Isolde and the Faerie Statue:Part Four
She told them everything. About the dreams, the statue by the house; the feeling that she couldn’t move her body when she awoke from her nightmares; about the fire, the huge pillars of fire; and the strange pink fog all over Faerieland in her dreams.
“Isolde, how long has this been happening?” Siegfried asked. His ears drooped and he sighed. His daughter had been suffering under his eyes, virtually without him noticing; he had clearly lost all his enthusiasm about the business deal. Already, his daughter was having difficulties and he had been too busy to notice.
“For maybe a week? Two weeks?”
“And you never told us?” Siegfried frowned.
“Well, I thought it’d only be a one-time thing,” Isolde mumbled. “Then it happened again… and you were so happy about the business deal that I didn’t want to ruin it for you.”
“Isolde, you’d never ruin anything for us, you know that, right? We care most about making sure you’re safe. So do you know what might be causing this?”
“Mm. I’m not sure, actually. I think it could be the Dark Faerie statue, though, possibly. We should investigate a little more into it, I think.”
“Huh. No, that makes sense,” Siegfried said. “I’ll see what I can find, okay?”
“Mm-hm. Do you mind if I leave now?” Isolde asked.
Gertrude and Siegfried made a good team. She was more into the smaller details, while he tended to focus more on the bigger picture. He’d often tease her about this by bringing up the art course they took together years ago. She often spent hours tracing the contour of a vase, whereas he’d already finished his assignment by the time she’d finished painting a couple shapes. But he never did as well as she did, of course. She liked numbers; there was something very satisfying about running equations—adding, subtracting, multiplying numbers—and knowing she was right and seeing her work come to life before her. If, after buying fifty pounds of maractite, they were supposed to have three hundred and forty-four thousand Neopoints available, the first thing she’d do after the shipment came in would be to check the safe and count: three hundred and forty-four thousand exactly.
Seeing things work out just as planned made her really happy. She loved her work, and she loved working with Siegfried. He was more comfortable with the more abstract, conceptual part of the business; numbers weren’t really his forte. He’d devise the new business concepts, negotiate deals, and figure out goals for the business. He did lack tact, though, so Gertrude, who was more sensitive to decorum, often came with him to negotiations or briefed him on major regional customs before meetings (this became mandatory after a major gaffe where Siegfried almost compromised a business deal: he bowed with his arms crossed, fingertips to his shoulders, an incredibly offensive gesture in the Sakhmet, as it imitated the final resting pose of the old kings). Business was booming; profits were up seventy-four percent since last month. They made a good team.
The business started out years ago as a humble project that began in Gertrude and Siegfried’s living room in a humble Tyrannian hut. Isolde was very young and often cried a lot, as Baby Aishas are wont to do. One day, when Isolde was crying for an unusually long time and (at least it seemed to both Siegfried and Gertrude) very loudly, Gertrude unpacked a bag, took out a small Aisha plushie and placed it next to Isolde. The baby looked at the Shadow Aisha Plushie, sniffled, cooed, and began to play with the toy, bumping her nose up against it and squeezing it with her paws. The only toy Isolde had at that point was a very old Tyrannian Bone Siegfried had found from a food market; it had hardened to the point where it was completely inedible, and the child exclusively used it as a plaything.
Siegfried smiled at Gertrude. “I didn’t know you still kept those. After all these years.”
Gertrude sighed, content that she’d quelled Isolde’s screaming, and smiled, too. “The plushies? Of course I did. They’re my most prized possessions. They’ve been there for me when no one else was, back when I was younger.”
Then Siegfried noticed Isolde playing with the bone. Suddenly, inspiration struck. “You know, I was thinking: we never figured out a business pitch, did we? Here’s something: plushies are always in big demand, right? But there are so many markets that it’s hard for us to really find a proper niche.”
Gertrude nodded. “Well, yeah, but I’m not sure if I see where you’re going with this,” she said.
“Here’s an idea: tourists usually buy souvenirs here, right? Whether it’s like a Dung Chair or some Tyrannian delicacy, like Gargaraptor Arm, they usually want some kind of reminder of Tyrannia, to experience its tastes and smells, for better or for worse.”
