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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 24th day of Swimming, Yr 26
The Neopian Times Week 56 > Continuing Series > Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part Three

Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part Three

by jenjen26785

The Dancing Flame
     Angel's new coat had dazzled the duo since their visit to the Rainbow Pool. After leaving the Pool, Jen and Angel needed to travel direct from Neopia Central and straight to Mystery Island. This proved a great opportunity for Angel to show off her new colour. She did look pretty - a deep navy blue for the soft and fluffy (yet still scruffy!) mane around her neck. The rest of her fur was a sparkling azure blue, decorated with bold lightning stripes, the colour of the waters of a Caribbean bay. The silvery light that reflected from her wingtips gleamed a sliver of confident and subtle brightness, yet was barely recognisable, as the almost metallic tips mirrored perfectly the deep oceanic blue of her fur. Angel still pined a little for that beautiful Fiery coat, though. But she felt she had made the right decision after all. The pair were welcomed quite warmly by the locals, who saw them as mere tourists. Indeed, Angel had to forcefully prevent Jen from buying a large bulky camera, baggy T-shirt, shorts and socks with sandals just to blend in - it would probably have drawn even more attention to themselves.

     "I'm sorry, folks," droned the elderly Red Wocky host, "the destination of Mystery Island harbour to Retsinis Jungle Resort has been delayed. If you would care to take a break in one of the many seaside cafes nearby, maybe have a drink, a meal …"

     The inside of the café was quaint and picturesque, nestled quietly into the busy bustling seaside resort, and became the most appealing to the Spy Pet and her owner. It was full of tourists of all shapes and sizes, so luckily there was no way they could look out-of-place.

     The bamboo chairs screeched as the two sat at the table. There was a sudden movement in the shadows, and the brim of a large hat shuffled to reveal the wizened and strained eyes that studied their faces suspiciously. A white moustache bristled, and the old man raised a drink to his mouth.

     Jen stood up and exclaimed apologetically, "So sorry, sir. We didn't realise there was still someone sitting here. Come on, Angel."

     The old man replaced his dandelion and burdock on the table, and waved his hand dismissively. "No need. No need. You're not botherin' me. And I'd appreciate the company." The two sat back down and ordered two rounds of Neocola. "So, you two young 'uns out 'ere on holiday?"

     "Aye. We're just gonna see the sights, n'all," Angel replied.

     "Well, in that case I may be of some 'elp - I run a tourist information office in the middle of town. I'd recommend givin' the Rock Pools and Cooking Pot a visit, and possibly goin' to the famous Trainin' School. That's always good for a laugh." The old man chuckled over his drink. "But for goodness sake, don't go near Retsinis. Ain't nuttin' good come of anyone who visited Retsinis."

     Angel's expression suddenly became very dark. "Uh … what if we were to tell you … hypothetically speaking, of course … that we were visiting Retsinis? What then?"

     The old man stopped what he was doing and took another long swig of dandelion and burdock. Maybe it was just Angel's over-active imagination, but she could have sworn the entire restaurant stopped what they were doing and were listening intently to their conversation. The singe mention of the place seemed to spark a controversial taboo in these parts.

     Finishing the glass and placing it eerily gently on the table, the man leaned over the desk to look the Eyriess dead straight in the eye. "Please tell me you aren't goin' to Retsinis."

     Angel gulped, but didn't say a word, nor shake her head. She did, however, fondle with her locket - luckily the old guy didn't hear the click of a button on a tiny microphone, and on an even tinier silver charm she had placed on the table.

     He sighed. "There 'ave bin some crazy goin's on at Retsinis. Really crazy. Some folks say they've heard the sounds of gunpowder and …"

     "… treason and plot?"

     "Very funny. Of gunpowder and shots, and of animals roarin' in the jungle. It's supposed to be an uninhabited place, y'see. And I suspect some dodgy doin's afoot. Not many folks in these parts speak of Retsinis much. So I'd recommend never settin' foot in that place. You got that?"

