Slippery Soup: Part Two
Nightfall was fast approaching and I soon realized just how much time had passed. The Faerieland sky turned dark and the stars could be seen clearly through the many windows in Fyora's castle. It was near time for lights out, yet I did not feel tired. Fyora's assignment hung over my head like a blanket. I was thoroughly excited and could not fall asleep. I tossed and turned, thinking of the challenges that the new assignment would bring.
Ah, the Soup Faerie. It was unimaginable how she managed to combine creativity with her excellence in culinary arts in order to create new soups that would not only fill the stomachs of the less fortunate Neopians but also give them a taste of wealth. It was that taste that allowed the less fortunate to forget about their problems and sorrows for a moment in order to enjoy the things that they had rather than dwell on the things that were missing from their lives. It wasn't just a place for Neopians with less than 3000 NP to get food. I hoped that I would be able to provide the same quality of service when I subbed for the Soup Faerie. I dreamt that I would one day be able to share this joy of helping others with the Soup Faerie. I wished that tomorrow would get here faster, so that I would be able to start helping Neopians right away.
Instead, I was tossing and turning, trying to get to sleep could not. Even counting babaas didn't work. Insomnia was a problem that I had always had, especially when I was excited. Time passed by slowly and although it was midnight, I still wasn't asleep. Finally, a knock at the door rescued me from my restless night. To my surprise, Fyora appeared in the doorway.
"Alysanne, are you alright? I felt a restless spirit in the castle. I knew you were very excited to go to Neopia Central and help in the Soup Kitchen so I thought that you might have been the restless one. I guess there is only one remedy. Let's go to Neopia Central right now. It'll be a midnight ride in the cloud racer," Fyora said.
I almost jumped for joy, but that joy was quickly diminished by fear.
"But Fyora... isn't it dangerous to fly at night, in the dark? What if we run into something? And you haven't gotten much sleep either. What if you fall asleep at the wheel?"
"Alysanne, does the title "Faerie Queen" mean nothing to you? I'm well experienced in cloud racing. I invented the cloud racer for goodness sakes! My racer has headlights and I've flown to Neopia Central countless times for meetings and boring political stuff. Don't worry, you're in safe hands," Fyora replied reassuringly.
"Alright, I guess we can go."
Fyora led me to the back dock of Faerieland, where cloud racers took off for long distance journeys. The takeoff ramp was lighted with orbs that contained stabilized Nova motes. The motes inside would not explode or cause any harm due to the magical charm placed on them by Siyana. They were beautiful orbs that seemed to be levitating above the ground. At the center of the ramp was Fyora's large pink racer; the one that seemed to cut everyone off during the game of Faerie Cloud Racers. I had never gotten a close look at her racer and realized that her racer had four pink leather seats, complete with seatbelts. At the center of the racer were four cupholders that were capable of warming themselves. The racer itself was washed and waxed to the point that even the reflection of the stars could be seen.
"Well make yourself comfortable while I start warming up the racer for flight. I'll let you choose your seat... except the driver's seat. I've seen you out at the Faerie Cloud Racetrack and your scores, hehe."
"Shh... don't tell anyone I'm a horrible driver."
"Your secret is safe with me. I don't gossip."
"You sure? All faeries gossip."
"I don't, so don't worry."
"Alright, I get the front passenger seat then."
"Alrighty. Faerie dust level, check. Wings, check. Brakes, check. Seatbelts *nudges Alysanne to buckle up*, check. Keys, check. Alright, ready to go."
Fyora inserted a complicated looking key with many teeth into the keyhole on the side of the steering wheel. The cloud racer vibrated a bit and then started up with a soft hum. There was then a soft jolt and before I knew it, we were floating in the air. Fyora then pressed a button and an almost blinding flash of a headlight occurred. Soon though, I was able to see all around me and the darkness of the sky suddenly faded away. Fyora put her foot down on the accelerator and the racer jolted forward and everything around me became sort of a blur.
"Aren't we going a bit too fast?" I asked.
"It's night and we're on the cloud racer expressway to Neopia Central. This is the speed you are supposed to go," Fyora replied reassuringly.
"What if someone cuts you off?"
"You're afraid, aren't you?"
"I'll slow down if it makes you feel better."
"No problem, I guess; we aren't in a real hurry to get there anyway."
Fyora took her foot of the accelerator and tapped the brakes gently, slowing the racer down. She also dimmed down the headlights as there was no longer a need to see a longer distance in front of her due to the reduced speed. I looked around and saw the stars twinkling around me. They seemed as if they were flying along with the racer.
