Meow Circulation: 126,511,783 Issue: 256 | 8th day of Gathering, Y8
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A Light in the Darkness

by dubble_trubble


"Here we are! You're going to love it here! I'll let you do anything you want. I promise." Blair rambled on and on, oblivious to the Eyrie's surly and cynical mood as he stalked by her side.

      "Here I am," he thought, "with the most clueless airhead ever to walk Neopia."

      "You're just so beautiful!" Blair exclaimed, casting a look of admiration to her Neopet. And indeed he was. His golden feathers shimmered and sparkled in the late afternoon light, and his pelt glowed like the sun was shining beneath his fur. As Blair swung open the door and flipped the lights in her small brown Neohome, the yellow Eyrie, Tepler, glanced up at his new owner with annoyance.

      Tepler had been dropped off at the pound after he was found rummaging through garbage cans behind Hubert's Hot Dogs. Though very young, he learned how to live on the streets quickly and adopted a haughty, indifferent outlook on the world. He spent weeks in the pound, skulking in the shadows and snapping at anyone who tried to talk to him. Blair, who walked in that morning looking as sad as the pets themselves, felt so sorry for him that she gladly paid his adoption fee and walked him home, mind set on changing his heart.

      "Now, Tepler, if there's anything you need, please let me get it for you. Are you hungry, or thirsty maybe? I could make some sandwiches or something, and we can have a little picnic together."

      Tepler snorted. "No, I'm not hungry. Do I have a room, or do I have to sleep on the floor? And am I the only pet here?"

      Blair blanched a little but quickly gave a small smile and said faintly, "Oh... yeah, you're the only one. It's right over here--follow me. But it's not really ready yet; I'm sorry for the mess..."

      "It's fine," he snapped, and closed the door.

      He didn't come out for awhile. He sat on the bed, brooding over his situation and musing on how to escape. "It would be nice if she could clean up this place before I came," he grumbled, hopping off the bed and maneuvering around the piles of clothes and toys haphazardly flung around the room. It was a cramped room, painted sky blue, and strung with hanging stars and galaxies. "What does she think I am, a Baby Xweetok?" he muttered. "I hate this place already."

      After a few hours of doing nothing, his stomach started to rumble so he swung open the door and sauntered off to find the kitchen.


      Blair stood humming in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and dropping them into a pot for the night's supper. "Hey there, Tepler," she said, but the Eyrie frowned arrogantly.

      "I'm hungry," he spat, and slouched down on a barstool to glare at her.

      "Well, I was thinking that maybe we could make something together. Just you and me."

      "Why? I don't really care if you bought me at the pound. That doesn't make you own me! You can't tell me to do anything."

      "But, Tepler, I thought that you'd-"

      "That's another thing! It doesn't look like you ever think anyway! I don't know why you got me in the first place."

      "But aren't you glad that you're out of the pou-"

      Tepler couldn't stop himself. "You weren't even ready for me, and you're poor! I'll be miserable forever!"

      Blair blinked away tears. "No, Tepler, I really-"

      "Shut up!" He pounded his fists on the counter.

      Blair menacingly pointed her wooden spoon at him, quaking with anger and astonishment. "Don't you tell me to shut up!"

      "I'll do what I WANT!!!" He suddenly exploded with unexplained rage and lunged for her. Blair screamed and, in her terror, hurled the pot of steaming vegetables at his face. He shrieked as the pot slammed into his head, hot water scalded his body, rushed into his eyes, blinding him... he heard Blair as she sobbed hysterically and ran out the door into the darkness. Tepler sat there on the kitchen floor, stunned from pain and shaking uncontrollably from what he had done.

      He couldn't believe how quickly the somewhat peaceful evening turned nasty. He massaged his burning face and beak, still blistering from the water now sliding and hissing across the floor. Hot vegetable pieces stuck to his mane and feathers, but he did not care. "I have to get out of here," he moaned. He didn't know what to do next... Blair just didn't get it. And now she threw boiling water all over him? He had to leave now, before she did something worse. Hauling himself to his feet, he hobbled to the door, but remembered he needed Neopoints to have any chance at a new life.

