Vira's Dagger: Part Three
The door slammed shut behind her.
Vira raced down the path, stumbling every so often over her new tail. As she fled across the cobblestone road and into the Uni Meadows, a Zafara on a bike had to swerve to avoid her. His eyes opened as wide as his mouth at the sight of the Korbat like creature disappearing into the night. Vira didn’t notice him. Nor did she realise that, when she at last stopped and began to scream to the stars, long and loud, that same Zafara quickly rode away without even trying to comfort her.
As she wailed, Vira sank to her knees, eyes screwed up, and tears dampening the light fur of her cheeks. Her voice was full of everything that her heart contained: grief, loss, self-pity... and a kind of animal pain.
She screamed passionately until her heart was empty and her voice hoarse. Then the Acara, who could no longer see the beauty in herself, moved the mirror away from her chest. Vira gazed blankly at its reflective surface.
“What happened?” she asked in a croaky whisper. “Am I even an Acara anymore?”
She stroked the black rose decoration absently as her companion replied.
“You are what you feel at heart, Vira. So you tell me; are you still an Acara?”
As Vira considered this statement, some emotion came back to her.
“No,” she sighed. “I’m not.”
“Really?” the mirror sounded surprised, but said, “What are you, then?”
Vira lifted her gaze and looked out across the sea of colour, her sharp eyes easily picking lilac from lavender, even in the darkness. Truth be told, she didn’t have a clue as to what she was. The words “freak” and “monster” kept springing to mind, but they didn’t feel right. Even in her current sad, pitiful state of mind, Vira knew that there had to be a better word. One that was maybe a little more specific.
“Mirror!” she sobbed. “How did this happen? Can you give me my beauty back?”
“Alas, I can not,” replied the mirror sadly. “This is the work of a dark faerie. But do not weep, child. You still have a pretty face and fine fur. You are not ugly.”
Vira returned her eyes to the object in her paws. It was right. She wasn’t ugly. She was, however, terrifying. Unnatural in appearance.
Slowly, Vira raised her gaze to the sky, to the moon and the stars. She felt a sudden desire to join them there, where she could be free from this and all other nightmares. The neopet lowered her mirror into her lap and continued gazing at the heavens, green eyes sparkling now with wonder. She had never realised quite how beautiful the night was. Vira didn’t usually go outside after dark, and never before had she decided to just stop and stare at the stars. Spellbound, she gazed.
Suddenly the feeling of longing overcame her. Vira’s wings unfolded with a leathery rustle as she stood. She jumped into the air, flying towards the moon with powerful beats of her wings.
The former Acara felt like she was in a dream as she winged her way towards Kreludor. It hung in the night sky above, calling her closer. She wanted to fly upward forever, to leave her troubles far behind. She wanted to bask for eternity in the silver moonlight. But even as she flew, her movements trancelike, Vira felt that her problems were rapidly catching up with her.
Slowly, Vira turned her head. Beside her another Vira looked back, black dress flapping around its knees as it flew. She wondered whether she was going insane. But then Vira remembered her dream.
This is like that. I must be asleep.
Then the other one held up a round mirror. Vira’s eyes widened, her mind flashing back to the last time she had seen that mirror. Then she had become as she was now. Furiously, Vira tried to get away. But she was unable to move, just like when some of us have nightmares and we are frozen in place. Silently, the other Vira swooped closer, holding the mirror out before it.
“Look,” a dark voice sighed.
No! Vira’s mind screamed. But then; what difference will it make? I’ve already lost my looks.
She decided to risk a quick glance. Vira’s eyes darted to the mirror’s surface, but she did not look away again as she had at first planned, and the quick glance became a much longer stare.
In the mirror she saw the shapes of other, identical mirrors. Dozens of them, side by side. But a mist was creeping in, and one by one they were hidden from view. The fog spilled out of the mirror, rolling over the simple black frame, filling the air around the two Viras.
The world was grey for a moment, and Vira started to panic. It felt like she would suffocate. Then darkness was all around her. She sat up, gasping, among the grass and the flowers.
In one paw, she was holding a round mirror.
Alani sat on the couch, paws clasped in her lap, Bunny lying beside her. It was the day after Vira had run away, and Alani had never felt so lonely before in her life.
“She hated me, didn’t she, Bunny?” the baby Acara whispered, still staring at her hands. “That’s why she left.”
“Alani, where are you?”
Alani looked up when she heard her mother’s voice. The tall green Acara was coming into the room, looking about her with searching eyes. Beside her waddled Snowflake.
“Alani!” she exclaimed, spotting her daughter at last. But her eyes grew even sadder when she noticed how miserable the girl was.
“Don’t be so sad,” she said, sitting down and holding out Bunny. “We’ll find Vira eventually.”
Alani sniffed, took Bunny gently with one paw.
“I hope so,” she said.
But Alani couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming. Vira hated her. What if she didn’t want to come back? What if she never wanted to see Alani again? After her mother had kissed her lovingly on the cheek and moved away, Alani went back to staring at her hands.
“Please come back, Vira,” she said quietly, tears pooling in her big eyes. “I miss you. Please don’t hate me.”
It was that rare, perfect summer’s day. A gentle wind stirred the lush meadow grass, made the colourful flowers bob and dance about beneath the golden sun.
Vira sat amongst a clump of daisies. She seemed oblivious to the world around her, to the cooling breeze tugging at her fur and the soft grass below.
For Vira was deep in thought.
It seemed that now she wielded a certain amount of power over beauty. At a single gesture, Vira could conjure up mirrors. Wonderful, if plain, ebony mirrors that the mirror said would show the holder their inner beauty. But she wasn’t happy. In fact, Vira was beginning to feel lonely.
