He woke up with some gooey liquid trickling down his nose. Not an auspicious beginning, but it was his nonetheless. Before, there was nothing, now he saw neopets and heard voices.
"Oh, Kauvara, do be careful. You just dripped on one of my plushies."
"Oops, terribly sorry," blurted a Kau who was juggled several bottles at once. "One of the corks must have come loose. Did I stain it? I'll buy it if I did."
He saw a red Lupe coming over to him, and she peered at him. He couldn't move, but he stared back through wide red eyes.
"No harm done," the Lupe said, smiling. "It seems to have just soaked right in, no stain at all. What is it anyway?"
The starry Kau put the bottles down on the counter and pawed through them. Finding one with a satisfied snort, she jammed the cork in tighter. "It's not for sale yet, just a potion to make people smarter without reading. But it has a few glitches still, I think. It seems to make pets think smarter, but they can't really express it."
"Anyway, no harm done. Thanks for visiting, it's nice to just chat for once instead of haggling all the..."
FWOOMP! A sudden explosion rocked the shop and a cloud of purple smoke oozed against the glass. Outside, a dark faerie slowly emerged from the cloud as the smoke cleared. Her leathery wings arched over her as she leaned menacingly over a little green Chia. The plushie couldn't hear the words, but the Chia nodded and zoomed at top speed toward the toy shop.
"PleaseIneedablueGrundoplushie-rightnowthankyou!" The Chia shoved the full price into the Lupe's paws, jumped up, grabbed the Grundo plushie that had a slightly damp nose, and ran out again.
"Here it is!"
She held it up to the faerie, who snatched it away, mumbled a quick phrase, (something about "thank you for finding my plushie"), and with a purple spark on her finger, tapped the Chia on the head.
"I have just increased your hit points," she proclaimed.
"Thank you!" the Chia yelled, as the faerie lunged into the air, the plushie squished tightly under her arm.
Meanwhile, the Lupe was staring disconsolately at the charred spot on the walkway where the faerie had appeared.
"Do you suppose, Kauvara, you could invent some potion to clean up after dark faeries?"
The plushie, however, was staring in amazement at the world around him. He would have gasped, if he could, at the massive cloud studded with towers they were now approaching. Other faeries swooped around the cloud, and two purple specks grew closer--two more dark faeries.
"Did a quest?" inquired one coolly.
The faerie holding the plushie laughed. "I love to see them cower in fear when I appear, and then run around frantically doing my bidding. Not that I really need this for any experiments."
They were passing over a rainbow-colored stream of water when the second faerie said, "Let's go over to Jhudora's cloud, but first ditch the plushie; you look silly."
"But I need to experiment on it. Those are the rules." She hovered for a moment. "Okay, I need to experiment and see if blue Grundo plushies can fly." She dropped the plushie, who plummeted toward the cloud, helpless to do anything at all. He expected to sink right through the cloud, but instead, bounced a little and fell onto his side. Like landing on a big plushie, he thought, interrupted by cackling laughter from the three faeries, still hovering like purple ravens.
"Nope, they can't fly," whooped one, and then they swept away.
Over the next several days, he watched and listened to the many pets that wandered Faerieland. Some pets got new colors at the Rainbow Fountain. Eyries and Unis ferried visitors to the cloud, and faeries always flew around the towers, sometimes young ones in dizzying, giggling loops. Sometimes he saw lavender light in a high window of the palace, and knew it must be Fyora, looking out over her kingdom. He saw a variety of humans and their pets, in endless combinations of colors, species, and personalities. Everyone was always with someone else. Sometimes he saw a young pet cuddling a cherished plushie, and it always made him feel sad. He wished he could know what it was like.
He didn't get much attention. Most of the comments he heard about him were, "Don't touch that plushie, you don't know where it's been," Or, "No sweetie, you have a bunch of plushies already at home, I can buy you a new one if you like." But one night, that changed. He heard the swishing of Uni wings, and in the starlight and faint purple glow from the city, he saw a checkered Uni land. A yellow Kacheek slid off its back, and hugged it. Although the Rainbow Fountain still burbled and splashed at night, the plushie heard their quiet whispers.
