The Kidnapping of Illusen
There's just something about spring. Perhaps it's the new beginnings and the renewal of hope. Perhaps it's the idea of a fresh start on a beautiful spring day. No one knows for sure, but the feeling is undeniable. There is something about spring that is unlike any other time of the year.
Even in Meridell, everyone seemed more alert as if waking from a long slumber. Unlike other parts of Neopia, Meridell was green year round and only had a short time when it was ill-advised to grow crops, but spring was still a glorious time. Weewoos chirped happily from the blooming trees as Neopets from all over the world began to gather. Illusen Day was finally upon them once again. Those who lived in Meridell could visit Illusen daily, but even they honored this special day. Others, who had to travel great distances, often only had this one opportunity to visit the earth faerie each year, so they were eager for their chance. Illusen gave out her quests daily, and it was a great honor to complete twenty of her quests consecutively. If you did complete twenty, you were given a small plaque that could be proudly displayed along with the knowledge that you had helped a great and kind faerie. Of course, if you failed to complete a quest, you had to start all over again with the first level, but everyone seemed to understand that was simply the way things worked.
Mike stood in the crowd, but the brown Zafara wasn't taking part in all of the conversations around him. In truth, he wasn't sure why he was even here. As a native of Meridell, he respected Illusen, but he had never really had any interests in doing her quests. In fact, he probably wouldn't be here if his mother hadn't insisted, but she had and so here he was. For now, he tried to ignore the crowd bustling all around him as he buried his nose deeper into his book.
"Whatcha reading?" a voice suddenly hissed in his ear. "Another one of your dumb detective stories?"
Mike knew the speaker without even looking up. "These stories aren't dumb," he said with a sigh.
The large red Grarrl standing behind him suddenly grabbed the book from his hands as he looked at the cover. "The Zafara Defective," he read aloud before bursting into cruel laughter. "What? Do you think you're like the main character in this book or something?"
"As a matter of fact, Billy," he stated, "I do think that." He grabbed the book back quickly and held it close to his chest. "After all, I will be a great detective one day."
Billy laughed louder and many of the other potential questers turned to look in their direction. "Yeah right," he snorted, "You'll never be nothing important and there won't be any mystery why. You're such a geek."
Mike started to respond but a loud boom cut off his voice as a cloud of thick, purple smoke blanketed the area. Everyone began to cough as a few managed to question what had just happened. Just as the smoke began to thin, a scream sliced through the spring air.
"Illusen is gone!" a pink Usul cried. "She's missing!"
A cry of disbelief rippled through the crowd as most rushed forward to examine the scene. "She is gone," someone said. "What are we going to do?"
"There's a note," announced the Usul, who had been the closest to Illusen before her disappearance. She picked it up off of the ground. "Listen to this: I have Illusen. Don't look for her. Signed, J."
"And here's a piece of some sort of purple material," announced a starry Elephante. "It looks ragged; like it's been torn or something."
"It must have been Jhudora," announced a voice near the back of the line.
"Should we tell Queen Fyora?" asked a yellow Pteri.
Mike didn't listen to all of the chatter as he calmly pushed his way through the crowd. No one even seemed to notice as he examined the purple piece of fabric and looked over the paper that the Usul still held. "I don't think we should jump to conclusions," he announced. "We don't know for sure that Jhudora's done anything to Illusen right now. We don't even know what's happened to Illusen."
"What are you talking about?" asked the Elephante. "Isn't it obvious what happened here?"
Billy stepped forward. "Oh, we should all listen to Mike here," he stated in an exaggerated voice. "He reads detective novels so he knows all about this sort of thing. He's still in school, but he's a great detective!" The sarcasm was thick.
A nervous chuckle rippled through the crowd, but Mike refused to allow it to bother him. "I just don't think it's as simple as it looks," he insisted.
No one was listening to him as someone was chosen to go and deliver the news to Queen Fyora, but Mike knew that he had to do a little investigating on his own.
