Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 129,296,931 Issue: 201 | 29th day of Swimming, Y7
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Wanderlust: Part Two


by extreme_fj0rd

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Jamie ran northwards through Neopia Central, dodging aside whenever a collision seemed imminent. A leather satchel hung at the Kyrii's side, tugged backwards by the wind of his passage; inside, liquid sloshed in a bottle, and coins clinked against each other.

      He darted right to avoid a pedestrian; the abrupt change in direction nearly overbalanced him, and he staggered sideways into a group of young pets, each one at least a foot and a half shorter than he. They giggled as he spun in the midst of them; he got his bearings again after a moment and ran on, the small pets scattering before his swift paws.

      He only paused when he reached the wooden barrier that was all that separated Neopia Central from the docks and the sea. The Kyrii gasped for breath, hanging on to the railing with both paws. When he'd caught his breath, he stared out across the glittering water and gaped.

      The ocean was tinted all shades of orange and red by the sun lowering itself into the horizon; the darkening sky was striped with color as well, and the clouds were purple.

      To the north, away from Neopia Central, Jamie thought he saw a speck of a boat approaching the great white monolith of Terror Mountain; he turned, and saw a lighted building just a few feet away. It wasn't the usual construction; it was more like a station, with the wrought metal writhing across sheets of glass in complex patterns. The Kyrii heaved himself up off the railing's support and walked unsteadily over to it.

      The tall doors stood open; on one of them, a sheet of paper was taped, printed with the times of the ferries that brought tourists to Terror Mountain or Tyrannia. Jamie scanned the timetable; the last ferry to Terror Mountain had left just ten minutes before the time that was shown on the great clock above the doors.

      He stepped inside and joined the short queue that led up to the ticket window; only a few minutes had passed when he attained the front of the line.

      "Terror Mountain or Tyrannia?" asked a tired-looking Wocky.

      "Er," said Jamie, "neither. I'm looking for a brown Aisha, I think she might've been on the last ferry--"

      "Maybe," said the ticket-seller. "Maybe not."

      "Brown Aisha, you said?" someone asked at Jamie's left.

      The Kyrii turned. "You saw her?"

      "Of course I saw her!" the Nimmo laughed. "I was comin' off the ferry and she was goin' on. She near knocked me off the gangplank, she did. Enthusiastic gal, ain't she?"

      Jamie nodded, breathless with elation. So she had gone to Terror Mountain! He shook the Nimmo's hand. "Thank you," he said, and said it again. "Thank you."

      "Well, of course!" The Nimmo smiled. "Good luck findin' your--who'd you say she is?"

      "I--I didn't," Jamie said. "She's my sister."

      The Nimmo nodded. "Good luck findin' her." He gave Jamie a salute and shuffled off.

      "We can't do nothing to stop it now," the Wocky rejoined, oblivious to the grammatical errors in his speech. "Want to buy a ticket to Terror Mountain to follow it? Next ferry's in half an hour."

      Jamie thought, while the people behind him in the queue shuffled and rattled their copies of the Neopian Times meaningfully. After a moment he nodded. "How much?"

      "Six hundred for one-way," the Wocky said. "A thousand for a round-trip." He stared absently at Jamie as the Kyrii dug out a thousand Neopoints. "Thanks for travelling Neopia North ferries," he said, and handed Jamie a ticket with no ceremony whatsoever.

      "Yeah," Jamie said, "thanks." He took the ticket and walked away from the queue. Half an hour until the ferry, then; it'd be nearly dark by then, but he guessed that they'd have lamps on the ship, or at least he hoped so.

      He wandered out of the building and back to the barrier; he stuck the ticket in his satchel so it wouldn't blow away and leaned on the railing with a sigh. The sun continued its plunge into the oceans, and the light was fading quickly. The night winds were picking up, whistling across the waves and through Jamie's fur; he shivered involuntarily at the chill, but didn't go back inside.

      "Annalise," he whispered, and the wind threw the name to the ocean. "Where are you?"

      "All aboard! All aboard the ferry!"

      Jamie shuffled with the rest of the passengers up the short wooden plank to the boat. To his relief, light shone out of the windows of the ship, and as he stepped onto the deck, he could see that it came from tiny Light Faeries that flew around inside the cabin. He felt his face relax into a smile; it all felt like home, though it wasn't anything like the house where he and Annalise lived.

      He ducked under the low doorframe and into the cabin. It was all one room, a wide and empty room. A few armchairs were scattered around; a few small tables accompanied them, with that day's Neopian Times spread over them.

