Statues: Part Two
The second Falyn’s light shoes touched the ground could not have been soon enough for the terrified Acara on her back. Aicila was relieved greatly when she could feel the dirt beneath her feet.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in all of Meridell,” Aicila said, shakily smiling. Falyn had to keep reminding herself that Aicila was just a normal farm girl. Everything would seem strange, even in her home country.
On the way to Illusen’s Glade, Aicila saw the Meridell Food Market, aka, Merifoods. She rushed over to the purple Meerca that ran the place.
“Hello!” she said, hopping up and down excitedly. “It’s me, Aicila! I’m back, Mr. Yommer!”
The Meerca scratched his head. “I’ve never seen you before,” he said. “And my name’s not Mr. Yommer.”
“Oh, you must be a new worker, then,” Aicila tried. The Meerca seemed angry.
“Kid, I’ve been running this business for thirty years without a day off in my life! How dare you!”
“I... I...” Aicila stuttered, tears welling in her eyes. “It really is true!”
“Come on, Aicila,” Falyn said, grabbing the Acara’s wooden-brown paw. She dragged her off towards Illusen’s Glade.
Illusen’s Glade was a beautiful place. It had trees stretching over it like a domed roof - like the Brightvale Woods, but greener and more pleasant. There was a tiny pond that sat in the middle. On a throne of wood and leaves sat the Faerie, Illusen.
Falyn had met her before. She had lived in the forest right next to Illusen’s Glade when she was little. Then she had come to Neopia Central and become apprenticed to the Soup Faerie. Falyn was not overly fond of Illusen. She seemed a little pushy, and extremely secretive. She had always been asking Falyn for items and Falyn had always procrastinated. When she would bring Illusen the item three days later, she would get yelled at.
“Hey,” she’d said each time when Illusen had demanded to know why she was late. “I think I have the right to gather food for myself before I go buy you your rubber duck.”
Now Falyn walked into the glade with confidence and anger. Illusen looked up from her book.
“Ah, Falyn, hello!” she said. “Now look at that!” She looked at Aicila and laughed. “I’m sure I didn’t ask for an Acara.”
Falyn did not laugh. She looked at the Faerie with an icy stare.
“So, what brings you here to Meridell? Did Agatha ask you to bring her some cheese or something?” Illusen guessed. “How is Agatha these days? Good?”
Falyn did not answer any of Illusen’s questions. She had Aicila stand before her. The Acara was trembling.
“You know this Acara,” Falyn said coldly.
“I am quite sure I’ve never seen her in my life, dear Falyn,” Illusen said after looking at Aicila for a moment.
“But this Acara is sure she’s met you, Illusen,” Falyn said. “Haven’t you?” She looked down at the Acara that stood waist high.
“H-How do you do, Miss Illusen?” Aicila tried, waving shyly at the Faerie on the throne.
Illusen was aghast. “A-Aicila?!” she asked incredulously.
“You DO know her, then!” Falyn said triumphantly.
“Miss Illusen, could you tell me what’s going on?” Aicila asked curiously. “Everything’s all different, like the battle never happened. Is my father alright, Miss Illusen?”
“A-Aicila, it’s really... you!” Illusen realized. “You’re free!”
Falyn and Aicila stared at her.
Illusen seemed to calm down and a sad look came into her eyes. “Child,” she said. “That war was hundreds of years ago. Your father survived, and your mother and brothers, but it has been a very long time since then.”
Aicila gasped. “I-I didn’t believe it before,” she sobbed. “But Mr. Yommer wasn’t at Merifoods, and I didn’t recognize anyone, and...”
“I knew from the start this was a bad idea,” Illusen muttered, shaking her head. “It wasn’t my fault,” she said to herself. “It was the farmer who asked me to do it.”
Illusen had thought nobody had heard these last few words, but Falyn’s sharp ears had caught them.
“The farmer asked you to do what?” Falyn with suspicion.
“Oh, um...” Illusen snapped to attention. “Well, no sense in keeping it secret now.” She sighed. “Listen carefully to me, Aicila. What I did was for your own good. We didn’t want you to get hurt, was all. This is how it went: At the start of the war, things were quickly becoming unsafe. I tried my best to protect the city, but Lord Darigan’s creatures were destroying things at an alarming rate. It became clear that Meridell would soon become a pile of rubble and ashes.”
Aicila shuddered as if she was remembering something terrifying. Voices flashed in her head, screams and wails. She could hear the trampling of feet, the cries for help, the smell of smoke.
“Farmer Candril, Aicila’s father, found a way to keep his family safe,” Illusen said. “He found two Eyries who had worked at the castle who were going to fly away from Meridell. He asked them if his wife and children could ride on their backs to safety. They agreed. Aicila’s mother and brothers would ride on one Eyrie, and Aicila and her father on the other. Aicila’s mother and brothers took off on the Eyrie, but the other two never had time. Darigan soldiers captured the other Eyrie. Farmer Candril and Aicila managed to get away, but they were left with no way to escape. So Farmer Candril came to me for help. He spoke to me in private, asking me if his daughter could be spared the horror of war, and I said yes. It was a very risky spell, but it could be done. After I had explained what the spell would do, I asked him if he wanted me to do the same for him. He replied that he would stay to defend his farm, but Meridell was no longer safe for Aicila.”
Illusen paused. “I took Farmer Candril and Aicila out to the depths of the Brightvale Woods. I found a clearing and put a protection spell over it so that it would only be visible at precisely noon and for a few minutes afterwards. I had Aicila stand in the middle. As I readied the spell, Farmer Candril apologized to his daughter. I sent a beam of light at Aicila and she was turned into a statue. Well, not really a statue. It was a wooden carving, really. A new color that I had invented for Aicila’s protection: Woodland. I made a simple puzzle that when solved would release Aicila from this spell. I meant to release her after the war had ended and thus reunite her with her father. But when the time came, my own magic had turned against me and I was unable to find the clearing.”
