The Dark Faeries' Apprentice: Part Seven
Tirikil rested on her tail for a second as she wiped her brow, rays of light illuminating the crooked wood of her broom handle. She hopped to her feet again quickly; there was still tons of work to do. She needed to water the plants in the sky-garden, prepare lunch, figure out the last step to a spell, put the finishing touches on a staff, and then there was all that laundry to do!
Once she finished sweeping, Tirikil rushed to the Light Faerie Leader’s room with a plate full of fresh fruit. “Mistress?” she asked, knocking first, of course. “My apologies, but lunch may be a little late... I have fruit for you here, though.”
“Come right in,” came the Faerie’s voice. The door swung open and Tirikil placed the plate on the only part of a table that she could see. Her mistress had refused an earlier offer from the Blumaroo to clean the room, and keeping all information tucked away safely in her mind, Tirikil had never asked again.
She was about to leave when the Light Faerie said suddenly, “I have no wish to intervene, you know.”
Tirikil froze, a startled look on her face. “I- sorry, mistress?” she asked.
“Although I may be tied to the main players, the issue here has little to do with me. Perhaps I was a cause, but I think this is something that I should refrain from fixing. I cannot make troubled hearts light. What could I do, after all?”
“Wh-what indeed?” agreed Tirikil, trying to buy herself a little time as she racked her brain for anything that might hint at what the Faerie was talking about. She could only think of one event. “Mistress... is this about your old apprentice?”
“I’m sorry? Oh, I was talking to myself,” said the Faerie, clearing the crystal cube with a vague hand motion. “But yes... Alithiora. The situation is working itself out, I think. She was always very sharp, quick to question that which she thought was untrue. But I wonder how the Dark Faeries will factor into this? And what the outcome will be? I, for one, cannot tell... oh, how strange the whole thing is...”
Aware that the situation was completely over her own head, Tirikil bowed herself out of the room.
Neofaerie frowned as he entered the room. Although he usually kept away from it, he’d entered it a few times before, and never had he felt so rejected. Upon entrance it pressed against his fur, pushing his paws and face. But it quickly stopped, leaving only an unsatisfied air, as if the room had been forced to allow his entry.
“Crazy room,” was all he could manage. “I don’t know what Neoangel does in here... probably throws the whole house off balance.” He talked aloud to feel more comfortable.
“Let’s see,” he muttered, stalking over to Denriada’s makeshift bed and throwing off the covers indifferently. He was disappointed to find the mattress simply white and clean, no incriminating evidence that he could use apparent.
“She’s crafty; she wouldn’t leave it lying around,” he pointed out to himself. After staring at the mattress for a few seconds, he flipped it over with ease.
“Hah!” he barked triumphantly, locating a neat pile of large leaves. “What’s this?” As he reached to pick them up, he felt the room suppressing him again, but the Kougra ignored the feeling and looked down at the first leaf.
Small words had been burnt into it, and upon closer examination Neofaerie realized that it was a diary of sorts. Smirking, he sat down to read.
Why am I still here? I can’t understand it either. It seems rude to leave, but there must be more than that. Despite being stifled and suspected and unwelcome, why am I still here? It must be because I am scared...
It is too selfish of me to remain here, under the care and protection of those that I have hurt so much. I deserve the fate that I get. But I am afraid... too weak... I am too selfish. And so I have not changed. When will I think of others before myself?
I sometimes wonder, is this fate? The events which have unfolded since the day we met? Was it all planned? I blindly hope that it is so, for then all my actions would have a purpose. And I will have someone to blame; always, always I need someone to blame because I am too selfish and shortsighted to blame myself.
It pains me to see the faces of this family; sad, shocked, happy, all their emotions hurt me, no matter what they are. If they are sad, it is because of me. I shock them. How can they be happy when I am near? Their smiles must be false, to make me feel better; how can they think of my well being before their own, after all that I have done? What will it take for me to be as altruistic as they are?
