An Unlikely Group of Heroes: Part Three
"Two down, ten to go," I repeated. "Two down—that's Illusen and Jhudora. But who are the other ten?"
Jared, Callista and I were pacing back and forth outside of the Faerie Crossword building. Well, I was pacing. Callista had gathered up the rest of her neopoints and managed to haggle with the shopkeeper at Faerie Foods enough to buy a yummy-looking faerie éclair, and Jared was sprawled on the ground—well, the clouds—with his eyes closed.
"What do you mean, it's closed?" a high-pitched voice screamed in the distance. After some soft murmurs, the same voice shrieked, "She's not there? But she's always there!"
A rather agitated-looking Faerie Kougra stomped past, with a worried Acara racing after her. "Look, I'm sure the Battle Faerie will get back shortly! Just come back in a half-hour."
"No," snapped the Kougra. "I'm going back home to train. The battle is in just a few days and I'm not wasting any more time waiting for that faerie to get back."
The Cloud Acara slumped her shoulders, frowned, and began to trudge away.
"Wait!" I shouted. "Wait! Is something the matter with the Battle Faerie?"
"I don't know. She's been gone for an hour now. She left for her lunch break and didn't come back. The customers have been growing very irritated. This has never happened before."
"Did... did there happen to be a note in the shop?" I was sweating now, almost trembling with anxiety.
The Acara looked at me suspiciously and then shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. I don't have the keys for the shop. I just apprentice there every afternoon. Usually she's there to let me in. Today, it was locked." The Acara frowned and then walked away.
I rushed back to Callista and Jared, expecting them to be in their same poses: Callista eagerly finishing up her éclair, and Jared dozing under the Faerieland sun. I was wrong, though. They were both huddled over a copy of the Neopian Times, which a nearby Zafara was selling for two hundred neopoints apiece.
"Two hundred? It's usually free!" I protested. "Couldn't you two have waited until we went back home?"
"He promised us some big scandal and said it was hot off the press," Jared mumbled, skimming over the front page.
They were halfway through the newspaper when Callista gasped. "Oh, no!"
"What?" I raised an eyebrow at Callista, who cleared her throat and began to read.
"On Terror Mountain, a throng of angry quest-takers has begun to protest. The irate Neopets have been waiting for quite a lengthy amount of time for the return of their beloved Snow Faerie. Some have even been braving the cold for over an hour in hopes of completing one of her quests. However, since leaving for her eleven o'clock walk, she has yet to return, according to neighbors Mika and Carassa.
"Similarly, in the Ice Caves the Neopian Neggery has been closed down indefinitely, much to the consternation of a crowd of avid negg collectors. 'I finally have enough tokens for a Cool Negg, and she's not even here!' complained a certain Yurble, who wished to remain anonymous.
"Other faeries who have mysteriously disappeared include Jhuidah of Mystery Island, the Tooth Faerie, the Space Faerie, Illusen, Jhudora, and the Battle Faerie, all of whom vanished within the past few hours. Is this some hoax among the faeries, a cruel joke played upon the unsuspecting pets of Neopia, or is some greater evil behind this?"
"That's eight faeries missing!" I exclaimed. "How? Who? Why?"
"It doesn't matter right now. We have to warn the other faeries. The note said 'Two down, ten to go.' Now it's eight down, four to go." Jared leaped up and jabbed a paw in the direction of the Rainbow Fountain. "Come on!"
* * * * *
"My beautiful fountain is not working." The Rainbow Fountain Faerie frowned. "It seems that too many Neopets have bathed in these magical waters and have used up all the fountain's magical power. Maybe if you come back at another time, you will be slightly more lucky!"
She smiled reassuringly at a rather forlorn looking Bori, patted him gently, and then turned to us. "My beautiful fountain is not work—"
"We're not here to use your fountain," Jared interrupted. "We need to warn you!"
"Warn me? Why?"
"We think someone's out there kidnapping the faeries!" Callista shoved the Neopian Times in the faerie's face. "See? Illusen, Jhudora, the Space Faerie, they're all gone! You could be next!"
The faerie gave us the same reassuring smile she'd presented to the Bori, placed a hand on Callista's shoulder, and replied, "I'm sure this is the Neopian Times's idea of an April Fool's joke."
"But, it's not April Fool's Day!" I cried exasperatedly.
