A Fountain Trail: Part One
"Dear me, you're looking pale today."
Naia stroked the surface of the Rainbow Fountain, watching its usually saturated colors mingle in a coalescence of greyish pastels. The water faerie had sharp eyes and could notice the tiniest change in its hue. Any other Neopet would have thought the Rainbow Fountain was in a spring mood (unless of course they were taught by Mr. Lupid about color desaturation) but having spent all of her life near water, the Fountain Faerie knew better.
"Well, I can't very well take you to the Healing Springs." Naia shook her head, continuing to stroke the watery surface with sympathy and affection.
The Fountain spoke, but not in the usual language. This was the language that only Naia could fully understand--that is, if there was absolute calm around it. Given that there were no visitors at the moment, this was currently the case. The Fountain burbled a response which Naia interpreted as an attempt to be peppy. She saw the way it trickled down the cloud stones. If the water had had more energy in it, the gesture would have been reassuring, but the weakness with which it flowed caused her frown to deepen.
Naia trailed her hand through its multicolored surface, and the Rainbow Fountain managed a faint burble of thanks that anyone could have interpreted.
"Is there anything you'd like in particular?" Naia asked, panic rising ever so slightly in her voice.
The Fountain tried to speak again. It thought of an event just a few days prior: in a neighboring, non-magical pool, there was a Lutra playing with a Neopet. The Fountain's colors turned a slightly deeper shade of grey, abashed, but it saw the look of kindness and reliability on the water faerie's face.
"You want someone to play with while I'm off singing or talking with the other faeries, don't you?"
If the Rainbow Fountain could nod, it would have, but all it could do was lose a little bit of grey and swirl into a tiny whirlpool, which it did.
Naia laughed, but then her tone lowered half an octave. "Your magic only gets restored to you when you get something you want, I've noticed. Don't hide from me, now." Naia raised her eyebrow at its answer but her expression remained open to listen. "What would you like?"
The splashing the Fountain made sounded very much like "Lutra," but only Naia's delicate ears would pick it up.
"Very well." She brightened and said this as plainly as if she was going to the Food Shop. "I'll simply choose a Neopian and they'll come to you. You'll know what to do."
At that moment, a Kacheek walked up to them, grinning and waving. "Top of the morning, folks! Is this a bad time?" he greeted sweetly.
Naia winced. Those who were overly friendly were almost as bad as the visitors who were overly polite. In any case, there was no reason for her to be impolite in return. The Fountain depended on her and her alone, after all! "What can I do for you?" she asked, her voice as smooth as a pond.
"My sister's always wanted to be a Faerie like you," he said. "Can I take her to the Rainbow Fountain as a Christmas present? The Day of Giving isn't too far away, you know, And I'm perfectly willing to give the fountain anything it needs. What does it want?" The Kacheek looked so eager and so ready to do her bidding that it made Naia more than a touch uncomfortable.
The question flickered across Naia's face, but she did hear the splashing of "Lutra" again. Normally she turned down anyone who walked up to her outright and asked her for a faerie quest, but her precious fountain was so pitiful and so devoid of energy that she supposed she could make an exception.
"Yes," she said, albeit reluctantly. "Well, the Rainbow Fountain said it wants a Lutra to play with..."
-The face of the Kacheek fell as he considered the price, but he regained his composure within seconds. "I can get that for you! Leave it to me!"
Naia sighed and traced the surface of the near-grey water with her fingers. "My dearest fountain, I know that this was a kind thing to do, but usually it's you who chooses the Neopian. You can see their hearts better than I can, after all. Are you angry?"
The Fountain spurted a jet of water onto her face before retreating into quiet ripples.
"So you are angry, but you understand? You wanted to help him out, didn't you?"
The Fountain continued to ripple.
"Don't worry," Naia laughed, splashing the fountain's water teasingly. "After this fellow returns, I won't let it happen again. You'll be free to choose as you usually do!"
The Faerie spent the next several minutes peacefully conversing with her Fountain. So absorbed was she in the water that she didn't notice the visitor in the distance.
"I'm back!" The green Kacheek burst out, grinning wider than a Drackonack with cheese. In one arm was a squirming, kicking Lutra, and, on his other arm, was a yellow Wocky, murmuring quiet greetings. The Faerie blinked and wondered how in Neopia he'd obtained the Lutra so quickly, but she quickly cast the thought aside.
Naia bristled as the Fountain burbled brightly. The Fountain returned the Wocky's greeting and not the one who brought the Lutra! Ignoring this, she cleared her throat.
"Thank you for bringing the Lutra—"
"It wasn't easy!" the Kacheek practically shouted. "But I did it!" He gripped both the Wocky and the Lutra in his arms a little tighter.
"Get in there, you great lump!" the Kacheek crowed, tossing the petpet into the waves. The Rainbow Fountain made such a noise that even the Kacheek and Wocky could recognize as a gasp. Swiftly, the Fountain peaked its waters into a wave that caught the Lutra in midair and let it land safely in the now vibrant waves.
"The Fountain looks beautiful!" the Wocky quietly exclaimed.
