Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 105,101,325 Issue: 206 | 2nd day of Gathering, Y7
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The Faerie Pet: Part One


by nut862

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It was a lazy summer day in the Month of Swimming, Year 6. (Yes, this began last year. As you can see from my brief descriptions of my siblings, none of us were painted yet.)

     The morning was sweltering with heat as the sun beat down on Neopia Central. I was sitting in my pond in the garden, which was little more than a puddle of water that barely came up to my blue Flotsam tummy, watching my owner and three siblings running around in the backyard having fun with the hose.

     "Got you!" Sparkler, a blue Shoyru, yelled as she pointed the hose at Quiggler, spraying him full and drenching him. The green Quiggle just grinned, enjoying the cool water.

     "Hey, don't we get a turn? We're hot too!" Lulu exclaimed. The green Kiko ran up to Sparkler and lunged for the hose. Sparkler pulled away, but Nut grabbed her arm and held her back while Lulu took control of the hose.

     "Hey!" Sparkler complained, turning with a frown to our owner. Nut just smiled.

     Lulu pointed the hose straight up in the air, creating a shower of water that rained down on all four of them. Quiggler, Nut, and even Sparkler shrieked with excitement and joy as they ran around the yard. I smiled from my place in the dried-up pond. I could have joined them, but I didn't much feel like it. I felt lazy. It seemed to me that I could just lie in my pond all day long while the heat bathed me.

     A sudden blast of shocking cold water jolted me to the alert. I looked up quickly and saw Nut struggling with the hose as three joyful pets pulled it in different directions, trying to wrestle it away from our owner.

     "Sorry, Floater!" Nut called out to me as she got into a tug-of-war with Sparkler. Water shot in all directions as the two fought for control of the hose, until finally the blue Shoyru yanked the hose out of Nut's grip, sending her sprawling to the grass as water streamed out at her. Lulu and Quiggler ran into the path of the stream, shrieking with excitement. The four of them were all completely soaked.

     I sat up. The water jolt had startled me to my senses, and I no longer felt lazy all of a sudden. On the contrary, I felt like doing something on this lovely summer day. I wanted to have fun somewhere. An idea occurred to me, and I went up to the group that was running around in the yard.

     "Hey, guys," I said. "Want to go to Mystery Island for the day?"

     No one heard me. The sound of water shooting out of the hose, and the cries of my siblings, drowned me out. I tried again, louder, "Does anyone feel like going to Mystery Island?"

     Sparkler heard me this time. Her eyes lit up, and a grin spread across her face. She loves Mystery Island. "Oh, I would love t…" she began.

     At that moment, Quiggler aimed the hose at the blue Shoyru, and the blast of water startled her words out of her mouth. "Hey!" she sputtered. Grabbing the hose from Quiggler, she blasted him with water, and he ran laughing across the yard.

     I needed some order if anyone was going to listen to my idea. I darted over to the side of the house and turned the handle on the water faucet. The hose stopped spraying water.

     Nut and Lulu looked surprised, but Sparkler looked especially so. She peered down the barrel of the hose. "What happened?"

     "Floater turned off the water," Lulu exclaimed.

     "What? Why?" Quiggler asked, grinning as usual.

     "Turn it back on, Floater," Nut told me.

     "I turned it off so that you guys would listen to my idea," I said. "I thought it might be fun to spend the day at Mystery Island. We could go swimming in the ocean," I hinted. "That would be a much better way to cool off than with this hose."

     "And I could go exploring jungles. Let's do it!" Sparkler exclaimed, dropping the hose and letting it fall limp on the grass.

     Nut looked around. "I'm okay with that idea. Anyone against it?"

     Quiggler grinned. He would be happy no matter how we spent the day. And Lulu smiled, indicating that she was willing to go. We would spend the day on Mystery Island.

     In a relatively short amount of time, we found ourselves on the Mystery Island beach. Nut unrolled a beach towel and laid it flat on the sand just outside of the wet sand zone where waves rolled up on the beach. I stared out at the endless stretch of water that lay before us, the hot sun sparkling on its surface. This was going to be a great day.

     Mystery Island is one of our favorite places to go. It might even be the favorite place to go for us. We come to the beach quite often, to spend the day swimming while Sparkler goes off to explore some jungle, and maybe pick up some lunch at the Tropical Food Shop at noon and eat it on the beach. We always have fun, and something interesting always occurs at Mystery Island.

     "Okay, guys, we're officially here," Nut announced.

