Illiya threw the mirror to the ground, the resulting shatter as glass broke into a myriad fragments doing little to help her mood.
“It’s hopeless,” she growled, moisture beginning to well up in her eyes. And then, with more force, “Hopeless!”
The rather worn hairbrush, matted clumps of red fur and all, soon joined the shattered mirror in its final resting place upon the purple carpet.
Seething, the Mynci glared at her reflection on the wall mirror, the one that refused to break no matter how hard she’d hit it. And it had taken quite the beating over the past few days.
The tears of frustration began to pour down Illiya’s cheeks. The desk below the wall mirror was covered in haphazardly scattered cosmetics items; mascara, lipstick, NeoGlo blushes of every color, long fur brushes, short fur brushes, fur glitter; she’d tried every one of them.
And nothing worked.
The tears were flowing freely now. She’d never win that beauty contest she’d fantasized about. She’d seen how easily her sister entered, her beautiful Xweetok sister, with her glossy pink mane and beautiful chocolate fur. She’d amassed enough Beauty Contest trophies to make even the Snowager envious; her shelves were row upon row of glittering bronze, silver, and gold, glimmering and gleaming like a rainbow of precious metal.
She wanted to scream. It was so unfair. Why couldn’t she have been a Xweetok too, with Silia’s soft, silky tresses? Or a Uni, or a Peophin, or even a Kacheek? But no, she was a Mynci, an ugly red Mynci, with plain features and fur that was stubbornly unkempt no matter how hard she tried to enhance it.
At last, she turned away. Wryly, a small part of her mind noted that the tears were washing away the glitter on her face, and when they dried, they’d mat her fur. But she was beyond caring. Because she knew that either way, that gold, glittering Beauty Contest trophy would never belong to her.
The silver moon continued to pour its cold, shimmering light into her room, and as Illiya at last gave up and climbed into her bed, the stars twinkled feebly, seeming ever so far away.
Peering in through a crack in the door, Silia sighed.
She fingered the bottle in her hands, the sparkling blue potion sloshing gently in its glassy confinement. Should she give it to Illiya now? Sure, it was a week before her birthday, but she couldn’t bear to see her sister so upset. And as much as she hated to admit it, her sister really wasn’t Beauty Contest material. She’d gently discouraged the Mynci’s dream from the start, but regardless, Illiya had stubbornly plowed forward on the path that would only lead to heartbreak.
Shaking her head, the Pink Xweetok tucked the bottle back into her pocket. No. Her sister would probably take it as an insult. And besides, it had cost her all her neopoints. She wouldn’t have a gift for Illiya’s birthday if she gave her the potion now.
Sighing softly, Silia turned around and padded back into her room, allowing the night to wash over her eyes and whisk her off into dreams.
Wrapped up in the comfort of her bed, Illiya dreamed.
She was at the Beauty Contest. And she was glamorous. Her red fur sparkled as if each strand had been carefully crafted from the purest rubies. Her golden eyes sparkled with all the radiance of the sun. Clasped in her paws was a golden trophy, and she was surrounded by a throng of admirers, hundreds of Neopets that wanted to bask in her beauty.
Then slowly, the innocent dream melted into something much darker.
She was standing on a lonely pedestal of cold, grey stone. Cautiously, she looked around. A frigid mist surrounded her on all sides and from below, making everything invisible beyond a few metres. She peered over the pedestal’s edge for a second and pulled back instantly, her head spinning with vertigo. There was no ground, no anything... just endless reaches of mist that tapered off into ethereal darkness.
And then a voice rang out from the mist.
“At last, my dear, you have come.”
Illiya jumped, looking around wildly. There was nobody there. “Who’s there?” she demanded shakily.
A figure emerged from the nothingness, floating in the thick mist a few feet away from the pedestal upon which the Mynci stood. She was tall and slender, with piercing, deep violet eyes and large, beautifully ribbed wings, akin to a Draik’s. Ebony tresses, highlighted with streaks of subtle purple, cascaded down around her shoulders. She was beautiful... and yet...
She was a Dark Faerie.
But strangely enough, Illiya didn’t feel at all scared. She just felt... blank. Empty.
The softly spoken words left her mouth before she could even think, as if acting on their own accord. “This isn’t just a dream, is it?”
“No, child,” the faerie murmured. Her voice was strange; soft and sharp, sweet and cold, all rolled up into one echoing, ringing tone that left Illiya feeling oddly complacent.
“Why have you brought me here?” Once more, the words rolled off the Mynci’s tongue before she even thought of saying anything.
“Because, child, you are sad. And I want to change that.”
A small voice in the back of Illiya’s head told her not to trust the faerie. That Dark Faeries never did anything for a random Neopet’s benefit. That it was all a lie, and that only bad things could become of it. But she couldn’t bring herself to listen to it. It was far away, so far away... the only thing that existed was the Dark Faerie’s voice, and the offer alone sent hope springing up inside her heart.
“You’d... help me?”
“Of course,” the faerie simpered.
The faerie sighed. “You have a sister. Silia, I believe? The Pink Xweetok? She’s so pretty. And she doesn’t deserve any of it. She goes around and flaunts her beauty without a thought for you. She’s the cause of your misery.”
Illiya’s fur fluffed up with fury. The faerie was right! All Silia did was show off her trophies, oblivious to the longing in her sister’s eyes. She preened and brushed and combed constantly, her conceit limitless. She never did a thing for her poor, hideous sister Illiya. Never a thought for her!
