There are ants in my Lucky Green Boots Circulation: 109,226,905 Issue: 218 | 2nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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Starlight Invasion: Mianne's Normality


by rainbow_daydreamer

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Author's Note: I'm fully aware that, in our reality, there has been no such thing as the Starlight Invasion... yet.

People who talk of history often speak as if its tales are confined to a handful of individuals. Jeran. Hannah. Darigan. Sankara. True, these are the stories that Neopians remember. Yet if these few pets were the only villains and heroes of Neopia, there would be very little history to write. One way or another, the story would be over before it had begun.

     No. History belongs to the many, the ones whom some would think of as ordinary pets. As for the events of the so-called Starlight Invasion, which I'm sure no Neopet here will ever forget, no-one can begin to guess how many stories, actions, decisions were bound up in those desperate months. Tales of the great and the small, the wise and the foolish, the trusted and the unexpected. Tales of bravery and cowardice, cynicism and innocence, trust and betrayal, sadness and joy.

     What follows is just one of them.

     *

          Mianne.

     /mi: 'an/

     That was her name, though few ever spoke it and most didn't even know it. To the majority of Faerieland's inhabitants, she was simply "that silly girl from the library," or worse still, "the book-freak with the spectacles." Nobody was sure of her age, or her element, or where she came from. But because she was smaller than most, with her soft brown hair tied back in an amateur ponytail and her wings a rather garish lilac-petal shimmer, they thought about her as younger than themselves; if not a child, then at least a Faerie in training, too clumsy at magic to do anything other than collect post and catalogue books all day.

     She sat in her beloved library, the Neopian Daily News spread out in front of her, open conspicuously at the crossword page. Sucking her silver-coated pencil, she considered the next clue aloud. "Stockmarket ticker symbol for Super Splime Shakes? How in Neopia am I supposed to know THAT?"

     "Could it be S.S.S.?" supplied the Cybunny standing at the counter, a hint of amusement playing across his face. Mianne pencilled it in and turned to him, seeing the book held in his paws. "I want to take out this copy of Feeding Lupes," he said. "My cousin's coming to visit."

     She stamped the book for him and watched as he left, holding the copy under his forepaw. It was close to evening, now; soon she'd hear the faint chiming of the great town clock, far below in Neopia Central. Then it would be six o'clock, time to close the library for another day.

     There it was. One… two… three… four… five… six. Mianne got to her feet and put away the book-stamp in the top drawer of her desk. She had to shelve any stray volumes, tidy the cards, then lock up for the night and make sure there was no possibility of theft from the building. Not that she believed there would be any. Fyora had made it very clear that any would-be burglars would be dealt with by Jhudora, who had strong feelings about those who tried to take away the books that she might need for her spells.

     Her jobs done, Mianne fastened the door and began to walk home.

     *

     Mianne.

     Such a shy girl, they said. She keeps herself to herself, and she never seems happy unless she's at her desk with a crossword in front of her. Has anyone ever seen her at a Faerie debutante's ball? Or playing catch-a-falling-star with her family? Who is her family, anyway? Have you ever seen her with a sister, a cousin, her mother? What is it with her?

     And they would turn away, frustrated.

     It was morning again. Her bag over her shoulder, Mianne began the long journey to work, letting her bare feet sink into the clouds as she walked. The breeze ruffled her dress, lifting her hair from her shoulders.

     "Crazy girl!" She heard the voice from behind her. "Can't even fly!"

     "I can, for your information," she snapped, turning around to see the bullying Faerie. "I just like walking."

     "Oh, yeah," a young Fire Faerie sneered, her eyes flashing flame. "Just like you 'can' put the books on the shelves by magic 'stead of carrying them, right, four-eyes? I don't believe you."

     "I could!" Mianne glared at the girl. "I've… just had enough of magic for now."

     You would, too, if you were in my position. But I can't expect you to understand that…

     "Had enough of MAGIC?" echoed the Fire Faerie. "That's like saying you've had enough of breathing! Weirdo." And she stalked off without waiting for Mianne's reply.

