A Reunion in Meridell: Part Two
Jhudora followed Illusen, smiling softly. Illusen had grabbed her wrist, but there was no malice in it. She wasn’t squeezing the dark faerie’s wrist hard enough to cause her pain, and she wasn’t digging her nails in either. As Jhudora’s only friend had seemingly abandoned her, Illusen’s tiny show of respect was enough to make Jhudora forget their past for a few fleeting moments.
Illusen kept her eyes ahead of her as she walked as briskly as she could. She wanted all of the disapproving glances to stop. She took a deep breath as she tried to walk faster. Jhudora bobbed along behind her, not making a single peep.
Finally, they arrived at a field outside of Faerieland. Illusen abruptly stopped. Jhudora tumbled forward a bit before also stopping. She gasped as she stared at the scene in front of her.
She couldn’t see this area from her home, and it hadn’t existed before she was exiled. The field was hanging off of the edge of the clouds Faerieland existed upon. On the field were elaborate carriages with yokes for attaching to creatures to pull the carriages. Jhudora marveled at the beauty around her, unsure if she was really awake.
Illusen cleared her throat as she made her way to one of the carriages. Jhudora shook her head to get her mind back on track and followed Illusen.
“Hey!” Illusen called out, “I booked a carriage!”
A group of unis turned towards Illusen. Suddenly, they fell to their knees in an exaggerated bow.
“I am so sorry, dark faerie,” a blue uni called out, “I am so sorry I failed your quest!”
Jhudora’s eyes widened as she blushed. The truth was that she hadn’t personally given a quest in years. Using a combination of projection spells and bartamuses, she avoided interacting with the Neopians taking part in her quests.
Jhudora blinked before realizing what persona she needed to tap. She smirked and put on hand on her hip, “How much did you spend so far?”
“Millions upon millions, dark faerie!” The uni’s nose was nearly touching the ground as Jhudora cackled.
“Starting over from the simplest quest is enough punishment!” Jhudora let out one forced chuckle as she looked over at Illusen. She paused for a second before asking, “Is this what we’re riding?”
Illusen rolled her eyes as the unis began to stand. The unis attached themselves to the yoke before nodding towards the carriage. Jhudora and Illusen both pulled themselves up into the carriage at the same time on opposite sides.
Jhudora stared in awe at the interior of the carriage. It was immaculate. She could tell that the dark, red tinged wood was oiled and not varnished. She felt the walls as she noticed the small inlaid jewels. She glanced towards the door, expecting to look out the window. Instead, she saw the maroon velvet curtains. She gasped as she grabbed the fabric in her hands.
“So . . .” Illusen cleared her throat as she stared at Jhudora. Stories of Jhudora’s cruelness had spread to Meridell. Illusen was sure that Jhudora was as evil as the stories had let on . . . However, Jhudora seemed more innocent and child-like now than she was as an actual child.
Jhudora glanced back at Illusen and blushed beneath her rouge. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. Was she supposed to pretend to be evil? Was she supposed to be herself? She looked around the carriage to try and find an answer. Then it hit her - she’d try to be a mix of both. She asked curtly, “It is impossible for the four unis pulling this carriage to suspend this carriage in the air. Therefore, this carriage is held afloat by faerie magic. Why use the unis when the carriage only needs faerie magic?”
Illusen stared blankly at Jhudora. She had never thought of that. She just assumed that uni magic kept the carriage afloat. She paused before asking, “Why not ask the unis?”
Jhudora nodded before lurching across the carriage so that her knees were on the bench beneath the window facing the unis. She popped her head out of the window and cleared her throat. “Unis, why do you pull this carriage when your effort isn’t required?”
The blue uni from before chuckled softly before looking back at Jhudora. “Faeries love decorum, dark faerie.”
“Think about it,” the uni locked eyes with Jhudora, “Would you respect someone more if they arrived in a flying box, or if they arrived being pulled by the most majestic Neopians?”
“Ah,” Jhudora nodded, “Thank you!” She popped her head back into the carriage before settling down on the bench across from Illusen.
“With that outfit,” Illusen sighed as she gestured at Jhudora’s body, “I’d think you’d understand the whole deal with decorum.”
Jhudora laughed. She began to respond that it was a gift, but then she realized that she couldn’t bring up Fyora. Before she went on stage, she told herself that there was no more dangers. The Elders were gone and no one could usurp Fyora. However, seeing all of the hate towards her proved that she was wrong. If Fyora was caught helping Jhudora, there might be an uprising. So she made up a story on the spot. “Oh, these aren’t mine,” she waved her arms to show off the bell sleeves, “For a few quests, I asked for the fanciest green dress possible. This was the fanciest.”
