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Fire-Born: Part Two

by goodsigns


      What had happened? Was there a fire? Vineti the Chocolate Aisha looked around the rest of the room, but everything else was normal. She could have sworn something had been burning, and there was ash on her bedcovers. She slid out of bed and looked in the mirror above her dresser; she looked fine, although she was a bit clammy. I am getting sick, she told herself firmly. Still… it wouldn’t hurt to go downstairs. Maybe someone had burnt something in the kitchen.

      Vineti waited as two petpets, a Gruslen and a Plushie Slorg, ran past before heading downstairs. The kitchen was empty; she opened the oven, but it was cold.

      In the living room, Lina, Vineti’s owner, was reading her own book while Ed and Yellow, two of Vineti’s brothers, played a game. “Was something burning?” she asked Lina.

      “No, I don’t think so,” Lina said. Then, after a moment, she looked up. “Why are you out of bed?”

      “The book you bought me burned… I thought maybe something was on fire.” Vineti felt her forehead crinkle as she thought it over. “Maybe it was cursed?”

      “What?” Lina sat up straighter, her own forehead wrinkling in confusion. “Vineti, it probably just poofed. You know that books do that. They poof into smoke most of the time once you finish them.”

      “I know, but this was different. I didn’t finish it even.”

      “You look kind of chalky. How are you feeling?”

      “I feel…” Vineti thought it over. “I do kind of feel warm now, but not really in a feverish way. I just sort of feel… uneasy.”

      “Hmm… you took your medicine, right?” Vineti nodded, and Lina continued talking. “It probably wouldn’t hurt to take you to the doctor as well…” After moment, Lina nodded. “We’ll be back in a little bit,” she told Ed and Yellow, pulling on her shoes.

      In the waiting room of the Neopian Hospital, a variety of Neopets and their owners sat with different ailments. Vineti waited, watching, while Lina filled out a form and handed it to the nurse. In the seat across from her, a Vandagyre kept hiccupping bubbles.

      After a short wait, a Zafara appeared in the doorway. “Vineti?” He called.

      Vineti and Lina stood up and followed him to a smaller room. He took Vineti’s temperature and checked her pulse and blood pressure, scribbling the numbers on a chart. “Okay. The doctor should be right in with you,” he said.

      “We should ask the doctor if we need to vaccinate your siblings,” Lina said. “It’d be bad if all twelve of you came down with Neo Flu.”

      “Where could I have caught it from, though?” Vineti asked. “I haven’t really been anywhere, and I haven’t been near anyone sick.”

      “Maybe you just picked it up?”

      At that moment, a Xweetox in a doctor’s outfit opened the door. “Hello, my name is Dr. Batson. What seems to be the problem today?”

      Vineti looked at Lina, who answered for her. “She has a fever and looks paler than normal. I gave her some Jelly Pills earlier, but I thought I’d better bring her in for an official checkup as well.”

      “Say ‘Aahh’ for me,” Dr. Batson said, holding a light up. She looked in Vineti’s throat and checked her chart. “Well, it could be Neo Flu, although she would be much more lethargic if that was the case. It might also just be a 24 hour bug. Let’s do a cheek swab and run a culture test; we should know in the morning whether or not it’s Neo Flu. In any event, the Jelly Pills won’t do any harm, so you can take more before bed if you feel that you need to.” Dr. Batson swiped a cotton swab on the inside of Vineti’s cheek before putting it in a test tube. “If you have any other symptoms, let me know immediately.”

      “Of course. Thank you, Doctor.” Lina and Vineti stood up and followed her into the hallway. In the waiting room, the hiccupping Vandagyre was gone, but a trail of bubbles showed which way he went.

      “Well, that wasn’t really anything we didn’t already know, but it’ll be good to know whether or not you have Neo Flu for sure,” Lina mused, staring in the distance. Suddenly, she stumbled into a short Neopet. “Oh, gosh, I’m sorry!” Lina said, backing away. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

      “No kidding,” said the Blue Peophin, wincing as he rubbed his side. “Hey, do you know which way the Money Tree is? I’m trying to get dinner for me and my friend.”

      “It’s that way,” Lina said, pointing down a road. “But here,” she pulled out her bag of Neopoints and reached inside, offering him a large pile of coins. “You shouldn’t have to scrounge around the Money Tree for dinner.”

