Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 124,888,518 Issue: 252 | 11th day of Hiding, Y8
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The Lost Zafara

by hczaffie


A small trembling figure of a blue Zafara stood against an old, crumbling grey wall, "Please... help..." the figure moaned, stretching out her hands into what seemed to be an everlasting dark street, hoping that someone would hear her. It was at least three a.m., and nobody stirred in this eerie place. Feeling faint, the figure frantically traversed the wall, clinging to it for support. In a last desperate effort, she muttered a faint "Help..." before the faintness overwhelmed her and she fell to the ground in a heap, her eyes tightly closed, a pained expression on her face, her tail lying listlessly at her side, too weak to move, speak, or hear the approaching footsteps.


     She slowly opened her eyes and perceived an intense yellowish light, and quickly closed them again. Her head was pounding; bright light was definitely not what she required right now. Suddenly something touched her arm.

     "Wake up. You've been out for about fifteen hours, I've never seen anyone sleep for that long. Hello?"

     She gave an exceedingly loud yelp and toppled to the floor, taking the particularly costly green oak chair she was sitting in with her.

     "Jumpy, ain't you?" laughed a voice.

     "W-what?" she said, trying to scramble to her feet, her blue locks askew all over her face. She looked up and saw an enormous fire Lupe standing a few feet away.

     "I said you're jumpy, y'know... easily frightened."

     "I know what it means!" she replied, a sudden confidence flowing through her. "You scared me. Don't do that!"

     "OK, calm down. You scared me as well, young lady. What's your name then?"

     "Azure," Azure replied, her heart struggling to return to normal pace.

     "Suits you, girl. Now, what in Neopia were you doin' out there?" The Lupe sat down.

     "I..." she trembled "... it was awful. A few weeks ago I was in my house and there was a knock at the door. I opened the door and all I remember is blacking out..." He was a stranger. But she had to tell someone.

     "Someone hit you?"

     "I don't know. When I awoke I was a few streets away. I ran back to my house, only..."

     "What?" the Lupe inquired, puzzled.

     "It was ransacked!" Azure cried. "But oddly everything that had not been taken was intact. The paintings, the books, the photographs, the sofa..."

     "You poor thing. My name is Volcano. I'll look after you for a bit, until you get back on your feet. Ha, and someone who didn't laugh at my name for once."

     "Thanks..." Azure gave a weak smile.

     "They take anything important?"

     She sighed. "The photograph album."

     "Don't your family 'ave a copy?"

     "I don't know my family. I'm a pound veteran. I was in that place until I was eighteen."

     "Pound sounds so derogatory, girl. I wished more people called it "the Adoption Centre"."

     Azure scowled. "It deserves its name. Anyway, I have no idea who my family are and so, no, I don't have any way to get a copy of my photographs. I have tried to find my family, but it seems like no one remembers them."

     There was a thunderous knock on the door. Azure jumped.

     "It's my adopted son. He likes to knock the door down every so often," Volcano said, before going to answer the door. Azure heard the door swing open. His son entered, muttering. As the silver-grey Zafara walked into the light, Azure realised who this was. She remembered - the strange caller she had received a few weeks before.

     "You!" Azure screeched. "You took my things! You! You! YOU!"

     His son looked surprised.

     "Huh?" he replied, bewildered. "You OK?"

     Just then Volcano entered. "What's going on? You upset her, Cobalt?"

     "No! She just started screaming her head off and went ballistic..."

     "He wrecked my house! He took my stuff!" Azure screamed. "That house cost my life savings!!" She slumped to the floor and put her head in her hands.

     "It's... it's your house, it was you?!" Cobalt yelped. "I thought I recognised... yes, it was you!"

     Volcano looked from his bewildered son to his distraught guest, his deep brown eyes frowning in thought, and said: "If you know something, son, explain to her."

     "Not while she's in that state, Dad. I won't get a word in edgewise!"

     "Just do what I say, Cobalt. Now."

     "I only said I recognised her."

      "You know something more. I know you do." Cobalt knew that his adoptive father was wise. So he took the advice.

     "I went to the house," he began. "Someone tipped me off that she knew something about my family... There was a strange character by the door. I went to check. "

     He glanced at Azure, who gave him a cold stare through her tears.

      "I tried to stop him... but he pushed me out of the way..." he said hurriedly. "He said... er... she doesn't need your help and that she needs the help of her friends, not strangers... I tried to explain, but he just said I was a hindrance and pushed me aside."

     Azure looked up. "You... you were trying to protect me." She smiled. "Oh, and the 'strange character' was my next door neighbour; he's a bit... paranoid."

     Cobalt nodded. "You're telling me. The house looked as though someone was trying to bulldoze it. What happened?"

     "Someone got in and robbed me. I can't think why. They took a few paintings, the sofa, some NP, made a complete mess and they took my photograph album. My photograph album! The only memory of my family! Why would they take that?"


     "What, Dad?"

     "Is that it?"

     "Yes." Then Cobalt's face hardened. "Are you suggesting I took something?"

     "Maybe. Where did you get that?" Volcano pointed to a book that was protruding from Cobalt's backpack. He hurriedly tried to hide it but Azure made a grab for it and managed to wrestle it out of Cobalt's hands.

     "My photo album. You little thief!" She swung the album at Cobalt's head, but he ducked.

     "Give it back!"

     "Why should I?" Azure said frostily. "It's mine, you stole it."