"Well, if they did it on April Fool's Day, it would hardly fool anybody. Now please, leave. I have others to attend to." The faerie extended a hand towards a long line of pets, some barehanded, others with rare items gripped securely in their paws.
We were ushered away, but not before Jared could accidentally trip a Shadow Kyrii and knock the staff in his hands onto the floor.
"Jared!" I stared at him reproachfully, bending over and picking up the staff.
It was a curious staff, sleek, with a polished silver orb at the top. It looked rather like a tree branch, bent at awkward angles and of a dark mahogany shade. I appraised it thoughtfully, handed it back to the Kyrii, and smiled. "Here. Sorry about Jared; he's just a bit clumsy."
The Kyrii stuttered his thanks, pulled his black cloak tighter around his neck, and inched forward. The line was moving rather slowly, I speculated, thankful that we had managed to beat the rush.
"I don't like that Kyrii," Jared mumbled after we'd left the fountain. "He looks like a bad negg."
Callista bobbed her head in agreement. "I know. He didn't even say thank you after you picked up his staff, Shirls."
"Yes, he did. You just probably didn't hear him, it was too soft."
"Well, then he might as well not have said it," sniffed Callista. "You know, I don't know why she didn't listen to us. What if she does get captured?"
"Let's just hope for the best," I muttered half-heartedly.
* * * * *
Callista had insisted we pool our neopoints together in an effort to purchase the chocolate faerie log, or maybe even a deluxe Fyora Day cake. Thus, we were slowly proceeding in that direction. Jared and I were loath to succumb to Callista's request, but she had flashed us her charming smile and, reluctantly, we found ourselves heading back towards the Faerie Foods shop. It was then that we heard the scream, a piercing shriek that seemed to echo around us. We, along with the other Neopets around us, turned to see where it was coming from.
"It's coming from the Rainbow Fountain!" a nearby Shoyru whispered to his companion.
"Maybe it's about the missing faeries, the story in the newspaper!" a frantic Meerca suggested.
"Serves her right," a cross Wocky told his friend. "She told me her fountain was broken, and right after that, told the guy after me it was working!"
I impatiently tugged on Calista's sleeve. "It has to be the guy who kidnapped Illusen and Jhudora! Oh, we should've tried to warn her."
"We did try to warn her."
"Well, then, we should've tried harder!" I was near tears now. "Pretty soon, there will be no faeries left in Neopia! He'll have gotten them all. Oh, how dreadful!"
"You tried to warn her? You knew that she was going to be attacked?" A curious voice approached us from the side. I looked up and saw a gangly Rainbow Lenny looking down at us. "How did you know?"
I held up our crumpled copy of the newspaper. "There was a story in the—"
"No, no," he interrupted. "I mean, how did you know that she would be next?"
I blinked a few times at him. "Well, we didn't. We just took a guess."
"Can you guess who's going to be next?" He tilted his head sideways and stared at me, intrigued.
"The Soup Faerie?" I shrugged my shoulders and wiped a tear off of my cheek. "I don't really know."
The Lenny continued to look at me before extending a wing to Shirley. "I'm Norbert. I'm from Mystery Island. I've come here for a bit of a relaxing vacation. Not very relaxing, I must say, with all this crime going about. And you are?"
"This is Jared and Shirley." Callista jabbed one paw first at Jared, and then at me, before introducing herself.
"Mmm." The Lenny nodded his head in agreement once, before looking up at the sky. "I do say, that Kyrii was an interesting fellow, wasn't he? The Shadow fellow with the strange cloth tied about his neck. Quite shifty. He was a few pets behind me in line. He was rather peculiar. I do suspect that he's not a very trustworthy fellow."
Jared, Callista, and I all stared at the Lenny, who looked back at us bemusedly. "Well, we'd best be off and warn the Soup Faerie now. We don't want another one of them to be captured, do we?"
"How do you know that the Fountain Faerie's been captured? Maybe it was just somebody screaming because their Poogle lost in the Poogle race," accused Jared.
Norbert seemed to be in a perpetual daze, studying us for a moment before replying. "That Kyrii fellow didn't seem to be very nice. And his staff was most peculiar. I wonder what the orb was for."
"Sir," I pressed, "you didn't answer our question."
"Let's go to Neopia Central, now, shall we?" With that he crouched down, flapped his wings, and soared into the sky.
To be continued...