The entrance to the pool was a gaping hole in the side of the rock wall, accessible only by a set of stairs carved from the very ground itself. Phoenix edged close and closer to the dark staircase, sweat dripping down her back. It was lit only by the light from the magma, and everything was dark, that is, in her favor. She carefully peered around the corner of the staircase at the guard. He was on full alert, but she could tell by the way his eyes moved that he was getting tired. Slowly his eyelids dropped and his head nodded down onto his chest. Immediately she started towards him, but her foot clipped a rock. The rock went tumbling towards him and he jolted awake, back on full alert. Phoenix walked slowly back into the shadows. What a pain! she thought. Pressing up against the wall, she watched as a yellow Hissi descended the stairs and went straight towards the guard, not paying attention to Phoenix whatsoever. He walked over to the guard, suddenly sleeping, and carefully slithered around him, careful to be quiet. Slowly he started to descend into the Magma Pool. Now!
Phoenix flew as fast as she could towards the pool. The guard was still sleeping. Yes! Finally, after waiting and waiting, she would have the fiery wings of a ferocious Magma Eyrie! Her heart pounded at the thought of even the mightiest of Battledome opponents cowering at a single glare. She watched as the Hissi sank deeper and deeper into the pool, and her beak spread into a wide smile as she thought of herself in the Hissi's place. Finally she flew past the guard and let herself drop slowly into the pool. She closed her eyes, wanting to relish every second of this beautiful moment. The minutes stretched out like a Kougra on a Mystery Island beach. Phoenix could feel herself getting warmer and warmer as she descended, ever so slowly, into the embrace of the fiery depths of the Pool. Phoenix could feel her paws singe ever so slightly as the blasting heat of the Magma Pool radiated onto her pelt. As she sank into the Pool her entire body warmed and came alive, as if every nerve were melting into lava and molten rock. Yes! She would finally be the perfect warrior! Phoenix opened her eyes and watched as her blue paws graduated slowly into a dark ashen color. Her paws turned hard and cracked like magma rock. The rock burned with heat and oozed with thick red lava. Slowly her entire lower body turned into that of a volcano and she felt warm- oh so warm! Phoenix noticed a sharp sensation in her left wing, and she thought to herself, This is it! It must have gotten to my wings already! I'm finally going to-
"Only one pet at a time!" The rough voice was familiar and sent a jolt of panic through her body. No. Not when she was finally going to get what she had pined for.
The sensation in her left wing grew stronger and soon she was jolted out of the Pool. Magma splashed everywhere and the Hissi swam away into a corner, startled. Phoenix held up a paw, and her heart fell as she saw the hardcore textures fade and rescind back into her plain, old blue fur. She shed a tear, a normal tear, not lava, but water. The Guard had a strong grip on her wing and pulled her out into the air with ease. What level was his strength? Phoenix had a strength level of 247, yet the Guard handled her struggling with ease. No! She was so close! Phoenix propelled forward as furiously as she could, trying to get herself back into the Pool. If Phoenix could just hold her position long enough for the transformation to be completed, then maybe... She stuck her head into the magma furiously and kicked her hind legs at the air, trying to hit the Guard. The fight left the pool sloshing and churning. Splashes of magma burned the rock it touched and left odd scars in the polished, black ground. Onlookers paced quickly away, not wanting to be burned by the dangerous liquid. Phoenix stretched her arms forward, as far as she could, trying to immerse as much of herself as possible into the lava. The Pool rejected anyone that wasn't welcome, and the temperature of the Pool ebbed hotter and hotter. The heat made her cringe, but she pushed on. She had to try. She had to, at the very least, try! She willed herself to push on, but could feel her muscles spasm with the strain. It was too much for her body, but she continued to fight against the Tonu. After a final flutter her wings went limp and Phoenix felt two hands tugging firmly at her wings. Soon she came easily out of the Pool- defeated and tired.
"No!" her voice shook with the tears she tried to hold back, "I've tried waiting! I've tried playing games! I've tried everything! It doesn't work! It's not possible!" Phoenix's head hung with weariness and as a last effort she argued, "Just let me take one dip!"
The Guard set Phoenix down gently in front of him and stood squarely in her way- blocking the entrance to the Pool completely. With eyes flaming and hard as rock, he picked up his spear from the ground and smoothed his flaming mane with one hand. He looked her straight in the eye, "Come back when you have learned the ways of Moltara."
She hated those words. Phoenix desperately tried to get around him, but each time the Guard pushed her back into place, out of reach of the glowing Magma Pool. As the Hissi noticed that things had settled down, he emerged from the Magma Pool as Phoenix watched in envy. He was a completely new Neopian. Everything about him glowed with a fiery passion, and beautiful embers sparked from his body. He left curls of white steam everywhere he slithered, and his very being crackled and hissed with the livelihood of fire. He would have made even the haughtiest of Fire Faeries jealous.
"Please! Tell me how you did it!"
The Hissi turned towards her and laughed a loud, wispy, laugh. "Two daysss of waiting and a month of nothing but Moltaran gamesss, and nothing happened. Today wasss going to be my lassst day of trying. I ssstill don't know why it worked! Maybe it wasss jussst luck."
He slithered away, leaving a sizzling trail behind him. Phoenix looked longingly at him and then turned back to the Tonu Guard. His eyes were stonier than ever, and his penetrating gaze was unwavering, not straying away from Phoenix's face for even a second. Doesn't he have to blink sooner or later? She knew that there would be no dips in the Magma Pool today. Her wings folded onto her back dejectedly, and she walked slowly over to the staircase with her head hung. She sat heavily onto a black, dusty step of the staircase and pulled out a heavy book. She rubbed her aching wings with one paw and eyed the Tonu Guard. Next time. She promised herself silently. Next time she would definitely get her beautiful wings, and this time she would not move until he closed his eyes and succumbed to the five minute allure of slumber. Phoenix didn't care how long it would take- she had all the time in Neopia.
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|The Puppeteer: Part One|
The statue has stood at the edge of the village for a hundred years, or so the child has been told. He has spent many afternoons playing near the plinth with his friends, amongst the wildflowers that spring up during the warmer months. The Hissi coiled in stone has a strange presence, both threatening and peaceable at the same time.