A Locket: Part One
Melanie moved her dark brown hair away from her face in one rushed and disgruntled moment. She was not angry at her bangs specifically, but rather mad at everything around her. Everything she was doing now was hurried; she had the feeling that her day was about to get worse if she hesitated. Melanie’s eyes explained desperation as she scratched at her notepad furiously.
All of the furniture in the study was antique. Cobwebs lined every corner, and dust was spread evenly along the top of every bookshelf. Light streamed in cautiously through an old window, illuminating the dust. Everything in the room seemed to tell a story of memories long forgotten, and every book whispered of something different. Each object in the room looked much more expensive than it should, and although it was all worn down, it still looked to be in a better condition than the rest of the house. Somehow the ancient furniture had a quality all of its own.
The only beam of pure light in an otherwise dimmed room shone directly on Melanie, lighting up her spot beneath the dark wood desk. It came from a skylight. Her green eyes shone as the light caught them, but they did not twinkle with happiness. Today had not been a good day. And, although Melanie knew she was not an artist and never would be an artist, she was still drawing desperately underneath the desk.
This was Melanie’s favourite room in the entire house. Maybe the entire universe, because she felt that fewer places contained more knowledge and secrets than the study.
However, she knew she could not stay underneath the desk for much longer. Someone, something would come and ruin her peaceful spot, her comfortable corner. She had gone through the routine far too many times. This was partially why she was angry, why she was drawing on the notepad. Someone was going to come in and give her more bad news.
Melanie looked down at the notepad. For someone who was not an artist, the picture looked a lot like she had planned.
It was an accurate drawing of the Lost Desert, with grains of sand tumbling through the air. It had a cloudless sky, and heat waves radiating from feet ahead. Coltzan’s shrine could be seen on the horizon, and mounds of sand rose here and there.
Melanie had heard rumours. She had heard that there was one way for a human to truly enter Neopia, as a Neopet rather then a human. She did not believe them, or at least admit to believing them. But deep inside, she wanted to believe them more than anything in the world.
She was tired of digging her own graves and making her own mistakes offline. Maybe Neopia would be better. After all, only Neopets in plots could die. Neopets didn’t have school. Neopets could change their appearance whenever they wanted to. Neopets got to fly in the clouds and twirl around aimlessly, not worrying about a thing. Neopets didn’t have to get a job...
Melanie closed her angry eyes and wished, hoping that the rumours had been true.
She hoped Neopia could be perfect.
The drawing of the Lost Desert began to glow, although with closed eyes she could not see the orange-yellow sparkles rising from the paper...
“MELANIE! MELANIE, COME HERE, RI-”
Melanie did not hear the end of her sentence, because she was moving, she was moving...
The busy shops of the Lost Desert were bustling with activity. Many pets covered in luxurious clothes hurried from tent to tent, buying Sakhmetian foods or weapons. The dust rose higher and higher with each pet’s paw print, but all were accustomed to it here. Everyone was in a routine. Everyone had lived here for ages, knowing how to get around shops and otherwise go on with daily life.
Everyone except for Carrie, it seemed.
Carrie knew what was going on. But she was not still fully accustomed here. And people noticed. Carrie had her basket, her Lost Desert style clothes, her normal Ixi appearance, and her polite smile all perfected to an art. Her locket rested around her neck, and although she had never said a word about it, nobody dared to steal or question it.
Yet, with all of her words and perfect clothing, Carrie still stood out. Nobody could figure out why she stood out, but she did, and everyone knew she was different. Only Carrie knew the truth.
She stopped in the middle of a walkway, much to the complaints of the shoppers around her, and stared into the sky. Her motions were usually not this random, but today she was going to hold up traffic. Nobody looked up. Yet Carrie did not move.
Her brown Ixi eyes were transfixed on the sky as something fell from it. The object glistened and shimmered, even from far away, and it fell faster and faster.
It glistened for only a second. Then the cloudless sky was back to normal. But Carrie knew she had spotted something. Even with the mirages in the desert, her eyes had never failed her. After many years, she knew exactly what she had seen.
Not even caring about what she had just purchased, she dropped the wicker basket to the floor and began running.