The Rainbow Fountain seemed to take notice of the compliment and whirled round in thanks.
"Let's go, Callie! Time to live your dream!" The Kacheek practically pushed the Wocky forward in his excitement.
The Wocky scowled at him, but looked shyly at Naia's tall, imposing figure. "That is all right with you, isn't it?"
Naia nodded. A completed quest required a reward. It was Faerie Law. "Go right in." She gestured, allowing Callie passage to the shining waters.
The Fountain swirled around its new friend, who swam contentedly in the mentally stimulating waves. Its bright colors sparkled in the water and light, sending ripples of light color all over the cloud stones.
Callie laughed, unable to help herself. "Mind if I join you?" she waited for the Fountain to splash, then stepped in calmly. "I'd like to become a Faerie, please."
The Rainbow Fountain burbled with glee, so happy was it to do a favor after receiving a new friend. It gathered a wave on the opposite side of its banks, building it steadily as it approached the Wocky.
The wave crashed gloriously over Callie, who yelped and toppled into its sandy edge. Brushing off the sand in her fur, she gasped as she looked at her paws, which were a magnificent shade of lilac. "Is it true?" she asked herself, standing up again.
The Wocky unfurled wings dappled in magenta and edged in cream. "Oh...!" she cried, her eyes filling with tears, looking elegant in her faerie state. "Thank you so much!" Callie bowed to the Fountain, then to Naia, who chuckled. It was always refreshing to see Neopets turning into the colors they wanted.
"What'd I tell ya?" the Kacheek hooted, slapping Callie on the back. "I told you it'd be worth it."
"Georgio, you're simply wonderful." She patted him on the head. "Come."
The Fountain and the faerie watched Callie carry Georgio, flapping her wings gracefully. They watched until the two Neopets were nothing but a mere dot in the seamless dark sky.
"Shall we call it a night?" Naia asked her beloved fountain.
The Fountain pretended not to hear and continued playing with the Lutra.
Naia laughed softly and went to her chamber, a quiet, secluded sea-bed close to the Fountain. "Sweet dreams, my dear," she murmured, curling up to rest.
"Excuse me! Miss Fountain Faerie!"
Naia awoke with a jolt and hit her head on one of the cloud stones overhead. She murmured sleepily but swam out to see who was calling her.
"Yes?" She yawned, trying not to appear sleepy by rubbing her eyes as casually as possible. When she opened her eyes, her heart sank to the bottom of her little ocean.
There were not one, but five Neopets in front of her, who seemed to be gathering in a line. "Good morning, sorry to wake you," a baby Kyrii muttered, clearly wanting to get the introductions out of the way in order to get to the meat of the conversation.
"Can we have our colors changed? It's going to be the Day of Giving soon, and we want to see some of your Christmas spirit!" The Kyrii declared this unabashedly, as if he'd been the best little Kyrii all year and thought it was only fair to have his color changed. The other Neopets with him chattered and murmured in agreement. All of them stared at Naia expectantly.
The Water Faerie was quite taken aback by this juvenile verbal assault. "Well, er—" She glanced at the fountain, who had a wave wrapped lovingly around the Lutra, keeping it afloat. Its colors, although asleep in hue, were bright and content.
"It doesn't need anything right now, unfortunately. I'll come to you if it does." Naia winced at this outright lie, but if it would send these Neopets away for the time being, she was more than willing to compromise her character for the sake of her beloved Fountain.
"But you helped Callie yesterday!" the baby Kyrii wailed, stamping its little feet on the cloud stones.
The other Neopets who were with him murmured louder amongst themselves and took a few steps toward the Rainbow Fountain. Naia gasped. Such stubborn Neopets didn't deserve a reward in the least! The Faerie's eyebrows creased and she spread her arms protectively over the fountain. "Don't take another step. My Fountain is resting." Her tone softened as she considered these Neopets's yearning for the beauty which they felt truly suited them.
"Say you just had a great feast. Wouldn't you want to wait until the next day to continue eating?" Naia ran a hand through her hair, hoping this gesture would add to her charm.
Unfortunately, the convincing example had only half the desired effect: the Neopets were silenced, glanced at themselves, and left without saying goodbye to the Faerie.
Naia sighed. "Some Neopets can be so crazy." She watched the Fountain continue to play with the Lutra, and her agitation melted away. She laughed at its antics and even managed to tickle the little petpet when it got close to her. "Do you mind if I come in?"
The Fountain sprayed a jet of purple water in her face, and she laughed harder, sputtering. "Here I go!" she crowed, jumping into the small pool and frolicking about like a Lupe in a field of Chias.
Naia woke up in a puddle of rainbow water slightly paler than the day before. -"Have I been playing with you all day yesterday?" she asked the Fountain.
The Fountain burbled halfheartedly, clearly exhausted from yesterday's romp.
The Faerie brightened. "That's great!" Her smile faded slightly as she noticed the Fountain's colors. Naia could understand what that meant perfectly. "Are you hungry?"
A single bubble rose to the top of the blue stripe in the water, popping and sounding very much like a growling stomach.
