Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 98,096,637 Issue: 194 | 10th day of Relaxing, Y7
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Cruor Stilla: Part One


by eikomei

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Ruby walked home from school as quickly as she could, hoping to get an early start on her homework. The project was to explore her house thoroughly and see if there was anything she hadn't noticed before by doing so. She knew about pretty much everything in her house, except for whatever the attic contained, as she had never bothered going up there before.

     Caerulus, her Anubis, greeted her at the door, jumping up and knocking the half-eaten apple out of her hand, and proceeded to chase after it.

      "I see you're as energetic as ever," she said to him, then went inside and up to her room. She had to move a chair to stand on so she could get to the attic's entrance, then pushed it open and went inside. She coughed on the dust and her eyes watered as she looked around at the small space. It was filled with boxes mostly, but there was one object lying out in the open on top of one of them that caught her eye. She picked it up and examined it.

      It was a necklace, with a chain made of gold attatching a ruby set in a golden scarab pendant to it. The thing had the aura of something ancient, but appeared as if it was made just recently. She was afraid to try it on, for some unexplainable reason, but felt the urge to all the same. What's the worst that could happen? she thought. Really, it's just a piece of jewelry...

      An extremely beautiful piece of jewelry, too. It's design was simple enough, but Ruby found her mind being lost in the scarlet hue of the gemstone as she continued to stare into it's depths. Such an odd shade of red it was; it almost seemed as if it were a crystallized drop of blood. Strange, she mused. How that color even matches my name. It's like it was made for her.

      With that final thought, all feelings of doubt were erased from her mind. Unhesitatingly, she undid the clasp to the necklace, placed it around her neck, and closed it again. See? she told herself. Nothing happened. You were just being paranoid for no reason.

     What had she been afraid of, anyway? She went back downstairs to her mirror, and examined how it looked on her. The gold almost matched the color of her fur, and the ruby was almost exactly the same crimson as her eyes, not that she would ever show them to anyone. Still, she thought vaguely it would look better on her if she were painted desert. But that didn't matter; it looked good now, and she found herself thinking that she would never take it off. Why would she ever want to?

      The next day was a schoolday, and she remembered that she still had homework to do. She crossed her room over to the hook on the wall where her backpack was hanging, took it, and brought it back to her bed, proceeding to dump everything out and sort through it all (she wasn't exactly the most organized student). Nearly halfway into the year and she still had yet to rearrange the space in her binder and backpack. I will tomorrow, she decided, then got started on her homework.

      It was 9 o'clock by the time she had finished her essay on the properties of each faerie and possibilities of new types for History, the making of a transmogrification potion for (what else?) Potions, reading chapter 8 of "Magical Artifacts Discovered Throughout History and Their Backgrounds" for Study of Magic, and finally, studying for tomorrow's test in Study of Ancient Runes. After all of that in just two hours, Ruby was ready to sleep. She crammed all of her stuff back into her backpack, returned it to the hook on the wall, returned herself to the bed and went to sleep as soon as she laid down, unwary of the deep red light that was now emanating from the amulet around her neck.

      *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

      Ruby awoke the next morning by daylight streaming through the window. She didn't open her eyes right away, as she had been in the middle of a strange dream. For a couple of minutes she continued to lay there with her eyes closed, struggling to remember what the dream had contained, but had no luck. As in the way of most dreams, the more she tried to conjure up the actual details, the hazier things became.

      Having mused long enough on the content of her already forgotten dream, she supposed it was time to get up. She groaned inwardly at the thought. I don't want to go to school, she thought mournfully. But, knowing she had to, she threw the covers off like she did every other morning before this, and opened her eyes.

      Ow! She immediately shut her eyes again. I'm blinded! What the heck is this about?! She didn't recall opening the blinds or curtains last night. It was a rarity when she did, and even then, the daylight in the morning wasn't nearly so bad. During this time of year she would sometimes open the shutters and window to cool down the temperature of her room at night, but the sun rose on the opposite side of her house, and so had never bothered her in the morning. Now it was as if the sun was in direct alignment with her window.

      Daring to open her eyes again, this time facing the other side of the room, she made a startling discovery; this wasn't her room. If it were her room, right now she would be seeing her two bookcases packed with books and school things with a green bean bag chair set up in front of it on a cream rug (her own form of an entertainment system, you could say), about a yard and a half away from her. But all she saw was the wall, maybe two feet away from her, leaving enough room between it and the bed for the small wooden table with a glass of water and single book on it, which looked like a diary.

