The Kougra clapped her paws together, making her earrings
jangle as she faced the class. "Very well, let's hear-" she announced, in her
characteristic pattern, "what you have achieved today, working by yourselves."
An Island Cybunny smiled happily before reading
her effort. "Petpets in the trees- make the most horrendous row- casting feathers
"Not bad, Shirry, but- you've an extra syllable-
in the final line," the Haiku Kougra corrected. Her odd method of teaching didn't
disturb the students any longer, having been the case for the entire year. Now,
with sunshine bathing the beaches of Mystery Island, many of the class were
less concerned with syllables and imagery than with getting out of school as
soon as they could.
"Mirari, could you- read what you have written,
please? All you others, shhh." The Kougra waved one paw towards a small pink
Pteri who sat shyly at the back of the class.
"Oh... OK." MirariSakina picked up her paper.
"I've written more than you said I should, though."
"Not such a problem. Just tell me what you've
written. All in your own time."
The Pteri began to read.
"The moon's silvered light
shimmers on the ocean's waves
like some lost treasure.
Weewoos softly call.
They have freedom of the skies,
Why, I cannot say,
When from my prison
I can only watch them fly,
And dream of that light."
The Kougra applauded, her soft paws muffling
the sound. "Excellent, my dear. I forget when I last saw- such a splendid work."
Padding over to Mirari's desk, she waved a paw to dismiss the rest of the class
for the day.
"Thank you, Ms. Kougra," Mirari whispered, tidying
away her belongings.
"It was a pleasure. Listening to you reminds-
me of my own youth." The teacher ruffled Mirari's feathers. "I really must ask-
are you quite all right, my dear? You seem, well, so shy."
"I'm OK." Mirari nodded. "Just a little tired."
"Well, if you feel like- you can't come to our
next class, I will understand," the Kougra told her, handing her a copy of Poetry
for Peophin. "But you are all right? No ill little sisters or- worrying
exams?" Mirari shook her head, and the Kougra sighed. "Now you should get home.
Your owner will be waiting- for you. Get along."
Once the little island school was out of sight,
Mirari stretched her wings and took off. She loved these few moments of each
afternoon, rising on the gentle, cooling breeze. It was a chance to leave her
own thoughts behind and share in Mystery Island's carefree mood for a while.
Between two worlds, she could be free, if only for a while.
Turning on the current, the little Pteri swung
down towards the rocky shore, dangling her schoolbag by its strap. Contrary
to what her teacher had told her, she wasn't going home, at least, not to the
welcome of a human. Mirari's owner, a wanderer by nature, lived across the water
in a small town south of Neopia Central, the latest in a long string of houses.
Houses, not homes. None of them had ever really been a home. After a short while,
the two of them would always move on again, drifting away to a new community
and a new life.
When Mirari had asked to stay on the island for
a while, yearning to be part of a real community for more than a few months,
the human girl had given her permission. It wasn't abandonment; both of them
were quite clear about that. It was simply a separation, a necessary parting
for two such different spirits. They missed each other, but Mirari had to admit
that she liked the feeling of a permanent home. For so long, she had never had
a place she could truly call hers.
Mystery Island had become that place, for a while.
Perhaps, if things were different, it still would be.
Mirari approached the cliff face. Swinging one
wing downward, the little bird swooped through a gap that no-one would have
seen, had they not known it was there.
"Kea?" she called softly. "Keahi, are you in
"Who's there?" A timid voice answered her.
"It's me. It's only Minna." Mirari used the playful
name that they shared, a secret known only to two Neopians, so that the one
she called Keahi would know to let her in. Once you knew it, the connection
between Minna and MirariSakina was obvious, but it was still unguessable
to others. And it served, for the time being, as a password. With a dull shimmer
of magic, a scattering of stones moved aside to let the Pteri through.
"Keahi." It was their nickname for her: a word
from a faraway language, a word meaning my flame. "Are you all right?"
