Neopedia : Balthazar discovers the Faeries Ruin
It was the year of the Faeries' Ruin. Laela crept into Balthazar's shack, closing the door carefully behind her so that it wouldn't creak. Inside, the only light came from the dozens of bottles stacked in bookcases and scattered across the ramshackle table. She wrinkled her nose at the stench. Outside, the Haunted Woods slept on, undisturbed.
The faint winking of faeries inside the bottles grew brighter as Laela stepped up to the table and gazed around the shack, awed in spite of herself. What a menace! Balthazar must have a good portion of faeriekind trapped in his bottles. At least these faeries weren't petrified, which was her reason for coming.
The faerie Ixi could see a nearby fire faerie banging soundlessly on her bottle, demanding to be let out first. "Don't worry," she whispered. "I'm here to rescue you." Laela reached for her bottle, finding it hot to the touch. Carefully she grasped the cork in her hooves, twisted, and yanked it out.
"I grant you the ability Smoke Screen!" exclaimed the tiny faerie with a smile as she jumped out of the bottle and landed gracefully on the table. "And th--" She broke off, still looking delighted.
"What?" Laela said, puzzled. "Thanks?"
The fire faerie didn't answer, though her smile did not fade. After a moment, Laela's heart sank. The faerie had turned to stone. "Oh, no. Not you, too," she said sadly. There really was no hope for the faeries of Neopia.
A rustling sound in the shadows snapped her out of her shock. "Who's there?" she cried out.
A low, dark chuckle met her ears. "Who do you think?"
The Ixi shrank back in horror. Too late! Somehow, he had got between her and the door.
Balthazar stepped into the moonlight, looming over her. His eyes burned with fury and malice. His claws opened and closed meaningfully, their razor edges glinting like blades. His jaws opened in a snarl.
Laela fainted dead away.
The smell of rotten meat under her delicate nose brought her back. Laela sat up, saw Balthazar smirking at her, a rotten leg of something in his paw. She scrambled to her feet. "I'm not afraid of you!"
His smirk grew wider. "Not very sensible of you."
"I'm here for the faeries," she declared, dusting the dirt off her lavender fur. "I -- I was hoping these wouldn't be affected by the curse."
"What curse? You didn't turn my faerie to stone yourself, then?"
Laela stared at him. "Of course not. Haven't you heard? All of the faeries in Neopia have been turned to stone by an evil curse!"
Suddenly looking concerned, Balthazar threw the haunch of rotten meat away. "Really?"
An idea came to Laela then. His bottled faeries hadn't petrified. Perhaps, if she could convince him of the truth, he might know how to help the rest... "Look, I'll show you. I'll take you to the Faerie Festival myself."
His eyes lit up like a thief being offered a tour of the Bank.
"It's been like this for a while. And they say the best and brightest in Neopia are working on the problem." Laela stepped into the garden. "But as you can see, they haven't solved it yet."
The garden of statues was quiet in the moonlight. Dozens of faeries seemed to have posed for a brilliant sculptor, but Laela knew the stone statues were the actual faeries themselves. She caught a glimpse of Queen Fyora in the distance, turned to granite, and she shuddered.
Glancing at Balthazar, Laela saw his fierce eyes scanning the Festival grounds, studying the faeries. "We can't go on like this," Laela added. "Neopia needs faeries."
Balthazar rubbed his eyes and edged up to the nearest statue, an air faerie frozen mid-giggle. He nudged her almost gently, as if afraid it was all a joke. The stone did not budge. The Lupe swallowed and said hoarsely, "Are you sure it's all of the faeries? There are no more faeries?"
She nodded. Were those... tears in his eyes? "Oh, Balthazar," Laela said impulsively, "don't cry. This is a disaster, but I'm sure with your help, we'll --"
Balthazar grinned and thumped the air faerie statue with a fist. She fell over into the grass with a clunk. "Woohoo!!" he shouted.
After doing a victory dance around the petrified faeries, Balthazar came back. "I'm going home," he announced. "I'm going to hold a bottled faerie opening party."