Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 119,806,944 Issue: 242 | 2nd day of Relaxing, Y8
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Nothing is As it Seems: Part Four


by estantia

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Thankfully they at least found something to slide on rather than a straight drop, but they still hurtled down the slide at an amazing speed for soil. Pete got a sense of foreboding when he realised the soil was compacted and smoothed, by the passage of many other pets, no doubt. Rance stopped screaming eventually, but only when Pete flipped his tail up and hit him on the beak to make him be quiet.

     "Oh good, I was hoping he'd stop soon," came a quiet voice from further down. "He really does scream like a girl, doesn't he?"

     "Yes, very high and very loudly..."

     "Hey!"

     Rance was saved from further comments by the end of the slide. They shot out of the shoot and slammed into the wall on the other side of the chamber, losing their grip on each other as they tried to stop their skulls being crushed by the impact, or in Lisha's case her glasses.

     As has been commented on before, Tuskaninnies have a softer impact than Lennies when crashing into something or landing; the same goes for Aishas and Lennies, as Aisha's have a habit of at least landing the right way up.

     After the usual period of complaining from Rance about how his beak hurt, the three looked around the room they were in and found that the room itself was bare stone, a mid-grey speckled with darker flecks and perfectly square, as if carved out from a solid whole. Three tunnels led out of it, one on each wall that wasn't their entrance.

     "Well, we were obviously meant to take the one opposite the entrance right? We were aimed towards it," Rance said in a matter-of-fact way, nodding towards it. "If we were heavier we might have gone in."

     "Who's heavier than a Tuskaninny that would fit in it anyway? That entrance isn't designed for Grarrls or Skeiths," Pete countered. His brother nodded as Lisha examined the other two. "Look, this one's darker than the other."

     "Up and down?"

     "It's a riddle!" Rance suddenly beamed. "It's a riddle!" The blue pet grinned. "A conundrum even..." his grin widened as his brother groaned.

     "That pun is so overused already!"

     "Which pun?" asked the Aisha, clueless.

     "Lenny Conundrum," they said at the same time. "I love riddles," Rance continued. "This should be pretty easy, but which way do we want to go anyway?"

     This caused a silence. "Well... This must be something important, so I suggest we carry on down."

     Pete took a step towards the darker path when Lisha stopped him. "Why do you keep repeating that nothing is as it seems?" she asked curiously, surprised when the Tuskaninny stared at her.

     "Thanks for reminding me, Rance? Where's the catch?"

     "Light might be dark... or we could be going along the wrong train of thought entirely."

     "It was too easy..."

     "Will someone PLEASE explain why 'Nothing is as it seems' is so important?" Light reflected angrily off glasses as she glared, getting slightly annoyed at the glance the brothers exchanged. "What?"

     "We..." Rance started slowly. "We were given one piece of advice before this all started."

     "Advice? Why didn't you tell me?"

     "Because that was it, nothing is as it seems."

     "That's informative..."

     "It's got us this far, why not now?" Pete met the Aisha's gaze steadily until Rance interrupted.

     "Who does this place belong to?"

     "I don't know! Why is that..." Pete stopped and looked thoughtful. "Who WOULD build a place like this?"

     "To judge by the craftsmanship I'd say Faerie..." Lisha mused, looking at the wall closely. "It's too perfect to be anything else... Oh. We've found her, haven't we?" The other two nodded and looked up at the wall.

     "I bet she wouldn't want to fly into a wall."

     "They would be lighter, wouldn't they?"

     "But it's just a stone wall!" Lisha pointed out, exasperated. Her frown grew worse as Pete and Rance sighed.

     "You really don't get this, do you?" Rance said, sounding bored, "Nothing is as it seems." He took off and flew up to the wall, going upwards across it when his wing vanished into the stone. He stuck a leg into it with an 'I told you so' look as Lisha had the decency to look at her feet.

     "That's the one we want then, prepare for another wild ride..." The Lenny slid in, followed by the Tuskaninny and Aisha not long after, the latter letting the levitation spells go to land on smooth slide again.

     Pete could only see the bright red tail-feathers up ahead rounding the corners before him and hear the sound of the yellow Aisha behind him as they skidded into the next riddle.

     "I really hate how she's designed this with her weight in mind..." Pete said as they started falling towards gloopy black tar, missing the single vine hanging from the ceiling by inches. However they also managed to miss the tar by inches and then start to accelerate in the other direction as Lisha frowned in concentration. "Darigan will be pleased you got the practice..."

     "Hush. I'm trying to work." Lisha posted them into the other hole and nearly fell backwards in exhaustion before Pete caught her and held on. "No sleeping yet either."

     "Slavedriver..." However the Aisha didn't complain as they shot down tunnels to land in a long hallway with a smoothed area of floor as they skidded to a halt and stood.

     The hallway was the same lightish-dark stone of the other chambers, though this one had passages leading off it and cloth tapestries hanging from the walls that almost seemed welcoming as the three pets walked along it, well two walked and a regular set of slithering thumps.

     "This actually looks like a home." Rance sounded skeptical at the idea but that was the only explanation. "I bet this is the one that captured Illusen as well."

     "Worked out that one already, and what type they are too." Pete sounded slightly smug as the other two faced him. "Work it out yourself..."

