Also by rielcz
"There," Moira sighed, blowing the smoke off of her hands. Planting flowers was a lot of work, especially if done by magic. Sure, it got the job done a lot faster than manually for the same vibrant result, but it really took a toll on one's hands. The Korbat flew to a nearby tree to marvel at her handiwork.
And what a result it was! Hosts of electric daffodils, Sillie Daisies and blue flowers she couldn't name littered her section of the Faerieland castle gardens in a spiral pattern, each species balancing out the others in perfect visual harmony. Queen Fyora was sure to be pleased.
Sighing, she leaned back and placed her hands on the smooth, cool bark, resting her flushed little hands against them. Instantly they were rewarded with relief and the angry, stinging heat shied away, not daring to return.
But this was no time for resting. There was yet one more section of the Faerieland castle gardens she had to plant.
With weary wings Moira wafted along the slight breeze, marveling at the lilac atmosphere she'd fallen in love with since the first time she saw it. The rest of Neopia should have even more color than even Faerieland is blessed with, she thought. And so, ever since she was employed by Fyora as one of the main castle gardeners, it had been her mission in life to fill the world with color, one garden at a time.
Her eyes fell on another tree, but instead of lilac, as normal Faerieland trees tended to be, it was covered in strange blotches of red, blue, green and orange. "Odd," she murmured, flying round it a few times before landing.
To her bewilderment, there was only one kind of flower in this section of the garden, but the walls of the castle, the fence, and the path itself were swathed in colors of every sort, ranging from a dead pale green to an iridescent shade of crimson. Colors too numerous to count rested on every petal, and the splotches formed strange patterns that Moira couldn't tell if they meant anything.
In other words, the Korbat was absolutely breathtaken by the wondrous sight.
"Who could have done this?" she murmured.
"We'd like to know the same thing!" a gruff voice boomed. Moira turned away from the splash of vibrancy. "And who are you?" she started as she faced the figure before realizing he needed no introduction.
"Judge Hog," the prime Defender replied with a charismatic grin. "I've been employed by Fyora to get to the bottom of this painted puzzle, and I need you to clear the scene, Miss."
The Korbat frowned with authority. "I'm the castle's gardener, also employed by Fyora." She folded her arms and adopted a barely perceptible smile. "Perhaps I can be of some assistance to you."
The Moehog raised an eyebrow. "Did you see something of any note occur here?"
"No," she replied curtly, her smile unwavering. It was almost an open challenge to his presence.
"Then I'm going to need you to clear the scene, miss," Judge Hog reiterated with a touch of exasperation.
"I have as much grounds to be here as you," she started with wide eyes and a sense of cuteness in her voice. "Give me a good reason as to why I need to go."
Judge Hog stood bewildered for two seconds before releasing a sigh. Neopets these days, so unhelpful, so rebellious... "Fine then, you may stay." He narrowed his eyes. "But don't get in the way of the investigation, or the clean-up effort."
Moira grinned. "I wouldn't dream of it, sir." She saluted him with an odd sense of mockery.
He frowned out of contemplation and went to work examining the evidence.
"But, really," the Korbat piped in shortly thereafter, wings blithely lifted as though supported by the weight of her worldview, "would you not call these colors beautiful?"
The leader of the Defenders glanced back at her and hardened his facial features. "Beautiful or not it's chaos in an otherwise idyllic color scheme. It has to go. It has to be made right."
Moira frowned with a touch of condescension. "You didn't answer my question."
Through clenched teeth Judge Hog replied. "It's not beauty. If anything, it's graffiti." He stared intently at the trail of red and mauve connecting to that of one more periwinkle in nature. "But I honestly can't find any evidence here as to who or what caused this. There are no footprints, no pattern in the paint splashes... It looks as though it was almost na--"
The Korbat flew up and over him toward the scene, landing right by the plant.
Judge Hog almost screamed at her. "YOU'RE TAMPERING WITH EVIDENCE!" he boomed as she started to harvest seeds from the plant in the middle of the color explosion.
"I'm a castle gardener," she repeated with a crooked smile. "It's my job to do this kind of work." Pocketing the seeds she added, "And besides, you said there was no evidence."
The Moehog visibly seethed. "I have half a mind to call for your arrest and questioning--"
His rant was cut short at the sound of beeping from his enchanted communication device, which he promptly answered. He listened to what Command had to say whilst his adversary just stood there smiling with self-satisfaction... "There are MORE of these around Faerieland?" he eventually repeated with a hint of shock.
