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Lesser Faerie


by tashni

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A forest of purity forever marred by the greed of one.

     In the forest lived the lesser faeries, small enough to fit in one's

     hand and with little magic about them. They were once innocent,

     pure--a part of their forest, with just enough magic to avoid its dangers.

     Then someone from outside came, a lupine being. He stole faeries

     from their home, quick to learn how to overcome their magic. None

     of the captured faeries ever returned, but the Lupe did. He came again

     and again, each time carrying away more of the sisters.

     The faeries labeled him Balthazar, "violator."

Attack! The little air faerie heard the cries of her sisters and saw the bulge of muscles under his mangled fur. The Balthazar's gaze came to her, turning her heart to ice. She darted through the forest on her little wings and thrust herself with the wind. He was howling with the thrill of pursuing her. She paid no attention to where she was going, only on getting away. Leaves slapped against her, burning her cheeks and legs. His breathing was a rhythm of pants and growls. The shrieks of her sisters whirled around her, threatened to drown her.

     A group of air faeries had joined together in flight like a constellation of blue stars. She aligned herself with them. Combining their magic, they made themselves invisible in a current of wind through the trees. The Balthazar knew that trick, and continued to gain on them. She pushed harder in the current of air, desperate to speed ahead of the others. They were all so scared; all struggled to get ahead, to not be last. The Balthazar swung his net, and four more of her sisters screamed as they were caught. The air faeries panicked and split in three directions. He halted, looked in his net, and grumbled. He ended the chase and left the borders of their land.

     'It wasn't me,' thought the air faerie. She stopped and hovered inside a bush, giving her heart time to stop pounding. 'It wasn't me.' Her eyes closed and she relished the wind in the air. She did not leave the safety of the bush until the sun set behind the endless trees. On the wind she drifted back to the clearing where they would gather for the night. 'I am still free.' By dark, the faeries were gathered together once more around a great fire. The little air faerie flitted about it with her hundreds of sisters. The faeries made their own music, humming ancient tunes, their sweet voices merging to form a grand orchestra. They were like stars dancing in the sky, each pushing the day's horror out of her mind. Dancing always brought the little air faerie joy, but tonight her thoughts could not let go of the hunt. 'He has never been that close to me before.' She left the faeries dancing in the air to sit on a rock and watch. 'I am so tired.' Who were the ones taken? She could not tell. There were too many individuals to know, yet so few left since the Balthazar's arrival.

     The moon was bright, but she did not notice the figure behind her. Her thoughts kept her trapped within herself. The Balthazar's net flew swiftly, silently. She was captured and her screams could not save her. No faerie escaped once in the Balthazar's net.

     The other faeries saw her capture; horror spread on their faces. They fled. She knew what they were thinking: 'It wasn't me.' But this time it was her.

     The Balthazar dumped her in his sack; she was his first catch of the night. She alone lit its darkness as the bag was whipped and jostled in the Balthazar's pursuit of other faeries. Soon others were caught and joined her. Some screamed endlessly while others wept. She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs and her dead eyes focused on nothing. After the bag became crowded, the Balthazar quieted down and the rhythm of his walking gently shook the bag. Soon the faeries would know where their captured sisters went.

     The sack was thrown on a hard surface, bruising the little air faerie's arm. A giant claw reached down through the top, leaving no room for escape. It groped around and grabbed a light faerie. She kicked and bit at the claw, but was effortlessly lifted out of the bag. One by one, the faeries were taken in this manner. An earth faerie, an air faerie, a fire faerie. She lost count, but eventually she, too, was taken. She did not struggle; resistance had not helped any of the others. Outside of the bag was a large room of stripped and chopped trees lit by a roaring fire. Lining the walls were hundreds of her sisters, all in tiny jars with barely enough room to stand. She panicked as she saw the Balthazar bring a jar up to her. She clawed at him and wriggled, using all her might to escape. He slipped her into the glass prison and sealed her inside, piercing air holes into the lid with his claws. She pounded on the glass to no avail, slumped down and cried. After all the faeries were imprisoned, the Balthazar dropped onto a bed and slept. The little air faerie did not want to succumb to the vulnerability of sleep, but soon exhaustion left her no choice.

     She awoke at the warmth of light against her eyelids. Her eyes opened and saw the sun through the trees. 'What a beautiful day.' Her wings fluttered open, but hit something at her sides. Looking around, she remembered. She was in a glass prison, and the sunlight came through a hole in the wood enclosure. It was so close, yet unreachably far.

