Maeryc and the Wish-Granter's Code
To ask if he could keep her never even crossed his mind.
“Mom, Dad, I’d like you to meet my new Petpet. This is Ceila!” As soon as Maeryc’s parents noticed the tiny white cub in his arms, Ceila set out to make herself as adorable as possible, flapping her little wings so that she hovered right in front of the Scorchios’ faces, squeaking hello in her unintelligible little Ona voice, then perching prissily on Maeryc’s shoulder, boldly declaring to the world that Maeryc was hers and she was his — what Neopia had joined together, let no man put asunder.
“Oh, look how sweet she is!” crooned Maeryc’s mother. “You said you found her? On Terror Mountain?”
“Yup,” said Maeryc, “all alone. In the snow, at night. And she was injured.” With every word, he could feel his parents’ hearts melting. “She was passed right out, so I brought her back to Uncle Kent’s house. I made her a bed out of my toy box and a pillow, and she slept and slept and slept and slept, but then she woke up! And at first her wings didn’t work, but then I came home from school one day and there she was, flying around the room!”
Maeryc’s father leaned forward to scrutinize the Petpet, who was balancing on his son’s shoulder quite expertly, a lock of the baby Scorchio’s wayward red hair grasped tightly in one paw, a convenient handle.
“It’s an Ona,” was Maeryc’s father’s verdict. “A white one.”
“Yeah, it is an Ona, Dad,” Maeryc confirmed. “They’re, uh, super common in Terror Mountain.” As soon as the words fell out, he knew Ceila would be mentally blowing raspberries at him for referring to her as something ‘super common.’
Instead, all he received was a sharp tug on his hair. “Ceila!” Maeryc would later scold her. “Did you want me to tell Dad how I really found you?”
That Ceila did not. The two had agreed on the ship from Terror Mountain that they would continue to keep Celia’s identity a secret. No one — not Maeryc’s parents, his teachers or his friends — must know that Ceila was really a Wishing Star who had fallen from the sky. Maeryc may have been only seven, but he was wise enough to know that if word got out that Ceila could still grant wishes — wilder still, that she had given Maeryc the ability to grant wishes himself — well, just imagine how things could get out of hand!
“We’ll have to be extra careful,” said Ceila as Maeryc unpacked his bags that night, settling back into life in his Mystery Island home. “Wishes can’t just be granted willy-nilly, you know. It’s very serious business. There are rules to follow.”
“I know,” said Maeryc. Ceila had given him the lecture a million times. “The person has to want the thing they’re wishing for, with all their heart. No halfhearted wishes. And you can’t wish something for someone that they don’t want themselves — like, I couldn’t wish my mom would have a change of heart about making Brussel sprouts tonight, ‘cause she really wanted to make Brussel sprouts...”
“Exactly,” assented Ceila, as Maeryc shuddered at the memory of dinner. “Most importantly, we have to remember that a star has a limited number of wishes it can grant at any one time. In Terror Mountain you granted three, and that was a few days ago. We don’t know how long it takes for your power to regenerate.”
It was all still so surreal to Maeryc. Not two weeks ago he was just a regular kid, on a six-week visit to his uncle’s house on the tip-top of Neopia. The most extraordinary thing that had happened to him up to that point was that he had gotten to see snow for the first time. Then he had caught a falling star, that star had been transformed into a Petpet in order to survive in Neopia’s atmosphere, and Maeryc had adopted that Petpet.
They hadn’t yet figured out why Maeryc could understand Ceila when she talked when nobody else could. Ceila thought it was because ‘the aura of their souls were in harmony’ or something like that, Maeryc thought it was because he had been the one to catch Ceila, Ceila thought Maeryc had been the one to catch her because the aura of their souls were in harmony... and neither one had been able to come to any reasonable conclusion.
Whatever the case, this was the way things were now. From now on, it was up to Maeryc and Ceila to use their powers wisely, responsibly, and for the benefit of Neopian-kind.
Scowling Sloth Coin! What a huge amount of pressure to put on a seven-year-old boy!
When Maeryc returned to school on Monday, he couldn’t focus for the life of him. As soon as he sat down at his desk, he was veritably swarmed by his second grade classmates, everyone eager to hear about his trip to Terror Mountain.
“Does it really snow there all the time?” asked a boy.
“Not all the time, but there is always snow on the ground.”
“Is it as cold as the ocean in winter when you swim out waaaay past the docks, and the sun is hiding behind the clouds?” asked a girl with a big imagination.
“Mystery Island’s ocean in winter is like a Terror Mountain bonfire in summer!”
“Is it true that white snow tastes like icing sugar, brown snow tastes like chocolate, and yellow snow tastes like delicious grilled cheese?” asked poor little Priscilla Fairbanks, who was always being deluded by someone.
