It's strange how quickly things can change. One day, everything is normal, you're just living your life, and then something changes. Your whole perspective shifts. When you know something most people don't, you're different. And you can never forget it.
It was a month ago today, the day that changed our lives, your life; even if you don't know it yet. It was an ordinary sort of Brightvale day; cool, with the rays of the weak autumn sun streaming through the stained glass windows and showing me all the cleaning I still had to do.
I sighed and carried on polishing the collection of Draik morphing potions on top of the fireplace; thinking of all the more exciting things I could be doing. Like watching paint dry.
My owner Jess was coming back from a long hiatus tomorrow though, and my brother Kam and I wanted to make our neohome look especially nice for her. She wasn't much of an owner, though; I think we were doing the cleaning more in the hope that she would pay us attention rather than out of affection. She was always more interested in showing us off on the neoboards than playing with us, and our neohome was full of beautiful things simply because she could afford them, and she wanted everyone to know it.
My brother and I were royal Peophins, widely considered to be the most beautiful of royals. Our names are short and matching and we were kept in pristine condition. My brother has read over two thousand books, and he's one of the most feared pets in the battledome. I've eaten six hundred and three gourmet foods. These made me a lot heavier than most pets, but she didn't seem to care about that either, as long as I could still get my dress to do up over my belly for the customisation spotlight.
I finished polishing the ugly, but very expensive, Zombie Draik morphing potion and looked out of the window. I decided to take Kam some cookies, to give me an excuse to stop cleaning.
I walked slowly outside, savouring the cool air on my hot cheeks and munching on a cookie. Kam was cleaning out the artificial waterfall that had got choked with weeds since our owner was last here. He hung upside down over the edge with his muscled tail hanging onto the rope and his arms pulling away the plants.
"You want a cookie?" I hollered up at him.
He jerked in surprise at my voice and his tail lost its grip, but before I could shout out he had wrapped it round a rock and was grinning down at me.
"Surprised me there!" he called down to me. I smiled at him and he laughed. "You didn't think I would really fall, did y-"
The rest of his sentence was cut off by my scream as his tail slid off the rock and he tumbled through the air. As I began to run towards the pool his head struck a rock with a sickening crunch and there was silence, except for my heavy panting as I completed the short distance to the pool.
"Kam?" I asked, grabbing his mane and hauling him to the side. Suddenly there was laughter behind me and I twisted round. A faerie was sat on a large stone, legs tucked under her.
"Please help!" I sobbed, but the faerie ignored me. Now that my relief at seeing her was fading , I saw that she wasn't the light faerie I had first taken her to be. Her hair was white, not blonde, and was tangled and knotted around her shoulders. A pair of black eyes looked out from a dirty face, and as she turned slowly I could see that she had no wings, just a few greasy feathers.
A sudden chill rushed through me.
"That's right!" she cawed, spinning round to face me again. "I see you've learnt your lessons well. I am a grey faerie, but not the usual kind. Not one of those moping babies. The worst they can do is make you a little more unlucky, or maybe turn you grey if you annoy them enough. But I... Well. I'm a lot worse."
I backed away, and she stepped forwards, her mouth opened in a wide smirk, revealing teeth filed to points and a black, darting tongue. She laughed at my obvious terror, tilting her head to the side.
"What's up, precious? Worried about your brother? Don't be. It won't change anything."
"Whu... What do you want?" I managed to force the words out from between numb lips.
She jumped down from the rock, landing in a crouch just a few feet in front of me. I stepped back again, but she straightened up and walked around me, eyes fixed on Kam.
"Leave him alone!" I screamed; then, my voice cracking, whispered, "Please." She looked up, surprised at my outburst.
"You have spirit..." she said thoughtfully, "And such a beautiful coat... How much do you want to save your brother?"
"I'll do anything," I croaked, and it was true. My brother was my whole world. Despite his constant teasing and prodding he was the only one I had. He was the only one who loved me.
"Kam. And I'm Kem," I replied.
