Fyora had the most beautiful flowers in Neopia, but they were unseen by the public.
They grew from lush, dark green velvet vines that twisted and turned in a cacophony of dizzied motion. They twirled circles around each other, the leaves adorning them in simply playful brushes as they glided past. The flowers that topped their beautiful bodies were the exact color of the deepest Maraquan sea, unfurling their petals with perfect grace and elegance, and their dancing bodies were merely a tribute to their beauty. Weaving across the flowers, an intricate design was inscribed, full of deep meaning. The pale yellow pistils peeked out shyly from their openings, looking for a chance to bewilder someone with their dazzling beauty as they sat in cold, damp room.
But what if someone saw these beautiful flowers? What if someone gave those pale yellow pistils the satisfaction of looking?
“What I’m trying to tell you,” Fyora explained to her servant, “is that it might not be ready by tonight. Though I really want to get it done...” The Faerie Queen looked up to the sky, wondering, and then turned back to the awaiting faerie Gelert. “See if you can get some water faeries to help the Fountain Faerie make her ice sculpture. And pick some quiet ones, too. You know how that faerie loves to go on with her cynical rants.”
Celandra nodded and bowed before leaving the Queen to her thoughts and work. There was going to be a grand ball tonight, full of festive dancing for Fyora’s birthday. Fyora was determined to plan it all out herself, as she had told her mother two months ago. But then wasn’t now, when there were so many things not yet done, so many RSVPs not collected... What a nightmare! Fyora thought.
Just then, a white Lupe—Fyora noticed that she was the one who talked a lot and swept the front hall—came up to her, without so much as a knock at the door. She was breathless, chocking out a couple of words: “Madam, Illusen’s here!” She bent over on her knees, gasping for breath. Has she run up the stairs? Fyora wondered.
Fyora ushered the winded Lupe into a seat before flitting down the marble stairs. The set of stairs down which she walked was a plain light mauve, and an elegant banister wove its way along the winding staircase. Despite its plainness, it was beautiful, like many of the things in her castle. But even so, it was just an illusion of the bright happiness that seemed to echo across the walls. Just like the faux smile that spread across her face at the moment for whoever was at the door—she didn’t have much time to deal with Neopets begging for quests.
At the end of the stairs, she looked up from the painted walls to a figure dressed in green, staring in wonder at the cavernous front hall, two bags in tow. “Illusen!” Fyora cried out, getting the faerie’s attention, a true grin spread across her face. The Queen enveloped her in a deep hug, which was returned with vigor by Illusen.
Illusen pulled away and looked at Fyora. “You look so happy,” she appraised, her lips curling into a wide smile.
Fyora laughed; it was like a great tinkling of bells. “Of course I’m happy!” she told the Earth Faerie. “My best friend is here! Albeit a bit early.” Fyora winked.
Illusen laughed along with her. “So how old are you turning this year? Five hundred twelve?” she teased.
“Please! I’m not that young. Way older than that.”
“Three thousand and five? Two thousand four hundred fifty-five? Four thousand eighty-eight?” She threw out a bunch of numbers at Fyora as if she was on Neopia’s Greatest Quiz Show.
“I’m not telling you, Sen,” she informed her, feeling like a child as she smiled proudly. She changed the subject. “So, where do you want to stay? East wing or west wing?”
Illusen’s wide smile turned to a grim line. “The one Jhudora’s not in, if you would, please.” Her jade eyes had turned hard as stone, with only a deeply repressed spark of anger in them, and her hands had unconsciously clenched.
“East wing it is.” Fyora turned Illusen in the direction. Desperate for a chance to divert the conversation to something more pleasant, she said the first thing that popped into her head. “So how did you and your sister get so far apart, anyway?” Immediately after the thought popped out, she clapped her hand over her mouth. So much for diverting the conversation.
The grim line on Illusen’s face grew, and she herself instead switched subjects. “How has the planning and setting up been going?”
Fyora smiled, grateful for a friend who could easily get over things and move on. “A little less than perfect,” she answered, wincing. “It’s been... rough. I mean, the Fountain Faerie’s ice sculpture is nowhere near done, the courtyard barely has enough space to hold the amount of Neopets I’ve invited plus a dance floor, and the air faeries haven’t even detailed their routine yet! Not to mention all the little tiffs along the way.” She looked up to the shimmering ceiling. Never had she imagined that planning a party would be this hard.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Illusen comforted Fyora. “Nothing less than the best for the Faerie Queen.” She dropped her voice. “And the flowers... are they hidden?”
