The Price of Faith: Part One
How does one begin a tale such as this? "Once upon a time"...
how many times have we all heard that one? But leaping right in would be unfair
and confusing. So perhaps I should start where all things do. At the beginning.
My name is Pandora Hawthorn. I am a Darkness
Faerie. I know what you think when you hear those words: A Darkness faerie-this
must be an evil tale. And if that is the case, you would be utterly mistaken.
This is a tale about a single Faerie whose life and spirit was changed forever
because of a single injustice and then changed yet again because of a single
person. This is my story.
I was born in Faerieland, as most of my kind
are. But my childhood was not of the rainbows and butterflies that may come
to mind. No, from the beginning I was dealt a terrible hand of cards.
My family of powerful Darkness Faeries worked
for Jhudora herself. But they must have done something wrong or said a little
too much to the wrong people-they were all killed by their own leader's hand.
Who knows what they did to bring on such a punishment? Whatever it was, what's
done is done. And from the very beginning of my life, I was an orphan.
And a Darkness Faerie from a family with an anything
but charming reputation, no less. But luck smiled upon me, for once in my life.
I was taken in by a wonderful Light Faerie family. My new adopted mother and
her daughter, my adopted sister, Lyth.
My new mother was very kind to me. She raised
me well, and did her best to keep me from straying toward the path many of my
kind had taken. She worked in the palace for the queen, who was kind to me as
well, and together they kept Jhudora from ever reaching me for one reason or
another. Under their protection, I grew marvelously.
I worked in Fyora's castle, a very low job compared
to all the others. I was something like the caretaker, making sure the castle
was in tip-top shape and keeping everything in order. Fyora was good to me and
let me live there with my adopted family. But many of the other Faeries were
not so lenient.
Because of who and what I was, and especially
due to my family line, I was highly frowned upon by many of them. Even though
I didn't even remember my real mother, they seemed to think I would end up like
her. And I was a Darkness Faerie, and though raised by Light, they seemed to
think all of my kind was evil and always would be. It wasn't fair, by any stretch
of the imagination, but that's just the way it was. I was lucky enough to be
there at all, and to have such a wonderful mother and the queen herself watching
But my adopted sister, Lyth, was my biggest problem.
She was terribly jealous of me. Though I was a lowly orphan compared to her
high position, I was given so much attention by her mother, who Lyth seemed
to think favored me over her own daughter. And even Fyora was gentle and patient
with me, despite my mistakes and mistrust from everyone else. And growing up
with no other Darkness Faeries, I had very little grasp over my powers, while
Lyth had hers mastered.
So why should I deserve to be her sister? I couldn't
answer that, and apparently neither could she. We didn't get along at all. She
was terribly unfair to me, but I never intentionally wronged her in any way.
But that was my life, as simple and drab as sometimes it may be, and so I lived
But then things started to change for the worst.
My adopted mother was killed in a squabble with
a Darkness Faerie. It was foolish, really, and it happened so quickly. It left
Lyth and me in a daze. I was devastated. I had loved that woman-she was the
only mother I had ever known. I couldn't believe it. But Lyth didn't handle
her grief in tears and memories, as I did.
No. Instead, it only managed to rekindle her
anger, and was like a fresh breeze fanning embers that had been about to die.
That fire inside of her only grew. And she seemed to take this wrong-doing as
an offense from all Darkness Faeries-me included. As if I had been the one to
steal her mother away from her. As if I was not beside myself as well!
But little did I know where this would lead.
It was a chilly, blustery winter day. Fading
beams of light filtered in through the high windows of the queen's room. I was
tidying up for the day, making sure everything was in order. I was proud to
know that after all these years, I had grown up into a fine young Faerie woman,
and had earned Fyora's trust. She even let me in her chambers, around her most
precious things. She was not like everyone else. She could see me for who I
was, not what I appeared to be at first glance.
I was polishing off some of her magical stones,
pausing to rotate one in my hand as the glare danced off it. They were all so
beautiful. I had come to know this castle front to back, as it had been my home
for as long as I could remember. And every little consistency in it had become
a comfort to me. This was my sanctuary.
