She hadn’t seen Ilere in at least three centuries.
Granted, Fyora was never obligated to visit all faeries for Thanksgiving dinner or anything, but even if she was she had a sinking feeling that Ilere wouldn’t want to see her anyway.
“What are you doing in my house?” Ilere spoke, finally, after staring blankly at Fyora’s presence. The Earth faerie was kind enough to let her in, and Fyora had helped herself to some of the tea that was already on the table (asking permission didn’t trigger a response). Each careful sip represented the minutes she was there—unsurprisingly, she needed another cup.
“Um—oh, yes, uh--” Fyora coughed. She poured herself another cup. “I was just—I’m sorry, I must have caught you off-guard. For the record, you look like you’ve been doing well for yourself since we last met--”
“Your wings,” Ilere interrupted.
Fyora raised a brow. She looked to her back, feeling her light magenta wings. “Oh, yes. What of them?”
Ilere’s glare was hollow. “Purple and green don’t go well together.” She said, in perfect monotone. “You’re ruining my scenery.”
As sarcastic as always. she chuckled, though briefly. Fyora sighed. “Forgive me, then. I’ll hopefully make this quick.” She smiled. “You’ve heard of what happened to Faerieland, yes?”
Ilere arched a brow at the faerie queen, before shaking her head. “That was a long time ago,” she said, “It was an annoying incident, being frozen for some time. Sophie told me the full story—I’m not surprised it happened.” She glared at the queen. “I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
Fyora gripped at her tea cup. She had hoped against all hope that the Earth faerie would forget the—incident , but Fyora knew that the Darkest Faerie having a change of heart was a more likely happenstance. “It was bound to occur. Though, I’ll be honest,” Fyora looked to Ilere, smiling grimly. “I didn’t think it’d come from Xandra.”
She thought she almost saw the other faerie smile. Fyora had made all the extra precautions, in case the Earth faerie decided to return—the first year after the incident was filled with letters sent to the ends of Neopia, apologies written in gradually deteriorating cursive, days of waiting anxiously for some sign of life, some sign of acceptance. The next years were more…defensive.
She wasn’t sure how powerful Ilere had gotten since they last met.
“Why did you come here?” Ilere asked.
Fyora looked down at her hands. Up, to her staff. To apologize, she wanted to say, though she knew it’d be dumb. There was no need for apologies at this point. “Since we’ve landed here, we’ve been having—issues,” she said, “You’ll understand that a number of the Haunted Woods residents don’t enjoy our presence.”
Including yourself, she added mentally. Ilere seemed to read her mind, and shook her head. “I have as much power over the people here as you do,” she stood up from her seat, leaving to address her front door. There was something serene about her standing in front of vines. For the first time, Ilere looked as if she’d belonged somewhere. “I suppose why I stayed here.”
Fyora bit the inside of her cheek. “They’ve been bothering us. As of late,” she continued, regardless. “Our new head of guard has been handling them well enough, but I fear that that won’t be the case for long. Faerieland needs me.”
Ilere lifted the leaves just slightly, looking outside. “Funny,” Ilere smiled, “That’s what you told me when I was exiled.”
Fyora smiled. “It needs you, too, now.”
Ilere looked to her, before shaking her head. “It can wait another five years,” she said. “And then it’ll meet my fate. A lesson shall be learnt the hard way—as I have.”
Fyora’s eyes widened, and she stood up. “You don’t understand--”
The house shook, then, and Fyora felt something crawl up her leg. She glared down her ankles, burning the vine with a ray of light. Before she could glance up, something clutched at her throat, and suddenly she was brought to the ground, held down by roots. Fyora looked up, staring at Ilere’s silhouette. Ilere looked at her. Was she—was she smirking?
“How I’ve missed this. You were always so easily distracted,” she reached out, “My dear.”
Fyora looked to the other faerie. She looked down to herself, then, and smiled. She took the other faerie’s hand, standing back up. She dusted off the dirt from her dress. “I’ll—leave,“ she said, blushing. “I’ve made a grave mistake.”
Ilere lost her smile. She turned away, then. Fyora left for the door, when she heard those final words: “I’ll guard our home.”
Fyora polished the Thyora’s Tear in her hand, looking out the window. The Haunted Woods loomed in the distance, both a thorn in her back and a loving memory. “Yes, Delina?” she said, recognizing the voice.
The Dark faerie edged into the Hidden Tower, scratching her purple hair. “Um, someone came to my shop earlier. They—uh—were looking for you,” She said. “They borrowed some of my rope while I was making one of my particle accelerator prototypes, and uh—well--”
Fyora’s eyes widened. She turned to the Dark faerie, putting the Tear down. “What does this faerie look like?”
Delina gestured, plainly, “Well, her wings were torn--”
Fyora heard enough. She rushed down from the tower, using her staff to blow the castle doors open. A gust of wind blew anybody in near proximity down, food merchants and several dozing Air faeries falling in front of the entrance. Ilere stood there, not even mildly perturbed.
