Reporting live from Neopia Circulation: 142,067,714 Issue: 297 | 22nd day of Relaxing, Y9
Home | Archives Articles | Editorial | Short Stories | Comics | New Series | Continued Series
 

Two Days with Taelia


by fearthejuliet

--------

Netta had no idea what to do.

     Snow plunged downward in thick white ropes. The Terror Mountain cold was bitter and all-consuming. And Netta had no idea what to do.

     The thought struck the pink Aisha with terrifying force. Here she was--lost, cold, alone, running out of food and cloaked only in a thin jacket. How could she have been so stupid? Why had she undertaken this outing? What was she trying to prove? Scrabbling in the snow for her lost compass, she found herself biting back sobs. It was hopeless. Hopeless. No sane person lived up here, let alone ventured as far as she had. She was going to be left there to freeze, lost forever on the icy plains. A sob escaped her throat, and she found herself huddled in the snow, crying openly. It was completely, utterly, totally hopeless.

     Almost in spite of herself, Netta wailed, "Please, someone! Help! Someone help me!" Over and over she cried out, and over and over she went unanswered.

     Until a voice, nearly lost in the roar of the storm, answered back.

     "Hello?"

     Netta's head snapped up. Was she dreaming?

     "Is someone there? Hello!"

     The Aisha found herself answering, if only in disbelief, "I'm here! Help me!"

     Silence. So she had been dreaming--

     "I hear you! Keep calling!"

     Netta blanched. Was someone out there? Was someone truly out there? Half-believing it a hallucination, but figuring it couldn't hurt, she continued to call out. The voice grew stronger, louder, and was clearly coming closer. It sounded feminine, and had a sweet, almost ethereal tone to it...

     "Where are y--I see you! Hang on!"

     Netta could barely make out the figure that drew close to her, shouting to be heard above the blizzard. Exhausted from anxiety, cold and fatigue, she watched as the scene before her grew blurry... until she passed out, flopping backward into the snow.

     But first, she saw the wings.

     ***

     Netta's eyes opened slowly. She felt deliciously warm, and could tell she lay on a luxurious bed. She yawned, stretched, but made no move to get up--reveling in the warmth was all she needed to do just then.

     Suddenly, a voice spoke. "How are you feeling?"

     At that, Netta snapped upward. Last night's excursion suddenly flashed back into her head: the snow, the cold, the mysterious rescuer, all of it somehow connected to where she was now. Trepidation flared within her--who was this creature? What sort of person lived on harsh, unforgivable Terror Mountain? Ready for a fight, the Aisha spun around to face the enigmatic voice--

     And found herself looking into the eyes of the Snow Faerie.

     Netta's jaw dropped. The Snow Faerie. Taelia. Unfathomable mistress of the frozen wastelands. And she was right there in front of her, carrying a tray laden with scrumptious-looking treats and inquiring about her health. She looked exactly like Netta expected--azure eyes, pearly skin and ink-dark hair. The jewel on her forehead glimmered in the firelight, and Netta realized her cloak was off. She wore a long, blue dress trimmed with fur at the top, and her wings--her wings--spread behind her, full and feathery.

     Taelia smiled a little wider, and Netta realized how long she had been silent. "Oh, sorry! I just... thank you--"

     She took the tray. The smell of hot chocolate wafted before her, and she caught something unusual on it--something almost spicy. She looked up at the faerie, and found herself unable to say anything profound or worthy. Instead, she asked, "What's in this?"

     Taking up the tray, Taelia smiled. "A dash of Cocoa Juppie powder--I've found it adds a tang that warms me up a bit more. Useful out here, of course." At that, her brow furrowed slightly. "For that matter, what were you doing out here?"

     Netta swallowed. "I... It's stupid." Actually, the reason didn't make sense, even to her, but she knew it would certainly sound stupid if she said it aloud.

     The edges of Taelia's mouth turned down slightly, but she left the issue alone. "Well, I've some experience with caring for wintry complaints, and I'd recommend you stay with me, for... oh, two days. You're very welcome here, and I'll take you back home once you feel better. How does that sound?"

