Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 90,555,321 Issue: 168 | 2nd day of Celebrating, Y6
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Magic: Part One

by supergirl309


Magic isn't something tangible - you can't reach out and touch it with your fingertips, or hold it in your hands. If you have the ability, you can sometimes harness raw magic, or use it in spells. But there is another kind of magic that you don't need a Faerie's blessing or a special weapon to see. This magic is all around us. It's in the cold autumn breeze that blows on your cheek; in the stars and the moon that light up our eyes; in the warmth if a fire on a snowy night, and even in the tall grasses of a quiet meadow. Anyone can tap into this magic, and its supply will never diminish. Because even those who cannot make sparks fly from their fingers have magic of the strongest kind in their hearts.

      * * *

     She was about as normal as you could get - a blue Cybunny, not too tall, not too short - normal. She got average grades in all her classes at Neoschool, had battled the Pant Devil and the Chia Clown once or twice, and no Beauty Contest trophies sat in her trophy case. She lived with her owner and two brothers, both Gelerts with amazing Battledome records. One was painted golden, the other silver. She knew her owner liked them better - they were the ones that kept the beautiful trophies and cash prizes coming.

      She was just dead weight to the three of them, just an unpainted pet with no discernible talents. Luckily, unkind as her owner was, she didn't believe in abandoning pets, so at least she knew she'd always have a home.

      Her name was Thea.

      After school, she usually went to the Smoothie Shop with her friends to share a jumbo splime smoothie. She did of course have some friends, a few other unpainted pets that made her feel she wasn't the only one so boringly average. Though she never really felt completely happy around them, she had to take what she could get.

      But this particular day, there was a Battledome tournament, and all of her friends were set on going. ...Of course, there was no place Thea wanted to go to less. Her friends told her not to go if she was only going to whine, and went on without her.

      Shoulders slumped, feeling quite hurt, the Cybunny headed for the Neopian Bazaar on her own. But as she was walking down High Street, she took an unexpected turn that headed her for the catacombs, the home of the artists and wordsmiths of Neopia.

      She noted as she entered the central chamber of the catacombs that it was quite cold. It was chilly outside to start with, winter was coming on fast, bringing cold winds and snowstorms, but it was even colder down here.

      She shivered and rubbed her arms. Maybe she should go back...

      Someone tapped her shoulder, and she flipped around, letting out a small yelp. Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment as she saw it was only a Kyrii offering his coat. He was tall and lanky, deep red in color. The large tuft of hair that started on his forehead and ran down his back had been gelled up so it stood in spikes, and dyed in varying shades of electric blue.

      "You cold?" he questioned in a heavy lilting accent.

      Thea nodded dumbly. "I guess..."

      He draped a heavy brown coat around her shoulders. It was covered with what looked like patches, but on closer inspection she saw they were hand-painted on. It was soft and faded from wear, and quite warm. Along with the painted designs were notes and poems written in black ink. She hugged it close around her, already feeling warmer, and somehow comforted.

      The Kyrii began to walk slowly in the direction of the coffee shop, and Thea stayed at his side.

      "Never seen you around here before," he said, smiling warmly. "You come here often?"

      Thea shook her head. "I've never been down here before," she admitted.

      His grin spread wider. "Well then, c'n I show you around..." He paused. "What's your name?"

      "Thea," she answered.

      He nodded. "My name's Xere." He extended his paw, and she shook it. "Should I show you around then, Thea?"

      Thea was normally quite shy, and not one to socialize with pets she didn't know well. But the Kyrii looked so kind, and the grin on his face was so sincere, she decided to stay and explore.

      She nodded. "Sure." Already there was something about this place that made her want to stay.

      As they were walking, Thea stopped and pointed at a group of pets and owners gathered around an inviting bonfire, sitting on rocks and logs. "What are they doing?" she asked quietly, feeling that if she spoke too loud she'd disturb some sort of magic the people around the bonfire were weaving into the atmosphere.

      Xere smiled - it seemed like he was always smiling, that warm, amiable smile. "That's the storytelling contest," he said, also speaking in quiet tones, as they were quite close to the bonfire group now. He nudged gently. "Want to go listen?"

      Thea bit her lip. "Well..." Though she automatically felt somewhat at ease in this haven, she was still quite shy.

      The lively Kyrii grabbed her arm. "Oh, c'mon, you'll like it," he said, whisking her off to the bonfire. They found a large dry log and took a seat. Thea huddled deep inside Xere's warm trench coat and tried to look inconspicuous. But before long she was so immersed in the story being told, she found herself listening rapturously, not caring if anyone noticed her. The tale was so wonderfully woven, full of a power that made her feel as if she was really alive, that at one point, she almost thought she could see the lush green vegetation of the Tyrannian Jungle, and feel the warm breeze caressing her face.

      Partway through the story, the pets and humans seated around the brightly burning fire got up and started moving away.

      Confused, Thea nudged Xere, who was standing up to stretch. "Wait, where's everyone going? What about the story?"

      Xere yawned. "Oh, they'll continue it tomorrow, some writers' guild reserved the bonfire area for a private storytelling contest." A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. "You should come back tomorrow for the rest of it... you seemed to be enjoying yourself."

      Thea glanced at the ground. What would her friends think if she blew them off tomorrow? With a pang of sadness and anger, she realized that was just what they'd done to her. She shrugged, rising up from her seat on the log.

      "I dunno. I'll think about... Can you show me the rest of this place?" she asked eagerly.

      "Of course," Xere said with a laugh. He gestured with a paw at the cozy-looking shop near the back of the cavern. Thea noted absently that his claws were painted black. "Wanna check out the coffee shop an' get something to drink?" he asked.

