A Change By Chance
Crunching along the gravel path to Illusen’s cottage one hazy spring morning, Liaou noticed the locals were watching, as if agitated or nervous. They stood huddled with other Neopets, chatting - no - twittering, amongst themselves. She continued to the door until an old Lupe approached her.
“I wouldn’t try a quest today, young lady. She’s not herself. Really, not herself.”
The Lupe stared at the Faerie Poogle, wondering what she would do with his advice. Liaou pondered for a moment.
“Well, maybe I can help.”
Liaou ushered the Lupe aside, with much force, until he was no longer in her path. She wandered into the cottage. It was eerily quiet. Usually, it was filled with the sound of Illusen’s beautiful singing.
“Illusen?” she croaked. Suddenly, there was a shuffle, somewhere in the back of the cottage. Liaou moved closer to the dangling vines hiding the back room from view. She pushed them aside slowly and gasped.
~ 10 Hours Earlier ~
Illusen danced and skipped her way back to her cottage. It was nearing midnight and she had just attended a Meridell dance, one of many they have every spring and summer. She bid goodnight to all of her friends and went inside. There was something different. A shiny, but odd-looking potion sat on her desk, a ribbon tied around it. She noticed it straight away – Illusen had an eye for all things shiny and enchanting. She went to it and pulled a card from the ribbon.
‘Lu, just got this! It will bring endless beauty! Enjoy, Jhud’
“How thoughtful!” she squealed. Her friend Jhudora rarely brought gifts, but they were usually all pretty special. Illusen was a vain creature, obsessed with looking and feeling good. She took the potion into her hands and without thinking, guzzled every drop. The fur on the bottle, or the fact the liquid was brown, didn’t seem to faze her. With that, she went to bed, dreaming of the effects of her mysteriously gifted potion.
Through the shadows in the back room of the cottage, Liaou noticed the smell first, followed closely by the ears. They were large, and flopped over to the front.
“Illusen?” she whispered.
“What do you want? GO AWAY!” the creature screamed. Liaou stumbled backwards into the front room of the cottage and turned on her heels. However, something made her stop. Maybe it was compassion in the young Neopet’s heart, to help. She approached the shadows again, only to find a light, and turn it on.
“Mutant Gnorbu!?” she gasped, horrified. The Gnorbu was smelly and oversized. Its eyes crossed and its fur was matted with dirt.
“Yes, well done, you. Now get lost.” The Gnorbu, or Illusen, went to find a dark corner of the room to sit down. Despite the odd smell, Liaou followed. She sat on the floor beside her.
“Clearly, I’m not doing quests today. Would you go? I’d rather not be stared at for the wrong reasons.” Yet, Liaou couldn’t help but stare for the wrong reasons.
“I want to help. What happen--”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Illusen snapped back. Noticing the Neopet had sprung back in fright, Illusen calmed her voice. She forgot how menacing her new appearance was.
“A potion... transmogrification potion, I think. I don’t know what to do. I’m so ashamed, I can’t bear to show myself.”
Liaou sprang to her feet, excited. “I know exactly what you need!”
Illusen stared at the Poogle, jumping on the spot and looking a little too smug. When she was pushed up to standing, Illusen suddenly snapped her mouth around Liaou’s paw.
“Ouch!” Liaou leapt back and yanked her paw to her chest. “What was that for?”
Illusen perched back down onto the floor, snarling. “Who said I wanted your help?”
Now, such a Neopet, who faithfully completed Illusen’s quests to help her, was amazed to see such true colours emerge. Colours of a selfish, vile, mutant, Gnorbu.
“Fine. Stay a Gnorbu. Let’s see how many people favour Jhudora over you now!” Liaou stormed out of the cottage, angry and hurt. The twittering locals who were hesitantly gazing on Liaou’s approach were now silent, their stares fixed upon the Neopet and the cottage. Within moments, a poor limping creature emerged from the cottage behind the poogle. After the initial gasp, all that followed was silence as the Poogle, and the Gnorbu trailing behind, made their way through Meridell.
After what seemed like hours of silence and stares from Neopets and their owners on their travels, they arrived at Liaou’s Neohome. It was a small cottage in the woods behind a bookshop. Illusen sat down, only to be ushered up again by the Poogle.
“Not on the clean floor! To the bathroom, now. My siblings and owner are out fishing for the day, so we should be okay for time”
The whimpering Gnorbu stared, fixated, at Liaou’s collection of grooming products. Illusen loved to groom herself, when she was beautiful. The thought of being touched by a Neopet, regular and inferior, was just unheard of – even if she was now a Gnorbu and not a beautiful faerie.
