It took 500 days.
500 days to change the world.
Day 1 was a normal day.
It began in the library, with me studying basic magic under the tutelage of a wizened Air Faerie. I was perusing my dog-eared copy of 1002 Spells for You, looking for a spell that could turn water into lemonade.
Page 474 changed my course forever. It had a single spell on it; had a beginners’ spell that even I, at my novice level, could have cast. It was a spell that could conjure food. Real food, not the just ghost-like vapors that Dark Faeries loved to conjure as a cruel joke for starving Neopets.
“Hmm?” she responded distractedly, engrossed in the massive tome she was reading.
“What’s this spell?”
“Which spell?” Maia asked, coming over to glance at the page I was open to. “Oh, the Food Spell?” She slipped into lecture mode quickly. “I am surprised you do not already know that one- it must have slipped my mind. It is really simple to cast, and as the name suggests, it creates food. You must make sure you’re concentrating when you cast it, however; elsewise you may end up with Ummagine-flavored steak or Blumaroo-flavored bacon. Would you like to attempt to cast it? All you need to do is-”
“No. Thank you, but I didn’t want to learn how to cast it. I was just wondering... if we’ve got this spell, then why don’t we use it to feed needy Neopets?”
Maia looked down at me with a perplexed expression. “Why on Neopia would we do that?”
A piece of me died at her words. I hid it with a false smile, saying lightly, “I don’t know; it was just a question. Now, could you give me a hint on where this spell is at? There is no way it’s in here...”
“Of course not! That would be completely contrary to the learning process!” Maia scolded. A ‘freak’ gust of wind blew at that precise moment, turning the book to page 332.
That was the first day, though it would only be months later that I would come to see it as such.
Day 27, I met Fyora for the first time.
I had been progressing at a ‘phenomenal rate’ in my studies over the past month. As a result, Maia was taking me to Queen Fyora in hopes of apprenticing me to a practicing Earth Faerie, since it had quickly become apparent to her that I was best suited for Earth magic.
(Lies. I was ghastly at Earth magic; it was only countless extra hours I was putting into it that was making me such a ‘natural’.)
I was granted a private audience with the Queen, something which only a month ago would have made my life.
“Xandra,” she said royally, “I hear you’re an Earth adept?”
“Yes, Your Highness,” I said, meeting her eyes briefly before looking away, as if awed.
“No need to be nervous, dear. Tell me, do you have any idea what you want to do after you’re through training? It may help me with your placement.
(I aim to save Neopia from your malicious maw.)
“Well, I thought I might perhaps try my hand at professional conjuring.”
“That sounds lovely.”
(Honestly, you’d think a Queen would be a bit more eloquent.)
“Thank you,” I said, still playing the part of the young, star-struck Xweetok.
Fyora paused a moment for a moment before speaking. “I believe Ciara would be able to take you... she runs the Earthen library and she also oversees the Festival décor each year. She is absolutely brilliant at her craft; I shall call for her.”
She did as she said. After a few minutes of ‘gathering my courage’, I asked, “Queen Fyora, I was just wondering... you know the items in your tower? I heard a rumor that you conjured them personally, and I was just curious as to if it were true?”
She smiled down at me and her voice a hint condescending. “Of course I conjure them myself. Nearly everything in Faerieland is hand-conjured, you realize.”
“What about down on terra firma? Are those buildings faerie-conjured as well?”
“Of course not! Why ever would a faerie do such a silly thing?” Fyora seemed to find the mere suggestion shocking.
(The Queen was just as self-centered as the rest of them, then. How dare she live in opulence while countless Neopets suffered?!)
Perhaps fortunately, I was spared from having to respond by the timely arrival of Ciara, a bubbly Earth Faerie that wore her hair in a bob.
Day 63 found me in Ciara’s private office.
I was looking through her books for a specific title when a thin, innocent looking tome nudged between two history texts caught my eye.
Harmful Faerie Artefacts.
