Dark Faerie Dreams: Part Four
Approaching Fyora's palace in real life was far more frightening than it had been in my dreams. The battle faeries that guarded the golden doors were of the full sized variety and looked like giants to a small faerie like me. Upon spotting me one of them knelt down, the suspicion evident in her eyes.
"What business have you here?" What she really wanted to ask me, of course, was what business did a dark faerie have here?
I reached up, tugging nervously on my silvery hair. "I wish to see Fyora."
"Fyora isn't available," the battle faerie said simply, straightening again.
"You don't understand!" I cried, flying upward so that I was fluttering before her face. "Fyora is in grave danger! I must speak with her!"
The two battle faeries exchanged a look and then the one I had addressed swatted a hand at me, nearly knocking me from the air. "We'll not tolerate your pranks here!"
My heart sank. If Fyora's guards wouldn't believe me, I wasn't sure how Fyora ever would – not that it seemed I would get the chance to see her.
"What's all this?"
My heart leapt and I whipped around to find myself staring up into the gentle face of the faerie Queen herself. "Fyora..." I lowered myself to the ground and bowed my head respectfully.
"The little faerie thinks you're in grave danger," one of the guards explained, her tone mocking.
"Oh? Tell me, what is your name?"
"Sunrise," I answered, lifting my head, hardly daring to hope that Fyora would actually want to hear me out.
"What reason have you to think that I am in danger, Sunrise?"
I knew whatever I said next would be the deciding factor. If I said too much I would bore her and she would not listen. If I said not enough she would dismiss me as a prankster in the same way her guards had. After a moment of thought I offered my carefully chosen words. "Because I saw it in a dream."
One of the guards – the one I had spoken to – laughed. But I could see that I had piqued Fyora's interest. "Come inside with me little one, we shall talk some more."
I felt an unusual sense of pride as the guards opened the great doors for Fyora and I walked through them with her. I followed along behind the swaying mountain of her long dress, trying not to feel too self-conscious about my size, hardly able to restrain my excitement as I scrambled over the flagstones, my gaze wandering the great entrance hall in awe. The ceiling was domed and made of stained glass that portrayed Faerieland as it had looked when it had floated upon the clouds. The sunlight, streaming through the coloured glass, made splashes of bright, colourful light across the maroon walls. The effect nearly left me breathless.
Fyora gave me little time to stay and admire the entrance hall however, turning quickly down a corridor so that I was forced to follow or lose her. She led me to a room that must have been a greenhouse for it was steamy and warm and full of plants. The wall on the far side of the room was made entirely of glass which allowed the sun to stream in upon the foliage.
"Tell me about your dream," Fyora instructed as she set about watering her flowers. I flew up and landed myself atop a beautiful sunflower, settling myself down in the center as I began my story. I told her everything, starting with the first dream where she'd been poisoned by a flower on her dinner table and then telling her of the second dream where Balthazar had handed her the flower that poisoned her. I told her of my capture by Balthazar and of the fire eyrie that had freed me from my bottle and joined me on my quest and how he now lay ill at the farthest edge of Faerieland. All the while Fyora tended her flowers, saying nothing.
When I had finished I waited for her response, hoping that she believed me. To my dismay she picked up a vase and pointed to a pot full of violets. "Pick a few of those would you?" Trying my hardest to swallow my disappointment I did as she'd asked, picking a large handful of violets and flying them back to her. After putting the violets into the vase she lowered her face to the bouquet and breathed in deeply. Then she turned serious eyes on me. "I believe you," she said after a moment. "But I would never allow Balthazar here; he would be arrested the moment he tried to set foot in Faerieland. I appreciate your good intentions in coming here, but I'm afraid it's simply impossible to think that... that..." Fyora trailed off, looking dizzy. I paled as the colour drained from her face.
The vase slipped from her hands and shattered on the tiled floor. A single word escaped Fyora's lips before she crumbled next to the heap of broken glass and tattered violets.
