A white Kougra made her way through the dense undergrowth, pushing through barriers of thick brush. All at once, she entered a clearing and gaped in awe. Before her lay a ruined city, stained pale yellow by the rising sun. Overhead flew a strange bird, glittering brightly in the light and blazing with all the colors of the rainbow. It opened its mouth and let out a call, a song, high and eerie but beautifully wild.
Reelara woke with a start, her heart still aching with the beauty of the song. She looked around and sighed wistfully, realizing that she was still in her own, boring room. She got up and looked out the window into the busy streets of Neopia Central, bathed in sunlight. She had slept late. Moving over to her bathroom, she inspected herself in the mirror. A skeptical white Kougra stared back at her, fur slightly ruffled, but otherwise completely and entirely normal. With another sigh, Reelara left the room and went to find something in the way of breakfast.
Her neohome was small and rather plain, but not uncomfortable. When she reached the kitchen, she found an unusually large green Lupe munching enthusiastically on a piece of cold pizza.
"Pizza?" she inquired dryly. "For breakfast?"
"Yup," he replied, his mouth full. Reelara smiled ruefully and turned to the refrigerator, taking out some lime jelly. The Lupe looked back at her from his chair.
"Jelly? For breakfast?" he asked with a grin. The Kougra only rolled her eyes. At that moment, a teenage boy walked in.
"Brian," he began, looking at the Lupe. Suddenly he spotted Reelara and scowled. Brian followed his gaze.
"Yeah?" the Lupe replied, hoping to distract his owner from the Kougra. The boy merely grunted.
"Never mind," he said, with another scowl at Reelara. "I'm going shopping," he continued, "I'll be back later." He turned away and walked out, leaving the room in silence.
"Brian..." Reelara began timidly.
"Why doesn't he like me?"
Brian didn't answer for a while, but seemed unusually intent on his breakfast. Just as Reelara was getting ready to ask again, he spoke. "I don't know."
"But why doesn't he get rid of me, if he doesn't like me?" Reelara persisted. Brain shrugged.
"I don't know. Maybe because you're painted," he said, gesturing vaguely to her silky white fur.
"But I'm not painted," the Kougra said, confused. "I was born this way."
"Well, nobody else knows that. It looks like you're a painted pet."
"I don't want to be a trophy. If he's just going to keep me so he can show me off, I'm not staying," she said firmly. The green Lupe looked at her oddly, somewhat sadly.
"I don't want you to leave... but maybe you should. I'd miss you, but it might be the best option. We can't go on like this, you know."
"I know," she said sadly, dropping her gaze. A single tear running down her cheek, but she quickly brushed it away. Brian got up from his seat and took her paw, dwarfing it in his large pads.
"But don't think of it that way. You aren't leaving here; you're going somewhere else."
"How can I think of it that way? I don't even know where I'm going!" Reelara whimpered.
"But that's the fun of it, don't you see? It's an adventure! Though, if you do want to know, I think you should go to Mystery Island."
"What? Why Mystery Island?"
"Well, that's where Kougras are from, isn't it? And you like sun, and animals, and jungles... What better place to start?" Brian answered cheerfully, looking fondly at his friend all the while.
"All right," she said wearily. "But I'll miss you. And I'll never forget you. I still haven't been able to thank you enough for getting me out of the pound."
"Don't mention it. Oh, hold on a sec." The Lupe ran out of the room, but quickly returned, carrying a small bag. "Here," he said, throwing it to her. She caught it and heard the jingle of coins. She looked up at him with wide eyes.
"But Brian! This is yours; it's for your paint brush! I can't-"
"You need it more than I do."
For a second Reelara stared at him in shock. Then she ran over and hugged him tightly, whispering a fervent 'thank you' in his ear. He smiled brightly at her, then looked down.
"Er... One more thing..." he fidgeted, then produced a crudely made plushie from behind his back. It was in the likeness of a white Kougra, and stitched carefully, if without skill. After handing it to her, he spoke again: "It's not very good." He sounded sheepish. "It was supposed to be for your birthday, but..." he trailed off, still looking down at his paws. When he did look up, it was to meet Reelara's shining eyes, bright with unshed tears, both of sorrow and gratitude.
"Thank you," she said, cuddling her new treasure. "I love it. Every time I look at it, I'll think of you."
