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Week 408
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Week 410

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 Four Hundred Nine Ends Friday, April 10

"It seems like such a shame to eat something so beautiful," said Rakel, holding the Starflower Patterned Easter Negg up in front of his eyes.

"Don't wimp out on me now," his friend Tintino said, unloading more Neggs from his wagon. "You promised you'd eat all of these Neggs and see if they had any effect on you."

"I know, I know," Rakel answered. "It just seems like a waste, that's all." The Skeith looked dubiously at the piles of Neggs that his Wocky friend had already unloaded. "I mean, very few Neggs actually have any effect, you know, especially ones that don't come from the Neggery."

"But think of how great it would be to discover something new! Anyway, I'm sure some of these came from the Neggery... at one point."

"What?! You mean you didn't get these from the Neggery? Or one of the shops?"

Tintino shrugged. "Oh, you know, every Negg has gone through the Neggery at one time or another, right? Now, start eating."

The Skeith gazed sadly at the Negg pile again, its smooth, shiny ovals swirling with brilliant colours or delicately painted. A small, nagging voice in his head told him this was a bad idea, but Tintino had offered him some Neopoints and a dinner at kelp in return for his help. His stomach growled, and with a sigh, he picked up the first Negg.

***

A few hours later, the pile had significantly diminished in size, while Rakel's belly had done the opposite.

"Come on, Rakel, there are just a few more," Tintino urged. The Wocky had been watching his friend closely the entire time, waiting for some kind of reaction, but so far nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"All right, all right," the Skeith replied, stifling a groan, and reached for another Negg. This one was different from any Negg he'd ever seen -- it had the single eye of a Mutant Negg, the horns of a Wicked Negg, and was bubbling and steaming like a Jhudora Rotten Negg, only the noxious gas coming from this Negg was a sickly yellow instead of green. "What is this one called? I'm not sure if I want to eat it..."

Tintino rolled his eyes and scoffed, "I've been assured it's perfectly safe. Go on."

Rakel raised an eyebrow, but the thought of missing out on that free kelp dinner was wreaking havoc on his judgment. He opened his mouth and took a bite of the strange Negg...

Author: Are You Going to Finish That?
Date: Apr 6th
***

Many leagues from where Tintino was watching Rakel gorge himself on Neggs, there stood a small, rounded white house. It was perched precariously upon the ledge of an icy precipice in a landscape that was monochromatic in its icy blue and white hues. This little house's entrance was guarded by a delicately wrought door of steely ice, which swung open and closed to admit visitors as though of its own magical accord.

In that house lived a faerie, one whose green outfit clashed marvellously with the white-blue world outside of her little domain: the quirky Negg Faerie dwelled there, in her cozy Neggery.

At this particular moment, the Negg Faerie was running through her inventory, a weekly exercise which she undertook to keep her stocks in order.

"Adela?" called the Negg Faerie to the little red Bruce who was her assistant. "There's a discrepancy in my paperwork here -- have we shipped out any large orders of Neggs lately?"

Adela waddled swiftly toward the Negg Faerie, her blue and white scarf trailing in the air behind her. "Large orders? No, nothing since that batch of Cool Neggs, Ferocious Neggs, and Silver Knight Neggs for the Defenders of Neopia Headquarters -- that was last Thursday, I believe."

"I thought so," answered the Negg Faerie, and she tapped at her list with a long green fingernail. "I just took stock of the secondary storage shed and something isn't adding up."

Adela peered over her superior's shoulder to study the list herself.

"Missing Neggs? With our organisational skills? Impossible... a break-in, do you think?" asked Adela anxiously.

The Negg Faerie didn't answer. Her face was grave, her eyes fixed on a particular spot on the list. Adela followed the Negg Faerie's line of sight and breathed out with a whistle through her beak.

"One of the missing Neggs is the Negg of Fusion...!"

The Negg Faerie crumpled the list into her fist in a furious gesture. "The Negg of Fusion is indeed one of the missing Neggs. One of a kind. Experimental. And very, very dangerous."

"What should we do?" asked Adela, unused to seeing the Negg Faerie anything but carefree and jolly.

The Negg Faerie was silent, her whole aspect one of suppressed anger.

"Adela, you need to discover who the thief was, and you need to track them down and bring them to me."

"Yes ma'am," answered Adela, a flipper touching her forehead in a dutiful salute.

"As for me," said the Negg Faerie, "I'm going to have to start working on an antidote Negg. If the Negg of Fusion is ingested, things could get very, very messy..."

