Deep within the sweltering hot caves that branched out from Moltara City, a young, brown and red Xweetok peeked over a rocky ledge peering down at the magma pool. That was it, according to the Lenny she had spoken with back at Faerieland. If she could just manage to make her way into the pool, she would find an amazing treasure awaiting her. If only she could get in it!
The Xweetok, Scar, glared at the Tonu guarding the pool. She had been in Moltara City for about a week now, and every single time she had tried to make her way into the magma pool to find the treasure, he'd stop her dead on her tracks. Even if she tried to creep in from the opposite side of the pool he'd somehow always see her and rush towards her, stopping her from being able to even start looking for the treasure.
But this time everything was going to be different; she had a plan.
The idea had come to her last night while she had been grooming her tail before bed. Scar had been ranting to her Gallion, Ember, and waving the brush around in annoyance when she had said, "It's like he's always there! When does he leave to sleep!?"
The small dragon had chirped at her, and the Xweetok's eyes widened. Sleep. That was it. She just had to wait until he was asleep.
"Ember, you're a genius!" she had shouted, scooping the startled Petpet up and hugging her. "I can't believe I didn't think of that before!" The Gallion blinked in surprise, unsure about what was going on with her Xweetok friend, before licking her cheek and biting her ear.
So now there was Scar, sprawled out on a rock, watching the Tonu guard and munching on coffee beans while Ember laid out beside her. She wondered when he'd fall asleep. He was there every time she had gone there, and she had tried a lot of times.
'What if he never sleeps at all? What if he's up all the time to guard the treasure that lies in the pool? What if you're never able to sneak in Scar, because he's not a real Neopet and is actually a magic construct specifically crafted to protect the treasure!?' The dark thoughts flooded the young Xweetok's mind, making her panic and flail about with a startled cry, knocking over her bag of beans and disturbing Ember who then sat up and hissed at her in annoyance.
"No, no, calm down, Scar, it's okay," she said to herself as she pet Ember in apology and used her tail to sweep up the spilled coffee beans. "He's probably a normal Neopet who uses a lot of caffeine. And if he's not a normal Tonu or is using magic or something, well, you know a witch who will probably help you out." She nodded to herself after her little pep talk. Aessia had always been willing to help her before on her adventures when she needed her, Scar was sure she'd be willing to help her now if she needed aid. Especially if magic was involved. If there was one thing she had learned over the past several months of knowing the Halloween Hissi was that Aessia couldn't resist pitting her magic against the magical prowess of others. She was always willing to test her magic against any challenge to prove that she was just as good as anyone else, if not better.
Scar couldn't help but smile as she thought about the prideful witch. Aessia was strong, there was no doubt in her mind about that. Especially after she had watched the serpent witch cast a spell to keep the ghost of the Deserted Tomb away from them while they searched for treasure. Scar hadn't seen any treasure that she was extremely excited about, but Aessia had been thrilled at some of the plants and berries she had found, and had explained to the Xweetok that they would be very useful in crafting many different potions.
Glancing over the ledge to make sure the guard hadn't noticed her earlier flailing, she wondered about what treasure could possibly be in the magma pool. What worth could it have that made it so special that there was a guard that stood watch day and night to make sure no one snuck in to steal it? What could it be if it was inside a magma poll for additional protection? The heat of magma was no doubt a deterrence to many. She imagined riches hidden at the bottom of the pool, of rare stuff like morphing potions and paint brushes, even some cool stamps or adorable plushies. And it would be all her's.
Checking again, Scar could feel her breath catch when she noticed that he wasn't standing straight like he had been for the past several hours. In fact, he was leaning on his spear. He was asleep. Finally!
She scrambled down the rocky wall as quickly and as quietly as she could, not wanting to risk waking him up now that he was finally asleep. Once she hit the ground, she glanced at him again. He was still asleep, good. Looking up caused her to see Ember peering down at her curiously, and she gestured to the Petpet to stay up there while she made her way over to the pool.
Once she reached the edge, Scar peered down into the magma to try and see if she could make out anything in there to give her a clue of where to begin searching. The magma bubbled at her, and she sighed in dismay. She had hoped it would be a bit easier, but if she had to search more then she would. Taking one more glance at the sleeping Neopet to make sure he was still out, the Xweetok slipped in.
She winced the instant she touched the lava. It was hot, extremely hot, she noticed as she took a deep breath before diving under. The heat was almost unbearable, never had she felt so much sheer heat surrounding her, bombarding her body from every angle. This was magma, it was expected. It was scorching hot to the point it became very uncomfortable for her body's tolerance very fast, especially because it was also very hard to move in it. Magma was, after all, molten rock and thus was extremely heavy. Swimming in it was proving a serious challenge and a rapid strain on her muscles. She was hurrying as fast as she could though, trying to search as much as the bottom of the pool as fast as possible.
As she searched, she noticed it was becoming easier and easier to see in the molten environment, and the magma wasn't feeling quite as hot as it had been when she first got in. But the observation was pushed to the back of her mind as she frantically searched for the treasure, darting this way and that. However, there was the air impediment. Her lungs were screaming for air. She needed to go back up and surface.
Breaking the surface she took in deep breaths of air, panting as her body took in the much needed oxygen it demanded. But, things seemed different. Was... was everything brighter than it was when she went down? Frowning in confusion, she glanced at the guard and saw he was still asleep. At least it was clear he wasn't magical. She took another deep gulp of air and dove back down, doing her best to search the rest of the pool. But, no matter how hard she looked, she didn't see or find anything. There was nothing there.
'Why would there be a guard stationed to stop anyone from going into the pool if there wasn't anything in the pool?' She wondered as she swam back to the shore. It made no sense. At the edge of the pool where she was headed, Ember stood, chirping in alarm and batting her wings. Scar frowned, unsure what could possibly have her Petpet so worked up. The guard was still asleep, and she hadn't seen anything interesting in the magma. There was no reason for Ember to be so upset.
Reaching the edge of the pool, she put her paws on the side to pull herself up, but froze when she saw they weren't the beautiful deep brown that they had been before. Her breath quickening, she hauled herself out of the pool and looked down at herself, turning her head around to see the entirety of her body. But no matter which way she looked, her fur remained distinctly not red and brown. In fact, it was not fur anymore.
"WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BEAUTIFUL FUR?!" she screamed, making Ember wince and move back slightly.
The guard jolted up and screamed as he was woken up, frightened at the sudden booming screech. "Huh! What! What's going on! It was only a nap, I swear!" the guard cried out, frantically looking around. He the noticed the suffering Xweetok. "Hey, you!" he shouted as he rushed at her.
But Scar could not care less if he noticed her now. She was now... different. Her body had changed. Ember did, however, glance nervously at the incoming guard.
Far away from Moltara City, a Lenny laughed raucously as he watched the young explorer freak out at the change. Waving his wing over the surface of water, the image cleared and he sat back, wondering what his next plan of mischief would be.