     But Jen wasn't listening. She was too preoccupied with the strange candle on the table. Strange how quickly the flame had changed colour from the friendly and inviting, kindly tangerine to a smoky, powdered charcoal, and then an ardent, passionate black. The flame flickered and twisted as she watched, her attention lapsing from the bustling surroundings to this one flame in the middle of the table until everything around her was a blur, and the flame was in a sudden sharp focus. The sinister flame danced round her memories of things past, and things yet to come, and, concentrating, she distinctly noticed a face appear in the flame. The black flame. A gargoyle's face. Twisted and mangled by the effects of refracted light in the dingy café atmosphere. The fiery eyes of the monster slanted. Its lips curled in an ominous snarl - a demon's smile. It curled back its head - tensing the muscles in its powerful neck - and lunged at her …

     "Jen? Are you all right?"

     Angel tapped her shoulder and jolted her out of the trance, making her jump about a foot in the air and fall off her seat.

     Jen scrambled to her feet and glared back at the candle … a normal, amber candle. She looked puzzled at first, and then beamed one of those scary fake smiles at the old man. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, I'm good. Thanks for the warning, sir. We'd better be off now."

     She grabbed the Eyriess' paw and dragged her out the café, followed by the old man's portentous warning: "Just don't go to that resort, kids, if you know what's good for you."

***

It wasn't much later that Jen and Angel were travelling down the jungle road in a rickety old carriage, discussing the conversation with Angle over the locket intercom.

     "So you talked it out with the locals and believe you have the solution already?" The White Aisha scowled at them through the miniature TV screen.

     "Uh, well, sorta …"

     "Did you or not?"

     "No. Not local-s. As in plural. But we did interview a local."

     "Which local?"

     "An experienced island man, of course."

     "No, really, which local?"

     "Give over, Angel. It was a crazy, lonely old man whose party trick is probably to scare the living daylights out of tourists and quite possibly deter them from Retsinis, where I'd guess his business rivals or something are situated."

     Angle smiled smugly through the monitor. "So in other words, you interviewed an unreliable, and possibly insane old man, and now want to come home because you think you've solved the case already."

     "Pretty much. Sounds kinda stupid, don't it." The Eyriess flushed slightly, embarrassed for her own ensuing incompetence.

     "Bullseye. Listen, we'll record the interview and run it through our databases, but you really need more evidence before you can accuse anyone of anything. If we turn up and arrest the owner of Retsinis Jungle Resort, and he proves to be innocent, there'll be scandal plastered over the press, and embarrassment for the NSPA, not to mention our 'not-so-secret' organisation will be found out. Understand now?"

     Angel grumbled in reply.

     The white Aisha smiled, as if to say 'no hard feelings', and continued: "I need to run through this through the databases now. Make your way to the resort and check it out. Report back if there are any strange goings-on, and if you have any good, solid evidence this time. Over and --"

     Before Angle even had a chance to finish, the carriage screeched to a halt and she was cut off. The impact took Jen an Angel off guard and threw them to the other side of the carriage. Beyond they could hear the frantic, high-pitched wickers of the Unis, and the gruff yells of the Techo driver desperately trying to calm the panicked pets.

     Angel leaned out the window and was about to yell something along the lines of 'What's going on?' - but words never came. Instead, she stayed rooted to the spot, her mouth hanging wide open, as she came face to face with an enormous Kougra. Deep black leopard spots covered his pale orange fur, dancing in front of her eyes, mesmerising. A long and broken black chain trailed from a metal cuff on his front left paw. His glare penetrated her every nerve, filling her with a kind of ominous terror, while his the pupils of his amber eyes focused their glare onto her.

     Then the Kougra clenched his finely-toned muscles, and pounced …

Memories
     Angel screeched loudly and pulled herself back into the carriage as fast as possible while the Kougra tore down the rugged road, straight towards them. Jen, who had been watching from the back window, shrieked suddenly and hid behind the seat. They both held their breath and braced for impact.

     BANG! A loud shot echoed through the valley, and a blinding flash illuminated the carriage. Jen shouted and jumped up to see if the Kougra was all right.

     "It's all right. He just got scared away."

     "He's all right. What about us?!? What's going on here?"