      She looked around to survey the rest of the room, her eyes having finally adjusted enough to the sunlight. It was much smaller than her own room. A few feet away from the foot of her bed was a plain, wooden coffee table, built the same way as the one next to her bed, except that it was rectangular rather than square. The window was in the same place it had been, but she no longer had a door. Instead, there were stairs leading down against the wall across from the foot of her bed, behind the coffee table. And that was all. Where in the world was she? Whose room was she in? Had she been kidnapped?

      No, she thought frantically. This can't be happening. How would they have gotten past Caerulus without him waking me up? Even if they had, I would have woken up at some point. But what if that really did happen...and somehow I just didn't wake up. A sleeping potion? No. This can't be happening. This isn't real, I'm still dreaming.

      She thought on in the same frenzied tone, knowing all the time that whatever was happening was definitely real. Why would anyone kidnap me, anyway? That just wouldn't make sense...I'm not even locked up or anything. I could easily just walk out of here. But what if their waiting for me downstairs? But there's nothing else I can do! I can't just sit around and do nothing....

      Resolving that going downstairs would be the most productive (and only) thing to do, she headed for them, but stopped as she passed the window. Looking out of it, she discovered that she was only on the second floor. Maybe she could make a rope out of her blankets and bedsheets and climb down on it, like she had read in fairy tales. She supposed it was worth a shot, but thought it would be a bit extreme if this whole "kidnapping" thing weren't really the case. What else could have happened, though? Alright, she concluded in her mind. I'll take a peek downstairs to see if anyone's there, then...well, I'll just do that and decide the rest from there.

      So, she resumed her walk to the stairs. However, she had only taken a couple of steps when a lady's voice called, "Rose! Time to--oh, you're already up." It was what looked like a royal Cybunny, only dressed less extravagantly. Her fur was all white, and she was wearing a plain, light blue dress with a white apron over it. She had come halfway up the stairs when she spotted Ruby. "Breakfast is ready on the table downstairs, dear, whenever you are." She smiled warmly, and turned to go back downstairs. Several moments after she was gone, Ruby stood there, unmoving. What? she thought dumbly.

      Maybe they're really nice kidnappers... she thought, knowing that it wasn't the case. What is going on? Where am I if I haven't been kidnapped? How did I get here? Was this some type of joke? Well, it seemed she wasn't kidnapped. Ruby needed an explanation. Where was she? How did she get there and why had that Cybunny referred to her as "Rose"? She obviously thought she was someone she wasn't. Maybe I could find out more by talking to her... It was as good a plan as any, so she took a deep breath, and went downstairs.

      The first thing in front of her was a counter with cupboards under it, and a stove to the right of it. The counter was apparently for space to prepare food, and the cupboards for dishes. To the right of the stove there was an open door, and through it she could see the edge of a bath tub. In the center of the room she was currently in, there was yet another plain wooden table, circular in shape, with two chairs around it. In front of one of the chairs was a bowl of what appeared to be gruel with potato chunks in it, with a little dish to the side filled with berries. This was breakfast. Great.

      The Cybunny was busy washing her dishes at the sink in the counter, so Ruby sat down to eat. Wondering who in their right mind would choose to eat something like this, she lifted a spoonful to her mout and took a bite of the potato gruel. The potatoes were too hard, and the gruel tasted like water and some other indefinable thing. She hoped the berries would be better. While she continued to eat, she thought of what she should try to talk about with the white Cybunny.

     ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Rose ran through the small woods of Meridell as fast as her legs would carry her. She had thrown off Jhudora's minions for now, but she knew they would have surrounded the forest by now. She couldn't risk getting caught by them when trying to leave the area, so all she could do was move as quickly as possible towards her house, hoping that no surprise guests would be waiting for her there.

      Then what? her mind demanded of her. Even if they haven't gotten to it yet, what will I do when I get there, sit and wait for them? There's no way out of here! She was thinking frantically, moving from question to question and desperate for answers. I can't get to the Royals to tell them of Jhudora's next plan, it's too late for that... no! I can't just let that happen. There must be something...