Thus Tyrannian, Inc., later to be known as The Traveling Plushie Company, started. The small business slowly began picking up steam with tourists who visited Tyrannia; months later, news slowly began to trickle to other Neopian lands about this small, obscure little company in Tyrannia that made beautifully crafted toys for children. The plushies had these unusually precise details that gave them a certain authenticity that seasoned plushie collectors could appreciate. Eventually, a reporter from the Neopian Times interviewed Siegfried and Gertrude about the plushies, and an article was later published about the company. This attracted clients in droves who wanted custom-made Tyrannian plushies that were garbed in real Tyrannian cloth, for instance, or who wanted Tyrannian Acara Plushies that carried the distinctive smell that Tyrannian dung usually has.
Their clientele grew more varied, of course. Customers came from all over Neopia. First from Neopia Central, of course, then from farther out: the Haunted Woods, then the Lost Desert, and, within a year, they began receiving requests from all over Neopia. Business began getting hectic and it quickly became apparent that their hut in Tyrannia, in spite of all of its perks and comforts, was no place to continue business. They needed an office, of course, as well as storage; such necessities for business were hard to come by in Tyrannia, so they made the decision to move to Terror Mountain. Then the two realized they needed more members, so they recruited more employees to work at the new office. Then they hired supervisors, so the two could work from home most of the time, since it was easier for them to take care of Isolde this way.
Eventually, they realized that it was more than a little troublesome (and expensive) for them to travel through the Ice Caves to get to Tyrannia for the materials they needed to craft the plushies. So, they realized: why not expand their catalogue? They followed a similar principle to the one they followed for Tyrannian plushies; in other words, they wanted to make plushies that gave the customers a better feel for the land the plushies were from. Plushies of Maraquan pets had miniature maractite weapons, for instance, and shells and leis were put onto Mystery Island-themed plushies. Of course, since the pair was obsessed with authenticity, they often had to travel every few months to get a feel for how they would decorate their plushies. Sales exploded. Tourists from all over Neopia ordered plushies from the business, which had now changed its name to The Traveling Plushie Company, and Gertrude and Siegfried constantly spent their time working out logistics for business, crunching numbers, and manufacturing plushies. And they were good at it. It required a lot of moves and they had a complex trajectory; the family traveled from Tyrannia to Terror Mountain, then to Shenkuu, then to Maraqua, then to Kreludor, then to the Haunted Woods, then to Kreludor again, and now to Neopia Central. But they made a good team, and never had to wonder about their next step.
When it came to Isolde, though, they were never really sure what to do. As she grew up, she often seemed sad. She didn’t laugh very much and it was difficult to get her to talk. Sometimes, when work was slow, they would talk about her and things that they could do to make her happy. “She’s just different than I thought she’d be,” Siegfried said to Gertrude one morning, a few months prior to their move from Kreludor to Neopia Central. “And that’s not a bad thing at all—goodness, no, she’s wonderful, she’s funny, she’s smart, she’s observant—but she doesn’t take things like this very well. And I feel horrible that I’m talking about her like this, but we’ve moved a lot, and I thought she would have gotten used to it by now. So I don’t know how I’m going to break this to her,” he sighed.
“Well, imagine,” Gertrude said, deftly draping a tiny lei over an Island Xweetok Plushie. “You’re young. You’re moving year after year to different places. You don’t stay anywhere long enough or have enough time to develop strong friendships with people. You don’t feel like you have an anchor anywhere. It’s not easy, right?” She shifted her attention to a Maraquan Gelert Plushie and started sewing a miniature maractite sword onto its paw. “She’s not like you were, true. She doesn’t gallivant across Neopia like you did when you were young and she doesn’t seem to really want to. But can you blame her?” She sighed. “I mean, come on. Kreludor’s the first place we’ve stayed for more than a year. She’s finally starting to smile a little. I heard her tell me about her little friend—what’s his name?—Andvuk, the Grundo, Lucia’s son… anyways, it was something silly, like the time he’d learned not to look into his Uni friend’s mouth, but she was laughing! Do you remember the last time you heard her laugh?”
“No. You’re right. It’s been a while,” Siegfried sighed. “Which is why it’s going to be hard breaking the news that we’re going to be moving again. I really hate moving, but it’s a lot better for business, right? Kreludor’s getting more expensive by the day, its natural supplies aren’t in vogue right now, and Neopia Central’s just such an amazing hub for trade. It’s also a lot easier reaching most places from there, considering it’s on the mainland. We’ve found a really nice place, too, that’s cheaper than this place and it’s in a good location, too. What could go wrong?”
Gertrude smiled weakly. “It is better. And I’m sure she’ll understand—in time. But we do need to think about her, too. So, we really shouldn’t move again unless it’s absolutely necessary. And maybe she’ll like it there too.”
