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Fire and Gold: Part Three


by silvormoon

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Gerra was awakened the next morning by Twee flicking her ears with the tip of his tail.

      "That tickles," she complained.

      "It's daytime," Twee informed her, "and I'm hungry. Wake up, wake up."

      Gerra yawned and stretched. She felt cold and stiff from sleeping on the ground all night. Twee waited patiently while she worked the kinks out of her legs and wings.

      "All right," she said at last. "Let's go."

      "Yippee, finally!" said Twee. He scampered up ahead, and then doubled back, overflowing with energy. "You know, I've never seen a Faerie before. There's kind of a shortage of them in the Haunted Woods. I guess they like it somewhere prettier. The Brain Tree is kinda cool, though, even if all he ever does is ask questions..."

      Twee babbled away, telling Gerra all about the Haunted Woods. She had to admit, it sounded like an exciting sort of place to live. She found herself wishing that just once, before she finally got her coveted Snow Paint Brush, she could see a bit more of the world. In the meantime, she found she was actually rather amused by Twee's chatter. He had absolutely no shame for the mischief he'd gotten into, but he was a bright and cheerful little fellow, and she found it impossible to remember she was supposed to be angry at him.

      As a matter of fact, Gerra enjoyed talking to him so much that she hardly noticed when they left the Ice Caves and emerged onto the top of the mountain. From there, it was not a long walk to reach Taelia's home. Gerra knocked on the door and hoped the Faerie was in, and that she was in a good mood.

      "Just a moment," called a voice from within the house.

      A few seconds later, the door swung inward gently, and the cool eyes of the Snow Faerie looked down on the two Neopets on her doorstep.

      "Well, well. You two are eager, aren't you, to be here this early in the morning. What can I do for you?" she asked.

      "It's kind of a long story," said Gerra.

      "Then perhaps you had better come in and have breakfast with me," Taelia replied.

      At the word "breakfast", Gerra's stomach began to growl, and she could see from the glint in Twee's eyes that he was hungry as well. The two of them scampered inside with fulsome thanks for the offer of food. Taelia just smiled and set about fixing breakfast for the three of them.

      She did, at least, have the wisdom to offer Gerra something that wouldn't melt when she picked it up. While Gerra and Twee devoured a plate of pastries and sipped mugs of hot Borovan, they explained to Taelia what their problems were. The Snow Faerie listened attentively, but said nothing until the two of them had finished speaking. While the two of them picked at the crumbs of their breakfast, Taelia looked thoughtful.

      "Well," she said, "I haven't got any Paint Brushes I can give you right now, even if you were willing to work for them. You could wait for me to try to come across a few, but that's not at the top of my list of priorities right now. Are you sure you really need to be painted again? That you can't be happy the way you are?"

      "I really want to be a Snow Eyrie," said Gerra. "I want to be with my family again, and live on Terror Mountain. I love it here. I'd never want to live anywhere else."

      "And you?" Taelia asked Twee.

      "I can't stay this way," he said. "It'll just get me in trouble. Besides, I want to be different. I don't like the way I am."

      "You know," said Taelia slowly, "there are things Paint Brushes can change, and things they can't. They can change the way you look, but they can't do anything for the way you are inside. If you don't like yourself, you won't like yourself no matter what shape or color you are, because deep down, you'll always still be you."

      Twee shook his head. "I just want people to take me seriously and quit picking on me."

      "Well, then, if you're certain you know what you want, I'll do what I can to help," said Taelia. "I may not be able to do very much. However, there might be someone else..."

      "Who?" asked Twee eagerly.

      "The Fountain Faerie, who else?" Taelia replied. "She doesn't even need a Paint Brush to make you any color you want to be. All you'd need is a bit of the water from her magical fountain."

      "Of course! I should have thought of that myself!" said Gerra. "We'll set out for Faerieland right away."

      "All right! I get to see more Faeries!" said Twee happily. "Maybe this isn't such a bad situation, after all."

