Draik Expectations: Part One
"Explain to me again why we're always on the way somewhere," Dark_breed_Hyren the Blue Grundo muttered as he tromped down the well-worn woodland path, glowering at the Faerie Draik beside him.
"We're not always on the way somewhere," ArPharazonTheGolden pointed out a little defensively. "We do get there eventually." He sighed, folding his arms and readjusting his wings, which were currently folded down his back. Somewhere up ahead he could hear the whooping cries of a certain Disco Zafara, but he paid them no heed. "You could have stayed home, you know, Mister Grumpy Grundo. Why are you here?"
"Damage control," Hyren grunted with a shrug. He glanced up at the taller Neopet. "What I don't get is why you're here."
"Because," Pharazon stood up a little straighter and puffed out his chest, "today's the day I'm going to become a Brightvale scholar."
The Grundo rolled his eyes. "I still don't get why you're obsessed with that kingdom, Pharazon. It's a bunch of stuffy, self-righteous know-it-alls. And personally, I don't trust anyone who likes stained glass that much."
"Well, excuse me for not wanting to be a rube," Pharazon sniffed, buffing his claws on his chest scales and trying to look sophisticated. "Some of us want more out of life than beating up the Pant Devil."
"Hey. Somebody's gotta bring home those Defenders of Neopia trophies."
"You guuuuuuuys!" Blynn's voice cut through the morning air, sending a flock of Albats scattering into the trees. "We're heeeeere!" The aforementioned Disco Zafara poked her head out of a nearby tree, her ears flopping below her as she craned her neck to look ahead and promptly lost her grip and tumbled to the ground in front of the Grundo and the Draik.
"Right on schedule," Hyren commented dryly. "So, where in Brightvale are we headed, exactly?"
"The palace, of course!" Pharazon gushed as they crested the last rise, bringing into view a pastoral landscape peppered with small hamlets and patches of farmland. In the distance rose a towering castle with white, green, and gold flags flapping sharply from its parapets. "Such a marvelous bastion of knowledge!" the Draik cooed, clasping his paws and ogling it like it was made of candy. "The finest intellectuals in all of Neopia gather there for a veritable symphony of learning! Why, their collective brainpower could—"
"Hold that thought," Hyren grunted. "Blynn just took off for the fruit vendor." Digging his toes into the dirt path, he took off at a sprint.
Pharazon was left to his own devices in the world of his dreams. He waltzed down the wide road leading to the palace with a look of awe and wonder on his slack-jawed face. Everything and everyone here was dedicated to the pursuit of amassing information, which was probably why they were all staring at him as he passed by. Clearly they found him a fascinating specimen to study, and—
"Oof!" Pharazon's mental meanderings were cut short by a jarring jolt mixed with soft fur and cloth.
"I beg your pardon!" a female voice insisted sharply.
Blinking the dizziness away, Pharazon looked up to see a White Lupe standing over him, using one paw to straighten her forest green robes lined with gold, while the other arm held a stack of books and scrolls. Her snowy hair was pulled up in a tight bun and a pair of spectacles was perched on her muzzle. "I—I'm sorry," the Draik apologized, pushing himself to his feet. "I wasn't looking where I was going, I suppose I was just so absorbed in the marvelous atmosphere of this--"
"Well, get your head out of the clouds," the Lupe snapped, cutting him off. "Typical for a Faerie pet! I was on my way to a symposium on Gruslen hunting habits, and thanks to your carelessness..." Her dark eyes narrowed and then widened as she scrutinized the Draik in front of her. "...A-ha! A Faerie pet!"
"Erm, I'm not from Faerieland," Pharazon tried to explain. "I was merely painted Faerie. I live in Neopia Central--"
She sniffed, looking disappointed. "Neopia Central? How lowbrow. And what, pray tell, are you doing here? On a quest for a Water Faerie?"
Pharazon shook his head. "No, no! I'm here to enter the ranks of the scholars of Brightvale!" He grinned hopefully. "All my life, I've had an inclination toward learning and research, and now I am ready to mingle with the best of the best!"
