A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 126,483,444 Issue: 255 | 1st day of Gathering, Y8
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Whisper on the Wind: Part One


by sarahleeadvent

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The gentle voice of the Water Faerie rang clear and sweet above the sighing ocean, mingling in perfect harmony with the faint salty breath of the wind. Nereid felt the breeze lift a wisp of spray off a wave and sprinkle it over her face as she lifted her eyes to the sky, still singing softly as if serenading the clouds.

      From somewhere nearby another voice came, soft, clear and gentle like the fall of quiet rain and no less beautiful than the Water Faerie's. This second voice joined Nereid's in flawless harmony, and together the two singers sent their crystal melody drifting upward and away across the whispering water.

      For hours the graceful song caressed the salty air; then finally the second singer's voice drifted away, still faintly audible over the sighs of the waves and the quiet beat of downy wings. Nereid continued to sing by herself for awhile, then slipped beneath the surface, vanishing into the depths.

      ~ *~*~*~

      Filora's voice trailed off a few minutes after the Water Faerie had disappeared beneath the waves. Nereid had swum away quickly the first few times Filora had tried to sing with her, but on the fourth attempt the elusive Faerie had lingered awhile, listening in silence before accepting the overture of friendship. Whether she had stayed because she was captivated by the young Neopet's song, or felt sorry for the lonely wanderer, or was curious about the invisible source of the voice, Filora wasn't certain; but since that day when the two of them had first sung together their voices had mingled several times.

      But still, there is something missing, Filora couldn't help but think as the shimmering water slipped away beneath her. She hears my voice, but she doesn't even know who I am. No one does anymore.

      And no one ever had- not since that day when she'd failed Jhudora's Quest. Filora shook her head as memories poured through her mind:

      "What do you mean, I'm late?" the young Faerie Kougra protested as the dark Faerie glowered down at her.

      "I mean," Jhudora grated in annoyance, "that you have failed my quest, and shall face the consequences."

      Filora backed away nervously. "You didn't say anything about-"

      "Come back here," Jhudora commanded, and the young Kougra froze. Jhudora's eyes narrowed. "Get back here NOW."

      But Filora turned and ran. Behind her she could hear a snarl of wrath, and suddenly purple light exploded around the corners of her eyes as something slammed into her retreating body, sending her reeling to the floor. She picked herself up and kept running, the red Aisha plushie she had fetched for Jhudora lying forgotten where she had dropped it. She wasn't certain what had happened, but she didn't feel like anything had changed. The first warning she got that she had not escaped unharmed came when she sprinted madly across Faerieland and nobody seemed to notice her. Normally everyone would have stopped to stare at a frantic Neopet barrelling aimlessly among the clouds.

      But the worst surprise came when she accidentally collided with an old Tonu, and instead of slamming into him simply went tumbling right through. He didn't even notice her. It was then that Filora stopped long enough to look at her paws, and realized that they didn't seem to be there. She ran her unseen paws across her body and found that she was still a Faerie Kougra, and that to her own paws she felt solid; but to the rest of the world she had vanished, both from sight and from touch.

      A simple attempt to complete a minor quest had torn a hole in her life. Two minutes after the deadline, and she had been turned into this- this invisible, intangible flying nothing. An unseen spectator who passed through everything she touched except the ground and went unnoticed except when she spoke. And because of the reactions most people had to being addressed by what seemed to be merely a patch of air, Filora had spoken less and less often since the accident, fading away until she was merely a silent observer, watching the world pass by before her helpless eyes.

      The images faded and present sight returned, revealing that the ocean was finally coming to an end; and Filora relaxed slightly at the familiar sight of the shores of Meridell. She could have simply gone to Mystery Island- it was so much closer to where she and Nereid usually sang, and being invisible and intangible she could sleep wherever she wanted to and no one would ever know- but somehow her homeland beckoned her, and she seldom left it except to seek solace in spreading her song across the waves. Filora drifted through a forest, not bothering to go around the trees, which blotted out her vision for a moment whenever she passed through them before giving way again to the forest as most flying pets saw it.

