Chronicles of the Chosen: Taking Flight - Part Four
The girls had no problem escaping. While Dr. Death had who-knows-what happen to him in our dormitory, they had just enough time to pack what we had forgotten and flee through the front door. As soon as they joined us in front of our window's remnants, we set off according to plan. No one dared speak of what had just happened; their glares said it all. I was officially the dumbest Acara in Neopia.
Johnny was the only one who didn't rue my existence. I always knew he had a big heart, but even he should've hated my guts for this. I didn't question it, though; better not to have everyone turned against you.
The night sky was painted over with a dark, gloomy overcast as we trekked beyond Neopia Central's limits. After a while, I couldn't even see my own paws through the blackness of night. The only thing to stand out from the rayless meadow was the grass beneath our feet, which isn't very easy to navigate with, let me tell you.
Flamethrower seemed to notice this, too, and quickly held out her paw. Instantly – almost magically – the flame ignited in her palm, flickering and sputtering in the frigid, autumn breeze. It was our only light source for the rest of the way there – not until the lights of Kiko Lake drowned out its feeble glow, and Sandra extinguished it before running through the tall grass that shrouded it. Maurice started running, too, and soon all of us stampeded through the greenery to find...
Just three buildings.
And one of them had glass-bottom boats, for crying out loud!
"This is it?!" Maurice exclaimed furiously. Today had obviously not been his day. "Where's the ferry service? There has to be one!!"
"There probably is," Kathryn reminded. "Just ask the person who runs the glass-bottom boat service."
Maurice nodded and stamped away, probably grumbling something that made just about as much sense as Dr. Death's grunts. Patiently we waited, and passed the time in two calm, civilized ways: lecturing me about my stupidity and taking turns trying to strangle me.
Finally, when Maurice returned, his head was stubbornly lowered turns the ground, his eyebrows creased into an angered V -- a pretty good sign. "There are; the boat dock is just up the lake a little."
"Thanks, Grouch." Kathryn had always kept a calm composure, but you could tell when she was holding back a chuckle.
So we walked to the dock, yada yada yada, Johnny paid for us to board the ferry, blah blah blah, and now we were setting sail to Brightvale. The trip was going to take a few hours, so half of us decided to catch up on our beauty sleep (I bet you can guess who), while Maurice, Johnny, and I stood around while waiting for dawn to break. It was a beautiful night: the clouds had cleared just enough for stars to beam overhead, the wind blew gently against the fur on my face, and the ferry's wake splashed lightly against my back. All seemed to be at peace with the world... everything, except for us.
The argument had started out innocent enough. All I did was say just one sentence to Maurice, who was still brooding to himself like the scrooge he can be: "Hate turns your fur red, you know."
Who knew such a simple statement could make someone explode?
"Well, why shouldn't I be?!" Maurice snapped, anger steaming in his eyes. Or at least, I thought I saw steam rolling out of them. "We nearly got our derrieres fried by Dr. Death, our cover blown, all to go to Faerieland to get our derrieres kicked THERE! Not exactly a feel-good movie of the year."
"Why do you think we'll be defeated?" I countered. "We've beaten Jhudora alone, before; don't you remember the first battle Flamethrower fought with us? We have the experience. We have the strength!"
"I just don't think it's going to work out," Maurice replied.
"What kind of excuse is that?!" Now it was my turn to get angry and glare in his direction. "What happened to you, Maurice?"
Maurice was a little hesitant to answer this one. "What do you mean, what happened to me?"
"You know what I mean! What happened to the Maurice I knew a year ago? What happened to the Maurice who'd do anything for a slice of adventure?"
The Maurice I knew would've answered immediately, "Nothing happened to him!" in that slightly-irritated way he was notorious for. But the Maurice sitting next to me remained silent for a long time – too long – staring out into the distance to avoid my eyes. Finally, he answered firmly, "He grew up."
