Teaching and Topiaries
"Jhudora—did you really have to do that?"
"Whaaat?" Jhudora asked, feigning an innocence she certainly did not feel. She and the Faerie Queen were standing in her front garden, staring at a life-sized topiary of a Kau. "In my opinion, he looks better as a bush than he ever did in real life."
Fyora pressed her long fingers to her temples. "Can you please tell me why you turned Professor Leon into a topiary?"
Jhudora crossed her arms over her chest, and her large leathery wings crumpled behind her back. "I had a good reason."
"He was three minutes late returning a quest item. That sort of laziness can't be tolerated."
Fyora continued to smack her face in frustration. "You know we have a problem now, right?"
"How so?" Jhudora asked, examining her nails. She had just re-painted them a noxious shade of green. She was debating whether she should add little skull decals on them in her free time.
Fyora glared at her. "Professor Leon is a professor at Brightvale University! He has a class to teach in the morning, and topiary spells take 24 hours to completely wear off."
"I don't understand how that's a terrible thing," Jhudora said. She leaned forward and plucked an out-of-place leaf off of Professor Leon's head. "Just give the kids a day off."
"I'm not allowing that."
"Then find them a sub. That's even better—students love substitute teachers. They're all the more fun to torture." Jhudora flicked the leaf to the grass with a grin. An overzealous enchanted snapdragon eagerly ate it.
Fyora, who had been staring at the plants around her feet, suddenly looked up at Jhudora with a large smile. Her lilac eyes shone mischievously.
Jhudora took a terrified step backwards, nearly bumping into a blazing frooble shrub. "Why are you looking at me, like this?" the dark faerie demanded.
"Because you're right, Jhudora." Queen Fyora smiled sweetly and laced her fingers together. "I'll just find them a substitute teacher. And I know the perfect faerie for the job..."
- - -
Jhudora grumbled to herself as she stalked her way down the hallowed halls of Brightvale University. Several students shrunk back as she stormed past them, pressing themselves against the white stone walls to avoid her vast wingspan. One girl even screamed.
"You think I'm happy to be here?" Jhudora muttered to no one in particular. She adjusted her black pencil skirt, cringing as the itchy fabric clung to her pair of tights. You have to wear business casual! Fyora had reminded her pointedly that morning. When Jhudora had refused, the Faerie Queen had waved her wand and replaced Jhudora's usual ensemble with one of her own choosing.
And as much as Jhudora had tried to change out of the clothes, they were stuck to her skin, as if adhered with glue.
When Jhudora reached Room 188, she was surprised to see that it was not a small classroom like she had envisioned, but rather a large lecture hall with over 200 seats crammed together on several tiers. Only about half of those seats were filled, but it was enough for Jhudora to shiver as she felt everyone's eyes fall down onto her. Clearly, most of the students were surprised to see her standing in front of their classroom. Hushed whispers rang throughout the hall, and a few students cautiously slipped out of their seats and exited through the back doors.
Jhudora rolled her violet eyes and leaned against the podium. She had no idea how the microphone worked, so she pulled her wand from her sleeve and held it to her mouth. "Class is starting now," she announced, her voice echoing throughout the lecture. Even the kids in the far back cringed as her voice rocked through them.
"All right," Jhudora said, slowly walking across the front of the lecture hall. She felt as if she were performing on stage. "If you got into this university, I'm assuming you're smart enough to know who I am, so let's cut to the chase. I am your substitute teacher today, and don't you dare try any of those cute little tricks where you switch names or play a prank on me." She held her wand out menacingly, and a pigtailed Ruki in the front row flinched. "I turned your professor into a topiary. Don't think I would hesitate to do the same to any of you."
There was absolute and utter silence in the lecture hall. Which is exactly what Jhudora wanted.
"Okay." The dark faerie strummed her nails on the podium. "Today we're going to focus on potion-making."
Almost immediately, a hand shot into the air. Jhudora narrowed her eyes at a brown Moehog sitting in the middle of the audience. But instead of lowering his gaze, the boy looked her straight in the eye, his chin set defiantly. Jhudora immediately disliked him.
"Jhudora," he said after not being called on, "this is not a potions class." He said the word with clear disdain. "Professor Leon teaches a Brightvalian History class."
"Well I am going to teach a potions class."
The Moehog rolled his eyes. "Brightvale University does not teach magic classes. It is a pillar for higher education. It's not the Faerie Academy."
Jhudora pursed her lips. "Are there really no magic classes taught here?"
The assembled students shook their heads. The Moehog just smirked, crossing his arms over his chest.
Jhudora sighed and took a few slow steps up the central aisle to where the Moehog was sitting. "Well," she said, leaning against his seat, "since your magical education is clearly lacking, let me impart you with the most important lesson I can give you about magic."
She aimed her wand at his face. A blast of green light later, there was a Moehog-shaped topiary sitting in the lecture hall chair, its face twisted in an expression of surprise.
Jhudora smirked, spinning her wand. "Don't mess with someone who can cast spells."
The dark faerie walked back down the aisle to the front of the room, happy to see that everyone in the class was staring at her with wide mouths.
That's how it's done, she thought with a grin.
She waved her wand and murmured a quick chant, conjuring a small cauldron in front of each student. "Okay," she said as a hundred students flinched as the objects materialized, "now we'll get to potion-making."
But again, someone raised their hand. This time it was the skinny Ruki in the front row. "Miss Jhudora?" she asked, staring at the pewter cauldron that had appeared in her lap. "Where did these cauldrons come from? Did you just... conjure them from thin air?"
