"Sophie, are you sure you want to do this?" fretted the
worried voice of an unusual Dark Faerie, brow creased with concern.
Sophie took a deep breath and blew it out slowly,
bangs flying, eyes closed. "Yes, Maddie, I told you a dozen times, I'm positive."
But she didn't sound so confident.
Balthazar. Balthazar was as attracted to Faeries
as Cybunnies were attracted to carrots; as Lennies were attracted to books;
as Unis were attracted to eye shadow.
It was her new job. The only way Sophie could
continue supporting her sister, Maddie, and her elderly mother's hospital fees
was to take on an extreme job, possibly the most extreme job that had ever been
suggested to the Employment Agency.
Maddie sighed and massaged her temples, smoothed
her hair, closed her eyes. "What if something happened to you?" she asked, voice
Sophie smiled at her younger sister, and she
immediately felt as if she were looking at a mirror that showed one dark faerie
and one light faerie-like yin and yang.
Sophie would have been the yin, the light side.
Her body was slim and flexible, like a young willow tree. Her ears were pointed,
like all other faeries, and her face was angled, like a Kougras' might be. Her
eyes were narrowed and bright gold, like most Light Faeries. Her hair was sleek
and smooth, long and dark blonde, like wisps of corn hair. Everything about
her was delicate, but she possessed unbelievable courage, wisdom, and strength
that totally belied her delicate disposition. She had disposed of a Grarrl with
her bare hands before.
Maddie, Sophie's younger sister, would have
been the yang. She was dark, the only faerie with dark skin. Her skin was the
color of a copper teakettle, her eyes were deep purple and murky, but it was
wise looking-when her face was somber and her eyes narrowed, she looked like
a faerie aged beyond belief. Her ears were not at all pointed, and her face
was rather like a human's. She was not fat, but she was not exactly slim, either,
like the other faeries. She was more of a solid wood pillar, sturdy and strong.
This, along with the fact that she was a Dark Faerie, made it hard for her to
get a job; therefore, the money was expected from Sophie's hard work.
Sophie acted like bait for Balthazar, to entertain
the audience that thought this was interesting.
This was the fifth time Sophie had done this
successfully, but it hadn't made her any more confident, although this was what
she seemed to be.
"Maddie, don't worry about me!" said Sophie
crossly, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "This is the only way we can get
money for Mother's cure. I only need to do this one more time-this is the last
time, I promise!"
Maddie's eyes blurred. "Sophie, that's what
you said last time!"
Sophie smiled reassuringly. "That's because
the cure prices have inflated."
"What if they inflate again?" demanded Maddie
Sophie's eyebrows met together in a sharp 'v',
and she said rather unkindly, "Maddie, don't worry about me, I'm your older
sister and I can take care of myself. But," she added, taking on a kinder tone,
"you're welcome to watch from the trees. No charge."
Maddie looked hurt, but she patted her sister
on the shoulder and stalked out of the room.
Sophie sighed and peeked out of the ferns-the
'pot' was nearly full now, bulging with golden coins and money and other small
This was how her job as Balthazar bait was worth
it. Rich faeries would gather from Faerieland and watch from the trees. Sophie
served as entertainment-as if watching a fellow faerie get bottled was entertainment.
But the audience usually took bets-whether the great Lupe would come, whether
Sophie would have the courage to show up. And the last five times, she had won
the 'pot' of money and trinkets. And that was the only thing that was supporting
her hospitalized mother and her unemployed sister.
She swallowed hard. She had reassured Maddie,
but 'she' was the one that needed to be reassured.
She glanced at the booty and decided it was
now or never. Looking down at her belled shoes, she grimaced and then flung
herself out of the ferns, forcing a conceited smile at the crowd.
The crowd exploded with applause and cheered.
Sophie looked down at the gold and money and
forced herself to go on.
"Balthazar!" she called cheerfully, grinning,
her heart thumping wildly. "Come on out!" What if Balthazar really did come
after her? The last time she had gotten lucky and the Lupe had never come.