"Want me to point out the constellations? Over there is Siyana, the First to Rise."
"Ah, I see. And that would be Jerdana right there?"
"Yes, and there's Psellia the Dreamer."
"Why do they call her that?"
"Call her what?"
"Oh, it's not because she's a slacker or anything. She just has these bizarre dreams that no other faeries have and well... we call her the Dreamer. She's quite fond of that nickname, actually."
"I see." I then yawned.
"Tired? You can get some sleep if you want to and I promise I won't speed up the racer while you're sleeping."
The soft hum of the racer and rocking motion created by the wind softly clicking the racer relaxed me and slowly but surely, I drifted off into a deep slumber. The next thing I knew, Fyora's voice began to resonate in my ear. At first it was soft and soothing, as if she was trying to lull me into deeper sleep; however, soon it wasn't so soft.
"Wake up, Alysanne! We are here already!" said the voice. Fyora then placed her scepter close to my ear and mumbled a spell that produced a sound resembling an alarm clock.
"Ugh... five more minutes, please," I begged. Then as if by instinct, I groped for an alarm clock to try to silence the surroundings. Instead, I got Fyora's scepter. Now if anybody had ever read or heard about Fyora's scepter, they'd know that it has a self defense mechanism that prevents what the faeries call "wand whisking", better known as theft of a wand. Anyway, Fyora's wand pretty much stuns anyone not authorized to use it. I found that out the hard way. I was jolted away by a sharp pain in my arm.
"ARGH! What was that, Fyora!?"
The Neopets walking along the street turned to see what was going on for I had just created quite a disturbance. When they saw Fyora, they quickly went about their business. Although Fyora was known for her gentleness and patience, it was a highly unintelligent idea to take advantage of those qualities. Fyora wouldn't hurt anybody, of course, but she would make you feel horrible for what you did. She'd treat you so nicely that you'd feel like you've just degraded yourself to less than dung status. However, it was embarrassing nonetheless to see every single Neopet in the marketplace stare at you for even a fraction of a second.
"Sorry, dear, that was an accident. I should have known that you'd instinctively grab anything that made a noise like an alarm clock. You grabbed my scepter and well... you probably already know that my scepter likes to defend itself. Are you okay or must I take you to the NeoHospital down the street?"
"No thanks," I replied, embarrassed that such a little jolt had caused such a commotion.
"No really, I think you should get checked out. You never know what our magic can do, even if used against our own kind."
"Alright, I guess you are probably right."
Fyora found a soft patch of grass to park her racer and tapped it twice with her scepter. I was astonished to see the racer slowly fade away into the surroundings as if it were a puddle of water evaporating into the sky.
"What just happened, Fyora?"
"Oh, I hide my racer. It's not that it would get stolen; it's that curious Neopets would want to take it for a spin without any intention of taking it for good. I fear that they might hurt themselves. It's best for the safety of the many Neopets that situate themselves in the vicinity of my racer."
Fyora then walked me over to the NeoHospital, supporting the arm that just sustained the stun injury on her shoulder. It was embarrassing enough to have screamed when the arm initially received the stun spell. Then to have the Neopets stare at me while my own queen dragged me over to the hospital; the day just seemed to be full of unfortunate events. Instinctively, I tried to shake my arm off Fyora's shoulder. A sharp pain shot right through my arm again.
"Why are you moving your arm? I put it there so you wouldn't get hurt. Is something wrong?"
"Let's try being honest, please."
"No, there is nothing wrong."
It was impossible to hide your emotions from Fyora, though. She managed to somehow detect anything superficial that came out of anyone's mouth. I quickly realized that she saw straight through my disguised embarrassment.
"Last chance, let's try being honest now."
"Yes, I'm dreadfully embarrassed."
"I'll remedy that for you then." She turned around to face the Neopets. "She's fine, you all shouldn't need to worry about her. Now run along and carry about your business. Come on, I know you are all sweet, well-behaved Neopets." She playfully waved her scepter around.
The Neopets scattered about, fearing that Fyora was about to transform every single one of them into meepits. We were soon at the front entrance of the NeoHospital. At the front stood a yellow Lenny ruffled feathers.
"Her arm has been hurt by a moderate level stun spell," Fyora said to the Lenny.
"Oh, let me get the door for you then, your Highness," squeaked the Lenny who gave a quick bow to Fyora.
