A Quest to Remember
SPLAT! I reeled as a high-speed white projectile collided
with my left cheek. Wiping the cold, wet mess off my face, I shot an angry glare
at the giggling Zafara who had thrown it. As far as I was concerned, turning into
an ice lolly on the top of Terror Mountain was no way to spend the summer. Clearly,
however, my pets would beg to differ-they were having a blast throwing snowballs
at each other, and me. I would much rather have been home on Mystery Island, lounging
on a hammock in the shade or swimming in the ocean, but my pets had insisted that
we do a quest for Taelia the snow faerie today. Now here I was, bundled to the
ears in layers of warm clothing (but still freezing), while my furry-coated pets
skipped about happily, unfazed by the sub-zero temperatures. Thankfully, I could
see Taelia's igloo not far away, and I began to walk more quickly. Of course,
igloos aren't very warm, but it might be a little warmer in there. I turned around
to see if my pets were staying close to me, and found myself face-to-face with
another snowball. As it knocked me backward into the snow, I decided that this
was clearly not going to be my day.
"Jinx!" I yelled. It was not a very loud yell,
as my mouth was still full of snow. The sound of four small, quick feet in the
snow told me that my pet was running toward me. I had managed to sit up by the
time she arrived, but I was soon flat on my back in the snow again as she crashed
right into me like a furry little projectile. Her bright Xweetok eyes shone
as she planted her front paws on my shoulders and looked into my snow-covered
"You bellowed?" she said. I shoved her into my
lap and sat up again.
"Didn't I tell you guys to stop throwing snowballs?"
I asked, fixing her with a disapproving glare.
"Yeah, but it was a really nice shot," quipped
a voice from behind me. I turned to find my checkered Gelert, Razz, sitting
in the snow, a smug look on his wide, two-toned face.
"Didn't I tell you all that target practice in
Meridell would come in handy?" replied the Xweetok, who had jumped off my lap
and begun to shake the snow from her starry coat.
"I wouldn't call it handy, Jinx," said another
voice, "All it did was get you in trouble." I turned in the direction of the
voice, and was met by the face of my shadow Lupe, Ravahna, who was shaking his
head at the Xweetok. Jinx, the little Xweetok, suddenly aware that she might
have provoked my wrath to the point of removing her dessert privileges, leaped
into my lap again and peered into my face. She then made a most dramatic apology,
but I scarcely heard-the cuteness of the look she gave me was enough to turn
me into a bowl of mushy peas. This look is one of her favorite tricks when she
might be in trouble, and it usually works like a charm. Smiling, I let her off
with a warning, ignoring the exasperated sigh from Ravahna and the knowing leer
from Zira, my Christmas Zafara, who had also been in on the snowball throwing
but wisely let Jinx get them both out of it. I got stiffly to my feet, and we
made it to Taelia's igloo without further incident.
When we got to the igloo, Taelia greeted us with
her usual complaints about the low temperatures. I wondered, not for the first
time, why she didn't just move to Mystery Island like the rest of us who are
not fans of snow. I pulled out my notepad and reluctantly took off my mittens,
ready to write down the items she would ask us for today, and I was surprised
when she told me to put it away.
"No no no," she prattled, "I need something a
little different today."
"What? A space heater?" joked Razz. She shot
him an icy look and turned back to me.
"No, something a little more…er…interesting.
You see, Jhudora and I have a little wager. We all know that Illusen sells some
of the items people bring her for her quests. However, she won't tell us how
she spends all the neopoints she gets. Jhudora and I have different guesses
about the matter."
"And you want us to find out for sure?" asked
Ravahna. His face was expressionless, but there was an adventurous gleam in
his yellow eyes.
"You catch on quickly," answered Taelia. Razz,
whose normally microscopic attention span had somehow remained intact throughout
the faerie's speech, spoke up.
"What's in it for us?"
"Oh, I can't tell you that," said Taelia, "But
I promise I'll dig up something that's worth your while. So, do you accept?"
Before I could protest, Zira jumped into the
"Just leave it to us."
