Samrin and Balthazar
"But surely there is a reason he keeps trying to eat your petpets?”
Such an innocent question that one of the younger neopets in my village asked me yesterday. I told her I had no idea why Balthazar keeps pestering me. It was a lie, I know very well why he is so keen on eating my petpets but it’s not something I like to think about. But at the same time I feel like I should tell this story so the villagers would understand.
It all started many years ago. It may sound unbelievable now, but Balthazar and I used to be friends. Back then, Balthazar was slightly smaller and less scary, but nevertheless, very few neopets felt comfortable in his company. I was probably the only one.
I still remember how we first met. My family had just moved into the village and I was playing by myself on the bank of a nearby river. At some point I noticed someone watching me from the other side of the river. I couldn’t see him well since he was half-hidden behind a thick tree trunk, but he didn’t seem malevolent, just curious.
I waited a while to see if he would do anything, but he just kept staring at me. Finally, I stood up and said hello. He seemed startled but took a few steps towards me and answered my greeting quietly. Never to be one to judge anyone by their appearance, I ignored his big frame and shaggy fur for the time being and asked him if he wanted to play with. This time his surprise was clear and I will never forget how he answered:
“You know, usually everyone just ignores me or runs away.”
He gave me toothy grin, jumped easily over the river and held out his paw which I took without hesitation.
“They call me Balthazar.”
“Samrin,” I answered, feeling a smile spread over my face. And that is how everything started.***
We became friends very quickly, probably because there were no other young neopets around and so it felt natural to spend time together. From the very beginning I could tell that Balthazar was hiding something. Most of the time he seemed to be okay but some days he would be quiet and melancholy, and if I asked him what was wrong, he only gave me vague answers about the weather and the like. It was on one of these 'bad days' that I finally discovered his secret.
We must have known each other for almost a year by then and we had agreed to meet on the river bank, our plan was to try to catch a Splime. It had been Balthazar’s idea so I was mildly surprised that he wasn’t already there when I arrived, he had seemed so excited just the day before. Fortunately, I had my toy boat with me so I had something to do while I waited for him.
And wait I did. It took almost an hour for him to arrive and as soon as I saw him I knew it was one of those days. There was no toothy grin on his face and he was dragging his tail behind him. He uttered a quiet 'sorry' and sat down beside me.
I had learned to let him be when he was like this so I offered him a small smile and continued what I was doing. After a while he huffed and threw a pebble forcibly into the water. The resulting splash started me a little and I turned to look at him. He was staring at the river and visibly trying to calm down.
“I just don’t know why,” he said suddenly.
I had no idea what he was talking about or how I was supposed to react so I just nodded and shifted my gaze back to the river. It was obvious that whatever he was about to tell me was something sensitive; he didn’t need me staring at him on top of everything else.
“I was just a child you know, alone and scared. Why would anyone do such a thing to a child?”
I kept staring at the river quietly.
“I’m angry at my parents too, of course. They were the ones to abandon me after all. But why would anyone start to harass a scared child who was only asking for help?”
He fell silent for a moment and when I turned to look at him, he seemed to be miles away. I wasn’t sure if I should try to get him to talk or just let him be.
“What happened?” I finally asked after a few minutes of silence.
Balthazar came back to the present with a start. He turned to look at me and studied my face for a moment. When he started talking again, his voice was quiet.
“My parents abandoned me when I was little, just left me in the forest. Or maybe I got lost and they never found me, I don’t really know. But I was alone and scared so I went looking for shelter. I stumbled upon a clearing where some dark faeries where dancing around in the air. I asked them for help but instead of helping they laughed at me. And not just that, they drove me away from the clearing, throwing little twigs and stones at me! Somehow I found my way into this village after a few days of wandering in the forest and the town people were kind enough to help me. I’ve lived here ever since.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That must have been a terrible experience and it was no wonder that it still haunted him. But what Balthazar said next showed me that it had really affected him:
“I did learn a valuable lesson that day: you can never trust a faerie.”
I was lost for words but I hugged him as tight as I could. He hugged me back and I think he felt at least a little better after he had finally talked about it with somebody. After that day, our friendship grew even stronger.***
After Balthazar’s story, I tried to come up with ways to help him get past that experience. I had been to Faerieland once and I knew how great most of the faeries were. It was very unfortunate that the first and only experience he had were of those horrible dark faeries. I wanted to help him see that not all faeries were evil and I though the best way to do that was to take him to Faerieland. As expected, he wasn’t very keen on the idea when I first brought it up. But in the end, after many stories about all the wonderful sights and delicious food, he agreed to come with me.
We took only a few days to plan the trip and very soon we were on our way to Faerieland. The day we spent there was wonderful. We saw all the amazing sights like the Rainbow Fountain and the Healing Springs. We even visited the Discarded Magical Blue Grundo Plushie of Prosperity and enjoyed some delicious faerie food. But the best part by far was visiting the wonderful shops of Faerie City and meeting kind faeries. Balthazar seemed distrustful at first but he did seem to warm up to the faeries fairly quickly. He even chatted a bit with the nice earth faerie who let us pet the cute petpets in her shop.
