GLADYSCAT THE FAERIE Aisha sat at the large wooden table
in the library, looking intently at the fragments of an ancient Hand-Painted
Pot before her. The Aisha's pair of long ears twitched excitedly as she recognised
a pattern and slid three more pieces together, creating the profile of a bird's
She and her owner, Alare, were currently staying
with their friend Jan and her two Neopets; this final pot was the last in a
long list of repair jobs they had been working on since that pirate crew had
ransacked the old NeoHome, looking for a certain amulet.
Gladys glued the final bits of the pot rim together.
It was hard to believe it had been nearly two weeks since their return; why,
it seemed just yesterday that MakiKai had first approached the notorious pirate
Eyrie, Captain Blackwing, in a darkened tavern on Krawk Island, armed with little
more than a cheap rubber Pteri toy...
A loud thump broke into her thoughts, and the
Aisha looked up to see the grinning face of a blue Zafara before her, holding
a large stack of books. "Come on, Gladys," MakiKai said. "Stop daydreaming and
come help us shelve the last of these books."
Atuarre the Kougra was perched on the top of
a tall ladder, her green tail held out for balance as she used both paws to
hold the stacks of books that Jan, Alare, and Maki's little brother, GlacierSnow,
were handing up to her. Gladys flapped her faerie wings hard and soared up to
the ceiling to take the thick books from Atuarre.
MakiKai stood at the base of the ladder ready
to hand the next stack of Neopian Encyclopaedias to Atuarre when a book slid
off the top of her stack and fell with a heavy thump to the floor.
Ever curious, Maki scampered over to retrieve
it. The book was bound with thick brown leather and tied shut with a fraying
piece of twine.
"Hey, guys, look at this. I've never seen this
book before." He hastily unknotted the twine and opened it to the front page.
GladysCat peered over her friend's shoulder.
"Hey, the pages are all blank!" she exclaimed disappointedly.
"Not quite," a voice behind her said. They all
turned to see a tall figure in a dress of the palest purple.
"The pages have merely been enchanted to look that way until the right person
came along to read the book - a safety precaution Daeron and I thought up."
"Daeron?" Jan asked quizzically. The name sounded
vaguely familiar, like that of a childhood friend long forgotten.
"Yes," the Faerie Queen said. "Your great-grandfather."
She took out a silver wand and tapped the first page once. Thin ink lines streamed
out across the page, resolving themselves into words and... a precise sketched
drawing of Maki's amulet.
Maki gasped, his paw automatically going to the
amulet he wore around his neck. "So... Daeron was the one who left this amulet
in his house for us to find?"
Fyora nodded, the hint of a smile in her eyes.
"Very good, little Zafara. Daeron did indeed discover the amulet; he wrote the
story concerning those events here, in this journal. I'd suggest you read it
before going any further."
"I... I think I already know it," Maki said slowly,
and his gaze was focused far away. "I dreamed of a man and his Kougra last night...
and about the Shadow Usul. His Kougra's name was SandFlash."
Now it was the Faerie Queen's turn to look surprised.
"It is amazing what can come to us in dreams," she finally said. "Daeron decided
to hide the amulet in this house after seeing the consequences of the Shadow
Usul's actions. We had hoped it would be safe here, but not all things can be
"Is there a way the amulet can be destroyed?"
the Zafara asked, remembering the grim scenes of a ruined city on fire.
"Unfortunately, there is no possible way to get
rid of it in its current state; the world is not rid of true evil that easily.
Therefore you must do that which is impossible - but exactly what, I cannot
tell you. Only the one with pure heart and mind will know what to do."
"What's the catch?" Alare asked suspiciously.
The Faerie Queen took a deep breath. "Well, the catch is - nobody yet has possessed
the amulet and not fallen into shadow, using it for evil purposes."
"Gee, that's encouraging," MakiKai muttered,
trying to fight back the feeling of utter hopelessness. "But - what about Daeron?"
Atuarre finally spoke up.
"Daeron had the chance to use the amulet, but
was saved only by his love and friendship for SandFlash. Had he actually used
the amulet, there would be no return."
Maki looked at the amulet hanging around his
neck and gulped nervously. "So... what now?" he asked.
"You are bound to the amulet until you reach
the stage of the final decision: to use it or not."
"And somewhere in there he's supposed to just
magically figure out how to destroy this thing?" Gladys asked.
"That's about right," the Faerie Queen replied. "Now - do you know where to
go from here?"
"All the action started in the Lost Desert, so
I guess we have to go there." Fyora smiled and raised her hands; suddenly there
was a great flash and a cloud of purple smoke.
