Child of the Drenched: Intrigue in Faerieland - Part One
Mara looked around at the colorful sight that was Mystery Island. She loved coming here. It was very early in the day and the air was cool and fragrant. The waves crashed gently on the shore and Mara closed her eyes and just felt the water, its massive presence always a part of her. She opened her eyes and looked over at her companions, a Red Kyrii and a Yellow Usul.
"Hurry up already, Jacques!" the Maractite Usul called.
"Give us a minute, Mara. You're always so impatient," Jacques called back.
"You're always two minutes late!" Mara retorted with a grin.
He just turned his back to her and continued talking with Garin. Mara twirled her blue-green hair around her finger as she waited. Finally Jacques walked up to her with Garin by his side.
"Seriously, why do you both have to go?" Garin was complaining. "My first mate and my sorceress at once, the ship is practically begging to be attacked by other pirates."
"Then don't broadcast that we're gone and nothing bad will happen," Jacques replied. "Someone needs to look after Mara. She's so stupidly trusting and everyone is jealous of our sea witch, she'll get grabbed by another captain."
Mara shoved Jacques who laughed good-naturedly and gave her a little push back. It had been a year since she had joined the crew of the Black Pawkeet and she and Jacques were better friends than ever. Garin laughed and replied, "Mara, keep a close eye on him, he's likely to get into trouble."
Mara saluted and said, "Aye, aye, Captain!"
Jacques just grinned at Garin; the teasing between the three of them was a normal part of their daily lives. Garin turned to walk off and then turned back. "If you try to apprentice Mara under a water faerie during your time in Faerieland, I'll maroon you."
Mara laughed and said, "I'd like to see him try. Don't worry, Captain, I'll be coming back, with or without dear Jacques here."
Garin waved and headed back to the rowboat and Mara picked up her bag off the sandy beach and turned to Jacques with a smile. He smiled back.
"It'll be nice to have a vacation from piracy," Jacques said, stretching in the morning sun.
They started walked toward the Eyrie Taxi station and Mara asked, "Do you think this is for real?"
"What? Oh, you mean your uncle's letter? There is no reason why it wouldn't be. He provided proof he is Miranda's brother and we are pretty certain Miranda was your mother. The Drenched sister certainly confirmed you came from Zephyr Island. This will finally clear up any questions about your past before you were taken to live the Drenched." Jacques' face soured every time he said 'Drenched'. His anger towards them for what they did to him remained undiminished.
Mara had been raised under the sea by the Drenched sisters after the youngest had taken her from her home when she was a small child. Last year she had left them to see the world above the waves and found a friend in the first mate of the Black Pawkeet. With his help she discovered as much as she could about her past. Mara had decided to remain above the waves as a member of Garin's crew.
She had thought that she had put her missing past behind her and was moving on with her life when a letter arrived at Garin's favorite pub on Scurvy Island. It was from a man living in Faerieland named Howl who claimed to be her uncle. They had corresponded and he asked her to come to Faerieland so they could meet again in person.
Garin had been against it, but Jacques overruled his objections and so they were on their way to Faerieland to meet her uncle. Mara was curious to meet this uncle of hers and ask him questions about her parents, Miranda and Walt, and perhaps even about herself.
They hired an Eyrie Taxi and got into the cab. Mara put her bag at her feet and glanced out the window nervously. She had never flown before. Jacques settled himself down comfortably on the seat next to her and didn't seem anxious at all. The Eyries took off and Mara gasped and grabbed Jacques' arm. It was smooth flying after that and Jacques laughingly shook her off. She huddled in the corner, terrified and ashamed of her terror. She wished that they didn't have to fly.
"Really, Mara, this is no big deal. These Eyries are professionals." Jacques tried to cheer her up.
"I lived most of my life without knowing what the sky looked like, Jacques. This is as disturbing as it gets for me." Mara shivered. "It's a long way down."
"You are a sorceress, one who specializes in water magic, flying over an ocean. I'm pretty sure if anything happened I'd have more to worry about than you would. Mara, didn't you bring a book or something?"
