Taelia's Pride: The Beginning - Part Three
For the second time in as many days, Alzyia found herself waking to a feeling of pleasant warmth. This time, however, there was no sense of disorientation. Her mother’s throaty laugh reached her ears and her father’s murmured reply was not loud enough for her to make out. Filled with the knowledge that her family was fine, Alzyia smiled and opened her eyes.
She was lying on Taelia’s couch by the crackling fire, covered by a worn blanket, and her family was nowhere to be seen. The bitter sting of disappointment surfaced as she looked up into Taelia’s kind, concerned face and mechanically accepted the warm mug that was pressed into her hands.
“Told you she’d be fine,” came Azar’s voice from somewhere near the kitchen.
“And with no thanks to you,” Taelia snapped over her shoulder, before returning her gaze to Alzyia’s face. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine,” Alzyia replied emotionlessly. She lifted the mug to her lips and was surprised to taste a strong, slightly bitter liquid.
A minute later, she realized she was fine, and that was unusual. She had felt slightly achy the last time she had woken up, and congested. Experimentally she brought a hand to her head, but no ache, dull or otherwise, rose at her touch. She looked up at Taelia questioningly.
Taelia sighed and sat back in a nearby chair. “You were very cold when we found you,” she began slowly.
“That was thoughtless,” Azar interjected as she strode over with a half-eaten cookie in her hand. “You caused us a lot of inconvenience.”
Alzyia shrank under her blanket, unsure of how to reply.
Taelia held up a hand to stop Azar. “You were very cold when we found you,” she repeated softly, looking off into the distance. Then she looked back at Alzyia and continued, “Most people aren’t meant to stay out in the cold for so long. I had to work some magic to save you. You’re changed now. There was no other way we could have healed you in time.”
Alzyia sat numbly, unable to move. Azar continued eating her cookie. Taelia looked back at her silently. Finally, Alzyia asked in a small voice, “Changed?”
Taelia looked away. Azar had finished her cookie and crossed her arms, surveying them both.
Alzyia couldn’t stand the silence. “Changed how?”
Taelia sighed. “Well, you’ll be able to stand the cold now,” she finally said, not meeting her eyes. “But you probably won’t do too well once it gets warmer.” She hesitated before adding, “And there’s something else.”
Alzyia looked down at her mug, and only then noticed how much closer to white she seemed to be. She nearly dropped her mug in shock and lifted a hand in front of her face. Her fur, which had been pale already, seemed to be bleached to an almost white shade. She stared for a long moment before looking up and saying, “Why?”
“Because you were frozen,” Azar said flatly.
Taelia said softly, “I had to create channels for my magic to reach your body quickly. That changed you.”
Alzyia felt sick. She pulled the blanket back up to her chin and shot Azar a frightened look. The Fire Faerie stared back pointedly, until Alzyia was forced to look away.
Taelia was watching her almost cautiously. Alzyia took another drink from the mug because she didn’t know what else to do.
Finally, Azar said, “If that’s all for today, I’ve got other things to do,” and left. Alzyia could have sworn that the igloo cooled by a few degrees as soon as she was out the door.
Taelia was silent for a long moment after, until she finally said, “Why were you wandering around in the snow?”
Taelia sounded far too skeptical for Alzyia to try and claim she’d gotten lost on the way to the top of the mountain, so she clutched her mug for strength and replied, “Because Azar said I could have helped. Nobody else found my family and I had to find them before it was too late.”
Taelia sighed and shook her head, though she didn’t comment.
Alzyia continued, “I just wanted to help. I was sitting here not doing anything, and my parents could have been waiting for me out there. I had to go find them.”
Taelia replied gently, “You didn’t have to, Alzyia. We had already looked everywhere.” When Alzyia didn’t reply, Taelia continued. “Well, you won’t be able to return to your home in Neopia Central,” she said matter-of-factly. “So you’ll have to stay here for now. At any rate, you’re certainly not strong enough to go out on your own.”
