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The Old Rules

by candyplague


     "Hello, little ones. What can I do for you today?" She asks, her voice gentle and lilting like a song.

      Erilise shifts, her claws digging into the dirt beneath her. The ground is soft and wet from the springs. The springs keep the air around them cool and fresh, smelling faintly of something sweet.

      "I request healing, for my brother. He's sick and we can't afford the medication he needs." Erilise replies with faux confidence while anxiety buzzes quietly inside her bones.

      The acara in her arms whines, grabbing at her shirt with sweaty paws.

      The faerie blinks slowly, looking them over. It's clear she is used to being spoken to in a more familiar, open manner. She smiles anyway and pushes her hair out of her face, the locks reminiscent of waves reflecting sunlight. It's bright and golden, silky rays of sunshine falling over her shoulders. Erilise finds herself admiring it, but turns her attention back to the matter at hand. She has to stay focused.

      "And what is this little one's name?" The faerie asks.

      "Kyle." Erilise lies.

      "Kyle, hm?" The water faerie's smile falters momentarily, her teal brows rising minutely. "Funny, I thought that name was taken by a Krawk, not an acara."

      Having unique names has been an important part of Neopian culture for a long time, and while others seem to have forgotten the old ways, the Lutari knows why. Names are sacred. She can not, and will not, give her brother's real name to this faerie.

      "It's spelled differently." Erilise explains.

      The faerie watches her knowingly. They both know she is lying, but the faerie continues regardless. "I see. And yours?"

      "My name isn't important."

      "Of course it is," The faerie says with narrowed eyes. "At any rate, I am just being polite."

      The Lutari takes a deep breath. She knows the faerie is aggravated now. Out of the corner of her eye she can see the faerie's aquatic tail twitching ever so slightly. She needs to tread carefully.

      "I apologize," Erilise says, resorting to flattery. "I'm just shy, is all. Even shyer in the presence of such a beautiful, kind faerie."

      The faerie grins, her aquamarine eyes shimmering. "Of course, I understand. Go ahead then, bring him to me."

      The faerie relaxes, her annoyed state diminishing quickly. Faeries are weak to compliments -- this been a constant through all of time. Erilise steps forward and carefully hands her brother to the faerie, keeping her claws on his shirt and refusing to step away completely. She knows more than most, and the faerie can tell. They have it easy nowadays, the faeries. Erilise will not be so foolish. He is her brother, and she is keeping a close eye on him even as the faerie cradles him in her arms.

      "Ah, the poor thing," The healing faerie murmurs as she gazes down at the frail, coughing acara in her arms. "He's been sick for a while, hm?"

      Erilise nods, her own tail twitching now. "A month."

      He's been feeling off for a while, feverish for a few days now, but the two of them live alone and it's hard for Erilise to save up the neopoints when she's afraid to leave his side. This was her only real option and she'd finally given in.

      The faerie notices her tail's twitch and eyes the Lutari's claws still gripping her brother's shirt. "I see you're nervous. Worry not, it will be okay. He shall be better in no time."

      There's a glint in the faerie's eyes as she smiles down at the Lutari. "Would you like something while you wait, perhaps? A drink, or something to eat? I'm sure travelling here took quite a bit of your energy, and with how sick he's been I'm sure you've been quite distraught. That can take a lot out of you."

      Anxiety rushes through the Lutari, prickling over her skin like the legs of Spyders and causing her fur to stand up just a bit.

      "I'm fine, but I uh," She stammers, then chooses her wording carefully. "I... appreciate the offer."

      The water faerie hums a response, the glint leaving her eyes as she turns back to the acara. Her soft voice weaves together magical words of an unknowable origin, words so powerful they muddle Erilise's thoughts. Glowing hands are pressed to the acara's forehead as she speaks, a cerulean glow sparking and spreading over him. Erilise watches, on edge, as he shivers and shudders, choking on sickness as it leaves his body.

      As soon as the faerie's hands leave his face, his breathing is less ragged, the skin on his paws noticeably less clammy. He slowly opens his eyes, blinking away the sleep still in them.

      "Hello, Kyle. Are you feeling better?" The faerie asks, and the acara furrows his brows in confusion.

      "Kyle...?" He murmurs, and his sister stiffens even as she shakes off the fuzzy feeling in her mind.

      "Kyle!" Erilise blurts, shoving herself into his field of vision. "You feeling okay?"

      He nods slowly as he watches his sister, brows still furrowed.

      "Good, good. We should probably get home, then. It's getting late, and we still have to get dinner started." Erilise says, giving him a quick, small smile that doesn't reach her eyes.

      The water faerie lets the acara down gently and he rubs his eyes. "When did we get here, Eri--"

      Erilise's eyes widen and she interrupts him before he can say her name. "A bit ago! A bit ago, don't worry about it, we haven't been gone long. But it'll take the same amount of time to get back, and it isn't exactly early. So we have to get a move on, okay?"

      He frowns at her but nods, grabbing her claws in his little hand.

      "Goodbye, Kyle. And goodbye to you, as well. Stay safe." The faerie says, smiling at them both.

      There is no warmth in her smile. She stares hard through her long, dark lashes, eyes boring into the Lutari's. There's something unsettling and dark in the faerie's gaze, and her posture is rigid.

      "Th--" Erilise starts before stopping herself, her heart skipping a beat.

      She nearly forgot. How could she almost forget? "I mean uh, goodbye. Come on, Kyle."

      She tugs her brother forward as she turns her back to the springs, desperate to leave before damage can be done.

      Her brother looks up at her, clearly still bewildered. "Why do you keep--"

      She gives him a hard look. "Shh."

      He draws his eyebrows together, but quiets himself anyway and looks back at the faerie, giving her a little wave.

      "Bye, faerie!" He calls back to her, his voice clear and bright. "Thank you for the help!"

      Erilise feels her heart jump into her throat, an icy rush surging through her body. She is still, mouth agape, feeling the faerie's stare on her back. The sweet smell of the air turns sickly.

      Do not give them your name. Do not eat or drink anything they give you. Be polite, but do not say thank you.

      The old rules.

      She can hear the smile in the faerie's voice when she speaks.

      "Of course, little one."

      Erilise's skin crawls.

      Do not say thank you.

The End.

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