Wings of Freedom
Time. It was everything to a postal Weewoo. Neopians wanted their Neopian Times delivered punctually every week, and the postal Weewoos all knew that. Every Friday morning before sunrise, the new Neopian Times would roll hot off the press. The newspapers were then rolled up and fastened to the feet of each postal Weewoo. They were white and dressed in small navy blue uniforms. The Neopian Postal service would then assign each of them to their respective lands and off they would go, taking off in staggered flocks but ultimately splitting up to their assignments in the end. It was a tough job but one that they enjoyed; even the ones that had to fly to Terror Mountain were happy. As they flew back to the post office, they would rejoin their respective flocks and go back into living their normal lives for the rest of the week, except for one particular Weewoo on a fateful week.
Shade. That was her name. Her aspirations were to deliver the Neopian Times even before she was even capable of spreading her wings, and she joined the postal service as soon as she was capable. She was always punctual and never missed a single delivery date- until a fateful journey, that is.
Friday. Dawn. Shade stretched herself and sat up in her nest. The sun was slowly peeking over the horizon. She yawned and then flew up to a leaf. There was plenty of morning dew, glistening in the dim light of dawn. Without hesitating, she rubbed her face against the leaf, washing it with the morning dew. Then she went over to another wet leaf and drank the dew. The sun was now over halfway above the horizon. Realizing that it was almost time to leave for the post office, she went back to her nest. Her nest was actually a comfortable hole in the tree, safe from the harm of the environment. In the far back corner of her nest was a pile of food. She quickly picked out a Woo Woo Grub and pecked it until it was completely gone. Without further ado, Shade stretched her wings one last time before taking flight to the post office. Five minutes later, she landed through the entry window of the post office. At the same moment, the very last copy of the Neopian Times was being rolled up into a bundle.
“Weewoos! Make it to your stations and put on those uniforms. It’s time to deliver the Neopian Times!” shouted the postmaster general, a tall blue Lupe.
Shade quickly flew to her station and put on her clean blue uniform. Staring at a small mirror, she made sure her hat was on forwards and straight.
“Weewoos! Make your way to the attaching area.”
Shade moved on to a long table on the other side of the office where Neopets tied a Neopian Times to the feet of each Weewoo. Each Weewoo was assigned to a particular Neopet so they would feel more comfortable with this process. Shade saw the face of a familiar pink Lutari. It was Allie, the Lutari Shade had been assigned to ever since she took the job.
“You ready, Shade?” she asked gently.
“Weeeeeewoooo!” Shade replied, nodding vigorously.
The Lutari’s pink paws shifted around as she tied the knot around Shade’s feet.
“Good luck today,” she whispered to Shade.
“All Weewoos! Proceed to the take-off platform with your flock. Prepare for take-off in T-minus sixty seconds!” the postmaster general commanded.
Shade stepped onto a platform along with the others. There was no time for chatter.
“T-minus thirty seconds! Mount yourselves and prepare for take-off!”
Shade stepped closer to the edge, stretched out her wings, and saluted her co-workers.
“Five... four... three... two... one... take-off!”
One by one, the flocks took off. Shade felt the cool breeze through wings as she lifted off into the air. She looked down at the string tied around the newspaper. It was black and red, indicating that her destination was Krawk Island. She peeked at where the sun was and flew in that direction. Her journey would take her to the east and then south, over the seas to the native homeland of Weewoos. She stopped flapping her wings and glided smoothly in the air. The wind was perfect, sending Shade southeast, exactly where she wanted to go. It was one her natural instincts: the ability to conquer wind as if it were a wild creature, unstable until one mastered the ability to control it.
Around noon, Shade realized she was hungry. Luckily, she flew right over a swarm of Mootix. Quickly, she opened her beak and snapped at one, swallowing the Mootix whole. She then fluttered off in the southeasterly direction again. However, it suddenly occurred to her that the sun was no longer in the sky. It was getting darker and the wind started to pick up. A storm was fast approaching.
