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Wings of Gold


by digital_microwave

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The grey faerie trudged through the marketplace sadly, her antennae drooping, her face gaunt and expressionless. She clutched her stomach as it let off a loud rumble in protest to her meagre meals.

      Her dress was torn and tattered, and somehow it resembled a dirty tablecloth. Her long, billowing tresses were now reduced to a heap of straggly grey hair, tied rather loosely in a ponytail.

      If one were to look her in the eye, they would see the dark shadows, bloodshot irises and wet, grey pupils. But this was not a wise thing to do, as it would trigger the memories of her terrible days, and those eyes would spew an endless stream of tears.

      She had been an Air faerie, living in Faerieland peacefully. She frolicked through the clouds all day, and gave quests to the needy Neopians when she could. She also went to help out at the job agency frequently. She didn't disturb anyone, so they wouldn't disturb her, or so she thought.

      She was a much respected figure in Faerieland, because she had great magic powers. But, she had been wrongly accused of stealing items from the Hidden Tower and selling them to the Dark Faeries for a much lower price.

      Only one word surfaced among these depressing thoughts: Moralia. Moralia, the Dark faerie who had accused her so unjustly, just because she did what was right, just because she refused to abuse her power when asked to do so in a trial concerning a gang of Dark faeries. She gritted her teeth. Moralia had robbed her of the one thing that was the most precious to her: her wings, sky blue and snow white, in contrast to the navy shade she liked to wear. Those wings held her essence, her magic, her life. Now that she no longer had them, she felt like an empty shell, with no soul at all, no emotion.

      She found that tears were squeezing themselves out of her eyes, but she didn't bother to wipe them away; what was the use? Life was not worth living anymore. Even the sky began to weep, and torrents of rain gushed down, soaking her to the bone.

      The grey faerie hurriedly ran to find some shelter. She sprinted down an alleyway, past the bags of garbage, wrinkling her nose at the stench. She stepped out into another street, and swung around another corner, seeing something that made her eyes shine.

           It was a plain little coffee house, with a kindly yellow Aisha operating it. She smiled at the faerie, who was dripping with water from head to toe. The faerie contemplated the smile she had just seen while the Aisha disappeared to get some towels. The smile seemed different, not just any smile given by any Neopet who saw her huddling in a corner, wrapped up in a thin rag. The smile was genuine, not merely a pretence to wear on your face.

      The Aisha poured a cup of strong Bomberry coffee and pushed the cup under the grey faerie's nose. "Drink," she urged, "and I'll see how I can offer you a place to stay. Oh, by the way, my name's Dev."

      The grey faerie mumbled her response, but Dev's four sharp ears caught her name. "Xylana, isn't it?" she asked, grinning. The former nodded, sipping the coffee carefully. Dev saw how ragged Xylana looked, her patched clothes, her sopping wet hair, her trembling grey fingers, and her constantly drooping face. She thought to herself: Surely she must have experienced much neglect and pain. But how depressing her life is, I cannot fathom. She will have to tell me herself, in her own words, but I will not press her.

      Xylana meanwhile was downing the coffee. She was beginning to feel much better, as the coffee provided warmth that surged through her body, chasing away the cruel cold that had tormented her endlessly. She stared long and hard at the hospitable Aisha, thoughts swirling in her mind: I cannot rely on her too much. I have learned the painful lesson that can only come from trusting someone too much. Yet, she seems genuine enough, I guess, better than anyone I have ever known. Who said only faeries only have other faeries for company? Who said I could only trust faeries? Look at Moralia. I'll trust this Aisha.

           ***

      "Look, this is all the spare room and bed I have…" Dev stuttered, pointing at the small bed through the bleak darkness.

      Xylana dismissed the matter with a wave of her hand. "Never mind. It's better than sleeping on the streets." After Dev had left, she flopped down onto the bed and rested her head, achy from thinking, against the cool pillow. The mattress was lumpy, poking into her back, but she was only glad for one thing: a quilt, which lay at the foot of the bed. She fingered it, marveling at the seemingly flawless embroidery. It depicted all the different types of pets, Boris digging furiously, a solitary Lupe staring at the great orb of a moon, Flotsams diving in and out of the water. They looked so innocent, so naïve. She gazed at them for a very long time, the small flickering flame from the candle aiding her. A cool breeze blew in through the windows, caressing each object gently as it flowed about the room. The flame flickered even more; Xylana gave the candle a gentle blow, and saved the breeze the trouble. It was then, she felt something surging through her, and perhaps it was a flash of hope for this new world.

      ***

      Xylana sat down to a hearty breakfast prepared by Dev, which consisted of four doughnuts, glazed with refreshing mint icing, and some berries and milk.

      "Honestly, no one has ever treated me this way before," Xylana muttered, biting into a doughnut. Dev just carried on, putting the laundry away, but secretly, she just wanted to hear Xylana's story of her past. When she first saw the grey faerie, she had a vivid image of raindrops, for Xylana must've been drenched in them for a long time. But she wanted to help her regain her former self, for she had a feeling that Xylana never wanted life this way, after all, it was simple logic; who wanted their life this saddening?

