It was wet, and it was cold, and he was all alone, sitting outside on his front porch. He closed his chocolate-coloured eyes briefly, silently berating himself for forgetting a key - again.
Dusk was beginning to fall. He wondered when his parents and his little sister would get home. They'd only gone to watch his sister's stupid Beauty Contest. The only reason he'd been able to opt out was because he was supposed to be writing an essay, but he hadn't gotten that far. And he was still sitting on the front porch when his parents and his little sister returned.
"Seth!" exclaimed Mr. Kaylock. "What are you doing out here?"
"Oh, Seth, dear," said Mrs. Kaylock, "are you all right? Let's get you inside, okay?"
And Lucy just glared. Seth only managed a small shrug back. It wasn't his fault. Whenever his parents saw him they just latched onto him like rabid Meepits. That was half the reason he'd been going to write that essay.
When Seth finally got inside, he immediately went upstairs to his room. He could shower later; it didn't matter how he smelled, unless the paper and pen he was about to use reacted to him oddly. Seth locked his bedroom door behind himself and hurried over to his desk. The paper was sitting out and so was his pen. He looked down at the first page of his essay:
Seth Kaylock, 201 Wishing Well Drive, Neopia Central.
He sighed and sat down. Now he had to decide what to write about. There was that Faerieland business, but he had a feeling all the applicants would want to write about that - the applicants that were applying for the Haunted Woods Academy of Political Sciences. Everyone was probably scribbling down some random things about how amazing that Ixi thief Hanso was or how awesome that orange Kougra Brynn was, or something about how epic Jazan's guyliner was, or something equally ridiculous. What irritated Seth was that everyone was probably writing about how insane Xandra was, too.
But he could really see what she was getting at.
He didn't have a horrible childhood or anything, but he understood. No Faerie had ever granted him help when he required it. No Faerie had ever thanked him after he released them from their bottles. Fyora had never paid any special attention to him. All he could remember was his father going off at strange hours to do random things for the Faeries, spending all his time away from home and returning with expensive things. The expensive things didn't matter to Seth; he rather preferred the inexpensive things, as they were far more endearing. Faeries had never really been anything of real interest or intrigue to Seth and he didn't know why they were to anyone else.
Seth flicked his floppy blonde hair out of his eyes, flicking one of his yellow Gelert ears as well, wondering what he was supposed to do now. He knew his dad wanted him to write about Hanso and Brynn and how marvelous they were, but he wanted to write about Xandra. Perhaps he ought to write two essays, give one to his father and send the other one in, pretending that they accidentally got mixed up in the Neomail.
No, Seth thought. No, that would be lying. Seth had always hated liars, and he couldn't bear the thought of becoming one. It would be like siding with his personal demons, or siding with Mr. Coconut, or something equally disturbing.
Seth picked up his pen and started to chew on the end of it. He was trapped between a rock and a hard place now - or would it be a rock and a soft place? But that didn't make any sense. He shook his head to clear it, finding that he wasn't even making sense to himself anymore. He would have to write about Xandra and tell his father about it after sending the essay in, maybe.
He thought for a few moments about a good opening line. Some say she's insane, but I think she's got a point. No, that was too personal. This was supposed to be a non-biased essay on something out of the Current Events. Xandra lived with the Faeries. That was far too obvious.
And as Seth thought about it, he realised that research would have to be done.
Seth dropped his pen. This was going to have to wait. He had to go to Faerieland or something to find out what was really going on inside Xandra's head. He thought it would have been perfect to be able to talk to Xandra, be able to legitimately quote her in this essay, but she was a hunk of stone.
He removed his glasses and set them down on his desk. It must have been eight o'clock by now, and he was rather tired; he could ask for permission to go to Faerieland tomorrow morning.
Seth trudged along, his beige satchel thumping against his back with every step he took. He had gotten permission to walk to Faerieland from his parents and now he was stuck walking to Faerieland. For the umpteenth time he wished he had some flying friend, a Uni perhaps, or a Faerie-painted creature; but no, he was trapped wandering along, trying to avoid splashing in any puddles.