     A looming shadow enveloped the coach suddenly, and the two pairs of eyes of Jen and Angel inched hesitantly towards the window. Peering into the coach was the face of a young Meerca astride a Shadow Uni. His expression softened slightly when he saw the scared looks on their faces, and he tipped his hat.

     "So sorry to frighten you ladies. Scared the bugger off with a flare. You all right?"

     They nodded.

     "Well, be careful round these parts. There are some wild Kougras afoot. And I mean wild Kougras." He tipped his hat again and drove the Uni back into the road and out of sight.

     "You okay back there?" the Techo called from the front.

     "Fine. Fine."

     He breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good. It's not often we get Kougra attacks so close to the resort." Angel's face brightened. "We're nearly there?"

     "Oh sure! It's just over that hill. You should be able to see it right about … now."

     As he said that, the coach turned and trundled over the hill to a small mountain gorge bathed in bright sunlight and drowned in the humid tropical air of Mystery Island. Their location was a quaint but large bungalow set into the side of the mountain and snuggled quite nicely in with the citrus trees all around them.

     Lumbering towards the house, the coach finally grinded to a halt and the two leapt out brightly, if slightly warily.

     Angel stretched her limbs and breathed in deeply. "Aah! Much better! I hope we don't get too much action around here - this could turn into a really mint vacation!"

     Jen grinned a reply, but was cut short as the door swung open, and the owner of the Retsinis Jungle Resort. He was a large, beefy Skeith with bold yellow skin, a long black moustache and beard, and a tiny pair of wings sticking out the back of his white, sweat-stained shirt.

     The Skeith beamed an exaggerated smile through yellowing teeth and bellowed, "Welcome, welcome, my young guests! My name is Emvee, and I will be your host over the next few days as you take your exciting vacation in the wilds of the Retsinis Jungle!" He held out his claw to shake.

     To be polite, Jen took the claw and smiled back, although she felt there was something odd about the man. "Thank you, Mr Emvee. I'm sure we'll be having a wonderful time here at your resort."

     "Come now. I'll take your bags."

     Jen clicked her tongue. "Angel? You don't need to bother. Emvee here's gonna take the bags in." Angel, who had been struggling with the cases, yelled back: "Great! I just need to--"

     A yellow claw took the bag from her, and took her paw in a shake, and the Eyriess stopped mid-sentence. Her breath jumped to her throat and her suddenly mouth went dry. In shock, she tugged violently away from the Skeith's grasp and clutched her chest.

     "Are you all right?" he asked.

     "Angel, what's wrong?"

     The Eyriess laughed derisively. "I'm fine! Really. I'm just a bit tired. Thanks for taking my bags."

     Emvee shrugged and, taking several bags under his arm, marched towards the bungalow.

     Jen ran to her side and muttered in her ear. "But there's nothing wrong with you! What was that about?"

     Angel's stony expression told it all. She glared at the Skeith as he walked through the bamboo doorway, and sighed solemnly, whispering, "I'll tell you when we get inside."

     As she did so, her paw dropped from her chest, loosening the grip she had on that golden, heart-shaped locket…

***

Night drew in quickly on Mystery Island - that was one of the first things the duo discovered upon arriving at Retsinis Jungle Resort. Which was quite lucky for them, since it gave them some time to recuperate and talk things over.

     Jen sat on the bed and looked over at her Eyrie friend, who was lying in a hammock and staring at a blank spot on the wall.

     "Okay, so what was that about?"

     Angel barely reacted - just sighed and said, "Is he anywhere near?"

     A clutter from downstairs answered that. "No - he's making tea. Tell me what's bothering you, Angel." But Jen braced herself for an unusual and heartfelt reply. Angel had had a bad past. She knew that. And something had just happened that had unlocked another window as to what happened to her many years ago.

     Angel fell silent again, then turned to Jen, scowling slightly. "Did you not recognise him? Did you not see past that crummy disguise?"

     "No. Who was it?"

     Angel sat up on the hammock. "I remember it as if it had just happened, seeing that guy's face again. I suppose I'd better tell you, since you only know half of it.

