Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Five
After several seconds of deafening wind and falling colors, Cypher landed painfully on the back of a passing white Pteri.
“Whoa!” the Pteri cried. “What--- how--- where did you come from?”
Cypher sat up as the Pteri slowed down, massaging her temples. Her head was pounding. Everything around her was still moving. All she could do was grip the Pteri around the neck to stop herself from falling again.
“You fell off the mountain, didn’t you?” the Pteri gasped. “Man, you’re one lucky Cybunny. If I hadn’t been flying right now, you would’ve landed down in the ocean. I can imagine you wouldn’t have survived, eh?”
Cypher glanced down and saw the thunderous waves of the icy ocean. With a shudder, she pulled her head back and stared straight ahead. “Thanks,” she said, “my name’s Cypher.”
“Nice to meet you! The name’s Nork! So, Cypher, what exactly were you doing on top of that mountain anyway? Don’t you know that it was attacked! That’s right, everyone was kidnapped! Lately, all the residents of the Ice Caves have been pretty freaked out. You know, they’re thinking the attacker will come there next.”
Cypher frowned. “Really?”
Nork nodded. “Oh yeah,” he said, “I know of a family that packed up and left! Everyone wants to believe that they’re safe, but deep down, they know they’re not.”
“Nothing like this has really ever happened to Terror Mountain before. It’s a fairly big deal, you know? The Chia Police can only do so much, and most of what they can do is figuring out the culprit. Some members of Skeith Bodyguards Inc. offered to come up and, you know, guard, but the people of Happy Valley and the Ice Caves seem to want to fend for themselves as much as possible.”
“Why is that?” Cypher asked, rolling her eyes. “Why can’t everyone just accept that sometimes professional help is necessary? That realization is what saved the AstroVilla this summer!”
Nork gasped. “I knew I’d seen you somewhere! Cypher, of course! You solved the mystery of that hotel, didn’t you? Now, you were on that mountain ‘cause you’re trying to solve this mystery too, am I right?”
Cypher shrugged. “Trying, I guess.”
As Happy Valley came into view, Nork began to descend. “Where can I drop you off?” he asked politely.
“The Slushie Shop... Ralph might know what to do.” After a quick thank you to Nork, and a hurried dash to the shop, Cypher was out of the cold at last. She made her way to a fuzzy armchair nearby, and plopped into it. Thoughts swirled around in her head. The residents of the Ice Caves feared another attack?
“Cypher! There you are!” Paisley rushed through the door, knocking over a small Bori in the process. Cypher turned and looked at her, frowning. Paisley actually looked... concerned about something. “Cypher,” she said quickly, “I just heard the news!”
“What--- what is it, Paisley?” Cypher wasn’t used to Paisley when she acted like this.
“The Ice Caves! They’re empty!”
The Ice Caves may have been roped off for investigation, but nothing could stop Cypher now. At midnight, she crept over the tape, flashlight in hand. She wasn’t sure where to look around first, so she started at the beginning and made her way through the entire cavern.
The Snowager was gone, along with all the items he slept on. All the shops were deserted, some with broken windows or doors hanging on their hinges. The Ice Arena was empty. The Neggery was deserted as well, but the neggs were still there. All assortments were piled in bins in a backroom, Cypher noticed. On her way out, something caught her eye.
The bin of Ferocious Neggs was completely empty... except for one.
“Odd,” Cypher muttered to herself. But she didn’t think about it too much, because as unusual as it was, it was completely possible that they had all just been sold that day. Cypher tried to shrug it off, but something else nagged her. Maybe she could just check?
Behind the counter, Cypher spotted the Negg Faerie’s sales logbook. It was open with the pen lying across the pages, just like it had looked after it stopped writing during Cypher and Luther’s earlier trip to the Neggery. Sliding it over so she could see, Cypher gazed at the most recent purchase.
It took her several seconds to realize what she was seeing.
