I Am of Stone and Fire
"Hey! Emily!" Squirricat raced over to me, Wocky feet pounding the floor. "Come and play with us!" I shook my head. "Look, Squirry, I'm right in the middle of The Way Windmills Work. I'll come play when I'm done."
She scowled. "But we're playing Jelly World! Come on, you can be the intrepid explorer who discovers it!"
I shook my head again, more emphatically this time. "No." My sister glared for a few more seconds, then stomped off. I heard her complaining loudly to Qeoa. "Emily won't play anything. She just sits around with her boring books all the time."
I sighed. What was it about having three younger sisters that was so annoying? Shrugging my shoulders, I bent my head and continued reading.
Well, I suppose I should tell you a little about myself. I'm Emilycampbell, but that's a mouthful, so everyone calls me Emily. I'm an Usul. I live in Shenkuu, along with my siblings. My owner adopted me from the pound, as she did my sister Qeoa. I love to read, as you probably know by now, and unlike many Neopets, I like to read nonfiction. That's all you need to know for now, and it's time to get on with the story.
The ornate door opened, and in came my owner. She'd scold me if she knew I was calling her that, though; she always tells us to call her Mom or Mama, never 'owner'. But I'm getting off track again.
Anyway, Mom walked through the door, humming cheerily. "How are you all?" she cried, striding over to Trumpetear and gathering her up in a hug. "We're good!" we obediently chorused. "But Emily won't play," Qeoa added. Trust a youngest sister for that.
"Qeoa," Mom said, "come here, please." The Flotsam obeyed, and Mom sat down on the couch. She lifted Qeoa up beside her. I don't know what she said--she talked quietly--but when they got up again, my sister was looking subdued.
"Emily, you too." I was startled by the words. Me? I hadn't done anything wrong! Still, I got off the bright yellow bench I had been sitting on and walked over to the couch.
"Emily," Mom began, "do you think you could spend a bit more time playing with your sisters? It's not good for you to sit still all the time." I simply nodded, and she went on.
"If I leave you to do nothing but read all day, I'll feel like I'm neglecting you. Not that I don't like you to read, but you need your exercise, too."
I nodded again, wishing this conversation would end. It was an uncomfortable subject. Mom's next words, though, changed my emotions completely.
"What do you say we take a trip around Neopia? Just you and me. I think you need a vacation," she said.
I looked up, hardly daring to believe my luck. "But--what about the others?" I asked tentatively.
"Oh, I'll leave them at the Neolodge. Luxury hotel and all that... you know. It'll only be for a few days--they won't get lonely," was the reply. "Emily, say yes!" Mom looked so much like a young Neopet begging for a snack, I almost laughed. "Yeah, I'd love to!" I answered, beaming.
"Good! Now, I'll go tell the others, and you go pack," she said.
* * * *
Mom had really kept her promise to take me around Neopia--we had gone to the Lost Desert, Faerieland, Mystery Island, and even Maraqua! Now we were in Moltara, our last stop before heading back to Shenkuu. "So this is Moltara! Wow..." I gazed around me in awe. It wasn't like anything I could have imagined--frightening, and yet mesmerizing. I walked forward and picked up a stray chunk of rock from a huge quarry. Darting back to Mom, I showed her my prize. "What is it?" I asked curiously.
"This is obsidian," she answered. "It's very rare, except, apparently, here in Moltara." I tripped back to the quarry, then laughed along with Mom when a Shoyru yelled at me to go away.
"Hey, what's that doorway?" I asked.
"That doorway!" I replied, leading Mom to the mouth of a tunnel in the rock. A small flight of steps led into the entrance, leveling out inside.
"Let's explore!" was, naturally, her immediate suggestion. I agreed, and eagerly ran inside.
Two very sore Usul legs later, we emerged from the tunnel. It was more awe-inspiring than anything I had seen before, a complex network of caves, tunnels, and magma. "Wow!" Mom burst out, then, just as she had when she'd seen the tunnel, "Let's explore!" My only reply was a tug toward a massive pool of magma.
As we got closer, we noticed a very Neopet standing in front of the pool. Mom stopped me. "He's got a spear, so he must be a guard," she pointed out. "We shouldn't get any closer. We're probably not supposed to.
I ignored this sudden change of heart and crept forward, continuing to ignore Mom's protests. After all, I was an Usul, and never let it be said that we Usuls can't take care of ourselves!
Finally, I was close enough to see something quite startling--the guard was asleep! This was a perfect chance to get a good look at the strange sight. I continued to sneak forward, careful not to make a noise. Mom had stopped scolding now, and stood watching me with an odd expression on her face.
I was right on the brink of the pool now. The guard was really very strange looking, I dimly noted, but the magma was what I was interested in at the moment. Peeking over the bank of the pit, I jumped as a sudden noise of hissing coals came from behind me. That jump was all it took; I was in the magma.
But I wasn't burning. Why wasn't I burning? It didn't feel like magma, either--more like a very relaxing bath. The red fluid swished around me, breaking in tiny waves against my face. I swam back to the shore, my thought occupied by the strange question--why hadn't I burned up?
Watching the guard attentively, I clambered out of the pool and raced over to Mom. She watched me come with a proud smile on her face. "Congratulations, Emily!"
I frowned, puzzled. "Why?" I asked, slipping my paw into her hand, then stared as she cried out and jerked her hand backwards. "What's wrong with me?" I glanced down at my paw, then stiffened in shock. "Mom, why is my paw all black?"
She grinned and shook her head. "Emily, don't you see? The pool painted you, like at the Rainbow Pool, only without a paintbrush. You're a Magma pet now, like that Kougra we saw back in Shenkuu, remember? And we couldn't figure out where she came from."
I looked up at Mom, then down at my paw again. "Oh... but does that mean we can't snuggle any more?" I almost whimpered.
"Oh, honey, it's not so bad as all that!" she cried. A sudden thought came to me and I burst out in a fit of giggles.
"What's so funny, Emily?" Mom asked, puzzled.
"Squirry and the others'll be happy--'cause I can't touch books anymore!"