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Jolla and the Magic of the Dream Fortress


by miraday

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     The faerie’s footsteps reverberated off the gleaming stone tile. The interior sprawled like a grand hall, neutral greys dominating the polished floors and high-vaulted ceiling. Specks of tinted rainbow light flashed through the stained-glass windows, the passing clouds that were close enough to touch caused the light to dance. As she floated, following behind the faerie’s footsteps, Jolla the Dimensional Peophin took in her new assignment. The sorceress thought to herself, “So this is the inside of the Dream Fortress…”

     The air faerie leading her through the inside of the fortress was Phanta, who was universally recognized as the Dream Faerie. The title was unofficially conferred upon her by the denizens of Neopia and stuck; Phanta did operate the Dream Fortress, after all. From the outside, the fortress looked like a white castle resting on a cumulus cloud. Jolla’s closer inspection upon her arrival revealed that the fortress was in fact made entirely of clouds bound together by air magic. After the fall of Faerieland, such floating structures were incredibly rare and often served a greater purpose. Soft cirrus formations followed in its tailwind as the fortress traversed across the high skies of Neopia, collecting Neopets’ dreams and redistributing their magic throughout the planet in a process few understand.

     Phanta was selective in her visitors to the Dream Fortress and designed the place to be physically inaccessible without her consent. Flying Neopets simply could not reach the fortress and other Faeries experienced the utmost difficulty navigating through its swift airstream. Jolla’s invitation to become the temporary sorceress of the structure indicated that something was befuddling the fortress. Jolla knew this implication, too, yet what exactly the problem was remained unclear.

     “Here is the Dream Crucible,” Phanta’s wispy voice trailed off as she gestured to a large porcelain vessel in the middle of the hall attached to the ground by gold beams that resembled an egg in a nest. The vessel was the size of a small home and oblong-shaped, with gold flecks scattered throughout its pure white colouring. As Jolla admired the artifact, Phanta continued, “This is where the dreams are collected every night. As the fortress flies over sleeping Neopets, the spell I have casted over this place guides their dreams skyward and through a channel beneath the cloud we’re situated on. The crucible glows a sky-blue once the dreams are aggregated together in the crucible. Then they are converted into air magic and transported here…”

     Phanta walked around the circular crucible as Jolla continued to follow. Two cables made of pure white stone extended from the back of the vessel and rose through the top of the hall. The Dream Faerie concluded, “Once the dreams are converted to air magic, the magic is transported into the fortress turrets and released back into the atmosphere.”

     “What does this magic do, exactly?” Jolla asked timidly. As a young but established sorceress, she felt silly asking what may have been an apparent question.

     Phanta pondered for a moment and then smiled. She responded, “Why—I haven’t even told you what the purpose of this fortress is! I’m sorry, I kind of forgot…” her voice trailed off again as she stifled a yawn. This was the first moment that Jolla noticed that the faerie’s youthful features were marked by tiredness—dark circles flanked her sleepy eyes. “Long ago, dreams weren’t commonplace. Neopia used to be ravaged by conflict and Neopets had trouble soundly sleeping let alone dreaming. Sleep is imperative for our well-being, and dreams are a sign of good-sleep; they’re also a source of innovation, ideals and collective hopes. Without dreams, we’d revert back to darker times… So I took it upon myself to harness the magic of these dreams and convert them into a spell that would encourage deep-sleep and more dreams to come.”

     Jolla marvelled Phanta’s design, quipping, “So it’s a cyclical spell—you use the magical byproducts of dreams to fuel a spell to encourage more dreams—and repeat this process every night?”

     Phanta assuredly grinned, “Exactly. The dreams remain intact and provide the ideals and hopes and aspirations on Neopia, and I safeguard their existence by encouraging their production. That’s why I called my castle a fortress, because I defend both dreams and dreaming. You see, dreams are somewhat taken for granted in Neopia. A lot of Neopets don’t recognize the effort that goes into their protection—and that’s okay! I don’t mind doing a thankless job since it’s for the greater good.”