All in all, we had a wonderful day in Faerieland but much too soon it was time for us to leave. To get back to our village we had to walk through the same forest where Balthazar had met the dark faeries. As luck would have it, we met them again. The sun had already set and we were walking on a path in companionable silence. Suddenly, I heard giggling and I saw faint purple lights dancing around among the trees. I looked at Balthazar and it was clear he had noticed them too. He was visibly tense and he had bared his teeth.
“Come on, let’s just keep walking. Ignore them,” I told him quietly.
At first I thought it was going to work, that we could just ignore them and they would leave us alone. But they seemed to recognize Balthazar and started following us, yelling nasty things:
“Look, it’s the whiny little Lupe!”
“Have you been abandoned again?”
“It’s no wonder, look how mangy he is!”
In the end, Balthazar couldn’t take it anymore and with a loud growl he lunged at the nearest faerie. The faeries were too fast for him though and his anger only seemed to amuse them. Soon they were throwing twigs and stones at us while Balthazar kept growling and trying to swat them. They chased us for a long while but gave up as we got closer to home. We could still hear them giggling as we finally saw the lights of the village.
Balthazar’s little hut was at the edge of the forest and although I didn’t want to leave him there alone after what had just happened, I knew I had to go home or my family would be worried.
“Are you going to be alright? You can spend the night in my home if you want, I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind.”
“I’m fine,” he said curtly.
“If you’re sure… We’ll see next week then, right? After I come back from visiting my aunt?”
“Yes, of course.” He did seem a little distracted, but who could blame him.
“Alright, good night then. See you in a few days.” I tried not to worry as I watched him trudge towards his dark hut. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have let him go home alone, but we can’t change the past.***
The next morning I travelled with my family to a nearby village to visit my aunt. We stayed there for three nights and I spent quite a lot of time worrying about Balthazar. When we got back home, I was anxious to see him. As soon as I had thrown my bag onto my bed I was on my way to his hut.
As I got closer to the hut I could hear Balthazar whispering inside it. I stopped and tried to listen what he was saying, but I was still too far away. I continued walking feeling a little confused as I was Balthazar’s only friend and certainly the only person who was allowed to enter his hut. So who was he talking to?
Instead of walking up to the door and knocking, I decided to peer in through one of the windows. What I saw made my stomach drop: Balthazar was holding a bottle in his hand and inside it was a fluttering purple light that could only be a dark faerie. And now I could also hear what he was saying:
“You aren’t so happy now, are you? Can’t fly away when you’re trapped in a bottle.”
I didn’t want to hear any more of his gloating so I decided to just walk through the door and confront him. Luckily the door was unlocked so he had no chance to hide the bottle before I could question him.
“What are you doing?”
Balthazar turned to face me with a growl and a dangerous glint in his eyes. “Did nobody teach you to knock?”
“Why do you have a faerie in a bottle? I know you’re angry at them, but you can’t do that!”
Balthazar bared his teeth but instead of answering my question he took a couple of steps towards me. I had never been scared of him before, but in that moment I was. The look in his eyes combined with those sharp bared teeth made me want to turn around and run all the way back to home. I think he saw the fear in my eyes because the next moment he looked apologetic. He put the bottle down on a table and stared at it for a while.
“I couldn’t get them out of my mind after we saw them in the forest. I thought that my past didn’t bother me anymore, but seeing them again brought all those horrible memories back to my mind. I couldn’t sleep. Every time I tried I just heard their voices and unnerving giggling.” He looked at me with haunted eyes.
“So I went back there, but this time I made sure that they couldn’t see me before it was too late. It was actually quite easy to catch one of them. Just one swift movement and she was in the bottle.” He sounded a little too happy about that last part.
“But you can’t do that, you understand that, right? It’s wrong to trap someone in a bottle no matter how angry you are.”
Balthazar let out a deep sigh and hung his head. “I know, I was just so mad. All those memories came back to me that night. I could remember how scared and cold I was, how they just started harassing me without any reason. I was just a child!”
I took a careful step forward and put my paw on his shoulder. “What they did was wrong but it doesn’t mean that you have to sink to their level. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be lost in that forest as a child, but you have to try to let it go. It’s not good for you to be too hung up in the past.”
He took a shaky breath and nodded. “You’re right of course. It just all gets too much sometimes.”
“I know,” I murmured as I hugged him. We stood there for a moment holding on to each other tightly but in the end he drew back and gave me a nervous smile.
“What would I do without you?”
“Probably something stupid,” I joked before turning serious again. “You have to let that faerie out now.”
Balthazar nodded and took the bottle outside. “Sorry,” he whispered as he opened it. The faerie flew away and disappeared into the forest.
