Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Four
Cypher skidded into the Mountain Lodge, neggs still tucked tightly under her arms. Luther jumped in surprise, dropping the pillow he was examining. “Geez, you scared me!”
Cypher wasn’t listening to him. “Listen, I went to search Taelia’s igloo first but I didn’t find anything, and then I got really hungry so I was going to take a cookie but then I knocked over cupcakes and they got sucked into the snow, and then I did too, and I was in an ice cave made out of magic, and there were lots of orange neggs!”
Silence. Luther stared. “I lost you after the getting hungry thing.”
Cypher rolled her eyes impatiently. “I... found... a... bunch... of... orange... neggs... in... a... secret... cave... at... Taelia’s.”
“So what was that part about cupcakes?”
“I knocked some over, and when I went to pick them up, the snow was sucking them in. Then it sucked me in, and I fell into the cave. Clear enough for you?”
Luther frowned, scratching his chin. “Odd.”
“You think?” Cypher added sarcastically.
“So, Taelia’s secretly been collecting neggs,” Luther said, ignoring Cypher. “Maybe it’s just for a spell?”
“Obviously a spell she doesn’t want people to know she’s doing, or they wouldn’t all be hidden like they were. I think she was trying to trade them in at the Neggery for a more powerful negg.”
Luther smiled. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right! A more powerful negg, for a more powerful spell! I think it’s time for a visit to the Neggery.”
Another pet was finishing up a purchase as Cypher and Luther walked into the Neggery. The Negg Faerie, with her spiky green hair, was handing the pet a shiny crystal negg, while a pen was magically writing something on its own in a book on the counter. As the other pet left, they approached the faerie.
“Cool!” Luther said, pointing to the self-writing pen. “What’s it doing?”
As he said it, the pen went frigid and fell to the book. Seeing the look on Luther’s face, the Negg Faerie laughed. “That’s my logbook. It is charmed to write down everyone who comes in and what they trade in. When there’s no one trading, it takes a rest. But no matter what, I will always be able to know who bought what and when.”
Luther smiled. “Genius! If there happened to be a theft, it would write the pet down, so you’d always know, wouldn’t it?”
The faerie smiled, obviously pleased with herself. “Those are worth four tokens each,” she said, pointing to the neggs in Cypher’s hands.
Cypher set the two neggs on the Neggery counter. “What would it be possible to get with thirty-one orange neggs?”
The faerie frowned. “You only seem to have two,” she said.
“I know,” Cypher said quickly, “but there’s more. I’m just curious.”
“Well,” the faerie said, shrugging, “that would total... 124 tokens. That happens to be the price of the ferocious negg, but you could also get two rainwater neggs, three basic power neggs, or really anything under that.”
“Tell us,” Luther said, “what kind of negg--- available within 124 tokens--- do you think Taelia would want?”
“Taelia?” the faerie raised her eyebrows. “Well, I don’t know. Icestorm negg? She could get three of those, four with just a few more tokens. Maybe a faerie queen negg, since it’s Fyora and all. She could get two of those. But I don’t get it... why are you asking about Taelia? She was just kidnapped.”
“Like she said,” Luther responded quickly, “we’re just curious.”
The Negg Faerie looked skeptical. “Be careful... curiosity killed the Kougra.”
It was early morning, two days after the attack. Cypher and Luther were sitting on a bench near the port in the valley, allowing the icy snowflakes to fall on them. It didn’t matter about the cold now... the holidays were at stake.
Cypher took a deep breath. She didn’t know what to do next to solve the mystery, and she couldn’t think of anything to try. “What’s the next step?” she asked Luther.
The Kougra shrugged. “We at least need to take action. You know, do something to hopefully help. But what can we do?”
Cypher shut her eyes a moment, thinking. “An attack,” she muttered under her breath, “kidnapping, disappearances, mysteries, detectives, clues... yeah, clues... clues!” She turned to Luther, grinning. “That’s what we need to do! The only real clues we have are the scraps of paper and the secret room in Taelia’s igloo, but since there’s no action we can take with the papers right now, we have to work with the secret room, you see? It’s the neggs! All we can do now is take the neggs.”
