An Enchanting Gift
A quiet hum fell over the Lightwater Forest as its inhabitants began to settle down for the eventide. The same folk had been thoroughly enjoying the festivities that had been laid on for them within the walls of Meridell Castle by King Skarl earlier on that day but now it was time for rest. As the moon rose over the trees, its faint dappled light just about reaching the new shoots of spring below, Illusen Day was finally coming to a close. Shutters of the treehouses were being drawn as the occupants within them blew out their candles and headed off to bed. All of the occupants bar one. The Earth Faerie chose to gaze out of her window for just a little while longer.
Sighing softly to herself, the brunette eventually pulled herself away fom the view of Kreludor before pulling her own shutters closed. Pausing for a moment, she blinked. She thought that she had heard rustling. Raising an eyebrow, she heard it again. Before she could react further, Illusen was caught off guard by a discreet knocking at her door. Once. Twice. Three times. Somewhat perplexed by who it could be given the lateness of the time, the Earth Faerie crept over to her front door before cautiously opening it wide. To her continued confusion, there was no-one there. The mystery was resolved, however, when she looked down.
Beside her ribboned footwear was a large present, carefully wrapped in leaves instead of paper and thin branches from saplings in place of twine. Picking it up for a closer inspection, the brunette smiled when she caught sight of the tag. "Merry Illusen Day! x", it stated quite simply in beautiful, somewhat familiar cursive. She tried to place the handwriting but could not. No matter.
The Earth Faerie, parcel in hand, closed her front door quietly so as not to rouse her neighbours.
Picking his way through the expanse of woodland that lay in front of him, a dark blue Lupe sighed heavily to himself once he was sure that he was out of earshot of any of his countrypets. It was an unseasonably warm early spring day, with only slight respite to weary travellers who happened to be laden with bulky suits of glistening armour being the occasional cooling breezes that meandered throughout the Lightwater Forest. Sir Jeran of Borodere was restless. He had forgone his trusty Uni companion in the fear of coming across as too... well, intimidating certainly wasn't the word. Perhaps, severe? In any case, he was regretting it. The armour was arguably too much, but the Knight wasn't taking any chances.
Illusen the Earth Faerie had not been seen in the three days since the festivities in her honour at Meridell Castle. Neither by her regular Questers nor even by the friendliest of her neighbours. The pets that had been foolhardy enough to either peak through the gaps in her wooden door or shutters could see not a Faerie inside. You could usually tell when she was at home at any rate given the raucous atmosphere she tended to encourage around her. Understandably, the King was concerned and sent his most trusted Knight to investigate. Jeran was more than pleased to, if only to quell the most disparaging rumours that his Lady had merely enjoyed herself a little bit too much at the party of the year.
It was midafternoon when the dark blue Lupe arrived at the forest clearing that held such a special place in his old friend's heart. The thought that anything could have happened to the brunette in the place that she considered her safe haven away from the rest of Neopia left the warrior on edge. It wasn't just him though. An eerie silence had fallen upon the place, the only sounds being from the gentle swaying of recently bloomed flowers that hugged the treeline. The Earth Faerie's neighbours were convinced that something had happened to their dear companion - and were barricaded in their own treehouses for fear of whatever it was could happen to them too. It was almost as though the warmth had gone from the place.
Having taken a moment to survey the scene, and more importantly catch his breath, Jeran locked eyes upon the wooden ladder that led to his old friend's abode. "We meet again," he muttered wryly to himself. What followed was the perfect lesson in how not to climb a rickety, old wooden ladder in a full suit of battle-ready armour. Though if there was a right way to do so, the Knight had yet to find it. Clunking his way to the top, with his large sword swinging from side to side by his hip, he just about managed to reach the treehouse's balcony with some of his dignity intact. "If she's just napping..." he grumbled to himself somewhat indignantly before rapping his knuckles on Illusen's front door.
There was no response.
A shiver went up Jeran's spine. Regaining his composure, the dark blue Lupe placed one of his paws on the hilt of his sword before firmly leaning into the door with his opposite shoulder. With enough pressure, the impediment swung open and he made his way inside. The still air was filled with the aroma of the biscuits and cakes that the Earth Faerie had handed out to her closest friends at the celebration from days ago. But there was no sound. Nor light. The Knight opened the shutters in the living area in order to remedy this. Turning back round, he was momentarily dazzled by a glint of light reflected from an object that he did not recognise.
