Wavo (Wavo_Wavoa63) and Flame (FlameFeeze) are used with permission from Meltdown47.
Topheles had been moping and muttering his way around the house for two weeks.
"I'm tired of being a red Kougra," he said. "When is Rachnisaur going to paint me?"
His complaints were getting annoying. Sandayla the Ruki couldn't even sit in her high chair and smear applesauce over her bib for two minutes, before he would begin to pace in circles around the kitchen. She was pretty sure that she had seen Rachnisaur putting in earplugs that morning.
"It's just not fair!" said Topheles, for the forty-fifth time.
Klava the Xweetok clanked into the kitchen. She was wearing a full suit of armor. In one paw she carried a snowball, and in the other she carried a sword.
"Why don't you just ask Rachnisaur to paint you when she gets home from running errands?" she asked.
"What are you doing?" asked Sandayla, slightly alarmed.
"Practicing for the Battledome. Anyway, Topheles, just ask Rachnisaur to get you a paintbrush."
"She won't," groaned Topheles. "She says she's saving up her neopoints!"
"Oh well," said Klava, "you can't win them all." With that, she clattered and clanked out of the room. A moment later came a series of loud crashes, as she knocked over every bookshelf in the house like a line of dominoes.
Topheles began to pace back and forth yet again.
"Stop that," said Sandayla. "I'll help you get painted."
"You? But you're just a baby!"
"I'm only painted baby, silly. I'm older than you are. Now, getting painted is really very easy. I'm sure Rachnisaur has a paintbrush somewhere in her safety deposit box."
"Yes," said Topheles. "A red one."
"Oh. Well, we can at least go to some shops and see if they have paintbrushes for sale. What color do you want to be painted?"
"I don't know."
"How about blue, like Klava?"
"No, I want an exciting color, like fire or electric. What do you know about getting painted, anyway?"
"I got painted, didn't I?"
"You only got painted because Rachnisaur got a quest from the Fountain Faerie!"
"Come on, trust me. I've read entire libraries full of books. I can help you get painted, easy."
Topheles was very excited at the idea of actually going looking for a paint brush. He put on a sweater backwards and pulled a woolen cap over his ears.
"You're going to need neopoints!" called Sandayla.
"I have thirty-five neopoints," he said, rummaging through his dresser for socks. "And a five-dubloon coin. And a scratchcard."
"That won't be enough," said Sandayla. "I only have six hundred neopoints."
"We can at least try," he said, picking her up out of her high chair. With that, they headed outside.
It wasn't a long trip down Terror Mountain to Happy Valley, where most of the shops stood. They sledded there. Snow lay everywhere, glinting in the sunlight and smoothing everything into shades of white and blue. Topheles steered, swerving between evergreen trees and over snowbanks. As they slid through a neighbor's yard, narrowly missing a large shrubbery, Sandayla pulled her furry hood down over her eyes.
Once in Happy Valley, they combed every shop there for paint brushes, but didn't find anything. After that, they abandoned the sled and headed down to Neopia Central. All of the paintbrushes they found, whether they were on shop shelves or being called for at the Auction House, were far over thirty-five neopoints in cost.
"This isn't working," whined Topheles.
"All right," said Sandayla. "It's time for drastic measures. We're going to ask the Fountain Faerie to give Rachnisaur a quest."
They managed to flag down a pair of Draiks, who kindly flew them all the way to Faerieland. However, once they got to the Rainbow Fountain, the Fountain Faerie was nowhere to be seen.
"Where is she?" cried Topheles.
"Perhaps she went to give someone else a quest," said Sandayla. "Or maybe she's just getting lunch. I guess faeries get hungry, too."
Topheles thought. "This means I can just dive in right now."
Sandayla shook her head. "The magic won't work unless we've completed a quest."
"Wait here," he said, setting her down on the bank. He patted her head. "Good baby."
Her face turned red and she started to shake, clenching her claws. "Topheles . . ."
"This will just take a teensy tiny second!" The Kougra backed up, stretched his legs, and sprinted towards the cascading water of the fountain. He dove in, and for the next few minutes there was only a soft splashing noise.
"What?" she asked, annoyed.
"I just remembered I can't swim."
"The water's only waist-deep," she reminded him. "You can wade out."
"Oh. Um . . ." He paused and looked around. Then he splashed water on his face. "I don't think it's working."
She folded her arms behind her head and leaned back to look at the clouds. "I told you. But did you listen? No! We're just going to have to wait to talk to the Fountain Faerie."
"I give up." He got out of the Fountain and trudged past her, leaving a trail of water.
"Oh, come on," she said. She got up and toddled after him. "Don't give up. There are lots of ways to get painted. We could win a paintbrush from a contest—"
"I don't have enough neopoints!"
"You can play at the Fruit Machine for free, and there's a small chance that you can win a paintbrush. That doesn't cost anything. Or you could go to the Magma Pool – if you can get there at the right time, you can just dive in and then you'll be Magma-colored. Or we could just buy some costumes. Some of them look really realisti—"
Topheles stopped so quickly that she ran into him from behind. "Wait, what? What was that you just said?"