"Not just anyone gets to study at Brightvale," the Lupe sneered, pushing her glasses up her snout. Although she was looking down her nose at the Draik, there was a gleam in her eyes. "But... I may be able to offer some assistance. For a price," she added before Pharazon could jump for joy.
"Anything!" he insisted. "Please! I'll do anything you want me to!"
She smirked. "I've been wanting to write a thesis on Faerie Draiks for some years now, but they're dreadfully uncommon and my studies keep me from going abroad often. You see, I'm a graduate student in the Department of Faerie at the Institute of Magic. My name is Celice Anfel--"
Pharazon started. "Wait a moment... you had an essay published in Modern Spells, didn't you! The one about the effects of Air Faerie magic on Shenkuu airship aerodynamics?"
"Yes, yes," Celice waved her free paw at him dismissively. "And I do hope you've read The Mote Encyclopedia; I wrote the entries on Electrical Motes and Weewoo Motes, and the biography of Mada Llewor."
"An eccentric Haunted Woods scholar who dedicated his career to his crackpot postulations on the existence of Jelly Motes. Anyhow, I find myself in need of a... subject of study, shall we say." She placed her paw on her hip. "And you, my dear boy, will do quite nicely."
Pharazon's tail curled around him and he fidgeted with the end of it shyly. "You... do you really think so, ma'am?"
Celice nodded. "Oh, yes. So here's the deal. You let me study you, and I'll introduce you to the Royal Academy. You're far more likely to be accepted with an endorsement from someone with my credentials, even if you are from..." She sniffed again. "Neopia Central."
"Seriously?!" Pharazon launched himself into the air, once again attracting the attention of everyone on the road. "Yippee! Oh, boy!" His wings fluttered excitedly, throwing azure sparkles everywhere. "I'm going to be a real live scholar!"
A smirk spreading across her face, Celice whipped out a scroll of parchment and a quill. "Day one," she noted in a low voice. "Subject has absolutely no decorum whatsoever. This ought to be fun."
"Pardon me, is Master Seradar in?"
"I'm afraid not, Ms. Anfel; he was called away on urgent business to Tyrannia by the Order of the Red Erisim."
Pharazon was barely listening to Celice converse with a pink Acara scholar; he was too preoccupied looking around Brightvale Castle in amazement. The castle was warm and spacious, filled with light filtering in from immense stained-glass windows depicting all manner of scenes and subjects. Books lined the walls of every room, sometimes spilling out onto the halls. Already they had passed through three libraries—it was enough to make the Draik swoon.
"Well, that's a shame," Celice sighed, turning back to Pharazon. "Master Seradar oversees all admissions to the Academy. Usually the process involves a copious amount of paperwork, but I would have been able to get you in merely by speaking to him, as I am one of his star pupils..." She rapped sharply on Pharazon's head, causing the spellbound Draik to finally jolt out of his reverie and turn around. "Wake up, dreamer," she snickered. "Did you hear anything I said?"
"Uhm... yes, a little," Pharazon replied, embarrassed. "I was just thinking... you have so many books here! Will I be able to read all of them?"
"Perhaps, eventually," Celice said, looking rather bored. "Although you'll have to get proper clearance to handle some of the more... volatile volumes. At any rate, let's get you started on the admissions process, shall we? It's really a Faerie blessing in disguise—I'll be able to witness your aptitude firsthand." She readied her quill and parchment.
Pharazon gulped. "Aptitude? Am I going to be tested? Oh, my..."
Celice grinned, patting him on the back but then quickly wiping her paw on her robes afterward as though he had just gotten out of the Meridell Rubbish Dump. "Nothing to worry about, you've just got to fill out some forms and then display your talent in magic."
"Magic? I-I'm not really much for magic, ma'am, I'm more inclined toward history and the sciences—"
"Pah!" The Lupe winked at him. "My friend, those musty subjects are for those who lack the genius to see beyond facts and figures!" She spread out her paw in front of him, as if gesturing for him to behold the panorama of his potential. "We magicians dabble in the realm of possibility. I think you'd do much nicer in the Institute of Magic than any of those other dull, witless schools," she added disdainfully.
"Er, well..." Pharazon twisted his tail. "If you say so."
Instantly Celice's face snapped back to pleased. "Oh, I do."
To be continued...