Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 117,885,008 Issue: 236 | 21st day of Eating, Y8
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Traces of Faeryllium: Part Three

by ee365


BOOM! Crash! Anberra sat bolt upright, looking around her. At first the green Xweetok thought she was at home in her tree house in the Eastern Forest. It must be morning already, and Taeshne will be experimenting with her new chemistry set. I better stop her before anything happens, Anberra thought, and scurried out of bed... land on soft, warm sand. That's odd. There's no sand in the Eastern Forest, she thought. Then it all came flooding back to Anberra. Taeshne, the Lost Desert, the sandstorm, the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department, and the faeryllium. All that had happened over the past couple of days.

     Suddenly, a realization hit Anberra. It was still dark outside. Yet another BOOM noise rocked the ground. What in Neopia can be going on? the green Xweetok wondered. Creeping cat-stealthy to the door of her tent, Anberra peeked out, and nearly fainted at the sight that met her eyes.

     Anberra had been assigned to sleep in a tent with a good view from its front of the faeryllium laboratory. Or what had been the faeryllium laboratory, at least. Now, the wooden hut-style workroom had apparently been burned down. Charred scraps of wood (some still releasing smoke) and a large patch of blackened sand were all that remained.

     As Anberra wracked her brain to figure out why this had happened, she remembered what Taeshne had told Aox yesterday. Faeryllium is especially reactive at night... It seemed someone had caused a violent reaction, probably on accident.

     Wait... Not on accident. Taeshne had specifically told her that nobody besides herself, Anberra, Aox, and the faeryllium team knew this secret. So nobody but one of them could have snuck inside the tent and caused the faeryllium to react.

     Who could have done it then? Anberra instantly ruled out Taeshne. She knew how much the faeryllium, and showing it to the Head, meant to her sister. Aox was also not a suspect. He was professional enough not to cause an accident, and he too cared greatly about science.

     That left the other four members of the team, none of whom Anberra knew. She knew there were two males and two females, one of which was Taeshne's second-in-command on the team. It was probably one (or more) of those four who had set off the faeryllium.

     The sound of voices startled Anberra out of her thoughts. They were right next to her tent, speaking in urgent, hurried whispers. "Well, that went neatly enough. And you planted the 'evidence' so Aox will blame Commander Taeshne?"

     That voice was thin, reedy, and definitely male. It sounded as if it came from an aquatic species of Neopet. Taeshne had said there was a Nimmo on the team. It was probably him talking now.

     "Yes. When Taeshne gets yelled at for messing up the precious specimen, Aox will probably fire her. That'll serve the arrogant Xweetok right for taking all the credit... when it was us who first discovered the faeryllium." That voice was deep and female. It sounded like that of an Elephante. Anberra believed that an Elephante called Zara was one of the team members.

     Suddenly, it all became clear to the green Xweetok. Zara and the anonymous Nimmo must have been the ones searching the area where the metal was discovered. Probably, they had been the ones to actually discover the faeryllium, but Taeshne got credit, as a Commander should. This probably irked the two, and they had set off the reaction and were trying to frame Taeshne.

     I have to warn my sister! Anberra thought frantically. There was no use waking her up now-the Xweetok estimated it to be a little past midnight, and her sister did not take nicely to being woken up in the dark. But since Aox was here, Taeshne would be posting guards at her sister's tent come morning, to ensure Anberra didn't get out and reveal herself to the Head.

      Like I would, Anberra thought ruefully. But that wasn't the problem. The problem was, how was she going to get past the guards? She was trying to think up an answer when she collapsed on the ground, totally asleep.


      The first thought the crossed Anberra's head when she awoke was: What time is it? Was she too late to sneak past the guards and warn Taeshne? She hoped not. Despite the rudeness her sister had shown her over the past weeks, Anberra didn't want her sister fired from the job she cared so much about.

     Outside the green Xweetok's tent came several loud grunting noises. Annoyed, Anberra recognized the voices of her guards, Obis the Desert Kau and Helios the Shadow Kau. The Kau pair was set to guard against her escape by Taeshne herself. Anberra would have to get past them.

     Staring at her camp bed in deep concentration, Anberra suddenly noticed the rope threaded through its frame. Inspiration struck the Xweetok, and she quickly disentangled the rope from the frame. Taking a pawful of sand from the floor, she tiptoed to the tent flap and threw the sand out, directly between the two guards.

