The Secret of Geraptiku: Part Ten
The white Peophin and royal Peophin, and just about every other Peophin, hissed in recognition. Milk and Luna's eyes widened.
"What the...? Why is Vahara...?" Milk stuttered in confusion. Luna barked happily when she recognized the faerie as a friend.
"You know her?" the royal Peophin questioned.
"Well... how do you define 'know'?" Milk asked hesitantly. "She healed Akee, and helped us leave, but we don't really know her specifically." The royal Peophin's eyes narrowed at the approaching grey faerie. "Then... do you know her?"
"We've met," the white Peophin said through clenched teeth, not forgetting her anger all the way yet.
Vahara was now just outside. I knew she couldn't see us because the glass distorted the view of the inside, even though looking outside it was still murky, but mostly clear.
"Quick," the royal Peophin said hurriedly. "Hide!"
"Where?" Milk whined.
"In the corral. Now go!" Milk, Luna, and I got shoved into the corral, and a shadow Peophin arranged the corral so Vahara wouldn't be able to see us, but we could still see marginally. I bit at the ropes tying us, and managed to free myself after some hard work. I chewed at Milk's and Luna's next.
"So," Vahara said in a drawling voice that sounded very strange coming from the same mouth that had said nothing mean to us. "I see you are all still here and my mistress hasn't gotten rid of you yet. Here's your provisions that the dark faerie has graciously given to you." She smirked and threw just enough omelettes so there was about one for every four people. Vahara cackled when the Peophins rushed forward.
"Why didn't you give us any yesterday?" a baby Peophin asked tearfully.
"I didn't?" Vahara laughed. "Oops, I must've forgotten."
"You always forget," the baby Peophin sniffled. She was awfully thin, and had that look in her eyes that you see from Neopets living on the streets, that eternally hungry gaze, like she'd never had enough to eat, and spent every waking moment looking and hoping for her next meal.
I felt a sharp surge of anger and I bit the last rope tying Luna off. That filthy grey faerie...
Milk grabbed my arm and, making sure he had my attention, sent me an intense look that I've gotten from Xaea a lot. Don't do anything stupid. I snatched my arm away from him, but didn't make any noise. Unfortunately, Milk couldn't read Luna's anger as well as mine. She hissed, a long, furious snarl. I didn't even know Luna could get mad, let alone that mad.
"What was that?" the grey faerie snapped, glancing around.
"What was what?" a plushie Peophin asked innocently.
"That noise," Vahara muttered. "It sounded familiar." I could practically see the gears turning in her head. I silently hoped she wouldn't think of my Sandan. I hoped she wouldn't remember Luna's bark, and her strange yapping sound that meant she was laughing, the noise she'd made in sheer relief when she saw me.
I clamped my paw over Luna's mouth. Luna wrestled with me, and tried to get my paw away from her. She licked my paw.
"Eww," I moaned, shaking the saliva off my palm. I froze suddenly, not even daring to blink. Did I really just say that out loud? Milk's panicked look answered my unspoken question. I slowly twisted my head in the direction of Vahara. She was facing our hiding spot with a cocked head, and, even worse, she was gliding along in the water towards us. There was nowhere else to hide. A pale hand parted the corral, and her eyes widened in the realization when she saw the two Neopets and the Petpet she had betrayed.
I was sure of it. Vahara had never meant her goodness. The act of kindness and warmth was just that, an act. Vahara's features slowly lit up in a merciless smile.
"Well, well, what have we here?"
I glared at her. "You betrayed us." She just laughed.
"Betrayed? No, no, no. I would never do a thing so abysmal. I simply deluded you."
"You work for the dark faerie," Milk hissed. "And we trusted you!"
"Where's Cydon?" I asked. Her evil smile grew wider. "What did you do to him?"
"You'll get all your answers soon enough, but I think the dark faerie will want to see her two new servants and rebellious worker. Now, follow me." Milk, Luna, and I just glowered.
Before I could react, she grabbed Luna by her tail and held her upside down. "Obey me or this Sandan... well... you can imagine." I scowled, but Milk and I followed Vahara out through the glass. I hoped the glass would maybe turn unyielding, but it wasn't. When we walked through, I could clearly see there was no magma Cybunny. Toomin, the kind-looking electric Peophin, was working for the dark faerie too. How many people were there that had the pretense of a kind, honest Neopian, but behind those sweet eyes, there lurked a brain as vile as the dark faerie? Maybe Tillie also betrayed his species, and couldn't control himself when he laughed at Milk and me when the white Peophin was mad at us. Maybe he was the one who locked the door behind us and sealed us in a dark room, accidently sniggering out loud.
