Statues: Part One
Far in the woods west of Brightvale there was a clearing. Above it the trees stretched out over it and knotted around each other, blocking out all light except for one beam. The beam of light came right down the middle of the clearing. Of course, the sun could not shine there all day. It had to go about its business rising and setting like everyone expects it to do. The opening was so small that there was only light in this clearing at precisely noon, for a few precious minutes until all became dark again. But when there was light, it was a breathtaking view. It would not be so amazing if there had not been the statue standing in the very spot above which there was the opening in the trees.
The statue was of an Acara, magnificently done, and very lifelike. Here and there were leaves, a curious thing for a statue to have. The Acara statue could be barely seen in the darkness that lasted until noon of every day. When it could be seen the sun glimmered on its smooth surface.
Naturally, lost explorers (the woods were very, very large and like a maze) felt drawn to this sight. They could only ever find it at precisely noon when it was dazzlingly gorgeous. They would near that statue, and as they did, the statue’s eyes would faintly glow - ever so faintly - and then...
...they would vanish.
The explorers would be gone in the very blink of an eye. Nobody knew what exactly had happened except the explorers. They were gone without any trace.
People blamed this phenomenon eventually on the Acara statue, whose clearing all the disappearances could be traced to. The statue remained ever silent and unmoving, but everyone became suspicious of it. Explorers stopped going to the woods. Everyone except one forest Faerie who didn’t get the memo: The Brightvale woods are cursed.
Falyn fluttered low over the trees. She was getting very tired from all this flying, and the sight of the woods stretching out for miles was a discouraging sight. Suddenly she stopped and hovered in mid-air. She’d seen an opening in the endless canopy of trees!
“Agatha will not be happy if I arrive late...” Falyn worried. She was the Soup Faerie’s newest apprentice. She had been sent to pick up some cheap items from the Meridell food market and was on her way back. She’d been flying for hours.
“But she’ll never know if I stop for five minutes, right?”
And so Falyn flew down through the narrow opening. her light feet, covered by light, green shoes, alighted on a smooth wooden surface. She looked around her.
“Wow,” the Faerie said. “It’s gorgeous here.”
There were little white bell-flowers that grew there, their heads naturally drooped as if in sleep. Tiny blue bugs that looked like butterflies were everywhere. Four of them exactly fluttered in circles around each flower. There was a heavy scent in the air that smelled like pine trees. Falyn was standing in the only source of light. She looked down.
“Oh!” she gasped. She hopped down from where she was standing. She looked at it. “It’s a statue!” she said.
She marveled at the unique detail and dimensions of the statue.
“It looks like it could come alive at any moment,” Falyn remarked to herself. “It’s beautiful! And I was standing on its head by accident...”
She noticed that at the base of the statue a name was carved. “ALICIA” it read.
“Hmm, I wonder why they named a statue ‘Alicia’,” Falyn said thoughtfully. “This place is wonderful, but it’s really strange.”
Suddenly, Falyn saw a faint glow in the eyes of the Acara. She leapt backwards. The light had been barely noticeable, but there it was! And then as suddenly as it had appeared, it vanished.
Now Falyn was even more curious. She was a brave Faerie, and one could say she wasn’t afraid of anything. Well, she was afraid of the Soup Faerie, Agatha, when she lost her temper, but that was about it.
“This is really, really weird,” Falyn declared out loud. “But I don’t have any more time to waste. My wings feel a bit better already, so I should be off. I’ll ask Agatha about this when I get back.”
So Falyn flew out through the opening and started flying towards Neopia Central’s Marketplace, where the Soup Faerie’s kitchen is.
Later that evening, after the dinner rush had subsided, Falyn searched for Agatha. She found her serving a bowl of hot soup to one of the lingering customers.
“Have a nice evening!” she called cheerfully as the pet walked off. “Don’t forget to come back whenever you’re hungry.”
“Ms. Agatha?” Falyn tapped on the Soup Faerie’s shoulder. She was nearly as tall as the charitable Faerie.
Agatha turned around. “Oh, hi, Falyn!” She smiled. “You did a good job getting those items from Meridell today. It’s a very long flight over the Brightvale Woods. Anyway, did you have a question?”
“Actually,” Falyn said, “my question is about the Brightvale Woods. There doesn’t seem to be many places to land, does there?”
“Oh, yes, it’s those blasted sticker-trees,” Agatha agreed. “They’re pretty to look at, but they have spikes all over them and they won’t let anyone into the woods from above. They’re very nasty things.”
“Well, actually, Ms. Agatha,” Falyn said. “I found an opening.”
The Soup Faerie’s eyes grew wide with concern. “You-You didn’t go IN the opening, did you, Falyn?”
Falyn sheepishly looked at her feet.
