The Faerie Queen and the Draik Who Would Be King
Faerieland Magic Academy was home to some of Neopia’s foremost intellectual and sorcerous minds – in more ways than one. Its west wing was dedicated not only to the faculty offices but also the dormitories of the instructors who lived on campus. The dormitories could only be reached through the door emblazoned with a mosaic keyhole and a faerie Erisim with one paw extended as though asking for the key to it. And to ensure the professors’ privacy, that door was guarded by some of the school’s most powerful spells.
But every door had its key.
The green Pteri standing in front of the dormitory door held a gilded lilac card with the words “Dervyn Stratos, Year 4, Hydrangea Block, Official Intern” and strung with a pink lanyard. He pressed this against the Erisim’s outstretched paw and stepped back. A ripple of light coursed through the Erisim and the keyhole, and one light clicking sound later, the door swung open. After a moment’s hesitation and after replacing the card around his neck, the Pteri took a deep breath and flew down the hallway.
Each door was marked with a number and a nameplate. Walking down the dormitory corridor was nothing like walking past the professors’ offices; for some reason, this part of the Academy emanated a greater aura of power. Dervyn felt like he was trespassing, even though the magical door had opened to his identification card.
The feeling did not go away when he finally stopped in front of a redwood door. This was number sixteen, and the name under it sent a chill down Dervyn’s spine, all the way to his tail.
[i]Terask, A.S.D.[/i] Arcane Sorcery Doctorate.
He gulped and lifted his wing to the doorbell. It chimed once, but its chime echoed throughout the hall and seemed to echo deep into Dervyn’s bones. The Pteri arranged himself on the doorstep, one wing on a pouch he wore over one shoulder while the other smoothed out his uniform robe.
Before he was done arranging himself in what he hoped was a moderately presentable fashion, the number sixteen door opened.
“P-Professor Terask, sir,” said Dervyn, his voice as small as he felt.
The red Draik was tall for his species, with a constantly furrowed forehead and intense golden eyes. He looked down his snout at his visitor, taking in Dervyn’s identification card, robe, and pouch.
“Stratos. What is it?”
“I-I was asked to, er, deliver this message to you. I mean, summons.”
Terask’s eyes widened at the mention of “summons” and his nostrils flared. Dervyn flinched as though expecting Terask to breathe out flames toward his general direction, but nothing happened. Over the Draik’s shoulder, the green Pteri caught a glimpse of the professor’s living quarters – a couch that looked comfortable enough to fall asleep in, packed bookshelves, an old-fashioned chandelier.
“Who is it from?” Terask demanded.
Dervyn gritted his beak as he reached into his pouch and pulled out a pink and lilac scroll stamped with a set of faerie wings in the same colour scheme. He shut his eyes briefly as Terask snatched it from his wing.
“From Queen Fyora, sir…”
Terask unrolled the scroll and he scanned it, his scowl deepening with each word before he haphazardly folded it back up. “Hmph. Thank you, Stratos. Is this all you have for me?”
“I hope you still remember your transfiguration lessons.” The corners of the red Draik’s mouth moved up, transforming his scowl into a sneer that prompted Dervyn to bow quickly before flying away and leaving him with Fyora’s message.
Terask looked at the scroll again and breathed out with a snarl, plumes of smoke issuing from his nostrils.
* * *
In his sleek black and silver robe, Terask seemed out of place in the vibrant, bright Faerie Palace as he was accompanied by an escort of two dark faerie guards to the throne room. As he entered the room, he saw the Faerie Queen deep in conversation with a bespectacled light faerie wielding a clipboard and a quill. An inkwell hovered beside her, buoyed by two delicate wings.
Both faeries immediately looked up at the newcomer, who bowed before them. The light faerie snapped her fingers, and quill and inkwell disappeared into thin air.
“Professor Terask,” said Fyora, giving him a formal smile. “Thank you for answering my summons. Kuri, you may go.” She nodded at the light faerie, who curtsied before leaving. “And thank you, Hilda, Zelda.” The two dark faeries left as well, but the Draik was sure they would remain outside the throne room.
Once only Fyora and Terask remained in the chamber, the queen beckoned for him to follow her to the curlicued gate at the back of the throne room which led to a spacious balcony with a wondrous view of Faerieland. Several potted plants were in full bloom, and a comfortable set of a table and chairs in Fyora’s favourite colours completed the ensemble.
“Please, have a seat.”
Terask took a seat, smoothing out his robe as he did so. Fyora sat in front of him primly.
“Why did you leave my council?” she asked, a note of concern and curiosity in her voice.
“You [i]know[/i] why,” he rumbled.
“And I would prefer to hear it from you.”
The red Draik pouted, not unlike a petulant schoolchild, before settling for a more dignified but equally irritable scowl.
“Your Majesty,” he began slowly, steadily, “you know the faeries and Neopets who ransacked Sundown Village did not hold back, burning it down to the ground and cutting down anyone who tried to fight back.” His lips twisted in distaste. “They deserved more than imprisonment and the sealing of their powers. You know that.”
Fyora breathed in, but her expression remained calm.
“Time in dungeons, stripping them of powers and abilities…after what those faeries have done, they deserve to lose their wings and their names!”
“I have never punished a faerie by taking away her wings and her name, and I don’t intend to start now,” said Fyora evenly.
“And their co-conspirators…”
“This is a just punishment for all of them.” The faerie queen interrupted, and though her tone remained even, there was the slightest hint of firmness to it.