Frowning, Neofaerie thought that the writing contradicted itself. She claimed to be selfish, but she blamed herself for everything. Of course, it was all her fault, but she seemed determined to make everyone’s problems her own.
Just now the youngest sibling in the family entered this room. She is so strange... I’ve never met anyone like her. She seems completely honest when she talks to me, so unafraid. Does she not remember who I am? I do not know how to react to her.
It hurts to see her... how could I have ever thought of damaging such an innocent, free spirit? If I ever see any sudden pessimism, even the smallest reduction of her love, I know it will be my fault. Perhaps it has already begun. How will I live with myself knowing that I have destroyed a pure heart?
She suggested that I leave the house. Go outside... fly around... how I wish to do so! I never realized before now how much I need flying. It is simply a part of life that goes unnoticed, like breathing.
But how can I leave? Am I scared? Of course I am scared! If I leave, the Dark Faeries will certainly catch me. But how am I protected here? What can Neoangel do for me? She is powerful, but in the end she is only a good student. She cannot help me defeat the Dark Faeries... and I could never ask her to do so. To destroy this family yet again would be the ultimate selfishness.
And so I am much too scared to venture outside. Yet... the roaring wind... the open seas... the trees beneath me, and then the clouds, and then everything... the idea that I can now feel such things again, and that they are right outside... yet they are not mine.
Neofaerie felt a pang in his heart, not guilt, but merely a thought: what if those things were taken away from him?
I wish that I was not here. I just wish that I could turn back the clock and change the past.
“Oooh, look! There’s so many different cakes! Yum yum, strawberry cake, chocolate mousse cake, coconut cake... which one do you think tastes the most delicious?”
“Happiness, get away from the counter,” gasped NSQ, waving her arms around and nearly smacking some poor other customer in the face. “Oh, I’m so sor- Happi! We’re only in the bakery to get cookies! Nothing else!”
“But don’t they look tasty?” asked Happiness, squishing her furry face against the windowpane. “Hmm, but we can only get one cake. I think the chocolate cake would be the best, but you don’t like such rich cakes, right Neoangel? So maybe coconut... oh, but Nesqu, you think those taste funny. I guess we’re buying the strawberry one!”
NSQ thought about this slowly. “Yeah, I guess that’s a pretty logical answer... hey, wait! I never said we could get a cake! We don’t need a cake.” She turned to Neoangel. “We don’t need a cake, right?”
“We don’t need a cake,” confirmed Neoangel patiently.
NSQ sighed at the wistful look on Happiness’s face. “Denriada, do you want a cake?” the girl asked reluctantly.
“Me?” Denriada looked up, startled at the sound of her name. “Oh... I, umm... n-no... it’s fine...”
“But I want a cake, Denri!” pouted Happiness.
“Ah?” Denriada froze. “W-well...”
Neoangel chuckled. “They’ve caught you,” she said expertly.
The Draik panicked, scared to say anything, until NSQ finally laughed.
“Oh fine, we’ll get a strawberry cake. But, Happi,” she said as she paid for the dessert and Happiness cheered, “this is the last time you’ll ever trick me into buying something!”
“It will not be the last,” Neoangel whispered to Denriada.
As the four females left the shop, NSQ checked her shopping list. “I think that’s all... ouch, Happiness, you’re too heavy after I carry you for a long time.”
“Fine, I’ll go somewhere else,” the Cybunny replied. Instead of jumping into Neoangel’s arms, however, she hopped into Denriada’s.
Caught off guard, Denriada had no time to react. At first she stiffened, nearly dropping the younger pet, but almost immediately, the warm bundle of fur didn’t feel so strange or out of place.
“Heeeyy, your skin is so smooth!” commented Happiness, prodding the Draik’s arms. “Your skin is much cooler. Perfect for hot weather.” She adopted a very fake royal voice. “Nesqu, you have been replaced!”
