The Curious Cases of Scamandre the Mage
The rolls of parchment were splayed across the frazzled Draik’s desk, taking up more room than the confused Fleeper. It stared at the tip of a wand poking confidently from below the desk, and ruffled its feathers in annoyance when prodded.
The desk belonged to a one Scamandre, a brilliant (yet strange) mage currently working with the Petpet Protection League, holding the lesser known position of Honorary Pest-Control and Head Mage of Investigation into Curious Creatures. Essentially, this meant that the very talented wizard was given the position of knocking on doors, flashing his shiny badge, and inquiring as to whether or not there have been any sightings of questionable Petpets—ever heard of Turmaculus?—and, if there were any unauthorized Petpets on the loose, he chased them.
An “unauthorized” Petpet was a critter that didn’t belong to any Neopian and was not inventoried at a Petpet shop—whether this was a result of abandonment or illegal trading, it didn’t matter; Scamandre’s job, as the plaque above his desk boasted, was to act as “pest control” and do something about those pesky Petpets. Yet, in this moment, he was mentally cursing the day he ever left home to study magic.
The Fleeper that sat comfortably on his desk was one such case, terrorizing students from a low-hanging branch next to the school’s entrance. Scamandre had shown up, wand in hand, ready to tackle what vicious creature dare harass the poor first-year students, only to be greeted by an extremely pudgy bird with unfocused eyes and high-pitch squawks. He coerced the Petpet off the branch, waving a half-eaten chocolate bar in his hand, and trapped it with a Binding Charm. The horrified shrieks convinced most onlookers that the poor creature was in pain, and went off on Scamandre for harming the poor little guy that merely wanted to make its home next to the school. As a particularly nasty old woman bonked the Draik on the head with her cane, he glanced at the Petpet from the corner of his eye and noticed its puffed chest, enjoying the scene that unfolded before it. He muttered a vague threat and took off terrified when he spotted the elderly woman coming back for seconds.
Now, in the dimly lit broom closet he called his office, Scamandre stared at the Fleeper from underneath his desk. When he got back to the office, he reported to his superior (who retorted with, “Really, you should have done a simple Silencing Charm, got those hooters off your back,”) and took the Petpet into his office where he was promptly ordered to deal with the bugger.
Unfortunately, the moment Scamandre released the Fleeper from the Binding Charm, it screeched right into his ear and took off around the room, knocking the hanging lightbulb into the ceiling, sending parchments and quills flying. The Draik took to the ground, ducking just fast enough to avoid a nasty run-in with a beak, and crawled to the only safe place he saw available. He crouched beneath the desk, hitting his head with a thunk, and pulling his chair in close to block off any entry from the Petpet that flung itself hysterically into the desk.
Scamandre tentatively poked his head out, shouting, “Get a grip, man!” He retracted quickly when a wing came into view and narrowly avoided getting pecked. He patted his robes, searching wildly for his wand. When his search came up empty, he peered around the chair leg and felt his face go pale when he saw the wand next to a roll of parchment, halfway across the room.
Although the room was very small, it was still a huge task—how would he be able to slip past the feral Petpet, grab his wand, and scuttle back under the desk where he could compose himself enough to perform a charm? He nervously twiddled his thumbs, mind tossing ideas back and forth like a spasmodic game of Gormball. Could he possibly attempt the Steamroll Capture of 1834, or—dare he even think it possible—the infamous Raijneker Infestation of 1912? He gulped, the idea too insane to even consider. He blinked once or twice, suddenly realizing the quiet that fell across the room. He slowly pushed the chair out of the way, going slow as not to cause unnecessary noise, the scratch of wooden chair legs against floorboards causing him enough stress. He poked his large snout above the desk, and nearly screamed in surprise when he saw two large, bulbous eyes staring back.
When the full-on assault never came, Scamandre realized the Petpet was … sleeping. It must’ve worn itself out, flapping about like a headless chicken. He swallowed hard, eyes bulging when he saw the Petpet twitch, and cautiously—being more careful than he’d ever been in his entire life—stood, backing slowly from the unseeing eyes that lolled around the Fleeper’s sockets. He furrowed his brows, muttering silently to himself how this Petpet was indeed a “curious creature”, and tiptoed toward the wand, light on his feet. He cursed the moment he ever left home to pursue magic and gripped the wand tight.
A slight ruffle behind him caused a ripple of goosebumps to break out across Scamandre’s arms. He looked over his shoulder and gulped, the Petpet having shifted a full 180 degrees to stare at him incredulously. It rocked back and forth on its talons, looking at him with a gaze he interpreted as, “You really did that?”