     Jolla placed a hoof on the crucible, her navy Dimensional glow reflecting back at her. She looked back at Phanta and politely asked, “With all respect, Phanta, do you mind me asking why I’ve been summoned as a sorceress here?”

     The Dream Faerie sighed and looked towards one of the stained-glass windows. The sunlight dancing through greyed as the fortress seemingly travelled into a patch of rain clouds. “There’s been a problem lately. The crucible hasn’t been producing as much magic lately. Since it’s cyclical, I’m not sure if the problem is with the incoming dreams or with the magical output. Every time I’ve personally observed the crucible, it seems to work as normal and I can’t figure out what the underlying issue is. I’ve requested your presence specifically because I needed a perspective that is well-versed in air magic. So who could help me better than Jolla, Sorceress of the Seven Skies?”

     “I’m honoured to be of assistance, and I’ll do my best to help,” Jolla respectfully answered.

     “Plus, it’s always nice to have other insights when trying to solve problems. It’s only me with my Babith helpers up here…” Phanta mentioned as she gestured to the small clouds puttering around the hall, which Jolla realized in that moment were actually Cloud-painted Babiths blending into the fortress. “And they’re not as useful when it comes to magical properties,” she said with a laugh.

      Upon hearing their acknowledgment, the Cloud Babiths approached and sniffed Jolla, squeaking among themselves excitedly. The cloud coverage outside the fortress passed, revealing a spectacular array of sunset colours. Phanta again looked outside the window behind the crucible as she scratched one Babith’s mane. “It looks like evening is approaching. Now would be a good time to familiarize yourself with the crucible on your own as the dreams start being collected. Would you be okay with taking the first shift tonight observing it? I haven’t been sleeping a lot and could use a full night’s rest now that you’re here. And you’ll have these Babiths to keep you company!” She stifled another yawn.

     “Of course, Phanta. It may take a little bit of time for me to fully understand how this artifact works, but the best way is through observation and practice. Goodnight!”

     “Thank you, Jolla. The Babiths can show you to your room once the crucible is done collecting dreams in the early morning. Goodnight.” The Dream Faerie quietly floated her way down the hall and turned down the corridor that took her out of sight, leaving Jolla alone in the hall full of anticipation.

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     When the sunset turned to starlit skies, Jolla observed the Dream Crucible in action. In the hall, the vessel glowed light blue more intensely as the night went on. Based on her familiar knowledge of magical crucibles, Jolla thought everything seemed to be working fine: the vessel was filling with dream magic that fluctuated as they flew directly over Neopian cities with sleeping denizens and the gold cables could be heard audibly transferring the magic skyward and up to the turrets.

     “What could be the problem then?” Jolla thought to herself. “Everything seems to be operating smoothly and…”

     Jolla’s thought was eclipsed by a sudden change in the glow. The light blue aura faded grey within seconds and was overtaken by a sickly shade of crimson. The mere sight of the hall’s polished insides turning into an inauspicious crimson chamber made her feel like she was in the belly of a beast. The sound of magic flowing through the cables sputtered and was replaced by muffled whispers.

     “Is this dark magic flowing through the fortress?” Jolla considered. She felt uneasy and the Babiths must have, too. A group of Babiths scampered from somewhere inside the corridor Phanta disappeared into and congregated by Jolla’s side. One even was grabbing at her cloak, visibly distressed.

     “I’m sorry, little one, I know you’re afraid but I’ve got to observe this crucible. If it helps, know that it gives me an ominous feeling, too.”

     The Babiths stayed out in the hall with Jolla throughout the night. The vessel pulsed with dark magic through the early morning and only let up as the vessel itself powered down for the day.

     “The Neopets below must be waking up and I—“ Jolla yawned, “—I need some rest myself.” The same Babith that pulled on her cloak earlier squeaked at her and pointed towards the corridor adjacent to the one Phanta disappeared into. The Babith led Jolla to her bedroom and Jolla was asleep before her head hit the pillow. Throughout the night, she fended off the preoccupying, bad dreams about the crucible and its source of strife.

     To be Continued...

 
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