***

Rakel chewed and swallowed. Then, as nothing seemed to be happening, he took another two bites, finishing off the strange Negg and enjoying the oddly disjunctive taste of it -- salty, sweet, bitter, slightly tangy...

Nothing happened. Tintino looked disappointed -- more than he had for any other Negg's display of powerlessness. He had apparently had high hopes for this particular specimen.

Rakel shrugged and reached tentatively for another Negg, thinking to pre-empt Tintino's insistence on his eating yet another one. "Last one for now," he said, picking up a plain-looking purple and blue Negg. "I'm really starting to feel full..."

The full feeling was such that Rakel dropped the fresh Negg he had just picked up. It expanded into a feeling of repletion, of satisfaction. Rakel leaned back contentedly, feeling oddly at peace with the world in general. There was something so beautiful about everything. He just wanted to be a part of it all, to obliterate distinctions between himself and the world, to be at one with... with the grass, soft and green underneath him, and with that small, bright pile of Neggs, and with the warm breeze, and with that strange shadowy form over there that had just hidden itself behind a bush...

Tintino watched, thunderstruck, as Rakel began to shift into a kaleidoscope of forms -- a tuft of grass, a shiny Negg, a Skeith-shaped puff of dusty air -- and then settle into a new shape...

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Apr 6th
Tintino found himself staring at a red Bruce. He rubbed his eyes, hoping it was only a dream, that his mind was playing tricks on him; perhaps it was just the sunlight...

But when he stared at Rakel again, it was unmistakable. The Skeith had completed the transformation and was now a Bruce gazing at his trembling flippers.

The two friends glanced at each other.

"That was awesome!" Tintino cried out, jumping up and examining Rakel from head to foot just to be sure. "I can't believe it... I never thought Neggs could be this powerful! Wow, this is amazing! Wait till I tell all our friends..."

Rakel wanted to say something, but somehow he didn't want to spoil the Wocky's jovial mood. Tintino was capering about, twirling and doing such an odd jig that for a moment, Rakel forgot about his own problem.

For a moment.

"That's nice," the Skeith-turned-Bruce began nervously, "but is there a way to turn me back into a Skeith? Being a Bruce... well... it just isn't me..."

"No, it's not."

Tintino paused, freezing with one foot up and his arms reaching into the sky, his smile wiped away in an instant. Rakel gasped and backed away as they saw another Bruce emerge from the bush. She was the one who had spoken, and she looked stern as she approached the duo.

And she was Rakel's identical twin.

"Excuse me - "

She was interrupted when Rakel shuddered, shifting form again -- a Bruce-shaped cloud, a ball of light, a wagon, among others that flashed too fast for Tintino or the newcomer to identify -- and became a Wocky, now Tintino's twin.

"You ate the Negg of Fusion!" the Bruce declared, jabbing a finger into Rakel's now-furry chest. "Anyway, I am Adela, the Negg Faerie's most trusted assistant. I was sent here to find the thief who stole from the Neggery. There is a long list of Neggs to be accounted for, including the experimental and highly unpredictable Negg of Fusion."

To illustrate her point, she whipped out a long scroll from her pocket. It dropped all the way down to the ground, rolling into the grass. As Rakel stared at the paper, he felt an uncontrollable urge to become like the paper, thin and firm... but he tried to fight it. His mind insisted that it wouldn't be nice being paper...

"Can you change into something with wings?" Tintino whispered, releasing Rakel from his unwanted reverie.

"Huh?"

"Any Neopet with wings, Rakel!

"Why?"

"Just do it!"

"Stop whispering back there!" Adela raised her scroll, cracked it like a whip, and it wrapped around the two hapless Neopets, binding them as tightly as if she had used rope. Rakel didn't even figure out which winged Neopet he could turn into.

"Well, Tintino, we meet again. You may have figured out a way to keep us from getting our hands on the Negg of Fusion, but I've caught you, and you're returning to the Neggery."

Rakel's eyes widened, and fear and confusion were the only two things keeping his mind from wandering and letting him shift forms again. "What's going on, Tintino?"

"Don't you know?" asked Adela imperiously, glaring at Rakel, who was doing a good job of retaining his current appearance. "Tintino used to work for us, until he decided to turn against the Neggery by becoming a Negg thief..."

Author: precious_katuch14
Date: Apr 7th
Rakel turned his head and locked his friend's eyes with a steely glare. "You used me, Tintino," he fumed. "You're nothing but a thief!" His anger expressed itself in his form: he turned into a Fiery Flame Ice Lolly, into a Sparkshooter, into a Lightning Wand, and yet no matter what form he attempted, the Bruce's enchanted scroll held him securely bound to the Wocky.