"Good," said Taelia, "I'll expect you back later
today. Don't be too long; I don't like waiting." I hurried out of the igloo
with my pets in tow, and we headed for the ferry port. I sighed as I wondered
how we'd get the information Taelia wanted. Clearly, this was not going to be
On the ferryboat, I gratefully sat on the deck
in the warm sun, sipping snowberry tea. My pets were gathered around me, and
we were trying to formulate a plan.
"Do you think she'd tell us if we just asked
nicely?" asked Jinx.
"Not everyone is vulnerable to your cute look,
Jinxie," remarked Razz.
"Our only real difficulty is finding out where
she keeps the things she buys," said Ravahna, "I think we should concentrate
on finding that out."
"But how?" I asked. "If Jhudora and Taelia can't
find that out, why should we have a chance?"
"Because she won't be expecting it from us,"
said Zira. Ravahna's eyes suddenly flashed.
"That's it!" he grinned, showing his sharp, white
teeth. "Come closer, guys. I have an idea." We all leaned in as he began to
whisper his plan to us.
When we stepped into Illusen's glade some time
later, she greeted us in her usual manner; that is, she immediately sent us
scurrying off to find an item. Fortunately, this was one of the easy quests:
all she required was a red Wocky keychain. We fetched one with no trouble at
all, made a quick stop in the Haunted Woods, and made it back to Meridell in
plenty of time. As she handed us our prize (a cookie, of all things), Jinx fixed
her with a meltingly adorable smile and a look of pure adoration in her bright
"Miss Illusen, ma'am," she cooed, "I'm a huge
fan of yours and I was wondering if maybe, if you're not too busy, could you
give me your autograph?" Illusen was mesmerized.
"Of course I will," she said. Jinx was jubilant,
and jumped up and down like she had just won the jackpot in Test Your Strength.
She pulled out an autograph book and handed it to Illusen, who tossed her hair
proudly as she signed it. While all this was transpiring, Razz had slowly migrated
to the corner of the little room. He looked bored, and skimmed the labels on
various potions without interests. Illusen did not see him open his backpack,
nor did she notice a small figure fly out of it and flap its way noiselessly
to the dark, dusty rafters. He then made his way, slowly and aimlessly, back
to me. By this time, Jinx had just finished thanking Illusen with all her heart.
As we left, Illusen reminded us to come back tomorrow. She seemed a good deal
happier than she had when we had first come in, and it was clear that she hoped
Jinx would bring a whole Illusen fan club with her tomorrow. We all stifled
our laughter until we were safely under the huge oak tree on one side of Meridell
Castle. Then, we proceeded to crack up completely. We laughed until we could
laugh no more, and when we had gotten our breath back, we began talking. I spoke
"That was awesome acting, Jinx!" I exclaimed,
ruffling the furry head.
"Did you see the look on her face?" giggled Zira.
"I nearly died."
"Ahem…not to mention…" interjected Razz, with
the slightest hint of a growl in his voice.
"Yes," said Ravahna, "Excellent job keeping Sigma
hidden, Razz. Very well done."
"Well, now all we have to do is wait. Who's up
for lunch?" I said, opening my backpack.
Illusen didn't make a sound as she crept down
the side of the hill. It was time for her lunch break too, but she wanted to
have a look at her precious collection first. She came to a large boulder at
the base of the hill, and here she looked carefully all around before she reached
out and pressed a small stone on one side of the boulder. Suddenly, the boulder
rolled to one side-just enough to admit the slight figure of the faerie. Once
inside, she closed the entrance to the cavern with another switch, but not before
a small creature left the tree branch it had been watching her from, and flew
in after her, unnoticed.
We had just finished our dessert when Ravahna's
sharp eyes caught sight of a familiar winged form. When the little brown karren
landed on my shoulder, chirping excitedly, we all held our breath.
"Did you find it, Sigma?" asked Zira.
"Chirp chirp bflrp," answered the little creature.
I decided that this must mean yes, judging by the way my pets jumped around.