After a journey through many corridors, we finally ended up in the dark faerie's throne room, but she wasn't there. I could see the wooden chest that had been the cause of most of this. I wondered what was inside it. I hoped it was something worth stumbling throughout a dark faeries castle for. I couldn't exactly think of anything worth that though. Maybe a map that lead the way out. If it was empty, holy Kau, I would be so mad.
"Ah, there you are," a sweet voice said, interrupting my thoughts. Milk snapped around. I groaned inwardly. The dark faerie's voice was hypnotizing again. In the back of my mind, something clicked together; why I was having such a hard time accepting the fact that Vahara worked for the dark faerie.
"Vahara, if you work for the dark faerie, why were you trapped in that prison?" I asked suddenly. Vahara scowled.
"I was punished," Vahara said through gritted teeth.
"For what?" Milk asked. Vahara threw Luna down. She gave me a malevolent smile.
"For eating Petpets." Her teeth glistened in her awful smile. "I wasn't lying when I told you that my mistress threw in Luna. It was to punish her. And I was just about to eat her when you showed up." Luna scrambled over to me and clutched my leg.
"So why were you punished?" I asked.
"Eating them isn't a good habit to have. Especially if they are worth 8 million neopoints," the dark faerie said with a glare towards Vahara.
"Where's Cydon?" Milk demanded. The dark faerie and Vahara shared a knowing smile that gave me a really bad feeling. I suddenly didn't want to know.
"Now give those keys back to their owners," the dark faerie said. "Such bad little Neopets you are, stealing things. Haven't you ever learned not to? Now, just give the golden one back to Vahara, and the silver and bronze ones back to the Peophins; they are easier to handle when they have worthless artifacts to pointlessly worship."
"If they're worthless, then why do you want me to give them back?" Milk said swiftly, his ribbon-like tail tightening around the keys. The dark faerie frowned at her flaw.
"The golden key is worth a lot of neopoints, we're going to sell it the first chance we get," Vahara said smoothly. She then glanced at the dark faerie. The dark faerie gave her a tiny nod, so fast and so small, I wasn't sure it even happened, because why would she nod?
The dark faerie sighed. "I must go. Vahara, make sure these three don't escape, or else your time in prison will seem very short and pleasant, compared to what would happen. But first, I have one last surprise for you." The dark faerie smirked at Milk, Luna, and me. She twisted around, waved her hand, and a doorway appeared out of the dank, stone wall. She walked through the hallway, but the wall didn't disappear. I stared at the empty hole, certain things couldn't get much worse.
I was wrong.
Cydon stumbled through the doorway out of the darkness. He stared around, blinking.
"Cydon! What happened? Wha-" I broke off when he slowly smiled, and stood over by Vahara. At that moment, everything clicked together in my head. Cydon's generosity was fake too. Just as fake as Vahara's. Cydon always looked like he was thinking of something else all the time, and every once in a while, the mask slipped. His smile would turn arrogant, and his walk would be a swagger. Vahara was a better actor.
"What... Oh, really, Cydon?" Milk asked wearily. "Really? And just when I thought we could get out of here too?"
"In the dark," I muttered, "you were the one giving us that scratching feeling."
Cydon smirked and nodded. He was now the Peophin that bragged of being able to fly with just about anything on his back. The Peophin whose smile was self-assured and whose eyes were cynical. "To alert Vahara. I didn't want us barging in on her. And she had to get the keys in place from a much more sensible hiding place than on the ceiling."
"When I fainted..."
"I actually was telling the truth about that," Cydon said sincerely. "Once you meet the dark faerie, and you aren't on her side of course, the fear never really goes away."
"That's why you wanted to stay with Vahara," Milk mused. "You had nothing to fear about being trapped, the dark faerie could just see the video from the camera before Akee broke it and let you go."
"Tillie," I said suddenly, looking at Cydon. "Your younger brother? He betrayed his species too. And so did Toomin."
"Toomin didn't want to, of course," Cydon explained, "but he had no choice. The dark faerie needed more servants, but she didn't want to ask them outright. So Vahara gave Toomin a potion to turn his thinking."
