Roomies 3: Part One
This is the sequel to Roomies and Roomies 2. Thank you to everyone who's enjoyed these stories so far; this is for you!
It was an early Friday morning near the end of the Month of Gathering. Most Neopians were still in their beds sleeping, clinging to their dreams and the warmth of their bed covers. However, a single air faerie was already out into the early morning light, her pale blue wings carrying her across the dazzling Faerieland skies. Her destination was a place most Neopians only dreamed of gaining entrance to: Queen Fyora’s palace.
Jesc landed gracefully, her feet touching down on the manicured lawn. The bright green grass was playfully cluttered with autumn leaves bathed in rich hues of red and brown, sprinkled in perfect patterns across the ground. The air faerie glanced around with a smile. The morning was gorgeous. The sun was just beginning to rise along the distant horizon, coloring the skies with pinks and light blues, and there was slight breeze ruffling her dirty blond hair.
Adjusting her striped scarf and making sure she still carried her school bag over one shoulder, Jesc made her way down the beautiful cobblestone walkway lined with trees full of foliage, the castle growing larger and larger as she approached, reflecting in her bright blue eyes. It was tall and majestic, built partially of purple-tinted stone and partially of magic with a tall set of wooden doors, gleaming windows, and a myriad of tall towers flying flags adorned with the Faerieland crest.
“I can’t believe I’m really here!” Jesc muttered excitedly to herself, speeding up as she made her way to the front entrance. She tried calming down, forcing herself to take a deep breath and slowing her frantic steps, but it couldn’t stop the huge smile emerging on her face as she knocked on the heavy door.
It took a few moments, but the door was eventually opened by a light faerie, her hair twisted strangely in a clip and a wand held in her right hand. “Yes?” she inquired, an eyebrow raised at the sight of the young faerie before her.
“I’m Jesc,” the air faerie introduced, putting out her arm to shake hands. The light faerie glanced at it warily, her face showing signs of skepticism and confusion, but Jesc wasn’t deterred; she never was. Efficiently, she ruffled through the bag slung over her shoulder, searching through books, pages of homework, and leaking pens for the right scroll and then held it out. “I’m a third-year student at the Faerie Academy and I was chosen to help with the Faerieland Neomail System today.”
The light faerie took the parchment, read it quickly for verification, and then nodded. “All right then. Come in, but do be quiet; the annual Faerie Representative Meeting is being held in the council room on the second floor and on Queen’s orders no one is to be disturbed.”
She held open the door to let Jesc in, who immediately gasped as she stepped over the threshold. The entrance hall was brilliant! The floors were polished so much that she could catch her reflection, sparkling intricate chandeliers hung from the ceiling illuminating the hall with bright light, and a tall, sweeping marble staircase was in the center, leading to the upper floors and various towers.
“Everything’s so beautiful!” Jesc breathed, examining an ornate red vase filled with dazzling lilies blaring autumnal colors besides the entryway. “Ooh! These remind me of the flowers back in the garden behind my sister Mirasol’s neohome, except hers are purple from a spell she accidentally cast one day after she came home when all of her plants were withering because she hadn’t watered them all week, so she tried a spell to make them perk up a bit, but she said the wrong incantation (‘Purpataliation’ instead of ‘Perkalation’), which you know really isn’t a good thing, and suddenly everything in the house was purple, including the walls, ceiling, and all her furniture and clothes and food and stuff, and although she eventually got everything back to the right color, she told me that she likes to keep the purple lilies as a little reminder of what happens when you...”
“Jesc...” the light faerie interrupted hesitantly. She had never met someone who could say so much in a single sentence and didn’t know how much more she could take.
“Sorry,” Jesc apologized quickly, brushing back a piece of her hair. She knew she tended to run on sometimes, but it was one of the quirks that made her unique, along with her love of wind chimes and plushies.
“Alright,” the secretary murmured, rereading the scroll one more time before finally handing it back to her. “The castle has two neomail towers in the east wing, one that employs Weewoos and the other, the tower for more specified mail, which is run by a faerie whose job is to bewitch the scrolls so that they zoom to their proper destinations quickly, safely, and away from prying eyes. Seeing as you were sent here, I assume you know the spell...”