Even the quiet, thoughtful Ravahna wagged his tail furiously. Sigma, a very
intelligent petpet, had been borrowed from Finny, a close friend of Jinx's (they
are both lab pets, so they meet at the Secret Lab every day). He had been instructed
to follow Illusen without being discovered, until she went to visit her secret
stash of whatever. He had apparently succeeded, and would now lead us to this
After Sigma had rested a while, he took off into
the air. Zira followed him, as she was the only one of us who could fly. We
decided that Sigma would show her the place from the air, and then she would
lead us there on foot. When they returned, we all set out. Getting to the boulder
Sigma had shown Zira undetected would be no easy task if we walked across the
fields. However, Ravahna, who had waves of genius regularly, suggested that
we cut through the woods on the north side of the hill. Though this did take
us a bit longer, we managed to sneak our way up to the boulder without being
seen by anyone but a few batterflies.
"Now what?" asked the practical Razz. As if in
answer, Sigma took off from my shoulder and landed on the small rock Illusen
had pressed, and the boulder rolled aside slightly. We quickly agreed that Ravahna
should go in, since his Lupe eyes were the only ones that worked in the dark.
The rest of us slipped back into the woods and hid among the trees. He had only
been gone a few minutes (though it seemed like an eternity), when Jinx nudged
me and pointed to the top of the hill. I groaned inwardly as I saw a faerie
in familiar green clothes starting down the hill. This clearly was not my day.
"The door to the cavern is open!" whispered Razz.
"What do we do? She'll see it any second!" I knew we'd be in big trouble if
Illusen saw that the door to her cavern had been opened by someone other than
herself. She'd search high and low. What would she do to Ravahna when she found
him? What would she do to us? We were only a stone's throw away, after all.
I was about to turn to Ravahna for advice when I realized that he wasn't here,
he was in terrible danger. Illusen was almost in view of the boulder. A sense
of doom enveloped me, and I began to see grey clouds on the horizon. Then, quite
suddenly, a ray of sunlight broke in. Frantically, I whispered some instructions
to Sigma, who gave a quiet chirp and took off from my shoulder.
When Illusen reached her cavern, she was startled
and dismayed to find the door open. Who had found her secret cavern? Oh, they
would pay dearly. Just as she was about to rush inside and find the culprit
who had discovered her greatest secret, she happened to look over at the small
rock which served as a switch. Sitting on top of the rock was Sigma, who was
pretending to be asleep. His weight pressed down the switch, so it looked like
he had opened the door by landing there. Illusen heaved a sigh of relief, shooed
the little creature away, and entered her cavern. I knew that Ravahna, being
painted shadow and very clever, would be able to hide himself without much trouble,
but I still held my breath until I saw the faerie come back out of the cavern,
close the door, and walk briskly back up the hill. As soon as she was out of
sight, I sent Zira down the hill to let Ravahna out. He was waiting at the entrance
when she opened the cavern door, and when he came out he closed it swiftly.
They raced up the hill, and were with us in no time. I was dying to ask him
what he'd seen, but we weren't out of the woods yet. We picked our way through
the shadowy forest cautiously and silently. Nobody spoke until we were on the
ferryboat headed toward Terror Mountain, but when Ravahna finally revealed what
he had learned, I could scarcely believe what I heard.
"I still can't believe it," quipped Jinx as we
walked home from the Mystery Island ferry port.
"Well, believe it or not," replied Zira, "Taelia
did make it worth our while."
"She did indeed," I said, staring at the Darigan
paint brush she had given me. Each one of my pets also carried a paint brush;
Taelia had given each of us our choice. Both she and Jhudora had looked surprised
when we told them that the cavern had been full of a vast collection of Usuki
dolls-shelves and shelves of them. They didn't tell us who won their little
bet, but they promised not to tell Illusen how they had found out about her
secret Usuki obsession. Perhaps this was my day, after all.
"I don't blame her for keeping something like
that a secret," growled Ravahna.
"You don't think she'll find out it was us, do
you?" asked Zira.
"I don't think so," said Razz. "We were only
seen by batterflies. They probably won't say much." We all laughed.
In Meridell, a batterfly winged its way toward
Illusen's Glade. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this was clearly
not my day.
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|Treasure of the Caves: Part Four|
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