      One large column came up from the floor and continued up through the ceiling; Jamie stared at it for a moment before nodding. The mast, of course. He found an armchair away from the other passengers, who were finding seats of their own, and sat in it. Despite the bright light of the Faeries, he was sleepy, and he curled up in the chair. It was so warm here, so pleasant. Perhaps he'd just close his eyes for one moment...

     "Sir. Sir!" Someone was shaking him. Jamie woke and opened one eye.

      "What is it?" he muttered groggily.

      "This is the Terror Mountain stop," the someone said. "Unless you'd like to accompany the boat back to Neopia Central--"

      "Oh! No--no, I'm getting off here." He opened both eyes and stood up quickly.

      The someone, a Bruce dressed in a captain's uniform, nodded and saluted him with a flipper. "Time to get off, then," he said.

      Jamie nodded and saluted him back. "Thanks for waking me," he said.

      "No problem," the captain said with a smile. "Thanks for travelling with us."

      Jamie descended the gangplank and shivered. Though he'd known Terror Mountain would be cold, he didn't know it'd be quite this cold. He shivered again and crossed his arms over his chest, hoping to keep himself warm that way.

      The sun had set while he slept on the boat, and now it was pitch-dark; away from the lights of Neopia Central, the stars shone brightly, but they didn't cast much light on the snow underfoot.

      A light shone nearby; a lantern, it looked like. The Kyrii, his teeth chattering, set off towards it, sliding each paw carefully along the ground to make sure there were no gaping holes or sudden hills he might trip over.

      He reached the light after just a few minutes, and stared up at it. It was a lantern, hanging from a hook on... a wall. A building! He laughed with pure glee.

      The opening door nearly hit him in the nose.

      Jamie stumbled backwards; the light shining out of the door was too bright for his eyes, which had adjusted to the darkness.

      "Coming in or staying out?" a voice called.

      "C--coming in," Jamie said, and managed to stagger in. The wind whirled in with him, sending a swirling curlicue of snow in too, but the moment the Kyrii was inside the door slammed shut.

      Inside, it was warm; a fire crackled in a fireplace. His eyes gradually adjusted back to the light, and he could look around. An elderly Lenny sat in a large armchair by the fire he'd noticed first; a cane leaned against her chair, the finish worn off from long use. Another armchair sat opposite hers by the fire. A small bed occupied the far corner, and a table had been placed near a small window, outside which snow danced and whirled.

      The walls themselves were covered with hangings; paintings, posters, and drawings were hung on every available square inch. Jamie frowned, and looked back at the Lenny.

      "Come," she said, her voice quavering with age. "Sit. And you will spend the night here," she added; Jamie was too tired to protest. "You can push these chairs together, and I'll give you a blanket. I'd let you have the bed, but I'm getting a little old for sleeping on chairs," she ended, with a laugh. "Now, will you tell me why you're out in this weather at night, or shall I have to threaten you first?"

      "I--I'm looking for my sister," Jamie said, standing up. He crossed slowly to the chair and sat down.

      "Ah. Run away, has she?" said the Lenny, looking positively delighted at the prospect.

      "No, that is, not really... she has the Jitters," Jamie admitted. "While I was out buying the medicine for it, she left." He was reminded of the potion as he spoke; he pulled his satchel, which had somehow survived his blind walk through the snow, onto his lap and opened it. To his relief, the potion bottle was unbroken, though when he shook it, the liquid only moved sluggishly.

      "Leave that by the fire," the old Lenny suggested. "It'll melt by morning. So, your sister has the Jitters, has she?" Jamie nodded wordlessly.

      "I had that once myself," she added. "Well, back then we didn't call it the Jitters; we just called it Wanderlust. I lived up at the very top of Terror Mountain," she continued. "We didn't know the cure for it, then. I left the village when I got it, and travelled--oh, I travelled all over Neopia."

      She stared up at the rows of posters from all the lands of Neopia plastered on her walls, and smiled, a wistful smile. "And then, when I tired of traveling, I came back here." She patted her armchair with a wing. "Right back to where I started."

      The Lenny leaned forward and gave Jamie a sharp, knowing glance. "Maybe your sister is happy with this wanderlust she has," she said. "I was. It took me places I never would've gone otherwise."

      Jamie was silent for a moment; then he shook his head. "I--she'll want the cure," he said. "I know she will."

      She nodded, and stood up creakily. "Well, old people need more sleep," she said. "I'll take myself off to bed now." She grasped her cane and hobbled over to the bed, and then back; she dropped a blanket on her vacated armchair.

      "Stay up as late as you want," she added. "Just shove the chairs together when you want to sleep."

      Jamie nodded absently, staring into the fire; after a moment he reached out and placed the potion bottle by the flames to melt. He sat back, watching the flames, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

To be continued...

 
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» Wanderlust: Part One
» Wanderlust: Part Three



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