Dark Faerie Dreams
In her stony prison, the Darkest Faerie sleeps.
Sometimes, she dreams of conquering one land after another, setting them all ablaze until there's nothing left but ashes and sorrow.
At other times, she dreams, again and again, of her twin defeats, every detail remembered in crystalline clarity, every single point where things might have been shifted in her favor as obvious as they are unchangeable.
But the cruelest dreams are the ones drawn from other memories--before her first and greatest betrayal.
She sits with the Twelve Guardians, as one of them. She listens to the familiar give-and-take--the discussion of issues arising in the kingdom and surrounding areas, the proposal of solutions, the lively debate when opinions on policy differ.
She is... not quite content, perhaps. There is something gnawing at her, and she has spent long hours trying to find the right words--trying to find a way to make the others understand, rather than rejecting her ideas outright.
The Darkest Faerie has never reacted well to rejection. Each time the Guardians vote against her proposals--not infrequently voting eleven-to-one, these days--it inflicts another wound to her pride. But her pride won't let her show they've upset her.
She smiles politely, and hides her resentment.
She nurtures it. It will make her stronger, she thinks--she will not allow the disapproval of others to turn her from her course.
She wants what's best for Altador. Altador is her kingdom--why shouldn't she want it to grow, until its glory surpasses all other lands?
Taking a sip of water from her goblet, she straightens in her chair and offers up her plan.
The conflict over the western border? Easily solved--if the neighboring city-state causing said conflict is absorbed into Altador.
The disease that dealt a great blow to Altador's grain harvest this year? No one need go hungry--if the kingdom became larger, it would have all the more resources to aid its populace.
The rumors of a great sorcerer in the mountains, gathering up an army, aiming for dominion over the lands to the west? If Altador can unite all the people of those lands under a single banner, any such threat would be easily dealt with.
She pours all of herself into her words--all her desire to see the kingdom thrive, and for its glory to be seen throughout Neopia; all her hopes and dreams; all her long hours of agonizing over what turns of phrase to use. She channels all the frustration of having been denied into what, she feels, is an unassailable argument.
Surely, the others will hear. Surely, they must listen.
Most of the time, as in reality, they do not.
"We are not a kingdom of conquerors," King Altador says. "If others choose, of their own free will, to join with us for a common cause, then this is all to the good--but we cannot force them. To do so would be an act of evil, and a betrayal of every virtue the city of Altador was founded upon."
And, as in reality, the Darkest Faerie gives every appearance of quiet acceptance, while inside she rages.
Why can't they see that, sometimes, people don't know what's best for them? Sometimes, one must use force--in time, they will understand that it was for their own good.
But she has learned, once and for all, the futility of words.
If her dreams for Altador are ever to be realized, she cannot do so through the Council.
She must act alone...
There are times when her dreams turn away from memory--away from the world that was, and towards the world she desired.
At times, the dream-King turns to her with a thoughtful look in his eye.
"Perhaps," he says, "you have a point."
And she is not alone, any longer. If she has him--her King, her oldest friend--then the others will surely come around.
And they do.
Between dark faerie and Lupe, the rest of the Twelve are convinced of the Darkest Faerie's wisdom, and they begin preparations.
Soon, all of Neopia yields to Altador's might. The sun-emblem flies over every castle--even the one in Faerieland.
But the sun-emblem has been changed, at King Altador's request.
"It was you," he tells the Darkest Faerie, "who first realized the wisdom of this path. The world is at peace, and we have you to thank. Henceforth, the sun of our emblem shall be half-eclipsed, in honor of the dark one who caused it to fly throughout all the lands."
The others of the Twelve Conquerors unanimously vote to grant the Darkest Faerie the title of Empress.
She has everything she ever wanted--power, fame, riches, admiration...
It is a beautiful vision.
But this dream is the cruelest one, because it always ends, and the Darkest Faerie wakes to find herself alone, an impotent statue, waiting for the spell binding her to fail.
Last time, she waited a thousand years. She does not know how long she will be bound this time.
Her only companion is her helpless rage, and in her mind, she screams, rants, weeps--
it isn't fair all I wanted was what was rightfully mine we could have had the world why wouldn't you listen to me Altador couldn't you see I was right I could have made everything perfect why wouldn't you listen why did you make me betray you this is all your fault don't you see I hate you I hate everyone I want it all to burn I want to go home it's not fair why wouldn't you listen--
Delina is trying to get to her locker, but the hallway keeps shifting and warping. Just as she gets close, the hallway seems to stretch out. If she lets her attention drift from her goal, she finds herself heading the wrong way.
