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Pictures in the Clouds


by nut862

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Dark purple clouds dotted the air of Faerieland, swirling all across the sky and mingling with the common white puffs. The purple clouds were an unusual sight, and caused pets across Neopia to gaze up at Faerieland and wonder if the Dark Faeries had taken over the Hidden Tower or some such event. Those who kept track of their calendars knew what was going on, and that the clouds would be back to normal by the next day, but for many Neopians the clouds were a strange source of interest that drew many an eye to stare at the purple wisps.

     If a pet looked at the purple clouds at just the right angle (this angle could be gained by positioning oneself on the front end of Jhudora's Cloud, curiously enough), he might see a queer scene in the sky, for the purple clouds were shaped into recognizable images as if by design. A tall purple cloud had the distinct appearance of a faerie's silhouette (and if one took care to note the shape of the large pointy wings and the faint flecks of green in what would be the hair, it would be no difficult matter to guess that the cloud was meant to represent one faerie in particular) with a wand in her hand; at the cloud's feet was a smaller purple cloud that uncannily resembled a Mortog. Another purple cloud seemed to be a portrait of that same faerie gazing into a crystal ball, and a pair of clouds that had recently appeared portrayed that faerie once again, this time standing in a regal pose while a purple cloud that strongly resembled a certain Earth Faerie bowed at her feet.

     Jhudora admired the sky from her seat on her cloud. "This is one day that I want those lazy pets to go cloud-watching," she said, the corners of her mouth turning up into a giddy smile. For today, the sky was her canvas. Her spells commanded the clouds to form into works of art in the blink of an eye. Jhudora was having more fun than she'd had all year crafting the clouds to her liking, and she was enjoying every minute of it. She was filled with almost childish glee as she made mischief through the sky.

     Jhudora stopped for a minute to ponder on what scene to draw in the clouds next. She grinned wickedly at the idea of placing in the sky an image of herself in a duel with Fyora in which the Queen was portrayed in a losing position, but she quickly rejected the idea, knowing that such a provocative statement could lead to trouble with the very subject of the cloud art.

     Jhudora was pushing her luck a bit with the clouds already. Fyora, gazing out of her castle window, was looking at the purple creations in distaste. "How she's ruined the sky!" the Faerie Queen sighed. She thought of blowing the offending purple clouds out of the air, but reminded herself, "It's only for this one day. I agreed to let Jhudora have one day out of the year to herself, and I won't stop her from doing what she likes as long as she's only having fun." The cloud pictures did disturb her a bit, though, and Fyora resolved to keep an eye on the Dark Faerie until the end of Jhudora Day.

     For it was Jhudora Day. It was a day when all of Jhudora's fans cheered under the Dark Faerie's sneer, and all of Illusen's fans ran into hiding and cried for hours… or at least that was what Jhudora liked to imagine. Jhudora smiled at the thought, but it quickly faded into a frown as she remembered her rival. "Speaking of Illusen, where is she? That Earth Faerie hasn't come yet."

     The thought blew all remembrance of fun out of her mind. Illusen hadn't stopped by Jhudora's Cloud at all that morning, and it was fast turning to the afternoon. On all previous Jhudora Days, the Earth Faerie had canceled her quests so she could drop by and see Jhudora. They weren't exactly friendly visits, and Jhudora always ended up feeling sour after Illusen left, as the Earth Faerie couldn't seem to understand the idea of appreciating evil for a day. But still, the Dark Faerie had come to expect her on Jhudora Day. Was Illusen going to break the tradition this year?

     "Or perhaps she's spent all this time plotting a way to ruin my day?" The thought was not a pleasant one to Jhudora. The memory of a past year flashed into her mind. Illusen had messed with the magical coordinates of Jhudora's cloud and sent it zooming wildly through the sky. Something even worse had happened last year: Illusen had actually given her a Jhudora Day gift. It was quite a nice present, if a bit simple: a set of hair clips that perfectly matched the Dark Faerie's purple and green locks. But that little act of kindness from her bitter enemy had nearly spoiled Jhudora's whole afternoon. She could barely think of evil all that time. Jhudora had no desire to have a repeat of that occur this year.

     "If she tries that on me again, I'll throw her gift back at her and tell her I won't take it," Jhudora muttered to herself. She stared out at her purple clouds restlessly.

     "Excuse me, Miss Jhudora," a small voice came from the front of her home cloud. "I'm here for a quest."