      Her thoughts were crowding her so much that she didn't notice the large rock sticking out of the ground and tripped on it. She was so tired from running that she didn't bother to catch herself, and landed on her side. I have to think of something. I won't die here without doing anything, I promise myself that now. Placing her front paws on the ground and taking a brief instant to breathe, she pushed herself up from the ground and kept going. She was determined.

     ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Ruby was in a dilemma. Since this Cybunny thought she was someone she knew, probably a relative since they were living together, so she had to be careful not to act strange around her. The problem was, she didn't know how she should act. This made her reluctant to attempt conversation--what could she say without seeming weird to the other Neopet?

      Fortunately, she was spared the trouble of answering that question, as the Cybunny turned around and spoke to her, Upon seeing Ruby, she said, "Why, Rose, why haven't you dressed yet?"

      Ruby stared. "Uhh," she said in reply. "...I forgot." That was lame, she thought.

      "Oh, silly, it's the red dress, remember? I bought it for you last week for this occasion."

      She saw this as her chance to find out more. "What occasion?" she asked sincerely.

      "The ceremony, of course," said the nameless Cybunny. When Ruby didn't appear enlightened, she added, "For the prince's crowning, remember?" She had a concerned look on her face.

      "Oh," said Ruby in a falsely surprised voice, trying to sound as if she really had just remembered it. "I'm sorry, I've just been so forgetful lately. I'll go get dressed now." And she ran upstairs, leaving a slightly worried Neopet behind. So much for trying not to act odd.

      It wasn't until she was back in the room that she discovered she had no idea where the dress would be. There were no dressers or anything to hang something up on. She looked around more thoroughly and noticed something she hadn't before; there were two doors built into the wall on the left side of her bed that blended in very well. She went and opened them.

      Inside were a couple of shelves with four different outfits folded on them. She took out the only one with red in it and closed the doors. The dress was made of silk or something similar and had a design of dark red flowers and light brown leaves against a black background color. It reminded her of autumn. The collar was square and cut down to just below her collarbone. It was a sleeveless dress and the length of it reached her ankles. She turned it around and saw that the back was corseted. So, she untied it and slipped into it. Now all she had to do was tie it back up. Um, yeah...She went back downstairs.

      The Cybunny that had yet to be named was doing the dishes that Ruby had finished with. She wasn't used to people cleaning up after her. At least that's one good thing about whatever's going on. Although she knew that if she continued to live there, she'd clean up after herself just as she always had, especially if it wasn't even her house she was staying at. But that won't happen, she told herself, because I'm going home as soon as I find out more...whenever that may be. Though this was reasonable thinking, she still felt uneasy. What if the information she found out was something that would prevent her from going home, somehow? What she knew so far...it seemed as if she was in a different world or something. If, in some bizarre yet possible way, that was the case, then how would she get back to her own world? This is ridiculous. That can't be right.

      She snapped out of her thoughts, realizing she had been standing there for quite a while. "Um," she said to make her presence known. The Cybunny (her new official, temporary name) turned around. "Could you please..?"

      She didn't have to finish the question before The Cybunny saw what she was talking about. "Of course, dear," she answered, then dried off her hands and tightly tied Ruby's--or Rose's-- dress.

      "Thanks," said Ruby when she had finished.

      "Well, seeing as how you're ready now," said The Cybunny, "we might as well get going. We only have a half an hour or so to get there, so you may need to bring some water." As she said this, she took from the cupboard what looked like a miniature keg, about the size of a water bottle.

      Taking the thermos-substitute, she went to the bathroom and filled it with water from the faucet. When she came out, The Cybunny was taking off her apron and threw it over the back of a chair. She saw Ruby and said, "Shall we set off, then?"

      Halfway into the walk, Ruby was grateful that Delia, as she had learned was The Cybunny's real name, had suggested bringing water. Her mouth had gone very dry from jogging to keep up with Delia's quick hopping.

      "Can we..." she panted, "take a break?"

      "Don't be silly, dear, we're nearly there," replied Delia. Ruby didn't know if she could stand being called 'dear' one more time. Delia started to move again, so Ruby resumed her jogging.

      About twenty minutes later they reached their destination--an enormous, white marble castle with a big crowd of Neopets outside it, surrounding several long tables piled with food. They were all looking up at a wide balcony not too far up on the castle, where there were two elderly Royal Draiks, and one younger-looking blue one. She supposed this was the prince. It was supposed to be a 'prince's crowning' after all.

      "Oh, good," said Delia. "We're just in time."

To be continued...

 
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