     The so-called Library Faerie said nothing. Deep inside, she was burning with rage and sadness. The worst part, she told herself for the millionth time, wasn't the teasing, or the loneliness of the job, or the misunderstandings. The worst thing was being unable to talk to anyone, anyone, about her plight. The secrets she had to keep!

     Tears of pure frustration forming in her eyes, she ran the last few cloudbanks of the way and collapsed inside the doorway of the building, the library, her library. It was all right now, it was all right. She was there, she was home.

     This was, in a way, what Mianne had always wanted. An everyday life. Normality, quiet, the kind of dullness she'd only dreamt about before. Humdrum, comfortingly regular tasks to complete in the world of safe, predictable words, where the only excitement was that printed on the page. And all around peace, perfect peace.

     I'm happy here, she remembered. I'm happier than I've ever been. And the secrets… well, they're just the price I have to pay. It's not a big sacrifice.

     I promised Fyora when she gave all this to me that I wouldn't say a word unless the time was right. And I'll keep that promise.

          *

     Mianne sat as she always did, her glasses perched on her nose as she studied the crossword. Around her, pages rustled and Neopets, young and old, lost themselves in the magic of the printed word.

     "Miss Library Faerie?" asked a young Yurble, looking over the desk. "Do you have any idea where I can find a book about Sir Jeran Borodere?"

     "Sure," Mianne smiled, getting down a dusty volume entitled An Illustrated Neopian History, Part Seven: The Recent History of Meridell. "Let me know if it's too difficult for you, but everything you want should be in there."

     As she settled down in her chair once more, Mianne noticed something fluttering through the window, something that looked almost like a tiny, glowing bug. Spiralling downwards, it landed on her desk, where it took on the appearance of a small, bright flower. Of course, Mianne realised, it must be a magical message from Fyora.

     Yet the voice that sounded from within the paper flower, magically amplified to echo throughout the library, was not that of the Faerie Queen. Nor was it that of any Faerie Mianne remembered meeting before. The voice was high-pitched and sounded very flustered, almost on the verge of tears.

     "All Uber Faeries and those with specific duties, please report to the Hidden Tower as soon as possible. Jhudora, this means you too. Thank you."

     Picking up her belongings, Mianne chivvied the other Neopets out of the library and locked the door. She began to run, crossing cloud after cloud, until she reached the entrance to the Hidden Tower that was visible only to fully-trained Faeries.

     Inside, there was not the usual scene of calm order. A beautiful vase, Lost Desert-made, lay in shards on the floor, but no-one seemed to be noticing it. Someone at the end of the marble corridor was talking in a frantic tone, but the multiple echoes blurred their words. As Mianne entered, a trainee Water Faerie skittered across the room with a panicked expression on her face. "Hey, dictionary-girl, get out of my way!"

     "What's going-" she began, but the Faerie had already gone.

     She heard a hubbub of raised voices behind a door. Pushing it open, Mianne walked into a large room that seemed to be a grand hall of some sort. She hung back behind a pillar, not wanting to intrude.

     A young Faerie stood on the raised platform at the front of the hall, her bright hazel eyes wide, twiddling a Wand of Supernova nervously in her slender fingers. Mianne recognised her now; her face, framed by flowing copper hair, was a well-known one in Neopia. The girl was Ember, the Gormball-playing Fire Faerie.

     "Er… Sisters?" Ember called out, trying to make herself heard over the crowd. When no-one looked, she muttered the amplification-spell again and let her voice ring out. "Sisters! Please listen!"

     The noise gradually lessened. Ember shut her eyes for a moment, then took a deep breath and began speaking.

     "Some of you may have heard… rumours over the past few hours. It is my unfortunate task to tell you that the majority of them are, in fact, true."

     There was a gasp from the crowd, then the gabble of conversation returned, twice as loud. Ember reached in her pocket and pulled out a Gormball whistle, which she blew with all her might.

     "Listen! For those of you who have not yet heard the news, I shall explain."

     Mianne moved a little closer to the stage to listen, thinking, Why is a kid like Ember up there?

     "Some of you may remember the autumn of Year Six," the girl began. "The time when Neopia was threatened with what looked like nothing short of an invasion from the stars. For reasons which we still don't fully comprehend, it never happened. The press weren't notified and most of Neopia was only vaguely aware that there had ever been a threat."

