Vira's Dagger: Part Two
Vira arrived home late in the day. She was eager to show her parents what had happened. But first, she had to find Alani and give her the promised rose.
The green Acara had barely closed the door when she heard rapid pawsteps, and Alani hurtled around a bend in the hallway.
“Vira!” she cried, hugging her tight. Alani always missed her sister when she went to play in the Uni Meadows. But even as Vira hugged her back, Alani’s lonely anxiety faded.
“Did you find a rose?” she asked, stepping back.
Vira held it out. The dark red petals quivered as Alani took it eagerly. Only then did she look properly at her sister’s face.
“Vira!” she gasped. “You’re really pretty!”
Pretty was a vast understatement, but it was the most fitting word that Alani knew. At a glance, her sister looked basically the same as before. Though if you bothered to look for more than a moment, her hair and fur had a glossiness to them that would have been impossible to obtain with a mere shampoo. Her eyes were like two golden almonds, her ears perfect: neither too large nor too small. In every way, Vira’s appearance was flawless.
“I know.” Vira smiled, and as she told Alani about the mirror, the baby Acara’s eyes got wider and wider until it looked as though they would pop right out of her little head.
“Can I look at it?” she asked, and Vira reluctantly passed it to her. Part of her, the selfish part of her being, hoped that the mirror would remain just that. She didn’t want Alani to share her looks.
“It’s pretty,” said Alani, running a small paw over the patterns that decorated its rectangular frame. Frowning, she peered into the mirror itself.
“No!” cried Vira, reaching for the object. But she needn’t have worried. The mirror did not speak, and Alani didn’t get any prettier. She did, however, jump with fright and quickly hand the mirror back to Vira.
“It’s just a mirror,” she said nervously. “It doesn’t do anything.”
“That’s right,” lied Vira, suddenly desperate to make Alani lose interest. “I used up all its magic.”
For a moment, Alani looked sceptical. But Vira had never lied to her before, and soon her eyes were as trusting as before.
“It’s still a nice mirror,” she said, looking wondrously once more at her sister’s face. “You should keep it.”
“I’m going to,” Vira assured her, as Alani skipped away with the rose. The older Acara’s heart was beating fast. She didn’t really know why the mirror hadn’t done anything, but she was glad of it.
Still, she thought, I shouldn’t have lied to Alani like that. I’ll make up for it later.
There was a loud crack, and tiny orange sparks shot up from the depths of the fire. Vira had her back to it now. She was busy gazing into one of her mirrors, one of the ones that she used to exterminate the beauty of others. But it only reflected her own.
The Acara tilted her head slightly, stroking one cheek with a single claw. The mirror’s surface glowed orange in the light of the flames, but she only had eyes for the pretty face reflected within.
Vira’s expression was hard as stone by the time she finally looked up. There were still those out there who would run from her terrible beauty: Those who feared it. Well, they would pay for their awful prejudice. A bitter smile twisted her lips. She would take their own beauty away. She, Vira, would forever remain the most stunning neopet in Neopia. And, in doing so, teach those judgemental fools a lesson...
“Vira! That’s wonderful!”
She smiled at her mother.
“I know, isn’t it?”
The two Acaras were facing each other across the kitchen table. It was dinner time, but Vira’s father had to work late again, so only they and Alani were there.
The latter was hungrily wolfing down her faerie pie, crumbs spraying everywhere. She was hardly paying attention to what the others were saying. However, her ears did prick up at something that her mother said.
“You’re the most gorgeous neopet I know, do you know that? Both inside and out.”
Alani stopped eating suddenly, and for a moment her eyes seemed to flash green. An almost inexperienced emotion entered her heart. Yes, little Alani was jealous. She didn’t like Vira being the centre of attention, and no more did she like her mother’s words.
“I would love to see this mirror,” the adult continued, furthering Alani’s jealousy. “Will you show it to me, Vee?”
Vira hesitated. She didn’t want to say no to her mum, but neither did she wish to have another share her otherworldly beauty. She felt torn. Then Vira remembered what had happened with Alani. Maybe the mirror would be quiet now too?
“I’ll just go and get it,” she replied, standing with a half smile and heading for her room. Vira had left the mirror on top of her bookcase. She was just about to lift it down when a small noise got her attention.
Snowflake stood in her doorway. He was watching Vira warily, tail swishing slowly to and fro.
“What’s wrong, Snow?” asked Vira worriedly. She took a step towards the angelpuss. He hissed at her and backed away, hackles rising.
“Snow!” cried Vira, alarmed. “It’s me, Vira!”
She’d thought that she looked mainly the same, and that Snowflake would be okay with her new looks. But apparently not. As Vira moved nearer, Snowflake yowled loudly and his halo flashed fearfully, before he sprinted away down the passage.
She watched him disappear, his fear troubling her. She didn’t look that different. She was still Vira.
Remembering why she had actually gone to her room in the first place, Vira returned to the mirror.
“Why was Snowflake so scared of me?” she asked, picking it up.
“I’m sure it wasn’t you, Vira. Maybe he was already spooked by something else.”
“Maybe,” said Vira, still looking troubled. The girl looked right into the mirror now.
“Mirror,” she began, “I’m going to show you to my mother. Will you be silent for her?”
“Of course, child. I am yours alone.”
Feeling relieved, yet also ashamed at her request, Vira carried the mirror back to the others. It kept its word, and didn’t speak, and when Vira went at last to bed she was still the most beautiful Acara of all.
