Wisps of smoke rose from the cauldron, twisting into malicious shapes as it drifted through the air. The room was dark. The only source of light was a dull pulse coming from faint violet flames that reflected in the faerie’s cruel eyes. The night was silent, save for the soft bubbling of the potion and the pounding of the faerie’s heart. Her delicate fingers traced the surface of the large wooden spoon she held, stirring the contents of the steaming pot.
Suddenly, she reached out and grabbed a strange bottle of lavender powder in a single, skillful swipe. Swiftly tilting her wrist, she let a small trail of the powder cascade into the boiling potion, turning it a vile green shade as the mysterious dust made contact with the liquid. A vulgar vapor drifted into the air, burning her eyes and nearly choking her with its stench.
But that only made her smile more.
Eyes gleaming with soft malice, Jhudora withdrew the spoon from the cauldron and set it aside. She bent down, careful to catch her hair before it could fall into the liquid. Her eyes narrowed as she observed the swirling potion.
She smirked and picked herself back up. “Perfect, it’s almost ready.”
Her gown swept around her legs as the faerie took two long, swift strides towards a tall shelf filled with various vials, bottles and jars. She rapidly searched the shelf and withdrew in a few seconds, clutching a vial of orange liquid in her hand, and walked back to the cauldron.
She paused for a moment, eyeing the bubbling contents with a leering gaze. Did she really want to do this?
The answer came quickly. Yes, she did.
Smirking violently, Jhudora uncorked the orange potion and poured every single drop of sunset orange into the cauldron. When the bottle was empty, the faerie returned her gaze to her creation.
It had completely changed. Its surface was as smooth and clear as a lake on a windless summer day. The former vile shade of green had disappeared completely and melted into a color that resembled gold. It looked innocent now, perfectly harmless. The exact opposite of what it truly was.
Unable to stop herself from grinning wickedly, Jhudora took the spoon and dipped it into the potion, withdrawing a collection of the liquid and carefully pouring it into a small vial. It swirled around inside the crystal bottle, where it looked vindictive for a moment, before becoming the soft gold once more.
Jhudora raised the bottle and looked at it, the gold reflected darkly in her eyes. “At last...” she breathed.
She carefully placed the bottle on her windowsill. Moonlight drifted in, making the potion sparkle with mystique. Illusen wouldn’t know what hit her.
It would take an idiot not to realize the rivalry between the two faeries, Illusen and Jhudora. For years, the two faeries hated each other. They fought a never-ending combat, determined to bring their opponent down. What started the conflict, Jhudora herself didn’t even bother to remember. All she knew was that she wanted to destroy that goody-goody-two-shoes faerie. And this year, she would finally triumph.
Tomorrow was the 17th day of Running. In other words, Illusen Day. A foolish holiday, in Jhudora’s opinion, created to celebrate that fool of an earth faerie. Every year, the air would be abuzz with chatter. Everyone would be talking about her, that silly little earth faerie. Jhudora hated it. Illusen didn’t deserve to be talked about in such admiring voices. And although she hated hearing that faerie’s name more than anything else, this was not the reason she loathed Illusen Day.
Out of all the days in the year, the 17th was when Illusen was the strongest. It was the day where she had the most supporters. Neopians, whether constantly loyal or not, flocked to her that day, eager for quests and the chance to get on the celebrated earth faerie’s good side. It was the day where, as much as she hated to admit it, Jhudora was weakest. Even some of her minions left her on Illusen Day, going to see that faerie instead. Illusen was most powerful on her day, surrounded by numerous supporters. And for Jhudora, being her opposite that meant one thing.
On Illusen Day, Jhudora was weaker.
She hated being weaker than Illusen. Hated it. And although she knew Illusen would never have the courage to do it, she still feared that this day, out of all the days, would be the one Illusen would overthrow her. It never happened, of course. But still, the thought of losing to... that faerie still sent something like fear crawling down Jhudora’s spine.
Every year, she dreaded the approach of Illusen Day, knowing that this might, just might, be the year it would happen.