Luther frowned. “But... why? They’re just another ingredient in one of Taelia’s spells.”
“Luther, those neggs have to mean something. In all my years of snow faerie quests, I’ve never once been asked to retrieve one. Until a few days ago! And all of a sudden, there’s an underground storage room just filled with neggs? They’re important, I’m telling you. I’m going to bring them all to my house, where they’re safe.”
“Safe? Cypher, why would a negg need to be protected?” Luther asked doubtfully. “Maybe that weird little ice cave is just another storage room for all the various things she collects. Maybe there just happens to be a bunch of neggs down there. What does it matter?”
Cypher rolled her eyes. “Tell me something better to do. Those neggs are important. What if they’re still needed for something and someone comes back to get them? They’ll be safe and away from the enemy’s hands if they’re at my house.”
“Maybe it’d be helpful if we try and figure out exactly who the enemy is first!” Luther said, obviously unconvinced of Cypher’s plan. “Narrow down our options, you know? Jhudora, Sloth, Scarblade...”
“You think my plan stinks? Why would Scarblade be attacking Terror Mountain?” Cypher asked incredulously. “You may have been the expert on the legend at the AstroVilla, but this is my homeland, and I know that pirates won’t be coming any time soon.”
“Fine,” Luther said with a sigh. “Of course, we’ll follow your idea and then you’ll get another article published. Maybe this time, they’ll spell my name right! But chances are low, considering I have a slim shot of even getting my name in there, don’t I?”
An awkward silence crept up. Luther’s constant sniffling was the only audible sound, apart from the waves in the ocean a few feet away.
“You said that the article didn’t bother you,” Cypher said quietly. This wasn’t how she planned to solve the mystery, not with the constant fighting she and Luther had done at the AstroVilla, before they were friends.
“Yeah, well, I lied!” Luther replied angrily. “I mean, I did half the work. It was my job at stake. If it weren’t for me, you’d never have been able to solve the mystery and find LeMaer’s lab underneath my room!”
“I didn’t write the article myself, you know!” Cypher retorted, holding back tears. “That’s not the way I wanted it!”
“Right. Of course not!” Luther continued. “Cypher, the golden pet of Happy Valley, didn’t want everything to be all about her for a change! Maybe that’s what they should’ve had as the headline, instead of ‘Mysteries Solved by Cypher!’”
Cypher stood up. “I guess there’ll be one more added to that list, since I’m the only one with a decent plan!”
Gusts of wind blew the pleasant morning away, replacing it with a stormy afternoon. Cypher stood atop the mountain, right at the edge of the rope, all alone. Her fight with Luther had caused her to rethink her plan, but in the end she decided what she was doing was right.
With a deep breath, Cypher made her way to the igloo, thinking that once the neggs were safe at her house in the valley, she could rest knowing that she at least did something to help. Halfway there, a snapping twig caused her to jump.
Cypher froze. Looking down, she saw that it couldn’t have been her own foot that made the noise, since there wasn’t a stick in sight. Slowly, she turned her head and peered around the little town. Nothing.
“Pull yourself together,” she muttered to herself. Cypher took another step in the deep snow, and this time she was sure she heard movement. She whipped around and found herself staring into the eyes of a Darigan Lupe.
For a minute, there was nothing but silence. Cypher, trembling uncontrollably, took one step backwards. But the Lupe, who looked nothing more than evil, simply took a step forward, towards her. “What do you want?” Cypher plucked up the courage to call.
The Lupe didn’t answer, and instead took yet another step towards her. With a gasp, Cypher made up her mind, and ran in the opposite direction. Unfortunately for her, Darigan Lupes have wings, and in seconds, he had blocked her. They now stood beyond the rope... at the edge of the mountain.
Cypher tried not to stare into the Lupe’s glowing red eyes, but she found she couldn’t look away. As she cowered under his freakish gaze, the Lupe reared on his hind legs, causing Cypher to fall backwards in shock. In the blink of an eye, the Lupe was on the other side of her, now blocking her only way out. Cypher whimpered, the Lupe struck.
The only way was down.
To be continued...