Roomies 3: Part Five
“Oh no, oh no, this is not good!” Jim muttered under his breath, pacing while the shimmering sun made its way higher into the sky. Faerieland was waking up now: Neopets appeared on the cobblestone streets, petpets happily wandered aimlessly through thick grassy lawns, and everyone was completely oblivious to the scene that had just taken place. Things were spinning out of control and he was the only one who knew. It drove the yellow Aisha insane.
“What to do, what to do!” He paced, fiddling with his shattered glasses. His mind frantically replayed the last few minutes: Jesc running up to Jan, Jhudora following... and then Mrs. Pierce appearing out of nowhere, altering Jan and Jesc’s memories, and dragging a shackled Jhudora off to the palace. It had all happened so fast and he was the only witness, but what could he do?
“Why did I ever start meddling with faeries?! They’re just trouble, every one of them!” But even as he said, he knew it wasn’t true. He owed Jesc and Jhudora for getting him out of the tight spots they’d all been in, even if it had been them who’d gotten him stuck in the first place. But that didn’t matter now; all that mattered was somehow setting everything straight.
But he had no clue what to do.
“Weeeee-wooooo!” cooed Scotchmel from his spot atop the tree, looking down intelligently at the yellow Aisha pacing.
Jim jumped and glanced upward. He’d forgotten about the white Weewoo, and his morbid fear of him didn’t help the situation at all. “N-not now, Scotchmel,” he stuttered. “I don’t have time for this. We’re stuck in a bit of predicament... scratch that, this is a huge predicament. And it’s hard enough for me to think without you scaring the fur off me every three seconds!”
“Weeeeeeeeeeeeee?” the bird inquired, alighting down to a lower branch that was level with Jim’s face. Jim cringed at the close proximity, backing up.
“Stop it, Scotchmel! Stay back! You’re just getting in the wa-”
And that was when it hit him.
“Of course!” he muttered, his eyes widening as he looked at Scotchmel in a new light, his old phobia momentarily forgotten. Phrases Jesc said earlier suddenly clicked together:
“It must have heard my whistle! That’s how I called to him back at Fyora’s palace; he must’ve remembered...”
And the newspaper article...
“She blackmailed me with a horrid letter that she sent to my dorm room...”
And later, he overheard when she was trying to convince Jan:
“That letter you got was signed by Mrs. Pierce, not Jhudora! I saw it when I was helping with the mail system at Fyora’s palace...”
The mathematical side of Jim’s mind wheeled with calculations, piecing together parts of the story that he hadn’t bothered to ask about earlier. Jesc had been at Fyora’s palace to help with the mail system when she’d seen Mrs. Pierce’s blackmail letter in one of the towers ready to be sent to the Faerie Academy, a letter signed not by Jhudora, but by Mrs. Pierce! The letter was the key to Jhudora’s freedom! If he got a hold of it, it would be the perfect piece of evidence to set her free! And Jesc wasn’t the only one who knew exactly where the letter had been heading...
Scotchmel knew too.
“Scotchmel,” Jim breathed excited, hoping that the petpet could understand him, “I – I know what we have to do... it all makes sense now! We need to get a hold of that letter you delivered to Jan last week at the Faerie Academy. Do... do you remember exactly where you sent it?”
In reply, the Weewoo gave a high-pitched chirp, shook himself off, and spread his white wings, taking off into the sky.
“Yes!” Jim exclaimed, running at breakneck speed to follow the Weewoo through the winding Faerieland streets. They were in business; there was still hope...
They just had to get there in time before Jhudora was put away for good.
“Well, this is just... spiffy.”
Jhudora leaned against the wall of her cell, a grimace plastered all over her face. Out of the frying pan and back into the fire, she thought grimly.
Once they had reached the palace, Mrs. Pierce, Jesc, and Jan barely had to make a case; after the buzz from the Neopian Times issue, it would have been foolish to not have Jhudora locked up for the time being. With nothing more than curt greetings with the Queen, the dark faerie had been easily apprehended and placed in the wondrous dungeon she currently occupied: iron bars on one side glowing with green magical symbols, a tiny window mocking her with a view of the lovely day outside, and a single cushioned bench that also served as a bed. Jhudora scowled, wishing for the millionth time she was back home in her own lair, not even caring about the thousands of Weewoos that were probably swarming the cloud at that very moment and the mounting piles of hate-mail building up in front of her neohome.
“Well, at least it’s somewhat of an improvement. It’s not as dark as the stupid oubli-whatever we were stuck in earlier, and there’s a bench at least... True, I can’t use my magic at all, but at least I finally get some peace and quiet. No smart-aleck Aisha, or annoying Weewoo, or Jesc...”