That’s not true, the small voice insisted, but it was even fainter this time.
She nodded violently, her eyes bright with anger. “What can I do?”
At last, the Dark Faerie smiled, and it was such a purely evil expression that it would have scared Illiya off, had she not been so spellbound.
“I want you to steal her beauty.”
Illiya was thunderstruck.
Steal her beauty?
Her conscience lasted about half a second. Of course! It was the perfect way to get back at her. Silia had always been the beautiful one, and she, Illiya, the overlooked, ugly younger sister. Having it reversed? Justice.
Slowly, she began to smile, a sneer that did not belong to her. “I will.”
“I’m glad you think so, too.” The Dark Faerie smiled. “And so you will. Before the day breaks, Illiya will be the beautiful one, and Silia will get what she deserves. Return to the waking world, now, and achieve your dreams...”
The small voice in the back of Illiya’s head now was all but gone, but still, it managed to pose one last question, one that never made it to the Mynci’s lips. Why do you care? Why are you ‘helping’ me?
And then she was falling, falling though mist and darkness and color and light, back into her bed.
Illiya jolted upright, her eyes flying open, gasping for breath like she’d just ran for miles.
A sudden tear began to bud in her eye. It had been such a wonderful, promising dream... but a dream nonetheless.
A twinkle caught her eye, and the Mynci whipped her head around to face it.
A pretty silver bracelet was lying on her bedside dresser. Almost innocently, it winked at her, the light reflecting off every facet. It was quite beautiful, but it hummed with magic; the Mynci could faintly make out streams of purple winding their way across the shining metal. Illiya knew at once exactly what it was.
So not just a dream after all.
Slowly, a poisonous-rose smile dawned upon the Mynci’s face. Delicately, one paw curled around the bracelet. It felt warm in her hands. Promising. Made to give her the beauty she’d always hoped for.
She slipped out of bed. The silver moon was still high in the sky. Somewhere far away, a clock chimed twelve times.
At last, beauty would be hers. And revenge.
The door to Silia’s room swung open soundlessly. The shutters were closed, and no moonlight gave away the Mynci as she crept towards her sister’s bed.
She gazed at the sleeping Xweetok’s face with a contempt she’d never felt before. So beautiful. So horribly beautiful. The faerie was right. She didn’t deserve it, any of it.
Beautiful? Not for much longer.
A truly malevolent grin crossed her face. “Let’s see how you like being ugly!” she whispered.
No, a deeper part of her mind whispered back.
Her arm jerked forward, and then stopped, forced back by some invisible power.
You can’t do this! She’s your sister!
No sooner had she thought that when a jolt of pain slashed through her body, just as potent as fire, and as piercing as ice. She gasped in pain. Her arm thrust forward again, some almost-tangible force pushing her towards her goal.
Silia’s eyes flew wide open, woken by the sudden sound. She started to yawn, and then froze, her large blue eyes locked on the pet before her.
She’s awake. I have to do it now!
Just do it! You’ll be beautiful at last! She’s always rubbed it in; she deserves this!
You’ll lose yourself...
Illiya jerked back and forth, the rope in a game of in mental game of tug-of-war. A fragile leaf buffeted by two storms at once.
Gasping, Illiya righted herself, her eyes clouded with indecision.
Do it, the bracelet seemed to snarl at her. Do it now!
“Okay,” Illiya retorted aloud. “I will.”
Then, with all her might, the Mynci hurled the bracelet to the ground. It shattered like glass, shards of silver flying in every direction, and evaporating just as quickly. The last shards of the cursed bracelet vanished with puffs of purple smoke.
“No!” screamed a fading strain of a faerie’s voice, and then it was gone.
The Xweetok was wide awake now, staring at Illiya, eyes like cerulean orbs. Illiya stared back. The two shared a long, silent moment.
“What just happened?” the Xweetok whispered.
“Something I never should have done,” Illiya said softly back, her voice too a whisper. “I was wrong. I was an idiot. Such an idiot.”
Silia cast her eyes upon the shadowed carpet, fixed upon the memory of a myriad glittering shards moments earlier.
“What was that thing?” she asked.
“It... it...” Illiya’s voice trembled, and then she stumbled forward, draping herself over the edge of the bed, shaking with sobs. “Oh! Oh, Silia, could you ever forgive me?”
With sudden fierceness, the Xweetok put her arms around the Mynci’s neck and pulled her close. “Of course, Illiya,” she whispered into her ear. “Of course I forgive you. We’re sisters.”
Morning came, and Illiya went to the Beauty Contest.
And she lost.
But she didn’t cry. She returned home, with nary a regret.
Because now she knew who she was, and that was enough.
Illiya's eyes wandered across her empty, room, at the wall mirror she’d hated so direly, or the haphazard cosmetics. In retrospect, she couldn't imagine how she could have been so vain and stupid. Beauty was a nice thing, but sisterly love counted more.
With a sigh, the Mynci got up from her bed. Nothing would ever change. Everything was the same as ever. Her room, her looks, her life.
But there was something out of place. It took her a while to spot it, but when she did, despite herself, a small smile spread across her face.
"Thanks, Silia," she whispered aloud.
Lying on top of scattered bottles of hairspray and mascara was a Blue Xweetok Morphing Potion.