Queen Fyora stood on a balcony of her beautiful castle, worry etched into her elegant features, as she looked down at the trouble brewing in Faerieland. Earlier that day, Illusen had gone missing and Jhudora was the most obvious suspect. There even clues that pointed to the dark faerie's guilt, but she had to reluctantly admit that Jhudora would have been the main suspect without any clues. The bitter rivalry between her and Illusen was not a secret, although Fyora had always hoped that it would eventually come to end. It looked as if that would never happen now.
Sighing, she turned to her royal guards whom were a pair of yellow Skeiths. "I suppose I have no choice," she said. "Come, we must detain Jhudora until we know for certain what has happened." She shook her head. "I don't like this."
"Queen Fyora?" one of the guards prompted. "Aren't you just doing what you have to do?"
She nodded. "But this isn't what I want to do. There's been bitter blood between the dark faeries and earth faeries for many years, and I worry that this might be the breaking point. A few years ago, some writers wrote a few prank stories in the Neopian Times about a war between the faeries. At the time, I laughed because I found the story humorous. There were arguments to be certain, but I thought war to be an impossibility. Now it seems all too real. When the news that I have imprisoned Jhudora's for Illusen's kidnapping gets out, it might lead to actual feud. I'm not sure if I will be able to stop it." Taking a deep breath, she steadied her nerves. "This has to be done, though," she reiterated. "I will fly to Jhudora's bluff first and I want you two to follow from a distance. We need to be as discreet as possible. Do you understand?"
The two Skeiths nodded and Fyora decided that she could no longer delay her actions. Stepping out onto the balcony, she flapped her gossamer wings and took to the air. A few Neopets noticed her and pointed in her direction, but she didn't take the time to return their attention. Quickly, she flew to Jhudora's bluff where she saw the dark faerie standing outside of her humble abode.
"Humph," Jhudora snorted. "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to inquire about Illusen," Fyora replied, getting straight to the point.
"What about her?" asked Jhudora.
"Did you kidnap her?"
Jhudora looked surprised. "What?" she cried. "What are you talking about? I haven't done anything to that little goody two shoes!"
The Skeiths arrived as Fyora responded. "Illusen was kidnapped today," she said, "and there is good reason to suspect you as the culprit. I know that you two haven't gotten along for some time. There was also a letter signed 'J' at the scene and a piece of fabric that appeared to come from one of your dresses."
"Anyone could have left a letter," Jhudora retorted, "and one of my dresses was stolen just a few days ago. I'm being framed!"
"If that's true, then this will be taken care of shortly," stated Fyora. "For now, I need you to come to the castle with me. I'm not going to imprison you in the tower if you agree to cooperate. I just you need to stay where I can keep an eye on you until all of this is sorted out."
Anger flashed in Jhudora's eyes, but everyone knew that she was no challenge for Fyora. "Whatever," she hissed, "but I don't think the other dark faeries will be happy to hear that I'm being treated like a criminal."
"I know," Fyora agreed softly.
Even in Neopia Central, the tension was palpable. The Neopian Times had released a special edition to inform the populace of the situation, and now it was all anyone could talk about. The faeries were so important to the Neopian culture; it was hard to say what would happen if there really was a war and no one wanted to consider that possibility. A lot of Neopets were stocking up at all the stores just in case.
Mike was walking down the street as he tried to appear calm and collected, but his heart was beating wildly. The rumors of a faerie uprising were distressing, but there was something else that quickened his heartbeat. While he couldn't be sure just yet, he thought that he might be close to solving this whole situation. It looked like he might be a detective after all and he was about to crack his first case.
He really had to give a lot of credit to The Zafara Detective for it had been the advice in his favorite book that had helped him to see what had actually happened.
