Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 122,607,461 Issue: 247 | 7th day of Swimming, Y8
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A Balthazar-Faerie Tale


by dark_goddess_rising

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A glass jar is the most irritating prison. You can see everything going on around you. If your ears are good, you can hear everything. Even worse, you know the creatures around you can hear your pleas for help. They don't care enough to take the cork out and set you free.

     This fate is the one Balthazar imposes on his faerie victims. While his favorite targets are the dark faeries, any of the winged ladies are fair for his revenge. Harms done to an abandoned child can never be undone, no matter how many times the offenders offer up their friendship. Once scarred, a heart is hard to heal.

     **** ****

     The fire faerie knew she shouldn't have been in the forested area of Neopia Central. She had been warned again and again-it was the Bounty Hunter's favorite playground. But her natural instinct to protect the baby Lupe venturing deeper into the forest was overwhelming. She could feel eyes following her, but the innocence of the Lupe drove her foreword.

     The farther she went from the main shops of Neopia Central, the denser the woods grew. At length she was forced to shrink herself to continue in pursuit of the child.

     It was what the rogue was waiting for. He brought the jar down over her head and screwed the cap on beneath her feet. The fire faerie knew her captor's name and face before he raised the jar in front of his eyes to admire his prize. Balthazar had another faerie to add to his collection. As soon as he met his friend in town, that faerie would earn the bounty hunter enough gold coins to buy an excellent dinner.

     The fire faerie pounded against the glass with all the strength she could muster, but in vain. The jar remained intact and Balthazar's laughing grin was unbearable. She tried magic. The flames a fire faerie could produce were the hottest in Neopia. Fuhnah put all her hope in her power. The inferno blocked Balthazar's view for a moment and the temperature in the jar soared.

     It wasn't enough to melt the glass. It wasn't even enough to weaken the clear walls of the prison. When the fire died, Balthazar's laughter filled the void.

     The fire faerie leaned against the glass and let herself slide down it. The metal of the lid was warm against her skin, just beginning to cool off from the fire. She wrapped her arms around her knees, bowed her head, and started crying.

     "Stop that, would you?" Balthazar barked through the prison walls. "Someone will let you out, you know. That's why they buy my wares to begin with. I put you in a jar and get paid to let someone free you. It really isn't that horrible," he tried to explain. Even if his logic had been sound, it is rather difficult to reason with a captured faerie.

     The insult halted Fuhnah's her tears, replacing them with rage. "Wares!" she screamed. "Is that what you think we are? Objects to be bought and sold? We are living creatures. Living, breathing creatures and you dare to treat us like wares?"

     "But, I'm doing you a favor," he argued. "All you faeries want to do is fly around blessing pets with abilities and making them stronger. This way, you have a reason to do it. I am simply giving you the opportunity to do what you would do anyway without having to choose a random target. If it just so happens to put food in the bellies of those involved in the buying and selling, so what? An added bonus." Balthazar never explained his logic to any faerie before. But, then again, no faerie ever bothered talking to him.

     "Opportunity? Is that what you call it? The gifts of faeries are not commodities to be bought and sold! They are gifts to be granted in return for favors Neopians do willingly and with no higher motive than giving aid to those who need it. You are corrupting our system with your market, buying us and selling us in bottles for anyone to open!" The glass jar muffled the faerie's words, but she was yelling loud enough for Balthazar to hear her. When she realized she was screaming, she calmed herself down. Maybe she could talk her way out of this. Maybe she could show the bounty hunter the error of his ways.

     "Why is being put in a bottle for a few days so terrible, little faerie? Explain to me why your kind hate it so, even when they get to bless an Neopet." Balthazar slung his bag of jars over his shoulder and started walking back through the woods toward Neopia Central. It was getting late; time to call it quits for the night. "It's a long walk. Tell your tale."

     The rattle of empty jars in the bag was just audible through the glass of Fuhnah's prison. But, she caught snippets of something else. There were feeble voices coming from the bag. The fire faerie wasn't Balthazar's first catch of the day. Most of those jars were empty, but some were housing faeries.

