Part Two: What kind of a name is that? [4308 words]
For part one, click here
Somewhere, atop a jagged cliff that towered over Faerieland, Jhudora stared contemplatively into her own cauldron. She thought about her life, the faeries she left behind all those years ago, Illusen. No, emotions didn't hold her back all those years ago, and they won't hold her back now. Besides, everything she once cared about doesn't matter anymore, she made her choice, and now she's the most powerful faerie in Faerieland because of it.
Well, the world didn't know that yet. She was still living in isolation up in her bluff. It's been forever since her last magic duel. But her next one? Oh, she'll clean the floor with it.
In a hammock set up in a crawlspace of Jhudora's living room, an acara blissfully snored away. Jhudora groaned. She marched over to her sad excuse for a roommate.
"Hey! Excuse me!"
The acara was barely roused, but she managed to open her eyes. Jhudora was standing over her, arms crossed. The acara chuckled in response, trying to ease the tension that the dark faerie was radiating into the room. "Gooooood morning, Jhu-Jhu. Can I call you that? You know, like bad ju-ju."
Jhudora sighed. "No, you may not, Thano." She rubbed her temples. "I came to tell you that if you absolutely insist on sleeping in so late, you mustn't disturb me with your snoring."
"Sorry, Jhu-dog. I can't help my sleep apnea." Thano shrugged with her one good arm. Her other arm was wound up in a cast and held together by a sling. She slumped back into her hammock.
Jhudora groaned at the impoliteness of her roommate. She began walking back to her special brew in the cauldron room, purposefully stomping and knocking things over to make as much noise as possible. If she couldn't have peace and quiet, no one could. Thano responded with a loud snore. Jhudora started scoping out her kitchen for the biggest, loudest, pots and pans to retaliate with, when suddenly she heard a knock at the door.
"Come back with a warrant!" The dark faerie yelled out instinctively from her foyer.
"What?" A familiar voice sounded from the other side.
An unfamiliar voice followed. "I think she said 'come back with a warrant'"
"Jhudora, it's not the magic police." The guest knocked again. "It's me, Delina."
Jhudora swung her door open. Sure enough, there was Delina, the dark faerie. Standing next to her was a purple xweetok who Jhudora didn't recognize. The xweetok was standing very awkwardly, nervously, and had this disturbed look on her face like she had seen a ghost.
"Delina?" Jhudora ignored the xweetok and instead gave Delina an intense stare. The sight of the crafting faerie made her brows furrow, a vein in her forehead sticking out and pulsing.
"Jhudora...." Delina returned the stare, crossing her arms. She leaned in closer and narrowed her eyes at the much bigger and more intimidating dark faerie that appeared to be sizing her up for a brawl.
The purple xweetok tensed up even more as she watched the two dark faeries glare at each other, ready to run in case a fight broke out. But after the silence went on for far too long, the opposite happened. The two dark faeries broke the silence with a hearty and boisterous laughter, and Jhudora gave the younger faerie a friendly shove that almost knocked her over.
"Oh, you little so-and-so, Delina! I haven't seen you since Darigan U! What have you been up to?"
Delina chuckled. "Oh, you know, a little of this, a little of that. Um, how about you! Your place looks great. Living on a cliff seems awesome!"
Jhudora smiled and stepped aside. "Oh, you're still quite a flatterer, dear. How about you and your friend come on in? I haven't had pleasant company in some time" Delina and the xweetok followed her in, the xwee curiously surveying the room. "Wake up, Thano. We have guests." Jhudora boomed in a voice that was different from the courteous voice she used with her guests.
The gray and white acara rubbed her eyes with the wrist of her good arm and sat up. She adjusted her arm's sling and took a drink of water before making her way over. "Who's this, Jhu-dog? You didn't tell me we were having anyone over."