"Thanks so much, Alexander, I've always wanted to visit."
"Just be careful, Sunshine. Make sure no one realizes you're not with an owner, and watch out for dark faeries. I just wish...."
The Kacheek giggled. "You worry too much. I'll be fine, I'm always careful, I can take care of myself, and you need to go home and do your homework. I know your dad would love to take me in, but your neohome's too small. I'm fine. I will be fine. I'll be here tomorrow morning early, okay?"
The Uni flew up and the Kacheek laughed a little bit, as she walked toward the city.
"He worries too much. I always hang out at the Money Tree, I have plenty to eat, and I'm always carefu--yikes!"
She stepped on the plushie, lost her balance, and fell. "Whew. Good thing the clouds are soft. Now, what was that?" She stuck her face right up in the plushie's face. "Huh. A lost plushie. Better leave you right there, your owner will be back for you soon." She bounced away on the clouds, humming a happy tune.
Before dawn, he saw her coming back again. She sat down by the plushie to wait for her friend.
When Alexander touched down, she scrambled up onto his back. "I had such a fun time, and even ran around the Poogle racetrack all alone and imagined I was racing! I won, of course."
Alexander laughed as his wings lifted them off the cloud.
The next time he saw her was several months later. Even though it was dark out, her happy giggle seemed to make the stars sparkle brighter. She dashed off without noticing the little blue plushie still sprawled on the cloud. When the light in the east began to brighten, she came back again to wait for Alexander.
"What, still here?" she asked the plushie, sitting down beside him. "Don't you have an owner, or don't they want you back? I don't have an owner either, but it's not too bad. Maybe I should get a plushie next time I'm at the Money Tree. I keep watching for a Cybunny plushie of my very own. But even the plain green ones get taken quickly from the tree." She picked him up and hugged him. He knew suddenly this was what he was made for, this was where he belonged. "Let me tell you all about my trip to Faerieland."
When a speck in the sky grew larger, Sunshine carefully laid him down, but bid him a polite goodbye.
"Are you talking to a plushie?" Alexander asked.
"Of course. After I tripped over him last time, I found a pot pie at the Money Tree, so maybe he's good luck. I hugged him too; he looks so sad."
"Huh. Okay, well, let's go."
That afternoon, a checkered Uni flew down and landed near him. It was Alexander.
"Um, I feel silly talking to a plushie, but I need some good luck. I have a big history test tomorrow. And, um... Sunshine is doing fine. She wants to visit Tyrannia tonight for some omelette."
A passing Lenny stared. "Are you talking to a plushie?"
Alexander stared him down. "Why not? It's for good luck. Who knows, maybe he's some discarded magical blue Grundo plushie of prosperity."
The Lenny's beak dropped open, but Alexander only grinned and flew away. After he was gone, the Lenny sidled over to the plushie. "Er, yeah, some luck would be nice."
A passing Meerca laughed. "You're talking to that old thing?"
"This old thing? Why, it might be the discarded magical blue Grundo plushie of prosperity. It's for good luck." And he stalked away.
And thus it began....
Every day, pets visited the plushie, telling it their problems or their hopes and dreams. Just having someone to listen helped. The very sad ones would gently cuddle him for a while, but he still looked for Sunshine's visits. She was special to him. Sometimes while she visited, he could see a glimpse of Fyora's lavender glow in some high tower as she worked her magic. One night, when Sunshine hadn't come, he lay in the dark, listening to some dark faeries bragging about their recent deeds. When they flew away, a dark cloaked figure slipped from a shadow and walked over to him. A dark faerie perhaps?
"I had the most awful day," said a quiet voice. It sounded like a female, but he couldn't see her face. "It was a constant battle trying to get all the different factions to work together, and I get so worn out sometimes with it all."
She cuddled him gently and just sat, looking out over the city for a while. "Thanks," she said with a smile in her voice, as she gently set him down and walked away. A little breeze blew her cloak, and he caught a glimpse of lavender glow beneath. Sometimes, even a queen needed to hug a plushie.