      He found Blair's room and turned on the lights; it was past sunset and the room was dark and quiet. "Where will I look first?" he asked himself. Still feeling the sting of the hot water, he turned to a stack of drawers and opened the top drawer. Inside was a faded pink Diary book. He threw out all the other junk on the floor, but when the Diary hit the ground, it opened by itself and lay there, as if beckoning him to come and read. Out of contempt for Blair and to simply satisfy his curiosity, he began angrily scanning the pages. Sentences upon sentences chronicled Blair spending time with someone named Beldus. Her affections seemed to spill out of the page as she described all the fun the pair shared together:

     Today Beldus and I went on a picnic. He had so much fun! The simplest things made him the happiest little Kacheek around--Mallards splashing in the pond, stepping in the squishy algae in the water, even the trees made his eyes sparkle when he tried to climb them with his little pudgy paws. He brought me a present today too--a Bottle Of Love! He came up to me and said, "Mama, look! I saved all my money just for you!" I felt so touched...

     Tepler smirked and turned some more pages. Was there anything at all in here?

     This afternoon Beldus went missing. After lunch he went outside, and I thought he would return in a few minutes, but he didn't. I looked for him everywhere, but I couldn't find him. I'm so worried! He said he was going out to play... I called the Chia Police, but they said they couldn't do anything till morning when it's light out. I don't know where to start looking...

     Finally finding something worth reading, he continued on...

     It's been eight days now. I'm so sad. Oh Diary, if you only knew. The Police say he was either stolen or lost, and to expect the worst. How dare they tell me that! I will keep looking, as long as it takes, to bring my Beldus home...

     ...After a month of searching, we've come up empty-handed. They told me to "accept the inevitable," that he's never coming back. They stopped the search parties as well, so I'm left on my own to find him. Maybe I should just give up...

     "She wrote this yesterday," he noticed. He put the book down, thinking of what he had read. He looked through the drawers, more slowly this time, ruminating... Finding nothing more, he sauntered off to his room and began looking for hidden money.

      "So this must be Beldus's room," he told himself. He got down on all fours and peered underneath the bed-there was a dim glow emanating from beneath a pile of old newspapers. He pulled it out and to his surprise he found a bottled Light Faerie in his claws. With a tiny little voice, she immediately started yelling at him: "Tepler! You listen to me right now! I know all about you--I heard you talking to yourself today, and I think you are rotten down to the core, and stupid as a Bucket of Sludge! Blair is so nice to you, and you treat her like dirt! The only way for you to be reconciled, as I see it, is to find poor little Beldus and hope to the clouds she'll forgive you after what you've done!"

      Tepler shook his head at the ferocity of the little Faerie's temper. "Me?... rescue someone?"

      "Yes! You're the only one left who can possibly save Beldus!"

      "No. I can't..."

      "Don't give me this! Get up NOW!"

      Tepler jumped to his feet, grumbling, "All right, all right! But I have no experience. I've never gone to Training School! What do I do?"

      "Don't worry about that. Let me out of this bottle!" A little apprehensive, Tepler complied, and once she was out, waved her tiny hands and said, "Eyrie, I give you the Ability of Sun Ray. You will know when to use this. Now go and save your brother--he loves to go exploring in the woods behind the house."

      He held up his paws defensively. "Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down. Why are you under the bed? What is this about Sun Ray? My brother?"

      She blew a huge, overly dramatic sigh. "Too many questions! Beldus, your brother, found me and put me under here one fine day to save for Blair's birthday. Sun Ray is an ability--don't you know anything? You smell like soup, by the way. Now Beldus went off into the Woods, for the second time. Do you want me to say everything over again, a bit slower, perhaps?"

      Tepler asked incredulously, "Why didn't you tell this to Blair?"