Jhudora inhaled and prepared to give Thano a long lecture about impromptu nicknames, but she noticed that Delina was chuckling. "Hah! Jhu-dog. I'm so using that. Who's this little personality, Jhu-dog?" Jhudora actually laughed hearing it come out of Delina's mouth. Maybe she would make exceptions. But certainly not for that acara.
"The name's Thano, Thano Scar," She tilted her face to show off her scar, as well as doing a small gesture with her slinged arm. She was obviously trying to show off how roughed up she had been. "Battledome warrior. But right now, I'm taking a break 'til my arm gets better. It's my sword arm, after all."
"Yes." Jhudora continued dryly. "She is staying with me while she rests. I only require a little bit of work in exchange."
"Oh, well isn't that nice of you." Delina smiled warmly.
"Speaking of which, Thano, why don't you go make yourself useful for a change. I want to serve our guests some tea. Fetch me some chamomile leaves and Buzzer honey, will you?"
"Whaaaat." Thano complained. "But they just got here! I have so many funny stories to tell!" Jhudora returned this with a nasty glare. "Ughhh, fine, Jhu-dog." The acara made her way towards the door when a voice interjected.
"I can come too." It was the xweetok.
Thano asked, "Why? You don't have to."
"It's the least I could do." She grabbed the bag that she arrived with. "Jhudora seems very hospitable. Besides, maybe I could hear one of your funny stories."
Thano groaned. "Alright, just don't slow me down, purple."
As the xweetok closed the door behind them, she sighed. "I have a name"
"What is it?"
"Schmuse." She began to walk down the pathway. It led to the other side of the bluff, which seemed to be covered in lush forestry, and the height difference was much less drastic and steep.
Thano snorted. "What kind of a name is that?"
"What kind of a name is Thano Scar? Were your parents really into action movies or something? Or did you get to pick out your own name before you were old enough to know any better?" Schmuse retorted.
"I wish" said Thano. "I would've picked something way cooler, like, The Void Wielder, imagine how cool that would be." Thano laughed. She looked at Schmuse who simply rolled her eyes in response. "What, you don't think that's cool? My signature sword is called the void blade, doesn't it fit?"
"Actually, yes." Schmuse replied. "A name as absolutely ridiculous and tryhard as 'The Void Wielder' would be perfect for someone like you."
Thano chuckled. "You're funny, Schmuse. Say, what do you wanna do for the next couple hours? I saw a dead Miamouse yesterday, if it's still around, maybe we can poke it with a stick or something."
Schmuse was confused. "The next... couple hours?
Thano picked up a pebble off the gravel path and threw it at a tree. It bounced off and hit another tree before disappearing into the forest. "Yeah, while we're out here. Unless you have an idea that's better than mine."
"I thought we were looking for chamomile and buzzer honey. That shouldn't take more than forty-five minutes tops."
"Yeah, yeah" Thano sneered. "I was just gonna screw around for as long as I could get away with. I don't like Jhudora's house, gives me the creeps, and she's real mean to me, too. I just wanna walk around and do fun stuff. Come back at the end with some random leaves. See what happens."
Schmuse paused her stride, shocked. "You were going to have Jhudora brew us tea with random leaves to see what happens?"
Thano laughed. "Oh yeah. If it was the right stuff, great. If it was poison, even better. Jhudora has some very expensive things I could sell. What about you, though? You've been clinging to your stuff so tight I haven't had a chance to rummage through it yet." Thano reached her good arm out to the button of Schmuses satchel, about to pop it open, when a purple paw smacked it away.
"I beg your pardon!" Schmuse was annoyed. "I hope that was one of your 'funny stories'."
"Relax, purple." Thano gave Schmuse a joking light punch on the shoulder. Schmuse did not take this as a joke. She returned the favor with one that had much more force. "Ow! You're lucky that was my good arm, I woulda pressed charges!"
The purple xweetok huffed. "Again." Schmuse sternly replied. "I have a name.
"Yeah" Thano muttered under her breath. "A stupid one."
