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A Quest Unlike Any Other: Part One

by toffee_choc


The sun was beating down on Terror Mountain, and the small collection of shops on the summit was already buzzing with activity. The usual crowd of people were clamouring for bargains at the Igloo, and a slightly apprehensive group was waiting outside Donny's hut, each clutching a tattered Fuzzle or broken Cheery Blossom.

     However, on Snowball Close everything was quiet. Passing Bori chatted peaceably, and even the timid Yullies were scampering in the snow. A group of Snowbunnies were unconcernedly nibbling on some visible blades of grass, and it seemed like nothing could disturb this-


     In a flurry of snowflakes, both the Yullies and Snowbunnies scattered as the robot Aisha hurried down the path, pushed past the startled Bori and rushed towards the Ice Caves, muttering to himself.

     "I'm late, I'm late," he grumbled, before ducking into the shade of the Ice Caves.

     Pushing his way through the pets surrounding the boarded-up hole in the ice, he broke into a sprint.

     Toffee_choc85 burst into the bright sunlight of Happy Valley and made his way across to the Snow Wars castle, where a sour looking tree was leaning nonchalantly against one of the turrets. He grunted as he spied the robot Aisha hurrying down the slope.

     "Was starting to think you weren't going to bother turning up," he called derisively. "It would save us both some time."

     Toffee sneered in response and pulled out a pouch of Neopoints to pay the entrance fee. The Tree grinned and sloped inside, giving only the curtest of nods to the gate-keeper.

     Toffee settled himself behind his grid and frowned. As per usual, he had no idea where to start shooting.

     "Should've stuck to Snow Wars II, Toffee," he muttered to himself.

     "Start already!" bellowed the Tree. "I have a lunch appointment I'd like to keep!"

     Toffee gritted his teeth. "B6!"

     "Miss!" announced the Tree gleefully. "A7."

     Toffee groaned.

     "Hit," he murmured, as the obligatory snow shower rained down on him.

     Two hours later, the Aisha was wet, dejected and frustrated. He'd known it was hopeless about an hour previously, but there was no way he was going to admit it to the pile of wood gloating opposite.

     Sparing only a glance for his victorious opponent and his shattered board, Toffee turned and trudged his way homewards. He ignored the cheery greeting of the Kiosk Wocky and was just turning towards his street at the top of the mountain when he heard a curious noise.

     "Pssssst," it said.

     The Aisha stopped and looked around in confusion. He couldn't see anyone who'd be likely to make such a whispery noise, when he suddenly noticed that Taelia's doorway was ajar, and the Faerie was watching him intently. Shrugging to himself, he made his way across to the hut.

     "Ma'am did you-" he began.

     "Not here!" Taelia retorted sharply, grabbing the Aisha by the paw and hurrying him inside her hut.

     Toffee eyed the roaring fire and cosy armchair enviously, but somehow he doubted this was a social visit. Sure enough, when he turned back to the Faerie she was eyeing him impatiently. He smiled nervously, but she kept staring at him. He was just deciding whether or not to say something, when Taelia broke the silence.

     "You are Toffee_choc85, aren't you?" she demanded.

     "Yes, I am," answered Toffee, now even more confused.

     "Good," said the Faerie, sounding relieved. "I have a very special quest for you."

     "Oh?" queried Toffee - Taelia's quests were often expensive, so he didn't complete them very often.

     The Snow Faerie smiled. "Obviously, the reward will be suitably... special."

     Toffee's ears pricked up slightly, and he began to feel more interested.

     "To complete the quest, I'd like you to bring me... an Ancient Hourglass." She smiled again. "Say within the next 3 hours? I'll give you a bit longer than usual, as it's a bit unusual. Off you go."

     As if in a dream, Toffee stumbled out of her hut. Had he heard her correctly? An Ancient Hourglass?! Was she insane? Were there even any left in Neopia?

     Grumbling to himself, the Aisha stood in the snow and considered. Surely there'd be at least one for sale at the Trading Post? He decided to go to Mystery Island and have a look. Looking wistfully towards his cosy Neohome, he turned and made his way down the mountain, determined to get to Mystery Island and back before tea-time.

     He boarded a boat bound for Mystery Island, and settled back to enjoy the warmth of the sun - he so rarely got the chance on Terror Mountain. Pretty soon the Aisha found himself drifting off, the boat rocking gently beneath him.

     "All t' disembark!" bellowed a voice in his ear.

     The Aisha woke with a start, to find a surly looking Krawk looking at him.

     "Dis-em-bark," he said slowly. "It means GET OFF!"

     Toffee stared at him reproachfully, his ears ringing, before heaving himself up and looking at the Island before him. There was something not quite right...

     "Krawk Island!" cried an excited voice next to him "Don't it swell yer heart te see it?"

     Toffee was about to retort that nothing filled his heart with greater dread, but he could see the surly Krawk returning, so he took the proffered paw and stepped ashore.