She threw back her head in sudden laughter. "How sweet! You're like a matching pair! Kam and Kem- the two Royal Peophins. Pity your owner couldn't get the sizes right..." She looked at Kam's muscled chest and legs, then back at me, filled with gourmet foods until I was bloated. My cheeks burned bright red, and she burst out laughing and spun in a circle.
I flinched as she put her hand on my faceplate and her horrible breath reached my nose. It smelled of rotten meat. Her eyes looked like obsidian as they burned into mine.
"An exchange," she said. I nodded, and then jerked as she pulled her hand away. I could see her laughing as my vision faded to black and I fell, thrashing, to the floor.
I didn't feel pain. I didn't feel anything; just a black, itchy sensation where my body should have been. Next to me I heard Kam take a shuddering breath and start to cough. Relief flooded through my mind. Until my vision cleared and I could look up.
Above me the grey faerie was cocooned in a purple haze, flowing from my body to hers. A stream of arcane chanting was coming from the middle of the mist, with a voice that changed with each passing second, becoming softer, richer and melodic.
I lay there for what felt like hours, the feeling gradually returning to my body as the flow of mist stopped. Now the faerie's voice was so beautiful and harmonious it made my chest ache. Abruptly it stopped, and the purple cloud imploded, the faerie floating gracefully to the ground.
I gasped and struggled back; trying to pull the unconscious Kam with me. My legs went right through him. I looked down at them and saw their light blue fur had turned a dirty white, and my golden hooves were replaced with two cracked grey ones. It was as if all the colour had been leeched out of them, and they were so skinny that the bones stood out in sharp relief.
But however bad I looked, Kam was worse. His body was a sickly blue colour, and I could see the grass through him.
"Ghost," I whispered, and then looked up at the heart wrenchingly beautiful figure before me. Her wings were gauzy, like a butterfly, and her long hair cascaded down her delicate back. She patted her face with delicate hands, feeling the large eyes and pointed ears. A large smile spread over the face of the familiar figure.
"Fyora," Kam croaked, sitting up beside me.
"No," said the faerie in her musical voice, "though... there is an amazing resemblance. That will be useful. I go by many names. But you... You can call me The Betrayer. Most people do." She smiled a smile that, despite her new, beautiful features, was terrifying in a way she hadn't been before.
"But... Your statue..." I stammered.
"She escaped, Kem, after the ruin," Kam said urgently, "We need to get out of here."
"Oh, don't worry about me. I've already told you, Kem, it won't do any good. Besides, I have bigger things to deal with than two ugly little Peophins." With that, she lifted her wings and disappeared.
The next part isn't so important. Our owner came back and was shocked to find us changed, me Grey and Kam Ghost. She tried painting us, but it didn't work. The colour just ran off. She sent a ticket to someone called TNT (don't ask me who they are) and they made a formal apology when they couldn't fix us.
Our owner was going to pound us in disgust, but then the neomails started coming in. Apparently glitched pets were 'cool'. We were famous, but that didn't matter. Nothing mattered to us anymore, except the news we had had the day earlier.
The whole of Neopia had been shocked when the Times ran a story called 'Fake Fyora Exposed!!!' According to them, the Fyora that had previously been living in the castle was an imposter, the Darkest Faerie in disguise. The real Queen had arrived just in time to stop her carrying out a terrible punishment on the Faeries. The imposter had been turned back into stone and was guarded night and day by twenty guards. At least, that's what the Times said.
Only Kam and I know the truth- that the 'Restored Queen' was in fact the Darkest Faerie and that the real Fyora was the one trapped in a statue. We live our lives in fear of being silenced, oblivious to our new celebrity status.
It's my fault. I was so blinded by the thought of losing Kam that I didn't even think of the consequences our 'exchange' would have. Kam says I shouldn't blame myself. He's wrong. I will not make the whole of Neopia pay for my mistake.
So I'm here, writing this. I don't expect Kam and me to see tomorrow- she'll probably turn us into mortogs or something. Just as long as you know. So prepare, the Darkest Faerie's back, and she's stronger than ever before.