      Xylana gave a sigh as she finished her milk. She put the plates away, and then asked, "Can I help you, Dev?" Dev was a little taken aback, but seeing that Xylana was willing and had nothing to do otherwise, she nodded.

      They spent the whole morning organizing the different types of beverages and baked goods. All the pets that streamed into the shop were given their goods by Xylana, who was a quick learner. The younger ones interrogated her endlessly, asking questions about her deathly skin tone and hair, only to be shushed by wary owners, and then whisked away. The older ones were wiser, and they refrained from bombarding her with questions that they knew she couldn't answer, accepting their goods gratefully.

      As the scarlet ball of fire sunk below the horizon, Xylana untied her apron. Dev meanwhile, was counting all the Neopoints that she had made. "991, 992, 993, 998…1280! That's a lot to me! Thanks, Xylana!"

      Xylana only smiled wearily. She could've laughed out at her silliness, but stopped herself just in time. Why? She asked herself in her head. Why don't you tell her now? She can help, you know she can, don't miss this chance, Xylana! You said you could trust her! How can you suppress your grief, your past? You know the antidote; the kind Library Faerie let you search endlessly in her archives for the chance to rescue yourself from this morbid pit you got stuck in!

      "Dev, we need to talk," Xylana said, smiling feebly at the clichéd sentenced she just uttered.

      "Sure, what do you want to talk about?" Dev asked, but deep in her heart she had already anticipated this to happen.

      Xylana poured her story out in a monotone, this time never crying or sighing. She just didn't have to do it anymore, if Dev did believe her. The Aisha listened quietly, also showing no expression on her face, her features hardened considerably by each word.

      "I know the cure," Xylana continued, "but it is risky and I don't want to hurt anyone doing it." Dev patted her shoulder, gesturing for her to go on.

      "I need…a pair of wings. Any wings will do, for they are all the same. Even though differing in shapes and sizes, and each pair unique and colourful on its own, it contains all the same things needed by every faerie. The moment I take over those wings, part of my magic bonds into them, making them special. They obey me, they complete me," the grey faerie said, finally looking up from her chipped fingernails.

      Dev opened her mouth in astonishment at this weird yet wonderfully, terribly beautiful remedy. "No faerie wants to part with their wings, because they are of utmost importance, as I have mentioned. I, too, feel that if I just cruelly snatch their wings away, I'll be as bad as Moralia," Xylana said, with that same helpless expression.

      "Have you tried complaining to Fyora? Or anyone else for that matter?" Dev questioned, eager to help.

      Xylana let out a mirthless laugh. "Fyora? She condemned me, you know. What does a grey faerie like me have against her? She may be wise, gentle and powerful, but she is also selfish. Even she will not give up her wings just for me, a sad grey faerie."

      Dev was shocked, for she had never heard the queen being talked about that way. "Don't say that," she pleaded. "You are being selfish too, do you know? Without her wings, Fyora will just become as powerless as you are, and no one will rule Faerieland."

      Xylana was about to say "And so? There will be another queen,", but held back her retort. She realized the words that Dev spoke showed the truth. Fyora had ruled Faerieland wisely and justly, and it wasn't right to make snide remarks at her. She would not depend on Fyora, because she would get those wings somehow, with her own efforts.

      ***

      "I've been thinking," Dev said over the noise created by the kettle whistling, "that Faerie Neopet wings might work too. You see, this is my theory: if a Neopet is painted Faerie, that would make them kind of connected to Faeries, right?" Xylana thought it over. There was a scrap of truth, but she couldn't prove it. She was going to explain to Dev, but the Aisha had already run off. Xylana set off in hot pursuit, but didn't have a clue where Dev had vaporized to. She returned to the shop, and went on selling the baked goods. All the time, her heart gave painful thumps as she wondered where Dev had went and what had taken her so long.

      Dev came back at last, panting, clutching a stitch in her left side. Her chest still heaving, she explained that she had done extensive research on the matter. She concluded that not only were Faerie Neopet wings safe, they did not have any side effects too. Xylana was overjoyed. But now the problem was who would give their wings away?

      ***

      A Faerie Kougra swooped down in front of the shop, gripping a large cloth bag. She padded quietly up the stairs, and pushed the door open. She was greeted by a scream of joy. "Lilly!"

      Lilly almost flew headfirst into the wall as the elated Aisha gripped her chest, almost denying her the chance to breathe. She wrenched Dev off, massaging her sore ribs. "Gee, Dev," she retorted, "do you have to do this every time?"

      Dev grinned sheepishly. "Well, you hardly come to visit me anymore since you began working as the Negg Faerie's assistant. Glad to see you."

      "Well, same to you too. Eh, who's this?" Lilly asked, for she noticed Xylana for the first time, standing behind the counter weighing some flour.

      "She's Xylana, and she's my assistant in the form of a grey faerie," Dev answered. Not heeding Dev's poetical answer, Lilly introduced herself. The usually shy Xylana looked happy for what seemed the first time; a smile was formed by her mouth. Soon, the two of them were talking quickly, spurting bits of self history and making jokes. Dev joined in, guffawing and excusing herself for her loud laughs later. Xylana didn't mind though, because she had made another new friend. The jovial laughter simply added to the warm, friendly atmosphere, the echo bouncing off the walls.

