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Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part Six


by peirigill

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Pystry stretched his wings in the morning sun, full of confidence. The Mutant Hissi shook his Lucky Pandaphant Doll and gave a double smile at the satisfying clink of 250 Tropical Jelly Beans safe within. He felt sure he would soon again return to the Mystery Island Training School in triumph, having completed the Master Quest the Techo Master had assigned to him: to gain insight into the six elemental combat forces. With each insight, the magic Pandaphant added another fifty jelly beans, and after learning from experts in earth, water, air, fire, and light, only elemental darkness remained.

      His best friend, Bizhiw, an affable Red Lutari, and Phidianne, a charming Island Hissi with many skills and hidden depths, had supported him the whole way. They, too, were excited at the prospect of one last adventure.

      "Every quest has started with a Mystery Islander pointing the way. No sense in changing a winning formula," smiled Pystry, spreading out their Mystery Island map. "Who is our best bet for finding an expert in darkness?"

      "Maybe Jhuidah could get us in touch with a Darkness Faerie," suggested Bizhiw.

      "Not the best idea there, sport," interjected Phidianne with an uncomfortable laugh. "The Faeries have politics you don't want to get involved in."

      "Well, where's the darkest place on Mystery Island, then? The deepest, darkest jungle?"

      "The jungles are more deep than dark," replied Phidianne, with the certitude of an Islander born and bred. "If you want dark, you want to go here." She leaned over the map and tapped a dark blotch on the north shore. "You want Geraptiku. You want the Deserted Tomb."

     


      The fabled Lost City was anything but lost these days, as the lure of abandoned treasure and other rewards brought visitors to the Tomb daily, and as the Lost City Lanes brought in sports enthusiasts from around the world. Still, Geraptiku maintained its reputation as a deserted city, populated only by mysterious petpets... unless you counted the legends of the totem demon Potgatkerchi, but those were only legends, right? And, of course, the sole resident of Geraptiku most Neopets dreaded to meet, the giant Ghost Hissi who haunts the Deserted Tomb.

      Phidianne, like most locals, had long since discovered the "secret" back entrances to the tomb, knew her way through the dark passages, and easily bypassed the traps. Pystry, who had often fallen into those traps in the past, was extremely grateful for Phidianne's guidance, but wondered how Phidianne could possibly avoid the tomb's terrifying, carnivorous guardian. His teeth chattered as the temperature in the tomb suddenly dropped, and the Ghost Hissi fell upon them with a blast of wind.

      "RAWR ME HUNGRY!" roared the Ghost, his ravening maw centimetres away from their faces. Pystry and Bizhiw stood frozen with fear.

      "Oh, please, Clyde, it's me, Phidianne. Island colours, feathered headdress, been here more times than I care to count?"

      The Ghost Hissi pulled up short and looked decidedly put out. "Oh, bother," said the Ghost, in a surprisingly aristocratic accent. "It's been such a long time, I hardly recognised you. You do realise it's dreadfully poor manners to make me break character in front of the tourists. And for the last time, my name isn't Clyde."

      "I know," said Phidianne, batting her eyelashes coquettishly, "but I have to call you something, and you refuse to tell me your real name."

      Pystry shook his heads in shock, then hissed in anger. "Wait. This is all an act? Do you have any idea how many times I took spears in my side, trying to avoid you?"

      The Ghost looked down his snout with disdain. "And you loved it, dear boy, or you wouldn't have kept coming back again and again searching for treasure. Guarding the tomb is my duty, and one does one's best to perform one's duty, no matter how distasteful."

      Phidianne looked serious for a moment. "Boys, you do understand you cannot tell anyone about this."

      Bizhiw laughed. "No worries. I don't think either of us wants to admit we got taken in so easily."

      Pystry shook his heads again, this time with resignation. "At least now I understand why you wanted us to come here, Phidianne." Turning back to the Ghost, he continued, "I, too, have a duty to perform. The Techo Master has charged me with a quest, and I need to find a Hissi who is an expert in darkness." Pystry's heads looked meaningfully at the caliginous gloom receding in all directions. "Could you please help me, sir?"

      "Absolutely not," replied the Ghost, sounding as though he had just unwitting bitten into a hunk of Tyrannian Dung Cheese. "I owe the Techo Master no favours. Even were I willing, it would be beneath my station."

      "Well then, thanks for your time," said Pystry in stereo through two sets of clenched teeth. "Let's be off."

