Icy lays asleep with her sisters in the place the Pixie Hollowers call the Chamber Of Voices where they would absorb from the Pixie Dust Tree whatever was required for them to understand and speak Hollowese, Queen Clarion through Aisha as interpreter had explained to them.
“The pixies here enjoy their creature comforts,” Icy is thinking drowsily, for the sleeping mat, although not made of memory foam, conformed well to her body and was quite comfortable. Suddenly, she feels an uncomfortable draft over her body and reaches for what she thinks is a blanket to cover herself, rolls onto her back and is jolted awake and sitting up when she feels sharp pains down her back then hears a popping sound and feels a release of pressure. She reaches a hand behind her back and draws it back covered in blood and mucus. Thinking that some parasite or parasites had attached themselves to her back during the night, she starts screaming bloody murder. The Winx and the Tinx, who had been sleeping in an adjacent chamber, come rushing into the Chamber Of Voices at the sound of the commotion.
“Get them off of me! Get them off of me!” Icy screams at the Winx and the Tinx who are standing about her with their eyes wide in disbelief.
“I said get them off of me, Aisha!” yells Icy but it is Flora who is first to overcome her shock.
“I need water and some absorbent material,” says Flora.
“We’re on it,” say Silvermist and Rosetta flying off but then are flying back with hands full of water and wads of some fibrous material. Then Elixa, the Royal Healing Talent, comes racing into the Chamber Of Voices with her medicine bag in hand.
“I think Queen Clarion should witness this too,” says Elixa. “Somebody fetch her here.”
“Zephyr,” calls Vidia from the doorway while beckoning to a Fast Flyer dressed in courtly attire who is standing at her post just a little ways down the hallway. “Ask Queen Clarion to come here at once!”
“Don’t you dare ord…,” begins Zephyr angrily while coming to the doorway but then, seeing Icy’s transformation, the Courtesan Faerie’s expression changes. “Forthwith,” she says then, and with a thrum of wings, she’s off.
Meanwhile, Flora has Silvermist apply cool water to Icy’s back and is washing it with the cotton Rosetta had fetched.
“Might I be of assistance?” asks Elixa, kneeling down beside Flora.
“Yes,” says Flora. “Do as I’m doing on the other side. Be gentle. It’s going to be sensitive for some time. Make sure to get out all the blood and mucus here and that the inside is perfectly dry. A light coating of oil would help though.”
“I have some sunflower oil,” says Elixa.
“Perfect,” says Flora.
“I told you to get those parasites off of me,” yells Icy close to hysteria, “not make them feel welcome and at home!”
“Icy,” says Flora gently while moving to face her, “I don’t know any other way to tell you this, but those are wings on your back, not parasites.”
“You’re putting me on, Flower Faerie,” snarls Icy.
“I’m afraid not, Icy,” says Stella, kneeling beside her holding the Solarian compact mirror she has unfolded and angled so Icy could see her back.
“No…,” moans Icy then notices that other things are different as well. Her costume is still skin-tight leather as before but now snow white with embossed snowflakes and icicle teardrops hanging from the sleeve edges and around the top of her white leather, stiletto boots. Then Icy puts her hands to her head. “My hair!” she moans. “What has happened to my hair?”
“She looks like a Frost Faerie,” says Tinker Bell, seeing that Icy’s hair was now short and spiked like Periwinkle’s.
“Overall, I would say you are a Winter Woods Fast Flyer,” says Vidia while walking around Icy giving her a good look-over. “And look at the size and strength of those wing muscles! They’re gigantic!”
“And here is the rest of your hair,” says Stella, holding up the pure silver-white riding cloak that Icy had thought was a blanket. “With this super fine weave and the natural oils of your hair, I would say it is waterproof as well.”
“You will need to protect your wings from the rain,” adds Vidia.
“They can rot and fall off for all I care,” snaps Icy.
“Now don’t be like that, honey,” says Rosetta, caressing Icy’s cheek with the ever so soft touch of a flower petal. “Y’all are gorgeous, an’ to tell you the truth, most of us would kill to have your looks.”
Icy smiles and momentarily blushes at that for, although a Witch, she is an ardent fitness-fanatic who is proud of her hard body and her own beauty and takes it as a great compliment when others notice. “Thank you, Rosetta, is it?” and the Garden Faerie nods and smiles.
“I could really get to like this little redhead,” thinks Icy but then is mentally slapping her face. “Snap out of it, Icy! She’s a Faerie not a sister Witch and Witches hate Faeries. Yet, she has a mesmerizing appeal to her. Yuck! Did I just think that?!” then shakes her head in confusion.