My eyes widened with disbelief and I flew immediately to her, hurrying to touch her forehead. She burned with a fever and her eyes fluttered closed, a moan passing over her lips. It was true, what I'd seen in my dreams was all perfectly true. She had been poisoned! But how? I remembered that in the dream Fyora had smelled violets before passing out and I glanced uncertainly towards the violets that I had handed her. The poison couldn't possibly have come from them, not when I had handled them before her without becoming ill.
Very slowly a horrible thought worked its way to the front of my mind. What if I was the poison? First Viggo had gotten sick, then Fyora, and both after being around me.
A slamming door made me jump and I looked up to see Fyora's guards pouring into the room. "There she is, get her!"
Before I could protest I'd been scooped up and thrown into a small cage barely fit for an animal. "Wait! I didn't do this!" I scrambled to the edge of the cage, holding onto the bars, desperately trying to think of some way to convince them of my innocence.
The fire faerie who held my cage glared hatefully at me while her companions hurried to lift Fyora between them, carrying her from the room. "Oh no? The two faeries that guarded the gates both fell ill after speaking with you. Can you deny that as well?"
I gasped, my hands rising to my mouth. I had never even once considered that in trying to prevent Fyora's poisoning I myself could be the cause of it. I couldn't even understand how such a thing could be. "No, I would never! You have to believe me!"
The faerie shook her head with disgust and strode from the room, carrying my cage and me along with it down into the palace dungeons. They were long hallways well below the palace lit only by torches that had been mounted at regular intervals along the stone walls. I shivered and sat down in a corner of my cage, wrapping my arms about myself. There seemed to be no point in trying to defend myself any longer.
The hallway the fire faerie had chosen opened into a round, stone room with hooks in the ceiling. She lifted my cage, suspending it from one such hook. Without another word she turned to go. Suddenly I remembered Viggo. "Wait!" I cried, drawing her to a brief halt. "I have a friend, just beyond the crater. I can tell you how to find him, he's sick, he needs help!"
The fire faerie snorted and shook her head. "I've heard enough of your lies, dark faerie."
"Wait, please!" But there was little use to my shouting. She left, leaving me alone in the cold, empty dungeon.
I couldn't be sure exactly how long I sat inside my metal cage deep within Faerieland's dungeons. I wished that someone would come and tell me what had happened to Fyora and the other sick faeries. I felt sure that when Fyora was well enough she would tell the others that I hadn't had anything to do with her illness and the fact that I hadn't been freed caused me to worry that perhaps Fyora was still sick. I worried too about Viggo, wondering if he'd gotten any better.
Though I tried to ignore the thought, the time I had to sit alone allowed my mind to linger on the idea that perhaps I had been responsible for the strange poisonings. After all, my friend had gotten sick after joining me on my journey, and Fyora and the other faeries had gotten sick only after speaking with me. The thought that it could be my fault was absurd because I was not and had never been poisonous. Yet the coincidence continued to draw my consideration.
But even if I had, somehow, been the cause of the illnesses, I was assured enough of my own innocence in the matter and therefore my impending release that I gave no thought to any kind of escape. When I finally heard someone's approach I naturally assumed it was a palace guard come to set me free. I could not have been more wrong.
"Viggo!" I stood up, shocked and delighted to see him.
"Shhh!" the fire eyrie whispered, lifting a paw to his beak and gesturing for silence. He crept into the circular room, glancing cautiously about before reaching up, lifting my cage from the hook where it hung and setting it upon the floor.
"I don't understand, what are you doing here? Are you alright? Shouldn't you be resting?" He had been sick when I had seen him last and though he seemed very much improved I wasn't satisfied that he was entirely better.
To my surprise he produced a key which he inserted in the lock on the door of my cage. He twisted it, having to jiggle it around a little before the lock finally clicked and the door popped open. I flew out, relieved to be free and able to stretch my wings, and landed on the paw that Viggo held out to me. "You've got to get out of here," he warned, surprising me with the seriousness of his tone. "They're blaming the dark faeries for the sickness. I'm alright, but the faeries that have gotten ill aren't getting better, even with the magic of healing waters. There is talk of banishing all the dark faeries from Faerieland."
"Banishing! But we didn't, I mean I didn't... I would never-"
"Shh," Viggo repeated, silencing me. "We should go."
