Friends of Two Worlds
Three young Neopets sat around a campfire; Grace, a teenage Usul was talking in a low voice. Her younger brother Deimos a Xweetok and his best friend Teaser, a Kougra were listening intensely. It was late at night, so the streets not far from their hideout were bursting with activity. Probably a bit early to tell spooky stories, but Grace had the undivided attention of the two boys.
“She has enormous wings of fire, that burn everything they touch down to ashes within seconds”, she whispered. “And a big tail like that of an Arkmite, just way bigger! And when she beats her tail twice in a row she will summon a giant tidal wave.”
“So?” Teaser interrupted her, “It's not like a wave could get all the way here to Wraithland”.
“It doesn't matter how far away the sea is,” Grace grinned. “There is water under the ground almost everywhere, don't you know that? It'll just rise up through the wells and cracks in the ground to drown all the land”.
Deimos shuddered and wrapped his fluffy tail tightly around him. He hated getting wet.
“And that's not all,” she continued, “her long hair is of a horrible white/yellow colour and it coils around like a bunch of long, angry Cobralls. It's infused with some magic poison, so that everyone who touches it will turn to stone. Like those poor Wraiths who adorn the big fountain down by the marketplace.”
“But those are just statues!” Teaser scoffed.
“They are statues now.” Grace confirmed. “But have you never wondered how the tradition of leaving food offerings next to the fountain came to be? It's because people were hoping they'd wake up from the curse someday and then they surly be very hungry after all these years.”
“Well then,” the Usul concluded, “I'm off to see my friends now. But tomorrow I can tell you the story of the evil queen and her shop of horrors, up high in the air and invisible from the outside.” With that Grace got up and left the boys sitting at the fire by themselves.
“Do you believe her, about the Wraith fountain I mean?” Deimos asked his friend.
“I don't know...” Teaser replied. “But I sure would like to see a Faerie for myself! Wouldn't you!”
“Umm... I guess so?” Deimos answered rather unsure.
“Then let's go look for one! The main portal is always guarded, but you heard the stories about the portals in Shutter's Down and Dawnsedge. There have been sightings all over Aiopen of small, temporary portals.”
“But if we find one and go through there, what if it closes behind us?”
“Oh, don't be such a scaredy-bunny!” Teaser jumped up and looked at his friend expectantly.
“Okay, but we won't go looking for the Faerie Queen, right? I really don't like that tidal wave stuff... let's just start with one of her minions...”
The two young Neopets spend much of the following week, searching through the city and the surrounding countryside for one of these elusive portals. They even made sure to get up extra early to scan through the latest issue of the Aiopen Times as soon as it came out for any hints. But all to no avail.
It was midday a week and half after their talk by the campfire that Teaser was dragging his friend once again out of his house to continue their search.
“Why do we have to keep starting out so early?” Deimos whined, not for the first time.
Teaser gave his well practiced answer with a sigh. “Because, most are still are still asleep at this time. And we'll have a much easier time without so many others around.”
“Yeah, not so many others around that can make fun of us you mean.” grumbled Deimos.
“What? It's true! Grace especially keeps laughing at us!”
Instead of answering Teaser grasped Deimos and dragged him behind the trunk of a wide tree.
“Psst!” he made again. “Didn't you notice? Someone's following us!”
They peeked around the tree, and indeed, there was a cloaked and hooded figure sneaking around a wooded shack looking searchingly in the direction of the woods the two have just disappeared in.
Deimos pointed at a tree a little behind them. “Let's hide there.”
The boys scrambled up the tree and stayed crouched on the branches, waiting.
It wasn't long before the heavily cloaked figure came close to their hiding spot. From closer up, they could see that the figure wasn't much bigger than they were and, apart from sneaking around so early in the day, it didn't seem to be overly scary after all.
So, with a look of silent communication, they jumped the figure as it passed underneath their tree.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Let me gooo!” The hood slipped down to reveal the face of a Cybunny and the boys to a step back.
“Why were you following us?”
“I... I was just...” the Cybunny stuttered.
“Well?” Teaser pressed.
