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Changes of Heart


by moonshadow711

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"So... anyone know what they're being for Halloween?" The asker of the question was a young fire faerie, by name of Eslinn. She seemed to be trying to start up a conversation, the previous one having died several minutes ago.

      "Why, do you?" It was still a week or two until the big holiday, and most of the faeries were still searching frantically for costumes. The few who already had costumes refused to tell, for fear that someone should steal their idea.

      Eslinn appeared alarmed by this new turn in conversation. "Eh, well-"

      "Well, I know what my Halloween costume will be," Jhudora interrupted, showing no sign that she had even heard Eslinn speak. A tone in the dark faerie's voice dared anyone to ask what her costume was. Two or three faeries exchanged glances. Although she looked slightly affronted, Eslinn ended up being the one to reply with the inevitable question.

      "What are you being?"

      Jhudora smirked. "Well, I don't mind if you know, but I'm not sure I should say it with all these innocent little Neopets nearby." She twisted a green lock of hair idly. "It might be too scary for them to take, poor things."

      "What is it?" another dark faerie insisted. Her name was Ryalla, and, judging from her voice and facial expression, she cared more about the costume than the 'poor little Neopets'. Jhudora's smirk grew slightly wider.

      "If you must know..." Here she paused, determined to build up as much suspense as possible. "I'm being Illusen for Halloween. The earth faerie."

      There was a split second pause before several of the dark faeries burst into laughter. Jhudora grinned. Spurred on by this encouraging reaction, she adopted a high, innocent voice.

      "Oh, you went to all this trouble to bring me a piece of rotting fruit? How sweet of you! Here, have my most powerful magical artifact as a reward!" This time, not only the dark faeries laughed. Even a water faerie or two smirked. It was just the earth faeries who remained sullenly silent.

      Jhudora took a moment or two to take in all the laughter, savoring the attention. Then, with a malicious smile on her face, she turned back to Eslinn.

      "Now, what did you say you were going to be?"

      * * * * *

      Halloween evening. All the Neopets were dressed in costumes, ranging from the Faerie Queen to Doctor Sloth. They wandered the streets of Faerieland in groups, stopping by the same house twice, taking five pieces of candy from bowls that said 'take one'. Pet owners and faeries alike readied their bowls of candy.

      "You're giving out candy this year?" asked the owner of a young Zafara incredulously. Jhudora gave her most hideously sweet smile.

      "I wouldn't miss it for the world," she replied. True to her word, she had dressed like Illusen, even to the point of dying the purple streaks in her hair red. Her face was half covered in sloppily applied green makeup, and under her arm, she held a life sized Scorchio plushie. Taking an odd looking purple lollipop from her basket, she handed it to the little pet. Relieved at the lack of anger, the young mother smiled.

      "Could I have your picture?" she asked. Jhudora smiled and nodded. She twisted her mouth into a mockery of a sweet smile and hugged the Scorchio plushie close. The girl snapped her picture quickly, and then walked off.

      A hooded figure carrying a scythe stopped and walked up to Jhudora's door. Yanking down her hood to reveal her face, Illusen stared at Jhudora's costume. It took her a moment to take everything in. At last, she found her voice and, her fingernails digging into her scythe, said, "What's with the plushie?"

      "What's with your face?" Jhudora instantly replied. A group of giggly faeries had stopped to see what Illusen's reaction would be. Several were smirking; the earth faeries were not.

      Illusen's reaction to that type of insult was to roll her eyes. Even so, she knew her face was turning at least a little red. She took a deep breath to steady herself. "So, why'd you need to dress up as me for Halloween? Tired of being the least popular resident of Faerieland?" She put as much scorn into her words as she could manage.

      Jhudora's face burned with anger. Unlike the earth faerie, she did not bother trying to remain calm. Pure venom ran through her words, into the cool night air.

      "Me? Envy you? Why should I? All you ever do is sit around and give nice rewards to all the stupid little Neopets who run your errands. At least I have a life. I can manage my affairs without paying Neopets to help me."