I could see my reflection in the polished stone,
and smiled faintly at the face I saw in it, matching my expression. She was
a lovely faerie, most would admit. Though I didn't think I was pretty. At that
time, I had long, straight, silky hair that fell evenly to a little past my
shoulders, a deep jet black streaked with purple. My vibrant violet eyes stood
out vividly against my grayish skin. I had purple lips and long purple nails,
and overall a very feminine appearance. My elegant black and plum robes topped
it all off nicely. Two gangly Darkness Faerie wings folded loosely at my back.
I was quite refined back then, I must admit.
But how was I to know how drastically it would all change?
I set the stone back down, silently scolding
myself for being so easily infatuated, and went on with my work in the still
and quiet room. As I made my way around the room, working mostly by muscle memory
after all those years of doing just that, my thoughts were elsewhere-on what
I would cook today for the high Faeries, on what other work I had to do today,
whatever it was, I can't be sure anymore.
I was knocked out of my daydreaming when I bumped
into something, jolting at the thud that it made to break the calm silence that
had fallen. "Oops," I mumbled, glancing down to see what I had knocked over.
It was Queen Fyora's staff. I stooped over to
pick up the finely crafter scepter, but froze on the spot when I realized that
something was missing. The Crystal. The Crystal that sat atop the staff.
Perhaps I should take a moment to explain. That
staff is very important. It's not just there for Fyora to carry around and look
imposing, I promise you. The crystal ball that sits atop her staff is not only
a symbol of her power, but of Faerie Unity. A long time ago, when she first
became queen, her staff was made in part by each faerie group. To show her rule
over each one, for correspondence between each group, and for balance between
Each group contributed a piece of the crystal.
Fire, water, air, light, dark, earth, and even snow fashioned a crystal shard,
and they all came together to form the ball. Now this all happened a long time
ago, before my time, but Fyora has always had that staff. There would no doubt
be chaos without it.
So you can imagine my panic when I found it missing.
My eyes widened in shock, and all I could do was stare for several long seconds.
That was bad. That was very bad. The first thing that came to mind was to tell
Fyora, so I dropped the rag I had been using to polish and bustled out of the
I couldn't believe it. I had never seen the Crystal
away from the staff before. So either this was some terrible mistake or something
was dreadfully wrong. But I hadn't gotten very far down the hall, when I started
as someone behind me called out, "There she is!"
I stopped and turned to find myself quite suddenly
surrounded by a group of other Faeries that lived in the palace, their faces
warped with rage or fear. My heart skipped a beat as they rounded on me, and
I couldn't help but take a step back.
Before I could say a word, a glaring Fire Faerie
snarled, "We ought to lock you up right now!"
"Or kill her," another interjected, casting me
a look that alone would be enough to make most anyone drop dead on the spot.
For a moment I could only stare, too stunned
to speak. "I-what-I don't understand---" I managed to stammer, but was promptly
drained out as the crowd broke into angry shouts and uncertain murmurs.
"I never trusted her."
"They're all the same, you know, those Darkness
"And Fyora trusted her!"
Dazed, I tried to speak up again, the few comments
that I managed to catch only adding to my confusion and a dawning fear. "What?!"
They all flared up again, and I found myself
backed against a wall, staring wide-eyed into the furious faces of the other
Faeries. I had no idea what was going on, and none of them seemed willing to
clarify. But whatever it was, so far things were looking pretty bad for me.
"Enough!" Everyone fell silent at the shout from
behind. Heads turned, and I managed to peek around the nearest people. Fyora
glided elegantly toward us, the crowd parting silently on either side as she
I smiled gratefully at the familiar face, letting
out an audible sigh of relief. "Your Highness! Please-I don't understand-what's
going on?" I inquired, ignoring the sour looks I was getting, only gazing questioningly
at my Queen as she slowed to a gradual stop in front of me. Her usually gentle
and sympathetic face was now etched with concern and an odd sternness that I
didn't like at all.
For a moment, I got no answer. She just eyed
me quietly at first, her eyebrows furrowing and a faint frown touching her lips.
"Pandora," she began slowly, choosing her words carefully. "The Crystal is not
in the palace. Someone has stolen it."
"I know!" I blurted out, nodding quickly. "I
was cleaning your room, and I saw that it was gone. I was just coming to tell
"It's been missing since yesterday!" someone
in the crowd interrupted, and someone else added boldly, "Right after you cleaned
Fyora held up one hand. The simple gesture was
enough to hush the crowd once more, and she cast a firm look over them all.