     Netta found herself nodding. Staying with the Snow Faerie for two whole days?! She felt simultaneously excited and terrified. What would she do? She'd look so simple and dumb in front of Taelia, and she just knew she'd screw it up somehow...

     Taelia, however, knew nothing of this mental battle, and so she smiled at the Aisha graciously. "Wonderful. Although you can't tell, it's morning, and I have some things to do... I think there are some dry clothes in the chest by the front room, and my kitchen is fully stocked. Help yourself to anything you like."

     Netta nodded, and Taelia swept out of the room.

     ***

     That afternoon, Netta wandered through the cottage. It was very cozy and entirely fascinating--every room brimmed with magical objects she'd never even heard of before. There were a few things so exotic she couldn't even tell what they were meant for, and a handful that she dared not touch, for fear of powerful magic. Poking at a sleeping Snowbunny that nestled in a bundle of fabric and pillows, Netta realized that she felt totally relaxed--and that she hadn't felt this way in a long, long time.

     Suddenly, with a gust of cold wind, Taelia burst in the front room. The storm was raging even more ferociously, and Netta could see that the Faerie was having difficulty closing the door, so she leapt up from her crouched position and hurried over to help. With a struggle, it shut, and Netta marveled at how completely it hid the noise of the blizzard outside.

     Taelia shook snow from her wings. "Thank you. It's rare such a violent storm goes on for so long... I don't think I'll be able to finish my spell."

     Netta wondered briefly what the spell was, but found her question answered as the Faerie hung her coat upon the rack. "A spell to keep snow from getting in one's eyes... a little frivolous, but useful. That's fine though." At this, she brightened visibly. "I've just remembered something I needed to do in here... and I think I'll need your help, if that's all right."

     A storm of questions whirled through Netta's head--I can help her? Me? With what? What if I screw up?--but before she could give voice to any of them, she nodded.

     "Wonderful!" Taelia motioned to follow her, and Netta did. "Into the kitchen, please. You may not like it, but I do hope you'll help me..."

     The kitchen was large and had many cupboards. Taelia stood in the middle of it and smiled faintly. "It's a plain task, but my magical stores have gone unorganized for too long. I was wondering... would you help me re-label my spell ingredients?"

     She looked almost unsure, but Netta found the offer wonderful. How many people got a chance to see what the Snow Faerie worked with up close, let alone help her? "I will. Absolutely I will!"

     Taelia beamed. "Thank you! Just take each jar, fix a piece of paper to it, and write what the ingredient is on it. Oh, this will go so much faster with a helper!" She tossed her hair back and reached deep into the first cupboard, gathering up a number of glass jars. "Shall we get to work?"

     They passed a pleasant hour this way, in squashy armchairs Taelia had drawn into the kitchen. Netta found the contents on the jars fascinating, and when Taelia told her what they were, she marveled at the depth of the Faerie's knowledge.

     Humming to herself, she examined a glittery red powder. "What's this?"

     "That?" Taelia looked up from her own jar. "Oh, nothing special, just essence of strawberry. It has some interesting qualities, though... and it tastes wonderful when sprinkled on ice cream."

     "Ice cream?" Netta, firstly, couldn't imagine the Snow Faerie doing something as common as eating ice cream. More obviously though, why would anyone eat something cold on Terror Mountain?

     "I know, I know," said Taelia, as though reading her thoughts. "But it's delicious, it really is. Mint is my favorite, though I prefer to put chocolate on it."

     Netta grinned. "Mint is my favorite too." Taelia laughed in response, and Netta found herself incredulous at the companionable conversation they were having. She's so easy to talk to, she thought, labeling the jar in her best cursive. But I suppose all faeries are.

     ***

     Two hours later, the sun had gone down. Taelia had lit all the lamps in the little cottage and started a roaring fire that crackled merrily in the grate. Everything in the room seemed to emit a soft radiance, and Netta found her eyes closing involuntarily.

     "Sleepy?" Taelia walked into the room, clutching a thermometer in one hand and a bowl of something green in the other.

     "A little." Netta grinned, slightly embarrassed.

