It was quiet in my office at MonoKeras, Private Investigations. The only sound
was the occasional tapping of keys as I worked up a final report on my latest
case. This one was going to be tough, and I was just hoping I'd get paid. An
elderly Acara had hired me, devastated at the loss of her Floud. The autopsy
had revealed that it had met its fate because of carrot indigestion, and although
its owner was understandably upset, she was also convinced someone had deliberately
poisoned her dear. I had accepted the case, and after obtaining samples of the
carrot bits from the medical examiner, I had tracked down the vendor who had
sold it. Upon questioning (under truth spell), he had denied knowledge of any
Floud, but had said that he had dumped a bunch of questionable carrots in a
dumpster not far from the Acara's house. A bit of magical scrying had revealed
the carrot(s) in question to have indeed come from the dumpster. Now I had the
unpleasant task of telling this poor lady that not only did her Floud end itself
by its own stupidity, it had actually been raiding dumpsters when it had eaten
the fatal vegetables. I'd learned long ago that an unhappy client is an unhappy
payer, and no matter how I sugar-coated this, I couldn't see how I'd make her
My concentration was abruptly shattered when the front door banged open. I
looked around to find a blue Chia standing in the doorway, gasping for breath.
"You're MonoKeras, right?"
"Uh, right. Come in?"
He quickly walked into the office and I mentally nudged the door shut behind
him with a light tap at its spell. He never noticed, just grabbed the back of
the client chair in front of him and stared at me intently through his thick
glasses. "Sir, I must ask you to help stop a horrible crime!"
"Oh? What crime?"
"One of mass imprisonment!"
"Yes, mass imprisonment! I am afraid that the Humuhumunukunukaupua tribe may have been
imprisoned, or worse!"
"The what tribe?"
"The Humuhumu... the HunkaLunka tribe, you'd call it."
"Oh, well that makes more sense."
He failed to catch my sarcasm. "Exactly! I am afraid that the unknown powers
that be have decided to use them for their own fell purposes! I was researching
them just last year, but now I find no trace of them- they're gone. Gone!"
"I see. Well sit down and catch your breath, Mr..... er..."
"Oh, OK. Well, Mr. Al, surely this can all be settled easily..."
"I tell you, MonoKeras, we must investigate this immediately!" Al ignored
my offer of the chair and began to pace the floor in front of me.
"Fine, Al, but why me?"
He stopped and gave me that intense glare again. "Because you know the secret
of the paintbrushes!"
I screwed my eyes shut at the mental pain. I was getting about half of this
story, and none of the bits seemed to connect. At this point, I wasn't even
sure where to start. "Look, where is- or was- this tribe, a tribe of what, and
what have paintbrushes got to do with it?"
I could see Al's lips moving as he repeated my questions to himself. "Mystery
Island, Lupes, and it's the new Mystery Island Paint Brush. You must help!"
I mentally ran back through my own list. "OK, so a tribe of Lupes on Mystery
Island is being imprisoned, or at least gone missing, because of the new Island
"Exactly! And you know the secret behind the brushes, so you're the one to
"Who says I know the secret behind anything?"
Al reached a paw into a pocket of his long white coat and pulled out some crumpled
paper. He also dislodged a Cobrall, who thumped softly on the floor and slid
from sight. I didn't like that, but chose to focus my attention on the paper
that he spread open before me.
"Right here!" he exclaimed, pointing to an article. "You go to Jack, the painter
at the Rainbow Pool, and it says right here that you use the magic in the paint
brush handles to trace pets!"
I looked closer and whistled. "That's from the Ill-starred Blumaroo, the first
case I ever published! How old is that paper, anyway?"
Al ignored my question. "So you see, you're the one I need to track down what
happened to the HunkaLunka tribe." He resumed his pacing as I stared at him.
"A whole chapter in the history of Lupology may be totally destroyed if we don't
find them! Those Lupes have been surviving innumerable obstacles for hundreds
or even thousands of years on the north shores of that island...."
My attention was starting to wander but it suddenly focused on the crawling
sensation on my right leg. I whinnied and tried to jump back, but you can't
do that when you're sitting at a desk. I wound up falling backwards over my
chair, my knees getting a painful bang from the edge of the desk. I pulled myself
up to see the Cobrall quickly scooting back towards the front of my office.
Al had never noticed a thing, and was still in full lecture mode as I climbed
back to my feet. "...ancient wisdom may be rotting in cells, or be lost altogether
just to satisfy the fashion conscious whims of an elite few...." His path intercepted
that of his Cobrall and he immediately wound up flattened on the floor. "PIFFLE!"
Al screamed as his glasses flew off. He groped around blindly for a few seconds
before finding and putting his glasses back on. "Fluffy! You have got to be
the worst behaved petpet a Neopet ever owned! Look at what you just did! I lost
my train of thought!"