"Always have a plan," he said to himself from the one of the sayings he had memorized from the fictional detective. "If you have an orderly plan of action, you can discover the truth." Those words gave him strength as he came to a large warehouse on the far outskirts of Neopia Central. Taking a deep breath, he turned the knob and was relieved to find that it was unlocked. While he considered himself a detective in the making, lock picking was a skill he hadn't yet obtained. Quietly, he walked inside.
There was nothing really unusual about the warehouse other than the fact it was nearly completely empty. Mike saw no boxes or supplies in the huge space. The only thing he did notice was a large, red curtain that extended from ceiling to floor in the distant corner, and he made his way over towards it.
"What are you doing here?" a voice suddenly demanded.
Mike paused as he turned only to see the pink Usul he had seen at Illusen's Glade earlier that day. Although it was obvious she was angry as she walked past him to stand in front of the curtain, she didn't look all that dangerous or intimidating. "Why are you trespassing?" she asked. "This is my warehouse where I store plushies before selling. I'm working on being a plushie tycoon after all."
"You seem to be a little low on merchandise," Mike noted.
Her eyes flashed, but she maintained her composure. "I'm waiting on the price for supplies to drop," she said, "but that's not the point. I want to know: what are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for Illusen," Mike replied.
The Usul smiled slightly. "I remember you," she began, "You were there this morning behind me in line. You're that Zafara who wants to play detective." She laughed condescendingly. "I'm not sure why'd you be looking here. Everyone knows that Jhudora kidnapped Illusen."
"That does seem to be the obvious explanation," admitted Mike.
"Of course it does," she said, "Now, if you'll just-"
"But it's not the truth," he interrupted, "In the words of the famous Zafara Detective, 'Beware of what appears to be too obvious for rarely is real life so plain and simple.'"
"What do you mean?" she questioned.
It was Mike's turn to smile. "I'm glad you asked," he said, "You see, you're right that it seemed obvious that this was all Jhudora's doing. Even if there had been no clues, everyone knows of the rivalry between Jhudora and Illusen. If anything happened to Illusen, then Jhudora would have automatically been the first suspect. There were clues, however, that actually pointed right at the dark faerie. Right?"
"Right," she agreed slowly.
"But the clues actually present the problem," he said, "Let's not forget that Jhudora chose to make her move during the time there would be the most witnesses. She could have done her evil deed anytime. Why would she choose Illusen Day? Perhaps she wanted just to show her power, but she would have known she'd be caught in no time at all and that Queen Fyora wouldn't allow the crime to go unpunished. Then, there's the matter of the letter and the dress. Again, Jhudora wouldn't have to leave a letter, especially one signed with her initial, because she would have been the first suspect anyway. Signing a letter like that with 'J' would have been the same as signing a confession."
"Maybe she was overconfident," suggested the Usul.
"Perhaps," Mike replied, "but that still doesn't explain the piece of dress, which is surely the most condemning piece of evidence. It looks ragged, like it was torn during a struggle, but that's not the case. When fabric is actually ripped, there are strings and frayed edges, but this is one is smooth along the edges. That's because it was cut. Someone cut it at angles so that it would look torn and ragged, but it was still obviously cut."
The Usul was no longer smiling. "Let's say all that is true," she said, "You've proven that Jhudora was framed, but that still doesn't mean that I did anything or give you any reason to suspect that Illusen would be here."
Mike didn't reply to this line of logic immediately. "Your name is Rayellen, isn't it?"
He paced slowly. "It's not a common name in Neopia," he stated before pausing in his strides to look at her. "Did you know that Illusen keeps a very detailed log of who completes or fails her quests?"
Rayellen paled. "Did she really?" she managed.
Mike nodded. "And it seems that last year on Illusen Day you finally made it to the twentieth quest. It took you a few years to get that far, but you finally made it. Illusen asked for a Baby Faellie Plushie Friend, but there were none of those in stock, so you rushed to the Trading Post to buy one. You found a few, but none of the sellers were available at the moment. Of course, you were impatient and made quite a scene."
"How do you know all this?" Rayellen demanded.
