Dark Faerie Dreams: Part One
Thanks to Kristen for letting Viggo be a part of this story.
I ran across the forest floor, moving with speed born of desperation, darting around leaves and roots and twigs, putting my all into escaping the beast behind me. I'd have flown if only he hadn't already caught hold of me once, tearing my wings. I was left with little choice but to run despite knowing how futile my efforts were. I was a young faerie, still small, and no matter how hard I tried I could not outrun the monster that pursued me.
I could hear him as he came crashing up behind me, tearing up the forest with his pursuit. I risked a glance back over my shoulder to see how close he was. It was my mistake. Something tripped me, causing a yelp to escape my lips as I tumbled forward, falling face down in a bed of moss. Before I could even start to get up a large paw pressed down over me, crushing me into the earth.
I screamed again, desperately trying to summon some help, but all to no avail. Balthazar wrapped his claws around my little frame and lifted me up, grinning wickedly so that I could see his yellowed fangs. "Another one caught," he muttered smugly, lifting up a bottle with his other paw.
My eyes widened with horror when I saw what he meant to put me in. It is an unreasonable fear that I had, perhaps, that complete terror of small spaces. But unreasonable or not I could not make it go away. "No, please!" I begged, squirming desperately, trying to get loose as the mouth of the bottle loomed under me. "Don't do this to me, please don't do this!"
A normal faerie would have called them nightmares. But I knew even then that I was not a normal faerie, and my sleeping premonitions transcend far beyond the mere concept of a dream. That particular one woke me with a start and left me gasping and clinging to my sheets as if they could protect me. When I realized the dream had not been real – as of yet – I relaxed and lay back on my bed, groaning and covering my face with my hands.
All of the faeries that lived in the Haunted Woods faced the same horror that I did. The threat of being caught by Balthazar, of being bottled and sold, was real and constant. And it was something that remained especially prevalent in my mind because it was the only thing that stopped me from leaving.
Deciding to put thoughts of my dream aside, I took a deep, steadying breath and climbed out of my bed, gazing around the little tree hollow that served as my home. My gaze was drawn to the rays of sunlight forcing their way around the leaf that attempted to be my door. Getting up, I went to this leaf and pushed it aside, peering down into the clearing where I lived.
Looked at objectively, my home was a beautiful place. Ten sturdy trees formed a neat circle creating the clearing within and making for a safe, sheltered abode. A brook bubbled out from the ground between two of the trees, creating a stream that cut across the clearing and pooled into a crystal blue lake on the other side. Flowers carpeted the mossy ground and budding vines dangled down from the canopy of branches. If it had not housed a group of dark faeries it might have been a perfect spot.
Being a dark faerie myself, I should have fit in. But I didn't. I wanted to, of course, because after all they were my own kind. But I never felt the desire to play mean tricks on passing Lupes or Acaras and I could never master the same sort of dangerous magic as the others did. All that I really wanted, truthfully, was to leave. This desire was only strengthened every time I saw what the other dark faeries were prone to do. Even as I stood there, gazing around, I spotted two faeries in a quarrel that quickly erupted into a fight with each trying to blast the other into surrender. The sight of them made me sigh heavily.
Though I would have traded almost anything to leave I was hampered by two very large problems; or rather, one large problem and one small one. My size – being that I was no larger than a flower – made the notion of travelling through the Haunted Woods and to another world a daunting one. And, even if I should have succeeded, I knew that there were few places in Neopia willing to welcome a dark faerie. There had never before been a place I actually thought I could escape to until Faerieland had crashed right next to the Haunted Woods. I knew that I would not be turned away from that world, if only I could reach it.
I had made many attempts at this trip to Faerieland, none of which had ever gotten me further than the edge of the clearing. Every time I thought I was ready to go I would have the same reoccurring dream: that of Balthazar's attack. And every time it frightened me into staying. No matter how much I wanted to leave, the threat of being trapped inside one of Balthazar's bottles was enough to make me once again resign myself to staying.
I spread my silvery, gossamer wings and left my hollow, making my way down to the stream below to carry on with my normal life, being that I didn't seem to have any other choice. When I reached the stream I knelt down, scooping up some water to splash it over my face, attempting as I did so to wash away some of the lingering fright left by my dream. Failing, I reached down to try again. Instead of splashing my face I hesitated, my attention caught by the girl in the reflection.