     Jhudora frowned. The only problem with Jhudora Day, besides the expectation of seeing Illusen, was the increased number of pets who came to perform quests for her. Even when Jhudora didn't need any more items, she was obligated to ask for something so that the pet could get a poisonous lollipop or some such item in exchange. Running quests was a nuisance at times.

     Jhudora didn't recognize the little Kacheek who was there for a quest now; most likely, the young pet had just found out that it was Jhudora Day and wanted to see what it was about. "Bring me a… Slorg Usuki Playset," Jhudora said, asking for the first item that came to mind.

     The Kacheek hurried off, leaving the Dark Faerie to resume brooding over Illusen. The Earth Faerie had never been this late. A thought occurred to Jhudora: perhaps Illusen had come by secretly earlier that morning and left a token prank somewhere for Jhudora to find. It seemed plausible, but a quick search of her cloud revealed nothing that was amiss. There was nothing to do but wait for Illusen to arrive. Jhudora scowled at the prospect of having to put up with her visit. "I wish she'd come by earlier, so I could've gotten it over with."

     As the afternoon crawled by, Jhudora found it difficult to concentrate on giving quests. Midday found her idly staring at the purple clouds, restless thoughts tossing in her head. This was the position she was in when a thin, pale faerie of her own element landed beside her.

     The faerie closed her leathery wings and placed her hands on her hips, eyeing Jhudora with a hint of annoyance mixed with curiosity. "My lady, it isn't like you to sit staring into space."

     Jhudora jumped. Clenching her fists so that her nails dug into her skin, she turned to face the Dark Faerie, whom she recognized as Bioka, one of the higher officers that worked under her name. "What would you rather I were doing?" she snapped.

     "With all due respect, Jhudora, I would rather you were helping us. Your faithful servants, I and many other Dark Faeries, have spent the day working nearly twice our usual rate to find and convince as many pets as we can that joining you would benefit them."

     Jhudora sneered. "And how is that going?"

     Bioka chuckled. "We've managed to recruit many pets. We're using the fact that it's Jhudora Day to our advantage. We do this for you, my lady. But while we work, you sit here daydreaming. Were you not planning to use this day to find able and willing pets to lurk at your sides? Is this Jhudora Day, or is it your day off?"

     "It could be either," Jhudora replied irritably. "It is my day to do as I please. Furthermore, it's the brat's fault that I haven't been out and looking for evilly inclined pets. I can't leave my cloud until she comes."

     "Pardon my asking, but why should you wait for her? Leave, and you may miss her when she does come. Then you won't have to deal with her."

     "If she came and found me gone, she might think it fun to lay my cloud ruin without my knowledge," Jhudora mumbled.

     "Cast a spell to keep her out," Bioka suggested.

     "She would find a way to get through and do what she wished."

     "My lady, have you so little confidence in your magical powers that you think yourself helpless at the hands of that child? You are infinitely better than she. Act it!" Bioka said firmly.

     Jhudora glared at her. "I am certainly not helpless. I never thought I was."

     "You were speaking as if you did," Bioka replied.

     "You misunderstood me." Jhudora's voice took on a cold tone that indicated Bioka might lose friendly terms with her if she continued being bold.

     "My original question was if you intend to help us at all today, or spin cloud pictures all day long?" Bioka said.

     "Later!" Jhudora hissed. "I will come later. Now leave me! Get out!"

     Bioka took the subtle hint and flew away. Her mistress could be terribly unsociable at times. She doubted that Jhudora would come at all, knowing the Dark Faerie when she was in a bad mood.

     Jhudora gazed at the picture in the clouds that portrayed Illusen's cloud likeness bowing to the Dark Faerie. The afternoon was speeding away, and still the Earth Faerie had not come. Perhaps Illusen had actually forgotten that it was Jhudora Day. If that was the case, Jhudora decided to take it upon herself to remind her.

     An evil grin spread across her face as she imagined reaching Illusen's house uninvited instead of vice versa, and wreaking havoc on her day instead of the other way around. Why hadn't she thought of taking advantage of the faerie's lateness earlier? Jhudora set out for Meridell immediately.

     As the green fields and rolling hills came into view, Jhudora scanned the land for Illusen's cottage in her glade. Seeing it, the Dark Faerie alighted in the grass nearby. Looking up, she marveled at how clearly her purple cloud creations could be seen from there, particularly the image of which Illusen's character was a part. Jhudora wondered how Illusen could have forgotten about Jhudora Day with those clouds practically in her backyard. Then again, perhaps the Earth Faerie hadn't recognized the shapes in the clouds. Illusen always had been a bit slow that way.