"You raised quite a ruckus at the Trading Post," he answered, "So more than one seller remembered you. Anyway, you finally managed to buy the plushie and raced back here only to find that it was too late and you had fallen all the way back to level one. I'd think that might be a motive. Wouldn't you?"
Rayellen laughed bitterly. "I suppose you're not a half bad detective after all," she said, "but there is one thing I want to know. Why did you even suspect me in the first place?"
"You were the one who announced that Illusen was missing and you found the first clue," Mike answered, "Although I didn't actually suspect you at first. I was just checking on everyone in line and comparing them to data in Illusen's log. That's when I remembered how you found all the clues, except the piece of dress which was found by an Elephante. I figure either he's working with you or he just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
The corner of the curtain was pulled aside and the Elephante stepped forward, followed by several other Neopets. "I have to say, I'm really surprised that you figured all of this out," he said in lieu of a greeting.
"As am I," agreed Rayellen, "I thought it was the perfect crime. We could finally get our revenge on Illusen and Jhudora would take the fall for it." She grabbed a nearby rope and gave it a mighty yank. The curtain was raised and Mike found himself looking into the frightened, green eyes of Illusen. She was trapped in a large, glass bottle much like those that held the fading faeries only that it was a good deal bigger.
"We designed this bottle ourselves," offered Rayellen, "It sucks the faerie right in and they can't get out by themselves. All of us went to Illusen's Glade today to get revenge for getting quests that were too difficult and unfair. I stood in line along with Roddy." She pointed to the Elephante. "When we got to the front of the line, our friends created the diversion. The loud boom was made by an Ancient Shenkuu Canon and the smoke was from a thick smoke bomb that we had tinkered with so that smoke would be purple. Once we covered the area in smoke, we simply uncorked the bottle and Illusen was all ours." She laughed. "So, now you know everything, but we're not going to give a chance to tell anyone." They began to advance on the lone Zafara.
Mike backed away a few steps. "But what about all the turmoil among the faeries?" he asked. "Is your quest for revenge so important that you'd let actual war break out?"
"It's Fyora's job to control the faeries," Rayellen responded. "I'm sure she'll get them under control."
"And if she doesn't?" questioned Mike.
"Not my problem," Rayellen answered as she stepped closer.
"I think that perhaps it is your problem," announced a voice from the upper corner.
Everyone looked upward and saw that Queen Fyora and Jhudora had flown through one of the high windows and were now looking down at the group. Mike had gone to them with his theory before even traveling here. The Queen looked upset and heartbroken at what she had heard, but Jhudora looked furious as she ground her teeth together. As they looked, the Queen's royal guards came in and captured the group, stating they would hold them until the Defenders came to make an official arrest. Meanwhile, one of the guards found a nearby hammer and smashed the glass that held Illusion prisoner. The earth faerie had finally been freed.
Illusen immediately came over to Mike, who was grinning from ear to ear. "Thank you, young detective," she said. "Come back to my glen later so that I may reward you properly."
"I don't really need anything," he said. "Solving this case has been my reward."
She smiled as she flapped her delicate wings and flew up to Queen Fyora and Jhudora. "I am sorry, sister," she said to Jhudora. "I actually did think you were behind the Neopets who kidnapped me. I shouldn't have been so quick to jump to conclusions."
"I'm sorry as well," apologized Fyora. "We should have made sure before you were accused."
"I don't need or want your stupid apologies," Jhudora snapped, turning her back on the others, "but the other dark faeries will be glad to know that you've finally come to her senses." She glanced back over her shoulder and the faintest hint of a smile curled her lips. "Besides, I wouldn't kidnap you, Illusen. Our rivalry keeps things interesting." With a wicked laugh, she flew out of the window and into the blue sky.
Confident things were now in order, Mike also took the opportunity to leave. The sun outside was shining brightly, but his smile practically rivaled its brilliance. He had done it. He was now a real detective. Whistling a happy tune, he walked home as he wondered if another case would ever come his way.