Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 117,249,079 Issue: 235 | 14th day of Eating, Y8
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Shad and Saura: The Old Neolodge - Part One


by ssjelitegirl

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"And what are we supposed to do?" Shadoron the shadow Lupe demanded, glaring at the Neohome of his family. It was surrounded by a bunch of workmen, all carrying tools and arguing with each other. The Lupe's ears twitched when he observed them.

     Huntress, his owner, came and sat down on the grass next to him. "Calm down, Shad. I'll just send you and Saura to the Neolodge. You've been there before, you'll be fine. Besides, it's just for a week, only until the workmen are done renovating the Neohome."

     Shad peered at her suspiciously. "Neolodge, eh? Tiny rooms and annoying people and no decent meals whatsoever? Sounds great… really great, Hunty, thanks!"

     "Calm down, Shad," said his brother Saura the spotted Zafara, plodding closer over the soft warm grass of Mystery Island. "She gave me 5,000 NP already; that'll do nicely for a week while she and the rest of the gang are sitting who-knows-where, eating who-knows-what."

     The Lupe's scowl faded a little. "Yeah, Kat in the Training School eating rice and bamboo sticks… and Ice in the Darigan Citadel eating whatever it is Master Vex gets to eat." Now his frown turned into a grin when he thought of his sisters who were supposed to spend that week at their friends' places. "Hehe, and now that I think about it, annoying people are always fun to annoy!"

     "Glad you see it that way," Huntress laughed, standing up and grabbing her backpack. "Take care then. See you in a week… try not to get into trouble, don't blow anything up and eat your veggies, you hear me?"

     "To the Neolodge then?" the Zafara asked when the two left the island. Shad the Lupe nodded frantically and sniffed the air. It was clear, salty and smelled of adventures.

     "I think we were at that funny motel the last time," Saura remembered. "The food was okay but I still have no idea what they used to make it…"

     "Seaweed, I think," Shad guessed. "Let's see what they have to offer this time. Maybe things have improved. After all, it's been a while."

     The Aisha in the reception was very friendly. "Two rooms, both for a week, let's see… They currently have a nice discount at Ye Olde Ship Inn, in case you're interested."

     "Refresh my memory," Shad whispered to Saura.

     "Moist bedsheets and extremely noisy visitors," the Zafara whispered back with a scowl, then added in a louder voice: "Mountain Lodge was pretty nice if I remember correctly."

     "A very wise choice indeed, but apparently that lodge is currently very crowded," the Aisha replied, examining the papers on her desk. "Of course, you are welcome to go there but I'm afraid that it won't be very comfortable. However, for the Neopets who would still wish to enjoy the wonderful landscape and various opportunities of Terror Mountain, another lodge opened the doors only a few days ago." She looked up with a professional smile on her face. "It's 60 NP per night and includes breakfast. Are you interested?"

      "Perhaps it wasn't such a good idea after all," Saura muttered about an hour later, wading through the thick snow of Happy Valley. The weather wasn't exactly cold but the wind was strong and the sky promised a serious storm for the evening. Shad was thrice as optimistic and pranced up the hill with snow whizzing around his black figure.

     "The Lodge is definitely warmer and nobody's forcing us to run outside at night, eh?" his voice echoed through the wind. "Come on, don't get lost now! I think we still have a long way to go."

     "Yeah," Saura peered at the two reservations he was holding, "they say it's five miles past the Toy Repair Shop. Who'd build a lodge there, seriously? I do hope we won't have to do some mountain climbing later on…"

     Shad slowed down a little and sneezed, blowing snow out of his nostrils. "Someone who thinks of Neopets who like peace and quiet? Dunno, doesn't sound like a place for me but once we're at it, might as well go and check it out."

     They were exhausted when they finally saw the lodge. It was carefully hidden between two mountainsides so that the strong wind of Terror Mountain wouldn't blow it over. The lodge had two floors, was made of dark wood and seemed surprisingly old - or at least older than one would expect from the newest addition to the Neolodge chain. The maid, a purple Acara, opened the door.

     "Welcome," she said kindly. "Come on in, you must be tired. The fireplace is over there."

     "Why on Neopia did you build a lodge here?" Shad demanded, dragging himself in front of the fireplace. It was steaming hot and the Lupe could feel the wonderful heat flowing through his frozen bones. He almost purred with delight, curled up and then raised his head to look around.

     The room was quite big and light. It had nothing specific in it, just some sofas and armchairs, a table, some cupboards and paintings on the walls - everything you'd expect to see in a guestroom of a lodge. What Shad hadn't expected though was the Aisha who was sitting in one of the armchairs. He caught the Lupe's look, grinned back at him and asked: "Not much of a weather for a vacation, eh?"

     "You bet," Shad agreed, stretching his paws. Ahh, the wonderful fire! He eyed the other Neopet curiously.

     The Aisha was obviously a lot older than him, massive and muscular but with friendly eyes. He nodded at Saura who had just entered the room and said: "Name's Ash."

     Later it turned out that there were three other visitors at the lodge but only one maid, that same Acara.

     "Who built this lodge? And who owns it?" asked Mara, a lofty and sophisticated Gelert, piercing the poor maid with her cold eyes. "Why, I'm still surprised that I agreed to come to this dump… true, my doctor had told me that mountain air would be good for my nerves and skin, but still… I bet you don't even have a decent sauna here!"

