Undercover Defenders - Swamped: Part Five
6:32 PM – Somewhere in Bogshot Swamp
“The last berry’s gotta be the hardest, huh?” Levi said, lying on top of a tree stump, defeated.
“Don’t give up again, Levi,” I snapped at her as I looked through the millionth bush. She’d already stopped trying to find the berry at least five times before I had to yell at her to work again.
“This is hopeless,” she said, brushing muck off her robe, to which I didn’t see the point since the regal black robe now looked as if it had been stained permanently brown.
“This isn’t hopeless, Levi,” I said stubbornly. “This is just hard work.”
“This is impossible then,” she said dismissively.
“Not impossible, improbable,” I corrected.
“I don’t see the difference.”
“Why do you have to be a pessimist at the weirdest times?” I said, suddenly outraged. “You were fine a few weeks ago when we were infiltrating a guild with one hundred criminals!”
“That was fun; this is boring and pointless.”
I sighed heavily. It had been over an hour since we found the last berry and we hadn’t found anything at all. The worst part was the swamp was getting thicker: there were more trees, vines, and bushes poking out of the muck, which was also getting deeper. Not only did we have to look through more bushes, we had to clamber over tree roots and thickets of vines just to get to a bush and trudge through muck measuring above or knees. It was exhausting.
“Worst mission ever,” said Levi, still lying on the stump.
I couldn’t help, but agree a little. But I wasn’t going to tell her that.
“Levi, get up and help,” I said, moving towards a large clump of bushes.
“No. Don’t boss me around, weirdo Moehawk fan.”
About to snap back, I noticed something strange. Was it just me or was the muck of the swamp moving towards us? As I peered closer towards the phenomenon, the muck suddenly ceased to move. Coincidence or not...?
“Levi,” I said hesitantly. “Is it just me or is there something odd about the muck?”
Levi glanced at the muck, her eyes narrowed. “No... I think it’s just you. Has all the hair gel in your hair gone inside your brain or something?
“No, seriously!” I insisted, pointing at the swamp, which I swore I saw moving again out of the corner of my eye. “It’s moving!”
“You definitely need to get that head of yours checked out, Seg.”
“Stop messing with – Argh!”
Something extremely slimy grabbed my waist and dragged me down into the deeper parts of the muck. Flailing frantically, I turned my head enough to my captor – an enormous, oozing Sludgy. I’d never seen one so big – it was nearly half my size! Not to mention its iron grip it had on me. Without hesitating, I jabbed my elbow into the abnormally-large Petpet’s head to no effect – my elbow had just slipped through its slimy body. However, the Sludgy became distracted, and I slipped myself out of its grasp. Then I noticed a bigger problem – the Sludgy had brought friends. The mob was currently surrounding a tree, in which Levi and Keuna were lounging on a high branch.
And Levi claimed she couldn’t climb trees.
I pulled out my tangle net gun, and fired at the horde. To my disappointment, the net merely went through the Sludgies due to their lack of substance other than muck. With a jerk, I felt another Sludgy grab my foot and I saw all the Sludgies now converging on me as they could not reach Levi. In desperation from the impending disaster, I hurled myself up the nearest tree and climbed for my dear life until I reached a high branch in the tree.
“I guess you were right, Seg,” Levi called cheerfully from her tree. “Something was wrong. Sorry I doubted you! How do you feel about that?”
“Do something!” I yelled back. More and more Sludgies kept gathering beneath the trees Levi and I were in. Sure, we were Agents in Undercover Defenders, but how do you beat enemies who aren’t affected by punches and kicks? I didn’t see a way out of this one. Where in Neopia were they all coming from? And why did they have to be so strong?
“SATAY!” called Levi.
“Why don’t you Seriously Attack the Antagonist Yourself, Levi!” I yelled back furiously. “I’ve had enough of you not helping me out today!”
“No need to whine,” she said, smirking.
“I am not whining!”
“Whatever you say then,” she said, grinning. “Alright, being the number one Agent of UDON, I’ll be the one to save us from some evil swamp Sludgies.... If that makes you happy, of course.”
In one fluid motion, Levi slid off her pack, and grabbed something from its depths. I couldn’t make out what it was; it looked big. She fiddled with it for a moment, and threw it down. In that moment, I saw the object, bellowed, “What are you doing?!” but it was already far too late.
Fireworks went off in every direction. The Sludgies screeched in shock and fear, retreating from sight as fast as they had arrived. The swamp became filled with earsplitting bangs and colorful lights which were also quite destructive. The fireworks scorched the tree trunks, tore apart bushes and vines, and even caused a rotten tree stump to explode.