      Thea nodded. "Sounds good to me," she said. Since she'd skipped her smoothie stop, it had been a while since she'd had anything to eat or drink.

      Xere tugged at the sleeve of his jacket, which was draped about her shoulders. By now she was suitably warm from sitting around the golden flames of the bonfire, but she kept the trench coat on, feeling somehow comforted by the object, decorated with original art, full of color. He pointed to a tall flat slab of rock resting outside the coffee shop. Sitting atop it was a Nimmo, sea green in color, strumming at a beautiful acoustic guitar.

      "Listen," Xere said softly.

      Thea perked her large Cybunny ears and fell silent, listening to the music that floated through the air. It was a simple tune, rich and deep. She felt it wrap around her and was taken by the same feeling she'd had as she listened to the story by the bonfire.

      "That's beautiful," she whispered.

      "Isn't it?" Xere murmured. The Nimmo strummed the last chord, and scattered clapping could be heard around them. Xere joined in, and Thea followed his lead.

      As the clapping dwindled down, Xere turned and pushed open the door to the coffee shop. "After you," he said, grinning as he swept an overexagerated bow. Thea couldn't help but smile.

      They found a table near the back of the restaurant and sat down. Shortly, a tall Lenny waitress wearing a dress that looked like it had been made out of a quilt swept up to their table. She was holding a small notebook in one wing.

      "Hey Xere," she said in a light, musical voice, pulling a pen from a pocket in the patchwork dress with her free wing. "Who's the little 'un?" She winked at Thea.

      "This..." Xere grinned and flourished his paw at the blue Cybunny seated next to him, "is Thea." He gestured at the cream-colored Lenny. "Thea, meet Arielle."

      The Lenny smiled and extended her wing. "Good t'meet you, Thea," she exclaimed, firmly shaking her paw.

      "Hey," Thea muttered.

      "So," Arielle began, "you two gonna order something?" she said, pen poised over the surface of her notebook.

      "Tall Tigersquash Cappuccino, of course," Xere said, leaning back in his chair.

      "I guess I'll have... umm..." Thea stammered, trailing off. She'd never eaten down here before. "Erm..."

      Xere nudged her arm gently. "Try the Thornberry Tea," he muttered.

      "Thornberry Tea, please," she finally finished.

      "Okay, I'll be back shortly," Arielle said, turning about and heading for the coffee maker at the back of the store, dress swishing.

      "So, what do you think of this place?" Xere said, stretching as he leaned back comfortably in his chair, tipping it back on two legs.

      In truth, Thea had already fallen in love with the place and its inhabitants. Everyone here seemed so... she couldn't describe it in a word - there wasn't a word for it. They were bold, not afraid to go against they grain, full of life, imagination, and creativity. But she wasn't about to say just that. She had her friends from Neoschool, and she couldn't ignore them... even though they'd ignored her... She felt like searching for an excuse not to come back - it was nice, but too crowded, no... It just wasn't her thing... but it was, and she didn't want Xere to think she didn't like it... She bit her lip.

      "It's great!" she exclaimed. "I wish I could come down here more often..." she trailed off.

      Xere quirked an eyebrow. "And why can't you?" he questioned.

      Thea stared at the ground. "Well, my friends... my other friends, they sorta..." she paused for a moment, throat stinging, "umm, ditched me today. ...That's why I came down. But tomorrow, they'll probably want me to go back to the Smoothie Shop with them, and it'd be rude to blow them off..."

      Xere's face melted into a mask of sympathy. "They ditched you?" He shook his head. "Last time I checked, that really wasn't something good friends did."

      Thea shrugged. "Yeah, but it's not all their fault. They wanted to go to that stupid Battledome tournament, and I didn't want to, so they just went without me... they didn't seem to care that much."

      Xere sighed heavily, about to make a comment, but at that moment, Arielle swept up with their drinks, balanced on the widespread tips of her feathers. She set the two drinks on the table. "One Tigersquash Cappuccino, and one Thornberry Tea. Enjoy!" With that, she strutted away.

      They drank in silence, Thea soaking in the pleasant atmosphere of the shop. It was surprisingly warm in there, and she really didn't need Xere's jacket in the slightest. But still, she kept it on, hugging it close around her.

      Some time after they had finished, while Xere was talking about his hobby of painting, Thea happened to glance at the clock. She leapt up from her chair, wringing her hands. It was late, it would be almost dark outside now, and she had most definitely missed dinner. How had she been down there so long...

      "Oh, I'm late, my owner's gonna kill me!" she moaned, starting to pull off Xere's jacket.

      He stopped her, sliding the coat back on her shoulders. "It's okay, you wear it. It's going to be freezing out, besides, you need to add to it," he said, grinning.

      "Add to it?" Thea questioned, stopping for a moment.

      He gestured at the many writings and paintings that covered the jacket. "All my friends have something on there. You need to add something," he said with a wink.

      Intrigued, the Cybunny took a moment to glance over the many designs and notes that filled the faded brown fabric. There were all sorts of things on it, poems, short notes, signatures, and she even saw a blessing in Ancient Neopian. And the pictures were beautiful - hand painted in bright colors. Several of them were scraps of fabric sewn together in a mosaic.

      She tore her eyes from the coat and started for the door, turning back to wave at Xere. "G'bye!" she called.

      "See ya tomorrow!" Xere replied, knowing, hoping that she'd be back.

      Smiling, Thea pushed open the door to the coffee shop, then walked to the entrance of the catacombs and outside into the cold. A light snow was falling from the sky, and she pulled the coat even tighter around her, hoping she could return tomorrow.

To be continued...

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