      The sun was beginning to set, turning the tall brown trunks of the trees into shadowed silhouettes. Filora drifted aimlessly, not really caring where she went. Eventually she would find a place to go to sleep, but since there was nowhere she needed to go and nothing she needed to do- tomorrow, or ever- she felt no hurry to settle down.

      Pale evening had turned into cool, dark, star-sprinkled night before Filora finally became tired, and as was her habit she simply landed and lay down where she was, her fear of being discovered or accidentally stepped on having faded long ago. Curling up tightly in the middle of a cornfield and laying the tip of her tail over her forepaws, the little Kougra drifted out of consciousness with the quiet hiss of the wind in the cornstalks around her whispering in her ears.

      ~ *~*~*~

      Drowsiness permeated her mind, enveloping her like a dark, heavy fog, but the distant sound of voices dragged Filora from sleep.

      "Hello? Anybody there? Who is tha-"

      A loud and venomous hiss filled the air in response, causing Filora's skin to crawl and sending shivers flitting up and down her spine. All thoughts of sleep scattered like frightened Babaas, and the Faerie Kougra instinctively crouched down, trembling for a moment before remembering that she was invisible and, though impotent, virtually invincible. With this knowledge came a feeling of relief and security, and also sudden curiosity. Stretching her wings, Filora rose into the air, scanning the field with wide, alert eyes.

      Suddenly something large and gray exploded up from the cornfield, several farmers shouting curses in its wake. Filora cringed as it careened right through her, setting her stomach churning; but as soon as it had passed she opened her eyes, watching in surprise as the strange being shot away over the field.

      Below her, the farmers grumbled their annoyance. "It got away," a Quiggle muttered, and a green Kougra replied,

      "Probably just as well- did you see the size of that thing?"

      "Well, next time I see it it's not getting away that easily. When I get my hands on it..."

      "Hey- we're here! Where is it?" a third voice called, and Filora continued to hover, watching in fascination as several other farmers gathered around, discussing the "Bat-thing" as they called it and arguing about the best way to go about capturing it.

      As the discussion went on and heated up, Filora flew away. It was none of her concern, and there was really nothing she could do about it. She might as well just find some quiet place where she was less likely to be disturbed.

      ~ *~*~*~

      Filora's eyes fluttered open, and were instantly greeted by a waterfall of liquid sunlight streaming through and between the shimmering canopy of leaves. She had stumbled upon this place last night as she drifted about in the wilderness between fields and farmhouses: a small patch of forest, dappled with shade and moonlight with the soft fluid whisper of the stream tumbling among the trees. It was a beautiful place of restful serenity and Filora had fallen in love with it immediately, settling down without hesitation and resolving to note its location so that she could return to it later.

      Now, as the morning sunlight filtered through the leaves, causing them to glow a beautiful golden green, Filora rose and stretched, yawning contentedly as she looked around the little forest. The black-and-silver loveliness it had displayed at midnight had been replaced with blue, green and gold, and Filora's eyes took in every glowing detail: the azure sparkle of the stream as it tumbled through the forest... the healthy emerald glint of the leaves, grass and bushes... the small cobalt flowers that adorned the grass beside the stream... the Bat-thing, curled up at the base of a tree...

      Filora almost jumped out of her invisible skin as her gaze fell upon the sleeping form, furled in a tight ball only a few feet away from her. Her mouth went dry, and for a moment she could do nothing but stare in shock at the strange being who had materialized in the pleasant confines of the forest. For a moment Filora was annoyed, having believed until now that she had found a place where no one would disturb her rest, and now realizing that it had been discovered already.

      But now that she got a better look at her unexpected guest, Filora felt her irritation giving way to pity. The Bat-thing's wings were ragged and torn, as was the shabby brown garment that was draped over its emaciated frame. From the way it was curled up, Filora suspected it had probably been cold last night- cold, or mortally afraid. She remembered the farmers and the way they had reacted to their unwelcome visitor, and suddenly she was glad that the Bat-thing had taken refuge in her little patch of forest. Padding quietly up to it, she studied it with renewed compassion, whispering as she did, "You're all alone, aren't you?"