     "I need to know what sort of spells in case she walks out that tunnel now..." Lisha said tensely, glaring at him. The Tuskaninny grinned and was about to speak when they heard the tinkle of a bell.

     "In here." The three pets slid down the nearest tunnel and round the bend to come out in a room with a small waterfall in one corner and a neatly placed shell on another wall. However there was a pile of towels on one corner, which the pets immediately dived towards, and they were lucky that the faerie who owned this house had a taste for particularly plush and fluffy towels, even if Rance disagreed with the bright pink and green stripes.

     "Of all the places we run into, we find her bathroom?" Rance squarked quietly under the sound of the running water. Lisha didn't seem to be complaining though, reminding him their voices were not only being muffled by the water but also the towels, and that they were pretty soft too.

     "Not to mention that the pile is deep enough to be able to rest in..." she concluded, eyes shutting. Pete was about to say a warning when Rance touched his flipper. "Let her rest, one of us can too while the other keeps watch."

     "I'll watch, you rest. I'm going to stay awake and think. I'll swap duties with you later." Rance nodded and also closed his eyes, beak shutting peacefully as Pete frowned, trying to think of not only a way to save Illusen, but also a way out.

     ++++

     Pete opened bleary eyes to find an Aisha ear tapping him on the forehead. He was about to ask why this was happening when the memory of the day before returned and he realised he could hear someone outside the pile of towels humming gently with some splashing heard. It wasn't a bad voice, but it didn't sound particularly brilliant, just mediocre. Pete met the eyes of the other two and didn't dare to move.

     Eventually he started slowly mouthing a word over and over to the others, who desperately tried to work out what he was mouthing. Something, th. Th?

     Lisha's eyes widened and her expression froze into one of realisation as she stared at the blue Tuskaninny who smiled in answer, not wanting to nod. The bird glanced from one to the other for help and Lisha's free ear stalk pointed downwards at the ground beneath them. He still looked confused and Pete thought ironically of their hopeless games of charades on rainy days. He wondered whether the bird would still remember them...

     Slowly he moved so he had one flipper face up and clenched it tight before slowly unclenching it, his eyes fixed on his brother's face, who in turn kept his gaze intently on the flipper. Part by part Pete unfurled his fist until it was fully open and then stretched it upwards, weaving slightly from side to side.

     Then he got it and his face also went into the frown of fierce thought, piecing it together bit by bit as Lisha had done and coming to the same conclusions. Now they all knew what they were facing and rance gave a tiny nod, then stopped short, eyes wide, they didn't even dare breathe as they heard the cascade of water change in tone and a set of footsteps coming towards the pile of towels.

     There was a suspicious pause as they held their breath, Lisha and Pete staring at Rance, who was frantically looking from one to the other. Lisha's paw slid to hold her wand in a firmer grip as Pete's face set, ready.

     The pile jerked as a towel was yanked off the top and the movement caused the pile to shift slightly, and the neopets went with it, so that one of Rance's feet poked into Pete's stomach and Lisha's hand was up against his cheek, which he could feel was getting hot from the contact. His gaze was solidly down into the pile of towels and praying until there was a slight murmur from outside the towels about paranoia and the person left the room.

     As soon as they were sure she had gone they collapsed properly and shifted so they were now not touching each other, though Pete's face was still a little red-tinged and he refused to meet Lisha's eyes, instead listening for any movements. Lisha looked at him curiously but his expression was so studious she lost interest in his slight blush.

     "We need to get out of here soon."

     "True, but where would Illusen be?"

     This discussion continued as Pete outlined his idea of a plan, and soon found the others contributing their own ideas they'd come up with while on watch. Eventually they had a complete plan and slowly extracted themselves from the towels before creeping out of the room.

     They quickly slipped into the next room along to find a sitting room, then a meeting room. After investigating each carefully they ended up at the last corridor off before finding anything remotely suspicious.

     "Now how many faeries need to have a fire barrier in the house? Even if it does look like a decoration?"

     "Not many." Lisha raised her wand and moved the fire so they could slip into the tunnel behind it and continue downwards. Shortly afterwards there was no light, just an eerie firelight glow from ahead and behind as they slowly walked down the tunnel, ears pricked for movement. They heard none.

     Rance suddenly tried to windmill backwards to stop himself as they came to a teetering ledge above a large and abrupt pit in a cavern. It wasn't even the pit that was the worst part. They stared at the sliding leaves of the cloth falling down the sides of the pit, anchored the stone with metal. The cloth was also spread over the floor of the pit below, even under the small stone table that held up its prize like an exhibit, the green wings stiffly away from her body reflecting the eerie light the danced over and red and green hair the currently hid her face and knees, the pale arms holding herself poised and tightly curled up in defiant misery.

     "Illusen!" Pete called quietly, causing hair to fly as the earth faerie looked up with red-rimmed eyes, shock written over her face when she didn't see her captor, but the Tuskaninny and Lenny who had warned her of this trap. Not only them but her friend Lisha! The faerie's eyes swam with tears as she turned and stood, arms stretched towards them.

     "Help me." Her voice was sore from crying as she begged. "Please, get me out of here!"

     "Fly!" Rance urged.

     Illusen's face contorted in pain. "I can't, I can't do anything."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Nothing is As it Seems: Part One
» Nothing is As it Seems: Part Two
» Nothing is As it Seems: Part Three
» Nothing is As it Seems: Part Five



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