     The faeries in the jars on either side of her were awake as well. On her left was a light faerie. The normally luminous tone of a light faerie was nonexistent in her; she was actually dim. To her left, a fire faerie was leaning against the back of the glass with tears in her eyes. The little air faerie recognized neither, but all lesser faeries looked alike.

     A thud made her jump; her eyes flew to the source. The Balthazar was out of bed and walking toward her. She cringed against the back of the jar, trying to be invisible, but he passed by her. He stopped at a shelf of jars filled with things other than faeries. Out of one of the jars he took some sort of dried meat and stuck it between his jaws. His eyes roved over the imprisoned faeries. It made the little air faerie shudder. A smile lifted his lips above his yellow teeth.

     The Balthazar walked outside of the enclosure. The air faerie sighed in relief, but he was not gone long. He returned and began to pull faeries off the shelves, into his arms, and walked them outside. He returned a moment later and repeated the process, taking out row after row of terrified faeries. One little earth faerie screamed and pounded on the glass, but the Balthazar had no pity. The little air faerie watched with rapt attention as the Balthazar came closer and closer to her. Inevitably, he took the faerie to her right, then her, then the faerie to her left. There were no screams left in her chest and her eyes were dried up. It was hopeless. She was carried out of the enclosure and saw the forest--so beautiful, so peaceful. She knew in her heart she would never see it again.

     The faeries were stacked on a wooden contraption with wheels. The Balthazar placed her and the others with them, so that the little air faerie was surrounded by her sisters below her and to her sides. He went back in the cottage for more faeries, and soon even the light above her was closed off by more jars. After a while she felt the cart move, but she could not see where it was going. She was left to imagine what lie ahead. They continued moving for hours, and her jar seemed to get smaller with each passing moment. Only a little fresh air could reach the faerie through the tiny holes above her, and most were covered by the jar above her anyway. There was no room to stretch her legs or arms, but she forced herself not to panic. Surely she would burst with anxiety, but hope jumped to her chest when the movement stopped. She never thought she would be so elated to reach their destination. The faeries above her were unstacked, layer by layer. Finally, the Balthazar removed the jar above her. Fresh air poured in and caressed her face; it cleansed her lungs and cleared the cloudiness in her head.

     The Balthazar carried her to another room full of shelves and tables. A blue, starred creature with horns and four legs watched as he worked. At last! Someone who could help! Surely it would release her. The Balthazar put her and some others down on a table. After bringing in the rest, he spoke to the starry Neopet again. The blue one pointed to a large bag filled with gold discs. The Balthazar took the bag and left. He was gone! The little air faerie felt glee like she had never experienced before.

     She and the other faeries were not released. Only a few minutes after their captor left, their new steward opened the doors of the room, and dozens of creatures stormed in. Chaos engulfed them as faeries were grabbed off the shelves and tables. The air faerie screamed in shock as she was taken by one of the creatures. It ran through the room, causing her to lose her balance and bump into the glass. Beyond the glass jar was a nauseating swirl of fur and gold and scales and eyes and all her sisters experiencing her same fear. Before she knew what had happened, she was taken outside of the building, but it was not the outdoors she knew.

     There were no trees, only sun beating down on grass. Even the grass was cut up by more buildings than she could count, and it was pushed aside by fields of smooth stone. Endless new creatures were swarming about the place. This was not the world she knew, and her mind recoiled at the thought of living in this place. She was tossed about in the jar as her third captor carelessly swung her around. Her head began to ache and her stomach went into her throat as she was carted through this strange place. She got sick of looking at the world of butchered trees and confined grass, and looked up to examine her new captor. It looked something like herself, only it had no wings, did not glow, and its skin was a color like light wood. Eventually it brought her to a small building and took her inside.

     With fear she examined the place. Unlike the other enclosures she had seen, this one was filled with odd things that looked like stumps, but were not, and pink grass! The captor walked to a side of the enclosure and opened part of the wall. It smiled as it stuffed her jar behind several objects. It closed the wall, and she was alone in the dark. For a while, she relished the calm darkness, but soon the reality of her situation gripped her. There was only her own soft glow to light up the place, and all she could see were alien objects up against the glass. She remained in the jar in the dark.

     After the first day, panic set in. She slammed her fists into the glass and mustered small gusts of wind from her fists to break it, but she could not. She tried to widen the air holes so she could slip out, but she was not strong enough. Soon her fear turned to anger, and her tears became screams releasing the heat building up within her. There was no way out of this little glass jar. The little glass jar the Balthazar had put thousands of her sisters in. The little glass jar countless faeries suffered in. Did the Balthazar know what he did? Why would no one help? Was the world outside her forest really so heartless? It was too much to fathom, and in the darkness she brooded. There was no way of telling time in the dark, but it was long enough to change her very soul.