"The potion's wearing off, though," Vahara muttered. So the cupboard in her room was full of those kind of potions, ones that made you breathe air and brainwash you, instead of the healing charade she put on.
"What about you?" Milk asked Cydon. "Did you have to take a potion? Or did you just turn against all the good things in the world, against the Peophins, your own species! Against all the good faeries in the world? Against all of Neopia?"
Cydon smiled again. "When you put it that way, it sounds so bad."
"Traitor," I muttered.
"Help! Help!" a soft voice hollered. "The Peophins, they're about to go outside!" Toomin panted. His electric fur seemed to shine in the gloom. "They've stopped believing our lies!"
"What?!" Cydon snapped.
"They're about to go outside! They're believing... them." He gestured towards Milk and I, and Luna, still clinging to my leg.
"Well, convince them not to!" Vahara said.
"I tried," Toomin whined. "But they don't believe me anymore! They realized I was lying when I went outside in order to convince them they were telling the truth! They shoved me outside, and they are going to go right now! They're rebelling, and they might make it outside! Then all of Neopia will learn about the dark faerie! And then news will reach to Fyora!"
"We must go!" Vahara said, gesturing towards Milk. "Stay here," she ordered Toomin. "And make sure they don't escape." Vahara and Milk ran out the black doorway.
Toomin sighed, and looked at us. "The potion's wearing off," he muttered. "I won't stop whatever you try and do, just try not to escape, okay? There's nowhere you can go in here." Milk ran over to the wooden (treasure?) chest in the corner.
"Milk! What are you... oh!" I said in realization. The keys! Duh! We had all three of them now! I ran over, and Toomin came over out of curiosity.
"Why do you call him Milk?" Toomin asked.
"Well..." I began, trying to think of a sane reason. "He won't tell me his name."
"Why not call him something more rational, and something that sounds more like a name?"
"What do you have against the name Milk?" Milk was now placing the silver key in the keyhole. It clicked louder than the bronze key.
"Nothing, I was just wondering why..."
"Well, why not call him Milk?" I smiled, the last thing I expected I would do.
Milk inserted the golden key in the lock. The click was much softer than the silver key. Slowly and carefully, the yellow Gelert opened the box that had taken so long to get to. After fighting and outsmarting not one or even two, but three giant Cybunnies made out of inanimate objects, going through a fish tank of Peophins, and several betrayals, we finally got to the moment we've been waiting for. I was hoping this chest would answer my questions and hopes. The thing I was dreading was that the box would hold nothing, or something useless, or something that just raised more questions.
Inside the box was crimson soft velvet lining. Nestled against the red in sharp contrast, an all too familiar shape glittered in the gloom.
"Are you serious?" I demanded of the item. "Another key?"
"What's it go to...?" Milk mused, delicately picking it up. The key, unless I was mistaken, was pure diamond.
"Hey!" Toomin said suddenly. "There's a lock make of diamond on the back of the dark faerie's throne! I'll show you!" Toomin darted around to the back of the silver and ebony chair, and we followed, after I got Luna to cling to my back instead of my leg so I could run better. We gathered around the lock, which sparkled very faintly. Milk carefully inserted the diamond key, and turned it.
We found out it was a drawer after it smoothly slide open once Milk took the key out. Inside the drawer was a single sheet of paper, yellowed with age. With my paw trembling, I grasped the piece of paper, and slowly got it out of the drawer. There was a word written on it, a single word in fine print, nothing else, but in the dark, I couldn't read the word. The paper was only halfway out of the drawer before I heard the voice.
"GET AWAY FROM THERE!" I squealed and jumped in surprise. In shock, I accidently tore the piece of paper. I stared at it in my paws. There was the letter A, a letter L, and I think maybe an O, but I wasn't sure, it could've been a C. The dark faerie kicked the drawer shut and glared at me in black hatred. Vahara and Cydon came in, but stopped suddenly when they saw how furious the dark faerie was. They stood in the doorway and stared. I backed away from the dark faerie. She glared at Toomin. "Go back to the Peophins," she ordered. Toomin quickly jumped up and ran between Vahara and Cydon through the doorway. The dark faerie took a few deep breathes, and closed her deep violet eyes. When she opened them, she looked calmer. She smiled sweetly, but it was a sickly kind of sweet, like when your owner happens to add too much extra sugar to a Faerie Cupcake in order to make it taste better, and her eyes still shone malevolently. I suddenly had a terrible feeling that something really bad was about to happen. I averted my gaze from her eyes and stared at my feet.