“Yes, yes,” Fyora whispered, lowering her tone to match the other faerie’s. “They shouldn’t be found, not tonight at least.” Her eyes darted around, checking to make sure no one was around them. “Seventeen steps forward and five steps to the right.”
Illusen nodded. No one would be able to find them there, Fyora was sure of it. “Put some spells on them, though, just to be safe. We can’t let anyone see them...”
“Agreed. They shall never see Neopet eyes.”
But of course, fate doesn’t like being interfered with. Even Fyora should have known that.
“So, let me get this straight. We’re crashing the Faerie Queen’s party?”
“That’s right.” Kate snapped the mask onto her pink Uni face, which was covered in sparkles of varying colors. She was wearing a dark, black velvet dress, netting weaving through the sleeves. The skirt of the dress billowed out in a perfect bell around her midnight slippers. Her large, innocent azure eyes looked perfect for her appearance, but they were of no place on a troublemaker’s face.
“Won’t we get in trouble?” the shadow Draik asked. Her hair shone in the moonlight, a perfect snapdraik woven into a braid among the black tresses. She wore a scarlet dress that looked fabulous on her figure. It sparked and shone, even when the moonlight didn’t hit it. Dark green eyes were settled into her rounded face, full of indecision.
“Miri,” Kate tried to explain, “we won’t get in trouble if we don’t get caught. We’ll only get in trouble if we’re seen by the guard who’s taking invitations.”
“But we don’t have invitations.” Miri’s eyes got even wider, if that was possible.
Kate sighed. Sometimes, her friend just didn’t understand. “We’ll just sneak through at the stroke of eight o’ clock. They should be quite busy then.” Or at least, that was what her sources told her. “Just come on.” She beckoned to Miri, hoof outstretched.
“All right.” Miri stubbornly snapped her festive crimson mask on, and then took Kate’s hoof to join her in her devious plan.
Fyora stared nervously at the assembled pets and faeries. They were dancing happily to a song with a pulsing beat, much like the beating of her heart—fast-paced and nervous. Everything was supposed to go perfectly tonight, and it was, so far. Her guests were kind, the food was sublime, and her dress was just right for a Faerie Queen. Even now she was swirling in the wonderful violet dress, which sparkled brighter than any nova. Her skirt billowed out, supported by netting underneath. Twinkling subtly, her crown perched on her illustrious hairdo, a bun with wispy tendrils of hair falling in casual disarray. She looked like a lilac bell, with perfect lavender eyes staring nervously at a contented crowd.
“Don’t worry, Fy-Fy,” Illusen assured her. “Everything’s going perfect.” The earth faerie had donned a simple emerald dress that hugged her figure, along with jade slippers to match. Her bright green eyes were energized from dancing, and from the prospect of not seeing Jhudora all night.
“I can’t help but worry,” Fyora confided. No night was supposed to go this perfectly, not without something horrid to come in return. But the night had gone flawlessly—the Fountain Faerie’s sculpture stood proudly in the center of the dance floor; the air faeries’ aerial tricks were stupendous and intricately detailed, loops and curves awing the audience; and the night air was crisp but warm, fleaf chirps echoing in the dark.
“No one will find them.” Illusen’s eyes were serious. “Trust me. Just let yourself enjoy what you worked so hard for.”
“I suppose you’re right...” Fyora glanced around at the various Neopets and faeries she had invited. If they were allowed to have fun, why couldn’t she?
“Then let’s dance.” Illusen beckoned her, pulling her onto the dance floor, where they danced on into the night.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” Kate said, not really looking for an answer. The impressed look on Miri’s face was enough, and it echoed Kate’s thoughts. She was expecting grand things from the Faerie Queen’s birthday bash, but even her wildest expectations did not live up to this. A gigantic ice sculpture towered above them on the dance floor, a massive Fyora waiting to melt. Faeries performed airborne tricks with grace and elegance, and she was not the only one to ooh and ah at the gifts Fyora received.
“I told you so.” Kate poked her friend playfully, snatching Miri out of her reverie.
“You were right—this is worth it.” The shadow Draik grinned. “But even on this night, perfect as it is, you haven’t shown me what you’re going to actually do.” When Kate blinked obliviously, Miri sighed. “The spectacular stunt that you promised to pull off, remember?”
“Oh. Yes. That. Do I really have to do it now? I’m enjoying myself here.” Kate gestured to the scene around her, and the obvious grin on her face.
