Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 195,899,031 Issue: 883 | 15th day of Storing, Y21
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The Dark Detective


by tanikagillam

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     "Dark. Dark, wake up. Dark!”

     “What?” The Darigan Draik kicked his legs out from underneath him in surprise, and tumbled from the couch onto the floor. “Elena – what?”

     A pink Cybunny was hovering above him, her pretty face an inch from his. And she looked crazed, her eyes wide and her fur sticking up on end like static.

     “Dark!”

     “I’m awake! Stop shouting at me.”

     “Dark, this is an emergency.”

     “It had better be. I was dreaming I was the Lord of Jelly World.”

     “There’s no such thing as Jelly World,” the Cybunny scoffed as she sat down on the floor beside him. The Draik blinked his sleepy eyes at her as she held up an orange Meepit.

     “That is a Meepit.”

     “As succinct as ever, Dark.” Elena rolled her eyes and shook the Meepit vigorously at him. It looked mildly unimpressed. “This is Sebastian.”

     “Sebastian… as in your sister’s petpet Krawk, Sebastian?” Dark was starting to get a very bad feeling about this. “Elena – what did you do?”

     “It was an accident! I was just trying to make him orange!”

     Dark looked at the Meepit and screwed up his nose.

     “Well, you got half of it right.”

     “Lis is going to kill me.”

     “Yes, probably.” Dark was slightly unnerved by how the Meepit was staring at him without blinking. “I thought you turned him purple last week, anyway.”

     “I did. I’m practicing – and I’m getting better.” Elena thought about this for a moment and shook her head. “Well, I was getting better. Magic is hard, Dark.”

     “It is if you don’t have a real magician to tutor you, or any spell books that you didn’t pick up at the Money Tree, or if you knew what you were doing in the slightest. And of course, if you don’t have a real wand, but just a stick you found in the backyard that you scratched some runes into.”

     “We’ve been through this. There are no magic tutors living in Shenkuu – and I’m not moving to Meridell or Faerieland! I am self-taught. I even made some green fire last week.”

     “Is fire supposed to be green?”

     Frowning, Elena threw the Meepit at him.

     “It’s a start! I don’t see you making fire – of any colour!”

     “Well, no. I don’t have magic.” Dark pointed out reasonably, setting the Meepit down gently beside him. “But if I did, I would be looking for a real tutor to teach me some real spells, and not just ones to turn fruit into snowballs.”

     “That was one time.”

     “So what are you going to do about this thing?” Dark prodded the Meepit with his finger, and he opened its mouth in a small “o” shape. They waited, but nothing else happened. “Meepits are so useless.”

     “I’ve tried everything I can to turn him back into a Krawk. Of any colour. But all that happens is he starts doing weird things. Watch this.” Elena fished her wand out of her pocket and pointed it at the Meepit. He closed its eyes and started to sway on the spot, with its mouth still open. “Poor Sebastian.”

     Dark stroked the arrowed tip of his tail thoughtfully while watching the Meepit sway around.

     “You’ll just have to get her another Krawk.” He said with a shrug. “Do you have a spare eight million neopoints?”

     “Eight million neopoints? Don’t be ridiculous! They’re only seven million.”

     “Only.”

     “You know I don’t have seven million neopoints, Dark. And even if I did – no way would I spend them on Lis! She’s a huge pain in my –”

     “We could get a Krawk for free!” Dark interrupted, his eyes lighting up with excitement. “And have an adventure at the same time.”

     “You and your adventures! Dark, I know you fancy yourself as a bit of a detective but nothing ever happens in Shenkuu! Except that time the Lunar Temple was closed, and the solution to that was … boring, to say the least.”

     Dark remembered it well.

     “You’re right that nothing ever happens in Shenkuu. And of course you can’t find a Krawk here, either. So, where does that leave us?”

     “You’ve lost me.”

     “We’re going to Krawk Island, Elena! We’re going to have a wonderful pirate adventure, find a new Krawk for your sister and I will solve a mystery!”

     “What makes you think there will be a mystery at Krawk Island?” Elena leaned over and plucked the Meepit off the floor as it lay down dizzily. “Also, I’m fairly sure baby Krawks come from Tyrannia.”

     “Tosh! There are mysteries everywhere – you just have to keep looking.”

     “I don’t want to be sold off to the Smugglers.”

     “What?”

     “The Smugglers! I’m a pretty pink Cybunny. I’m sure they’d get a mint for me.”

     “I don’t think they kidnap Neopets, Elena.” Dark looked amused at his friend’s worried expression. “And if they do – well, you can just turn them all into Meepits, can’t you?”

     “Not funny, Dark. You know I don’t know how my magic works yet.”

     “What the point in having a best friend with magic if she doesn’t actually know how to use it?” Dark looked thoughtful, as Elena whacked him in the shoulder.

     “What are we going to do with, er, Sebastian? We can’t just leave him here – Lis won’t get back from Terror Mountain for a few days.”

     “I guess we can bring him with us,” Dark said, looking at the Meepit doubtfully. “He can’t cause too much trouble.”

     “Uh huh.” Elena looked equally doubtful. “We’ll have to dress up like pirates, though. My pink fur and your Darigan spikes will stand out a mile. We don’t want to attract any… unwanted attention.” Dark wondered if she was still thinking about the Smugglers.

     “Sure,” he replied agreeably. “I think there’s a trunk of old clothes in the attic. Pack your bags, Elena. We’re going on an adventure!”

     The Meepit groaned, and rolled onto its face.

     ***

     Krawk Island was not what Dark had expected.

     To start with – it was bucketing down. He and Elena had thrown on all the pirate clothes they could find (complete with golden jewellery) but the rain was soaking through and quickly turning their bones to ice. Elena had tried a spell to make the rain stop, but had only managed to bring the sun out. So it was bucketing down – and as bright as the Lost Desert.