Schmuse opened her journal and started paging through it. Thano wasn't sure if the xwee didn't hear her remark or if she was ignoring her. Being nosy, Thano got up way too close to Schmuse and started peeking into the journal. Was it a diary? Was it full of illegal information? Or just embarrassing secrets?
Schmuse suddenly noticed how close the gray acara was to her and jumped back. Her face was flustered with embarrassment. "Personal space!" She exclaimed. After calming down and recomposing herself, she showed Thano her book. "I used to study earth faerie magic. I have some notes on plant species. I was checking them to see if I have anything written about chamomile." She smiled, proud of herself. She thought that researching plants was one of the most tedious parts of Earth magic studies, so she was happy that her efforts paid off. "In addition to that, during my studies of earth magic, I learned that Buzzers very much like the scent of lavender. I was thinking we should also collect some lavender flowers to lure them out of the nest before collecting the honey, unless you would prefer to be stung." After Schmuse explained herself, she noticed Thano was chuckling. "What? What could possibly be funny about that?"
"Sorry, that was the nerdiest thing I've ever heard."
Schmuse angrily put her book back into her bag and marched up to Thano, getting right up in her face. "You know, before I got here, many of my dear friends warned me that Jhudora is nasty, mean, and bad-tempered. But they really should have warned me about the acara who lives with her." Thano's laughter quickly stopped. Schmuse turned around and started walking away. "If you need me, I will be in the woods, collecting chamomile leaves, lavender florets, and buzzer honey, and unless you apologize, I'm bringing it all back to Jhudora myself and telling her that you didn't help at all."
Thano sighed and caught up with Schmuse. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry. I just thought you'd be more fun. Sheesh."
Schmuse sighed. She knew that wasn't a great apology, but she couldn't see herself getting anything better. "And take back your comment. I'm not a nerd. I am a scholar."
"Okay. Do I have to?"
Schmuse didn't say a word, but her stare said yes.
Thano rolled her eyes. She decided that if she was going to have to do this, she would make a show about it.
"Oh, Schmuse, noble scholar from a mysterious land. I am sooooo sorry to have ever cast a shade of doubt upon your unending and expansive wisdom. For I am but a simpleton, and thou art a beacon of brilliance and shining academia" Thano tried not to laugh. She got down on her knees and started bowing down with her one good arm, her sling tucked under her torso.
Schmuse knew exactly what Thano was doing. She was not amused, but at the same time, she decided that if this was something Thano was going to do, this would be something that she would take advantage of. "At ease, simpleton." She chuckled. Thano stood up and met her gaze uncomfortably close.
"I knew it." Thano said, proud of herself for finally making Schmuse laugh. "I knew you had a sense of humor deep down in there" She poked at the top of the Xweetok's sternum.
Schmuse rolled her eyes. She was still laughing, though. Thano was just soaking it in, thinking about how she finally found a way to make this uptight stranger laugh. "Alright then, Thano. Follow me. I will show you how to identify those plants I was talking about."
And then, for once, in her life, Thano returned to Jhudora, in a timely manner, with all of the things she asked for, on the first try.
"I don't believe it, Thano" Jhudora chuckled as she poured the piping hot water over the loose leaf tea satchels she had prepared. The chamomile flavor seeped out of the bag and into the steaming mugs, sending a sweet and pungent aroma into the air of her kitchen. "My chores actually got done tonight."
"Oh please, don't thank me-" Thano wrapped her good arm around Schmuses shoulder and pulled the purple xweetok in close, messing with the fur on her head. "Thank us"
"I wasn't thanking you, Thano. Just letting you know." Jhudora handed a tea mug to Delina first, and then set aside one for herself. She then picked up the remaining two mugs and brought them to the neopets. Schmuse's front paws were both occupied trying to straighten out her hair after what Thano did. Thano pulled her good arm off of the xweetok to grab Schmuse's drink and pass it to her before grabbing her own. Although Schmuse was annoyed just a moment ago about the acara grabbing her and messing up her hair, she was a little sad once Thano pulled her arm off to grab the tea. She even thought about how if Thano's other arm was still good, she could hold onto Schmuse and grab the tea at the same time, and started to wonder how quickly a broken arm can heal. Before the xweetok could catch herself getting lost in thought, Jhudora's voice snapped her out of it. "I hope you enjoy your tea, Schmuse. It's really nice to have decent help around here for once."