She has to get to her locker. There's something she needs in there for the final presentation in Intermediate Magic Theory, the one she completely forgot about until this morning, and now she's running as fast as she can, but the air feels as hard to move through as gelatin.
If she can't get to class on time, she'll get a zero on the presentation, and she'll fail the class. She can't let that happen--she's worked so hard for so long...
Everything about magic is hard for her. Spells the other dark faeries learned years ago come to her only with effort, and anything requiring more than a modest amount of power is completely beyond her.
She just doesn't have the raw magical strength of most other faeries. The others can learn by doing--Delina has to spend hours in the library, poring over book after book, to pass magic classes.
And she does pass, usually. She studies hard enough to ace the written tests, though the practical sections of the exams are a lost cause. She tries as hard as she can--she always does--but she's so tired of struggling to do what comes naturally to everyone else.
Just as she's at the brink of giving up, she finally manages to grab the handle of her locker. She unlocks it, pulls open the door--
A great wave of black ink gushes out, drenching her. It keeps flowing and flowing until it fills the hallway, and Delina is drowning in it. She tries to close the locker, but she can't see anything but blackness, and her searching hands grasp at nothing.
Helpless, she's swept away in an endless flow of ink...
And then she wakes up.
She lies quietly in bed for a few minutes as her heart rate slows. It was just a dream. Nothing to get upset about.
In fact, now that she thinks about it, it's pretty silly that she's having dreams about Academy when she graduated years ago. She'll never have to just barely scrape by in another class, or stay up all night working on extra credit projects to pull up her grades.
She'll never have to worry about those students who saw her as an easy target for mean-spirited pranks and petty cruelties.
Of course, there hadn't been quite that much ink in the locker that one time. Still, she'd missed art class while trying, with limited success, to clean the ink stains off her skin and clothes.
Art had always been her favorite. She wonders whether the faeries who set the ink-trap planned things that way.
But it's over, now, so there's no point thinking about it.
She's found a niche for herself. She's not good at magic--but magic isn't everything, right? She can make some lovely crafts, and plenty of Neopets are happy to help her find supplies.
So it's fine. Everything's all right, really.
She gets up, gets dressed, brushes her teeth and combs her hair.
After she finishes off a bowl of Neocrunch Cereal, she reaches towards the pile of mail on the table and picks up the announcement for the five-year reunion for her graduating class.
She looks at for a few long moments, glances towards the trashbin, hesitates. Then she sets it back down on the table, cleans up her bowl, and heads out to face the day.
In her head, she's already working out a design for a new project--something with lots of ribbons and lace...
She would fly, but the sheer fury of the storm makes that impossible. She staggers, blindsided by a sudden blast of wind.
She has to get away--
It shouldn't be like this--she's among the most powerful faeries in the whole of Neopia.
She was strong enough to claim a mountain for her own, and to defend her solitude for centuries.
It shouldn't be like this. She took Baelia's wings--a wingless faerie was helpless, powerless, nothing. She'd torn away the former air faerie's wings at a whim. She'd wanted to see what it was like to watch a faerie lose everything.
It had been entertaining. The way the grey faerie wept and cringed in the corner of her cage in the many days afterward was almost more so.
Baelia should not have been able to get out of her cage. She should not have been able to regain her powers. This should not be happening.
But Baelia soars above Jennumara, the full force of the tempest at her command.
Another mighty gust of wind topples the dark faerie, sending her face-first into the ground. The air presses down on her, and the earth seems to rise up to suffocate her. She can't breathe--
She comes awake all of a sudden, pushing herself up, gasping. The pillow is indented where her face had been buried in it--she must have rolled over in her sleep.
Jennumara takes a moment to compose herself.
What a ridiculous dream. The grey faerie is safely caged away, and her spirit likely too broken to so much as try to escape even if the door was opened for her.
Night after night, Jennumara has gone out to the cage to make sure the grey faerie never forgets where she is, and what she is. She has crafted shadow-creatures to whisper mockeries at the grey faerie through all the long, sleepless nights.
All is well. All will continue to be well.
Jennumara decides she'll go out and visit the grey faerie a bit earlier than usual. Not to reassure herself--she's not afraid. Not in the least. She fears nothing. She just happens to feel like going out, as is her right, as the undisputed mistress of the mountain.
But when she reaches the cage, she finds the door swinging open.
In a rage, she snatches up the animate lock that hangs loosely from the cage door. "What happened!?" she demands.
"A Kyrii," the lock snivels. "She came up the mountain--she tricked me!"
Snarling, Jennumara throws the lock to the ground. A quick spell deanimates the lock. Another spell blasts it into nothing more than twisted scraps of metal.
Then she pauses, takes a few deep breaths, and gathers up her magic.