Moira almost danced at the thought. Vibrant hues of red and violet and every color in between spontaneously and magnificently appearing all throughout the greater glade and beyond? It was almost magical... Taking the seeds out of her pocket she cast them up in the air and let them fall like confetti -- she was in just so exuberant a mood -- and many were carried away by the whirling winds.
Judge Hog just glared at her, a sense of anger about him. "You're lucky we have other leads, Korbat," he finished before an abrupt departure.
"More like you need someone to lead you, o misguided one. You need all the leading you can get," Moira whispered and chuckled to herself, watching both the seeds and Judge Hog leave her vision.
Indeed, it was an interesting diversion from her work—but it was still work. The Korbat took a deep breath and outstretched her wing, concentrating to feel the plants from beneath the earth.
A puce flower opened and its seed wafted slowly, slowly towards her palm. Like popcorn, the other flower seeds raced to her open palm. Moira smiled and pocketed the seeds. Judge Hog wouldn't forgive her if she remained not only useless but suspicious.
Spreading her wings out wide, she leaped and caught a gentle breeze, allowing her to glide effortlessly above the once-lilac trees. Oh! The strange paint flowers' effect had spread to her once-blue segment of the garden! Moira's wings faltered for half a moment before regaining their balance as she hovered in place, staring at the Sillie daisies, electric daffodils, and many species of flowers—all covered in paint. Puce littered the castle wall surrounding the segment, with splashes of raspberry thrown haphazardly across it. The magnificence of her flower arranging was still evident in placement; the only thing different was the color—Moira took a moment to wonder, and then decide, that it worked, after all. Yellow and orange swirls made the flowers look much more alive than plain old blue.
Moira clutched the seeds tighter in her hand and continued her journey, all the while gazing at the splattered glory of the garden and Faerie City. Judge Hog's cohort had been correct.
And I know just what to do, she thought, grinning as she flew faster.
A few minutes later, the Korbat arrived in a remote tower in a corner of Faerieland, not dissimilar to the towers from which princesses were typically rescued in faerie tales.
Moira squeezed through a small window in her tower and stepped inside, shutting the window and the light behind her. All about her was complete darkness, which Moira would have found absolutely gorgeous in normal circumstances—after all, what was darkness but every color in the world mixed together?
But, she admitted as she chuckled sadly, she couldn't see anything because she was blinded by beauty. Light had to dispel that for her to achieve her greater purpose. It was absolutely necessary. Moira thrust out the hand which wasn't holding the seeds, and a fiery green glow enveloped it as she concentrated on making her environment brighter. She pointed her hand at the all-too familiar spot on the ceiling, and green fire shot out towards a sort of ceiling lamp. The flame hugged the lamp and held it there, allowing the Korbat to see the shelves piled with seed bags and odd floral creations, the floor with books carelessly strewn across it, the desk with notes and potions on top.
She added the seeds very carefully on top of the pile on her desk, unconsciously making a spiral pattern with them. "Now let's see what kind of investigating I can do," she murmured, grinning.
Leaving the seeds to sit, she flew over to a very important table. If not for the splashes of paint lining its top, it would have seemed like quite a valuable artifact; the wood was stained and the cut pattern about the legs and drawer seemed authentically two centuries ago. Regardless, to Moira, the table had a great deal of worth: not only was it here she painted all her masterpieces, but inside a hidden compartment was a button that opened the tabletop to reveal something else.
Pressing the button, the Korbat's crystal ball rose from the surface, the folds of the wood smoothing over neatly beneath it. Wide-mouthed, wide-eyed, and fangs ablaze, she stared into it. To view the fun from here would not be as amusing as seeing it "live", but she didn't want to risk further brush-ups with the law. "Hah," she said with a wide smile as her fingers danced around the translucent sphere.
"Brush," she whispered.
At last a picture appeared under its surface.
A picture of Judge Hog.
"Look," the figure of authority told the crowd, "I know you don't like this, but we don't have any leads--"
"So go out and find some!" an Aisha interjected. "We can't live like this, with paint covering every square inch of Faerieland!"
There were some cheers from the mob.
Moira wished there would have been at least one jeer. Sighing, she continued to watch.
