Roomies 4: Part Two
The words hung in the air like some devilish message, leaving the faeries frozen in fear. Despite the fact that the horrific shaking had finally ended, they still clung to random objects and pieces of furniture, unsure whether to heed Mrs. Pierce’s vile summons.
“Do we... go?” a water faerie asked Jesc, gazing into air faerie’s eyes as she gripped the desk with shaking slender fingers. “To the courtyard like the message says?”
“I don’t know,” Jesc answered, her stomach flip-flopping as she forced herself to turn away from the fiery words. Her eyes fell upon Jhudora. The dark faerie was visibly fuming; her one hand was clenched in a fist while the other one gripped her wand as if she wished to snap it in half.
Jhudora swept her violet glare over the room of cowering faeries and rolled her eyes. “Well, what are you scaredy Aishas waiting for? We go.” When her decision didn’t make any of the faeries start to move, she barked, “NOW!”
With a couple of yelps, everyone started rushing for the door, filing out of the dorm and down the spiral staircase.
Jesc plucked her wand out from behind her ear, twirling it between her fingers nervously as she joined Jhudora following the exiting flock of faeries. “Jhudy,” she asked softly, “are you sure this is a good idea?”
Jhudora shot her a look. “First of all, never call me ‘Jhudy’ ever again.”
Jesc pouted prettily, forgetting for a moment that they were in the middle of a possible crisis. “But it’s such a cute name!” she squealed.
“I don’t care if it’s a cute name. If it hasn’t occurred to you yet, I don’t like cute things. And as for your question, yes, I do think going to the courtyard right now is a good idea--because right now is the perfect chance for us to get Mrs. Pierce out of our hair and locked up in a mental institution once and for all! And then we’ll never have to deal with her and her annoying schemes ever again!” Her face lit up as if she was relishing the thought.
“But what about all of them?” Jesc asked. They had reached the bottom of the staircase by now, joining into the congested circular Academy hallways filled with hundreds of worried faeries all moving in the same direction.
Jhudora scowled. “What do I care about them?”
“Stop calling me that!” Jhudora snapped. Then, after mentally counting to five, she took a calming breath and continued slowly. “This is a school. Schools are filled with teachers. And it’s the teachers’ responsibility to watch over the students. So believe me, they’ll all be fine. It’s us we have to worry about.”
Jesc bit her lip gently, not entirely convinced, as they made their way through a stone archway into the courtyard.
The Faerie Academy was one giant hexagon, the corners being anchored by each of the six towers with the large continuous hallway connecting each. The courtyard was meanwhile in the center of the school, a grassy field with a cobblestone path surrounded on all sides by the sparkling white stone walls of the castle. Normally it was a relatively peaceful place, an area that allowed everyone to get a bit of sunshine while eating their conjured lunches on the wooden picnic benches. And in the spring it was especially lovely since Mrs. Lee’s Gardening class had taken to planting colorful flowers around the perimeter.
But now the courtyard was just a mass of confusion. Over six hundred frightened faeries were crammed into the space, jostling against one another uncomfortably. Their anxious steps flattened the once-perky blades of grass, and the gentle pink flowers that had been coming into bloom had been unceremoniously crushed. The whole space carried an aura of foreboding, and it only took a quick look overhead for everything to make sense.
Over the courtyard, like an ominous toxic-green dome, was some sort of thin layering of magic. It arched across their view of the sky, making the clouds look pale and sickly, and pigmenting the sky to a limpid off-green. The magic sputtered and warped, an iridescent bubble that was fascinating yet indescribably ugly at the same time.
“What is that?” Jesc asked, her jaw dropping at the sight.
Jhudora’s face contorted as she eyed the creation. “Some sort of barrier. A force field most likely.” She turned sharply to Jesc. “Did the teachers do this? Is it meant as some sort of protection?”
“I don’t know,” Jesc admitted truthfully, “but it doesn’t seem like something they’d do. I mean, the courtyard normally has some light shield spells on it to keep away rain and such when we’re eating, but you usually can’t see them. This one is just so... ugly!”
She craned her neck upward, searching for any sort of hole in the shield, when she spotted a couple curious faeries tentatively flying upward, trying to touch the bubble. However, before they could get too close, a sudden shout rang through the air. “Get down, you three! Stay away from the force field!”
