This Glass Container: Part One
The Coven was laughing. Not in the pretty, tinkling sort of way most pets thought all Faeries laughed – no, of course not. Claudessia, the Coven Leader, had just put forth a malicious plan to overthrow Fyora, and everybody was cackling loud enough to send a shiver through the various caged petpets’ spines. They – the Coven, not the petpets – were all sitting around an enormous black cauldron, in which was frothing a disturbingly green and glowing liquid. You couldn’t have blamed the petpets for shivering, really, as they were only there for testing purposes.
Jaede tried to look as if she was cackling loudly, eyes closed and head knocked back so her face faced the ceiling, while in actuality she made barely a sound. She was new to the Coven, and her malevolent cackling laugh wasn’t quite developed yet. She let the laughter of her companions mask hers, or rather, her lack thereof.
She hadn’t really been participating throughout the meeting, actually. She was a relatively young Dark Faerie, lacking the experience that the others had. She didn’t want to embarrass herself by speaking out. She had joined up solely to say that she was part of a group; a malicious and deliciously evil group at that, known by all the underworld Faerie circles in Faerieland. This was to prove to her mother that she wasn’t completely antisocial and a complete failure as a Dark Faerie, and to prove to her older sisters that she was worthy of their relation. In fact, one of her sisters, Valeria, sat right beside Claudessia at this very meeting.
As the laughter died down, Jaede hunched her shoulders and positioned herself so that her face was in shadow. Even though she was boastful and liked to act supreme and important in front of lesser Faeries, she didn’t want to draw attention to herself while she was with her betters. Faeries who could actually see through her facade and see how pitiful and talentless she was.
“So...” continued Claudessia in a voice that was elegant, youthful, and malignant all at the same time, “We’ll just add some more of that Noxious Nectar, shall we? And if what it does to this Hasee” – there was a whimper from a cage hidden from Jaede’s sight – “is what we expected, well–” Claudessia stopped abruptly. “What was that sound?”
By contrast from moments before, the room was deathly silent. Jaede wasn’t exactly sure what she was supposed to be hearing, but screwed up her face in a look of intense concentration. There was a quick scratching sound and a thud, so soft that Jaede could barely hear it, and then silence once more.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Claudessia’s expression change rapidly from that of a confused and somewhat annoyed superior, to that of an incredibly terrified little Faerie. “RUN!” she screeched in a voice at least an octave higher than usual, her wings flapping wildly as she tried to escape from the confines of her bench. At once it was total chaos in the room, Faeries running and flying about in flashes of green and purple.
“What’s going on!” whimpered Jaede, panicked, catching the hem of Valeria’s gown.
Valeria sneered down at her. “Get off of me!” she ordered, tugging her dress from Jaede’s grasp. In a swirl of movement and a frenzied flap of wings, Jaede’s older sister disappeared in a puff of sickly purple smoke.
In all the pandemonium, Jaede couldn’t see who was where and what was such a threat. Everyone was running about every which way, and nobody bothered to tell her what was going on. She spotted Claudessia and another important Dark Faerie running towards a partially hidden side exit, and started running in that general direction. But she was not fast enough.
“Ach, no! CLAUDESSIA, MAUDE!” screamed Jaede, remembering who the other Faerie was. “HELP!” But they didn’t even turn around. Through the door they went, and they slammed it shut behind them.
Jaede was being dragged backwards by a preciously pedicured foot. She dug her three-inch nails into the rotting wooden floor of the warehouse, but it was no use. She stopped trying when the one on her pinky finger snapped off and pain shot through her hand. Instead, she rolled over to face her kidnapper.
Her words of angry protest died in her throat. The last thing she saw before a chair connected heavily with her head, making everything go black, was an overgrown blue Lupe smiling down at her, each razor-sharp tooth gleaming from the glow of the spilt potion by its paws.
Jaede woke up with a splitting headache, and a magnificent bruise on her forehead. She groaned and rubbed her temples, eyes closed, wishing she knew a spell for pain relief. It was then that she realized the benefits of being a Water Faerie – Dark Faeries didn’t waste time learning spells for healing, only spells for pain.