Maybe I shouldn’t have told someone known as the “Master of Chaos” to get us out of a mess and expect it to be a simple solution.
“Why are you carrying around fireworks, Levi?” I said in exasperation over the last bangs. “They could’ve gone off in your pack!”
“Pyrotechnics are rather amusing,” the silver Acara said, smiling maniacally with a crazy glint in her eye. “I have enough sense to not do something like this at home, though.”
“What sense? You don’t have any!”
“That might be true,” she said, still grinning like a madman. “Hey, we better scurry off before our muddy little friends come back, ‘cause I don’t have any fireworks for the grand finale. Let’s go!”
Levi and I scrambled down from our high perches in the trees and ran through the muck the moment we hit the ground. With no way of telling when the Sludgies would be back, Levi shot ahead with crazy speed, her Faerie Seti flying with her.
However, as I began to pick up speed, I heard Levi suddenly yell out from ahead of me. Fearing the Sludgies had somehow found her, I ran full steam ahead. Instead of absurdly-large Petpets, I found Levi sinking into the muck, with only her head and arms above the surface; Keuna was grabbing her owner’s sleeve with her mouth, trying to desperately pull her to safety.
“It’s some kind of sinkhole!” Levi gasped as I immediately tried to grab her arms. “It’s sucking me down!”
I firmly grasped Levi’s arms, barely keeping her above surface, but my feet slipped on the slimy ground beneath the muck, and I started being sucked down as well.
“Great,” she said, her face now nearly swallowed. “Some help you are.”
We took a deep breath as we were both sucked into the dark depths of the muck.
6:42 PM – Bogshot Ruins
After spinning crazily under the muck for about thirty seconds, my head broke surface. Lightheaded and dizzy, I gasped from breath as I feebly swam over to a slab of stone nearby and collapsed, completely drained of energy.
What in the name of Faerieland and Shenkuu was wrong with this swamp? First we have to find three berries in the middle of a huge swamp filled with vines, muck, and swamp gas galore. Then we lose our Bogberries to an oversized Crokabek and have to fetch them back. Then, shortly after we retrieve them, we get attacked by a horde of mutant Sludgies! What’s next, Dr. Sloth popping out of the swamp and shooting us with laser beams? What kind of day was this?!
I peered around my setting from half-opened eyes. Slabs of cracked stone and crumbling stone arches lay around me in the swamp randomly, laden with vines and weeds. Trees full of vines dominated over the scene, still blocking out the blue sky I knew lay beyond view. Where was I? I open my eyes completely, taking in my surrounding. Did the sinkhole just carry me to another part of the swamp? Levi wasn’t here but I wasn’t surprised – we were separated right after being sucked into the sinkhole. She must be in another part of the swamp. Great. How was I supposed to find her now?
I groaned and stood up slowly, the swamp muck weighing down my clothes and whirling uncomfortably in my shoes. My Mohawk was now slicked down and I impatiently brushed my green hair out of my eyes. My shorts and Moehawk shirt were completely ruined, covered in small tears from trudging in the swamp all day and dyed into an unpleasant greenish-brown color. Not only that, I smelled like meat that had been rotting since Mystery Island had been discovered. Even though I was completely miserable, I had to admit that if I looked into a mirror, I probably wouldn’t even recognize myself.
As the muck was too deep to walk in, I began hopping from stone slab to stone slab until I approached a large circle of crumbling arches. This place must have been some kind of shrine of sorts. I leapt from slab to slab like a ninja until I saw that in the center, bushes were growing. I might as well look for Bogberries while I was here, and look for Levi later.
I jumped towards the bushes; finding a small island of ground where they grew, I shuffled around through them, looking around fruitlessly for the elusive berries. After searching nearly all the bushes, my heart nearly dropped out of shock – a whole clump of Bogberries grew near the roots of the bush, perfectly untouched.
Eagerly, I plucked the berries from the bush, completely enthralled by the find. Now all I had to do was find Levi and Keuna, head back to the village, and hand the berries over, and we could leave –
The muck behind exploded from behind me, causing me to drop the berries back into the bush in shock, my heart now in my neck, beating rapidly. I spun around, and found myself facing a gargantuan-sized purple Hissi, rising nearly ten feet above me, spikes sticking out along his back, his red eyes glaring at me maliciously. The worst part was I actually recognized him: it was Kastraliss, an enemy of the Defenders of Neopia, and extremely dangerous.
