Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 155,374,082 Issue: 216 | 11th day of Storing, Y7
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A Cobrall Tale: Part One


by fleecer

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"Are you sure this will work?" Samar asked from behind a rock.

      Hissy glared at her. "Of course this will work. We've been over this before. As long as you do your job, there's nothing to worry about," hissed the Spotted Cobrall. "And stop hiding behind that rock; you'll make us all look weak."

      Samar hesitated then slid out from behind the large boulder. "Just being cautious," she shot back, "something you would know nothing about."

      Hissy whipped around to face the White Cobrall, opening his mouth to spit Negg juice at her, when Ophion slithered around the corner.

      "Stop fighting, you two," he ordered, looking from one to the other. "There's important work to be done yet, and little time to do it."

      "Sorry Ophion," they said in unison and watched as the Fire Cobrall slithered away.

      Hissy bared his fangs at Samar and followed the Fire Cobrall as he made his way carefully over the ground, avoiding the patches of grass.

      Samar watched them for a moment, then looked at the castle in the distance, still worried about tomorrow night.

      This will never work, she thought to herself. Something's wrong, I can sense it.

      The castle loomed in the distance, breathtaking in its magnificence. Every surface seemed to glow with an inner fire, captivating anyone within three miles of the castle. From this distance, Samar could see the beautiful waterfall falling from one of the huge towers and could almost hear the splash as it filled the pool in the middle of the courtyard.

      I should not be here. Ophion's right, there's work to be done. She sighed to herself, taking one last glance at the castle.

      "What's wrong?" came an icy whisper from behind. Startled, Samar jumped and whirled around, coming face to face with Digi.

      "Nothing. I was just thinking, that's all."

      The Robot Cobrall cocked his head and Samar felt a chill run down her scales.

      "You aren't having second thoughts, are you?" purred Digi.

      "No. Of course not. I was just, thinking, that's all. About the plans."

      The Robot Cobrall nodded and moved off toward the small campfire that had been built.

      Samar glanced toward the setting sun, casting everything in sight in a skin of blood-red. Shadows danced over the empty plains, making her think of the darkness to come. She watched the other Cobralls go over the plans one last time and wondered again if their efforts weren't futile. Saddened by this thought, she wandered deeper into the shadows, making her way toward the distant castle as quietly as possible.

      ********

      "I know what I have to do. I just don't see why we must serve Jhudora," Samar said uneasily, looking around at the surrounding woods. Anything could be hiding in those deep shadows, listening to every word they said, anyone. Spooked, she turned back to face Zeano, waiting for his answer.

      "There's no other way. Jhudora can offer us opportunities that Fyora and the others can't. Would you rather hide in these woods for the rest of your life, waiting for Tal to come and save you? He's not coming, Samar," Zeano replied, staring over the campfire at her huddled form.

      "I just wish there were another way. We haven't even asked Fyora, maybe she'll be able to help."

      Zeano shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid not. Not even Fyora can help us. It's up to us. You want to help Tal, don't you?"

      Samar, looking alarmed, sat up. "Of course I do! How could you even ask that?"

      Zeano met her gaze and answered, "It's the only way." He curled up, resting his head against a rock, and she knew she would get no more from him tonight.

      ********

      Samar trudged up the steep incline, distracted by her thoughts. She rounded a bend and found Faerie City right in front of her. She hesitated, tempted to search the city and find Fyora. Instead, she turned toward a gathering of dark clouds.

      When she reached them, she carefully called out Jhudora's name.

      "What do you want?" she barked from inside.

      "It's Samar. I've come to tell you that we'll accept the quest in exchange for your help."

      Jhudora poked her head out of the dark clouds, a wicked smile growing as she peered down at the small Cobrall. "Excellent. When will you have it?"

      "Sometime tonight, we hope. You'll have it by tomorrow at the latest."

      Jhudora nodded. "You'd better get going then and stop wasting your time here." With that, she turned and disappeared into a dark cloud, leaving Samar alone with her thoughts.

      She turned away from the mass of dirty clouds and wandered back toward their camp, remembering what had brought her into this predicament.

      Something had awoken her during the night. She listened carefully, wondering what it could be. She heard it again, a sound so subtle she had a hard time believing it wasn't her imagination.

