Of Friends, Foes and Meepits
Hessethneo stared a bit uncertain at his owner as they left the home of a certain well known Dark Faerie after completing another of her strange quests.
He had always known his owner to be somewhat different from the others but all in all he had always believed her to do what is right. So to see her go out and accept a quest from somebody suspected of trying to take over Faerieland and all matter of other evil things was not something in character for her and definitely worthy of concern.
Helle felt the wondering gaze of her pet and had a pretty good hunch at what was bothering him.
"Come on, Hessethneo. You want to ask me something, I can almost see you explode with curiosity so out with it," she insisted playfully.
The Mutant Gelert growled softly at being read so easily.
"Okay, since you are so pushy." He snorted. "Why do you help Jhudora even though she is evil?"
Helle just flashed him a mysterious smile as if she knew something he didn't. Something important.
"Fine, tell me the story." The Mutant Gelert huffed, recognising the look of his owner and feeling the curiosity within him burn to find out this secret, though he would never admit it even if threatened by Meepits.
Helle broke out into a wide grin and clapped in her hands, pleased she could tell a tale the other hadn't heard before as she sat down on a bench, motioning for Hessethneo to take a seat next to her.
"To understand it, you need to know that a long time ago, Jhudora and Illusen were actually good friends and spent a lot of time together," Helle began, ignoring the look of disbelief from her pet. "It was only after a major incident that the two turned into the arch-enemies we know them to be today. You see, back when they were younger Jhudora and Illusen were playing happily together when..."
The clouds upon which Faerieland was seated were illuminated with a soft purple glow, a tiny hint of a light yellow promising the morning to be pleasantly warm with just a hint of a breeze. Perfect for relaxing.
That was not what two young Faeries had in mind however. Jumping from cloud to cloud only to quickly take flight and dive down again, an Earth and Dark Faerie were chasing each other in a game of tag, startling visitors with their wild antics as some of them had to hurriedly jump out of their way in order to not get run over.
Ignorant of the chaos they caused, the two made it all the way to the highest clouds drifting above the spires of the castle.
"Jhudora!" The Earth Faerie gasped for breath. "Lets take a break. I can't feel my wings anymore."
"Very well, Illusen." Jhudora smirked. "Just know that that means I win this game."
Illusen just shrugged good-naturedly as she let herself fall down onto the soft cloud, her friend coming to sit next to her as they stared at the clouds in comfortable silence.
Following the columns of bright sunlight falling down on the world around them with her eyes, the Earth Faerie admired the glossy sheen they brought to the many towers and walls of the Faerie castle below when something caught her gaze.
"Jhudora," she whispered, nudging her friend slightly on the arm to get her attention. "Look, something is happening over there. Can you see what?"
The Dark Faerie sighed as she decided to humour her friend and looked down at the spot Illusen was indicating.
"What is so special about it?" She huffed. "It are just a Spotted Uni and Faerie Kougra who..."
She stopped in the middle of her sentence as she saw what had made her friend so curious.
While it was perfectly normal to see different kinds of Neopets wandering through the city and castle, it was very odd for two of them to be carrying a small metal box and go through a hidden door in the side of one of the walls of the castle of which existence Jhudora hadn't even heard a slight rumour.
It only added to the mystery when after a short while the Uni and Kougra returned without the metal box.
For the two mischievous young Faeries, this was a secret they couldn't leave undiscovered.
With just one conspiratorial glance at one another, they knew they had to find out more and with curiosity making any earlier experienced fatigue disappear the two of them dived down to where the secret entrance had appeared.
The wall didn't look any different from any other wall, solid and impenetrable, not something that would be able to slide to thee side and let you pass. There wasn't a single seam to be seen that would hint at a secret passageway existing here.
Illusen looked at her friend.
"Jhudora, you saw those two standing here before too, right? Do you know any magic that could help us?"
The Dark Faerie pondered for a moment before placing a long-nailed hand on the hard surface.
"I can conjure up the memory of the last touch to the stone. Let's hope that will do the trick."
Murmuring softly, she watched as a dark purple glow seemed to envelope part of the wall, the colour intensifying over two sections where the Kougra and Uni must have pressed to open the mechanism.
Grinning proudly, Jhudora waited for Illusen to place her hands on the same spots before stopping the flow of magic, which was none too soon as the wall gave a slight shudder before it suddenly disappeared, exposing a staircase leading downwards to a hidden lower part of the castle.
Both Earth and Dark Faerie gasped in surprise.
Their place on the cloud had been too high to make out what had been beyond the doorway and the discovery of a dark dungeon-like structure came as a shock.
Why would the Faerie Queen have any need for a dungeon to her castle, and a hidden one at that?!
"I am not so sure if it would be wise to continue now." Jhudora frowned. "A dungeon will mean guards and prisoners. I don't think we would benefit from getting acquainted with either of those. If it had been a treasure vault, it would be another matter entirely, of course."