Illusen turned to Falyn. “I do not know how you were able to find the clearing, but I am glad that you did.”
Illusen looked at Aicila. Her face was shocked and dismayed. “No,” she whispered, wishing it weren’t the reality it was.
“Aicila, I am so sorry,” Illusen apologized. “If I had known... If I had only known I never would have gone through with it. But there is currently the matter of what will happen now.”
Illusen rose. “Aicila’s family lived hundreds of years ago. Even though they were not hurt in the war, Neopets do not live for centuries. Aicila has nowhere to go. DO you have any ideas, Falyn?”
A smile began to form on Falyn’s face when this question came up. She looked at Aicila. “Do you know how to grow vegetables?” she asked. Aicila nodded.
“My father grew Meridell’s best marrows, remember?” she asked.
“The Soup Faerie will just LOVE you, then,” Falyn said. Illusen grinned.
“This seems like a wonderful arrangement,” she said. “The only question is, does Aicila want to go?”
Aicila looked at them both. “It’s true I love Meridell and would stay here all my life if I could,” she said at last. “But there is nothing here for me now, not even my father’s farm, I believe. If I could go with Falyn, well...” She looked at the young apprentice. “There’s nothing I think I want more.”
Falyn beamed. “We’ll be off, then, Illusen,” she said as Aicila climbed onto her back once more. “Thanks for clearing things up.”
Illusen nodded. “Take care, dear Aicila,” she called as Falyn flew high into the air.
Back at the Marketplace in Neopia Central, Falyn explained everything to Agatha, ending with, “And she has nowhere to go. Can she stay here as an apprentice?”
Agatha was silent for the longest time. “This is a very strange story,” she said. “I can see why Illusen would lie about the story because there was no hope of ever reviving Aicila, but it is still a lot to take in. If it hadn’t been you telling me this, Falyn, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Falyn felt comforted and also surprised by the Soup Faerie’s trust in her.
“Aicila,” Agatha asked the Acara. Aicila had been silent the entire time. “...can you grow vegetables?”
Aicila nodded eagerly.
“What can you grow?”
“Tomatoes, potatoes, celery, onions, lettuce, cabbage, herbs, carrots, corn,” Aicila listed. “Oh, and marrows - especially marrows. I can grow marrows that will stop your heart, they’re so good!”
Agatha did not hesitate. “You can stay,” she said. The mention of all the vegetables had made Agatha’s eyes grow wide in admiration.
“Really?!” Aicila and Falyn asked at the same time.
“Yes, all you have to do is grow vegetables for the soup kitchen’s soup,” Agatha said. “Is that alright with you, Aicila?”
“I love gardening!” Aicila exclaimed. “It’d be perfect if I could grow vegetables for you! In fact, it’s be an honor. I’ll grow marrows that would make my father proud.”
All three of them smiled. This was the start of a new beginning.
ONE YEAR LATER:
Falyn hurriedly put the slices of marrow, lettuce, and carrots between two slices of warm bread. She slid the sandwich down the stainless steel counter to Aicila, who gave it to a customer for 200 Neopoints. The next person in line, a Lenny in ragged clothes, approached the counter.
“Oh, you’ve only got 1000 Neopoints!” Aicila realized with sympathy. Agatha had taught the girls her amazing ability to tell how many Neopoints one has. “For the poorer users, food from the Soup Kitchen is absolutely free. Hey Falyn, could I have a Green-Salad sandwich, please?”
Falyn nodded and hurriedly spread mayonnaise on a piece of Symol Bread and piled on celery, lettuce and marrow. She topped it with another slice of bread and slid it down the counter to Aicila. Aicila handed it to the Lenny, who thanked her over and over.
“Don’t forget - the Soup Faerie’s kitchen is right next door, so if you’re still hungry, you can get some food there, too!” Aicila called. She turned and grinned at Falyn.
Agatha was the next one at the counter. “How’s business going, girls?” she asked.
“Perfect, Miss Agatha!” Falyn chimed. “I like how the poorer Neopians can have sandwiches for free, and the richer Neopians who still want our sandwiches can still have them if they pay. That way, all of Neopia can taste a sandwich with Aicila’s fantastic vegetables in it!”
Aicila beamed. On the shelf behind her were displayed her four bi-annual Vegetable Growing Contest trophies - all first-place.
“Well, girls, you can have your lunch break now,” Agatha continued. “I have to go back to the Soup Kitchen. Enjoy your break, but remember to close up the shop before you go and to be back by early afternoon, alright?”
Aicila and Falyn nodded. They exited the shop and locked the door.
“Where should we go today, Falyn?” Aicila asked. “How about we eat at that restaurant on the corner? Also, if it’s ok, I want to see what the Health Frog has in his store today. You know, see if I am growing my vegetables right.”
“Sure,” Falyn agreed.
The friends, Faerie and Neopet, began to walk down the sidewalk. They reached the place where the sandwich shop’s tan bricks ended and the smooth, black walls of the cauldron-shaped Soup Kitchen immediately began. Aicila kept going, but Falyn stopped. She gazed at the sign:
NEOPIAN SOUP KITCHEN
Always a bowl of hot soup for waiting pets
-Agatha, the “Soup Faerie”
THE MERI-FARM SANDWICH SHOP
With vegetables as good as the old Meridell farmers’.
-Falyn the Forest Faerie and Aicila the Acara
Falyn looked at the sign contentedly before running off to catch up to Aicila.