      “Wow, thanks Miss,” the Peophin said, accepting the Neopoints readily. He watched where Lina stowed her money bag, before looking back at her face. “Have a good day, then.”

      “You too,” Lina said, continuing on her way.

      “Good day,” he said to Vineti, before doing a double take.

      “Bye,” Vineti replied, feeling unnerved. He stared at her openly until they turned the corner.

      “Back to bed,” Lina said once they entered their Neohome. “I’ll bring you dinner once it’s ready.”

      Vineti nodded, heading back to her bedroom. Once under the covers, her petpet, April the Faellie, curled next to her, with Breezy the Springabee resting on her back. Feeling content, she slipped into sleep for the third time that day.

      When she woke up, her room was dark and her heart was beating furiously. Her eyes strained against the darkness; beside her, she could feel April breathing gently. Vineti had the distinct impression that something had woken her up; she longed to get out of bed and turn on the light, but she remained where she was while she willed her eyes to adjust faster.

      After several minutes, she had almost decided to go to the kitchen for a late dinner when she heard a hushed whisper.

      “What do you think you were doing?”

      “It was an accident!” A different voice whispered. “I didn’t mean to.”

      “Be quiet!” the first voiced hissed.

      “We wouldn’t be here at all if it weren’t for me,” the second voice said sulkily. Very slowly, Vineti pushed the covers off of her, freeing her legs. She inched towards the end of the bed as quickly as she dared while she listened to the intruders stumbling in the dark.

      All of a sudden, a hand clamped over her mouth. Vineti screamed, but it was muffled, and more arms grabbed her legs. She kicked and made contact with someone’s leg; beside her, she heard someone curse.

      “Get her to the window!” her captor said, gasping with pain. Struggling, Vineti felt herself being moved across her room. Cool air blew onto her face from the open window.

      “No!” Vineti tried to scream, but her mouth was still covered. There was a flash of light and suddenly her mouth was free. “Help!” She screamed, kicking out again. “Help! Hurry!”

      “She burned me!”

      She could tell she had woken up her siblings; in the rooms adjacent to hers, there was scrambling.

      “Darn it! Let’s get out of here,” the person in front of her said; Vineti heard him climbing out of the window.

      “But what about the Aisha?” said the pet who still held Vineti’s arms. She kicked behind him and he grunted in pain, but tightened his hold. The pet who had left through the window didn’t respond, and all of a sudden, the room was thrown into light. In the doorway stood Ed and Dragon, Vineti’s other brother. Together, they hurried forward and tackled Vineti’s attacker, freeing her. She rubbed her bruised arms and stared at the Blue Peophin on the floor; it was the same pet that Lina had bumped into!

      “Wassgoingon?” Lina said, pushing through Kata and Yellow into Vineti’s room. Her hair was a mess, and she blinked her eyes in the bright light several times before they focused on the pet that Ed and Dragon were restraining.

      “I woke up, and he and another pet were in my room trying to kidnap me,” Vineti said. She shivered, although she felt very warm. At this, Dragon looked over his shoulder into the yard, but it was too dark to see if there was anyone there. A ladder was propped up alongside the house.

      “I’m sorry!” the Peophin wailed. “We were just doing what he had to, miss! Let me go, please!”

      “Let me get this straight,” Lina said, shaking her head in slow anger. “You come into my home in the middle of the night, assault one of my pets, and you want me to just let you go?”

      “I had to!” the Peophin wailed again. “She’s had us looking for years, what was I supposed to do?”

      “Why did you attack Vineti?”

      “We were going to bring her back to our Boss. She’s had us looking for a Chocolate Aisha, I don’t know why!”

      “Get the Chia Police,” Lina said to Kata. The Christmas Aisha nodded and started to leave, but the Peophin wailed “No, no, no, she’ll know.”

      “What will she know? Who is your boss?” Lina asked.

      “I think she has spies in the Chia Police, she always knows what they’re doing,” the Peophin said. He continued to wail as he spoke, but seemed to have no qualms about telling them everything he knew. “And she never told us her name, but she threatened to hurt us if we didn’t help her.”

      Vineti and Lina looked at each other. What would anyone want with Vineti? And how were they supposed to protect her if they couldn’t even go to the Chia Police?

      To be continued…

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