"As I can be." The young woman lifted Mirari
into the cavern.
"I wrote this for you, Keahi. Ms. Kougra said
it was beautiful, but I was really just writing to get rid of my feelings."
The Pteri girl held out the haiku poem in one outstretched wing. Silently, her
friend read it.
"This is beautiful, Minna." There was
sadness in the girl's smile. "You're becoming such a good poet."
"Has it been another of those days?" Mirari sensed
her friend's unhappiness, and moved to put a wing around her shoulders.
"It has. I actually went out today... and I tried
leaving a gift for that Cybunny friend of yours, Shirry." A tear stole into
Keahi's eye. "She thought it was pretty when she first saw it. But when she
noticed I'd signed it with my real name... she threw it away. Said it had to
"Oh, Keahi." Mirari suddenly thought of something.
"How is... it?"
The Faerie girl got to her feet, picking up a
tiny glass bottle from a narrow ledge. It looked like the bottles that unfortunate
Faerie younglings were trapped in by Balthazar, but much smaller. Inside, a
tiny flame was glowing, no bigger than a tealight candle.
"This is burning-powder," Mirari told her friend,
holding out a small packet. "It's from the Techo Master. S'posed to be a Battledome
weapon, but I told him I was having trouble getting the fire to light in my
The one she called Keahi reached out and sprinkled
a delicate pinch of the red powder onto the flame. It flared up slightly, becoming
more confident and vivid.
"Reminds me of the day I met you," Mirari smiled.
"Do you remember? I got blown off course by a storm, and I ended up in this
"You wondered why I hadn't got any wings," Keahi
Automatically, the little Pteri turned to look
at her friend's shoulders. The scorched remnants of Keahi's wings still lay
on her back, a constant reminder of what she had lost.
"Fire Faeries can't be destroyed by flame," she
had said. "But my wings had to be lost, when it all came to light. It was Fyora's
Then Mirari had seen the bottle.
The flame inside, beautiful and fragile, was
all that was left of the Fire Faerie's once proud wings.
"You sheltered me, that day," Mirari murmured.
"But that's when all of this began. For me."
"Already I have no wings. If that flame goes
out," Keahi whispered, "I'll be a true Grey Faerie. No name, no magic, no memory,
no hope." Her smile was an act, a false reassurance to a Neopet that would not
be reassured that she didn't care. "I'll be no better than Baelia."
"Then it mustn't go out!" Mirari scattered more
of the burning-powder on the flame. "You mustn't let it, Keahi. Remember, you're
not Baelia. You send blessings and gifts. You try to help the islanders here.
You're a proud Faerie of Mystery Island."
"I was," Keahi corrected her, and the flame flickered
behind its glass. "Until I did something that a Fire Faerie should not do. I
tried to seek ultimate power."
Mirari nodded. She'd heard this story before,
but its sting did not diminish with the retelling.
"I thought I could be more powerful than Jhuidah,
even than Fyora. I thought I could make Mystery Island an infinitely better
place, but now I see I just wanted to make it into a place where I would be
happy." Keahi sighed. "It's like the old story about the Spardel who had a bone
in his mouth, and saw his reflection in the water. He jumped in to grab the
bone that his mirror-image was holding, and he had to be rescued by a kindly
Acara. By the time he got to the shore, he didn't have anything at all- not
the bone he'd wanted, nor the one he'd had to begin with. That's what comes
of chasing after illusions."
"Sometimes, illusions are there to be chased,"
Mirari said firmly. "I still hope you'll be able to go back to ruling over Mystery
Island one day."
"Maybe," Keahi sighed, noncommittal. Inside the
bottle, the fire was faint and smoky.
"Don't you think little MirariSakina looks tired?"
whispered the Techo Master as he entered the schoolroom. The Kougra at his side
"She seems much too stressed- for a little Neopet.
You should talk to her."