Jhudora was shocked by the girl's ignorance. "You cannot create something from nothing," the dark faerie explained. "That goes against the fundamental laws of the universe. When you conjure something from thin air, you are borrowing the object from some other place. I typically borrow my supplies from Illusen." She tapped the side of the cauldron, where the metal was engraved with the earth faerie's signature leaf design. "I'll send them back afterwards, don't worry."
"So..." The Ruki hesitated, looking up at Jhudora's face. "Is magic like a combination of physics and chemi...?"
Jhudora pointed her wand at the girl, and she trailed off into a terrified squeak.
"Why don't we save our musings for Philosophy 101 and get back to the lesson, hmm?"
The girl nodded, and clamped her mouth shut.
Jhudora waved her wand again, summoning several ingredients and small metal contraptions that could produce flames. "The girl is somewhat right," she finally admitted, staring at the students. They were packed into the lecture hall with several supplies and ingredients precariously piled up on their laps. "A chemistry lab would probably be better suited to our potions class, but we'll make do."
She gestured, and a piece of chalk rose into the air and pressed itself against the blackboard. It wrote in spidery script, listing out the directions on how to brew Jhudora's potion of choice. "I've decided we're going to work on a Vanishing Potion," she announced to the class as the chalk squeaked against the board.
"Wh-why?" a pale-faced Aisha asked.
Jhudora smiled, clasping her hands together. "Because you never know when you're going to want someone to disappear."
"Does it actually... make them...?"
Jhudora rolled her eyes. "Does no one know the laws of magic? This is an absolute disgrace. I'm going to have a word with the president of this institution when today is over." She massaged her face. "No, it does not actually cause them to disappear. That would be very illegal, and I prefer to stay outside of dungeons rather than inside of them. This potion will transport a Neopian to a random destination." She shook her head. "Now, can we actually get brewing?"
Luckily for Jhudora, the rest of the class went more smoothly than she had expected. The students were incredibly smart, and even though they knew little to nothing about the fine art of potion-making, they were a determined bunch who clearly wanted to prove to her that they were, in fact, competent. They didn't have a lot of room to brew, but they did their best, using textbooks as cutting boards to chop up shimmery seagrass and pouring pickled eyeball juice into their cauldrons. When one boy tossed an eyeball at the girl next to him as a joke, Jhudora had to turn him into a topiary, but beyond that, things were working out well. And the dark faerie was pleased to have a second plant to give to the botany professors as a going away present.
Near the end of the class, Jhudora walked around the classroom, surveying the results. Though dutiful, most of the students had messed up at least one of the steps, resulting in concoctions that were not the clear serum she had been expecting. "I see a lot of blue solutions," Jhudora remarked, her heels clicking on the aisle steps. "I feel like several of you stirred the brew clockwise instead of counterclockwise. That's a very rookie mistake." She took one cauldron full of blue potion and splashed it onto the girl who had brewed it. The Usul shrieked for a moment, but then quieted when nothing happened.
"See?" Jhudora said, gesturing at the girl. "She's not vanishing at all! Though this concoction is great for getting rid of pimples—"
"JHUDORA!" came a harsh cry.
Everyone turned towards the shout, and what they all saw was very odd. Standing in the doorway was a Kau, but his skin was an odd conglomerate of smooth fur and jagged-edged leaves varying from lush green to bright yellow. Twigs stuck out his ears and flowers budded from his chin, and he walked stiffly into the room; his legs were coated in what looked like bark.
"Professor Leon," Jhudora addressed, taking a few steps down the aisle. "What are you doing here? My topiary spell hasn't worn off fully. I don't think you should be moving around so much."
"How dare you..." the Kau sputtered, spitting out leaves, "turn me... into a plant! And then come here and teach... my class!"
"I'll take responsibility for turning you into a plant, but the teaching was all Fyora's fault—"
"Why are there cauldrons?" the Kau shouted, gesturing to the rows of students. "This is a history class!"
"Well, I realized the curriculum here at Brightvale University was a bit lacking and decided to do something about it." Jhudora crossed her arms over her chest, glaring down at the Kau. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"Yes I do!" the Kau shouted. "Magic should not be taught in a university. It is not a skill practiced by respectable beings!" He glared at her. "As evidenced by the fact you turned me into a house plant."
"I'll have you know that you were clearly an outdoor plant. I left you out on my front lawn so you could enjoy the lovely weather we've been having in Faerieland as of late."
Professor Leon harrumphed and turned his glare to the class. "Get rid of those cauldrons now!" he shouted, waving his arms; small leaves fluttered to the floor like confetti. The students looked shocked. Some of them shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Then the Kau's glare fell on the Ruki in the front row. She was staring into the depths of her cauldron and at the clear liquid inside.
"Claudia," he growled, pointing a leafy finger at her, "drop that cauldron and pull out your history textbook. This is my class, and I am going to teach it the way it should be taught—"
Suddenly, Claudia thrust the cauldron of potion at the Kau, spattering him in clear liquid. There was a gasp from the crowd, and the professor's jaw dropped.
"Claudia!" he admonished. "What has come over y—"
But before he could finish his sentence, the Kau vanished into thin air. There was no puff of smoke, no blaze of light. One second the Kau was there and the next he was simply gone.
There was another collective gasp in the classroom. Even Claudia looked stunned. She stared down at the cauldron in her hands in shock.
But then Jhudora smiled and started clapping. And soon, the whole class joined in, whooping and cheering for the small Ruki.
"Very nice work," Jhudora said proudly. "See, that's the way to make a Vanishing Potion."