     "You don't say."

     "Give me one good reason."

     "There's a photograph of my parents in there. That's the only thing I took. I swear."

     Azure froze.

     "I told you, someone tipped me off that you knew something about my family... and that you had some photographs. I didn't want to ask in case it sounded too forward," Cobalt said desperately.

     "That's deluded. This is my family photo album, you thief! How could you have seen the photographs that clearly? You must have been looking through the window!" Azure took a step backwards, and ended up tripping over the leg of the sofa. She dropped the album, and Cobalt snatched it up off the floor.

     Volcano, who had been observing the situation, helped Azure up. He frowned at Cobalt, but he was busy flicking through the album.

     As soon as she was she was standing, Cobalt thrust the album at her.

     "See! I'm in this photograph, and there are loads of pictures of my parents. Why else would I want it? You're not the only orphan here!"

     Azure gave the photograph a distracted glance.

     "Where are you?" she said petulantly. Cobalt, losing patience, jabbed his thumb towards the left of the photograph, where there was a small, silver-blue Zafara sitting next to a much smaller blue Zafara, who looked no older than a baby, in the background, you could just make out the outline of the Meridell castle in the distance.

     "I'm sorry, but I do believe you're wrong."

     "How so? That's me. I know that's me. Just look one more time." Cobalt paused. "Please."

     "Fine." Azure roughly snatched the album out of his hands, gave an impatient sigh, and started to look at the photograph. She then looked up at Cobalt, then she studied the photograph. He was right. This Zafara was identical, barring size.

     "Anyway, it doesn't matter whether you believe me, I know that's me. I remember when that photo was taken. As soon as I looked through this album, I knew those were my parents and when I came in and saw you... I knew you were who I took it from, but I also recognised you because I'd seen you before, years ago, and then I remembered this."

     He indicated the photograph. "See?"

     "You're my brother?"

     "You probably don't remember me. I didn't remember you until I saw you in that photograph. It's funny, I remember the photo being taken but not you being there. Odd."

     Azure was stunned.

     "Who'd have thought being robbed could have an upside?"

     "If the house hadn't have been trashed I could never have snuck in and took the album. I'm sorry I stole it, but I had tried so many things to find any trace of my family, that when someone mentioned you knew something, and might even have photographs, well... I jumped at the chance. I'm just like that."

     Volcano stood stock still, still perplexed.

     "You can stay overnight. I'll sleep on the sofa." Cobalt's voice still sounded anxious.

     "Don't change the subject, bro."

     "I'm not."

     "... and calm down. I won't bite."

     "I know." He sat down heavily. "I never thought this would really happen."

     "I have to agree."

     Cobalt gave Azure a weak smile. "I'm afraid I'm not all I'm cracked up to be."

     "You'll do." Azure grinned. "After nearly nineteen years not knowing you, I'm not likely to reject you on a whim, am I?"


     "Do you know who took the rest of my stuff?"

     "I saw someone being questioned by some Chia Policemen, I think they were charged."

     "Phew. You could have mentioned that earlier."

     Cobalt smiled sheepishly.

     "Oh, it's in the past." Azure grinned at him.

     Azure and Cobalt both sat down, Cobalt on the sofa and Azure in the chair opposite, and told each other everything there was to know about their lives so far. They had an amused argument about their favourite food and Cobalt told Azure some of his amazingly bad jokes. Eventually, they both fell asleep. Volcano's dark fur and flame patterned muzzle could just be seen as he watched them from behind his copy of today's newspaper, sitting in the other oak chair, to make sure Cobalt didn't roll off the sofa, which had happened numerous times before. Azure had fallen asleep, her head resting on a small blue pillow on the arm of the chair, her arm hanging off the edge, her face slightly illuminated by the orange glow from the fireplace, which Volcano had lit as it had become more and more dark.

     Feeling it would be unfair to wake them, Volcano, after reading his newspaper and eating his dinner of omelette and several bread rolls, and a dessert of two doughnuts, turned down the fireplace and went to bed.


     Azure woke early. She looked out of the window to see it was dark outside, due to a thunderstorm. She surveyed the room. It was full of rather expensive oak furniture, all of which had forest green leather. In the centre of the room there was a huge fireplace which was mounted on the front of a chimney that protruded six inches from the wall. The walls were painted to resemble wood, and the floor was varnished the colour an acorn. Directly above her, there was a huge lamp, which was hanging from the oddly high wooden ceiling, and resembled a huge mass of crystallised ice, which gave out a bright, yellow, strangely ethereal glow.

     Cobalt woke up and saw her looking around. "It's great, that light. We've had it for years."

     "How did you get it up there?"

     "We hired Shoyrus to do it."

     Just then Volcano ambled in, half-asleep. "Eh? Oh, the light. Cost a fortune that did. Looks nice, but I won't be buyin' another," Volcano told them. "Never again. Them Shoyrus cost more to hire than Yes Boy Ice Cream and the Twisted Roses put together. He 'ad to go without birthday presents."

     "Not entirely, I got a year's supply of Achyfi from school."

     "Since when?" Volcano inquired. "Eh?"

     "You know, when we got the lamp..."

     "Yeah, you get that much money in fizzy drink, you don't tell me? Honestly."

     Azure couldn't help but smile. She knew that she belonged here and vowed that she would never again go through a day where she didn't know what her purpose was.

The End

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