Shade had flown through storms before. She knew the best strategy was to fly to a higher altitude until she was above the storm cloud. If her destination were experiencing a storm, she would take a sustained dive through the storm cloud until she found a safe spot to land. To Shade, the storm that she faced now was no different from previous storms she had conquered.
Calmly, Shade flew forward and up, attempting to dodge the cloud the same way she did before. However, a quick wind gust knocked her off course. She fought back and managed to return to her normal position. Once again, she flew upward and forward. This time, a stronger wind gust came and threw her completely off course again. Shade thought that perhaps she should try flying around the storm instead. She kept on flying but never found the edge of the storm. Instead, she found a funnel cloud, but it was too late to dodge it. She flew head on into it. The wind tossed Shade around and then flung her in northeast direction. She closed her eyes and braced herself as the wind continued to toss her around.
Finally, the turbulence ended but the skies stayed cloudy, blanketed by a thick fog. She had found an edge of the storm. Unfortunately, the funnel cloud had made her dizzy and she had no clue where she was. The sun could no longer help her. She flapped her wings. A sharp pain shot up her right wing and she looked over to see that the strong winds had crumpled it. She had only one good wing now and would have to make an emergency landing somewhere, but where?
Whoosh! Shade felt something large fly by. Whoosh! There it was again. She squinted to see a large bird-like creature. It was not a bird, though. It could not have been. Birds have feathers; this creature had shiny translucent wings.
“Wee! Woo!” Shade chirped, but the creature could not hear her nor could she see her. The fog was excessively thick.
She turned to look straight ahead. BAM! Right in front of her was a large pink tower made of stone. The world went dark to Shade.
The faerie queen hummed to herself as she held a watering can, strolling through her garden. The sun had come up again and the fog dissipated. She stopped by her lavender tulips and started watering them. She then noticed a rather large ball of white fluff.
“Hmm. What’s this?” Fyora said to herself.
She stooped down and picked up the unconscious Weewoo.
“Oh my. Poor little thing. Let’s get you inside.”
She set the watering can back down and took the petpet up into her room.
“Celandra! I found an injured petpet outside. She appears to be unconscious. Please make a comfortable bed for her to rest on,” Fyora commanded.
“Yes, Fyora,” Celandra replied. Celandra found a small basket. Inside she put two large sponges for the mattress. Then she wrapped the sponges with a few layers of sheets and then laid two smaller sponges wrapped in cloth to be the pillows. Then she put a small pink comforter inside the bed and then tucked Shade in.
“Where should she sleep?” Celandra asked.
“Put her... umm... on the nightstand over there. I don’t want the wind to blow her out the window.”
A few hours later, the Weewoo regained consciousness. Slowly she got up and looked around. There was a lot of pink in the room: pink sheets, pink walls, pink pillows, pink curtains, pink furniture, pink floor, and... well, pink pretty much everything else. She looked around some more and tried to fly out of her bed. Immediately, she seized up in pain, unable to flap either wing.
Then something else came into the room, a creature dressed in lavender and carrying a light blue scepter. Shade understood. She was in Faerieland, in the Faerie Queen’s room. Fyora stared at Shade for a moment and then rushed over to the nightstand.
“Oh, you poor thing, don’t move too much. We need to get those wings wrapped. Wait right here, I’ll go get something to wrap that,” Fyora said.
Staying still and not flying was unnatural for any flying petpet, let alone Shade. Naturally, she tried to fly again, and naturally, she ended up on the ground. Broken bones and pain had paralyzed Shade’s wings. Fyora came in with bandages, gauze pad, and medical tape. She gasped as she saw the empty nest and then looked at the floor and sighed.
“Oh dear, are you alright? I thought I told you not to move. I know it is hard for a bird like you, and I hate to tell you this. You cannot fly... umm... what is your name again?”
Fyora squinted at the small badge attached to the Weewoo’s uniform.
