In the Shade of the Chestnut Tree
Bryce glanced up at the head of the smoky-colored Uni that straddled the Battle Magic shop. A spiked helmet adorned its dark head, and the stone eye that was visible stared coldly at the yellow Nimmo as he passed under its shadow.
The heavy doors slid apart, and Bryce stepped into the building. Its interior was as solemn as the outside, looking like some sort of cavern hewn from the belly of the warrior Uni. The whole place seemed to be carved out of one massive chunk of obsidian. Wooden shelves covered in merchandise were lined up behind the counter, where a Grarrl was negotiating with customers.
Bryce patted the bag of Neopoints in his pocket to make sure it was still there before approaching the shopkeeper.
The Grarrl handed a sword to a Kyrii before turning to the yellow Nimmo and saying, “What can I get for you?”
Bryce frowned and scanned the items on the shelves. He actually hadn’t arrived with something in mind—it had been a fairly boring morning, and after lunch he’d decided to browse some shops to see if there was anything interesting to buy.
After a few seconds, he spotted a leafy wooden staff with a green orb; it was somewhat hidden from view by a pair of boxing gloves, but the pale glow it emitted caught the Nimmo’s eye. “What’s that?”
The Grarrl followed his gaze. “Staff of the Earth Faerie,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “Not usually in stock. Twenty-five thousand Neopoints and it’s yours.”
Bryce pulled the bag out of his pocket, thinking about how the staff would look on display in his Neogarden.
The shopkeeper moved the pair of gloves aside, pulled the weapon off the shelf, and passed it over the counter in exchange for the stack of coins his customer had produced. “Have a nice day.”
Bryce tossed the staff from one hand to the other as he ambled through the Neopian Bazaar toward Bracknell Road. The wood was rather light, and the glass orb didn’t seem to weigh it down at all. It continued to give off a greenish glow, and Bryce wondered how one was supposed to summon its spells.
As he passed through the dappled shade cast by the leafy trees that lined the road, he gripped the staff in both hands and whispered, “Attack!”
Unsurprisingly, the weapon did little more than flash a shade of bright green. The leaves on the vines that clung to the wood stiffened for a moment before the staff returned to its prior state.
The trees grew thicker, and Bryce looked at his watch. Just past one o’clock—he’d have time to pull weeds for a while and clear a space for his new acquisition. Maybe he could put it by the pond? But no, it wouldn’t stand out very well in that area. It had to be somewhere where its light could be seen better; perhaps underneath the chestnut tree?
The Nimmo had been running his fingers along the grain of the staff in thought, but his hands froze as the wood grew suddenly cold. He looked down at it in surprise. The orb was glowing white. He noticed also that the road had gone silent. The wind that rustled the leaves above him had stopped.
Bryce looked up to see the air in front of him start to shimmer. The light became distorted, as if the air was melting, and Bryce watched as a shape materialized on the road.
A faerie Koi appeared, swathed in wispy blue robes as if she had emerged from the sea and had not quite left all of the water behind. Her fin-like wings fanned out from her back, but she hovered before him without moving them. The Koi’s face was beautiful but powerful, and her blue eyes pierced the air as she stared around her.
The striking eyes fell upon Bryce, and he immediately dropped his gaze. It was then that he noticed that the faerie Neopet wore a necklace of seaweed, at the end of which was fastened an egg-shaped cerulean jewel encased in gold. An ornamental fin sprouted from the bottom, and the gem gave off a blue light similar to what Bryce had seen from his staff.
When the Koi spoke, her words were layered with urgency. “You have called upon the ancient Magic of the Earth Faeries.”
“Oh,” Bryce said, flustered. “Yeah.” He held up the staff in a weak apology. The Koi gave the impression that she was busy with matters of vital importance, and Bryce immediately felt guilty for drawing her away from them. “I was just messing around.”
“You are not the first,” came the cryptic reply. The Koi turned to look in the other direction, her clothes following her movements gracefully, like deep sea currents. “You are, however, the first to do so in Neopia Central. At least, since she has been sighted here.”
Bryce hesitated. “I’m sorry?”
“Give me your staff,” the Koi said, facing him once more.
The near-empty bag of Neopoints in his pocket cried out in silent frustration, but Bryce was compelled to step forward and offer the wooden staff to the Koi.
“The last token is nearby,” she explained—rather inadequately—as she took the weapon in her fin. “It can only be found by using Earth Faerie Magic. We’ve been monitoring the city for two days, but yours was the first spell we detected. You filled us with great worry.”
Bryce had no idea whatsoever about what was happening, so he kept silent as the Koi raised the staff into the air and closed her eyes. She uttered a few words under her breath, and the Nimmo watched as the orb began to glow green, like it had done when he’d used it earlier, only now the light was much more powerful.
The road was still eerily silent—Bryce wouldn’t have been surprised if the faerie Neopet had somehow slowed time—but after a few seconds, he heard a distant, high-pitched sound that made him wince. It was a magical siren that caused the Nimmo to brace himself for an explosion of some kind, but the sound vanished as quickly as it had come.
The Koi dropped the staff to the ground, and her eyebrows arched in worry. “No,” she breathed as Bryce watched helplessly. “It cannot be. She’s found it. She’s been here the whole time.”
“What did you—”
The gem in her necklace glowed white, and Bryce shielded his eyes as he took a step back. Once again, light dripped through the air, and before he could say another word, she was gone.
The wind began to blow once more, and Bryce bent down to pick up his Staff of the Earth Faerie.
He glanced around, but nothing had changed. It was as if the Koi had never been there.
Bryce continued to wait for an explosion or some other disaster, but all he could hear was the faint rustling of the leaves.
The Nimmo brushed the dust off of the orb and frowned. He couldn’t help but wonder if he had perhaps been a player in some sort of elaborate plot, something that would forever change the face of Neopia but would never be known by anyone except those who had partaken in it.
He felt a prickle at the base of his neck.
Maybe he was right, and maybe he wasn’t. It could have all been an illusion, some sort of tricky magic released because he hadn’t used the weapon properly.
But somehow, Bryce had a feeling that for those few short minutes—how long had it really been?—he had been involved in something of grandiose proportions. And he had helped, probably. If he hadn’t cast the spell, then the mysterious Koi would never have shown up. If she hadn’t shown up and used his staff, she wouldn’t have discovered... whatever it was that she discovered. And if she hadn’t discovered that, why—perhaps Neopia would have been destroyed!
Bryce smiled and lightly tossed the staff to his other hand.
Yes, he had probably just saved Neopia.
As he headed down Bracknell Road once more, the Nimmo examined his treasure in the patchy light. It really did look nice in the shifting patterns of shade cast by the leaves above. Under the chestnut tree would suit it perfectly. There, he could look at it any time he liked and remember the day when he had probably saved Neopia.
What exciting dreams and memories he could have! And all of them conveniently situated in the shade of the chestnut tree.