"A Lenny," Tintino hissed, "we have one chance to escape. Turn into a Lenny!"

Rakel shifted between several incorporeal forms, mists and smokes and rays of light, but nothing he tried allowed him to escape. With a glance at the Bruce who was busy itemising the remaining Neggs, Rakel sighed with resignation and concentrated on a Lenny form. As a small protest to his friend for putting him into this predicament, and to feel like he was more in control of his shape-shifting, Rakel chose to take some extra time and stretch his pale blue feathers into those of a faerie Lenny; the blues and greens and purples of his plumage struck the former Skeith as amazingly beautiful, and he played with flopping around the feathers on his head, so like a fancy pompadour hairdo.

"Quickly you egotistical fool, you must eat the red Negg. That one there that's spinning." Tintino gestured with his head to a fire-red Negg which was, indeed, spinning on its axis. Rakel watched it spin and was at risk of being hypnotised by its fascinating twirling, but Tintino turned just enough to jab an elbow into his delicate ribs. Rakel blinked and shook his head, delighting once again at the flopping head feathers, and slyly stretched his long elegant neck and snatched the Negg with his lavender beak. Throwing back his head, he swallowed the Negg in one large gulp and immediately felt his head begin to spin.

"Quickly now, Rakel, you don't have long. Tell Adela to let us go, and be ready to take off!" Tintino urged emphatically.

"But how...?" Rakel wondered, his head swimming in a sea of warmth and pleasure.

"Command her to let us go... and while you're at, tell her to wrap herself in the scroll. Hurry, before the Confusionegg wears off."

Rakel turned to the Bruce and used his most serious tone to command, "You there, Adela, is it? Free us at once from this scroll and then wrap it around yourself." He was amazed when the red Bruce dropped her clipboard and approached him and Tintino. With a wave of her flipper, the scroll straightened enough to allow them to escape before tying her up as securely as they had been.

"Now, Rakel, now, let's fly out of here," the Wocky demanded.

The faerie Lenny stretched out his elegant wings and turned to admire their plumed magnificence. With a shudder that made his feathers sparkle like jewels in a shallow stream, Rakel hopped into the air and turned and banked in ever-higher circles.

From the ground below, Tintino called out, "Stop showing off you fool, and come back and get me. Adela's trance is temporary and we need to get out of here."

Rakel called back in the musical notes of a faerie Lenny's timbre, "You used me, Tintino, and I need to find an antidote. You're on your own!" He grabbed at the air, using his wings like oars, and soared over the tops of the trees, leaving his Wocky friend to his fate.

***

The Negg Faerie sat behind her Icy Desk, running her fingers through her ledger book, and although her face was composed, her pale green wings buzzed with agitation. She muttered softly under her breath, and anyone listening would no doubt make out the word "Negg" with an unsurprising frequency, but that listener might indeed be surprised to hear how she hissed that word today as she enumerated her missing inventory. While so engrossed in her work, she was interrupted by a soft throat-clearing from a figure in the doorway.

When the faerie raised her head, the figure spoke: "You sent for me? I'm... surprised... really. You and I both know that this is a very busy time for me."

"Please, enter," the faerie invited with a wave of her hand. The figure that entered the office showed herself to be a green Grarrl, sporting a pale yellow dress decorated with pretty pink daisies. She had a pink bonnet on her head festooned with a ribbon, a flower and adorable Cybunny ears. In her hand she carried a wicker basket, filled to the brim with thoroughly non-lethal Neggs. On her face was a wide grin, an expression she wore with easy familiarity.

"Thank you for coming, Rosie," the Negg Faerie continued. "There has been a break in at the Neggery, and I'm afraid Adela might be in over her head looking for the culprit."

At these words, Rosie's smile was erased and her eyes narrowed into the frightful scowl for which her species is known. "You think Adela is in trouble?" she asked in a steady tone, obviously trying to control her emotions.

"Yes, and from the list of missing items, I think the likely suspect might be of interest to you, in particular."

Rosie's eyes flew open with shock and she stammered, "You... you... don't mean the one... the one who..."

Author: mamasimios
Date: Apr 7th
"Yes, that one." The Negg Faerie frowned. "I hate to be dealing with him these days, but, alas, he's made his roundabout stealing route back here. And there's no telling what he could have done with the Negg of Fusion..." The Negg Faerie trailed off, looking at Rosie.

"I'll find Adela, don't worry," Rosie assured the faerie. "Besides, I've been wanting to talk to that Wocky myself."

***

Tintino frowned as the faerie Lenny rose into the sky, leaving him behind. This was quite contrary to plan. But it was only a detour in his road. He'd find a way out somehow.

