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Week 304
You are on Week 305
Week 306

Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...

We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!

Story Three Hundred Five Ends January 12

"I can't say I've seen anything of the sort, sir, but if I do, I'll let you know."

Chirlee nodded with resignation and snapped his notebook shut. "Thanks for your time," the Chia called as he waved to the old Aisha.

"We're not getting anywhere, are we?" his partner spoke up from beside him. The younger Kiko sullenly twirled his cap in his hands. "We've gone from town to town all over Neopia, and we just can't pick up the faintest trace of this guy. It's like he vanished." The Kiko pondered a moment. "Or was painted invisible," he added with a profound nod.

Chirlee chewed his pen thoughtfully. "Even invisible criminals leave tracks. I've told you, though, he's a master of disguise. He can be a homely Yurble shopkeeper one day and a Grarrl gladiator the next. He can't run forever, though. Someone will eventually see through his disguise, and then we’ll be able to return those Neopoints to the Neopian Bank. Or at least I hope so," he finished, muttering the last sentence under his breath.

The Kiko threw up his hands. "If he's such a master, like you said, how is anyone supposed to see through his disguise?!?"

"Patience," the Chia murmured. "Everyone slips up. It's all a part of this elaborate game he's playing."

Crash!

Chirlee looked up, his thoughts suddenly interrupted by the clashing of cymbals, which was soon followed by the blaring of a horn. Onlookers excitedly gathered along the streets, talking among themselves.

The Chia found the Aisha he had been talking to earlier. "What's going on, ma'am?" he inquired.

"Don't you know?" the old Neopet said. "The lord who owned that mansion up on the hill has returned! We thought he was gone for good, but he returned just a few days ago. He's often been kind to us, so the town is throwing a parade in his honour..."

Author: Sheriff of Stories
Date: Jan 5th
"...Someone new in town," the Kiko began. "Has it occurred to you--"

The Chia elbowed him, as kicking a Kiko in the shins was impossible due to a lack of shins.

The Aisha was shaking her head impatiently. "No, no, not new. Didn't you hear me, young man? I said he returned. He used to live up there all the time." She beamed and patted the Kiko on the head. "You should come watch the parade! It's great fun." She leaned in close. "And it's likely he'll even come to meet it at the end!"

"Thank you, ma'am," the Kiko said, smiling warmly. He could take a hint, after all. "I suppose we won't be getting much investigation done with everyone at the parade, anyway!"

They made their way away from the old Aisha again, the Kiko trying not to bob with excitement. The Chia looked down at him tolerantly. "Good observation," he murmured, "good instincts, but you don't want to go accusing someone the people here are fond of."

"Sorry," the Kiko muttered sheepishly. "But if it's not really him...."

"Then we'll have to have really good evidence." The Chia looked up the hill. "Let's go around and come up the opposite slope."

* * * * *

The Aisha pulled her shawl close around her head, attention evidently all on the street for the upcoming parade, but she turned her head inside the shawl to peer through the fabric at a thin-to-translucent place, and spotted the two investigators slipping off away from the crowd.

Hah. This was the best disguise yet. And with a little extra luck, those pesky do-gooders would be arrested themselves for skulking around the local lord's property...

Author: schefflera
Date: Jan 8th
...In fact, she mused with a dark, sharp smile that might have eaten a hole in her shawl were that possible, perhaps today Lady Luck could use a little help.

A long, graceful blue paw strayed into a pocket, and the faint glint that sprang off the object that emerged with the paw went as unnoticed by the excited, milling crowd as the disguised Neopet who slipped and weaved among the churning sea of bodies, making her slow, roundabout way toward the mansion where the returning Lord Haralon lived.

* * * * *

You can travel from Tyrannia to the Lost Desert, to Shenkuu, to Mystery Island and back again, but none of them holds the heart quite the same as home does, the Royal Eyrie reflected as he coasted lazily through the pure late-morning sky that arced over the sprawling green tapestry of grass and trees that was Brightvale. The vast seas he had seen in his journeys, the rolling eternities of sand, the towering snow-peaked mountains sparkling in the sun, they were all of them well and good; but as Lord Haralon's roving golden eyes alighted on the mansion to which he was returning, all of those magnificent vistas dimmed to shadows, leaving only the shapely tower of marble that was his home sparkling in sharp relief against the faded memories.