“Good,” said NSQ, sticking her tongue out playfully. “Maybe you should learn to walk instead!”
Denriada could only smile as they kept going back towards home, Neoangel and herself in the air, and only NSQ’s footsteps accompanying the chattering voices. She hadn’t felt so comfortable in a long time.
“Mmm,” said Happiness as they spilled into the house, “let’s eat the cookies now! I want...” She carefully inspected them all, and then picked which must have seemed like the tastiest in her eyes. “This one! Unless someone else wants this one?” When everyone shook their heads no, she ate it in delight.
“Faer, we have cookies,” called NSQ halfheartedly. She waited a few minutes, and then, not hearing movement, she plunked down on the couch, dejectedly stuffing a cookie in her mouth.
Neoangel left the room, not quite sneaking, but on the other hand not making any noise or alerting anyone to her departure. When she reached Neofaerie’s room, she flew inside and shut the door behind her quietly.
Neofaerie glanced up from a game of Pyramids, waiting for her to speak first.
Neoangel landed in front of his bed and crossed her arms across her chest. “You read Denriada’s journal,” she said calmly.
The Kougra nearly gagged. “H-how did you know!?” he demanded, aware that it was pointless to lie at this point.
“The disturbed aura from my room is enough to tell me that you entered. It cannot reject you, my own brother, completely, but your ill intentions have upset it. Also, something in the room was touched... but it was not mine. You must have discovered Denriada’s journal,” she said matter-of-factly.
“So? I did,” breathed Neofaerie, glaring at her. “What are you going to do about it?”
Neoangel shrugged. “Nothing. What would I do? More importantly... I want to know what you think of Denriada now.”
“What makes you think I’ll tell you?”
“Please don’t play games like this, Neofaerie. I know you wanted to tell me, whether I asked you or not.”
“Okay. I guess that’s me outwitted, huh?” grumbled Neofaerie. “What, you think reading an entry of some diary is going to change my mind? I still don’t think she’s to be trusted. She could have made everything up to trick us. I’ll watch her as closely as always. There’s no evidence in there to be counted, no facts. I just... I don’t know. So maybe I found out she at least regained the ability to feel.” He directed his attention back to his card game. “So maybe I’ll at least stop shouting so much.”
Neoangel paused, observing him closely. “Alright,” she said simply.
“What, no ‘Good job, Neofaerie?” the Kougra sneered. “No ‘you’re being very responsible, I’m proud of you?”
“I’d never say such a thing to you,” said Neoangel in her usual calm tones. “You are not a child; you are my equal. You and I both know that. Do not let anger cloud your mind, or you would have predicted what I came here to say. As it is, I did not put up any pretenses during our little chat.”
She left when Neofaerie didn’t answer.
“Denriada? Are you still awake?”
The Draik jumped in her chair, and then turned around immediately. “I- I’m sorry, I didn’t notice the time... I should probably go to sleep...”
“That’s okay,” said NSQ, sitting herself down opposite of Denriada at the table. “Can’t sleep? It must be all the cake. I told Happiness not to buy it.”
“Maybe,” replied Denriada quietly, gazing through the kitchen window. The night sky was littered with stars, twinkling like accomplished dreams. ’I want to be up there.’
“Did you have a good time today?” asked NSQ.
“Yes,” said Denriada, trying to bring herself away from her vague, dreamy thoughts. Maybe she did need sleep after all. “Thank you very much for all that you have done for me,” she heard herself say.
“It’s no problem. I’m...”- she swallowed anxiously- “sorry I was so rude when you first came to us. Well, because of what happened before-”
Denriada rubbed her tired eyes. “What? Oh, no, no, no, you were so welcoming! If I had known this was your house, I would never have asked-”
“But you were hurt,” interrupted NSQ insistently, “and I almost turned you away- if it hadn’t been for Neoangel... I should have believed her from the start. And I’ve always tried to teach the others to be trusting-”
“I would have understood perfectly if you had refused to let me stay-”
”People can change easily... you were obviously a completely different pet-”
“I can’t understand why you are all being so kind to me!”
