Nothing is As it Seems: Part One
"Pete? Pete? Oh for Pete's sake, get up!" The Tuskaninny
blearily glared at the Lenny who had woken him up with the usual pun, who typically
was grinning crazily. A glance out the window told Pete it was light, but that
meant nothing in summer.
"One day," Pete promised, "I am going to wake
up before you do and clamp that beak shut."
"Only if you get up before dawn," his sort-of-brother
taunted him, his older brother more to the point. Pete was actually the more
mature of the two pets, and often mistaken as older, but no, the red feathered
thing was older.
Pete hauled his blue bulk onto the floor and
followed Rance slowly. Ok, so they were actually SPeter6 and SFrancis14 but
no-one called them that, they were just plain old Pete and Rance to everyone
Apart from their owner of course...
"Peter, please do at least try and look more
awake!" Cath64 said disapprovingly to her youngest pet. "After all, we are going
to the library today for that author Estantia's talk, unless you're too tired?"
The Tuskaninny sat up straight at this, eyes
shining. He loved books, much as he hated getting up he never regretted it when
there were books involved, and an actual author going to the library to talk,
one of his favourite authors! He speedily ate the cereal in front of him and
drank up his orange juice, then ran upstairs to put his favourite book by the
author in his backpack; maybe she would sign it for him!
Rance too was looking excited; like any typical
Lenny, he loved books. Just about the only thing the brothers could talk about
without arguing was books, even if they did get into minor disputes over which
The post-Lenny rushed to the door just as they
were leaving, "Cath! Urgent message for Cath64!" Their owner turned quickly
to receive it and scanned the contents, colour flooding from her face as she
reached the bottom.
"Thank you, thank you... the reply... can you
deliver it orally? The message is I'm on it. Thank you." As she turned to her
pets, Pete's heart sank; they weren't going to be able to go, they never were
if something important came up at work like this...
The woman saw the dejected looks on their faces
and her face softened from its rigid fright. "Tell you what guys, you can go
to the library on your own; you know the way, don't you?"
Both pets' heads shot up. They could go? "I know
how much this meant to you, Peter, so I'm going to let you go, on one condition."
"Anything!" they said simultaneously,
"You're to be back before dark."
"Easy!" boasted the red Lenny, grabbing Pete's
arm. "Let's go!"
The brothers started to hurry along the path
towards Lenny Library, which was typically in the middle of nowhere. This wasn't
actually as bad as it sounded as their Neohome was also in the middle of nowhere...
though in geographical terms it was nearer to Meridell then Lenny Library, which
really was in the middle of the plains. However this did succeed in making sure
that only the true Library goers went there, even if it meant it was near deserted,
but the Tuskaninny found no problem in that.
"Oh Fyora! We're going to be late!" came Pete's
voice as he looked at his watch, shocked. Had they taken that long to get ready?
Rance looked at the trees around them. "Then
let's take the shortcut, quick, here it comes."
The Lenny dropped to the floor and used his momentum
to carry him under the bushes that bordered the path. Pete quickly followed,
but simply slid instead of continuing his bouncing run. They'd found this path
when they were young neopets one winter. When Rance had skidded into it, his
brother shortly followed afterwards to crush the bird against a thick tree trunk.
Now, however, they were older, and the bird was already up on his feet and running,
not kicking off the tree as usual. Pete realised a minute later he was letting
him catch up, as he pushed off the tree as usual and hurried towards the red
tail plume that had just gone round the cor-
Thankfully Pete, like all his species, always
had a soft, if solid, impact. However, Lennies have no such cushion and are
easily knocked over. During the small scuffle that followed, Pete fell into
a pile of dead leaves.
Wait a minute... It's summer! Pete looked around
properly for the first time and gulped.
"Now you know why I stopped."
"But... how... ?"
Rance shrugged as his brother stammered. They
stared at the twisted trees of the Haunted Woods. The two neopets exchanged
a glance, both serious and somehow feeling like a team. Pete shook himself and
looked around. "Which way?"
