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Balthazar Bait


by grapesourhorse

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"Sophie, are you sure you want to do this?" fretted the worried voice of an unusual Dark Faerie, brow creased with concern.

      Sophie took a deep breath and blew it out slowly, bangs flying, eyes closed. "Yes, Maddie, I told you a dozen times, I'm positive." But she didn't sound so confident.

      Balthazar. Balthazar was as attracted to Faeries as Cybunnies were attracted to carrots; as Lennies were attracted to books; as Unis were attracted to eye shadow.

      It was her new job. The only way Sophie could continue supporting her sister, Maddie, and her elderly mother's hospital fees was to take on an extreme job, possibly the most extreme job that had ever been suggested to the Employment Agency.

      Balthazar Bait.

      Maddie sighed and massaged her temples, smoothed her hair, closed her eyes. "What if something happened to you?" she asked, voice trembling.

      Sophie smiled at her younger sister, and she immediately felt as if she were looking at a mirror that showed one dark faerie and one light faerie-like yin and yang.

      Sophie would have been the yin, the light side. Her body was slim and flexible, like a young willow tree. Her ears were pointed, like all other faeries, and her face was angled, like a Kougras' might be. Her eyes were narrowed and bright gold, like most Light Faeries. Her hair was sleek and smooth, long and dark blonde, like wisps of corn hair. Everything about her was delicate, but she possessed unbelievable courage, wisdom, and strength that totally belied her delicate disposition. She had disposed of a Grarrl with her bare hands before.

      Maddie, Sophie's younger sister, would have been the yang. She was dark, the only faerie with dark skin. Her skin was the color of a copper teakettle, her eyes were deep purple and murky, but it was wise looking-when her face was somber and her eyes narrowed, she looked like a faerie aged beyond belief. Her ears were not at all pointed, and her face was rather like a human's. She was not fat, but she was not exactly slim, either, like the other faeries. She was more of a solid wood pillar, sturdy and strong. This, along with the fact that she was a Dark Faerie, made it hard for her to get a job; therefore, the money was expected from Sophie's hard work.

      Sophie acted like bait for Balthazar, to entertain the audience that thought this was interesting.

      This was the fifth time Sophie had done this successfully, but it hadn't made her any more confident, although this was what she seemed to be.

      "Maddie, don't worry about me!" said Sophie crossly, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "This is the only way we can get money for Mother's cure. I only need to do this one more time-this is the last time, I promise!"

      Maddie's eyes blurred. "Sophie, that's what you said last time!"

      Sophie smiled reassuringly. "That's because the cure prices have inflated."

      "What if they inflate again?" demanded Maddie sharply.

      Sophie's eyebrows met together in a sharp 'v', and she said rather unkindly, "Maddie, don't worry about me, I'm your older sister and I can take care of myself. But," she added, taking on a kinder tone, "you're welcome to watch from the trees. No charge."

      Maddie looked hurt, but she patted her sister on the shoulder and stalked out of the room.

      Sophie sighed and peeked out of the ferns-the 'pot' was nearly full now, bulging with golden coins and money and other small trinkets.

      This was how her job as Balthazar bait was worth it. Rich faeries would gather from Faerieland and watch from the trees. Sophie served as entertainment-as if watching a fellow faerie get bottled was entertainment. But the audience usually took bets-whether the great Lupe would come, whether Sophie would have the courage to show up. And the last five times, she had won the 'pot' of money and trinkets. And that was the only thing that was supporting her hospitalized mother and her unemployed sister.

      She swallowed hard. She had reassured Maddie, but 'she' was the one that needed to be reassured.

      She glanced at the booty and decided it was now or never. Looking down at her belled shoes, she grimaced and then flung herself out of the ferns, forcing a conceited smile at the crowd.

      The crowd exploded with applause and cheered.

      Sophie looked down at the gold and money and forced herself to go on.

      "Balthazar!" she called cheerfully, grinning, her heart thumping wildly. "Come on out!" What if Balthazar really did come after her? The last time she had gotten lucky and the Lupe had never come.

