The Story of Zaira
Kari sighed, hands on her hips as one foot tapped impatiently on the icy floor of the Neggery. "Two days to go before the Festival of Neggs, and here she is sleeping away," the green-haired Faerie muttered. "Doesn't she realize all the work there is to be done? Oi..."
Said "she" that Kari was referring to was her young apprentice Zaira, currently sleeping away on a bed of Negg bushes, covered to her shoulders with a blanket and a look of dreamy content stretched across her face. Her usual bandana was gone, revealing all of her (not so) unusual blue-and-yellow streaked hair, with her violet wings folded in around her as if to provide extra warmth from the Ice Caves' unforgiving cold.
Of course, Zaira didn't realize she was oversleeping, nor realized that Kari – or the Negg Faerie, as she's commonly known – was standing over her, getting angrier with each passing moment. It was halfway through the Month of Eating, and while it was a little later than usual, it was almost time for the Festival of Neggs, one of only two times in a year in which Kari leaves her post at the Neggery to reward the masses of Neopia with magical rewards.
Kari had spent weeks plotting out locations to hide her special patterned Neggs and fake plastic Neggs for those adventurous pets to find, and have had her helpers set up her booth in Neopia Central all in preparation for the nearly month-long event. Of course, in doing all of this, it meant leaving her post at the Neggery behind – with special permission from Queen Fyora – and in the charge of her self-appointed apprentice.
Which, within itself, came with its own disadvantages, such as...
"ZAIRA! WAKE UP!"
Started, Zaira screamed and jumped off of her bed, the blanket falling to the floor. "Miss Kari!" she addressed, wrapping her arms and wings around her body, drawing in her knees to try and preserve her warmth. "You didn't have to shout, y'know."
Kari huffed. "The Festival of Neggs is in two days, and you're sleeping away. There's a lot of work to still be done, and you need to start running the Neggery so I can start on it. You need to get up and start attending to those Neggs, and be ready to answer the counter when someone comes in."
With that said, Kari fluttered off, still frustrated at her apprentice. Zaira shrugged her shoulders, then stretched out with a yawn. She started to jump around her bed, trying to warm herself up a bit, then stretched out again. Once she was done, she picked up her blanket from the floor and hastily made her bed, then grabbed her bandana and wrapped it around her head.
The Faerie then admired her work in an icy mirror on a wall, then brightly smiled before skipping out of the room. "Alright, time to get to work. Gotta make Miss Kari proud of me!"
It's only been a few years since Zaira had came to be Kari's bright and radiant apprentice, showing up by the surprise of many Neopians visiting the Neggery during the Festival of Neggs. Since then, still not much is known about her. Who exactly is Zaira? What kind of Faerie is she, or was she? Why did Kari chose her as her apprentice?
Only Kari and Queen Fyora knew the exact truth, but there was a rumor... a rumor about a Grey Faerie that had snuck into the Neggery, a Grey Faerie that Kari saw promise in...
"Your Highness, I must humbly ask you to grant me this request."
It was a beautiful and sunny day in Faerieland, the light beaming through the windows of Queen Fyora's throne room, brightly illuminating the room. Outside of the castle walls many Faeries were hard at work trying to rebuild the kingdom, heavily damaged by its fall from the clouds, and sometimes one of these Faeries fluttered past the window, their shadow flying fast across the floor.
On this day, Fyora was holding court, patiently listening to anyone that needed her help and guidance. One of these Neopians was Kari, who was currently knelt before her. It was rare for the Negg Faerie to leave her post outside of the Faerie Festival and Festival of Neggs, and even rarer for her to make an appearance in front of Fyora with a request to ask.
Fyora nodded her head and outstretched her arm, motioning Kari to stand. "Arise, Kari, and tell me your request."
The Negg Faerie stood up and began to speak. "Milady, I wish to ask if you would allow me to have an assistant, perhaps even an apprentice. After the first year you arranged it for me to run the Festival of Neggs, I've found it extremely difficult to try and run the Neggery and the Festival, especially with the two being in different lands. If you would allow me, I'd love for you to grant me this request, especially with the Festival coming up in the new few months. I need the help to make sure both run as smoothly as possible for the citizens of Neopia."
Fyora was quiet for a moment, pondering Kari's request. "Kari, your request is not one that's outrageous or unreasonable," the Queen stated. "However, I'm unable to grant your request at this time."
Kari's eyes widened. "May I ask why, Milady?"
Fyora only pointed towards the windows, to the wrecked buildings and landscape shining in the sunlight. "That is the reason why. I cannot spare a single Faerie now. This is a critical time for our kingdom, as we must rebuild as quickly as possible to be of use to Neopia again. While the Festival and the Neggery are both important to us, and the same with all of Neopia, taking away one Faerie in this time of great need would hinder us."
The Negg Faerie lowered her head; she suddenly felt selfish with her request now. She knew all too well that Faerieland was in need, and Fyora gave her the order to keep the Neggery running and leave her fellow Faeries to the reconstruction, but with so much on her plate it had slipped her mind.
