Friendship Means Never Giving Up: Part Four
"Another day, another quiet evening..."
Illusen had just settled in for the evening. The sun was low on the Meridell horizon and Illusen sent the last of her questers home for the evening. Now she could finally relax, read a book and snack on some of her cream cookies. As she skimmed her books, however, Illusen couldn't help but sigh in frustration. She looked over at her desk at the blank parchment and quill sitting next to it. For days now, she had been troubled. Things were okay in the morning when her Glade was busy with questers filing in, ready to help find ingredients for her spells. It was when the night came that Illusen felt unsettled. This unsettled feeling stemmed from one source and one source only:
For years Illusen had always felt a pang of guilt whenever she was alone and could spare a thought for her once upon time friend. These days, that guilt seemed to have doubled. When Valentines Day came, the guilt tripled in size. One question ran through her mind, one that Illusen hated herself for.
Why did she decline Jhudora's invitation?
Illusen knew the answer. She also knew that she didn't want to admit to it for if she did, she would admit to being a coward and a selfish faerie. It was her pride that kept her from accepting the invitation. Her pride in thinking that she was right and Jhudora was wrong that made her say those hurtful words to the poor messenger Wocky.
Picking a book at random from the shelf, Illusen sat down and stared at it absently. Tonight was going to be another long night for her.
Just as Illusen picked up one of her cream cookies, she heard a knocking on the door. It was light but her keen faerie ears could hear it. A frown creased her lips as Illusen stood up. Could it be that she forgot to gift one of her questers? Walking over to the door, Illusen quickly ran a comb through her flowing auburn hair. Once presentable, Illusen put on a smile and opened the door.
"Welcome to my-"
Her words fell mid-sentence when Illusen saw who was at her front door. All of a sudden she wanted to slam the door close and not welcome her guest. When Illusen saw the Faerie Xweetok holding her guest's hand however, she couldn't help but pause.
Illusen always wanted to think that when she met her old friend again, she would know exactly what to do. In her mind, Illusen thought that she would easily be able to slam the door shut and walk away. Or maybe give Jhudora a piece of her mind, showing the Dark Faerie that evil will not be tolerated in Illusen's sacred glade. However, now that Jhudora was here, Illusen wasn't entirely sure what to do or even say.
Even the venom in Illusen's voice wasn't there. She was more shocked and bewildered than anything. In a way, she was also happy. Happy and ashamed because even though she had rejected her once upon a time friend's request of meeting, Jhudora still came anyways.
The Dark Faerie regarded Illusen with a sneer but quickly looked away not meeting the Earth Faerie's eyes. Illusen stood, not sure if she should invite the odd pair inside or not. She then looked over Jhudora's shoulder to see that there was - was that the Faerie Wocky that delivered her the invitation behind them?
"Are you going to just stand there and gawk, Illusen?" said Jhudora, the venom in her voice, however, was undeniable. "Wait, never mind, I recall some years ago how you banished me from ever setting foot in your precious glade ever again."
It was Illusen's turn to scowl now as she held onto the door of her hut. She narrowed her eyes taking all of her willpower not to close the door. "If you came here to taunt me, Jhudora, I swear by all things good I will-"
Both Illusen and Jhudora turned and looked at the Faerie Xweetok. Illusen had seen this Xweetok before. He was a friend of Vin, one of her questers. Once or twice she had seen the Xweetok poking his nose around Meridell causing a bit of a stir. He was always the curious one who didn't know how to stay out of trouble, even for his own good. If she recalled correctly, his name was Breeze.
Breeze was now standing between the two, a nervous smile on his face as he looked from Illusen to Jhudora.
"I think that you two should stop fighting and talk about the real reason why we're all here right now..."
Illusen eyed Jhudora warily before she looked down at the Faerie Xweetok again. She put on her best smile wondering if he was being mind controlled by the Dark Faerie.
"Now, I'm not fighting, I'm just-"
"Save it, Illusen," said Jhudora again. She was still not looking up at Illusen. In fact, Illusen could've sworn that the other was looking a bit apprehensive. "Breeze is right, I'm not here to fight."
Watching her former friend, Illusen nodded a bit. "Then what are you here for then?"
A long moment of silence passed before Jhudora spoke again.
"I'm here to say I'm sorry."
Illusen's eyes widened. Sorry, Jhudora was sorry. So she was right? Right about everything? Right about Jhudora betraying all of Neopia? Right about Jhudora selling her soul to the realm of evil? Right about her best friend betraying her and everyone she loved? Illusen's hands clenched into fists. That sort of apology was one she didn't want to hear. Before Illusen could lash out, however, she felt a paw on her hand. She looked down and saw Breeze looking up at her. He shook his head.
"Just... listen to her, Illusen..." he said before giving her an encouraging smile.
His words calmed her and Illusen slowly relaxed and looked at Jhudora again.
The Dark Faerie shifted as she wrapped her arm around herself as if in an embrace. For the first time in forever, Illusen saw Jhudora as something other than evil, something vulnerable and scared. It was a terrible sight that twisted at Illusen's gut with guilt.
"I'm sorry that it took me so long to come here. If it wasn't for this insufferable Xweetok convincing me that it was the right thing to do, I wouldn't be here right now so you have him to thank. But really, I do mean it when I say that I'm sorry...