Mirari looked as if she hadn't slept properly
for several nights. Pulling her satchel and a pair of Tombola-won sandals behind
her, she found her seat.
"Good morning, class," the Techo added aloud
as he closed the door. "Our lesson today is on the history of Mystery Island.
If you would all open your books at page 43."
Together, the class read about the founding of
Mystery Island's first modern civilisation, and about the strange being Mumbo
Pango who had once claimed to rule the island, demanding the lives of the Neopian
government in tribute. They discussed the significance of wooden totems and
the mysterious scarcity of the beautiful purple sand that once formed a significant
part of the island's beaches.
"I think we've covered everything," the Techo
Master nodded. "Is there any- wait, MirariSakina?"
The Pteri had one wing raised into the air. At
the teacher's questioning signal, she flew to the front of the class and whispered
something into his ear.
"Miss Sakina? Are you sure you're well enough
to come to class, my dear?" Her history tutor looked down at her with concern.
"We already covered the whole of that era. I think we've discussed everything
about that particular Faerie."
"But you've discussed practically nothing!" Mirari
rose above the class, squawking as loudly as she could. "What about the way
she helped build Mystery Island's first settlement? What about the time she
cured an epidemic of Neomonia on the island? What about the magic she put into
Jhuidah's own cooking pot?"
"Those things never happened!" the Techo Master
exclaimed. "They couldn't possibly have happened!"
The rest of the class, catching the drift of
the conversation, murmured agreement.
"You think they couldn't have happened," Mirari
told them. "You think she was never anything but evil. You forget who she was.
You don't realise who she could be."
"Miss Sakina, you can't contradict history!"
The Techo Master tried to pull Mirari back down to her seat.
"Ooh, watch out for Mirari," giggled a young
Mynci. "She's going to be the next Agent of Evil!"
"Don't laugh. I got a gift from that Faerie weirdo
yesterday," Shirry put in. "Obviously it must've had a horrible curse on it.
Maybe if I'd picked up the nasty thing, I'd be spouting this nonsense Mirari's
"She..." Mirari stared. "She wants to be one
of Mystery Island's faeries again. That's all. She doesn't want to return
to the days when she abused her power. That's in the past now."
"Oh sure," nodded Shirry. "And Dr. Sloth is really
just a harmless little Aisha kit when you get down to it. I think you've got
a fever, Mirari."
One of the other students, a handsome white Kau,
watched in alarm as Mirari fluttered back to the ground. "Miss Sakina? Are you
"No!" Grabbing her schoolbag, Mirari fled through
the window and out into the long grass, too upset even to manage a take-off.
"What are you doing with those bags, Minna?"
Keahi stared as her Pteri friend dragged suitcases
and satchels into the cavern, never stopping to rest.
"I'll need your help with them," Mirari replied
sharply. "I'm moving to Sakhmet City. My owner says there's a Gelert there that
runs a hotel. The two of us could stay there for a while."
Keahi guessed the reason why her friend was turning
away. Reaching out, she wiped the angry tear from Mirari's eye. "No," she said
softly. "This is because of me, isn't it?"
Mirari couldn't deny the accusation.
"You're not leaving because of me, Minna. You
told me yourself, you belong here. I know everything they said, but I'm
not leaving this island. I couldn't if I wanted to, Minna. Even if I have to
watch the world from a little cave like this one, Mystery Island's in my blood."
"I d-don't care if I did try to belong here."
Mirari glared at her suitcases as if they personally were responsible for all
her troubles. "I don't want to belong to a town full of s-such cruel pets."
"Minna, it's my own fault." Keahi stroked the
Pteri's pink feathers with one gentle hand. "I know what I did, and I can't
pretend that there was a good reason for it, or that anyone else tricked me
into it. I'm not surprised they feel that way. Don't go. Or if you must go,
then go without me."
"Remember all these?" Mirari pulled a bundle
of papers from among her belongings. "They're the stories I wrote for Neoschool.