At the end of town opposite the sprawling estate, floats, carts and musicians were readying themselves to set out through the streets in a meandering journey that would end near the border of Haralon's property. The Eyrie's left ear flicked; he should have been used to getting this much attention, having been greeted cordially by royalty throughout his wandering travels; but somehow, when it was presented by the people among whom he had grown up (much to the disgust of his father -- since when did the son of a lord leave the isolation of the mansion to go frolicking in the dust with the common children? And to allow them often into his house when he was grown and had taken lordship of the estate -- well!) it was somehow different. Here, he wasn't so much Lord as Haralon, or so he had felt. Oh, well. If they wanted a party, he wouldn't be the one to rain on it. Besides, it was always good to know that one was wanted.

However he felt about the parade, he had other things to think about. Like the deal that had been struck in the last country he had visited; looking back, he wasn't entirely sure of his judgment in that matter. It wasn't the type of deal he normally made, especially not with a stranger. A rather bizarre stranger at that...

Haralon shook the thought out of his mind. The townspeople were going to an awful lot of trouble -- time to go down and let them know it was appreciated. Angling his wings, the Eyrie lord slid into a descent.

* * * * *

Whoever this lord was, Chirlee decided, he certainly had the townspeople eating out of his paws. Or feeding him out of theirs. Either way, these guys sure were getting excited. Little girls skittered among the adults' feet, sticking freshly picked flowers onto the paint that young boys spread across the floats: swiftly made, cobbled-together floats, but clearly made from the heart. A big "Welcome home!" banner had been stretched across the foremost one, which reared above the others and was clearly the chief of the peoples' celebratory creations.

But through it all, still no sign of anything that could lead them to that-

"Sir!" The Kiko's voice had sunk to an urgent, excited whisper, and the way he was nudging Chirlee's arm brought the Chia to instant attention. "Over there, up by the lord's mansion -- I thought I saw something moving!"

Chirlee shook his head, the momentary hope that had flared in his mind dimming back into its dormant state. "It's probably the lord who owns the place, Argon. You need to be pa-"

Before he could finish the sentence, a growing murmur arose from the crowd. "It's Lord Haralon! He's here!"

Chirlee's head snapped back toward the mansion, his instincts crying havoc. The master of the huge marble abode was alighting near the edge of the crowd, and yet that little moving dot that marred the lonely vastness of the lord's manicured estate was still there, slipping stealthily toward the house...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Jan 9th
...Argon looked up expectantly at Chirlee, whose mind was furiously racing. The Chia immediately recalled his conversation with the old Aisha: the lord had been gone for years, and had been thought to be gone for good. This stranger could not possibly have been a servant of the lord's; he had only just arrived. And, Chirlee noticed, glancing at the festivities behind him, he had arrived alone.

"Come on," he said to Argon quietly. Chirlee tried to snake his way through the crowd, but it was difficult, due to the fact that all of the Neopets were straining to get as close as possible to the guest of honor, who had nearly been trampled before being lifted atop a parade float. The trained Chia knew that two pets moving against the grain would certainly look suspicious. He glanced again at the mansion.

Gone. The figure that had been lurking near the house had disappeared, most likely into the marble mansion. Chirlee cursed himself for not keeping his eyes on the intruder; he was now uncertain as to which path the stranger had taken.

Hurriedly assessing the situation, the Chia decided that it would be simply impossible for he and Argon to separate themselves from the crowd, sneak down the streets and up the hill, break into the mansion, and apprehend the intruder, whose intentions were still very unclear. The investigator had handled enough cases to see that this plan of action was out of the question.

"What now?" piped up Argon, who had been waiting patiently despite the frantic nature of their emergency.

"We can't go up there," said Chirlee, still gazing at the mansion. He didn't want it to be out of his surveillance for a second. "We just need to watch that house. Someone went in, and when they come out, we have to be ready."

"How do we know they'll come out?" asked the young Kiko, whose small stature made it difficult for him to keep a watchful eye on the distant hill amidst the crowd.

