"Listen, you puny Aisha – are you listening? I'm offering you a bargain here, you little coward... Stop looking away from me – pay attention!"
"I am listening, oh mighty one... Please forgive me..." Cera dragged her gaze back to the dark faerie standing before her, and stifled a yawn.
"Yawning, Cera? Do I make you feel bored? Drowsy? Perhaps you should have a nap... in that little rat's glade, perhaps? There's no room for the weak here, Cera. Awaken. Now."
Cera was in no state to even consider any of Jhudora's propositions. Her mind was elsewhere.
"I said, I'm listening. Please continue, really; I'm so intrigued by what you have to say..." she muttered, trying to sound convincing. Jhudora's inflated ego didn't let her sense the bitterness, so she continued.
"Most excellent. My dearest Cera. You have visited me for countless months now, collecting various delights and weaponr- erm, toys... for me, and I've decided to give you the chance of a lifetime. Not one Neopet has been as loyal as you have, and as much as I hate to admit it, I've grown to be proud of you..." Jhudora coughed to get through the awkward silence that was provoked, "Anyway, I'm asking you a favour. In fact, two favours. I'm sure you can manage, of all Neopets. Are you ready, Cera?"
Cera looked up from the ground – she'd been concentrating more on the lumps in the cloud below her than Jhudora's rant. But all the same, she smiled and nodded.
Jhudora grinned evilly. "First of all – you must not tell anyone. Fyora, of course, the naïve little faerie that she is, thinks I've done no wrong and I'm as pleasant as... well, her. However, little does she know I was the one who stole her latest batch of Darigan Paint Brushes, nor does she know that it was I who ruined her summer dress. Bwahaha, she'll never know..." she cackled. "However. Second of all... the plan. Listen closely. Illusen has just received a sum of Neopoints from none other than King Skarl, the leader of her kingdom, for her apparent ‘kindness' and ‘loyalty' to Meridell. She's just spent a whole lot of it revamping her glade, so here's our chance. I'm asking you to go out and sabotage her new home. It will bring me, and you, great delight in seeing that puny little faerie cry out and be all sad over her precious little house being all burnt and ruined and..."
Jhudora had trailed off into a rant about her hatred of the earth faerie. How typical, Cera thought. Nothing's changed, she's always been like this. Jhudora was the most self-absorbed, selfish, evil being in Neopia, as far as Cera was concerned. But her opinion hadn't always been that, in fact, it had once been the complete opposite...
"Hello, Mother, how are you today?"
A beautiful, faerie Xweetok pranced into the room, and an aura of tranquility arose. Cera glanced lovingly at her mother, and then continued to paint her walls of her new room.
"I'm wonderful, Cera. I'm on level 49 of Jhudora's quests, can you believe it? We're so close to becoming insanely rich, my love. I can almost smell it. I'm going to cook, bake and stew this quest tomorrow!"
Cera loved her mother's optimism – it was something Cera had not inherited. However, her mother's idol, Jhudora, would always have a place in her heart. Anything that made her mother so delighted, Cera could not refuse. She had taken her new found idolising so far as to decorate her new room purple and green, in tribute of her very favourite dark faerie. She had never met her, but once she was old enough... she was going to visit her every day, too.
Cera's mother was always so happy.
It was a Tuesday morning, and Cera was eating her regular breakfast – Chia Cereal. On a typical day, she would finish her bowl of cereal just as her mother walked in, after a brisk walk through Faerie City and a very successful Jhudora quest. However, today, Cera slurped the last of the milk in her bowl without hearing the cheerful humming of her mother arriving. There was no rattle of the door handle, there was no melodic calling of Cera's name. Something was wrong.
Hours had passed before Cera's mother returned home. She looked horrendous; her fur was messy, her eyes were wet from what could only be seen as crying. Before Cera could ask what was wrong, her mother spoke softly.
"Jhudora's been very cruel to me, dearest. She asked for an item, rather expensive, might I add... but I got it in time. I ran to the Trading Post, and luckily someone was there. I was so happy, so, so, happy... I gave Jhudora the item... but she paused. She laughed. She... she didn't give me the prize, Cera! I wasted... millions of Neopoints... for nothing... I'm so sorry, Cera..." she quietened to a whisper, a mumble.
Cera still felt the need afterwards to visit Jhudora once she had grown up. She was never sure why – for revenge, curiosity, or to simply ask for an apology, she never knew. Jhudora welcomed her with open arms, perhaps she was planning on letting Cera fall into the same trap. She happily completed her quests for her, waiting for an opportunity to do or say what she was destined to, for the sake of her mother.
Her mother always watched her walk out the door, every day, with sorrow in her eyes. With caution. With anger. Cera always reassured her with a firm hug and a big smile. And she always gave her rewards to her mother. She never reached level 50, and never planned to... Cera was not going to let Jhudora hurt her family any more.
"Cera? Are you still there? What do you say, then? The reward is perfect for you, don't you think? I know you want this opportunity, Cera, just take it already!"
Cera grinned. She hadn't even heard the reward. What could Jhudora possibly offer that Cera would consider ‘perfect' for her? World domination, or a key to the basement of the Hidden Tower? Cera laughed at the thought. She had decided what she wanted.
With a swift flick of her ears, she gazed up to Jhudora with her most gracious smile.
"Jhudora. I appreciate you, I do. I appreciate the time we have had together. But now I think it is time for me to move on to other things. Perhaps more quests await me. After all, I am yet to see much outside of Faerieland." Cera considered being more harsh with the faerie – after all, she expected she had endured some attitude in the past – but decided against it. She knew all too well what the wrath of Jhudora felt like. "Thank you, again. I hope you find another Neopet to idolise you like I did."
Cera bowed, and turned around on her heels. She strolled away from the dark faerie's horrified face. Her mother awaited her with bright eyes, and the most calming and relieving expression imaginable. Cera reunited with her mother, and she left behind her, forever, Jhudora's Cloud.