Still thwarting Sloth's mind control... Circulation: 150,952,996 Issue: 232 | 24th day of Running, Y8
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Dark Quest


by rainbow_lover852

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Jenna looked longingly after a Faerie Acara as it went gliding by. Her own lush blue fur, which she brushed carefully every morning, looked rather dull compared to the painted pet's bright beautiful colors. It was the wings that really made her heart leap however. Think of the tricks she'd be able to do with them!

     Desperately, and for the third time that week, Jenna turned to her grandmother with pleading eyes. But the stout red Xweetok seemed to have already guessed what she was thinking, "If you're going to beg for a paintbrush again, then save your breath, Jenna," she said in exasperation. "Honestly, how many times do I have to tell you that we can't afford one?"

     She began rummaging through faerie foods again, in search for a treat for the party that night. Grandmother Rosy loved parties, especially since she rarely had the chance to host one. Jenna kept at her plight all the same. "But I already promised you that I would pay half of it," then after a moment, "Or at least one fourth of it, please?"

     Her grandmother looked down upon the small Xweetok kindly, trying to keep her voice gentle and reassuring. "Unless some miracle happened, dear, all our savings together couldn't buy what you want. I know you really want to be painted, but it's not about to happen right now," and with that, the subject was closed.

     The two Xweetoks lived in a quaint apartment near the edge of Faerieland. The only advantage of this to Jenna was that when the festivity parades passed by it was always in view of her window. Other than that, they were very far away from most of her friends and the smell was awful. Old ladies lived in the rooms downstairs, and they always wore perfume that resembled the odor of diaper wipes. They all loved Jenna, but that wasn't much of an advantage. They were always asking to help her in everything she did, and continually wanting to hear how her day was. "Fine," wasn't a satisfactory answer for them. Every time she answered one of their questions, a new one would pop up, often a quite silly one.

     Her favorite thing to do was explore the wide expanse of Faerieland, maybe get a chance to reach Fyora's Palace! But only royal members and faeries could get in free. Jenna had once been inside the courtyard, but that was only for the five minutes she'd been given to retrieve her kite. Nonetheless it had been fascinating to get a closer look.

     After helping her grandmother unload groceries, and hurriedly dodging Mrs. Bucket and Mrs. Bender in the hallway, Jenna tramped along the city square, still dreaming about the faerie paintbrush. She was just thinking she would take a stroll to the Healing Springs, when a paw touched her shoulder.

     Jumping a bit, she turned to see an old Aisha cloaked in rags. Her limp gray hair fell all over her face, though glinting red eyes could still be seen through it. She was by far the most hideous creature that Jenna had ever met. Shuddering she took a step back, eyeing the stranger warily.

     The stranger however shook her head and held out a paw imploringly, "Please little missy, I mean you no harm. It's just I couldn't help but overhear your wish for a bit of painting back there."

     Jenna's bright blue eyes widened in curiosity, "You… you mean you know how I could get one?" she asked incredulously. Hope soared through her, and she forgot her fear as she came eagerly closer to the stranger. "How?"

     The stranger smiled slyly, showing yellow teeth. "I need a bit of money to get me going," she stated.

     Jenna hastily opened her bag and counted out 10 neopoints; it was all she had. "Here," she urged, pushing the money into the Aisha's outstretched paw, "Now tell me how I can get it!"

     The Aisha was counting the money, which she soon put somewhere in her filthy cloak. Then she took Jenna's paw in hers, "I'll show you," she whispered.

     And with that they were off running down the alley, keeping to the shadows with every step.

     Jenna couldn't help but notice that her companion was leading her farther and farther from the city, until the tiles beneath all but disappeared and they were walking through dense dark cloud. "Almost there!" panted the stranger.

     Suddenly, Jenna realized she'd forgotten to ask an important question, "What's your name?" she panted, as their pace slowed to a stop.

     "Just call me Sprite," the stranger answered, and then she dashed off again, dragging Jenna through a long tunnel of swirling cloud.

     Finally she halted under a shadow. Jenna looked up to see a vaguely familiar fortress.

     She gasped.

     They had halted at the foot of Jhudora's Cloud.