      ***

      A few weeks later, when Lilly would go back to the Negg Faerie soon, Dev approached her cautiously, tiptoeing, looking casual and all the like.

      "Lilly, I know this seems a little too fast, and I may appear selfish, but I have to ask you something," she said, her voice in and undertone so low that the Kougra was forced to swivel her ears to the front.

      "Shoot," she replied.

      "Um…you know Xylana is a grey Faerie and you've really got to know her well. I was wondering… She needs wings, Lilly. Your wings to become a proper faerie again," Dev explained, pronouncing each word with clarity so that Lilly wouldn't misunderstand.

      "NO! Why? Why does she want my wings? Can't she find some herself? Why me? WHY?" Lilly demanded, shaking, unable to control her voice.

      "Please, Lilly…" Dev was begging, already on her knees.

      "I don't know. I want to help her, but I don't know why I have to do this," Lilly replied curtly.

      "We have searched endlessly for two months! Please, it is not dangerous at all, just a simple spell. Trust me, for I know that Mr. Binkle of the book shop told me that," Dev said.

      "Let me consider my options. I will help, but there is only the slightest chance that she will have my wings. Give me a day," Lilly had calmed down.

      "Thanks, Lilly," Dev hugged her tightly, sprinting out from her room.

      As soon as the door was slammed shut, Lilly sank down onto the mattress that she slept on while visiting. She stared wanly at her feathery wings, which were moving slightly in accordance to the continuous ticking of a clock. Dev was right, it was a bit fast. She was torn between two choices: to help or not to help. She wanted to help the fallen faerie, but she loved her fuchsia wings dearly. To help or not to help? She repeated in her head, because it would be unbearable to have those wings taken away from her. Her back would feel so--so--empty. So would she, for she had gotten used to them over time. She almost cried out in anguish, agitated, but composed herself and tried to stay calm.

      Finally, she uttered a sentence that split her heart into two. "Yes, I'll give her my wings."

      ***

      The next day, they were standing in the little clearing outside the shop. It was lined on the ground with brown and red autumn leaves, adding a touch of dreariness, making everything melancholy.

      Dev double-checked to see that the spell was correct, and then lined Kougra and faerie next to each other. She opened her mouth, trying to chant the strange words printed, but she couldn't, no matter how much she tried. For the language was the sacred Faerie Tongue, and only faeries and very special Neopets knew how to communicate with it.

      Xylana picked up the book, seeing as Dev could not speak the language. With a trembling mouth, she slowly recited the words, being very careful not to mispronounce anything. She suddenly felt her courage welling up inside her, and a clear strong voice replaced the indistinct murmur she had carried for so long.

      As the chants of "Asrah miloka raetai mumbuh likins Xylana!" filled the still fall air, an odd aqua glow circled the faerie's body. She twitched a little, and then her eyelids closed. She spoke slowly, "Give me the wings." Lilly hesitated, unwilling to part with them.

      "Give me!" the voice was louder this time.

      Lilly quivered, still dawdling.

      "Give…me…" Xylana's voice grew weaker as she began to magically float up, suspended in mid-air. She thrashed around, her head wobbled unsteadily, as if threatening to fall off. Lilly winced at the thought, and knew she could not cheat fate out of its due. There was no more time.

      Acting upon instinct, Lilly inserted her body into the glowing aura, which sucked her in like a ravenous black hole. She felt herself thrashing wildly too, and her vision became a mass of blurry shapes. She paid them no notice; instead she closed her eyes as she felt an unknown force lift her wings off. Dev, who was frozen in a stupor, watched in amazement as a golden glow seeped through Lilly. This was probably the life in her wings returning to her body, now that she was rid of them. The same radiance entered the wings, now firmly attached to Xylana. And then, suddenly as it had started, the process came to an end.

      The now airborne Xylana felt jubilant as the freedom of flying entered her mind and body. She breathed out all her unpleasant memories, all the loathing and distress leaving her. Now, she was at peace with the world.

      Lilly had returned back to her old colour, ice blue. She saw how different Xylana's appearance was: long locks of blonde hair fell past her shoulders, her skin had taken on a peach-like quality, and Lilly's wings had now transformed, becoming the same blue and white wings Xylana had before. Lilly was feeling pretty good herself, despite the fact that she now had to depend on other ways to get to her destinations. She and Dev watched as Xylana flew away, saying a soft goodbye, but not before feeling a rush of cold air descend upon them. They shrugged it off, thinking it was just the wind.

      However, since that incident, Dev's business flourished, and her shop was swarmed with customers everyday. She was so busy that now she really needed an assistant!

      Lilly went back to the Ice Caves, where she started to tell the Negg Faerie all about her experience. But halfway through the conversation, she caught her reflection in the shiny, opaque ice. Her fuchsia wings were back, but they seemed to glitter, as if there were a very thin sheet of gold dust on them.

The End

 
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