I repressed the desire to prove Al wrong by showing him Sun Pegasus. The last
thing this tableaux needed was a cantankerous baby fireball. I waited patiently
while Al stuffed a struggling Fluffy back into his coat pocket before I interjected
the next logical question. "Al. Just why would the Island Paintbrush make anyone
imprison a pack of island Lupes?"
"It's magic, isn't it?"
"Yes, of course."
"And it paints Lupes islander, right?"
"And to do that they need to know what an island Lupe looks like don't they?"
"I guess so..."
"So how else are they going to get the magic to work, if not by using real
islander Lupes in the making of it???"
My mouth dropped open. "Ahhh...."
"Exactly! I tell you, we must not lose any time! That's why I want to hire
you to help me track this down. You know how the magic works behind these paintbrushes,
"As much as anyone, I suppose," I had to admit.
"So you can track down where the HunkaLunka tribe is!" Al cried triumphantly.
"I knew I'd come to the right office!"
"Hold on! Let me think about this...."
"What's there to think about? While we waste time sitting here chattering..."
"You're not sitting."
"....some unfortunate Lupe may be getting sucked into an evil machine so that
another few thousand paintbrushes can be made!"
I tuned Al out, although it wasn't the easiest thing to do. He helped by going
back into his pace and lecture mode. My first reaction was to think that he
was crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the laws
of sympathetic magic meant that some sort of connection- or model- had to exist
to make a paintbrush work. It wouldn't necessarily mean the destruction of the
model as if it were "manufacturing material", but I had to admit that as far
fetched as it sounded, Al might have a point. There could well be a tribe of
islander Lupes somewhere serving as models for the paintbrush magic. And that
would apply to any type of pets that it worked for. I didn't know for sure that
it'd need live models, so this could still all be a wild Pteri chase, but if
he wanted to pay me for looking into it, I wouldn't mind.
"Lupologists everywhere have long known about the HunkaLunka tribe, but none
of them have come as close as I! I actually saw them, even rescued them from
Pinkbeard the Pirate...."
"....but now they're gone! None of their villages are occupied. I even tried
tracking down their game trails, but..."
"...to no avail. It's as if they never existed. There's even vines growing
over the huts..."
He looked up and blinked. "Yes?"
"If you want me to track this down, I need some materials."
"Well the main one would be an Island Paintbrush."
"Oh, that, of course, it's here somewhere..." he fumbled in his pockets for
a minute, almost letting Fluffy loose again. "Here we go!" and he dropped a
paintbrush down on my desk.
I blinked. There it was. Green paint with flowers embedded in it coated the
bristles, and the wooden handle displayed the slightly pinkish curlicue pattern
that I'd seen in all the pictures. I found myself holding in another whistle
as I picked it up carefully. "Whoa.... Al, where did you get this?"
Al stared at me as if I were nuts. "I bought it."
"Bought it?? Al, these things are unbuyable! I only know of two or three dozen
that are even in the shops, and they're all for display, not for sale!"
"Piffle! That's just for show. What else do you need?"
My mouth opened and shut for a couple of seconds. "Ah... well I'll need my
scrying glass, of course, and then let's see...." I closed my eyes and let the
magical equations flow by them. To make this work I'd need one other anchor,
or maybe two. "Oh! Of course.... I'll need the hair of an islander Lupe"
Al frowned. "That's just what we don't have! They're gone!"
"No, no, not that islander Lupe"
"One that's been painted you mean? I'm not sure I know any of them yet..."
"No, I need one that was stone and got turned into islander during the makeover.
It's the way the magic works, that transition phase provides me another key
to triangulate on."
"Ohhhh.... hmmm Rockpaw is out of touch until next month..."
"Never mind, I know exactly who to get." I picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hi there, this is MonoKeras.... yeah, good to know you're still around, too...
how's the new colour? .... I know, I liked the stone look better too. Look,
I know this may sound silly, but could I have some hunks of your hair? ....
What? .... Oh, just for some magical experimenting I'm doing... No, no, I'm
not going to blow you up, that's your brother you're thinking of, not me!....
OK, I'll meet you there.... five?... Good! See you then."
I looked up to find Al staring into space with a mournful look. "I wonder where
we'd even start looking.... Mystery Island, or here."
"How about when?" I asked sharply.
"When we'll do this, which will be tomorrow morning."
"Piffle! That long? This is a matter of urgency! You expect me to go home
and sleep over the ruination of a whole tribe of Lupes??"
"Well I don't know what'll happen at your home, but I've got a nice warm comfortable
bed in mine, and I plan to sleep quite well in it tonight. Oh, and take this
with you for safekeeping." I handed him the island paintbrush. "I wouldn't want
anything to happen to it."
"Uh-huh, sure...." it disappeared back into his white coat somewhere.
I rolled my eyes at his casual attitude towards his treasure. "That must have
cost you a pretty dubloon."
"What? Oh, the paintbrush! Just some pocket change I had laying around....
oh yeah, I need to know how much to pay you too, don't I."
I stared at him. "Uh, don't worry about the fee," I replied. "I'm sure it'll
just be..." I gagged a bit... "pocket change."
To be continued...