     Jenna shivered uncontrollably. Her grandmother had warned her of this place, told all sorts of haunting stories about it. Jenna didn't really believe those stories now, but Jhudora's Cloud still visited her nightmares at night.

     "Grandmother told me not to visit this place," she hinted as she started to back away.

     Sprite tugged on her, however. "Your grandmother doesn't know Jhudora like I do," she countered. "Now come along, she'll get you what you want. That is," and she gave a sly smile yet again, "she will once you've done something for her in return."

     Jenna still hesitated, but a wonderful picture of her as a Faerie Xweetok pushed itself into her mind, and she was encouraged. Nothing was going to stop her dream now, not when she was this close.

     "That's it, dearie," her escort breathed softly as the two walked up the steps.

     * * * *

     BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

     The door knocker echoed its loud knocks all throughout the cloud. At first nothing happened, then the doors burst inward, shooting out a spurt of dark purple smoke in the process. Jenna was forced into a fit of coughing, but Sprite simply walked through as if it were mist.

     After a minute of passing corridors they reached a richly ornamented door, which seemed to lead into a greater chamber. Here Sprite paused as if to think, then she put a finger to her lips and whispered, "Wait here, little one, and stay quiet. I'll be back." Then she opened the door with a creak and slipped inside, closing it firmly behind her.

     For some reason Jenna felt that she very much wanted to know what Sprite was up to, yet the thought of following her sent a shiver up her spine. Instead she obediently stood just outside the door, waiting.

     Suddenly a glint caught her eye and distracted, she glanced around. There it was, an open door at the end of the hall. Something was shining through it.

     Still knowing of her orders, Jenna let her curiosity get the better of her. Creeping silently down the hall, she stopped just in front of the small opening and peaked in.

     It was a wondrous sight that met her eyes.

     Pile upon pile of trinkets littered the floor of an enormous chamber. Each thing, whether goblet or necklace, or amulet or platter or anything metal, had a single black jewel somewhere encrusted upon it. But the thing that really stood out, was the staff leaning against the wall. It had an orb placed at its tip, which was full of dark purple smoke.

     "Jhudora's hoard," Jenna breathed, quite dumbstruck. Everything that Jhudora had been collecting was being stashed right here. Even her staff was among it all.

     Carefully, after glancing around to make sure Sprite wasn't back, Jenna knelt and picked up a goblet to keep. Somehow she felt that Queen Fyora would be interested in this.

     Then she heard an ominous sound; footsteps.

     So hurriedly that she nearly stumbled, Jenna thrust the goblet into her bag and shut the door to the chamber. Then she ran down the hall to the huge double doors she'd recently left. That was a mistake.

     She was three feet away from the doors when, just like the front gates, they burst open in a cloud of purple smoke. Sent back by the force, Jenna looked up just in time to see a shadow slowly stride through the doorway. It wasn't Sprite.

     Jhudora's cruel laughter froze Jenna on the spot. Then the dark faerie's face appeared through the purple haze, "Well, well," she chuckled, "You're just in time. I need assistance at once! Come with me," then she turned back for her chamber.

     Jenna scrambled up shaking. But frightened of what Jhudora might do if she weren't obeyed, she scrambled in just as the doors banged shut behind her. She was careful to keep the goblet safely out of sight.

     The first thing Jenna saw as she entered was Sprite, sitting luxuriously on some cushions in a corner. Jhudora shot her a glare before resting upon her dark throne to face Jenna.

     "Now I am quite sure I know why you're here," she started. "I'm feeling generous today since you did after all come here under Sprite's advice. So what is your request, little one?"

     Jhudora is a bit nicer than I thought, Jenna considered. But the memory of the hoard haunted her thoughts, and she decided not to dig into it. Trembling slightly, she told Jhudora why she had come. "I've always dreamed of becoming faerie," she expressed, "and I feel that you're the only one who can help."

     In truth, Jenna didn't believe this. But flattery was always the key with Jhudora.

     Jhudora, for her part smiled slightly. "Really," she pondered. "That is quite a dream. I believe we can work something out, darling."

     "Really!?" Jenna asked excitedly.

     "Indeed," Jhudora reassured with a sly smile, not unlike Sprite's. "But first you will have to do a quick errand for me. Don't be frightened, it's not hard."