      "Because no one bothers to look under a bed for a light Faerie's sage bits of wisdom! Now go, or you'd better get your fanny as far away from here in ten seconds, because I'll come after you!"

      "No, no, I'm going! See?" He hopped up and made for the door. The Faerie flew out the window with a burst of bright light, but not before pointing to her eyes and then at him. Tepler took the hint and, a little speechless at the Faerie's fiery disposition, walked out of the room and padded out the back door.

      "I can do this," he tried to persuade himself. It was nightfall and utterly dark, with a slight breeze ruffling his mane. High above his head, the eerie treetops waved and hissed as if daring him to enter. He gulped and pushed off the ground, and as he beat his great wings he was soon skimming the treetops and dubiously calling Beldus's name.

      The only light came from the glowing moon and infinite stars speckling the sky. He flew on in the cloudless night, wondering how he could find anything at all in such darkness below. Though the branches were illuminated by the dazzling moon, he had no idea what Beldus looked like. Then he remembered the Faerie.

      "Uh... SUN RAY!" he bellowed. A blinding light exploded from all around him. "Ahhh!" He was so shocked he crashed into some treetops. He struggled to stay airborne but his wings kept hitting the branches and he couldn't gain altitude. With a crash, he barreled through some trees, flew through empty space, and made a crash landing on the soft grass of a clearing. "What are the odds," he breathed. He was actually alive!

      A muffled noise made him whip around in surprise. There, propped up against the tree, bawling his eyes out, and barely discernible beneath the shadows, sat a Starry Kacheek! Tepler was relieved and proud of himself at the same time. He couldn't believe his good fortune! He jogged over by the Kacheek's side. The little pet had yet to notice him.

      "You don't look so good, Beldus."

      The Kacheek sniffed and looked up at him, wide-eyed. "You k-know who I am?"

      "Well, duh. Do you think I'm cruising over dark, evil forests at midnight just for kicks?"

      Beldus rubbed his eyes. "No."

      "Alright, stop your whining. I came to rescue you, not stand here and listen to you blubber. I found you completely by accident too, so don't make me out as a hero or anything." Beldus heaved himself up and pulled himself up onto Tepler's back. "Ow! Try ripping out all my feathers next time," he growled.

      "I'm hungry," the Starry pet said simply.

      "What do you want me to do, honestly?" Tepler said, as he took off again, not waiting for an answer.

      "You have a carrot in your feathers!" yelled the tiny passenger. "Can I eat it?"

      "Knock yourself out," Tepler yelled back.

      Tepler hurt all over--his muscles ached, his skin tingled from the burns, his head pounded from the gigantic pot, and the bubbly Kacheek asking endless questions didn't exactly put him in high spirits. The Sun Ray had faded and he was back again in the dark, but he didn't really want to repeat his painful crash like last time.

      A while later, after finally finding his way home, the pair touched down in Blair's front lawn. A scream met them at the front door--Blair had come back, fretting over Tepler. "Beldus! My Beldus!" she cried, running out to them.

      "Mama!" Beldus leapt off and landed flat on his face, but jumped up again and ran as fast as he could into Blair's arms.

      "Oh, my sweet little baby! I've missed you so much!" They were both crying uncontrollably, right there on the lawn. Tepler smiled, a little embarrassed standing there alone in the dark. Blair looked over to him with her streaming eyes and got up slowly. Wiping away her tears of joy, she knelt by him at his eye level.

      "Tepler... thank you..." Unable to say anything more, she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight. For the first time in his life, he felt someone truly love him. His mind raced back to all that Blair did for him that day, and it dawned on him how selfish he had been. His mind went just as fast to Beldus, and how rescuing him had brought him and Blair such happiness. He closed his eyes and whispered, "I love you, Blair."

      Blair got up, wiping away tears (though it didn't seem to help), and said, "Come on, you two, let's go inside and have some hot cocoa."

      More than one life changed that night. And for Tepler, things were finally starting to look a little bit brighter.

The End

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