“Come on, let’s go find something to eat. I’m starving,” I said and led us towards the village.
We spend the rest of the day together and I tried to act as normally as I could. I was still a bit shocked that he would do something like that, but he seemed to genuinely regret it so I didn’t bring it up again. When the sun went down, we said good night to each other and agreed to meet by the river early next morning. If only I had knew that those were going to be the last friendly words we would speak to each other.***
When I woke up the next morning, I could feel that something was going on. I looked out of my window and saw that a group of villagers had gathered at the market square. They seemed agitated and upset. I ran to the kitchen where my parents were eating breakfast seemingly oblivious to what was going on outside.
“Some of the villagers have gathered outside, they seem to be upset about something,” I told them before they could even open their mouths to say good morning.
My mother went to look out of the window. “Oh dear, there’s quite a lot of them there.”
My father rouse from the table and joined her at the window. “Hmm, maybe I should go and see what’s going on,” he said before leaving.
I took his place at the window and in a few moments I could see him walk up to the villagers. He approached our neighbor who gave him a frantic explanation. As they talked the other villagers seemed to get more and more restless and some of them started to walk towards the forest. I saw my father shake his head in disbelief and it seemed like he was trying to talk to all of the villagers. I opened the window to hear what he was saying.
“…you don’t have proof! This could all be just a big misunderstanding!”
But the villagers didn’t listen to him and one by one they started to walk towards the forest. I got a horrible feeling in my stomach and raced out of the house.
“What’s happening? Where are they going?” I asked my father as I ran towards him.
My father turned around when he heard my voice but he hesitated before answering my question.
“They say Balthazar captures faeries and sells them, is it true?”
I could feel dread filling me as I realized what was happening. “It wasn’t like that! He only captured one and he let her go! He was angry and it was one of the dark faeries that harassed us in the forest,” I tried to explain.
My father’s eyes widened in shock. “He really did it?”
“He only did it because he was angry! And those faeries were horrible!”
My father opened his mouth but I didn’t hear what he was going to say as I ran past him and after the villagers. I ran as fast as I could but I didn’t manage to stop them before they reached Balthazar’s hut. There was a handful of them already knocking on his door when I reached the back of the group. I could hear the door opening and immediately the villagers started shouting at Balthazar, accusing him of selling bottled faeries.
It took some effort to push past all the villagers but finally I reached the door and Balthazar. He looked scared and angry at the same time, his eyes searching through the crowd. When our eyes locked, he looked shocked for a second and then his face contorted with anger.
“I trusted you! How could you tell them?” he spat at me.
I shook my head desperately. “I didn’t, I swear! I didn’t tell anybody! You know me, I wouldn’t do that!”
“I thought I knew you, but apparently I don’t. I also thought you were my friend!”
He addressed his next words to everybody: “You say I’m selling faeries? Well I definitely will be selling them, sounds like a profitable business idea!”
The villagers got even angrier and I knew there was no way this was going to end happily. I still tried to make them understand but it was clear that nobody was listening to what I was saying. Balthazar grabbed his pack, where I knew he kept his most valuable things, and gave me one last angry glare before he shoved his way through the crowd and ran into the forest.
“No, please come back! Balthazar!” I cried as I watched him disappear behind the trees.***
That was the last time I saw him for years. I spent weeks hanging around his hut, hoping he would come back but he never did. Eventually, I had to accept that he had left and he wasn’t coming back.
Some years after that terrible day, I started hearing rumors about a Lupe that was selling bottled faeries. I didn’t want to believe them, but I guess I knew in my heart that the rumors were true. I continued on with my life and tried not to think about him too much. At times it was very hard as we had been very good friends and often I felt very lonely without him. But life goes on and the years went by. I moved to another village and started farming petpets. I thought about our lost friendship less and less often.
But then one day I saw a familiar figure near my petpet farm. Balthazar had gotten a lot bigger and he looked a lot scarier. He was skulking around the petpets but he didn’t try to attack them before he saw me. Then he bared his teeth, growled and started chasing a poor Babaa that happened to be near him. I had no other choice but to quickly gather all the petpets into their paddock and hope that he wouldn’t try to break into it. Luckily, he just walked around it a few times, growled at me and left.
This time he came back. After a few days he was chasing my petpets again and since then he has come to pester me a few times a week. I’ve tried to talk to him multiple times but he either pretends that he can’t hear me or just growls at me. But I think he still remembers how close friends we used to be. Why else would he give up so easily when I put the petpets in their paddock? It seems that he mainly wants to pester me, but I definitely don’t want to risk him catching one of my petpets.
But there you have it. Balthazar keeps trying to eat my petpets because of a huge misunderstanding that happened when we were both still youngsters. I often wish that he wasn’t so resentful and that he would talk to me. But I guess it doesn’t matter: I know he’s not the same Balthazar that I used to know.