"Hmm? What?" a voice behind Tintino murmured, making him turn around to see Adela waking from her spell. "What?" she continued, her voice rising with mounting anger. "How'd I get in--" Her eyes fell on the Wocky. "Tintino. Once I let myself out of here, you are gone." Her glare scorched hotter than the sun.

"Ah, but by the time you let yourself out, I will be gone." Tintino tipped an imaginary hat mockingly at Adela. "Adieu!" He turned around to find a dark figure blocking his way.

The dark figure remained motionless, directly in the Wocky's path, and said, "You won't be leaving if I can help it. I've been meaning to have a word with you..."

Author: newmoon653
Date: Apr 8th
"R- Rosie!" Tintino stuttered. "But what are you doing here? I haven't seen you since --"

Rosie cut him off with an angry bellow, the volume and intensity of which were a startling contrast to her usual demeanour. "That's right, since you tried to steal ownership of the Neggery from the Negg Faerie!"

"Wait, Rosie, you don't understand!" squeaked Tintino, intimidated by the Grarrl's bulk. "It wasn't like that!"

"It certainly was!" rebuked Rosie. "You were once the Negg Faerie's most trusted helper. She relied on you; she had faith in you. And yet you betrayed her! And worse, you tried to... I can't even speak it."

"You have to hear me out," pleaded Tintino. "We were just walking, and there was a blizzard, and I couldn't see, and --"

"And you tried to push her off a cliff!" shouted Adela suddenly, tears welling up in her eyes.

"No!" exclaimed Tintino. "She fell, and I tried to save her!"

Both Rosie and Adela were stunned into silence.

"And I did save her," continued Tintino in a much quieter voice, "when she slipped. I reached out my paw and grabbed her. I saved her life; I wasn't trying to usurp her position! I had never been anything but a loyal servant to her. I adored her! And that's the only reason I stole these Neggs: I was hoping to find one that would force her to tell the truth and clear my name."

"Your story doesn't add up," snorted Rosie. "If, as you say, you saved the Negg Faerie's life, why would she accuse you like she did?"

"Because," replied Tintino, "the Negg Faerie has a dark secret..."

***

Rakel was feeling an odd mixture of emotions. He was delighted that he now had the ability to fly; he reveled in the feeling of wind whipping over his newly formed feathers. However, in the back of his mind was a nagging fear: that he would suddenly transform into something much less aerodynamic, say, a rock, and plummet to the ground. It was through sheer willpower alone that he was able to maintain his Lenny shape, but the strain was growing greater by the moment. He knew he would have to land soon.

He glanced at the ground to get his bearings. A brightly coloured castle whizzed by underneath him. All right, that means I'm somewhere above Roo Island. About halfway to Terror Mountain. I just hope I can make it... but what do I do once I get to the Neggery? Tell the Negg Faerie that I ate a Negg that was stolen from her? I've heard that she's nice, but I doubt she'll be that understanding. No, I've got to come up with a plan...

Author: rosabellk
Date: Apr 8th
***

"I don't believe you," Adela screamed as she squirmed within the enchanted scroll, which began to loosen slightly around her. "And when I get out of here, you will be answering to the Negg Faerie for your actions. We'll see whose story adds up then."

"And until then,” Rosie said menacingly, advancing on the Wocky, "you and I have some unfinished business of our own. Aren't you curious to know how I knew to find you here, Tintino?"

"Um, I have an idea," Tintino managed to say, trying very hard to appear calm.

The Grarrl continued slowly toward the Wocky, forcing him to take a few precautionary steps backward. "When I heard what items you had stolen from the Neggery -- again -- it made me think of a time, so long ago, when you brought me here. Remember offering me a handful of Neopoints and a free dinner at kelp for being your experiment? Remember how I protested when you brought out the mutated Negg that spewed brown fumes? 'Oh, I've been assured it's perfectly safe,' you told me. And do you remember what it was?"

"Well, heh heh, it certainly wasn't the Negg of Fusion I was looking for -- that we were all looking for at one time. Or do you forget that part?" Tintino responded, trying to stall the Grarrl while surreptitiously looking around for a means of escape.

"I forget nothing," Rosie spat furiously. "Would you like to know what effect that abomination had on me? After you ran away, thinking I had been poisoned by it? The Negg Faerie told me that what you had created is called the 'Negg of Inevitable Dance', for which there is no antidote. And the effect? Every time I am commanded to dance, I am helpless to resist. What do you have to say about that? Think carefully before you respond," she continued while carefully withdrawing a flaming Fireball Negg from her basket. "These may be your last words for a while."