What if she didn't get lucky this time? What
"FAERIES FOR DINNER!" bellowed a deep voice.
Sophie shrieked before turning around. She knew
whom the voice belonged to, even though she had never heard the voice of Balthazar
"BALTHAZAR!" Sophie shrieked. Of course, she
needn't have bothered. The Faeries watching her performance had already scattered
through the thick branches of the trees, where the giant Lupe could not reach
'Everyone's safe,' thought Sophie,
'except for me..."
Then, a shriek changed her world forever. Maddie!
She had not joined the audience!
"Maddie, get out of here!" Sophie screamed.
She took off her belled shoe and threw it with all her might at the Lupe's head.
"Get away from my sister!" she screamed, wings flapping furiously.
The tiny slipper caught Balthazar in the ear,
and he roared as the slipper lodged into his ear.
Sophie could hardly believe that her years of
taking gormball class were finally paying off.
"Maddie, get out of here!" bellowed Sophie at
the top of her voice.
Maddie was far away, but Sophie could see her
sister's delicate head shaking her head firmly.
Sophie couldn't believe her eyes. Balthazar
was stomping around in a perfect fury, reaching to dislodge the belled slipper
from his large ear, but Maddie refused to run!
Then she saw the problem-a delicate, glowing
Air Faerie was stuck in between a large log and a bramble bush. Maddie was desperately
pulling at the trapped faerie, but Sophie knew that it was hopeless. Anytime
now, Balthazar would pick out that annoying little slipper and lunge forwards-and
then both of them would be bottled.
'You're not getting my sister!' thought
Sophie, eyes narrowed, diving towards the great Lupe.
'You can come and get me, but you're not
getting Maddie!' she thought frantically, wings flapping furiously.
"Balthazar!" Sophie screamed. "Hey! Look over
The great, shaggy Lupe turned around and grinned
evilly. He roared, in a voice cracked and guttered with age: "MORE FAERIES FOR
"Maddie, get out of here!" screamed Sophie furiously.
Balthazar roared and blundered clumsily after her, bottles hanging off his belt.
A great Lupe paw rose above her in a magnificent
shadow… and then it whistled down upon her with terrifying speed-
When Sophie opened her eyes, she was shocked.
Her heart nearly stopped beating-why was everything blue? Not exactly blue-more
like a transparent color with a blue tint.
Then, her heart sank. She knew what had the
same color as her new eyesight. A bottle. Balthazar had knocked her out with
his gigantic paws, scooped her up, and stuffed her into a bottle, like she might
have done with Sophie and the Air Faerie.
"Maddie?" Sophie whimpered, sagging against
"SOPHIE?" answered a shrill and frantic voice.
Sophie spun around, eyes blazing with hope and
nearly collapsed. "Maddie! You're all right!" And then she realized how ridiculous
that statement was. They were not all right-they were in bottles, captured by
"Oh Fyora!" whispered Maddie, pressing the palms
of her delicate hands against the barrier between her and her sister.
"How are we going to get out?" asked Maddie,
her voice as strong and steady as ever. Typical Maddie. The brave one.
"I don't know," responded Sophie dully. "The
cap is screwed tight on my bottle. And to think! All the teachers taught me
in school was how to let pets gain special abilities like Magic Torch and Bless!
Why couldn't they have an ability called 'Unscrew Bottle'?"
"We need some light," answered Maddie reasonably.
"I can't see anything! I can't even see you anymore, Sophie." And it was true-in
the short while they had been talking, the sun had dipped beneath the horizon.
"That's easy," said Sophie, brightening. She
raised her arms above her head, and closed her eyes, lips moving soundlessly.
Her hair drifted in a breeze that seemed to be only in her bottle.
"Magic Torch," she whispered. A flair of bright
light burst through the bottle, shattering it.
Sophie stared, eyes wide and mouth open. Maddie
was likewise. "I didn't know you could do that!" Maddie exclaimed softly.