     Taelia knelt before her and slipped the thermometer between her lips. "I don't think you have a fever," she said, watching the tiny numbers on the glass stick carefully, "but I'd like to be sure."

     After a moment, she popped it out. "Hmm... It's not a fever. How are you feeling in general?"

     Netta shrugged. "A bit sore, but fine."

     Taelia nibbled at her bottom lip. "Well... I suppose that means you could go home now... but with the storm still going like that, I don't think I could properly spirit you out. One more day, I think."

     Netta was elated. Her time so far with Taelia had been so happy and relaxed--she could see why the Faerie lived the way she did, casting spells and nesting quietly in the mountain. Besides, she was so friendly and nice that even if they were in a shack in the Haunted Woods, Netta felt she'd be having a good time.

     Taelia tucked the thermometer into a pocket, and Netta saw her eyes catch on the bowl of green substance. She smiled. "I thought maybe you'd enjoy this," she said, offering it to Netta.

     Netta looked at it, then laughed with surprise. "Mint ice cream!"

     "That's right!" Taelia's smile widened. "Since you seemed to enjoy my hot chocolate last night, I went ahead and sprinkled a little Essence of Cocoa on top."

     Netta grinned. "It looks delicious." Even the bowl was pretty--glossy porcelain, studded with small blue stones. "Where did you get this?"

     "Oh..." Taelia's face scrunched up as she thought. "I think it was a gift from Illusen, actually."

     "Illusen!" Netta figured she should be used to extraordinary things after spending a day with the Taelia, but the famous earth faerie's name still caught her by surprise.

     "That's right," Taelia said, looking pleased at the thought of her Meridell-dwelling friend. "She's very good with picking out gifts."

     Netta nodded, still a bit star-struck. Illusen's careful mention had done more than simply inspire awe, though--it raised a question that had been brewing in her head all day.

     Feeling far too bold, she looked up at Taelia. The faerie looked back serenely, sipping from a cup of something warm and amber-colored. "Yes?"

     Netta cleared her throat. "Why... why don't you live with the other faeries?"

     She regretted her question as soon as she voiced it. Taelia hid it well, but her calm look faded instantly, and an edge of something almost sorrowful crept into her eyes. Eager to rectify her mistake, Netta stuttered, "I'm... I'm sorry, that was rude, you don't have to answer--"

     "No, no," Taelia said, running her finger around the rim of her teacup. "My abilities are simply more suited to the snow... that's all."

     Netta could tell she didn't want to discuss the topic any further, and so she let it drop. The question, however, lingered in the air, like a cold breath of wind.

     ***

     The next day seemed to pass far too quickly for Netta's liking. Outside, the storm had subsided, and with it came the realization that she would have to leave. Despite the short time she'd been there, Netta felt entirely at home with Taelia, even privately nursing a notion that they were friends, of a sort. The reality was, she thought, far less rosy. She's just being nice to me, Netta reminded herself. Taelia is a faerie. Faeries are sweet, kind, and don't tell you when you're acting stupid.

     Ruminating on this moodily, the Aisha found herself reclining in one of Taelia's comfy armchairs. The faerie herself was outside, enchanting something or brewing a potion--Probably waiting to be rid of me so she can get on with her life. Netta sank a little deeper into the plush cushions.

     At that moment, however, Taelia walked in through the front doors, just as she had the day before. "Netta, the storm has let up significantly, and I was wondering--would you like to leave tonight? I'm sure you're eager to return home."

     "Oh," said Netta, sitting up a little straighter in the chair. "Yes. Yes, that would be fine."

     Taelia, however, looked concerned. "Netta..."

     "It's fine!" Netta was disturbed to find that her voice had gained a too-insistent edge. "It really is!"

     Wordlessly, the faerie walked over to her, sat in a nearby armchair, and gazed at the Aisha with wide, cerulean eyes. Netta couldn't tell what it was that made the look so curious, but there was something deep and penetrating in it, something that coaxed her to talk.

     She bit back her words, however. Why burden Taelia with the woes of a silly little Aisha? The faerie continued to look at her though, and Netta, horrified, felt tears begin to gather in her eyes.