On the small table in front of him lay quite a sight. Next to a pile of leaves and twigs, was a snowglobe of the like he had never seen. Resting on an intricately carved wooden base that was meant to resemble the twisting of a tree's roots, the glass orb was topped off with a delicate enamel flower which helped to frame the contents within. That being what appeared to be a small doll of Illusen the Earth Faerie, accurate down to a single freckle on her rosy cheeks. Impressed by the workpetship, Jeran crouched down for a better look at the doll. Which blinked at him. Twice. Shocked, the Knight fell backwards. Did that doll really just... blink at him? That was impossible. Wasn't it? Scrambling to his feet, he took another look. And the doll blinked again. He couldn't believe it.
"Fascinating," mused the spectacled spellcaster, adjusting her red glasses just a tad in order to get a better view of the item that had been placed on her friend's cluttered workbench. Deep within the substructure of Meridell Castle, her single word echoed amongst the stonework. Usually it was the sounds of potion making, as well as the accompanying smells of all kinds, that filled the void but not that evening. Lisha was most intrigued by the object that her older brother had foisted upon her best friend, Kayla, and could not resist inputting her own thoughts on the matter. "This is far more complex than the magic that, say, Balthazar would use to imprison a Faerie. I've never seen anything like it."
"Hmm," nodded Kayla in agreement, the dark red Zafara also meditating on the conundrum at hand. The potion-brewer had been, well, brewing potions when Jeran had delicately placed the decorated glass orb in her custody, the experiments in question still being strewn across both her workbench and the rest of her general workplace. The stone room was full of shelves of books that a certain yellow Aisha had a habit of borrowing from as well as others that contained finished concoctions and random ingredients. "The strength of sorcery required to imprison some pet like Illusen... just, wow." She paused. "Is it wrong that I'm sorta impressed?" Lisha just smiled.
The dark blue Lupe cleared his throat. Loudly. The sorceresses jumped ever so slightly, having become so lost in their enchanting conversation that they had forgotten that Jeran had been stood by the entrance to the room. For some time. He could understand their bewitchment to some degree but as far as he was concerned time was of the essence. If he had learned anything over the years when it came to dealing with magic, the longer you left any kind of curse the harder it was to undo. Not to mention he had a terrible inkling that a certain Dark Faerie with a penchant for Crystal Balls had something to do with this particular specimen. He was worried, to say the least. "Can you... fix it?" the Knight asked bluntly, doing his best to hide the trepidation in his tone.
Not well enough, though. It had pricked Lisha's ears. With a kind smile, the yellow Aisha first looked at the dark red Zafara before they both nodded in unison. "Yes," the spectacled spellcaster reassured her older sibling, "I believe Kayla has the recipe for the jo-"
"When," the potion-brewer interjected awkwardly, "you get me the last ingredient..."
A full moon shone high above the lands of Meridell, its splendour there for all to see in the crisp clear night skies. The stars gently twinkled by its side as most of the Kingdom slept. In those same skies, a single Uni in the colours of the court of King Skarl silently flew towards an ominous silhouette that could just about be made out on the dark background. Sir Jeran was heading towards the Darigan Citadel, but he did not plan on paying its Lord a visit. Diving below the floating structure and landing in the shadows that were cast by its rippling clouds, the ingredient that Kayla sought was a special berry that grew large on the dark magic that emanated from the city above.
Carefully dismounting his trusted ride, the dark blue Lupe knew he was risking a diplomatic incident merely by his presence in full-armour in the middle of the night. In case he was captured by a warden, he had not informed his Master of his intentions - that way the King could not be accused of breaking any treaties and so the likelihood of a third War breaking out was reduced. Even if it did mean the risk of becoming Vex's latest Cellblock victim. Shivering at the thought, Jeran told his Uni to keep watch for any patrolpets before venturing into the darkness to locate the berries that he had came for.
His eyes having adjusted to the night-time conditions during the flight there, the Knight painstakingly worked his way through the myriad of strange vegetation that called the shadows of the Darigan Citadel its home. The berries weren't the only plants to have... changed due to the presence of the above stronghold. Creepers that would at best be the size of a finger were now as wide as a pet's arm, flowers that were ordinarily dainty and bright in colour were both the size of Turtums and iridescent. Slowly dodging and diving through the warped remnants of what were originally trees, the warrior would later swear that they were following him through the undergrowth.
After some effort, Jeran found his way to the plant in question. Laden with dark purple fruits the size of his fist, he cautiously plucked a single berry from its branches with both paws. As he slung his prize under his arm, the bush twitched. He quickly took several steps backwards. Suddenly the branches of the shrub lurched towards him, grabbing both of his calves. With a single movement and before the dark blue Lupe could draw his sword, it pulled him from his feet and tried to drag him into the surrounding undergrowth. Finally able to unsheathe his sword one-handed, the berry still in his other paw, the Knight fought back before rushing to his feet and making a dash for it.
