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A Small Sacrifice


by regretts

--------

      A gentle breeze of autumn air grazed the open fields of Meridell. A lone Uni lay nearby a browning tree, her nose buried in a book. Her fur as pink as the dawn's sky, drizzled with an array of coloured paisley patterns, topped off with a verdant horn to match her mane and tail.

      In the distance, soft shouting could be heard, "Scats! Hey Scats!" Before long, a figure appeared, continuing to try to catch the Uni's attention, "Yo, you gonna help me or what?" Scoffed a tiny murky green Zafara dotted with jade freckles across their face and shoulders. A lush pink headband fashioned to resemble wings decorated her fluffy top, fluttered with the winds. As the tiny Zafara approached Scats, she questioned once more, "Are you gonna help me move or not?"

      With a sigh, "I was hoping to procrastinate longer. How's tomorrow, Freckle? " A wide grin quickly spread across her face.

      Gritting her teeth with her fists clenched at her sides, she almost struggles to find the necessary words to convince her friend with assistance. "No... good. Everything has already... been shipped to the new address... Scats... I cannot leave my belongings sitting in the middle of the jungle. Not only that, but, I am expecting the tenants to begin arriving by the end of the week."

      Chuckling, Scats assured the Zafara she was still willing to lend a hand, but insisted her teasing would make up for the lack of being paid. With that they headed to the docks to take a ship out The Mystery Island. Uni's are noble and around creatures, one does not simply ride on an Uni's back.

***

      Upon arrival at the island, Freckle quickly takes the lead, hurrying toward a crowd of merchants she gazes up and down the stalls until finds it. After a few minutes of searching she approaches a nearby stall, pointing at a machete. The merchant gives a slight nod as he hands her the machete. She plucks a small pouch fastened to her waist, giving it a soft flick on the counter. Soon after she guides her friend to edge of city, they stand before barely recogonizable a beaten dirt path. Freckle draws the machete forward and begins hacking away at the brush.

      Scats moans as she realizes it will take several hours before reaching their destination. "Couldn't you have done this before coming all the way to Meridell to get me?"

      Glancing over her shoulder, "You do realize that I was still residing in Neopia Central, don't you? It would have been far too costly to take a ship out here then go to Meridell to pick you up just to turn around and come back." Slashing a few more bushes and fallen branches she pauses. A small smirk could almost be seen on her face as her eyes lit up. "You know Scats, if it bothers you that much you could always use those Uni powers of yours to clear a path."

      "Clear a path to where exactly? You're the only one who knows where they're going. I think. Uh, you do know where were are, right?" Scats began to question.

      Freckle nods as she rolled her eyes. "Nah, I just decided to aimlessly roam the jungle in hopes of finding my new place, all the while taking applications for tenants. Great plan, what could possibly go wrong?" She remarked, tossing her arms in the air. "Already had one of the future tenants mark the path in advance, she's from Geraptiku so she's well familiar with these jungles."

      "Okay... so why exactly am I here?" Pondered Scats.

      "Uni magic! You're gonna use your pony magic to move all the furniture into the apartment. It will make life so much easier since the building is the treetops!" Freckle exclaimed, her dull blue eyes widened as she thought about her dream home finally becoming a reality. "Just wait until you see it, this place us a-mazing! Its like a giant tree house! "

      Less than impressed Scats let's out a loud sigh as her friend continued to ramble about how cool it is to live in a tree. Only Freckle could so excited over something like this she thought to herself.

      After what felt like an eternity they stumbled into a large area of trees circle by a dirt path. Scats took a couple steps towards it, "Is this the place?" She looked around puzzled. Sure enough, there was a massive tree house built across the trees along, there was even a balcony spanning two thirds of the building, there was also a crate sitting next to one of the trees. A piece of paper taped to it reading, 'Freckle's Belongings - Don't Touch'.

      Freckle hopped over to the crate, behind it was a wooden makeshift elevator shaft with ropes. Patting the crate she motioned her friend over. "We need to slide this onto the platform so we can pull it up to the building."

      "Er, I wasn't aware there would be any physical labour needed on my end." Scats stammered.

      "Well, you could help me push it or, you could just, you know, use some magic to move it. Your choice really." Replied Freckle as she pressed both hands against the crate ready to push.

      "Remember, I'm not a young Uni anymore, magic takes a lot of energy out me." She protested, stomping a hoof. "Why didn't you get the workers who delivered the crate help you with this?"

      With a shrug, "They said it wasn't a part of their job." Now walking toward Scats, "You already gave your word you would help e move the furniture, you really should've known what to expect. And besides, you're already here. All I need from you is to move from the ground to the apartment. There isn't much in there, it's just my furniture."

      Still protesting, "I thought you said you had a few tenants ready to move it?"

      "I do. But they can furnish their own place. I just provide the roof." Gestured Freckle. "If you're too tired afterward you can rest here for the night."

      With a sigh of defeat, Scats agreed to keep her word. A faint yellow light formed at the tip of her horn, after a few moments it began to transform into a magnificent light. Slowly, the crate slide onto the wooden platform, Freckle quickly began to pulley the ropes. As they reached the top Scats, already feeling fatigued, continued on concentrating moving the crate across the floor as Freckle guided her to the room. After making their way inside Scats walked off to the side, her horn no longer glowing, and lay down.

      "I told you I was to old for such things. You can unpack yourself, I'm... I'm going to rest for a bit." She said as she nestled her head next to her legs.