Tintino mumbled something under his breath and Rosie barked, "Louder. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I said," the Wocky repeated with a sly grin, "I said, 'Then dance.'"

Rosie's furious scowl was replaced by a look of shock as she was unable to stop her feet from slowly shifting back and forth, and she dropped her basket of Neggs as her arms began to wave in circles, building in speed and excitement as she grabbed at the hem of her yellow dress, working herself up into a full-blown can-can that showed off her frilly pink bloomers.

Tintino scooped up the Negg basket and tipped his imaginary hat once more to Adela and then to Rosie as he skipped off into the trees calling over his shoulder, "Dance, Rosie, dance! I'm off to prove the truth."

***

Rakel gloried in the experience of flight, experimenting with thermals and air currents that lifted him up and allowed him to sail through the atmosphere with a minimum of effort. The breeze through his feathers was exhilarating, and he climbed ever higher into the clear, cerulean sky. Why am I even thinking of an antidote? he thought to himself. Why would I trade this freedom for my bloated Skeith body? Maybe all I need from the Negg Faerie is some advice about how to maintain this form.

At that, Rakel made up his mind, and with his consciousness free of worries, he felt more capable of controlling his shape. He wheeled ever higher into the sky, catching the rays of sun in plumage that glinted like the fireworks over Shenkuu. Within no time, he had reached Happy Valley and prepared to land and enter the Ice Caves.

***

The Negg Faerie sat behind her Icy Desk with her head resting on her palms, her long tapered fingers rhythmically rubbing at her aching temples. A sharp rap at her door interrupted her reverie. She looked up with curiosity and said, "You may enter."

Rakel took a deep breath, entered the faerie's office, and was puzzled as to whether he was expected to bow or offer a wing to shake. In the end, he decided on a friendly nod of his head, an action that was designed to take the most advantage of his beloved head feathers. He cleared his throat and began the speech he had been preparing in his head, "Good afternoon, Negg Faerie. I have come from far away, where I was experimenting with some Neggs with a Wocky by the name of Tintino. After ingesting what he called the Negg of Fusion..."

The Negg Faerie jumped to her feet and approached Rakel, her eyes dangerously reduced to slits. "You ate the Negg of Fusion? You were with Tintino?"

"Well, yes, I was with Tintino. He told me all about you actually."

The faerie gasped despite herself and whispered with fright, "What exactly did he tell you about me...?"

Author: mamasimios
Date: Apr 9th
Rakel's face transformed into a bittersweet smile. "What could he have told me about you?" the faerie Lenny asked, his eyes dancing with amusement.

Inside, he was breathing a sigh of relief. Tintino had made one or two allusions to the Negg Faerie not being as gentle and pure as everybody believed her to be, but he had not imagined such a strong reaction to his words. Whatever she had to hide, the secret had to be a powerful one.

"Nothing," the Negg Faerie answered just a moment too fast and crossed her arms in front of her chest.

"Nothing? Really?" Rakel took a step closer to her, dropping all pretence of smiling. "That's not true and we both know it. There's no need to act. You don't want me to repeat it here, where anybody could hear us--" Rakel glanced around the Neggery, "--what my friend Tintino told me, do you?"

What he would have done if she had said yes, Rakel did not know. To his great relief, her eyes darted nervously around the room and she quickly shook her head.

"Why did you come here?"

Rakel smiled. "That's pretty obvious, don't you think? As I already told you, I ate the Negg of Fusion. And while I like being able to change my appearance, I'd prefer staying a faerie Lenny without having to concentrate on it." He motioned toward a shelf where the Negg Faerie stored her cauldrons. "So can you brew me something that will help me?"

The Negg Faerie looked at him, her eyes wide with disbelief. "You're bothered by the shape-shifting? Are you serious?" She suddenly burst out laughing. "If that's your only problem right now, then you have not even discovered half of what the Negg of Fusion does."

* * *

Her whole body was out of control. Rosie could do nothing but dance, even after Tintino had long disappeared. "Stop it," she screeched, furious at the lack of control over her own body. "How I hate this guy."

"He did have a point, you know," Adela interjected, wriggling against the enchanted scroll. "We were all trying to find the Negg of Fusion back then and--"

The Bruce broke off abruptly at seeing Rosie's face and concentrated on freeing herself instead. With a cry of triumph, she freed her upper body and, now that she could use her hands, was able to escape completely. "Ha, one problem less to solve."

Rosie made a sound that could have expressed agreement. Her steps slowed down and the movement of her arms became less exaggerated. "I'm nearly free as well."

