The Hidden Tower
Lea sat down in the grass by the cobbled path. She had spent the better part of the day trekking through the crater, but it was worth it as soon as she heard the telltale splashing of the Rainbow Fountain. Her ears pricked and she had followed the noise to enter the world of Faeries, sprawling out through the lush greenery. Her tail flicked anxiously. She had been to Faerieland before, but that was only to spin the Wheel back when she was a child. She remembered hiding behind her brother’s legs when the kind faerie asked if she wanted to spin the wheel herself. She had stood out so much more back in the old Faerieland - dark green camouflage coat standing out against the pale fluffy clouds like a rainstorm - but in this new, grounded world she fit right in.
As she sat and caught her breath, she rummaged through her bag and got out the letter that brought her here. Blue had given it to her, after she marvelled at his Maractite scales. They had been in his room, and he had gone to his desk and pushed aside a stack of books to reach deep into a cubbyhole and withdraw the crumpled envelope. He’d passed it to her with reverence, telling her the instructions inside were how he got such unique colouring. “And not just my scales, but so much more. Toys, books, puzzles, so many unique things. You asked me where I got my grimoire… Now you know. if you want one of your own, you have to go here.”
In reading it, the only thing offered was directions to an unnamed section of Faerie city, to a shop located in a secret tower. She hadn’t wanted to go without him, but Blue told her that the first trip needed to be taken alone. With her bags reluctantly packed, she had left for Faerieland.
And now, here she was. It was so different from her memories of the clouded city, but even with the heroics of Hanso and the others, Faerieland would never be the same again. She checked the instructions in the letter once more, and set off towards Faerie City. The memories of the grand and sprawling land of clouds squeezed her heart, but there was a certain charm to be had in the new Faerieland too. With years of rebuilding already completed, the forest was alive with neopets and faeries alike passing through, all with the backdrop of singing birds and forest animals in their natural habitat and the sparkling water passing through Healing Springs and the Rainbow Fountain. As she walked through the streets of cobblestone and packed dirt, everywhere she looked there was something amazing to see. Faerie petpets flying through the air chasing one another, shops displaying the latest fashions and foods, trellises crawling with vines blooming in large ruffled flowers of all colours.
Finally, she found her way to the castle from the letter, skirting around it into the darker lit alleys. She looked back over her shoulder, unable to suppress the feeling like she shouldn’t be there. Perhaps it was only for the bravest Neopians… She wouldn’t count herself as one of those. But she was already here. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to steel herself. Just as she was about to open them again, a low melodic voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Looking for something, dear wocky?”
Lea squealed and stumbled, falling back against the stone alley walls, as she found herself face to face with the Queen of Faeries in the flesh. The Queen’s shoulders shook with a soft chuckle, and she graced Lea with a warm smile.
“You seem to be in search of something. Knowing this area quite well myself, perhaps I can assist. Are you on a quest?”
Lea found her tongue numb in her mouth, her eyes wide.
“Yes- I mean, no! I mean. Not a faerie quest, no. But I was looking for something, yes.”
“Hmm. Maybe this will help us?” One of Fyora’s slender hands plucked the letter from Lea’s paws and she yelped.
“Wait! I’m not, uh, that is.. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong, I swear!”
Fyora glanced over the flowing cursive, and chuckled again, stroking her long fingers through Lea’s fur to soothe her.
“Good, because you aren’t. This letter was written by myself, in fact. Though, I don’t think I gave it to you.” She raised a brow teasingly. When Lea spluttered, attempting to explain, she just laughed and waved her words away. “Worry not, little friend. This is the purpose of such letters. They are meant to be given to those who are worthy. And with your courage to come here all alone, I’d say you are more than deserving.” Lea’s face grew hot under her fur, but Fyora continued. “Come. I run this shop, I’ll show you the rest of the way and you can rest your paws. I can tell you’ve been travelling for a while.”
Fyora took her deeper into the shadows of the Faerie City castles, and Lea followed close behind. She shivered at the brush of Fyora’s shimmering wings against her fur. She knew the Queen offered quests to so many Neopians, and even more when Faerieland had been in peril, but Lea had never been one fortunate to be graced by her presence. Lea had never met any faerie of note, really. She had only visited Faerieland a couple times as a child, and even then was too shy to talk to anyone but her family. The beauty of Faerieland was hitting her in full force, and the majesty of Queen Fyora on pure chance on her first visit after all these years was almost too much to take in.
When Fyora stopped, Lea peered around her and didn’t see anything. As she opened her mouth to ask, Fyora moved her hand in the empty air and then pulled forward and Lea gasped. Fyora stepped forward, moving through the entrance of the invisible door she had opened, and turned back with a smile and a flourish.
“Welcome to the Hidden Tower, dear wocky. Browse to your heart’s content.”
Lea entered slowly, looking around in awe. Plushies made with satin and real shed faerie wings, battledome gear that would make even the hardest warrior tremble to face down against, and tucked in one of the smaller sections of the shop: paintbrushes and books. The Maractite paint brush Blue had used, as well as the Grimoire he read - just seeing the price of it made Lea’s mind boggle. She had no idea how Blue had ever afforded it. But then again, there was a lot she didn’t know about him.
Her paw brushed over the of the Grimoire of the First Order - not the one Blue had read, but the beginning of the trilogy, it seemed. She wasn’t especially well-read, but she had a passion for books.
“The Grimoires? Yes, they get bought every so often. I only allow one item per customer a day, but even then, they aren’t as well-loved as some of my other goods.” Lea looked up to find Fyora watching her with an indulgent smile. “Would you like to purchase one?”
“I-I’d like to, but…” She went quiet. How embarrassing was it to explain you walked all the way here to go to the Queen’s secret shop, but you don’t even have enough for one of the cheapest items? For a moment she wished she had never come.
“Well… It’s been a long time since I saw a fresh face around here.” Fyora came over to her, and pulled the book from the shelf, putting it into Lea’s paws. “This one is on the house.”
Lea was speechless. So much kindness, and they had only just met. Surely this shop's proceeds went to the efforts to rebuild Faerieland. She couldn’t ask for a freebie from the Queen just because she’s broke. She’s the Lady of the Western Skies, not the Soup Faerie. Lea went to protest but Fyora silenced her with one perfectly arched brow.
“Don’t expect this kind of generosity again. It is not often I give such gifts to Neopets - be honoured.”
Lea nodded in a daze, and after a little more poking around the shop, left with a shy goodbye. Once she was assuredly alone again, she took the book from her bag and ran her paw over the golden emblem. She would wait to read it once she got home, back to Blue, and could tell him how her trip went and show him the book. A part of her never wanted to read it, to keep it high on a bookshelf for display only, as the gift that was personally given to her by Queen Fyora. That would disrespect the intent of the gift though. She would read it, and cherish every word. It was so random, so lucky, to get to meet Fyora herself. She would remember this day for a long time.