Fyora saw Kari's expression change, frowning for a moment, then sighed and smiled at her. "Raise your head, Kari."
Kari did as commanded, and Fyora continued, "I will grant your request, Kari, but you must have patience. Not only for myself, but for the kingdom as a whole. Do you understand this?"
"Yes I do, Your Highness," Kari said with a nod of her head. "Thank you for listening to my request. I'll take my leave now and await for the time when it can be granted. Please excuse me; I know we both have much work to do."
Upon returning to her beloved Neggery, entering the room where the Neggs grew and matured, Kari started to feel dejected. While Fyora was very agreeable with her request, it was poorly timed and the green-haired Faerie felt guilty in making it.
With a sigh, she grabbed a nearby watering can and began to water the seedlings that were starting to grow. "I guess I'll just have to keep flying back and forth. Or perhaps, if it becomes necessary, I'll ask if the Neggery can be temporarily shut down so I can focus on the Festival. This year will already be difficult, since I don't know if I'll have any helpers... I just hope it won't come to that option," she said, sighing again once she finished.
Suddenly Kari heard a loud crash from a room in the back of the Neggery. She dropped the watering can and ran towards the sound of the noise. Upon entering the room, she was granted quite a surprising sight.
Tangled up in a mess of hoses, watering cans, and boxes of seedlings was a Grey Faerie. Her wings were clearly ripped off, her dress was ripped and torn, and her hair was devoid of any sort of color or style. Her eyes were sullen and her skin was ashen, and she looked quite malnourished. Kari was shocked; she had never seen a Grey Faerie up close, and only heard of them through stories.
The Grey Faerie looked up from her predicament and noticed Kari watching her. She gasped and tried to escape the mess, but her legs were wrapped up in the hoses. "Hold on, hon; I'll help you get out of there," Kari stated, going to work on unwrapping the hoses from around her and moving the boxes out of the way.
"There. You're free now," she stated once she was done. "Now could you tell me why you're here? There's no reason for anyone to be in this room."
The Grey Faerie said nothing, instead of choosing to look down at the ground, visibly quivering. Kari knew it wasn't because of the cold, and she softly smiled at her.
"I'm not going to hurt you. I promise. I know you're a Grey Faerie, and I understand you're scared that I'll hurt you," she stated. "But I won't hurt you. I just want to know why you're here."
The Grey Faerie looked up at Kari, still apprehensive to trust her, but she finally spoke. "... I was cold, and this place looked so warm. I... I'm not used to the cold."
"I'd say it's more like you're not prepared for the cold. Why are you here in Terror Mountain then?"
"...I'm looking for a new name."
Kari looked puzzled for a moment, then she remembered the stories she's been told. In order for Grey Faeries to regain their powers, they have to be given a new name. However, she had never heard how that was done, and if it was even true. She started to feel bad for the Faerie before her; she wished she could help her out get what she was seeking.
Then it clicked; Kari could help, and also solve her own dilemma!
The Negg Faerie smiled wide. "I think I may be able to help you. If you're willing to do something for me?"
The Grey Faerie shrunk back a bit. "What do you need from me? I'm powerless, and I can't do anything..."
"You won't be if you get a new name, right? I think I can help you get that. If I can give you a new name, would you be willing to become my apprentice? I need help here in the Neggery, and I could really use your help. If we can get the approval from Queen Fyora as well, is this something you're willing to do?"
For the first time, Kari watched as the Grey Faerie smiled and vigorously nodded her head. "Yes! Yes, I will!" she exclaimed.
Kari nodded her head, glad to hear her answer. "Good. Then we'll head out to the castle right away. But first... what name should I give you...?"
She went quiet for a few moments, tapping her chin as she racked her brain for the right name. The Grey Faerie watched intently, waiting for her to speak. Finally Kari smiled at her and placed a hand on her head, ruffling her hair gently.
"I think from now on... your name will be Zaira."
As night approached upon Terror Mountain, Kari made her way back home to the Neggery. Preparations for the Festival of Neggs was nearly complete, with the booth fully built and the Neggs harvested and ready to be hidden.
She found a nice meal waiting for her, the Neggs all watered, and a large pamphlet of orders taken for the day. The front counter was cleaned and the back room was organized and straightened out. Kari beamed; she was so proud of the work that Zaira had done in her absence.
She began to seek out her apprentice, entering the doorway of her room. "Zaira, you did such a good job today! The Neggery looks so nice!" she complimented. "I'm very--"
A loud snore interrupted her speech. Zaira was sound asleep and dead to Kari's presence, her blanket resting on the floor. Kari chuckled; she could tell Zaira worked so hard and tuckered herself out so much. As careful as she could, trying not to wake her apprentice up, she took the blanket and covered her up. Gently she untied Zaira's bandana and rested it on the night stand.
With a small ruffle to her hair, Kari turned around and left the room, a large smile spread across her face. "Good night, Zaira. Thank you for your hard work."
She didn't see Zaira smile in return, pulling the blanket further up her shoulders and snuggling into her pillow. "I should be thanking you, Miss Kari, for everything you've given me," she whispered, then yawned and began to drift off back to sleep.