NSQ opened her mouth to reply. After a few seconds of tangible empty silence, she closed it. Denriada sat back, trying to calm her heavy breathing.
They both let out a sigh. NSQ leaned back, fiddling with a cord on her sweater.
“Denriada?” she asked suddenly. “This might be a weird question for you to answer, but do you think... your personality now... is like the way you were back at the academy?”
Surprised, the Draik had to stop and think about this. “It’s hard to say,” she said finally. “As I don’t really notice the way I myself change... it’s difficult for me to answer...”
“I was just thinking about something Neoangel said,” explained NSQ. “Like when you first came here, you were in some sort of, err, middle adapting stage... I didn’t know you when you were a student, but from the way Neoangel described you-“ she looked up and smiled. “You seem to be turning more and more into the Denriada that I had pictured in my mind.”
“Is that a good thing?” asked Denriada tentatively.
“Yeah.” NSQ couldn’t help but yawn. “Sorry- I think I’ll go to bed now.” She wobbled a bit as she stood up. “You’re a sweet Draik... so brave... I hope this all works out for you.”
Feeling a rising lump in her throat and a strain on her eyes, Denriada immediately turned her head to look out the window. “Thank you,” was all she could manage in a hoarse voice.
“You have all of today to prepare. We go tonight.”
In the morning, Denriada was awakened by the sweet smell of burning toast and burning toaster.
“OH MY COLTZAN IT’S ON FIRE!” came NSQ’s screams as she whipped the burning toaster with a towel. “It is so, so on fire, there is so much fire- AHHH, the towel’s on fire! Help, help! Happiness, go wake everyone up!”
“Already up!” growled Neofaerie, bounding into the kitchen. He knocked the box of fire into the sink.
Neoangel floated in as well, and turned on the tap. “I understand that this is a ritual,” she said seriously, “but must it be done in the morning? Perhaps in the afternoon, when I feel more awake?”
“If you didn’t go hysterical, you could solve this all by yourself, NSQ,” complained Neofaerie.
“...Sorry,” squeaked the owner. She picked up what remained of the toaster and threw it into the garbage can. “Umm. Breakfast will be muffins today,” she mumbled, burying her head in the cupboard.
“Wh-what happened?” Denriada asked. She dawdled in the doorway, worried about seeing the whole family clustered in the kitchen, and what looked like the effect of a fireball burned into a countertop.
“Don’t worry, it was just Nesqu,” Happiness chirped brightly, as if this cleared up everything.
“Have breakfast,” said NSQ, smacking herself out of a daze. They all sat down at the small table, a plate of muffins in the middle.
As they each began eating, Happiness smiled cheerfully and pointed out, “Hey, Faer is eating with us!”
“I’m scared not to,” grumbled the Kougra, biting a muffin viciously. The trash can smoked sadly behind him.
NSQ swallowed and licked her fingers. “Hey, I know. Let’s go somewhere far away today! We can all go to Brightvale- go learn, be smart, eh?”
“I don’t want to,” scoffed Neofaerie.
“Okay...” Not to be discouraged, NSQ suggested, “What about Tyrannia? We can play some games, maybe catch a concert-”
“Alright...” NSQ thought for a few seconds, tongue poking out of her mouth, before continuing. “Well, how about this. First we’ll go sailing, since we don’t do that often enough. We can rent a boat- we’ll make a stop at Meridell and visit Illusen. Maybe we can even find out about that knight mentorship program for pets outside of Meridell-”
“Knight mentorship program?”
“You didn’t hear about it? They teach you all sorts of combat skills and techniques, I was told that it’s really good. And after that, we can go to Mystery Island and soak up the sun. The weather’s really nice there today! Plus you can test your new ability to blend into the sand! And hey... didn’t you want to go to Geraptiku to check out some of those ancient tombs? I was too scared to go, but maybe with everyone there, I’ll feel safer...”