“Oh, yes, you have to do it now,” Miri informed her matter-of-factly. “It’s almost nine o’ clock, and you still haven’t done it. And I thought troublemaking was your style.” She rolled her eyes, teasing Kate just a bit.
In response, Kate glared. No one, not even her best friend, insinuated that she wasn’t up for troublemaking. She was born for it. “I’ll do it now, then,” she accepted. “I’ll...” Suddenly Kate was at a loss for words. She was originally going to scare Fyora with a Spyder—everyone knew that the Faerie Queen was terrified of them—but that seemed insignificant now that she was faced with greater expectations. She stared at the black night sky, stars peeping out from its fabric, and she wondered. What can I do? She thought, looking around the crowded dance floor. Catching her eye was a smiling Fyora as she stood next to her birthday cake, just as another Neopet handed her a gift—wait! That was it!
“I’ll steal one of Fyora’s birthday presents,” Kate proclaimed. To her intense satisfaction, Miri gaped at her. Whatever she was anticipating, it surely wasn’t this.
“Are you sure?” Miri’s words came out slowly, really questioning whether the pink Uni actually wanted to do it.
“I’m sure,” Kate assured her, and with those two words, she was sucked into a challenge she wasn’t sure even she could complete.
“Wow. It’s big in here,” Kate murmured to herself. She had snuck in through one of the back doors, going unnoticed into the castle. She was now in the cavernous front hall, the walls of which towered over her. The ceiling was covered in pink paint that twinkled and glimmered at the slightest movement, matching tiles of amethyst and salmon hue covering the floors in an organized array. Billowing columns that seemed to be made of clouds held up the ceiling with effortless strength.
She carefully stepped past the front hall into a smaller hallway that was unremarkable by any standards. Its doorway was tucked into a corner of the front hall; barely noticeable unless you knew it was really there. Luckily, Kate had a great eye, and she thought that the best things were hidden in the dingiest of places.
This place most definitely fit her standard of “dingy.” It was painted a pale yellow mixed with some sort of brown, sort of like the Neolodge, with matching tan and pale yellow tiles that crisscrossed this way and that. Doors lined the cracked walls on both sides, with tarnished doorknobs to open them. You’d never think that a place like this could be in the magnificent Fyora’s castle, Kate thought.
As she slowly walked by the many doors, she wondered and thought. Was it right to take a challenge this big? A challenge this huge? Maybe she should stop giving in to dare like this. If she were caught now... Kate shuddered. She couldn’t think of that. Only focus on the definite, the here and now.
After seventeen doors, she came to an intersection that branched out four ways: forward, left, right, and hallway she was now in. To Kate, it seemed significant somehow, each one of these. It was different. Which one to choose...?
She ended up taking the right one, mostly because it seemed right, and plus, the right one was always right. Five doors down, she felt something different, a change in the atmosphere. It wasn’t like the other corridor she had walked through. It seemed to be charged with energy. Maybe this room has all the gifts? she wondered. After all, a Neopet had given Fyora a Thyora’s Tear.
Opening the door, she was surprised at what was there. It was a bare room flooded with moonlight that came through a small window. It was decorated in a plain style much like the corridors that surrounded the room, with only one small brown wooden table in the center. On top of the table were flowers, vines spilling out of the pot that held them, still and unmoving with petals inverted. Kate felt slowly drawn to them, attracted by an intangible pull towards them like a magnet.
The pink Uni stopped in front of the table. They were plainly hideous on the outside as they soaked up moonlight. Their petals were murky mauve, with brown leaves and vines that seemed as if they would wither away with the slightest touch, almost as if they were dead. But despite all their plainness, she still felt the same crackling electricity she had felt outside, except closer and more charged. What was going on?
The power peaked as the clock struck midnight and the pistils looked out to meet their new arrival.
Dun, dun, dun, the clock tolled. Midnight. Fyora waved the last of the Neopets goodbye, then breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing had gone wrong, not at all, all night. Illusen and Jhudora had avoided each other, and they stayed on opposite wings of the castle, solving Fyora’s biggest problem. Fate wasn’t usually this kind.
The night of partying weighed down on the Faerie Queen, so she decided to get some sleep. Even some of the most beautiful faeries need their beauty rest. She turned around to go to bed—and screamed. A shadow Draik was watching her with jade eyes that stared at Fyora pleadingly.
She breathed out a sigh of relief. Whatever she was expecting, it wasn’t a stray Neopet. “Oh, darling,” she breathed. “You startled me. Goodbye now, and I hope you had a nice night!” Fyora tried to herd the Draik through the door, but she wouldn’t budge.
