The Weight of the Crown
Fyora strolled slowly through the small garden, and sat down with a sigh on a wrought-iron bench beneath a large tree.
"I wondered when you were going to seek me out," a serene voice said.
Fyora turned her head and saw a striped female Lenny approaching from the small tower in the corner of the garden. The Lenny sat down on the bench next to Fyora.
"I should have come sooner," Fyora replied. "Your little haven seems to be the only part of the castle that wasn't damaged in any way in the crash, apart from the Hidden Tower, and it is impossible for me to wander through there and not be bombarded with work." She looked around the garden, taking in the plants and trees that looked the same as they had before that fateful day, all those months ago, when the faeries' world had been turned upside down. "I take it you used your magic to shield your tower and garden during the fall?"
The Lenny nodded and said, "Just as I used my powers to protect you and the other faeries. Or had you not wondered why nothing in that garden had been disturbed in the crash, why all the faeries were still standing in the exact same spot they had been in when the spell took effect? I protected you, and myself, to the best of my abilities, once I realized I would never be able to undo that petrification spell."
Fyora grimaced at the mention of that hated spell; even now, months after the curse had been lifted, she still couldn't think about it without wincing. Every day, she was confronted with the aftermath: much of her beloved city was still being rebuilt, parts of the castle still lay in ruins, and when she looked out the window of the room at the top of her Hidden Tower (which, because of all the spells imbued in the tower's very stones, had survived the crash unscathed) she could no longer see all of Neopia below her, only the forests of New Faerieland and the Haunted Woods.
"You are healing, though," the Lenny mused, "I can sense it. Though as you know, those wounds of your heart and spirit will take time to heal, and no magic can help speed that healing along."
Fyora nodded; she had given similar advice to others so many times, had felt the sting of loss and betrayal herself often enough to know the truth of those words.
Not quite ready to dwell more on her own problems, Fyora gazed around the garden and thought about Alynna, the striped Lenny seated beside her. Alynna was an empath and a telepath, able to sense the emotions and thoughts of the Queen, as well as a powerful sorceress. It had been her amazing magical ability that had brought her to the attention of the faeries, and had earned her an invitation to study magic at the prestigious Faerie Academy, the first Neopet ever to be accepted into those hallowed halls. Alynna had mastered the magics of all six elements, a feat she shared only with Fyora, and had received the highest marks possible in all her classes. She had also received special training in the ethics and use of her empathic and telepathic abilities from none other than Mira, the Space Faerie, the only faerie able to sense others' thoughts and feelings.
Alynna had graduated from the Faerie Academy shortly after Fyora had been crowned, and shortly after her graduation the Lenny had bound herself to the young Queen's service. Fyora remembered that night quite well, when the young striped Lenny had sought an audience with the young Queen in her chambers, and had presented to her an ancient spellbook and a fait accompli.
In some dusty forgotten corner of the Faerieland Library Alynna had found a book that described a spell to bind oneself forever to the service of another. Alynna had read through the spell and had chosen, of her own free will, to bind herself forever to Fyora. The spell had bound Alynna's will, so that she could never betray Fyora, never tell anyone else what the Queen told to her, never bring harm to the one to whom she was bound. Alynna's abilities to sense thoughts and emotions had been bound also, and now worked only on Fyora. Her magic, too, had been bound, and could now only be used to protect herself and the Faerie Queen. The spell also made her nearly immortal, as Fyora was, for she would not die until Fyora herself died (which, they both knew, would not be for a great many years yet) or until Fyora no longer needed her. And only Fyora could cast the counterspell to undo the bond.
Fyora still felt a pang in her heart every time she looked at Alynna. She, who would sacrifice herself for the safety of Neopia if need be, never wanted anyone to sacrifice anything for her sake. She had nearly reversed the spell that night, when Alynna had told her about it, but even at that young age she had been wise enough to read through the spellbook and understand the spell before casting the counterspell. She had eventually decided, somewhat against her better judgement, to accept the sacrifice Alynna had made for her.