“Falyn?” Agatha’s voice was rising with worry. “You went in?”
Falyn nodded shyly. “But it was the most gorgeous place, Ms. Agatha!” she said, brightening. “There were all these white flowers with blue butterflies flying around them. The sun was shining in from just one spot, and best of all: there was this beautifully-carved Acara statue. But it raised a few questions in my mind.”
“Oh no!” Agatha exclaimed. “Your description fits Sorceress Clearing perfectly. You didn’t get hurt, did you, Falyn?”
The forest Faerie was surprised. How could the lovely clearing itself hurt anyone?
“W-Well, no, Ms. Agatha,” Falyn stammered. “I’m not hurt in the slightest. I just wanted to ask about the statue. And hey, Ms. Agatha - you seem to know a lot about the clearing. You even called it by a name.”
“That’s good that you aren’t hurt,” Agatha sighed in relief. “But yes, I do know some about Sorceress Clearing. Remember, Illusen, my sister, lives in Meridell. She tells me plenty of things about the areas around her.”
“Can you tell some of them to me?” Falyn asked eagerly. “Oh, but I only want to know the stuff about Sorceress Clearing. That’s what you called it, right?”
Agatha nodded. “It’s said a long time ago, there lived a sorceress during the time of the Meridell/Darigan war. As the city was being destroyed, she hid all of her treasures deep in the Brightvale Woods. She put a statue of an Acara in the clearing that stood before the location of the treasure and cursed it. The statue would make any explorers who neared it vanish into thin air. I suppose it doesn’t affect Faeries, which is why you are still here. The evil sorceress probably never suspected a Faerie would try to take her treasure, so she left them out of her spell.”
“Oh,” Falyn was taken aback. The pretty Acara statue was really that dangerous? “Well, thank you, Ms. Agatha.”
Falyn mustered a fake yawn and headed off to bed. She stayed awake for hours thinking this over. What could the sorceress have hidden? Her evil book of spells? Falyn knew exactly what she had to do: she had to find this treasure, which meant that tomorrow - she was going back to the clearing.
The next day, Falyn asked Agatha if she needed any more items from Meridell.
“Well...” Agatha checked her shopping list. “Yes, I do need some Plaid Cheese. But why are you so eager to go back to Meridell?”
She looked at her apprentice suspiciously.
“Oh, the people in Meridell are very nice,” Falyn said. “And it’s very pretty there.”
All of which was true, but that was not really why Falyn wanted to go to Meridell. To go to Meridell, one had to fly over the Brightvale Woods.
“Oh, well, alright,” Agatha said, but she was still not sure about Falyn.
Falyn walked out the door before Agatha could change her mind. She was in the sky and soaring towards the woods.
Falyn kept a wary eye out for the opening in the trees, but she could not find it. She sighed and went on to the Meridell Food Market, where she found the Plaid Cheese Agatha had requested. She haggled with the shopkeeper for a while, which was one of her favorite pastimes. She managed to get the cheese for 121 Neopoints less than usual. She tucked the soup ingredient into her bag and flew off.
She flew, disappointed, over the woods on her way back. The sun was high in the sky and it made Falyn much too warm. She was sweating as she looked down at the trees rushing past, when suddenly: there it was! The opening was suddenly right below her!
“Now I know that can’t be right!” Falyn said, both overjoyed and confused. “I flew this same way when I was going to Meridell! That’s very strange.”
Nevertheless, Falyn swooped down and slid through the opening, being careful not to prick herself on the spiky trees that refused entry everywhere else. She alighted again on the statue’s head, but only briefly.
“Sorry, Alicia,” Falyn mumbled as she hopped down to the ground. She started to search in the bordering trees, but she could find no door, no secret entrance, no treasure. She dared not to go far for fear that she might never get back to the clearing.
Falyn sighed, defeated, as she returned and sat by the base of the statue. She figured she may as well rest for a moment as there was a long flight ahead of her. She stared at the name plate carved into the statue’s base.
“Alicia, Alicia, Alicia,” she repeated. She tried spelling the name backwards. It was a habit of the Faerie’s to spell words backwards. She liked to write stories, and sometimes words sounded pretty when said differently. Many words spelled the wrong way had become names for her story characters.
“A-I-C-I-L-A,” she spelled slowly. “Aicila. That’s actually a really pretty name, but how does one pronounce it? Maybe, eye-see-luh? Or eye-sill-uh?”
Falyn decided she liked the latter pronunciation better.
“Aicila, Aicila, Aicila,” she repeated fondly. “That’d make a great name for a princess in a story. Lady Aicila the Royal--”
Falyn stopped as a rumbling arose in the clearing. Falyn wondered what on Neopia could be causing the tremor. She realized it came from the Acara statue itself!