For five years Alani had been her closest friend. When Vira hadn’t been off picking flowers in the Uni Meadows, she had always found time to play with Alani. Now Vira was alone, out in the grass, and Alani was at home with their parents. This time, Vira wouldn’t return from the meadows.
Does she miss me? Vira thought. Or does she remember what I did before I left? Does she hate me now?
It felt like someone had driven a dagger into Vira’s heart.
Oh, Alani! Please, please forgive me! I’m sorry for hurting you.
“Someone’s coming,” hissed the mirror, reminding Vira that she was not entirely alone. Looking up, the young neopet saw a trio of Neopians coming over from another meadow. Instinctively, she tried to hide, but the grass was far too short. With a strangled gasp, Vira scrambled to her feet and tried to get away.
The pink Ixi was the first to see her.
“Hey!” it cried, pointing. “Who’s there?”
“It might be that Vira girl,” a green Grarrl replied.
“You!” the Ixi continued, her left hand straying near to her sword. As the trio advanced, Vira turned fearfully, holding her mirror high. As she backed away she stumbled over an uneven patch of earth, sprawling hard across the ground. The mirror flew from her grasp.
“Sweet Fyora,” gasped the Grarrl, stepping back and drawing his sword, face contorted with scared surprise. The Ixi reacted in a similar fashion, if more calmly. Seeing Vira’s fierce horns and twisted beauty, she drew a sharp breath, her sword already held across her body.
Vira shook her head desperately.
“No. Wait. Let me explain...”
As she struggled to talk, Vira noticed the third neopet watching her curiously. He was a handsome blue Acara. Vira stopped trying to explain. He was indeed very handsome. She was jealous of how normal he looked too. But, also, she was slightly unnerved by the look of recognition in his eyes as he gazed at her.
“Have we met?” she asked.
The Acara shrugged. “Maybe. I think I’ve seen you before, at least. But only your face is familiar,”
“You know this freak?” the Ixi demanded, turning to the Acara.
“Maybe,” he repeated, not taking his eyes off the Neopian lying in the grass before him.
“Do you, or don’t you?”
Suddenly, the blue Acara gasped.
“Are you Vira?” he asked.
She nodded, got to her feet.
“What happened to you?” asked the Grarrl, earning an angry glare from the pink Ixi.
“Quiet, Arryn,” she snapped. Then, to the Acara, “This can’t be Vira. She’s an Acara.”
“I was an Acara,” Vira said quietly. “Then a dark faerie cursed me.”
The Ixi raised an eyebrow. “Explain.”
“A dark faerie cursed me while I was asleep, and I became like this. But it’s not all bad. While they don’t work for me, I can now summon mirrors that let others see their inner beauty.”
“Is this one of them?” asked Arryn, the Grarrl, picking up Vira’s mirror.
She shook her head, took it from him hurriedly.
“No. This is mine.”
The blue Acara, who up until now had remained a little behind the others, suddenly stepped forward.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but your parents want you back, Vira. They sent us to look for you.”
The Ixi sheathed her sword.
“Yes. Assuming that you are Vira, that is.”
“I am!” the former Acara insisted. She looked at each of them in turn, trying to keep herself from trembling with hopelessness.
“I can’t go back,” she said quietly. “I could never live a normal life. People would always be scared of me.”
She saw the pity in Arryn and the Acara’s eyes, but the pink Ixi was unmoved.
“They want you back. We’re taking you to them, whether you like it or not.”
“I’m sorry,” Vira whispered, her eyes on the blue Acara.
He nodded reluctantly, and she unfurled her wings, springing up into the air. The Ixi tried to stop her, grabbing for her foot with one forehoof, but Vira was already too high in the air.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I can’t go back. And you can’t make me. But please, can you tell Alani that I’m sorry I hurt her?”
“Get back down!” the Ixi spat, but Vira stayed where she was, hovering above the ground with her wings beating strongly.
“Have this,” she called, twirling her paw in a complicated gesture. Between her red claws there appeared a black mirror, round and undecorated, but still beautiful. She tossed it to the ground, where it landed near the blue Acara. But now the Grarrl was coming for her. Vira rose higher into the air, giving the trio one last, sorrowful glance. Then, heart heavy with sadness, she turned and flew away towards another meadow. She wanted to go home, more than anything, but she couldn’t deal with facing her family again. Even though she was a bringer of beauty, Vira was still terrifying.
But at least now Alani will know that I’m sorry.
The blue Acara watched her go. Then, as the pink Ixi began cursing wildly and Arryn shook his head irritably, he bent down and lifted the mirror out of the grass.
When he saw his reflection, the Acara gasped.
“Is that me?”
It was raining heavily. The winter storm had been swift in its approach.
Water streaming down her cloak, Vira marched purposefully into a Uni Meadow. She stopped by a rose bush, whose red blooms gleamed bright even on that grey day. Eyes flashing nastily, Vira raised a hand, her wings unfurling to a horizontal position. There was a rapid flapping noise, and through the rain came a wicked looking dagger, flying point first towards the neopet. She didn’t move, didn’t blink, until the weapon did a half turn and fell into her hand, inanimate once more.
Vira lowered her paw, folded her wings behind her back once more. Then she spoke quietly in her dark, rich, yet lisping voice.
“So, my pretty,” she purred. “You have returned at last.”
She stroked the blade lovingly, but her eyes were hard.
“Now, we have work to do. Mirrors to give.”
Slowly, eyes closed, Vira raised the dagger to her lips. As cold iron met warm flesh, the weapon’s blade shone with poison. Poison brewed from Vira’s own hatred.
She opened her eyes, stared angrily at the sky. A flash of lightning and it all lit up. Vira rose into the air, dagger in hand.
Bitter resentment rose within her.
To be continued...