     "After I ran away from home when I was younger, before I met you, I spent many days walking through the woods around Kiko Lake. Almost a month after I ran away, I came to a part of the forest I had never seen before. The sunlight shone brightly through the trees, creating a jigsaw pattern on the soft bare earth. There was a pretty sparkling stream meandering through the glade. I breathed in deep and, closing my eyes, ran over the meadow happily … THUD! I smacked into something huge and jumped back, stunned. Shaking my head, my eyes came into sharper focus. Towering above me was an enormous yellow monster, like a dragon. A really big, fat dragon. Dropping the Neopet he was threatening, he stepped forward and grinned at me deviously.

     "What you doing here kid? This is uncharted territory for the likes of you."

     "I was about to apologise and continue on my way, but then I thought, why? Why should I leave and let him get pleasure out of making me feel bad? He was just a bully. I hated bullies. I spread my claws and snarled, 'And what about the likes of me? How do you know what the likes of me is?' He looked at me lopsided: 'You confuse me.'

     "It's not difficult."

     The Skeith snarled grotesquely. "All right, that's it kid. Either get out or I'm gonna force you out!" He ran at me, his tail Jen reaching straight for me. Acting on instinct I ran round - being faster than him - and looked for an escape route. I ran straight for a dead tree, the monster running straight behind me, and - at the last possible moment - dug my claws into the bark and leapt into the branches. The monster kept on going and smashed straight into the tree bark with a horrible CRUNCH! He wriggled about, stuck in the tree trunk. I laughed in the tree, relishing the moment, before flipping over and onto the ground, kicking his big backside in the process! The tree tumbled over with the force of the kick and plummeted into the river. I watched it flow down the weak currents as the monster freed himself and swam to the shore, wet and pathetic!"

     There was a scrambling noise outside. Angel shot a look out the window, and noticed the massive bulk of Emvee scuttling surprisingly quickly over the yard and into the barn, where a dim candlelight continued to smoulder.

     Angel shrugged and continued her story. "Weird, I thought. I continued along this route for several days, walking deeper and deeper into the woods. This gave me time to reflect on things. Like why was I so afraid of that Skeith? There was a deep down, grinding sense of fear I felt in my heart. Why? How can the mere image of a beast - an ugly beast - like that enforce such a strong emotion of, well, odium? It was exactly this subject that I was stewing over when I approached a glade at night. "Suddenly - a slight movement in the distance. My eyes flickered in the dim light. There was something there. I strained to see a very small figure flapping desperately to stay aloft in the weak updrafts. It was bright green! I shook my head. Civilisation! This was too good to be true.

     "I immediately leapt from the tree branch I was perched on and galloped across the moonlit meadow. My first mistake. I didn't check where I pounced and landed … SMACK! Straight onto something squidgy and spiky.

     "I rolled off and shook my head. There was a yell and a thrashing, like something really big scrambling to its feet. I felt something grapple at my wings and lift me off the ground!" SCREEEEEER!!

     "I screamed at the top of my lungs as only an Eyrie can, and a flame flickered in front of my beak. Three Skeiths stood before me, their grotesque features flickering, illuminated in the firelight like some gothic gargoyles. I screeched again, but the red one gripped my beak shut with its enormous claw. I recognised one as the Skeith I had attacked days beforehand.

     "Quiet, scum! Hey it's you!" he snarled. Then he looked at my locket and his eyes grew wide with shock. "The heart and cross… the Kumlaa Pride…" His voice quavered as he spoke, then shook his head and growled. 'You cost me my dignity, rat. Consider this my revenge.' He fumbled around in the darkness. I knitted my brows in an expression of uncertainty.

     "Don't even try to escape," he chuckled sinuously. He then spun round to display his thick fur coat. "See this? It used to be a Kougra. This cloak was a Lupe. And this hat? Three Jubjubs. You wanna know what's next on our list?"