     Quickly retreating to underneath the bed, Anberra shouted in her most terrified voice, "Help! Help, I'm being attacked! Save me!" She heard startled grunts as the guards heard her cries.

     As she had predicted, Helios, the large and stupid male Shadow Kau, was the first to barge through the door, carrying a hefty oaken club. The other guard, thin, athletic, female Obis the Desert Kau, was on his heels.

     As Helios bent to look under the bed, Anberra snaked out the rope. It hit the obese Kau directly on his stubby knees. He tripped and fell, bashing his head on the bed frame and knocking himself unconscious. As she had also guessed, Obis stopped, trying to figure out what had happened to Helios.

     In that pause, the agile Xweetok pounced, bringing the heavier Kau to the ground. Tying her up, Anberra slipped out the now-unguarded door and toward the ruined faeryllium lab.

     She heard what was happening before she saw it. "TAESHNE!" Aox yelled. "How did you do such a thing! You've ruined it! Ruined our chance to show the world a truly great discovery! And I would have promoted you if you hadn't done this! How could you be so clumsy! I trusted you! Elevated you to Commander at such a young age! And you let me down!"

     Anberra could tell from Taeshne's reply that she was near to tears. "Aox, please, I didn't do it! I never went near the faeryllium laboratory last night. It must have been one of the other team members."

     The green Xweetok finally came in sight of the lab. Her sister was cowering before Aox, indeed near tears. Aox was enraged, his usual dignity gone and his brown coloring turned nearly red. His secretary, Sheila, and Taeshne's secretary, Bay, stood a little off to the side, both surprised at Aox's rage.

     "This evidence shows otherwise!" Aox roared. He pointed to the destroyed lab. Right on the lip of the small hole where the vial must have landed was a small clump of brilliant red Xweetok fur.

     "It's not mine!" Taeshne pleaded, "Another team member could have easily gotten hold of some of my fur!" But Aox was in no mood to listen. He turned to Taeshne, now even his eyes gone red.

     "Quiet, fool! This is it, Taeshne. You are now officially fired!" Taeshne burst into sobs just as Anberra ran on the scene.

     "Begging your pardon, Head Aox. It wasn't Taeshne who did it. It was a Nimmo whose name I don't know and an Elephante called Zara." The expressions on the faces of both Taeshne and Aox were thoroughly startled.

     Aox was first to recover, "Taeshne! Do you know this... girl? What is she doing here?" he demanded.

     "H... Head Aox, Anberra's my... sister. She... came to visit, but got... trapped because of the sandstorm." Taeshne sobbed. "Anberra... don't bother. Thank you for trying to help, but... it's too late."

     "But it's true! I heard them talking. They said they were the ones to actually discover the faeryllium, so they should get the credit. They were mad at you taking the credit, even though that's what a Commander should do. Please, I heard them."

     Aox sighed. "There is of course only one way to discover if Miss Anberra is telling the truth. I suppose we shall have to have her Truth-Spelled by a mage."

     "Please, Head, are there any mages here? They'd see Anberra and I are telling the truth!" Taeshne whimpered, grabbing at the Head's gray suit. "Please, Head Aox!"

     "Get off me, Miss Taeshne, you're not a Hissi. Get up and stand on your own paws. Now, that would be a good idea... but there don't seem to be any mages around! So sorry, Miss Taeshne, but you're still fired."

     Suddenly, Aox's secretary, the silver Eyrie Sheila, spoke for the first time. "Excuse me, Boss, but I believe you're neglecting somebody here." All heads turned to look at Sheila. She met each of their eyes for a moment, and Aox nodded at her to continue. That simple action seemed to give Sheila confidence. "Boss, I trained for three years at the Fyora Academy of Magic before I decided magic wasn't the career I wanted. Still, I am a Medium-class mage, and can most definitely cast Truth-Spells on Miss Anberra and Miss Taeshne."

     Aox nodded. "Do so, Sheila, though I must confess I hardly believe Miss Anberra's story. Miss Taeshne, you are first."

     Sheila lay her paws on Taeshne's shoulders. Silver light emitted from her equally silver figure to surround the red Xweetok like a halo. "Speak, Taeshne. Tell your story and it shall be heard. If you lie, I shall know," the Eyrie intoned.

     "W... well... " Taeshne began nervously, "Er... um... " She faltered, scared witless by Aox's earlier reaction and being Spelled by a mage.