"Oh, that's flattering but quite unnecessary. Thanks for the door, by the way."
Fyora led me in slowly and carefully trying with all her might not to bang my arm against the narrow frame of the door. The receptionist rushed over to greet us.
"What do we have here?" she asked.
"Alysanne just got her arm zapped with a moderate stun spell. I think we just need a Healing Potion IV for this case," Fyora said.
"Oh, Fyora... aren't you always the better doctor?" the receptionist replied, smiling.
"Well, I did learn some of this "doctor" stuff when I was a young faerie. I just felt like that I should be doing something more than just sitting on my throne and pretending to be a grouchy queen."
"Yes, I'll ask for some of that healing potion. Alysanne, Fyora, please have a seat in the waiting room."
Fyora and I sat in the waiting room for a while, but suddenly a familiar face rolled down the corridor. In a rolling bed and casts on both her left arm and left leg was the Soup Faerie. Her left wing was slightly bent out of shape. She also appeared to be quite tired; her eyes drooping a bit. However, despite her miserable situation, she still mustered a smile at us and waved using her healthy arm. Pushing her was a faerie Kacheek nurse.
"Ah... Fyora. Perhaps you would like a word with the Soup Faerie, I presume. Please make haste, though, she needs rest," said the nurse.
"Why hello, Fyora. It is pleasant seeing you again," the Soup Faerie said. Her voice was slightly fatigued and strained. Nonetheless, it was still understandable.
"Srelena... I didn't realize it was this bad. Didn't you tell me it was just your hip?"
"I did not want you to worry, but now that you're here... I guess that can't be helped now."
"Srelena?" I commented, confused.
"Oh, that is her true name. She more famously known as the Soup Faerie. My apologies, I forgot to disclose this," Fyora answered.
"Oh, who's this pretty young faerie?" Srelena asked.
"She'll be your substitute while you are on your way to recovery. She's very excited to get started that she couldn't sleep. She couldn't even wait to get here, isn't that right, Alysanne?"
I was quite irritated that Fyora introduced me to the Soup Faerie rather than allowing me to introduce myself. She was the queen, all right, but did she have to seem so important?
"Oh, I see. I hope you enjoy my job as much as I enjoy it. If you need any help, remember, I'll always be here. I don't usually use a recipe book but you may find it up in the cabinet above the oven. All the ingredients are in the fridge and they should last you quite a long time. Thanks for offering to help me. I know you can do it," Srelena exhorted.
"Thanks, Srelena," I replied.
"The Soup Faerie must rest now please," said the Kacheek nurse.
We watched as the Kacheek rolled the bed back down the corridor to the Soup Faerie's hospital room. Fyora and I sat back down. This was when I began my rant.
"I have an articulate mouth, you know, Fyora," I said, grudgingly.
"Pardon me, my dear?" Fyora replied, as if she didn't understand my rant.
"You don't have to speak for me. I'm perfectly capable, thank you very much."
"Alysanne, are you angry with me?"
"I'm sorry, I could make it up to you...."
I cut her off, which was probably not the best thing to do to a queen.
"No, I don't want a bribe. You can give me anything in Neopia and that wouldn't make up for what you did."
"Ok! That's it. No, you do not cut me off like that. Understand?"
"Yeah, you know how it feels too, huh? You totally destroyed my chance to introduce myself. It's important for me to introduce me to the Soup Faerie, not you. I can state my qualifications and exert my passion for this job in a way that you can't."
Fyora stared at me for a moment, bewildered. She didn't wear an expression of anger but there wasn't a usual faerie queen smile either. She kept a straight face. After what seemed like an eternity, Fyora mustered a faint smile and patted me on the back.
"I'm sorry. I do care about you very much, but my status as queen leads me to be proud at times. As a result, I unintentionally hurt others in that way. It's something I need to work on, I know. Thank you for bringing this to my attention again and I apologize for my outrageous behavior."
She held out her hand. I took and and we shook, indicating reconciliation. At that moment, a squeaky cart rolled up into the waiting room, pushed by the Kacheek.
"Here you are, one bottle of Healing Potion IV. Make sure you drink it all and wash it down with a bottle of water."
She presented me with a bottle of light purple liquid and a bottle of water. I took the bottles, pinched my nose and gulped down the Healing Potion IV, trying my hardest to keep from gagging. All healing potions have a bitter taste, with the stronger ones so bitter that they must be sweetened before they are administered. At that point, I would rather drink a Dewberry Reviver or an Essence of Everlasting Apple. I then gulped down the bottle of water in a few seconds. Almost immediately, the pain in my arm disappeared and I felt revitalized, with all the energy that had been removed by the stun spell regenerated.