“You were the first Neopets I've seen all day... and I thought... maybe, you could help me?”
“You look weird!” Deimos interrupted frowning.
“What do you mean weird?”
“We've never seen anyone with your colouring before.” Teaser answered for his friend. They were both studying the Cybunny's pink and blue ruff with interest.
Now it was the Cybunny's turn to frown. “But I'm just a Faerie pet. There are lots of Faerie Cybunnies around!” She pulled her robe back to reveal her wings.
With their eyes going wide the boys took a couple of more steps back.
“Faerie?!” Deimos gasped.
“B-but you don't have a tail! Or snake-hair!” Teaser continued to stare at her in awe.
“That was only the evil queen, remember?” Deimos whispered to his friend.
“What are you two talking about?” the Cybunny asked completely bewildered.
Deimos and Teaser were quick to excitedly retell all the horror stories they knew about Faeries much to the amusement of Isabeau, that's how the Cybunny introduced herself after the three of them finished another round of gaping at each other.
“But that's stupid!” Isabeau laughed. “Even if she could do it, Fyora would never create a giant wave to hurt anyone! Besides, only Water Faeries have tails.”
“You've actually met a Faerie?”
“Of course! I live in Faerieland, there are always Faeries around.”
It took over two hours of swapping stories, corrections, 'wows' and touching of Isabeau's wings until they finally got back to the topic of why she was here in the first place, following them.
“You see, I was with some of my friends and we came across this thing... Leland said it must be portal to the dark world, where the wraith came from and then she dared me to look through it. But as I was getting closer to it, there suddenly was this cold, howling gust of wind and I got scared and ran away. The others ran too, but since I was the one that got dared, I was the one they made fun off. They said I was a coward! So I came back early in the morning, I just wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't a coward. And I stepped through it! Everything looked a bit differed, but it wasn't dark or scary at all, so I went a little farther... but then as I looked back a huge, big Wraith came walking around the corner. All dark and glowy and scary. That's why I ran away and lost track of where I was.”
Isabeau looked at them expectantly, assuming the would be impressed by her encounter with such a monstrous being.
“That was probably just Sebastian on his usual morning rounds.” Teaser said dismissively.
“Sebastian, he is our main enforcer. He's in charge of all the peacekeepers in the region. He is under the direct command of the king himself.”
“But what I saw was a Wraith! Like a real Wraith! Not just a Wraith coloured Neopet!” Isabeau was trying to make them understand.
“Of course he's a 'real' Wraith. We are in Wraithland after all!”
“You're telling me this really is the dark, other world?” Isabeau was gaping at them. “But, you're not evil? Are you?”
“Why would we be evil?” Deimos asked her amused. “Everyone says Faeries are evil, but what makes you think that Wraith are the evil ones?”
And thus another round of stories, myths and their corrections started, only this time centered around the Wraith instead of Faeries.
It was getting dark by the time Isabeau got around to tell them what she remembered about the location of the portal she came through. Luckily, the boys had spend so much time during the last week exploring every inch of Wraithland, that they recognised the alley Isabeau was describing.
“You better keep your cloak close around you.” Deimos advised, as they headed in the direction Isabeau had come from. “There'll be an uproar if anyone sees those wings of yours!”
The three of them didn't take long to reach the place where Isabeau came through the portal and with her cloak firmly in place none payed much attention to the trio. When they reached the alley is was as empty was it was when Isabeau had first come through. Or actually it was emptier. There was no sign of the portal anywhere.
“Are you sure this was the place?”
“Yes, I'm sure. I remember this alley! It was here!”
“The portal must have closed in the meantime. They never last very long...”
“But... does this mean I can never get back home?” Isabeau was close to tears.
“We could try finding another one...” Teaser said uncertain.
“But we searched for over a week and never found one so far. And if there was one here just a little while ago, it's not likely there will be another one near here anytime soon.” Deimos argued.
Teaser nodded thoughtfully. “If you want to go home, seems like we will have to get you through the main portal!”
“The 'main portal'?”
“It's the only known stable connection between your world and ours. But it's always guarded.”
Isabeau looked up hopefully “Maybe we can sneak in during the night.”