Her eyes narrowed into slits. "We need to hurry after Tintino. He may not escape again. Next time, we'll catch him first and then talk."

"Yes, hurry we must," Adela agreed. "He's surely headed to the Neggery. We have to arrive before he can harm the Negg Faerie." Her eyes brimmed with tears. "I'm scared that he may be successful this time."

* * *

But Tintino was not headed for the Neggery. While he moved toward Terror Mountain, he carefully avoided the Ice Caves when he arrived there. If he would find any proof of what had happened, it would be on top of the mountain, close to where he had once saved the Negg Faerie's life.

I saved her life and she threw me out in return. What a way to thank me, he thought bitterly. Not even my promise to keep her secret helped me.

A strong wind was blowing as the Wocky reached the top of the mountain. Heavy clouds covered the sky and the air tasted of snow. Tintino sighed. If it began to snow now, his search would become much more difficult. He had to hurry.

His feet carried him past the Igloo and the Toy Repair Shop. He only threw a quick glance at the Shop of Mystery. Tarla would be able to help him, but he knew better than to seek her out in her shop. If he wanted proof of the Negg Faerie's dark secret, he had to go to the steep cliffs that surrounded the settlement first.

* * *

Rakel tried not to let the surprise show on his face. Judging by the Negg Faerie's laughter, he did not succeed very well.

"Hasn't Tintino told you anything about the Negg of Fusion?"

The faerie Lenny kept quiet, not knowing what to say to get out of the situation. He did nothing but watch as the faerie's laughter slowly subsided. By the time her eyes lit up with understanding, it was already too late to act.

"Wait a second," she exclaimed. "If he hasn't told you about the Negg of Fusion, then he hasn't told you about what I feared you might know either. You have no idea about my little secret."

"Little secret?" a voice asked from the door. "What is that about a secret?" the green Grarrl asked as she stepped into the room...

Author: iloenchen
Date: Apr 9th
That was the moment when Rakel discovered what the Negg of Fusion could actually do.

Again the uncontrollable desire for oneness with the world at large swept through Rakel's fancily feathered body. Only this time -- perhaps due to the emotional energy surging around at that moment -- Rakel felt a desire for fusion, not into another shape, but into another mind.

It was an out-of-body experience of a most bizarre sort: in the moment of silence between Rosie's appearance and question and the Negg Faerie's answer, Rakel felt as though his mind had somehow unlocked, had escaped the confines of his head to float in the metaphysical marshland between idea and reality, between self and soul. He could feel Rosie's curiosity as an intense stream of foggy question marks making their way toward the Negg Faerie, probing, interrogating. He could feel the Negg Faerie's anxiety, an uncomfortable aura surrounding a dark knot of secrecy in the recesses of her brain. He felt her withdraw into a protective mental shell, raising barriers against which Rosie's question pressed futilely and finally drifted away.

The sensation paled and Rakel's mind-fusion experience faded into normalcy. Rakel looked breathlessly from Rosie to the Negg Faerie, expecting them to be angry at him for having probed their mental confines. But no: Rosie stood with a curious expression on her face, and Adela peeped out behind her frilly dress. The Negg Faerie looked discomfited, but at Rosie rather than at Rakel, the one who had been the one to read her thoughts and almost -- almost -- begin to untie the secret she kept darkly tangled at the back of her head.

They did not know what Rakel had done -- what Rakel was capable of doing. The thought made him giddy. The Negg of Fusion's power was not just to transcend physical barriers but also mental ones, it could obliterate boundaries between himself and others just as it could make porous and malleable the form of a Skeith, of a red Bruce, a blade of grass, of Jetsams in the high seas, or ice Quiggles having snowball fights just outside, of the cauldrons lining the shelves, of Adela's scarf, of anything and everything all at once --

Rakel forced his thoughts to a screeching halt: as he considered these wonders, he felt the particles comprising his new body beginning to loosen in readiness for another multiplicity of forms. He had to take control. Had to keep his thoughts steady and not let them -- and himself -- unravel into a sequence of beautiful new shapes.

Oblivious to Rakel's mental turmoil, Rosie waited politely and expectantly for the Negg Faerie's answer. Surely it was some banal "secret" hardly worthy of that appellation, a little secret like the fact that the Negg Faerie liked to eat peanut butter with ketchup or something along those lines.

"Oh, it's nothing," answered the Negg Faerie, staring hard at her nails and trying to regain her authority by appearing nonchalant and slightly bored with the proceedings that were a waste of her precious time. "Now tell me: where is that thief?"

