Isolde and the Faerie Statue:Part Three
Isolde was no stranger to falling. On Kreludor, there was a young Draik, a family friend who often visited her home. His name was Egrek. He was painted Shadow, just like Isolde, and the two felt a common bond because of it. They could often sneak across the moon undetected at night and play games with their friends. When she was younger, they often made trips down to Neopia during the morning, with the permission of Isolde’s parents the night before. The descent from the moon was always scary for Isolde. Egrek flew off the moon quickly, dove down to the main part of Neopia without warning, and rarely landed gracefully.
One day, after crash-landing in a bush in Meridell, Isolde asked Egrek why he never waited or prepared her for when he was going to fly from the moon. Egrek laughed a bit. “Well, even if I count down, you’re still going to be scared, right?” Egrek said.
“Of course, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still do it,” Isolde said, frowning. “I need time to prepare!”
“For what?” he asked. “Listen, you’re going to be just as scared regardless of whether you count to three. I know you. What do you need to wait for? To stay afraid for a couple more seconds as opposed to getting it over with?” Isolde looked nonplussed, so he continued. “Look: sometimes you just have to go for it. If I count down to three, you won’t be any less afraid of flying off Kreludor. If you wait until you’re ready, you might never leave the moon, huh?”
Even though she had her objections, she thought he was right. So, they continued their furtive journeys off the moon. Still, that wasn’t the only kind of falling Isolde did. She’d fall asleep, obviously, and she’d fall behind in class sometimes; her family traveled all across Neopia for business, and sometimes she switched schools in the middle of the term because of a surprise move. She was a little bit of a klutz, too, though she’d hate to admit it: she sometimes tripped and fell a little more often that she would have liked. However, she always landed on her feet.
But she was never prepared to feel like she was falling, especially not when she was dreaming. In her dream, she found herself in the same forest as before. She looked up at the sky and saw the stars. Before she’d moved, she was one of the Kreludor Academy’s best students, especially in astronomy and geography, so she knew the constellations well. She found The Sleeper constellation and, given its position in the night sky, she knew she must be somewhere in Faerieland. Yet it felt different somehow from the Faerieland that she knew. First, the city, though far in the distance, was eerily silent. Even in the latest hours of the night, even at its quietest moments, Faerie City was usually bustling with life. Second, there were clouds everywhere. But not the black ones from before; there were thin, almost transparent pink clouds floating around the city. What could have happened?
Everything was fine at first. Unlike the first night, there was no fire, so she was free to traipse the forest as she pleased, though it was quite windy. There was very little of interest in the woods, at least initially. The trees bore no fruit, and they didn’t have any leaves, either; there was no evidence that they even had leaves, either, since the only things under Isolde’s feet were soil and grass. There was nothing to really look at other than small glimpses of Faerie City, which, admittedly, was a sight to look at, surrounded by pink fog.
Isolde decided she would try to get closer to the city to better view Faerieland draped in the mysterious purple fog she’d seen. She made her way through the trees and traveled north past all the barren trees. The wood was dense, though, and navigating it turned out to be difficult. Isolde, about two-thirds of the way through, decided to rest. She closed her eyes, took a few deep breaths, and opened them. Once she was ready, she opened her eyes and surveyed her surroundings. She slowly turned around to see what was behind her and gave a bit of a start. She noticed a statue of a faerie that had fallen next to the tree. It was crumbling and had obviously been neglected for many years. The wings were severely damaged and the faerie’s dress and her legs were covered in ivy. How odd, she thought, that the only greenery in the forest is on this old statue. Worse, there was no face; time and unknown inclemencies must have completely worn off the statue’s face. But she could have sworn that there was a faint red gleam roughly where the eyes should have been. Stranger still was the statue’s pose. Although the statue didn’t have a face so it was impossible to determine its expression, its pose was quite animated; one arm was outstretched toward the sky and the other pointed a gloved finger directly at Isolde. For some reason, she thought it might be best to take it as a signal.
Then the meteor came. It flew across the sky almost like a bolt of lightning—it streaked across the sky for a few seconds and it was so bright it lit up the entire landscape. The quiet and the darkness afterward were incredible, near-total, almost Kreludan. It was a nice reprieve from the tree branches swaying in the wind and the constant din of Neopia Central in her real life.
