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Telzleh's Quest: Part Seven


by outsyder

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"... well..."

     Telzleh hated when the crystal did that. The first thing she saw was an open field covered by nightfall with only Kreludor to light her path. The Mutant Usul scratched her head. Just where did she teleport to now?

     "WATCH OUT! RUNAWAY TURMAC!!!"

     The warning quickly made her turn around and she was aghast to see an enormous ball nearly five times as big as her rolling straight at her. With lightning-fast reflexes, she leaped high in the air, landed right on top of the ball, and balanced herself like a circus acrobat. As she rolled the ball along, she tried desperately to find a way to stop it, but she was nearly blind in the darkness.

     Suddenly she spotted a reflection of Kreludor in the ground up ahead and blessed her luck for finding a large lake. The lake was probably big enough to dunk the enormous ball, so she rolled it along towards the water. Seconds before impact, Telzleh leaped in the air and dived into the lake as the ball entered the water with a large splash sending waves ten feet away.

     Coming back up for air, she quickly saw the ball unfurl itself to reveal an enormous Turmac looking at her. She was amazed at its size - not nearly as big as Turmaculus itself, but enough to give it competition. She swam over to the edge of the lake and got out just as a group holding torches walked up to her.

     From the variety of shirts, trousers, tunics and jerkins most of these folks wore, Telzleh believed them to be farmers of some sort. Two stood out among the rest, though. One was a fire Korbat dressed in a patched white shirt, slacks with suspenders and a straw hat. A small pendant hung around his neck. The other was a Starry Zafara dressed in a long coat, boots, worker gloves and a large broad-brimmed felt hat. Another pendant was around his neck as well.

     As they approached her cold, shivering form, they raised their torches up and gasped in horror as they finally took a good look at her face. Sighing to herself, she prepared for the barrage of remarks and gawks they would give her.

     "Much obliged, Missy," the Zafara said as he tipped his hat. "Despite your odd countenance, you really helped us out of a problem here. We're all truly grateful."

     The Korbat looked cross and muttered, "I'm not grateful! This... harpy contaminated our only water reservoir with Turmac sweat! I want her out of here!"

     Telzleh growled under her breath as he said that. Immediately, the Zafara turned to face him and said, "Anselm! How can you say that? Do you realize what would have happened if we didn't stop him? The destruction would be catastrophic!"

     Anselm shouted back, "That is your fault, Ranell! That beast does nothing but eat all day! You spoil it too much and it's nothing but a burden!"

     Before the argument could continue, Telzleh sneezed and started to sniffle. Ranell walked up to her and asked, "Hey, are you all right?" He then placed his hand on her back and he could feel her shivering. "Tsk, tsk, tsk. You poor dear. You're all wet. Come on, let's take you home. The least we can do is let you dry off and have a warm bowl of soup."

     Anselm placed his foot down. "No! I won't allow this abomination in our house!"

     Ranell responded, "Enough! If you don't want to be near her, then please help the workers take our petpet back to his barn." Anselm merely bit his lip and snarled as he left.

     Telzleh looked forward in the direction Ranell took her as he held his torch out to illuminate their way. In the darkness, she could make out a large house in the distance with several lights on inside. To the left of the house, she saw dozens of bushes, trees and plants lined up neatly in rows. To the right were many fenced-in areas and large structures with something that looked like towers placed around the area. Was this a farm?

     As Ranell opened the door to the main house, he called out, "Papa! Mama! We're back. We managed to subdue him and we brought a visitor!"

     On cue, two figures approached the group. First was an elderly blue Zafara wearing a jerkin with a belt around his waist and boots on his feet. Despite his glasses and long beard, his body was well-built and muscular. The other was a red Korbat with short grey hair. She wore an old fashioned blue dress with a white shawl over her back, glasses and carried a small stick in her hand, as her wings were useless for flight at her age.

     "Well now. Good job, Ranell! Good thing you captured him quickly before it destroyed any property," the elderly Zafara replied proudly.

     "No, Papa. I wasn't responsible for his capture. You can thank this young lady for it," Ranell replied as he extended his hand towards Telzleh.

     The old Korbat gasped and replied, "By Fyora's sake! The poor dear is sopping wet!" Suddenly, she sprang into action as she commanded, "Quick! Get her close to the fire! Warm up some soup! Find her a towel! Make haste!"

     Minutes later, Telzleh was seated down in a comfortable chair and covered by a thick quilt as she slowly sipped a warm cup of soup. After the disaster at the fair, she was glad to get something in her belly. When she finished her meal, the trio surrounded her with smiles in their faces.

     The Korbat asked her, "Do you feel better, dear? That soup is my own special recipe. Made out of everything we grow here on the farm."

     Telzleh nodded and replied, "Yes, thank you. You're all very kind, Mrs. ... uh... I didn't catch your name."

     She laughed softly under her breath. "Such a polite little thing! My name is Astra. And this is my husband Coopley." The elderly Zafara nodded once as he was introduced.

     "And I'm Telzleh. Pleased to meet you all." She then cocked her head sideways in curiosity. "Just one question: Where am I exactly?"

     Coopley cleared his throat and answered, "You are in the Tennyson Bounty Farm, dear girl. We're in a small valley on the roads between Meridell and Brightvale. We're far away from everyone else here. It's not much, but it's home."

     Telzleh nodded as she gained bearing where she was. Now the question was where the positive energy would be. Before, she could ponder this further, the door opened with a loud thud as Anselm appeared with his clothes all muddy and sporting a scowl.