He hardly had a chance to lift his wand when the Fleeper squawked horrendously. The Draik made a mad dash for the desk, throwing his arms over his head in protection from the steel-like beak. He scampered under the desk, shaking violently from the Petpet bouncing on it, and once again hastily drew the chair in close, all the while suffering a few pecks against his hands. He knew he wouldn’t be able of safely exiting his cover—let alone casting a charm—until the Fleeper either calmed down or went back to sleep. And who knew how long that could take? While he pondered this, he heard the distinct noise of a doorknob turning …
“Hey, Scamandre, do you think—”
Blue and yellow feathers scattered as the Petpet saw its opportunity to escape. The poor employee hollered out in surprise. Scamandre figured the fool at the door, who he couldn’t see from his position, was more than likely Weltrude’s assistant (Weltrude, being the head of the Petpet Protection League and having more important issues to deal with, such as the careless act of feeding defenseless Petpets to a certain Snowbeast, was obviously not going to deal with mundane tasks at work and obviously had an assistant). He called out, “Sally! Is that you?”
The Zafara stuttered out, “S-Scamandre, wh … what in the good name of Fyora do you think you’re doing?”
He laughed nervously, as the situation was void of humor. He cleared his throat and said, “Close the door, would you?”
The door slammed shut and Sally continued wailing despite the Petpet’s disinterest after the potential escape route was blocked. It settled back on the desk and pecked furiously over Scamandre’s hiding spot.
“Sally, dear, could you … perhaps, er … help me with something?”
“Help you?” Her voice cracked. “Scamandre, you’re an absolute nutcase!”
“Uncalled for, I say,” he murmured. He shook off the insult. “Sally, I know you’re busy at the moment, but I could really use your help.”
“Use my help? Weltrude’s been hammering us with case after case, telling me that the PPL has been under intense scrutiny after the Weewoo incident—” she paused. “Your Weewoo incident … and I haven’t had time to visit the salon recently, and … and you utterly rejected my Kelp invitation, you insensitive oaf! I hope that—that thing there pecks your head into a nub, like you deserve!”
Scamandre clonked his head against the top of the desk. “You must understand,” he said nervously wringing his hands, wand teetering on his cramped knees, “that it’s not you I’m uninterested in, but, er … gulp … girls in general?”
Wrong answer. An ear-splitting wail erupted from the young girl. “Not like that! Not like that!” He responded quickly, afraid of the repercussions he’d face later. “I’d rather have my hands on a spell book than on … another … er.” He cleared his throat. “Please, for the love of Neopia, could you please just help me out then we can discuss this?”
The Fleeper, egged on by Sally’s noise, was furiously attacking the desk, contributing to the chaotic situation. He was surprised more coworkers didn’t try to shuffle into the room. Then again, he was notorious for creating lots of noise, practicing charms and housing Petpets until they could be rehomed. He silently nodded to himself, muttering something about how he needed a new job.
Through sniffles, Sally agreed. “What do I need to do?”
“Perfect! What I need you to do is charm him.”
“CHARM?” She laughed. “Scamandre, you’re the only approved wizard in the office. I can’t cast a charm if I had a wand in one hand and a guide in the other.”
“No, no, no. Not cast a charm. Like, you know … flirt, or whatever it’s, er … called. Flirting, yes.”
Silence. Even the Fleeper didn’t make a peep.
After a few moments, Scamandre thought she slipped out of the room with the ogling bird, leaving him alone. He poked his nose out and called out her name.
“You’re joking, right?” She adjusted the yellow bow adorning her head. “Flirt with a Petpet? That’s wrong, even for you.”
“It’ll distract him enough for me to get out from this desk—” he tapped the sides of the desk and was greeted with furious body slams.
“FINE! Hey, cutie!”
“Not like that, Sally, you think the bugger speaks English? Silly Sally. You need to speak its language.”
He could hear her stomp her feet in defiance, fingers crossed she’d allow herself to be briefly humiliated enough to distract the Fleeper. He restrained a laugh as he heard her tentative chirps, unsure if she was being cheeky or insulting.
The Fleeper immediately turned to her, eyes rolling around confusedly as it attempted—and failed—to focus on who was making that noise. It hopped forward, knocking rolls of parchment onto the floor, tilting its head inquisitively. Sally moved backwards until she bumped into the closed door, making clicking. She stated under her breath, “I think it’s working!”
Scamandre took a deep breath, and pushed the chair out from underneath the desk. He cautiously, carefully, peered over the edge of the desk—the Fleeper was facing Sally, tail twitching. He lifted his wand, resting his hand on the desk, and poked the Petpet. It squawked, but refrained from causing an even larger ruckus.
The Draik nodded fervently at Sally, clutching paperwork close to her chest. She cleared her throat and continued chirping, giving quizzical looks to Scamandre who kept prodding the Petpet intermittently.
“What are you doing?” Sally hissed between bird calls.