     She was staring into the darkness when suddenly her eyes were stunned by light. The wall was opening, and brilliance like the sun flooded the darkness. Her eyes clenched shut and her hands flew up to shield herself, unable to stand the brightness. Throbbing splotches of light danced against her eyelids. She felt something pick up her jar, but she still could not bear to open her eyes. The throbbing in her head gradually softened, and she dared to flutter her eyelids, slowly allowing her eyes to adjust. Opening her eyes, she could make out some shapes and colors. The world stopped glowing and things began to come into focus. She was sitting on a large square tree stump-thing, and no other creatures were in the room. Better here than in the dark place, even if she was to spend the rest of her life in the glass cage.

      Around the corner came a creature with wings, a mane and blue fur, along with the beige-skinned creature that had put her in the dark place. She glowered at them and sat down on the glass floor. The two approached her, and the blue one's eyes lit up at seeing her. What would this one do to her? It grabbed the jar with no concern for its inhabitant, swirled around and embraced its companion. The blue creature ran, jar in paw, into the outdoors of their world.

      Then something she did not expect happened. The winged creature began unscrewing the lid. An alien feeling welled up in her: hope. Perhaps this world did contain beings who had a perception of compassion; maybe this one knew what the Balthazar did to her and was now going to free her! The lid was removed, sweet freedom loomed above. She rose to leave, but a blue claw closed in on her. It grabbed her by her wings, and she yelled in pain. She was dragged out of the glass prison and brought up to the blue creature's face. What mistreatment would it bestow upon her? She cursed herself for letting hope slip into her heart. No hope was better than dashed hope. The blue thing began to yell at her, but its words she could not understand. She let her body hang limp despite the pain in her wings. Resistance was pointless.

      She gasped in shock as her energy was suddenly pulled out of her. The creature holding her captive laughed in glee as she felt all of her energy drained. She panicked. What was happening? In front of her a blue glow formed--her energy! She tried to struggle free, but there was nothing left in her to struggle with. The ball of her energy grew larger, and she slumped over, all of her power gone. The captor grabbed her energy and pushed it into its chest. It gasped and dropped her onto the grass. She could see her own life's energy enter the creature, its glee at gaining what had been stolen from her. She looked at her hands--they were grey. What kind of creature did this to its fellow creation? A breeze brushed against her, but it was hollow; she could no longer be a part of it. Her hands disintegrated in front of her and she felt herself blow away with the wind like dust.

      She was conscious as she blew about with the wind, and watched as she was carried through the strange world the Balthazar sent her into. She had no control over anything, but looked on as she was rushed between buildings and over trimmed trees scattered about the land. Eventually, she left their world and drifted over an endless field of water where the wind became thick with salt.

     After several sunrises and sunsets of peaceful blowing about, a dot of land appeared ahead. It looked a little like her forest home, but the trees were tall and only their tops had giant leaves. The wind spiraled down to the island, it passed through the trees and over the white sand. After a few minutes on the island, she began to feel solid again. The wind went ahead without her, and she looked down on her solid grey body. Where was she? Why was she here? Would the Balthazar find her? She looked around at the trees, and her mind began to relax for the first time in what felt like forever.

     Above her, small dots of grey descended from the trees. For some reason, they did not frighten her. She watched in curiosity as they came closer, and she soon saw they that were faeries like herself--all grey! Was this where all of the Balthazar's victims ended up?

     Some of the faeries landed on the sand and rocks around her, while others peered down from the trees. One of them walked up to her. "Hello," the grey faerie whispered. "Do not be afraid, we are all grey faeries like you. All of our powers were stolen by the Neopians."

     Grey faerie? She spoke of it like it was an element, but the former air faerie could not feel an element in herself. "I am," she paused, "was, an air faerie. Were you air faeries?"

     "Each of us had an element that was stolen. What we once were does not matter any more. We are all grey now."

     "Did you all come here as I did? Why am I here?" she asked.

      "We do not know why, but we all come here. Those that were of light become light, and when the sun shines here, they materialize here. The ones that were of water evaporate, and when it rains here, they fall here. You, as of the air, came here on the wind. It is part of our relationship with the world's elements, no doubt. Who are we to question it? We have peace here. After being part of the world plagued by the Balthazar, why should we want to go back, with or without our element?"

     The faerie looked down at her grey hands, then up at the countless faeries in the trees above her. A tear came to her eye, the last that would fall. "Peace," she whispered as if it were the name of a loved one.

The End

 
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