     He looked at his rescuer. It was a pirate Lupe, who seemed, at best, highly excitable.

     "I'm Chip!" exclaimed the Lupe loudly. "I'm a Pirate! Y'arr."

     "Evidently," commented Toffee dryly. "I'm Toffee."

     The Lupe seemed to find this highly amusing.

     "Ye don't look like a toffee, ye look like a bit of metal!" he cried gleefully.

     Toffee sighed. "Well, you're less pirate, more loopy!"

     Unfortunately, this only amused the Lupe even more.

     "A loopy Lupe! Loopy Lupe-y." He chuckled.

     The Aisha, however, wasn't impressed.

     "Look," he said impatiently, "I've less than two hours to find an Ancient Hourglass, and I'm on the wrong island!"

     Chip stopped laughing. "No, yer not."

     Toffee looked at the Lupe incredulously.

     "Is there suddenly a Trading Post here, too?" he asked sarcastically.

     "Na, yer don't need one of those!" replied the Lupe. "Th' only Ancient Hour-thingummies te be found are at the Smugglers' Cove!"

     Toffee looked unconvinced, so the Lupe tried again.

     "Aarr, it be like this, mate - ye have te go te the Cove, in order te get the Glass. Savvy?"

     Chip rolled his eyes at the even blanker expression on the Aisha's face.

     "If ye really need one o' those Ancient Thingummies, ye'll need te go there - our best bet is te raid it as the Smugglers come in! Let's go!"

     Without waiting for a response, the Lupe grabbed Toffee's paw and hauled him in the direction of the Cove.

     Ten minutes later, the pair were huddled in the undergrowth next to Smugglers' Cove. Chip was unusually calm, while Toffee was wondering what in Neopia had induced him to agree to this.

     "Right," hissed Chip in one of Toffee's ears, "they're comin' ashore now, so the trick'll be to stay quiet and sneak up behind 'em. Savvy?"

     Toffee nodded, his mouth dry. Chip's face split into a wide grin.

     "Ye didn' really think that'd be the plan, did ye?" he chuckled, loudly. "Nah, we storm th' place. NOW! Aaarrr!"

     With this particularly unconvincing cry, Toffee found himself hurtled forward to face the slightly surprised Smugglers, who'd paused midway through unloading to stare at the motley pair. The craggiest looking of them - presumably the captain - rolled his eyes, pulled out a particularly vicious unbuyable weapon, and knocked them both down with one stroke.

     "If ye want my advice," he commented gruffly, "it'd be not te attack a bunch o' smugglers who smuggle priceless weapons!"

     "Aha!" cried Chip, springing to his feet again, "priceless weapons! Ye see?"

     He turned to Toffee, who was slowly hauling himself to his feet.

      "I told ye this was the place to come!"

     The smuggler regarded him steadily. "And what, may I ask, are you two looking for?"

     Chip smiled uncertainly. "Uh... an Ancient Hour-thingummy-"

      "An Ancient Hourglass," cut in Toffee, icily.

     "An Ancient Hourglass..." mused the smuggler thoughtfully. "We haven't had one o' them in fer... let me see... at least 6 months! And I think they were all gone last time I checked."

     He glanced at his fellow smugglers. "Then again... "

     "Yes?" asked Toffee eagerly.

     The captain ignored him and turned to Chip. "Ye seem like a good, steady sorta chap - how would ye like te join me party? We just lost a crewmate, and could do with an equally insane - ahem, I mean, valued member te replace 'im. An' I like yer style - what d'ye say?"

     Chip looked like he'd just won the Neopian jackpot.

     "Would I!" he exclaimed.

     The captain regarded him with a steely eye. "That was the question - would ye?"

     Toffee sighed. He hoped that spending too much time among these guys wasn't going to rub off.

     As the others turned to leave, the captain looked back at the robot Aisha.

     "If ye're lucky, we may 'ave one left in the Fungus cave," he called. "Why don' ye take a look?"

     Toffee thanked him, waved goodbye to Chip and made his way quickly to the Fungus cave. He paused at the entrance, uncertainly, and wished he'd brought a flashlight.

     "Hello?" he called uncertainly.

     Gingerly, he made his way into the cave. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he looked around him. There didn't seem to be much here, other than... fungus. He sighed. What was he doing here?

     Suddenly, he spotted a corner of the cave that didn't seem to be as gloomy as the others. He quickly jumped across the stream, trying to avoid the most slippery parts of the fungus, and found himself facing a trapdoor.

     "Figures," he muttered to himself. "They're not going to make their hiding place that obvious, are they - too many people come in here to get Krawks."

     He reached down and heaved on the handle of the trapdoor. Gradually he managed to pull it open. The Aisha dusted off his hands, and leaned over the entrance. It seemed to go on forever. So far in fact, that he began to feel dizzy.

     "Aarrgh!" he cried, as he pitched headfirst into the darkness.

To be continued...

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