But even as she said it, Jhudora felt her spirit damper. At least when they’d been around there’d been the slight bit of hope that they would make it, that between all of them they could figure something out. But now she was back on her own. Jesc was under Mrs. Pierce’s spell along with Jan, and Jim and Scotchmel were nowhere to be found. She had to rely on herself.
She gritted her teeth. And how do I do that again?
Tap, tap, tap...
Jhudora turned her head at the faint sound and peered through the bars down the dark hallway. Footsteps... and then, from the gloom, an air faerie emerged.
Jhudora rolled her eyes at her former ally and settled down on the bench. “What do you want?” she barked.
Jesc approached hesitantly, slowly making her way towards the cell. Jhudora raised an eyebrow, surprised: this was entirely out of character. Jesc was normally loud, boisterous, excited on the verge of being annoying... but now she was nothing more than a frightened Miamouse, scared and timid. Her eyes were wide and watery, her wings drooping, and her steps were cautious. It was as if she’d lost all confidence in herself, as if all her certainty and optimism had just vanished.
Jhudora felt herself tense up. This was all Mrs. Pierce’s fault, and she knew it. What she would do to her...
“Jhudora?” Jesc’s voice interrupted softly.
Jesc fiddled with her scarf, still worn around her neck despite the fact it was ratty and coated with grime. “It’s been driving me crazy since we’ve got here. I’m just so confused. After everything we’ve been through, I-I just want to know... can you just tell me... why?”
Jhudora clenched her fists and glared at her, her eyes filled with fury. “Do I have to explain this to you too?!” she shouted, flinging her arm out for emphasis. Jesc flinched but didn’t move away. “I didn’t do anything, Jesc! In fact, all I’ve been trying to do for the past twenty-four hours is help you! And this is how I’m repaid? Getting locked up for the second time today and now being forced to go on trial?”
It was true. She had been placed in the cell, but it was only temporary. In less than an hour, a trial would begin to completely decide her fate. But Jhudora already knew what the outcome would be: after a few testimonies from Jan, Jesc, Mrs. Pierce, and few random Neopets, it would all be over. The jury would declare her guilty and she’d be staring at concrete walls for the next thousand years.
But Jesc just frowned and bit her lip. “I... I don’t get it... You kidnapped me...”
Jhudora rolled her violet eyes. “Do I have to spell it out for you, Jesc? Mrs. Pierce manipulated us. She blackmailed Jan into switching schedules with you, altered her memory so that she thought it was all my fault, captured all of us in her stupid oubli-some-really-strangely-named place, altered your memory once we escaped, and it’s all because of her own ridiculous want for glory. Got it?”
Jesc staggered back, her mind trying to grasp what Jhudora was saying. “I... I ...”
Jhudora rubbed her face wearily. “I don’t expect you to believe me,” she snapped, “but it’s the truth. The whole truth. And now I’m going to be stuck here forever for something I didn’t do.”
Jesc bit her lip and then looked up at Jhudora, her blue eyes confused, but completely unanimated and listless. “It... it was Mrs. Pierce’s idea?”
Jesc frowned. “I never thought you’d do anything like this... we’re roomies and all! But in my mind.... everything’s so fuzzy! I just don’t know anymore—”
She would have continued, but from far off came a sudden screech. “JESC?”
Jhudora flinched at the all-too-familiar voice: Mrs. Pierce.
Jesc looked up startled, her face blanching. “Mrs. Pierce didn’t want me down here,” she confessed. “She thought you’d tell me tales, feed me lies, put thoughts in my head.... But... ugh! I don’t know anymore!”
“JESC?” came the call again. Nearer. “ARE YOU DOWN THERE? FRATERNIZING WITH THE ENEMY?!”
Jesc raked her hands through her long blond hair. “I have to go; she can’t catch me down here!” she gasped, and turned away, starting to run away from the cell. But before she could completely disappear from view, she turned back to Jhudora. Her eyes were overflowing with tears, wide and wild, but it was her voice that scared Jhudora the most. It didn’t sound like the Jesc Jhudora knew. Instead, it was anguished and confused, as if coming from someone who had the entire weight of the world on her shoulders instead of an air faerie without a single care in the world. “Jhudora,” came the frantic cry, “I-I don’t know if you’re lying to me or not, but... but if you’re telling the truth, I promise to help you anyway I can. I promise with all my heart! Pinkie swear, faerie honor, cross my heart and hope to never fly again! But... but if you’re lying to me...” She trailed off, obviously too hurt to continue, and then jerked away, disappearing into the gloom.
Jhudora was alone once more.
The sudden silence pressed heavily on Jhudora’s eardrums. And to make matters worse, she could feel her heart pounding heavily in her chest, the steady thrum counting down the remaining seconds until the trial. The trial that would decide her fate.