Terask frowned, drumming his claws on his lap. “With all due respect, your Majesty, though many of your subjects respect you, there are always those who are ready to mount a coup or defy your laws. You need to show them that you will not tolerate any of it. They must fear you. This is why I left.”
“Because I refuse to be feared?”
He seethed. “You mustn’t show them anything that they’ll think of as weakness.”
“Restraint and mercy are not weaknesses, Terask. And I don’t want to be a feared ruler.”
“Perhaps if you were feared, none of these riots would happen. Everyone would be too afraid to defy you.” He made a sweeping gesture. “And more importantly…my parents would still be alive!”
“And if I leave restraint and mercy behind, what will stop me from leaving justice as well? Will that bring back your parents, or anyone who lost their lives in the riot?” asked Fyora. She did not raise her voice. Then she stood up from the table and walked to the balcony rail, resting a delicate hand on it. Gazing out into the distance, she added, “I want Faerieland to respect me, but I don’t want them to treat me like a monster and run when I see them. I want them to trust me, to confide all their troubles to me without fear.”
“My students respect me because they fear me,” Terask pressed, leaving his chair, but not the table. “I have no troublemakers to worry about in my classes.”
Fyora glanced over her shoulder to look at him. “And that’s what drives them to do well in your class. Fear, instead of a real passion for learning.” She shook her head. “Perhaps fear sustains them now, but it has a limit. One day, they will rebel, or worse, break. Trust goes deeper, Terask. They will carry it with them long after you are done teaching them.”
“And if they don’t learn to trust you?” he retorted. “If they walk all over you?”
An amused smile tugged at the faerie queen’s lips. “Trust is a two-way street. Unlike fear, which simply radiates from you until either you or they break.”
“I do not [i]break[/i],” the Draik pointed out. “And I am not returning to the council if you won’t listen to me.”
“Very well,” said Fyora with a soft sigh. “It was a pleasure working with you.”
“Likewise,” was the brusque reply.
“I wish you the best in your career…Professor Terask.”
* * *
Years passed since Terask was summoned to Fyora’s throne room. They did not meet again, until he discovered the key to her throne room, so to speak.
Terask had always been tall for a Draik. This time, he was much taller, so huge that his head brushed the ceiling. No robes were large enough to fit his bulk, and this time, it was not only his students who feared him.
But Fyora did not fear him. She never did, especially not on this fateful day as she stood in the middle of the ruins of her throne room, her staff held aloft, the wind blowing through her broken windows causing her dress to ripple against the floor.
“This is what fear does,” he hissed, a flame issuing from between his fangs. His voice grew louder and louder until it could shake the core of anyone who heard it – anyone, except Fyora. “It raises an army. It brings me followers and power. It causes Faerieland to fall to their knees!” He raised his claw, a swirling dark orb of energy gathering within his palm. This he hurled at the Faerie Queen, who swung her staff and created a shield to block the attack. However, the impact was enough to force her back, and she dug her heels in to keep from falling over. “Surrender, and maybe I will show you the mercy you love so much!” One explosion later, the gate leading to Fyora’s balcony was burned to a crisp, but Fyora herself had managed to fly out of the way.
She frowned – not out of anger or revenge. It was a frown of pity.
“You truly believe in fear, don’t you…Terask?” She ducked as he breathed fire toward her, leaving an ashen stain upon one of the cracked columns.
“Why shouldn’t I?” he boomed. He lunged toward her, leaving a trail of destruction upon her tiles, and swiped at her with his claws. They snagged onto her dress, tearing it, but she managed to escape through her broken gate and toward her balcony. He thundered after her, the balcony archway shattering as he passed and leaving some debris amidst his wings and scales. Though Fyora did not try to leave her palace, he continued firing spell after spell at her, forcing her to dodge and weave. Several of her potted plants met their untimely demise.
“Even if you do take Faerieland from me – “ Fyora waved her staff and countered with a spell of her own. Terask staggered backward from a flurry of magical pink lightning. “How long do you think you will hold it? How long will you be king?”
She zoomed away from him just as he tried to grab her from the air. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of the world below the balcony, below the turrets and towers and battlements of Faerie Palace. His hordes of monsters and soldiers were relentless in their attack, but Fyora’s guard in their livery continued to push back, not one of them fleeing. Each troop who went down, went down fighting.
He heard someone shout, “For Queen Fyora!”
And for a moment, Terask wondered if fear took him as far as he thought it would.
Only a bolt from Fyora’s staff knocked him back to reality, and he gasped in pain, clutching his claw. With a feral roar, he clawed at her, and this time, she was not fast enough to avoid him. An injured wing caused her to crash onto the floor, her staff rolling away.
This was his reality. Fyora on the floor, one step away from being dethroned. The one thing he would change was the look in her eyes – defiant, courageous, without a single hint of fear. Down below, her troops continued to shout her name as they fought Terask’s armies of sentient petpets and corrupted faeries and renegade Neopets.
“No,” she rasped as she propped herself up onto her elbow and tried to stand. “Not forever.”
The look in her eyes did not matter in the end, as he chanted the arcane words to a powerful immobility spell that would freeze her, powers and all. As the air sizzled with the potency of the spell and a pale mist spun away into the breeze, Fyora was frozen in a standing position, her unyielding expression apparent on her face. And though her eyes no longer showed signs of life, the iron will within them continued to unnerve him.
It would unnerve him for all the days of his short reign as king of Faerieland, the look of someone who did not bend to fear, and whose subjects were not impelled by fear.