      Glancing around, she noticed that the other Cobralls were still asleep. The noise was getting closer, sneaking toward her through the dark. She shivered, worried about what it might be, and rose to wake the others. Making her way toward Zeano, the nearest Cobrall, she noticed that the noises had stopped. She halted and turned her head, trying to spot the source.

      Quick, quiet footfalls approached her from the other direction. A soft whistling sound attracted her attention and she spun toward the noise. A codestone hit her squarely between her eyes with enough force to send her flying backwards. Before the blackness completely enveloped her, she saw two yellow eyes watching her from the shadows.

      When she awoke, the other Cobralls were milling about. Dusky dawn filtered down through the branches of the forest, allowing enough light through to see.

      Samar moaned and picked herself off the ground. She made her way toward the lake, trying to ignore the pounding in her head. Peering into the glassy surface, she noticed a small red lump between her eyes. Groaning, she turned back to their camp and made her way over to Ophion who was in the center, trying to calm the other Cobralls.

      "What happened?" she asked groggily.

      Ophion looked at her carefully, studying the bump on her head. "Tal is gone," he told her. "Did you happen to see anything last night?"

      Stunned, she told him what she'd seen. He listened to her story, then nodded and turned back to the others. A hushed silence fell over the group as he spoke.

      "Tal's in danger, we must find him," he informed the group.

      "How will we do that?" asked a Cobrall near the back. "We don't even know who took him."

      Hissy, who had been listening to her story while the other Cobralls talked, sighed and replied, "We know who took him."

      Ophion nodded. "We'll have to ask Jhudora for her help, if she'll have us."

      "No!" Samar cried. "We can't help her. Who knows what she's planning for the rest of Neopia?"

      Ophion turned to her. "It's the only way we'll ever find..."

      "Samar!"

      Startled out of her thoughts, Samar looked around her and realized she was close to camp. She saw Troy making his way over the clouds. She could barely see him against the white of the clouds and blue lines of sky that showed through in patches.

      The Sketch Cobrall slowed as he neared her. "Is it done?" he asked quietly.

      Samar nodded. "She'll help us if we can bring it to her by tomorrow."

      Troy looked pleased by the news, but Samar couldn't stop worrying. If I tell Fyora and she doesn't agree to help us, the plan will be ruined. She sighed and started out toward camp again. Tal needs our help. I can't risk losing him.

      The sun was just beginning to set when Samar reached their camp, casting shades of red and orange over the land. She made her way toward Ophion, lingering as long as she dared at the small pond in the center of camp.

      Finally, she worked her way over to Ophion and waited while he briefed the others.

      Turning toward her he asked, "Did she agree?"

      Samar nodded. "I told her she'd have it by tomorrow."

      "Are you ready to go?"

      Samar turned back toward the distant city and the castle that rose in its center.

      "I'm as ready as I'll ever be," she said quietly.

      Ophion grinned, "Good." Turning to the others he gave them a few last instructions then moved closer to Samar. "It won't be that bad," he said softly.

      "You don't have to try to comfort me. I know what'll happen after tonight. It doesn't matter, I'll help you get Tal back."

      She slithered off to prepare.

      ******

      "It's beautiful," she gasped, looking around at the room full of treasures.

      "Oh! Look at this one," Hissy called from the other side of the room.

      Samar made her way toward him, glancing in at the items displayed behind the glass cases.

      Fyora watched them carefully. They were the only ones in the Hidden Tower. Samar had hoped there would be other customers to distract her a bit more, but after they had arrived at the top, dragging their huge bag behind them, they had discovered that the tower was empty. Except for Fyora. She kept staring at them, studying Samar as she moved through the aisles.

      Samar reached the item Hissy was staring at and gazed at it through the display case. Despite her circumstances, Samar felt her heart skip a beat, amazed by it's beauty. "It's perfect!"

      Hissy looked up at Fyora. "Can we purchase this item? I'm sure we have enough Neopoints."

      Fyora narrowed her eyes. "That'll cost you eight million, five hundred thousand Neopoints. Are you sure you can afford it?"

      Hissy nodded and indicated the huge bag in the corner. "Our Neopoints are in there. We have nearly nine million if you'd like to count."

      Fyora looked at the bag on the floor then shook her head. "I've got to take inventory soon and I don't have time to count them tonight. Come back tomorrow and I'll let you purchase it."

      Samar gave her an alarmed look. "We really need this tonight. There's almost nine million Neopoints in that bag and you can have them all if you'll sell it to us now."