"If they come out," said Chirlee, "we'll know that they just stole some money, or perhaps information. But if they don't..." The Chia paused to let his whirring brain settle down and fit the pieces together. "If they don't we know that they're either hiding in the mansion without the lord's knowledge, or that he's expecting them."

* * * * *

A young Shoyru squire peered outside a broad bay window. The festivities were still in full force, and Lord Haralon was most definitely caught up in the middle of it. The squire hurried across the room to open a large closet. He found a wooden chest, and carefully laid inside it a wrinkled dress and a dark shawl...

Author: reggieman721
Date: Jan 9th
...Squire Daventree, he would be called. He liked the name; it had a lordly, noble ring to it. That was the advantage to posing as your own mother, he thought to himself smilingly. You get to pick your own name.

"My son's knight vanished during the Meridell war," he had said in an old Aisha's voice, looking pleadingly to the Eyrie's face. "No other has offered to take him, and my farm was burned to the ground by Darigan's folk, all of my seeds and harvest spoiled. I ask you no aid for myself, but please take my son in as your guard? Daventree is a brave lad, valiant, and will protect your home fearlessly."

The Eyrie had looked taken aback, his eyes bright with pity even as his forehead wrinkled, puzzled. Such was common character of the wealthy; either they bathed in mounds of gold, unfeeling to the problems of lesser creatures, or carried a burden of guilt on their shoulders for being so well-off. This lord, fortunately, was one of the latter -- the former were seldom soft enough to be affected by such a plea. More likely they'd call the Chia Police down on him for being a pest.

"I admit my home is large and attractive to robbers," the Eyrie had replied slowly, "but I do not fear the people of the town. They would rejoice at my return, not reward me with theft."

"The town, perhaps not," he had allowed, scrunching up his wrinkled face earnestly. "There is a new villain about, though, did you hear? A Master of Disguise, he is called, and flits from city to city like a summer wind, changing form even as he comes and goes. Such a wealthy home as yours would be ripe for his tastes." He had fought laughter as he said those words, and had won the battle well, for Lord Haralon had given no indication of having noticed.

The Eyrie lord had paused thoughtfully. "It is not something I would usually do, but..."

Chuckling, the Shoryu who called himself Daventree smiled as he closed the drawer. But yes.

There was one more thing left to hide before the lord's return. Gently the false squire lifted the same object from his pocket that he had taken out at market -- sunlight glinted on a delicate glass bottle. It wouldn't do to lose my potions, he thought to himself, tucking the bottle in a separate drawer. Indeed they might be vital for a quick escape, should the need arise.

His ear twitched as it caught the sound of footsteps approaching. The lord returns, he thought to himself, straightening his squirely attire. Him, or one of those nosy investigators. Either way, he'd be ready. No one had caught him yet, and they weren't likely to get close now...

Author: laurelinden
Date: Jan 10th
...Straightening, Daventree turned as the door of his room creaked open and an elderly Zafara peered through the doorway.

“Squire Daventree?” she asked in an aged voice.

“Yes, ma’am,” he responded, nodding respectfully as a Squire should.

“My Lord informed me that you would be arriving,” she said, nodding back. She glanced around the room -- clearly the Shoyru had been unpacking. “I wanted to let you know that Lord Haralon is expecting you in the town. As part of his return ceremony he wanted to introduce you to the townspeople and show you around the village.”

The Shoyru nodded, and followed the Zafara out of the room and down the stairs towards the door.

“Over there,” she mumbled, pointing. Daventree nodded, though in his head he was dubbing the old Zafara as stupid. Hmph -- as if he couldn’t find his own way.

* * * * *

Chirlee watched the mansion intently as the crowd marched by with the Lord on the roughly prepared float. Still no one had come out yet, and the figure had disappeared several minutes ago.

“I don’t think he’s coming out, Chirlee,” Argon said nervously.

“Patience,” the Chia hissed. Just then, he noticed a figure exit the house. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and he nudged his partner. The Kiko’s eyes widened, and he looked at his partner for directions.

“He’s heading towards the village,” the Chia noted, as the Shoyru walked down the dirt path towards the crowd marching through the buildings. “Act inconspicuous, but keep an eye on him.”

Argon nodded and turned to look at the Lord, who was now standing on the float and making a speech of return. Chirlee still remembered to observe him as well, for all he knew, the figure at the mansion was someone the Lord had been expecting.