"It's a pleasure, Jhudora" Schmuse chirped. The xweetok instinctively looked over at Thano again as soon as the focus was off of her. The acara brought the piping hot steaming tea up to her face and took a drink without hesitating. She burned herself, jumped from the startle, and burned herself again by spilling a little in her lap. The purple xweetok rolled her eyes. Why am I staring at her so much? She's so dumb. How did she not see that coming? She thought to herself as she watched the acara get up to run her paws under cold water.
"And you aren't just good for chores, I've heard!" Jhudora lifted her hand up to her mouth as she laughed, her wrist bent. "Delina was telling me about some of the mischief you have been up to in Moltara, you sound like an absolute riot, Schmuse!"
Schmuse shot Delina a confused look. She had never in her life been to Moltara, though she had read about it in her fire magic studies. Delina stared at her back with a sense of urgency. Schmuse swallowed and braced herself. She knew that this look meant she had to lie. "Oh yeah! I do enjoy a bit of mischief. Did Delina tell you about the time with the, uh, magma pool guard, and, umm-"
"Hey Schmuse, before you tell that story" Delina interrupted her abruptly, standing up hastily from Jhudora's couch. "Can I borrow your ears for a sec?" Schmuse hesitantly nodded. Delina turned to Jhudora and said "Sorry, Jhu-Dog, we'll be just a second." Jhudora nodded and waved to let them know they could take as long as they needed. Jhudora wasn't concerned about what they were speaking about, she didn't think it was anything important.
But Thano was. And luckily for her, acaras have stellar hearing. They have exceptionally large ears and hollow horns that can pick up on low vibrations. As Jhudora started to prepare a meal for the four of them in her kitchen, Thano tilted her ears towards the crafting faerie and her little purple friend in the other room.
"Listen, Schmuse. You gotta go along, okay? Jhudora can't know the truth about any of this. We got here from Moltara, I used to work there as a weapons blacksmith, you're my apprentice. And we're both, like, mean, okay?"
"Okay, okay, I got it. But why didn't you tell me this on the way here?"
Delina sighed "Well, I didn't think this would go this well, to be honest. I didn't expect Jhudora to welcome me into her home with open arms, after, well, some creative differences we had. I was actually gonna plead her to not punish you for things I did and hope for the best... but... she thinks I'm a cool dark faerie like her, now, so we gotta keep up the illusion, got it?" "
Schmuse cleared her throat. "Okay, Delina. Just try to warn me next time something like this comes up, I'm not the best at lying."
"Yeah, I know, sorry squirt." There was an awkard silence. "Oh! And I haven't decided whether or not we can trust that acara, so don't tell her, either. She seems harmless, but if she tips Jhudora off about us, we'll be in trouble."
Thano heard Schmuse laugh. "You don't have to worry about that."
As Thano heard them both end their conversation and reapproach, she adjusted her posture to cover up the fact that she was just heavily eavesdropping. She watched them both sit down on the opposite side of her at Jhudora's dining table as the three of them waited for Jhudora to finish cooking the stew. She didn't know exactly what they were talking about, but now she knew they were up to something. Something that they were hiding from her and Jhudora. She decided to poke at them.
"So, Delina, Schmuse." Thano said dryly. "You never did say what brings you around here."
