Legend Seekers: Mysterious Magic - Part Three
Pemero’s eyes opened slowly. A heavy, rhythmic rumbling filled the air. The bag was as dark as ever, and the binds hadn’t weakened in the slightest, but the night had passed without the usual nightmares. That was one thing to be thankful for... and if nothing else, his mind felt surprisingly clear.
“We’re here,” a rough voice yelled over the steady beat of hooves on stone. After a brief scuffling, the cart drew to a halt.
“That’ll be... 1242 neopoints, sir.” This voice belonged to the Uni pulling the cart.
“Daylight robbery,” muttered the green Kyrii, pulling out a fistful of dusty gold coins. “Keep the change.”
The Kyrii snatched the bag holding Pemero and waved the Uni on.
“I’m not so sure this was a good idea,” said one of the cloaked pets. “He could be dangerous.”
“We’ve been through this, Harold,” said the Kyrii in a tired voice. “Even if he tries to fight us, it’s nothing we can’t handle. Just trust me for once, will you?”
The group fell quiet, but continued whispering amongst themselves when their leader turned away.
The sun was partially covered by white clouds. Rays of light burst through, illuminating small patches of the walls and pavement. Only one house was in total darkness, the one at the far end of the street. It was a large house, almost a mansion; the windows were gaping glassless holes in the rotten wood.
One after the other, the four climbed the small staircase and stepped into the house. It was surprisingly well decorated for such an old and worn-down place. The door crept shut with a soft click.
“Welcome to your new home, Pemero!” The Kyrii untied the rope holding the bag shut and lifted Pemero out. The Grarrl moved forward and started to lift the muzzle off, but the Kyrii stopped him with a glare.
“Not yet,” he said in a low voice. The others nodded uncertainly.
Pemero struggled to keep quiet. The calmness had dissipated now; there was no promise he would ever escape the vines without magical help... and he didn’t know magic. Not really. He closed his eyes and tried to block out the conversation.
“Eh... it might be better to wait a day or two. We might’ve been followed.” The Kyrii shifted on his feet, glancing over his shoulder.
“Good thinking, boss!” Harold said.
A female voice interrupted. “Where will we keep him?”
“Pfft... you have to ask?” the Kyrii said incredulously. “You can be really dense sometimes, Angela. He’ll be staying in the broom cupboard, of course. It’s fairly out of the way, and pretty much Faerie-proof, at least for the moment...”
“Well, I think the--” At a glare from the others, Angela closed her beak and turned back towards Pemero.
“Let’s get this dealt with, then,” she said, reaching to pick Pemero up. The others helped her lift him, and they carried him on their shoulders up to the second floor of the building...
“This is the border of Meridell,” said the guard. “Once you step beyond this line, you have to stay there until His Majesty King Skarl decrees that you may return. Understood?”
“I guess,” Jen said shyly, peering up at the impassive red Draik.
“We’ll be watching for you,” the second guard added. “Don’t try anything or you’ll be back in the dungeons. Don’t want that, do you?”
“No. I suppose you’re right. It was agreed. I won’t trouble you again,” she finished hastily, stepping back. It would do no good to fall foul of anyone in Meridell, especially the guards. They were more jumpy than usual recently, and rightly so.
The guards watched with hawk-eyes as Jen turned tail and ran towards the distant shoreline, not looking back once...
Nearly half an hour later, she stopped running and collapsed on the ground, worn out.
The sky was neutrally white; neither bright nor grey. It was a new slate, but tarnished with the memories of the past. From here on in, she realised, she would be on her own.
“The sea is beautiful here,” she said to herself. “Not at all like Krawk Island.” Her paws made neat little circles in the sand, but they only lasted a few seconds before a wave came to wash them away.
Where would she go now? Returning to Meridell would get her in trouble, and Krawk Island didn’t seem like an option either... either way, there was no rowing boat here to steal away on; no raft to carry her to distant lands. Or was there...?