     "Yeah!" I exclaimed, rushing down across the beach to the inviting cool-looking ocean before me.

     Sparkler immediately took off into the air, saying she'd be back by lunchtime, and Quiggler followed me down to the ocean.

     "I'll be right there," Lulu called to Quiggler. She set her Slorg on the beach towel and spent about five minutes telling him that she was going to go swimming and that she'd be back soon and that she'd miss him while she was gone, but that he had to stay on the beach with Nut. Her Slorg just grinned at her. Lulu just loves that Slorg, and she can hardly bear to be separated from him. I foresaw a lot of trips up the beach to visit her Slorg over the course of the day.

     I splashed into the cool ocean waters, the chilly liquid enveloping me and revitalizing my body. This was the element in which I belonged. It felt cold and good after a morning of sitting in the heat of the sun.

     "Whee!" Quiggler said, splashing in next to me. He kicked his big Quiggle feet, sending sprays of shining droplets into the air. He would stay near shore, as usual, and Lulu would be playing in the water with him. Not me.

     I wanted to dive, to swim down deep into the joyful waters. Flipping my blue Flotsam tail up gracefully as I smoothed my body into an arc, I dipped down beneath the surface and propelled myself through the ocean waters on my swift fins. This was what I loved to do. I swam down, down, through the island waters. I looked up once, to see the sun sparkling on the surface above, but continued swimming down. I passed many other pets on my way, pets who, like me, had come to the ocean to have fun for the day. All of the island's aquatic natives seemed to be out in the water that day, and I swam through a regular layer of them on my way down.

     But once I had passed through the layer, I was alone. The water grew darker as I swam downwards, but it didn't scare me a bit. The ocean was my home, and today, just for fun, I wanted to swim all the way to the sea floor. I had never done that before, but today I felt some strange motivation to do so. So I went on through the water, intent on my goal.

     I passed drifting seaweed and kelp on my way, but once I reached the ocean floor, I found myself surrounded by colorful coral. Sand covered the bottom of the ocean, and my passage stirred it up with every sweep of my fins. Rocks dotted the sea floor, and here and there I saw an aquatic Petpet lounging around on them. Leebles swept through the water, and I saw a couple of Bubblisaurs floating around. A handsome green Slugawoo dozed on a rock. I smiled as I passed them. The sea floor was beautiful. Why had I never come this far through the water before? It was wonderful down here. I could stay here all day.

     On and on I swam, enjoying the sights around me. I felt like I was in my own little world, with no one else around. It felt safe down here, so safe and pleasant…I made a mental note to myself to return on future visits.

     I had been swimming for some time, when I discovered what appeared to be an ocean cave. The entrance was small and half-hidden by seaweed, and I was amazed that I'd noticed it at all. I didn't think twice about swimming in.

     The cave was very narrow, and I swam curiously through it, wondering how deep it was and what I would find at the back of the cave.

     To my surprise, I found myself swimming towards an opening at the other end, which allowed passage into a different part of the ocean. The cave wasn't really a cave at all, but a tunnel hewn through a sheet of rock under the water. I swam out through the opening…and gasped at what I saw.

     Before me, a palace, a gleaming structure made of a light blue material, not Maractite, but something similar, rose up from the ocean floor. The palace was huge; it towered above me, draped in seaweed, with large windows carved out of its walls. The blue walls almost seemed to glow with a dim blue light. A full-fledged palace, complete with an ocean courtyard teeming with coral, at the bottom of the Mystery Island ocean!

     But despite the palace's obvious size and grandeur, its pale blue walls looked…fragile, almost, and though there was no sign of it on the outside, it seemed as if the palace was growing weak with decay and corruption. I could see that the palace had once been beautiful, but as I looked at it now, some sense told me that all was not well in this kingdom. Who lived in the palace, and where were they? Was it abandoned? Why had it been built to begin with? And why under the sea, of all places?

     As I stared in amazement at the grand palace, around which was quickly forming a mystery, at least in my mind, a harsh, rasping voice came from behind me, causing me to jump in surprise. "You! Who are you? Why are you here?"

     I turned around quickly in the water. A blue Jetsam floated in the water behind me, his red eyes boring into my face. His slick blue skin was a darker color than that of most blue Jetsams, and I shuddered under his piercing gaze. Crooked, pointy teeth showed from under his lip. Where had he come from? I hadn't even noticed him swimming up behind me.