She was a funny looking faerie, I thought sadly. The only thing dark about her was the simple, single-sleeved, purple dress she wore and perhaps her violet eyes. Otherwise her silvery hair and wings might have hinted at an element of air. But I was neither an air faerie nor a true dark faerie which left me viewing myself as being a sort of... nothing.
Feeling frustrated, I slapped my hands across the surface of the water, distorting my reflection so as not to have to see it any longer.
"In a bad way this morning, Sunrise? You had the dream again, didn't you?"
I jumped, surprised by the voice. Then I sighed as I recognized it and registered the words. Even my name – Sunrise – didn't sound to me the way a dark faerie's name should.
Misty, who was leader of the dark faerie clan in the clearing, stood next to me. Knowing I couldn't ignore her I climbed to my feet and shook the water from my hands, turning to face her. Unlike me, Misty certainly looked like a dark faerie. She had the thick, leathery wings and the dark, black hair. Even her skin held a tint of purple. She wore long purple robes and upon her head she had a golden circlet encrusted with dark jewels. She took the lead in overseeing the clearing and the goings-on within and though I disagreed with her superior attitude and thoughts of supremacy, Misty was still the leader, and I had confided in her about my dreams. Often, I wished I had not.
"Yes," I admitted finally, in response to her inquiry about my dreams. "I was thinking of leaving again last night. But the dreams are so vivid..."
Misty put her arm around my shoulders so she could turn me and make me walk along with her as she followed the path of the stream. "Your dreams are well known for proving true, are they not?"
I nodded. Once I had dreamt of a storm destroying a whole forest and the day after the Haunted Woods had been ravaged by the worst storm anyone could remember. Another time I had dreamt of an island sinking into the ocean. Only later had I been told about Krawk Island vanishing into the sea, dragged down by some sea monster. Sometimes the dreams were hard to interpret but the answers were always there, if I looked hard enough and understood them right. My reoccurring dream of Balthazar, I felt sure, warned me of my fate if ever I attempted to leave the clearing.
"You can't very well risk that this dream will prove true then, can you?"
I shook my head meekly. We'd had this conversation many times. Misty didn't want me to leave, ever. But I didn't see how I could ever stop wanting to go.
"Then the answer is clear," she said simply. "You must stay." She came to a halt at the place where the stream widened into the small lake. There were two faeries hunched over near the edge of the water holding a ball of glowing, dark magic between them. It grew larger and larger until it exploded, creating a veil of smoke. As the smoke blew away in the slight breeze I could see that their magic had killed all the flowers that had been growing around where they sat. The two of them burst into giggles at their play but I found myself staring at them in horror, unable to fathom why they would use their magic for such harm. Misty, however, seemed entirely unconcerned. "Forget your silly notions of leaving. Go and find your friends, have some fun. I must check to make sure the batterfly nest was moved out of our trees as I ordered. Pesky petpets..."
I watched Misty fly off and then slowly turned my attention back to the two faeries that sat by the lake. I could not have spent time with my friends even if I had wanted to because I hadn't any. I thought about approaching the two nearby but I could not overcome my horror at what they'd done to the flowers. They must have seen this on my face for they shot me dirty looks and scrambled to their feet, running off.
With a heavy sigh I wandered around the edge of the lake and then flew up to sit on the roots of one of the large trees. From there I could see out into the woods. There wasn't much to see, really, save for the general outlines of trees and shrubs. The canopy above, being as thick as it was, allowed very little light to filter down as far as the dense foliage along the forest floor. Still, I knew looking out into that forest that my dreams lay waiting for me somewhere, if only I could muster the courage to find them.
The dream was a very pleasurable one. I walked along a cool, stone pathway that ran between lush green trees. Glittering streams reflected sunlight up into the trees, making the leaves sparkle. Though I had never before been to Faerieland I knew, almost instinctively, that I was seeing the place just as it really was.
