Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Seven
After Nork left to explore the fairground, Cypher and Luther approached the Brain Tree with caution. He definitely did not look like one to cross, let alone persuade to change the rules of his quests. Nevertheless, Cypher stepped up and looked into his glowing red eyes.
“I have a job for you, weakling!” the tree cried in a booming voice.
Cypher nodded. “I accept.”
“Ethel Grundo died a long time ago, and I need to know, where, and when, for my records. You must go and find this information out. Return to me within one hour and twelve minutes, and I shall give you a prize.”
Cypher cleared her throat rather sheepishly, but didn’t move from where she was standing. The Brain Tree glared at her. “Get going!” he ordered.
“Mr. Brain Tree,” the Cybunny said quickly, “we’ll find your information, but instead of a prize, could you help us with something?”
The tree frowned. “I do not share my knowledge.”
“Not all of it!” Luther interrupted. “We just have one question for you. And you won’t have to give us a reward.”
The Brain Tree considered it, looking suspiciously at the two young pets. “Fine,” he said finally, “but because of the change, you must be back within forty-two minutes. Get moving.”
The Esophagor asked for Magic Ghost Marshmallows, a Strawberry Ice Cream Apple Lantern, and a Snail Cream Cone. Cypher, with her pockets jingling with money, was able to buy all three things fairly quickly at the Haunted Woods Spooky Food Store. Within twenty-eight minutes, the Esophagor had been fed, and they knew the date and place of Ethel Grundo’s death. Once again, they approached the Brain Tree.
Cypher recited what the Esophagor had told her. The Brain Tree nodded, and his big brain pulsed a moment, adding the information. “Thank you. Now, for your reward: an answer to your question. Ask.”
“Were there any times when a Neopian villain referred to themselves in a strange code? For example, Laugher and Moaning represent two villains. Obviously those can’t be their real names.” Cypher looked up at him, expectantly, while Luther stood a few feet away.
The Brain Tree’s eyes closes and his faces screwed up in thought. His brain began to beat, and Luther whispered, “It’s like a little library in there!” Cypher watched as the tree slowly relaxed and opened his eyes. The pulsing stopped.
“My answer is unhelpful,” he said. “My records show nothing of a villain who referred to codes. However, because you returned very much earlier than your deadline, I will answer one more question. Make it quick.”
“Okay,” Cypher muttered, trying to think of an appropriate inquiry. Behind her, Luther was whispering what to ask, but she ignored him. She thought of everything that had happened, including the papers, the attacks, the Negg Faerie, the neggs, Taelia... TAELIA!
It hit Cypher like a snowball in the middle of a round of Snow Wars. Taelia had been hypnotized! She blurted, “Who has the ability to overpower Taelia?”
“What?” Luther exclaimed. “Where did that come from? How will that help us?”
The Brain Tree looked at her curiously, but then repeated the same process as he did before. This time, it took longer. He finally opened his eyes and stated, “There are only three faeries known who could overpower Taelia. They are Queen Fyora, Illusen, and Jhudora.”
Cypher smiled to herself, thinking intently. Luther, however, wasn’t as thrilled. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked loudly, running up to her. “You wasted our last chance on a stupid, unhelpful question!”
“No, no, I didn’t!” Cypher grabbed his arm, and pulled him away from the bustling crowds. “Isn’t it obvious? Since the neggs are so important, Taelia was hypnotized to ask for them! Now we know the only faeries who have the power to do that.”
“The only known faeries,” Luther corrected her.
Cypher sighed and bit her lip. “Well, let’s think. Who else could have gained the power? Someone close to one of the three, obviously. Someone... someone they trained on their own!”
“And honestly,” Luther added excitedly, “it can’t be Fyora or Illusen, since they’re always doing good, so it just has to be Jhudora! She is a dark faerie, after all.”
“But we can’t just make assumptions!” Cypher replied. “We need to find out who those three faeries have trained and what’s become of them.”
Luther raised his eyebrows. “To find that out from the Brain Tree would take days, and we don’t have that kind of time!”
“Then we’ll go straight to the source.”
“What do you mean? Ask the faeries themselves?” Luther gave her a skeptical look.
“Why not?” Cypher exclaimed rather violently. “They’d be pleased to hear that we’re trying to save Terror Mountain! They’d love to help us, I’m sure!”