     But Jenna's happiness was slowly ebbing, "I…I don't have any money," she replied quietly with her head down. "I had to pay Sprite all I had so that she would lead me here."

     Jhudora's reaction to this wasn't good for Sprite. Instantly she stood up and turning to the Aisha pointed a long cruel finger at Jenna while she spat, "Get up and empty your pockets for my guest, now!"

     She continued to glare at Sprite as the Aisha sulkily got up and took out a soiled bag which she threw in Jenna's direction. Despite her effort to catch it, Jenna let the bag spill out at her feet. Over two thousand neopoints skidded across the floor in all directions.

     "Some beggar you are, Sprite," Jhudora remarked sarcastically as Jenna began to clean up the mess.

     Once Jenna had the load in her paws, Jhudora set down again and began talking once more, "Now that you have the money, you can make a trip to a battle shop and get me this amulet."

     She lifted her hands and performed a motion which set off a cloud of smoke. It swirled into a circle, showing a wavering image of an amulet with a jet black stone in its middle.

     "The Amulet of Darkness," Jenna replied, recognizing the battle item at once. It was very popular at Aethia's Battle Magic.

     "Correct," Jhudora commented, and the image vanished, "Get this item for me, and I will grant you your wish," she promised, eyes flashing.

     Jenna began to back away, feeling that she'd better start searching now. She was at the doors and exiting, when Sprite had her last word, "Better hurry!" she cried harshly, "Jhudora's not one to be patient!"

     * * * *

     It didn't take Jenna long before she reached the city center, where she stopped to rest. Aethia's shop was near the north border, upon a cloud behind the palace. Hoping she had enough money, Jenna headed for it and was there in ten minutes.

     Aethia was a kind faerie who took the trouble to get to know her customers. She was sorting the sword rack when Jenna came in, "Hello Jen," she greeted her. "You here to buy or sell?"

     Jenna's father had made plenty of battle weapons before he died. Although he was long gone, Aethia always asked about selling just in case. Jenna smiled at her friend and put the money bag on the table. "I'm here to buy," she answered. "I'm on a quest!"

     "For who?" Aethia asked, almost suspiciously.

     Of course, it's never good to tell about doing a quest for Jhudora, so Jenna shrugged the question off. "I need the Amulet of Darkness, for a friend," she explained.

     Still giving her friend a strange look, Aethia went back and soon retrieved the amulet, "2500 neopoints," she stated, "It's usually a lot more expensive but for you I'll make it cheap."

     Jenna hesitated a moment, not sure that she wanted to go through with it. Was Jhudora's word really worth this? And what about the goblet?

     Suddenly, Jenna felt that she had to go and see Fyora then and there. That hoard she'd seen shouldn't be considered a second matter. She was about to tell Aethia that she'd changed her mind, when a horribly familiar voice slurred, "Something else you plan getting, dearie?"

     It was Sprite popping her head in the doorway, looking menacing even through her yellow smile. Aethia took one look at her and turned away with a frown. Jenna meanwhile grew pale, and answered meekly, "No."

     "Then come on; she is waiting," the Aisha hissed impatiently.

     Without looking at her faerie friend, Jenna emptied the bag's contents on the store counter and took the amulet, "Keep the change," she muttered as she left with Sprite.

     Sprite seemed to be very eager to reach Jhudora's on the way back. "Come on," she urged Jenna, reaching for her arm. But Jenna hung back, now quite certain that she didn't want to go on with this. Her faerie dream seemed long gone now, almost childish. She began to back away from Sprite. "I'm keeping it," she decided, "Jhudora will just have to ask someone else."

     Sprite stopped dead where she was, halfway down the alleyway. She stared at Jenna with utmost fury, then tried to force a smile on her hideous face, "I know you're frightened but Jhudora will reward you," she coaxed. "Remember your dream?"

     "I remember it," Jenna agreed. "It's not worth going to a dark faerie for!" A surge of defiance began flowing through her, "I can't believe I went with you in the first place!" she shouted, clenching the amulet more tightly in her fist. "I'll never go back!"

