The State of Dreaming
It was ridiculous, that's what it was, she thought as she trod the dirt path with distaste. She wasn't a courier! She had couriers herself!
The Doglefox in her basket whined impatiently. She inwardly sighed. Being the wish giver's assistant was not a happy job. Even the jovial shout of the young Meerca at the house at the end of the path as he was reunited with the Doglefox didn't lift her spirits. She plastered on a fake smile for the two minutes she was at the door.
It left her face as soon as she turned around.
She wanted to be back home, in her ruffled gowns sipping tea in the gardens, not escorting petpets to the homes of young children!
"Ever," the light faerie said as she came back, "what do you want?"
"A hot bath."
"About a million other things. What does it matter, madam?" Ever replied crossly.
"You're dampening the happiness of the receivers," the light faerie said. "You're not happy yourself, even with the work you're doing, and that translates."
Ever slumped, quite unlike a lady, into her chair. "I'm exhausted, filthy, and my ears are still ringing from the shouts and cries. I don't know why you can't just poof everything to the right place with your wand."
"Ever, we've been over this. My wand is not that powerful. Besides, it might do you good eventually to do the work."
Ever stared at the light faerie with a Look. "Madam, I feel like I'm in a play. Supposedly the star, although I don't feel like it, only doing what I'm told because I know what will happen. I don't know what will happen if I don't listen, other than your vague threats of not letting me go back. I'm starting to think I'm a puppet."
"Ah, so you're starting to learn," the light faerie said pleasantly.
"Learn what, how to feel poor?"
"Well, maybe not," the light faerie sighed. "Your language proves me wrong."
"If that's all, I'm going to get ready for bed. Good night madam." Ever got up and haughtily brushed past the light faerie.
"Good night, Ever," the light faerie whispered.
It was dark. It was not stormy.
The moon shone brightly, the stars twinkling merrily. Back on the ground, the grass swayed gently in the mild breeze. A small faerie Naleap hopped around, enjoying the night.
It was quiet, except for the Naleap's chirping.
Ever blinked. Where was she? Why was she there? Where was the light faerie? Why a Naleap?
The Naleap chirped again.
She looked at it, wondering how it could be so oblivious to the horrors and unfairness of the world. She pouted and sighed and plopped down onto the cool grass.
The Naleap bounded over to her. She paid it no further attention, instead looking up at the full moon. The Naleap chirped.
And chirped and chirped and chirped.
"What?" Ever asked it. "I'm not doing anything."
The Naleap let out a small cry, and starting fluttering away. When Ever didn't follow, it chirped and tugged on a loose ribbon on her dress. She got up quickly and crossly then.
"I can't believe I'm being ordered around by birds now," she muttered.
The Naleap set a leisurely pace for their walk before stopping at a tree. Ever gave it a Look, unimpressed by its antics.
It flew up straight past her face and landed on a branch above her. She looked up and saw a nest.
It contained two more faerie Naleaps... who also chirped constantly. She screwed her eyes shut, hoping when she woke up the past two weeks was all a terrible dream. She slowly opened her eyes... and saw Naleaps.
The original Naleap grasped the nest, with difficulty, and tried to drag it down. In a rare moment of charity, Ever reached up and gently took a hold of the nest and placed it on the ground. The Naleap shimmied happily and rested itself on her shoulder. She looked at it, unsettled.
The other Naleaps chirped.
The wing of the smallest one was broken. She looked at the Naleap on her shoulder.
"Well I don't know what you want me to do about this," she said.
What am I doing? I'm talking to a bird that is only capable of communication by ruining my dress.
Was any of it real? Was this some sort of deranged test? What was she supposed to do?
Okay, Ever, think, she told herself. You're in a remote part of... Brightvale? Maybe Meridell. You're on the outskirts of a forest, being pestered by baby birds, one of whom has a broken wing. You're being tested by Madam, no doubt, and if you do the right thing you might get to go home.
What is the right thing to do?
I hope I'm in Meridell.
She yawned and stretched like a feline before opening her eyes. She startled and sat up.
She didn't know where she was. It was much nicer than her bedroom at Madam's cottage, and also much nicer than her bedroom at home.
She looked around, looking for something familiar. Her dress lay draped across the chair of the vanity table, and a basket with a few of her smaller belongings was on the table.
She leafed through them, smiling once she got to the photograph of her and her father, playing on the swingset when she was younger. She put it down and went through the rest of the things, recognising all of them but the very last object: a small egg. She frowned.
She slipped into her dress, which she found had been cleaned recently, and stepped into the hallway. There were two ways to go, straight or left, and she could see four different doors.
She tried them all, finding them all locked. She wandered around randomly, looking for an open door or a window or anything that could give her a clue as to where she was.
Her clue came a few minutes later, as she bumped into a young purple Lupe.
"Oh, excuse me!" the Lupe said, smiling sheepishly. She curtsied. "Lady Ever, I presume."
"You... know me," Ever said. "Could you tell me where I am?"
"Queen Fyora's castle, of course!" the Lupe said. "You're the new dream faerie, right?"
Ever stared. "The what now?"
"The dream faerie. Queen Fyora herself had you flown here on her Eyrie! You must want to talk to her." Ever nodded dumbly. "Here, follow me then."
"But I don't understand!" Ever said. "So I took a Naleap to the petpet shop keeper in a dream. I'm not that cruel."
"Ever, dear," Fyora said warmly, in a voice that reminded Ever of her mother, "dreams are fickle. Often, in them, we do things we would never do in real life because we're afraid of how we'll be perceived. For example, I once dreamt that I served alongside Lord Darigan, and gladly. I would never do this, even with our understanding with the Darigan Citadel, but would you not agree that I would not be the same figure everyone makes me out to be?"
Ever could not disagree.
"Dreams give us freedom to allow us to be what we may want to be," Fyora continued. "And even though the Darigan Citadel is a tricky subject to us in Faerieland, I do sometimes wish I could have the Lord's counsel." Ever stared in shock. "I only tell you this because I want you to understand the impact of our dreams," Fyora said warningly. "You wanted to help the baby Naleap, and for whatever reason it's not something you would ordinarily choose to do here in the waking world."
"How do you know I had this dream anyway?" Ever asked. "Last I knew you weren't clairvoyant."
"Ah, no. I believe it was a light faerie, one you called Madam?"
Ever furrowed her brow. "She didn't proclaim to be anyone who could do something like that."
"Well, often it's inconsequential, and I believe she feels uncomfortable at being able to access one's subconscious in this way. But in some cases, as with you... it's extremely valuable.
"I believe you had an egg in your basket this morning?"
Ever nurtured the egg, and it one day hatched into a tiny baby faerie Naleap.
She named it After.
She served alongside Fyora as the new dream faerie, helping Neopians with troubling dreams: deciphering them, observing them, and sometimes even changing them.
Her parents came to visit her one day. She was overjoyed, but did not go back to her home in Brightvale.
Instead, she insisted that they stay in Faerieland.
She was still brash. She still reacted strongly and sometimes inappropriately. She never quite forgave the light faerie.
But she always helped the metaphorical baby Naleaps.