      "Hold it just one berry-picking minute," commanded Phidianne. Both Pystry and the Ghost paused. "Clyde, you may not owe the Techo Master, but you owe me. I'm calling in my favour."

      The Ghost blinked. "You're calling in your favour for this?"

      "You bet I am. So make good on it."

      The Ghost Hissi lowered his head. "So be it. Be mindful that I did gave you the chance to reconsider. Little Mutant, I have no wisdom to share, just a mere suggestion. The brightest lights cast the deepest shadows. If you want to learn about darkness, seek the sunniest place in the world. Then look – truly look with care – for what others have overlooked."

      He nodded courteously to Phidianne, who favoured him with her best curtsey. "And now I must be off. More tourists have just entered the tomb. Rawr, I say. Rawr." With a wink, he turned away and ghosted through the stone wall.

      "Where is the brightest and sunniest place in Neopia, then?" pondered Pystry.

      "Altador?" suggested Phidianne.

      "No," smiled Bizhiw knowingly. "Roo Island."

     


      Phidianne's schooner, the Five Hundredth Dubloon, sailed gracefully past a brightly-coloured catamaran to dock in Blumaria, Roo Island's second-largest settlement after the capital Roo City. Phidianne looked wistfully at King Roo's palace gleaming in the distance. "Roo Island has changed a lot since the last time I was here. It's like a giant theme park now."

      "Hasn't it always been a recreation spot?" asked Pystry.

      "Well, yes, but not like this. And I couldn't really enjoy myself on the last trip because of some family business I had to attend to."

      "What now?" wondered Bizhiw. "Do we go visit Count Roo? That's the only dark spot on Roo Island I can think of."

      "The Ghost Hissi told us to find something most people overlook. Count Roo is too prominent. I think we need to get away from Roo-Island-The-Amusement-Park if we can." Pystry curled his snouts in concentration.

      "How about Roo Island Properties, then?" suggested Phidianne. "They were very helpful when I was looking into buying some property up here."

      Pystry boggled. "You own more than one property? From a ferrying business?"

      Bizhiw chuckled. "Trust me, Pystry, every Neopoint she owns, she's more than earned. Now let's go earn your last fifty jelly beans."

     


      The Yellow Wocky in charge of Roo Island Properties was professional, if quizzical. "You say you want to visit an overlooked property? Would you care to see one of the secluded manors overlooking the harbour?"

      "Not quite," said Pystry, studying a detailed property map of the countryside hanging on the wall. "What is this darkened space in the middle, away from the coast?"

      "That's reservation land, sir, set aside for the original inhabitants of the isle. Most inhospitable land, hardly suited for construction, with only very limited access to roads and water."

      The three friends looked at one another. "Jackpot."

      "I don't currently have any properties available in that area, but if you like, I can recommend a good local guide, a local Hissi named Yajiki. Her family's lived on Roo Island as far back as anyone remembers."

      "Perfect."

     


      Yajiki turned out to be an excellent guide. She was easy to pick out of the crowd; Shadow Hissies were rare on Roo Island, where bright primary colours were literally the rule, per King Roo's quixotic preference. She was also manifestly uncomfortable, until she procured four Red Bikes and was half-riding, half-flying along the desert trails.

      Where Bizhiw saw only a dry wash, Yajiki saw a river that had once flowed and raged and would one day flow again; where Pystry saw only desert scrub, Yajiki saw the hardy Dice Plant, which kept the dreaded purple pestilence of Roo Island Bug swarms away.

      "I love how well you know the local plants!" gushed Phidianne. "Someday, when you visit Mystery Island, I'll have to return the favour."

      "I'd like that very much, miss."

      Amid the dunes, Pystry spotted a rock outcropping. "Yajiki, could we stop there for a moment? I think I see petroglyphs, and I'm curious whether I recognize any of them."

      Yajiki looked conflicted. "Normally, I'd say no. Outsiders aren't usually permitted near the glyphs. But you said one of the Ghosts sent you to me... I have to trust that he meant for you to see. Come along this way."

      Bizhiw scouted a few metres ahead. "There's a faster way up over here!" He popped a wheelie and began sprinting uphill.

      "Please, sir, no!" Yajiki's voice, though still polite, verged on panic.

      Bizhiw pulled over and tilted his head to one side. "Why not?"

      Yajiki struggled for words. "The rock... doesn't want you to head up that way. That's the way down."

      Bizhiw looked intently into her large, bright eyes, and smiled. "You know, I get that. I honestly do. Please lead the way."

