"Hmm. Tight security, huh?"
I had danced into the throne room, made a few
'oooooooooh' noises, and the guards had run. Most of them screaming for their
mothers. I chuckled, and began to examine the seal to the Vault. "Oh, this is
path-et-tic. Merridell security is centuries behind ours, with the rest of the
world cottoning on old Skarl could have at least ran a few wires or a little
alarm or something, but nooooo. I'm stuck dealing with the old six-tumbler double
ratchet combination vault with a few magical protections. Got a A-M frequency
"Of course." He handed me a small mechanical
device. "Is there no point in telling you to leave this?"
"None whatsoever." I attached the emitter to
the door frame, running through the frequencies until my scanner came up clean.
"There we go. Magic gone."
"AM? Anti-magic. Hmmm, do these frequencies
work like an electromagnetic pulse for electronic devices?"
"Right in one, Immacolata. Suppresses all kinds
of magic. Now, if you'll all just park your tails on the floor, I'll explain
while I'm rigging up the explosives."
"Just listen, won't you?"
"This Orb is what is causing ALL the problems.
With it or without it, Merridell and Darigan are going to be tearing each other's
throats out. But, if I can get them to co-operate for just a little while, in
return for getting the orb back in a position where it will help EVERYONE, then
it should work out okay. Over time, that is."
"And… just how are you going to do that?"
"Very simple. I hide the orb, and let everyone
know that I have hidden it and only I can get it back. Then, I persuade Skarl
to open his kingdom. Darigan gets a permanent location above Merridell, and
anyone who wants can go between the two. Then, if my suspicions about this orb
are correct, I return the orb to the now co-operating states, then it should
affect both of them. In theory."
"In theory. You're basing a lot on a theory."
I lead a wire behind one of the pillars. Not
that it mattered, since anything would go right through me, but it was habit.
"More than a theory. The orb only affects the
state that it resides in, no matter what size. If Darigan and Merridell are
one state, then the orb will affect everyone. Win-win situation, where no one
will really want to break things off. I have a feeling that once the average
pets of Merridell and Darigan get together, they'll realise just how similar
"But the average pets count for nothing. What
counts are Skarl and Darigan."
I grinned, pressing a button. There was a series
of muffled explosions, and the door swung open slowly.
"If Skarl and Darigan can't get along, well,
let's just say that the commoners could do with taking a lesson from history.
Revolutions aren't always bad, and I don't think they're allowed to use a guillotine
on a family site."
We walked into the vault, a little nervous.
It couldn't be this easy. Could it?
It chimed midnight. A great cry went up all
over Merridell. I knew what had happened. They had lost.
"Your plan better work, Chrissy." Elenna looked
at me with big, brown eyes. "I trust you."
"I know." Craziness gone, I was completely sane
again. And more than a little worried. What if I had got it wrong?
The Orb floated slightly in the middle of the
room. There was a collective drawing of breath. Pets were out there, fighting
each other for this, and we had just walked in and stolen it. It was rather
pretty, really. I slipped it into a velvet bag.
"Okay, lets get out of here before…"
Skarl was standing in the doorway, looking incredibly
angry. I just grinned at him. We were all still Ghosts, after all.
"Sorry, I'll explain later."
The last thing I saw before we sank through
the floorboards was the Skieth's outraged snarl. First defeat, then this. Things
were not going well for him.
Nerves in HQ were tight. When I returned from
hiding the Orb, I was very aware that everyone was watching me.
"You do realise," said Shift, flicking his tail
idly, "that it is incredibly likely that both Darigan and Merridell will join
forces… Against you?"
"Yep," I shrugged. "Looking different, Shift.
Did you stop wearing makeup?"
"I'm a HE now, remember?"
Waterlily looked tense. Immacolata had her head
buried in a pile of statistics. Elenna was bouncing a ball for Neca. None of
them were speaking. There were several minutes of complete silence. I absentmindedly
A faint buzzing sound interrupted me. Immacolata
ripped open her pocket, pulling out her mobile phone. There was three seconds
of suspense, and then she tossed it. To me.
"It's for you."
Like I needed telling.
I put the little handset to my ear. The whole
room was watching and listening. I nodded, listening to the tinny little conversation.
"Uh-huh, yeah, of course not, yep, ah-hah, okay…"
I'm not good at talking on phones. Eventually, the call ended and I put the
mobile down, looking grim.
"Okay, anyone fancy a trip to Terror Mountain?
I need to get that Orb thingy back now."
The whole room looked at me in shock, and then
burst into cheers. Waterlily dove into my lap, Elenna hugged me and Immacolata
draped herself across my shoulders, cat style. I was grinning. I knew it would
work. Of course I knew it would work.
A late, and rather belated, Christmas celebration.
HQ was draped in tinsel and greenery, with a huge Christmas tree in one corner.
Luna and Solar were singing carols in perfect, ear splitting Kougra harmony,
and no one cared. Shift kept creeping up behind Shadow and hanging a bunch of
mistletoe over his head, and Shadow kept on wondering why every female in the
building kept kissing him. White was still picking at the turkey, waving a drumstick
in time to the music. Immacolata had a paper party hat on her head, and was
adding her yowling Aisha voice to the noise. Elenna and Waterlily were giggling,
clinking their glasses of champagne together every time they refilled them.