I abandoned my search for the Earth Spell Book I had been sent to retrieve. Reverently, I eased the book out of its spot, tracing my hand along its spine in admiration.
(What fools the Faeries were, to create a compendium of all the objects that could possibly harm them.)
I hastily duplicated the book, replacing the blank-paged copy I made onto the shelf. The original went into my satchel, charmed partially out of phase with reality.
Later, when I had more free time, I would look through it.
Day 96 found me in my chambers, reading.
The past month had been spent learning about objects with terrible powers. I read about a statue of the Original Faerie that was so beautiful that it turned any Neopet who gazed upon it into a gem; read about a necklace that once worn could never be taken off and would gradually wipe the wearer from existence altogether. The stories simultaneously terrified and fascinated me.
Then, I found it, a talisman whose power could increase my own by more than a dozen fold. Lost long ago when the Faeries abandoned their failed colony in an unknown sector of Neopia, if it was found and then used in conjunction with the right spell at the right time... why, one could theoretically bring Faerieland to its knees.
All you needed was the right spell.
Day 115, it was the dawn of the Month of Gathering, Year 11.
My search for further hints on the talisman’s whereabouts had been temporarily put on hiatus in favor of other scholarly pursuits. My powers had expanded exponentially under Ciara’s dedicated tutelage and in the past weeks Ciara had kicked my training into overdrive. The Faerie Festival was drawing ever closer and between preparations for that, lessons on the theory behind spell-casting-
(Each spell is a complex equation, and having even one variable slightly off- a mispronounced syllable, a forgotten motion- could have dire consequences. While I had known this was the case before now, I hadn’t needed much of the more advanced calculations for the basic spells I had learnt as a beginner.)
-and the practical application of said theory, I simply didn’t have the time to spare.
“Xandra, if you cast this spell, you would take someone’s eye out!” Ciara admonished as she looked over my math for a delicate spell designed to conjure a clock. “You forgot to account for the effect of the magical saturation of the surrounding area, and there is no telling what effect that would have on your spell.”
“How does magical saturation affect spells?”
“Well, it is quite interesting, really. The effect is not terribly well-documented, as it only started cropping up over the past few decades, but it turns out that the more magical energy concentrated in a single area, the more unpredictable a spell becomes. There is a relatively simple spell that can be used to check magical saturation; it involves...”
And my knowledge continued to grow, each step bringing me closer to my goal.
Day 134, the day before the Faerie Festival.
Bright and slightly chilly, the day began with a flurry of last-minute preparations. This year’s Festival was being hosted by Jhudora, meaning nearly the entirety of the planning had been left at Ciara’s feet.
Ciara had left me in charge of decorating the party pavilion before dashing off to where two trios of Light Faeries were having a mock-battle in midair with what had been meticulously arranged desserts.
Decorating wasn’t terribly difficult work, as I simply cast the magical equivalent of two massive hands that essentially did the job for me whilst requiring minimal supervision. I found myself instead focusing on my teacher’s confrontation with the group of faeries.
“Excuse me! Quit messing with those! They are extremely fragile!” Ciara yelled, cutting the faerie’s connection to the desserts and returning them to the table.
“Oh, please!” one of the Light Faeries sniffed, offended. “We were just having a bit of fun!”
“Yeah!” a second one piped up. “It’s not like we were jinxing them or anything. You need to make like one of us and lighten up!”
(Jinxing food? What an interesting thought...)
Day 228 was a big day.
It was the day I officially graduated from a Novice into a full-blown Sorceress.
It was the day I finished work on my optics, a complex piece of magic that had taken hundreds of hours of work to perfect. They served as far more than simple vision enhancers, of course. Capable of detecting everything from simple enchantments to the precise level of magical saturation in an area, they were my pride and joy. The optics were the piece of magic that granted me my Sorceress status.
It was the day I found a scroll, hidden deep in the archives of the Hidden Tower Library that I could now access. It contained a spell capable of turning a living being into stone.