"This is not the time or the place to discuss this matter. We will hold a council
in one hour. All members are to attend."
I could only gape at them all, stunned. They
thought I had stolen the Crystal? I couldn't believe this! Why would
they accuse me of such a thing? It was all I could do to keep myself from screaming
at them all, and before I could stop myself I grabbed at Fyora's sleeve as she
turned to leave.
As she cast a questioning glance over her shoulder
at me, I bit my bottom lip to keep my emotions at bay. "Your Majesty. I did
not do it. I swear to you, it was not me." I had meant for my voice to be much
stronger and more certain, but all I could come up with was a shaking whisper.
"Pandora..." she trailed off, and just as I caught
that softness creeping back into her eyes, she shook it away and brushed me
off. "You are to stay in your room until further notice."
And with that, she swept off, slowly followed
by the group of Faeries, many of which cast me a few last parting glares or
hurt looks. This was all so unreal. What had I ever done to these people? Why
would they blame me for such a serious crime? But Fyora would believe me. I
just knew she would. And soon this would all just be a crazy misunderstanding.
Or so I hoped.
The meeting stretched on for longer than expected.
What should have been a few hours dragged on for two days. Two days that I spent
anxiously waiting in my little room in the area of the palace for the lower
class, such as myself. Each hour seemed like a lifetime, and I found all I did
was pace back and forth, sleep when I could, and perhaps eat something when
All the while, my mind wandered toward every
possible solution. But I could never come up with a reasonable excuse for something
like this to happen to me. It's so strange-you hear of things like this happening
to other people all the time, but you never imagine that it could happen to
you. And when it does, it's so unreal. Like a bad dream that you wish you would
hurry up and wake up from.
But, to my dismay, this was no dream. And that
was confirmed when Fyora finally made an appearance.
She had insisted on speaking to be personally,
and once we were alone in my room she began to explain. "This meeting has been
long and difficult for all of us. But none more so than me, Pandora," she said
softly, holding me in her steady gaze. "The Crystal was found missing by Lyth
shortly after you cleaned my room that day. She claimed to see you stalking
around suspiciously beforehand. And she drew attention to the fact that you
are the only Faerie with frequent access to that room. She also pointed out
your family line and the skeletons in their closets, if you will."
My heart very well could have stopped then and
there. Lyth. She was on the royal council. And she hated me now more than ever.
That had to be the most biased meeting imaginable.
"The council has agreed..." She must have seen
the dread on my face, as she hesitated a moment before finishing. "That you
are guilty of stealing the Crystal."
I couldn't speak. And suddenly, I understood
it all. With Lyth there to feed everyone false information, there wasn't a doubt
that I had been painted in a less than generous light at that meeting. She was
in such a high place, and a noble Light Faerie no less-it was no wonder everyone
trusted and believed her word. So whatever she claimed, they would support.
And the shame of my family had followed me since birth. I had forever been blamed
for crimes I did not commit. Because of who they were, these people found little
reason to see why I should be any different. And I was a Darkness Faerie. Most
of the council, under the strong impressions of my sister, was made to believe
that all Darkness Faeries were evil and untrustworthy, while all Light Faeries
could do no wrong. With such a bad rumors and fears built up around me already,
and with my sister to guide them, and with all evidence pointing toward me...
well, I could offer nothing in my defense but my word. But who would trust the
word of a Darkness Faerie?
I realized that I was shaking, but I managed
a fading whisper, "Fyora... I... I didn't do it... I swear it!"
But that was really all I could offer. And she
must have known that. Still, the pained look on her face assured me that she
had been on my side. "I believe you, Pandora. Really, I do. I trust you. You
know that," she replied softly, but to my dismay she turned her head away from
me. "But I was the only one there to speak for you. The rest are positive that
you are to blame for this. All evidence points to you. And, in all honesty...
I could come up with very little in your defense."
As terrible as it was, I knew this was true.
It was my word against Lyth's. And we all know who would win that fight.
Nobody would believe me. Nobody but Fyora, but
although she was the queen, I knew that she still had to respect the rest of
the council. They were there for a reason, after all. And it was one against
all the rest.
When I did not reply, she went on, "I did point
out, however, that you had nowhere to hide such a thing. In the castle, it would
be found in no time. And you have scarcely ever left the castle in your life,
so where else could you hide it? And what in the world could you do with such
I nodded quickly in agreement, highly grateful
for how she had tried to help me. Honestly, though! What would someone like
me need the Crystal for?