The result was a great crashing as the two beasts
ran like crazy through the undergrowth; occasionally Rance tripped, to be caught
by Pete and put on his feet. Their hell-for-leather rush didn't alert anything
else in the woods. Pete wasn't sure whether he should be glad no-one came or
scared of the emptiness.
It was so hard to see! There were twisted bushes
reaching out to scratch the runners, the low and high trees forming a thicket
of wiry clubs to bang unwary heads. But they couldn't look up to see, they had
to concentrate on the uneven, dank ground, roots, insects, and all the other
things that could send them face first into the dirt.
A particularly low branch whacked Pete's head,
sending him swerving dizzily onto a tree root, where he promptly lost his balance
with a yell and slid downwards under another sturdy root. He suddenly panicked,
thrashing out with his tail and causing the tree to wobble dangerously. At the
groan, the Tuskaninny froze, looking upwards.
"Help," he squeaked feebly, "I think this tree's
going to come down." He wasn't sure whether Rance could hear, or where he was,
but that tree looked strangely like a twisted Chia's face...
As Pete looked up in a daze there was a crack
as a yellow flash of fur shot over him into the branches of the tree, knocking
"Push upwards!" the voice came strongly through
the twisted branches. Pete automatically obeyed, seeing the yellow pet's plan.
The tree wobbled, and stayed tilted. A flash of red at the corner of his vision
told him that his brother was helping him to push. There was a final jerk as
the thing in the branches jumped.
With a groan the tree bent a bit more, then snapped,
sending dirt spraying everywhere. In the chaos Pete covered his eyes with his
flippers, heart beating at a phenomenal rate as he hoped; what for he didn't
know, but still hoped.
As the crashing and smashing died down Pete carefully
uncovered his eyes to survey the carnage. The tree's descent had cleared a small
space in the woods. The skeleton and limbs of wood scattered around, revealing
the blue sky above.
"Are you all right?" came the scared voice of
Rance, but Pete wasn't listening. He was scanning the area for some sign of
the yellow pet. "Pete!" The Tuskaninny jumped when Rance screamed, practically
in his ear.
"Ow, that hurt my ears. You scream really loudly,
you know that?"
"The rest of you?"
"Fine, but shaken. Oh yeah, my tail hurts a bit."
"You must be really strong to push that tree
over, even after telling me to... "
"Me? I didn't say that!" Pete protested.
The Lenny looked shocked, head jerking backwards,
making him seem even taller above the ground. "You didn't?"
"There was another pet; it had yellow fur and
was in the tree. I can't see it though."
Almost as soon as he said this they both spotted
the gleam of an amber eye and the flash of a long, thick yellow tail turning
around and vanishing into the undergrowth. With an unspoken decision both pets
jumped over the trunk after the creature, determined to find out who, and what,
had helped them.
However they had to go slower than before, being
careful of obstacles, Pete's tail meant Rance had to slow down for him. Yet
no matter how fast or slow they went the yellow pet was always just out of sight.
"Can't be... a Gelert..." panted the Lenny after
another glimpse of the tail. "Too thick a tail."
"Long and thin... no wings... I think... "
"That rules out a lot of options," commented
Rance normally, slowing to his normal pace and turning to follow the track of
"Tail isn't a Hissi either."
"Oops..." Rance suddenly sped off in a burst
Pete, following slowly, realised dazedly they
were in normal forest again somehow.
When Pete caught up, his older brother was sitting
disappointedly at the edge of the forest in the sunlight. "At the speed we were
going it must have been out here, but I can't see it anyway; it's like it vanished."
"We're out though! And look! The library!" Pete
pointed to the building, not that far away from them. "Come on! We may yet be
in time for the talk!"
The brothers ran.
In a corner of Lenny Library there was a girl
in a long golden coat sitting in a comfortable chair. Around her were a few
others, also comfortable and waiting tensely for her to finish reading the book.
They weren't bored, of course. As she read silently, the images appeared shimmering
in the air; two pets plummeted downwards through the sky as oceans of pets watched
them, a high keening cry rippling through the air as the two fell...
