The Ixi and the Queen
"Your Majesty, are you sure you wish to retain the services of a thief?" King Hagan said, raising his eyebrows.
The Faerie Queen nodded emphatically. "I think Hanso deserves another chance, and he will be able to use his abilities for good now. After all, he did save Neopia from impending doom," Queen Fyora replied.
"You are also aware you are asking for one of the best knights in my army."
"I am well aware of that, King Hagan. I am willing to compensate in whatever means necessary."
King Hagan paused for a moment to think, and rubbed his right paw against his forehead.
"Come to think of it, I think we can strike a deal. The university's sorcery department is currently understaffed."
"You wish for monetary compensation to hire more researchers?"
"No, I am asking for Faerieland's finest scholars to help bolster our university."
Now it was Queen Fyora's turn to think deeply for a moment. Parting with some of her scholars would certainly slow down some of Faerieland's research, but research would all be in vain should a dangerous artifact wreak havoc on Faerieland again.
"I see. I have a few in mind that have wanted an opportunity to study abroad."
"Then I am fully satisfied."
"Splendid, I will prepare the final agreement in writing."
"Oh, and one more thing. Please do not hold me responsible for any of Hanso's behavior," Hagan added.
Queen Fyora cracked a smile.
"King Hagan, I will assure you that I can handle Hanso. Besides, I'm sure Brynn will help."
King Hagan still appeared skeptical and after a long pause, shook his head.
"If you say so, Queen Fyora."
King Hagan left the room. Outside stood Hanso and Brynn. Hanso had his ears pressed against the door and fell backward as King Hagan opened it.
"Ahhh!" Hanso shouted.
"Pipe down, Hanso. Listen to me carefully; Queen Fyora is much kinder than I am. Please don't do anything unwise in your service to her. Serving the queen is a high honor and I expect you to take this role seriously."
The Ixi wore a smug expression as he replied to the King.
"Oh, don't worry. I've changed my ways," Hanso said.
"He's changed for the most part, anyways," Brynn retorted. She leaned and whispered into King Hagan's ear. "I'll make sure that," she said.
Queen Fyora stepped out of her office to join the rest of them.
"Oh hello, Hanso and Brynn," she greeted. "Thanks for helping us out. We truly appreciate your help."
She looked at King Hagan. "They'll be fine; you can leave them with me now."
"Oh, right..." he said with a hint of unease. "I guess I'd best be on my way."
Hagan hesitated for a few moments longer before finally making his way out of the Faerie Castle.
"Hanso, Brynn, I trust you're interested in seeing where you will be staying?" Queen Fyora said.
"Yes, your majesty," Brynn said.
Hanso grinned. "This castle is much grander than that old dumpster back in Brightvale! I can't wait, Fyora!"
Brynn gently elbowed him in the ribs. "Ow! What was that for?" he exclaimed.
"She has a title, Hanso!"
Fyora laughed. "It's not a big deal. Everyone calls me Fyora anyway. Now, why don't I show you where you will be living?"
The Faerie Queen led them down the corridor outside of her chambers. A couple of doors to the left of her chambers, she stopped.
"Here's a two-room suite with a central living space. We'll be next door neighbors."
The rooms were adequately furnished, and very pink, each of them featuring a Fyora Print Bed. In fact, there wasn't any non-Fyora themed furniture at all, and each bed had a Faerie Queen Doll sitting next to the pillow.
"Can I have a room where everything has my face on it instead? You know, since I saved the world," Hanso remarked.
"Hanso!" Brynn yelled.
Fyora shook her head. "I'm sorry, but the choices are slim. As you know, we are still rebuilding parts of the castle due to the considerable damage when Faerieland fell. Other rooms simply aren't ready. Once we are done with rebuilding, I'm sure we can commission a portrait for you two and hang it up somewhere."
She turned to Brynn and discreetly winked at her and then grinned slightly as she faced Hanso.
"Can I sleep outside then?"
"You don't really mean to do that Hanso. I know you don't. You really prefer this comfortable bed," Fyora said gently, grinning ever so slightly at Hanso.