      "Thank you so much for breakfast, Taelia," Gerra said politely, "and for the advice."

      "It was nothing, really," the Snow Faerie replied. "Your parents have always been good about helping me when I need a few spell ingredients, or need someone to carry a message for me. I don't mind fixing breakfast for the daughter of some of my favorite Eyries. I'm just sorry I can't be of more help." She looked thoughtful again, then rose from the breakfast table and went to get something down from a shelf. "Here, this should help you, Gerra. I know you aren't well traveled, so this will keep you from getting lost."

      She handed Gerra a map of Neopia. Gerra unrolled it on the table for a better look. It had all the worlds of Neopia drawn on it in exquisite detail. There was a white snowflake on the place where Taelia's house stood. It seemed to sparkle slightly.

      "This is a map I use on the rare occasions when I travel," she said. "The snowflake will move as you do, so you'll always know where you are. Be sure to take good care of it, and give it back to me when you're done."

      "We will," Gerra and Twee chorused.

      The two of them thanked Taelia profusely and took their leave of her home. Gerra was sorry to have to go out into the snow again. For a Snow Faerie, Taelia kept a surprisingly cozy home.

      "We've got a long road ahead of us," said Twee. He had taken custody of the map, since Gerra preferred to walk on all fours. "It looks like the easiest way to go would be to go from here..." He pointed at Terror Mountain, "down to here." He moved his paw to a span of coastline further south. "Then we'll have to get across the ocean, somehow. Huh, it looks like you're going to be seeing a little of my home, too. If we cross at the place where the sea is narrowest, we'll have to cut across a little of the Haunted Woods."

      "That will be exciting," said Gerra. She was feeling more cheerful, now that she had a definite solution to her problems. And she got to see more of Neopia, into the bargain! She was actually rather eager to see something of the Haunted Woods, now that Twee had told her so much about it.

      "I'll say. You and I aren't exactly going to blend in," said Twee. "We're going to have to watch our backs. Like I said, there are a lot of pets there who don't like me."

      "Maybe they won't recognize you," Gerra suggested. "Last time they saw you, you were a Shadow Meerca, and you weren't traveling with an Eyrie."

      "That's true!" Twee began to look a little brighter. "Let's get going, then!"

          

       By the time they reached the Haunted Woods, they were feeling less excited about the whole trip. Gerra had been forced to carry Twee across the water that separated Terror Mountain from the northern reaches of Neopia Central. That was much more tiring than just flying alone, and the journey across the rolling hills of Neopia Central had taken yet more out of her. She was quite tired by the time they began drawing nearer to the Haunted Woods. The plan was to cut across the forest and eventually end up on the coastline nearest to where the map said Faerieland was currently hovering. It would have been possible to go around, but the main roads led through the forest, making for smoother travel.

      "There's some weird stuff out there," Twee informed Gerra as they made their way into the woods, "but you're usually pretty safe as long as you stay on the main roads."

      "I hope you're right," said Gerra. Now that she was here, she didn't much like the look of the place. The trees looked faintly diseased to her, quite unlike the cheerful pine trees she was used to. These had some sort of stringy, slimy-looking moss growing on them, and she took pains not to let any of it brush against her. The idea of having that stuff sticking to her feathers gave her the chills.

      "Trust me. I've lived here all my life. There's really no place like it," said Twee. He made a face. "As long as you aren't afraid of monsters and mutants and things that go bump in the night."

      "Are they as bad as the Snowager?"

      "Not usually. Sometimes the Esophagor gets indigestion. That's just about as bad. But mostly, no."

      "That's... reassuring!"

      They kept walking. After a while, Gerra decided it wasn't so bad. It wasn't good what with the wind making the trees creak ominously, and the occasional weird noise in the shadows, and the way the sky seemed to be black even though she knew it was daylight out there somewhere, but it really wasn't bad. Nothing too disturbing happened, anyway, other than Gerra being briefly startled by a few Korbats flying by. Twee kept her occupied by pointing out the various sights: the lights of the Fairground in the distance, the Brain Tree, and the direction of the Castle of Eliv Thade.