“I thought you knew how to change me back?” Illusen sneered, pulling away from the Neopet as she tried to brush through the matted fur.
“I do. I think a Mysterious Swirly Potion will do the trick.” Liaou started rubbing shampoo onto Illusen’s rough skin. Illusen snapped at her paw again, only to be given a menacing stare in return. Illusen refrained.
“Then give me it already, so I don’t have to stay here much longer!” Liaou was only too used to Illusen’s nasty attitude already, which she had suspected was the way the faerie always was, Gnorbu or not.
“I can’t afford it. You are spending a day with me, while I acquire some Neopoints.” The Gnorbu looked up, hair covered in soapy bubbles, skin shimmering. Liaou laughed. “I just needed you to smell better, first!” Illusen could only grimace as the odd Faerie Poogle finished grooming her. How the tables had turned. She had once too often laughed at owners and pathetic Neopets as they walked away empty handed from her quests. Now, here she was; vulnerable, grumpy, and ugly.
Liaou and the Gnorbu, now a much better pairing, headed to the trading post first. People still stared and giggled, but were no longer repulsed. It was a good sign.
“So what are you doing?” Illusen sheepishly asked, thankful that at least these Neopets didn’t know her true identity. Liaou placed a book on a table, and placed a sign beside it, letting people know it was for sale. She shouted, and tried to usher people to her, but no one was really listening.
“I’m trying to sell this. I’ve had it for two weeks now. No one wants it.” Illusen noticed that it was a book she had asked for on numerous quests. It was really rare!
“How come no one wants it? Why is his table so busy?” A glorious Desert Draik sat five tables away from Liaou and Illusen. He was selling paint brushes - beautiful, shiny, paint brushes.
“Books aren’t profit. These people buy and sell on. It’s not worth it... let’s go.” Illusen felt a pang of guilt for the Poogle. Or maybe she was feeling sorry for herself, since no money was being made towards her potion.
“Hey, you!’ Illusen called out to a Royal Kyrii, hurrying past with a bag of Neopoints. She stared for a minute, sneering that an ugly Gnorbu had gotten her attention. “Buy my sister’s book.” Liaou stared at Illusen. Had she really just called her...?
The Kyrii turned to Liaou. “100k. Just because I feel sorry for your ugly sister!” The Kyrii interrupted Liaou’s thoughts, laughing, and dropped a bag of Neopoints on the table. Without being able to get a word in, Illusen threw the book at the neopet and she skipped off. Illusen stomped out of the trading post, Liaou hurrying to keep up.
“That book was worth so much more than that, Illusen! How dare you!”
Illusen collapsed in a heap outside the trading post. “I just wanted her gone. She was rude. At least we have money for my potion.”
Liaou pondered for a moment. “Illusen, did you call me... what I thought you called me... back there?”
“Don’t get too excited. It’s not like I think of you like that.” With that, the unlikely pair made their way to the main shops. Illusen didn’t speak to Liaou, and she wasn’t spoken to, either. They reached the magic shop. There were queues outside. Liaou peered through the window of the shop. It was really busy.
“Aren’t you going in?” Illusen sneered from behind her.
“No... I’m not good enough to buy from here. No one listens to me when I try to haggle on an item.” Liaou turned to leave, and noticed that Illusen was no longer behind her. There were a few shouts from inside the shop and three small Neopets emerged, looking annoyed.
“Ugh, since when is the magic shop so packed? It’s way too crowded. Let’s go over to the toy shop.”
Liaou smiled to herself. If there was anything useful this Gnorbu could do, it was to rid an area of crowds. She shuffled her way inside past the other Neopets. Lots were edgy and grumpy. Many looked like they just needed to go to bed. Sure enough, Illusen had pushed her way to the front, amongst some disgusted faces.
“What’s the big deal? There’s nothing in here. The shelves are empty!” Before Liaou could say anything in reply, Kauvara, the owner of the shop, popped up from behind the counter after rummaging through her stock.
“I have a Cloud Lupe Morphing Potion here, taking offers!”
Liaou raised her hand and began to shout when a Rainbow Kacheek pushed her aside and shouted louder: “I will pay twenty six thousand, two hundred and sixty two Neopoints!”
“Sold!” Kauvara said. A few disgruntled Neopets left the shop. The Kacheek who got the morphing potion laughed and told Liaou she just wasn’t fast enough. Illusen sneered.