Alicia’s eyes grew white like they had the previous day, only stronger this time. The statue rumbled violently. It slowly subsided and the light in Alicia’s eyes dimmed. Falyn thought the strange episode had ended when a light even brighter than before, enveloped the statue. It went out very quickly, but when Falyn could see the statue again, it was different.
The brown wood of the statue no longer looked solid. It had a silky look to it, and looking closer, Falyn could see it had been divided into individual hairs, like her own! The eyes had closed, and the smile had vanished. The ears drooped, and the muscles relaxed. The Acara (statue?)’s limbs failed her at the joints, and the strange creature that was supposed to be inanimate collapsed. The Acara fell off of the statue’s base and onto the dark green grass.
Falyn was speechless. What had just happened? The Acara statue was no longer a wood-carver’s art but a seemingly living, breathing Neopet! She did not know whether she should be stunned, frightened, or concerned. The Acara lay limp by the statue base, and Falyn decided that she could be stunned and frightened later. Right now she needed to be concerned for Alicia’s well-being.
Falyn rushed to the Acara’s side. Awkwardly she shook the statue by the shoulder.
“Um, ma’am, are... are you ok?”
Alicia suddenly opened her eyes as a light sleeper would that had heard steps in the hallway. She was aware of everything around her, though it all seemed unfamiliar and scary and dark. A figure knelt at her side who was not as scary as her surroundings, just odd.
“O-oh!” Falyn started, backing away. “You’re... awake!”
“What’s to be surprised about?” Alicia asked slowly as if she were just remembering how to talk.
“It’s just that...” Falyn stammered. “Statues don’t usually do that.”
“Statues?” Alicia cocked her head. “I don’t see any statues here. Where am I? And who are you? My name is--”
“Your name is Alicia, I know,” Falyn interrupted.
“Um, no,” Alicia corrected. “My name is Aicila.”
A muffled realization came to Falyn. Maybe, to disable the cursed statue, all you had to do was speak Alicia’s name three times backwards?
When Falyn didn’t speak, Aicila asked again, “Who are you? And where are we? And do you know the way to Meri Acres Farm?”
“I’m Falyn,” the apprentice said. “We’re in the Brightvale Woods. I think I know where Meri Acres Farm is, but I would really like to know - what are you?”
“Now, that’s not a very proper term for a Neopet!” Aicila scolded in her young voice. How could something so old look so young? “‘What’! I am a ‘who’ in case you haven’t noticed. And I am not exactly sure myself what is going on here. First, tell me what you know, if you please. Then I might remember something.”
“Fine,” Falyn agreed. “All I know is that yesterday I stumbled across this clearing. You were a regular Acara statue, but when I got close to you, your eyes started to glow in an attempt to send me off to wherever you usually send travelers. I asked Agatha, the Soup Faerie and the Faerie I work for, about this place. She says it’s called Sorceress Clearing and that a sorceress put you - the cursed Acara statue - here during the Meridell-Darigan war hundreds of years ago to protect her treasure. I thought you were an ordinary statue, but now I’m all confused.”
Aicila blinked. She seemed to not have listened to Falyn at all, and her face was pale. “Did y-you say,” she began shakily. “That the M-Meridell-Darigan war was... hundreds of years ago?”
“Well, yeah, everyone knows that,” Falyn answered. This was the question she least expected. “I thought you’d be more interested that you were a sorceress’ trap-statue.”
“Yes, that is very confusing,” Aicila admitted. “But you don’t understand - I’m no booby-trap. I am a regular Acara. My name is Aicila Candril, and my father is a farmer on Meri Acres Farm. The Meridell-Darigan war broke out just a few days ago.”
Falyn was taken aback. “Let’s try to get our stories straight,” she tried. “Tell me what you remember.”
So Aicila told Falyn about how she was a regular farm-girl, helping her father and brothers grow Meridell’s largest marrows. Just recently a strange cloud had spread over the land and awful creatures had been destroying everything, including her father’s farm. Her father had taken her into the Brightvale Woods, last she remembered, with Illusen accompanying them. Her father had apologized, and then everything became white-hot in a blinding light. She could remember nothing more.
Falyn was silent. Was Agatha lying, or had Illusen made up a story? There was only one way to find out.
“We’re going to see Illusen,” Falyn declared. “Get onto my back, kid, and hang on!”
Aicila nervously climbed onto the Faerie’s back piggy-back style and hung onto her arms, which Falyn did not need for flying. Falyn flapped her wings quickly, making Aicila’s fur fly behind her. Falyn lifted off the ground and through the opening. Aicila cried out when she saw how high in the sky they were.
“Don’t worry,” Falyn said. She soared over the tree tops toward Meridell.
To be continued...