Diary of an Ancient Grey Lupe: Stark Beginnings
There exists, in the heart of the Meridellian forest, a large cluster of glades woven together by a small stream that flows between them, like the the invisible string that knits together the hearts of friends. But so thick are the woods between these breathtaking glades that passing between them is nearly impossible unless you pass over the stream, but few can bring themselves to sully those clear waters with dirty paws, to disturb the Koi and Peophin, who are here still full of their natural magic.
One stretches so far as the edge of civilized Meridell, and the Earth Faerie Illusen took up her post there, scenting her glade with strawberries and a myriad of flowers, distracting Neopians with quests and the lure of her own brand of magic. In this way, for many, many years, she has protected the secrets of the forest.
Once it was not so. Once there was no gatekeeper to those untouched wilds and the bravest could venture there, the bravest and those with secrets too terrible to hide anywhere else.
Here begins my own story, or at least the important part of it, the part that is worth keeping.
Those early days were hazy at best. My owner--his name has long since slipped from my recollection, erased by years of a poignant hatred and salty, stinging tears--decided one morning to venture to a far-off land in search of new wealth and fame. We packed up as much as we could, certainly everything valuable, and joined a caravan that snaked across the plains, through the well-traveled forests, and into the farms that dominate the outskirts of Meridell.
Back then my fur was a different color, but my spirit was near the same. The new smells overwhelmed my senses and I delighted in this new land as much as my owner did. I accompanied him everywhere, to a strange shop where he stood for hours watching on spot on one shelf, to a puzzle game with different shapes and objects that had to be made to match, back to the farms that concealed rare berries with magical properties unknown in the paved, glittering streets of grand Neopia Central.
It lasted a few days. Weeks, or months, maybe, but those days were washed from my memory by lonely howls and the light of a solitary moon. But my owner's delight in the new land waned quickly when it started to wane. His fortune turned and the stash of things we brought with us from home had dwindled as he traded, bartered, and learned by post that, no, his partners back home weren't interested in buying any of it for the price he wanted. Such is the fortune of merchants, I suppose, and the melancholy that overcame our humble abode was too much to bear after a while.
His transactions became pickier and pickier. Where before he was willing to take risks, he was more cautious, clinging desperately to the wealth that remained to him. His frustration mounted, his temper turned foul, and before long he clung to legends and long-shots rather than the tried and true methods, earning little by little.
He decided, as suddenly as he had decided to move us to this foreign land, that he was going to venture for something beyond price.
A legend existed in Meridell once. I don't know that anyone knows it anymore, because at the time my owner heard it it was not written down. Not because no one cared to write it down or because no one could write, but for a much greater reason that I myself still fear to record. For the sake of my memory and the honor of the home I now have, I will recount briefly this legend, though incompletely:
The great forest that surrounds Meridell is, of course, home to a great number of things. It is one of Balthazar's favorite hunting grounds for the number of flitting Earth Faeries that call it home. Ixi wander there, and Draiks, all without masters. Koi and Peophins take shelter in the peaceful waters. Mootix cower under leafs and wait to spring on passing petpets, camouflaged by the lush and vibrant colors of the forest. (So the story started and is, to this day, still mostly true.)
Deep within the forest, there is a glade, and in the center of this glade sits a pedestal of pure light. Some say it is a sliver of the sun, trapped by the deep and ancient magic of the forest itself; others say it is the anchor of the world.
On this pedestal, it was rumored, sat an object infused with that same power, and if one took it off the pedestal, the pedestal would darken just a shade, a path would open out of the forest, and he would possess more magic even than the Faerie Queen. (But even to say such a thing is dangerous, as I am sure you, my dear book, know, even without a conscious mind.)
My owner sought this object, not knowing what it was or what price it would exact from its bearer, and he found it, and he paid the price. That part of the legend he did not heed, and that part of the legend I dare not record, so painful a mark has it left on my sad history.
The important thing is that he found it, this Trinket of the Glade, but no path opened to the edge of the forest and, blinded by the light of that glade, he couldn't find his way out. I did my best, straining my senses and the muscle I owed my species to keep up with his mad wanderings. His crashing through the bushes and wild skips across clearing after clearing were easy enough to follow, but they didn't stop. Filled with magical energy, he didn't tire. I did, and I lost him.
At first I could track the sounds he made and kept close, if not in sight, but even that became impossible and one night I finally confessed to myself that I was lost. I howled at the moon--full and round that night--and all of Meridell shivered at my pleas. I slept under the boughs of a great tree, sheltered from the wind and mounting cold. In the morning I woke and tried to find my way out.
Morning after morning I woke and opened my ears to the sounds of my owner or the farms of Meridell. They never came, and eventually I gave in to the forest. I learned to live there. My pristine white fur became tainted by the dirt beds I took at night and the scratching branches that I passed by day. Years I stayed in those woods, looking for a way out.
My old owner never found one, I am sure, or I would have heard of the thing he carried beyond the forest's borders. It trapped him there, that magic did. I'm sure of it. That magic did not want to be unleashed upon the world, not in the hands of someone like my owner, with motives such as his, or perhaps at all. Perhaps the magic of the Meridellian forest... but now I wander into dangerous territory. You see, I'm certain that he knew too much for the land to let him free.
One morning I promised myself that if I ever escaped I would tell no one the truth of that place, and that morning I heard something in the woods that stepped more heavily than the native pets, and with it came a voice that, though speaking a new accent, I could understand.
"Hello?" I called to her.
"You don't belong here. How long have you been here?" she asked when I found her.
"Years," I answered. "Years and years." I couldn't believe my eyes. "I've been trying to get out."
"I know the way." She smiled at me. "Follow me."
And that Ixi, with flesh like that I had never seen on another living creature, led me from my prison.
"What's your name?" she asked me.
"Aryadene," I answered. "Aryadene the White Lupe."
She looked at me with a strange expression blossoming across her face. "White?"
I nodded, my voice still uncertain from such disuse as it had endured for many years.
"You're not White," she breathed quietly, hoping that I wouldn't hear. "Come home with me. We have space. My owner would be happy to--"
My hackles shot up.
"We have space regardless of whether you want to stay in the end. Come home with me, at least for a while," the Ixi insisted. And, under her breath, she whispered again, "You're not White... you're Grey!"
Happy Grey Day!!!