Cumbered by his armour and with the branches of the shrub still metaphorically on his tail, the dark blue Lupe put two fingers to his mouth and whistled for his ride. In an instant his trusted Uni flew to his defence, landing a few metres in front of his oncoming Master. Clambering aboard as quickly as he could manage, Jeran was just about on when the stallion took off. The shrub wasn't finished though. In a last ditch attack, it wrapped one of the Uni's hind legs in a tight thorned branch. Lurching to a stop, the Knight was just about sick of this. With one mighty swing of his enchanted sword, he freed his companion before they flew off into the night. Safe at last.
"You only got one?" queried Kayla, somewhat underwhelmed. Although one was plenty for the potion that she was concocting in order to rescue Illusen, she had been secretly hoping to use this as an opportunity to get stocked up. Giant dark purple berries infused with dark magical energy weren't exactly something you could pick up in the local market. Jeran was equally underwhelmed. Sporting a scuff on his nose from his encounter with the sentient shrub, he correctly bit his tongue in the presence of the dolled up Illusen the Earth Faerie. Exhausted by the incursion and with the sun still yet to rise, the dark blue Lupe thought it best to collapse in the corner of the stone-clad workshop whilst the two sorceresses got down to the serious business of potion brewing.
By the time the Knight opened his eyes once more, Lisha and Kayla were satisfied with their creation. "This ought to do it," grinned the dark red Zafara to herself, as the dark blue Lupe clambered to his feet before heading over to the workbench that now had both the snowglobe containing Illusen in it and the potion that ought to fix her. Ought to. He didn't like that word. The yellow Aisha tried to reassure her brother as her companion got a little carried away. It had been a late night. "In a few moments, before our very eyes, the Lady of the Lightwater Forest will be free from her Snowglobe of Sadness!" A very late night. With all of the showpetship she imagined her idol Kauvara had, the potion-brewer tipped her latest liquid onto the glass orb.
And to everyone's astonishment... nothing happened.
If Kayla's jaw could have hit the floor, it would have. "That doesn't make any sense..." protested Lisha, who quickly grabbed the tome from the workbench the duo had been using as a reference to brew the misfiring mixture. The yellow Aisha furiously flicked through its pages, utterly confused. That ought to have worked. Ought to. Sleep deprived, Jeran buried his face in one of his paws. He couldn't believe that he had been sent on a wild Gobbler chase for nought. And far, far worse... Illusen could be trapped in that orb indefinitely. He had failed her. The King. The Kingdom. It was too much for his Lupe-tired brain to take in. In a fit of exhausted rage, he slammed his other paw onto the table. Hard.
The snowglobe containing Illusen flew up into the air!
Realising what he had done, the Knight rushed past the two now-arguing sorceresses.
But it was too late.
Jeran instantly closed his eyes. The sound of the glass shattering into a million pieces resonated in his chest. It was as though he had been kicked by a rearing Uni. Gulping ever so slightly, the dark blue Lupe slowly opened both of his eyes. As he did so, he was hit by a wave of relief. On the cobbled floor in front of him, sat a fairly dazed Illusen the Earth Faerie. Full-size, but covered in the sticky goo that she had been trapped floating in within the orb. All the three pets could do was sigh, heavily. Coming to her senses, the brunette was gingerly helped to her feet by her Knight in mud-covered armour. "I hope you are well, my Lady," he offered in a somewhat awkward tone as she stood up.
Smiling broadly, all Illusen wanted to do was wrap her arms around the dark blue Lupe and give him a big hug. Which she did, much to the amusement of the two sorceresses. Now Jeran was covered in the same sticky goo as the Earth Faerie. Managing to crack a smile though the tiredness, he didn't mind.
An ominous purple haze hung heavy over the treetops that festooned the cliffsides that lurked towards the western edges of the land of Faeries. The mist grew denser, blotting out even the bravest of sunrays that tried to penetrate the gloom, as the woodland path reached the origins of the fog. Jhudora's Bluff was in its festive finery, celebrating the day dedicated to its most malevolent master. The Dark Faerie in question had just returned from a trip she had taken earlier that morning and was about to slam open her front doors with her usual gusto. But something caught her eye.
Looking down, she noticed a present had been left by one of her many terrified admirers atop her doorstep. The package was wrapped in the finest of pale purple scaled faux-skin, with a contorted dark purple plume on the very top instead of a bow. Clearly who ever had wrapped it had some taste. Smirking to herself, Jhudora happily picked up the gift. Her smile grew larger when she read the tag.
"Have a Delightfully Dreadful Jhudora Day!"