The Case of the Missing Quest Items: Part Four
"Rory is in the dungeon of Jhudora's Castle."
The decor was a dead giveaway. The screen of the control panel showed the inside of a smallish room, the walls, floor, and ceiling made of dark gray stone. Evidently the dungeon's builder wanted the prisoners to be able to see something other than just the cell walls, as the door to the cell was made of metal bars set about four inches apart. Looking through the bars a prisoners had an unrivaled view of a purple banner with a green stripe down the middle and a stylized green-and-purple "J" in the center, which hung between two burning torches. In one corner of the room, a dilapidated cardboard box held what looked to be the missing quest items. In the opposite corner, a metal cage held four Meepits, presumably the ones whose trail Rika's device had picked up in the storage room.
"How long until the spell wears off, Shoya?" Rika asked anxiously.
Shoya looked at the clock above the stove and said, "Maybe an hour or so."
"How are we going to get those quest items and Meepits to Queen Fyora?" Mist asked.
While we pondered this question, Rika used the buttons on the control pad to move Rory into the shadows behind the box of stolen quest items, then had him turn so that we could still see the door. Just as Rory got into place a shadow appeared against the wall of the corridor, and the dark faerie known as Jhudora came into view. She took a large ring of keys from her attendant Bartamus and unlocked the cell door, then went over to the cage holding the Meepits, bent down, and started talking.
"Can you get any sound on this thing?" I asked Rika.
"Even better," Rika replied, pointing to a strip of paper that was now emerging from the top of the machine, "Rory's providing us with a printout."
We all craned forward to try to read the small type on the printout. Mist, who was already standing on the table, bent over the paper and read it.
"She's gloating over her theft of the quest items!" Mist exclaimed. "It's all here! She captured the Meepits when they tunneled into her dungeon, and she threatened them to get them to steal the quest items!"
"So now what?" Shoya asked.
"I've got it!" I exclaimed. "Rika, do you have a handheld teleporter?"
"Yes," Rika replied hesitantly.
"Can you use the coordinates from that control panel to teleport into the room where Rory is?"
"Can you take all of us with you? And whatever we're carrying?"
"I see where you're going with this. We teleport into Jhudora's dungeon, grab Rory, the stolen items, and the Meepits-"
"No, not Jhudora. I don't think it will work on faeries. We just grab Rory, the Meepits, and the items, yell 'To Queen Fyora!', and I'll teleport us to the palace. Jhudora, having seen us take the stuff, will use a teleportation spell to follow us. Thus we'll be able to bring the stolen items and the thief to Queen Fyora."
"Excellent! Go get your teleporter--we need to do this before Jhudora leaves that dungeon!"
Rika dashed off to her workshop and returned with a rectangular device a little smaller than a Meepit, which featured a small screen and a bunch of buttons, and four metal rings about the size of a bracelet.
"Put these on," Rika said as she handed the bracelets to us. We each put one on, Mist sticking it on her big toe, while Rika punched some buttons on the teleporter. She then stuffed Rory's control pad into my backpack, which I immediately put on. Ready, we all looked at Rika, who said, "Okay, here's the plan: Kiko, you grab the box, Shoya, you grab the cage with the Meepits, and I'll grab Rory. We all yell, 'To Queen Fyora!', and I'll teleport us out of there. Got it?"
"Yep!" we replied in unison.
"All right! On the count of three: one... two... three!" Rika pushed a button on the teleporter, and after a split second containing a sensation so strange I cannot even begin to describe it, we arrived in Jhudora's dungeon. Jhudora, who was just leaving the cell, turned to see what was going on. Quick as a wink we gathered up the cage of Meepits, the box of stolen items, and Rory (who was starting to become visible again). "To Queen Fyora!" we yelled, and before Jhudora could turn us into Mortogs Rika had pushed a button on her teleporter and we escaped.
After another very strange split second, we arrived in a large circular room which, from the pink walls adorned with purple banners, must be somewhere inside Queen Fyora's palace. The only furniture in the room was a table which nearly circled the room, leaving a large expanse of open floor in the center of the room. Seated at the table and facing the center of the room were a large number of faeries, with Queen Fyora seated on a pink-and-lavender throne at the midpoint of the table. All the faeries at the table, and a familiar-looking earth faerie who had been standing in the center of the room, all turned to stare at us.
I quickly realized where we were, and turning to Rika, I said incredulously, "Your teleporter can teleport us directly into the council chamber of the Faerie Queen's palace?!"
"Yes," she replied simply.
"It shouldn't be able to, though," Queen Fyora said darkly. "I trust you have a good reason for interrupting the Faerie Council in such a dramatic way, 00Kiko?"