The Eyrie was saying how he had journeyed far and wide, but nowhere had felt as comfortable as his own home here in the village. The throng watched him with wide, admiring eyes, and even the children paused to listen to their noble leader.

Just then, a dignified-looking Shoyru parted the crowd. He was wearing the appropriate dress of a squire, and it appeared that he was heading towards the Lord on the float.

So this was the figure who had been creeping around near the mansion! Perhaps Lord Haralon had appointed a new squire for his knights. Chirlee watched as the Eyrie greeted the Shoyru -- a "Squire Daventree" -- and explained that he would be a new member of this town, serving as a guard for the mansion on the hill. Even so, the detective made a mental note to himself not to let the squire out of his sight...

Author: zenevao
Date: Jan 10th
...And the Squire made a mental note not to let the inspectors out of his sight. As the Lord drolled on and on about his journey and Daventree's acceptance, the Shoyru would look out into the crowd and catch a glimpse at the Chia and Kiko staring at the float. He made sure not to hold the gaze, of course. No need to attract attention.

Lord Haralon placed a large paw upon his shoulder unexpectedly. "Welcome to your new home, Daventree. I hope it meets your and your mother's satisfaction."

Daventree smiled warmly. "I assure you, if she were here, she would think this was just perfect."

"Tell me, young Squire, are you hungry? I can easily have my servants prepare a feast for you."

Daventree bowed graciously. "Thank you, Sire. That would be wonderful. If you would excuse me, I'll go wash up."

* * * * *

Chirlee's eyes never left Daventree as he fluttered down from the parade and headed back towards the mansion. "That's our guy," he whispered to his partner.

"But how can you be sure?" asked Argon.

"Call it an intuition."

Chirlee headed towards the mansion with Argon in tow. Everyone's attention was still on Lord Haralon as he continued with his speech, so entering the abode was a simple task. Once they were in the foyer, the Chia scanned the area for the Shoyru.

"Ok, now remember," he whispered to his partner. "This guy's clever, so we can't let him know we're on to him. When you find him, just tell him you want to ask him a few questions."

"Right, partner!" Argon said with a wink. Before he could head down the corridor, Chirlee grabbed his wrist.

"Hold on! Now this guy's dangerous, so don't try acting like the hero, ok? Remember, you're still a rookie."

Argon's face dropped a little. He hated being called a rookie, even though he was still fairly new to the force. Still, Chirlee was the more experienced one and should take his word for it.

"Don't worry, Chirlee. I got it under control."

When they finally separated, the Kiko made sure to keep both eyes peeled for anything suspicious. He'd prove to the force that he was capable of being a...

CLINK CLINK CLINK!

The noise coming from the other room startled him back to reality. Someone was in there! It very well could've been a servant preparing the dinner, but he had to make sure. He quietly entered the dark room, looking for anything unusual.

"Hello?" he called softly. "Anyone here?"

The sharp pain on the back of his head was the last thing he remembered before blacking out.

* * * * *

Novas twirled around Argon's head as he slowly awoke. His head throbbed. Looks like I'll need another bandage, he thought to himself. When he lifted his hand to touch his head wound, his arm felt strangely... different. His whole body felt different, now that he thought about it. A bitter aftertaste was in his mouth, too. And what was beneath him? Were those legs? Since when did he have legs?

"Chirlee! Come quick!"

Argon looked up to see a Kiko standing in the room, pointing to him. Not just any Kiko; HIMSELF! Same spotted color, same white bandage on the head, same officer's uniform. The Kiko gave him a sinister glare as he continued calling his partner.

But if that guy's supposed to be me, he thought, then who am I?

He glanced over to see his reflection in the mirror in the corner, but it was not the image he was born with. The Neopet looking back at him was...

Author: bitsy_dj
Date: Jan 11th
...a well-dressed Shoyru squire -- Daventree.

Sputtering, he whipped toward the Kiko, searching his pants pockets for the cuffs. "Stop! You -- you're--"

"Under arrest?" The Kiko's voice was poisoned silk, as soft as it was deadly. A glint of metal shone in his hand, and he stepped toward the Shoyru with astonishing speed, clapping the bewildered inspector's wrists securely. Argon tried to struggle, but the slightest movement drowned his head in dizziness.