"What do you want with us?" I whispered. "Why can't you just let us go?" I could see Milk edge over to a wall and press his paw against the wall. Nothing happened.
Akeelyla, you will never make it out, don't even try, you're wasting your energy.
“What?” I asked. I glanced around. The dark faerie was smiling sweetly at me, and she used the same enchanting voice she had used when I first met her. She wasn’t talking out loud though; somehow she was talking in my head, in my thoughts.
“Akee? What’s happening?” Milk asked. I guess something was wrong with my face. I turned to look at him. The blankness on my face scared him. “Whatever she’s saying, don’t listen to her!” I narrowed my eyes. In some distant corner in my head I realized she was controlling me.
Pathetic little servant, he’s no good for anything. Don’t listen to him; your life will be much better if you listen to me, Akeelyla.
“Akee! Stop it!” he screamed. I looked down and I realized I was forcing him to the ground, trying to knock him out.
Very good, Akeelyla, now, all you have to do is make him unconscious, and all will be better.
“What?” I wondered. Was something important happening? Why was I trying to hurt Milk? He was my friend. We'd been through so much together, why was I doing this to him?
He is not your friend, that is a lie. He has never been anything else but a rotten little Neopet. But you aren’t rotten, oh no, no, no. You are the most beautiful Xweetok alive. If you stay around him, you will turn rotten, though. And who really wants that to happen? Listen to me, Akeelyla. Listen to me... listen to me...
“Akee, whatever she’s saying, it’s all a lie! She’s just manipulating you!”
“How do you know that?” I asked him quietly. “Maybe she is telling the truth. Maybe all you’re saying is a lie.” Through all the confusion, Luna jumped off my back and landed on Milk's head. She started making faces at me.
The Petpet is also wrong; she has just been mean to you behind your back. And who would know better than me? After all, faeries are very close to knowing everything, we are the only ones that are good and true in the world.
“Don’t listen to her!”
Don’t listen to him.
“Be quiet! All of you! I can’t think!” I screamed.
Just don’t even listen to him, he is making your life hard, he is trying to complicate things, and make you question right and wrong when it’s staring you in the face.
“Remember me, Akee? We’re trying to escape! We can’t do that when you knock me out! And don't you remember how bad the dark faerie is to us and everyone else? She trapped dozens of Peophins in a fish tank, and brainwashed people to work for her! Remember Toomin? Remember the Cybunnies?” I had him on the ground now; I had my paw above his head, about to strike Milk unconscious.
That’s it now, you almost have him. It will be all over as soon as you make him unconscious. After that, all will be better, and it won’t be so hard anymore. Life will be sweeter and simpler, oh yes.
One word the dark faerie said reminded me of an earlier thought. Sweeter... sweet... too sweet. Like when your owner happens to add too much extra sugar to a Faerie Cupcake to make it taste better... sickly sweet... bad sweet... fake sweet... bitter...
The dark faerie was smiling kindly. But that was a mask. Her true personality, her true intentions, were hiding behind that mask. The mask blotted out the malevolence, the wickedness, the evilness, made love and kindness seem there. All the generosity, all the peacefulness, it all looked so indisputable, but it wasn't really there... right?
Mask? What mask? No one is that good of an actor, to be able to make that much of a show of goodness...
Yes, the dark faerie can do that. She's had years of practice of enticing innocent Neopians into her hands...
No. She's telling the truth. She's GOT to be telling the truth...
In some far distant idiotic corner of my mind I felt amusement. I wasn't just arguing with the dark faerie and Milk, and even Luna, but myself too.
Luna barked at me, angry I'd gotten so close to the answer, but beaten again by the dark faerie. Or so I thought in some other corner of my mind. Who knew what Luna was barking about?
“See? Even Luna wants you to stop!
“I won’t deny it, that Sandan of yours wishes you would stop, but who says she knows everything? She is only a Petpet, and what knowledge do Petpets have that rivals with mine; an ancient, all-knowing mind? You know for yourself, Akeelyla, that Petpets don't know everything, can't know everything. No one really can know absolutely everything; however, I am close. Oh, so close...”
Luna barked again.
“Don’t listen, Akee! Stop!”
The dark faerie purred in my head.
Milk screamed at me.
Luna was barking.
But then, all grew quiet...
To be continued...