All about redemption and Neopets getting second chances. The teachers said they
were perfect. But suggest anything of the sort in real life, and even Ms. Jhuidah
is suddenly as deaf as a statue..."
The Faerie sighed. "Go home, Minna. You can't
leave Mystery Island just because of this. Think about your friends, Shirry
and Vallen. You've seen how loving and kind they can be. What about that petpet
you were saving up for? You've already bought the fishbowl. And the way you're
such a good student in class. You don't want to go to Tyrannia, or Sakhmet,
or somewhere you don't know the language, and throw all that away."
The little Pteri turned away, tears of shame
and anger still spilling from her eyes. It was all true, all of it. Not bothering
to pick up her belongings, she turned to go.
Halfway to the mouth of the cavern, Mirari stopped,
staring ahead of her. A soft, purple light flared outside, coming closer to
Keahi's hideaway and blossoming as a flower as it came. Her own worries forgotten,
the Pteri tensed, ready to defend her friend if danger threatened.
The light grew and flickered, though, becoming
the image of a smiling Faerie Queen. Mirari reached out, but her wing travelled
through the shimmering figure; it was only a projection of Fyora's spirit. Keahi,
however, was sitting bolt upright, apparently bracing herself for some kind
of trial. "What now?" she gasped.
"Be calm, my dear. I only came to request your
attendance at the Faerie Festival tonight."
"The... The Faerie Festival?" Keahi stared. "But
I haven't been invited to the Festival since... since that thing happened. Grey
Faeries can't attend."
"Who said you were a Grey Faerie any more?" Fyora
smiled. "Have you looked at yourself lately, my dear?"
Keahi examined herself closely. Nothing seemed
"Oh, not like that, my love," the Faerie Queen
added, shaking her head. "Look by the light of that glass bottle."
Puzzled, Keahi held the bottle in front of her,
and gasped as she caught her reflection in a pool of water. As the tiny flame
glowed, it seemed to pick out the shape of two faint, ragged wings.
"But... how?" Keahi whispered. "My wings were
"You've taken the first step, my dear." Fyora
smiled. "When you've lived as long as I have, you'll know that nothing is forever.
With enough time and enough love, anything can be mended." The Faerie took a
step back. "Think of the last year. You've given gifts to so many Neopians.
You've scattered magical blessings across this island. And you've befriended
a lonely little dreamer, and taught her to turn her anger into beautiful words.
You're still one of us, deep down inside."
Keahi was speechless.
"Take it from me, little Fire Faerie. I can't
say whether it'll be on Mystery Island, or somewhere else entirely. But take
my word for it. One day, even you will be able to fly again."
As her image began to fade, Fyora fixed her
eyes on the Faerie who called herself Keahi. "See you at the Festival, my dear?"
Keahi stared at the last fragment of light disappearing.
"She... she said..."
"She did." Mirari's tears were gone, and she
smiled boldly at her friend. "We're not going to give up. Now come on, we have
to get you ready." Pulling a feather-brush from her belongings, she began to
smooth Keahi's hair. "And I'll have to start calling you by your true name tonight.
Everyone will use it at the festival."
"Wait..." Keahi's expression of hope was replaced
by a more mournful gaze. "She was teasing me, she must have been. These wings
may exist, but I can't fly. There's no way I can get to Faerieland."
"Oh yes, there is." Mirari flapped around her
friend's puzzled figure, winding a long cord between her own body and Keahi's.
When the work was finished, the young Pteri was strapped to Keahi's shoulders.
She tried an experimental takeoff As she'd expected, the Faerie weighed practically
nothing at all.
Outside, the silver moon was glittering against
the waves. Somewhere, a flock of Weewoos were calling in the darkness. Mirari
flexed her wings. As always, she was caught between two worlds, but for once
she didn't care.
"C'mon. Come fly with me, Eithne."
Dedicated to a very special friend. Fly high, and don't let things get you