      The Bat-thing's large ears twitched, and suddenly it sat up sharply, its ears and eyes flicking in every direction. Filora backed away, holding out a paw in a trucelike gesture before remembering that it couldn't see her. "It's all right," she whispered. "You're safe here. And you know..." She hesitated, then added, "I'm all alone too."

      The strange creature was still looking around uneasily, but either understanding her words or reassured by the gentle tone of her voice it eventually settled down, still glancing around as if searching for the source of the quiet words. Filora sat down beside it, impulsively placing a paw upon its shoulder and feeling her heart sink as the intangible appendage passed through unnoticed.

      She was hardly even aware that it was happening; she had done it so often over the years since the accident that it was almost second nature. Closing her eyes and tilting her head back, she began to softly sing, as she always did when the pain of her helplessness sharpened. And as she sang, filling the small forest with the cool, clear sound of her voice, the Bat-thing seemed to slowly relax, sitting down and leaning back against the tree while keeping its large ears perked in Filora's direction. Occasionally its yellow eyes flickered, as if something about Filora's voice or the words of her song reminded it of something beyond the reach of its memory; and it stared with rapt attention in Filora's direction, its gaze never leaving the place where the invisible Kougra sat.

      "Hold on- what the blazes is that?"

      Filora's voice nearly faltered, and both she and her audience twisted to stare in the direction of the source of the call. It was distant, but not nearly distant enough. Filora's lungs and mouth went on autopilot, the song continuing to pour through the woods while the singer stared in strained anxiety toward the source of the strange voices.

      "Sounds like a Water Faerie. There is a stream running through here, you know."

      "Would a Water Faerie be singing with us this close?"

      "Maybe she hasn't heard us. Let's keep it down."

      Filora kept on singing, her eyes darting nervously between the Bat-thing and the unseen farmers.

      "Do you think that corn thief is in there?" a barely audible voice asked, and Filora recognized the voice of the Quiggle she had seen the night before. The Bat-thing must have recognized it too, for its eyes darted about wildly in search of an escape, and it looked as though it might fly away.

      "No, impossible. If that thing was in there, every Water Faerie within two miles would have gone into hiding."

      "Good point. Come on, let's go. The more time we waste, the father away that varmint probably gets."

      Filora began to sing louder, her heart leaping up to pour strength and vigor into her voice. They had left! They had gone away because of her! It was Filora's doing that the Bat-thing was safe here! The young Kougra felt ready to burst with joy. Finally, something she did had made a difference, even if it was only to keep one stray wanderer safe for a few more hours. Her voice cascaded from one song into another, a stirring melody her mother had taught her when she was a child in the beginning of the Meridell versus Darigan War rising in her throat.

      "The clouds grow dark, shadows unfold

      The fields are stark, and hope grows cold

      The blackness looms, and children cry

      The cry of doom rattles the sky

      Chill fear descends like silent rain

      The battle ends, then starts again

      The world seems bleak, darker than night

      Yet still some seek to find the light;

      In the night,

      They bring light

      The fiery spark of courage

      Through the haze

      The fires blaze

      Igniting soul and heart

      In their hands,

      In their brands,

      The flame of their righteous rage

      Put false night

      To swift flight

      And makes the fear depart..."

      As the melody continued, Filora voice rose and fell passionately, her soul caught up in the fire of the song. And through it all the Bat-thing watched intently, fear driven away by fascination.

      And although the two occupants of the small patch of forest heard voices once in a while throughout the day, the farmers did not return- nor did they appear once in the ensuing weeks, when Filora would return to the forest daily to sing to her strange companion, the beautiful but ordinary scattering of trees being transformed by her voice into a place of safety, guarded by the songs which poured from the young Kougra's heart.

To be continued...

 
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