Greed Is Just An Illusion
'Thank you, little one,' said Illusen gently, taking the plushie from a young Xweetok. 'Here, take this comb I made this morning. And remember, look after it well!'
'Thank you,' mumbled the Xweetok shyly, clinging to the comb. 'I'll give it to my mum.'
Illusen smiled as she watched the little Xweetok eagerly show her owner the comb, and they went off together. Then she turned back to her garden and sighed, the smile sliding off her face. Business was failing. She knew it was only a matter of time before her glade was just a memory, and she was left to live in her beautiful paradise alone.
The little Xweetok had been her only customer in three days. She thought about all the pets that had been leaving her safe haven groups at a time, the pets who knew it was only a matter of time before Illusen's supplies failed, and knew she had to do something to save her name.
A thought entered her mind. For a moment, she was appalled by it and pushed it away, afraid. But then she thought a bit longer. She sat down on a tree stump and her mind began to work, a plan formulating in her mind. She knew what she had to do.
That afternoon, she took some wool and started to work, threading the wool into a long black cloak that covered her eyes and fell to her feet. She took the leftover strands, bunched them together and created a purse that she strung around her waist. Then finally, she took a long reed and tied it around her hair in a loose ponytail.
She was ready.
It was a long flight to Neopia Central. The skies were filled, as always, with hoards of faeries going about their business - but this was the first time she had felt such a flutter of panic. But she kept her head bowed low, and flew across Neopia unnoticed.
When she arrived at Neopia Central, she found her heart was thumping. The flight, like always, had pounded her with adrenaline and in her excitement she found her hood had tipped back slightly, revealing her eyes. She pulled it forwards and promised herself she would not lose her head again, as she stepped inside the bank.
Thankfully, the bank was crowded. Pets of every size and colour clung to their owner’s hands, sticking close to their side. Illusen slipped through, ignored by all. Walking with purpose towards the door, she subtly slid out a bracelet, slung it around the door marked ‘Staff only’, and waited for the click of the lock before pushing the door open.
The corridor was mercifully empty. Amazed at her luck, she shot a flame towards the door and it melted before her eyes. Then she walked down the stairs directly in front of her and gasped.
Millions and millions of coins and dubloons, piled high, made the room glow with gold. She looked around, her mouth falling open, stunned for a moment. Then a loud, echoing cackle emerged from the corner of the room, making Illusen jump backwards in shock and slip on a silver dubloon. She scrambled to her feet and looked around, drawing a Super Nova from her pocket and holding it out threateningly.
‘Dear, dear sister,’ the voice said slyly. Illusen pointed the Super Nova towards the voice, backing into the wall. ‘How long I’ve been waiting for this day to come.’
‘Jhudora?’ Illusen said incredulously. She lowered the Nova slightly as the figure of a woman, dressed also in a long cloak, emerged from the glowing coins.
The figure raised a hand and pushed back her hood, confirming Illusen’s assumption.
‘What are the chances, eh?’ cackled Jhudora. ‘You and I, robbing the same bank, on the same day, at the same time.’
‘I’m not robbing this bank,’ Illusen lied.
‘Then what’s with the cloak?’ Jhudora said, picking up a handful of coins and pouring them noisily into her own bag. Illusen didn’t reply, and watched as Jhudora poured yet another handful of gold into the bag.
‘Don’t do that,’ Illusen said quietly. ‘Someone will hear.’
‘No, they won’t,’ Jhudora said, pouring another handful into the bag and jiggling it around maliciously. ‘I knocked them all out. The only thing any worker in this bank will be hearing for a while is the sweet sound of their own dreams, inside a tiny locked store cupboard.’
Realising the reason for her extraordinary luck, Illusen felt herself relax. She slowly reached down and scooped a handful of dubloons into her own purse.
Jhudora watched her, and smiled wickedly. ‘Not robbing this bank, eh?’
Illusen blushed and said nothing once again. Instead, she started shovelling the glittering coins into the bag with purpose, her eyes fixed on the bag. She had just remembered something – the sleeping draft Jhudora kept stored in her basement. Just a week ago, Illusen had switched the powerful substance with a weaker version; to stop the damage Jhudora was doing to the shop owners she wanted to steal from. Of course, a week ago Illusen had only wanted the best for Neopia, and to protect them from Jhudora. But no doubt Jhudora knew nothing about the sleeping draft. And by Illusen’s calculations, the workers should be stirring from their sleep just about now.
Another plan had formed in her mind. Perhaps if she was quick, Illusen could escape from the bank before the workers woke up, and leave Jhudora to face her fate in the Neopian Jail –
She heard them, the quick clatter of hooves down the stone steps, an army of workers. Terrified, she froze where she stood, clutching a handful of coins. Across from her, Jhudora looked up and rolled her eyes. Then she grabbed her bag of money, leapt up and bounded across the room, grabbing Illusen’s arm. Jhudora picked out a glowing purple orb from her cloak, rubbed it and thrust it towards the ceiling while the footsteps got louder and louder. When the orb hit the ceiling, the stone peeled back like it was made of paper and revealed the clear blue sky overhead – then the two enemies clutched each other and flew up towards the sun, clinging onto their purses, away from the room of amazing riches.
They flew back to Meridell. When Illusen saw the familiar fields and her life-long friends, she sighed with relief, the bag of money round her waist forgotten. Her heart was still racing – not from the flight this time but with sheer terror. She imagined the cold cell of the Neopian Jail, infamous for a terrible crime, with only Jhudora for company. She imagined the Neopians’ shock as they read the daily paper – about a good little faerie gone bad. She pictured in her mind the locals shaking their heads and frowning, wondering how the faerie they trusted most could have gone so wrong, warning their children about the faerie who they should never approach, could never be trusted. She would have spent the rest of her life alone, relying on crime to survive.
It was a lucky escape.
The next day, surprise donations appeared all around the globe from an anonymous giver. The poorest families in Neopia awoke to presents on their doorstep, presents they had always dreamed of. Illusen decided to visit Neopians with surprise quests, and so her business was brought back to life again. The mysterious bank robbers were mentioned in the Neopian Times, but the case was never solved, and Illusen and Jhudora continued their lives as if that terrifying day had never happened.