     Various heads nodded. The scare was still too close a memory for comfort.

     "At the time, we believed that was that. Life went back to normal. Until now." Ember took a deep breath. "In the past few weeks, Fyora noticed unusual activity in Kreludan airspace and beyond. I am aware of this, because I was there the day she came to the Space Station to hire a ship."

     Everyone was quiet now, waiting like the calm before the storm.

      "A few hours ago, we received word that all spacecraft outside of Neopian airspace have been captured by an unknown agent," Ember continued finally, her eyes shut. "We've lost communications with all the passengers on that ship, including Her Majesty Fyora."

     There was chaos. Faeries were shouting, crying, protesting, trying to be heard. Mianne tried to calm her racing heart, breathing deeply.

     Not again…Fyora, I'm not ready…

     "Well, we have to get them back!" yelled a Light Faerie. "Surely we know what to do?"

     Ember faced the audience. "Save for me, who here remembers the first true Space War?" she yelled. Perhaps one or two hands were raised, and those who had done so immediately modified their position, murmuring "but I was just a kid at the time of course…" or "although I was living in Sakhmet at the time…"

     "Illusen wasn't here, Meridell hadn't been discovered. Fyor-I mean, goodness only knows what Jhudora was doing. Taelia was on Terror Mountain, which was still considered pretty much inaccessible…" The Fire Faerie's face was grim. "Apart from Eithne, who is still in enforced confinement for inciting a giant Moltenore, we have now lost everyone who could be of any practical help."

     "What are we going to do?" whispered someone, and the rest of the crowd took it up. Surrender? Never! Sit back and let Neopia get razed? I never learnt to fight, I'm an Earth Faerie! What good are illumination spells at a time like this?

     "I don't know," Ember admitted, and a single tear spilt from her hazel eyes. "I'm sorry…"

     And suddenly, Mianne - shy, bookish Mianne - was on the stage, her arm around Ember's shoulders, looking out at the others.

           "Who in Neopia is THAT?"

     "It's the library freak! What's she doing on the stage?"

     "What a nerve! We're in a crisis and she's probably going to suggest we read the encyclopaedia!"

     "Hey, four-eyes! Get down off there!"

     "Thank you, Ember," Mianne said softly. "You've done very well."

     The Fire Faerie looked up into her dark eyes. "Maybe I have, maybe I haven't. Who cares? We've lost everything!"

     "Not yet," Mianne smiled, and her voice seemed to radiate serenity out into the crowd.

     It's time, Fyora. Thank you for letting me have those few years of another life. Thank you…

     "If you knew there was a thief on the loose," she mused aloud, "and you couldn't stop him breaking in, what would you do with your most precious possession? Leave it on display?" Her eyes glittered behind her spectacles. "Or hide it… somewhere no-one would even think of looking for it?"

     As the other Faeries watched, Mianne murmured a spell. Nothing happened until the moment when, delicately and with an elegance quite unlike her usual self, she removed her spectacles and set them on the lectern. At once a shimmer of light surrounded her, making the crowd gasp.

     A gust of wind came out of nowhere, ripping the purple silk dress Mianne always wore and lifting it away from her. There was a breath of shock from the audience as her wings - her silly, flimsy, lilac wings - went with it. Her hair, swept up by the breeze, was darkening and shortening, breaking the illusion-spell Fyora had put on it. Mianne stood resplendent in starlight-blue, her true wings glittering behind her like the essence of the night sky.

     "You-" someone began. Mianne looked down at the speaker, and recognised the Fire Faerie she'd met in the suburbs.

     "Sorry?" she asked. "I didn't catch what you said."

     "I…" The Faerie tried to look anywhere but at Mianne. "I'm sorry, Leader… please just let me get my things and I'll go…"

     Mianne could have said many things. But every instinct told her that this was not the time.

     Farewell, once again, to normality…

     "We need everyone on board," the Space Faerie said with a benevolent smile. "Sit down, Lulia dear. It's going to be a very long night."

          

     The end of one story...

     and the beginning of more...

 
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