     "Hello," I said, trying to put on a friendly smile. A feeling inside me told me, though, that no amount of friendliness was going to make a friend of this Jetsam. Something about him wasn't right, but I couldn't tell what, other than his darker skin color and the way he was staring at me. I looked around nervously, half hoping that there was someone nearby to call to for help if I needed to, and half worried that the Jetsam had companions lurking in the shadows of the sea.

     "Do you live in this kingdom?" the Jetsam rasped, still glaring at me, as if searching for my identity in my face.

     Uncomfortable, I replied, "No, I just stumbled on it by accident. I'm visiting Mystery Island with my family, and I just went swimming here. If this is your territory, I can leave," I added, eager to get away from the creepy Jetsam. I started swimming away.

     "Stay!" the Jetsam commanded, stopping me in my tracks with his harsh voice. I looked at him, and noticed that his fierce gaze had lessened, and his eyes now looked at me with a cold interest. He turned to face the ocean palace, looking at it with an almost malicious glint in his eye, and said, as if making small talk, "A lovely place this kingdom used to be. Sad, though, that it is ruined now."

     "It is ruined?" I asked, staring at the palace, which stood staunchly upright in the sea, seemingly in perfect condition, though it had an air of emptiness around it. "How did it get ruined?"

     "Long ago, many years ago, the queen was overthrown," the Jetsam said, staring at the palace almost greedily. "The queen was a Water Faerie, acclaimed throughout the ocean as one of the highest in rank, and purest in soul." The Jetsam's eyes hardened as he said these words, as if disgusted. "She ruled over so many ocean pets from this very palace. Every pet in the sea wanted to be her subject, but she would allow only the kindest to enter her ocean sanctuary. It was a shame when the Water Faerie finally fell, and all of her subjects with her." The Jetsam shook his head and looked back at me.

     "That's too bad," I said softly, gazing up at the once-great palace. "What caused the Water Faerie to…fall?"

     "It is too sad to describe. I am only glad that I can help her scattered subjects. The survivors of this tragic event needed a new home, and I gave them a comfortable place to reside for the rest of their lives. Ah, but the palace was so much greater. In its glory days, it was a fantastic place. How I would like to see the palace restored…" The Jetsam sighed, dropping his gaze to the sea floor. "I feel sorry for you, a Flotsam who has never seen the greatest part of the sea!"

     This Jetsam was creeping me out. I wasn't sure why, but something about him was just very strange. I told myself that I was being silly and that I just wasn't used to seeing things with so many teeth, and that he was probably quite harmless. "I would have loved to see the palace when it was in its glory," I said, and I meant it as I looked at the regal blue walls of the palace.

     The Jetsam lifted his eyes, giving me a startlingly sharp look. "You want to see the palace restored," he rasped. "I am glad, because I was about to tell you that you can do just that. You, and you alone, can restore this fallen kingdom."

     I looked at him in surprise. What was he talking about? He didn't even know me, and now he wanted me to restore a fallen kingdom? I was about to tell him no, but the tantalizing glowing blue walls of the palace called to me. They held a mystery deep within them, I knew, and I wanted to see the mystery revealed. And if I really could restore the kingdom…why shouldn't I? If I couldn't, I would be no worse off, other than maybe getting laughed at by a prankster Jetsam.

     "What would I have to do to restore the palace?" I asked guardedly. I told myself that I would go as far as seemed harmless, but at the first sign of suspicion, I decided that I would bolt.

     "Nothing really difficult," the Jetsam said. "Just go into the palace, and in the main room you will see a jewel known as the Sea Sapphire. This jewel contains strong magic that, if released properly, can restore the palace completely. I happen to know how to release the magic, but…" He paused, as if thinking. "There was a long line of guardians for this jewel, and they were all Flotsams. As such, only Flotsams can touch the jewel; it will harm any other species of pet that tries to take it. So of course I can't go in and get it myself. I have been waiting and waiting for a Flotsam to come along and help me! I'm so glad you came!"

     I looked at the Jetsam skeptically. This sounded suspicious already, and I was of half a mind to turn and leave right now. Then I noticed that the Jetsam was floating in front of the tunnel through which I had come, effectively blocking my exit. Asking him to move seemed rude, and as the Jetsam grinned at me pleadingly, the rows and rows of sharp teeth lining his mouth made it seem like a bad idea to try to oppose him. So, with no small feeling of dread in my heart, I swam forward, intent on entering the palace.

To be continued…

 
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