Jesc recognized the voice and turned to see Mrs. Sre, the only dark faerie teacher in the school, pushing through the crowd along with a few other faculty members. She normally hung out in the gymnasium, constantly joking as she played a few rounds of Fireball with her students, but now her expression was serious as she pointed her wand at her throat.
“Everyone!” she announced, her voice ringing loud and clear through the courtyard. “Head on back to your dorms! Now and quic--”
“But then they won’t get to hear the news I have for them,” a sinister voice interrupted, booming from the heavens.
Six hundred pairs of eyes looked upward and cries of fear rang throughout the courtyard.
The fire faerie was hovering above the force field, her face set into a smug expression. Her eyes were crimson, as red as the fiery message that stilled burned back in the dorm room, her wings were extended like a royal cape, and perched on her nose was a pair of black-rimmed glasses.
Jesc reached for Jhudora’s arm, but her own hand casually rebounded backwards a few inches from the dark faerie’s flesh, the shield spell from earlier still in place.
“Her hair!” she whispered. “Look at it!”
But Jhudora had already noticed that. Mrs. Pierce’s normal hairstyle, a tightly pulled-back bun, was gone. Instead, her hair was down and free, as wild and as untamable as the wind. Grey and auburn threads mixed with one another, swirling around her head, but what was most shocking of all were the smoldering embers that blazed up between the strands of hair. Glowing, then fading, the embers seemed to have a life of their own, feeding off her evil aura which flared around her as wickedly as the blistering sun.
“That power,” Jhudora murmured under her breath, her eyes wide. “Where did it come from?”
“Hello, everyone! Glad you all could join me,” Mrs. Pierce greeted them, a smirk on her thin red lips. “I do hope you don’t mind me dropping by for a visit--I know how much you’ve all missed me.”
She smiled, enjoying the attention as everyone gazed up at her, horrified, and after a moment continued. “You know, the past year hasn’t been a good one for me. Suspended for something I didn’t do, fired when I merely tried to punish the wrong-doers, and finally locked up in a Faerieland dungeon.” She narrowed her eyes and her voice suddenly turned cold.
“When I escaped, I had nowhere to go. A stupid yellow Aisha had seen to it that my house was taken from me, and I was a wanted criminal in Faerieland. So I stole away to the Haunted Woods with only my wand for company. I lived among the trees in that forest and bided my time, thinking of all the wrongs that had befallen me and how I could finally achieve my revenge.
“And then it hit me! Before, my main priority had been Jhudora. I had focused on bringing down her, hoping that Jesc would follow. But that meddling air faerie threw something into the equation that I hadn’t counted on: compassion for others. That messed up my plans and resulted in my failures. And so I decided I needed a plan that would prey on this curse of hers, and I came up with this.” She swept out her arm, gesturing to the force field proudly. “Isn’t it wonderful? It’s a spell of my own design: a force field not to keep things out, but to keep things in. And not merely Jhudora and Jesc, oh no. This dome will keep every single living object inside trapped! Faeries, neopets, you name it. And in five days time, if you don’t adhere to my request, I will destroy you all.”
Frightened cries rippled through the crowd and finally Jhudora couldn’t take it anymore. Before Jesc could stop her, she jabbed her wand at the air and sent a powerful hex flying towards Mrs. Pierce. But the spell easily rebounded against the force field, striking the Academy walls instead so that they cracked and rained down debris.
Mrs. Pierce laughed, her voice echoing like a horrific chorus. “Silly little Jhudora. Nothing can get through this, nothing at all. I made sure of that. However, there is a way for me to let down this accursed bubble and let you all free. A way that will let you all avoid an onslaught of terror brought to you by moi. And it is this: deliver to me both Jesc and Jhudora. Not one, but both. If you do, the rest of you can escape with your lives. If not, prepare for a battle so epic that it’ll be written down in all the history books... something that none of you will live to see. You have until the noon on the fifth day, so make the choice soon, before it’s too late.”
And with that, Mrs. Pierce turned and flew away, disappearing into the bright afternoon sunlight as if she was made of pure fire.