Adela and Rosie gave a rambling, nervous, embarrassed account of what had happened when they had attempted to capture Tintino and Rakel. Rosie attempted to gloss over her uncontrollable dancing stint as best she could while the Negg Faerie's face darkened stormily.

"So where is he now?"

"We don't know, ma'am," said Adela, looking miserable and contrite. "He said he was off to find proof..."

"Proof about what, exactly?"

Rosie and Adela exchanged glances, unwilling to bring up what was by all accounts a very touchy subject. They glanced at Rakel, who had avidly been listening to the retelling of the tale.

The Negg Faerie saw the hesitation on her assistants' faces and turned her attention (and her frustration) onto Rakel.

"Come, my friend," she called, in a deceptively soft voice. Rosie and Adela cringed: that was the voice that the Negg Faerie used when she found out that someone had tried to rip her off when handing in their Negg tokens.

Rakel advanced, his almost absurdly long tail sweeping the floor as he did so.

"You wanted to stay in this form, did you not?"

"Yes..."

The Negg Faerie nodded to herself, glancing at an icy clock on the wall. "My antidote Negg should be ready by now."

With that, the Negg Faerie got up and made her way to a small chest amidst bottles and potions on a nearby work table. When she opened it, it hissed as though letting out compressed air. The Negg Faerie was temporarily lost to bluish smoke emanating from the chest as she muttered to herself about Negg marinating times and other Negg-manufacturing processes.

When she came back into view, she was proffering a small Negg to Rakel. The Negg was bicoloured: black on one side, white on the other. Along the line between the two colours was a fine ridge keeping both colours completely separate.

"A Negg of Division," she said. "It will let you keep your current state -- and obliterate all of the effects of the Negg of Fusion."

Rakel stared at the Negg. "All of the effects?"

"Yes, all of them," said the Negg Faerie impatiently. "You'd better hurry and eat it, otherwise you might end up as a mutant Moehog, or who knows what..."

The more impatiently the Negg Faerie acted, the more Rakel began to shrink away. He loved his current form, yes -- but he had only just discovered that he could, with a bit of effort and a bit of risk, read minds, and perhaps untie that knot of secrecy that lay in the depths of the Negg Faerie's head...

Which was probably why the Negg Faerie herself was now holding the Negg of Division right below his beak and threatening to forcefeed it to him if he did not eat it right now.

***

Tintino made relatively short work of the cliffs -- they were, after all, familiar to him.

What he needed was evidence. Cold, hard evidence, evidence that he could then plunge like an icicle into the heated mess of secret-keeping and secret-making that had plagued his life as of late.

The white glare of the sun on the snow was enough to make one snow-blind. Tintino, used to the Terror Mountain weather and danger, kept his eyes at a squint -- enough to make out where he was going, where the nearest treacherous cliff-edge was, and exactly where the Negg Faerie had almost fallen to her doom.

Snow flew left and right in little gusts, taunting Tintino with its powdery powers of erasure: how was he to find proof, now that the place lay under two feet of snow?

Tintino began to dig at the place where a particular view of Happy Valley told him he had found the right angle and elevation: this was where the Negg Faerie had slipped, this was where things had begun to go wrong.

As he dug, Tintino realised that, while snow was constantly erasing things, the sub-zero temperature was actually a help. Under a perpetually shifting blanket of snow, Terror Mountain kept itself in a state of ever-lasting preservation. Any scratch on the bed of ice below the snow was there for eternity. And any footprints made on rare days of half-thaw, when body weight could actually press into the ice sheet, were preserved for years and years on end.

Such as the footprints that Tintino's sweeping paws had just unburied.

Tintino feverishly swept away at the last snowdrifts and sat back to examine the icy path leading to a cliff edge that he had just uncovered. There were two sets of prints: a bipedal being had walked, and -- very obviously, from the skidding footprint -- lost her footing and slipped toward the cliff's edge. A quadruped, whose four paws were lightly imprinted on the everlasting ice, had then raced after her and halted the fall, as was obvious from the dug-in paw marks and the perfectly preserved nail scratches.

Tintino placed a paw in one of the prints: the fit was perfect, down to the place where each of his sharp Wocky nails fell when they weren't retracted.

Tintino nodded to himself in satisfaction. He had his proof. The rest was up to the Negg Faerie.

The Wocky quickly made his way to the Neggery, from whence he heard undignified squawking and shouts of "I won't eat it!..."

Author: larkspurlane
Date: Apr 10th
And as the steely ice door opened, as Tintino stepped in, he felt his jaw go weak.

