Long ago, in very ancient times, the world of Neopia was a wild, dark, and dangerous place. The world was plagued by fearsome monsters, the most notable of which were the wraiths. The wraiths were the predominant reigning force in these times, and they were feared by all. These were the same wraiths released by Xandra during the fall of Faerieland.
Separate from the monsters and wraiths were creatures known as faeries and Neopets. Faeries had not yet been united under one queen, whom we refer to today as Fyora. "Faerieland" was a concept which did not exist; nor, in fact, was "Neopia." In those days, faeries lived in small nomadic groups called tribes, forced to forever wander so the wraiths would never know their location. Faeries and Neopets did not often interact, and there was much hostility and fear between them. Many faeries considered themselves above Neopets, who were still wild themselves, spending most of their time hiding from the wraiths.
Our story begins in these dark times, at the end of the days of the tribes. We find ourselves following the tale of two faerie sisters, Uriele and Nereza, who are as different as light and dark. While over time, the wraiths would be defeated, and faeries and Neopets would come to agreements and accept Neopia as the name of the world, the influence of Uriele and Nereza cannot be denied. For, together, they would shape the very foundation of the modern Neopia in which we live today. Indeed, without them, modern Neopia may very well have never existed at all.
The dark faerie searched the area around her, tightening her grip on her mother's hand.
"Mother, where is Ellie?" she asked worriedly.
"Nereza, please, do not squeeze so hard," her mother, Demelza, scolded lightly. "I shall lose a hand. You are far too old to hold it, in any case."
"But Mother! Ellie—"
She was silenced by the gentle smile her mother gave her. "Your sister is fine, dear," she told her. "We saw the fyora and she went to speak with her. You were not paying attention—daydreaming again, I assume?"
Nereza wrenched her hand away and crossed her arms over her chest. "I was not," she murmured grumpily. She then realized what had been said to her, and whirled on her mother. "Wait! Ellie is with the fyora?!" She looked anxiously around again. "Where are they?"
"For goodness' sake, Nezza!" cried her mother, exasperated.
At last Nereza spotted who she was looking for, and without a word she dashed away, ignoring her mother's calls for her to return. Her sister went around a corner, but Nereza caught up with her quickly.
The young light faerie turned at the sound of her special nickname. The first thing she noticed was that her sister's beautiful black and blue hair was in slight disarray.
"Nezzie, what's wrong?" she asked, sincerely concerned. "You look as if you have seen a ghost."
"You should not run off like that," Nereza scolded. "You know what can happen if you get lost."
The light faerie smiled. "I know. I am sorry. But I promise you, I was being safe."
The sisters turned at the sound of their mother's voice. They glanced at each other as she approached, and both suppressed the urge to grin.
The adult air faerie stopped before them, hands on her hips, and sighed. "Nereza, you should know better than to run off like that," she chided, echoing her daughter's own words from a moment before.
"I know, Mother," said the dark faerie, bowing her head. "My sincerest apologies."
The air faerie rolled her eyes and turned to her other daughter. "Uri, did you speak with the fyora?"
"I did," Uriele replied seriously. "I needed to ask about a favor."
Her mother raised an eyebrow. "A favor?"
Uriele nodded. "Yes. Nezzie and I wanted to skip lessons tomorrow afternoon to practice on our own in the fields."
"Skip your lessons?" Her eyes flicked to her eldest daughter. "What is the meaning of this, Nereza?"
The dark faerie's face colored, and she looked away resolutely. How could she explain this to her mother? She didn't want to lie, as Uriele was doing—Nereza certainly did not want to skip her lessons, nor did she think it wise for Uriele to do so, either—but what else could she do? She didn't want to get her sister in trouble, but she herself would also have to face their mother's wrath if she couldn't come up with something clever, quickly. "Morwen has told us that we are brilliant pupils and encourages us to study independently," she lied. "We are not skipping our lessons, as Ellie put it."
Demelza did not seem entirely convinced, but she sighed and acquiesced. "Very well; just be mindful of your surroundings. It is dangerous for two young faeries to go alone in the fields."
"With our magic?" scoffed Uriele, smirking. "Any monsters out there best hope they do not meet us!"
Their mother smiled weakly. Nereza did not smile at all. Monsters were the very least of their worries.