But this year, this year was different.
Even if the pitiful earth faerie attempted to do something, Jhudora wasn’t afraid, even if the odds were against her. Because this year, she was prepared. This year, she finally had the thing that would defeat Illusen once and for all.
Malice shining in her eyes, Jhudora gazed viciously at the vial full of the gleaming, golden potion. This was her weapon. This was the thing that would claim her victory.
Tomorrow was Illusen Day, and no doubt the earth faerie would be swamped with gifts. It was the perfect time to smuggle the potion in. And naïve, kind, clueless Illusen would drink it, thinking it was just another present from some random fan, not knowing the very drink would destroy her completely.
Of course, it wouldn’t kill her. Not that Jhudora wasn’t coldhearted enough for that, she just wasn’t an idiot. If Illusen mysteriously died, no doubt the entire world would suspect her. That was one of the downsides to having a well-known rivalry. If Illusen were to fall, Jhudora would be the one to blame. And the dark faerie didn’t exactly fancy the thought of being stripped of her power or sent to the faerie dungeons.
No, the potion wouldn’t kill her. But it would come remarkably close.
The potion was designed to slowly sap away the earth faerie’s strength. Soon, her power would vanish. She would become something like a Grey Faerie. Illusen would be weak, inches away from nothingness. And that would be when Jhudora would strike, and destroy her long time enemy forever.
Jhudora suppressed a laugh. It was all so easy. Her plan was foolproof. She gazed at the potion almost lovingly. Soon, so very soon, Illusen would fall. And at last, she would triumph.
Jhudora walked over to the window and looked out upon the night sky. The world looked so peaceful, so tranquil. The night sky was calm and twinkling with starlight. Everything was asleep. It looked so innocent, so weak... Not knowing that soon, it would lose one of its heroes forever.
Eyes heavy with sleep, Jhudora turned away from the window. She had been working on her creation all night. There were still a few hours until daybreak; she might as well turn in, get some sleep... After all, she wanted to be fully awake to truly appreciate what would happen.
“Soon,” she whispered to herself. “I will destroy you...”
* * * * *
When she opened her eyes, the room was aglow with sunlight. Usually the dark faerie despised this kind of thing, but today, she didn’t care. The day could be as bright and sunny as it wanted to. The weather couldn’t possibly bother her now; all that mattered was that today, she would finally destroy Illusen.
An overwhelming feeling rose through her, something she had never experienced before. She almost had the urge to sing. Luckily, she didn’t. Jhudora would never have forgiven herself if she were to break into song. A small smile crept across her face, feeling out of place without its usual trace of malice. Walking with something like a skip in her step, Jhudora stalked across the room to the window, where the potion—and Illusen’s downfall—was sure to be waiting.
It wasn’t there.
Jhudora blinked, rubbed her eyes and opened them again.
The potion still wasn’t there.
A scowl crossed her face. Where could it be? Her skirt angrily thrashed around her legs as she turned sharply and began to search the shelves of the room. Maybe she had misplaced it... It had to be here somewhere. She couldn’t have lost it. That potion meant so much to her. It was her chance at triumph. To lose such a thing...
A whirlwind of angry thoughts thrashed around her head. Growling, Jhudora picked herself off the ground. It wasn’t under the tables either. Not that she’d ever put it there, but she had to look.
“Where in Neopia’s name could it be?” Jhudora cursed, running her hand through her hair nervously. She had been so sure she had placed it on the windowsill. But checking there for the fourteenth time hadn’t made it magically reappear.
After about an hour of searching through every room in her tower, Jhudora was supposed to accept the one thought she had refused to believe ever since she first discovered the potion’s absence.
It was gone. Lost. Not there. She didn’t have enough time to make another one. She’d have to wait till next year.
