Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Six
“Hey... hey, wake up!”
Cypher jumped awake and stared wildly around the Mountain Lodge. A skunk Kougra came into view. “Luther? What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “I wasn’t about to leave when there was a mystery to solve.”
Cypher sat up. “That’s what I said, but I couldn’t think of anything to do. I thought sleeping might help me think.”
Luther looked expectantly at her. “Well. You’ve slept. Now what?”
“You’ll never believe what I found out last night!” Cypher said, remembering her news. “I investigated the Ice Caves, and in the Neggery, every ferocious negg was gone except one. I checked the logbook.”
“Well?” Luther said excitedly. “Who was it?”
“On the twenty-second day of the month of Celebrating, at exactly eleven o’clock in the morning, Taelia purchased two hundred thirty-three ferocious neggs.”
Luther stared at her. “T-Taelia?”
“I know! It doesn’t make any sense!” Cypher shrugged. “I mean, as it is, that many ferocious neggs would cost over nine hundred orange ones. There were only thirty-one in the secret room, which means there must be some other hiding place!”
“Wait a minute,” Luther said, beginning to pace. “Didn’t you take those two neggs that you had right after you found the room to your house?”
“Oh yeah,” Cypher said slowly, thinking, “I almost forgot about that. The Negg Faerie said that thirty-one orange neggs could get one ferocious negg. And there was one ferocious negg left! If all the neggs from the secret room were taken, they’d be two short of getting that last ferocious negg!”
Luther gulped. “Cypher, I don’t know how these neggs have anything to do with it, but something tells me we need to get the ones at your house. They’re not safe anymore.”
The blizzard had weakened by the time Luther and Cypher were scampering through the valley. As they ran towards Cypher’s home near the sea, Luther panted, “Where exactly did you put the neggs?”
“Under my bed,” Cypher responded, “where Anna wouldn’t find them. She’s been suspicious with me lately!”
Luther shook his head as he ran. “I hate it when adults think we’re incapable of everything!”
“I know what you mean.”
They arrived at the log cabin within minutes, completely out of breath. Nearby, a Chia official was patrolling the area. Luther and Cypher ducked underneath a pile of wood outside the house. “They’re everywhere,” Luther whispered, “and one of them is bound to see us eventually.”
“Often times people don’t look at what’s right in front of them!” was Cypher’s reply. “Come on, there’s a back door.”
Once the two of them had gotten safely into Cypher’s house, they headed straight for her bedroom. Luther, who had yet to enter his friend’s home before now, tried to absorb everything in as he walked. Cypher, however, tried not to look. It pained her to see the house so dreary, with no snapping fire and the lights of the Christmas tree completely off. Luther paused at a hanging picture of Cypher wearing a strange, flat hat and holding a paper that said ‘History Champion Year 6!’ He raised his eyebrows; he didn’t know that Cypher was the bookish type.
“Hurry up!” the Cybunny hollered down the hall. “What are you looking at? Let’s move!”
They reached her bedroom in a matter of seconds, but both stopped in the doorway when they saw that the window was shattered open. Cypher gasped and hurriedly ducked her head under the bed. “They’re gone!”
Luther raced to the window and stuck his head out anxiously. “There!” he called out. “It’s just a tiny speck, but it looks like it has sort of spiky wings! A Darigan Lupe, maybe?”
Cypher, who ran to his side immediately, frowned. “Then... that must be the Lupe who pushed me off the mountain! What was he doing there that day, and what business does he have with the neggs?”
Luther stared at her. “Whoa, whoa, whoa... hold up, there! What’s this about being pushed off the mountain?”
“I never told you?” Cypher asked, astonished at herself. “I went up there to get the other twenty-nine neggs, but this freaky Darigan Lupe was there and he pushed me off the mountain. Lucky for me, this Pteri named Nork was flying right where I was falling, so I’m fine. But this Lupe... he obviously has something to do with it!”
“And this definitely confirms that the neggs are important,” Luther said, sighing. “So, I guess you were right. Go on, now, gloat.”
