Faith in Fate: Part Two
Kzonal returned. They all slept. All except Kzonal. Perhaps she was a creature who didn’t need sleep. In any case, she remained motionless, staring at the stars. Apparently what she saw alarmed her. She jumped and raced to Cheetah’s room.
“Wu-umphr,” Cheetah muttered.
“Chee, wake up, it’s urgent,” Kzonal pleaded.
“WAKE UP!” Kzonal almost bellowed it into her ear.
“Aaahhh!” Cheetah shouted, but Kzonal clamped her hand over the frantic Xweetok’s mouth.
“Shut up and wake RNA,” Kzonal commanded. Voices were now audible from the hall.
“Not getting away...”
Cheetah returned, towing a sleepy RNA.
“Go! Jump out the window! Run for the Hidden Tower!”
“I don’t know where it is,” a very scared Cheetah said. Then she did. Very suddenly, she knew exactly where the Hidden Tower was, and what to say to Queen Fyora. “What about you? Aren’t you coming?”
“Later,” the purple Grundo said grimly. “If you make it, I’ll come.”
The voices were approaching the door.
“Take all the petpets and SCRAM!” Kzonal shouted, and tore off. The voices followed her.
“Grab your stuff, RNA; I’ll grab mine and our provisions,” Cheetah said. It was obvious Kzonal had left her in charge. “I hope the petpets aren’t too... wild?”
The flighty Nitrogen and jumpy Cerbie were in a trance. Placid Spotty walked over to Cheetah and gave an odd sound. The petpets, one by one, jumped out the window.
Chee gulped. They were on the third floor. The fall should have broken their necks. But, no, the ground here was cloud, and the petpets stared placidly up at Cheetah.
RNA appeared with her stuff. What were the petpets doing? They were gouging up a piece of the cloud and making...
A landing pad! If the food bounced, it might shatter. This would solve the problem. Cheetah and RNA dropped their stuff onto the pad. The petpets moved.
“You first,” RNA said.
Cheetah cannon-balled out into the night sky. Spoiiing! She bounced, rolled, and hit the cloud a final time. RNA was close behind.
Cheetah stared at the place where cloud had been pulled up by the petpets. It had regrown. Cheetah shivered at this uncanny thing and raced to the Hidden Tower.
BY WHAT RIGHT DO YOU ENTER THE HIDDEN TOWER?
Cheetah would have run if she didn’t know what to say.
“By the right of shared flesh
By the right of a shared nest
With the name that you dost know
The (invisible) door opened, and there stood Queen Fyora. They knelt.
“Now, now, can’t have that, children of Flittingshadow! Get up and come inside,” the Queen of Faerieland commanded.
“I doubt you know why you are here, but you are in grave danger. There are forces conspiring against you and your mother. Here, have an everlasting apple.”
Cheetah took one and bit it. The apple remained the same. She felt the chunk in her moth, she tasted the chunk in her mouth, but the apple was unchanged.
“Is that a challenge?” Cheetah playfully asked the Queen. Then she colored. “Begging Your Majesty’s pardon, I...”
“It’s okay,” the Queen replied gently. “Your mother is much the same. She took the fact that faerie clothes are hard to mismatch. She did it anyway, saying proudly that she earned the right to wear mismatched clothes, and by Sloth, she was going to use it.”
“Then she disappeared. If I’m not mistaken, you want to find her, and I won’t hinder you. Stratus!” she called. A young air faerie appeared. “Here are your charges.”
Stratus was a young faerie that showed promise. She wanted to go into Fyora’s inner circle, but needed to pass a test. And what better test than helping to find a missing parent?
She showed Cheetah and RNA to their rooms.
“Suddenly, all I ever want to do is sleep,” Cheetah remarked.
Stratus gasped. She ran off, and quickly returned with a hat. It looked plain. But when she placed it on Cheetah’s head, it glowed neon orange. Stratus placed the cap on RNA, with the same effects. She ran off again, and returned with two vials.
“Drink,” she said firmly, looking straight into Cheetah’s eyes. Cheetah drank. RNA was also made to drink the potion. That’s a good potion, Cheetah thought sleepily, and then snapped to awareness.
“Oh, Sloth.” Cheetah used a mild curse. “How did...”
“It was a simple sleeping curse,” Stratus said. “Someone doesn’t want you to find your mom, little one.”
They left immediately, not pausing to sleep. We’ve done enough of THAT recently, was Cheetah’s and RNA’s take on it.
Their only regret was not waiting for Kzonal. Fyora promised she would watch for her, but RNA was worried for the Grundo’s wellbeing.
“She can take care of herself,” Cheetah told RNA grumpily. “And we owe her nothing.”
“What?” RNA blinked. “What do you mean?”
“How do we know SHE didn’t curse us?” Cheetah said.
She had a point. The purple Grundo HAD seemed to have an affinity for magic.
“But she likes Mom...” RNA said weakly.
“So? She could have been acting.”
RNA didn’t believe Cheetah. Their own sister wouldn’t do that...