I nodded quietly and, unsure of what else to do, took to the air and flew after him, the two of us making our way cautiously down the dungeon hallways. Once we had to duck into an open jail cell to avoid a couple of passing guards but otherwise we ascended the stone steps and entered the palace unchallenged.
Viggo led me carefully to a side door where we exited. I had noticed how few faeries there seemed to be and I wondered just how many had fallen sick. It was hard to imagine I could have done so much damage all by myself.
Once outside, Viggo led me to a bush where Sparky was waiting. The fire werhond bounded eagerly up to me and licked me, making me laugh a little sadly and hug his muzzle. I found Viggo watching me and I stared back at him. "What do we do?" I asked softly, too confused by everything that had happen to know what we should do next or where we should go.
Viggo seemed to consider my question with great seriousness. Finally he took a deep breath and nodded toward the sharp cliff that rose up behind the palace. "We should leave. And I... Sunrise, I think it's time I told you the truth."
The 'truth' turned out to be that the plot against Fyora had been common knowledge among Neopia's shadier crowd. What the plot was, exactly, nobody knew for sure, but there was lots of potential for profit if there was to be any weakness within Faerieland's palace which was why the Thieves Guild had taken an interest in the rumours. Viggo had been assigned to find out the validity of the reports and his investigation had led him to a faerie bottle merchant, a mutant Bori whom he had been following the night I'd fallen from the Bori's bag.
Viggo had seen my bottle and the bottles of those who had fallen out before me but had not stopped for any of us at the time for fear of losing the Bori. Eventually he had lost the Bori anyway and had returned to set free the bottled faeries. He had taken pity on me because of my injured wings and my dream of Fyora's poisoning had given him a fresh lead, which was why he'd decided to accompany me to Faerieland.
I sat quietly on top of a marigold, contemplating all he had told me, struggling to sort out my own feelings. I did not ask him if his befriending me had only been in hopes of being able to raid the palace; the fact that he had come to my aid and offered me the truth told me otherwise. "What will you do now?" I asked quietly.
Viggo was seated at the very edge of Faerieland's crater, staring down at the palace below. At my question he turned to look thoughtfully at me. "Help you prove your innocence, I suppose."
I was stunned. "But the palace is vulnerable. Aren't you supposed to report that to the Guild?"
He smiled. It was that small, sideways smile that I had begun to think of as his trademark. "I never intended to."
I didn't really understand why he was part of the Thieves Guild if he did not support them, nor did I understand why he would take on an assignment he had no intention of completing. And I didn't care. I was simply overjoyed that my instinct to trust him had been right. "Thank you."
His mouth twitched as if he wanted to laugh and he turned his attention back to the palace. We sat in silence for a few moments as I debated just how we would go about proving my innocence. I had accepted the fact that it somehow must have been me who made Fyora and the others ill. I had also come to the conclusion that it was Balthazar who was to blame, and I slowly began to realize that the only way to prove my innocence would be to find Balthazar, figure out what he'd done to me, and then figure out how it could be undone.
I had no desire to ever encounter Balthazar again and even less inclination to do anything that could result in my second confinement in a bottle. At the same time, I could not just walk away from a mess it seemed I had somehow caused. Also, I knew that if dark faeries were banished from Faerieland I would likely have no choice but to remain in the Haunted Woods for good.
"We're going back," I said abruptly, before I could change my mind. "We're going to find Balthazar and somehow figure out what he did to me. If possible, we'll return with a cure." I hesitated, glancing up into Viggo's face, studying the expression in his grey eyes. "We should probably get started sooner than later, only I'm worried I might make you sick again."
Viggo reached into his pocket and produced a glass jar full of sparkling water. "I stole a little something from the Healing Springs, just in case. Seems whatever poison this is had less of an effect on me than it's having on the faeries. It shouldn't be a problem."
I smiled gratefully at him. A slight snore caught my attention and I glanced over at Sparky who slept nearby. I reached out and stroked one of his ears, causing the fire werhond to sigh contentedly in his sleep. The sun was already setting and I realized I had no desire to wake the tired petpet.
"In the morning?" I suggested.
"In the morning," he agreed.
To be continued...