The path I followed led me over a bridge that spanned a turquoise lake and to a set of large, golden gates. The gates had been left standing open as I assumed they always were. I passed easily through them, finding myself inside Faerie City. I wanted to explore it, to look around, but for some reason everything in the city was greyed out and faded, like a sketch that had been smudged. Everything that is, except for the palace. Faerieland's palace rose impressively above me, an imposing structure made up of towers and spires all built from maroon coloured stones.
Had the situation been real I might have been intimidated by the palace. But it was only a dream, and I was not afraid of it. I went happily up to the doors which had also been conveniently left open and entered the palace. A long table of cherry wood had been set up in the enormous front hall. And though it could have seated many dozens only one place had been set at the far end. Fyora was seated there in all her glory, being waited on by two dark faeries. For no reason I could explain I was suddenly filled with a terrible dread.
Fyora examined the place setting before her, reaching out as she did to lift a vase that contained a single violet. "No!" I shouted, racing around the table, trying to reach the faerie Queen. "No, don't!" Fyora held the vase close and lowered her face to the flower, taking a deep breath. "No!" I cried again, though it was a hopeless endeavour. If she had heard any of my cries she had ignored them. She thoughtfully considered the scent of the flower while I skidded to a halt, watching with wide, alarmed eyes as her face slowly paled.
The word seemed to come not only from Fyora's blue lips but from the walls themselves. The faerie Queen stood, tottered, and then fell in an unconscious heap on the floor, her crown toppling from her head and skittering away across the flagstones.
"No," I whispered, shaking my head and backing away. "No, this can't happen. No, no, no, no..."
I was woken by the sound of my own voice repeating "No" over and over in an agitated tone. I swallowed hard to stop my mumbling and sat up, filled with a sick sort of dread as I remembered the details of my dream. Someone was going to poison the faerie Queen. Who, I didn't know. But I knew the dream had been a premonition, a sure one. Somehow, I knew I had to warn Fyora.
My course of action was obvious. There was a part of me that wanted to ignore it or find some alternative, but at the same time I knew there was none. I would have to leave; it was the only way. I would have to brave the Haunted Woods, travel to Faerieland, and deliver the warning myself if I wanted to have any hope of being believed and preventing Fyora from being harmed.
I was all too aware of the dangers of crossing the Haunted Woods alone but despite this I knew it was what I wanted, deeply. Before I could give in to my fears I jumped up and flew from the tree root where I'd fallen asleep, returning to my hollow. On the floor near the foot of my bed there lay a backpack, already filled from my previous attempts at leaving. I picked it up and slung it firmly over my shoulder.
I left my hollow again, slipping around the tree. It took only seconds to be out of the safety of the clearing and in the dark woods. Instead of being afraid, excitement bubbled up within me as I took wing and fluttered amid the tangle of dark vines and jagged leaves. I was finally doing it, finally leaving. A surge of confidence rushed through me and set a fast pace for my wings. I darted around rocks and trees faster than I should have, feeling exhilarated. I knew which direction to follow by the slant of the sun through the trees. I couldn't be sure, exactly, how long it would take to reach Faerieland, but in my excitement I hardly cared.
I must have been a little too swept up in my newfound sense of adventure for I forgot entirely about the ever present dangers within the Haunted Woods. I remained foolishly ignorant until the moment a looming shadow slipped out from the bushes, blocking my path and bringing me to a sudden halt. A scream of alarm escaped me as I recognized the blue fur, the glittering red eyes and, worse, the bag hanging from one arm, bulging with bottles.
"What's this now, a little dark faerie out of her nest?"
My only thought was of escape. I dropped my pack from my shoulder and attempted to fly straight upwards, intending to hide in the tops of the trees out of Balthazar's reach. But he was faster. His paw, large and clawed, slammed into me, tearing through my gossamer wings and sending me crashing to the forest floor with a cry of pain.
"Much too easy."
My dream was at the forefront of my mind; the dream where I was running from Balthazar, my wings damaged, the dream where he caught me and put me in a bottle. Scrambling to my feet, I took off across the forest floor, running as fast as I could. But I knew all too well how this was going to end. I could hear Balthazar behind me, crashing through the bushes and snapping branches with his pursuit. I risked a glance behind me to see just how close he was. The moment I did I tripped over something and fell flat on my face. A large paw came down atop of me, causing me to gasp as I was shoved down into the damp moss.
To be continued...