Bottled Faeries Inc.: Part One
"So, what brings you to Bottled Faeries Inc.?”
I found it hard to answer the question for multiple reasons. For starters, it was quite strange to see Balthazar, the infamous faerie bounty hunter, dressed in a three-piece suit and sitting behind a large mahogany desk.
As if hearing my thoughts, the burly Lupe drummed his claws on the table. “Come on, now. Enough of the staring. If you found the company, then you must have expected to see me here.”
Bottle Faeries Inc., in fact, had been quite hard to find. I had heard rumors of its existence among the faeries at the Academy: a company that did not in fact capture faeries, but employed them willingly to be put into bottles and shipped across Neopia. It had been rumored that the corporation was located somewhere in Faerieland, cloaked in the same sort of magic that made the Hidden Tower invisible.
I had believed all the rumors about the company, save for one: that the founder was Balthazar himself.
And apparently that one was one hundred percent true.
“It was quite brilliant marketing,” I said finally. “Making everyone in Neopia think that you capture faeries.”
The Lupe smiled. “Of course. My business depends on that. When people see a bottled faerie, they think ‘poor thing!’ and rush to set it free. Who would want to buy a faerie that had put herself into a glass container willingly? Which brings me back to my first question.” He grinned at me and then glanced down at my application. “What brings you to Bottled Faerie Inc., Leah?”
I shifted in the mahogany chair, my fingers involuntarily clenching its arms. “I need to make some money.”
“Of course you do. But why offer your services here? You look like a capable enough light faerie.” His yellow eyes scanned my résumé. “Graduated from the Faerie Academy in May, I see. But now it’s September… Four months and no job? Didn’t get any offers?”
I felt my cheeks rouge. “I couldn’t find a job I wanted,” I stressed with a glare. Balthazar may not be the big scary bounty hunter I thought he was, but he still acted like a ruthless businessman, and I was not amused. “I also want to travel Neopia. So I figured this would be a nice gig.”
“Well you certainly will travel. In a bottle, of course, but I’ve been told there’s a lovely panoramic view,” Balthazar said with a wink. “There are some rules to follow, of course.” He started listing on his hairy fingers. “One: you will not be paid until your time in the bottle is over. Two: you can leave the bottle any time you wish, but if you leave before a Neopet releases you, then you will not be paid. Three: if a Neopet releases you, you must bless him with an ability; otherwise you will not be paid. And four: you cannot mention the existence of this company to any Neopet. We will make you sign an enchanted non-disclosure agreement, and if you break it, we will know. Does this sound okay to you?”
I nodded my head. It seemed reasonable enough.
He nodded. “Good. Now let’s run some tests and get you settled.”* * *
The tests were rather simple. One faerie performed a quick health examination, and then another faerie made sure I could cast the proper blessing spells. I had learned the spells during my senior year at the Faerie Academy and easily bestowed the gifts of Flash, Restore, and Psychic Blast on the only Neopet who worked for the company. He was a green Mynci whose stats were, unsurprisingly, absolutely incredible. A fire faerie also gave me a scroll with the various incantations on it in case I somehow forgot any of them during my time in the bottle, and I signed the non-disclosure agreement with a flourish of my wand.
It wasn’t long until I shrunk down to my miniature form and entered a small glass bottle. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, although the bottle looked empty from the outside, the inside was fully furnished. There was a skinny twin-sized bed, a small side table that doubled as a bookshelf, and a rectangular Shenkuuan rug on the floor.
As I was stroking the soft bedspread, my messenger bag began to tremble against my side, and a purple head popped out of the fabric folds. “Can I come out now?”
I swatted the bag, glancing out the bottle to see if the fire faerie had noticed my guest, but she was obliviously writing on her clipboard.
“Not yet, Marty,” I whispered to my Bartamus as I pushed him back inside the bag.