      Fyora gazed down at her, a suspicious look in her eyes. "Why do you need it tonight?"

      "It's for a friend's birthday," Samar blurted.

      Hissy nodded and slithered toward the bag on the floor. "He'll be upset if we miss another birthday. We forgot his birthday for the past two years."

      Fyora looked from one to the other. "I suppose I can sell it to you tonight." She removed the glass case and set it on the floor. Lifting the Amulet of Thilg, she started toward the counter.

      Hissy glanced at Samar as they followed Fyora. She reached the bag, bent down, and opened it, peering inside.

      "These aren't..."

      Samar wrapped her tail around Fyora's left leg and jerked backwards, sending Fyora falling face first toward the floor. Her arms shot forward to brace herself against the fall. Hissy swept forward and snatched the Amulet of Thilg from her hand. He whirled around and headed for the stairs, Samar close behind him. Stones spilled out of the open bag and scuttled over the floor. Samar and Hissy dodged around them and raced down the stairs.

      "Come back!" she shouted. "Thief! You don't know what you're doing!"

      They ignored her cries and hurried into the darkness that filled the stairwell.

      ******

      Gasping for breath, Samar stopped to rest outside the tower. Hissy halted next to her, carrying the Amulet in his mouth.

      "Thief!" Fyora shouted out the window of her tower. "Someone stop them!"

      He looked at her and they continued farther into the city.

      She watched them disappear down the street. "No more quests for you for another six hundred seconds!"

      Once they were a safe distance away from the tower, he set the amulet on the ground and paused to catch his breath.

      "She'll be fine," he whispered to Samar. "She has plenty in stock and it can't be too dangerous if she's selling an unlimited supply for eight million, five hundred thousand Neopoints."

      Samar looked at him and just shook her head. "We shouldn't have stolen it," she hissed, glancing around at the dark shadows.

      Hissy straightened and looked around. "Come on. We'd better get this to the others."

      He picked up the Amulet and started down the alley.

      ******

      They zigged and zagged through Faerie City, making their way toward the meeting place where Zeano would take the amulet and pass it to Snark somewhere beyond Faerie City. They reached their destination without incident and found the Blue Cobrall waiting for them in the shadow of a building. Hissy tossed the amulet to Zeano and watched him disappear into the darkness.

      "I guess that's that," Hissy said softly, turning to look at Samar. "I had my doubts about you. I'm glad to see you came to your senses."

      Samar stared blankly back at him, tired from the long run. "It's not over yet. We still have to get out of the city."

      Hissy looked around. "We're safe here for now if you want to rest a bit."

      Samar nodded and dropped onto the street, exhausted.

      After a short time she lifted her head and sat up. "We have to meet the others at Jhudora's cloud," she said warily.

      Hissy nodded and rose, starting down the alley. Samar followed close behind, careful to make sure the alley remained deserted behind them.

      They reached Jhudora's Cloud without being pursued and waited for the others to arrive behind a mass of dark clouds. Ophion was the first to appear, the amulet dangling from his mouth. He disappeared into the dark clouds and Samar and Hissy followed.

      "Jhudora," he called into the darkness, "we have the Amulet of Thilg."

      Jhudora appeared from behind a cloud, stepping close to the Cobrall and squinting at the amulet resting by his tail.

      She bent and picked it up, examining it. "Finally mine," she muttered, stroking the amulet.

      Samar glanced around nervously and noticed Snark and Zeano had joined their group. As she watched, a cloud parted and Digi, Lance, and Troy found a spot behind the others.

      The dark clouds allowed little light through. Samar could hardly see the others through the gloom.

      She squinted up at Jhudora, watched as she admired the amulet.

      "I believe you have some information for us," Ophion said carefully.

      Jhudora frowned and scowled down at the Fire Cobrall, annoyed at his interruption. "Ah yes," she started, an evil smile spreading across her face. "You can find what you're looking for deep in the woods of Neopia. She moves around quite a bit though, but she should still be in a cave on the other side of the Haunted Woods. Good luck on your quest; you'll need it." She cackled and turned away, vanishing into a cloud.

      Ophion looked around at the others. "I guess we'd better get going."

      Samar saw several of the Cobralls nod and move away, heading back to their campsite for the night.

      She followed Ophion back to the camp in silence, glancing back to take one last look at Faerieland.

To be continued...

 
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