"Alright, I guess I'll stay in this room full of Fyora's face!" a defeated Hanso retorted, arms folded. He wasn't about to argue with the Faerie Queen in front of Brynn.
"Splendid," Fyora replied. "I sincerely hope you enjoy your stay in Faerieland! I'll give you two a few days to settle in before I come with an assignment."
The Faerie Queen left, and Hanso continued his thoughts.
"Why does she get a fancy, schmancy brand and I don't?"
"The one thing you can't steal appears to be popularity," Brynn replied, giggling slightly.
"I'm popular! I'm the most popular thief! My popularity astonishes even me!"
"Hanso, why don't you help unpack our things?" Brynn suggested. "It'll take your mind off of Queen Fyora's generosity."
For several months, Hanso and Brynn helped recover at least 20 dangerous artifacts, and Queen Fyora mostly tolerated Hanso's antics. Mostly it was Hanso's attempts to sneak into the Hidden Tower and defeat the magical barrier that prevented any would be shoplifters. However, one day, all of that routine came to a crashing halt.
Brynn sneezed and nearly knocked over a decorative vase in Queen Fyora's chambers.
"Achoo! Oh, I'm sorry, Your Majesty. Where is the artifact?" Brynn asked.
"Brynn..." Queen Fyora began, shooting Brynn a piercing look. "You don't look like you should go on this artifact hunt. Instead, I want you to go to the castle infirmary."
"Oh! We get a vacation!" Hanso shouted excitedly.
Fyora turned to Hanso and smiled. "Hanso dear, you, on the other hand, seem perfectly well. I'll tell you what, my schedule looks very clear the next week. How about we go together?"
Hanso looked incredulously at the Faerie Queen.
"You? In the Haunted Woods? Are you sure faeries can go there?" Hanso asked snarkily.
"Achoo! You do realize Ilere lives in the Woods right?" Brynn said.
"That's right, Brynn. And Ilere has kindly informed us of a potential artifact located under a haunted gravesite."
"Ohhh! A grave robbery? Interesting!" Hanso said.
"So I take it you're in?"
"Are you sure you two will be fine?"
"What do you mean?" Fyora asked.
"It's just...achoo! Actually, never mind. I'm sure Hanso will behave."
"I'm always on my best behavior!" Hanso retorted.
"Then it's settled. We will leave tomorrow morning."
"Hanso, please do not give Queen Fyora any trouble. She's taking on enormous risk here," Brynn pleaded as she helped Hanso pack his things.
"I won't give her any trouble. Now, don't sneeze over all my stuff. Besides, when have I ever given you trouble when we go artifact hunting?" Hanso replied, arms folded.
Brynn opened her mouth to say something but ended up sneezing instead. Hanso immediately seized the opportunity to make another dubious claim.
"See, never. I'm always the brilliant one that saves Neopia from another deadly artifact. I'm preventing trouble."
Brynn sat down in her armchair and rolled her eyes. "Oh Hanso, don't get too far ahead of yourself, dear."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, nothing. Something tells me that the Faerie Queen isn't going to be too impressed."
"I guess I'm just going to have to impress her then."
"Don't try too hard," Brynn retorted.
"You also don't need to work so hard packing my things. Here..." Hanso grabbed a duffel bag and shoved all his travel belongings into them.
"What about your tent?"
"Queen Fyora said we didn't need one; she's found a place for us to stay in the Haunted Woods."
"Oh? That faerie wastes no time, does she?"
Queen Fyora paced back and forth as she waited for Hanso to show up to the back entrance to the castle. She looked up at the clock tower. After about an hour, she heard frantic footsteps coming down the West Staircase.
"Fyora, sorry I'm late! I woke up too late!" Hanso shouted as he ran down the stairs. His foot ended up caught against his back, and he tripped. Queen Fyora immediately flew over and grabbed him, sparing his head.
"Are you alright?" Fyora asked.
Hanso quickly looked around to see if anybody else noticed. There were a couple of Air Faeries on the upper floor that snickered, but nobody else was present. He glared at the faeries.
"Hanso?" Fyora said with a hint of concern in her voice.
"Huh? Oh, uh, yeah. Ummm. Actually, if we travel to the Haunted Woods, wouldn't others notice you?"
