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Riana's Glade


by warrior_of_twilight

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It was the same rough path I took every afternoon. Crisp, golden leaves crunched under my paws as I ducked under low tree branches, avoiding dirtying my fur in case my owner happened to notice. Back then I was a carefree fire Kougra: stubborn, curious, and never seen without a brown leather journal that was tattered from careless usage.

     After many long afternoons of exploring the rugged Meridell forest, I had finally found my spot. The glade could even be considered greater than Illusen's Glade herself. It was the perfect place for me to sit and lose myself in deep thoughts. And best of all, no one knew of it except me.

     Bare trees passed more quickly as I drew closer. As I pushed through the last cluster of branches a smile lit my face. Settling down, I pressed my back against a tree trunk and opened up my journal.

      14th Day of Storing, Y7

     Another day of slipping past Caroline to get here. You'd think your owner would notice their pet missing every afternoon, but not mine. I overheard her talking about getting another pet yesterday-she wants a baby Uni. Why would she want to get another Neopet when she already neglects her first?

     Maybe I'm not good enough for her. Or maybe she'd rather have a girl rather than a boy. Well I don't care. You know what she said when I got back to our Neohome yesterday? "Taikkel, you're tracking in filth!" Was it my fault a thorn bush snagged my fur, or that it rained a few days ago and was still muddy? I thought she would be worried over me coming home so late… at least a little.

     My eyes suddenly flickered upwards as a noise reached my ears. Was that a giggle?

     Scanning the clearing for a source of the noise, I saw nothing of interest. Perhaps it was just the wind. Turning back to my journal, I wrinkled my nose thoughtfully and tapped my pencil against the faded page. A single auburn leaf drifted down and settled against my fur.

     "Hello."

     As if I'd been burned, I jumped up from my comfy spot and spun around. The voice was hushed, sorrowful, and could have easily been mistaken for the whistling wind. But it hadn't been the wind; someone was in my glade.

     "Who's there?" I called to the forest, only to be answered by a rustle of wind-tossed leaves. The trees swayed in an unconcerned way, ignoring my anxious call.

     My eyes turned back to my journal, thrown askew from my sudden jump upwards. Maybe it had been the deceiving wind all along. I settled back down, looking around hesitantly before glancing back at writing. When I looked back up a tattered Cybunny plushie was at my feet.

     * * *

     The day came and passed, and the next afternoon I found myself back in the forest, determined and curious to find who had given me the Cybunny plushie. One of the ears was nearly ripped off and there was a definite gloomy look to its face.

     I set the Cybunny plushie down next to me and opened up my journal, occasionally looking up from my writing. For a while it seemed as though the creature wasn't there. And I thought that maybe it had gone back to its home. But then…

     A crunch from a pile of wilting leaves sounded, and I instantly called out, "Is anyone there?"

     Silence.

     "Is that my plushie?" the voice whispered, nearly swallowed in the wind. I picked up the tattered toy and got to my paws. With a confirmed nod, I pushed it forwards and waited breathlessly.

     Something picked up the toy and held it tightly, and I blinked several times in surprise. Then, "You're an invisible Neopet, aren't you?"

     There was a heavy sigh followed by a whispered, "Yes."

     The two of us settled down on the cool ground, and I listen with strained ears as the invisible pet explained herself. Her voice was timid and soft, and she spoke with a lingering sadness.

     "I'm Riana," she began, fingering the toy in her hands thoughtfully. "And I'm an invisible Cybunny. I hang out here most of the time, but I especially like it in autumn, when all the leaves turn gold and brown and auburn."

     "I thought I was the only one who knew about this place," I mumbled with a hint of regret in my voice. This was supposed to be Taikkel's Glade alone, and I didn't want to share it.

     "Only the two of us," Riana corrected softly, gently pushing some of the stuffing back into the Cybunny plushie's head.

     The two of us talked nonstop, and I learned that Riana had been painted invisible years ago. Her owner eventually forgot her completely, and so she spent her time in Meridell. We both had so much in common, and when the sun started its steady descent towards the horizon, both of us promised to meet again the next afternoon.

     * * *

     "So what's your owner like?"

     I gave a nonchalant shrug and brushed a leaf off the cover of my journal. "Caroline is…well, one of a kind," I answered slowly, thinking of the right words. Riana gave a small giggle and replied, "No, Taikkel, tell me what she's like. Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

     The subject of Caroline had always been avoided when the two of us hung out together, but Riana seemed keen on hearing about her. So far I had managed to redirect the conversation when she asked about my family, but I couldn't stall forever.

     "Well, I might be getting a sister soon."

     "And what about Caroline?" Riana pressed eagerly.

     "She's pretty cool, I mean, she was nice enough to paint me fire," I pointed out. "She's always giving me these cool toys and she takes me to all these different places. I remember one time she took me to see Mystery Island, and we spent all day playing on the beach."

     If I could have seen Riana's face, I was sure she'd have a smile on her face. Still, I couldn't help but squirm uncomfortably; it was a lie nevertheless.

     Riana turned out being my first true friend. It was amazing how close two could be when one couldn't even see the other. As the days grew weary and bitter, and the remainder of the leaves turned a brittle chestnut color and withered, Riana and I spent our time playing cheerfully in the clearing. Autumn turned to winter. And still the two of us were inseparable in our time together.

     But one day, as I pawed through the newly fallen snow to meet Riana, I knew that things were going to change all too soon. I had found out that my owner and I planned to move to Neopia Central. And as much as I protested, Caroline wouldn't budge on her decision. Meridell would soon be a distant memory, and along with it, Riana.

     "Hello, Taikkel," Riana greeted in her usual soft-spoken tone. I could see the faint outline of her paws in the indented snow. With a sullen 'hi' I sat down next to her.

     "What's wrong?" she asked, worry etched in her voice. I kicked some snow and muttered angrily, "Caroline and I are moving to Neopia Central. I told her I didn't want to go anywhere, but she won't listen to anything I have to say."

     "Moving?" Riana repeated. And I heard the same, sorrowful edge in her words that I had heard the very first time I heard her.

     "Stop doing that," I muttered fiercely, turning my face away from her. "I hate how sad you sound. I told you I can't change Caroline's decision, so what does it matter? How do you think I feel about all this? About leaving my glade?"

     Riana gave a quiet sniffle and stood up slowly. Wet tears dripped down and left small breaks in the snow. "Everybody always leaves me," she whispered, her voice lost to the wailing wind. Then she was gone.

     Now, years later, I come back to the glade just at the start of autumn. Lost in a sea of red, golden, auburn, and brown leaves, I break through the trees to find everything unchanged. Suddenly I am back with Riana, laughing and playing happily in the forest. I show her my leather-bound journal and read to her bits and pieces of my life. Only this time, I tell her the truth.

     "Taikkel, slow down!" A whining voice gasps, and a baby Uni tumbles into the clearing from behind me. Kiaunni swipes angrily at a leaf stuck to her horn. "What is this place anyway?"

     "A glade," I reply with a small smile. "Greater than Illusen's herself."

     Kiaunni stops next to me and looks up quizzically, "So why is it so special? Is it yours, Taikkel?"

     "Nope," I answer simply.

     It was never my glade. It was Riana's Glade. And even though she's gone, I can still hear her in the wind.

The End

 
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