“I’m hungry,” says a sweet and shy soprano voice with a bell-like quality.
The Winx, the Tinx and Icy turn to see that Stormy is sitting up, yawning, and stretching both her arms and wings as would any Pixie Hollower waking up to begin her daily chores.
“A Storm Talent,” cry the Tinx excitedly, seeing Stormy’s blue-black and shades of mauve wings with yellow lightning bolts running through them, while Stormy looks back at them with a “Well, what else would I be?” expression.
But Flora and Elixa still have to wash Stormy’s back and wipe out all the blood and mucus in her wing sacs, thoroughly dry out the insides then apply sunflower oil. Stormy sits quietly allowing the Nature Faerie and the Healer to do their work while looking as if thinking that wings were the perfectly natural thing to have. Flora then expertly pokes a certain wing muscle and Stormy’s one wing immediately folds and snaps into its protective wing sac. Another poke and it snaps out again.
“Excellent reflexes,” says Flora.
“Impressive,” agrees Vidia, “but, if her wings are anything like ours, they need exposure to the air to set properly.”
“I’m hungry,” restates Stormy then suddenly shows all just how lightning fast her reflexes are when she snags a fast flying insect from out of midair as it zings past them.
Fawn experiences a moment of panic when she sees that Stormy is about to shove the struggling insect into her mouth and grabs Stormy’s arm. “Let go of it!” she orders.
“Whaa?” asks Stormy, puzzled.
“You’re hurting it. Let it go!” shouts the Animal Faerie then slaps Stormy’s hand hard so she releases her captive.
“What did you do that for?” whimpers Stormy with tearful, blue-eyed innocence while rubbing the back of her hand.
“You can’t eat insects here,” says Fawn. “It’s against our laws.”
“If that’s the case,” speaks up Icy, “then you’ve a problem with us. We need the concentrated protein found in insects to survive. Witches can’t live on just vegetation the way Faeries do.”
“Maybe adjustments have been made to your digestive tract so you can,” suggests Tecna.
“I doubt that,” snorts Icy.
“My stomach’s hurting. Please give me something to eat. Anything!” wails Stormy while holding onto her stomach in pain.
“We’uns can’t have that, Sunflower,” says Rosetta sympathetically. “Here, here’s somethin’ for you to try,” then offers Stormy a cube of pink and violet marbled stuff.
Stormy doesn’t even wait for Rosetta to drop the cube into to her waiting hand before she grabs it from her and crams it into her mouth. Then her eyes go wide. “Be it Faerie food or not,” she is thinking, “the taste of this is to die for,” and in the next instant has her hand held open to Rosetta for more.
Sated, Stormy stands up and everyone down to Stella admires the full-length light mauve dress with dark mauve trim and the Winx note that her hair has been coifed to somewhat resembling Icy’s former high ponytail. Within a few moments, the Tinx plus Stormy have a lay-on of hands and together are chanting, “Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust!”
Later, the Tinx are standing in a group to the side while Stormy has gone back to sleep. “Did we really just do that?” asks Vidia, confused. “Yesterday, she was behaving like such a spoiled brat that I thought for sure that, had her sister not taken matters into her own hands, Queen Clarion would have taken her over her knee and waled the tar out of her. And I would have been standing next in line.”
“And Tink,” she continues while turning to the blonde Faerie, “Aren’t you even a tad ticked that she tried to zap you again with lightning from behind? And now here we are treating her as if she were born a Faerie and falling all over ourselves to be all lovey-dovey with her,” then makes a disgusted face.
“I don’t get it, Tink,” says Iridessa with a pensive look. “I thought you said these Witches are wicked and nasty. Now suddenly Stormy is as sweet and innocent as a Newling. Even her mistakes were out of sheer innocence.”
“I don’t get it either,” says Tinker Bell, shrugging. “At Alfea College she was just the worst bad news on two legs. Maybe exposure to Pixie Dust has sweetened her up and made her attractive to us.”
“But she’s so going to hit it off with the other Storm Talents,” smiles Silvermist.
“And, if she’s willin’, there’s a large patch of cropland that is still so parched from the Dragonfly War that it will require a major downpour to restore it,” adds Rosetta.
And as the Winx and the Tinx marvel at the wonder of it all, Icy’s rage is boiling within her like lava pent up in a rumbling volcano.
Icy turns her head and sees Darcy still asleep on her mat, and, before Elixa can stop her, she is shaking hard on her shoulder. “Wake up, Darcy,” she orders her sister.
“You should have left her to awake on her own,” says Elixa, distressed.
“Back off, pixie!” barks Icy about to shove her away until she catches sight of Aisha’s angry expression and holds back.