     "Stupid girl!" Sprite screamed, red with rage, "Think of your foolishness! You could have had your dream! And I'm not going to lose mine over a fool like you!"

     She lunged toward the Xweetok, but Jenna was too quick. Dodging by a hair she leaped past Sprite and darted down the alleyway towards the market square. Sprite wasn't far behind. Jenna could hear her crashing through shops as she herself nimbly wove through them. Frantically she slid through two Nimmos carrying fruit crates. Well she did--but her bag didn't!

     There was a ripping sound as the bag slipped free of her grasp and all her things fell out.

     As well did the goblet.

     Time seemed to slow as Sprite came into view and she stared at Jenna sprawled on the ground, with the black-jeweled goblet spinning at her feet. The Aisha stood dumbstruck for a moment, then a look of unmistakable hate contorted her face.

     "You, you…YOU WRETCHED LITTLE THIEF!!!" she screeched.

     Jenna could only cringe in terror, as the Aisha's claws shot out. They grabbed hold of the Jenna's wrist and twisted hard, pulling the Xweetok out of the market as well. Sprite leaned down to pick up the dropped goblet, hissing in Jenna's ear as she did so, "I'll drag you back to the fortress if I have to, and then Jhudora can deal with you as she pleases there!"

     Jenna blinked back tears of pain, as the wonderful faerie sky began to swim in and out of focus. Would she ever see it again?

     "Jenna!"

     A zooming shape flashed past Jenna's vision, and then Sprite's grasp was gone. Sprawled on her back moaning a few blocks away from the market, Jenna opened her eyes just in time to see her old friend Aethia send Sprite skidding across the cloud into a building wall with a crash.

     "Aethia," Jenna breathed, relaxing despite the pain. Her wrist felt as though it were on fire. The battle faerie came running toward her, and was soon kneeling by her side.

     "Are you okay," she asked anxiously.

     "Well, except for my wrist I think I'm fine," Jenna reassured faintly. Then she remembered the goblet, "Where's that goblet? Do you see it?"

     "Here it is," Aethia said, picking it up as she spoke. "Where did you get it?"

     Sighing with relief, Jenna sat up and took it. "I need to see the faerie queen," she explained hurriedly. "It's about Jhudora, I found out something about her."

     Aethia helped her up and then conjured a stretcher out of thin air and placed the unconscious Sprite upon it, "I believe Fyora would like to see this treacherous creature as well," she remarked darkly.

      Jenna gave her a curious look, "How did you know when to come to my rescue?" she asked wonderingly.

     "Just a hunch," Aethia replied as the two walked along, "I felt uneasy about you in the shop and wasn't reassured when that Aisha showed up. So I followed you two just to make sure. Rather good thing I did, eh?"

     Jenna agreed with a nod. She felt much better at the thought of seeing Fyora about all she'd been through. She also felt a bit ashamed though, about having been so stupid in trusting Sprite in the first place.

     Suddenly Jenna stopped and looked at the amulet clutched in her uninjured wrist. Fyora wouldn't need two examples of what she'd discovered.

     "Would you excuse me for a moment?" she asked Aethia, "I know it's worth something, but I feel we're better off without this thing."

     And to Aethia's mild amusement, Jenna walked to the nearby border of Faerie Land and flung the amulet with her all might into the air where it plummeted, forever falling, off the edge of the cloud.

     * * * *

     Jenna's plan, however, didn't go as nicely as the faeries would've liked. Jhudora had somehow gotten word that her hoard had been discovered. So when several faerie patrols arrived to investigate, they found the chamber quite devoid of trinkets.

     Jenna was rewarded all the same for her bravery and daring. Her delight was beyond comprehension when Fyora kindly presented her with a faerie paint brush! She had learned her lesson of course, which her grandmother constantly reminded her of. ("And to think I thought you knew about talking to strangers!")

     Sprite was tried and punished for her treachery by banishment to the Meridell dungeons below. Jenna could never have been gladder to hear of this, though she knew Sprite would haunt her dreams for some time.

     The apartment residents were all eager to hear of Jenna's adventure, and though Jenna had the task of telling her tale over and over again, perhaps getting wilder each time, she couldn't help but enjoy it.

The End

 
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