It was the day that Queen Fyora appointed me as an official Caretaker Exercebit of the Earthen Library, leaving me in charge on days when Ciara wasn’t present.
In short, it was the day that the first inklings of my final plan began to come together.
Day 277, I sold my soul.
The first patron of the library that morning was the first person to ever see me cry.
I was on the ground, kneeling beside Ciara. Tears streamed down my face as I stared into her vacant eyes. The events just hours prior replayed in a continuous mental loop.
2 AM. I had been alone in the library, books piled around me. The long-ago filched copy of Harmful Faerie Artefacts rested in the table. I was comparing the sketch of the talisman in that book to a similar-looking one depicted in Legends of Old: A History.
Ciara had come running into the library, spelling the lights on with a few absent-minded words. Then she spotted me.
“Xandra, we have a problem! A rare book was stolen from my private collection. If it has fallen into the wrong hands, there is no telling what-” Ciara cut off suddenly, her eyes fixed on the open book in front of me. “Xandra... what is that?”
I panicked. On instinct, I cast the first spell that came to mind, one which I’d been inspired to create nearly half a year prior. A modified version of the spell used to conjure a clock, this spell did anything but tell time. Taking advantage of the medium level of magical saturation of the library, the spell had a similar effect to ingestion of a Decanter of Death.
She didn’t even have a chance to defend herself, so unprepared was she for betrayal. She seemed to fall in slow motion, her face caught permanently now in an expression of utter shock. I forced myself to look away from her... from her, and instead focused myself on cleaning up the scene of the crime.
Mechanically, I went through the motions of wiping all traces of my magical signature from Ciara. I banished the book that had caused this to my private study, not wanting to touch nor look at it at the moment.
The books on Faerie lore were replaced with harmless texts on conjuring and food preparation, my supposed passions.
I cast a few healing spells on Ciara, as if in an attempt to revive her.
The scene was set, and a part of me hated myself for already having the story all lined out for what had happened.
When that first faerie came into the library that morning, a burgeoning Library Faerie who was in the library almost more than I was, and discovered me, sobbing over Ciara’s body, I could have confessed.
When a Dark Faerie patrol group swarmed on the scene, and questioned me on what had happened, I could have come clean. I could have turned my back on the path that I had chosen for myself; I could have admitted that I had killed Ciara.
I didn’t. I couldn’t.
(Casualties were inevitable. She was one of them. She was a complicit member of the regime that had Neopets so thoroughly collared they didn’t even realize what was happening. She was the enemy. She would have died anyways, when my slowly solidifying plans came to fruition.)
Day 284, Ciara had been dead for a week.
Queen Fyora appointed me the official Caretaker of the Earth library. She offered me the positions Ciara had held in life.
It was just what I needed. I accepted the jobs, still playing the part of the humble Xweetok who was mourning the tragic death of her closest teacher and confidant.
“Xandra,” the Queen said, stepping off her throne, “we’ll catch the monster that did this to Ciara. We’ll bring her to justice.”
(No, you won’t. Because you’re the pot calling the kettle black. Because you’re looking in all the wrong places. Because the killer is right in front of you, and you don’t see it.)
I didn’t need to fake the slightly constricted tone my voice took on as I said, “I won’t let Ciara’s death be in vain. No matter what it takes.”
(No matter what.)
Day 310, I left my library.
I made my way out of Faerieland and back down into Neopia proper, a place I hadn’t visited in several years.
My first stop was in Krawk Island, a ghastly place that I dearly hope I’ll never revisit. There I met with Garven Hale, a burly fellow apparently famous for his Yooyuball prowess. It took several well-timed spells and the exchange of numerous dubloons to set up a meeting, but once there it didn’t take long to get what I came for.
Not many know this, but Garven was a bit of a historian back in the day. He had authored Legends of Old: A History, under a pseudonym of course.
Garven was more than willing to tell me who his source was for the information on the talisman. After that it was a simple thing to make him forget I had ever asked.