"Once again, your parents were pointed out."
I cringed visibly at her words. Once again, crimes I had nothing to do with
were dumped onto my back. But what could I say? She went on. "Your kind's nature
was reason enough for the council. And as for what you did with it..." She trailed
off, finally looking back at me, once again frowning. I could see a deep apprehension
in her eyes, and I held my breath as she fished something out of her robes.
"We have combed Faerieland through. And this
is all we have found." Fyora held up a sliver of something shiny. I noticed
with a new wave of fear that it was a shard. A Crystal shard. It glowed a shimmering
yellow in the light. "Do you know what this is?"
I forced myself to nod. I found that I was having
trouble swallowing and had to hold myself to keep from shaking. A shard of the
Crystal. That meant...
"The Crystal has been broken." Fyora confirmed
my fears for me, her voice level and more serious than I had ever heard it.
"This is the Light Faerie's shard, and all that has been recovered. That means
the rest of the pieces are in Neopia somewhere."
Another stunned silence. I couldn't believe it.
Who in their right mind would steal the very essence of Faerie magic, break
it, and toss the pieces randomly across the planet? I didn't even bother asking,
because I knew Fyora couldn't answer that either.
I did, however, come up with something in my
defense. "But, your Highness..." My voice was convincing enough. At least it
didn't reflect the alarm and fear that was ready to boil over by now. "I'm no
good at my magic. Mediocre, at best. I don't possibly have enough power to shatter
the Crystal like that."
Fyora nodded grimly. "I'm aware of that. And
I pointed that out, as well." She sighed and shook her head as my face fell
once more. "But it was quickly dismissed. Perhaps you had outside help. Perhaps
you have more power than you let out. Regardless, this case is too one-sided
to be so easily redeemed, my dear."
What else could I say? She had no doubt heard
or said it all. And even if I did come up with some earth-shattering defense,
it wouldn't matter. Not with Lyth on the council, anyway. There was no way I
could prove myself.
"Fy-your-your Highness--" I stammered, completely
at a loss. "What's to happen to me?" My punishment. I dreaded hearing it. I
could think of very few crimes worse than this one, after all, and if Lyth had
any say I would be dead by morning.
"Most of the council wished you dead, or imprisoned
for life." She must have seen the terror on my face, as she quickly continued,
"But I came to an agreement with them. Pandora... you, of all people, understand
how important the Crystal is. Without it, chaos will surely thrive. I don't
imagine we have terribly long before things start to go downhill. We must
retrieve those shards. So, the council has agreed... that you are to
locate them all and bring them back. You are to be sent to Neopia, and if you
can retrieve all the pieces and bring them back safely, you may return to the
palace and all crimes will be forgiven. But if you fail... well, then the first
options may be enforced."
My strength gave way. I slumped to my knees,
my eyes huge and beginning to blur with tears. I couldn't keep the shaking back.
I couldn't even breathe.
Fyora was at my side in a moment, kneeling and
holding my hand. "Pandora, listen to me," she said gravely, gently squeezing
my hand. "I believe you. And if you can find solid evidence of who committed
this crime, I will not hesitate to withdraw your punishment and take action
against who is really to blame. But, until then... This is how it must be."
Her eyes softened with sadness, and she leaned close to me to whisper, "I'm
But it wasn't her fault. She was overridden by
the council, and even then had done a lot to lighten my sentence. But still,
this was too much to handle all at once. So I was to be thrown out of the only
world I had ever known, down into Neopia, which I had never been to before.
Sure, I had learned a lot about it and its inhabitants, but I had never set
foot there, and the only Neopets I had ever seen were ones in the Faerie city.
Not only that, but I was being punished for a crime that I had nothing to do
with, all because of some insane sister of mine bent on revenge, and I could
do nothing to help myself. And to put the Crystal back together, of all things.
Alone, in a strange world. I had no doubt how dangerous it would be. Even the
broken shards of the Crystal were incredibly powerful things, and the moment
the word got around there would no doubt be all kinds of loonies out to get
them as well. I had no idea how I would pull this off. I couldn't. And
yet I had to do the impossible, or I would be killed, or at the very least locked
up for the rest of my life.
