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A Cold, Grey Rain


by maxalt

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No sun shone as a cold, grey rain drizzled slowly down onto the cold, grey, gloomy city of Neopia Central, covering everything and everyone within it in a cold, grey, dripping layer of (coincidentally) cold, grey raindrops. A small shadow Lupe, curled desperately on a lonely wooden bench, was no exception, being as cold and wet as everything else was--though perhaps not quite as grey.

      Rain pattered ruthlessly down onto her shivering, muddy body, flowing down her dark-furred face and cascading in a miniature waterfall over her pointed black nose. The Lupe sighed. She hated rain, being used to the warm desert sands of Sakhmet and the glorious south.

      Many of the drenched passersby, intent on reaching their respective and hopefully warm destinations, ignored the black bundle of fur. Others gave her pitying glances before hastening on, safe under enormous black umbrellas. No one cared about her.

      And the shadow Lupe, if not exactly liking it, preferred it that way. It was easier to be alone in an iron cage of her own making than to be weak, able to be hurt by outside forces.

      Long, long ago, it seemed, she had had a family, a home, and piles of golden neopoints. Her mother, a dainty purple Lupe with loving silver eyes, who had given the shadow Lupe her beautiful name, Maeli, had gone, many years before. She hadn’t died, Maeli was sure, and hadn’t just up and left, abandoning her only daughter to the whims of nature, but she had simply... disappeared. Somehow.

      One day, Maeli had woken up in the warm desert, expecting to see her mother before her, handing her daughter a chilled tchea fruit, but she was alone in the ornate bedroom. The shadow Lupe had leapt up, running through the halls, the dining room, even the attic, before she realized her mam was not there. The she had rushed heedlessly into the blistering heat of noon, and had, for the first time in her life, found herself to be, totally and entirely, alone. Even the servants, all of them, had disappeared, probably finding it better to take their chances in the desert rather than be around when a spoiled youngster found her mother gone.

      Oh, she had managed all right by herself, finding her way to Sakhmet and snatching tiny fruits and neopoints, one at a time, from rich merchants in the city and eventually “earning” enough to join a small caravan of merchants on their way to Meridell, where they hoped to sell their rich silk fabrics and obnoxious desert petpets to unsuspecting customers. From there, she had traveled, in mere months, all the way to Neopia Central, where she now lay, depressed and lost with sore paws.

      Where is Mam now? she thought wistfully, watching the cold, grey rain slowly drip off her paws. Why did she leave me all alone, just when I needed her most?

      Maeli had often taken long hours while traveling to dream that her mother had disappeared for some incredible reason--to save the world from Dr. Frank Sloth’s ray gun, to help the Faerie Queen during an uprising of light faeries turned evil, or to bring back Pappy from where the dreaded plague had taken him three years before The Disappearance--that was what she called it in her most private thoughts and in her diary. But that was the very problem with the dreams--they were not credible, not possible.

      So Maeli believed none of them.

      Why should she? After all, she was no longer a mere child--she had much knowledge of the whole of Neopia, having traveled many leagues over its surface in the last few years. She had no reason to believe, or even pretend to believe, pointless lies that could only give her false hopes, to be dashed away by the end, at the very least.

      But she still could dream, as long as she did not believe her dreams; nobody would--nobody could--ever take that great power away from her--not Mam, not Pappy, not even the puffed-up royal Kougra passing her and sniffing proudly. Maeli could barely hear her above the pouring rain.

      “How such dirty, homeless rats are allowed in Central Plaza I shall never know. Someone should get it off the bench; it is dirtying up the whole city!”

      Maeli emotionlessly turned her dripping, furry head to watch as the snotty Kougra passed--and then she saw it.

      As if in slow motion, a small glass bottle stopped up with a cork gently fell from the Kougra’s purse and clattered to the ground, bouncing several times before landing near the end of the wooden bench Maeli was lying on. A tiny purple blur, glittering and flashing, fluttered desperately within it. The Kougra, unnoticing, walked on, carrying her now empty purse and bright pink umbrella.

      Scattering water droplets from her dark fur, Maeli excitedly leapt off the splintered wooden bench and patted the bottle with one paw. The contours of the creature within were hard to see from all the rain pouring onto it. Mam? whispered Maeli, refusing to give up and stubbornly clinging to even false dreams. Have you been shrunk and trapped in there? The shadow Lupe fumbled for the cork stopper and carefully wiggled it out of the bottle.

      The pale purple blur within flowed like a liquid upwards and out of the bottle, expanding and gradually forming itself into a recognizable shape, twice as tall as Maeli--that of a purple faerie, with fluttering, gossamer butterfly wings, smiling violet eyes, and a slender silver circlet nestled among long purple hairs. As the rain gradually abated, several passersby, a Quiggle, two Gelerts and an Aisha, stopped and stared.

      Maeli’s wounded heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces, forever separated and unmendable. It was not Mam, it never had been Mam, and, worst of all, it never would be Mam. The soaked and shivering black Lupe barely had the strength to turn away from the tall, glittering figure, but turn she did.

      Unseen by Maeli, the faerie held out a graceful hand. “Stop,” she pronounced, in a ringing, pure, bell-like tone. “You have released Fyora, the Faerie Queen, and we shall reward you.”

      The shadow Lupe turned back and gazed up with dull eyes at the smiling face, ringed with violet locks. “I want no blessing,” she whispered. “There is no use. No use. Not anymore.”

      Fyora smiled and knelt down in the dirty mud, heedless of her formerly spotless dress, so that her gentle eyes were on a level with Maeli’s. “We are the Queen,” she whispered. “We give no blessings, only wishes.” She held up a finger. “One wish. And here it is.” A minute speck of silver glittered on the tip of her finger. “Blow on it, and wish.”

      Maeli stared at the faerie and felt her unmendable heart hopefully mending, just a little, several pieces falling slowly into place, one by one. Then her mind blanked of thoughts completely, all but her one wish.

      She blew.

      And could feel the pieces of her heart leaping up joyfully and suddenly into place, perfectly mended, as the sun fully came out, and she leapt into the arms of--

      Mam.

The End

Yes, ladies and gents, this is my humble story. Fan mail is very much appreciated. Very, very much appreciated.

 
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