Layers of blue and brown coloured clothing, to shield her from the sun, covered her green fur. The dust in the open sand would surely ruin her outfit. But Carrie did not care. She ran frantically towards the spot where she had seen the object fall, trying not to trip over her dress-like outfit and bulky shoes. She held on to her silver-coloured locket with one hand, making sure it did not fall.
Bargain hunters had all stopped. It was not to stare at Carrie, however. They were all fighting over her purchases, not even wondering why or where Carrie was running. They just knew she wasn’t coming back for the food. She did not turn back, but she could hear one purchaser yelling at another for a Tchea.
The sun was fighting Carrie. She was sweaty before she was halfway even to the shrine, halfway across the open area. The swirling sand blasted her face, apparently another enemy in this dry land. She should be used to this, yet she still hadn’t expected it to work against her this much. Carrie was just glad she had ditched the basket, for it would have slowed her even more.
But she still did not stop. With a certain Pteri in mind, she ran faster. She must not run out of time...
Melanie sat on the sand, staring at her replicated drawing in awe.
It was the same, down to the grains of sand. Had she been brought here because her drawing was the same? Or had the Lost Desert been made like this just because she had drawn and wished?
Melanie was all confusion. She could not believe this was happening, and imagined she had just fallen asleep when she closed her eyes and wished. She couldn’t really be in Neopia, could she? This had to be a dream. Rumours weren’t supposed to be true...
She brought her hand to move her hair away from her eyes instinctively. For as long as she could remember, her bangs had been a little too long. Yet what she found was a lack of bangs and a very furry paw.
Melanie jumped backwards a few feet in horror, and turned both of her white hands around to inspect them. She watched each strand of fur carefully as they moved in the strong desert winds. Sand caught on her hands and stuck in the fur, and she grew dustier and dustier. She shivered once in fear when she noticed that all of her arms and legs looked as furry.
She was a Neopet.
It was then she noticed that someone was coming towards her.
Carrie ran up, clearly not nervous that she was approaching a stranger. She could not count how many times she had done this in the past few years, but she knew for a fact she had failed every single time. She had succeeded in helping them, but they had never succeeded in helping her. She had been the same when they parted ways, the person she helped ungrateful.
Snapping out of her painful memories, she decided that this time she would not fail. No matter what.
“You okay? My name’s Carrie.” Carrie could not think of anything better to say, and she wanted to see if the Zafara was kind or a vicious intruder.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” The Zafara looked at her feet in awe once more, and then looked back up at Carrie in confusion. She realized how untrue her words were. She had just landed in the Lost Desert from the sky. “Wait... who are you?”
“I’m one of you.”
“My name is Melanie.” Suddenly her face contorted with uncertainty. “You’re... what?”
Carrie sighed. Sometimes she forgot just how little new pets knew, and although she loved helping new people, it was a difficult task. “I know why you’re here. I know how you got here. I know about this entire subject.” Carrie’s eyes shown with the sympathy only she could have. “I know what it’s like to want to leave Earth. The only things I do not know are the specifics, and how you want to approach your stay here.”
Melanie was silent for a minute as she absorbed all of what Carrie told her. Carrie did not show any discomfort during this awkward silence, and this strangely angered Melanie. She was so confident, so sure of herself... how did she know what it was like? How would she understand why she left Earth? How could she say she was like Melanie?
Biting her lip, Melanie decided to take a different approach. Her eyes shone of dreams and desperation as she spoke slowly. “I want to stay here as long as possible.”
Carrie laughed harshly and then abruptly stopped herself. She looked at her green Ixi feet and tried to organize her concerns into words.
“Why did you laugh?”
“Why? Because, after years of being here, I’ve learned that the best thing for anyone like you would be to leave as soon as possible.”
“Are you saying that I can’t take it here? That it’s too dangerous?”
“No.” Carrie showed a pained look on her face. She had never taken this approach towards newcomers, and she hoped she was doing the right thing. “You’re a new Christmas Zafara. And you’re like me. But you’re in danger here. I am too, but I am in less danger. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“What on Earth could hurt me?” Determination and fierce strength shone in Melanie’s eyes, although she had just met this stranger. Without realizing it, she reached up to feel the top of her head and her back. She did, in fact, have a crown and wings. Her wings, happy to be discovered, wiggled slightly. “Isn’t Neopia perfect? Isn’t there no way to die here?”
