Celandine: Part One
Ryshu pressed a small, metallic object into Lanshar's paw.
"To help you find your way," he said simply and walked back to the Mystery Island Training School. Lanshar looked down. It was a Golden Compass.
A brisk autumn wind blew, accompanied by bright leaves and the scent of exotic fruit. The beauty of Mystery Island in full autumnal glory did little to cheer her. Dragging her little paws through the dirt road, the Baby Aisha thought back to the day she'd first met her teacher.
"Aishas have little natural ability when it comes to battling," he'd told her. "Though agile and swift, they do not have powerful elemental strengths or defenses and are not very strong. You will need to train twice as hard as other Neopets to achieve the same, if not less, standard. Knowing this, do you still wish to continue?" Lanshar had considered carefully before accepting.
He had been pleased. "Now let me tell you this; as much as Aishas have no particular elemental strengths they also have no great weaknesses. Furthermore you as a species are endowed with awesome intellect and," here he had gestured towards her second pair of ears, "a phenomenal sense of hearing, almost a sixth sense. Your magical attributes make small faeries keen to bless you, so catch them whenever you can. You will do well here, Lanshar."
It had not been easy, she reflected, fingering the small, shiny compass. The training had been vigorous and demanding. The other students had shunned her for the most part. She was just a little Baby after all, and an Aisha at that. When she began beating the better students it had earned her respect, but they still stayed away. She never became one of them. But she didn't care. She preferred to spend her time reading when she was not training. She was there to train, to match her wits up against powerful opponents, to focus. Not to chat and play.
And that was why she was leaving early. The Techo Master had arranged a competition between the Training School students. One involving team work. Lanshar more or less destroyed her team's chances of winning, got into a fight with one of her own team members and in the end, was told that she should take a break from training. Ryshu had been kind but firm.
She was lucky enough to find transportation back to Faerieland; a magical Ferry that made daily rounds. Before boarding the magical ferry, she purchased a gold chain and hung the compass around her neck. Then she bought her ticket. Once on board, she remained by herself, gazing off the side of the ferry the whole trip. Watching the world shrinking beneath her as she drifted higher and higher, Lanshar wondered if she ever would return to the little Island in the big sea.
It was mid-afternoon by the time she reached her home; a small Faerieland library called Luminescent run by the Neopet who had taken her in after finding her on its doorstep, lost and alone without even a name. She owed Breanja everything.
The library housed some of the rarest books in all of Neopia. It did not keep popular novels, children's books or such things and as result had few visitors. But the visitors that did come were important Neopets, on quests or missions, seeking the knowledge Luminescent held in its myriad maps, historic accounts and legendary tomes. Lanshar had read almost all of them, and loved every one. The smell of the old crumbling paper, the feel of the binding beneath her paws, everything about that library was magic to her.
Her footsteps began to pick up as the prospect of seeing Breanja again cheered her. She broke into a run at the gate but was halted by a chirruping little voice calling out to her.
"Lanshar! Is that you? You're home early!" Lanshar looked around and there was Para, her dearest friend, whom she thought of as her sister. Para was standing by the fat lavender tree that had stood beside the library for as long as she could remember. At the sight of the Baby Cybunny, with her enormous shining blue eyes and soft moon white fur, Lanshar could not stop herself breaking out in a big smile. She'd always been just a little jealous of Para's prettiness, but not now when she was so glad to see her.
"Ryshu told me that I should stop training until I've found my way," said Lanshar. Para bounced up and hugged her closely. "And he gave me this," she added, showing her sister Ryshu's gift. "It's a Golden Compass."
"I've heard of them before," said Para, looking at it with admiration.
"It's a rare and powerful weapon," said Lanshar. She studied the Compass, watching the little arrow spin around. "Don't compasses point north?" she asked. The arrow stopped spinning suddenly.
"This one isn't supposed to," said Para. Lanshar didn't ask how she knew. Para was absent-minded and careless and could get lost in a short hallway, but sometimes Para simply knew things. Lanshar had long since learned to trust her insight.
"I hope it's not broken," murmured Lanshar.
She looked in the direction the Compass was pointing and started in surprise. A rather odd looking Acara was standing outside the library gate, peering inside. He was the most mournful Grey Pet she'd ever seen, with large wistful eyes and a droopy face. Despite the pleasant early autumn weather, he was wrapped in an over-sized brown woolen hat and scarf. He huddled deep into his wrappings when a chill wind blew. Lanshar noticed a small fluffy Cirrus floating by his shoulder.
Lanshar stared curiously at the stranger while Para bounded up to him and said, "Hello! What's your name?"
"Oh... hello," he replied in a slow, sad voice. "You don't really want to know what my name is, I assure you. It’s quite awful." He paused expectantly.
"Then what should I call you?" asked Para.
Looking slightly disappointed that she hadn't pressed him about his name, the sad looking pet said, "They call me Jedd."
"Nice to meet you, Jedd! What brings you to Luminescent?"
