A House Call
The air was full of the sounds of crystalline waters pouring into the central pool. The healing faerie moved her fingers under the surface, absently. In front of her, a Shoyru fresh from the battledome was being coaxed into the water by his owner. Finally he got in, and let out a quiet sigh as the water, warm and sweet, poured over his tired body. The healing faerie gave him an encouraging smile when he glanced her way.
When she turned around, though, her smile went away, and she yawned and rubbed at her eyes. Funny, but no one ever asked her how SHE was doing. It was nice to help out sick pets, but she had to remain by the pool, day in, day out, in a careful watch. Some pets liked to nick a bottle of the Healing Springs water and sell it in the black market. And if she had a neopoint for every owner that tried to have their pets soak in the pool more than once a day, why, she would be as wealthy as King Skarl himself!
She rested her head on one hand, looking blearily in front of her. There was a young-looking owner with a blue Kougra, who apparently had never been to Faerieland before, and was asking what this Healing Springs thing was. The Healing Springs faerie explained it in as patient a voice as she could muster, her mermaid tail flicking back and forth in the water behind her. The Kougra wasn't sick, but the owner wanted her to have a dip in the pool anyways. The healing faerie waved her through, and afterwards there was the faint sound of splashing as the Kougra hopped in with a gleeful shout.
The healing faerie glanced out, expecting to find an owner's face. A tiny voice cleared its throat, and she turned her gaze downwards.
It was a mutant Ixi with soft red fur, crouched down and shifting uncomfortably on the purple-tinged clouds. The healing faerie blinked. Mutant pets didn't come to Faerieland much. She had a feeling they were much more at home in that bedraggled haunted woods place.
"Can I help you?" she said. Then something occurred to her. "Where's your owner?" She peered around, but only saw the soft, billowing shapes of clouds. It had gotten to be nighttime already, and stars glittered over their heads I. The dusky twilight.
The Ixi rubbed her front hooves together, which struck the healing faerie as a nervous gesture. "That's what I came to ask you about," she said, quietly. The healing faerie was surprised by how mellow and sweet her voice was.
The healing faerie blinked again. This might turn out to be interesting. "What's your name?" she asked.
"Dwarky," said the Ixi. Her eyes were a purple that mirrored Faerieland's clouds, and now they were turned up towards the healing faerie, wide and urgent. "My owner hasn't come home for a few nights now. shes been betting all our neopoints away in poker games. think she needs help, but she won't listen."
The healing faerie raised her eyebrows. What she wanted to say was, Kid, it's none of my business. instead, she found herself saying, "Where is she now?" The Ixi pointed downwards.
"In the table poker game. She's lost eighty thousand neopoints already, but she can't stop." The healing faerie let out a low whistle. Eighty thousand? That was no small chunk of change.
"How have you and her other pets been surviving?" The Ixi gave a little shrug, her soft eyes sad.
"The soup kitchen faerie's been feeding us. That's not really the problem. We... just want our owner back."
The healing faerie pursed her lips. Se cast a quick glance over her shoulder. The Shoyru and Kougra had both finished their baths and left, and no one else was around. Finally, she turned and rummaged around for a 'Closed' sign she kept covered in a layer of cloud beside the pool. It was covered in dust, and she had to wipe it off with her tail fin before it was even legible. "All right," she said. "Let's see what I can do."
When they finally got to the games hall and ducked inside the Table Poker room, the healing faerie was wishing she hadn't agreed to come along. The Healing Springs were supposed to be for neopets, not their owners! And what was she supposed to do for an owner, anyways? Could she even heal them in the first place?
The room was dark and small, with a single light beaming down onto the circular table, casting shadows under all the players. One of them, a Mercia with a toothy, unpleasant smile, was saying, "No way you're gonna win, Rex. I've got a great hand here." A Kau glanced over at the door, and raised a hoof at them in greeting.
"Hey, Dwarky. How're you?" Dwarky murmured something about being fine. She seemed to have shrunk even more in on herself, as if deeply uncomfortable with this place. The Healing Springs faerie was beginning to wonder if she was EVER comfortable.
There was a grunt from the other side of the table. There sat an owner who, the Healing Springs faerie supposed, was Rex. Se had dark circles under her eyes, and her hair looked like it hadn't been rushed in months. She had a bedraggled bag of neopoints just behind her, ready to pay. Up for the next game.
There was another Kau at her shoulder, one who looked as if she was not part of the game. She had on a dress and a witches hat, and was tugging at Rex's chair. "Come ON, you've lost another forty thousand tonight, we need to get you home!" she snapped. Rex appeared to not be listening. She was staring intently at her cards, muttering something under her breath.
The Kau let out a noise of frustration, then turned towards Dwarky with a worried look other face. "It's getting worse, Dwark. I don't. Think she can even hear me anymore!"
Dwarky lowered her head, and, in a soft voice, replied, "Fhont, I went and got help. The Healing Springs faerie is here." Everyone turned to look at them. The faerie blushed a little, uneasy. The Meerca in particular wasn't happy to see her.
"Rex doesn't need help. She's just enjoying a harmless game of poker, that's all." He slung an arm around the owner's shoulders. "Isn't that right, Rex?"
From where she stood, the faerie could hear Rex say, "gonna win it back in the next round..." Fhont thwacked the Meerca in the back of his head with her hoof.
"Shut up, you." She stepped back and gestured towards the faerie. "Can you really help with this? It's a serious problem."
"I can see that," the healing faerie sighed. She flew forward, then gently picked the cards out of Rex's handstand set them down on the table. Then she picked Rex off of the chair and slung her over her shoulder. Rex began to kick and scream, but the healing faerie held on gamely. "Come on, let's go," she said to Dwarky and Fhont. Dwarky looked terrified that the faerie would have dared to mess with the poker crowd, which was now glaring at her openly. Fhont, on the other hand, was grinning widely.
Rex finally went limp when they left the games room, and stayed that way all the way back to Faerieland.
There were a couple of neopets and their owners waiting around impatiently when the healing faerie finally returned. "Sorry, folks, urgent business," she said, then floated over to the pool, where she dropped Rex into the water. Rex spluttered and thrashed for a moment, then finally went still floating on her back with a look of peace on her face.
"Hey! Owners aren't allowed in there!" one of the waiting owners shouted. Fhont turned to them with one hoof raised threateningly in the air.
"Zip the lip, buddy, or you're going to find yourself REALLY in need of this healing pool." The healing faerie rolled her eyes in the air. But despite herself, she was smiling a little.
A minute later, Rex pulled herself out of the pool, and, still dripping wet, wrapped her neopets Ina hug. "Sorry I was so out of it, guys," she said. "I guess I just wanted to get lucky, earn lots of neopoints for you to spend..." Dwarky smiled a little. It was the first time the healing faerie had see the Ixi happy.
"We don't need neopoints. We need YOU." Finally they walked off together, with Rex promising them a visit to terror mountain for a well deserved ice cream.
The healing faerie put her 'closed' sign away and began taking care of the line that had built up while she was gone. Even so, she felt happier than she had in weeks yeah, this was a tough job... But moments like that made it truly worth it.