The Messenger: Part Four
After giving her the window, Athiene and Rasala had some tea and chatted until it was time for Rasala to get back on the ship. It was a sad goodbye, both of them crying as they hugged each other by the gates, but Rasala knew she could not turn back now, and Athiene had too much to do at home to continue with her. So, eventually, the Wocky made her way back onto the large ship, where she took the stained glass to her room and wrapped it in a piece of clothing from her bag. She nestled it carefully in with the other two items, and then she went back out onto the main deck, since she didn’t quite feel like being alone.
The last leg of the journey seemed terribly long, first because Rasala was lonely, and then because her excitement was finally starting to grow again. As the ship slowly made its way closer to Terror Mountain, the temperature began to drop, and when Rasala awoke one morning and realized that she could see her breath when she spoke, she knew they were almost there; from then on, she spent every day out on the main deck, even when all of the other passengers kept indoors.
“Excuse me,” she asked a crew member one particularly cold morning, as she noticed something white in the distance, “how long until we reach Terror Mountain?”
“Why, I believe we’re to dock there in a few hours time,” the crewman, a strapping young Gelert that was carrying in the beach chairs that were starting to freeze over, said. “By noon, I think the captain said. Better layer yourself, though; apparently it’s even colder on land than it is out here.”
Rasala did not own any winter clothing, as there was no need for it in a place like Mystery Island, but she thanked the crewman for his help and went merrily back to her room, finding what she could to wear and then packing all of her belongings up. She knew she would not make it back to the ship in time today, as she had to travel to the top of the mountain to see Taelia. She had planned this out in advance, however, and she had lodgings set up for the night, with the idea to wait until another ship came by the next morning, heading in the opposite direction.
When the ship did dock, Rasala was the first one off-board. She carried her bags carefully, not wanting to disrupt her found items, as she made her way into the quaint little village of Happy Valley. It was marvelous, and although Rasala could already feel the bitter cold running up her legs from where her paws nestled against the snow, she was perfectly happy as she was.
She took her time going through the village, primarily because she wasn’t quite sure where she was to go, but it proved helpful to her. One neopet, a Christmas Bruce, gave her directions to the mountain, and warned her of the Snowager in the Ice Caves. Another, a young snow Ixi about Rasala’s age, gave her a sweater and a scarf to wear, as she said it was far too cold up so high for the clothing Rasala had on. The Wocky was extremely grateful for their help, and was glad that she had come across them, even though their brief presence made her think of Athiene. She planned to visit the Blumaroo again on her way back to Mystery Island when her task was complete, but she still wished her companion was there with her now, so that she didn’t have to make the difficult trek alone.
However, Rasala was not one to give up, and she did make the trek, even though there was no one else to tag along. She was surprised at how cold the mountain could get, as it got worse and worse as she moved upwards towards the sky, and the snow that started out flaky and nice grew to be icy and hard as it slapped against her fur.
“This is much worse than home,” she thought aloud as she struggled over a snow bank, her paws slipping on the ice-covered surface. Horrendous winds battered her constantly, and when she finally did reach the top, she thought would collapse from exhaustion. Strangely enough, however, seeing the village of Terror Mountain gave her strength, an extra boost that was much needed. She had begun to half-believe the town would not even be there when she arrived, or that she would just continue to climb forever and ever with no avail. Seeing the small houses, the shops, and the games was a huge relief to her conscience, and, of course, nothing was more gratifying than seeing the home of the Snow Faerie, only a short trek away.
Rasala was shaking when she approached the snow-covered building, and only part of that was from the cold. She was so nervous, hoping beyond anything that her dream was right, that she could not make herself enter the giant igloo when she got there. Instead, she stood in the snow for several moments, her body frozen as if she was a snow sculpture herself, until the door swung open for her, and a burst of warm air swirled around her and carried her inside.
“Come in, Rasala,” a soft yet strong voice said to her as the warm air settled and the Wocky found herself standing just inside the doorway. The voice was the most graceful thing Rasala had ever heard, and she recognized it instantly; it was Taelia’s voice, and it was only a second more before the Snow Faerie came into view.
“Y-you kn-know me?” Rasala stuttered, wondering if the figure in front of her was just an illusion. She was beautiful, and her faerie charms made her seem not quite real.
“Of course.” Taelia smiled, her thick hood up, even though inside the igloo it was warm. “I am sure you remember.”
“Yes.” Rasala nodded, the full impact of her situation starting to sink in. It was unbelievable that she was really here, and that her dream had, in fact, been true. For so long so many people had told her otherwise that part of her had believed it was fake, but now she had proof that it was all real, as Taelia approached her with outstretched arms.
“So, did you bring me my items?” the faerie asked, and Rasala nodded, her fur becoming damp as lingering snow started to melt.
“I did,” she replied, putting her bag with the items in it gently on the floor. “But first, can I ask you something?”
“Of course,” Taelia said, and she motioned for Rasala to sit at a little table that the Wocky was sure had not been there only seconds before. She took a seat, and was surprised when a cup of hot chocolate appeared in front of her.
“Well,” Rasala started, wrapping her paws around the warm mug, “why me? Why did you visit me so long ago? I was little and far away from you, and it just doesn’t make sense. Why in a dream? And why did you ask for items in a riddle?” She took a deep breath, hoping the faerie was not angry at her persistence, and she smiled when she saw that Taelia was not upset.
“I thought you may have wanted to ask such things,” she said instead, and she took the seat opposite Rasala. “For years, I have wanted a messenger. Someone to fetch me ingredients for spells, ingredients that come from all over Neopia. I searched high and low for the perfect candidates, and slowly picked five that I liked. You were one of them, Rasala, and the fact that you were young had nothing to do with it. I knew that the five of you would help me get the items I needed, but I wanted to make absolutely sure, so I visited you in the form of a dream, and gave you the item names in the form of riddles. This way, it would not be easy for you to achieve your goal, and I would know that you were willing to work hard for me.”