     It was a little disconcerting, to be honest.

     With Sebastian the Meepit tucked safely under her striped cloak and a hood over her head, Elena looked very pirate-like. Except for her brilliantly bushy pink tail, which could be seen all the way from the dock. Dark thought it prudent not to mention this to her.

     They walked side by side up the deserted wharf, their footsteps echoing loudly on the thick wooden planks.

     “Where is everyone?” Dark wondered aloud, and Elena gave a shrug.

     “I’ve never been here before. What’s it supposed to be like?”

     Dark had only been to Krawk Island once before, when he was very young. He couldn’t remember a thing about the place – except he seemed to recall it being a lot busier.

     “Maybe it’s off season?” He remarked, hoping Elena wouldn’t ask him what off season meant. He didn’t actually know.

     “We could check in the Golden Dubloon. I’m actually kind of hungry.” It appeared that Sebastian was hungry as well, for he started nibbling on the inside of Elena’s cloak. She swatted at him gently and he hissed at her.

     The Golden Dubloon was busier than the wharf – there were two other customers at the bar, and a bored looking waitress behind it. She gave them a friendly – albeit slightly tired-looking – smile, and gestured to the empty stools.

     “Ahoy, there. Welcome to the Golden Dubloon. Anythin’ I can get you folks?”

     Dark didn’t know much about pirate cuisine, and he didn’t trust the plate of tentacle-looking things the Eyrie at the bar was tucking into. He ordered a drink instead, and Elena asked for a bowl of chips.

     “Chips chips, or fries chips? Or wood chips?” The waitress asked, and Elena glanced at Dark. He gave a small shrug.

     “Chips chips?”

     “Comin’ right up. Have a seat.” The waitress disappeared behind the bar as the two friends pulled out a bar stool each and hopped up on them. Sebastian wriggled his way out of Elena’s cloak and flopped down on the counter, where he lay down and closed his eyes. If the waitress was surprised by his sudden appearance, it didn’t show, as she placed a large bowl of chips on the counter beside him.

     “Thanks very much. Say, where is everyone? It’s so quiet here.” Elena popped a chip in her mouth and crunched down. Salty barbeque flavoured goodness filled her mouth and she pulled the bowl away from the Meepit’s wandering paw.

     “Oh, it’s shipwreck season. There’ll be plenty of folks in and out, but they only stop through for a day or so before heading out.”

     “Out?” Dark was eying off the chips with the same beady look as Sebastian.

     “To sea.” The waitress leaned forward and propped her chin up on her elbows. “There’s hundreds of old shipwrecks out there, and at this time of year the seas are calm enough to go diving. A crew will take a boat out and see what they can scavenge. It’s a good living – if you can find anything.”

     “But it’s raining.” Dark glanced at the window as the droplets slammed against the glass. “Is that safe?”

     “Safe? Not really. The sea can be pretty dangerous.”

     Pirates are crazy, Dark thought to himself. He refrained from saying so aloud, however. The grizzled-looking Eyrie beside them had finished his plate of tentacles and was not-so-subtly eavesdropping on their conversation.

     “Well, you certainly won’t catch me heading out on a boat in this kind of weather. Treasure or no treasure,” Elena looked mildly horrified at the mere thought. “Know anywhere we can find a petpet krawk?”

     “Tyrannia.”

     “What?”

     “I told you, Dark.”

     “The petpet shop in Tyrannia sells them.” The waitress gave a shrug.

     “But this is Krawk Island. Krawk!”

     “You could always search the Fungus Caves. But…”

     “But?”

     “Well, they can be pretty dangerous too. Weird things live in there. Us natives tend to avoid the place.”

     “Hear hear!” The nosy Eyrie chimed in, and Dark turned to him.

     “Have you been there? What’s it like?”

     “I was only a kid, many moons ago. I haven’t been back there since. Sometimes, I can still hear the screams.” The Eyrie looked solemn, and the waitress rolled her eyes.

     “Don’t listen to Hank. He likes scaring tourists.”

     Sebastian mewed softly under his breath and Elena gave him a chip from her bowl.

     “We really need a krawk. It’s a matter of life and death,” she told the waitress, and Dark nodded in agreement. He had seen Elena’s sister in a rage before.

     It wasn’t pretty.

     “You could always try the Cove,” the waitress said with a slight shrug. “Not as reliable, but a lot cheaper. They get shipments of krawks in sometimes. You might get lucky.”

     “Cove… as in, the Smugglers Cove?” Elena’s fluffy pink face looked a slight shade of green. It was not flattering on her.

     “Sure. If you can find a crew heading out to salvage, they can drop you off. The Cove is on the way to most shipwreck hotspots. You might have to pay a couple of dubloons, or swab a deck, but it’s a small price to pay. A krawk from the Smugglers would be as cheap as chips. Speaking of chips, you want a refill?”

     “Please,” Dark replied, his mouth full of the chip crumbs he had scooped from the bottom of the bowl.

     “The Smugglers Cove. Huh. Do you remember me talking to you about that before we left, Dark? Hm?” Elena kicked him under the bar and he yelped.

     “I’m not the one who turned Sebastian into a stupid Meepit!”

     The waitress returned with a fresh bowl of chips, and Elena angrily swatted at the grizzly Eyrie as he reached for one.

     “We’ll head to the docks, see if anyone is heading out today. We can stop by the Cove and be back before dinner. It’ll be fine, Elena. I promise.” Dark gave his best friend a winning smile, and crunched down loudly on a chip.

     It wasn’t until later – much later – that Elena remembered why she never took Dark up on his promises.

To be continued…

 
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