“I feel fine,” Alzyia replied immediately, springing to her feet. A moment later, her legs wobbled violently under her and she sat back down very quickly.
Taelia gave her a knowing smile that was somehow sad, and then said, “I altered your body chemistry so that you, like me, can survive easily in the cold weather. Understand that I had to use a portion of my magic to do this, and that you might have been influenced by this in ways I do not understand.”
Alzyia processed this information for a minute. Finally she replied, “I’m not sure I understand, either. I can’t do magic or anything like that.”
Taelia said reluctantly, “Actually, you can.” When Alzyia looked up at her in bewilderment, she explained, “You now have a part of me within you. I don’t know to what extent it will affect you... but you may notice that a few things are different.”
Alzyia was stunned into silence. Not only had she lost her family, but she’d also lost every chance of ever returning to her home, and now she found out that she was supposed to be a magic-wielder. It didn’t seem like something that could happen in real life. Moreover, she hadn’t ever wanted this, any of it. Not even the magic part. She had just wanted to be Alzyia.
She was silent for a long time, trying to process everything. She’d heard of auras before, but it had always seemed like some kind of joke or made-up thing, like fortune-telling or something like that. Magic had always been real—she’d once seen a friend transform from a morphing potion—but she’d never really considered the fact that she might be involved with those sorts of things. Finally she looked back up at Taelia and said, “So will you teach me?”
Taelia seemed taken aback. “Teach you what?”
“Everything. What if I have a hard time controlling it? And I have to stay here now anyway, right?” Alzyia suddenly realized that if she couldn’t go back home, and if she didn’t have a family anymore, she had to be somewhere that she could try to make a life on her own. The prospect was daunting. She was still young enough to be in Neoschool, after all. An idea occurred to her and she added, “I would be going to school if I was back home, so I might as well take lessons with you instead, right?”
Taelia didn’t speak for a moment, and then she said, “Faeries aren’t really supposed to take care of pets. We help all of the pets we can, and all of the ones that come across our path. Or, well, sometimes we cause mischief or hurt them, too. Some of us, anyway.” She seemed thoughtful. “I’ll have to double-check the rules, but I think this might be allowed...” She trailed off for a long moment and then said, “We’ll see. For now, I’ve got to open back up, and you’ve got to get your rest. Go back to the bedroom, and I’ll wake you for dinner.”
As Alzyia climbed into bed, she was certain that she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Her head was simply too full of thoughts. Yet a few minutes after her head hit the pillow, she was fast asleep, and slept soundly until Taelia came to wake her.
Dinner was a quiet affair, and Alzyia’s head was full of the events that had transpired earlier. She’d never heard of a faerie caring for a pet before, as Taelia had mentioned. However, Alzyia didn’t think she wanted Taelia to be her owner. The young Aisha didn’t voice her thoughts, but as she helped clear the dishes she realized with a clarity she’d never felt before that she really was growing up now. She’d never felt like such an adult, even though she was still so young.
Despite her naps earlier, Taelia sent her off to bed quickly, telling her that she still hadn’t fully recovered. Alzyia slept soundly, undisturbed even by dreams.
* * *
Alzyia became aware of waking slowly as she regained consciousness more gradually than the usual abruptness with which she woke. As she lay very still in a state of relaxation, the voice of her brother came to her dimly.
“Allie, I’m sorry I didn’t take better care of you.”
It’s OK. It’s not your fault, she thought.
“You’re not going to be able to return to Neopia Central. You’re going to have to stay where you are now.” Her mother’s voice, tinged with a hint of sadness and longing.
Her brother spoke again, but his voice was full of echoes, and she could no longer distinguish the individual syllables. She then opened her eyes, fully awake but unwilling to break the magic of having her family with her.
After a few minutes, though, she sat up and began thinking more seriously about her situation. Taelia would be busy providing visitors with quests all day, and wouldn’t have much time for her. Still, Alzyia needed to begin learning, and fast. She had more questions and less understanding every day.