She scanned the horizon. Out on the ocean, there was only one ship sailing – a relatively harmless looking little boat with a patched sail. Jen knew enough about life on the sea to know that judging an approaching boat by its appearance alone could be a fatal mistake... but try as she might, she couldn’t contain her curiosity.
“Here! Over here!” Waving her paws in the air frantically, she watched as the ship seemed to move further and further away. So much for that, then... maybe if she’d turned tail when she had the chance, this would never have happened. Of course, the past was already written; there was no point in dwelling on it...
“’Ere! Did someone call?” A rough voice broke into her train of thought. Looking up, she saw that it belonged to a Krawk - a stranger, but his face had a familiar look to it. He was sitting in a small, hand-crafted wooden boat, not unlike the kind she remembered from her Neopian History lessons.
“Uh... yeah,” she said, unsure. “Who are you?”
“The name’s Farren. I hail from Krawk Island, as you can prob’ly tell from my accent. I’m no pirate, though...” he trailed off, grinning. Jen couldn’t help noticing the way his garish yellow eyes bored into hers, reading her. His smile fell.
“You want a ride somewhere?”
“I was hoping you could take me to Mystery Island,” she said, returning his baleful, fearful gaze.
”Well.” He paused, apparently deep in thought. “It seems crazy to me, but you probably have a good reason,” he said. “If ya still want to go, I’ll take you there.”
“Thanks.” Jen smiled half-heartedly. There had to be some way, some key to this mystery that nobody had yet discovered. Maybe she would be the one to find it.
“Well, what are ye waiting for? Let’s go!” In one movement, he pulled her into the boat and pushed away from the shore.
A thin snore rattled the pages of the research book propped open on the desk. It was two full minutes before Lisa managed to sit up and greet her two elder sisters, who stood over her with their hands on their hips.
“We were counting on you,” Peonie chided. “Even young Faeries need to be on task constantly, when required. Remember the five A’s?”
“Enough with the lecturing, I just dozed off! It’s not a huge disaster. I’m sorry it happened,” she added resentfully.
“You better be! Luckily, we’ve found a lead anyway,” Samila said. “Maybe this time you should come with us and help follow it?”
“Uh, well, you see—”
“No excuses.” Samila rounded on her youngest sister. “You need more experience anyway.”
There was no room for argument. Sulking, Lisa stuffed the book in the nearest drawer and stood up, brushing the dust from her long dress.
“Okay, okay. Where is Pemero?”
“We don’t know the exact location yet, but all the signs are that the culprits are magical neopets, as Pemero himself is. And not just any magical neopets,” Samila said significantly. “These pets are those that know our greatest secrets. If we don’t do something quickly, we will be putting them at an advantage, and you know as well as I do... we can’t afford to let that happen.”
Silence circled the three Faeries as they processed this information. Lisa was the first to speak.
“There’s no time to lose, then. If we move quickly, we might track them down in time!”
“You’ve changed your tune, haven’t you?”
“Well... I didn’t know...!”
“Listen,” Peonie hissed harshly. “It could easily have been a lot worse than it is. There’s never any excuse for slacking off, especially when lives are at stake!”
“I...” Lisa started, looking at the floor. “Sorry. Let’s just get moving and get this mess sorted out, okay?”
The secretive sound of whispers and light footsteps drifted under the door. From where he lay, Pemero could barely tell that they were still speaking the same language. They might be only feet away or as far as the next room. One way or another, he realised, something had to be done.
But, what? And how? Time was fading away to nothing while he lay bound in the dark cupboard, struggling and failing to free himself of the magic that held him in place. They were laughing now. At him? Maybe. Probably. Finally, after any number of hours, he was too exhausted to continue. Breathing deeply, he closed his eyes and lay stock still on the cold stone floor.
A shock-white slither of light fell across face.
“Get up, Pemero. Get up.”
He tried to speak, to tell them he was having a hard time moving at all, but he was still wearing that muzzle.
“What did you just say?”
“Fine, fine. Untie him and let him speak.”
