Of Portals and Faeryllium
"Wraithland,” Stealth said, questioningly. The brown Grundo was fixated on the twitching of the strange Wocky’s left eye. “And you’re sure this guidebook will get me there?”
“Certainly. Though the more money is left in this jar, the more likely it will be that the portal appears on that day,” the Wocky said with a cackle while rubbing his palms together.
“Oh, that’s a good idea,” Stealth said as he took out another bag of Neopoints and set them in the jar. “So the portal will open in one day’s time, right?” But before he could get his answer, the jar, Neopoints, and Wocky were gone. “Oh wow, he really was magical!”
Stealth had gone to Faerieland to secure some hard-to-find materials Jacob needed for his next project. Faeryllium was incredibly hard to come by, and fittingly just as expensive, but the material was necessary for replacing the plating on Moltara’s biggest boilers. But according to the strange and definitely trustworthy Wocky Stealth had met on the way, it’s much easier to find in Wraithland…wherever that is. Stealth could just imagine how thrilled Jacob would be when he heard that.
“I…take it you’re not happy?” Stealth asked.
“Stealth…you got duped. Bamboozled to the highest degree. Wraithland, Stealth? Wraithland? I’d sooner believe in Jelly World!” The Christmas Kacheek gripped the top of his head and came close to pulling out some of his own hair.
“But he seemed like a genuinely trustworthy guy…”
“We’re heading back there tomorrow,” Jacob said matter-of-factly.
“…To see if we can go to Wraithland?” Stealth asked, grinning.
“Of course not, that’s preposterous,” Jacob retorted. “I’m going straight to Fyora herself to see if we can track down the con artist who robbed you. That, and to get that Faeryllium. You may be my best friend, but your naivety can get the best of you at times.”
Stealth deflated a bit before resigning to his fate. “Sorry about this whole mess, Jacob. It’s just the Wocky described it so…vividly. He even gave me a full set of instructions,” he said, as he held out a guidebook about Wraithland. The surface seemed to be made out of reflective glass, and was adorned with a fancy font.
“It’ll be fine. We’ll get the whole thing sorted out in the morning.”
Jacob hoped so, anyway. Not having the Faeryllium for the repair would mean being even more behind on rent, and they really couldn’t afford to be homeless.
Stealth retired to his room for the evening while his mind raced about. Wraithland had to be real. He couldn’t be that naïve, could he?
All went well the next morning as the duo set off for Faerieland. Jacob hadn’t been to Faerieland in a few months at least, but it was always a pleasant feeling he got when he continued to see the rebuilding efforts getting better by the day. Stealth, in the meantime, was fixated on the time. According to the Wocky, the portal would open soon. He hadn’t told Jacob that he brought the Guide to Wraithland along with him. He needed something to read on the trip over, after all.
“Hey Jacob?” Stealth said as he put the guidebook away.
“I had a thought about the money I lost. Maybe we should check back at the crime scene to find clues?”
Jacob thought for a moment. “You know, you’re probably right. We wouldn’t want to bother Fyora if we don’t need to.” Stealth’s gambit was working. Not only could they potentially find the lost Neopoints, but they may also find proof of Wraithland.
“Okay. In that case, it was right over here,” Stealth said as he led the way, a bit of spring in his step. Once he arrived at the general vicinity of the supposed theft, Jacob began to look around. While he was distracted, Stealth glanced at the guidebook once more.
“Stealth,” Jacob said. Uh oh. “What is that?” Jacob pointed at the guidebook in Stealth’s hands. “Really, just when I was starting to think th…“ he began before being cut off by a quick burst of light at his and Stealth’s feet.
In an instant, both of the pets were standing somewhere completely different. It felt like the same general place, but something was noticeably…off. In place of the lush, verdant landscapes and babbling waterways were instead dark violet hues and pointed precipices. The surrounding area made the Darigan Citadel look like Roo Island. And worse, occupying the spaces that once held hardworking faeries were the fiendish abominations that attempted to lay waste to Neopia during the Fall of Faerieland, the Wraiths.
While Jacob was in utter shock and horror at what he was witnessing, Stealth was, instead, brimming with absolute mirth. Wraithland, right before his very eyes!
