The Roomies Ruin: Part Three
Mystery Island kept its tropical weather year round. It was only through the dates on the numerous newspapers that littered Jim’s home that Jesc and Jhudora were able to keep track of the passing time. The Month of Gathering came to an end, the Month of Collecting passed by, and soon enough it was the beginning of the Month of Storing.
As stone, though, time seemed to go by extra slowly.
Oh Fyora! Jesc gasped as she read the latest issue of the Faerieland Gazette. Ever since all the faeries had turned to stone, a group of Neopets had taken over the Faerieland Gazette to produce daily issues and update the public about what exactly was going on. The best thing about the gazette was that each sparkling pink copy was bewitched with a pair of magical lilac wings, so no hands were required to read the articles.
Jhudora rolled her eyes, the only bit of her that still had some range of movement. What is it now? She, Jesc, and Jim were all in Jim’s kitchen while Scotchmel was building a nest in one of the tall palm trees that lined the driveway; they could see him flitting about through a window. Jim was busy making breakfast, which of course, neither Jhudora nor Jesc could eat. They had realized fairly early on that as stone they never got hungry. For Jhudora, it was torturous getting to smell food but not being able to have a bite. It made her exceedingly snippy.
Faerieland is down to less than 6,000 feet above ground, Jesc read, her eyes wide. But luckily Hanso, Brynn, and Xandra managed to get all those Neopians out of that creepy cave!
Jhudora groaned. I can’t believe you read that stuff. Leave it to the Faerieland Gazette to follow three useless Neopians trying to save Faerieland. Sure, it was entertaining for most people to read of the “heroes’ plight,” but Jhudora just found it irritating, especially since none of these so-called heroes knew what was causing the sinking.
Each day, the number grew smaller. When The Neopian Times first reported that Faerieland had sunk to 9,000 feet, not too many people were concerned; Faerieland was built on a cloud and despite the faerie magic that kept it relatively stable, its height was known to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis. But over time it was dropping lower and lower, and Jhudora could feel her stomach churning as she imagined the cloud sinking closer to Neopia’s surface.
“I read that article!” Jim said, flipping his pancake with a spatula. The yellow Aisha was in a fairly good mood that morning; he, Jesc, and Jhudora had all been awake now for about an hour and he hadn’t gotten a headache yet from Jhudora yelling in his head. “It said that if Faerieland fell to under 5,000 feet, they’d start evacuating Neopians.”
What about faeries? Jesc wondered, suddenly concerned. My sister lives there. And I think Jan—you remember her, right?—well, I’m pretty sure she decided to stay in Faerieland to work as a questing faerie. And what about Marina, the Healing Springs Faerie? I bet you she’s just sitting in the springs, unable to move as water gushes all around her, the poor thing...
“Don’t worry,” Jim soothed, quieting Jesc’s constant stream of thoughts. “On the following page, the article says that there are plans to evacuate the faeries as well. There are already sign up sheets to make sure there are enough volunteers when the time comes.”
Well, that’s all good and peachy about the faeries, Jhudora said gruffly, but what about the actual infrastructure of Faerieland and all the stuff on it, like the Hidden Tower? My entire cloud is a part of Faerieland for Fyora’s sake! Jim, your company better be able to back up every piece of furniture in my neohome if any of it is destroyed!
Jim rubbed his eyes wearily, putting his pancake on a plate, coating it in thick syrup, and grabbing a fork. That was the latest issue that had arisen at work. If Faerieland crashed, all of the neohomes both on the cloud and beneath it would no doubt be destroyed. How would they be able to give everyone back their homes without the Neohome Planning Company going completely bankrupt?
He didn’t answer. Instead, he just sat down at the table and ate his breakfast, his mind already swarming with visions of work: confused employees looking to him for answers and the papery sound of office memos flying through the air. Not to mention he had to attend a fairly large conference today and speak in front of a crowded room full of Neopets.
“Alright, I have to go,” Jim said, swallowing the last bit of pancake and dropping his plate in the sink. He looked at Jesc and Jhudora, who were frozen in place near the counter. “Er... do you guys want me to move you to another room before I leave?”
We’ll stay in here today, Jesc said brightly, and before Jhudora could protest, Jim had darted out of the kitchen and left.
Jhudora had the sudden urge to turn Jesc into a Mortog, but unfortunately for her, her wand had also been turned to stone in her pocket and was currently useless. So instead, she resorted to her second favorite disciplinary technique: yelling. What were you thinking?! Why would you want to stay in a blasted kitchen all day? There’s no Neovision, no couch. Nothing but the smell of pancakes which, in case you didn’t remember, we can’t even eat!
