The Dark Faeries' Plot: Part Two
In the aftermath of her ill-fated visit to Faerieland, Celia developed a new routine.
Every morning, she ate breakfast with her family in their humble Neopia Central abode. Amy would sing, in her silly human way, and Celia and her siblings would roll their eyes and share a giggle. "How embarrassing!" Then after breakfast, as Tommy disappeared into his room to tinker with his creations, and as Sophia chose a good book in which to immerse herself for the morning, Celia would approach her owner.
"Amy, can I have some money to buy the Neopian Times?"
Never one to discourage her Neopets from staying informed about the world, Amy would hand over the Neopoints and Celia would set off down the street to the local shop. She would grab a copy of the latest edition of the Neopian Times, pay the friendly shopkeeper at the counter, and then return home. On the kitchen table she would unfurl and open up the giant broadsheet, and then she’d begin to scour it for clues.
"You know Celia," said her owner Amy, after a few days of this. "You never used to be so interested in the news before. Not until that day in the Faerie City Library."
"Well, it is important to stay informed about what’s happening in the world."
"I know, I know. It’s just that I can’t help but think, you know, that something happened in that library. Something you might want to talk about."
"Yes, it did," Celia agreed. "But I can’t talk about it."
"Can I ask why?"
As Celia went to open her mouth, she found that her jaw was frozen shut. So she just shook her head.
Sophia, too, took an interest in her younger sister’s new hobby. "What do you think about the latest news from Altador? Jerdana made such a speech, didn’t she? Inspiring."
"Sure thing," Celia replied absently.
Sophia narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "You’re not really that interested in the news, are you? What’s going on? You know I’m your big sis, you can tell me anything."
Celia looked up at Sophia, and smiled. "You know I would if I could, big sis. But I can’t."
"You know, just quietly… we’re all starting to get a bit worried about you."
Celia reached out and gave her big sister a warm hug. "When I find a way to tell you, I will."
Tommy, on the other hand, said nothing openly about his concern for his sister. He made it obvious in other ways, however. For example, he suddenly gained a great enthusiasm for showing Celia every little thing that he’d created using supplies and toolkits from the Virtupets Space Station. He showed Celia a Petpet feeder that automatically refilled with food and water when it ran low. He showed her a robot beetle that recorded audio from its surroundings. He showed her a tracking device embedded in a replica 100NP coin.
"Isn’t it not allowed to make fake Neopoint coins?" Celia asked.
"Well… maybe. But what the Defenders of Neopia don’t know, won’t hurt them."
For two weeks, Celia’s daily scouring of the Neopian Times proved fruitless. There was nothing, anywhere, to indicate that anything unusual was going on in Faerieland. On the fifteenth day of her search, though, she saw something interesting.
Queen Fyora apologises for no-show at charity fundraiser, read the headline. Celia read on.
Her Majesty had been expected at a black-tie gala raising funds for much-needed maintenance on Faerieland’s Healing Springs. At late notice, Her Majesty provided notice that she would regretfully be unable to attend, having succumbed to an unfortunate illness and given strict instructions to rest. In her place, she sent her assistant Lyra – itself an unusual choice, given a more conventional substitute might have been someone from the Faerie Governing Council.
Although the photo accompanying the article was small, Celia was able to recognise Lyra without difficulty. She was the short-haired faerie that she had seen in the library.
Carefully, Celia cut the article out of the newspaper and kept it stuck prominently on her bedroom wall even after the rest of the newspaper was thrown into the recycling bin.
The very next day, another article appeared.
This one bore the title Queen Fyora absent for meeting with Faerie Treasury. Celia did not quite understand the finer details of what this meeting was about, but she was able to understand the article’s most important point: that Fyora had missed an extremely important meeting, and in her place another figure from the faerie government had been sent – a long-haired Dark Faerie who looked rather like the one that Celia had seen in the library.
This article was carefully cut out and stuck to Celia’s wall, too.