Cursing her defeat, Jhudora sank against the wall. She glared at the floor with such savageness she was surprised the stone didn’t melt. How could this have happened? The potion couldn’t just vanish—
A loud, rude knock interrupted Jhudora’s thoughts, pulling her out from the pool of disappointment she had sunk into. The impatient clanging echoed through the room again and Jhudora pulled herself up and walked down the spiral staircase to the doorway at the bottom of her tower.
“What?” she snarled, nearly ripping the door from its hinges as she tore it open. She was quite surprised to see a small Kacheek staring up at her with frightened eyes. It was a quester, obviously. But Jhudora couldn’t see what it was doing here. It was Illusen Day. Nobody bother her with quests on Illusen Day.
“Umm, I’m looking for a quest...” the Kacheek said nervously, avoiding her eyes.
“Why don’t you go ask a certain earth faerie?” Jhudora snapped. She was in no mood for quest giving today. “After all, it is her day.” She was about to slam the door in his face, but the bewildered look on his face made her hesitate.
“Excuse me, whose day?” The Kacheek blinked.
“Illusen’s, obviously.” Jhudora didn’t really care what she was saying now. Her anger at losing the potion blinded her. They could go see Illusen, for all she cared. After all, it was her day.
The Kacheek looked confused, honestly so. “Who’s that?”
It was Jhudora’s turn to be confused. Who hadn’t heard of Illusen? “Umm, you know. Freakish earth faerie, lives in Meridell, gives out quests...”
“But there aren’t any earth faeries living in Meridell that I know of,” the Kacheek protested. “And you’re the only one who gives out quests.”
Jhudora’s slightly confused expression was slowly being replaced by a scowl. Was this Kacheek a complete idiot? Who hadn’t heard of Illusen? As much as she hated her, the earth faerie was somewhat of a celebrity.
Lost in thought, her gaze wandered and Jhudora noticed the long line of questers trailing behind the Kacheek for the first time. The line of Neopets stretched out farther than her eye could see.
She blinked. This was strange. She never had this many customers, even on her busiest days. And this was Illusen Day, of all the days. She hardly had anyone... Unless...
Jhudora paled slightly. “Excuse me for a moment,” she squeaked, too shocked to be disgusted by the fact she had been polite. She closed the door quietly, shutting out the cries of protest thundering from outside.
Resisting the urge to sink to the floor, Jhudora slowly started to climb the stairs. A whirlpool of thoughts spun around her mind. What was happening? First her potion mysteriously disappeared, and now it seemed Illusen had as well. She had made the connection outside, and it shocked her. Somehow, did her potion manage to reach Illusen? Maybe she had sent it last night or something...
She was starting to get a headache. Rubbing her head, Jhudora slowly sank into her chair. It was barely noon and already she felt exhausted. Her eyes clouded and she blankly stared out the window, trying to calm her mind, trying to find an answer to all the questions pounding her to the ground.
Suddenly, a single thought broke through the storm and shone in her mind.
Illusen didn’t seem to have just vanished. If she had, officials would’ve probably come to see her. After all, if something were to happen to the earth faerie, Jhudora was the prime suspect. But... it didn’t seem as if Illusen had just disappeared... It was more like... she had never existed in the first place.
Jhudora would’ve expected to feel a thrill of pleasure at this thought, knowing her rival would never bother her again. But instead, she felt cold. Somehow, as strange as it seemed, the thought of a world without Illusen scared her...
She was walking now, not even knowing when she had gotten up in the first place. She had to confirm that her crazy thoughts were just crazy thoughts, that the Kacheek really had just been some clueless idiot...
She crept into her room and searched through the bookshelves, looking for something she wasn’t even sure she had. Not seeing it among her books of dark magic, Jhudora searched elsewhere. It had to be here somewhere...
Her hand brushed against something hard, and she knew she had found it. She clutched the book and pulled it out from under her bead. The cover was ripped and torn and the pages were yellow. But through the thick veil of dust, Jhudora could still see the shining, golden words sprawled across the cover.