***

      When Scats awoke, it was already dark. She called out to her friend, but there was no response. The night was deafening with greebles chirping. "Ugh, my ears. Why would any Neopet want to live in such a place?" She groaned as she stood up. How odd, she thought to herself as she stomped around, "did we get dirt in the building?" Glancing around she tried making out with her surroundings with what little light was available. As she looked up she realized stars were visible. "Stars on the ceiling?", she thought to herself. A chilly passing breeze enveloped itself around the withered Uni, robbing her of what little warmth she had. "I'm... outside." She gasped. "Freckle! Is this a joke? Freckle!"

          No response.

      Now beginning to panic Scats tries to summon enough magic to illuminate the area. Nothing. "Oh no, I'm still exhausted she thinks to herself, what do I do now?"

***

      The mornings rays kiss the jungles canopy as life below it stirs. Mombas swing from tree to tree snatching up fruits along the way, little tapira scurry underneath the shadows of the trees. Plodding through the yesterday's makeshift trail is Freckle, "Scaaaaats! Where are you?" She hollars. Lizarks jump about, trying to avoid being stepped on. "Ugh, why would she just leave like that?"

***

      Warmed by the suns rays, Scats yawns and stretches realizing she somehow managed to fall back asleep with all the madness of the night. The trees engulf almost the entire sky, flying will be useless she determines. She shakes off some dirt as she walks off. Much like the night, the day is just as lively but at least now she can see. After some time of aimlessly wandering she hears some distant chanting, curious, she decides to try to investigate it. As the chanting becomes louder she chokes on smokey air. "Oh no", she thought to herself, "The jungle is on fire!" In full panic she races toward the smoke, when she arrived, much to her relief, the fire was but a simple one, one built for cooking it would seem. Still baffled by all of this she stares in awe, the fire is actually quite large with a comically enormous pot over it. She made a few passing glances as she realized the chanting had stopped. Unsure of what to do she slowly crept back into the brush feeling uneasy about the situation. Twigs snapping with each step she took, muffled, unfamiliar voices could be heard from every direction. "H-hello?" Choking on her words, "I-is s-someone out t-there?" Some incomprehensible words broke the silence followed by a loud whack, as she dropped to her knees, groaning in pain.

      "Ow, why does my head hurt so much?" She looked around, blinking as details became more clear. "Huh, where am I now?" She exclaimed, rising to her feet.

      A pale, wrinkled green Techo was sitting on floor next to her. He lifted his head part ways and smiles, "Do not worry young grasshopper, I mean you no harm."

      She can hardly believe her eyes, it's the Techo Master, Scats has heard much about him when she trained at the Island Training School under Ryshu. Lost for words she stood there with her jaw open.

      The Techo Master chuckled, "Hello." He says warmly, "I'm sure you have many questions, shall we?"

      Scats nods. "Where are we? Why are we here? A-" the Techo Master cuts her short.

      "We are at the Island Training School; students who train here are tasked with entering the jungle to test their abilities. Or on scouting missions whenever a Neopet, or even petpet, are reported missing." He straighten himself up a little, continuing, "We received reports of a missing pink and green Uni the day before last." Staring at Scats, "How long have you been in the jungle?"

      She ponders a minute, "Maybe a couple of days?"

      He nods.

      "I don't understand though, I was at a friends, how did I ever get into the jungle?" Panic taking over again.

      The Master looks back at her, arms crossed, "Well, your friend does live in the heart of the jungle. Much like the God of this island, Mumbo Pango." Eyeing her down he realizes she is unfamiliar with the legend. "Mumbo Pango is the Volcano God of this island, he is enormous in stature with an appetite to match."

          "Wait... did he eat me? Am I a ghost now?" She interrupted, unsure of what to make of his story.

      He smiles and shakes he head. "Mumbo Pango does not eat Neopets, he does, however, steal the horns of your kind." He stands up and shuffles to a wall adorned with a mirror, he motions for Scats to follow.

      She slowly creeps her way over and gazes into the mirror. Horrified at her reflection, she now understands what he meant. Her horn, the crown of every Uni, the source of all their magic, was reduced to a mere stump of its former glory. "But why?" Her eyes filled with tears.

      "For the magical properties it holds. You see, this island has a ban on snow- snow like all weather across Neopia, is generated by magic. Our Mumbo Pango hates the snow and cold, as such our isand remains hot and humid year round." He sighs, "Its an ugly truth, I will admit. But Mumbo Pango's people make it a habit of kidnapping tourists and cutting off their horns in order to assure the temperatures remain in his liking. Nonbasic Uni horns hold a great deal of magic, though any colour still at risk- actually, I hear Maraquan horns are indestructible."

      "But, but." She tried arguing.

      He places a hand on her forehead, "Please do not be too upset, your horn will grown back in time. Though it will not be as powerful as your previous one."

      Pounding footsteps could be heard in the hallway, "Sca-aargh!" The tiny Zafara tumbled into the room as she clipped the edge of the door frame, landing with loud thud. Scats and the Master look down at her in amazement. Pushing herself up she finally sees her missing friend, "Scats! You're okay, they found you!"

      "But I'm not okay..." she replies as she hangs her head.

      Confused, Freckle makes her way over to them. "What do you mean?" Concern covered her face.

      "Your friend has lost something precious to her, though only temporary." Replies the Master, patting her forehead.

      Freckle gasps as she notices what he means. The Techo Master ushers them to the doorway, bidding their farewells. The make their way to docks in complete silence, barely making eye contact with the other.

      "I-I'm sorry. This is partially my fault; after you fell asleep I headed back to town to purchase some supplies. Never thought something like this would happen... I'm sorry." Freckle explained.

      "He says it will grow back..." Still feeling crushed, "But, Freckle, never ever, will I return to this place if the people are just going to steal my horn!" Angrily looking ahead at the docks she sees a pair of Uni trotting from the latest arrival, "I must warn all the Uni of the dangers of this place!" As she began to gallop toward them.

      The End.

 
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