I had not asked anyone at Bottled Faeries Inc. if petpets were allowed; I was worried that by simply asking the question, I would invite suspicion. And there was no way I was travelling in a bottle for Fyora-knows-how-long without any sort of company. I would go insane.
Suddenly the fire faerie spoke. “All right, Leah.” Her voice boomed around me, making the glass walls resonate with a high ting. “You’ve been assigned to the sea division. Good luck on your journey, and thank you for joining the Bottled Faeries Inc. team.” She reached out, corked the bottle, and then placed it on a conveyer belt. Within moments, I was whisked away.
The conveyer belt led me into a giant factory room filled with huge cranks and machines. I pressed my hands to the glass, trying to absorb my surroundings as best as I could. Hundreds of bottles were riding the belt along with me, all of which had faeries inside. I saw a bored looking dark faerie reclining in one of them as her bottle passed by in the opposite direction. She must be a regular, I thought. But I also saw several faeries with their faces pressed to the glass like me, their eyes wide as we were carted around the factory.
“When can I come out?” came a muffled moan from my purse.
“In a few minutes, Marty,” I hissed. “We’re not out of the factory yet!”
“I have been inhaling the fumes of this old fabric lining for two hours now!” he grumbled, but stayed put. “You owe me, by the way,” he added. “I want a detailed play-by-play of your time in the headquarters and a home-cooked meal when we get back home.”
The conveyer belt carried us along for a few more minutes. A few factory workers—an assortment of different faeries—inspected us as we passed, jotting down specs on clipboards. And then finally, the belt split into several pathways. Up ahead, I saw that the conveyer belt ended at a glowing purple aura. The bottles ahead of us entered the aura one at a time and disappeared with a puff of silver sparkles.
“Here we go,” I whispered, feeling the rush of adrenaline. My heart was racing; my pulse quickened. I hadn’t felt such excitement in ages. As I neared the portal, I counted down: “Three… two… one!”
We entered the haze and suddenly the bottle was spinning, spiraling through the air as we were magicked across Neopia. I gripped the bedframe as we spun, trying not to get sick. Marty screamed from inside my bag.
And then suddenly, the spinning stopped. I opened my eyes, prepared to get a glimpse of a new part of Neopia, and was greeted by the sight of water. Endless views of water in every direction. We were in the middle of the ocean.
I sighed. “Well, when they mentioned traveling, I didn’t think it would be so… aquatic.”
“Okay, NOW I’m coming out.” Marty forcefully pushed his way out of my bag, and used his leathery wings to hover in the air. He glanced out the bottle at the view of the sea as we were tossed about on gentle waves. “Nice view,” he said sarcastically.
“This whole thing was your idea!” I said, staring at my petpet. He was a small creature, with a round purple head, green claws, and wings reminiscent of the dark faerie Jhudora. “You’re the one who heard all the rumors about this company!”
“Well, that’s what you get for letting me roam the Faerie Academy halls on my own.” He shook his wings almost disapprovingly. “Really, this sounds like the issue of a negligent owner.”
I settled down on the bed and looked out the glass. The sky was clear and crisp blue, contrasting gently with the green ocean. “I guess it’s a nice view, somewhat. And at least it’s different from home.” I had grown quite sick of Faerieland. I had spent a full eighteen years in the land, and knew essentially every nook and cranny, every cloud formation and cracked cobblestone. When the land had crashed to Neopia two years ago, I had been excited for some change of scenery: the new leaves, trees, and brooks had held my attention for some time. But now it had all settled, again, into routine.
And so, when upon graduation I couldn’t find a job, this seemed like the best bet: a company where faeries were paid to travel. Sure, I couldn’t choose my destination, but at least the ride would be interesting.
At least, that’s what I had hoped.
Marty flew into my lap, folding his wings as he pressed the back of his head against my stomach. “I’m sure we’ll reach land shortly. And then the adventure begins, right?”
I gazed out at the endless sea. “I sure hope so.”
To be continued…