By the time the smoke had cleared, the Faerie
Queen had gone - and the three pets each held tickets for the next train leaving
for the Lost Desert.
Some time later...
Rolling sand dunes flashed past as the Desert
Express train powered its way through the night into the heart of the Lost Desert.
MakiKai gazed at the scene for a moment; then, letting the curtain drop back
into place over the window, he leaned back against the padded cushions of the
dining booth seat with a contented sigh. It was nice to be traveling again;
the blue Zafara always felt a special thrill at the thought of exploring new
places, a trait he shared with his owner, Jan. Perhaps it was this common love
that had allowed her to let him go off again so easily.
His two friends, GladysCat and Atuarre, had
gone back to their compartment to sleep after dinner, but Maki had remained
behind to read Daeron's journal. The story itself was familiar enough after
his dream, but he was busy reading the details now, trying to find out all he
could about the amulet tucked under his tunic.
A shadow passed into the circle of light cast
by the swaying lamp overhead. The blue Zafara bit off an annoyed remark as he
looked up into the face of a shadow Aisha. "May I take your plate, sir?"
"Sure," Maki said, absentmindedly pushing his
plate with its last remains of Grackle-Stuffed Turkey over. He was a bit distracted
by the Aisha's dull black eyes which flicked over him methodically, almost as
if searching for something.
The shadow Aisha moved to pick up the plate,
and MakiKai couldn't help but notice that its dark-furred paw had an odd pattern
on the back, a triangle with a jagged line down its centre.
As the Aisha walked away, the blue Zafara let
out a silent sigh of relief to be out from underneath its fixed stare. At the
same time, he felt a profound sense of unease; with the strange markings and
eyes like that, there was no way it could have been a simple waiter.
Maki sighed and pushed the encounter out of his
mind. He opened the journal to begin reading again but couldn't concentrate
on the words before him. Background conversation in the room hummed drowsily;
it was getting late, and both Neopets and owners alike were preparing to retire
for the night.
MakiKai was thinking fleetingly of doing the
same thing when he overheard two voices deep in conversation at the booth next
to his. There was a low wooden wall separating the two; Maki moved closer to
"You have failed," a deep voice growled, "just like the Usul before you. I
made it simple this time - you had only one job to do, and you still fouled
"Borulaar, you must understand -" a voice protested,
and Maki gave a start as he identified its owner - the fierce Captain Blackwing
whom he had fought on Krawk Island to win back the amulet. The pirate captain
sounded uncharacteristically frightened, which made the Zafara listen all the
more closely to the exchange that came next.
"I don't want to hear your feeble excuses, Eyrie,"
the first voice interrupted with a rumbling menace like that of distant thunder.
"The fact remains: you have failed me, and I dislike failure. You know what
is the penalty for those who displease me."
MakiKai held his breath, sensing the tension
in the air; he could only imagine the consequences of getting on the wrong side
of this Borulaar.
"However," the voice mused, "I did find other
uses for the Shadow Usul, who proved to be quite useful in her own right...
very well, I shall give you one more chance."
"Thank you for sparing me, Master," Captain Blackwing
cried, sounding more than a little relieved. "My crew will not fail you again,
I am sure of it." There was the quick sound of footsteps and the swish of a
cloak as the Eyrie hurried past Maki and out of the room.
Realising the conversation was over, Maki leaned back in his seat. For a few
minutes he sat there, flipping the leather journal over in his paws as he slowly
put two and two together. Then, eyes widening with sudden realisation, the young
Zafara scrambled to his footpaws.
MakiKai ran into the hallway, the amulet thumping
against his chest with each stride, heightening his sense of urgency. He finally
skidded to a halt before the right room - but the door was already halfway open.
A quick glance inside told him all he needed
to know. The double berths on the left side lay empty, their top sheets gone
and the others in total disarray - signs of a struggle. Various items from their
bags were strewn across the floor as if someone had been searching for something.
Cursing softly under his breath, the Zafara turned
and looked back out into the corridor. Five or six shadow-painted pets were
nearly at the door at the far end. Maki's heart gave a horrible lurch as he
saw their burden - two struggling figures wrapped in white cloth, bed sheets.
"Hey, hey you! Stop!" he shouted loudly, sprinting after them. One of the shadow
pets stumbled, treading on its black cloak, which fell to the floor. It hurried
on with the rest through the doorway into the compartment beyond.
By the time Maki reached the door, the strange
figures had vanished - and taken with them Atuarre and GladysCat.
To be continued...