After that, he seemed to see her more often at night, looking out of windows on his side of the palace. Looking at him? He wondered. He had a lot of time to wonder, after all.
Not too many days after that, Fyora, cloaked as she had been the first time, stepped quietly to his side. She thought for a moment, eyes closed, then ran her hands, which suddenly glowed purple, over his body. He felt different somehow, but didn't know why.
The next day, he was mobbed with pets wanting to talk to him. Some of them had plushies appear at their feet, some found neopoints, and some felt suddenly full of food. Some pets just took what appeared and walked away, but he loved the poorer ones best, who thanked him when they found money or no longer felt hungry. What about Sunshine? he wondered. Will she just take what I have to give instead of still talking to me?
He didn't have to wait long. As soon as darkness fell, a familiar beat of wings filled the air, and Alexander landed. Sunshine bounded over to the discarded plushie.
"Is it true, little Grundo? Have you really suddenly been able to give things away? You'll never be lonely again, now."
She picked him up and cuddled him. He couldn't work magic like Fyora, but he remembered what she had wished for once, and wished with all his heart that just this once, the magic might do what he wanted, instead of being random in its blessings. He saw a lavender glow, and a Cybunny plushie appeared. A faerie Cybunny plushie.
"Oh..." Sunshine reached out and touched it with her paw. "You knew I wanted a Cybunny plushie, didn't you? She whirled him around in a happy dance. Thank you, thank you so much." Sunshine turned to Alexander. "Er, sorry, your turn now."
She backed away, holding her new plushie, as Alexander touched his nose gently to the plushie and whispered his wish. A small bag of neopoints appeared between his front hooves.
"What did you wish for?" Sunshine asked him.
"Secret," he mumbled around the pouch string between his teeth. "See you tomorrow morning. And make sure no one knows you don't have an owner, and..."
"I know, I know, watch out for dark faeries. You worry too much!"
He winked at the plushie and took off, the wind from his wings ruffling Sunshine's fur.
It became a ritual. Every night they visited the plushie, even if it was for a short time before flying somewhere else in neopia.
"Why do you always get neopoints?" Sunshine asked one night. "I sometimes get neopoints, but more often I seem to feel not hungry anymore."
Alexander raised a wing to shelter her from a sudden cool breeze. "I think he knows what we each need most."
"So what do you need, some Uni hoof polish?"
"Gack. No, Sunshine. Come on, let's go to the Lost Desert, it's getting later."
About a month later, they stopped by, as usual, and Sunshine talked to him for a while. She got all filled up by the magic.
"I'm hardly spending any money on food anymore, thank you."
Alexander bent his head close to the plushie and whispered, "Thank for the neopoints, we finished today, so I don't really need more now. You can give me something else, if you want."
A small bag of neopoints appeared between his hooves. He laughed.
"What?" Sunshine asked.
"He just made a joke. I told him my wish was fulfilled and I didn't need any more money, and I still got some. You little blue rascal."
She used the cloud as a trampoline to bounce her up to his back. "Where are we going tonight?"
"Well, I have a present for you, and then I'm going home."
"Aw, I thought we were going to travel tonight."
"Open your present."
The plushie heard the sound of tearing paper, then a puzzled silence. "A key?"
"I told you I was going home. You can use your new key to unlock the door. I've been using the money to pay for a new room in our neohome. Dad finished putting the last furniture in today. It's a room for you, paid for by the plushie."
She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him. "So, you're my brother now? I, I can't even think of words that will work right to thank you."
She jumped off and hugged the plushie. "Thank you too. Without you, this could never have been." She looked up at the Uni. "I was wondering, just for a moment, if we should take him home too... but that wouldn't seem right."
"No, he belongs here. He's not alone. Everyone loves him now, and needs him."
"True." She looked into the plushie's eyes. "Goodnight for now, and I'll see you again soon. We'll visit every day."
As he watched them fly away, he knew what she had said was true. He belonged here, not just for the things he gave away, but to be a plushie for every pet who had none. Someone to be there, someone to listen. Because sooner or later everyone, even a queen, needs to hug a plushie.
I welcome any questions or comments on this story. Feel free to neomail me.