"Meh, all my books are study materials, I don't think you want me practicing my magic in here," Mara replied.
Jacques sighed and opened his suitcase. He dug out a book. "I knew it, you never read anything but those texts of yours. The Drenched must be so proud of you. Here, I brought you a book. Faerieland: A History. It is a little out of date now, what with the fall and everything, but it is better than nothing. Educate yourself." He tossed the book to her.
She stuck her tongue out at him as she caught the book. "I'm plenty educated, in matters of the world below the surface and piracy."
"Yeah, well, it doesn't do you much good up here, now does it?" Jacques replied. "I don't want to spend the entire trip explaining to you what an Islandberry Faerie Bubble is."
Mara hid a grin behind the book and started to read. A while later she realized that they were descending. She looked out the window and saw Faerieland sitting below in its crater. Jacques told her it was actually in a lot better shape than it used to be, but according to the faeries they weren't very close to returning it to the sky.
They landed and she put the book in her bag and they got out. The Taxi took off again and Mara looked around. They were standing at the gates of the Faerie City, but much of Faerieland lay beyond. She could see the Healing Springs, Rainbow Fountain, and Poogle Races in the distance. There were so many people milling about that Mara felt lost.
"Come on, we should hurry up to meet this uncle of yours," Jacques said, touching her arm to get her attention.
Mara nodded and pulled out the letter Howl had sent her with the address where she could meet him. They got directions from a faerie shopkeeper and made their way to the address. It turned out to be the Royal Academy of Faerieland, a prestigious school for only the most gifted faeries and the occasional Neopets. Xandra had studied there.
"Why would my uncle want us to come here?" Mara asked.
"Let's find out," Jacques said, walking over to a bored looking Fire Faerie. "Excuse me; we are looking for someone by the name of Howl."
The Fire Faerie smirked at them. "You got business with scary old Howl?"
"We do," Jacques replied.
"Eh, go in and ask the headmistress; her office is on your left when you enter the building. She'll show you the way. I can't leave or I'll miss my slowpoke of a study partner, we're behind enough as it is. Beware of Howl; he'll eat you and your little friend there."
"I highly doubt that, 'my little friend' as you term her is proficient enough in magic to take on anyone in this school. I doubt Howl will be much of a problem. But, on the off chance, maybe I'll wait out here." Jacques shrugged.
"Jacques, stop that," Mara groaned, slugging his arm.
"You hit like a girl," Jacques teased.
"Wait till I hit you with a wave, now come on already," Mara threatened as she turned to go into the school.
Jacques followed behind, laughing at her. Mara opened the door of the school and walked in. It was quiet in the hall; all the classes were currently in session. She turned to her left and found the door the Fire Faerie had told her about. She knocked on it and a voice bid them to enter. She and Jacques went into the office.
It was a beautifully decorated room. The furniture was made out of live plants and flora of all kinds decorated every nook and cranny. At the desk sat an earth faerie. She was dressed in a green business suit instead of a flowery dress, her wavy hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore glasses. She looked up at them.
"Um, hello, I'm Mara and this is Jacques," Mara introduced them.
"Very nice to meet you, I'm Florina, the headmistress here. Please state your business, and quickly," Florina replied briskly.
Mara nodded. "We're here to see Howl."
Florina's face softened. "That is a new one, I've never had anyone here to see Howl before. He's pretty reclusive and all the girls are afraid of him. He makes a jolly game of being scarier than he really is. May I ask why?"
"He's my uncle," Mara replied.
Her face tightened. "He doesn't have any family; he told me so himself."
Mara felt like panicking at this, but Jacques stepped in. "That was probably true when he told you that. Things have changed, Mara was lost for years. He probably forgot to tell you that he had rediscovered his niece."
Florina smiled again and replied, "That makes perfect sense; he's not very communicative." She rose from her seat and went to the door. "Follow me. Howl ought to be in his office, his classes don't start until the afternoon."
To be continued...