     "I'm sorry," she said quickly, wiping at them. A blush spread across her face, and she hung her head to hide it. "I'm just so stupid, this is dumb..."

     "Netta." Taelia spoke in a tone at once serious and gentle, compelling and forgiving. Netta found herself looking up, and was startled to see that the faerie's expression was... sad.

     "Netta," she repeated, and took a deep breath. "I know that you are... hiding something. And I think... I think I'd be able to understand."

     "What?" Netta gazed at her in bewilderment.

     Taelia smiled sadly. "You asked me why I live so far from Faerieland, yes?"

     "Yes."

     "I did not tell you the whole truth."

     Netta stared at her. Taelia looked almost... unsure. Like she wanted to say something, but was afraid of the outcome. Nevertheless, she pressed on.

     "I always felt alone as a child," she said, her gaze wandering slightly from Netta's face. "I was quiet, I suppose, and I never... I never felt at home in Faerieland. You've been there, of course?" When Netta nodded, she continued. "It's a lovely place, and I travel there annually... but it's very..."

     "Flashy?"

     "Yes." Taelia smiled slightly. "And I always felt... alone. Even when surrounded by my family and friends, which most faeries luxuriate in. I liked to be in solitude, caring for others, casting my spells."

     She sighed deeply. "It was hard, making the decision to come here. To live wholly alone. I'm not the only one who's done it of course--Illusen being the most famous example--but Terror Mountain is... extreme."

     "Taelia..." Netta was speechless, not just from the confession, but from the fact that she felt so uncannily the same. Before she could respond, however, the faerie pressed on, as though desperate to confess her feelings.

     "I miss Faerieland often. I miss... I miss Fyora, I miss being among my own kind, I truly do miss it. But... I cannot live there. The only place I have ever truly been happy in is here, in my cottage. I feel at peace here."

     "I do too!" The words burst out of Netta's mouth before she could stop them. Embarrassment immediately overtook her, but Taelia's head had snapped up in interest.

     "You do?" she asked, in a soft voice.

     "I do." And once those words had passed her lips, Netta found that there was nothing left to hide, no reason not to talk to Taelia, no better person, in fact, to whom she could confide in.

     She took a deep breath. "I feel alone too. A lot. Like I don't... fit in. I have friends, I do! But they're not... it's like they're not close. Like we don't completely connect. I feel like somewhere there's a place for me, someone waiting to be my friend, but I haven't found them yet, and... I guess that's how you feel about your house, living here. Like you've found that place. I love my friends and family, but I feel detached, like I'm just... all wrong."

     Taelia's eyes were wide, but Netta couldn't stop the words from flowing. "That's why I came up here... it was dumb, I know, just really stupid, but I had to. I felt like I had to. To prove something, like... I feel so weird, so strange, I wonder if I'll ever fit in anywhere and if it's maybe all my fault, the way I feel... I wanted to prove to myself that I was good. That I was worth something. I wanted... I wanted to believe in myself again."

     Netta stopped. A blush crept into her face, but stronger than that, a feverish sense of relief. Taelia looked at her silently for a long moment, then got up, walked over to her chair, and enfolded the Aisha in a hug.

     "You are worth something," she whispered. "You will find your place, I promise you."

     They stayed like that for a moment, then Taelia stood up and settled back into her chair. "I don't think I'll ever take in another visitor quite like you, Netta."

     "I hope you don't have to," Netta said immediately. "I know I was a bother."

     "Quite the opposite," Taelia said, smiling warmly. "I never thought you'd become so good a friend."

     Netta was speechless, and she felt her cheeks warm. Taelia the Snow Faerie--the Snow Faerie, friend of Illusen, savior of lost pets, enchantress of winter and so many other titles--considered her a friend?

     In Netta's silence, Taelia continued on. "It does get lonely up here... I certainly wish you lived a bit closer. We could have mint ice cream often, then." A small smile lit up her face, then withered. "I just... sometimes wish I had more visitors. The other faeries don't like to come here, obviously, and it's only really when someone gets lost that I have company at all."