      "We're coming up pretty close on the Stone Battledome," said Twee as they ambled along. "Tried that once. Got my tail kicked by a Blumaroo. You know those little guys can kick hard, too. It'll be a long time before you see me back in... the... uh-oh."

      "What?" said Gerra, and then she said, "Never mind," because she saw. Coming up the road ahead was the biggest, hairiest, meanest-looking Lupe she had ever seen, accompanied by a Ghost Hissi and a Mutant Skeith.

      "Ooh, this isn't good," said Twee, skittering back and forth in panic. "They're going to get me, I know they will!"

      "Old friends?" said Gerra dryly.

      "Not hardly!" Twee gave a squeak and dove behind Gerra. A moment later, the Lupe and his friends came clomping past.

      "Hey, look at that," said the Skeith, squinting in Gerra's direction. "Somebody thinks she's hot stuff, heh heh heh!"

      "Better than looking like you," Gerra shot back without thinking.

      "Don't say that!" Twee wailed.

      The sound of a familiar voice drew all three Neopets closer. Twee shivered and tried to curl up into a ball. The big Lupe grabbed him by the tail and pulled him out.

      "Well, looky here!" he said with a laugh. "It's our old friend with a new paint job! Pretty fancy! Where'd you get the Paint Brush, runt? Did you steal it?"

      "Not exactly," said Twee. "Ow, leggo my tail! How'd you like it if someone strung you up by your tail, huh, you big lug?"

      "You still talk big," said Growgar. "Maybe I shouldn't have gone so easy on you last time."

      "Maybe he didn't sssteal a Paint Brusssh, but look what elssse he hasss," said the Hissi. He gestured with his tail at Taelia's map.

      "Hey, this looks interesting," said Growgar. He grabbed it out of Twee's paws.

      "Give that back!" Gerra shouted. "That belongs to Taelia!"

      "Not our fault if you're running around with her stuff," said the Skeith. "Heh, wonder what we could sell this for at the marketplace?"

      "You don't understand! We didn't steal it, she loaned it to us!" said Gerra. "Please, give it back! We need it to get to Faerieland."

      "You know what? I don't believe you," said Growgar. "First of all, I don't believe this little thief came by anything honestly. Secondly, I don't believe a Snow Faerie being friends with a Fire Eyrie. So I think I'll just keep this map for myself. Finders, keepers."

      Gerra lost her temper. With a shriek, she reared up on her hind legs and flared her wings, sending a wave of heat rolling towards Growgar and his gang. The startled pets leaped backwards, and Twee took the opportunity to twist himself free. He ran in a circle around Growgar's legs, tripping him and making him topple over backwards. Gerra swooped in and jumped on Growgar's chest, snatching the map out of his paw before leaping away again. The Hissi lunged at her but missed, and ended up biting the Skeith's tail. The Skeith roared and swatted back at him, and the two of them went into a tussle. Growgar recovered himself and tried to make a grab for the map, but before he could catch up to Gerra, Twee leapt up and landed solidly on his head, dazing him for a moment. Gerra knelt long enough for Twee to jump on his back, and then she took to the air again, leaving the three thieving Neopians far behind.

      "Ha, that'll show 'em!" said Twee. "That was fun. Did you see the look on those big goons' faces? We really showed 'em who's boss, huh, Gerra?"

      "We sure did," Gerra agreed. "Maybe they'll think twice before messing with any more innocent Neopets."

      "I sure hope so," said Twee. He was quiet a moment. "You know, even though I'm not big and tough and scary like Growgar, I still took him on, and I won."

      "You did," Gerra agreed, "with my help."

      "Yeah," said Twee. He looked like he wanted to say more, but whatever was on his mind, he kept it to himself.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Fire and Gold: Part One
» Fire and Gold: Part Two
» Fire and Gold: Part Four



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