“S…Stealth? Can you, uh…please read some of that guidebook to me?” Jacob asked, still stunned.
“I thought you’d never ask,” Stealth said, giving Jacob a slightly smug smile as he opened the book, embellishing every page flip. “Long story short, this place is an alternate version of Faerieland, in an alternate version of Neopia, known as Aipoen.”
“That’s…a lot to take in. Though I finally understand the reflective cover, now. It’s a mirrored Neopia.”
“Essentially, the Wraiths that arrived in Neopia due to the Faeries’ absence a few years back came from here in Wraithland. According to this guide, Wraiths in this world fulfill the same roles as Neopian Faeries. So when the Faeries were turned to stone, it made a sort of magical power vacuum, and the Wraiths were able to seep through into our world. As a result of the invasion, occasionally portals will pop up between the worlds, though most are completely random and unstable.”
“So we could be stuck here for any amount of time?” Jacob said, starting to panic.
“Not if we get back here this time tomorrow when it opens again,” Stealth said. “That leaves us a huge amount of time to look for some Faeryllium.”
The two then noticed a giant shadow cast over their bodies. They looked up to find a gigantic Wraith in armor staring back at them.
“Invaders, eh? This’ll teach you,” it said, brandishing a weapon of Wraith-powered energy at the duo. Jacob was fascinated that the creature could speak: only Oblivion had been able to speak. He hypothesized that this was due to the Wraiths having more power over their own world.
“Please, you misunderstand!” Jacob stammered.
“Hold your tongue, trespasser. I heard quite clearly what you said you were after.”
The titanic Wraith carried Jacob and Stealth off toward a gigantic spire in the distance. Wraiths pointed and stared at the two as they were paraded across the center of Wraithland’s…business district? It seemed like a business district at least. One can never be too sure when Wraiths are involved.
After what seemed like almost an hour, they arrived at the spire; a jagged-looking door greeted them. It gave off a violent violet glow. The door slowly opened as the colossal Wraith walked inside. It was then that Jacob and Stealth realized where they were: shadows loomed across every inch of the walls, the ceilings blocked out all light, save for the Wraiths’ own ominous phosphorescence. Toward the end of the room sat a Wraith atop a throne, one that absolutely dwarfed the one currently holding Jacob and Stealth captive. They were in the hall of the Wraith’s king, Oblivion.
“King Oblivion, these two were spotted along the outer banks. I have reason to believe they’re invaders from Neopia, seeking to threaten Aipoen’s way of life.”
Oblivion stared down at the helpless pets. “And what makes you say this, Captain?”
“The Grundo mentioned they were looking for…Faeryllium.”
Oblivion glared even more harshly than he was before, and turned to unsheathe his Sword of Skardsen before bringing it next to Jacob’s throat. “Have these two held in the prison in Arasteam. The Arbiter will see to their fates.”
“But shouldn’t we have a say in this?” Stealth began.
“Silence, Neopian. You’ll meet your end soon enough, as will your accomplice,” Oblivion said, brandishing the sword. The floor below Stealth and Jacob began to emit a ghastly dark glow as the two started to sink into a void.
Stealth and Jacob arrived almost immediately in another part of the world. Steam rose from grates in the street as cogs and gears whirred on the buildings’ facades. It reminded them so much of home, of Moltara. And yet, two things were clearly off. One was the suspicious lack of citizens crowding the streets. The other was, of course, that this place was airborne and floating directly above Wraithland, and not deep within the planet’s core.
“So why didn’t that guidebook say anything about Faeryllium apparently being contraband?” asked Jacob, slightly shouting. “I’m…sorry, Stealth. I just can’t believe we may never get back home…”
“No, it’s my fault, really,” said Stealth. “I got way too deep into this whole thing. I shouldn’t have trusted that Wocky in the first place. If it’s any consolation, I found a passage about Faeryllium, and it’s worse than we thought…”
Stealth showed the page in the guide to Jacob. The guide detailed a process known as reversion, which occurs during the transfer between Neopia and Aipoen. Essentially, each Neopian element corresponded to a different element in Aipoen, and Faeryllium in Aipoen has the same properties as Neopia’s Slothite.
