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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 30th day of Gathering, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 53 > New Series > Into the Dark: Part One

Into the Dark: Part One

by starhamster42

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 head.

     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 foreseen."

     "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 listen.

***

"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 it up."

     "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...

Previous Episodes

Into the Dark: Part Two

Into the Dark: Part Three

Into the Dark: Part Four

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