Chirlee burst in, alarmed by the Kiko's call. "You got him already?" he demanded, clearly taken aback. "But have you caught him committing a crime so early?"

"He attacked me," replied Daventree, his eyes glinting with satisfaction from within the Kiko's body. "I suppose the sight of a badge set him mad. I had to subdue him with my club -- he got it on the head there, see? But don't worry, I'm not hurt."

Argon opened his mouth, ready to explain to his partner, but Daventree must have seen the motion. Without missing a beat, the Kiko added, "The entire affair must have addled his brains. He's been spewing some nonsense about identities and whatnot; just ignore him. Clearly it's some sort of half-witted escape plan. I would have expected more from such a Master. The confession is only a matter of time, really."

Chirlee nodded, fixing the bound Shoyru with an iron grip. "Good job, Rookie," he called to the Kiko; gruffly he directed his voice to the prisoner. "Come on, you."

As Argon threw back his head, struggling as he was pulled from the room, Daventree winked at him.

* * * * *

"Dear Fyora!" gasped Lord Haralon. The lord and the inspectors stood on the lawn together as Chirlee explained what had happened. "I never would have guessed that a Meridell squire could turn out to be so rotten! After giving me promises of protection, he was after my riches like any common thief! I'll bet his mother and he planned out the whole thing from the start. Although they might have done it out of desperation -- she did say her harvest had been burned, and no knights were accepting squires. Poor woman... perhaps I'll send her a little something..."

Daventree had to struggle not to roll his eyes. Guilty rich, indeed. "Anyway, Lord Haralon, we advise you to be a bit more careful in the future with who you allow into your house. Perhaps you would consent to my boss and I watching over your home tonight, in case any other robbers were part of the Shoyru's plans?"

"Wisely said." Chirlee looked at the Kiko as if seeing him for the first time. "You have the makings of a top investigator, Argon. But don't forget, someone will have to take this rascal--" He shook the Shoyru, who struggled to speak from behind his gag ("to protect us from listening to his drivel," Daventree had said) "--into custody."

"I could stay on my own," suggested the Kiko, appearing in all manner timid and hopeful. "I know I am still a Rookie, boss, but I promise not to fail you."

Chirlee considered a moment, then his head bowed into a nod. "I think you can handle it, Argon. If the lord gives his permission, of course?"

Nodding fervently, Lord Haralon reached over to shake the Kiko's hand. "I thank you for your thoroughness," he said sincerely. "And for catching that sneaky squire at last."

"It is no problem," assured Daventree smoothly, returing the lord's grip in kind. "It's the least I can do, really..."

Author: laurelinden
Date: Jan 11th
* * * * *

Argon watched the proceedings with a rising horror that threatened to send the intern investigator's trained discipline spiraling downward into chaos. A muffled howl exploded from behind the gag, and Chirlee shot him a scowl of pure disgust. "Keep quiet," the Chia commanded sharply. "You'll have your share of attention later, so don't draw more to yourself now."

A violent thrust of both arms caused the handcuffs to stab viciously into Argon's wrists. He didn't care. He was about to be incarcerated for crimes he didn't commit, while the thief was left to ply his trade at his leisure. Another desperate attempt to twist free nearly drew blood, and elicited a sigh from Chirlee. "I'll set about conducting him to the authorities," he told Lord Haralon, offering another courteous nod as he took Argon firmly by the shoulders and began maneuvering him toward the door. Argon struggled for a moment, then decided to cooperate. The sooner he was alone with his boss, the sooner he'd have at least an outside shot at getting out of this.

* * * * *

Only too easy, Daventree thought with a smile as he strolled through the massive marble mountain of a mansion, creating a mental 'to steal' list as he 'patrolled' the halls. That gold-framed picture was nice; the picture itself would go, as the watercolour portrait of a Royal Eyrie was a little too much of a tell-tale, but the frame ought to sell for a pretty Neopoint on the black market, and while he wasn't certain, Daventree suspected he knew where the family jewels were kept, and any lock could be picked with the proper know-how. The Shoyru-turned-Kiko could almost feel the cold, hard, valuable surfaces in his fins. Blast these fins, how did Kikos survive without legs? Daventree would be glad to shed this ridiculous disguise. But later. His profession often required patience, and Daventree had no small supply of that. He would be amply rewarded later, when nightfall shrouded the foolish Lord and his overconfident household in sleep.