“So they thought we were after a highly volatile and unstable element? That’s just dandy…” Jacob said, sighing. While sighing, Jacob took a good look at the surrounding area. Arasteam’s technology matched Moltara’s blow for blow, with the only major difference being that Arasteam’s steam systems were run by wind power as opposed to geothermal energy. Regardless, the steam was still steam, and Jacob felt he could work with that.
Suddenly, the sun set. Alarms started going off all around, as the Pets and Wraiths who inhabited Arasteam left for what seemed to be a morning commute.
“Figures a bizarre alternate Neopia would make nearly everyone nocturnal…” Stealth mumbled, clearly befuddled by the spectacle occurring around him. The rather stern looking Pets and Wraiths scoffed at the “ground-dwelling savages” as they used their steam-powered jetpacks and wings to cruise about the sky. Ultimately, an incredibly imposing Grarrl flew down to Jacob and Stealth, his steam jetpack just as titanic as himself.
“You two must be the ground dwellers King Oblivion warned me about over Aipmail. Planning chemical warfare, are you not? As the Arbiter, I’ll be sure you both meet your ends.” He grabbed the two and flew off toward what appeared to be a prison cell. “You two will be kept here until the preparations are made. Enjoy your final moments,” said the Arbiter with a grim tone before flying out of the room.
“So Stealth, any idea how they’ll dispose of us?” Jacob asked, his usual sense of hope missing from his voice.
“According to the guide, well…there isn’t much. Just that the ‘punishment will always fit the crime.’ I guess convicted felons weren’t exactly part of the demographic the publishers were writing for.”
“Well, all things considered…I’m sorry, Stealth,” Jacob said. “I shouldn’t have been so hard on you about things, even if it did result in this. It was hypocritical. I’m a scientist, so exploring the unexplored is definitely something I strive to do. Admittedly, I’d have gone about it in a safer way as opposed to diving head first into it, but I digress,” he said with a smile. “It’s been a pleasure living with you.”
“Likewise, it’s been a real blast. I…well, I’ll admit I messed up…irreversibly. I was just so excited that there was a chance to discover a completely unknown world. My name would go down in history, and maybe by proxy, our financial issues would disappear. That doesn’t matter now though, since there’s so little time. I mean, I didn’t even get to finish reading this forsaken guide book yet…”
A contemplative look dawned on Jacob’s face. “That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Stealth, in the remaining time, try to read the rest of that book, but stop before the last sentence or so, okay?”
“I’m assuming you have a plan?”
“More of an idea than a full-on plan, admittedly, but it’s better than resigning ourselves to this fatal conclusion. Commence with the speed reading, Stealth.”
Stealth happily obliged, reading through the book at a rapid rate. It wasn’t too long of a guide, thankfully. Suddenly, the Arbiter opened the door and dragged Stealth and Jacob out. The light of the moon shone down from the sky. For whatever reason, it seemed that their disposal was going to be a public event.
“I guess this is yet another difference between here and Neopia. They’d never be this barbaric, especially in Moltara of all places…well, what would have been Moltara…” said Stealth.
“Citizens of Arasteam, and Aipoen as a whole,” the Arbiter began, reading from his prepared speech, “these two Pets are accused of seeking out military-grade volatile elements, likely planning to jeopardize our way of living, and as such will be eliminated here, publicly, as deemed by King Oblivion of Wraithland. As is tradition, criminals of Aipoen will be subjected to the same crimes that they either committed or sought to commit. Guards, bring in the Faeryllium cannon.”
Two guards then brought in a massive cannon which pointed directly at Stealth and Jacob. “Everything but the last sentence, right?” Jacob whispered to Stealth, who replied with a nod.
“It is now my duty as Arbiter to punish these wicked heathens for their crimes, and may Oblivion have mercy.” He lit the fuse as it grew shorter and shorter, until finally the cannonball, made of Faeryllium energy, was launched.
“Now!” Jacob said. Stealth then grabbed the Guidebook and held it out. The cannonball then, magically, reflected off of its mirrored surface of the book and launched back toward the cannon, resulting in a gigantic explosion. “Hurry! Finish the last sentence!”
The guards and the Arbiter started to regain consciousness as they flew, jetpacks blazing, toward Stealth and Jacob.