“Please,” the Neopet begged, “just listen to me for a minute. My friend’s lost somewhere in your castle, and I haven’t seen her since nine and now the clock struck twelve and she hasn’t come out and I’m worried and I wonder where she is.” She let out a breath after her long sentence, which had been a flurry of words, all mixed in a jumble.
Fyora had stopped paying attention at “lost” and “castle”; her heart refused to beat. If a Neopet had gone in, found the flowers, and waited till the clock struck midnight, there would be dire consequences. Oh why, oh why had she not invested in security for the room?
“So will you help me?” the Draik continued. “To find my friend, I mean.” Then she noticed the stricken look on Fyora’s face. “What? Are you worried about Kate? We’ll find her, don’t worry.” She nodded encouragingly. “And by the way, my name’s Miri. Nice to meet you, Miss Faerie Queen. But we have to go now, so let's get a move on...” Taking Fyora’s hand, she began to drag her back to the palace.
At the gates, Fyora finally began thinking. The gears in her brain started to shift, trying to find a way to help the situation. The first place to check was definitely the flowers’ room. But she couldn’t go in there, not with Miri. Miri would be under the flowers’ spell just as quickly as her friend.
Stopping in her tracks, Fyora suggested, “You know what, Miri? Why don’t you search the east wing, and I’ll search the west wing?” Fyora pleasantly pointed to the hallway that lead east, despite the fact that she wasn’t going to the west wing. She turned around to go, but Miri tugged her hand.
“If I know Kate, I know she won’t go to the perfect place. She’ll go to a dingy place,” Miri murmured thoughtfully, looking around the front hall. Her foot tapped the floor in a rhythmic motion as she thought and saw the room, until something abruptly caught the Draik’s eye.
“Like there!” she exclaimed, pointing to a corner of the hall. Pulling Fyora over there, she smiled as she walked into a small, hotel-esque little hallway lined with doors. “Perfect! She’s in one of these rooms, I know it.”
As Miri dragged Fyora down the hallway, the faerie worried. If that little Neopet found the room with the flowers... She barely let herself think of it. It wouldn’t happen. It was her birthday, so nothing could go wrong.
They turned right at an intersection seventeen doors down. Fyora gulped, her heartbeat quickening. This little Draik couldn’t know anything, could she? But it seemed she did, because five doors down, Miri stretched out her hand and opened the door.
Kate’s eyes widened. The flowers had bloomed, transforming into something more beautiful than she had ever seen. Their deep blue petals soaked in the moon’s silver rays, causing the flowers to shake and dance with excitement. But even still, the flowers’ pistils held still, staring at the pink Uni.
Caught in the pistils’ hypnotizing gaze, she stepped closer, feeling drawn to the flowers. At each tap of her footstep, the vines spun and moved faster and faster, until they danced a complicated waltz around each other, gathering power. Petals soaking, vines racing, the pistils stood still ensnaring their captive in one look.
Finally, Kate was right in front of the flowers, close enough to touch them. And that she did, touching one pistil with the tip of her hoof.
Suddenly her legs seized up, and she couldn’t move. It was as if she had been frozen, held still, by the flowers’ touch. She couldn’t let go as the paralyzing feeling crept up her legs, her wings, and her neck as all the energy raced away from her into the flowers. The flowers drank it up, turning her slowly to hard, rough stone.
The paralyzing feeling crept up her chin and around her mouth. She couldn’t speak. It went though her nose. She couldn’t breathe. But just as the feeling was about to engulf her eyes, she saw her last sight—a door opening.
“Illusen, you know what you have to do,” Fyora said gravely to one of her closest friends.
Illusen held the deadly flowers, bringing them forward with a somber face. Fyora had barely saved Kate, the Uni who was about to be turned to stone by the flowers. It was exactly the situation that Illusen and Fyora had dreaded all these years. But they had always thought they could keep it hidden, locked away, so no one could share a doomed fate. But in keeping it alive, it had caused danger for the world, and that would not be allowed to happen again.
Illusen put the flowers down on the campfire the two had made in Fyora’s back lawn, and then stepped back as Fyora stepped forward.
Fyora lifted her staff, pointing it at the flowers. Under the weak light of the moon, the flowers moved slowly, but not quickly enough to hypnotize. As the flowers danced their last, Fyora fired a shot from her staff, one rolling down her cheek. It crashed like a diamond to the floor, exploding and sinking into the earth, a memory of her sadness.
The flowers were quickly consumed by deep scarlet flames. Fire raging, they were destroyed, crackling sparks floating up into the night sky.