     "We do like to bless pets, yes. It is one of our jobs, so to speak. But, we prefer to bless pets we see doing good and kind things, selflessly donating time, money, and items to those less fortunate than themselves. Those pets are the ones that deserve our gifts.

     "You bottle us up and put us on the market so anyone can gain the benefits of faerie inspired abilities and stats. You sell us so anyone who can fork over a few thousand Neopoints can earn our favor by taking the lid off a heat-proof jar. The pets that use your way are the ones that we would be least likely to bless. The greedy. The foul-tempered.

     "But, because of you, we are compelled to bless even the lowest Neopian out of sheer gratitude. How would you like to have to bestow a gift on a creature you find deplorable? That is the problem we have with being bought and sold, Balthazar. We don't like being forced into things in such a manner. No faerie wants to bless a pet that would buy the privilege of letting her out simply for the prospect of getting something in return." When her speech concluded, the Lupe stopped and regarded his captive.

     "You, who will live as long as Neopia, have such trouble being trapped for a few days? Not all the pets that buy faeries are as bad as you make them out to be, you know." Balthazar felt something stirring in him that he never felt before.

     The light faerie refused to believe him, but she wanted her freedom. She kept her mouth shut. Balthazar continued picking his way through the forest in silence. Fuhnah watched him the whole time, studying the face of her captor. She found something there that she never thought to look for. There was sorrow in the bounty hunter's eyes. It was the kind of sorrow that had been there for a long time, the kind that would probably be there forever. A scar on his character that would never heal.

     "I told my story, Balthazar." The fire faerie broke the silence, wondering where her demand would lead her. "Now I want to hear yours. Why do you hunt faeries?"

     "It's a long story," the Lupe protested.

     "It's a long walk," the faerie answered.

     From inside the jar, Fuhnah could have sworn that Balthazar took a breath and braced for the tale.

     "When I was a cub, my family abandoned me in the Haunted Woods. They were afraid I was a Werelupe. You see, both my brother and I were blue, but I was such a darker shade. They didn't want to have anything to do with me. They were wrong, but it doesn't matter now.

     "I was left on my own in the Woods. Left to fend for myself. I asked some faeries for help, but all they did was throw things. Sticks and stones, mostly. Some glass mixed in.

     "I survived in the Haunted Woods for years and when I finally found my way back to Neopia Central, I took my revenge. On all faeries," Balthazar finished with a grin.

     That's so sad, the fire faerie thought. I bet it was dark faeries. "Why punish us all if only a few hurt you, though?"

     "I learned to hate all faeries. For me, there is no difference in your colors. But you. You aren't all that bad."

     The trees cleared and the shops of Neopia Central came into view. The fire faerie knew this was the critical moment, the one moment she had to convince Balthazar to free her.

     There was a Kau waiting for Balthazar the Bounty Hunter's arrival. A bag with clinking Neopoints and a blue cape were both tied around her neck. The fire faerie thought she recognized the Kau, but they were still too far off for her to be sure that it was really the magic shop shopkeeper.

     "You know," Balthazar started, "I'm not really that bad. I sell you for only what I need to live on and I donate a ton of you to the Money Tree so poor pets can get stronger or sell you for Neopoints the need for food and medicine. It's not that bad, is it?"

     "No, not at all. I never thought you captured and sold us out of anything but spite. I was wrong," the faerie confessed.

     "I should set you free," Balthazar mused. "You've entertained me so on the walk back."

     Yes, please set me free, the faerie thought. It would be so kind of you. It would be the right thing to do.

     "But," he continued, "I need the profit. See, my quota this month hasn't been what it usually is. I'm short on food, not to mention that Kauvara is getting upset. I hope you can understand enough to forgive me."

     Balthazar traded his haul for the bag of Neopoints around Kauvara's neck, handing over Fuhnah last. Most of Balthazar's jars were empty, as was the money bag he got in return for them.

     The fire faerie watched his face fall in dismay through the glass of her prison and she forgave him. She even swore to herself that she wouldn't warn the other faerie's against following a baby Lupe into the forest around Neopia Central if she ever got out of the jar.

The End

 
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