I was on my fourth helping of pudding and brandy butter. Things couldn't have
been much better.
"Okay, everyone! Presents!"
The singing died down instantly, and everyone
dived for the tree. I picked up the first present.
"This one's for you, White."
"Really…" He eyed it suspiciously, and then
opened it. Instantly his face turned from suspicion to delight.
"MY MIKE AND CARASSA MUG! You found it! THANK
YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!"
"Well, someone's happy." I muttered. "Merry
Christmas, Shift. This one's for you."
"Oh, really? I wonder what that could be…?"
The Peophin pressed the squishy parcel, then tore off the wrapping. "Socks…
Well, that's imaginative." He held them up, looking at what was written on the
side. On the right sock, it said 'For the pet who's been everything…' and on
the left 'I've been everything.'
"I don't think they'll get much use while I'm
a Peophin, but I was thinking about going Kacheek. They'll… well, they'll make
a nice sleeping bag."
There was a lot of chuckling, and I handed a
parcel to Shadow. "For you. Enjoy!"
"Oh, you shouldn't have." He pulled most of
the wrapping off with his teeth and almost fainted with happiness. "CHIA SHAPED
COOKIES! Oh, excellent, Chrissy. I'll get eating them strait away."
"Glad you like them!" I held out two presents.
"Luna, Solar, these are for you."
"Oooh!" They unwrapped them with lightning speed,
thanks to their claws. They were two almost identical collars, one with a little
sun hanging from it, and one with a little moon. They put them on immediately.
"We love them!"
"Good!" I handed a parcel to Immacolata. "Voila,
hope you like it."
"Oh, I didn't expect anything! You shouldn't
She tore it open. Inside was a LOT of books.
"YES! Thanks loads, Chrissy, you're the greatest
owner ever. Ooh, a Faerie Christmas! I've been wanting to read that one…"
I grinned. "You're welcome, Immacolata."
"Can't talk. Reading."
"Okay…" I passed another present to Waterlily.
"Pour vou." Any opportunity to practice my French.
"Wow, what is it? No, don't tell me, I'll work
it out…" She shook it, prodded it, then shrugged and unwrapped it. "Sinsi's
Crown! EXCELLENT! Thanks a bundle, Chrissy." She jammed it on her head strait
away, knocking off her paper hat. I grinned again, handing a present to Elenna.
"This is something you've been wanting for a
long time, I know."
"What could that be?" She unwrapped it, with
a little help from Neca, and gasped. "A Christmas Paintbrush! Oh, THANK YOU;
this must have cost a fortune… Chrissy, you shouldn't have!"
I just smiled. "Don't worry about it. You deserved
I glanced round the faces of all the pets I
knew, handing out the other presents. Then finally, all too soon, there was
only one big one left. I pulled it towards me and read the label out loud.
"To Chrissy, thanks for saving all our lives,
from Immacolata, Elenna, Waterlily, Everyone at HQ and all the citizens of Neopia."
I looked up, a little surprised. Everyone was looking smug. "Okay… what's this?"
"Open it," said Waterlily, suppressing a giggle.
I glanced round the room, and then the box shook. Hard.
"You didn't get me a cat or anything, did you?
Because…" I opened the box and something small and sandy coloured pounced on
me. I fell flat on my back, and it sat on my chest staring at me with large,
golden eyes. It wasn't a cat. It was close, but it wasn't a cat.
"A BABY KOUGRA! You got me a pet, oh, THANK
YOU, I've wanted one of these for AGES, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK
YOU NEOPIA!" I hugged my new little baby, crying with happiness. Everyone was
smiling and going "Ahhh…"
"What are you going to call it?" Yelled Elenna.
I looked at him carefully. "Nandor Hina!" I
replied. They all looked at me blankly. I translated. "Wood Elf Child." There
was another "Ahhh…" Nandor was licking his paw cutely. He looked up and bopped
me on the nose with it. Claws in, but it was soggy and smelt of wet Kougra.
I sighed, hugging him again.
The day was as perfect as it could have been.
Elenna was delighted with her new coloured coat and danced in circles with Neca,
Immacolata was considerably smarter than before and had restarted trying to
conquer the world, Waterlily gave Punch Bag Bob a terrible beating and I spent
hours playing patta-cake with Nandor Hina. He liked to latch on to my ankle
if I tried to stop. These are my pets. They may not be perfect; they may not
even be nice, in fact they're absolute monsters. But I like them. And I wouldn't
trade them for the world.
Author's Note: This story is simply one of the ways the war COULD have
gone, given the right time and the right equipment. I would like to thank my
pets, Elenna Lanta, Immacolata Magdalene, Black Waterlily and Nandor Hina for
being co-operative and generally helpful, especially in the department of making
cups of tea and putting up with random burst of insanity. I would also like
to thank all my friends, Neo and real life, who supported my mad attempt at
writing a series for The Neopian Times. As for the existence of White, Shadow,
HQ and the rest of it, I can confirm that none of it is true. Besides, that's