“It can’t hurt you on Earth. But it can hurt you in Neopia. In Neopia, there are some who would not like us because of the way we came here. I came here just like you.” A strange expression spread across Carrie’s face, one that Melanie could not recognize. Melanie suspected that it had to do with fear. “There are other things to worry about here.”
A shadow swooped over the sky, and although both could see that it was simply a petpet blocking the sun, Carrie still flinched. Melanie’s Christmas Zafara wings instinctively began to move. Carrie began scrambling in fear and trying to leave the open desert as soon as possible, and Melanie noticed a golden necklace amidst her Lost Desert clothes.
The entire sky grew darker, and the cloudless sky now had clouds. They were not rain clouds, but they were still as gloomy. The sand began moving faster and faster, and all seemed to turn grey and solemn.
“We’ve been in the open for too long.” She grabbed Melanie by the shoulder and began to drag her. “He can tell we’re different. This is his life mission. He’s almost gotten me twenty three times the past few years, and I won’t let this be the time he succeeds. Hurry!”
“But who wants to hurt us?!” Melanie’s eyes widened in terror as soon as she realized that danger might be near. “What should we fear?! Who is he?”
Carrie did not stop her from spilling out all of her questions, and rather answered them all in one.
“‘He’ is the Black Pteri, and he wants nothing more than revenge.”
Princess Sankara shuffled quietly in her seat as her adopted father spoke with dignity about his plans. Many servants were bustling around the giant table, clearing half-eaten gourmet foods and replacing them with golden places laden with more luxuries. Only the most trusted and most responsible members of Coltzan’s court were allowed at this table. Sankara should have been honored to be one of them, but butterflies of fear had recently fluttered in her stomach while sitting in this room.
“As you all may know, I have a very important decision to discuss with you all. It could disrupt our entire way of life if ignored. It can destroy our kingdom.” Coltzan’s normally wise and relaxed expression was replaced with a stern and concerned appearance. His fist hit the table in anger, and Sankara faintly thought that he was an amazing actor when it came to caring for his people.
A young servant quietly approached the table, and asked if he wished for more ham. King Coltzan turned to the servant in annoyance, but allowed his anger to melt away. “Not right now. I’m in a meeting. For future reference, when I’m talking, you do not interrupt.”
The servant bowed, trembling, and ran away.
“New servants, always so entertaining.” He smiled. Coltzan’s face slowly grew to reflect anger once more, not a drastic change, but rather a slow and gradual difference. “As I was saying, this is a threat to all of our lives. These people are all a threat to the Lost Desert, and possibly Neopia. And, us having the most powerful government in Neopia... we are the most responsible for getting rid of this Neopian epidemic.”
Coltzan paused, and all sitting at his table knew this indicated that someone could speak up now and ask questions for him to continue.
Princess Sankara figured it was now or never to find a way to stop him, for she knew her own life could be in danger as well. She took a deep breath and then began to speak. “Your Majesty, who are these people? And what have they ever done wrong to us?”
“They,” Coltzan began very grimly, “Are the transparent Neopets, as I like to call them. They don’t belong here. For whatever reason, they have found a way into Neopia from Earth and assume the shape of Neopets. They’re really humans. They slip into positions and sneak their way around detection, almost as if they are transparent.” Sankara felt as though Coltzan was looking at her, but when he looked at his real daughter, she realized it was not intentional. “We cannot stop them from coming in, but we can send them back once they are in. We can discourage them from becoming more involved with Neopia than being an owner. We don’t need transparent pets in Neopia. These transparent pets have no owners, no petpet lookups, no way to check on who they are, and how they might act.”
“But... you never stated what they have done wrong.” Sankara gulped quietly as she waited for Coltzan’s verdict against her and all the other Transparent Neopets in hiding. Her Desert Aisha body nearly trembled as she awaited an answer.
Coltzan hesitated to speak. A strange look shone in his eyes, almost as if it was fear. Sankara wondered if he was afraid of an overthrow, afraid that the Transparent Neopets could take his power. This look, much like Sankara’s fear, did not fade away. Yet somehow Coltzan kept a controlled face as he spoke once more. “They are vicious, and I know they will destroy our country if they get their hands on power. We must stop them before problems rise to this level. They love chaos, and will cause as much of it as possible. Why do you think they would invade a planet other than to disrupt?”