     "How dare you make me go and take that creature back to its barn! Why, that beast had the gall to bump me into a mud pit just before we locked the door!" he yelled out, then pointing at Telzleh. "It's all her fault!"

     Telzleh could only gasp as the three looked at him angrily. "Anselm Tennyson! How could you ever think of insulting the one that stopped the Turmac's destruction!" Coopley said forcefully.

     "Apologize to our guest right now!" Astra commanded.

     Anselm only looked at her as his eyes lowered and seethed with anger. Without a second glance, he flew into the interior of the house, followed by a door opening and loudly slamming shut.

     Telzleh lowered her eyes, sadly wishing she wasn't there to cause discord. She then felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Ranell smiling at her. "Do not let my brother's demeanor bother you. He may be rough, but he has an honest heart deep inside. Now, let me show you to your bed."

     After bidding Coopley and Astra good-bye, she followed Ranell through the hallway beyond the foyer, passing through several doors until he opened one near the end of the corridor. The room itself looked to be an old storage room of sorts as various artifacts were strewn everywhere. Lucky for her there was a soft bed inside - though she noticed it was a bit dusty.

     "I'm sorry. We normally do not expect company here and the room is in quite a bad state. Please accept this meager lodging," Ranell said apologetically as he turned on a lantern and placed it on the table near the bed.

     Telzleh merely looked down. "It's ok, really. I'm sorry I barged into your family like this."

     Ranell shook his head. "I already told you. Please do not feel bad. Anselm is just unsure what to think or do. Please, rest easy tonight. We'll see you in the morning, Miss Telzleh." With that, he tipped his hat once more and closed the door.

     The Mutant looked at everything in the room. Farming equipment, ropes of all sizes, old almanacs with information about weather and even catalogues of plants and petpets native to the region were everywhere. Some old paintings were placed on the walls as well. Telzleh recognized one of Coopley in his younger days as he held a pitchfork in his hand. Another was of Astra as a much younger Korbat girl sitting in a flower bed. She even saw some of Anselm and Ranell as babies and children.

     As she looked at the picture of the young boys, she felt her amulet start to flicker. Taking it out, the compass stones flickered madly as she placed it over the picture frame with the two boys. Her brow wrinkled. It was no fluke that the amulet brought her to this farm. The energy was here and the brothers were the key in releasing it. Her problem was how to get it. Ranell was nice to her, but Anselm despised her. This was not going to be easy. Just one more stone recharged and her wish would be finally granted. With that in mind, she hopped into bed, blew out the lantern and went to sleep.

***

     When she woke up, she noticed right away the aroma of warm gruel. Sure enough, on the table was a small tray with a bowl filled with gruel and a spoon. The Tennysons were certainly hospitable.

     After eating the gruel, she picked up the tray and went outside. As she walked down the hall, Telzleh heard low humming coming from an opened door near the foyer. Peeking in, she saw Astra hard at work in the kitchen inside. The motherly Korbat was stirring a pot over an open hearth and slowly sipping its contents. As she turned around, she gasped noticing Telzleh at the doorway.

     "My dear, you nearly gave me a fright! So did you like your morning meal, hm?" she said as she placed a hand over her heart.

     Telzleh nodded as she put the tray on a table nearby. "Yes, it was delicious. Thank you."

     "You were still asleep so we didn't want to disturb you so I left your food on the table. I’m glad it was to your liking," Astra explained as she padded over to a small block nearby and started to cut some berries from a basket below it with a knife.

     Telzleh looked to the side and figured it was time to start her mission. "Pardon me, Astra, but do you know where Ranell and Anselm are right now?"

     Astra looked at her oddly and she gave her a sly smile. "My, my. What is your sudden interest in the boys now? Love at first sight, perhaps?"

     Telzleh looked at her feet as she began to blush heavily. Astra responded with a soft laugh. "I'm sorry, sweetie. I'm merely joshing you. Ranell is out tending the Babaas while Anselm is most likely gathering the latest crops. Just try to not bother them much, will you, dear?"

     Before Telzleh could walk out, she heard shouting from an open hatch on the floor of the kitchen.

     "I told you once and I told you before, Booth! The property isn't for sale!!"

     Astra sighed as she turned to Telzleh. "I really wish that stubborn old Gelert would finally listen to reason, but no..."

     Telzleh arched her brow. "Something wrong, Ma'am?"

     Astra looked in a small empty jar nearby and turned her gaze back at Telzleh. "Why don't you go downstairs to see for yourself? In the meantime, please fill the jar with the sugar bag we have down there while you're at it. Thank you."

     Telzleh nodded as she grabbed the jar and headed to the hatch. A small flight of stairs led down to what could be the house's cellar. As she got closer, she heard voices arguing.

     "You drive a hard bargain, Tennyson. How about it? Two million Neopoints and a two-acre plot of land in Neopia Central! Beautiful urban surroundings where you and your family came live happily for the rest of their lives!" said a rough voice from below.

     "When will you get that through your thick skull, Booth? I am not selling the land that has been in my family for generations!" Coopley snapped back.