* * * * *

"I'd known that you would slip up and get caught eventually," the Chia said coolly, "but I certainly hadn't expected that it would be this soon."

Argon twisted furiously against his bonds. "I'm NOT Squire Daventree!" he howled. "Boss -- Chirlee -- please, you have to believe me!"

"That's 'inspector' to you," came the frosty answer. The creature that stood before Argon was Chirlee, but it was difficult to believe that it was the same Chirlee whom the Kiko had worked with for the duration of his short career. He looked and sounded so different when seen from the other side of the law. "'Sir' will do, too, if 'inspector' is too much of a mouthful for you," the Chia continued. "And as for your ridiculous claims that my partner is a criminal in disguise, they would be far more plausible if the criminal himself were not already in custody. I'll ask you a final time: confess, and this will be a great deal easier for both of us."

"I won't confess to something I didn't do," Argon insisted brazenly, "and if you don't listen to me now, you'll have to explain to your superiors later why your partner was sitting in jail and you in your office while a burglar was left to roam freely through Lord Haralon's halls!"

Chirlee sighed. Surely Argon hadn't been alone nearly long enough for an ordinary morphing potion to do its work, not when you combined the time that would take with the time it would take for them to be separated by sufficient distance to put a struggle out of earshot, and for the struggle itself to take place. And there was no evidence that the criminal was experienced in the making of speed-enhanced potions. This was going nowhere, and he was tired. Turning toward the door, he strode out of the cell, and the solid slab of metal closed behind him with a cold, forbidding clang.

But Argon wasn't defeated yet. Drawing a deep breath, he offered a parting shot: "YOUR MOTHER WAS A MUTANT IXI!"

The door was thick, but not sound-proof. Argon could hear Chirlee pause, and seizing at this glimmer of hope, he added desperately, "Your mother was an Ixi, but your father was a Chia, and you got your looks from him. Your little brother, Kaldi, took after your mother..."

"...and tried to join the force three years after I did..."

"... and was sent home because he was too excitable..."

"...and kept alerting his targets to his presence because he would skitter his hooves on the floor..."

"...making the most hideous squeaking sound."

There was a moment of dead silence on the other side of the door. And then a stricken mutter of "Oh sweet Fyora!"...

Author: sarahleeadvent
Date: Jan 12th
...and Chirlee made his decision, rushing back to the cell and flinging the door open again to free his partner. "Argon," he said, "he could never have guessed all that. How did he do this to you?"

Argon very nearly hugged him, but managed to restrain himself. "I don't know," he admitted. "I heard a sound in a darkened room, looked inside, but the lamps weren't near the door -- he hit me on the head, I guess. So I was unconscious for the transformation." He fluttered his Shoyru wings awkwardly. "Rookie mistake, huh?"

"Well," Chirlee said ruefully, "that's why they call them that. Come on." He shook himself. "We have to get back to Lord Haralon's mansion before the criminal robs him and escapes!"

* * * * *

The Neopet currently styling himself Investigator Argon very much wanted to escape, at the moment. Lord Haralon had generously invited him to a late dinner, impervious to all his attempts to hint that this would make it very difficult to fulfill his supposed function here as a guardian against those imaginary "other robbers" that might have been part of the unfortunate squire's plans.

Hah. As if he ever worked any way other than alone. He didn't care to share his loot -- and he wasn't too happy about having had to spare part of his potion supply for the Kiko. He only had enough for two more changes in the vial, before he would have to find a way to make more -- and he'd need the last dose to acquire an identity that would plausibly have a laboratory, or a place to hide one.

And Lord Haralon was not only eating at a leisurely pace, he was reminiscing. "Argon" hadn't eaten yet, though Squire Davenport had, so he couldn't beg off for being full even though his stomach was bulging uncomfortably within the strange Kiko body with this second feast. And he now knew vastly more about Lord Haralon's family and personal history than he had ever wondered.

...There was quite a bit of room in this mansion.