“Ah, so it’s Shade. Unfortunately, you will not be able to fly for a while. You need rest. I’ll take you over to the Healing Springs, but the water faerie has never tried curing a petpet before. It’s worth a try, though.”
Shade looked at Fyora strangely and then looked at her wings. She then nodded to indicate that she understood. However, she also made a very sad face and then began to weep.
“Wooooooooooooo!” Shade cried and looked down at the Neopian Times that was still attached to her feet.
Fyora understood. “Ahh. You are a postal Weewoo, aren’t you? You’re upset because your Neopian Times isn’t going to be delivered and read?”
Shade sniffed and nodded slowly.
“Well, I see that this newspaper is intended for delivery to Krawk Island, isn’t it? How about I send this there with one of the cloud racers leaving for Krawk Island? That way the newspaper can still get there in a timely manner. How’s that sound?”
Shade nodded again and mustered a weak smile. Fyora picked up Shade and put her back into the basket. She then took the basket and walked out the door to take Shade to the Healing Springs. Suddenly, a great idea hit Fyora. She smiled and then walked to the bottom of the tower. At the bottom, she stretched her wings and began to hover just above the ground.
“Shade, look, we’re flying. I know it’s not the same, but I know it’s nice for you to be up in the air. I’m not going to fly too high or I might drop you, though,” Fyora said.
Shade poked her head out of the basket and looked at the ground below. She was flying again; well, somewhat anyway. Below, she could see Fyora’s enormous garden, many tall pink buildings, an enormous rainbow, and finally an intricate network of springs. Fyora descended slowly upon the Healing Springs.
The water faerie shook her head in sorrow after trying a few spells to no avail.
“My magic has run out. Petpets are not my area of expertise and what usually works on pets hasn’t worked on this little guy. I’m sorry, Fyora,” the water faerie said after throwing up her hands in disappointment.
Shade’s head drooped as she heard this.
“The best remedy is to have Shade rest for a few days. She doesn’t have any other choice. After three days she should then try flying again.”
Fyora laid Shade back in the basket and flew back to the castle.
“Don’t worry; you’ll be all better in time for the next Neopian Times delivery. I’m sure of it. You must stay well rested for those wings to heal, though,” Fyora said softly to Shade.
At this, Shade became very upset. Her wings were supposed to grant her freedom yet they confined her to this little basket. Fyora peered into the basket and gasped.
“Oh my! You’ve turned grey. I must ask the fountain faerie about this!”
Fyora followed the enormous rainbow that stretched the distance of Faerieland to the fountain faerie. The fountain faerie looked at the Shade and shook her head.
“She’s very upset, so upset that her feathers are turning grey. There’s nothing I can do to remedy this. You’re going to have to cheer her up somehow, Fyora,” the fountain faerie said.
“How do I cheer a Weewoo up? I have more important things to do. I’m a queen for goodness sake. How can I find time to spend with this Weewoo?”
The fountain faerie frowned at Fyora. “Why did you pick this Weewoo up, Fyora?”
“She was hurt so I thought I’d rescue her.”
“And why would you rescue her if you didn’t want to bear the responsibility of taking good care of her?”
“But I have work to do. Can’t I just give her to another faerie?”
“Why don’t you ask Shade that question?”
Shade stared at Fyora for a moment and shook her head. Fyora reached into the basket to pet Shade when Shade gave her finger a gentle peck.
“She pecked me!”
“She did it ever so gently, meaning she’s attached to you. It looks like you’ll just have to carry Shade wherever you go.”
Fyora opened her mouth to protest but quickly shut it again. She turned back to Shade and gave her a little smile and a nod.
“I’ll take care of her.”
The fountain faerie smiled at Fyora.
Shade smiled at Fyora too. Fyora took off into the air with the basket once again, flying Shade back to her tower. As she flew past the clock tower, she suddenly realized she was late for a Faerieland council meeting.