"Ah, this is Luminescent? I was wondering... somehow I'd imagined it would be bigger." He sighed. "Somehow one always does imagine things will be nicer than they really are. Well, is Breanja in?"
Lanshar frowned at the slight to her home, but Para didn't seem to notice. She shook her head.
"No. She shouldn't be back for a few hours. But the library is in our charge when she's not here. My sister knows as much about the books in this old place as Breanja does!" she stated with pride.
"Oh," said Jedd in his sad little voice. Lanshar was starting to wonder if he was really upset about something or if he always sounded like that. She came a little closer, staying a good few feet behind Para. "Well, you see, girls, I, um..."
"I'm Para and this is Lanshar," interrupted Para.
"Pleased to meet you," he said vaguely, looking more sad than pleased. "Oh... don't I know you from somewhere?"
"It’s probably just your imagination," said Para.
"Ah, quite. You see, I knew a little Cybunny once, little bedraggled creature with shining eyes. Never found out what became of her. Well, as I was saying, I'm sort of on a kind of um... well, I'm looking for any books you might have on Petpets, specifically Searexes. Not just any old books, as I've read everything you can find in an average library. I'm looking for the rarer ones. And... if you have it, I'm seeking a very oldish kind of book, quite rare and... well, it's called Beyond the Cold Sea."
Lanshar spoke up. "You came all the way here to find a faerie tale?"
"So you know about it? Well, that's the book I'm looking for... ah... Lanshar, was it? Quite a sad name you have. Well, won't you show me the book? It’s really quite important."
"Come with me." A little confused, Lanshar lead the way. Para chatted with Jedd as they walked inside the old library. Despite his hesitant, gloomy manner, he was a talkative fellow.
Luminescent didn't look like much from the outside, a small old cottage covered in vines and softly blooming flowers. It sat comfortably between a large lavender tree and a small round hill and if you weren't looking for it you might pass it by completely. The only indication that it was a library and not just any old Faerieland cottage was a small sign on the door with gold letters that read: "Luminescent Library".
Jedd's Cirrus chirruped in dismay as they entered the library and stayed outside, floating around and looking agitated.
"Is he alright?" asked Para with concern.
"Oh, he's fine; Rainne's just terrified of houses. Or perhaps he's afraid of being indoors. Or maybe of doors themselves. I've never really been able to understand what the exact problem is. But the long and short of it is, he'll be staying outside," said Jedd.
Para and Lanshar exchanged glances and shrugged. They left the little cloud outside by himself. Rainne, feeling very sorry for himself, began raining.
The library was as stunning on the inside as it was ordinary on the outside. Lanshar could see the surprise on Jedd's face as he entered. The place was much larger than it seemed. The ceiling seemed almost impossibly high and every wall was covered in shelves, every shelf stacked with leather bound volumes. Some light streamed in through the three or four tiny windows; the only places where there was no shelving. The main source of light were little lanterns (lit with magic flames that did not burn paper) scattered around the room. There were books piled on the floor, on the desks, and even on the chairs and sofas.
Lanshar lead them through the seeming chaos with ease. She climbed a ladder, wishing she were tall enough to grab the books on her own and slid her paw along the row of books, stopping at the brightly colored spine of Beyond the Cold Sea. She plucked it off the shelf, climbed down the ladder and handed it to Jedd.
"That's the one you asked for."
He took it from her and glanced down. "Thank you," he said, sliding down into a comfortable sofa as he did so. Breanja's Petpet, a chubby Faerie Polarchuck named Buttercup, was sleeping on the next cushion, looking like a winged pillow. She did not even stir.
Lanshar knew the book by heart, having often pored over its pages when she was very young. It was a collection of sad faerie tales, each one about a different kind of Petpet. She wondered why he wanted it as she went through the library picking out other books he might be interested in. It was not strange for odd characters to pop in the library at all sorts of times looking for rare books but she was always curious to find out what kind of quests they were on, what knowledge they were seeking and why.
She brought some more volumes to Jedd, whose nose was buried in the book.
Jedd looked up. "This explains a lot."
"They're just faerie tales," said Lanshar, handing him the other books.
"I know; someone told me that once before."
"That was me."
"Ah, it was you, wasn't it?" said Jedd. He looked at the books she'd given him. "Thank you, but I think this one book is the answer to all my questions. I must thank you, Lanshar and Para, this has been most helpful. Might I take this book along with me?"
"Of course," said Lanshar and walked over to Brea's desk where the Book Log was kept. "Just sign your name here and return the book within the month." She held out a quill.
Jedd, book tucked under his arm, took the quill and looked at it appreciatively. "Ah, a binding quill. No one walks away with these books, hmm?" He bent over the paper and, with a flourish, wrote a rather long and frankly, horrifying name, sighing as he did so.
"Well, that is a rather odd name," came a chiming voice from above.