"Some costumes look really realistic," she said.
"No, before that!"
She tapped a claw on her mouth thoughtfully. "The Magma Pool?"
"Does the Magma Pool cost anything?" he demanded.
"No, but – wait, Topheles, that's all the way in Moltara. And you can't be painted Magma."
He looked hurt. "Why not?"
"Let's see . . . first of all, we live in the coldest spot in all of Neopia."
"Come onnnn!" he whined. "This is my chance to get painted! It's what I've always wanted! Please, please, please let's go to the Magma Pool!"
"All right!" she said, annoyed. "We'll go."
"Thank you! You're the best sister ever!"
"We should get moving now," said Sandayla. "We've got an ocean to cross."
"Yes! Here we go! It's gonna be great!" Topheles paused and looked down at her. "By the way, what do magma pets look like?"
It wasn't long before he got a chance to see. Moltara was full of magma pets of every species, strolling through Moltara City, hunting for worms, or coming from the direction of the caves. Topheles' jaw dropped when he saw their stony skin, glowing red and flickering with fire.
"That is so awesome," he breathed.
Inside the caves, torches fended off the darkness. A red glow came from the magma pool. Molten rock cascaded into the pool with a soft roaring sound, splashing up in tiny flames. As they approached, Sandayla could feel the prickling heat.
The guard, a huge Tonu, moved to block them with his spear.
Sandayla pulled Topheles' paw insistently. Impatient, he shook her off.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Guard," he said. "Can I just get by you? I want to be painted magma."
The guard shook his head.
Sandayla tugged Topheles' paw again until he followed her away from the pool.
"We have to wait until he's sleeping," she whispered. "Then we can sneak past."
They crouched behind a large outcrop of rock, watching the guard. Sandayla spread her coat on the stony ground and rested on it. They waited for a long time. A worm inched by, glowing, until a Uni pounced on it with a lantern.
Sandayla's stomach began to growl. Topheles didn't want to miss it if the guard fell asleep, so she toddled back to the city on her own. At a store called Molten Morsels, she examined a selection of dishes. An alarming majority of the meals were on fire. Finally, she went back with a cog-shaped plate of ham, nibbling as she went.
"Do you want some?" she asked Topheles when she returned. "I got extra."
"I think he's asleep," said Topheles.
Sandayla peeked over the rock. The guard was standing at attention, and his eyes were wide open. "No, he isn't."
"I'm going to make a break for it," said Topheles.
"You're going to get caught."
"Here goes!" Topheles vaulted over the rock and ran.
Sandayla covered her eyes. A moment later, Topheles came back the way he had come, screaming and flailing his paws.
"He's awake! He's awake!" he yelled.
When the guard finally stopped chasing Topheles, Sandayla motioned for her brother to come and hide behind the rock again. They finished off the ham, and hid for a while longer.
Sandayla helped a young Gelert look for a purple worm. Then she fell asleep, balling her coat beneath her head as a pillow.
She woke when Topheles prodded her.
"He's asleep," said Topheles.
She checked. The guard was leaning on his spear, and was distinctly snoring. Other pets darted out from inside crannies and behind rocks. Some of them dove headfirst into the magma. Others tiptoed in, cringing.
"Watch the guard for me," said Topheles. "Yell if he wakes up."
"Okay," said Sandayla. Her stomach fluttered as Topheles ran towards the edge of the pool. He tripped and belly-flopped in.
For a few terrifying moments, he was gone. The magma rippled slightly. Sandayla ran as fast as she could to the edge.
"Topheles?" she cried.
A magma Kougra rose from the pool, with plumes of flame coming from his fur. He grinned at her. "It worked!"
Sandayla leaped backwards. "Is that you, Toph?"
He began to climb out, dripping with fire. "Yes! It worked! Thank you! You are the best little sister ever!"
"I'm older than you," she pointed out, and then dodged as he tried to give her a hug. "Whoa! Whoa! Hot!"
Then the guard woke up, and everyone ran.
After it was all over, Rachnisaur sat at the kitchen table, sipping hot cocoa. Safe in her high chair again, Sandayla smeared applesauce around her tray.
"It was very generous of you to help Topheles," said Rachnisaur. "Next time, though, I'd appreciate it if you let me know before you went all the way to Moltara."
"There won't be a next time," said Sandayla. "This was a nightmare. I'm just glad to be back home where I belong."
The front door slammed.
"Topheles!" shouted Rachnisaur. "Stop slamming the door!"
"Sorry!" Topheles came in, shaking snow off his coat. His fur was black and stony, and let off clouds of steam. As he brushed the snow away, he burst into flames again.
A blue Eyrie and a red Xweetok followed him into the kitchen. The Eyrie smiled, and the Xweetok waved cheerfully.
"Who are these?" asked Rachnisaur.
"They're my friends, Wavo and Flame," said Topheles. "Sandayla? Do you think you could help them get painted, too?"
"Yes, please," said the Eyrie, Wavo. "I'd like to be Magma, just like Topheles."
Sandayla's eyelid twitched, but she smiled. "Of course. Getting painted is really very easy."