     "My eyes widened in pure terror as he approached me, brandishing a glistening knife. Suddenly, something sang through the night. There was a TWANG and - quick as lightning - the expression of the Red Skeith drooped. His pupils constricted in shock and he let go of my beak. There was an arrow in his back! No, it wasn't. Though it might as well have been - it was stuck in that thick Lupe fur coat and pinning him to the tree! I saw my chance and swiped with my paw, using Eyrie Scratch against him to dislodge his grip on my wings. He jolted, his clenched claws relaxed, and I dropped, outstretched my talons, and sprinted off the ground towards the green glowing figure - now a distant smouldering shimmer in the light.

     "It wasn't more than a few moments before the Skeith realised I was gone and bellowed 'AFTER HER!' as loud as he could, which was - let me assure you - very loud. I felt their stampeding feet trembling the ground around me. So familiar. So terrifying. I felt the adrenaline through fear pump faster through my body and I kept on running, tripping over my oversized paws along the way. I just closed my eyes and ran. It was the most scared I have ever been in my life.

     "Suddenly I had flashbacks. A herd of Skeith. Rampaging. Stampeding … deliberately? Yes, deliberately. It was a planned attack. I saw myself as a tiny cub. I squinted up at the figure holding me, a … a Striped Eyriess? I remember seeing more Eyries - male Eyries. Including a fire one, and a red one. They leapt over the edge of the rocks towards the Skeiths. There was an incredible screech, and my mam hid my face …

     "All of a sudden I heard another TWANG. In my vision? No. This was real. I opened my eyes again and saw ... big feet? I looked up. It was a girl!? She was tall and had big feet, which was as far as I could tell, because I had skidded to a halt directly in front of her feet! I immediately ran behind her legs and took a view of the odd scene from there. The girl had light brown hair and deep hazel eyes and pointy ears. Her expression, which I could have imagined was often soft and caring was now creased into an aggressive scowl, glaring at the Skeiths. I looked at them. Another arrow had buried itself into the thick Kougra fur coat of the Yellow Skeith and pinned him to the ground, where he sat, quivering uncontrollably. In front of her feet was a strangely familiar red fluffball with a Wocky's tail that stood its ground and snarled at him, the fur on it's neck standing on end, teeth bared.

     "You were the girl, Jen. It was the first time I met you. You held the bow directed at his head and spoke in a soft, clear and deceivingly gentle voice: 'One ... more ... step. That's all it takes. Then you'll be in my territory and I'll have every right to capture you.'

     "I was expecting the Skeith to say something along the lines of, 'You wouldn't dare,' but he didn't. Didn't want to tempt fate, I s'pose. Instead all three Skeiths scrambled to their feet, tearing the Kougra fur coats in the process, and hurtled out the way, cursing horribly …" Angel stopped, short of breath and blinked a few times to clear her head before continuing.

     "Don't you see it now? Minus the fake beard and moustache, and you have that exact Skeith! He's the one who chased me that night. That's why I hid my locket. If he'd seen it, I'll bet we'd never have survived the night, never mind complete this mission. It's the symbol. It means something to him. I want to know more about my past, but not from him. Never. I never wanted to see him again …"

     "My goodness," Jen stammered, "I think you're right. I don't know why I didn't see it before. Maybe there are just so many trespassers in the swamp I tend to lose count …" She buried her face in her hands and thought deeply. "Listen, I'm gonna ring Angle and ask her to call off the mission. Give it to someone else. It's probably for the best …"

     At hearing these words, Angel leapt suddenly out of the hammock. "No way!" she protested, "This is the first opportunity I have had to prove myself a competent spy, and if I fail, it's the last opportunity too! 'Rule number 3: Never let your fears get the better of you.' If I face my fear, I'll prove myself to all of them that I can do this job! If I run away scared, I'll never be able to forgive myself …"

     Jen looked up from behind her hands, brown eyes sparkling. "You sure?"

     Angel gulped. "Aye. I'm sure."

     "I s'pose you can achieve anything when you put your fears aside and put your mind to it."

     "I guess."

     "Like leaping out of the hammock when every theory of fiasco says you should have fallen right out…"

To be continued...

Previous Episodes

Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part One

Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part Two

Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part Four

Spy Pets: First Assignment: Part Five

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