She opened her eyes, and was immediately grateful that the lighting was dim – in fact, it was only her own purple glow that illuminated her surroundings. She was doubtful that she could handle bright light at the moment.
As far as she could see, she was in some sort of glass jar or bottle. The bottom of her container was rounded; only a small circle in the center, where she now sat, was level. At its widest point, Jaede estimated it was as wide as she was tall, with her arms stretched out over her head. She looked above her and saw a beige circle – the cork, presumably.
So... she was either in an enlarged bottle, or she herself was shrunken down to fit inside. She guessed it was the latter; shrinking spells were easier if you weren’t a skilled magic-user – which she wasn’t, and so she would know.
She stood up shakily, head throbbing, and pressed herself against the glass, cupping her hands around her eyes to block out her reflection. But it was no use – it was pitch black outside the bottle, and her faint purple aura couldn’t penetrate the glass.
Discouraged, Jaede flopped back down to the bottom of her bottle, pulling her knees into her chest so that all of her body was inside the little circle at the center. She blew a strand of violet hair away from her face. What now?
The Dark Faerie didn’t bother to mask her utter terror at being trapped – the terror that was building steadily as she returned to full consciousness. She was all alone without any way to escape. There was no way she could break through the glass with force, and all the magic she knew was showy and useless. Perhaps if she was as strong and powerful as Claudessia, or even Valeria, she could find a way out, but she wasn’t even half the Faerie that either of them were. She bit her lip to stop herself from crying piteously. She had that much dignity left, but just barely.
Her head swiveled around desperately, but she was faced with the same thing any way she looked – smooth, impenetrable glass, reflecting her purple glow back at her. With a sudden idea, Jaede sprang up and tried to flap her wings. Perhaps, if she could fly up and push that stopper out...
But to her utter dismay, her wings were clipped together. Afraid that she would tear them to shreds if she tried to pull them apart any harder, Jaede ceased movement. Despite her efforts, a fat blue tear escaped her tightly closed eyes. This was hopeless. She was completely powerless – and there wasn’t another, more competent, Dark Faerie on hand to help her out. That was the way she usually got things done – by tricking someone else to do them for her – but there wasn’t even a scrawny petpet around for her to bewitch.
Perhaps they’ll come looking for me, thought Jaede with renewed hope. Yes, that’s it. I’m part of the Coven now – I’m one of them. Claudessia will come for me; she’ll shatter this glass container and free me, so I can return to the warehouse and plot the downfall of Fyora with the others.
She smiled, then frowned. I should practice my malevolent Dark Faerie smile, she thought. Perhaps my wicked, cackling laugh, too, while I’m at it.
Jaede took a step forwards so she could inspect her reflection in the glass, but was then knocked painfully into the opposite side of the bottle by a violent tremor. Her container rattled around as more tremors occurred, forming a steady rhythm. She realized that they were probably the footfalls of her captor, magnified to her senses by her size. Either way, all this rocking about was starting to make her feel nauseous. She closed her eyes and took short, gasping breaths, which helped a bit.
And then, as quickly as it had started, the tremors ceased. Jaede tentatively opened one eye, and then, finding everything motionless and silent, and still dark, opened the other. An uneasy moment passed where Jaede wondered what her kidnapper was doing, and then suddenly the pleasant black nothingness outside of her container mutated into a horrid, blinding flash of rich yellow light. Jaede let out a sort of half-strangled scream and squeezed her eyes tightly shut, throwing her arm over her face for extra protection. There was a muffled laugh from somewhere outside her cell, but Jaede wasn’t about to open her eyes to identify the source.
“Ah, so you’re awake, little Faerie girl.” Another laugh. Balthazar, for of course Jaede knew it was he, sounded strange to her ears, as if he was speaking to her underwater. There was a harsh ping-ing sound, which she imagined was a large claw tapping on the glass. The Dark Faerie, quite childishly, shook her head no, and refused to open her eyes. Balthazar laughed again.