* * * * *

"I don't suppose you remember anything unusual from when you woke up?" Chirlee asked in a hushed voice as they rushed up the hill to the mansion. "Besides the obvious?"

"A really bitter taste in my mouth," Argon said, stumbling on something and discovering that when you had toes, you could stub them. "Ouch!"

"He didn't seem to have any sort of container, or magical device, or...."

Argon turned from side to side, which Chirlee realized after a moment would have been a head shake if Argon were still in his proper shape as a Kiko.

"Oh well. Let's go."

They had nearly reached the house when Chirlee spotted a strange lump next to the outside wall. He beckoned to Argon, and they crept up on it -- to see a Kiko, fast asleep. "Sleeping on the job!" Argon whispered with delight.

They pounced. "Stop his mouth so he can't try any spells!" Chirlee said hurriedly.

Argon stuffed a wad of cloth into the Kiko's mouth, drawing an odd muffled squawk as he woke up. "Hold his fins!"

Chirlee produced his own pair of handcuffs and clapped them on. This drew more squawking, at last loud enough to wake the Eyrie lord above. They heard a window thrown open, and Lord Haralon cried down to them. "What's the meaning of this?" His keen eyes widened in the moonlight. "What are you doing? Why have you brought the thief back? Who's -- that's Investigator Argon! Servants! Guards! CITIZENS!" he screeched. "To me! Stop this false investigator and his accomplice! No mercy!"

"This isn't Investigator Argon!" Argon shouted up. "I am! He's the Master of Disguise -- he disguised ME against my will!"

"Why should I believe you?" Lord Haralon snapped, glowering down.

Chirlee stopped his search abruptly.

"You shouldn't," he said.

Argon whirled with a gasp.

Chirlee pointed upward. "That's the thief!"

"I beg your pardon!" fumed the Eyrie above them. But Argon was quite sure Chirlee had not had the opportunity to be compromised, and he trusted his partner's judgment. He had already leapt into the air, unfamiliar instincts taking over and untried wings beating furiously, and the Eyrie changed his strategy too late. He leaped from the window, but Argon bore into him and wrapped all four of those bizarre long Shoyru limbs around his captive, heedless of angry beak and claws. They crashed to the ground, Argon bleeding rather badly, but as the Eyrie tried to flee Chirlee tackled him. Argon clapped a pair of replacement cuffs on the Eyrie's ankles and sat on his wings while Chirlee went back for the other pair of cuffs.

"I beg your pardon, Lord Haralon," Chirlee said as they completed the restraints.

"How -- how did you recognize me?" Lord Haralon asked weakly, looking between them and himself and the body in his old form. "I could barely believe he wasn't myself."

"He slipped," Chirlee said with a half-smile. "For one thing, he used the same trick twice. For another, he didn't have an excuse to tie you up, so it was more obvious that you weren't used to your new body. And for a third...." He raised an eyebrow. "Even in a few minutes, I can tell you aren't likely to start yelling 'No mercy'!"

Lord Haralon gave a wobbly smile, bobbing in the air a bit. "I see."

Argon lifted an empty vial from the ground. "Bad news," he said.

"What?" the other two (ungagged) Neopets asked together.

"This smells like what I tasted when I woke up before." Argon passed it to Lord Haralon, who gagged slightly and agreed. "It's empty. I guess we're stuck this way."

"I think not," Lord Haralon said, somewhat indignantly. "I don't intend to keep this form -- as fine a species as Kikos are, I don't appreciate having it forced on me. And I can certainly supply a normal morphing potion to restore you to yours!"

"Thank you," Argon said, bowing, "especially since the one you're wearing is mine!" He stopped suddenly and looked around. "Although...."

Chirlee blinked at him. "What is it?"

Argon cheerfully sat down on the thief again, looking up at the sky. "Don't get me wrong, I'll be glad to be a Kiko again. But I'm tempted to fly home."

Chirlee chuckled. "Not such a bad temptation."

"Better than the other one!"

"What's that?" Chirlee blinked at his partner.

Argon looked down at the prisoner with a deep sigh. "I won't do it. It wouldn't be professional. But I've got to admit -- I'd really like to kick him!"

The End

Author: schefflera
Date: Jan 12th



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