Judge Hog released an exasperated sigh. "I know very well how you all feel about this, and I know you'd stop at nothing to have your beloved homeland back to the way it was. Which is why I've decided I need your help." He paused for dramatic effect, hoping the crowds would take kindly to his plea; instead he was met by an atmosphere of awkward silence.
"Isn't that your job?" said someone; Moira couldn't tell if that was the Aisha from before or another Neopian.
"Look," the Moehog reiterated, "we need your help. This paint isn't going away, despite the effort of clean-up crews -- an area is restored and three more get 'decorated'... it's almost like the paint is growing out of the ground."
The Korbat watching these events unfold couldn't quite stifle a giggle.
"We need to figure out who and what's behind this," the leader of the Defenders finished. "Now who's with me?"
More cheers from the mob... but this time in support of Judge Hog. Moira frowned with displeasure as they went along and followed him.
This wouldn't do at all.
But how to sway them would be a different matter altogether—perhaps even more riling up was what these Neopets needed. If time was able to dull the effects of the Obelisk and Dr. Sloth's Personal Bath Buddy, it would surely dull the effects of the painted flowers. If they exhausted all of their energy complaining while the effects of the paint only increased... then maybe, just maybe...
The Korbat snapped her fingers and a few of the seeds flew straight to them, where she caressed them in her palm. Grinning, she held her other hand up to it and concentrated, pink and green sparks flickering and stabbing the seeds with flashing light.
"Dear Fyora, we're going to need to borrow one of Fyora's U-Bends..." Judge Hog put a gloved hand to his face and took a deep breath, uncertainty flickering across his face as he glanced back at the mob.
A Shoyru circled Judge Hog and pointed. "There are lots more over there! It's starting to spread outside of Faerieland!" he cried in dismay.
The mob let out a collective gasp, almost simultaneously dropping their hoses and scrub buckets.
"You know, all you're doing is drowning them. Let the poor plants breathe!" A wry voice emanated from the shadow of a nearby lilac tree.
"You again!" Judge Hog growled, concealing no exasperation, but composed himself within a second. "Did you find anything?" he asked hopefully.
Moira casually balanced a dancing pink spark on the tip of her finger, seemingly oblivious to the crowd.
"Yes and no." There was definitely a breath of smugness in her voice. "You might want to look over there." She gestured with a wing to where the mob had left a clean if drenched atmosphere in their wake.
The crowd obeyed, including Judge Hog, and all were dismayed at the stretch of purple and orange that littered the path behind them.
Judge Hog turned back to Moira and gritted his teeth. "Did you see who did this?" The Shoyru, and the others, murmured in agreement, eager to hear her response.
Moira smirked again. "Yes and no."
When only stunned silence met her in a flurry of stares, the Korbat continued. "Can one physically see oneself do anything? Or merely its aftereffects, real or perceived?" She smiled complacently... mockingly.
Judge Hog's demeanor instantly darkened. "It was you all along, I knew it!"
The mob immediately turned on the Korbat they now believed the perpetrator of such a flagrant display of color and heinous creator of public art.
"Why did you do this?" asked the Aisha.
"To beautify Faerieland, and to teach all of you a lesson." Moira folded her arms defiantly.
The angry collective furrowed their brows. "In what?" someone asked.
Furious flames of green again lit her paws. "In not getting so caught up in the drab. I made everything look colorful, exciting... and you cast it away as ugly, punishable." Moira cackled as more seeds exploded from her palms and soared every which way with the whirling winds. "Haven't you all learned to say 'thank you' when receiving a gift?"
The crowds booed Moira and cheered Judge Hog and the system as the latter party took the Korbat into custody.
"The defendant is guilty of mischief and disturbing the peace," a voice resounded through the court room as a gavel struck wood. "Take her to the dungeons."
And yet Moira smirked as Judge Hog carted her away in handcuffs, an unwavering smirk fixated on her face since her arrest. For she had another trick up her sleeve... and by her sleeve she meant the Defenders' sleeves, and quite literally. Using magic she had lined hundreds of seeds in the clothing worn by the Defenders of Neopia, to fall out randomly and without warning... And considering the Defenders of Neopia whizzed every which way around Neopia, well, her vision of a world in color would be fulfilled in no time.
Sure, she would be locked away... at least until the next wave of flowers caused such a stir amongst the Defenders she could use her magic and escape undetected. Or unless the Defenders approached her for advice on an appropriate herbicide... not that she would ever give them one.
Moira's smirk turned into a smile as grey bars closed in front of her.