I'm sorry that our friendship fell apart and that I didn't do anything to try and save it. I'm sorry that I let a misunderstanding destroy what we once hand. I'm sorry that-"
"Wait..." said Illusen, her voice and posture softening. "Look at me, Jhudora."
It took a moment before Jhudora turned and when Illusen saw her eyes, she saw no deceit or malice. Everything the Dark Faerie was saying was true. That twist of guilt dug even deeper.
"What happened between us, Jhudora?" The words came before Illusen could stop herself. "Why did you betray me like that?"
There was flutter in Jhudora's gaze. Shock. There was shock that quickly got replaced by anger. Immediately Illusen knew that she said the wrong thing but she also knew that she wasn't going to take it back. Jhudora had betrayed her, all of Faerieland and all of Neopia. Illusen had seen it with her own eyes. The darkness, the evil. What she witnessed that night many years ago was something Illusen would never be able to unsee.
"Betray you? I betrayed you?" Jhudora sneered as she took a threatening step towards Illusen. "Has it ever crossed your mind that maybe I had ulterior motives? That maybe I was doing the right thing?"
"You crossed the line of good and evil, Jhudora! I saw you! I saw everything!" said Illusen, immediately bracing herself to fight. This was the Jhudora she saw that night. The night Illusen saw her friend die and this monster came alive. "What you did that night-"
"Wait, stop it!"
Both Faeries ignored the Xweetok between them. This was a battle long time brewing between two former friends. Illusen saw the emerald mists swirling around Jhudora, the mists that Jhudora gained that night after sacrificing her soul to evil. The Earth Faerie tensed as she reached for her wand. Before her fingers touched the wand, however, the mists receded and Illusen saw Jhudora standing there. The Faerie Xweetok was holding onto her hand again and Jhudora was looking to the side with a hint of shame in her eyes.
"I'm sorry..." said the Dark Faerie, though her voice was terse and vaguely embarrassed.
Illusen couldn't help but laugh a bit at the strange sight. A powerful evil Dark Faerie, pacified by a small Faerie Xweetok that was smiling a sincere and friendly smile. Maybe it wasn't the Xweetok who was being mind controlled after all.
After the moment passed, Jhudora turned to look at Illusen again.
"Illusen... I did what I had to do. I couldn't tell you because it was too dangerous and I still can't tell you now. Just know that I am not the monster you think I am, that I have everyone think I am. I did what I had to to protect Neopia. I don't regret what I did... however..."
Jhudora released the Xweetok's hand and walked to Illusen. Although her first instinct was to fight, Illusen squelched it and watched as Jhudora took her hand and held it. For a moment, Illusen felt a warmth spread through her - a warmth she hadn't felt in a long time. It was as if a missing part of her had finally been found. Her best friend, the sister she never had, was back.
"What I do regret," continued Jhudora, still looking at their hands, "Is not trusting you to tell you my plans. What I did was under strict orders from the Queen herself, I did it as a favor. It was a sacrifice that someone had to make and I was the one to do. Others can curse me, hate me, fear me... I can take all their whispers and their glares. But you... you were my best friend and it cuts me deep that you thought I betrayed you. I'm sorry, Illusen, I'm sorry...."
Tears. There were tears falling from Jhudora's eyes and before Illusen realized it there were tears in her eyes as well. Slowly the Earth Faerie slipped her hand from Jhudora's. She felt her best friend cringe but before Jhudora could draw away, Illusen pulled her into a tight embrace.
All these years of hate and guilt, all because she couldn't trust her best friend as well.
"I'm sorry, Jhudora. I'm so, so, sorry..."
- - -
Breeze couldn't help but smile as he watched the two friends mend their broken friendship. As he stood in the doorway, the Faerie Xweetok knew that there were greater forces at play, something bigger than himself and what he could imagine. At that moment, however, he didn't care what those greater forces were. He knew that after tonight, the two of them were going to have to go their separate ways. They might have to hate, or at least pretend to hate, each other again.
But for now... for this moment... they were allowed to be friends again. Valentines day might have passed but Breeze realized that Jhudora was right. Some silly holiday wasn't going to make someone mend broken bridges. It could inspire them to think about it but it took willpower and a lot of courage. Breeze couldn't believe it but he was actually proud of Jhudora and of Illusen.
"We should probably head back now, give them their space."
Looking over at his own best friend, Breeze couldn't help but smile at Allrianne. The Meridell sun had set about an hour again and the last of its golden light had disappeared. Night was here and all was peaceful.
"I'm sure Vin isn't going to mind if we go back to her place to sleep for the night..." said Breeze. He looked back at Jhudora and and Illusen. A smile tugged at his lips before he looked at Allrianne. "Thanks by the way."
The Faerie Wocky arched an eyebrow. "What for?"
Breeze's grin widened as he looped an arm through Allrianne's and walked with her down the path towards the Meridell Farms.
"For putting up with my harebrained schemes. For never giving up on me for being an idiot. For-"
"Keep talking and maybe one day I will."
Despite her friend's empty threat, Breeze couldn't help but laugh a bit. He glanced at Allrianne and their eyes met. They didn't need to say anything but knew what the other are thinking. Friends, after all, never give up on each other. No matter how many years have passed, real friendships never truly die.