      Illusen's teeth clenched as she tried to keep her voice level relatively normal. "Well, you'd better be glad of that, because no Neopet in their right mind would ever want to help you with anything!" She stood still for a moment, not sure whether to risk causing drama by stalking off. After a second, she did turn and walk away, trying to lift the scowl from her face when a worried-looking Neopet stared at her.

      Back with the rest of the faeries, Jhudora shot daggers at Illusen with her eyes. She muttered something under her breath that resulted in reproachful glances from owners of young Neopets.

      Then she slammed her door and stomped off into her house, spilling nasty-looking candy all over the street.

     * * * * *

      The next day Illusen returned to her home in Meridell. She already wished she had just stayed home for Halloween. But as her home appeared over the horizon, she was just glad to be back. Faerie City was too hectic for her liking. Here, there was no one to disturb her except for the sweet little pets who ran her errands, and she was glad to accommodate them.

      She couldn't help smiling as she saw the banner, "WELCOME HOME, ILLUSEN!" She had expected something like this, but it still warmed her heart to see all of her little helpers waiting for her return. Banishing the remains of a frown from her face, she smiled and waved cheerfully. Instinctively, her hand reached to her pocket for a list of what she might need brought to her. Remembering that she had left it at home, she dropped her hand and walked inside, already looking forward to the new day. Words were only words, after all, and there was only so much they could do to you.

     * * * * *

      Jhudora had spent almost a day brooding. Even though the logical part of her brain wanted her to forget the whole thing, her pride wouldn't let her. Occasionally she'd feel like she had control of her feelings. Then anger would rise up inside of her, and she'd feel miserable. Her hands would turn to fists and her teeth would clench. She'd want to throw something, to hurt someone, but even when she got around to hurling some unfortunate object against the walls of her room, it wouldn't satisfy her. Breaking a pen in half wouldn't solve the problem. Neither would anything else she could do.

      A half hiss, half grunt of anger escaped her lips. Her eyebrows pressed against her eyelids. Her neck stiffened. For a moment she didn't even think about why she was angry, just felt the feeling rushing through her veins, trying to escape the confines of her body. Every bone in her body tensed for several seconds, fighting blindly to get away from the anger somehow. Then she slumped forward, exhausted.

      She got worked up over the smallest things. Obviously, she knew that, and so did everybody else, although people generally had the common sense not to say anything about it. Jhudora, although she lacked influence, could cause serious damage when she lost her temper.

      But this wasn't a small thing. That stupid, stuck-up... oh, never mind the adjectives. She could already feel frustration at not finding the right words to describe that... faerie.

      Finally she forced herself to her feet and stomped halfway to the door, hurriedly adjusting her walk when she realized she must look like an infant throwing a temper tantrum. She didn't know exactly where she was going, but anything was better than just sitting around and being mad.

      The JubJub was just walking down the street when he felt a tap on his back. Turning around to see who had touched him, the JubJub swallowed, seeing a tall faerie with huge, dark wings. "What is it, lady?" he inquired, trying to keep his voice calm and polite. Living in Faerie City, he had been taught at an early age to always be polite to faeries. Particularly dark faeries.

      Jhudora's voice was smooth, enticing. "There is an item I desire. Would you be so kind as to fetch it for me?" She kept her eyes fixed on the little pet. "I will reward you if you do."

      The JubJub nodded quickly. "Yes, my lady."

      "Good. If you would please bring me a ptolymelon, within seventeen minutes..." She purposely let her voice trail off. The JubJub needed no further bidding. He scampered off down the street in a hurry.

      So far, so good, thought Jhudora. If those pets would obey some stupid, ditzy earth faerie, there was no reason they wouldn't obey her.

      Illusen is going to wish she'd never left Meridell, after I'm through with her. With that thought, she ran home. Already she was forming ideas of what to request from her new servants.

     * * * *

      Word spread quickly, first through Faerie City, then to the edges of Faerieland, and eventually to Neopia Central. 'Where did you get that potion?' 'Jhudora. I ran an errand for her and she gave me this!' 'Did you hear? Jhudora, the dark faerie, is doing quests like Illusen!'