A murmur of agreement filled the room as Coltzan continued.
However, Sankara could no longer hear what her adopted father was saying. She was cold with fear, and did not even realize when the meeting was over.
King Coltzan had welcomed her years ago into his kingdom when her parents had died while she had come as a ‘messenger’ from their country. What he did not know was that it wasn’t a country in Neopia, and that she had no message to bring. She had come from Earth, not ‘Khamtef’.
Tears dripped down Princess Sankara’s face as she brushed her teeth that night in her palace room. She had been given so much by this king, had been welcomed so warmly by the entire desert. But now she was in danger from the one whom she had almost begun to call a father. If he found out, he would surely kill her for treason, for lying about where she had once come from, and sitting in his courts although she was a sneaky foreigner. She was a Transparent. He would find reason to believe she was passing information on to an enemy. And with Coltzan’s realization that she had no petpet lookup, it would be easy to guess where she was from. Sankara had been hiding that for years.
She could not guess his real motives behind wanting to kill all of the Transparents, but she knew that he understood the lies he spoke. She knew that he was not as gentle of a leader as everyone spoke of him to be. The Transparents did not want anything more than acceptance in this pixelized planet, nothing more to escape being left out... or being an orphan...
Princess Sankara knew that at the next feast in two days, he would announce his plans in more detail. She knew that at this time, she would have to betray him, or allow all of the refuge-seeking creatures in Neopia to suffer the consequences.
Carrie had held a hand over Melanie’s mouth until they had retreated deep into a tunnel in the Lost Desert. “Don’t say a word, Melanie. It’s the tomb left over from the Lost Desert Plot. Nobody’s going to come into here. It’s been abandoned for a while now, seeing as most people have bad memories from this place. Hours of toil for a small advancement in the longest plot. Nobody’s going to find us Transparents in here.”
Melanie had nodded as Carrie removed her hand from her mouth. Melanie noticed that Carrie still whispered despite the lack of visitors in here, and Melanie had followed her lead. They had gone deeper and deeper into the tomb, and found light coming from a hallway. They were almost in the Haunted Woods, Carrie told her.
But now, after Carrie’s recollection of the introduction to the story of King Coltzan, she wondered just how Melanie knew so much, and what this had to do with the Black Pteri...
Sankara slithered into the Royal Kitchen without a word. She felt as if she was slithering, for what she was here for was the most vile of plots. But in reality she trembled as she walked, quietly trying to avoid any of the chefs. It was not a confident stroll, or a self-justified plan. She was scared and knew it was wrong, and her face showed it.
Few people knew where the Royal Kitchen was located, let alone what five minute period of the day it would be unoccupied. Even fewer knew which portion of food the royal food testers would taste. But, after all of her years in Coltzan’s family, she knew every detail. She had planned it out perfectly. The more she thought about it, the more she despised herself. She was vile and disgusting, wrong beyond words...
The cold tile tried to soothe her feet as she pattered quietly over them, but it was no use. Nothing could soothe her now. She could never imagine justifying what she was going to do once she was done, and she wanted nothing more than to leave and forget about this all. She wanted Coltzan to care and not hurt her, but he knew that would never, never happen. He had always been slightly reluctant to trust her, and with his hate of the Transparents...
But, no longer thinking of her own fate but rather the fate of all the others, Sankara closed her eyes as she pulled a tiny bottle out of her pocket. It was filled to the brim with a slimy green substance, and it absorbed all the light shining on to it. The bottle did not even sparkle back as the kitchen lights bounced off it.
Sankara quietly popped the top off of the vial, and still not daring herself to look at what she was doing, poured it directly onto the king’s food. The green liquid trickled down the side of the vial at a snail pace, and then combined with the food almost magically.
A tear streamed down her face and landed on a rusted necklace as she took a step back. There was no turning back. If her plan succeeded, which she knew it would, the king would grow too ill to order against her. It would not be enough to kill him, but enough to delay the decree for long enough to get all the Transparents to safety. She could nurse him back to health and convince him that the Transparents could help his kingdom, not hurt it.
As she backed out of the kitchen in horror that she was making someone sick, she thought she saw two eyes peer at her through the darkness in the main hall. But it was too late, far too late, to do anything about it. She ran across the desert sands to her home that no longer belonged to her, her house that was no longer home.
To be continued...