So this was to be my fate? I doubted that I could
even last a week out there. What if I died out there? Someone else would be
sent to take my place after that, no doubt. The Council could find the shards
much more quickly than I could. And yet they would endanger the Crystal all
for some stupid punishment that they unjustly thought I deserved. This was madness.
I had no idea how I would pull it off. But I
had to. I squeezed Fyora's hand with my own thin, shaking one, forcing myself
to swallow. I had to be strong, if for no one else, at least for myself. I wiped
my tearing eyes with my sleeve and breathed deeply, finally pulling my gaze
back to Fyora. "I understand," I whispered, nodding slowly. What could I possibly
Fyora rose back onto her feet, helping me up
along with her. "You are to be sent down tomorrow. But get some rest now. Meet
me at the front gates first thing tomorrow morning. I will explain this task
better then." She was also giving it time to sink in, I was sure. She held me
in her steady gaze for a moment longer, flickering with concern, and her hand
lingered on mine.
So soon? I only had one night to ready myself
for such a thing? But nothing I could say would change that. So I nodded, and
Fyora slowly drew away from me. Casting a final glance my way, clearly worried,
she swept out of the room without another word.
And then I was alone. The silence of my room
pressed down on me until it was almost deafening. But what frightened me most
was that I know I would have this feeling for a long time to come. This silence.
This feeling of being utterly alone. I had been raised in the luxuries of the
castle, low-class or not, and I knew fearfully that I would fail miserably out
there in the wild with no help and nothing to guide me. How was I expected to
do this? I had never even been down there before, so how was I supposed to find
the Crystals themselves? They could be anywhere! And I would be in so much danger!
And nobody would help a Darkness Faerie!
Confusing emotions chased one another through
my heart. Questions overflowed, many of which I knew would go unanswered. I
must have been staring at the wall in shock for quite some time, as I quite
suddenly felt a wave of exhaustion and despair race over me. I cast my gaze
across my room-my beautiful room, themed purple and black, and though smaller
than most rooms in the castle it was still quite elegant. And I knew that I
may never see it again. I collapsed in my bed, into the comforting warmth and
smoothness of the silk sheets, and I knew that this may be the last time I ever
slept in it.
Everything I had was suddenly gone. Tomorrow
morning, I would leave my home and most likely never come back. This was too
shocking to bear.
I don't know how I feel asleep, and could not
tell the difference from my dreams or my realities, but before I knew it the
sun had come back to greet another day, happily unaware of all around it. If
I had slept, I can't remember. I was too anxious to be tired, at any rate.
It was time to face a new day. And perhaps, I
couldn't help but think, my last.
I made my way down the halls, each step down
these corridors which I knew like the back of my hand pulling at my heart. I
still couldn't believe I was leaving it all. I didn't know what I was supposed
to bring, if anything, or what to wear. I had no idea where I was going. So
I had nothing with me but the clothes I was wearing, one of my typical long
black and purple gowns with baggy sleeves.
I didn't meet the gazes of anyone I passed. I
kept my head down, but still I could feel their eyes burning into me, hear their
mutters or scoffs as we crossed. I wanted to leap up, to shout, to cry, to tell
them this was all some big mistake. But it would do me no good. So I bit my
tongue and my emotions, walking soundlessly toward the entryway.
"Why so glum, dear sister?"
My skin prickled at that all too familiar voice,
so cold and mocking. I slowed to a stop, but it took me a few seconds to compose
myself before I could look up at the sound of the voice. There stood Lyth, a
perfect example that looks can be deceiving. She was a lovely Light Faerie with
thick golden curls and light blue eyes, dressed in an elegant yellow and white
gown. But that terrible smirk on her face and that darkness behind her eyes
shone through to me much more clearly than her beauty.
She chuckled coldly and strolled closer to me,
observing her nails as though without a care in the world. "Going somewhere?"
she inquired innocently, lifting her eyes to meet with mine and smirking faintly.
It took everything in me not to pounce on her
then and there. But of all the things she had taken away from me, there were
some things that she could never steal. And one of them was my pride. I kept
my head up and refused to butt heads with her, instead turning on my heels and
starting back down the hallway again.
"Oh, Pandora!" Her voice trailed after me, a
tone of laughter to it. "Have fun in Neopia! I'll want to hear all about your
little trip when you get back!"