     Seeing her sister's distress, Anberra went over and timidly took Taeshne's paw in her own. Taeshne gave her sister a smile of gratitude and went on. "I didn't do it. I woke up this morning to see the same scene Aox, Sheila, and Bay saw. I have no idea how the faeryllium was destroyed."

     Sheila opened her eyes and nodded at Aox. "She tells the truth. Miss Taeshne is innocent, Boss."

     Aox sighed. "Well, Miss Taeshne, I apologize for being hasty and rushing to conclusions. Your innocence has been proved. If we can catch the real culprit, I believe your position will be restored to you, with possibly even a promotion." Taeshne's eyes widened, but Aox continued, "Not yet, though. Sheila, Spell Miss Anberra for me please."

     Sheila nodded and set up the spell. When she nodded at Anberra to begin, the green Xweetok began talking. She told her entire story, from waking up to hear the Nimmo and the Elephante plotting to sneaking past the guards to warn her sister. When Taeshne heard the story and the selfless acts Anberra had committed to save her sister's job, she felt guilty about how she'd treated her.

     Sheila nodded. "She too tells the truth, Boss. The Elephante Zara and her partner, the Nimmo Anton, are responsible for this horrible act."

     Aox smiled. "Thank you, Sheila, and thank you Miss Anberra for helping us solve this crime. Taeshne, I am promoting you. You will be moved to the dig site known as Razul's Manifestation, where the sorcerer first appeared. You will become Commander of that site, and are from this point forward Chief Consultant on Magic-Related Discoveries for the Lost Desert Science Department."

     Anberra grinned. This was exactly what Taeshne had wanted. Though there was now officially no chance of Taeshne returning home to help her clan, at least Anberra's sister was happy.

     "Thank you for that extremely generous offer, Head Aox," Taeshne replied, "but I'm afraid I cannot accept it."

     "What?" gasped Aox, Sheila, Bay, and Anberra as one. They knew the Xweetok was just the one for the job, and they could tell she wanted it. Why in the world was she refusing.

     "I was informed just a few days ago by my sister Anberra that my home clan of Xweetoks in the Eastern Forest is having serious problems. Anberra was sent as a representative from my family-my other sister and brother-to request me to come home. I treated her extremely rudely,and refused to come. Despite all this, Anberra risked her life to prove my innocence to Head Aox. I realize how rude I was, and that I should come home to help. After all," she said, a cheerful note entering her voice, "Xweetoks really weren't meant for desert weather."

     "Well... okay, Miss Taeshne, if you really want to go home, I suppose it's your choice," said Aox, "although it really was a pleasure working with you. You were a wonderful asset to the Lost Desert Science Department," he said primly, shaking Taeshne's hand. "I will stay here a few days and appoint a new Commander, as well as sending out patrols to find the criminals Anton and Zara."

     Just then, a yellow Buzz Taeshne recognized as Therice, who was in charge of those trying to clear the pass out of the dig site, arrived on the scene. "Commander Taeshne, Head Aox, the way out of the dig site is clear!" Therice announced, then scurried off to spread the news elsewhere.

     "Well then, we'll start right away. That okay with you, Anberra?" Taeshne asked. Her sister nodded, smiling.

     They bid their farewells to Sheila and Bay. "I did quite enjoy being your secretary, Miss Taeshne," Bay told her, "I will miss you. Stay in touch!"

     "Indeed," Sheila added, "And remember, if your Xweetok clan is ever in need of help from the Lost Desert Science Department, remember you have your friends Bay and Sheila to ask for help."

     "Thank you," Taeshne whispered. If Bay and Sheila noticed the tears in her large brown eyes, they didn't comment.

     Taeshne turned to her sister. "Let's go, Anberra. We have a clan to help! And... oh... Anberra? I'm sorry. I treated you horribly. I didn't listen. Please... please forgive me."

     "Of course, Taeshne," Anberra replied, smiling, "What are sisters for, after all. I can see now how much you enjoyed it here. So... I'm sorry too."

     "It's okay, Anberra. Now... would you like to go?" Taeshne grinned at her sister, knowing the question was rhetorical.

     The two sisters joined paws and headed toward the path leading out of the dig site, across the desert, and eventually-home. To the Eastern Forest, home of Xweetoks for generations.

     And though nobody saw it, a single ray of morning sun lanced down onto the sand. A single grain of faeryllium metal that hadn't been destroyed caught the sunlight, glimmering for just a moment.

The End

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Other Episodes

» Traces of Faeryllium: Part One
» Traces of Faeryllium: Part Two

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