“No, night is a bad time. Let's wait until late morning. That's when everyone is asleep.” Teaser decided and with that he led Deimos and a bewildered looking Isabeau toward his own home.
When they arrived at Teasers home, he showed them in and stuck his head into the kitchen. “Hey dad, can my friends stay over till tomorrow.”
“Do their parents know about it?” Teaser's father asked sternly.
“Of course.” Teaser answered back with an innocent smile.
“Very well then.”
Up in Teasers room, supplied with food and drinks from the kitchen, the three friends started to plan their 'invasion' of the guarded portal. Although more time was actually spend talking about the differences and similarities of their two worlds after Isabeau discovered Teaser's Wraith Racer toys.
The next morning the three young Neopets made their way toward the place where the main portal shimmered in the air, always under the eyes of at least two watchful guards. They were apprehensive, yet excited, they had a mission, and adventure!
They found a hiding spot from which they could overlook the portal very well. Actually this was a place from which Teaser and Deimos had often watched the portal before, awed at the thought of the terrible things they thought lay beyond. Teaser turned toward their new Faerie friend, 'Sometimes stories are nothing more than stories' he thought, giving her a smile.
“You wait here, we plant the distractions! You know the sign to give us when something unexpected should happen over there.” He pointed towards the guards.
Isabeau nodded and then waited anxiously for the boys to return.
Ten minutes later all three were watching the guards again.
“Any second now!”
Suddenly some bangs and fizzes went off on one side of portal, just out of sight. The two guards looked at each other and with a shrug one of them went investigating. More noise went off, a little farther away than the first.
“Time-delayed fireworks” Teaser said with satisfaction. “Good thing I still had a box full of them saved up! Let's hope he'll follow them far enough away!”
Just then more fireworks started to go off on the opposite side.
“Come on! Go check them out!” Deimos whispered, staring at the remaining guard. But to their disappointment he did not budge.
Then Teaser groaned. Another Wraith had stepped out of the Guardhouse next the portal. “Not Sebastian... why does he have to be here? How are we supposed to trick him of all people?”
Sebastian stepped up to the other guard and they exchanged some words. Jut when another barrage of fireworks went off.
The guard nodded and went of in the direction of the noise. And Sebastian, he to the astonishment of the friends, stepped back and returned to the guardhouse and was soon out of sight.
The friends looked at each other surprised.
“You don't think... ?”
“No, way. He must still be watching...”
“But we don't have a choice! It's now or never!”
They dashed over toward the portal. Stopping in front of it. Hardly believing that no one had come and yelled at them yet.
“I can't believe that actually worked!” Isabeau laughed.
“Neither can I!” Teaser said mystified, a grin slowly forming.
The three Neopets looked at each other and sobered up again.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye.” Isabeau said haltingly.
The boys nodded looking sad.
“We'll keep looking for those portals” Deimos said. “And we will find one and go visit you!”
“You'd do that?”
“Yes!” Teaser confirmed, “We'll just have to make sure not to stay too long so that the portal won't close on us!”
“And if I ever find a portal again I'll come right through and visit you again! I won't be scared next time wait a whole night until I go through!”
“Yeah, we'll see each other again!” they agreed.
Isabeau gave her new friends a hug and then stepped through the portal, back into her own world.
Teaser and Deimos gave the portal one last longing look and then turned to run away, before the guards came back after all.
They only got about two streets away before someone stepped into their path.
“You're out and about early children. What are you up to at this time of the day.” Sebastian the Wraith looked down at them.
Deimos just stared open-mouthed.
Teaser stuttered “Erm, well, we just, erm... w- we were taking a morning walk. It's, erm, healthy, you know?”
“I see... but healthy or not you really should be home. But before you go, take these.” Sebastian pulled out two sheets of parchment and handed them to the boys.
They looked at them expecting to seem some kind of document regarding their rule breaking or a notification about a punishment of some kind, instead it was an advertisement of 'Guided Tours into the Other World - Coming Soon!'
They looked back at the Wraith enforcer, but he was already walking away from them, with a knowing smile on his face.