     Telzleh walked down the stairs to get a better view of things. The house's cellar was quite large with many more farming implements here than in the storeroom she slept in. Also, many stockpiles of food, berries and other necessities were placed everywhere. Three small lanterns hung in three support beams to illuminate the dark surroundings and bring much needed light. In the middle of the room, she quickly saw Coopley arranging some bottles and jars placed in a large pantry that took up most of the wall it rested in front of. Near him was a Red Gelert male dressed in a nobleman's fine tunic, trousers and boots. Gold rings adorned all his fingers and his brown beard was well trimmed and brushed. In his hand he carried a diamond-topped walking stick.

     "Why do you reject all my generous offers, Tennyson?" Booth said, tapping his cane against the floor impatiently. "You always wanted a better life for your family. I'm offering you something most would pledge eternal servitude to own!"

     Coopley turned around, rather annoyed. "Listen up, rich britches. My family's land has given all of us fair recognition around these parts. All what we grow here is in high demand and is actually beating out all your fancy plantations and growing fields. Say what you will, but the Tennyson property is not for sale! And that's final!"

     Booth was taken aback for a second by the reaction, but quickly regained his composure as he frowned angrily. "Fine! Be that way, Tennyson! Besides, there's more than one way to reach a compromise! Be certain you haven't seen the last of Hieronymus Booth!" he yelled out as he stormed off and up the stairs.

     As he went up, he bumped into Telzleh, which nearly caused her to drop the jar. Turning around, Booth merely scoffed at her. "Riffraff..." he mumbled under his breath as he stomped out the kitchen and through the back door. Telzleh responded with a loud raspberry.

     As she headed downstairs, she saw Coopley hard at work once again with the pantry. He immediately turned around only to calm his posture seeing who it was. "Ah, young Telzleh. For a minute I thought you were that awful man."

     Telzleh merely handed him the jar. "Astra says she wants this filled up with sugar. And just who was he?"

     Coopley took hold of the jar as he walked towards a corner of the cellar where several bags were stored. As she opened one and softly dipped the jar inside, he said, "Hieronymus Booth. The so-called richest man in these parts. So rich, he's hobnobbed with royalty like Skarl and Hagan. His entire family got rich through exploiting the land and destroying all natural bounties. Now, he sets his sights on our property since it actually beats everything he grows. I dislike people who disrespect good farming. I hope you understand that." He then gave the jar full of sugar back to Telzleh.

     She nodded as she grabbed the jar. "I do, Sir. I'll go check up on Ranell and Anselm now. Before I do anything else, I mean."

     Coopley nodded as he griped, "Anselm... Where did I ever go wrong with that boy? I made him respect the land... but too much... "

     Telzleh shrugged off his comment as she headed back upstairs, leaving the sugar jar with Astra, and headed out the back door to explore the farm. She was completely amazed at how beautiful everything was in the daylight, compared to when she first arrived during the night. The farm was enormous and could very well be its own village. Long rows of vegetables and plants produced beautiful and healthy crops as the workers carried them past her. She had never seen potatoes and turnips that enormous in her entire life.

     What really caught her eye, though, were the berry bushes. There were so many varieties ranging from simple Loveberries to the highly-sought Unguberries. The fact that many were nearly three times as big as normal varieties astounded her. The Meri Acres farms could learn a thing or two about the splendor this place had.

     Telzleh then moved over to the pens and was amazed at the large variety of petpets the farm cared for. Babaas, Gallions, Turtums, Whinnies and even Drackonacks were among the different kinds she saw. What really impressed her most of all was the fact some were twice as big as normal petpets. Just how did the Tennysons manage to breed such large plants and petpets?

     It was in one of the Babaa pens where she finally saw Ranell. He was inside softly petting and cuddling the small petpet flock as they huddled around him, bleating happily.

     "Wow, they really must like you," Telzleh said as she leaned against the fence.

     Ranell looked up with a smile. "Miss Telzleh. You are awake. Yes, I always have a small spot for these little guys. I love taking care of all petpets. There's none I can't make friends with. Even the Drackonacks lick my hand when they see me coming."

     Telzleh let out a low whistle and replied, "Wow. I would never even get close to a Drackonack. Seriously, I'm amazed you all have so much food handy to take care of all of them. I mean, all these petpets can be quite a handful."

     Ranell shook his head. "We always have plenty of feed handy. The silos are always full of food and they will never go hungry. Good thing too. Turmy eats quite a lot."

     Telzleh's ears picked up in curiosity. "...Turmy?"

***

     A few minutes later, Ranell and Telzleh stood before a barn larger than all the others with its door locked tight. The mutant Usul noticed the structure itself shake and reverberate every few seconds. Just what was inside? Ranell signaled to a Yurble that was guarding the door and he quickly unlocked it, allowing them in.

     The barn was quite empty with the exception of its gigantic occupant: the Turmac that Telzleh helped dunk into the lake yesterday evening, sleeping in a large bale of hay. It was his snore which made the walls of the barn shake.

     "Turmy's my big pride and joy. A well-balanced diet of berries and fresh air goes a long way," Ranell explained proudly.

     "So what happened with him yesterday evening?" the Mutant asked as she faced him.

     Ranell looked to the side and bit his lower lip. "It was my fault. I was bringing some Petpetnip to some Whinnies to help round them up to their pen. I accidentally fell and dropped the bag near Turmy's barn. He caught scent of it and... Well, you know the story."

     Closing the barn again, the two walked around the farm as Ranell showed her around. Despite her admiration at everything she saw, there was one person she wanted to see.

     "Ranell, I don't see your brother here. Where is he?" she asked him.

     The starry Zafara turned serious for a moment. "Why do you wish to see him? You saw how he treated you with acrimony."