The pets swarmed him and moments later he felt the vines loosen around his aching paws. The muzzle was removed last of all.
A thousand questions bubbled to the surface of the cub’s mind, making him want to gag. Instead, he spoke as calmly as he could:
At first, there was no reply. Then one of them, probably the Kyrii, let loose a burst of crazy laughter.
“Y-You mean you don’t know?”
“Don’t know what?”
“Look. You have powers, possibly beyond your control, but there all the same. Am I right?”
“Uh, I guess so,” Pemero muttered. What was the Kyrii trying to get at?
“To cut a long story short, we need your help.”
“You didn’t have to kidnap me.”
“Oh, but would you have come willingly?”
“Probably not,” he admitted. “I was due to start lessons today. At the Faerie Academy.” At this statement, the Kyrii and his band of friends shared a significant glance.
“Faeries,” said one of them gruffly, “are not to be trusted.”
“How do you know that?” Pemero inquired, his voice much calmer and braver than he felt. Another glance passed between them.
“Oh, believe me, we know.”
Pemero sighed. It looked like he wasn’t getting out of this one anytime soon.
“What do you want from me?” he asked. The Kyrii was not laughing now, not even smiling. The others followed his lead.
“This is not the place. Come into the sitting room and we’ll talk there.”
So Pemero followed the group of pets down the stairs and through a neatly varnished wooden arch. The sitting room was furnished well, but nothing seemed to match up. The floor was a hard, grey wood. The walls had a thin coat of dark red paint. A single painting hung in the farthest corner of the room, too dark to see properly. In the very centre, surrounded by an assortment of chairs and beanbags, was a squat little table.
Pemero remained silent. His instincts were telling him that these people were bad news; that he should back out of this as soon as he could, but he was also curious.
“So, what do you think? I chose the paint myself!” beamed an Eyrie from beneath her cloak. Pemero hated it; it was an angry, fiery colour, and did nothing to improve his liking for his new group of friends.
One by one, they settled into chairs. Pemero sat two seats away from the other pets in the circle.
“Listen, we need you to do something for us. If you can do this one thing, we can make you the richest pet on the face of Neopia. Anything you want... just name it, and it’s yours.” A hesitant silence followed these words.
“I don’t believe you,” Pemero said. In fact, he wasn’t sure what he believed; his mind was twisting, at breaking point, towards two different conclusions. “I want to go now. The Faeries will be looking for me.”
“I’m afraid not,” trilled a female voice. “There’s a five million bounty on your head. You wouldn’t last five minutes out there alone.”
“I was fine in Faerieland,” he replied, stung. “And Mystery Island. I’m an adventurer. I can take care of myself.”
“You can’t fight the authorities, kid,” the Kyrii said. “It’s not gonna happen. They’ll outnumber you a hundred to one. In Faerieland, you were protected by the Queen’s soldiers, but they don’t rule past the edge of that cloud.”
Despite his misgivings, Pemero detected a thin note of sincerity in the voice. Could it be true? There had to be hundreds, maybe even thousands of silver Kougras in Neopia. What would make him stand out in a crowd? Thinking hard, he posed another question to his captors.
“If that’s true, then how much better off will I be with you?”
“We’ll do our best. We have the advantage of stealth, and you have your magic. If we stay low, we should be able to escape capture.” Another thought struck Pemero – a much less pleasant idea, but one that could not be ignored.
“Why didn’t you turn me over to the authorities?”
“It’s like I said, we need you. But if you won’t help us, we might have to.” There was no remorse or regret in the voice. The green eyes were suddenly chips of icy stone, glaring like cold fire. In the pit of his stomach, the cub felt a stirring fear; a rush of adrenaline. There was no other way; he would have to help them with this task they had chosen him for.
He was very deeply afraid, and yet – this was a new doorway, a new chance for adventure. It could be the best thing that ever happened to him. Or the worst, but negativity would get him nowhere fast.
“Okay,” Pemero said softly. “What do I have to do?”
To be continued...