Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 135,120,757 Issue: 269 | 8th day of Celebrating, Y8
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In This Together: Part Two


by rainbow_daydreamer

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"Voltare?" I stared for a moment.

     No.

     "Oh, come off it. They're just making wild guesses, Fiona!"

     She didn't seem convinced. "Voltare was gone last night. And he matches the description exactly, even down to the scratch on his ear." Now she was sitting in her favourite armchair, clutching the armrests as though they would keep her safely tethered to the ground.

     "Fi, get a clue. You know he would never do a thing like that. If my brother ever thought about doing so much as throwing snowballs at a Bruce, then I'm the Snowager's mother." I waved a hoof at the sketch of Voltare that Fiona had drawn a few days ago, to amuse herself while I was at Neoschool. "Even that scratch on his ear. He got that in the only fight he's ever been in, do you remember?"

     We both remembered only too well. The scratch was the only souvenir remaining out of the dozens of cuts and bruises he'd suffered in his unexpected battle. It had been during the scuffle in the Ice Caves; climbing Terror Mountain to check on the icebound Taelia, he'd come across a young Grundo being menaced by a Snow Beast. Voltare being what he was-- kind, foolish, impulsive and never one to let someone get hurt-- he had had to intervene.

     "I know," Fiona murmured, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. "I know, Novella. But I can't face talking to them again."

     "Then I will!" I shouted and ran outside. The Defenders, a few doors away, were questioning a young Peophin. I grabbed the nearest pet, a sturdy Bruce, and began to babble in his ear, telling him everything I'd told Fiona. He had to believe me. He had to...

     *

     "Didn't he believe you?" asked Fiona as I came back in.

     "Well..." I sat down on the rug by the fire. "He said that I'd got something of a case, but that it wasn't going to stop them watching out for Voltare. I'm not sure he even listened properly!" I was yelling now, making the little house echo with the sound of my words. "My big brother is not a criminal!"

     The Defenders and their agents tried to be helpful. Fiona asked them if they'd considered all other possibilities. "It could've been someone impersonating Voltare!" I put in. "Or Voltare might've been hypnotised by... a dark faerie or something!" They listened politely, but it was clear that they had already made up their minds. Apparently, even the darkest of faeries could only take possession of a pet or human with that individual's consent-- and Voltare, we all knew, would never have submitted to control by any evil creature.

     Eventually there was nothing to do but nod and tell them we were taking note of their ideas. I knew that my brother couldn't have done such a thing. And yet I could see all the evidence that he had.

     Dear Ricky,

     Something truly awful has happened...

     *

     I deliberately didn't stay home.

     Running through the long grass towards the track road, I found my place and waited. The sunlight cast flickering shadows on my face as I sat watching the horizon, waiting for any sign of movement.

     Eventually, just when I was on the verge of giving up, I saw the familiar shadow of a Kougra, flapping his wings as he flew nearer. Jumping to my hooves, I sprinted towards him.

     "Voltare, oh, Voltare," I gasped, throwing myself against my brother's fur, clasping his paws. "You can't stay here. They're going to arrest you." But he seemed not to be listening. Brushing past me, he headed down the track in the direction of our house. I followed him, my heartbeat racing with worry.

     To my intense relief, the Moehog and his minions had gone when we reached the house, my brother lazily flapping towards the door as I dashed after him, trying my best to keep up. Fiona was sitting in the back garden, contemplating her clasped hands and obviously in the depths of serious thought. We came in without bothering to disturb her.

     I gave Voltare some of the chocolate milk I knew he loved. He lapped it thirstily, without a word to me, and his face changed to a genuine smile of pleasure. Then, to my surprise, he sprang. In one movement that reminded me of a hungry Lupe sighting a Chia, my brother leapt smoothly out of the window and was gone.

     "Voltare! Voltare!"

     I yelled his name until I was hoarse, but there was no reply.

     *

     Ricky, it's worse than I thought.

     I've got today's newspapers in front of me, brought by the post Blumaroo this evening. Darigan Kougra robs National Neopian. Darigan Kougra steals magical cauldron from Soup Faerie. Darigan Kougra terrorises Uni at Adoption Centre... And you know what? They all have the same description. Voltare's. If the stories are to be believed, he's been on a crime spree worse than the Pant Devil's.

     I know he hasn't... at least, I think he hasn't... that is, I hope with all my heart he hasn't. Not my big brother.