Cypher shook her head. “No, you were right too!” she said excitedly. “Now that the neggs are gone, we’re left with only one option... and that’s to narrow down the suspects.”
Luther screwed up his face in thought. “Well, let’s see. Assuming that the Lupe is a supporter of the culprit, we know that they must be powerful enough to gain followers.”
“Right,” Cypher said, beginning to pace back and forth. “And... and... what about the scraps of paper? That’s obviously important as well.”
“A code?” Luther suggested.
Cypher stopped short. “Say that again, Luther.”
The Kougra frowned. “Uh... maybe it’s a code.”
“Yeah... a code where certain words stand for other things,” Cypher mumbled to herself as she began to pace again. “Luther, do you still have your paper?”
“Of course,” he said, pulling it out from his hat. “I always keep it with me.”
Cypher grabbed it and ran to her dresser, where she pawed through a cluttered drawer and snatched up the paper she had found. She held them up in front of her face and took a deep breath. “We know that ‘when the frosty hill is empty’ means when Terror Mountain was kidnapped. Then... all these words must be significant too. What does laughter represent? What about ‘the space around us?’”
“Beats me,” Luther stated, coming around and looking at the scraps. “It seems like an awful lot of gibberish. Like someone was trying to fool us into seeing something other than what was meant to be seen.”
“And what was meant to be seen,” Cypher said quietly, “could only be seen by who was meant to see it, because they know something we don’t.” She looked at the papers again. It was strange, she noticed, how certain words were capitalized. If the word ‘laughter’ was supposed to come directly after the last phrase, it wouldn’t be capitalized, but it was. And even more oddly, the word ‘moaning’ was too. She gasped as it all made sense.
“These are names!” Cypher said, pointing to the two words. “These represent people!”
Nork was shivering at the Happy Valley Port. He had volunteered to help the Chia Police during their search of Terror Mountain by giving rides to the top, although he now regretted it. As he waited, his beak began to vibrate. It was freezing!
At that moment, he caught sight of two figures running towards him, but neither one appeared to be a Chia. In fact, one was a Kougra and the other was a very familiar Cybunny...
“Cypher!” he called.
She stopped. “Nork!” Cypher gasped in relief. “It’s you! Good! Listen, we need a ride.”
Luther looked at the Pteri. “Think you can hold us both?”
The Pteri raised his eyebrows. “I just lugged three fat Chias up there. I could hold a couple Elephantes if I needed to!”
“Great!” Cypher said quickly, “Then we need to get to the Haunted Woods!”
“Wait, why are we going there?” Luther asked suspiciously.
“Because,” Cypher said simply, climbing onto Nork’s feathery back with a smile, “I think one of the residents can help us! At this time of year, he’s most likely covered in lights and baubles, but I think something in his big brain will be able to give us some answers.”
The ride over the crystalline ocean wasn’t a pleasant one. The harsh winds were blowing against them, not only making it difficult to maneuver, but extremely cold. By the time the three of them reached the Haunted Woods, their paws were numb.
Cypher hopped off Nork’s back and looked around. Though less cheery and festive than most places would be during the holidays, the residents of the Haunted Woods appeared to be trying their best. Lights adorned all the trees, and a big Christmas tree was in the center of the town. There were several inches of snow on the ground, and Cypher was pleased to realize that it was quite a bit warmer than Happy Valley had been.
Luther appeared at her side, also taking a look around. “Will you please explain to me what we’re doing?” he asked in an irritated tone.
Cypher pointed at the Brain Tree, who looked rather unhappy with all the ornaments on him. “We’re going to ask him if he knows about villains that refer to themselves through the names Laughter and Moaning. He knows everything, doesn’t he?”
Nork interrupted, “Yes, but he doesn’t just give out information, especially stuff like that! Usually you get a reward for bringing him some more info from the Esophagor.”
Cypher shrugged. “Well then, we’ll do just that. But we’ll ask for answers instead of a reward.”
Luther bit his lip and raised his eyebrows. “Do you think he’ll agree to it? He doesn’t exactly look flexible.”
“Why not try?”
To be continued...