The Other Jobs
Being poor was never easy under any circumstances, but Neopia was kind to its pets. A helping hand was always there so long as you looked for it. The Soup Faerie doling out endless batches of meals for whoever turned up on her doorstep. The Money Tree giving away food and clothing all day every day, so long as you were quick enough. Heck, a few rounds of Fashion Fever could buy you a stay in Cockroach Towers for a week.
Perhaps while you were there, sitting on your dingy hotel mattress and reading a faded copy of the Neopian Times, help would come from another, more powerful source.
A faerie. With the ability to grant boons and handsome rewards, it could be just the kickstart your life needed to steer you on a path to riches.
Unless, of course, you were another faerie.
Fyora set the rules and what Fyora said, goes. Faeries couldn’t use magic to help one another; it must only be given to the less fortunate, so that one could not become more powerful than the rest. She had said this with a lingering look at Jhudora’s Cloud, hovering off in the distance like a thunderhead. So magic was for pets only. That was fine.
For Baelia, it wasn’t fine.
Her sisters used their magic for everything. Needed a new dress for Tuesday brunch in Faerie City? Transfigure your wardrobe into something new and rock the latest fashions from as far away as Maraqua. Hungry? A click of the fingers and the most divine faerie food would appear. Had a nasty bruise from an accidental collision with another faerie, mid-flight? That was easy enough to fix.
(not that the fey would ever do such a thing – they were far too divine and elegant to even twist an ankle).
If you were Baelia, you also had nowhere to live. If you had magic, you could terraform a cave in the woods to somehow have a source of electricity and brighten the place up with a few cute lamps, maybe some throw pillows or two. No one would ever dare say no and that hey, this was their land, thank you very much, so you’d just pick your spot and off you’d go.
Baelia had resorted to moving every so often, preferring to keep out of sight. She’d been saving, steadily, but homes were expensive and travel even more so. She’d been narrowing down her options for a long time, but something would always wind up getting in the way. Her dress would rip and she’d be forced to buy a new one. Her food supply always seemed to run out too quickly, not to mention the bottled water, and if she came down with an unfortunate case of Ugga Ugga after a dodgy omelette, that was her having to waste a big chunk of change on the cure.
Life without magic was cold. Life without magic meant eating leftover jelly for dinner while sheltering in a rotted-out tree because that was where you had to live for the next month. Every coin that she made was squirrelled away into her bank account and saved for daydreams. Baelia wanted a soft blue bed, as blue as the sky at dusk, and a handsome desk to sit at and draw whenever she pleased.
She was no stranger to hard work, and with that came sacrifice, that Baelia knew well. She wasn’t about to join the criminal underworld of thieves and bandits – no, she valued her conscience too much for that. How on earth was she supposed to take from those who had so little already? Besides, if you tried stealing from the rich, a hefty punishment awaited you.
Baelia had no one to rely on but herself, and she knew it. Which was why it had come to this.
She made her trips to the Virtupets Space Station in the middle of the night – not that you could usually tell, all the way up here. She’d never been a fan of this place. The green lights gave everything a sickly glow, casting eerie shadows over the Grundo’s faces as they scuttled back and forth. The only good thing about coming here in the dead of night was that it tended to be deserted, with only the most dedicated of Gormball players up and about. They were the hardcore players, anyway, so they paid no attention as Baelia crept past. She kept her head down and her hood up, knowing her antennae were distinctive enough for someone to recognise her. She’d made that mistake before. She was meeting her usual contact in the usual spot, the metal, dented desk no different than the one marking the entrance to Spell or Starve or Evil Fuzzles from Beyond the Stars. She always avoided looking at that one; those things gave her the creeps. The one she was after was right at the back, tucked into a corner. A pretty popular game, though she would never be sure why. To her, there was no appeal whatsoever.
She timidly approached the purple Grundo behind the desk. Said Grundo didn’t even look remotely bothered, flicking their way through a magazine and paying no attention to their surroundings.
‘Um, excuse me,’ Baelia said, drawing back her hood. ‘Is – ‘
‘Game’s running right now, you’ll have to give it ten minutes.’
‘No, I – I’m here to see Galaxa. Could you fetch her for me, please?’
‘Just tell her it’s Baelia, she’ll be expecting me.’
The admin Grundo finally looked up, looking at her with suspicious orange eyes.
‘Okay. Just wait here.’
They shuffled off into a side room, and it wasn’t long before they returned with another Grundo in tow. This one was beautiful, her skin a blue veering close to midnight and glittering wings that Baelia could never stop staring at. Her boss was, ironically, a faerie Grundo. Much like most of her sisters, Galaxa seemed totally at ease up here in the vast void of space.
‘Ah, I was hoping you’d stop by,’ she said, with a friendly smile. ‘I hope you’ve got a shipment for us – we’ve been so busy, as of late.’
‘Yes – quite a bit of a backlog, actually,’ Baelia said sadly. ‘The Pound is doing more renovations so they can’t afford to pay me. I’d give them away for nothing, but I have to eat – ‘
‘I understand,’ Galaxa said. ‘We all do. You’ve got an invoice for us?’
‘Right here.’ Baelia drew the crumpled sheet of paper from her pocket. ‘Ten Slorgs, fifteen Kookiths, thirty Hasees – I had to round them up from the doughnutfruit groves down in Mystery Island, they were ruining the harvest – and ten Warfs.’
‘Excellent. What time can I expect the shipment through?’
‘I can do six am NST,’ Baelia said, after a moment to think. ‘Is that enough time, before everything starts up for the day?’
‘Make it five thirty, give us a bit more time. Here’s your payment – fifty thousand, as agreed.’
‘Thank you, Galaxa. Really.’ She stuffed the coin pouch inside her cloak. After the drop off later, she would go and deposit it at the bank in Neopia Central. ‘I’ll see you in a few hours.’
Baelia turned to go, determined to keep her face from wavering. This was what she had to do. She had been blessed with no magic, but she had been given brains. All she could do was make do with what she had, and Baelia was nothing if not stubborn.
She’d get her happy ending, one way or another.
The neon sign about her head flashed as she passed underneath it, shouting its name to anyone who would listen to come and give their game a go: