A Lutari Dreams of Home
Pystry the Mutant Hissi was worried. Normally, his friend Bizhiw was the happiest of Neopets. His infectious Lutari smile could brighten the gloomiest of moods, which was no small challenge in their household. Although the pets in their household were quite well cared for, Pystry had to admit that many of them tended to be a bit temperamental, himself included. No matter whether Pystry was exhausted from fighting shadow monsters, or disappointed at not being able to figure out the Lenny Conundrum, or just frustrated at getting blasted by the Snowager again, Bizhiw was always there to lift his spirits.
But ever since the Red Lutari had returned from a trip exploring the skerries around Mystery Island, he seemed withdrawn, even sad, staying inside his room instead of frolicking outside practicing Yooyuball, which he loved even out of season. Silently, Pystry’s right head looked questioningly at his left, which slowly nodded in agreement.
Pystry unearthed his Basic Tangram Puzzle Piece Kite from the bottom of his closet and knocked gently on the door of Bizhiw’s room, which lay slightly ajar. Bizhiw looked up and smiled, but Pystry could tell Bizhiw’s thoughts were elsewhere. “Hey, buddy, it’s perfect weather out. How about you and me go kite flying? You’re so much better than I am at finding the perfect spot.”
Bizhiw’s eyes narrowed slightly, and then he smiled some more. Pystry relaxed a bit. For whatever reason, Bizhiw’s smile seemed more sincere. The Lutari acrobatically swooped off his bed, clearing his bedpost like a pommel horse, looked appraisingly at Pystry, and grabbed his favorite Yooyu Kite from the top shelf of his closet. “Let’s go.” The Lutari grinned. “Try to keep up.”
Bizhiw led Pystry on a race from their spartan Neohome to the outskirts of Meridell, to a picturesque country knoll that, according to the local farmers, was the inspiration for one of the more expensive Neocash backgrounds. Of course, these same farmers would be happy to tell you that the local rock formations had inspired the architecture of Tyrammet, and that the Space Faerie herself had used the local marrows to defeat Dr. Sloth. The locals were always prone to allow their civic pride to color their stories, but that also was part of their provincial charm. And there was no denying that it was a perfect spot for kite flying, with a light but steady breeze, and just the right amount of sun.
Pystry alighted on a grassy patch, trying not to let Bizhiw see that he was slightly out of breath. Although Pystry had significantly more training than Bizhiw, it was geared towards Battledome combat, not cross country treks. Much as Pystry’s pride hated to acknowledge it, the Lutari was a far more natural athlete than he, and much more skilled at sports, even at a simple race, where Pystry’s flight should have given him an advantage over Bizhiw’s earthbound gait. Bizhiw’s dexterous claws quickly untangled the snarl of kite string and fastened on the special swivel snaps designed to look like miniature Rukis, and soon both kites were fluttering high in the air like Rainbow Korbats.
“Okay, Mr. Smart Guy.” The Lutari smiled as he watched the kites’ tails whip the air. “We’re flying kites. Now, why don’t you tell me the real reason you wanted me out here?”
Pystry swallowed twice, his heads involuntarily glancing at each other. He hadn’t expected Bizhiw to see through his façade so easily. “Jhudora’s beard,” he swore to himself, alluding to a rumored misadventure of the Dark Faerie that was passed along only in whispers, “that’s what I get for underestimating my friend.” Pystry closed his left head’s eyes, while his right head gazed up at the kites, stalling for time.
Bizhiw raised a russet eyebrow at the Hissi, surprised at his reticence. Normally Pystry was talkative, even for someone with two tongues and two heads full of ideas. You know what they say: ask a Mutant Hissi a question, and get three opinions. Finally Pystry stuck out both tongues, tasting the pollen in the air, and spoke.
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to intrude. But lately, ever since you went exploring around Mystery Island, well, you haven’t been your usual cheerful self. And honestly, I’ve been feeling guilty, because I was the one who suggested you go. I... was worried maybe you ran into some problem with all these shadow monsters that have been running rampant lately, or something.”
“You mean, maybe it’s your fault because you only asked me to go in order to set up one of your logic puzzles for your friends.” Bizhiw smirked a bit at Pystry’s startled reaction. “Oh, give me some credit. You asked me to join Ahraa, CaptConor, and Debuzzdo to go exploring four separate islands, each with a different tropical fruit. Did you really think I wouldn’t realize you asked me because you needed a pet whose name started with a ‘B’?”
“Now, that wasn’t the only reason,” answered Pystry, perhaps a tad defensively. “You love the ocean, and the fresh air, and, truth be told, I was a little worried about you even before that. I thought a little adventure would be just the ticket. But you came back even sadder than before. Come on. Level with me, as your friend. Is something the matter?”
Bizhiw sighed, and for the first time in Pystry’s near-perfect recollection, completely abandoned any semblance of a smile. The Hissi’s heart pounded heavily, and he wondered, too late, if he should have left well enough alone.