Jhudora had been around Jesc long enough to know that the air faerie hardly ever got angry, even with her constant outbursts, but Jesc’s reaction surprised her. It reminds me of home, the air faerie said, her thoughts quieter than usual.
Home. The word was enough to make Jhudora’s stone stomach churn uncomfortably. She thought of her lair, filled with all the things dearest to her: her throne, the stone fireplace, her collection of rare magic tomes and spell books, the cauldron she inherited from her grandmother... It was all going to come crashing down soon, she knew it. Her home would be destroyed.
But so would Jesc’s.
What’s your home like? Jhudora asked curiously, realizing that she didn’t know where it was. She had always associated Jesc with her dorm room in the Faerie Academy.
Well, Jesc said, sounding wistful, I personally think it’s the absolute best place in the world. My sister, Mirasol, lives there. She’s an earth faerie. I think you’d like her.
Jhudora thought of Illusen and would have shaken her head if she could. I doubt it, she thought, but Jesc continued, uninterrupted.
It’s not that big, just a small cottage only a few minutes walk from some of the small shops in Faerieland, but we grew up there. Mirasol loves to cook, so the best part about it is that it always smells like the best food in all of Neopia: vegetable stews, chocolate chip pancakes, anything you can think of. There’s a little porch hung with wind chimes that when I was younger, before I attended the Faerie Academy, I would sit on a swinging chair out there and listen to them in the breeze. And planted all along the side of the house are purple lilies, my sister’s favorite. But despite her being an earth faerie, she’s actually pretty bad at taking care of plants. Those lilies are the only thing she’s ever managed to keep alive. Although, since she’s stone now, they’ve probably died without her attention.
Jhudora could hear the sorrow in her thoughts. Jesc obviously cared about her sister and missed her a lot.
You know, everything will be fine, Jhudora said a bit awkwardly, trying to comfort Jesc. The dark faerie wasn’t known for her compassion; she wasn’t even sure if she had the capability to make Jesc feel better. Faeries are going to be evacuated soon enough. You heard the scaredy-Aisha. Mirasol will be fine.
I hope so, Jesc said, breathing in the scent of the kitchen around her, trying to let the smell of pancakes soothe her worried thoughts. You know, Jhudora, I’m really happy you’re here. I’d be just as worried about you if Faerieland started falling and I didn’t know where you were.
Jhudora felt her heart twinge, but kept her thoughts private. Now wasn’t the time to be soft. Still, she was sure Jesc had already gathered that she would feel the same if the reverse had happened.
* * *
Liam was so excited he was shaking.
The blue Lupe waited impatiently as the ferry neared Mystery Island, his paws clenching the manila folder to his chest. The spray of the ocean hit his eager face, and he could already spot the tall palm trees, beige sand, and the looming figure of Mount Techo in the distance.
He wasn’t there to sightsee, of course. He had been sent to Jim’s house to personally deliver a copy of the latest furniture samples that needed his approval. Usually items like this were delivered directly to his office, but Jim was at a conference and wouldn’t return to his office until the next day. So the other members of the Neohome Planning Committee had trusted Liam—an intern!—to go on the perilous journey to Jim’s house.
“Well, maybe not perilous exactly,” Liam said to himself, glancing over at the tourists on the ferry with him, snapping pictures of the island with their Virtu-cams. “But it’s still something!”
The ferry hit the Mystery Island shore with a bit of a bump and Liam shuffled his way down a narrow wooden gangplank and onto the land. Sand dusted his blue toes like faerie dust—although he had never seen faerie dust before. He wondered how much it would be worth now that all the faeries had been turned to stone.
The Lupe had lived in Neopia Central his whole life and had only visited Mystery Island once before for a family vacation, a short weekend many years back. He had spent most of the time on the beach playing in the waves, but had also spent a fair amount of time with his dad constructing sand castles in the hot sun. With nothing more than a shovel and a pail, he had created his first masterpiece, although “masterpiece” was a bit of an exaggeration—Liam had just been happy that he had managed to build a structure that was somewhat sizable and somewhat decorative with a door made out of driftwood and a kelp lawn.
It was around that time in his life that he had realized that he wanted to be involved in the creation of neohomes when he got older, and he had doggedly pursued that dream in any way he could, paying close attention to the news about neohome updates and trying his best in school, particularly in his math classes. The day he had found out he had been given one of the two intern positions at the Neohome Planning Committee Center was the happiest day of his young life, and despite his position as a lowly intern, he made the most of each opportunity presented to him. It didn’t matter how menial; he treated every assignment as if it was a personal request to construct a new castle for King Hagan. Because he didn’t know how long the opportunity presented to him would last.