If the courtyard had been in chaos beforehand, now it was in utter pandemonium. A few of the faeries broke down in sobs, clinging to one another as they thought of their possible fate. Others were just staring straight upward at the force field as if their combined gazes could set them free.
Jesc meanwhile didn’t know what to think. She had dealt with Mrs. Pierce hundreds of times before, but her abuse had always been aimed either directly at her or Jhudora. Now there were six hundred others to take into account, six hundred other Neopians that Jesc couldn’t stand to see get hurt. It made her heart shudder.
Jhudora balled her hands into fists, the ground around her shaking slightly with her anger. “That good for nothing, blasted fire-breathing...” she cursed under her breath. “She doesn’t know who she’s dealing with,” she said sharply to Jesc besides her. “She has no clue. We’ll show her. We’ll show her like we did all those other times!” But Jesc heard the slight quiver in the dark faerie’s voice and knew that this time it wasn’t going to be as simple.
Suddenly, among the sobs of fear, a voice cut through the din. It wasn’t magically magnified like Mrs. Pierce’s voice had been, but somehow everyone could hear it as clear as day. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s hand Jesc and Jhudora over to her and be done with it.”
Jhudora wheeled around at the sound, extending her wand towards a fire faerie with long wavy hair. “Was it you who just said that?”
The fire faerie eyed the wand pointed at her warily before taking a breath and defiantly looking up into the dark faerie’s face. “Yes, I did. If it wasn’t for you two,” she accused, prodding a thin finger towards both Jhudora and Jesc, “we wouldn’t even be in this mess! It’s you she’s really after, not all of us.” Her eyes narrowed. “I say you two hand yourselves in before the rest of us get hurt.”
“Why, you selfish Scamander,” Jhudora muttered, raising her wand, but the fire faerie didn’t seem to care what the dark faerie was about to do. Her words seemed to have struck a chord with a few of the students and out of nowhere a small mob of faeries had emerged, reaching for Jesc and Jhudora as if they wanted to be the ones to personally hand them over to Mrs. Pierce.
Jhudora prepared a blasting spell, but Jesc was quicker. With a graceful swoosh of her arm, she sent a powerful gust of wind in their direction, knocking a few of them off their feet.
“Nice,” Jhudora commented approvingly, a hair impressed.
“Thanks.” Jesc smiled, but suddenly she felt a firm hand on the back of her shirt collar, yanking her in the opposite direction. “What the—”
“Come on, you two,” Mrs. Sre commanded quickly, still holding onto Jesc as she gestured for them to follow her. “I’m getting you two out of here. The courtyard is full of emotionally stressed-out faeries and I’m not having you two sacrificed when you could be our only chance of getting out of this mess.” She reached out to drag Jhudora along, but when her hand refused to get near her, she couldn’t help but grin. “Ah, smart thinking, Jhudora. Shield spell. I probably taught you that one back when you were a student here. Oh well. Jesc, you better put one on too. There’s no guarantee we’ll make it out of here without getting hit by a few stray spells.”
Jesc nodded, muttering the words so that an invisible bubble surrounded her. Then, with Mrs. Sre in the lead, they quickly followed her out into the hallway, avoiding the rushing crowd of faeries and a few spells that were aimed in their direction.
The deserted corridor looked strange without the usual flow of faeries in it. It was almost as if the Academy had run out of its energy source, becoming just a lifeless building.
“Wow,” Mrs. Sre murmured, casting a look back at the courtyard as she raked her fingers through her choppy plum hair. “It’s a jungle back there. But there’re a few teachers watching over everything, so everyone should be fine.”
“Fine?” Jhudora scoffed, staring straight into the eyes of her old favorite teacher. “Somehow I doubt that.”
Mrs. Sre’s face took on a solemn cast. “Well, I guess you’re right about that. But I think there’s a chance we can pull this off, slight as it may seem. Which brings me to where I’m taking you.”
“We’re not heading back to our dorms?” Jesc asked curiously, a slight frown on her face; going back to her dorm, her home away from home decked out in party decorations, had been the one thing she had been looking forward to after the mess they had somehow gotten themselves into.
“No,” Mrs. Sre answered, shaking her head. “We need to work out a plan, so I’m taking you to the one place where we can do that without being bombarded by a couple hundred emotionally-crazed students: the faculty room.”
To be continued...