I was just about to reply that no grown-up would've taken blackmail photos of their friends snoring, but just as the words were a breath away from being spoken, my eyes met with the blue Mynci's. They still shone bright, but not in that little-kid way all Neopets have during their childhood. Instead, his eyes sparked with the insecurity of maturing. They looked confused from this almost out-of-the-blue transition. They looked awkward, like he had known this for awhile but refused to let it sink in. But most of all, they looked hurt. And I knew just the reason behind it.
"It's Flamethrower, isn't it?" My gaze never flitted from those dark blue eyes; they told a better truth than anyone's words. "For so long, you've been the leader, and you didn't mind that one bit. But now that Sandra's the leader, you feel like she's stolen your thunder."
"Stolen my thunder?" Maurice raised one of his furrowed brows at me. Okay, so maybe eyes lied, too. "Heck, ever since she became leader, no one's been listening to me at all! You all act like I've never led anything before! You'd think that after seven years of being the decision-maker, I'd at least be listened to."
"But you wanted to take the all-land route!" I fired back in reply. "If we HAD agreed – and Dr. Death caught us then, too – we would've had to go almost our entire journey without food and water! Neopets can hardly go three days without water! We'd end up passing out in the grass! We'd still be alive, but our throats would be all choked up, and our bodies would we too weak to move, and--"
My eyes met with Maurice's again, and that was enough to shut me up. He was glaring again, those sharp, black pupils piercing straight into mine. Then, just to prove his point, he raised an arm in the air, circling his hand a few times before whipping it out at the ocean current behind us. Obediently a jet of water appeared out of thin air and flung itself out into the sea.
"Water wouldn't have been an issue," he muttered, and before I could say anything more, he stamped away to the other side of the boat.
After awhile, the lullaby of the ferry's quiet motors slowly lured me to sleep. My dreams were oddly vivid, as if I had detached from this world and entered a whole new reality. The people, the faeries, and even I seemed so realistic; I would've easily assumed this was really happening.
Oh, and Jhudora was there, too.
When my eyes reopened to the realm of my subconscious, I found myself hovering in the legit middle of nowhere. The sky, the ground, everything was a swirling mass of dark shades of purple and a sickly green. From how my feet were planted, I assumed there was a "ground", but it too blended in with the background. The clouds had no real presence around me; it was almost like standing inside a giant marble. But that was only the overture to the weirdness that followed.
I must've blinked, or something, because Jhudora simply appeared in front of me. No puff of purple smoke. No loud, thundering boom. One minute, nothing but empty space existed around me, and the next, Jhudora stood before me, as if she had been there this whole time.
"Ah, Kendall." Jhudora smiled, her perfect green lips curled upward into a captivating smirk. "My favorite of the Chosen."
"W-what are you doing here?" I stammered, my eyes wide with shock, astonishment, fear... mostly fear. What kind of nightmare is this?
"This is not a dream, Kendall." Her voice was powerful, threatening to its listeners, and yet it still had a sense of calm, flow-yness to it. I wanted to maul her for sounding so beautiful. "Nor is this a nightmare."
"Well, what is it, then?" I refrained from asking why she hasn't screamed in my face, yet.
"A vision," Jhudora replied. Only then did I realize that she was a Dark Faerie, right now.
My eyes had widened to the size of kumquats, at this point. We were too late. "I-I thought Sandra was the only one who..."
"Nonsense, my child," Jhudora smiled kindly – an action I never thought a Dark Faerie was capable of. "No one controls Sandra's visions. Hers are natural, straight from her instinct, itself. This, on the other hand, is my gift to you."
"A gift?" Sounded fishy, if you asked me. "Why would you give me anything?"
Still that smile bloomed across Jhudora's violet face. "Because we're the same."
For a moment, I wondered if she had gotten hit in the head by Mr. Coconut. The same? We weren't even of the same element! But Jhudora sounded so confident when she said it... it was enough to drive you to the edge of insanity and back.
Jhudora realized this and explained. "We both have had our friends turn on us. We both have had to suffer from their actions. We both have had our wings clipped from our shoulders--"
"Your wings." Jhudora smiled her cunning smile. "I had a feeling you wouldn't remember. This is what I am here for."