(A bit paranoid? Perhaps, but the Faeries had far greater resources than I, and I wasn’t willing to take the chance.)
Day 317, I returned to my library.
The past week had seen more spells than most Faeries use in a month. I was exhausted.
It was worth it, though. Deep in the Haunted Woods, far away from any settlement, I had found just the Neopet I was looking for.
He was old, haggard, the sort of pathetic creature that inspired more disgust than pity in others. He was crazier than a Carrot Chia napping in a Meridellian farm. Trying to get a straight answer out of him was like trying to arrest Dr. Sloth.
In the end, I had resorted to ignoring him in favor of searching the cabin myself. The tome I required was quickly found resting on a dusty and rotting shelf over a long-extinguished fireplace.
I teleported away with nary another word.
(Doing anything to the insane hermit would be a pointless- potentially detrimental even- endeavor. Even if someone for some reason came calling on him, they would learn nothing. His mind was already in pieces, and a shattered mirror shows no reflections.)
I had all the pieces I needed. I just needed to fit them together.
Day 400, I successfully petrified a stray Mazzew.
I was on a trip to Neopia City, an occurrence that was becoming more and more frequent as the preparations for the Faerie Festival began in earnest.
The Mazzew was lurking in an alley, staring into a puddle as if the secrets of the universe were retained in its reflection.
On a whim, I cast the spell I had been practicing in secret.
It worked like a charm. The Mazzew was Igneous before it even had a chance to start at the sound of my voice.
I scooped the statue up, staring at it with a critical eye. When I had the chance, I would examine my handiwork more thoroughly.
The Mazzew came to reside on a shelf behind my desk in the library. I received numerous comments on it, most of them positive.
Complained a particularly unpleasant Fire Faerie, “It is unrealistic! What Mazzew would ever wear such a Faerie-like expression?!”
What Mazzew indeed.
Day 468, I finished reviewing the calculations for my greatest spell.
Instead of just petrifying a single being at a time, this new version could take out an entire species at once. All that was needed was a Power Gem (a less powerful version of the talisman I was still diligently hunting) to focus my powers and an anchor.
The anchor would come in the form of a cursed pie, which I found oddly fitting. If even a single Faerie took a bite of the cursed dessert, the entire species would be affected.
The curse was specifically tailored so that it could only ever apply to Faeries.
(I didn’t want to wipe out the Ogrin or the Kougra by mistake in my quest for justice. They were, after all, the very beings I was trying to save. )
It wasn’t perfect.
The curse would only retain potency for a limited period of time, less than ten minutes.
The curse had to be cast in an area of high magical saturation. If it wasn’t, the spell would act as was intended when first created and only petrify the pie.
A second (and far more complex) spell had to be cast after a slice of the pie had been eaten by a Faerie but before the ten minutes were up.
Worst of all, the spell wasn’t infallible. It would be difficult, but within a limited window, the spell was theoretically reversible.
In order to end the Faeries’ reign of tyranny permanently, I was going to have to take Faerieland completely off the map.
Day 499, my plans were nearly ruined forever.
It was the day before the Faerie Festival. All the pieces were in place. I was in my home, relaxed, secure in the knowledge that soon the Faerie menace would be stopped for good.
Then a thief broke into my home.
Not only did he make off with several of the valuable artifacts I had gathered over the past year, he also stole one of my most precious treasures.
The book I had stolen from the hermit, the one containing what I believed was a map to the location of the talisman, was taken.
If I didn’t get that book back, if I didn’t get that talisman in order to cast the final spell, then there would always be a chance, however slim, that the Faeries would one day be restored.
When I got my hands on that Ixi...
In the end, I made the decision to go ahead with my plan. I would just have hope that the depraved marauder would turn up again at some point so I could take back what was rightfully mine.
Day 500. The Day of the Festival.
It was time to act.
All of my efforts, 500 days’ worth, all hinged on this moment.
I took the form of Hubrid Nox. Power Gem in hand, I approached the table of desserts.
This was it.