Liam carefully followed the directions to Jim’s Neohome scribbled on a small sheet of paper until he ended up in a beautiful neighborhood decorated with tropical flora and large estates. Sure enough, the largest home, painted with a bright yellow sheen, was Jim’s. A white Weewoo chirped happily from its spot in one of the palm trees in front and Liam eyed it warily, knowing of his boss’ fear of the birds.
“Shoo!” he called, waving his arm. But the petpet just stared down at him inquisitively, blinking its tiny black eyes.
Liam decided to ignore the bird and instead walked up the white pebble pathway to the wooden front door. There was a small brass neomail slot, but the folder he had was much too big to fit through it, and he wouldn’t dare fold the papers to make them fit.
“I wonder,” Liam said curiously, reaching for the doorknob. Surprisingly, it was unlocked and the door swung open freely; apparently Jim had forgotten to lock it on his way out that morning.
The Lupe hesitated only a moment before entering inside. After all, he reasoned, it’s not like I’m breaking in to steal something. I just need to drop off this folder. It will just take a second.
Of course, he had underestimated the size of Jim’s house. As soon as he stepped inside, he was greeted with a large staircase and a seemingly never-ending hallway leading both to his left and right.
“Eenie, meanie, miney, mo,” Liam said, heading to his left and peering into the first doorway. Behind it was a kitchen with beautiful oak cabinets and a sleek countertop, a perfect place to deposit the papers. The only thing odd about the room were the two statues positioned awkwardly next to an island, but who was he to question Jim’s interior decorating taste?
“Here we go,” Liam grinned, plopping the folder onto the counter, but a sudden growl made him jump.
Who are you and what are you doing in here? a voice demanded inside his head.
Liam gazed around the room in terror. No one else was it in... save for two stone statues.
He looked at them more closely. One was of a faerie with a bright grin and long wavy hair. She was wearing a lovely sundress cut right above her knee and had slender wings. Liam instantly pegged her as either a light or an air faerie, although he didn’t recognize her pretty face.
But the other faerie was immediately recognizable. The statue was tall and intimidating, with large leathery wings and a talon on each tip. Her face was set in a scowl, her eyes were livid, and each of her nails ended in a sharp point.
Liam staggered back against a cabinet. “Jh-Jhudora?”
Oh look, he’s a smart one, said the sarcastic voice. Of course it’s Jhudora! Who else would I be? Illusen?
Liam didn’t know what to say. Instead, he glanced over at the other faerie, who hadn’t said a word, and then looked back at the statue of Jhudora—which he knew, of course, wasn’t a statue at all but the true Jhudora trapped in petrified flesh. “W-Why isn’t she speaking?” he stuttered, indicating the happy faerie with a shaking paw.
You mean Jesc? Jhudora asked. She’s sleeping.
Liam felt blood rush from his face. Sleeping, he thought, his mind whirring with erratic thoughts. That’s just a euphemism for “dead!”
“Oh Fyora,” he gasped, relapsing into his old habit of biting his nails. Here he was, face-to-face with one of Neopia’s most infamous dark faeries and her latest victim. He had to run. He had to hide. He had to...
No, he thought, remembering where he was with horror. This is Jim’s house! I can’t just leave. What if he comes home and she’s still here? What if she goes after him next? Oh Fyora, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if Jim got hurt because of me being too afraid to do something!
Quickly, before he lost the courage, he lunged at the statue, poked her on the arm, and retreated behind the kitchen island.
Ouch! Jhudora complained. What is Fyora’s name was that? Neopets these days... Get out! Now!
But Liam didn’t listen to her words of evil. Instead, he observed her from his hiding spot behind the island. She hadn’t moved or fired a spell at him. That meant that, at least for the moment, she was powerless. If he moved quickly, he could carry her out of Jim’s neohome, deposit her somewhere, and then his boss would be safe.
The Lupe took a deep breath. “What I do for this job,” he breathed, and then he sprang into action.
What are you doing? Jhudora yelled as the blue Lupe took hold of her and started dragging her out of the kitchen. Let me go! When I can move again, I’m going to blast you into smithereens, did you hear that? Where are you taking me?!
“Far away where you can’t hurt anyone anymore,” Liam said, using all his strength to move her out as quickly as possible.
Jesc! the dark faerie cried as they inched their way out of the neohome. Jesc! Wake up! Help!
But despite her desperate cries, Jesc was lost in dreamland and didn’t hear a thing as Liam dragged Jhudora hastily out of the house and into the harsh Mystery Island sunlight.
To be continued...