It was nearly noontime when Seth finally reached the gates of Faerieland, and his stomach was growling. Seth realised rather numbly that he had completely forgotten to pack something to eat. At least he had several Neopoints; perhaps he'd be able to snatch something from a vendor on the side of the street. But as Seth walked slowly down the main street of Faerieland, drinking in all the sights and smells, he saw that there were no vendors. There were no beggars, either, not a single mendicant to be seen.
This oddity made Seth uncomfortable. He was far too used to passing the occasional hungry Kacheek sitting on the edge of the cobblestone street in Neopia Central.
He located a place labeled Faerie Foods and stepped inside; a bell jangled happily overhead. "Greetings!" called an Earth Faerie. She was standing behind a long counter wearing an apron. "Would you like to buy something today?"
"Yes, thanks," Seth answered, walking up to the counter. There was only one other customer in the store, a well-dressed red Lupe. The Lupe looked young. "Um, what do you have?" Seth asked haltingly.
"Well," started the Earth Faerie, grinning widely, "we've got some Fire Faerie Apples, Faeries Pastries, Faerie Toast with Butter, Faerie Beetroots, Crazy Crisp Tacos, Raspberry Faerie Bubbles, Cherry Faerie Bubbles, and Blueberry Faerie Bubbles. It's food from the heavens!"
Seth thought that was a little narcissistic of her to say: food from the heavens! as nobody really knew what was way up there, but he was supposed to be finding his lunch, not considering heaven-food. "Okay. What's the lowest cost?"
"Hmm... Faerie Toast with Butter is only 165 Neopoints."
Seth blushed. He'd barely been able to scrape up 100, let alone 165. He thought, Maybe I'll be the first beggar in Faerieland. The Earth Faerie frowned. "Are you okay?" she asked, still using her peppy tone. "You don't look okay."
"I'm fine," Seth said, forcing a pleasant tone. "I think I'll come back another day."
Seth turned around and left the shop as the red Lupe stepped up to order. He wondered if all the stores here assumed everyone had tons of Neopoints, and he realised that he didn't really want to know. He'd always had an image of Faeries in his mind and to be honest with himself, he didn't want to tarnish it.
He stopped in the middle of the street. Where was he going? Why was he here? To discover more about Xandra, more about why she'd been so adamant about the Faeries' terrible qualities. Seth decided that he would walk in and out of every store, seeing the prices, seeing what was assumed, seeing how it all went.
And by the time he was done, he'd found nothing he could buy. Not one single thing. In every shop there was some well-dressed pet purchasing something that only the filthy rich could possibly purchase.
Rather disheartened, Seth sat down on the sidewalk nearest to the entry gates, wondering dejectedly if he would ever get anything to eat and if everything would turn out like this: someone considered crazy doing something not so crazy after all and him being the only one to ever know the truth.
Seth was about to struggle back to his feet and begin his walking back to Neopia Central when someone nearby cleared their throat. Seth flinched, looking to his direct left. A Faerie was standing there. She had blonde hair and was staring at Seth with a concerned expression.
"Are you quite all right?"
"Yeah," Seth mumbled, getting to his feet, "I'm good, I'm fine. I was just about to leave. Don't want to dirty up your streets or anything."
"Uh, nothing." Seth tried not to blush and turned to make his way out of Faerieland. The Faerie put one of her hands on his shoulder, stopping him. "What?" Seth snapped, looking back.
"I thought you were hungry," said the Faerie. "I have something for you." Seth watched, eyebrows raised, as the Faerie reached into her white handbag and produced a Crazy Crisp Taco. It smelled delicious. "Here, you can have it, if you want."
Seth swallowed. It did smell very yummy. "Thanks," he muttered, accepting the undeserved gift. The Faerie smiled softly and began to walk away. "And sorry."
The Air Faerie looked back. "It's all right, dear."
Seth watched her leave. Maybe Xandra hadn't gotten all of the Faeries right after all.