To Fly With Faerie Wings
"Make a wish, Shruti," said her mother, placing the cake
The striped Xweetok smiled, leaning toward her birthday
candles, and scrunched her eyes shut in earnest concentration. It didn't take
her long to think the thought pounding with every beat of her heart, rushing
wildly through her mind. She heard the words resounding in her head, and thought
them over clearly for good measure, then popped her eyes open and threw her
breath all over the handful of candles on her cake. They all burned out -- a
good sign, that she got them on the first try. Maybe it would add power to her
"What'd you wish for?" asked her brother, a yellow
Shoyru called Sten. He leaned carelessly on the table, his head propped up on
Shruti paused a moment as her mother began to cut
the cake. "Isn't it bad luck to tell your wish? Maybe I should keep it quiet,
if I want it to come true."
"Nah, that won't change anything much," Sten assured
her. "A birthday wish is a birthday wish. Saying it out loud won't undo the
fact you made it."
"Fine," replied the Xweetok. "I wished..." Why was
it so hard to say it aloud? The words still echoed in her head; she just had
to put voice to them. "I wished to run the race tomorrow with the speed of a
Sten laughed into his paw. "Speed of a faerie's flight?
What faerie is that? Haha, even if they did exist, they'd probably flit around
in little circles like a bunch of butterflies. Though with the race coming up,
I can tell that you'd want something better than a little Xweetok's prance,
that's for sure."
Shruti realized why the wish had been so hard to say
aloud -- some part of her knew her brother would only laugh. Even she had to
admit was hard to envision a faerie here, in the mundane buzz of Neopian Central,
but she'd heard stories from people of far-off lands... Neopets from lands like
Meridell, and the Lost Desert, who told tales of beautiful faeries of air and
water, fire and earth, light and darkness, living in magnificent castles in
the clouds. Sten had laughed at those tales too. "Castles in the clouds?" he'd
said. "Clouds are nothing more than water vapor in the sky... I guess those
faeries must do a lot of flying!"
Even so, Shruti couldn't help but look up longingly
at the sky sometimes as she went through the streets outside, wondering if they
really did exist. One dusty traveler in Kauvara's potion shop had even spoken
of a Faerie Queen named Fyora, clad in all shades of purple, who ruled over
all of the faeries in the clouds. The thought of the majestic Queen of Faeries
sent shivers down Shruti's spine even now.
But most of Neopia Central's attention was not up
in the clouds, but right on the ground before them -- the plaza, where the first
annual Central Race was to be held tomorrow. Neopets from all over would come
to watch the race, and the winner's name would be famous for miles around. It
took Shruti's breath away to think that one Neopet, previously just another
face in the crowd, would be known throughout all of Neopia Central as its swiftest
It would probably be her brother. All of her friends
had begun practicing madly for the event as soon as it was announced, of course
-- it was no longer an uncommon sight to see Neopets sprinting through the streets
as they picked up items from the shops, or taking practice runs through the
park. She and her brother often raced the neighbors in their free time. Shruti
was fast, as were some of the other Central Neopets, but Sten almost always
won. If he did manage to win the Central Race itself, Shruti would be proud
of him -- imagine, her brother, the fastest runner in Neopia Central!
Even so, she didn't want to come in near the end.
Lately she'd been practicing even harder, running back and forth in her yard
at the end of the day and the first thing in the morning. She loved the way
the wind felt as it whipped through her fur, and the way the earth blurred beneath
her paws. Sometimes, as she glanced up at the clouds high above her, she thought
it might almost be like flying.
As she dug into her birthday cake, the Xweetok wondered
if faeries knew how running felt. This time she kept her thoughts to herself.
* * * * *
The morning dawned boldly and beautifully, but it
was Shruti's excitement, not the sunlight, that awoke her. She sat up straight
in bed, and muttered the first thought to shoot through her mind. "The race
Leaping from underneath the covers, the Xweetok pulled
on her exercise outfit and her trusty, well-worn running shoes. She was so flooded
with anticipation that she was tempted to run right downstairs, but she knew
her mother would not like it if she forgot to make her bed -- not even on a
day like this.
The Xweetok pulled the covers smooth, and reached
to fluff the pillow, and there her paw paused. She frowned, leaning closer,
and pulled at the item that had been lying beneath her pillow, partially exposed
by her fluffing. It was a small, beaded circlet, made of tiny beads in all shades
of purple. It must be a birthday present someone forgot to give me, she
thought to herself, slipping it over her ankle. I guess my mom didn't want
to wake me up, so she stuck it there.
She would have asked her mother about it as she clambered
down the stairs, but only her brother Sten was at the table. "Have a Strawberry
Nova Waffle," he said, pointing to a chair. "You'll need a burst of energy for
"I'm barely even hungry," replied Shruti, and it was
true -- her stomach already seemed to be full of butterflies, flying in little
circles. She made herself eat a few bites regardless, knowing that he was right.
Once the waffles were inside her, the butterflies seemed to calm down a bit.
"Mom's out to pick up a few things before the races,"
Sten told her. "She said she'd be there to watch, though. Do you want to leave
Shruti nodded as she brought her dish to the sink.
"Sure. I've been practicing a lot, you know. I've been doing extra runs for
"Good, sis. Maybe you won't lose then... by too much,"
replied her brother, laughing.
* * * * *
The butterflies were back as Shruti stood at the starting
line. She was vaguely aware of the press of people all around them, and her
brother at her side, and some of her friends and neighbors gathered around.
There were a lot of unfamiliar faces, too, but the Xweetok barely noticed. Instead
she stared at the starting line before her toe, letting the talk and calls of
the crowd wash over her in a meaningless buzz of sound.
She sought a still calmness within her mind. Focus,
she told herself. Remember the earth, the water, the fire, the wind, the
light, the darkness. They are here now, in the grass, the air, the streams,
the sun, the shadows. If the faeries exist, maybe even they are watching now.
The Xweetok heard a voice call, "Racers ready?" Her
muscles tensed, and she leaned out over the starting line, her heartbeat pounding
thunder in ear ears. There was a pause, then... "Go!" A sound like the crack
of a whip split the air, and she was running.
Running... or flying.
The familiar whoosh! of wind hitting her face,
rustling her fur, caused her almost to laugh aloud. Her muscles rejoiced at
their sudden release as she sprinted. Each paw scarcely seemed to touch the
ground as she flew through the crowd of other racers, so lightly that she might
have been soundless even on a bed of fallen leaves.
The turns and twists and curves she took effortlessly,
gliding almost as if she rode the wind itself. The racers around her seemed
only a blur of movement as she scampered nimbly through; she only had eyes for
Then there it was. Stretched before her, shining in
the bright sunlight, was the finish line -- the race's end. It had come so soon,
only in a matter of heartbeats, but each moment was eerily clear.
She took off with renewed energy, feeling the desperation
of the other racers rise with almost a tangible pulse. Leaning forward, she
poured even more speed into her already blurred paws, and felt a strange warmth
at her ankle as she heard a high, rippling laughter as if from tiny lungs.
Past the crowd she ran, darting through the bodies
seemingly in slow motion, and she saw the bewildered face of her brother flash
as she passed him... but then there was only the finish line, standing in front
of her, beckoning, as if the end itself called her name.
As the little Xweetok named Shruti passed it, a smile
on her face so bright as to rival the sun itself, the sound of the crowd was
a glorious victory in her ears, and the color of the dust was all shades of
purple at her feet.