     "That's just it. Ever since I met him, he seems so spiteful always. He fights with you. He fights with me. He holds your Turmac with disregard. Nobody can be that hostile to everything," Telzleh explained looking up at him with her three eyes.

     Ranell then hung his head low and sighed sadly. "He really wasn't always so bitter. It all happened because of an accident... "

     This revelation made Telzleh more interested in the grouchy Korbat lad more than ever before. "Can you please tell me what you mean?"

     Ranell nodded as they started walking. He took Telzleh to a secluded grove in the fields away from the farm. After making their way through the tall trees, they finally found Anselm in a small clearing within the woods. Telzleh saw him caring for a small bush as he gently sprayed water from a can and softly used a trowel to even out the soil surrounding it. What really made her do a double take, though, was the fact that the bush held quite possibly the biggest Unguberry she'd ever laid eyes on! It was almost as big as her head and looked very succulent.

     Ranell whispered, "That berry is to him what my Turmy is to me. He won't stop until it's as big as the one he once grew some months back... when that happened..." Sitting down in the shade where Anselm would not see them, Ranell began his story.

     "Some time ago, there was this harvest festival which celebrated everything grown and prospering in the soil. Anselm and I attended it on behalf of the Tennyson Bounty Farm. We each decided to take our best example of our hard work. I brought Turmy along as he was the biggest petpet I have raised. I always excelled in taking care of petpets, so it was natural for me to bring my greatest accomplishment with me. Mind you, he wasn't as big as how you see him now, but was quite larger in comparison to other Turmacs.

     "Anselm, on the other hand, was more inclined towards agrarian subjects. He enjoyed making plants grow big to someday be able to feed an entire village on just one fruit or vegetable alone. Naturally, this made him quite competitive with everyone, including me. I merely took it in stride as our bonds of family were strong. So anyway, he brought with him his own accomplishment, his personally grown Unguberry. That berry was a titan among fruits. Why, it was so large and heavy, the berry had to be hauled away in a cart pulled by six of our strongest workers just to get it to the fair! Yes, Anselm was extremely proud of it.

     "In the festival, Anselm immediately set up a special tent where he housed the Unguberry to await the arrival of the judges. In the meantime, I herded Turmy to a makeshift pen the workers made. Both of us knew we would win our respective categories of Best Grown Produce and Best Grown Petpet, but Anselm really wanted to win the Best Grown in Festival ribbon for it was his ambition. He knew it would help put his skills on the map and that he could sell his marvelous berries to all, making him a legend among the likes of Florin.

     "However, chaos ensued. According to workers that accompanied him, Anselm was ready to return to the tent where the Unguberry was placed for the judges' arrival only to see that Turmy, who somehow managed to escape from his pen, was eating it! I was then called over by some of our workers as they led me to the tent with Turmy nearly finished with the berry. I was completely dumfounded for I knew Turmy was left in his pen before I decided to take in the sights of the festival. It was all a mystery how he got out.

     "Anselm, however, took it the worst. With his dreams shattered, he started to berate me and blame me for allowing Turmy out to eat his berry. He even had the audacity to tell me that I was jealous of his superior abilities and decided to get rid of the berry to raise my chances! I was shocked by all these accusations. I would never hurt my own brother. Even as we grew up, I always took care of him and did everything to help him get better. To see him blame me for something beyond my control was heartbreaking.

     "Things went from bad to worse from there. The judges finally arrived and entered the tent. Before Anselm could explain to them the loss of his entry, they immediately marveled at Turmy. They actually thought the tent was for him and not Anselm's berry. Without hesitation, they not only awarded the Best Grown Petpet ribbon to me, but also the coveted Best Grown in Festival ribbon. I tried to explain to them that it was all a mistake and that I wouldn't accept the Best Grown in Festival ribbon, but they had already left by then.

     "That’s when Anselm lost it. Never in his life did I see him both so distraught and infuriated. He swore vengeance against me soon after and from that day on, he sees me as nothing more than a thief and a cheater who destroyed his one chance at happiness."

     Ranell sighed sadly and resumed, "Anselm is so embittered, he lashes out at anyone and anything: Myself, Papa, Mama, the workers, Turmy, the petpets, and, since you recently arrived, yourself. So don't feel bad. He already was like this before you even arrived."

     Telzleh could only shake her head. "Wow, Ranell. That is a really sad story. I didn't realize Anselm hurt so much inside."

     The starry Zafara nodded as he looked back towards the farm in the distance. “Another problem we face is the low morale. Because of Anselm's attitude towards everyone and everything, workers have really suffered. Everyone hates being around Anselm since he's so demanding and quick-tempered. Papa was quite incensed as well. So many were the complaints that he confided in me that he will throw Anselm out of the Tennyson Bounty Farm soon and leave the entire property in my charge! Naturally, when I heard that, I... "

     A loud bang of metal interrupted Ranell as both he and Telzleh turned to see what happened. There stood Anselm silently shaking as his watering can was on the floor with its contents spilling. His face was a mix of anger and sadness as his eyes watered and his fangs gnashed.

     "So... that's it, huh? Father plans to get rid of me and leave you the farm?!" he seethed with fury as he dropped the trowel on the floor.

     Ranell stood up and placed his hands on his brother's shoulder. "Anselm, listen. It's not what you think. It's... "

     With a violent shove, he threw Ranell's arms away from him as he got angrier. "Save your lies, backstabber! I knew you were a cheater when you set loose that walking garbage disposal on my precious Unguberry, but to actually manipulate our kin to suit your needs? You are lower than I thought... "

     "Anselm, listen to me!" Ranell pleaded again as he got up.