"Neither did I, or I would've used it sooner,"
said Sophie, eyes as wide as baseballs. "I thought that was a Fire Faerie ability…"
"Here, step back, Maddie, I'll-"
Maddie actually scoffed and rolled your eyes
before smiling. "Older sister's still taking care of me, hmm?" she asked, eyes
glimmering mischievously. "My power has strengthened over time as well, Sophie.
A dark, purple fog settled over Maddie's bottle,
becoming so dark that it shrouded the Dark Faerie from view. Maddie melted into
the darkness, and then, a piercing purple stare burst through the fog, and a
deep voice shouted: "Demon Breath!!"
'Wow,' Sophie thought, with a feeble
stab of humor, 'I shatter my bottle with light, and my sister breaks hers
open with bad breath.'
Maddie glanced around carefully. "Sophie, you're
glowing," she muttered.
Sophie looked around herself and swore. "For
Fyora's Sake! Now what? I'm like a glowing beacon!"
She gestured to the door to the room. "When
Balthazar walks in, the first thing he'll see is me glowing like a shooting
star. Should I get back in the bottle? Should I-"
"Sister, relax," grinned Maddie nonchalantly.
"Nighttime," she mumbled, and then added: "Night Vision!"
Sophie's vision clicked, and her vision brightened,
so she could see everything from the speck of dust on the ground all the way
across the room to a brightly lit house almost fifty miles away.
Maddie opened her great wings, sending a great
gust of wind over to Sophie. Sophie opened up her own delicate but functional
Nothing could go wrong. There was an open window,
with comforting stars glittering in the dark, night sky. The door behind them
was tightly closed, and Balthazar would not come in to check on his faeries
so late at night. They had broken out of their bottles, about to escape, and
they were together. So why did it feel wrong?
Sophie turned her head towards the corner and
immediately realized why everything felt so wrong.
The other Faeries-the faeries that Sophie had
been entertaining. If it hadn't been for her Balthazar Bait job, the faeries
would never had been captured in the first place. No wonder she felt so guilty;
and the little Water Faerie that Maddie had been captured trying to rescue.
"Sophie, are you coming?" Maddie demanded, preparing
to jump out of the windowsill.
Sophie stared at her sister, her bright golden
eyes staring deep into Maddie's dark purple ones. Her sister felt no emotion
for leaving the faeries behind?
"Maddie… don't you feel bad about leaving the
other faeries behind?" she whispered softly. Did her sister really, truly not
feel anything for the faeries they were forsaking? All faeries were interrelated
somehow… they were leaving behind her own family…
"No, I don't feel anything," Maddie said curiously.
"Why do you ask?"
Sophie felt sick. "Maddie, these are the faeries
that were watching me perform as Balthazar Bait! If it weren't for me, they
wouldn't have showed up. If it weren't for me, they'd be bottled! And you know
that all faeries are related. You know these are your distant family!"
Maddie's expression turned brusque. "If these
stupid faeries had the sense not to watch some sickening form of entertainment,
they would not have been bottled. They are my family, but I do not know them.
They do not matter. Nothing matters except you, Sophie. You and our mother."
Sophie glanced back at the forlorn faeries,
watching her with a hungry expression. Watching her! Were they listening on
their conversation? Listening while one faerie told the other to abandon them?
Suddenly, a light thumping noise came from outside
the door, and Maddie turned to her sister, expression angry and panicky at the
same time, "Sophie, it's Balthazar!" she exploded. "We need to get out of here!"
"But-" Sophie begged.
"There isn't time!" Maddie bellowed, her expression
as dark as a thundercloud. "We need to get out of here!" Already, her vast wings
were stretched wide, and she poised herself, ready to jump.
Sophie glanced back one last time at the forlorn
faeries. One Air Faerie-was it the one that Maddie had tried to rescue?-waved
her tiny hands on her frantically. Telling her to move on.
Sophie stretched her wings and dove out the
window after her sister. 'I'll be back…' she thought. 'I will.'
Comments and feedback for 'Balthazar Bait' is appreciated! How did you feel
about the ending? Your overall impression?