Ballad of the Faerie's Champion: Stagnation - Part Two
It was decidedly unsettling for Gary to look in the mirror and find a stranger's face staring back. After seventeen years of looking in the mirror and seeing a yellow furred face, he knew it would be a long time before he stopped being startled by the blue one, or the shimmering wings that framed his torso.
But closer inspection revealed a familiar mark just below his right eye, stretching diagonally towards his jaw. It was faint pink scar he'd gotten a week before. His fur had still been yellow when he and his best friend Zerue were ambushed by bandits, and one of the criminals had scored a cut across his face. This mark was proof that the face looking back at him was still his own, however unfamiliar it might appear.
Gary still wasn't entirely sure how he felt about the transformation. His fur had taken on a soft, downy quality that felt odd against his skin. He kept losing track of where the wings were, knocking things over with them or squashing them against the floor when he rolled over while sleeping.
And most disconcerting of all, once he had recovered from the crippling weakness of the injuries he had sustained in the fight against the Werelupes, the Bori had become aware of an odd tingling sensation in every cell of his body. It was like a supernatural energy that made the very air around his body seem to hum.
"You keep staring at yourself in the mirror all day, people are gonna think your head is bigger than Kreludor," remarked the skunk Aisha who was leaning against the wall behind Gary. The Bori turned to glare at him, and was met with a wide smirk in reply. The Aisha was, in fact, Zerue Keemis, the friend who had been with Gary on the day he got the scar on his face. He was Gary's best friend, fellow squire, and a professional snark machine.
"Let's change the color of every hair on your hide 'n grow you a new pair of appendages, see how you take it," the Bori retorted. He turned back to the mirror, refocusing on what he had originally come into the washroom to do. Staring hard at the wings reflected behind his back, he concentrated hard on the newly acquired muscles. After a moment they twitched, and Gary hissed in pain as the unaccustomed motion sent a stinging pain across his shoulder blades.
"Give it a rest, Gar'," Rue advised. "You've been doin' this for three days, and all it's gained you is a sore back."
The Bori sighed. "I know you're right, but I don't want these getting in the way when I start training for real. I finally got a knight master, y'know? Three years as a squire, and I finally have a knight master. I don't want to blow everything now because I added a new set of easy to grab body parts that'll be a weakness in a fight. I have to learn how to manage these, to make them as much part of my body as my arms."
Rue shook his head. "Illusen has my thanks forever for savin' your sorry life, but I still don't see why she had to make you like this to do it."
"Then perhaps I can shed some light on that for you," a soft, low voice remarked. Gary looked around in surprise to see the gentle face of Illusen the earth faerie standing in the open doorway. He smiled shyly, bowing his head to her in respect. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a surprised and rather embarrassed Rue doing the same.
Illusen had not only protected the Abyssal Acres from an alliance of Werelupes and bandits, she had directly saved Gary's life when he was mauled by the monsters. Gary's current appearance was a side effect of her efforts on his behalf.
Gary was somewhat bemused to find himself looking down at the faerie. He knew he was very tall, but to have to crane his neck to look at a personage like Illusen, a faerie whose power was probably sufficient to level all of Brightvale were she so inclined... it was odd.
"Good morning, m'lady," he said politely. "I didn't think you was still around."
"Well, I haven't been in the castle, but I have still been in the area," the faerie replied. "I've been searching through Abyssal Acres to make certain that no Werelupes were still skulking about. But the prince tells me that you he will be leading the last of the knights home in the morning. After what was done to you, I wanted the chance to have a word before you left for Brightvale City."
The faerie backed out into the hall, gesturing for Gary to follow. He was only too happy to oblige; the washroom was rather cramped, and not an ideal place for long conversations. Rue, never one to hesitate when it came to being a busybody, followed them. As the three of them walked down the castle's dark hallways, Illusen spoke.
"I'm afraid that your current state was a rather unfortunate accident on my part. As I'm sure you're aware, we faeries are tied to the very heart of Neopia, and our magic runs through every aspect of life on the planet. We train for decades to hone our powers- centuries sometimes- because with as much power as we wield, if we make a mistake in our workings, the results can be rather more complicated than a similar mistake by an ordinary sorcerer."
Gary instinctively glanced over his shoulder at his wings. "So you didn't know this was going to happen?"
"Not at all," Illusen admitted sheepishly. "When we found you, you were clinging to life by the thinnest of threads, and your injuries were quite severe. I had to heal the damage, and anchor your fleeing spirit back to your body. Such spells are not normally my area of expertise; water and light faeries are far more adept at healing. In my haste, performing a working with which I was not particularly skilled to begin with, I siphoned a good deal more of my magic into you then I really needed to. My best guess is that the excess power flowed throughout your body, turning it into what it is now."
Gary looked down at his hands. "I can feel it. The magic, I mean. It's like... like all of me is jittery, all the time. It's weird."
"So could you fix it?" Rue asked. "Like, take the extra magic so he goes back to normal?"
Illusen shook her head. "It isn't as if the magic pooled under his skin and is holding him in this form. Most of it has already burnt itself off changing him." To Gary she added, "I'm surprised there's actually enough left that you can feel it, but what little lingers should dissipate on its own within a few days. My taking it all at once would moot nothing. And I don't know exactly what all was done to your body, so I'd probably do more harm than good trying to undo the change."
Gary shook his head quickly, "You already did way more'n was needful, m'lady. You saved my life, and I was just a random kid who you didn't owe nothing. If I gotta sleep on my sides from now on, well it's a right sight better'n sleeping in the dirt."
The faerie smiled. "A good attitude to have. It's not as if turning into a faerie is the end of the world; perhaps you can get Lord Valrigard to teach you how to actually use your new wings."
The Bori's ears flattened, and he shook his head quickly. "Nuh-uh! No offense, m'lady, but I'm keepin' my feet on the ground! The only way you'll get me flying is on a Uni!"
"Speakin' of Unis," Rue put in, "if you're going back to the capital in the morning, chances are Sir Graham will be hauling me back to Drackon Ridge. What do you say we spend our last afternoon together hangin' with my girl Grace? Maybe even your curmudgeon could be convinced to join us."
Gary chuckled. "Curmudgeon" was an apt word to describe his Uni partner, Ohu. "Sounds like a good plan. I probably won't see you again until next time Sir Graham comes to court, so we better make the best of today!"
Illusen smiled indulgently. "One last thing before you go, Squire. Lady Ayame is going back to the capital with the prince. She seems to trust you, so will you look after her for me? I've known her since she was young, and she is a very dear friend."
Gary and Rue exchanged a look of surprise. The Bori coughed, looking down at Illusen sheepishly. "M'lady, she'll be safer in the city than anywhere else, surrounded by King Talren's guards. What can I do that they won't get to long before?"
"I reckon it's the king's guards she's worried about, Gary," Rue put in, unusually sober.
Before Gary could formulate a coherent reply, the faerie shrugged. "Perhaps I'm reading too deeply into things. But as I said, we faeries are deeply connected to the balance of things in Neopia. I sense that Brightvale is at a tipping point, but which way it will go I cannot begin to guess."
She shook her head. "Just look after Aya for me, will you?"
Gary folded his arms, his tail swishing uncertainly. "I... I'll do my best, Lady Illusen."
To be continued...