Schmuse looked at Delina as if to ask for permission to speak, but Delina went ahead and spoke on her behalf, cautious about the purple xweetok saying something she shouldn't. "Schmuse wants to study dark magic. As a blacksmith, I haven't practiced my arcane craft in years. Well, I tried to show Schmuse a couple of spells, but you would know so much more than me."
Jhudora smiled. "Well that's just perfect. You're much more helpful than Thano. I can teach you magic in return for simple errands like the one you just ran. You and Delina can move into the guest rooms."
Thano scoffed. "Wait, you have guest rooms? And I've been sleeping in a hammock in your living room?"
Not anymore, you won't. You have a week to pack up your stuff. I don't need your help anymore." Jhudora grunted.
Thano stood up angirly. "Are you serious? What about my arm! What about all of our memories?!"
"Those were memories I would rather forget. I hope your arm feels better soon."
Delina, Schmuse, and Thano all exchanged glances. They were confused, they were all getting what they wanted. Delina got on Jhudora's good side. Schmuse got to study magic with one of the most powerful Dark Faeries in Neopia. And Thano was no longer trapped in that little space in the living room that she hated so much, doing boring chores every boring day.
Yet, this wasn't the outcome they wanted. Something felt wrong about how this was all wrapping up so quickly. And Schmuse especially felt wrong about how Thano would get kicked out of her home because of her actions.
Dinner that night was silent and awkward. After the meal, Jhudora escorted Delina and Schmuse to their guest quarters. Delina's room was a little bigger than Schmuse's, but she didn't mind, because she had a wlndow where she could look out and almost see Faerieland. It made her feel less alone
Several hours later, after tossing and turning and trying to figure out if she would get any sleep, Schmuse went to her wlndow again. She noticed Thano sitting outside, all alone, looking a little sad. She didn't know this acara very well, but Thano being sad and mopey rather than her rambunctious self was concerning. Schmuse opened Jhudora's front door and as she went from inside to outside, the cozy atmosphere of a house full of friends turned into the deafening silence of crickets and nighttime. The grass was cold and wet on her paws as she walked up to Thano and sat down next to her.
"Thano, listen, I am so, so-"
"What's your deal?" Thano snapped, "You show up unannounced one day, and you follow me around while I'm trying to mind my business. You act like you're so much better and smarter than me the whole time you do it, too. And now I have a week to move out?" She gave the xweetok an intense stare, and Schmuse noticed for the first time that her irises were scarlet red.
"I understand, Thano. I haven't been very nice to you. I had a bad night before I got here." Schmuse's shoulders slumped. Thano's hardened face muscles began to soften as she noticed that the xweetok wasn't getting defensive like she had been earlier. "But that's no excuse. I promise that I never wanted to replace you, and I never wanted Jhudora to kick you out. I can try to talk her into changing her mind. And if she doesn't, I'll let you sleep in the hammock every night and I can sleep out here in the yard." Schmuse felt the grass with her paws. "It's not so bad out here."
Thano laughed a bit, which surprised Schmuse.
"Don't sleep outside for me, purple. This is probably a good thing. I'm tired of sleeping in that hammock. I gotta get back to my spaceship, to the battledome, to my old life-"
"Your spaceship?!" Schmuse interrupted.
"Oh, yeah" Thano's mood picked up."It's just a lil one. Big enough for me, maybe a friend. I could sleep in it, drive in it, and the best part is, I got free spaceship parking at the cosmic dome as a regular challenger, so I just kept that bad boy docked there, lived in it, and I haven't pay a single neopoint of rent in my life." Thano proudly smiled.
"How did you get that....?!"
"What, you didn't think someone like me could have nice things?" Thano chuckled. Schmuse looked down, embarrassed. "They give out nerkmids to the winners at the cosmic dome. I can make a ton of money off of those."
Schmuse lifted her head a bit. Thano could see her smiling in awe. "I've never been to space..."