“We’re late, Shade! We must hurry!” Fyora flew faster, not noticing that Shade was bumping around in the basket. She landed in her tower and then ran to the meeting room. All the other Faerieland council members: Siyana, Illusen, Jhudora, Nuria, Psellia, and Nereid, were all waiting.
“Sorry I’m late; I had other business to take care of,” Fyora apologized.
Siyana leaned over as Fyora sat down and whispered to Fyora, “What’s in the basket?”
“A Weewoo? I see. She doesn’t seem to be doing so well.”
Fyora stared into the basket to see an unconscious Shade.
“OH, DEAR ME!” Fyora shouted.
“Is something wrong?” Illusen asked.
“Well, it’s this Weewoo I found in the garden; she had broken wings. I tried to find a way to heal her, but the Healing Springs faerie can’t do anything. Out of sadness, this Weewoo turned grey. Now I’ve made her even worse when I bumped the basket around on the way here.”
“You can’t be rushing to meetings and taking care of a petpet at the same time. Anything with injured wings needs all the attention it can get,” Nereid advised.
“Are we going to get on with the meeting or worry about that little puff of feathers?” Jhudora snorted.
“Jhudora! How rude of you!” scolded Illusen.
“This meeting isn’t urgent. We can do without our weekly meeting until the Weewoo is well. Faerieland is at a time of peace,” Siyana said, reassuring Fyora.
“Yes, yes,” the faeries all said in unison, except Jhudora who retorted that Fyora had grown into a “weak-willed softy”. Illusen put her face into her palm and shook her head at Jhudora.
Fyora nodded and left the room. Meanwhile Shade finally regained consciousness and stared at Fyora dizzily.
“Weeeeewoooooooo!” she shouted as her head spun.
“What am I going to do with you, you poor thing?” Fyora said, absentmindedly stroking Shade.
Shade snapped her beak on Fyora’s finger and pointed at her belly.
“Ow! You little... oh, you must be hungry. What does your kind eat?”
Shade pointed her beak at Fyora’s bookcase.
“I don’t understand,” Fyora said.
Shade pointed more vigorously at the large green Petpet Biology book. Fyora finally understood and pulled out the book.
“Weewoos are omnivorous petpets but often prefer meat to vegetables. A balanced diet includes grubs, worms, or bug-like petpetpets, coupled with a tree leaf,” Fyora read and then gagged, making a disgusted face.
“Ew. What about a salad?”
Shade shook her head vigorously and pointed at the ground outside.
“You want me to go pick out bugs for you?”
Shade smiled and nodded.
“Oh, this just great. Come along and pick your grubs then.”
Fyora carefully walked out with the basket this time, making sure that Shade wasn’t bumping around. She set the basket down on the ground in her garden.
Shade pointed at a small spade and then the ground.
“No, I’m not making a mess out of my garden doing this.”
Shade made a sad face and turned away. Fyora sighed and dug a hole in the ground. Under the dirt, she found a Mec Mec Grub.
“Alright, I found a grub.”
Shade looked at the grub and then pointed at Fyora’s hand, then opened her beak.
“Does that mean I have to pick it up and put it in your mouth?”
Shade nodded again.
“Ugh, this is nasty.” Fyora closed her eyes, picked up the squirming grub, and dropped it into the basket. Shade quickly caught it with her beak and munched the grub down, then smiled at Fyora.
“Ugh, you aren’t going to make me do that again tomorrow, are you?”
Shade whistled and then nodded.
“If you mean yes, as in I have to do it again, then it’s going to be a long week for me.”
Of course, the next few days, Fyora grew used to picking grubs out of the ground. In fact, she began to enjoy it. It was good for her garden to get rid of the grubs anyway as they did chew the roots of her lilacs. Little by little, Shade’s wings began to heal and soon she was able to move them without feeling pain. However, that movement was still limited and her flying was still impaired.
Shade shook her head when Fyora tried to dig up a grub. Instead, she hopped out of her basket and pecked at the ground.
“No, no, Shade. I like doing this now,” said Fyora.