“Have any of the others brought you items yet?” Rasala asked, eager to meet the other neopets she spoke of. Knowing that she was picked by Taelia herself was a great honour, but the fact that there were others that shared her dream, well, that was something special, too.
“You are the third of five.” Taelia smiled. “The first two now regularly help me on quests, and I have confidence that the remaining two will be here someday soon. I would love to have all five of you to help me when I need it, if you are willing, of course.”
“Oh, definitely!” Rasala exclaimed as she finished a sip of her drink.
“Good, I’m glad,” Taelia nodded, and then she looked back to the bag. “Can I see the items now?” she asked then, and Rasala went across the room and grabbed the bag. She placed it gently on the table before them, and then took out each of the three items. She waited with baited breath as Taelia studied each item, picking them up, feeling them, smelling them, and weighing them in her hands. Then she turned to Rasala, who looked at her with big eyes.
“Well,” she said nervously, her tail swishing from side to side. She expected a smile, or a congratulations, and was therefore very shocked when Taelia shook her head.
“These are not the items I asked for,” she said somberly, and Rasala was silent, her eyes stunned. “Two are correct, but one is not.” She moved the burger and window away, leaving the sand in the middle of the table. “Find me the correct final item, and you’ll have your post as a messenger.”
“But—” Rasala started, not knowing what else to say. She had worked so hard; how could she have been incorrect? She stared at the pot on the table for a long time, saying the riddle over and over in her head. Air carried sand, fire melted it, it existed on land, and sand castles were created and destroyed by water. Sand was the perfect explanation, and yet, it was apparently wrong. Tears began to well in Rasala’s eyes once more, and Taelia stood up. She patted the Wocky on the head and smiled at her with sympathy, though she did not offer further help.
“Think, dear girl,” she said simply, and then she sat back down and pulled her hood up so far that her eyes were no longer visible.
“Sand, it has to be sand,” Rasala mumbled to herself, and she sat back down, too, feeling devastated. She couldn’t go back to Mystery Island having failed her quest, especially know that she knew the dream had been real. But what was she going to do? The answer was sand; she knew it had to be, but there was something wrong, something she just wasn’t getting. She stared at the pot, thinking of her time in the Lost Desert, trying to think if there was anything she had missed. She looked at the pyramid, and suddenly a thought flashed across her mind. What if it was sand? What if that part of the riddle had been right, but the other part had been wrong? What if it was sand, but not from the Lost Desert?
Rasala looked across the table into the darkness of Taelia’s hood. She thought about the riddle once more, and recited it over and over again in her head.
“Land of sections lost,” she said, tapping her paws on the table. “Tombs, ghosts... that all fits,” she said, and she sighed heavily. “Land of sections lost. Land of...” She stopped, and looked up at Taelia again. “Land of *sections* lost. The Lost Desert was lost altogether. But where had only sections lost?”
It didn’t take her long to figure out the answer to that question, however. “My home,” she said quietly, and instantly the rest of the riddle fell into place. Geraptiku was a section of Mystery Island, and it had been lost. There was tomb there, and it was said that if you were not careful, you could come across some unkind things, even ghosts. The two lands had much in common, but the slight differences meant everything to Taelia. The Snow Faerie pulled back her hood when Rasala made her realization, and she nodded once, a small smile on her lips.
“Can you find me my item?” she asked, and Rasala nodded, her body feeling exhausted. The thought of returning home only to come back here again was not the most pleasant, and she wondered if perhaps being a messenger would be so great after all. She definitely would not want to live on Terror Mountain, and making that long of a trip all of the time would be very tiresome. However, she had still been rather excited by the prospect of the position, and she intended to finish her task, even if it did take a long time. She stood up again and grabbed her bag, and she had just reached the doorway when she stopped again.
Slowly, Rasala turned around. She placed the bag on the floor, and opened the side compartment. Inside was the small bottle of sand she had collected from the island before she had left on her journey, and now she wondered if she had gathered enough of it. She held the bottle silently up, and Taelia just stared at it for a long while before nodding. She came over to Rasala and took the small bottle, and then smiled and nodded again.
“You’ve done it; I knew you could,” she said, and Rasala smiled, too, though hers was short lived. She thought of the journey again, and of home, and she sighed a little as she zipped up her bag once more.
“I don’t think I can be a messenger for you,” she said sadly, although Taelia seemed to ignore her, as she gathered the items and began to cast a spell. It was fascinating, and momentarily Rasala forgot everything else. She watched the magic at work as the Snow Faerie placed all of the items together and added in some ingredients of her own, the colours of the spell coming together to create a brilliant light that filled the room. The scent of something sweet wafted into the air, and Rasala closed her eyes, breathing it in until she could smell it no more.
When she opened her eyes again, Taelia was standing in front of her, holding something small in her hands. It was a necklace, a golden star that sparkled hanging at the bottom of it. The Snow Faerie handed it to Rasala, and then nodded again.
“You will be my messenger,” she said, as Rasala stared at the beautiful necklace. “This necklace will allow you to go wherever you chose, with the help of magic. When I summon you, you can come here to my home instantly, and you can travel Neopia with the greatest of ease. When I need you, that necklace will glow, and you need only to grasp it in your paw and say my name to come here.”
“Thank you,” Rasala said, slipping the necklace over her head and feeling its magic radiate around her. “I won’t let you down.”
“I know,” Taelia said, taking her hood off her head for the first time. “I know.”