I chanced a glance over my shoulder at her, but
the bitter smirk that greeted me only gave me more reason to get out that door
faster. She found this funny. She was laughing at my pain. The one I had always
And then it was so blatant that I was stunned
for a moment. Lyth had done this. She had done it all. Bitter at me, though
I had never meant to wrong her in any way, the death of our mother made her
snap. She came up with a plan to get ride of me while still keeping her hands
clean. She had enough power, after all. It would be all too easy for her to
steal the Crystal, but she had nothing against Fyora, so she didn't destroy
it. Instead she could use her powerful magic to shatter it, and cast the pieces
all over Neopia. Perfectly retrievable, but easier said than done. Then she
would make up a story about me, and of course everyone would side with her.
And so I was punished, and she wasn't even suspected. But it was so incredibly
obvious that she was the culprit here. How could I be the only one to see that?
She was out of her mind! All I could think about
as I rounded the corner and lost sight of her was how I could make this all
right again. Not only did I have to find the Crystal, but I had to prove to
the prejudiced group that their very own Lyth was the one at fault here. How,
I had no idea-- but I must.
I took a deep breath and pushed through the huge
double-doors, greeted outside by sunshine and the same Faerieland I had always
known and loved. Fyora was already waiting for me, and turned to offer an oddly
sad smile as I approached her. "Good morning, Pandora."
"Good morning, your Majesty," I forced myself
to reply, doing well to keep my face and voice steady. I couldn't bring myself
to look anywhere but at her. Every corner of this land was my home. My haven.
Every street and wall told a story or held a memory, and right now I didn't
have the strength to be reminded of them.
Fyora stepped close to me and kept her voice
soft. "Pandora, I know this is a lot to ask of you. And I would take it all
back if I could. You know I would. But I'm afraid this is how it must be. So
let me caution you." I bit my bottom lip as she cleared her throat, clearly
not liking this one bit either. "As you know, the Crystal is made up of all
the different elements. One has been retrieved in Faerieland. The Light Crystal.
So that means the other six are down on Neopia somewhere. Fire, water, darkness,
earth, air, and snow. It will be difficult, I can guarantee it, and dangerous.
We're trying to keep a lid on this, but eventually people will find out. People
who will want these shards for themselves. So be very careful, and hurry."
I nodded slowly and ventured, "How will I know
where to find the shards?" Neopia was an awfully big place. I couldn't possibly
comb though every last inch of it.
"The shards will return to their elements," she
replied simply, drawing the splinter of Crystal from her robes again. It shone
a warm yellow against her hand. "That's why the Light shard stayed here. So,
likewise, the rest will be in a region that makes sense. Do you understand?"
"Yes." That made enough sense. So the snow would
go somewhere snowy, the water somewhere wet, the air somewhere high or windy
and so on. I understood that well enough. But still, that left a lot of options.
Before I could question further, Fyora added,
"The shards were made to go together. Once you find the pieces, they will go
back together on their own. And this will also help you find the others." She
held the shard out to me, taking my hand in her other and setting the Crystal
gently in my palm. "When you are close to another shard, it will begin to glow.
The brighter it shines, the closer you are. And once you find it, they will
meld together, as they are meant to be."
She closed my hand over the Crystal, which I
slowly drew back toward me. I opened my hand and stared down at the cold shard
that lay in my palm. Well, they did help some. But that also meant whatever
I found could be stolen. I had to be immensely careful. And seeing as this was
supposed to be a more-or-less secret mission, I couldn't go around blabbing
the news out to just anyone.
"And Pandora... trust your instincts. I can not
help you. No Faerie is allowed to assist you in any way. And you are not to
bring anything with you." Fyora hesitated for a moment, then finished reluctantly,
"You are to start at the top of Neopia and work your way down, combing through
for shards. So if you have no further questions, your punishment will begin."
No, I understood perfectly. No help. Just me,
all alone, with nothing but a chunk of Crystal to guide me. Dumped off on a
strange planet without even knowing up from down, starting now. On the top---
Terror Mountain. Of all the terrible places to start! I tucked the shard safely
away in my gown and nodded hesitantly. "I'm ready..." Or as ready as I would
ever be, at least.
"Very well, Pandora... Good luck."
And with those simple words, my fate was sealed.
My journey had begun.
To be continued...