“Well, the Pixie Dust hasn’t done anything to sweeten her up, Tink,” whispers Iridessa.
“Yeah,” sighs Tinker Bell, “but we could only have hoped.”
“We still need to clean her up,” says Flora and Aisha nods.
“Whatever,” growls Icy under her breath then goes to sit on her mat.
The first unusual thing all notice about Darcy’s transformation is her two pairs of wings. The inner pair resemble typical Faerie wings that are dark with silver flecks scattered throughout. The outer pair is heavier and of the same colors but much longer and have two extra joints. There are also retractable armored plates on her back that, when deployed, overlapped with the back of the outer wings.
Flora and Elixa take extra care when cleaning the blood and mucus off of Darcy’s wings and out of her wing sacs but as they clean her they become more and more confused about the purpose of this particular wing configuration.
“Let me see how much mobility you have in your wings, Darcy,” says Flora. “Start with the inner set.”
Darcy moves her wings back and forth and Flora and Elixa see that they have the normal range of movement as well as wing sacs to fold into when not deployed.
“Excellent.” says Flora. “Now, Darcy, I want you to move the outer wings as far back as you can then as far forward as you can.”
Darcy’s outer wings move backwards normally enough but when she moves them forward, the extra joints bend forwards and the wings lock with one another then the plates on her back deploy sideways and over her head locking with the outer wings forming a perfectly sealed dome about her. Darcy is hunkered down inside the dome with only her head visible through a clear “window” in front.
Tecna takes out her palmtop and scans Darcy’s outer wings. “You’re not going to believe this, guys,” she gasps.
“What?” ask all together.
“Her wings contain enormous amounts of mica and asbestos,” Tecna explains, “and her bones and the edges of her wings are reinforced with natural carbon fiber.”
“And, without the techno-babble, that means?” asks Icy.
“Naturally occurring blast shielding,” replies Tecna in awe. “She could withstand a blast of Dragon’s Fire or a Solaria sun-blast point blank and at full force and come out of it not only alive but without a scratch!”
“Whoa!” exclaims Bloom. “But what would we need that kind of talent for?”
“Well, when I tried to change my talent,” begins Tinker Bell and the rest of the Tinx begin to giggle. “As I was saying…,” restarts Tink, scowling, “when I tried to change my talent, Queen Clarion patiently let me keep trying until after I created a disaster trying to round up sprinting thistles. Then she took me aside and explained how talents are assigned. The Pixie Dust Tree assigns talents according to need. At that time there were Fast Flyers aplenty and so to Garden Faeries, Light Faeries, Water Faeries, Animal Faeries and every other type of talent except that the tally of Tinker Faeries came up short and so that was why I became a Tinker.”
“And not only did she become a Tinker but a Super Tinker,” beams Rosetta. “She created devices that helped us undo all the damage done by the sprinting thistles and bring Spring on time to the Mainland.”
“Fascinating,” breathes Stormy.
“How nice,” thinks Icy sarcastically.
“Sisters?” interrupts Darcy. “Could we have some light in here? I can’t see my hand in front of my face.”
“What do you mean, Darcy?” retorts Icy. “There’s all kinds of light here.”
Darcy puts her hands to her face and begins to panic. “My eyes! What has happened to my eyes?! Icy, I can’t see!”
“Darcy’s getting a taste of her own medicine, I would say,” thinks Stella.
That brings the Royal Healing Talent quickly to Darcy’s side while Aisha and Bloom keep the others back.
“I’ve been a fool,” Elixa whispers to herself. “I got so caught up with her wings that I didn’t think to check anything else.”
“Easy, Darcy,” says Flora, unfurling her wings to send a calming scent through the air.
Elixa gently feels about Darcy’s eyes that are covered with a thick paste. “You are not going to be blind,” she tries to reassure Darcy. “You still have your eyes but I can feel they are going through change. Had your sister not wakened you too soon, you would have awoken on your own with your sight intact. You need to go back to sleep for a bit.” Elixa scratches Darcy’s arm with a thorn then Darcy keels onto her side stone-cold out.
“What is going on?” asks a mature voice and all turn to see Queen Clarion floating into the chamber. “I could hear shouting all the way down the hall.”
“Majesty,” says Elixa, bowing to her queen, “I had you called here because…” She steps aside so Queen Clarion could see Darcy clearly.
Queen Clarion flies quickly to the doorway. “Guards!” she calls loudly and uncharacteristically and with great urgency. Within seconds, five burly Sparrowmen clad in dragonfly armor and bearing spears come piling into the chamber followed by Zephyr.