"Alright, I will lead you over to the Soup Faerie's home and kitchen. You do not have to begin tonight, the Neopians will not be expecting a substitute until tomorrow morning. Go and get plenty of rest before your big day tomorrow," Fyora suggested.
"Yes, Fyora. Let's go. I will have a great time tomorrow."
I followed Fyora down the main street of Neopia Central. The Soup Faerie's Kitchen would be a few kilometers west near the entrance of the busy marketplace. Neopia Central seemed a lot smaller on the maps that I had observed, however, walking through it made it seem gigantic. There was also tons of loud commotion on the streets. Young Neopets were running around, their owners trying their hardest to keep their patience and watch over their Neopets. Carts of produce were moving back and forth along the cobblestone streets, the Neopets pushing them shouting "Fresh vegetables! Locally grown! Get 'em while they're still fresh!". All these noises were deafening and it was quite obvious that Fyora was uncomfortable with them too.
"Let's just fly. Forget official protocol for a moment and spread your wings," Fyora said at last.
It felt awfully refreshing to stretch out my wings and enter into a steady flight. Flying over Neopia Central was a spectacular sight. The crowded streets grew further and further away and the busy metropolis could be viewed up above; little Neopets scurrying to business meetings, shopping and running errands. At the same time, the building themselves were quite grand. The giant food shop shaped like a hamburger and book shaped building next door stood out quite obviously. The view from higher altitude was quite magnificent. Now I knew exactly how Fyora felt, spying on Neopia through her spectacles from the Hidden Tower. A sense of power it was. Unfortunately, that power would be lost as soon as I obtained it as Fyora pointed out the large cauldron shaped building up ahead.
"See that building? That's where Srelena's kitchen is situated. We ought to land quietly so as not to disturb the shoppers in the marketplace. I've signed enough autographs for probably the rest of my life."
The house had a large vegetable garden behind it, likely where Srelena got all her herbs and vegetables for her spectacular concoctions.
The vegetables were planted in an obscure pattern, not in straight rows but not scattered about either. Then it became clear. They were all arranged to create the outline of a pair of faerie wings with the largest pair enclosing a subsequently smaller pair until my eyes met the center of the arrangement where a wheelbarrow sat, wondering where her owner had gone, neglected in the soil with bags of un-planted seed sitting patiently inside. Beyond the garden was a high fence, dividing the marketplace from the soup kitchen. Even the fence was aesthetically pleasing with small murals of bowls of soup that Srelena had created from her culinary creativity.
"Did she paint those?" I inquired curiously.
"Oh, no, those are the expressions of gratitude from the Neopets that passed by. Srelena openly admits that her creativity in the culinary arts does not transfer into the arena of visual arts. Now let's get you all good and settled inside."
The wooden door squeaked open and admitted both of us. There, in the middle sat Neopia's greatest symbols of benevolence, compassion, and charity: Srelena's cauldron and ladle.
They shone in the sunlight that gently peered through the circular windows around the kitchen. The counter was white and spotless, glistening in the sunlight. There was a shiny metal stove range, complete with an oven. Above the stove was a set of cabinets, one labeled "Herbs and Spices" and another labeled "Sauteing Pans" and still another labeled "Experimental Pots" and finally one labeled "Recipes". I reached out and opened this cabinet and found one large, thick spiral bound book with a bland yellow cover with "Recipes" neatly written in cursive across the front.
"I suppose you won't be needing me anymore," Fyora said.
"Umm... I guess not, Fyora. I guess this is goodbye for now," I replied. It was a lukewarm feeling. I was full of excitement to take over the Soup Faerie's job of feeding Neopia, but at the same time, I was sad to see the Faerie Queen go. It just wasn't the same as working in the palace where Fyora frequently made her rounds to all the little faerie offices, checking to see if everyone was on task and addressing the little concerns.
"You'll do a fine job, Alysanne. I have to go back to Faerieland now; I've left long enough. Drop me a neomail from time to time. Goodbye, Alysanne!"
Fyora smiled, stepped forward, enclosed me in her warm embrace, and stepped back. She flapped her wings and began to ascend into the sky. From the sky, I could see her waving down at me. And then, she flew away, her figure slowly fading away into the clouds.
To be continued...