“Hey, Ri! Starwars says it’s dinnertime!” Fireball the yellow Xweetok was calling a rather forlorn-looking island Bori. Riyotou sighed. He missed his family. And he had a bad feeling about the goings-on at home...
He sighed again and followed Fireball, the smell of jelly, soup, and omlette wafting out of the kitchen.
Cheetah was ready to scream. She was not born to command. She was ready to pin the blame all on Kzonal for putting her in charge. After two days there was no sign of mom and time was running out. They had to retrieve flittingshadow before Riyotou could get home and see that she was missing.
As Cheetah was lost in thought, she jumped about a mile when Kzonal tapped her arm.
“I have a good idea of where Mom is,” she told the Xweetok.
Cheetah hugged her little sister tight and said, “I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”
“THAT’S where Mom is being held prisoner?” Cheetah said, pointing to a cute cottage (note to anyone reading this: the ‘cute cottage” thing is something tillie222222 made up. I claim no responsibility for this stupid joke). It had taken a day to get there. They only had one day left.
“’Guess they're smarter than the average cliché bad guy,” RNA said.
“Can’t be that smart if they’re attempting to hold Mom prisoner,” Cheetah said. They all grinned. Stratus had gone back to Faerieland, because she “had only come along to make sure that they found where their mom was”, so they were all alone.
“So, how do we get in?” Cheetah said questioningly.
“Digging,” Kzonal said. “How much do you like digging?”
In no time at all the hole was ten feet deep. Flittingshadow had recently completed a Faerie Queen quest and Cheetah’s strength was “immense”. It was useful, as it turned out, because she could dig around four times as fast as normal.
“I found something!” came Cheetah’s muffled cry when the hole was twenty feet deep. “It’s metal bars. I think. They bend like putty for me... Must be my strength.”
RNA and Kzonal, showing a total lack of judgment, jumped in after her.
“Oookay, this is weird.” The neopets, at the bottom of a now 22-foot hole, were looking in on a wooden room. It was quite comfortably furnished, actually, despite the bars on the window.
“Why would anyone HAVE a window when the darn room is 22 feet below ground?” Cheetah demanded. She did have a point there.
“Look, a tunnel!” RNA pointed behind Cheetah. They followed it and came to...
“A garden,” Cheetah said in disgust. “A pretty, underground GARDEN. Look, little Grundo, you were wrong and we’re out of time.” Cheetah was furious. She knew that her brother could NOT be trusted on his own. He would probably panic and tear the house down. Or he would throw a wild party with his friends and THEY would tear the house down.
“Riyotou is, technically, older than us,” Kzonal said serenely. “He’s 54 days older than you, Cheetah, 100 days older than RNA, and 146 days older than I am.”
Cheetah colored. She hadn’t thought of that. She quickly recovered.
“He’s an eternal teenager. That’s his personality. Teenagers do STUPID things.”
“Tsk, tsk,” said a voice. They froze. “Flame wars aren’t allowed.” Ropes flew at them, and they were bound. Cheetah tried to break them and found that she couldn’t. Kzonal was glassy eyed.
“Do something!” Cheetah shouted at her.
“Huh?” said Kzonal. Cheetah thought she was under a spell when something flickered across Kzonal’s eye. It was a spark of anger, the first truly emotional sign from the Grundo. Cheetah shivered. She would do something, all right. Fyora have mercy on the creatures that made this normally quiet Grundo angry.
Something invisible carried them by their ropes. They were dropped in a... GYM? Yes, a gym. Their ropes fell away.
You are free to go... A voice whispered in a hissing tone... to where neopets go when they die!
The doors of the gym opened, and in poured legions of elements: wind, fire, water. At the backs of these legions were Grundos.
“You betrayed us!” Cheetah hissed at Kzonal. Kzonal said nothing. She was staring at the Grundo troops. RNA whimpered. She was still a puppy, and though she was amazingly advanced in science, she was still almost a baby.
She was scared. She wanted Flittingshadow, she wanted the Gelert who had birthed her, she wanted Nitrogen... Suddenly, the Airax was there, flapping and squawking. He was followed by Cerbie and Spotty. Cerbie gave a triple snarl when he saw the approaching legions. He ran to Cheetah, and the others waddled and flew to their owners.
Nitrogen screamed a battle cry that chilled RNA’s blood. It was a cry passed down from when Airaxs were wild and fierce hunters in Tyrannia. Nitrogen screamed again, and Cerbie raised all of his heads in a howl that filled the space. It was a duet reminiscent of wild times, of the deep petpet loyalty to their master-friends. The third time this happened, Spotty joined in. His cry was a deep, bugling trumpet, and a shrill scream. They raised their voices a final time, and began to change.
Cerbie became the dark guard of the underworld he was named for, a vicious, black dog with his three heads, and large spikes running down his back. His stubby tail became a writhing serpent. His normally friendly faces were masks of rage, with teeth bared and foam dripping from his jaws.
Nitrogen was a Roc, a giant bird that ate elephants for breakfast. His smiling beak was now a hard, downward-curving flesh-ripper. His small feet were powerful talons.
Spotty’s transformation was the most surprising. He became outlined in glimmering stars, and his body was a deep, night-blue. He had become a constellation.