Gallery of Heroes.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of book you expected a villain to own, but Jhudora did. She forgot how she had first acquired it, but she had never bothered to throw it out, thinking it might serve some use in the future. But out of all the reasons why she would open this book, this was the last thing that would come to mind.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Jhudora carefully opened the book with a gentleness she would have never possessed if not for the state of shock she had found herself in. Ornate drawings jumped out at her as she flipped through the pages, portraits of Neopians she would never ally with, people from a world in which she would never belong. Heroes. Fyora, Jeran, Psellia, Hannah... All beings she would probably only meet on opposite sides of the battlefield. She continued to turn the pages. Garin, Cylara, Nabile... She looked through the drawings, searching for the one person she normally wished never to see again. Finally, she reached the place she was looking for. But what she was seeking was not there. The page between Lisha and Kayla, the space Illusen normally occupied, was blank.
She stood up harshly. There was one more thing she had to check... She had to make sure she wasn’t hallucinating, wasn’t going crazy. She hadn’t even realized she had approached the window until she jumped out of it and felt the air rush against her face. She felt as if she were in a trance. She spread her wings and caught the wind. She heard gasps of shock below her, but she paid no mind to that. She flew, flew towards a place she swore never to go. As she crossed the border of Faerieland, she could see its faint shoreline in the distance, hiding behind the sparkling ocean. Meridell.
* * * * *
Her feet touched the emerald grass. Rolling hills of green stretched before her. They were strangely beautiful, flowers dancing softly in the wind, creating a shifting, mesmerizing pattern. But it the glade felt lonely, empty. Jhudora could only guess why.
She had only been here a few times, but she knew that normally there was something here. In this spot, there was supposed to be a hut. Illusen’s hut.
But the glade was empty, nothing but grass and flowers and blue sky.
She really was gone. Illusen.
Jhudora was strangely troubled by that thought. But why? Illusen was her enemy, her rival. She should be rejoicing, be happy that her nemesis was gone, maybe forever. But for some reason, she didn’t feel happy at all. A cold, cruel feeling seemed to cling to her. Something like... remorse.
Jhudora sank to the ground, not fully realizing she did so. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, like she was in a dream.
Yes... She closed her eyes. It was all a dream; all of this was a dream... It had to be. Any second now, she could open her eyes and—
* * * * *
Jhudora opened her eyes. Everything was dark. It took her a while to realize she was in her tower, staring up at the ceiling. A huge feeling of relief washed through her. It was just a dream!
She leapt out of bed. She had the strange urge to laugh. What a silly dream... Jhudora shook her head. Thank goodness it was over now... She had more important things to do. Like... destroy Illusen for example.
A cruel smirk slowly crept across her face as Jhudora headed towards the windowsill, where she could see the golden potion shining softly with unnatural light. But somehow, her smile faltered.
A shadow seemed to be hanging over her, and Jhudora couldn’t stop thinking about the dream she had.
She shook her head violently. It was just a foolish dream... It didn’t mean anything.
She approached the window and picked up the vial. Soon, her time would come...
But she did she really want to destroy Illusen?
The dream seemed tear at her. Trying to force her to think thoughts she didn’t want to think. Questions echoed through her mind. Why hadn’t she been happy? What had been that strange, cold feeling?
Jhudora frowned. Why was she thinking like this? Why was she feeling doubtful all of a sudden? Did she really want to destroy Illusen? Of course she did. She always had. She couldn’t give up an opportunity like this just because of some stupid dream...
She looked out the window. The sun was slowly rising above Faerieland. The clouds dyed a vivid pink, sparkling more brightly than ever before. It was beautiful, but Jhudora had never really been one to appreciate beauty.
Somehow, seeing the rising sun seemed to help Jhudora make up her mind. Her grip on the potion tightened... and she threw it to the floor.
A shower of glass and gold flew across the room, sparkling in the faint sunlight. As the potion hit the walls and floor, it sizzled and sent a soft wisp of black some into the air. And then it was gone, it was too late to take the action back now.
Jhudora turned to the window and spoke to the sunrise. “You got off this year, Illusen. But next time... Next time you won’t be so lucky.”