      What if she didn't get lucky this time? What if-

      "FAERIES FOR DINNER!" bellowed a deep voice.

      Sophie shrieked before turning around. She knew whom the voice belonged to, even though she had never heard the voice of Balthazar before…

      "BALTHAZAR!" Sophie shrieked. Of course, she needn't have bothered. The Faeries watching her performance had already scattered through the thick branches of the trees, where the giant Lupe could not reach them.

      'Everyone's safe,' thought Sophie, 'except for me..."

      Then, a shriek changed her world forever. Maddie! She had not joined the audience!

      "Maddie, get out of here!" Sophie screamed. She took off her belled shoe and threw it with all her might at the Lupe's head. "Get away from my sister!" she screamed, wings flapping furiously.

      The tiny slipper caught Balthazar in the ear, and he roared as the slipper lodged into his ear.

      Sophie could hardly believe that her years of taking gormball class were finally paying off.

      "Maddie, get out of here!" bellowed Sophie at the top of her voice.

      Maddie was far away, but Sophie could see her sister's delicate head shaking her head firmly.

      Sophie couldn't believe her eyes. Balthazar was stomping around in a perfect fury, reaching to dislodge the belled slipper from his large ear, but Maddie refused to run!

      Then she saw the problem-a delicate, glowing Air Faerie was stuck in between a large log and a bramble bush. Maddie was desperately pulling at the trapped faerie, but Sophie knew that it was hopeless. Anytime now, Balthazar would pick out that annoying little slipper and lunge forwards-and then both of them would be bottled.

      'You're not getting my sister!' thought Sophie, eyes narrowed, diving towards the great Lupe.

      'You can come and get me, but you're not getting Maddie!' she thought frantically, wings flapping furiously.

      "Balthazar!" Sophie screamed. "Hey! Look over here!"

      The great, shaggy Lupe turned around and grinned evilly. He roared, in a voice cracked and guttered with age: "MORE FAERIES FOR BALTHAZAR!"

      "Maddie, get out of here!" screamed Sophie furiously. Balthazar roared and blundered clumsily after her, bottles hanging off his belt.

      A great Lupe paw rose above her in a magnificent shadow… and then it whistled down upon her with terrifying speed-

      "MADDIE!!!"

      xxx

      When Sophie opened her eyes, she was shocked. Her heart nearly stopped beating-why was everything blue? Not exactly blue-more like a transparent color with a blue tint.

      Then, her heart sank. She knew what had the same color as her new eyesight. A bottle. Balthazar had knocked her out with his gigantic paws, scooped her up, and stuffed her into a bottle, like she might have done with Sophie and the Air Faerie.

      "Maddie?" Sophie whimpered, sagging against the glass.

      "SOPHIE?" answered a shrill and frantic voice.

      Sophie spun around, eyes blazing with hope and nearly collapsed. "Maddie! You're all right!" And then she realized how ridiculous that statement was. They were not all right-they were in bottles, captured by Balthazar.

      "Oh Fyora!" whispered Maddie, pressing the palms of her delicate hands against the barrier between her and her sister.

      "How are we going to get out?" asked Maddie, her voice as strong and steady as ever. Typical Maddie. The brave one.

      "I don't know," responded Sophie dully. "The cap is screwed tight on my bottle. And to think! All the teachers taught me in school was how to let pets gain special abilities like Magic Torch and Bless! Why couldn't they have an ability called 'Unscrew Bottle'?"

      "We need some light," answered Maddie reasonably. "I can't see anything! I can't even see you anymore, Sophie." And it was true-in the short while they had been talking, the sun had dipped beneath the horizon.

      "That's easy," said Sophie, brightening. She raised her arms above her head, and closed her eyes, lips moving soundlessly. Her hair drifted in a breeze that seemed to be only in her bottle.

      "Magic Torch," she whispered. A flair of bright light burst through the bottle, shattering it.

      Sophie stared, eyes wide and mouth open. Maddie was likewise. "I didn't know you could do that!" Maddie exclaimed softly.