Luther stepped back. “We’ll give it a shot, I guess.”
“That’s what I thought you said.”
Cypher and Luther found Nork and told him everything that had happened and what they had discovered. Nork listened intently, and when they were done, he squat down to allow them on his back. With a quick look around them, they jumped into the icy winds.
Seeing as Meridell was closer, Nork flew them to Illusen’s Glade first. The rolling hills were covered in soft snow, and white lights sparkled everywhere. After they had landed, Cypher jumped off Nork’s back and looked around at the happy pets and owners who strode past casually. It seemed hard to believe that no one else was worrying about, or even trying to solve the mystery of the mountain. Didn’t they want to help the missing pets? Or did they just want to set the burden of it on someone else’s shoulders?
The Cybunny, the Kougra, and the Pteri approached Illusen’s Glade and proceeded to wait in a line of merry pets for several minutes. At last, as the final pet scampered away with the reward of a cookie, the three of them stepped forward.
Illusen didn’t look up from where she was writing on a scroll. “One at a time, please.”
“Actually,” Cypher said quickly, causing the earth faerie to look up curiously, “we... that is, Luther, Nork, and I... were wondering if we could, perhaps, ask you a question. Or two. Or... well, quite a few questions, to be blunt.”
Illusen raised her eyebrows. “If this is a Neoschool project...”
“It’s not!” Luther interrupted. “In fact,” he shot a quizzical look at Cypher, who nodded. “This is to help save the kidnapped residents of Terror Mountain and the Ice Caves.”
“Oh, is it?” The faerie looked at Cypher, her eyes narrowed. “Why do you look so familiar?”
“Perhaps you’ve seen me,” Cypher said, “in the Neopian Times. My name is Cypher.”
Illusen smiled, her eyes gleaming. “Ah, it is you. From the AstroVilla. I remember. But, what do you have to do with the attacks at Terror Mountain? And who are your companions? It is I who will begin the questioning.”
“This is Luther, and this is Nork,” Cypher replied, indicating to them. “Luther helped me in the AstroVilla. We were both pulled into this. I’m not sure how.”
Illusen nodded. “Your inquiries? I am listening.”
Luther decided to take over from here. “We’ve been doing some investigation. Our results have shown that Taelia was... under a spell. She was hypnotized to ask only for orange neggs on her quests.”
“Orange neggs?” Illusen looked at them incredulously.
“We’ll get to that later!” Luther continued. “The point is, according to the Brain Tree, only three known faeries have the power to overpower Taelia. One of them is you.”
“Obviously, we don’t think it was you at all!” Cypher said quickly. “We were just wondering if you trained any other faeries, or know if Fyora or Jhudora did, since you three are the only ones capable of such an act.”
Illusen was still looking at them with disbelief in her face, but she answered, “Normally I would not give such information to anyone, but I can trust you with it. I, myself, have never guided another faerie, or taught any others of my personal knowledge. Queen Fyora, I can be sure, has never revealed such power to another, even if they were in training with her. Jhudora...” she sighed and rolled her eyes in exasperation, “Jhudora I can say nothing about for sure, since she is a rather unpredictable faerie. I can say, however, that it seems rather unlikely for her to share her powers with anyone.”
“So... do you think Jhudora is behind the attacks?” Luther asked hurriedly. “If she’s the only one out of you three who would actually do such a thing, it seems pretty obvious.”
Cypher frowned. “Pretty predictable.”
Illusen looked at Cypher and smiled. “Yes,” she replied softly, “and Jhudora is rarely predictable.”
Luther looked at both of them curiously. “Okay, you two may be masterminds, but I wash dishes at a hotel. What’re you thinking?”
“It’s not Jhudora!” Cypher exclaimed. “It can’t be. Even if we hadn’t, someone would have been able to conclude that Taelia was hypnotized. They’d probably do exactly what we did, or maybe even alert Fyora, but either way, they’d find out the same things. Jhudora is too witty for that. The clues would lead right to her! This has to be someone who knows everyone will suspect Jhudora.”
Illusen noticed a few pets approaching her glade. “This is where I leave you. I must return to giving out quests, but don’t think I’ve forgotten your ambition. Good luck, young solvers.”
To be continued...