     "SHUT UP!" he yelled back. "I don't want to see you and this worthless family ever again! My talents are wasted with such ungratefulness! I'm going to do something I should have done long ago!" With that, he spread his wings and flew off.

     Ranell stood there with tears welling up as he ran after him. Telzleh silently watched everything and shook her head in disbelief. How was she ever going to get the positive energy now?

     ---------------------------

     Kreludor appeared in the night sky as Telzleh watched out the window in front of the foyer with worry; behind her stood Coopley as he tried to console a deeply saddened Astra crying her heart out. Nearly twelve hours had passed since Anselm disappeared. Coopley automatically assembled all the workers to split up into search parties and look for him. Ranell stayed outside at the entrance to the farm, waiting for them to return.

     Finally, the mutant Usul had enough and went outside to join the starry Zafara’s side. He looked back and smiled for the first time since that awful incident earlier in the day as he saw her arrive.

     “Figured you might need some company,” said Telzleh.

     “I appreciate your kindness, but I feel this is all my fault. I should have gone with them to look for him! I hate waiting around not knowing if my brother will come back!” Ranell complained as he stomped his foot.

     “Listen, I don’t know much about your family. But stewing about isn’t going to help thing and neither will it help your parents. All we can do is wait,” Telzleh said as she placed her paw on his open fingers.

     Ranell smiled at her once more only to grow sad again. He then sighed. “No use staying up this late. I should probably get Papa and Mama to go to sleep. I’m sure the workers will let us all know when they find him. You should head to sleep as well. I hope to see you in the morning, Miss Telzleh." With that, he returned to the farmhouse.

     With him gone, Telzleh finally allowed her own private worries to sink in. If Anselm wasn't found, she would never find a way to get the energy from the brothers and she would remain the way she was forever. She really didn't want to stay like this with one stone to go! Knowing that complaining wouldn't help, Telzleh also decided to retire for the night too as she headed inside and closed the door.

***

     Loud screams woke her up from bed as she fell out and landed on the floor. Wondering what happened, she tore out of the storeroom. The screams continued from the kitchen and down to the cellar.

     She knew right away something was wrong as the pantry which Coopley stood near yesterday was knocked on its side to reveal a hidden door thrown wide open. The screams came from inside the room, so she rushed inside.

     The room itself was quite bare with mossy covered walls and a single solitary lantern providing light. The main point of this room was a small pillar made of wood which extended and curved in a circle near the top like an awning. Coopley, Astra and Ranell were there as the mother was the cause of the screams. Coopley and his son were near the pillar as both looked at each other with worried expressions. They all then turned to Telzleh.

     "It's gone... The crystal is gone..." Coopley said sadly as he sat against the floor of the room shaking his head silently. Telzleh walked up to the pillar to see what he meant. The top of it was constructed in away that would hold something inside it.

     "What crystal? What's going on?" the Mutant inquired as she looked at them all.

     Ranell sighed and looked at his father. "Papa. Tell her. No use keeping it a secret anymore."

     The elderly Zafara looked up at him and nodded silently. "The real source of the Tennyson Bounty Farm's success...

     "It all began with my great-grandfather,” the elderly Zafara said. “In his youth, he travelled to find the perfect place to call his own and create his own farm. One day, he came across a fearsome beast which was about to devour a poor helpless Kacheek girl. Seeing this horrid act, my great-grandfather despite not being equipped to fight, decided to help.

     "Lighting a stick with lantern oil and igniting it to create a torch, he used it to scare the beast away. As he went to the Kacheek girl to let her know she was safe, she immediately transformed in front of his eyes into a beautiful Earth Faerie! She thanked my great-grandfather and explained she traveled around Neopia under the disguise of a Kacheek to experience life without anyone knowing she was a Faerie. To reward his bravery, she asked him what he wanted. He replied that he wanted to have a parcel of land of his own with beautiful crops to respect nature and all on it.

     "Touched by his dedication to the earth, the Faerie not only rewarded him with the property you now stand before, but also giving him a magic crystal. A beautiful gem, she explained, that would grant eternal prosperity to anything raised from the land and living on it as long as we respect nature and all grown on it. My great-grandfather knew a gift like this would be dangerous in the wrong hands so he created a shrine which would house the faerie's gift and built the house over it. The story was then told to my family's future generations. We all swore that as long as we respect the land, the Tennyson Bounty Farm will endure for all eternity."

     Telzleh took everything in. "So what would happen if the faerie's crystal should be taken out?"

     Ranell looked down at his feet. "Go outside and see for yourself. I must warn you, it is not a pretty sight... "

     She ran out of the shrine, up the cellar stairs and through the back door. The sight before her eyes chilled her completely. The once lush and green landscape of the farm was now a wasteland. The once plentiful berry bushes and fruit trees were wilted and dead. The vast fields of crops were also lifeless and flaccid as they were a sickly shade of brown with flies swarming everywhere.

     The worst of all were the petpets. Once full of life, they were now all weak and to the point of death as they looked extremely frail and thin. All this was too much for her to bear and she slowly turned her head away. How could all this happen?

     "It tears a farmer's heart in twain seeing this happen..." Ranell appeared from behind her.

     "H-how could this have happened? Who would take your crystal and destroy your family’s entire livelihood?!" Telzleh asked exasperated.