The troops, even the elements, were now frozen with fear at these monstrosities. They were unnatural. Cerbie howled, and the petpets charged, reaping destruction and fear. Those that could turned and ran as the monsters leapt among them. As for the few that took a stand? Spotty bugled, and they disappeared in spirals of smoke.
The petpets, their jobs done, lay down in a heap. They dwindled to their normal forms, and didn’t move. RNA cried out and raced for the petpets, but she was frozen in midstride. A cold wind swept through the gym.
Wind, Cheetah thought. Wind, why wind? Then she knew. Betrayal had come, but not through Kzonal.
RNA squeaked and curled into a tight ball, a little mass of wispy gray-blue fur. It was kicked aside as the betrayer advanced on Cheetah. Not Altador’s betrayer, Cheetah’s and her sibling’s own private betrayer.
“You,” Cheetah said.
“Faithless one, of course. If you weren’t so wrapped up in blaming your own sister for everything, you would have realized it sooner.”
“You led us in circles. Pointless circles, to disorient and confuse us. Circles that wasted time. You would have let us muddle ourselves and run out of time.”
“Yes, I did, Faithless one. The little girl who would rather trust a stranger than her own family.” Stratus stepped out of the shadows. Cheetah tried to leap, to hurt, to rend this faerie who betrayed her, but she was frozen in place. Stratus laughed.
“Faithless one, you are on the right path. Trust your own opinion. All others are subordinate weaklings. Mistakes are the failing of them carrying out orders, not your orders themselves.” Cheetah wanted to deny it, but this was how he had felt many times. Resentment of Kzonal for keeping secrets. Resentment for her alien ways. Rage at her emotionless actions.
Cheetah was caught up in memory. The world faded.
Cheetah was 46 days old. She was happy with being a single pet. She had Flittingshadow’s undivided attention. She didn’t have to share anything, her room, her toys, her brushes. It was all hers.
Flittingshadow had been gone for a while. Cheetah wondered where she was when the door opened in a gust of cold wind and Flittingshadow stepped in. She was clutching a large, tightly wrapped bundle.
Cheetah wondered what it was. It wasn’t a present, February 11th wasn’t a special day. A cake? Too irregularly shaped.
The bundle moved. Cheetah stiffened. A petpet? No, she had one. What was it?
“Cheetah,” Flittingshadow said. “I brought you a new baby sister!” Twin green ears peeped up from the blanket.
Her new sister’s name was Ribo Nucleic Acid. She became smarter than Cheetah, but it wasn’t something that was useful to a puppy. Baby RNA crawled everywhere, even into Cheetah’s forbidden room.
One day Cheetah found her in there, curled happily on RNA’s pink pillows. Cheetah screamed at her to get off. RNA looked at her with huge puppy eyes, but didn’t bawl, like most babies do. She slunk out, too little to stand on her hind legs. Her tiny green tail was between her legs.
A week later, RNA interrupted a private party Cheetah was having with her Xweetok friends Fireball, Fuzzball, and Superflame. She had crawled in and was trying to climb the table. She pulled herself up, and began eating the Xweetok-themed food. Chocolate Xweetok Ice cream sandwiches, Xweetok bologna sandwiches, cheese Xweetoks, and Xweetok hot chocolate covered the table. RNA was mesmerized by the extraordinary amount of Xweetok food.
Unnoticed, Cheetah stalked over. She grabbed RNA by the scruff of her neck. Fireball, Fuzzball, and Superflame were all watching. Fireball had turned off the music.
Cheetah shook her little sister and tossed her into the Poinsettia Basket closet to her. The party resumed.
RNA was unable to climb out, so she stayed in that basket for a day. Flittingshadow had come to clean up Cheetah’s room when she heard a muffled sound coming from the Poinsettias. Holding her broom high in case it was something that would bite, Flittingshadow advanced and pushed apart the leaves. There sat RNA. She smiled happily at Flittingshadow, who had rescued her from the Poinsettia basket.
Flittingshadow whirled and demanded an explanation from Cheetah. She was interrupted, however, as RNA took that moment to sneeze loudly. As babies sometimes do, RNA had gotten sick. Flittingshadow immediately walked away, cuddling RNA.
So Cheetah had escaped punishment. But she was still angry at RNA, for doing all these things and getting her in trouble. Hatred bubbled in her chest.
Cheetah went to visit RNA in her hover bed. She was still recovering from her little cold.
“You think you can get away with everything, don’t you?” Cheetah hissed at RNA. RNA cowered away from Cheetah’s menacing voice. She knew Cheetah was in charge, her pack leader. Her sense of being a pack member told her she was subordinate, and should obey and accept.
Cheetah didn’t know this, and continued. “You are younger than ME and you’ll listen to ME! You will not get more attention!”
RNA was chilled by these terrible, heart-breaking words. Her sister didn’t love her. RNA was overcome by hiccupping sobs and sneezes. Didn’t love her, didn’t love her...
Cheetah left. RNA’s intelligence came into play. She would give Cheetah a reason to love her.
To be continued...