Predictably, when they told her about the move some months ago, Isolde didn’t take it well. She didn’t leave her room in Kreludor for three days except to eat and go to class. Siegfried was busy working on finalizing the details for the move to Neopia Central, such as finding out how the family would transport everything in the house to the new land, but he was definitely concerned about Isolde. She was always quiet, sure, but she wouldn’t laugh at the jokes he made and seemed disengaged during dinner, even when he cooked her favourite dish, Sentient Stew.
Of course, he sensed that something was wrong. Though a bit oblivious at times and not the best at reading or consoling people, he had a sense of empathy, though it manifested in strange ways. But he knew that something was wrong. Gertrude knew, too, though, and she realized Isolde was upset.
“Isolde?” She knocked at the door.
“Do you think we can talk?” she asked, still behind the door.
She could hear the sound of footsteps, then Isolde’s door slowly opening. “Yeah?” the Shadow Aisha asked as her mother waltzed into the room. The Fire Xweetok sat down on the Chokato Bean Bag (“Hey!” Isolde interjected. “Please don’t burn that!”) and motioned to her daughter to come over to her.
“Do you know what I like to do when I get sad?” Gertrude whispered with a soft smile. “When I was a lot younger, I used to take my little Xweetok plushie and dream up a story of a Xweetok just like me who was doing all the things I wanted to do and traveling to all the places I wanted to go, but couldn’t, for whatever reason. And that made me feel a bit better. Do you think you can find something like that? Maybe think of a little Aisha that stays on Kreludor and builds great friendships with people from school or from her clubs. The important thing is that you find something that makes things a little bit less painful, right?”
Isolde frowned, nodded, and plodded off to the other side of her room to pack her things for the trip.
They did care about her, though they weren’t sure how to make her happy. So, when Isolde confessed that she’d been having nightmares throughout the month, Gertrude was concerned. Moving was hard enough on its own; she didn’t need to have anything else plaguing her, too. The nightmares also just didn’t seem… normal, Gertrude thought. She spent the entire night racking her brain about the whole situation, trying to recall something from her past that could help. Suddenly, she remembered that an old classmate of hers, a Woodland Wocky named Tiberius, did do some dream interpretation. Would he know something about this? She decided to write him a letter.
I hope this message finds you well! I wish I could write you under more auspicious circumstances, but unfortunately we have a problem here. A pretty big one, actually: I have a daughter, Isolde, who’s suffering from horrible nightmares. She’s having dreams of fire, meteors, creepy statues, and fog surrounding Faerieland. I know you used to interpret dreams for a while. Maybe Isolde could sit with you for a bit, tell you about her dreams, and you could give her your impression on them? Alternatively, if you have any books that could help us figure out what’s going on, we could greatly appreciate it. We’d only borrow them, and we could pay for the cost of delivery. Thank you so much!
She licked the adhesive on the envelope, attached a Psellia Stamp to it, and sent it off. She handed the letter to her Petpet, a White Weewoo named Alphus, who picked it up and flew off into the sunset.
Well, that was one thing. But what about everything else? With business, they’d received a new order of five thousand plushies, which would take weeks to get together, and she and Siegfried still needed to stay on top of the nightmares Isolde had been having, not to mention her coursework… they knew Isolde was bright, so they weren’t particularly worried about her, but she knew adjustments could be difficult. Some adjustments were more difficult than others, too, so they needed to be circumspect and check in on her regularly.
A week passed. Business began to pick up; Gertrude and Siegfried spent more and more time at the factory in Neopia Central with a group of other workers. Gertrude woke up one morning, though, and found a letter in her mailbox. A stamp of The Sleeper constellation graced the top-right corner of the envelope. “It must be from Tiberius!” she exclaimed. Gertrude opened the letter immediately upon re-entering her home.
What a surprise! It’s good to hear from you. I hope business is going well. The dreams you’ve been describing do seem troubling. I tried to parse them myself first, but I personally didn’t have any idea what they could mean. I skimmed through the books in my study and found nothing, but I found a small book in the Altadorian Archives that piqued my interest and seemed relevant to Isolde’s nightmares. You may find it useful. I’ve sent it in a package; it should come shortly after you receive this letter. Do remember to return it to the Archives once finished; the archivist explicitly told me the book was for short-term loan only. Take care! If you’re ever in Altador, please let me know.
So, to find out what was happening, all there was left was to wait.
To be continued…