But then Isolde felt the soil under her paws give way. She was falling. What was worse, the trees were falling, too. Or maybe they weren’t falling, she thought, but their trunks bent and contorted around her to form a dome that she couldn’t escape from. It was here, Isolde noted—and maybe it was the wrong moment yet again—that the trees were unusually pale. Even if it was winter here, something she couldn’t even be sure about, there was no reason why the trees should look like this: they were a sickly grey-blue, like the trees in the Haunted Woods. She had a gift for ill-timed observations, she’d noticed. But here, as she sank further into the soil and watched it and the etiolated tree branches block out the sight of the city and eventually the sky itself, she heard a voice speaking to her, though she couldn’t tell where it was coming from. One which, doubtless, had to be the same voice from her previous dream.
Unlike in the previous dream, however, what the voice said—or was even doing, honestly—was not ambiguous. She didn’t have to wonder about whether it was screaming, singing, weeping, or laughing. It was a perfectly clear voice, a low, calm, dark, almost musical voice, that sent shivers down her spine.
“There’s no such thing as escape. Don’t try to run from me.”
But the way in which this was said to her was not threatening or taunting or demanding; it was almost sad, like an entreaty. Still, the fact that this voice found her and decided to communicate directly with her was terrifying. What did she do to deserve this? What did it want from her?
The last thing she remembered about the dream was closing her eyes, opening them again, and seeing the statue directly in front of her, buried in the soil. Or maybe it was another—the features were obviously different. The statue was obviously of the same faerie as before; Isolde noticed that they had the same dress, the same wing shape, and the same hair going down to the shoulders. But though the wings had the exact same shape, with this statue, the wings were fully intact. More sinister still, this statue, buried with Isolde in the soil, crossed its arms in a strange position, with its fingertips at its shoulders. And it had a face, too. She could only make it out for a split second, but the statue had an inscrutable smile. She genuinely couldn’t tell whether it was a genuinely kind smile or a more ominous one. The very last thing she remembered was that red light flickered from the eyes of the statue… she began to wonder and asked herself, “What could this all mean?”
She awoke in the morning with the same stiffness in her hands and legs as the last time. Which distressed her, of course. But the first thing that she thought, upon waking up, was that there was no doubt that the statues, the one in her dreams and the one in the clearing by her house, were related. Second, that the faerie in her dreams, whomever it may be, was the reason why she was experiencing these terrible nightmares and why she couldn’t move. The statue in the clearing was of her. And she had to stop her, somehow.
But what would happen now that she knew? She couldn’t go directly to the statue right now, could she? It was about as intimidating now as it was alluring before. Plus, who knows what might happen if she did something to it? Fire could rain over Neopia Central if she broke it, for instance. But she had to come up with a plan. Better that than to wait for the faerie to come to her.
An hour later, Isolde was able to move again and went to the kitchen to eat breakfast with her parents. Her father made Chokato Ghostkersandwiches, another favourite of hers. Plushies covered the home now, even finding their way into the kitchen, and the entire house smelled like a pungent and confusing mix of Festering Coffee and scented candles. Gertrude drank some Black Tea and Siegfried drank some foul-smelling Festering Coffee. He brimmed with energy and seemed barely able to contain himself; he fidgeted in the chair a bit while drinking his coffee and eating his sandwich. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore and slammed his mug on the table.
“I’ve got great news!” he announced. He proudly stood up from his chair, beaming from ear to ear. “After some hiccups, we were finally able to negotiate a deal with the purveyors in the Haunted Woods. We’re getting a dozen Zomutts! And, if we finish this shipment of plushies by the end of the season, we’re expected to make around four million Neopoints from this deal. Isn’t that great, Isolde?”
Isolde was, obviously, not paying much attention. The nightmares began to weigh on her again. Surely he’d noticed her sulking around the house. Even if he’d been busy, he must have known something was wrong. She knew her father’s way of dealing with uncomfortable subjects was simply to avoid talking about them and to divert attention elsewhere, but that wasn’t really what she needed at the moment. It read more as obliviousness than as a way of working through a problem; actually, it felt like the business took priority over her. However, to placate him and to discourage him from asking any more questions, which he clearly wasn’t comfortable doing, she distractedly smiled and said, “Yeah, Dad, that sounds amazing. Congratulations!”
Then she frowned. She knew she had to tell them. “Hey, Mom? Dad? Can I talk to you about something?”
To be continued…