“Are they always this rude?”
A sideways glance and a smirk from Liaou, and Illusen knew exactly what she was thinking. ”Like you, you mean?”
Illusen didn’t speak again. She realised she was just like most of these Neopets: vulgar. It matched her appearance. Suddenly, interrupting Illusen's thought, Kauvara and her assistants held up three morphing potions at once.
“Plushie Quiggle Morphing Potion, Pink Draik Morphing Potion, Baby Koi Morphing Potion!”
The shouts that filled the shop could have deafened an Elephante. Liaou reached for the Plushie potion, shouting, and was pushed over. Illusen’s instinct leapt in and she knew it was up to her. She and another Neopet shouted at identical times.
“Five hundred and forty five thousand, three hundred and forty five Neopoints!” the competing Neopet shrieked.
“Fifty four thousand, five hundred and fifty four Neopoints!” Illusen boomed over her. Kauvara handed Illusen the potion, stating that the other girl had haggled just a bit too much for it. Liaou rushed over to Illusen in shock. They both leapt with glee.
“You did it, Illusen, I can’t believe it!”
Illusen’s smile - even if it was crooked – was genuine. She felt a surge of pride for helping Liaou, and not just because she was helping herself. Illusen waited outside to admire Neopia Central, whilst Liaou paid at the till. Having lived in Meridell for most of her life, she breathed in the new air.
An hour later, Illusen had fallen asleep on the potion, and awoke to excited squeals from an elated Liaou.
“I got another one! A Darigan Kyrii Morphing Potion!”
Illusen rolled over to an upright position, and yelled, annoyed, “Why did you need two? I’ve been waiting for ages!”
Liaou placed both potions into her backpack and started walking, ushering for the Gnorbu to follow.
“It’s a secret!” Liaou whispered excitedly.
As they walked back to the trading post, it was nearing dusk. It was busier, and more people were buying items. This time, selling was much easier, and it had been barely thirty minutes before a small Halloween Usul offered to swap his Mysterious Swirly Potion for their Darigan Kyrii Morphing Potion. Illusen was so elated, she ran up to the Usul to hug him, only to be cruelly reminded of her state when he ran from her, screaming.
The journey back through to Meridell was fun that evening. Liaou and Illusen shared jokes, stories, and managed to frighten at least ten Neopets with Illusen’s Gnorbu antics.
Crunching up the familiar gravel path to Illusen’s cottage, the same local Meridellians stared. Illusen the Mutant Gnorbu stared right back, smiling.
“Quests back in business tomorrow!” she delightfully shouted. Liaou had the feeling her quests wouldn’t be quite as popular for a little while.
They entered her cottage together, and Illusen looked up at her saviour with greed in her eyes.
“The potion! Now!” She grabbed it from Liaou’s paws as quickly as she had removed it from her backpack. She guzzled every last drop of the liquid with her eyes closed.
Within a matter of moments, the Gnorbu writhed and tossed and turned, almost mutating again. Suddenly, Illusen the earth faerie emerged sprawled on the floor, her hair messy and dirt over her face. Illusen stood, dizzy, and gazed at her appearance in the mirror.
“I’m beautiful again! I can’t believe it! Look at me! My soft skin! My lovely hair!” This show of self-adoration was not a surprise to Liaou, and she turned to leave, back to her siblings who really adored and missed her.
“Liaou – wait! I’m sorry for the way I’ve been. It’s just the way I am, I really can’t help it.” Illusen could see her speech wasn’t getting her anywhere. “Thank you for opening my eyes to the real Neopia. I will no longer take pets for granted, because of how they look.”
Liaou turned and smiled, Illusen really had made a change in herself, even if it was small. She opened her backpack and removed the morphing potion, setting it onto Illusen’s desk.
“This is for you – a gift, from me.”
Illusen picked up the bizarre looking potion, and stared, blankly. “What would I do with it?” Illusen asked, puzzled.
Liaou walked to the door, and smiled. “I think there may be a certain faerie named Jhudora who needs her ‘just desserts’. Besides, have you ever seen a Plushie Quiggle?” Laughing, Illusen picked up the potion.
“How did you know that’s who gave me the transmogrification potion?”
Liaou giggled and stepped into the night. “Well, it’s common knowledge that she detests you!” She walked away laughing, down the gravel path back to Neopia Central.
Illusen stared after her in shock. It was clearly unbeknown to her that she was an enemy of Jhudora. She closed the door of her cottage, potion in hand – and plotted her revenge.