Jhudora's fingers snapped sharply, and instantly the scene began to shift before our eyes. Faded carpet replaced the nothingness at our feet, the swirling clouds overhead morphing into that of a certain neohome. There was something almost familiar about this place, I realized, as I glanced at the miscellaneous furniture and random trinkets that occupied the room.
"This is your old neohome," Jhudora informed me. "No one here has any consciousness of us, but be sure to shut up and listen."
Suddenly, a large blur of yellow and white soared just below the ceiling, laughing its little-kid laugh as it dodged the ceiling fan by mere inches. When it finally began to slow down, I realized that the "it" was really a "he", and the "he" was really me at age five. The little me's fur was as yellow as could be, yet a pair of what looked like Cumulus Wings extended past his petite shoulders.
"They aren't Cumulus Wings, though," Jhudora answered my thoughts nonchalantly. "You were born with these, and had them before the NC Mall was even thought of."
My eyes must've been misfiring. There was no way what I saw actually existed. "But... that's impossible!"
"Anything is possible, Kendall." Jhudora smiled, which only made the topic more unnerving. "You'd think that someone like you would know that!"
Again, I looked up to the ceiling, as the young Acara soared and dived and circled around. And when his owner – my owner – breezed by us casually and entered through the doorway, he flew down and hugged her, just as he had nearly his whole life.
"Then what happened to them?" I asked. "Why don't I have them, anymore?"
Jhudora's face paled even more than it was to begin with, and fixed her gaze towards the floor to avoid my eyes. I only saw a portion of her lavender face, but something told me she was regretting her next reply. "I wouldn't have wished it on my worst enemy, Kendall. I really wouldn't have."
With a small flick of her wrist, the scene began to shift before us. The last thing I noticed before the transition was a sudden puff of purple smoke appearing before the young Kendall and his owner. After that, the room cleared itself of its visitors once again, and the sunlight pouring in from the windows faded into a black, starry night. Then the young Kendall and his owner appeared.
My owner's gaze seemed distant, gripping a pair of what looked like hedge trimmers tightly in her palms. Why did it have to be this way? Kendall seemed so happy, smiling and swinging his legs jauntily as he waited on the couch. Did she really have to force such pain on his shoulders?
It's for his own safety, she reminded herself, and quickly made her way to her only Neopet.
"Kendall." Her voice quivered when she spoke, as if it pained her to even move her lips to her words. "I'm really sorry about this, sweetie, but you have to go away for a while."
"Go away?" Kendall's face brightened instantly. "You mean, on a trip? Am I going to the Neolodge? Oh, Mommy, can I go to AstroVilla, this time? Huh? Please?? Plleeeeeaaasseee???"
"You're not going to the Neolodge." His owner bit her lip. Could she even say it? "It's a surprise. I'll be gone for awhile, though."
Kendall's little eyes widened with worry. "But Mommy, you can't leave! I'll miss you too much!"
"I know." His owner tried her hardest to hold back the tears, but when Kendall wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug, she could feel them cascade down her cheeks. "But you're special, Kendall, no matter what anyone says. Just stay strong, and remember: I'll always love you."
"I love you, too," Kendall replied.
His owner faltered for a moment, the clippers held just inches from his feathery wings, tears streaming down her face. "I'm sorry!"
Then she did it. Kendall screamed in agony as she clipped his wings from his shoulders, then collapsed onto the ground in painful tears.
I didn't hear any of it, though; Jhudora had muted the sound so that I "would be spared from hearing such heartrending cries." All I saw was my owner walk in with the clippers, lure him in with a seemingly loving hug, then heartlessly snip them right off of his back.
"I can't believe she did that," I turned to Jhudora in astonishment – the most angered look of astonishment I'd ever felt. "Why would she just clip them off?!"
"Then wipe your memory clean of them, and then send you straight to the pound." Jhudora nodded understandingly.
The room, Jhudora, everything soon started to fade as my mind returned to reality. But her words, even as I neared opening my eyes, still rang loud and clear in my eardrums. "Remember this day, Kendall. You and I are the same."
To be continued...