Before going to sleep, however, Vira gazed into the mirror one last time. Sitting cross legged on top of her blankets, she stroked the surface almost tenderly with an elegant paw. Her reflection’s golden eyes looked back into her own. Vira found herself, once more, entranced by her beauty. In fact, so enchanted was she, that it took several minutes before she managed to tear her eyes away and climb into bed, to fall quickly and peacefully asleep.
Sleep, though, was slow in coming to the youngest member of the household. Alani tossed and twisted for ages, her childish mind buzzing with thought. She wanted Vira, yet she was worried that her sister wouldn’t want to see her. Ever since she’d come back with the mirror that day, Vira had been the centre of her parents’ attention.
Alani cuddled Bunny, and pressed the side of her face into the cybunny plushie’s worn fur. Silent tears streamed down her cheeks. For maybe the first time in her life, Alani was miserable. She’d hardly talked to Vira since before dinner time. Her sister had been too busy talking to her mother and, later and more briefly, father.
“Does Vira still want to play with me, Bunny?” Alani whispered. “Or doesn’t she love me anymore?”
Alani lay there tearfully for a while longer, until finally she had cried herself to sleep.
Her tears dried slowly on Bunny’s fur.
Vira may have gone to sleep with a lot more ease than the tiny Acara girl, but they had almost the same nightmare. In it, the dreamer was walking alone through the rain. Looking ahead, they could see the dark outline of some strange neopet. Suddenly, a flash of lightning that briefly lit up the night, illuminating for a moment the stranger’s pale green fur and twisted black horns.
In their sleep, Alani and Vira’s eyelids flickered.
This was where their dreams began to differ...
Alani screamed as the creature drew closer, reaching out with long talons, boots trooping noiselessly across the ground. She came awake immediately, but Vira stayed where she was. Although she too was terrified, there was something about this neopet that prevented her from fleeing back to reality. Something seemed familiar.
As though it had suddenly turned to day the sky brightened, despite the clouds, and Vira could see the other’s face clearly. It was a female of unclear species, clothed in a long sleeved dress with a jagged hem, and wearing also a pair of black boots. A long, arrow headed tail trailed along the ground behind it, and a pair of Korbat-like wings sprouted from its back. But her face was what now commanded Vira’s attention. It had high cheekbones and razor thin eyebrows. If you ignored the horns, ears, blazing eyes, and lack of hair, this creature looked a lot like...
Vira started as the other neopet handed her a mirror. It was black, like hers, but round and undecorated.
“Look,” came the shadowy whisper.
Vira hesitated, but what harm could come from looking into a dream mirror? She did, and what she saw almost made her heart stop.
Her long, golden hair had fallen away, and her once perfect Acara horns were black and twisted. Her ears were huge, her eyes a vivid green with fiery pink whites. And she had wings.
Vira looked up, hardly remembering to breathe in her fear.
“You’re me?” she managed to squeak.
The other Vira nodded. Vira didn’t try to move as it reached out and placed a paw flat on her chest.
“You are mine,” the voice said.
Alani shook beneath the covers.
“Vira. I want Vira,” she moaned.
But Alani had been badly frightened by her dream, and was far too scared to move. She just lay there, shivering in the darkness, her mind haunted by images of claws and horns.
Then, from somewhere in the next room, Alani heard a loud sob. She stiffened, alert.
“Vira,” she whispered, realising that it was her sister crying. Slowly, the little girl peered out from beneath the covers. She heard another sob through her bedroom wall. Wondering what could be wrong, Alani first checked for monsters under her bed, and then hurried to the door.
Vira was sitting on her bed, knees drawn to her chest. She was looking at the mirror lying before her. Although it was dark, her eyes were stronger than before, so she could still see her new reflection. Every so often, a powerful sob shook her slender frame, escaping through her mouth in a shuddery gasp. She couldn’t believe it. She hardly even looked like an Acara anymore!
“What’s wrong, Vira?” asked Alani, and her sister’s head snapped around to face her. Vira’s eyes widened.
“Alani!” she said, shrinking back against the wall. “Please go!”
Vira shook her head, but Alani was walking towards her now.
“Go away, Alani. Please,” she choked.
The baby Acara stopped. Her expression changed from one of concern to sadness.
“So you don’t like me anymore,” she whispered.
“No, Alani! It’s not that. Never that.”
The house creaked, and Alani jumped. In three great leaps she had covered the distance between them, and now sat shivering on the edge of Vira’s bed.
“Alani!” she cried, thrusting out her paws instinctively. Her sister was shoved onto the floor with a startled yell. Suddenly, Alani began to cry.
“Alani!” Vira shouted again, but with a different tone this time. She was about to help her up when the mirror lying on her bed spoke.
“Spare her fragile mind,” it said. “Don’t let her see what you’ve become, Vira.”
“It talks!” she exclaimed fearfully. “Vira, it’s talking!”
“I know!” Vira snapped. In that moment, it no longer mattered what anyone else thought of her. She was a freak. She was a twisted, deformed freak. The feeling of self pity was overwhelming.
“I can’t take this!” she cried brokenly. Grabbing the mirror, Vira ran from the room. Alani started, stared after her as she fled, trying to escape her emotions. But they seemed to grow with every beat of her aching heart.
The last thing Vira heard before she disappeared through the front door was Alani calling her name. And the last thing Alani saw of her sister, the last thing she would ever see, was a long, pointed tail disappearing around the bend in the corridor.
To be continued...