Jesc nodded rapidly. The charm was a tad advanced, but she had always been good with magic and had found it quite easy and amusing: she tended to use it to cause her school books to float behind her on the way to class, and a few times just to make the objects in her dorm back at the Faerie Academy zoom all over the place. And although a few overzealous paper airplanes sometimes flew out into the spiral staircases and slipped into other rooms every so often, she had only gotten caught twice so far...
“Good. Then head up to the east wing on the third floor, and you should see the tower entrance. Make sure to be quiet around the second floor, though; the meeting should still be taking place well into the afternoon. Got it?”
“Yep,” Jesc answered, heading for the stairs. However, she turned around as she reached the first step. “Oh, and thank you for this opportunity. I know not many faeries get to spend an entire day here and I’m really honored.”
The secretary seemed initially startled at the sudden gratitude, but couldn’t help but leak a smile. “You’re welcome, and I’ll thank Queen Fyora for you. Now hurry up! Those neomails won’t send themselves.”
“Right.” Jesc nodded and immediately turned back to the marble staircase, quickly climbing up step by step, her wings poised just in case she managed to slip. But she didn’t, and instead quietly tiptoed upwards beyond the second floor, only catching a brief glimpse of the tall wooden doors that led way to the council room.
I wonder if Jhudora’s in there, she thought mildly as she continued her ascent. She happened to not only know the infamous dark faerie, but had somewhat become on good terms with her in the past few months. Unfortunately, it had all happened because of one woman: Mrs. Pierce.
The evil fire faerie had once taught at the Faerie Academy as the Proper Use of Magical Abilities teacher, but she seemed to ignore everything she taught in her class as she terrorized Jesc by locking her out of classes or giving her detentions for no apparent reason. And then, when Jhudora stepped in to give her old least-favorite teacher a taste of her own medicine with an illusion, Mrs. Pierce snapped. That’s why only a few months earlier she attempted to keep Jesc locked up in her dorm back at the Faerie Academy against her will, and when that too failed, Mrs. Pierce resorted to using a truth spell, an illegal spell, against Jhudora, and ended up being publicly fired in the process by none other than Queen Fyora in front of a large crowd of Neopians.
But everything’s fine now, Jesc thought to herself happily as she made her way up one of the towers’ tight-packed dizzying spiral staircase. Mrs. Pierce is finally out of the Faerie Academy and there’s no way she’s ever coming back.
Lost in thought, she emerged into the room at the top of the tower... and stopped dead. “Oopsie,” she murmured to herself looking around. So engaged in her thoughts, she had made her way up to the wrong tower. “Well,” she added optimistically, “at least it’s one of the neomail towers!”
That was true. The tower was light and airy, the stone walls holding gaping arched openings that acted like windows letting in the morning sunrise. Piled in the corner of the room was a neat stack of scrolls tied with ribbons or closed with red wax seals and envelopes securely sealed: neomail. But that wasn’t nearly as interesting to Jesc as were the other hundred occupants of the room: Weewoos.
Soaring into and out of the tower, resting on the wooden rafters, and picking up neomails from the large pile, the flying petpets were full of activity. Jesc’s eyes widened. She had never seen so many of them in one place! Most of them were the natural brown that could easily be spotted all over Krawk Island, but others were painted blue, red, and even a small number bore the coveted white coat of the Neopian Times couriers.
“Oh great. What are you doing here?” a voice suddenly interrupted from behind. Jesc turned around, her slender wand instinctively pulled out from its spot behind her ear and raised... but then lowered when she caught sight of the dark faerie leaning against the doorframe: Jhudora.
“Hey!” Jesc greeted, a huge smile erupting over her face. It was good to see Jhudora again, especially when it wasn’t under such strained conditions.
“Hi,” Jhudora answered bluntly. Her arms were crossed sullenly over her chest and her violet eyes were examining the room and all of the feathered objects flitting around with distaste. She personally didn’t like Weewoos. A few adventurous ones would occasionally land on the roof of her cloud, ruining the whole “intimidating and menacing” effect she was going for. Not to mention the fact that they carried the mail which, for her, was usually full of anonymous complaints from the residents of Neopia that were too scared to confront her face-to-face. “So, what are you doing up here?” she asked again. “Bird watching?”
