“Ow!” Queen Fyora exclaimed.
I jumped back, hiding the pointy needle behind my back. This dress fitting was not going so well.
“Are you alright, Your Highness?” I knew that impertinence would not get me far, especially this close to the Faerie Festival. The Queen was always impatient the week before the legendary celebration. Higher ranked Neopians than I had been dismissed during the Month of Gathering.
“You clumsy imbecile, be careful!” she scolded.
However, the Queen smiled as she admired herself in the mirror of the Hidden Tower. I had only been working as a Faerieland dressmaker for a few weeks now, but I knew that she was pleased with the results.
The elaborate lavender gown had alternating layers of glimmering satin and organza. I had asked one of the Light Faeries to bewitch the fabric so that each layer gently levitated above the other, creating the illusion that the dress was fluttering in sync with the Faerie Queen’s wings. The gown’s train was ornate but not impractical, preventing the hem from being caught by the Queen’s staff. Best of all, the gown had hidden compartments for various orbs and scrolls. Ancient Faerie inscriptions were etched into the lining, enchanting the gown with spells that protected the Queen from everything from Hot Borovan stains to the sharpest Shenkuu swords.
“I can make any alterations you require,” I said with a smile. I crouched at Fyora’s train and began shooing away the small wisps of Faerieland clouds that had begun to accumulate at her hem. The magic of Faerieland was constantly attracted to Fyora’s presence.
“It is adequate,” the Queen said. She smoothed her hands over the gown, and then appeared slightly surprised that the gown seemed to smooth itself back as a response. The enchanted fabric ruffled, pleased with itself.
“You simply must wear the dress to the Faerie Festival banquet,” chirped one of her Peophian servants. Another lady-in-waiting agreed.
“Perhaps,” announced the Queen.
My heart raced. It would be incredible for my career if Queen Fyora publicly wore one of my gowns at the Faerie Festival. All of the latest influencers in Faerieland would be there. Every Faerie would be vying for one of my creations — and most importantly, would pay top neopoint.
It had only been a few months since that fateful Laboratory Ray zap… but it felt like years. I had gone from an innocent Yellow Shoyru to an unfortunate Grey Kacheek. While my owner had squealed in delight at my rare colour, I knew that my dressmaking career would never be the same. No one wants to buy a gown from a Neopet with a permanent rain cloud over them… what if they appear gloomy by association? What if the rain dripped on their dress?
If I saved up just a few more neopoints, I could finally afford that Faerie Paint Brush! I would not cringe every time I glanced at my hand mirror. Perhaps I would feel confident enough to wear anything other than the plain brown dress I had fashioned out of a spare Ultra Fashionable Potato Sack.
“You look ravishing!” I gushed to Fyora. As I stared at her lovely purple wings and imagined myself painted Faerie, I knew that I was telling the truth.
I frantically bounced around my sewing room, jumping from loom to loom. I wrung my hands in despair.
It was only a few hours until the Faerie Festival Banquet. To my delight, Queen Fyora had commissioned my gown and had hinted that she would purchase a few more, in not so few words. I could practically envision the Faerie Paint Brush in my hands.
But disaster struck. When trying to embroider one of the ribbons, I had accidentally torn the bodice of the gown and set off one of the hidden orbs. A small hole was now smouldering in the back of the fabric.
I would have burst into tears if I wasn’t painted Grey and already constantly teary-eyed.
“What do I do?” I wailed.
I began frantically pacing across the cobblestone floors. I tried to send a neomail to my owner, but she was off vacationing on Kiko Island. I knew that the right thing to do was to call one of the Light Faeries or Fyora’s ladies-in-waiting for help. But I couldn’t bear the thought of admitting my failure and tarnishing my name with the Faeries. I may have ruined the gown, but that didn’t mean I had to ruin my career with it.
“I have the answer,” whispered a mysterious voice.
I spun around. “Who’s there?”
A Dark Faerie emerged from behind a shelf of rolled fabrics. Her purple eyes glowed as she smiled at me. Even with her horribly sharp wings and dark garb, she was cruelly beautiful. Unable to help myself, I was painfully reminded of my Faerie dreams that were now dashed to the ground.