“Who told you that?” asked Maeryc.
“My brother,” said Priscilla innocently.
“He should be grounded,” Maeryc seethed.
“He’s twenty-one. He’s too big to ground, and if he were grounded he couldn’t go to university.”
“He should go to jail then.”
There were so many children on their own life’s adventures, so many potential wishes to grant! Maeryc was just wondering if he could wish jail on Priscilla’s brother without her brother wanting to go himself, when Ms. Emery entered the room and began to hand out the day’s math exercises. Subtraction. Why was it always subtraction? If Maeryc had known grade two was going to be like this, he would have asked to stay in grade one.
“Cheesy Sloth Cakes, look what it is, Maeryc.” There was only one kid in class who hated subtraction more than Maeryc did, and that was Spike, the red Korbat who sat next to him. If Maeryc regularly got questions wrong on a math exercise, Spike struggled to get any questions right. He swore his brain just wasn’t built for math. He was a Korbat who lived in the moment! They couldn’t expect him to force his mind to think backwards like subtraction required.
“How am I supposed to subtract ninety-three from a hundred and twenty-one? I can’t even count that high!”
Maeryc was about to tell him he didn’t have to, but he wasn’t a hundred percent sure himself.
Several minutes later, Spike shot up from his chair like a rocket ship bound for a distant moon. “Twenty-eight!” was his cryptic message to ground control. Ms. Emery had just returned their graded exercises to their desks. Beside each wrong answer (and there were many), she had written the right one in red ink.
“The answer was twenty-eight! I put twenty-nine! I was one! Number! Off!” Spike pounded the desk with his fists to the rhythm of his lament, then laid his freckled face down between them, utterly resigned. “She stiw mawrked it wong!” came his muffled voice against the paper. “How could she do dat to me, Maewyc?”
Maeryc wanted to say ‘Because it was wrong,’ but he didn’t. He just patted his poor friend’s shoulder.
Spike was a very interesting kid. An adult would have called him rambunctious, but Maeryc knew better. He could sit quietly and read a book (so long as it was a book he enjoyed) all through recess, just as well as he could make a terrible ruckus on the playground, leading an army of make-believe knights.
The thing with Spike, at least as far as Maeryc’s observations went, was that he experienced all emotion very intensely. When he was angry with you, everyone knew it. Ain’t nobody could fly into a rage like that boy! If ever something made him sad, oh Fyora, the world was ending! But when he was happy the whole room seemed to light up, and you couldn’t help but feel happy too. He was just that kind of person.
Currently the red Korbat laid sprawled out across his desk, and resisting all Maeryc’s coaxing, he refused to un-sprawl himself until the bell rang for lunch.
“I don’t deserve to eat, you know! Someone subtract this sandwich from my lunchbox!” Maeryc told him he was being over-dramatic. But Spike was always being over-dramatic.
Flying Robo Sloth, Maeryc wished there was something he could do to help his friend! He wished he was better at math himself, if only so he could be Spike’s tutor. He wished Martin Stickleback wasn’t crunching his carrots so loudly in the seat behind him. And then suddenly, it dawned on Maeryc. Thirty minutes of math had stifled his brain, but the thought that had dominated all other thoughts only moments before quickly reasserted itself at this first call to action. All this is to say — he could grant wishes!
Okay, so the carrot wish would probably be invalid, as that was more Maeryc’s wish than anything, and he couldn’t grant his own wishes. Of course, Martin seemed to have no desire to chew any quieter, the way the electric Draik chomped with his mouth open looking so pleased with himself, as if he was showing off to the class that he was eating vegetables while the rest of them were munching cookies!
Anyway. Spike’s wish was definitely a more noble one. The Korbat just wanted to be good at math. He had tried everything (or so Spike theatrically claimed), but no amount of studying had helped him. If Maeryc had the ability, was it not his duty as a friend to wish Spike good at math?
All at once, Maeryc remembered something that had happened last year in first grade. Priscilla Fairbanks had come to school pleased as punch, proudly announcing to all her classmates that she was sure to get every question right on her homework assignment, because her older brother had answered them all for her. Priscilla cried when the teacher told her this was cheating. The poor little Usul had no idea!
Crunch, crunch, crunch went Martin Stickleback. Moan, crunch, moan went Spike as he sadly munched his cheese and pickle sandwich. Maeryc’s soup was getting cold.
That Maeryc was remembering the story of Priscilla’s homework now of all times could only mean one vexatious thing. His conscience was working on him. If he helped Spike improve his grades using the magic of a wishing star, would that be considered cheating? There weren’t exactly precedents for this kind of thing! Would Ms. Emery be angry if she found out? Would Spike be able to live with it if he found out?
Would Maeryc be able to live with it himself?