Jesc shook her head, her blue eyes sparkling. “I’m here to help bewitch neomail; I just happened to head up to the wrong tower.”
“And why would you want to do that?”
The air faerie smiled. “Because it’s fun! And besides that, it’s a requirement. Third year faeries at the Academy are scheduled to do various jobs once a week for the entire year all around Neopia. They call them lendings. It’s so that we can start figuring out what we want to study in more depth next year. Didn’t you do it when you att-”
“I was expelled way before that,” Jhudora interrupted with a flick of her hand, her noxious green nails catching the light. “And honestly, I’m glad. Sounds boring.”
“Actually,” Jesc contradicted, “it’s quite interesting. Last week I got to help out Sophie the swamp witch, which was really fun, even though her Meowclops turned pink for a few hours after it tasted something that I dropped on the floor, and next week I’m supposed to learn how to give out quests...”
“Great,” Jhudora added with a smirk, brushing back her violet hair accented with one green stripe, “all Neopia needs is another air faerie asking for her blue hair brush.”
Jesc couldn’t help but laugh; Jhudora often said things like that, but she knew that she still cared about her underneath it all. After all, she’d been under a truth spell when she’d admitted it. “So, now that I told you why I’m here, what are you doing up here? Shouldn’t you be at the meeting?”
Jhudora rolled her eyes and stepped into the room. “It’s break time, thank Fyora. Illusen kept babbling on about something for a good hour and I was so sick and tired of hearing her voice I thought I was going to go mad. I came up here for some air and peace and quiet, but I thought I’d be alone, not surrounded by a couple hundred twittering petpets and an air faerie.”
“Well, I personally like Weewoos,” Jesc put in happily, her arm outstretched gently, trying to coax one of the white ones away from the pile of neomails with an off-tune whistle that made Jhudora cringe. However, it seemed to work on the Weewoo. The bird looked up at her with intelligent eyes and hobbled over to her, spreading its wings and then landing on her arm, a neomail scroll clenched in one talon. “Aw! Isn’t it cute? I think I’m going to name this one Scotchmel! He looks like a Scotchmel, don’t you think?”
Jhudora was about to ask how she knew it was a “he” and where in Neopia she got the name “Scotchmel” from when she saw something on the Weewoo’s scroll that made her stomach involuntarily lurch. “Jesc,” she said slowly. “Give me that scroll.”
Jesc looked from Jhudora to the petpet perched on her arm and back to the dark faerie. “Isn’t it illegal to read someone else’s mail?”
Jhudora gave Jesc a look, her eyes sharp. “Number one: since when did I care if anything was legal or not? And number two, I think this is an exception. Look at the bottom; the signature’s showing.”
Confused, Jesc glanced at the scroll... and saw what had made Jhudora so uneasy. Written in a handwriting that reminded her of slashing lines was a two worded signature: Vermillion Pierce. Mrs. Pierce.
“It... it could be just a normal letter,” Jesc attempted, trying to sound positive. “She has to use the neomail system, too.”
“Yeah right. Knowing her, it’s anything but. Now fork it over.”
Jesc felt her stomach turn. After the summer, she had thought she would be forever free of Mrs. Pierce, but it was always at these moments that she would inexplicably turn up in her life. And it never was a good thing.
“Should... should we open it?”
“Of course we should!” Jhudora shouted, throwing her arms into the air and scaring a couple of the Weewoos resting in the rafters. “What else have I been trying to tell you for the past five minutes?!”
Jesc brushed off Jhudora’s exclamation with a shrug. “You still are so impatient... You know, I once read that if you try some meditative exercises, or at least learn how to whistle, it can reduce your stress by over fifty percent! That always seems to help me,” the air faerie remarked, glancing down at the Weewoo staring at her with its innocent black eyes. She cleared her throat. “Now, Scotchmel,” she addressed formally, “I know this is probably against the rules, but can I please see that neomail you’re holding? Jhudora thinks it’s very important that we read it and although we’re not exactly supposed to, I’d have to agree with her.”
Jhudora rolled her eyes, her irritation building. “It’s a petpet for crying out loud, Jesc! It can’t understand you!”