Illusen stared at her.
"I would never have thought that a Dark Faerie would be too scared to go explore an old dungeon when an Earth Faerie does," she said with a challenging raise of a delicate eyebrow. "And doesn't it make more sense to hide treasure and artefacts of power somewhere treasure-hunters won't look? I think I will forever regret it if I just turned away now after discovering the biggest secret I ever came across. It is after all still a part of Faerieland, of the queen's castle even. So what could possibly happen to us? The worst would be somebody in charge seeing us and telling us we are not allowed to go any further without permission."
Rolling her eyes as if going along with her friend would just be a boring inconvenience Jhudora couldn't pass up on an opportunity to discover some of the artefacts of power that were to this day still hidden throughout Neopia. She had to agree that a secret dungeon of the castle in Faerieland would make a perfect hiding place for such items.
Grabbing the hand of her friend, she stepped onto the stairs and lead the way down into the depths underneath the castle.
Even with the large lanterns hanging from the ceiling, the hallways didn't seem to be able to shake off the touch of the shadows that constantly appeared to threaten to engulf all around them and leave the unwanted visitors in total darkness.
Feeling a shiver run through her Earth Faerie friend, Jhudora glanced back and noticed how Illusen's face had taken on a pale tinge. A dark tunnel away from nature and natural sunlight was no place for an Earth Faerie. Jhudora felt in her element, however, and noted how the last strands of doubt about this adventure disappeared the further they got. Giving the clammy hand a reassuring squeeze she was pleased to see the glint of stubbornness in Illusen's eyes, mixed with a warm thankful note which told her that even though not in her element the Earth Faerie was not prepared to throw in the towel.
When it seemed they couldn't possibly go any lower without falling through the bottom of the cloud the castle was sitting on, they reached the end of the long hallway which was adorned with a rather unimpressive-looking dark wooden door.
"Well, I don't suppose they would leave this open," Illusen said airily and gave the door a nudge.
With a swift soundless sweep it opened up, allowing the two wide-eyed Faeries to see the small chamber beyond.
The room was completely bare except for the metal box the two Neopets had been carrying before, surrounded by the largest collection of prisoning wards they had ever seen before.
Whatever was in the box, it seemed to be of extreme importance for it to be kept away from the rest of the world, hidden in the darkness.
Now, were both Faeries a bit older and wiser, they would have enough calm reasoning to know that whatever the Faerie queen deemed too dangerous to be let out into the world should not be taken lightly. However when they discovered the contents of the chamber both Faeries were still young and impulsive. A dangerous combination.
"Look at all those wards!" Jhudora cried happily. "I really need to know what they do and how to make them. They are some of the most powerful magic I have ever come across!"
Illusen directed her attention over to the small metal box, leaving the wards for her friends and trying to see inside the darkness of the tiny container instead.
She didn't notice her mouth falling open in a silent gasp when she discovered a pair of unblinking dark eyes staring at her from within the shadows.
Grabbing her friend's arm, she shook it hastily to grab her attention.
"Jhudora!" she hissed when faced with the angry glare of the Dark Faerie. "There is a petpet inside that box!"
Jhudora frowned. "What? Why would anybody want to lock up a petpet in a dungeon? Least of all the queen!"
"Perhaps because it isn't she who trapped me in this metal prison." A soft voice spoke up from the shadows of the container.
Both Faeries stilled and stared.
"What... What do you mean? Who are you?" Illusen spoke up with a slight tremble in her speech.
"Who am I?" the petpet asked with a hint of mirth. "Merely a Meepit taken from my master and hidden away, left to rot underneath the castle which used to be my home. You see, I was a gift for the queen. But in order to cause her harm somebody kidnapped me, locked me in here, and replaced me with another who will help them to overthrow the rule of the Faeries. Alas, though I found out about the plan, I can't help my queen in pointing out the main conspirator."
Jhudora frowned. "Then why are you locked in a dungeon underneath the castle? Your story doesn't make any sense. I haven't even heard of the queen owning a Meepit at all!"
"Ah, guess I shouldn't be surprised since I am just a petpet after all and not someone of importance." The Meepit sighed. "As to why they chose this place, perhaps because none would think to look here for an object stolen from the castle. Hidden in plain sight and all that. My poor queen, I hope she will not fall under the evil of my captors."
Illusen let out a soft sob as she heard the despair in the petpet's voice.
"Don't you worry about that, we can let you out and you can warn the queen!" she promised and would have moved forward had Jhudora not held her back.
"Wait a moment," the Dark Faerie hissed. "Even if what this petpet is telling is the truth, then wouldn't it be a better plan to warn the queen ourselves? These wards won't be easily broken and we will know from her mouth whether he was truthful with us or not."
"And leave him here in the dark?!" the Earth Faerie interjected.