"I can take you sometime, if you aren't too good to ride around with someone like me. Oh, and if you aren't too busy nerding out with your dark magic studies." Thano gave Schmuse a sly grin, and instead of lashing out about the word 'nerd', Schmuse rolled her eyes and smiled. "Besides, there's no point in having a spaceship if I'm not taking cuties on joyrides in it."
Schmuse could feel her ears burning. "...What did you say...?" Thano just snort-laughed.
"You heard me, don't overthink it." Thano replied. Her previously drooping horns were popping back up. Schmuse was rubbing the back of her neck, unsure of what to say. "But I don't think there can be any us unless I trust you a little more." Thano continued, which made the xweetok freeze. "You and Delina are hiding something from me."
"Well," Schmuse replied. "I can't say I trust you much either," She turned her head away.
"Fine" Thano scoffed. "There doesn't need to be anything between us. I could live my whole life without ever seeing your stupid mug again." She used her good arm to help herself stand up, visibly disappointed. Schmuse flinched in regret.
"Wait," The purple xweetok blurted. "How about I tell you something every day-" She swallowed. "You know, as I trust you more."
Thano turned around, curious, but stoic. "What can you tell me today?"
Schmuse took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Am I gonna regret this? She thought to herself. Maybe. But I think I'll regret it more if she lives her whole life without ever seeing my 'stupid mug' again. She gripped onto the hem of her skirt and opened her eyes to look at Thano. "Delina and I aren't from Moltara. We're from Faerieland, you see, and I was raised by the queen, but I-" Schmuse stopped herself. She noticed Thano was grinning. "Well, that was two things. And I have a lot more, but you'll have to wait for all that. And you cannot tell Delina that I'm telling you this."
"You were raised by the Queen of Faeries?!" Thano burst out snickering. "That explains a lot,"
"Oh, be quiet!" Schmuse put a paw over the acara's mouth to shut her up. Once Thano had calmed down, she removed it.
"Does that make you a princess?" Thano bowed down to the xweetok. "I'm underdressed! I should go get my tux-"
Schmuse rolled her eyes "Oh please, I'm not a princess, and if this deal is going to work, you have to tell me something every day, too."
"Okay, okay..." Thano's laughter halted and she sighed. "How about this, I'm worried my arm will never get better. I've been here for... months. Maybe even a year by now. I don't wanna be stuck with Jhudora forever. This isn't normal for a broken arm, is it?"
"What about your spaceship?" Schmuse asked, concerned. "You know, parking garage life. You don't need Jhudora, do you?" Thano laughed.
"I haven't been to the cosmic dome in so long, it's probably been towed, taken to a junkyard, and scrapped for spare parts." The acara sighed. "I got taken straight to the Neopian Central hospital, I haven't been to space since. I called the PPL the day after and they were able to get in, and have been taking care of my little guy ever since, but that was the last time that I know of anyone seeing my ship."
"Well," Schmuse said. "I bet I could get you in touch with Mira, the space faerie. If anyone can find out what happened to your ship, she could. And we'd better go get your petpet, right?"
Thano looked up at Schmuse optimistically. "Really? You don't have to do that for me."
Schmuse reached out and grabbed the one good gray paw in her two purple ones. "I want to." She looked at Thano's deep red eyes and took a deep breath. "I'm gonna take you to Faerieland, one of these days. I promise. And until then..." Schmuse swallowed, knowing this would probably be an inconvenience for her later. "You can set up your hammock in my guest room. Jhudora doesn't have to know"
"Woah! You're gonna sneak me into your room and lie to Jhudora?!" Thano chuckled. "Who are you and what happened to that square I met earlier?" She tousled Schmuse's hair.
Schmuse just laughed at this comment. She leaned into the hair-tousle and subconsciously put her head on Thano's shoulder . She only noticed when the acara leaned her own head into Schmuse. A warm feeling rushed through her face. Her heart was beating fast and she felt like her arms were jelly. She's right. What did happen to me? Why does she make me feel so funny? Why does she make me act like this? And why do I like it so much?