Brian seemed even more embarrassed than he was before. "You're welcome." He paused, then spoke once more. "I never could stand goodbyes."
"Then we won't have them." With those final words, she rushed right out the door, trying to stop the tears from flowing.
Reelara groaned and tottered off the ship onto the glistening sands of Mystery Island. The voyage had been a nightmare; ships didn't agree with her. Her one consolation during the week-long voyage was the dream that had come to her every night, leaving the hauntingly beautiful song echoing in her mind.
Pulled out of her thoughts and back into the present, the unfortunate Kougra staggered and leaned on a nearby palm tree, clutching the plush version of herself tightly in her hands. She had left everything else behind, though it wasn't as if she had owned much to start with. She pushed herself off the tree and groaned again, making her way slowly to the shady area just ahead of her. She reeled and would have fallen over if a kindly Yurble sailor hadn't steadied her. She muttered her thanks and headed to a nearby bench.
Mystery Island wasn't quite what she had thought. Instead of the serene beach, there was a long strip of sand trampled by many feet. There were people and pets everywhere, though mostly near the Tombola and the Trading Post.
As she regained her strength she searched about for someplace to stay. Eventually she ended up as a waitress in a dingy little bar, serving grog to villainous sailors of questionable origin and occupation. In the few weeks that followed, the dream continued to come to her every night, and every day she ventured farther into the jungle- her sole refuge from the sea of noisy tourists.
On one such excursion, she went deeper into the jungle than ever before, examining with wonder each brightly-colored flower that she found, and- taking the risk of being poisoned -tasting every fruit. She was just thinking that she might should be getting back, when there was a rustle up ahead, in the trees. This wasn't uncommon- there were always animals making some such noise- but this was closer than she had yet been to any of the shy jungle creatures.
She walked slowly up, trying to find out what had made the noise. The rustling continued, and she could see the clump of leaves that housed the unknown creature. Now she stood directly under it, looking up. Without warning, there was a flurry of feathers and a blinding light. Reelara yelped and lost her footing, ending up on the ground. She squinted, trying to see what it was. So her immense surprise and delight, it was the beautiful bird from her dream. The sun was reflected off its metallic feathers, dazzling her with colored lights. It opened its mouth and sang.
If the sound was beautiful in her dream, it was twice as wonderful now. It entranced her, paralyzing her with awe.
The bird began to fly away. Without thinking, she took off after it, trying desperately to keep up with it. Even when she could no longer see it, she followed the sound of its call for nearly an hour afterwards. Finally, Reelara fell, exhausted, her white fur now soaked with sweat. She pulled herself up against a tree and rested against it, then remembered that she had brought her plushie. Something had compelled her to bring it with her that day, and she had put it in the small knapsack that she kept her water bottles in. She now took it out and squeezed it in her arms. Before she knew what was happening, she was asleep.
"Reelara," the voice said. It came from inside the city. It was soft and feminine and lovely. She walked for what seemed like ages until she came to an unusually large building in the very heart of the city. "Reelara," it said again, "Where are you?" Reelara walked slowly up to the building and stopped just in front of the door. It suddenly opened, revealing a white Kougra. For a second, Reelara gaped. It was as if she were looking in a mirror, seeing herself, but she knew it was not so.
Reelara woke slowly, returning gradually to the waking world. The sun wasn't up yet, but she stood anyway, still holding her plushie. She walked steadily, plowing through the jungle, never straying from her unseen path.
A white Kougra made her way through the dense undergrowth, pushing through barriers of thick brush.
Before she knew it, she had pushed aside a branch and stepped into an entirely different world. An ancient city stretched before her, deserted now, but surely once full of life.
All at once, she entered a clearing, and gaped in awe. Before her lay a ruined city, stained pale yellow by the rising sun.
In a flash of brilliance, the bird flew out from the trees and began again his song, so beautiful now that she thought her heart would break from the very sound of it.
Overhead flew a strange bird, glittering brightly in the light and blazing with all the colors of the rainbow. It opened its mouth and let out a call, a song, high and eerie but beautifully wild.
Everything was just as it had been in her dream, only much more wonderful. She thought she might sit down and cry with the beauty of it all. Just then, the voice spoke.