The wind howled and moaned as the early morning began in the valley. Snow was falling hard; it looked like a blizzard was about to begin its rampage. Cypher tore through the town, ignoring the cold. She didn’t have time to waste...
“You, there!” a voice called out above the screeching wind. “What are you doing?”
Cypher stopped and found herself facing a Chia officer. She debated whether or not to tell him of her discovery. “I...” she paused, “was just looking for something I lost yesterday. I’m on my way home.”
“Oh no, you’re not!” the Chia said, grabbing her arm and dragging her along.
“What?” said Cypher, not believing what she was hearing. “I didn’t do anything! I’m just out really early! Stop, let go of me!”
The Chia whirled around and stared at her. “What are you talking about? You can’t go home because you have to go to the port, like the everyone else!”
Cypher stopped dead. “Excuse me?” she practically screamed over the wind.
“How could you not have heard?” the Chia said. “All residents of Happy Valley have been ordered to evacuate! There’s only one ship left, and you need to be on it! Most everyone left in the night!”
“No!” Cypher screamed. She could never solve this if she wasn’t here, and whom could she tell her news to? Not a Chia official; they’d scoff at a young pet. Cypher knew she had no choice but to stay, despite what anyone said.
“Cypher!” Paisley came running towards them. “Come on, Cypher, our owners are waiting on the boat! Where have you been? Let’s go!”
Paisley grabbed Cypher’s arm and steered her away. Cypher looked back to see the Chia joining other officials. They were obviously staying behind to try and solve the mystery, but they seemed to be the only ones. She had no choice.
“Let go, Paisley!” Cypher yanked her arm out of her friend’s grasp. Paisley stared at her. “Listen, you need to tell Anna that I’m staying behind!”
Paisley made a face. “What? No way!”
“I know stuff, okay?” Cypher shouted. “I know stuff that others don’t, so I need to stay and help!”
“Tell someone else everything you know. If you stay, you’ll get kidnapped like everyone else!” Paisley screamed.
“No, you see, I won’t, because I can solve this mystery! What if it never gets solved and no one can ever come back? Do you really want to move to another land and forget how great life is here? I don’t, so I’m staying.”
Paisley took a deep breath. “Fine. But please, I’d appreciate it if you nothing happened to you, so I can still have someone to cheat off of during tests. Don’t die, okay?”
Cypher looked up at the towering, dark mountain and gulped. “Yeah. I’ll try not to do that.”
With everyone gone, all the buildings in Happy Valley, the Ice Caves, and Terror Mountain were empty. As Cypher made her way through the caves, she couldn’t help but feel extremely sad, looking at all the deserted places of her homeland. Some had left for safety, others had been snatched away. The Chia Police didn’t know everything, and she wasn’t going to tell them. This was up to her.
First things first, Cypher decided she needed to get some rest. After being up all night, she could hardly think straight. However, the Chias were still around the mountain, but if she could just find a place where no one would look, she could get a little sleep. But where? Cypher thought about, and finally decided that the best place was a place that had already been investigated many times before: the Mountain Lodge.
After staying behind buildings and foliage to avoid the Chias, Cypher crept into the lodge, found a comfy couch, and sat down. Being in a hotel reminded her of her stay at the AstroVilla. Memories suddenly came back to her. There she was, dressed like a chef, talking to Luther in the hotel kitchens. There was Aewa, a hotel maid, who had turned out to actually be the Gormball champ, Ursula. There was Griptor, the strict but caring hotel manager who had yelled practically her entire stay. There was Marvo LeMaer, the eccentric Korbat who had been behind everything, but turned out to be friendlier than imagined. And there was Dez, the hyper coffee shop worker who had been her first friend there. It was like a strange dream, watching the people she had spent twenty-eight tiring days with. Where were they now? According to Luther, Dez and Griptor still worked at the AstroVilla, while Ursula and LeMaer had gone off to try and repair some of the damage Marvo had done.
With the thoughts of the greatest summer of her life in her head, Cypher shut her eyes and went to sleep.
To be continued...