The Xweetok of Faerieland Academy
“Faerieland, full ahead!”
No sooner was the announcement made than a teenaged speckled Xweetok dashed up to the flying ship’s prow, forcing a number of crew members to jump out of her way. Grasping the handrails at the front of the ship, she gazed out over the clouds for a moment before calling back, “Sensei Hikoru, you have to see this!”
An ageing yellow Ogrin came up behind the Xweetok and placed a hand on her shoulder as he watched the rapidly approaching mass of light pink cloud and bright purple towers. “Yes, Xandra, it is magnificent,” he replied after a moment, smiling softly.
Xandra looked up at the Ogrin and grinned. “Can you believe it? The faeries have chosen me to study at their academy! I’m going to perfect my magic with the most powerful beings in Neopia!”
Faerieland Academy was famed as the most advanced school of magic in the world. Designed for faeries, its coursework was far too rigorous for any but the most gifted of Neopet sorcerers to handle. Queen Fyora herself headed the school, and to be invited to study there was a great honour.
When Xandra had received an invitation to the Academy, she had been shocked. The Xweetok was very well known for her talent with magic in her homeland of Shenkuu, but few people from the outside even knew that the place existed. She figured that some merchants must have told one of their Faerieland customers about her – that, or the faeries knew even more about the world than she had imagined.
Whatever the reason, the faeries had learned of Xandra’s talent and deemed her skilled enough to study at Faerieland Academy. She had immediately accepted the invitation and started preparing for the journey to Faerie City. She’d even left her Shenkuvian clothing behind in favour of a flowing purple robe that she felt would suit an Academy student. She had then set out with Hikoru, an old mentor of hers who had accepted the duty of watching over the young Xweetok during her studies, on the merchant ship that now headed for the city.
Xandra’s grip on the ship’s rail tightened, her heart pounding in anticipation as Faerieland loomed ever closer. Hikoru seemed to sense her growing excitement, because he gave her shoulder a light squeeze and spoke up again.
“You will learn to do great things at the Academy, Xandra,” the Ogrin said. “However, you would be wise to remember not to let your ambitions cloud your judgement. The power and skill to master the world is a wonderful thing, but it is also dangerous.”
Xandra chuckled. “Don’t worry about me, Sensei,” she reassured him. “The faeries are the most benevolent people in Neopia... other than the dark faeries, at least. I’ll be learning how to use my magic to make the world a better place! How could this possibly be dangerous?”
* * * * *
Xandra took a deep breath as she stepped out into the fresh air. She had been at the Academy for a week now, and was admittedly looking forward to a couple of days outside the classroom. She looked around to see young faeries of every type flitting about, each of them as eager for the weekend as she.
Sayelle, one of Xandra’s new classmates, alighted next to her. “So, how do you like the school?” the air faerie asked with a light smile.
“It’s wonderful!” the Xweetok replied enthusiastically. She turned to Sayelle. “So, what do we do now?”
Sayelle’s smile widened. “We go home, of course!” The faerie chuckled. “What did you think we were supposed to do?”
“Oh...” Xandra frowned slightly. “Well... I thought it was the faeries’ jobs to help protect Neopia.”
Sayelle cocked her head as she thought it over for a moment. “Well, some faeries like to do that kind of thing, but not all of us. Really, we aren’t as different from you pets as you think.”
Just then, the conversation was interrupted by a loud snort from behind. “Come on, Sayelle, don’t go selling yourself short.”
The air faerie and the speckled Xweetok turned around to see a tall fire faerie stalk up to them, mischief glittering in her eyes.
“You know we’re a dozen times more powerful than any Neopet sorceress,” she added, emphasising the word “Neopet” with a note of disdain.
Sayelle groaned. “Rasula, must you always torment the Neopians?” she asked in exasperation.
Xandra, however, was glowering. “Is that what you think of me?” she growled, her tail swishing in agitation.
Rasula smirked and bent over Xandra in a patronizing manner. “Listen closely, little Xweetok,” she hissed. “Fyora may think you’re strong enough to study at our academy, but you will never be half as powerful as us. And to answer your earlier question, those as powerful as we are can do whatever they want.”
Xandra didn’t show the slightest sign of intimidation, but stood her ground and met the faerie’s icy stare. “You don’t know what I can do.”
* * * * *
“I’m telling you, it just doesn’t seem right!”
Mason, a brown Lenny from Meridell and the only other pet currently enrolled in the Academy, sighed and turned the page of his spellbook. “You do realize we’re supposed to be studying for exams, right, Xandra?”
Xandra mumbled something to herself and sat down next to the Lenny. “I know, but you’re the only one I can talk to about this.”
Mason raised an eyebrow. “About what, your little argument with Rasula? For Fyora’s sake, that was months ago! Besides, you know she’s just full of hot air – no pun intended – because she’s related to some powerful faerie who does stuff with the volcano on Mystery Island.”