One day after that, yet another article appeared. This one was not specifically about Fyora, but concerned a reported increase in the number of Angry Tax Beasts seen patrolling the streets of Faerieland. There were concerns that after the previous day’s meeting, the Treasury was trying to bolster their coffers. The article finished with the ominous line: ‘The Neopian Times reached out to Her Majesty Queen Fyora for comment, but had received no reply by deadline.’
This article, too, was carefully removed from the newspaper and stuck to Celia’s wall.
By this point, two and a half weeks had passed, and Celia remembered very well that horrible Dark Faerie’s words: our sources estimate that we have three weeks. She knew that if she had any chance of halting those faeries’ plot in its tracks, she had to act quickly. Luckily, she thought she had worked out how to tell her siblings what was going on.
So she approached her sister, Sophia. "I have something to show you," she said.
The Brown Uni obligingly got out of her chair and followed Celia to her room. Celia gestured to the three articles on the wall. "See this?"
"Yes, Queen Fyora has been sick for a few days," said Sophia. "Hopefully she gets better soon."
Adamantly Celia shook her head. "I can’t tell you how, but I can tell you that I know for a fact that Queen Fyora is not sick."
Sophia laughed. "What do you mean?"
"She’s not sick, something else is happening."
"But…" Sophia’s voice trailed away, before her eyes widened in realisation. "Is this all to do with what happened that day in the library?"
"So, somehow, because of that day at the library, you know for a fact that Queen Fyora isn’t really sick and that something else is happening."
Celia nodded again.
"Let me go get Tommy." Sophia left the room, and a minute later returned with their brother, Tommy.
"This had better be good, I was in the middle of something really intricate," Tommy grumbled.
"Read the articles," Sophia told him, and he did.
"I don’t get it," said Tommy, once he’d finally finished the last of them. "Even the Queen of Faerieland must come down with Neoflu sometimes."
"Celia thinks that’s not all that happened," Sophia explained. "Because of something she saw at the Faerie City Library."
"You mean that day she dragged us all home at four o’clock?"
Celia cleared her throat.
"Look, I’ve been trying to tell you guys for weeks but for some reason I can’t," said Celia. "I know, though, that Queen Fyora isn’t really just sick, and that something bad is happening, and someone has to go there and stop the badness before it becomes even worse badness."
Sophia and Tommy exchanged an uncertain look.
"Celia…" Sophia began, kindly. "Are you sure you haven’t misunderstood anything?"
"Maybe someone was playing a prank you, and Fyora getting sick now is just a coincidence," Tommy suggested.
"I’m telling you, it’s definitely nothing like that."
Sophia and Tommy exchanged another look.
"I guess it’s not unknown for conspirators to meet in libraries," Sophia said uncertainly.
"And," added Tommy, "I suppose there’s no harm in us going to Faerieland and doing a little detective work, even if it turns out that nothing is really happening."
Celia broke out into a hopeful grin as her two older siblings turned back to her.
"Tomorrow, the three of us will go to Faerieland and see what we can find out," Sophia declared. "We’ve got your back, little sis."
That night, Celia struggled to sleep, both nervous about what she might discover in Faerieland and excited at the prospect of being a real-life hero. Even when she did manage to fall into a dreamlike state, she was haunted by dark, shadowy visions – a darkened dungeon corridor lined with cells, each filled with opponents of the Dark Faeries, left to linger. Celia saw herself racing down this corridor because she "knew", somehow, that imprisoned at the end would be Queen Fyora and it was up to her to save her. Pursued by shadowy guards, she ducked and weaved around corners, avoiding their freeze-rays by the width of a single strand of fur. Finally she made it to the end, to Queen Fyora’s prison cell, only to realise that she didn’t have the key and she banged on the door in helpless frustration as the shadowy figures closed in on her from behind. And she heard the hiss of that dark faerie echoing through the corridor: "If you think you can do anything to stop us, think again."
To be continued…