The image held, then faded slowly as the girl
closed the copy of the Neopian Times and smiled at the two pets who'd just skidded
into the library, then continued what she had been saying before opening the
"I won't end it, as that would spoil it. You
have to read it for yourself, but as I said, any story, any story at all can
glow. It doesn't matter who it has in it, or where it happens; every story is
magical. Who can say that a few words on paper becoming those images you saw
is not magical? How can squiggles of black on white mean so much unless there's
some sort of magic involved?
"That sort of magic is in everyone. Every
single one of you can spin a tale, because it all starts right here." She gently
touched a forefinger to the forehead of a small green Pteri, who was looking
avidly at the girl.
It may have been a trick of the light but for
an instant it seemed a miniature blaze of gold came from beneath her finger,
but it was just the strange light in the library.
Or was it?
Pete shook his head quickly, breaking out of
the spell Estantia seemed to have created with her words, and clapped with his
flippers, smiling widely. This was why he loved her books! He should have guessed
she would try and do the same in real life!
His brother leaned over, slightly stunned. "Can
I raid your stash of books when I get home?" he whispered, while clapping with
"Better, get her new one now, signed!" he whispered
back as the small group surrounded the girl, getting new and old books signed.
The two brothers waited patiently for the squealing to stop and the girl to
be left quietly. Pete was actually nervous for once.
"Go on now, your Petpets are outside with my
Wocky, remember?" she said, laughing, the crowd quickly stampeded off to get
them as Estantia turned to face the two brothers, who jumped. She'd known they
were there all along.
"I'm betting you're the two brothers the librarian
told me about. Which one's Pete?" The Tuskaninny smiled as the two pets walked
"Me, I can't believe we missed most of it." Pete
held out his favourite book by her. "Please?"
"Like I could refuse," she retorted, taking a
pen out of her pocket. "In which case you're Rance?" she said, glancing up at
the Lenny, who nodded.
"Do you have a copy of 'Gathering the Pieces'
I can have?" he asked. "I'm afraid I haven't read any of your books... "
"Oh dear, criminal offence," the girl said, her
mouth twitching in a smile. "You probably want to read the earlier ones so you
know who the people are."
"I like the way they're so realistic, as if they
really are real," Pete said earnestly, then looked confused as this caused the
author to burst out laughing,
"Sorry, sorry, it's nothing..." she apologised
when she quieted down. "Why were you late anyway?" There was a pause as the
two brothers looked at each other and both decided not to tell her the entire
"We started out late and then it got worse from
there; I hurt my tail so running was hard." Pete quickly filled the gap, he
was good at thinking on his feet. The brown haired- girl nodded.
"I see. Now I have to go and rescue my pet from
those little hooligans; maybe I'll talk to you some other time." She quickly
walked towards the sounds of little pets playing tag outside.
Rance was all for bouncing outside and playing
with them, but instead found a book being pressed into his wing. "Read," commanded
his brother, who had almost as quickly found a book and sat down.
"'The Lost Stories'?" the red Lenny asked, joining
him. Pete nodded.
"It's said that the first stories of... What
was that?" The Tuskaninny spun around to face the bookshelves, trying to see
what had caused the noise. Not many things shrieked in the library, apart from
the librarian, and they knew her voice.
"Turn back to what you were doing and act normally."
"Why?" said Pete quietly, recognising the voice
that had helped them in the forest.
"You want to be noticed?" The sarcastic whisper
returned before the two pets did as it asked. "I'm sorry, it's important." It
paused. "Remember what I am about to tell you."
At this Rance snorted. "You seriously expect
us to believe that's needed? It's so corny! I mean, come on! Wake up and smell
the fresh air! That sort of thing only happens in stories," he scoffed.
"That was NOT the right thing to say in a library,
and where do you think the stories came from anyway?"
Rance was silenced and Pete spoke. "Continue."
"Nothing is as it seems." A pause followed as
they waited for it to say something else. "That's it?" Pete glanced to his left
and saw nearly triangular amber eyes looking back.
"Stand." Pete slowly stood up, taking Rance with
him. There was a moment of absolute silence. The calm before the storm, thought
"Now, I suggest you run."
To be continued...