Xandra ran a hand through her hair. “It’s not just that, it’s... Look at what you said back there: ‘For Fyora’s sake.’ You see, we’re so reliant on the faeries that we go around throwing their queen’s name into our everyday conversation. And yet, in reality, most of the time they just sit around on their giant cloud and don’t really do anything. Don’t you think that’s kind of odd?”
“Well, there are a lot of faeries that do help us out, if you think about it,” Mason pointed out. “Like Illusen, or Jhuidah, or... whatever the Space Faerie’s name is.” The Lenny shrugged. “Maybe it’s like the DoN – it’s not like everybody wants to go around taking down bad guys, but the people that do... do.”
When Xandra didn’t answer right away, Mason closed his spellbook and thought for a moment. “Well, I guess I can see your point, but why don’t you explain all this to the faeries?”
Xandra sighed and rested her chin on her hands. “I’ve already tried that, but none of them will listen to me.”
“Have you tried asking Queen Fyora about it? I’ve heard she’s pretty good at listening to people’s concerns.”
Xandra perked up. “Of course! Fyora will have to understand!” She got up and rushed out of the room with a hurried, “Thanks for the idea, Mason!”
The Lenny watched the Xweetok go with a raised eyebrow. After he heard the outside door open and then slam shut, he shook his head, shrugged again, and went back to studying.
A few minutes later, Xandra found herself at the palace gates, explaining to one of the guards that she would like to speak with the queen. The guard quickly recognized the student (it’s not hard to memorize the faces of the only two pets in the Academy) and gladly brought her in to see Fyora.
The Faerie Queen beamed when she saw the young Xweetok. “Xandra! How nice to see you,” she greeted her. “Are your studies going well?”
Xandra bowed respectfully. “They are, Your Majesty.” She stood up again. “But... I have a few concerns about the faeries. I feel that they should be more involved in the affairs of the Neopians.”
Fyora gave a deep nod. “Go on...”
Xandra took a deep breath and gathered her courage. “We Neopets adore the faeries. With your power and ageless wisdom, you are like guardians to us. And yet, living among you at the Academy, I’ve noticed that most faeries hardly ever even leave Faerieland!” The Xweetok swallowed. “With all due respect, Your Majesty, even you could aid us more during times of war or struggle.”
“Hmm.” Fyora was quiet for a moment as she pondered the Xweetok’s words. Finally, she spoke up again.
“I understand your concern, Xandra. However, we faeries do more for Neopia than I think you realize. In fact, our magic itself helps to keep the world balanced in vital ways that, unfortunately, are too complex to explain.”
Xandra scowled a little in spite of herself. “But I just don’t understand – how are you all being so helpful when you’re just sitting up here, and when so many problems keep coming up in the world? Surely you can do more!”
Fyora sighed. “I know it can be difficult to understand, but please try,” she said gently. “We don’t get more involved in the affairs of the Neopians than we are because it would be unjust – we would be exercising too much power over other nations and the Neopets in general, and they would forget how to take care of themselves when the need arises. In addition, while faeries are powerful, we are not perfect; we cannot always come to the immediate aid of the needy, and some faeries don’t even want to do so. We all have a choice.”
Xandra opened her mouth to protest further, but stopped and closed it again when she realized that she was not going to change the queen’s mind. She hung her head in defeat.
Fyora walked up to the Xweetok and rested a hand on her shoulder. “You have a choice too, Xandra. You may not be a faerie, but you are an incredibly talented sorceress. If you want to use your power to make a difference for Neopia, then nothing is holding you back from doing so.”
Xandra looked up again and forced a small smile. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” she replied meekly. “I... I guess I understand now,” she added with another bow.
However, her inner thoughts still cried just the opposite.
* * * * *
Xandra stalked through the Faerieland Academy courtyard, eyes fixed on the ground ahead of her, lost in thought. This had become a habit of hers over the last few months; although she had stopped bringing up her concerns to the faeries or anyone else after speaking with Fyora, she just couldn’t get them out of her head. She excelled at her studies, but Hikoru and a few of her teachers and classmates were beginning to worry about the way she continued to brood.
Something isn’t right here, it just isn’t! Fyora’s argument played over and over in Xandra’s mind, but she refused to accept it and move on. They could take more responsibility; they could at least do something!
“Well, well, if it isn’t the little Xweetok again.” A snide voice suddenly crashed through the sorceress’ thoughts, and she froze as the fur on the back of her neck prickled in recognition. Xandra’s head snapped up to meet the gaze of an all-too-familiar fire faerie.
“Not now, Rasula,” the Xweetok hissed.
Rasula flipped her hair back. “What’s the matter, Xweetok? Are you still lamenting the fact that we faeries aren’t the noble heroes you thought we were?”