     "It's not right!" Netta chimed. "Anyone would be glad to be your friend, you're kind and friendly and just as wonderful as a faerie is supposed to be..."

     Netta stopped. She felt she'd come off as silly, but it was hard to feel that way around the comforting faerie, especially after their conversation. Taelia watched her cast about that spectral, icy gaze that was somehow, simultaneously, warm as a thousand fires. Netta felt the words fill her mouth, and so she spoke her mind.

     "Anyone would be glad to know you. I am. I wish I didn't have to leave. Maybe..." Netta chewed her lip. "Maybe you could... offer something?"

     "What?" Taelia's voice was confused, and Netta found herself unable to properly explain.

     "You know..." she struggled, trying to think of an example, "like faeries who give quests? Except... yours could be given out whenever. People could come to your door, and that way you wouldn't be lonely--and you could send them for ingredients!"

     Taelia looked intrigued, and Netta found herself genuinely enthused. "You're a faerie, and a famous one, so anyone would want to meet you. And then they'd see that they could help you, and how nice you are, and they'd come back and tell their friends about it. Anyone would do it, they really would!"

     "Quests..." mused Taelia, seeming to mull over the issue in her mind. "It would certainly help me gather spell materials..."

     "It would!" Netta chirped. It was a positively brilliant idea, if she did say so herself. "I know people that would do it in a minute."

     Taelia looked excited by the prospect, but something unsure lit her face. "You think people would... would really want to come to me?"

     Netta nodded enthusiastically. "Why wouldn't they?"

     Taelia was silent for a moment. Then, she said, "I'm the... 'odd' faerie. Do you truly think it would work?"

     Netta looked at her. She looked at the face that had smiled at her for two days, encouraging and gentle, generous and sweet. She remembered the kind words, the sheltering arms, the voice in the storm. The legend was enough--but when the myth was surpassed by the reality, it was made all the more sweet.

     If Netta was sure of anything, it was this.

     "People will come, Taelia. Because of who you are."

     And with that, all was said.

     ***

     Four days later, a lithe figure walked into Neopia Central. People stopped and stared at her long, fur-trimmed coat, her alabaster face and the broad wings that spread from her back. They whispered and pointed in awe. Her name passed among them in hushed tones, but she paid them no heed.

     With careful steps, she entered the bank and headed straight for the enormous community bulletin board that hung on the wall. Flyers ruffled in the breeze, advertisements piled on notices piled on news. Carefully, the cloaked faerie took a large, blue sign, nailed it to the board, and stood back to survey her work.

     FAERIE QUESTS OFFERED

     NEEDED: VARIOUS ITEMS FOR SPELLS

     REWARDS GIVEN, ANYONE MAY TRY

     WHERE: TERROR MOUNTAIN, TAELIA'S COTTAGE

     I NEED YOUR HELP!

     --THE SNOW FAERIE

     She smiled at her work and left the bank.

     Outside, the people stared. They whispered about a faerie that ran away, someone who stuck out, the "recluse" of the mountain.

     But a crowd had gathered around the bulletin board.

     Taelia looked to the sky and smiled. It was a beautiful day. Somewhere, faeries were lounging on warm sands, luxuriating among the clouds, forgetting all about the one who left, the one who preferred the cold.

     Somewhere, a little Aisha had found a friend.

     Taelia looked to the sky. She closed her eyes. A whisper, almost inaudible, fell from her lips.

     "Thank you, Netta."

The End

 
Search the Neopian Times




Great stories!


---------

When Addressing a King
...there are some things that you just don't say.

by prismfire

---------

Interview with a Meepit
Its blank stare makes even Dr. Frank Sloth shiver... its pink complexion makes the Pant Devil curl up under the covers and cower in terror...

Also by raizindaroof

by crazy_monkey_luver_3


---------

CrazyComix: Altador Cup II
Wheee! Goooo Sheeenkuuuu!!!!

by samantha13_rose

---------

Appearances are Deceiving...?
Shenkuu goalkeeper, Xana DiLanche, should probably stick to defending the net - and not other teams. ;)

by sylverkitsune



Submit your stories, articles, and comics using the new submission form.