After she got ready and headed into the kitchen, she found a plate of pancakes and a note from Taelia informing her that she was already in the other part of the Igloo, taking quests. Alzyia sighed and sat down at the table to eat. Maybe she would get in the way, then, but she couldn’t do anything until she knew how to live on the mountain alone. Maybe then she would not be a burden on Taelia, but before that could happen, she had to learn a lot more.
She washed her dishes and cautiously approached the door that led to the other part of the igloo. She’d never been to this section before, but she had to go talk to Taelia.
As she cautiously pushed open the door, she heard Taelia’s warm voice say, “Thank you very much for returning so quickly! Just a minute, and I’ll have your reward.” She watched silently as the Faerie handed a snowball and a bag of neopoints to a Blumaroo who was bundled up in a parka.
The door closed behind the Blumaroo and Taelia turned to smile at Alzyia. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” Allie answered. “I was thinking. If you’ll be too busy to teach me, for now, I could read a few books. I don’t want to interrupt the quests or anything.”
Taelia seemed to consider this, and then turned thoughtful. “Usually I give all my extra books to Mika,” she said, “but I think I still have a large selection that I haven’t delivered yet.”
“I can get started right now, then.” She smiled. “So, where can I find your books?”
* * *
Magic For Beginners was a challenge for Alzyia, possibly because she was still grappling with the idea that she actually had these sudden abilities herself. She read paragraph after paragraph, sitting comfortably on the couch in the central living room, pausing every now and again to trace the diagrams with her fingertips. The volume was not thick, but she found herself having to turn back pages to re-read them. The amount of information was overwhelming.
Taelia came in as Allie was re-reading the last page of the book. The Faerie placed a mug on the table and sat down next to her. “How are your readings going?” She smiled. “I had the last visitor bring us some soup.”
Allie set the book down and sighed. “Thank you.” She smiled tentatively at Taelia and picked up the mug of soup. It was warm and delicious. “There’s an awful lot to learn about magic,” she said softly.
“Yes.” Taelia smiled.
“Taelia?” Allie asked softly. “I have a question.”
“What’s that?” The Snow Faerie looked down at the Aisha.
“Well, you remember that Azar said I could help?”
Taelia sighed quietly. “Alzyia, you shouldn’t take Azar seriously,” she began.
Unexpectedly, Alzyia grew angry. “Oh, really? Well, Azar was right. I could help. I heard them.”
Taelia frowned. “Heard who?”
Alzyia crossed her arms. “Azar said that I needed to use my ears, so I listened. And I heard my brother, and my parents.”
Taelia was quiet, and then shook her head. “Alzyia, there’s no way you could have heard your parents.”
Alzyia glared back silently with a surprising amount of temerity, and Taelia finally sighed and shrugged. “Well, I think this is a good idea. I will talk with you about the readings tonight, but for now I have to go back to tend to the quests again.” She patted Allie’s knee. “Try reading about the Faeries, too. That might help you understand things a little bit better than reading so many magic books.” She gave her a last smile and exited the room.
Alzyia hadn’t thought about that. She finished her soup slowly, still processing the information she’d spent the morning reading. She hadn’t realized that learning magic would be so complicated.
Once she finished lunch, she selected a book about the secrets of Faeries and began reading. It was much more enjoyable, and not dry at all. There was information on each kind of faerie, information on the types of quests that they approached Neopets with, and even information on how they governed themselves. That part was most interesting to Alzyia, especially because she’d never learned anything like it before. She’d always known that there was a Faerie Queen—who hadn’t heard of Fyora, after all—but she’d never had a significant understanding of her responsibilities. Alzyia finished the book quickly and sat for a moment, reflecting on it, before re-reading it.
What she learned by the end of the day was that even if she had the ability to perform magic, she would have to develop the skill to do so. Trying to do just about anything without having the knowledge would result in a spectacular failure, and often there would be unintended consequences.
By the time Taelia closed up the igloo for the night, Alzyia had picked up Magic for Beginners again and begun to read it for a third time.
That night, while Allie lay in bed, she thought that while it wasn’t exactly Neoschool, she was still happy with what she had learned.
To be continued...