Shade smiled at Fyora and hopped back into the basket, watching Fyora dig up a Ha Ha Grub. Thus, for the next few days, Fyora continued to dig up grubs for Shade. That is until another change occurred.
Shade’s wings were more mobile now and she could fly short distances. Fyora discovered this as she was sleeping. Shade flapped her wings and flew, but then realized she couldn’t fly very far without her wings getting tired. She flew over Fyora’s bed and then fell right into Fyora’s pillow.
“AHHHHH!” Fyora shouted and the saw the puff of grey feathers next to her head.
“Shade! Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be in your basket? How’d you get all the way over here?”
Shade stared at Fyora and bowed her head low in apology.
“Aww. Don’t be sorry. I was just surprised, that’s all. You can fly again. A few more days and you’ll be out of here.”
Shade’s smile faded again and she looked down at her own feathers. They were still grey. She then looked at Fyora and began to cry again.
“Wooooooooo!” she cried loudly enough that Psellia and Siyana poked their heads into the room.
“Is something wrong with her?” Psellia asked.
“I don’t know, she started flying today and then when I told her that she was almost ready to fly back to her home, she began crying.”
“Fyora, I think she’s grown attached to you.”
“How do I make her unattached to me?”
“That, Fyora, is impossible. You’ve been a good friend to this Weewoo and it’s difficult for her to move on.”
Fyora stroked Shade a few times and then realized that she too would miss Shade.
“I don’t know what to do. She just belongs here, and yet she doesn’t.”
“Well, why don’t you take her for a flight outside and let her experience what it’s like to be free again?” Siyana suggested.
Fyora nodded. Soon she took Shade down the spiral staircase of the tower and then out the door. Shade stretched her wings and flew for a moment, then glided to a safe landing spot.
“You’re getting better at this, aren’t you?”
Shade nodded and a few grey feathers dropped off her chin, revealing a few white feathers.
The next day, Shade was able to fly out of the tower on her own and return ten minutes later with a grub in her mouth.
Then the next day, Shade was able to fly around Faerieland and return with an old copy of the Neopian Times.
Friday came again. Shade’s wings were fully healed. She molted off her grey feathers and became the spiffy white postal Weewoo Fyora met earlier. Fyora knew it was time to release Shade back to her home, yet she was still worried that Shade would be in trouble.
“Why don’t you leave when your flock comes to deliver the new Neopian Times? That way one can look out for you.”
Shade nodded and stared at the Faerie Cloud Racetrack, watching the nice, shiny cloud racers fly around freely. It was a soothing view, but also one that brought tears to Shade’s eyes. This time, Shade didn’t bawl; instead she sniffed a little bit and then allowed the tears to silently flow. Fyora noticed this and picked Shade up from the windowsill.
“What’s wrong, Shade?”
Shade looked outside and then looked back into Fyora’s eyes and gave Fyora an affectionate peck.
“You are not destined to remain here forever. You are a postal Weewoo, and you should take pride in your profession of delivering some of the best literature in Neopia. I enjoyed your company, Shade, and you are welcome to visit every time you deliver to Faerieland. You will always have a second home here.”
Shade nodded slowly.
“It would not be right for me to keep you here. You must spread your wings. Be free; you are a free Weewoo.”
Shade nodded again.
Fyora stroked Shade gently on the head several times. A moment later, loud calls of “Wee! Woo!” erupted across Faerieland.
“Your flock is here. It is time for you go, Shade.”
Shade looked into Fyora’s eyes for one last moment, gave a gentle nibble to Fyora’s hand, and then spread her wings. Minutes later, she rejoined her flock and began to tell her story to the other postal Weewoos who were terribly worried but now relieved to see Shade. Shade then asked to say goodbye one more time. The flock flew by Fyora’s window and all the Weewoos chanted “Wee! Woo!” to Fyora. Fyora smiled and waved back at them. She allowed a few tears to escape and then left to carry on with her duties as Faerie Queen. The Weewoos then spread their wings and flew out into the horizon.