“I’m not sure if you know this, but Fleepers are naturally still creatures, hardly making calls—even if instigated! They typically prefer watching, keeping tabs, collecting nice blackmail material, you know?”
Scamandre pursed his lips. “So why is this one attacking students? It’s not in their nature. Even if it were a bit odd—” the Petpet fittingly nipped at him then. “Even if it were different, Petpets don’t stray from their natural personalities too much. A quirk here and there, but nothing of this stature.”
“Whatever you’re going on about, can you get to the point quickly? I still have work to do, Weltrude has piles of cases for me to deliver!”
“Sally. Promise me that no matter what you see, you will … not … scream.”
The Zafara stopped cold. “Why?”
“Because, what is going to happen may not seem … normal.”
Sally gulped. “Scamandre, I swear, if you’re going to make it explode …”
“Of course not! I wouldn’t hurt the thing. No, it’s nothing like that. Just don’t panic, alright? You’re known to panic.”
She huffed. “Whatever! Get it over with!”
Scamandre nodded quick. He raised his wand, raised his voice, and whispered two simple words: “Infestus Reductum.”
He lifted the tip of the wand, slowly, and the mood in the room shifted exponentially. The Fleeper froze where it stood, and with a violent shiver, dozens of tiny creatures floated from its ruffled feathers. Sally clasped her hands over her mouth, obviously on the verge of letting out a scream.
“More than I thought,” chimed the Draik.
“Disgusting,” murmured the Zafara.
Scamandre twirled his wand, swirling all the critters into one large airborne pile, and spoke an Encasing Spell. A loud pop signaled the sudden appearance of a bubble around the pests, and with a grin, he held out a hand and caught the bubble, tossing his wand in the air and catching it with a wink.
Sally dropped her arms. “What are those things?”
The Fleeper waddled over to Scamandre, offering him a nonverbal show of thanks. He lightly pecked at the Draik’s hand, blinking rapidly. Scamandre smiled and whispered, low enough for just the Petpet to hear, “No problem, my friend.”
Sally made her way to the desk, bow askew. “Really, Scamandre, what ARE those things?”
“Ever heard of a Snailien, Sally? Probably not. These pesky little parasites—” the orb shook violently as if understanding what he said. “Sorry. These pesky little creatures like to find a host, living flush with the skin and causing much irritation. Their secretion causes an adverse reaction to most Petpets, resulting in them acting strange and out of character.”
“Like being obnoxious when they’re typically quiet?”
They both looked at the Fleeper, busy preening.
“Well, congrats Scamandre, you took care of the problem! Maybe next time you want to take care of your garden-variety pests, why not invest in some poison rather than BEING AN ABSOLUTE NUTTER AND BRINGING THE THING INTO THE WORKPLACE?”
The Draik cowered under the desk, wondering why he ever left home to study magic. He stood up and placed the Snailiens on his desk, bending over to pick up the miscellaNeous parchments that had rolled onto the floor. He tapped his wand on the desk and a report form began filling itself out, detailing the type of “curious creature” caught and the circumstances behind it. Sally had already barged out of the room, and several sets of eyes peeked into the dimly lit broom closet.
After the form was completed, it filed itself in the correct spot and the Fleeper, slightly dazed and unaware of what was going on, disappeared in a wisp of smoke, transported with other confiscated, rogue Petpets.
Feeling a bit terrible about the whole ordeal, Scamandre straightened his jacket and marched out of his office, straight to where Sally’s little corner was. She was frantically murmuring to herself, organizing paperwork, bow flopping wildly. The Draik tapped lightly on the counter and she jumped.
“WHAT?” she hissed, bitter over more than just the Petpet situation. She reached to adjust the bow on her head, only to make it more off-kilter.
Scamandre reached out, moving his hand back when she let out a low growl, then sighed and stuffed his hands deep into his pockets. “Sally, I … thank you for your help. I haven’t been too kind to you, and … I don’t know if you get the appreciation you deserve for all you do here at the Petpet Protection League. I was wondering if—and, of course, you can say no—that you might enjoy going with me to Kelp tonight?”
Sally stuttered, smoothing her pink cardigan down. She cleared her throat. “You know Scamandre, you’re a real piece of work. But … we both had it rough in there, didn’t we? And I’ve heard their Stramberry Sausages are divine …”
“Oh, I’m vegetarian.” He quickly retracted at the Zafara’s hard glare. “B-b-but I’m sure the sausages are divine! Absolutely divine! And I’ll order as many Cornupper Lemondes as you can handle.”
She giggled. “Okay, Scamandre, you batty wizard. I’ll see you tonight—and dessert will be on me.”
Scamandre bowed low, returning Sally’s smile. He strode back to his office wondering why in Fyora’s good name not every sensible Neopian would leave home to study magic.