Without hesitation, I threw myself aside on a slab of stone as the Hissi struck, his large head shattering the piece of ground I stood seconds before. I immediately took out my silver sai from my utility belt, preparing myself for the next blow. Then I suddenly remembered the ominous words of the Aisha nurse: Stay away from the ruins. Great, now I remembered. I threw myself aside again as Kastraliss struck, this time shattering the stone to smithereens, hissing angrily. Of course, I just had to be attacked by a giant, rampaging serpent today. I could just add it to my list of thing gone wrong during this mission and crazy things that have been happening since I joined Undercover Defenders. I could scarcely believe it had been just this morning I’d been complaining how bored I was –
Again and again, I kept barely dodging Kastraliss’s blows, causing him to screech with anger and strike even faster the next time he lashed out. I didn’t even have time to counter him with the silver sai in my paws –
Five bangs in quick succession suddenly left the area covered in black smoke, causing me to cough rapidly and lose my field of vision. I heard Kastraliss hiss angrily, losing interest in me and slithering through the muck, looking around for what was most likely a silver Acara lying in wait. As the smoke slightly cleared, I jumped, and clambered onto the top of a stone arch that was mostly intact.
Kastraliss began spewing green gas from his mouth (most likely poisonous), but it was no match for the silver Acara, who hopped across stone faster than a Nimmo could have ever dreamed of. I could hardly recognize Levi, who, from the sinkhole, had her fur stained dark brown and her dark silver hair slicked and filled with mud. Her clothes were in a similar situation, unseen from the layers of mud.
Levi was trying to lure Kastraliss away from me, continually smacking him with every quick movement and enraging him further, causing him to spew more gas and hiss even louder. But she was leading him towards the island, where –
“Levi, don’t lead him there! I found Bogberries in those bushes, a whole clump!”
Levi skittered to a halt on a stone, and quickly reversed directions, streaking towards the center of the ruins.
“Distract him!” she yelled as the Hissi gave chase, snapping closely at her heels.
“Just do it!” she bellowed as Kastraliss smashed another stone slab to smithereens.
With a huff of annoyance, I slipped my hand onto my tangle net gun but immediately realized I'd used my two shots, and didn’t reload. My silver sai had already proven useless in my paws, and what could I even do with my sticky hand at such a distance? Desperately, I reached into my backpack, looking for something, anything useful. With a sudden stroke of inspiration, I grabbed the copy of Advanced Learning I had received from the Wheel of Knowledge, took aim, and chucked the huge hardback book at Kastraliss’s head with every ounce of strength I possessed. To my surprise, it hit right on the mark, smack dab in the middle of the Hissi’s forehead. Kastraliss halted in his tracks, stampeding and shrieking in pain. Unluckily for me, the Hissi recovered quickly and instantaneously launched himself in my direction. I only flung myself off of the arch in time to see it explode behind me as Kastraliss slammed it down with his entire body.
“I got the berries!” Levi said triumphantly from the bushes.
“Forget that, help me – it’s too fast!” I said, as I barely dodged another blow and another cloud of poisonous smoke from Kastraliss.
Levi began running towards the fray, uncorking three bottles from her utility pack. Appearing out of the jar were three giant tornados, unleashing relentless winds, blowing everything out of its path. In moments, the three disasters had already descended on me and Kastraliss. Without hesitation, I threw myself out of the tornados' path, plunging into the muck. As I emerged, I was able to catch a glimpse of Kastraliss fleeing for his life, tornados chasing him out of the ruins and into the far off reaches of the swamp.
Swimming towards Levi, who was resting cross-legged on a stone slab, I said, “First fireworks and now tornados in a bottle? Do you have to carry around objects this dangerous?”
“I just saved your life,” she said smugly, “so you should be more grateful.”
“Grateful? The tornados nearly took me away!” I pulled myself on top of the slab, lying face down next to her, heart still pounding.
“That’s because you didn’t move out of the way fast enough. I overestimated you.”
“And you used me as bait, didn’t you?” I accused angrily.
“Well, duh, like I’m going to do something dangerous when I can get someone else to do it. By the way, nice touch with the book. I’m sure the author of Advanced Learning would be proud.”
“You—” I began, livid.
“Hey, we need to get going,” she interrupted, completely ignoring me. “You know, as helpful as bottled natural disasters are, they don’t last very long. Let’s split before Kastraliss decides to give us a return present.”
I felt the remaining color in my face drained as I thought of another encounter with the Hissi. “Let’s go.”
As we hightailed out of the ruins, Levi said, “First I’ll call Keuna, and we’ll go back to the village. Then we’ll snag Jeik and we’ll finally get to go home!”
“This is officially the worst mission ever,” I said, feeling my muscles screaming in protest as we ran.
“That’s actually something we could agree on. Weird. Oh well, at least one good thing came out of this.”
“What?” I said warily.
“Well,” she grinned, “at least you don’t have your stupid Mohawk anymore!”
To be continued...