"It will take at least a day for me to break these wards," Jhudora hissed, reluctant to admit to any weakness. "Let us go back now, Illusen. The sooner we go, the sooner we get back."
"Would it help if I told you the weak-spots of the wards?" the Meepit suddenly piped in. "I saw them place them here, you know. They think I'm not clever enough to get the significance, but I do. And that way I can defend you two saying you came to save me instead of sneaking in here in the hopes of discovering some of the queen's secrets."
Jhudora glared at the cunning remark at the end, feeling it to be more of a threat than a helpful suggestion but the innocent smile on her friend's face told her which decision she stood behind as she was looking hopefully at the Dark Faerie.
"Fine then, what do I do?" she snarled.
"Just touch the symbol of the sun and the stone," the Meepit offered calmly, the reflection of his big eyes ominous in the darkness of its prison.
"Bound by sky and earth, a powerful incantation," Jhudora mumbled to herself as she found the two symbols the petpet had spoken of. "There are only a handful of Neopia's most powerful magical creatures that can break such a ward. You're in luck the same isn't necessary when one isn't trapped inside."
Inhaling sharply, she pressed her hands to the symbols and waited for the magic of the wards to react.
With a small blue hue of light, the symbols surrounding the metal box disappeared and the top of the container sprang open.
"That was awesome, Jhudora!" Illusen cheered as she hugged her friend while a small Meepit climbed out of the box, a downright evil smirk on its face.
"Thank you both for getting me out; I wouldn't have been able to do so without your help." The Meepit chuckled. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Neoverse to terrorise!"
And before either of the Faeries could stop him, the Meepit disappeared through the hallway.
"What did he mean, terrorise the Neoverse?" Illusen whispered nervously as Jhudora gulped, a bad feeling rising in her stomach.
The two friends didn't waste any more time and ran to the exit, hoping to catch the runaway Meepit before it escaped the castle-grounds, but what they found when returning into the sunlight wasn't exactly that.
A gathering of Faeries stood waiting for them, the Faerie queen at the head of the group and flanked by the Spotted Uni and Faerie Kougra, and all of them were looking less than pleased.
"Jhudora! Illusen! What have you done?" she demanded sternly, her arms crossed over her chest.
"The Meepit that was trapped in the dungeon below the castle said you were in danger!" Illusen stuttered, tears starting to form in her eyes. "We just wanted to help..."
"Help?!" the queen almost screamed, wings fluttering with irritation. "That Meepit is the leader of all the Meepits in Neopia and his capture was our only means of leverage to finally stop them from doing any future evil. Now they'll only come back at us worse than ever!"
Her glare turned to Jhudora.
"But I can't blame you too much, Illusen, you couldn't have opened the secret door or destroyed the wards. That was Jhudora, if I'm not mistaken."
"Yes, but..." the Dark Faerie sputtered.
"And you were also the only one not tended to be taken in with some small furry creature with big pleading eyes begging you for something, right?"
"I wasn't, but..." The Dark Faerie tried again.
"I've heard enough!" The queen held up her hands. "You will both serve your punishment by doing all quests anybody asks of you for the next month! And Jhudora, since you are most at fault, you will have to live in the old house on the bluff for the duration of your punishment. Let us just hope you have not brought forth the doom of this entire world!"
With bowed heads and cheeks red in shame, the two left the grounds to go to the quest-bureau.
"Jhudora, are you alri..."
"Don't talk to me!" the Dark Faerie snarled. "It was your fault the Meepit is out. It was your idea! I said we should have told the queen first! Why didn't you say anything?"
Illusen was shocked at the fury in the other's voice.
"I couldn't, I just..."
"You just threw me to the Lupes!" Jhudora fumed. "Goodbye, Illusen, I shall never call you my friend ever again!"
"And with that, Jhudora walked off and went to live on the bluff. Once the month had passed, she decided to stay there, claiming she enjoyed not being around a certain Earth Faerie. Illusen retaliated by moving to Meridell and both have been sworn enemies ever since," Helle said wistfully. "A pity, really; I think they would make a formidable team. But anyway, after that people presumed Jhudora to be evil as it was rumoured she set that Meepit loose on purpose, but those of us who know the real story know that she is actually good at heart. She just decided to put up a front, a sort of shield to protect herself from being hurt like that ever again. I don't blame Illusen either; it was just a terrible incident, really. And from that moment on, the Meepits have been the most powerful faction in all of Neopia."
Hessethneo stared at his owner.
"You honestly don't expect me to believe all that, do you?" He snorted as he got up and started to walk away.
"What?" Helle pouted, following her pet down the road. "How cruel you are sometimes, not even trusting your own owner!"
"Especially my own owner!"
As both disappeared in the distance a Meepit crawled out of his hiding-spot and activated a communicator while his unblinking eyes stared at the spot where the owner and Neopet had gone.
"Yes, it's me. We have a problem. One of them knows."