We bowed to the Faerie Queen, and I said, "We do, Your Majesty. When you asked us to look into the theft of those quest items for you, you told us to bring the items and the thief before you and the Faerie Council. Thus we have brought you the items," I set the box I was carrying on the table in front of Queen Fyora, "proof of the identity of the thief," Rika set Rory (who was now fully visible again) on the table, as well as Rory's control pad and printouts and the device she had used to detect the traces of Meepits, "and the Meepits who stole the items," Shoya set the cage of Meepits on the table.
With a truly amazing sense of timing, a thunderclap sounded throughout the room, and Jhudora stepped out of a purple cloud of smoke, wand at the ready and an angry expression on her face. Evil as Jhudora is, I have to admit that faerie has excellent timing and knows how to make an entrance.
"We have also brought before you the faerie who commanded the Meepits to steal the supplies, and in whose dungeon the missing supplies were found," I continued.
Jhudora, realizing where she was, abruptly shifted from angry to contemptuous, and said, "I see you still haven't fixed the ward spells on your council chamber, Fyora. Or have you decided there is no need to keep your petty council sessions safe from prying eyes?"
Queen Fyora pointedly ignored Jhudora, instead turning to the earth faerie still standing in the middle of the room and saying, "Illusen, dear, I really do need you to finish giving me the details of your report on Meridell and Brightvale, but this other matter is rather more urgent. Would you mind waiting while I deal with this?"
The earth faerie, whom I now recognized as Illusen, the guardian of Meridell and arch-nemesis of Jhudora, curtsied and replied, "Of course, Your Highness." She then made her way over to the door and stood against the wall, making a point not to look directly at Jhudora.
Jhudora, rather angry at being ignored by the Faerie Queen and still angry at us, said menacingly, "Fyora, I-"
"I will deal with you later, Jhudora," Queen Fyora interrupted, then waved at us and said, "Continue, 00Kiko."
We launched into our explanation. I told the council about how Queen Fyora had asked us to find the missing quest items and the thief. Rika explained how her device had picked up traces of the Meepits and the four faeries we had interviewed. Shoya presented her notes from the interviews, and Mist pointed out how they were somewhat inconclusive, as none of the faeries involved could produce an eyewitness to say that they hadn't stolen the items. Rika then explained Rory's journey through the tunnel, and read the printouts of Jhudora's boastful monologue to the Meepits. Mist explained our plan to retrieve Rory, the items, and the Meepits from Jhudora's dungeon. Seeing that the council still needed some persuading, Rika pushed some buttons on Rory's control pad, which allowed her to replay the video Rory had sent of his journey through the tunnel; she of course sped up most of it, since it was mostly just a view of the walls of the tunnel.
While the faeries gathered around Queen Fyora's throne, so as to see the screen of the control pad, Illusen wandered over to stand next to Jhudora. "Using Meepits to do your dirty work, sister?" the earth faerie said, scorn dripping from her voice. "I didn't think even you would sink that low."
Jhudora turned to her rival and replied, "And yet, here you are, Fyora's little spy, telling her all the secrets of your precious adopted homeland."
The two faeries then started slinging insults at each other, while the faeries crowded around Queen Fyora's throne watched the rest of Rory's abridged journey through the tunnel and discussed the evidence. I dug out some popcorn from my backpack (I always keep some handy in case some entertainment presents itself) and turned to watch Jhudora and Illusen insult each other. Shoya and Mist joined me, and I shared my popcorn with them. At one point one of the Meepits, who had gotten out of their cage, came over and begged for some popcorn, then went back to the other Meepits, who were now standing on the table in front of Queen Fyora and chattering away in what I assumed was the Meepit language.
Just as Jhudora and Illusen were getting ready to throw spells at each other instead of insults Queen Fyora stood up, grabbed her staff, which had been resting against her throne, and said, in a resonating voice, "Enough!"
The power contained in that one word was enough to silence everyone in the room, and we all turned to look at Queen Fyora. She was standing in front of her throne, staff gripped tightly in one hand, surrounded by a pinky-purple aura. Now, I am as magically talented as a loaf of bread (in fact, given some of the bread-type objects available in Neopia, I'm less magical than bread) and yet in that moment even I could feel the tremendous magical power held by the Faerie Queen. I understood then why all the other faeries bowed in deference to her, and at that moment I would have done anything that Queen Fyora commanded, even if it were to throw myself into the volcano on Mystery Island.
After a moment the aura around the Faerie Queen faded, and in her normal voice she said sternly, "Illusen, if you cannot refrain from antagonizing Jhudora, I shall have to ask you to wait outside in the corridor. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Your Highness," Illusen said softly. She curtsied, then made her way to the far side of the room.
Queen Fyora turned to Jhudora and said, "There is a grave charge laid against you, Jhudora."