     The authorities are everywhere now. Our house is under 24-hour watch. Fiona, too; for some reason they don't think I'm worth watching. People are already saying "Well, what do you expect of a Darigan pet?" Ricky, what am I going to do?

     Fiona's calling. What is it now?

     "Novella, someone's spotted Voltare coming towards Meridell," my owner said softly. "I'm going over there, to see if I can talk him into being interviewed. Maybe that way we can prove it isn't him, if we're lucky."

     I followed her, locking the door behind me. Surely now we would sort this out, finally. Although it had only lasted a day's time, the whole series of events seemed to have been haunting me forever. My memories of carefree days with Voltare felt like a long-forgotten time.

     With the Defenders hiding safely in the bushes, Fiona and I stood in the clearing near to Illusen's glade, watching with held breath. At last, we heard the beat of Kougra wings. Voltare was arriving.

     "Voltare!" Fiona called, and I echoed her. My brother landed elegantly, his four paws brushing the soft grass, and strutted past the two of us as if he hadn't heard a thing.

     "Where's he going?" I whispered, but the leading pet signalled for the two of us to go with him. We followed Voltare, tip-hoofing across the clearing, closer and closer to the grotto of the Earth Faerie herself.

     Voltare stepped inside, brushing aside the beaded green curtain of grass-reeds that separated Illusen from the outside world.

     A moment later we heard a sound that sent a cold shiver down my spine; the sound of a faerie screaming.

     He tried to fly, but the Defenders of Neopia were on top of him before he could even take off. Illusen, her wings bruised and her forehead bleeding from a deep claw-slash, pulled herself into the open with an expression of fear. She wasn't screaming any more. The high, terrified, disbelieving voice that was echoing throughout the forest was... mine. I was trying to fight my way through the Defenders to him, but I wasn't strong enough to break through a ring of powerful Battledomers.

     Why, Voltare, why?

     "Novella, go home," Fiona said to me, as kindly as she could manage. "I'll sort this out."

     I couldn't look at Voltare. I did as she said and bolted for home, trying to put as much distance as I could between myself and Illusen's glade.

     Voltare, big brother, what have you done?

     *

     It was raining. I heard the droplets beat against the roof tiles as I lay on my bed, waiting for the sound of Fiona's steps on the porch. Surely she would be home soon, with a sadder, wiser Kougra in tow. She had to come soon.

     Perhaps Voltare would have pawcuffs put on him! I shuddered. Perhaps they would have repainted him so that he couldn't fly, or given him a muzzle to wear... I didn't care, I didn't care, I just wished that the two of them would be home soon.

     At last, the blessed sound of human footsteps. At last, Fiona's key in the lock. I waited until she called up to me. "Novella? Are you all right?" There was something strange about her voice, something I didn't understand, but I came.

     She poured a mug of snowberry tea for herself, then one for me. "Drink up, my darling..."

     I sipped the hot drink and looked around. Voltare wasn't home yet. Perhaps he was still in the paws of those awful Defenders. Was this horrible day never going to end?

     Fiona felt in the bag she always carried. "Here, Novella, dearest. I brought you this." It was a beautiful plushie, the absolute image of a rose-pink Poogle. I hugged it close.

     "Fi, it's lovely." I turned to face her, and saw how tired and sad she looked. For the last few hours, occupied with my own selfish emotions, it hadn't even occurred to me how much of an ordeal Voltare's arrest must have been for her, too.

     "Love you, Fiona."

     "I love you too, Novella," she answered, almost automatically.

     "Fi?" I didn't want to get her ruffled, but I had to ask. "Do you think it's worth staying up till Voltare gets home? If he won't be back until morning, I can go to bed..."

     I didn't expect her flow of tears. Sobbing as though she'd heard the saddest story in the world, she grabbed me and held me close.

     "N-novella... I have to t-tell you something." Her shaking hands clutched me tightly."V-v-voltare isn't... isn't going to be coming home any more."

     "What?" I screamed. Had the Neopian authorities jailed my brother for life?

     "My little Novella..." Fiona was almost incomprehensible in her grief. "I did it for the best, you must see that, I didn't want to be b-banished from Neopia because what would happen to you?... So I went to Neopia Central with the Defenders. And I... I abandoned Voltare. He's not your brother any more."

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» In This Together: Part One
» In This Together: Part Three
» In This Together: Part Four
» In This Together: Part Five
» In This Together: Part Six
» In This Together: Part Seven
» In This Together: Part Eight
» In This Together: Part Nine



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