     The Zafara merely answered as he dug something out of his coat pocket and held it up to Telzleh. It was a familiar-looking pendant she once saw worn around a certain someone's neck.

     "Anselm!" she answered.

     He nodded. "I imagine he entered the house while we slept, pushed the pantry aside, and stole the crystal from the shrine. I knew he was extremely disturbed by what he heard, but I didn't know he would go that far."

     "He could be anywhere by now! I mean, where would he go with a crystal that helps things grow?" Telzleh wondered as she tapped her foot against the cracked soil.

     Ranell looked up at her. "Grow... Grow... That's it!"

     Before he could explain himself, he ran off. Worried about his parents, but also for his well-being, Telzleh ran after him towards the hidden grove.

     As he ran inside, Telzleh stood outside the borders of the woods. Something about this didn't seem right. The workers were gone and Ranell would be basically going in there defenseless. Just in case, she decided to climb to the top of a tree nearby and proceeded to run along its branches quietly towards the location where Anselm planted the Unguberry.

     As she reached the clearing, her suspicions were correct. Anselm was on his knees close to his Unguberry bush holding a beautiful green-colored gem near it. Near him and leaning against a tree was Hieronymus Booth with his cane in front of him. Ranell, on the other hand, was held at sword-point by a trio rough-looking Neopets consisting of a Darigan Hissi, Eyrie and Skeith, dressed in ragged clothing and holding various knives and swords.

     "Just a bit more, Mr. Booth. I swear, give me more time," Anselm pleaded as he held the crystal towards the bush. "Once my dream is fulfilled, you can take this stupid crystal and keep it. All I want is my Unguberry!"

     The Gelert merely shook his head in disbelief. "Amazed to think that the real secret behind the Tennyson success was a crystal! It is to laugh!"

     Ranell struggled as he looked viciously at Booth. "You viper! I will never let you touch that crystal! Its power is not for the likes of you!"

     "Shaddap, boy! Pay more respect to the Boss!" the Hissi thug snapped as he placed the tip of his sword against Ranell's chin.

     Ranell gulped. "Boss? You mean... "

     Booth sighed sadly. "And now we must kill him. I sincerely wished you kept your mouth shut!"

     Ranell sighed as he looked at Anselm still kneeling with the crystal. "How could you? How could you betray our entire family like this?!"

     Anselm looked back with a scowl. "I merely took the initiative, brother. All I wanted was my Unguberry to grow, but I knew that once I get thrown out, nobody would treat it with the care I did. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Steal the crystal and use its power to make it grow! However, I was no fool. I knew stealing the crystal while the farm was swarming with the workers was a mission doomed to fail... "

     Booth then continued, "So your dear brother went to me and told me that if I helped him clear the farm off their stupid workforce, he would gladly sign over the property to me once he grew his crop. So I had my... men trap them in various places when they went off to search for him and prevent them from returning. Once the farm was defenseless, we stormed in and took the crystal. And now here we are, waiting for this... thing to grow. Once it does, the crystal will be mine and I will use its power to help my own plantations grow! I will be richer than ever before! You and your miserable little family can keep your personal desert property for all I care."

     Anselm then shouted in glee, "It's working! Grow, my prized one! Grow and become strong!" The crystal shone with intensity as the Unguberry started to grow larger with its influence. Suddenly, the berry grew to such an enormous size that all of them looked like petpets in comparison to its size.

     Tears welled up within Anselm as he ran over and hugged the Unguberry. "My legacy... My pride... You are now ready... I will take you to the Festival... I will win the Best Grown in Festival ribbon for sure!"

     "Correction, Mr. Anselm..." Booth's cool voice said as Anselm turned around. Without a second to react, the Korbat received a vicious back-hand from Booth, sending him to the ground.

     Shaking his hand a few times, the unscrupulous red Gelert picked up the Crystal where Anselm dropped it. "I will win the Best Grown in Festival ribbon with this!"

     Anselm rubbed his swollen cheek as he looked at him in shock. "But, Mr. Booth you swore that you'd help me realize my dream if I gave you the crystal!"

     Booth looked at him with an evil grin. "A word of advice before you head off to oblivion, bumpkin: Always make sure contracts are written in paper!"

     He then snapped his fingers as the Eyrie let go off Ranell and walked towards Anselm with the Hissi. Soon, both brothers stood helpless as the Hissi and Skeith thugs kept a tight grip on them. The Eyrie then stood before the two as he held his sword out.

     “What carving would you like me to do, Boss? From up to down? Or from side to side?” the Darigan Eyrie hood said as he waved his sharp blade in the directions he mentioned.

     Booth casually tossed the crystal up and down in his hand and finally replied, “I leave it up to you, my boy. Do your worst!”

     The Eyrie cackled in mad joy. “Suits me just fine, Boss! After I’m through, they’ll need jigsaw puzzle masters to reassemble them!”

     Booth grinned with evil intent. "Now then, Tennysons, any last words before you meet your maker?"

     Anselm looked up at Ranell as he bit his lip. "Ranell... you were right. I was wrong. I was such a fool. I was blinded by my ambition to make my Unguberry grow that I didn't realize I was making everyone drift farther apart from me. Father was right to kick me out. I am unworthy to even have the Tennyson name."

     The starry-shaded sibling shook his head as he smiled back. "No, Anselm. You were wrong. I was going to say that despite Father telling me that, I told him that you were my brother and you were special to me. I told him about all the good things you once did and he realized I was correct. You were never going to be thrown out and never will."