     Jhudora stood among the grasses, thinking about what she was going to do now that she was there. As she contemplated this, a happy-looking Mynci came bouncing up the path to Illusen's house. Jhudora darted behind a tree and watched as the Mynci knocked on Illusen's door.

     The green-clad faerie opened the door, carrying a tray full of fresh cookies. Smiling at the Mynci, she exclaimed, "Oh, you brought me a White Chocolate Eyrie! Thank you so much! Here's a nice cream cookie for you."

     The Mynci grinned and hurried off. Illusen started to close the door, but stopped and looked around. An odd semi-smile spread across her face as she caught sight of a bit of familiar purple fabric sticking out from behind a tree. "Jhudora? What are you doing, hiding here?"

     Jhudora grumbled at herself for not concealing herself better. She pulled the loose edge of her dress closer to her.

     "Come on, Jhudora, are you scared of me or something?" Illusen asked in a teasing voice. "I know you're behind that tree…"

     There was no use hiding. At the very least, she could make a dramatic entrance. Jhudora waved her hands, and in a large display of purple smoke, she appeared before her rival. Illusen eyed her, looking unimpressed. She merely said, "It's a surprise to see you here, Jhudora."

     "You have some nerve, doing quests on my day," Jhudora sneered. "Have you gotten much business?"

     "Yes, quite a lot," Illusen answered. "Pets are very happy that I didn't close down quests today like I've done in the past."

     Jhudora grimaced. "For a while I thought that you'd forgotten it was Jhudora Day, but it seems you're only being impertinent."

     Illusen grinned. "So did you come down to see how my quest business was doing, or was it because you were wondering why I didn't come this morning?"

     "I was a bit curious," Jhudora admitted grudgingly.

     "I didn't see the point," Illusen said casually. "I believe I've outgrown playing petty tricks to ruin your day. It's your holiday, and you may as well enjoy it."

     Jhudora stared at her rival. Illusen's eyes twinkled mischievously; she knew that such a statement would annoy the Dark Faerie. Not knowing how to retort, Jhudora's eyes fell on the tray of cream cookies that Illusen was holding.

     Unable to resist the urge, Jhudora's hands flew out, shoved the tray against Illusen, and then pushed her to the ground. The sight of Illusen with cream smeared all over her dress and her cookies smashed was somewhat fulfilling, but what Illusen did next ruined the moment. She smiled and said brightly, "Happy Jhudora Day! I'd better go get cleaned up." She picked up her tray and went back into the house.

     Where was the easily incited Illusen that Jhudora knew? On any other occasion, such actions on the part of Jhudora would have sent Illusen into a vengeful frenzy. Such a calm attitude wasn't like Jhudora's old rival. The Dark Faerie walked away grumbling to herself, in a decidedly foul mood. Happy Jhudora Day, indeed! Illusen had to have known that would only make her mad. In fact, maybe that was why she had said it… but still, the Earth Faerie's reaction to her squished cookies had been far too cheerful.

     Jhudora's peace of mind was somewhat disturbed all day long. She kept her promise to Bioka of "helping later", but she was too distracted to be really effective at recruiting pets. It was late when Jhudora returned to her cloud after a long afternoon of roaming Neopia in search of weak-minded pets. She was planning to go straight to bed, when she noticed a green cloud hanging in the sky alongside her purple ones.

     Jhudora hadn't created any green clouds that morning. It wasn't her trademark toxic green, either; it was a leaf green. Jhudora focused some more attention on the darkening sky and saw that the strange green cloud was sitting in the middle of the picture of Illusen bowing to her. But the picture didn't look the same as it had that morning. In fact, as Jhudora walked around and watched the clouds from different angles, she realized that the picture had been changed altogether. The green cloud was a rather beautiful likeness of Illusen sitting on a throne, and the purple clouds next to it had been rearranged into a rather ugly representative of Jhudora fanning Illusen and serving her from a tray.

     "Why, that little…!" Jhudora exclaimed.

     She almost thought she heard Illusen laughing in response. Jhudora wasn't the only one who could play with clouds, apparently.

     In her tower, Fyora was thankful when the clock struck midnight, marking the end of Jhudora Day. She whispered a spell, and a breeze wafted out of the window of the Hidden Tower, clearing away all the purple clouds. The green cloud vanished as well.

     By morning, the only clouds in the sky were the usual white ones, and any pictures to be seen in them were from pets' imaginations.

The End

 
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