      Yajiki's route took much longer than Bizhiw's, and by the time they arrived, the sun was beginning to set. Pystry perused the glyphs, and found a figure like a Hissi with antlers. "I saw this figure in the caves below Tyrannia. Can you tell me what it means?"

      Yajiki looked carefully at the stone, then at Pystry. "No, I'm sorry, I can't."

      "It reminds me of Tsarki holding up her horned staff," offered Phidianne. "I wonder whether there's some connection."

      "That may well be, miss. I wonder, do you have any more of that wonderful Green Sand you were using as sunblock earlier?"

      "Of course!" said Phidianne brightly, and handed Yajiki a full bottle. "Take all you like. I'm surprised a Shadow Hissi needs to worry about sunburn, though."

      "Too much sun is bad for anyone, miss, but that's not what the sand is for." As the sky erupted into the colours of eventide, Yajiki dripped water from her canteen into the bottle, and fingerpainted a two-headed green Hissi on the stone face using the wet beach sand. "This sand comes from far away, but changes the land just a little just by being here."

      Using a small stick of red clay, she added a stick figure of a Red Lutari. "This is for one who feels a kinship to the land." She split the stalk of a Dice Plant, and mixed its sap with light brown sand from its roots, and drew a caramel-coloured Hissi. "This is for one who respects the plants."

      Pystry felt numb, as though time had stopped. "Yajiki, we're honoured, but this is an ancient treasure. Shouldn't we be protecting it instead of adding to it?"

      Yajiki looked into the rich colours of the sunset. "It's a little late for that."

      She gestured towards the bright lights of Roo Island's attractions, visible even across the island. "I used to live down there, where the Spring Shop stands. When King Roo rebuilt Roo Island after the infestation, he relocated my people, taking the land through eminent domain. The land is so much more valuable now that it's been developed, they say. It didn't matter than I knew our family's story in that land, back to my great-grandmother, a great Rainbow Hissi, who won that land for us." She looked back at the darkening sky. "Every night, at sunset, I see her colours in the sky, and wonder if there was anything I could have done to save my home."

      Phidianne put her arm around Yajiki and pulled her close. "I've met King Roo. I doubt there was anything that could have helped, once he set his mind to it."

      "Roo Island Properties helped make our move as painless as possible, and I've done my best to learn the story of this new place, but it still doesn't feel like my land yet. How could it? I have to create a new story. You three did not come by accident. You were sent here for a purpose. You have changed the story of this land."

      Bizhiw leaned in to touch Yajiki's forehead with his own. "I know what it's like to lose your country. I'm sure you're doing the right thing."

      Phidianne blinked back a tear. "I know what it means to take back your family history, and I know you're doing the right thing."

      Pystry said nothing.

      "You came wanting to learn about darkness? Here is what I have to tell you." Yajiki's eyes grew cold. "Everything has a shadow, a dark side, a secret they dare not tell. Roo Island's darkness is the diaspora of its people, the silencing of its native songs, by the Blumaroos."

      "I thought Blumaroos came from Roo Island originally," said Bizhiw, puzzled.

      "Actually, the most recent scholarship suggests they're originally from Terror Mountain," lectured Pystry.

      Yajiki nodded. "So do our songs tell us, at least for those of us who still know the old songs."

      The northern constellations began to glow in the nighttime sky. The heat of the day gave way to evening chill, and the four friends pulled closer together for warmth. The high-pitched call of the indigenous Petoots filled the air. Yajiki gazed once again at the sky, starlight dancing in her eyes.

      "People like King Roo fear the darkness, but it too is a gift. The sunlight is beautiful, but too much can leave you weak. Shade also means shelter from the heat; concealment also means safety from the predator. Darkness is the time for sleep, and dreams, and rest, and sharing songs and stories around the campfire." She lowered her head. "Please, Pystry, tell me the story of your travels."

      Pystry took out the Lucky Pandaphant, feeling its weight, and shook it. For the first time, it made no sound, as the three hundred jelly beans within filled it completely. The ceramic figure stared at him with two symmetrical eyes.

      "Once upon a time, Yajiki, there was a lucky Hissi with a sharp mind, respectable strength, and wonderful friends, but a whole in his life the size of the world. This is the story of how a wise elder opened his eyes."

The End

 
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Other Episodes


» Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part One
» Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part Two
» Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part Three
» Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part Four
» Pystry's Elemental Odyssey: Part Five



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