“I’m glad you aren’t claiming that dress,” Illusen eyed Jhudora cautiously, “Because green really only works as an accent for you.”
Jhudora blushed again. For the first time, she took in Illusen’s apparel. While Jhudora sat with almost all of her skin covered, Illusen’s shoulders were exposed. Jhudora glanced down at Illusen’s legs. While the old school uniforms exposed roughly the same amount of leg, the jagged hem of Illusen’s skirt gave the illusion of being shorter. Jhudora reflexively rubbed her own legs. She wasn’t sure if it were her skin or her shape, but she had a fear of showing off her legs the way Illusen did.
“But,” Illusen laughed, “You do look better covered up! That skirt was awful on you. Your legs need to be hidden. They’re tiny little sticks!”
“Oh,” Jhudora let out a forced laugh, “Yeah, I don’t like them much either.”
Illusen sighed, “But you’re so skinny! I’ve tried for years to be skinny like you, but I never could.”
The closest thing to a healthy relationship Jhudora had known since the Dark Elder left was her happy little family of bartamuses. Sadly, she never figured out how to make them speak Dark Fae to tell her how friendship was supposed to work. Was following a harsh insult with a compliment part of a healthy friendship? Sometimes her fellow dark sisters would tease each other, but never with the vitriol Illusen used.
Jhudora glanced towards the window.
“Oh, we’ll be there soon,” Illusen laughed, “The unis go pretty fast.”
Jhudora nodded. She had never touched the surface of Neopia in her entire life. It scared her a bit to know that she was going to experience something she had never experienced before.
“Does it feel different?” Jhudora’s eyes never left the rustling velvet curtains as she asked.
“Oh, the surface?” Illusen laughed, “A tiny bit. There isn't as much of a breeze. I guess you feel like you stick to the surface a bit more. You feel heavier for some reason.”
Jhudora nodded slightly. They sat in awkward silence until the carriage touched down on the ground with a jarring thunk. Illusen stood and opened the door for Jhudora to make her way out.
Jhudora took a deep breath and stood. She slowly climbed out of the carriage before standing in awe.
Illusen paused after making her way out of the carriage. She stared at Jhudora as the dark faerie stood, staring at everything around her.
In that moment, memories of Jhudora’s childhood flooded back. For the majority of Faerieland, the trees did not grow naturally. Earth magic kept them alive artificially. As clouds made for dreadful substrate, the plants would wither without the Earth magic. That meant that instead of smelling like plants, the plants smelled like magic.
However, when Jhudora was a child, the dark faerie village was different. When dark faerie diaspora came to visit, they would always bring soil from their new homes. The dark faeries would use that soil to grow entire gardens in planters using fertilizer from the petpets they raised. However, once they left all of the gardens withered away without Jhudora’s attention. She had never learned how to garden properly, nor did she have the will to tend to a reminder of her lost life.
The smell of soil, plant matter, and fertilizer was overwhelming in Meridell. Illusen crinkled her nose as she watched Jhudora take deep breaths. Illusen hated the smell and it bothered her to see Jhudora enjoy it.
Jhudora suddenly realized that Illusen was waiting behind her. She blushed as she turned towards Illusen.
“I think we should go shopping,” Illusen forced herself to smile, “Because that dress is bad.”
Jhudora laughed. She wondered what Illusen would say if she knew Fyora had picked out the dress. But Jhudora nodded along as Illusen took her wrist once again.
“One nice thing about Meridell is that they adore me,” Illusen laughed, “So I get to walk into any business and demand free stuff.”
“Oh,” Jhudora’s eyes widened. She wanted to point out how rude that was, but she didn’t want to cause any tension. Jhudora told herself that she would never do anything like that. If she was loved, she still wouldn’t demand presents or special treatment.
Illusen made her way towards a cobblestone road. “You know, Jhudora,” Illusen laughed, staring ahead, “I think that we should go to the cobbler before we go to the seamstress. You’re so tiny!”
Jhudora blushed as Illusen pulled her along. Jhudora stared at the back of Illusen’s head. Jhudora was easily one head shorter than Illusen . . . but Jhudora was only a few inches shorter than Fyora. Maybe it wasn’t that Jhudora was short and that Illusen was freakishly tall. The dark faerie looked down at the earth faerie’s feet. She was wearing green flats. It was strange to think that Illusen was so tall that she refused to wear shoes with substantial soles just to fit in a tiny bit better.
Jhudora kept thinking about Illusen’s choice in footwear as Illusen pulled her into a cottage. Jhudora stopped thinking about shoes and instead stared at the interior of the cottage. Other than the shelves covered in shoes, it was almost identical to the cottages in the dark faerie village before time erased them.