In retrospect, she had made the right decision. Alynna had helped Fyora through her first years as Queen, had helped her navigate safely through the backstabbing politics of the Faerie Court, had comforted her when things went wrong and shared her joy when things went well. Between them, Fyora and Alynna had created, with their magics, this little garden and tower, and hidden it in such a way that no one other than themselves ever knew of it or found it. It was a timeless haven for the Queen, and a peaceful home for her friend. For Alynna was also a friend to Fyora, and for a Queen, a friend, a true friend, is very rare and more precious than any fine gemstones.
"It doesn't feel like those wounds are healing, though," Fyora sighed. "They blame me for it all, you know. They claim I should have seen how corrupt Xandra was, that I should have stripped her of her power and her memories and exiled her from Faerieland. Yet these are the same faeries who once praised her accomplishments at the Faerie Academy, who delighted in the Xweetok sorceress who was so apt at magic. Do they really expect me to use the Orb of Truth to question everyone I suspect, and everyone I would never suspect, of plotting against me? If I did, they would call me paranoid, and I would be a 'winged tyrant' in truth." She winced as she spoke those last few words; she had always tried to be a kind and benevolent ruler, and to be called a tyrant by one she had once had the highest hopes for stung her like a poisoned dart.
It was extremely rare for a Neopet to be taken under the faeries' wings, so to speak, and be permitted to study at the prestigious Faerie Academy. Alynna had been the first to win such distinction; Xandra had been the second. It was the still-present pain of Xandra's betrayal that had prevented Fyora from seeking out Alynna in the months after the crash.
"Yours is not an easy road," Alynna said, "though I will tell you again, as I have told you before, that although being a benevolent monarch is very difficult, it brings with it its own rewards."
Fyora snorted. "Yet it seems like every other month I uncover another plan to seize the throne."
"And how many of those attempts have come to pass?" Alynna asked. "None, that I know of. You still have a large number of loyal subjects, who would fight valiantly to protect you from harm."
"Let us hope it never comes to that, my friend, especially not while parts of Faerieland still lie in ruins."
Fyora leaned forward, placed her elbows on her knees, and reached up and took her crown from where it nestled in her lilac locks. She held the crown (more of a tiara, really) in her hands and gazed at it in wonder. So many faeries, and a few Neopets, had tried to take it from her over the years, though Fyora had a hard time understanding why.
Who, in their right mind, would want to rule over the temperamental magical beings known as faeries? Why would anyone want to be the one responsible for keeping the balance between the faeries of the different elements? How could anyone dream of becoming the one responsible, not just for governing Faerieland, but for protecting everyone who lived anywhere in Neopia? Did they not realize that the Faerie Queen was the one responsible for dealing with evils no Neopet could face unscathed?
"One who has never worn the crown cannot comprehend the weight of responsibility carried by the one who wears it," Fyora mused.
Alynna shot a piercing glance at the Queen. "Why don't you explain it to them then?" she asked.
Fyora turned towards Alynna, her amethyst eyes wide and startled. "What?"
"Have you ever tried explaining to the rest of Neopia the weight of the crown you wear?" Alynna said calmly. "Perhaps it is because of ignorance that they question you, and wonder what it is you do for Neopia."
Fyora stared at the Lenny, trying to wrap her mind around her friend's words. "How would I go about telling them, though?" she asked after a few minutes.
Alynna shrugged. "What about all those Neopian Times reporters you keep complaining about? Couldn't you find one of them that would be willing to write about this?"
A light dawned in Fyora's eyes, and a smile spread across her face. "Alynna, that's brilliant!" She hugged the Lenny, then rushed out of the garden, eager to act on Alynna's suggestion.
And so it was that the next day, after having spent most of the night writing, a bleary-eyed Queen Fyora handed the above manuscript to a Neopian Times reporter who had come into the Hidden Tower to gaze longingly at the display of Faerie Queen Dolls.