“Come on, little Faerie. I want you to see.” The tapping became more frenzied, then stopped altogether. Jaede thought, without much conviction, that maybe he had given up, but that wasn’t true. In a moment, she found herself being thrown about the bottle once more as the impatient blue Lupe shook it. Her eyes snapped open involuntarily as her face connected painfully with the glass, and pain shot through her face from her nose, which started to bleed. As Balthazar laughed once more and set the jar down again, successful, Jaede squinted to get used to the brightness. She could just make out the grain of the wooden table her bottle was set on, and, as her pupils contracted, the form of a lamp shining down on her became visible. Beyond the circle of light around her, the world was shrouded in darkness. Of Balthazar, she could only see two furry blue paws and the saber-like claws that came with them.
“You are mine, Dark One,” said Balthazar menacingly from the darkness. Jaede thought she saw a glint of his large, enameled white teeth as he spoke. “You will make me lots of money, you shall see. And with all of you, I shall be rich.”
Jaede managed a sneer. “All of us? I don’t see any other Faeries around here. You’ve been slacking off, haven’t you? We’re getting too good for you, huh, us elusive Faeries? You only managed to catch me because there were a lot of Faeries there, and it would’ve been hard for even you to miss all of us.” This was all bluffing – partly to make herself feel better (a hard lump had risen in her throat at the words “you only caught me”), and partly as a weak attempt to make Balthazar feel worse. Neither happened; in fact, Balthazar guffawed louder and harder than ever.
“Ah, my naïve little Dark Faerie. Look around you!” Swiftly, the Lupe grabbed the lamp from the table and turned it so that it shone on the wall behind him, stepping aside so that Jaede could see. She gasped, bringing her hand to her mouth. There was a giant shelving unit up against the wall, reaching to the ceiling, and all the Faerie could see, shelf after shelf, were bottles and bottles of Faeries. Earth, Air, Light, Fire, Water, and even Dark – green, blue, yellow, orange, and purple moving lights glinted down at her. Each and every one was trapped as Jaede was – wings clipped behind their backs, trapped inside a circular glass container with uniform brown cork stoppers keeping them in. It was truly heartbreaking, even for Jaede, who, as a Dark Faerie, was working studiously to rid herself of heartfelt, touchy-feely emotions.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” said Balthazar, trying to sound casual even though he was obviously bursting with pride and excitement. “I keep them alive – the cork is porous, you know, that’s how you can breathe and hear me – but utterly trapped and powerless. Most I sell to shopkeepers for hefty prices, but when I’m feeling, well, generous” – he flashed a wide, toothy grin – “I donate to the Money Tree. A completely ingenious and foolproof business enterprise, wouldn’t you say?”
Jaede had heard of Balthazar the Bounty Hunter before, but generally Faeries were very quiet about him. It hurt their pride to admit someone could capture them so easily. All Jaede had known before this was that Balthazar captured Faeries occasionally and without warning, and it was beyond her why he would want to do so, if not for his own personal enjoyment.
“Why would people want to buy us, though?” she asked, spots of color rising to her cheeks in anger. “I mean, we’re magical. Yes, we can help Neopets, but that doesn’t mean we will. Especially not me.” Jaede wrinkled her nose. “And why would any Faerie, even those goody-goody Light Faeries, want to grant someone a wish after being trapped in a bottle?”
Balthazar laughed. Apparently it was a habit of his; Jaede was starting to become really sick of it. “It surprises me every time how little you Faeries know about me and my methods,” he said in a cool, cutting voice that sent a shudder up Jaede’s spine. “You would think after all this time...” he shook his head. “I bet you were wondering why you couldn’t magically poof yourself out of there. Well, these are special enchanted bottles, you see. You can’t get out unless somebody pulls out the stopper; the bottle won’t break, no matter how hard you try. And when the stopper is taken out, you are tied to the bottle until you grant a pet an ability.”
“That’s disgusting!” exclaimed Jaede angrily. “You can’t do that!”
Balthazar walked over to the table and lifted Jaede’s bottle up to his eye level. The Dark Faerie couldn’t help wincing as she was forced to look into a bloodshot, malignant eye. “I can’t do that, you say? Watch me, little Faerie. Watch and see for yourself what I ‘can’t’ do.”
To be continued...
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