"Your Majesty, surely you cannot convict me on the measly bits of evidence these Neopets have given you!" Jhudora retorted.
"It is true that the case against you is not as complete as I would like..." the Faerie Queen mused.
"Would an eyewitness account help, Your Majesty?"
Everyone in the room looked at the four Meepits who were standing on the table in front of Queen Fyora. The Meepits bowed, then one of them stepped forward and said, "Your Majesty, I am willing to testify in front of you and your council against this dark faerie."
Queen Fyora looked both surprised and amused by the Meepit's speech. Before she could say anything, Jhudora said quickly, "Your Highness, surely you cannot trust a Meepit's word against mine!"
"Actually, I rather think I can," the Faerie Queen said, smiling. She turned to a light faerie who was standing next to her throne and said, "Avanna, would you please go up to the Royal Library and ask Lavinia to bring the Orb of Truth here?"
The light faerie curtsied and said, "At once, Your Majesty," and flitted out of the room.
"You're going to waste the Orb of Truth on this?" Jhudora questioned.
"Yes," Queen Fyora replied, "though I wouldn't call it 'wasting'. I happen to feel that the theft of some supplies from a locked storage room in my Hidden Tower is a very serious crime, especially when some of those supplies were ones I need to repair the ward spells on this council chamber, which you were just disparaging."
Before Jhudora could reply the door to the council chamber opened and the Library Faerie entered, solemnly carrying a large metal box. The light faerie followed, carrying what looked like a wooden tripod topped with a white velvet cushion. The light faerie set the tripod on the floor in front of Queen Fyora's place at the table, then curtsied and withdrew to her seat. The Library Faerie set the box on the table in front of Queen Fyora and opened it, revealing a clear glass orb the size of a beach volleyball nestled in white velvet. She reverently lifted the orb out of the box, and set it on the cushion on the tripod. She then curtsied to Queen Fyora and said, "Shall I activate, Your Majesty?"
Queen Fyora nodded, and the Library Faerie touched the orb with one index finger and muttered a spell under her breath. As she finished, the orb began to glow with a bright white light. The Library Faerie took her finger off the orb, whose glow dimmed considerably, and said, "The Orb of Truth is now active. It will glow white while whoever is touching it is telling the truth, and dark if they are lying."
"Thank you, Lavinia," Queen Fyora said, and the Library Faerie curtsied and retreated to the far side of the room.
The Meepit who had volunteered to testify made its way to the edge of the table, and at a sign from Queen Fyora I picked up the Meepit and placed it on the cushion with the orb. The Meepit touched the orb with its two front paws, and the orb's glow brightened.
Queen Fyora's questioning brought out the Meepit's story, which I will summarize. Apparently these four Meepits were non-malevolent, peace-loving creatures who had run away from a Meepit colony in the Haunted Woods. In order to evade pursuit they had decided to tunnel into Faerieland, rather than risk being seen walking through the trees. Unfortunately, they accidentally tunneled into Jhudora's cellar, and were immediately captured by the dark faerie. Jhudora had placed a spell on them that forced them to tunnel into the storage room and steal the supplies. Jhudora had then locked them back in the cage we found them in, and had told them that she was planning on using them in some prank she was going to play on Illusen. Though the Meepits could have opened the cage and escaped whenever they wished, they felt it safer to stay in the cage rather than face Jhudora's wrath.
Throughout the Meepit's entire testimony the Orb of Truth glowed a bright white.
"Just one last question," Queen Fyora said. "Why were you trying to get to Faerieland?"
"Partly because of you, Your Majesty," the Meepit replied, "and partly because it's closer to the Haunted Woods then Meridell. We thought of seeking sanctuary with the kind-hearted earth faerie who lives in Meridell, but that would have meant a longer journey. We had hoped that you, Your Majesty, might be willing to welcome us into your recovering land."
The orb continued to glow white.
"Thank you," Queen Fyora said. The Meepit removed its paws from the orb, and I picked it up and placed it back on the table.
Queen Fyora looked pointedly at Jhudora and said, "Step up to the Orb of Truth, Jhudora, and place one hand atop it."
Jhudora unwillingly complied, and the Faerie Queen began questioning her.
"Did you capture these Meepits after they tunneled into your castle?" Queen Fyora asked.
"No! I deny everything!" Jhudora shrieked.
The Orb of Truth glowed black under Jhudora's hand.
Queen Fyora glared at the dark faerie. "The truth, Jhudora."
"Yes, I captured those Meepits after they tunneled into my dungeon." Jhudora replied through clenched teeth.
The Orb of Truth again glowed with a bright white light.
"Did you place a spell on them in order to force them to tunnel into my Hidden Tower and steal some supplies the other faeries and I had obtained through quests?"