      "Neither did I, or I would've used it sooner," said Sophie, eyes as wide as baseballs. "I thought that was a Fire Faerie ability…"

      "Here, step back, Maddie, I'll-"

      Maddie actually scoffed and rolled your eyes before smiling. "Older sister's still taking care of me, hmm?" she asked, eyes glimmering mischievously. "My power has strengthened over time as well, Sophie. Watch."

      A dark, purple fog settled over Maddie's bottle, becoming so dark that it shrouded the Dark Faerie from view. Maddie melted into the darkness, and then, a piercing purple stare burst through the fog, and a deep voice shouted: "Demon Breath!!"

      'Wow,' Sophie thought, with a feeble stab of humor, 'I shatter my bottle with light, and my sister breaks hers open with bad breath.'

      Maddie glanced around carefully. "Sophie, you're glowing," she muttered.

      Sophie looked around herself and swore. "For Fyora's Sake! Now what? I'm like a glowing beacon!"

      She gestured to the door to the room. "When Balthazar walks in, the first thing he'll see is me glowing like a shooting star. Should I get back in the bottle? Should I-"

      "Sister, relax," grinned Maddie nonchalantly. "Nighttime," she mumbled, and then added: "Night Vision!"

      Sophie's vision clicked, and her vision brightened, so she could see everything from the speck of dust on the ground all the way across the room to a brightly lit house almost fifty miles away.

      Maddie opened her great wings, sending a great gust of wind over to Sophie. Sophie opened up her own delicate but functional wings.

      Nothing could go wrong. There was an open window, with comforting stars glittering in the dark, night sky. The door behind them was tightly closed, and Balthazar would not come in to check on his faeries so late at night. They had broken out of their bottles, about to escape, and they were together. So why did it feel wrong?

      Sophie turned her head towards the corner and immediately realized why everything felt so wrong.

      The other Faeries-the faeries that Sophie had been entertaining. If it hadn't been for her Balthazar Bait job, the faeries would never had been captured in the first place. No wonder she felt so guilty; and the little Water Faerie that Maddie had been captured trying to rescue.

      "Sophie, are you coming?" Maddie demanded, preparing to jump out of the windowsill.

      Sophie stared at her sister, her bright golden eyes staring deep into Maddie's dark purple ones. Her sister felt no emotion for leaving the faeries behind?

      "Maddie… don't you feel bad about leaving the other faeries behind?" she whispered softly. Did her sister really, truly not feel anything for the faeries they were forsaking? All faeries were interrelated somehow… they were leaving behind her own family…

      "No, I don't feel anything," Maddie said curiously. "Why do you ask?"

      Sophie felt sick. "Maddie, these are the faeries that were watching me perform as Balthazar Bait! If it weren't for me, they wouldn't have showed up. If it weren't for me, they'd be bottled! And you know that all faeries are related. You know these are your distant family!"

      Maddie's expression turned brusque. "If these stupid faeries had the sense not to watch some sickening form of entertainment, they would not have been bottled. They are my family, but I do not know them. They do not matter. Nothing matters except you, Sophie. You and our mother."

      Sophie glanced back at the forlorn faeries, watching her with a hungry expression. Watching her! Were they listening on their conversation? Listening while one faerie told the other to abandon them?

      Suddenly, a light thumping noise came from outside the door, and Maddie turned to her sister, expression angry and panicky at the same time, "Sophie, it's Balthazar!" she exploded. "We need to get out of here!"

      "But-" Sophie begged.

      "There isn't time!" Maddie bellowed, her expression as dark as a thundercloud. "We need to get out of here!" Already, her vast wings were stretched wide, and she poised herself, ready to jump.

      Sophie glanced back one last time at the forlorn faeries. One Air Faerie-was it the one that Maddie had tried to rescue?-waved her tiny hands on her frantically. Telling her to move on.

      Sophie stretched her wings and dove out the window after her sister. 'I'll be back…' she thought. 'I will.'

The End

Comments and feedback for 'Balthazar Bait' is appreciated! How did you feel about the ending? Your overall impression?

 
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