But much to Jhudora’s amazement, the Weewoo held out its talon, released the scroll into Jesc’s hand, and then wobbled its way to her shoulder to examine her sparkly gold earrings.
Jesc would have given Jhudora an “I-told-you-so” look, but the dark faerie had already snatched the scroll out of her hand, unrolled it, and was scanning it quickly, her eyebrows furrowing the more she read.
“What does it say?” Jesc asked, standing on her tiptoes to read over Jhudora’s shoulder. And as she perused the print, it was almost as if she could hear Mrs. Pierce saying the words out loud:
I’m sending you this neomail as a reminder of our bargain and to insure that you are upholding your half. You do the switch, and I’ll see to it that your neohome isn’t burned to a crisp, got it? I repeat, if things do not go according to plan, your house will suddenly be off the map and the insurance records that would normally allow you to replace everything free of charge will have disappeared almost as if by “magic,” so do not think I’m joking or taking this lightly.
I’ll be awaiting your affirmation of the aforementioned procedure. If I do not receive a neomail by the end of the week, say goodbye to your neohome and everything in it. End of story, have a nice day.
Jesc paled, her blue eyes widening. “It’s... it’s blackmail!”
“Yeah. And although our dear old Mrs. Pierce never put the name of the recipient on it, the address is clear enough,” she added, pointing to the address scribbled on top. “She’s blackmailing someone back at the Faerie Academy.”
“We have to do something!” Jesc exclaimed angrily. “We can’t just let her threaten someone like this!”
“Well, we’re going to have to,” Jhudora said grimly. “The letter has no name on it and the Academy has over six hundred faeries in it, not including staff. It could take months just to figure out who she’s blackmailing. And besides, I have a meeting to get back to, and you should be finding the right tower so you can make some dumb neomails fly.”
“Can’t we at least give this letter to Fyora?!” Jesc protested.
“And then what? Explain to the Queen of Faeries why we’ve been snooping through the mail system?” Jhudora bit back harshly. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about what happened to the faerie Mrs. Pierce was blackmailing; she just cared about her own well-being more.
“But...” Jesc tried to think of another way, frantically searching her mind, but in the end she came up short. Jhudora was right; there was no way to stop Mrs. Pierce this time. But that wasn’t going to stop Jesc from keeping a close eye out back at school...
“Here,” Jhudora finally said, handing her back the neomail.
“Thanks.” Jesc reluctantly took the scroll, rolled it up, and carefully gave it back to Scotchmel who grasped it tightly with his claw, gave Jesc one last look, and then took off, unfurling his white wings and soaring out through the open window into the golden morning sunlight. He looked so majestic that it was almost too easy to forget that he was carrying a letter that could just about ruin some poor faerie’s life. Almost, but not entirely.
“Well,” Jhudora said once the Weewoo was out of sight, “I need to get back to the meeting.” She pulled out her wand from a hidden fold in her customary purple gown. It had once been destroyed thanks to Mrs. Pierce, but now it was as good as new. “I better keep a hold on this, just in case. Who knows how long Illusen’s speech will be this time.”
Jesc tried to smile, but found she couldn’t. She just couldn’t believe that Mrs. Pierce was still working her malicious schemes right under everyone’s noses. It made even her highly optimistic mood dim down a couple of notches, and Jhudora could tell.
Jhudora rolled her eyes. Great, now I’m starting to feel sorry for people, she thought, irritated by the emotion. “Listen, Jesc,” she finally said from her spot by the door, rubbing her face with a hand wearily; it was too early in the morning for a conflict. “Just be careful, alright? Knowing Mrs. Pierce, all of this probably has something to do with us and we have to be careful, got it? We don’t want a relapse of the summer.”
Jesc nodded her head. “Got it.”
“Good.” Jhudora turned around and started to head down the spiral staircase, determined to turn whoever created those stairs of doom into a Mortog. “Now I’m going.”
“Well, then see you soon, Jhudora,” Jesc called after her, looking around the tower one last time to wave goodbye to all of the Weewoos before making her own way out. She was grateful that she was about to do some intensive spell work; it would help keep her mind off Mrs. Pierce.
If I’m lucky, she thought to herself, heading downstairs, Jhudora’ll be wrong and none of this will have anything to do with us.
Little did she know how wrong she was.
To be continued...