Fyora nodded and snapped her fingers. Instantly and to the shock of Hanso, she was wearing Earth Faerie garb, and her hair color turned brown.
"I'm one of the few faeries that can transform into another faerie. Anyways, we should get going."
Fyora took Hanso's hand, and with a flash of pink, they disappeared, only to reappear in Neovia.
"Neovia? I've always wanted to steal some antiques from here!"
Fyora wore a stern expression on her face.
"No Hanso, please focus on our task."
"But there's the Attic. Lots of valuable things can show up there! You could get rich, Fy-Heather!"
"I'm not so sure if I need the money," Fyora replied. "Besides, I heard stories about the Attic. Many Neopians are wasting countless hours of their lives hoping for something valuable. I really don't think that's what we are here for."
Fyora gently tugged Hanso's arm. "There's a cemetery here that I want to check out."
"Isn't Hubrid Nox's grave here?"
"No, he's buried in the Deserted Fairground. We should go there and take a look too."
"Did he get buried with any valuables?"
Fyora shook her head.
"You're not thinking of robbing his grave, are you? The poor guy has already dealt with enough. Besides, his ghost will probably be protecting it."
"You don't think the artifact is in his grave though?"
"There's always a possibility. We need to check with Ilere first. She's the one that suspects there's something buried in the Haunted Woods."
"Ilere? Isn't she the evil earth faerie?"
Fyora sighed. She hated those that speculated the nature of any of her faerie sisters without getting to know them. However, rumors are often tricky to squash in Faerieland, especially for faeries that often hid from public scrutiny.
"How is she evil if she helps out those that do good?"
"I heard she has evil plants that ensnare anyone that's lost."
Fyora shook her head vigorously. "You've got it all wrong, Hanso. Ilere is one of the guardians of the woods."
"Well, we'll see for ourselves then. Just letting you know that all the faeries in Faerieland think she's evil."
"There's always going to be false gossip circulating in Faerieland. Poor Ilere, she's had to endure it since the Faerieland Academy. Anyways, follow me. Ilere's place is just west of the Deserted Fairground."
Hanso followed Fyora into the woods, which was almost always foggy. He could barely see in front of him and suddenly feared that he was going to be separated from Fyora.
"Fyora? Are you there?" he asked.
"I'm right here Hanso. You sound scared. Is everything alright?"
"I'm not scared. I'm just afraid you will get lost."
Fyora rolled her eyes. "I know these forests well. If you are scared, you can hold onto my hand."
"I'm not scared!"
"Alright, suit yourself. Anyways, we are almost there."
Hanso looked out and saw a bunch of colorfully striped tents. There was no question; they had made it to the Deserted Fairground.
Fyora pointed at the Carnival of Terror.
"We are going to have to get past that to get to Ilere's place."
"Hahaha, you're joking. We're not here to play games, Fyora."
"Well, do have other ideas of getting to the other side of this carnival? We can't go around since these clowns are everywhere."
"Uhhhh...you can fly."
"Right, but you can't."
"How about just warping us across?"
"Faeries can only warp long distances."
"Are you serious? Faeries are kind of useless. How about this? You can go visit Ilere, and I'll wait right here."
Fyora narrowed her eyes.
"It sounds like you are trying to wiggle out of this assignment."
Hanso gasped and shook his head. "No way! I would help if I could."
"Well, maybe I could carry you while I'm flying over."
"Uhhhh...how about you don't do that?"
"Because well, I can get through the carnival by myself without any problems."
"Huh? It's just curious that moments ago you didn't want to go through the carnival. I'll cut to the chase here. Are you afraid of clowns?"
"What?! No way!" Hanso said, folding his arms and vigorously shaking his head. "Where would you get the idea?"
"Why are you standing behind me then?"
"I'm just trying to be courteous and allow you, the Queen, to go first."
"Hanso, we all have fears. You can be honest with me. I won't tell anyone."
"What's your fear then?"
"I'm afraid of Hasees due to an incident that occurred a while back."
"Hasees?" Hanso looked incredulous and covered his mouth to hide his laughter.
"Of course, I won't pressure you to share anything. Come on, grab a weapon."