     "I don't know anything about the owners of this lodge," the maid replied quietly. "I was offered this job and I needed the Neopoints, so I took it. When I arrived, the house was empty and there was a letter on the table telling me exactly what to do and where the supplies were, nothing else. More tea, Sir?"

     Ash nodded and looked around curiously. "This place looks interesting. I'd say that it's a lot older than only a few days. The lodge must be standing here for years now."

     "That's what I thought," Saura agreed. "Guess it's too far away from any roads. Someone probably lived here until they ran out of NP, then decided to sell it to the Neolodge chain and moved to some smaller house."

     "Maybe it's like haunted?" Sweetie the red Cybunny squealed from the other end of the table. Her full name was something like Sweetiegurl138410 or -138452, nobody could remember it, not even the Cybunny herself, so everyone called her Sweetie. She was energetic and joyous - and rather annoying too.

     The last visitor of the lodge grunted and looked up. "Don't be stupid. Sit down already… this is just a house, nothing more. Are those cupcakes coming yet?"

     The maid nodded hastily and hurried off. Meronius XI was an old and grumpy Skeith who enjoyed terrorizing others when he wasn't currently asleep. It was a lot easier to quickly do what he asked you to do; that way you didn't have to listen to a half-hour monologue about the youth these days. Shad leaned closer to his stepbrother and hissed:

     "Dude, we won't last a week here!"

     "Nah, it's no worse than back home," Saura comforted him. "Mind your own business and let them get used to you; eventually they won't even notice that you're around." He turned back to his plate right before Meronius turned to glare at him, ready to give another lecture about table manners.

     The Skeith gave a quiet "hrmph!" and took the plate with cupcakes the maid had given him. He gazed at it for a moment and suddenly threw it on the floor. The plate broke with a loud clatter, everyone started and the Acara maid gasped. Meronius looked like he was about to explode.

     "This is outrageous!" he boomed. "That plate is dirty, you insolent brat! This is just… just… the management will hear about this, mark my word!"

     "But… it was clean when I…" the poor maid stammered. Shad's eyes had narrowed and now he slid down from his chair to examine the pieces of the plate. There really was a big stain on them, light but still easy to see. It looked like rust.

     "It's blood!" Sweetie squeaked, making Shad jump in the air - he hadn't noticed that the others had gathered around the pieces as well. The Lupe frowned. He would've loved to say that it was just some sauce but that sharp salty smell, old but still recognizable - that was no sauce.

     "It's just sauce," he said, turning back to the table and grabbing a cupcake from the floor as he went. "Calm down," then added to the Acara who was now quietly weeping. "There are other plates in this house, no need to worry because of such a small thing."

     "Shad?" Saura hissed, knowing his brother way too well. The Lupe sighed quietly and shook his head.

     "In case you haven't noticed, it's not time for us to leave yet. I don't feel like sharing the lodge with a bunch of panicking Neopets. Let it be…"

     Later that evening the two brothers sat down in front of the fireplace to play Cheat. It didn't work out too well, seeing that they both always cheated and thus always guessed right but at least it gave them something to do. Mara had curled up on the sofa, taking a nap. The others were in their rooms.

     "What was that?" Saura suddenly asked, looking up. Mara woke up and Shad's ears twitched. Now they could all hear it - a roar coming from upstairs. It was surprised and terrified.

     "That Skeith guy," Shad growled, dashing out of the room. Whey they reached the second floor, they could at once feel that it was awfully cold. The door to Meronius's room was opened and the others were already standing on the doorway. Shad, Saura and Mara pressed their way through to look inside.

     The room was empty. The window was wide open and the chilly wind blew inside, forming a nice little pile of snow under the windowsill. There was a huge mess and some paintings had fallen down but there was nobody in sight.

     Ash ran to the window and looked down. "Nothing…" he muttered and turned around, facing the others. "Of course, with such a storm any footprints are wiped off within seconds," he pulled the window shut, "but whatever took him away had to be very strong if they got so far in so little time."

     "Dunno, the storm also hides all sounds and we can't see far from here," Shad guessed, pushing his nose against the window.

     "Perhaps it was a Snowbeast?" Sweetie whined, backing against the wall. "They're big and strong and scary!"

     "That's a thought," Ash agreed, looking outside as well. "We'll all just stay indoors until the storm ends and then we'll all leave together. Secure your windows and find something sharp or heavy to protect yourselves with, you hear me?"

     The Cybunny certainly didn't: "We're all like gonna die!" She scampered around the room with her paws in front of her face, bumping against the furniture and stepping on a painting that now lay on the floor, breaking its glass. "I don't wanna be eaten by a Snowbeast! Someone hide me! Please!"

     Saura grumbled and smacked her as she stumbled by. "Get a grip already! We'll all be fine as long as we stick together. Shad, can you smell anything?"

     The Lupe had feared that question. "No… nothing. Absolutely nothing." He hesitated before finishing: "Not even Meronius. Scents last for hours in a room but he had to be here minutes ago… and I can't smell anything of him."

     Sweetie stared at him and then started panicking again. Ash, Mara and the maid just gazed at the Lupe.

     "Is that a bad sign?" Mara asked with a frown. Her shield of loftiness had cracked and now she seemed very worried. The Lupe shook his head slowly and shrugged.

     "I don't know… this room is actually pretty windy and that wood these walls are made of has a strong smell. Maybe it's just me."

     "Let's just all go to sleep." Ash sighed. "We'll worry about the whole thing tomorrow."

To be continued...

 
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