Her power flows out from her in tendrils of shadow that coalesce into lean, sharp-edged, fiercely-grinning figures. They crouch at her feet, waiting for orders.
"Find them," said Jennumara. "Bring them back. Leave the grey faerie unharmed; I don't care what happens to the Kyrii, as long as you bring her back alive."
The shadow-creatures dart off in all directions. Jennumara watches with narrowed eyes.
They will find Baelia, and bring her--and her would-be rescuer--back to the mountain.
No one escapes her. Nothing happens on the mountain that Jennumara does not control. She will not--cannot--allow it.
The wind picks up slightly, and the dark faerie shivers involuntarily.
With one last glance at the lands below, Jennumara turns on her heel and walks briskly back to her house.
Jhudora rarely remembers her dreams.
"Wait!" she said. Words burned in her throat, aching to be released.
She doesn't generally see any reason to. They're just dreams. They have no bearing on reality, and are thus useless.
At best, she can recall a few scattered fragments--flashes of strange landscapes, the echo of remembered emotion, echoes of conversation--and even these are forgotten as the day goes on.
"I... I'm sorry," she whispered, and suddenly the whole world shifted.
Dreams are foolish things, full of impossibilities. In dreams, ordinary Snorkles fly, the world is made of jelly, and people act as they never would in real life.
Illusen turned, slowly. "I forgive you," she said.
As though Jhudora would ever apologize.
As though Illusen would ever accept it.
As though they could ever be anything other than enemies.
Dreams are worthless.
Jhudora hates them, at times.
But they're just dreams. Quickly forgotten.
I forgive you...
"Bring me a Simple Red Sofa!" she snaps at a nervous-looking Lupe, who scurries off.
She sits up straighter in her chair. "Next!" she shouts, more loudly than necessary.
By lunchtime, she's almost forgotten the sound of her own apology.
(But this isn't the first time she's had this dream. It likely won't be the last.)
The night is cool and crisp and perfect.
The waning moon is veiled by clouds, and the dark faerie and her sisters are soaring through the midnight sky.
She laughs giddily as she does a backwards-double-loop. This is her element--her place in the world.
She pities other faeries, sometimes. An earth faerie is separated from her element whenever she flies; water faeries must feel stranded when they're away from whatever body of water they call home.
But darkness is everywhere. All things cast a shadow--and each night, the whole sky becomes one great shadow, albeit one broken by the light of the moon and stars.
There is nowhere darkness can't reach.
The night sky is where she feels most at home. And now, she's surrounded by the other faeries of her clan. They are her family, and she cares for them as deeply as she'd love her blood-relatives.
They bicker, at times--that's part of being a family, too. But they've always taken care of each other as best as they can. They've had to--their territory is at the edge of the Haunted Woods, and there are many dangerous beings waiting to prey upon the careless.
She flies up, up, as fast as she can, through the cold dampness of the clouds. The cold doesn't bother her--it never has.
Once she's through the thick layer of clouds, she can see the crescent moon and scattered stars. They're beautiful.
A darkness unbroken by light would be dull, after all.
She folds in her wings, dives down, falling faster and faster, then snaps her wings open to stop her descent--
She wakes up with a jolt, bumping her head against the side of the bottle.
She rubs her head, then slams her hand into the side of the bottle.
The opaque pink glass holds.
Again, she strikes the glass with the sides of her fists.
"Let me out!" she screams. "Out!"
But the glass is soundproof. The only one who can hear her is herself.
She stops after a few minutes, letting herself slump against the glass.
It's dark in here. She supposes that's some small comfort. Her element is in here, with her.
But the bottle is so small.
The darkness in a cramped bottle can hardly hope to compare to the splendor of the night sky.
"Let me out," she whispers.
Someone will, eventually. She'll be sold to some Neopet with dreams of martial glory, and she'll bless them with what little strength she has in gratitude for her release.
Unless the bottle gets lost, somehow.
It could happen. The bottle might be carelessly dropped in some out-of-the-way location. She's heard rumors of faeries that disappeared for years, only to return when someone finally found and opened the bottles they'd been trapped in--but they were never quite themselves afterwards.
What would it be like, to spend year after year, trapped in this tiny bottle, waiting and waiting and waiting for release, hope waning by the day?
She hasn't felt the bottle move in a while. Maybe it's already happened--maybe she's fallen onto the edge of a path, someplace hidden by brambles or thick grasses, or maybe she's sunk at the bottom of a lake. Maybe she won't be found for a long, long time.
Maybe she won't ever be found.
Wrapping her arms around herself, the dark faerie curls up at the bottom of the bottle, trying as hard as she can to fall back asleep.
Dreams are the only refuge she has, now.