      And it wasn't too long before the earth faerie herself heard.

      She was just sitting, humming a tune to herself and trying to remember where she'd heard it, when a Pteri half ran, half fluttered into her glade.

      "Illusen I'm sorry I took so long, here's your diet neocola!" The words burst out of the pet at full speed, and he gasped slightly for breath. Illusen smiled her well-known gentle smile and helped the little bird to his feet.

      "That's all right, I'm glad you could spare the time to help me out." Her curiosity just needed a second to grow enough for her to ask, "What happened?"

      "Another faerie - Jhudora - asked me if I could fetch something for her," the pet explained apologetically. "I just thought it would take a minute, but then I had to fly all the way to Faerieland to deliver it..."

      The pet stopped speaking as Illusen's smile faded into a look of shock. Jhudora, asking pets to run errands? She didn't know the dark faerie well, but she thought the fight at Halloween was enough cause to be startled. "Jhudora?" she whispered to herself, trying to make sense of the situation.

      The pet heard her whispered question, and, eager to please, answered it for her. "She says she needs help with this potion she's making."

      At these words Illusen's mind shot off theorizing, panicking, and scrabbling for logical explanations. Trying her best to ignore these, she asked, "Could you... tell me what the potion looked like?"

      The confused Pteri nodded. "It was all black."

      Illusen forced herself not to sigh with exasperation. She hardly ever got this hectic. "All right, good," she said automatically in an encouraging tone. "Did it smell strongly?"

      The Pteri slowly shook his head. "No. There was a lot of really dark black smoke, though."

      Illusen's eyes might have widened a bit, but she thought she had done a pretty good job of forcing herself not to show alarm. "Thank you," she told the Pteri, who looked puzzled. "You may go now," she added. Although it was hard to tell, Illusen thought she heard an uncalled for iciness in her tone. At any rate, the Pteri hurried away home. The earth faerie sighed, and sat gazing at the soon to set sun before walking through the door to her house. She dropped down onto her bed and leaned against the wall. Now that there was nobody to see, her face had become anxious. She didn't really do much potion brewing except earth magic, which was never black. Which meant that she didn't know what Jhudora was doing. Why would Jhudora throw away her show of pride on Halloween, just to make a potion?

      Black smoke... but no smell. She had never worked beyond the very basics of potion making, but if black smoke was natural she might as well be King Hagan.

      Illusen stayed up thinking for most of the night. Come morning, she was jumpy, fretful, and a little tired too. She heard a knock on her door, and, aware that her hair must be a tangle of knots, ran to answer it.

      It was the same Pteri from the day before. Illusen knew she shouldn't be surprised; many pets came to visit her every day. "Do you have time to get something for me?" she asked, like usual. The Pteri nodded. "Good. Then... go to the castle potion maker, and see if she doesn't have a copy of Basic Potion Brewing. The pet nodded and scurried off to do her bidding.

      In the days that followed, many noticed a change in Illusen's behavior. She no longer seemed the sweet, gentle, loving faerie that all had known her as for decades. Although she was always polite, on occasion she could be heard scolding, even yelling at pets who had taken longer than expected to bring her items. She turned away all those who carried trinkets given by Jhudora. She was preoccupied with pentacles and sorcery, and could often be seen during her spare time poring over some thick magic book.

      And there was one day when Illusen did not show her face at all. From dawn until midmorning, all those who came to her door were brusquely shown away. After that, she lost patience and put a sign on her door saying "Busy - do not disturb'. Inside the room, she restlessly looked through the countless books she had been brought, unsure of what to do.

      The mysterious potion that had plagued her for a week (was it really just a week? It seemed years) seemed to finally be unraveled by now. She wasn't sure whether to trust the potion books, but she had to admit that they knew better than her. And if they were to be believed, there was one course of action. You could say it however you wanted, but really, it just boiled down to one word.

      War.

The End

 
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