With a flutter of iridescent wings, Breanja floated down to Jedd's side. The keeper of Luminescent, Breanja was a beautiful Faerie Shoyru with a wistful smile and a gentle voice.
"I know," said Jedd, standing up a little straighter and adjusting his scarf.
Brea laughed and caught sight of Lanshar. Her smile widened and she held out her arms. "Welcome back."
Lanshar gave her a firm, warm hug. "It’s good to be home again," she whispered.
Jedd cleared his throat. "Breanja, I've come to ask a favor of you."
"It’s nice to finally meet you in person, Jedd," she replied.
"You know each other?" asked Para, tilting her head to the side.
"Yes. Jedd runs a small Neopet shelter that takes care of lost and hurt Neopets until they can manage on their own. He's rather wonderful," she said warmly, and the Grey pet turned pink. "I donate books to his place and we've been in contact through mail for a few years, but we've never actually met before now." She gestured towards the book he held. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"More or less. As you know, a few weeks ago, an injured Peophin washed up on the beach near the shelter. I took him in and nursed him back to health. His name is Jaime and he had an injured Searex with him."
A Searex. Lanshar remembered one of the stranger tales in Beyond the Cold Sea. It told a tale of powerful, magical creatures that roamed the seas of Neopia centuries ago. They loved to swim near the ocean surface and jump into the sunlight. They granted wishes to those who were kind to them. An evil Pet, who hated the beautiful creatures tricked them and used the wish he was granted to alter them, and they live on as Searexes to this day. They still love to swim near the surface of the ocean but they do not leap into the sunlight, or grant wishes. They are simple, sweet Petpets.
"I have healed the Searex to the best of my abilities but there is still something wrong," continued Jedd. "She's dying. I've searched through every book I could find that mentioned Searexes in them, in the hopes of finding something that could help her. Then Jaime remembered an old book of legends he had read as a child, with a story about Searexes. I knew if it was anywhere it would be here. So here I am."
"There's nothing in it about healing Searexes; I could have told you that myself," said Lanshar.
"There's more," said Jedd, fidgeting with his scarf. "Apparently Jaime's wounds were not just from the storm as I had guessed but from an attack. Someone wants that Searex, badly." He looked at Breanja helplessly. "I don't know what's going on, but I want to help her."
"Why would anyone be so anxious to get a hold of a single Searex?" asked Lanshar. "There's plenty of them out there."
Para's eyes flashed. "Searexes are beautiful creatures and they aren't all the same! This one must be special. Maybe she knows something."
Lanshar looked down at the wooden floor and mumbled, "Oh... I didn't think of it like that."
"Oh, don't argue on my account, girls," said the Grey Acara, slipping off the sofa "I'll be on my way, I don't want to gloom up this place with my sad--" he broke off in surprise as the lights suddenly dimmed and everything went quiet. The sound of the trees rustling and birds chirping disappeared.
"Where's the Searex, Number 4?" purred a soft, silky voice from above. A long, sleek Darigan Aisha leaped down from atop a bookshelf and landed without so much as a thump. "I've been waiting long enough. My client is getting... impatient."
Lanshar frowned; who was he talking to? Jedd caught her eye with a sudden movement. He looked upset.
"Narcis?" exclaimed Jedd, shrinking into his scarf. "I--I don't have her with me."
The Aisha stalked forward, tail lashing, and put his face close to the Acara's. He had a slight but noticeable limp. "Don't lie to me. I know you came here with a Petpet you've been most careful to keep hidden."
Jedd turned rather white underneath his grey fur. "Th-that's Rainne, my Cirrus," he stammered. "She's v-very timid and clings to me when she's f-f-f-frightened."
The Aisha hissed at his words and made a swift movement as though to grab Jedd, but Breanja intervened, pulling the intimidated Jedd out of the way.
"What are you doing in my library?" she asked, her voice shaking only slightly. Her wings quivered. Para clung close to Lanshar, trembling, her eyes wide. Lanshar clutched the Golden Compass in her paw, prepared to defend her home even though she felt that the Aisha was far beyond her abilities.
Narcis pulled himself up and looked Breanja straight in the eyes. "I am looking for something that is of great importance to my client." He looked over at the cowering Jedd, hugging Beyond the Cold Sea tightly to his chest like a shield.
"What's that you have there, Number 4?" he sneered.
Narcis moved faster than thought. He darted past Breanja and swiped at Jedd, claws extended. Jedd shouted in surprise and stumbled backwards. He tripped and fell, rolling over and landing on top of the book. Lanshar was only a moment slower, dashing forward, Golden Compass in hand, summoning the power she knew was inside it. She stood in front of Jedd, eyes bright, compass glowing and Narcis paused, meeting her stare with his cold red eyes. Then he lunged at her.
Lanshar felt a sudden warm gust of wind, and the feel of Breanja's wings engulfing her. She thought she heard Brea speaking, but she couldn't make out the words, they were so muffled. And everything was going hazy...
To be continued...