In the first moment, Rakel was there, wearing the bewildered and vulnerable expression that no feathery form could conceal. The Negg Faerie was offering -- no, pushing -- a stark, black-and-white Negg toward his protesting beak. And then, in the next moment, Rakel was there no more. He was replaced by some sort of whirlwind, turning for the fleetest second into a shelf, and then a Grarrl identical to Rosie, and then a Negg swaying by the table... and finally a duplicate of the Negg Faerie, standing face to face with herself, olive eyes staring deep into identical olive eyes.

Rosie put her hand to her mouth. It was unbearable... another victim of Tintino's, succumbing to the power of a magical Negg. But she couldn't tear her eyes away from the horror.

Rakel-turned-Negg-Faerie was shivering, struggling against some powerful force that seemed to be pulling him toward the real Negg Faerie. "I don't want to just eat the antidote and forget about all this," croaked Rakel. "I want to understand. Why did Tintino want me to eat the Negg? He's my friend. He wouldn't do this without a reason. What secret are you hiding? Tell me..."

"No," the Negg Faerie stated, her voice sharp and fragile in the chilly air.

"Ma'am?" gasped Adela. She couldn't stand seeing the Negg Faerie like this, not the graceful, admirable faerie she had served all these years...

But Rakel pressed on, trembling more violently with each second. "You know what will happen if you don't tell me. I'll give in to the fusion. I'll meld into your mind. Don't make me do that."

"Just eat the antidote Negg," whispered the Negg Faerie, lifting the Negg of Division once more. "And then I'll tell you. You won't be able to hold on like this for much longer."

"Tell. Me. Now."

The Negg Faerie took a deep breath. "Tintino was my faithful assistant, as capable and valuable as Adela is now. But he became increasingly curious. About things he should never know. Until one day, he tried to steal something very precious from me... and I stopped him, and the tension continued. There was even a time when he, when he tried to push me off a cliff..."

"You're lying!" shouted Tintino, breaking suddenly out of his state of shock. "I saved her life, despite the evil I'd found out about her! I have the proof!"

Rakel turned toward him, shifting this time into the shape of the troubled Wocky.

"Oh! The prints! Oh! The memory!" cried Rakel, and changed then and there into the very same stretch of ice that Tintino had previously uncovered. Tintino, eyes blazing, put his foot carefully into the print. Gasps went up from Rosie and Adela.

With another shudder, the ice rolled toward the table, changed temporarily into a table-leg, and started to shift between different forms of Neggs.

A visible wave of pain came over Tintino's face. "Change back into a Neopet, Rakel!" said the Wocky. "You have to. Please! Change back and eat the antidote, and I'll tell you everything... I'm sorry I didn't tell you before..."

The shapeless pile of Neggs groped upward, strengthened by the sound of Tintino's voice, and turned at last into a sobbing Lenny. Feathers falling, tears flowing, he accepted the Negg of Division into his trembling beak.

***

At last the hearts were opened, and at last the stories flowed free. The Negg Faerie, with remarkable dignity, told of how she had been exiled from the Faerieland Palace in her youth because she didn't seem to have the abilities that most noble faeries had. So she began humbly, collecting Neggs, changing them and trading them. Then her ambitions had carried her further, and she had dreamed of creating an ultimate Negg, like the Negg of Fusion, something that would enable her, one day, to acquire power to rival even the Faerie Queen's... something to prove everyone wrong, to show everyone what a weak, exiled faerie could do.

Tintino had discovered that the Negg Faerie was doing some dangerous experiments. He became suspicious and fearful, stealing Neggs whenever he had a chance, trying to find out what powers they had. He also held a terrible fascination for Neggs, which overrode his compassion for his test subjects. But throughout he maintained a strange kind of sympathy for the Negg Faerie, even saving her life when she had fallen from the cliff, that fateful snow-filled day.

The Negg of Inevitable Dance, originally intended as a revenge prank on the Faerie Queen, was ingested by poor Rosie. And the Negg of Fusion was the culmination of all of the Negg Faerie's efforts. Underneath a smooth surface, it contained all the desire and hidden power that had lain dormant within the Negg Faerie's heart for years. Tintino, with bold curiosity, had fed it to his unsuspecting friend Rakel.

Everyone felt betrayed. Rakel, by his friend Tintino, whom he had so trusted. Adela and Rosie, by the Negg Faerie, whom they had admired and loved. Tintino, by the Negg Faerie, whose life had saved. And the Negg Faerie, by herself, for allowing her past to corrupt her future.

But after the tears there was forgiveness, and after the forgiveness there were Neggs. Long after the fire warmed the house against the wild, white winds, there would remain the lingering flavour of the words "I am sorry."

The End

Author: yoyote
Date: Apr 10th



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