"Did your spell force the Meepits to steal specific items?"
"No. I just forced them to steal some items from each of the piles of boxes."
"How did you know where the quest items were stored and how they were organized?"
"Drusilla, the dark faerie who holds a key to that storage room, told me."
"What did you plan on doing with the items?"
"I was planning to sell those I could not use for my own spells."
"Why did you steal these items?" Queen Fyora asked anxiously.
Jhudora glared at the Faerie Queen. "Because your little daily quest program is costing me questers! Why would someone do one of my quests when they could have a chance at getting a Fountain Faerie Quest? You give out little trinkets and free food to questers who come to you; I just give out the same rewards I always have. Your sappy little plea for help with rebuilding Faerieland is drawing in plenty of my questers, who are no longer bringing me the supplies I need to rebuild my castle. My home was damaged in the crash too, you know. How else am I going to get the supplies I need for rebuilding? I stole those items to make you and your cronies realize what your quest program has done to me."
The Orb of Truth glowed a bright white through the rest of Jhudora's answers.
Queen Fyora sighed. "I am deeply sorry you feel this way, Jhudora. I will see what I can do about getting you some extra supplies for rebuilding your castle. Remember, though, that this quest program I organized is only temporary. I'm sure your questers will return after it is over."
Queen Fyora rose to her feet, staff in hand, and said, "Does anyone in this room doubt the testimony you have heard today against the dark faerie Jhudora, in regards to the stolen quest items?"
"No!" the other faeries in the room replied in unison.
"You have been found guilty of theft by the Faerie Queen and the Faerie Council, Jhudora. Others in this room might claim that I should exile you for this crime, but I have taken to heart the old Haunted Woods saying, 'Keep your friends close and your enemies closer'. I would prefer to keep you in Faerieland, where I can keep an eye on you. So instead of exile, you shall spend the rest of today and tonight in the dungeon. Tomorrow you will help me and the other faeries with tasks involved in the rebuilding of Faerieland. I shall lock your magic away from you until sunset tomorrow, so that you may neither use magic to escape nor to aid you in your tasks tomorrow." Queen Fyora raised her staff in both hands and gathered that pinky-purple aura about herself again. "So I have ruled, so let it be written. As it is written, so let it be done," she intoned.
The Faerie Queen dismissed the aura, then walked over to Jhudora. She waved her staff around the dark faerie's head and chanted, and a pink mist enveloped Jhudora. With a final twist of her staff the mist dissipated, and Queen Fyora summoned two of her palace guards to lead the defeated Jhudora down to the dungeons. The Battle Faerie, who had been present at the council meeting, followed them.
Illusen came forward, curtsied to the Faerie Queen, and said, smiling mischievously, "Your Majesty, may I take charge of Jhudora's Bluff for the duration of her punishment?"
Queen Fyora smiled and said, "You may, but do no more harm to her bluff than she has ever done to your glade."
Illusen grinned brightly, then curtsied and said, "Thank you, Your Highness!"
Queen Fyora resumed her throne, and we approached and bowed. "Your Majesty," I said, "what are you going to do with the Meepits?"
She replied, "I am inclined to let them stay here, provided I can find someone responsible to take care of them."
We looked at the Meepits, and the Meepits looked at us.
"Can we keep them?" Mist, Shoya, Rika, the Meepits, and I all said in unison.
Queen Fyora laughed, then said, "Yes, you may keep them."
We packed up our things, bowed once more to the Faerie Queen, then left, the Meepits following behind.
According to rumors that spread throughout Faerieland, Jhudora spent her day of punishment doing menial labour around the Faerie City, clad in a pink shirt and purple overalls. Any questers who ventured to Jhudora's Bluff that day were greeted by a rather ugly cardboard cutout of Jhudora and a recorded message that said, "I'm so sorry, but I'm unable to give out any quests today. Why don't you go do a quest for Illusen instead? She gives out much nicer prizes than I do." I also have it on good authority that Jhudora returned to her bluff to find that a large green banner reading "I *heart* Illusen" had been hung above her castle's front door. Rika sent Rory back to whoever she had borrowed him from, after erasing his memory so that no one else would know what we had used him for, and the Meepits happily made their home with us. The faeries finished their daily quest campaign without any more mishaps, and life in Faerieland returned to normal. Well, almost.
The night after it was all over, Shoya, Mist, and I were sitting in the office, finishing off a celebratory pizza. We could hear Rika's favorite music playing in her workshop, and we had seen the Meepits wander in there a little while ago. Suddenly Rika dashed through the door to her workshop, slammed the door shut, then leaned against it, panting.
"What's wrong, Rika?" Mist asked.
"Never, ever, ever give those Meepits caffeinated Juppie Juice!"