She wasn’t ready, not in the least, but like it or not, it was coming nearer and nearer, and she could do nothing to stop it. Her fate was in someone else’s hands and she could only hope for the best.
Hope, she thought to herself bitterly. That’s what I’ve been reduced to doing. Hoping.
But as strange as the sensation was, and as contrary as it was to her character, she clung to it just like Jesc always had done. It had always seemed to work for the air faerie so maybe, just for once, it would work for Jhudora too.
The palace bedroom she’d been sent to was in all senses quite lovely: The walls were a pale pink framed with golden crown molding, arched spotless windows let in gentle streams of sunlight, a fluffy bed with pillows strewn on top like scattered pink leaves was positioned in the center, and a vanity with an ornate mirror was balanced against one wall.
Mrs. Pierce could only describe the room as sickening.
She sat at the vanity, fiddling absentmindedly with her wand as she waited and looking into the mirror occasionally, her reflection gazing back: stern eyes behind pointed glasses, brilliant auburn hair that was starting to gray pulled tightly back from her face, and a mouth that was thinly drawn. It was a look that she wore most of the time, punctuated only by even sterner glances when she managed to get angry. But she suddenly felt it peel back for a second, a half-smile appearing on her face for the first time in a few years.
In less than an hour it would all be over. The trial would begin, Jhudora would be convicted, and everything she had been working for would finally come into fruition. True, Jesc would still be a free faerie instead of locked away along with Jhudora like she rightfully deserved as well, but her demise could come in time.
“No one makes a fool of Mrs. Pierce and gets away with it,” she hissed under her breath, her eyes dark. The motto had sunk deep into the crevices of her mind, such a natural thought of vindictiveness that it would seem strange once her revenge had finally come about.
The stray thought, as if from an entirely different side of her, whispered through her head for only a split second, but it sent her body in tremors. A glass vase filled with water and gorgeous stars of paradise shattered into a thousand pieces, flung off the table and onto the floor by the emotional outburst of magic.
Why am I thinking of these things right as I’m about to win? she thought to herself, clenching her hands over her ears as if to drown out the single word. But it had already done its damage: Why was it that she was so obsessed with revenge again? True, Jhudora and Jesc had plotted the whole incident in the winter and had later made her lose her job, but before that, why? Why had she disliked Jhudora and Jesc at the Faerie Academy so much that she had been doomed to pursue them wherever they went until her revenge could be carried out? What had happened to her over the years that had made her so cold and uncaring?
She massaged her temples, trying to remember, but it was as if the finicky details of her past had been erased by time. She knew she hadn’t always been this way, that a long time ago she had been softer, sweeter, a bit more caring... A favorite teacher even! But something had changed along the way and she just couldn’t put her finger on what exactly. All she could remember was that seeing Jhudora and Jesc made her think the exact same thing: I must put them in their place!
Vermillion sighed as a vague realization crept in: No matter what had made her what she was now, it was definitely too late to turn back the wheels of time and revert to her old self. There was just no way. Her heart had been corroding away for much too long to allow her to suddenly become the faerie she had been, as tempting as leading such a worry-free life again would be...
“Get a hold of yourself,” she whispered, clenching the sides of the vanity and sealing her eyes shut. “You’re about to win, Vermillion, and then this long and horrendous nightmare will finally be all over!” She visualized Jhudora and Jesc, two faces taunting her in both nightmares and real life, and felt her heart harden. There were no questions now, no stray thoughts of “what if” or “why.” One resolute thought occupied her mind as solid as a brick wall: Today... Today is the day I’ll finally get my revenge.
“Ummm.... Excuse me, Mrs. Vermillion Pierce?”
The fire faerie opened her eyes and looked over at the door with an annoyed glance. Standing there cautiously was one of the palace servants: a simple blue Acara dressed in a pale pink dress with a white hat and apron and carrying some folded bedding in her arms.
“Yes?” Mrs. Pierce snapped. She wasn’t in the mood to deal with annoying Neopets.
“Ummm....” The Acara looked a tad bit on the frightened side, but it was a look that Mrs. Piece was quite accustomed to. “Th-the Queen told me to get you; apparently it’s about time for the trial to start...”
“It’s about time.” Mrs. Piece immediately stood up from the vanity and made her way out of the room, pushing past the maid as she went along. “Oh, and clean up that broken vase,” she added. “It fell over.”
“Yes, of course. Right away, ma’am.” The Acara nodded, rushing into the room to begin picking up the broken glass pieces and gather the strewn flowers.
Mrs. Pierce just rolled her eyes and started to make her way down the hall. The time had finally come when Jhudora would be put in her place.
And if there was one thing she knew, after all this time, revenge was sure to be sweet.
To be continued...