“It’s nothing, really,” said Bizhiw quietly. “I mean, it’s not nothing, but... I’m sorry, I guess I’m not the only one who’s bad at hiding things from his best friend.” Once again, Bizhiw smiled; a little sadly, perhaps, but warmly, the smile of someone who had learned patience through adversity. Pystry waited uncertainly, not daring to speak, not wanting to ruin the moment by saying the wrong thing, and for once, the clever serpent had no idea what to say.
“It’s my homeland,” Bizhiw continued.
“Lutari Island?” Pystry couldn’t help interrupting.
Bizhiw nodded. “I guess it started when the big storm hit Lutari Island. Lutari Island is really important to us Lutaris. It’s not just an island to us. It’s more as if the land itself were alive, connecting all Lutaris on a deep level... It’s hard to explain.”
“I know Lutari Island seems to move around,” said Pystry, trying not to sound like a know-it-all, but failing. Bizhiw smiled again.
“Yes, that’s part of it. There’s something truly magical about the waters there. The pools are so beautiful, and the island floats without sinking. I don’t know much about magic. You certainly have read more about it than I have. But I believe there’s good water magic there, powerful water magic there, and such a torrential storm lasting so long can’t be a good thing. But I always had faith, deep down, that Lutari Island was basically all right, so I didn’t used to worry.”
“It is the home of the Survival Academy, after all,” said Pystry, in what he hoped was an optimistic tone.
“Then Moss Tullerby started his Save the Wheels campaign,” said Bizhiw. “It was inspiring watching all of Neopia rally to the cause, pouring out billions of Neopoints to help restore the wheels. But no one seemed to notice, or care, that the Wheel of Happiness on Lutari Island didn’t even get mentioned. It’s as if everyone had forgotten about Lutari Island. You’d think someone calling himself the Neopian Conservation Society would think about ecological conservation as well...”
“I’m sure he meant no disrespect,” suggested Pystry. “It’s not as though anyone could have gotten to Lutari Island to work on the Happiness Wheel.”
“I know. I know. He was raising money for a worthy cause, and he couldn’t be expected to raise money for a wheel most Neopians have never visited, or even heard of, and that he couldn’t repair in any case. But it still hurt that it was never even mentioned.”
“That was a while ago,” mulled Pystry. “What happened on your trip to Mystery Island that made things worse? Was it just homesickness from visiting the tropical islands?”
“I wouldn’t say ‘just homesickness,’ any more than I’d say the Soup Faerie ‘just makes soup,” chided the Lutari, his whiskers bristling playfully. He couldn’t help enjoying Pystry’s look of consternation when the Hissi was discomfited. “But yes, that was a big part of it. Visiting those little islands and tasting those tropical fruits really brought home to me how much I miss being able to reach my friends on Lutari Island. I was thinking how lucky we were not to encounter any shadow monsters over there, since we weren’t very well equipped for a fight. And then I realized something even worse.”
“It’s the Faeries, isn’t it?” said Pystry, as the pieces of the puzzle suddenly slid into place within his brains.
“Exactly,” said Bizhiw, his head sinking. “Faeries around the globe were turned to stone. There’s no reason to think Briana, the Faerie who protects Lutari Island, wasn’t affected. And if Lutari Island’s magic was already threatened... and this endless storm on its shores seems like an ill omen at best...”
“You’re worried that the native Lutaris are helpless, and can’t even contact the outside world for help,” finished Pystry.
A small tear wavered in Bizhiw’s eye. “I’m sure you’ve heard of Erin, the Lutari who guides visitors to Lutari Island. She’s very resourceful. She’ll find a way to keep everyone safe, even if Briana is... incapacitated. But I wish I could help.”
“I wish I could, too, now that I know what’s wrong,” said Pystry with a slight hiss. “But let me say a few things. First, you’re keeping the spirit of Lutari Island alive just by being your own inimitable, vivacious self.”
Bizhiw smiled again, despite himself.
“Second, you’re not alone, just because you’re the only Lutari in the household. Your problems are our problems, and you don’t have to shoulder them alone.”
Bizhiw quickly busied himself with the kite string, which noticeably didn’t need adjusting at that moment. After a moment, he took a deep breath, and looked back at Pystry.
“Finally... I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about Lutari Island. Like you said, it wouldn’t surprise me if there was very powerful magic involved. But I can do at least one thing. I can write to Moss Tullerby, and ask him if the Neopian Conservation Society can address the issue. I hear they’ve got Neopoints to spare. At the very least, he can help get the word out.”
Bizhiw smiled again, and looked up at the moonrise, as the silvery orb of Kreludor came over the horizon. Smoothly he reeled in the kites.
The two friends remained wordlessly under the sky, until the sun set and the stars of the Dreamer shone directly above them like glittering tears.