery Island once and waded at the shore. I … it was really fun, you know? I felt graceful and free. Moehogs aren’t really graceful, most people think we’re kinda dumpy.”
Naia was more sympathetic than Hialeah could ever know. It wasn’t easy to act a certain way when your heart was in a different place. “I think you’re beautiful as a brown Moehog or as a Mutant Skeith. I think you would be beautiful as a Maraquan Moehog, too.”
“I want to be a Maraquan Moehog,” Hialeah said, firmly, proudly, eyes bright. “That’s what I pick!”
“Come on in, then,” Naia said, motioning. “And that’s what you shall be.”
Hialeah inched towards the edge, hesitated for one more moment, and then leapt into the Rainbow Fountain’s cool, colorful waters. Or fell in – Naia wasn’t entirely sure, but decided the Moehog’s air of triumph deserved the benefit of it being intentional. The water rippled where she had submerged, swirling and glowing, Naia coaxing it on with her own magic.
When Hialeah surfaced, her short brown fur was now smooth and blue, her hooves turned to flippers. A wavy blue fin ran along her back, an aquatic variance on the traditional Moehog strip of fur. She was a Maraquan Moehog, and she looked positively delighted with the fact, swimming short but quick laps in the pool, prismacolor ripples forming in her wake. A natural, Naia thought, as much as any Koi or Jetsam.
This was why her job was important – it kept the magic alive, kept Neopets hoping and wishing. If she could grant some of those wishes, even just a few, then it was worth it. A Shoyru turning gold, a Kougra becoming royalty, or even a Moehog learning to swim. Faerieland needed to be relevant, needed to inspire and create. She and her sisters, whether they got along or not, were responsible for that.
The Rainbow Fountain didn’t repair cracked buildings, true. It didn’t build houses for homeless Faeries, and it certainly didn’t feed Faellies or Boweens.
But it gave a self-conscious Moehog her confidence back, and sometimes, that was enough.