“Ilere,” Fyora started, “What are you--”
But then she saw Balthazar, writhing in Ilere’s grasp. The large Lupe seemed almost tiny in Ilere’s presence, tied down by an infinite amount of rope. Invulnerable rope, from the looks of things. Delina was always good at picking her materials. “I found him wandering near your entrance,” she started. “I was about to, oh,” her dark eyes turned completely black. “end him.” They returned to their normal hue, somehow even more menacing. “But I figured, considering he’s not already dead by your hands, you’re either horrible at your job or didn’t want him gone.”
“Or you’re horrible at your job and you didn’t want him gone. Or you’re horrible at your job because you didn’t want him gone.”
Ilere shrugged. “In any case, he was a bit too foolhardy for anybody trying to stop him to have any difficulty doing so.”
Fyora felt Delina’s confused look on her neck, and she groaned. “We do not hurt Neopets, Ilere,” she let a breath go, trying to regain her composure, “No matter what they’ve done to us--”
“Oh, well, you don’t,” Ilere remarked, simply. “That’s your fault, not mine.”
“And that’s why I’m the Queen,” Fyora aimed her staff at the Lupe, a ray of light glowing from her eyes. “And you’re not.”
Balthazar looked up at the Queen, not even flinching as a beam struck his torso. It burned through the rope, and without much effort Balthazar broke free, roaring. Before he could do anything, though, Ilere glared at him. He froze. “Prison, then,” she stated. Leaves dropped from a nearby tree, and she looked up to them, briefly, smiling to herself. “Curious. Curious, indeed.”
Fyora ordered for a sentry to take Balthazar in, though her attention was uncharacteristically somewhere else. Her gaze followed that of Ilere’s. She looked to the falling leaves, and then to the decaying towers around them.
Ilere closed her eyes.
“I didn’t think you’d keep your promises,” Fyora said, honestly, letting an old friend into the castle. There were Fire faeries surrounding them, and Dark faeries hiding in the shadows of the ceilings, all of them with swords on their belts and arrows on their back. Fyora’s precautions. “I’m glad you didn’t—hurt Balthazar, though I’m also glad you were courteous enough to give him to me. There’s been a sudden increase of bottled faeries these past few days.”
But Ilere wasn’t listening. At the very least, she didn’t seem like she was listening. Her eyes were aimed at the cracks in the palace walls, the occasional flower growing from them. Fyora vaguely remembered the look in those eyes. She remembered the sun shining through the windows, as the two experimented with their magic for the first time. She remembered the light in Ilere’s eyes, as she dodged all of Fyora’s attacks, as Fyora blocked out the sun. She remembered that green light, burning through the darkness.
What she would give to have that back.
“What are you thinking of?” Fyora asked.
Ilere chuckled. “Your face,” she said, “When I first figured out I could tie you down with trees.”
Fyora gritted her teeth, frowning. Inside, she was enjoying the old memory. “I’m glad you’re finding your visit agreeable enough.”
Ilere looked at the throne in front of her. There was a small window behind it, casting a dying, red beam of sun into the room. “You know,” she said, “I never thought I’d see the day.”
Ilere blinked. “The sun never sets in Faerieland.” She said, finally. “And the trees never withered in the fall. There was always something ethereal about this place—I never thought I’d ever see it torn, broken. Vulnerable.”
Fyora opened her mouth. “I--”
Ilere laughed. “It feels good,” she said, “to finally be back home.”
The Faerie Queen stared at her old friend. Then, she grinned. “Ilere,” she said. “My dear.”
Something woke her up late in the evening.
Not that Fyora ever slept. No, she was always busy with something, whether it was a book or a letter to all the leaders in Neopia, or the occasional unwanted visit from the Duchess. But what appeared in her library was much more…preferred.
“Fyora. “ the figure said, its torn green wings glowing in the dark. It was looking out the window. “Have you ever wondered how much power a star must have?”
Fyora stared into the darkness, before finally carefully approaching. She knew there was nobody to protect her, if anything bad were to occur. She had the strangest feeling nothing would. “I don’t think of power anymore,” she said. “Not as much as I used to.”
There seemed to be a light gleaming from Ilere’s eyes, slowly fading after. “That look in your eye,” she said. “When you told me. What was it you said?” she closed her eyes. “Faerieland doesn’t need you here. You’ll only cause more trouble for both of us, if you stay.”
Fyora frowned. “Faerieland needed me.”
Ilere looked at her hands. Glints of tears fell from her eyes. She was laughing. “I didn’t know how far my magic went,” she rested her face in the palm of her hand. “I wanted to know how far it went. I wanted to impress you.”
Fyora remembered the trees. The Fire faeries unsuccessfully burning the vines that trapped them. The Dark faeries suddenly becoming afraid of the darkness, the shadows of leaves that blocked out the sun. It was the first time Fyora ever used the power of light. It was the first time she ever banished anybody.
She would’ve taken it all back. All of it.
“The stars,” Ilere whispered. “They remind me of how you glowed.”
Fyora took another step forward. She sat down by the other faerie, a book on the table. “You know,” she said, “You were wrong.”
Ilere looked to her. “What?”
Fyora smiled. “I think,” she reached out, tucking a strand of Ilere’s hair to her ear. “Purple and green go very well together. I’d be happy to accommodate you once again.”
And Ilere only chuckled.