Xandra answered with only a silent glare, but the faerie smirked and continued. “Come on, Xandra, just admit it: you’re jealous of me and my sisters. The real reason you’re always so moody is because you can only wish that you had my kind of power. Because you know that no matter how hard you study your little sorcery, I’ll always be better than you.”
At that moment, something in Xandra snapped. Wrathful magic flooded her veins, and she collected it as a green-coloured energy in her hands. Almost without thinking, she recalled a curse that she had recently learned and took aim at the insolent faerie. Before Rasula could react, the Xweetok let her magic fly as she cried, “Tion cep in!”
The spell hit Rasula hard in the shoulder, nearly throwing her back. She let out a cry of her own and grasped her shoulder as the curse began to take effect, turning the area hard, cold and grey. The spell began to spread...
And then it stopped. Rasula stared, wide-eyed, at her petrified shoulder, while Xandra scowled at the fact that her magic hadn’t been strong enough to completely affect the faerie.
After a moment, Rasula turned back to the Xweetok with a wild and vengeful look in her eyes. “You will pay for this,” the faerie snarled. “You have just made your last mistake here!”
Xandra lowered her hand, her expression hateful yet disconcertingly calm. Despite the spell’s failure, she felt a kind of chilling satisfaction upon having released it. “No,” the sorceress replied darkly. “This is the first time I’ve done something right.”
* * * * *
“Xandra, you were explicitly taught that the Petrification curse is only to be used in the direst of emergencies. Granted, your classmate Rasula spoke entirely out of line; however, this is no excuse to use such heavy-handed and dangerous magic against her. In light of your recent actions, I’m afraid I have no choice but to expel you from Faerieland Academy.”
Xandra stormed around her room. “HOW DARE THEY!” she shrieked. “How dare they expel me, their most powerful magician!?!”
The Xweetok’s body was practically radiating hot magical energy, which she flung about irately so that it scorched the walls and destroyed a few unfortunate pieces of furniture.
“And it’s all because of that wretched Rasula!” No, it’s not only her, she thought to herself, pausing in her tirade for a moment. She’s just the most blunt, the most vocal of them.
“So this is how the faeries really are,” Xandra growled. “Those arrogant, selfish, insolent creatures! Those... Those... Winged tyrants!”
Xandra spun around and released a heavy blast at nothing in particular, but looked up when she heard something shatter. With a frown, she walked up to get a better look at the thing she had accidentally obliterated.
It was a small collection of figurines that she had received as a gift just before she had left for Faerieland. The miniatures were shaped like faeries, each designed to look as though it was dancing, relaxing, or playing a musical instrument. The collection was meant to imitate the annual Faerie Festival.
Gingerly, the Xweetok picked up a scorched and broken figurine that had once resembled an earth faerie playing a lute. As she stared at it, the first rudimentary pieces of a plan began to form in her mind.
If I could just catch them when they’re all together at their festival... But it would take a lot more power than I have now.
Just then, Xandra’s thoughts were interrupted by a loud knock on her door.
“Xandra, are you all right in there?” Hikoru called. “I’m worried about you, after what happened. Will you please come out for a moment?”
Xandra swallowed and set the figurine down again. She hurried and slipped out the door, careful not to leave it open long enough for her mentor to see the damage she had wrought upon her room.
“Yes, Sensei?” the Xweetok asked meekly.
Hikoru took a deep breath. “I believe it would be best for us to return to Shenkuu as soon as you are ready. Is there anything you wanted or needed to do before we leave?”
Xandra thought for a moment. “Actually... I think I would like to stay here for a while longer, and continue my studies on my own.”
The Ogrin frowned. “Are you sure you want to remain? It is not wise to dwell on one’s mistakes and misfortunes...”
Xandra nodded. “Yes, I’m sure. I understand what I did wrong at the Academy, but I want to continue studying magic here even if I can’t return to the school. The library in Faerie City is the greatest in Neopia, and it’s bound to be full of books on advanced spellwork.” And staying here will allow me to study the faeries and look for their weaknesses. The sorceress knew that it would take a lot of effort and a few extra tricks to put her plan into effect; she would most likely need to spend years preparing. She would succeed, though – her determination had brought her this far, and she would not let it fail her now.
“If you want to make a difference for Neopia, then nothing is holding you back from doing so.” I think it’s about time I took that advice. Fyora has no idea what she’s up against...
“Well, if you’re sure...” Hikoru trailed off uncertainly as Xandra brushed past him.
“If you don’t mind, Sensei, I’d actually like to head to the library and start now.” The Xweetok turned back for a moment and reassured the Ogrin with a calm smile before disappearing down the hall. She made sure she was out of his sight before running the rest of the way to Faerieland’s library, her eyes blazing with a fevered determination.
Xandra had work to do.