     Anselm looked down and started to cry. "I'm sorry... Brother... "

     Ranell smiled as tears well up within him. He was about to console him as Booth grumbled. "What annoying banter. I heard better lessons in a pathetic self-help book."

     Clearing his throat, he snapped his fingers as the Eyrie stood at ready holding his sword out reading to strike. "Do not worry about your parents, children. They will make fine servants in my home."

     Before the Eyrie could slash his sword forward, a shadowy form appeared from the trees and struck the Darigan Neopet on his head with a forceful kick. The impact sent him flying towards a tree nearby and knocking him out as the sword embedded itself on the trunk.

     Telzleh stood up as she looked at Booth with hatred in her three eyes. "You'll never get away with this, you monster!" she yelled at him as she pointed at him with her clawed finger.

     Booth looked up at her with a twitching eyebrow. "The riffraff from before. I didn't get where I am by allowing others fair game, my dear. Gentlemen, destroy this vile thing!"

     At that, the Hissi and Skeith threw the brothers aside as they charged Telzleh with their swords drawn. The Mutant turned around and prepared herself. She quickly dodged and weaved around every swipe of the blades until she slid under the Skeith's legs and she quickly saw him lean down to look at her. Before he could respond, Telzleh landed a powerful double-handed hammer punch at the thug's jaw. The blow was enough to make him drop his sword and his unconscious body crashed against the floor as it flipped over.

     The Hissi then tried to stab away with his sword only for the Mutant to grab his tail with such force that he dropped his weapon in pain. Scared for his life, the Hissi could only look on as Telzleh started to swing him around, growing dizzy with every turn. Letting go, he spun around like a top until he stood still, completely disoriented as he stumbled in place. Telzleh leaped up in the air and landed a hard kick which sent him landing on top of the Skeith's enormous belly.

     Dusting her hands off, Telzleh set her sights on Booth. The Gelert started to back away as she approached him with her claws drawn. Before she could swipe at him, Ranell immediately stepped in between them.

     "No! Booth will be dealt with by the proper authorities. With his confession and these thugs willing to plea, he is finished," Ranell said.

     Booth looked at him with a sigh of relief. "You are most kind, boy. I knew your father raised you to be a well-behaved sort... "

     Before the Gelert knew what happened, Ranell immediately gave him a back-hand across his cheek just like he did with Anselm, sending him to the floor as he maintained a tight grip on his cane and the crystal.

     "My father also raised me never to turn the other cheek when flesh and blood of a Tennyson is threatened!" Ranell spat as he walked away back to where his brother stood against a tree. He immediately hugged him tight which Anselm shakily returned as both brothers embraced. Telzleh stood there beaming with pride.

     Booth growled as he saw everyone distracted. He then reached into a pocket of his tunic to reveal a knife. Before they could react, he threw it straight at Ranell's exposed back.

     "Look out!" Anselm shouted as he saw the blade flying at his brother. Without thinking twice, he swung Ranell around exposing his own back. With a loud groan, he looked at Ranell as the Zafara stared at him in fear. Anselm merely smiled as he tried to mask the pain as the blade embedded itself on his arm.

     "I'm... sorry... Brother..." he managed to say as he sheepishly grinned and passed out.

     Ranell and Telzleh then looked at Booth who maintained a wicked grin. "I missed. But that doesn't mean I'm done!" he proclaimed as he gripped the diamond tip of his cane and pulled it out to reveal a hidden sword from within the cane with the diamond as its pommel.

     He then held the sword at them while gripping the Earth Faerie's crystal with his other hand. "Now then. I'll be making my retreat now! So what if I lose all my property? As long as I got this beauty in my hand, everyone will pay me millions of Neopoints for its power! I am unbeatable!"

     Telzleh could only snarl in disgust seeing this wicked Gelert get away. However, Ranell stood before him and said with a smug face, "How could you do this? Do you have any idea how disrespectful you are towards nature and its rewards?"

     Booth merely sneered and snorted in disgust. "Nature? Ha! What tripe! Nature is just there for men of vision such as me to shake it dry of all its profit and then destroy it! Respect for nature? I'll show you respect for all this nature... by building a vast metropolis in honor of myself and all my greatness! I will show nature who is the master! I... WHAT THE?!"

     Suddenly, the crystal started to shine a dark shade of green as Booth held it in his hand. So intense was the light, that Booth dropped on the ground as his hand appeared to have burn marks on it. As he tried to blow on it, he suddenly noticed his hand change color to a dark brown. Suddenly, his hand froze in place as it turned into wood. He looked on in horror as the color spread throughout his body as he was slowly transformed.

     "No! Wait! Hold on! I respect nature! I really respect it! Please... don't do this to me... Curse you, Tennysons! You and that horrible little monnnnn..."

     Telzleh could stare with eyes wide open as she tried to believe what she saw. Where Booth once stood, there was now a tree shaped just like him, mouth wide open with the diamond-headed sword stuck to one of the branches.

     "Never insult the power of nature, especially when holding an earth faerie's magical item in your hand," Ranell said as he took the crystal off the floor. With the crystal in hand, he went back to Anselm, still passed out as he lay on the grove floor. The knife was still embedded in his arm.