“Shoe pet!” Illusen called out, “I need shoes for my friend!”
A blue quiggle popped up from behind a counter. He was visibly bothered by being called ‘Shoe Pet’. But, it was Illusen so he couldn't complain. That frustration was zapped away almost instantly when he saw Jhudora. He quickly hid himself behind the counter again.
“No!” Illusen laughed, “She’s my friend!”
The quiggle laughed nervously as he reappeared.
“I want her to be as tall as me!” Illusen crossed her arms across her chest, “Can you do that?”
The quiggle jumped from behind the counter and looked up at Illusen before looking back at Jhudora.
“Platform soles,” Illusen looked over at Jhudora, “Purple soles, green leather.”
“It might take a few days,” The quiggle glanced away from the faeries nervously.
Jhudora held back a squeal once she heard the quiggle’s accent. It was so adorable to her! It was melodic and thought out, unlike the breakneck pace of New Fae. She wanted to grab the quiggle and hug him, but she knew that it would be scary as opposed to adorable. So she just stood still with a stupid smile on her face.
“Ugh,” Illusen rolled her eyes, “Are you sure?”
Jhudora shook her head to come back to reality. She cleared her throat before asking, “Do you have the raw materials on hand?”
“Of course!” The cobbler nodded anxiously.
“Just cut them up for me and I’ll show you a magic trick,” Jhudora smiled softly as she knelt down so that she was at the quiggle’s eye level. “Does that sound good?”
The quiggle smiled softly and nodded. He turned and made his way to the back room.
“Magic trick?” Illusen rolled her eyes, “What kind of trick?”
“Oh,” Jhudora let out a soft laugh, “I’ve had to repair my own shoes way too many times to count! I got sick of trying to use needles and thread that I just started using magic.”
“Really?” Illusen’s eyes widened. How did Jhudora learn to do something like that? Illusen was there for every day Jhudora went to the Faerie Academy. In that span of time, repairing shoes never came up.
“When you live on your own, you learn to make do.”
Illusen waited for Jhudora to look at the shoes on display before she glared at the dark faerie. Illusen had learned very little about magic after she was exiled to Meridell. Who would she learn it from?
The quiggle emerged with two blocks of wood and four sheets of leather. Jhudora knelt down to his level to receive the materials.
“Now, first,” Jhudora took a block of wood, “Let’s soften it up!” The block glowed green as she sat it down on the floor. She kicked off her tattered loafers and pressed her foot against the block. Almost instantly, her foot sank into the surface to create a comfortable sole. She repeated the process with the other block before taking two of the cut pieces of leather. “Let’s sew these to the sole!” She pressed the edges of the leather against the edges of the sole. She slowly ran her finger around the edges. As she ran her fingers along the edges, they glowed green. She pulled her hands away to show the quiggle her work. The two pieces of leather were limply lying on the floor as she threw up her hands in a little ‘ta-da!’
“That was so fast!” The quiggle’s eyes widened as he stared at her foot.
Jhudora smiled as she hitched up her skirt so that she could meld together the edges of the boots against her legs. The leather came up to her knees. She hadn’t seen such tall boots before, so she felt special for having them. She repeated the process for her other foot and looked down at her handywork.
The quiggle stared in awe. He had never seen anyone work that quickly, not even the masters who trained him.
Illusen was fuming as she grabbed Jhudora’s wrist as tightly as she could and dragged her out of the cottage.
She turned and stared at Jhudora, her eyes slightly glowing green.
Jhudora stood still as she realized what she had done wrong. She put her hands up and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for showing off.” She looked down at the ground before realizing that lying was her best option. “I only know how to do a few things with magic because I was kicked out of the Faerie Academy. I like to show off the very few things I know.”
The flames surrounded Illusen’s eyes were extinguished as she began to smile softly. “Only knowing how to make shoes must stink.”
Jhudora laughed softly, “It does! I hate being as dumb as I am!”
Illusen giggled as Jhudora tried to hide her dumbfoundment. Jhudora had an advantage that Illusen could never hope to have. Dark faeries were the most powerful of all of the elemental faeries, whereas earth faeries were just “normal.” However, Jhudora also knew that raw power meant nothing next to resourcefulness. If Illusen had spent half as much time studying the old scrolls as Jhudora had, they could have likely been near the same level. However, laziness and apathy had made Illusen weak.
“Well, you can make shoes but you can’t make clothes!” Illusen laughed, “Let’s go to the seamstress!”
Jhudora bit her tongue. Sewing leather and sewing cloth used the same spell. However, she wanted to give Illusen her one little victory. So Jhudora follow Illusen into another cottage.
To be continued…