Stealth scrambled for the final page. “And so concludes our guide. Enjoy your stay in Wraithland!” he said, rushing. Suddenly, the book disappeared, but not in a puff of purple smoke, but in a giant explosion of purple smoke, which covered the entire area.
The Arbiter swung his sword wildly in the chaos of it all, hoping to hit the escaped criminals. Instead, however, he hit the strap of one of his guard’s jetpack, causing that particular guard to fall to the ground. Stealth, with his enhanced Grundo eyesight, noticed the jetpack that now laid on the ground amidst the smoke, and took it as he grabbed Jacob’s arm.
“There’s a hole in the floor from the explosion. We have to go now,” Stealth said. “It’s either that, or we’ll be goners when the smoke clears.”
Jacob, reluctantly, agreed, as the two ran for the hole in the ground of Arasteam. And boy, was it a long way down…Jacob hesitated. However, Stealth was right; it was their only chance at survival.
The two both grabbed onto the jetpack and jumped into the hole, falling toward Wraithland far below. The Arbiter, however, finally came to his sense, and aimed a steam-powered blaster at the falling duo. “One shot left, better make it count,” he said as he took aim.
With a resounding “pew,” it struck the center of the jetpack, and it was now crashing at a high speed toward Wraithland’s surface. With a look of horror painted across his face, Jacob turned to Stealth. “It’s a goner, Stealth, and so are we!” he screamed. “I don’t have my tools with me; I can’t fix it! At best, I can try to steer us toward water,” Jacob said.
Stealth responded with a look of horror all his own. “There is no water!”
The two started to lose all hope, even beginning to wonder why they still clung to the freefalling jetpack. And then, like a miracle, it appeared.
“Jacob! It’s back! It’s the same time as yesterday!” Stealth exclaimed.
“What do you mean?” Jacob yelled back.
“I mean, shift your weight to aim the jetpack toward the portal!” Just like Stealth alluded to, there it was. The portal to Faerieland was back at last.
“Stealth, you’re a genius!” Jacob said as he shifted to the left. “Now we just have to get there before the portal disappears,” he added. As if on cue, the portal began to slowly close.
“I mean, I don’t wanna say you jinxed us, but…”
“Not the time, Stealth! Plus, I think we can still make it! We’ve already reached terminal velocity, so it’s not like we can go any faster,” Jacob said. With tension filling whatever amount of thin air was left around the falling friends, the two managed to get through the portal just as it was closing. This was not the last of their worries, however, as their velocity carried over onto the other side of the portal, and they were now launching into the air above Faerieland as they continued to cheer. Predictably, gravity caught up with them, but not as predictably, they were caught mid-air by a group of Fire Faeries, who helped them back to the ground.
A Kiko wearing Faerieland armor approached Jacob and Stealth. His tone was gruff and imposing, rather unbecoming of his gentle Kiko appearance. “Queen Fyora applauds both of you on your efforts to stay alive back there. We currently have eyes all over the city looking for that Wocky, and our aim is to bring him to justice, as always. Our intelligence can verify that the suspect is a member of a Xandra-worshipping cult of sorts, which ties this incident directly to his interests. That being said, we must forbid you two of speaking of this incident with anyone. Those are the Queen’s orders, I’m afraid. It would create far too great of a risk to Neopian security.”
“We understand completely,” Jacob said.
“To be honest,” Stealth added, “I’m not sure I want to think about this incident, let alone speak of it. Can’t we all just pretend it was all one big April Fool’s joke or something?”
“That’s the spirit,” the guard said. “Though, you’ll both be paid handsomely for your cooperation. For your valiant efforts to get back, Fyora has directed me to bestow upon you, this…” And just like that, the Kiko guard revealed a bulk supply of Faeryllium. Jacob nearly fainted. “We’d have hated for you to have come all this way and still be without it, after all.”
“Thank you so very much,” Jacob said. “You don’t know how much this helps.”
“Not a problem at all,” the guard said.
“Well, time to get back to Moltara, eh?” Stealth said. “I’m just glad it’s underground this time, where it belongs,” Stealth said, chuckling slightly.
Special thanks to pikachu315111 for the inspiration, particularly for Arasteam!