I trembled as she lazily waved a hand over the lavender gown. Instantly, the bodice stopped fuming. The fabric rustled softly before repairing itself.
“Oh, thank you,” I sighed in relief.
The Dark Faerie outstretched a purple gloved hand. “Hide this orb in one of the folds of the gown. Do not be surprised if the Faerie Queen’s spells mysteriously wither at the banquet.”
“Don’t worry, it’s only temporary,” the Dark Faerie grinned, her sharp teeth gleaming. The words rang false to my ears as she continued, “I would do it myself but Fyora’s magic precautions are too strong. Only a Neopet can smuggle the orb in her presence.”
“I couldn’t hurt the Faerie Queen,” I said.
“Why not? It isn’t fair that only a select few are allowed to be Faeries. Was it truly your choice to be Grey?” the Dark Faerie asked.
“No!” I said. “But that isn’t Queen Fyora’s fault.”
“Isn’t it? Who sets the prices in the Hidden Tower? Who hides the secrets of Faerie lore? How is it fair for only a few select Neopians to be invited to the banquet, while the rest dine on Omelette?”
I fought the urge to glance at my own Half-Eaten Omelette waiting on my table.
She continued, “Fyora would lose all of her self-importance if all Neopets could be painted Faerie.”
I couldn’t think of an answer to that. It did seem unfair that I was cursed to be Yellow, then later zapped to Grey. If Fyora was so all-powerful, why could she not provide all Neopets with the chance to wear wings?
“Think about it.” the Dark Faerie hissed as she thrust the simmering orb into my hands and promptly vanished.
I was not proud of myself but I did it. With shaking hands, I had stuffed the orb into one of the imperceptible folds of the train. The Dark Faerie said that the effects were only temporary, right? I shoved away any remnants of my moral conscience, hoping that my owner would never find out.
Before long, it was almost time for Fyora’s grand entrance at the Faerie Festival. I was in one of the corridors with the ladies-in-waiting, nervously pacing in a circle. Fyora was due for one last check-over of her cosmetics and gown before ascending down the famed velvet steps.
“Stop!” I suddenly cried.
The Queen glared at me, clearly shocked that anyone would dare raise their voice in her presence.
“Whatever is the matter with you?” she demanded.
“You can’t wear that dress — you need to —” I could barely get the words out.
To my surprise, the Peophin ladies-in-waiting started to clap. Fyora’s expression softened immediately.
One of the Peophins squealed, “You passed the test!”
I stared, agape.
The Dark Faerie suddenly materialized once more. Wisps of grey smoke curled around her as she flung her arms around a Peophin’s shoulders.
She giggled, “Before anyone joins Fyora’s Royal Legion, they must pass a test of loyalty. We can’t have any Dark magic sneaking its way through a power-hungry Neopet.”
With a snap of Queen Fyora’s fingers, the Dark Faerie morphed into another Faerie Peophin. She giggled once more and joined her fellow ladies-in-waiting.
I laughed nervously. “So I’m in?”
“Indeed!” Queen Fyora smiled. “Your gowns are impeccable and we would be grateful to employ your dressmaking services. As a thank you from the Royal Crown, we shall paint you Faerie whenever you desire.”
Finally, a happy ending! I stammered my thanks and enjoyed the rest of the Faerie festivities. I devoured Faerie Festival Cake and took my turn spinning the Wheel of Excitement. I joked with the other ladies-in-waiting and to my delight, they welcomed me into their group. I was one of them now.
Of course, I did not speak what was truly on my mind. When I had called to stop Queen Fyora from wearing the dress, I had only meant to call attention to a small snag in the hem. I had no intention in removing the supposedly dark orb from her gown.
The Dark Faerie had spoken the truth, even if she was an unwitting Peophin who was merely playing a role. It was sordidly unfair that only a few Neopians could enjoy the gifts of Faerieland to their fullest. My few months as a Grey Kacheek had revealed the unjustness of Neopia, how your customization could dictate how others treated you.
However, now as Fyora’s Royal Dressmaker, I would have the opportunity to make things right…. this time, perhaps with a true Dark Faerie…
The End (for now).