She followed the sound and stopped in front of the door, just as she did in her dream. And there, the door was opening, but this time it seemed painfully slow, as she waited for that face, the face that looked like hers.
"Mother?" she called, looking into those beautiful eyes. The figure smiled brightly, the very picture of radiant joy.
"You know me," her mother said softly, yet joyously.
"Of course I know you!" Reelara replied, with a tearful smile. The other Kougra laughed softly. Reelara began to open her mouth to ask a few of the many questions dancing about her head, but her mother lifted up a paw, signaling her to be silent, then beckoned wordlessly. Reelara followed her into the ancient structure, looking around in wonder. They walked in silence for a few minutes- the building was much larger than it had looked from outside -but then her mother began to speak.
"I suppose you're wondering what happened." Not waiting for an answer, she continued on. "It was all a mistake. I unleashed the powers of the city without knowing what I was doing. It threw me back to my own time and you far ahead of it, and halfway across the world as well. I know what's happened to you; yes, I have discovered the secrets of Geraptiku, and have watched you. I sent you dreams, trying to get you to come here. It didn't turn out exactly as I expected, but all is well now."
There was a pause, during which Reelara was thinking that the explanation didn't explain very much. After a moment her mother spoke again.
"My name is Reekana. I am now the Guardian of Geraptiku. The city has mystical powers, supposedly given it by a powerful faerie, long ago. My father was the Guardian; now he is gone. He was still Guardian when it happened. I was curious; I wanted to know what the city could do. It was a dreadful mistake, and it will never happen to me again. You will be coming back with me to my own time, before all this fuss with the humans, and that dreadful Tombola fellow."
There was another pause.
"It is sad seeing my city ruined in this time. The true Geraptiku is a wonderful place; full of life and peace. It was a tragedy when..." She trailed off.
This time the pause was long enough that Reelara ventured a question.
"But... What about the bird?"
"Ah, the bird," mused Reekana, smiling. "The bird is Geraptiku. I don't know if he's named after the city or if the city is named after him. He is the helper and advisor of the Guardians. It has been that way as long as we can remember. The bird you followed in the jungle was actually not part of my plan, at least not at first. He is the bird from your own time."
"You mean... that's the same one that was alive when Geraptiku was founded?"
"Yes. He is still alive in this time, though he makes sure to keep away from those horrible tourists."
Reelara pondered this while they walked in silence again. She had no time to ask more questions, however, because they had come to what seemed to be the very center of Geraptiku; a large and seemingly empty chamber. On the floor in the middle of the room was a circle carved in the gray stone. Her mother walked up to it and stood in the center.
Suddenly Reekana began singing strange but beautiful words. They filled the room, and then they were joined by the song of the bird Geraptiku, and changed into an ever-flowing current of music. White fire sprang up all around the circle and the Kougra inside it. Reelara seemed to melt out of her own consciousness and into the jungle itself, becoming one with the Island.
Suddenly she was pulled back into herself and was once again in the chamber. Reekana was smiling at her. She gradually regained her senses and heard voices from somewhere outside the chamber. Reekana walked through the door with Reelara at her tail. The two guards who had been talking stood quickly to attention when they heard the footsteps, but relaxed when they saw who is was.
"Hullo, Reekana," said one, a red Kougra. He eyed Reelara hopefully. "Is this her? But then... Why am I even asking? I can barely tell you apart!"
“Yes, Rorrim, this is her," Reekana said, sounding amused. "You'll get to meet her later. I'm taking her home."
How wonderful it sounded. Reelara felt like singing.
They walked together through the halls, Reekana explaining some of the various customs of Geraptiku and the sights that she would take her daughter to see. When they came out into the streets, Reelara looked around in wonder. There were people everywhere, all talking and moving at once. It was not too unlike the tourists, save that everyone here seemed to know everyone else, making for a very friendly atmosphere.
They walked for several minutes more, then came to the outskirts of the city. They continued on into the jungle until they found a hut nestled among the trees. When they walked inside, Reelara looked around her. It was crowded and cluttered, but very comfortable. There where brightly-colored beads and feathers strewn everywhere, as well as many scrolls or bits of parchment.
Reelara had never felt happier in her life. She still held her white Kougra plushie, and she looked down at it. She felt a twinge of sadness when thinking of Brian, but it was quickly swept away. She was where she belonged. She was home.