The Faerie Queen handed Hanso a weapon to shoot at the menacing robotic clowns ahead of them. She noticed that Hanso was shaking a bit.
"How about you stand behind me Hanso? I'll take the ones in front of us, but watch out for any stragglers behind us. Ready when you are."
The clowns, armed with their pies, immediately reacted to their presence. It wasn't long before one hit Hanso in the face. Fyora quickly handed Hanso a handkerchief.
Another pie whizzed by and took Fyora's crown off of her head.
"I'll go get it!" Hanso said.
"Hanso!" Fyora called as the Ixi ran back, taking out any clowns in the way. He shuddered as he picked up the crown as a clown was right in front of him. At point blank range, he frantically discharged his weapon, but the clown seemed unfazed.
"What the...? Ahhhhh!"
Fyora waved her arms and cast a spell which caused the clown to explode into pink dust. Hanso turned and glared at Fyora.
"Why didn't you just blast them all in the first place?"
"Um, well because I don't believe in cheating in games."
"Oh right, I forgot you and Brynn are like the most 'goody-two-shoes' individuals in the entire Neopia!"
"...You're welcome, Hanso? Now, can I have my crown back? It doesn't suit you."
Hanso had placed the crown on his own head.
"Uhh yeah...sure," he muttered, handing the Queen her crown.
"You know, for a brief moment, you were the ruler of Faerieland since you wore a crown. However, I shall forgive this attempted coup d'etat and pardon your act of treason."
"No, I was just messing with you, but it definitely doesn't suit you," Fyora said, laughing.
"Okay, sheesh. It's just a hunk of metal."
"Where did the other clowns go?"
"I shot them all while you were going after my crown."
"Really? Are you sure you didn't cheat?"
"I assure you, I defeated them fair and square."
"I think you're lying."
"I'm the Faerie Queen; I don't lie."
"Now you're definitely lying."
Fyora appeared flustered and shook her head vigorously. "We don't have time for this, let's keep going through the woods."
The two of them continued to make their way through the thick woods until Fyora stumbled upon a strange looking root. She tapped it with a striking pattern, and the root began to glow. Several moments later, a dark green sparkle appeared and in its place appeared the most secretive earth faerie.
"Your Majesty..." she said curtly, giving her a small bow. "Oh and you...ugh...why are you here?"
"Hello would be nice," Hanso shot back.
"Thieves...they tried to ransack my place before. I will not associate with anyone that's a part of such trade."
Fyora shook her head.
"Ilere, Hanso's an ally of the faeries, regardless of his past. He's here to help."
"You are fortunate Her Majesty has sympathies for you. I would not have harbored the same feelings. Very well, you stay by her side at all times, and I will spare you any trouble."
"I will, sheesh. Why is she so hostile?"
Fyora shushed Hanso.
"Shh, you stay with me and get along with her, please."
She turned to Ilere.
"What have you found?"
"There appears to be an artifact that Xandra buried with Hubrid Nox."
"Really? So we get to see Hubrid Nox's grave?" Hanso asked excitedly.
"Yes, Hanso. Now we are only here to claim the artifact and nothing else. Understood?"
"The artifact is actually part of his clothing. There's a gemstone near the collar. I suspect something happened when Xandra did her deed, and she transferred some of her dangerous magic."
"I see, hmm...let's go have a look. Also, grab a shovel, Hanso."
Ilere shook her head.
"There's no need for that. I can unearth him in no time. Although, I don't oppose forcing the thief to do manual labor."
Hanso looked at Fyora, hoping that she wouldn't make him do any work. Fyora finally relented.
"I'll spare him that fate this time. Let's go."
The three of them headed east, guided by Ilere's soft green glow. They crept past her small, round hut.
"Is that really where you live, Ilere? I expected more."
"Excuse me, thief?"
"What? I'm just saying that I have no idea why thieves would try to rob you."
"Hanso! That's not very nice," Fyora scolded.
"You have some nerve, hmph," Ilere retorted.