"What did you actually ask of Morwen?" Nereza asked the next day as they left the village boundaries. It was a chilly, wet morning, and both faeries wore thick dark cloaks for warmth. As they moved further away from their tribe, the feeling of uneasiness simmering in Nereza's stomach grew.
"Oh, nothing," her sister replied. "I told her that we were going to be missing our lessons because Mother was taking us out to gather mushrooms and roots."
Nereza stopped in her tracks. "You lied to the fyora?" Her blood ran cold; what were they doing? This was wrong. They should still be in their village where it was safe.
Uriele shrugged nonchalantly. "You lied to Mother."
"That was completely different! I was trying to keep you from getting into trouble."
"And I thank you! Now come on, follow me. I want to show you something."
The dark faerie hesitated, but decided to go along, at least to ensure nothing bad happened to her sister. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that they were both walking into great danger, and when they were so far they couldn't see their village anymore, she felt certain she was right.
"Ellie, let's go back," she said earnestly. "It is not safe out here."
"Oh, stop it, Nezzie," replied the light faerie. "You are too afraid of your own shadow. We're fine, see?"
"For now," Nereza insisted. "There are rules for a reason. You cannot just break them whenever it suits your fancy."
Uriele waved her hand dismissively. "Rules were meant to be broken! Now stop being so negative. We are almost there anyway."
Though now more than a little vexed with her sister, Nereza kept her mouth shut and continued to follow behind. The fields took a downward turn, and eventually they came to a river. The fog lay heavier here, and the dampness hung on their cloaks. Uriele brought her hand out and created a shining ball of light, which broke through the mist and cleared their way. Nereza could see they were following the river into what appeared to be a forest. She suppressed the urge to turn and run back the way they had come, but she feared she would become lost, or that Uriele would befall some danger she could not face alone.
"How much farther?" she asked nervously. "We have been walking for at least an hour… do you not think our mother will become worried?"
"Mother is fine. Come, we have arrived at the Wood of Mystery."
Nereza's eyes widened. "The Wood of— You mean to tell me you have brought us to the edge of the Wood of Mystery during a fog and without any protection or help?!" She was as livid as she was afraid. There could be wraiths in the forest.
"Calm yourself, Nezzie, we're fine," said Uriele with a smile. She lifted her fingers and raised the ball of light floating above them. "Besides, I am the most powerful magician in the tribe. No harm could possibly befall us while I am here."
"Morwen is the most powerful magician in the tribe," Nereza corrected sharply. "That is why she is the fyora. The word 'fyora' means 'magician.' That is why she is our teacher, not the other way around. How dare you imply otherwise?"
Her sister scowled. "Very well," she said, "I apologize for not including you among the tribe's most powerful magical practitioners… I didn't realize you would be so sensitive about it."
"That is not in the least what I said at all!"
"Nezzie…" Uriele put her free hand on her sister's cloaked arm and looked into her eyes. "We should not be quarreling. And fret not, Sister. Before long, Morwen shall retire and name us both the new village fyoras. We shall share the title, like you have always wanted. Will that not be well?"
Nereza frowned. "Morwen shall not retire for many years," she replied flatly. "Possibly centuries."
Uriele sighed in exasperation, dropping her hand. "You don't understand anything, do you?" she exclaimed. "I have brought you here to show you something by which I feel you will be quite impressed. Yet you tarry our time with senseless worries and semantics. Do you not believe the longer we stay, the more 'danger' we are in? If that is so, let us remain no longer, and enter the wood so I may show you why it is we have come!"
The two faeries looked at each other for several moments, neither relenting until finally Nereza gave a heavy sigh. "Very well," she murmured. "But let us hurry. I wish to stay not a moment longer than we must."
"Oh, wonderful!" The light faerie beamed as she linked arms with her sister. Nereza had to fight to keep from protesting as they entered the darkness of the forest.
The sisters walked for a mere ten minutes more before arriving at their destination. The way was much clearer with Uriele's ball of light, and it was almost as if the fog was gone entirely. They entered a small meadow shrouded in mist, and Uriele closed both hands around her ball, then opened them to throw light into the air. It dashed the fog away and collected in the meadow's center, settling on the very thing Uriele wished to present to her sister.
"Behold," she said, smiling proudly as she held her arms out in gesture.
Nereza gasped. She did not know what to make of this horror.