"Your magic's a little low, you say." The Faerie turned around to leave. She was already getting ideas as to whom the Rainbow Fountain wanted to choose to help it. "You can count on—"
Her face fell as she saw a crowd of Neopets staring at her and her Fountain, at least twenty of them altogether, spearheaded by the baby Kyrii from the day before. "What does it need? I can get it and give it to the Fountain right away!" the Kyrii piped up cheerfully.
"You?" a red Acara next to the Kyrii shoved him. "I've been saving up my Neopoints for such a quest for many years! I should get the item the Rainbow Fountain needs!"
"Now wait just a minute!" a Mutant Grundo growled, his muscles throbbing as he balled his hands into fists. "I was transformed by Sloth himself, so I deserve to be changed back first! I will fetch the item!" He roared and beat his chest belligerently, causing most of the group to step back. "If anyone wants to challenge me, I dare him!"
The Fountain Faerie was taken aback by this direct approach. "Well, I never!" she scoffed.
The Rainbow Fountain bubbled nervously as if it was boiling. Don't let him come closer, please! Was what it seemed to be saying. Naia didn't think it needed an interpreter for that.
The Fountain Faerie felt fury bubble in her veins and she clenched her fists right back at him. She was the Fountain's protector, its representative—she'd been tied to it, after all, since its birth! "You can't! None of you are deserving!" she breathed, anger strangling her voice. "I will get the item the Fountain needs all by myself!"
No sooner had she said those words than her entrails grew cold, as if she had been pulled off of a hot stove and thrust into the Ice Caves. If she left the Fountain, it would remain susceptible to all sorts of danger, especially with the antsy mob of Neopets nearby.
The Fountain Faerie thought fast. "Dear one, might I borrow your Lutra for a little bit?" The Rainbow Fountain bubbled. She felt a twinge in her chest as she felt its anxiety. "Just trust me, please? You know I'll never hurt you."
The Fountain was silent.
It wasn't exactly a yes, but it wasn't a no, either. Naia bit her lip and fetched a piece of paper and a pen. She scribbled a note and bent down to the Lutra. "Your master is in danger. Go to Marina, the Healing Springs Faerie, and give this to her."
The Fountain Faerie narrowed her eyes and faced the crowd once more. "I really didn't want to have to do this..."
She placed her arms in front of her and pulled them back as if she was about to throw something. She cast her arms forward again, and sparkling water shot forth, nearly solidifying several feet in front of her. The wall of water raised itself up and arched over the Fountain in a dome shape.
The protests of the Neopets were drowned out, but the Faerie could hear the worst of it while the wall encircled them. Disappointed screams, insults to the Fountain Faerie and the poor Fountain itself, and, worst of all, cries that the two were selfish in the midst of the Day of Giving, assailed her ears. With heavy heart, she turned from the needy crowd and sank into the Fountain once again.
Her eyes filled with water as she felt two comforting green waves wrap around her waist...
"Thank you, dear one," she murmured, and fell into an exhausted slumber.
"This shield is only made of water, right?" Squeaked the Baby Kyrii, rubbing his paws together in formulation of a plan.
"Why yes," breathed a Water Peophin. "Yes, it is."
"Not now!" the Kyrii cried, pointing to Naia. "First, we wait for her to 'fetch the item for her precious Fountain.' Then we go in and take what's rightfully ours!"
The Kyrii held up his baby blanket as threateningly as he possibly could. "Who's with me?!"
The cheers outside of the water dome were deafening.
Naia couldn't hear any of it.
What she could hear was nothing short of a great splash and a slightly off-key singsong voice. "You called for me, dearie?" Marina purred, carrying the Lutra in her arms.
Naia awoke with a start, her blonde hair half-stained with indigo and violet. "Mhm," she said absentmindledly, glad for Marina's visit.
Her eyes opened blearily to the Neopets still clustered outside of the thick water shield. "Oh, come on," she moaned, splashing her head back under the water.
The Healing Springs Faerie frowned. "You know, I can't leave the Healing Springs for very long. If you're going to fetch the Rainbow Fountain some food, you'd better do it quickly."
Naia sat bolt upright in the water. "Right!" she cried, rushing to part the waters briefly.
She paused for the briefest of moments, leaning over to hear the Rainbow Fountain's request.
"Of course, love," she whispered, patting the waves before gliding off through the shield.
Marina watched the crowd of Neopets through the meter-long water barrier. She felt her spirits lift as her eyes trailed across its pale blue surface. Being encompassed in water was oddly calming, and the cries of the Neopets screaming in absolute disappointment did not reach her ears at all. The Healing Springs Faerie grinned, thinking of the perfect way to enjoy her newfound solitude. After all, countless Neopets had been streaming in to wash in her healing springs for as long as she could remember, giving her little chance to practice what she'd longed to practice.
"Who's ready for a song?" she beamed, holding a piece of cloud to her lips and tapping the end closest to her as if the sound of her voice would be amplified by the cloud.
Both the Lutra and the Fountain chittered nervously, for they had each heard rumors about the voice of the Healing Springs Faerie...
To be continued...