A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 100,597,592 Issue: 199 | 14th day of Swimming, Y7
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How Jhudora Got Her Cloud


by schefflera

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"Don't. Even. Think about it."

     Jhudora froze in her tracks and turned to look at the glowering Faerie Queen. Fyora was sitting at her desk with the inventory list half-unrolled before her. A drop of glittering ink was slowly gathering and swelling on the tip of her plumed writing quill, but though it briefly arrested the dark faerie's attention, it did not fall.

     "Your Majesty?" she asked cautiously.

     "Don't open the window, Jhudora."

     Jhudora eyed the window longingly, but stepped away. "Your Majesty," she said slowly, and as deferentially as her natural pride would allow, "it is extremely stuffy in here. I don't know how you can think, much less get any work done." It was almost like visiting a fire faerie. A fire faerie would have had greater heat, actually, but better ventilation.

     Fyora, who looked as fresh as wisteria at dawn in spite of the oppressive atmosphere, sighed and spread one palm in front of her face, blowing across it. A breeze leapt from her fingertips and wandered around the room. It helped a little. Jhudora still had serious doubts about the oxygen content of the Hidden Tower.

     She sighed. "Thank you, Your Majesty."

     "I'm sorry," Fyora said, frowning briefly at her quill before re-dipping it and neatly updating the inventory with one Jhudora's Bewitched Ring, four Jhudora's Crystal Balls, and a Yoyo of Death. Jhudora was one of the most powerful of the dark faeries who were neither in active rebellion nor avoiding contact with the Faerie Queen as much as possible, and she specialized in interesting magical items. She had been extremely pleased and indulged in a spot of self-congratulation when she had at last been invited to add some samples of her specialties to the Hidden Tower; it was quite a mark of status, even if it meant her use of them would no longer be unique. She was beginning to think, however, that this overwhelming stuffiness was not a penalty she had anticipated. How did Fyora stand it? "But," the queen continued, "I really don't like to open the windows."

     Jhudora looked out the window, where Faerieland was brightly sunny (not precisely to her taste, but she understood that most Neopets, faeries, owners, and other creatures considered it good weather) with wisps of refreshing-looking clouds drifting past in the breeze.

     Then she looked around the inventory room of the Hidden Tower. The Faerie Fog was mostly restrained within its display box, but the occasional pink tendril oozed out and dissipated into the air. Hubrid's Noxious Blade dripped rotting green slime on the floor, while Meuka's Snot Gloves and Snot Trail dripped... snotting green slime on the floor, probably with a high germ content. (Jhudora made a mental note to stop by Neopian Central, alarm patrons of the Pharmacy, and purchase some Magic Cookies and Neopkins. She could probably make a killing selling them to squeamish and wealthy Neopians emerging from the Hidden Tower after Fyora showed off Meuka's contributions.)

     The Portable Kiln smoked, and the Pocket Cooking Pot released its own mysterious fumes. The latter would have been almost pleasant alone, its steam laden with the scents of tropical fruits and fragrant herbs, but in combination with everything else, the effect made Jhudora faintly queasy. The Grimoire of Thade smelled as if its leather binding had perhaps not been properly tanned. The side of the room where the Asparachucks, Asparagus Dagger, Carrotblade, Cardboard Sprout Cannon, and Radish Bow were grouped bore a faint odor of overcooked vegetables.

     And in the corner nearest Fyora's desk, there lay sacks and sacks of four different varieties of Battle Dung. Jhudora stepped near it and sniffed pointedly, then backed hastily away, eyes watering. Fyora, evidently immune, put down her quill to watch in amusement.

     "Why in Neopia not?" Jhudora waved a hand, retreating pointlessly to the sealed window. "Meaning no offense, Your Majesty, but I quite like some types of fumes... and this is too much even for me."

     "You know about the Alien Aishas, don't you?" Queen Fyora said after a moment's thought.

     "I didn't think they came in by the windows," Jhudora said. "Didn't you give one of them a tour?"

     Fyora grimaced. "Their leader. Yes, I did, and believe me that I have regretted it keenly since. Blasted Aisha Myriad...." She trailed off and shook her head. "We've added some new items since, and they've tried once or twice to get in to see them. Yes, through the window, though that hasn't been the only way. I refuse entry to any that arrive without owners, but I'm never too certain that's adequate precaution."

     "Why not refuse entry to those with owners as well, then? Simple enough."

     "That would be unfair," Fyora declared.

     Jhudora did not roll her eyes, but she thought about it. Fairness was overrated, in her opinion. "Naturally, my queen."

     "I realize the significance of that escapes you," Fyora said drily, "but I prefer benevolence to tyranny."

     "You'd make a fine tyrant, Your Majesty," Jhudora replied sweetly, "but I must say I appreciate the leniency you offer your subjects to go our own ways."

     "Hmm. Don't make me rethink that," Fyora said with a smile that held a hint of acid. The Queen of Faerieland over Neopia was suited for her position by possessing traits of all six standard faerie types and a few of the more unusual ones, and she knew the turns a dark faerie's caprice could take as well as she knew when ruthlessness was politically appropriate. She would let it go... but not too far. "Besides," she added with a pragmatic note in her voice, "the owner of an Alien Aisha could always come alone or with another Neopet. Granted, I wouldn't give them such a detailed tour as before, and it is always possible that one could acquire access to investigate the property of a friend... but I still don't care to have the window open."

     Jhudora swept a deep curtsy, spreading her skirts and her violet wings. "If I may persist in my questions, could you not see their approach?"

     "Perhaps. Perhaps not. I failed to see their recording device when Captain Xelqued used it, after all, and I can hardly spend all my time in here looking out the window."

     "No, I suppose not." Jhudora did spend a moment looking out the window herself, thoughtfully regarding a spot along the edge of Faerieland's cloud. "Queen Fyora," she said slowly, a smile curving her green lips, "may I propose a solution?"

     "Go ahead."

     "Make a show of me, Your Majesty. Give me a place set apart, but easily under your watchful eye. Let me offer quests and prizes to Neopets, and deal with the failures in my own way." Long green fingernails tapped the windowsill. "Let it be seen that I am powerful, and dangerous, and let it appear that I am plotting... let them speculate on what! Let them wonder whether I foment rebellion under your nose, or if I only think you don't know what I'm up to. Let them find me perilous." Jhudora turned suddenly, arms spread wide. "And though I swear you my lifelong service, let anyone who desires to trouble you think they might find an ally beneath your window."

     The Faerie Queen eyed the dark faerie thoughtfully for a long moment. And then she smiled. "You, Jhudora, want attention."

     Jhudora did not deny it. "And items," she added helpfully, "and for your mercy's sake, to be able to breathe when I come in here!"

     Fyora laughed aloud. "I will take an oath from you," she said. "A binding one. And I will give you your own cloud."

     *****

     Fyora gazed out the window of the Hidden Tower, unseen by any outside eyes. At the very rim of Faerieland, not far from the Healing Springs, the young dark-faerie craftswoman Jhudora had gathered a purple stormcloud and set in the midst of it a throne. Neopets and their owners came to it and went away cringing.

     The Faerie Queen wasn't worried. Jhudora got her cloud and quests and power, true. The price had been not only the proposed service but an oath, a geas, that would prevent that particular powerful dark faerie from ever turning her mind to outright rebellion. And Fyora was still getting a steady supply of fine artifacts.

     It had been a clever proposal, really. They both had what they wanted.

     Jhudora wanted watching, and certainly deserved it.

     Fyora smiled to herself and pushed the window open, letting the breeze blow in.

The End

 
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