Neofaerie stared at her, brows furrowed. “I know what you’re doing,” he said to buy time.
“Of course, duh,” she countered. “So? Wanna go?”
The Kougra seemed pained as he thought, but finally he muttered, “No. I’m not going.”
“Oh, okay. Well, that’s too bad. I know Garon would never have missed the opportunity to explored uncharted land,” NSQ said, casually dropping the name of one of Neofaerie’s idols.
“What did you say?”
“What? Garon? Oh yeah, and Jake... come to think of it, Ryshu and Rohane too... they’re all pretty brave, huh?”
“I...” Neofaerie took a deep breath. “NSQ, if you want me to go, just ask!”
Instantly, the girl was on her knees. “Pleeeeease come!” she cried. “Please, Faer, I’m begging you!”
“Oh, she was doing so well,” sighed Neoangel.
“Alright, alright,” groaned Neofaerie, although he was unable to keep the smirk off his face.
Happiness leaned over to Denriada and tugged on the Draik’s arm. Blinking, Denriada bent down.
“She never wins,” the Cybunny whispered.
“That was so fun!”
Happiness was the first to bounce back into the house, a lei slipping off her shoulders and strange tribal markings painted on her face.
“Wasn’t it fun?” she repeated as everyone else made their way in. “My favourite part was the petpets in Geraptiku- they’re so cute and funny! Oh, but I still love you, Furzy!” she went off to find her petpet.
“I love the beach!” announced NSQ, grinning. “And it was such great weather for sailing too! The nice locals taught me how to surf, did you see me? I was so awesome, I only fell like six times!”
“It was so nice to see Illusen again,” said Neoangel. “She is making wonderful progress on her new book, I really can’t wait to read it...”
“I liked seeing Illusen too,” said Denriada quietly. “She is very kind... and she is proof that not all Faeries were meant to stay in Faerieland forever.”
“That training program is so awesome!” Neofaerie blurted out. “I bet I can make it in too... I mean I know they’re only accepting like 50 pets at a time, but did you see the other pets that were asking for information? I could totally beat them. I think my odds of getting in are pretty high, right?”
“Alright,” NSQ said, stopping the chatter. “It’s late, we should all eat a light dinner and then go to sleep. But we had a really great day, right?”
There was a murmur of assent. After eating and brushing their teeth, the family settled in for bed.
Denriada smoothed out her covers as Neoangel finished up in the washroom. She noticed her diary still under the mattress, but she was too busy contentedly replaying the day’s events in her head to write anything.
Neoangel came up the stairs and they both tucked themselves in. The Zafara reached for the light switch.
“Neoangel?” Denriada said suddenly.
“I noticed, today... when we left Illusen and the knights and then the ice cream vendor we met at the beach, you said goodbye each time. And... I’m sorry for asking this after all this time... it may be a silly question but I need to know... how come you never said goodbye to me?”
Neoangel paused, her hand in midair. “Has that been bothering you?”
“Well...” The Draik blushed in embarrassment. “I suppose it is quite silly. In all the confusion of moving out, you must have simply forgotten.”
“No, I couldn’t forget.” Neoangel regarded her friend carefully. “I was merely too afraid to say goodbye.”
“I thought that saying goodbye would mean that I would never get to see you again. I didn’t want to be responsible for making that final, absolute... I thought that if I avoided saying it, there might still be a chance that we could stay friends. It may seem ignorant and selfish... but that is what I believed.”
Denriada blinked, surprised. “You were... scared?”
Neoangel chuckled. “You think too little of yourself, Denriada. You were my good friend. You are very important to me.”
With this thought drifting about her head, the Draik turned over. “Goodnight, Neoangel.”
“Goodnight.” Neoangel turned off the light.
”Yes, there it is. That’s the house.”
To be continued...