     "As the crystal has the power to heal the land, it took can heal those who dwell in it..." the Zafara said as he placed the crystal close to his brother's injury. Telzleh's eyes marveled as the gem shined with a pleasant green glow close to Anselm's arm. Ranell used his free hand to pull the knife out of his brother's arm as the crystal magic continued. Soon, the Korbat's arm was completely healed once more with not even a scar to show that a knife was previous embedded there.

     "How did you know all this?" Telzleh asked him in confusion.

     Ranell merely chuckled. "Let's just say a certain Kacheek who has eternal gratitude to the Tennyson family tends to visit us once in a while and she told me everything about its power." He turned Anselm around and watched his slowly open his eyes.

     "I really made a mess of things, haven't I?" the Korbat said with a sad frown.

     His Zafara brother shook his head. "You have your heart in the right place, Anselm. Though your brain wasn't. I never doubted your skills as a farmer. You were wrong to think I was jealous of you. Everyone is willing to help you. You just didn't want to accept the help."

     Anselm turned his head aside. "I don't deserve you. I don't deserve any of you. Everyone will be mad. I stole the crystal and our lands dried up. There's no way anybody will forgive me."

     Ranell chuckled. "On the contrary, as long as we place the crystal on the shrine again, everything will go back to the way it was. I'll see to it that Papa, Mama and the workers not even lay a finger on my little brother!"

     Anselm looked at him with a pout. "Little brother?! Excuse me, Ranell Tennyson, but I was born ten seconds before you were!"

     Ranell laughed heartily. "You wish! I always paid attention to Papa when you were out tending the fields! That makes me your senior!"

     Anselm laughed with him. "Over my cold body, you aren't!" Suddenly, he saw Telzleh stand near them as she looked at them. The Korbat lowered his head down as he stood next to her. "Your name is Telzleh, right? Listen, I'm sorry for calling you all those mean things to you. You aren't a monster or an abomination. You saved our lives and for that we're eternally grateful to you."

     Telzleh placed his hand in front of his face and wagged her finger. "Think nothing of it, pal. It's all water under the bridge now. Just learn to be more of a nice guy, ok?"

     Anselm nodded as suddenly his brother placed his arm around his shoulder. looking at him, Anselm smiled as did Ranell. They both extended their hands out and did a hearty shake of pure brotherhood. As they did, they suddenly began to glow. They looked at each in confusion as Telzleh smiled with pride. It was finally over. The energy soon congealed into a ball and flew straight into the amulet. All the black stones were now white. It was fully charged. It was time for her wish.

          Suddenly, her smile left her body as the ground began to shake rather fiercely. She looked up to the sky and saw it start to darken. What was going on? She looked at the brother hoping to figure out what was happening to them until she saw to her horror that they turned to stone!

     Telzleh only stepped back as she shook her head in confusion. "It's positive energy! It was only energy! How are they... But then what about... oh no... oh no! Thackery, Humphra, Rubie, Zuxie, Xiggi, Zoriaz, Nairu, Roonda, Rooger... Are you also like this? Oh for Fyora's sake, what have I done?!"

     Before she could further fathom this, she vanished once more. Only the statues of two farmer brothers stayed behind as one held the faerie’s crystal in his outstretched hand.

     At that moment a beautiful earth faerie flew into the clearing, followed by Coopley, Astra and many of the Tennyson’s farmhands. As soon as they all saw the statues, Astra again went into hysterics as Coopley could only shake his head in shocked silence.

     The faerie looked down in sadness. “If only that horrid Balthazar didn’t keep me trapped, I could have been here earlier..." She then picked up the crystal she long ago gave the Tennysons’ ancestor and placed it in Coopley’s hand.

     Coopley was still slate-faced but finally said, “Farrelia, what will happen to my boys now?”

     Farrelia closed her eyes and waved her hands. A small cloud of magic smoke enveloped the statues of Anselm and Ranell and they vanished. “I must inform Queen Fyora of my... failure. Coopley Tennyson, please forgive me.”

     With that, she flew off, leaving behind a family in mourning. Farrelia could do nothing else. She had to tell the Queen that the end had arrived.

     --------------------------

     Atop the dilapidated roof of one of the barns of the Tennyson farm, a shadowy figure was hiding near the weathervane looking at the cloudy sky. The carrier had succeeded. All that was left was reaping the reward. All it took was simply opening a large Turmac's pen and allowing it to devour a large Unguberry months ago during the carrier's sleep to finally realize the plan. It was also a stroke of brilliance to capture the faerie that could have warned them about her before they could realize their folly. All was set. Spreading her wings once more, she flew off to victory.

     --------------------------

     Fyora looked at the sky over Faerieland. That all meant one thing: The Usul finished recharging the amulet. The recent arrival of a pair of Neopet statues from the regions surrounding Meridell and Brightvale by a distraught earth faerie named Farrelia confirmed it.

     She looked back at Altador and his entourage, who were also as visibly worried as she.

     “We have failed, my Queen... ” Altador responded sadly.

     Fyora turned her gaze back to the dark sky and closed her eyes. Neopia stood at the brink of destruction and there was nothing they could do.

     Suddenly, Jerdana gasped as her ears stood up. “My Queen! My King! I can sense them! They are here!”

     Everyone turned to face her. “Who are you sensing, Jerdana? Tell us please!”

     The Aisha looked at them sternly.

     “The Usul... as well as the ones responsible for this catastrophe... ”

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Telzleh's Quest: Part One
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Two
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Three
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Four
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Five
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Six
» Telzleh's Quest: Part Eight



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