The three remained quiet as they reached a metal gate. The graveyard where Hubrid Nox was buried was surrounded by thick, walls made of stone. His grave, in particular, was tucked in a corner. It was not any different from the other graves to avoid drawing any attention. After all, Xandra buried him and didn't want others to know what she had done to him.
Ilere led them to his grave and waved her hand at the gravestone. Moments later, the stone slid back, and the dirt under it parted ways, leaving a hole in the ground. Inside laid a coffin. As Ilere leaned to open it, a sudden rush of cold air flung her backward.
"Whoooooooo! WHOOOO DARES DISTURB ME IN MY SLUMBER!" shouted a voice.
"G-ghost?" Hanso said, shivering slightly.
Ilere regained her footing and tried once again to open the coffin. Immediately, a dark purple spark appeared. The dark magic then consumed Ilere.
"Ilere! Are you alright?!" Fyora shouted, frantically trying to pull Ilere out of the magic. However, as the spell lifted, Fyora gasped.
Ilere had been turned to stone.
"Fyora, don't try to do anything. This grave is not safe for faeries. You work on turning Ilere back to a faerie," Hanso warned.
"Okay, are you sure, Hanso?"
"Yes!" he yelled above the ghostly shouts.
Hanso reached for the coffin and pried it open. The dark magic rushed out but did not appear to turn Hanso into stone. It did, however, hurt a lot and Hanso winced. He shook it off and reached for what seemed to be a glowing red gemstone which began to glow. He could feel the dark magic as it grew stronger. He gave it the hardest tug he could muster, and the stone came off. He slammed the coffin shut and then stumbled backward. The Faerie Queen caught him just as he was about to fall.
"Oh...hi...Fyora...thanks," he managed to utter between breaths.
"Can you hold the stone in your hand?"
"This might hurt a little, actually, but you'll have to hold it so it doesn't curse the rest of the forest; I'm going to cast a spell to destroy it."
"Isn't this forest already cursed?"
Fyora wore a thoughtful expression and nodded. "You have a point there, but two curses never made things any better."
"Don't miss!" Hanso warned.
The Faerie Queen took a step backward and muttered an incantation. Her hands began to glow pink, and she took aim at the stone in Hanso's paw.
"Ow!" Hanso exclaimed as the spell threw him back against the ground. The stone stopped glowing. Fyora picked up and placed it in a small case, putting it in her pocket afterward. She then turned to Ilere and used her magic to break her out of her stone form.
"You okay,, Ilere?"
"I guess so, is the artifact gone?"
"It's inert now. Hanso was able to pry it out of the grave."
"Oh, I guess he is useful then."
"Heh..." Hanso said weakly. Fyora pulled him up from the ground and gave him a quick hug.
"Sorry about that. It was important that we rendered it inert right away though."
"Why didn't you just blast the entire grave?" Hanso asked.
"That would have been disrespectful to those buried here."
"Hanso, I am serious. Now let's go."
"Bye, thief! Goodbye, Your Majesty!" Ilere said.
Fyora took hold of Hanso's paw, and after a flash of pink, the two of them returned back to Faerieland. Brynn was waiting anxiously for them in the garden.
She grew especially worried when she saw Hanso lean against Fyora.
"I'm fine, Brynn," Hanso insisted.
"He's probably going to need a few days of rest. He absorbed quite a bit of dark magic," Fyora said.
"What happened, Your Majesty?" Brynn inquired.
"The artifact was cursed with one of Xandra's curses."
"You recovered it though?"
"It's right here."
Fyora pulled out the small case and handed it to Brynn.
"I suppose we should keep this in the vault with the others."
"Hanso, you didn't cause Her Majesty any trouble?"
"Trouble? I would never cause Fyora trouble."
Brynn turned to Fyora.
"He was fine," Fyora replied, ruffling Hanso's hair slightly. "How have you been, Brynn?"
"Better, I'm not sick anymore."
"I guess I'll leave you two alone now."
"Bye Fyora!" Hanso said.
"See you soon, Your Majesty."
As the Faerie Queen left, Brynn turned to Hanso and shook her head. "I can't believe she put up with you."
"Why are you so surprised? She enjoyed my company!"
"Yeah, somehow I still doubt that. Oh well, time for you to get cleaned up and rested."