Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 99,276,740 Issue: 197 | 1st day of Swimming, Y7
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EndingArrow: Part Two

by sara_mossflower



The next week, Aly and Terzin dropped by our apartment. I hadn't expected to see them so soon after our recent encounter with Frey. They wanted to invite us over to their world for the evening, just for a friendly get-together. It was the last thing I would have expected.

     In the end, I talked myself into it. I knew that if I refused, I would only continue to be miserable, and allowing Frey to trouble my thoughts was not a pleasant thing. In the evening, we made our way to the WindRoads, and from there headed down to the village.

     I noticed that the air had become significantly colder here compared to the last time we'd been here. It felt as though the land sat on the brink of winter. In my world of Neopia Central it was still the comfortable season of summer. It seemed that here colder times came on quite suddenly. Because of this, Aly equipped Dayne and me with thick, warm cloaks, made especially for this type of weather.

     I had imagined that we'd just hang around at either Aly's or Terzin's house, talking and eating, but Aly had this other idea: the local tavern.

     "It's great there in the evenings," she said. "It's a very…social atmosphere."

     Terzin muttered a translation. "She means that it's wilder than a cat fight between Jhudora and Illusen."

     "Oh," I said, with a weak laugh, "Great."

     Dayne trudged along beside me. I was sort of surprised that she had not begun to protest. "You're…uh, quiet," I told her. "I didn't think you'd like this kind of outing."

     "What, 'cause you don't think I can handle it?"

     "No, it's just…"

     She brushed by me and moved up ahead. "If she can handle it, I can handle it," she murmured, and I had a feeling that she hadn't directed that last statement to anyone in particular.

     The tavern was called "The Snorkle's Sty", and upon entering the place I could easily see that the name suited it well. The stone walls were grimy with mould, and grease from old meals stained the dark wood of the small, round tables. Dim candles burned from the walls, giving the impression that we were in a deep, dark pit that had never seen the light of day. A Wocky barmaid was busy extracting something from her left nostril, and her customers eagerly guzzled down the rank, discoloured liquid she served them. In one corner a fight was breaking out. A Grarrl landed a brutal punch on a Kau's nose, which immediately started bleeding. Everyone who wasn't involved pretended not to notice.

     "Isn't it great?" asked Aly in our general direction. She smiled at the antics of everyone around her.

     "Yeah…" I agreed half-heartedly. "It's…great."

     We found an unoccupied table and made ourselves comfortable, or at least tried to, considering that there isn't much comfort to be found when you're in a dank, dirty tavern with a brawl going on practically beside you.

     Aly ordered us each a huge mug of "The Special", which looked like some kind of muddy grog. I inspected mine with distaste, and looked up to see my striped friend taking several gulps out of her beverage. I figured this had to be worse than chugging down Kauvara's improvised paintbrush potion.

     Oh, well. Aly had invited us here, and I didn't want to look rude. Gathering up some courage, I took a swig of the drink. Forcing myself to swallow, I became immediately aware of the incredible strength of the taste. As for the taste itself, I could not possibly begin to give a description that would do it justice. It was plain bizarre. It tasted like dirt, but good dirt. It was clean mud, mud if it had ever been edible. There was this oddly spicy aftertaste that lingered on my tongue, and although I can't say I liked it, I was eager to finish the rest of the drink. Snatching the mug, I guzzled down the rest of the liquid. About a second later, I placed the mug back on the table, and let out a refreshed "Aah!"

     Terzin, Dayne, and Aly were all staring at me.

     "What?" I asked, "It's…good."

     "Whatever you say," muttered Terzin, looking as though he'd rather eat real mud than swallow the rest of his grog. "I thought Aly was the only one who liked this stuff."

     "Hey!" exclaimed the Zafara in question. "I thought you liked it too!"

     "I only drink it 'cause you drink it!"

     "You faker! Every time I've bought you one has been a waste of my precious Neopoints!"

     "Jeez, just trying to be polite! At least I've got some manners!"

     "Manners? I'll show you manners, Lupe-boy!"

     With that, Aly flung herself over the table, her hands meeting Terzin's shoulders as she bowled him over. I couldn't tell if this was just a friendly fight, brought on by Aly's tomboyish behaviour, or whether she'd been influenced by the tavern atmosphere.

     "Whoa, stop!" cried Terzin as she tugged at one of his ears. Then, with a playful growl, he nipped at the tip of his friend's tail.

     I just sat there watching. I hadn't seen them acting so violent with each other before, but who knew - maybe they'd always had little scraps like this before I'd met them. It seemed uncharacteristic of both of them, but still, I couldn't help but sigh in amusement. Their actions, which were pretty childish, were entertaining in a way.

     Suddenly, Dayne leaped up from her chair beside me to join in, I was astonished; Dayne was the last person I'd expect to throw herself into a tussle.

     Before I had realized what was truly going on, the pets who had been involved in the previous fight involving the Grarrl and the Kau had stampeded over and joined in on Terzin and Aly's battle. In mere seconds, it was a full-blown brawl.

     Now I was starting to get worried. It had begun as a friendly play-fight, but now there were bigger, stronger, tougher beings involved; someone could seriously get hurt, namely Aly, Dayne, or Terzin. Bracing myself, I strove to break up the fight, an arduous, and nearly impossible task. "Guys!" I cried, becoming anxious, "Get out of there!"

     I knew they couldn't hear me from within the crowd. A sinewy Ruki accidentally clouted me with his claws; leaving both the makings of a bruise and a long, shallow slash. I winced in pain, clutching the side of my face, but when I pulled my hand away, I realized that it wasn't enough blood to be worried about. I continued to scrabble at the bodies of others, trying to end their hostility, but I knew my efforts alone would be futile.


     Crouched behind a narrow window sat a cold-eyed figure, shrouded in a cloak. It sat perched on a rotting wooden bench which was leaning against the back of the stone building, looking out on the main room of The Snorkle's Sty. It chuckled darkly; the Windstorm was right where it wanted him. The sprinkling of herbs in the striped one's drink had worked, bringing on a nice fit of aggression. The conflict that now ensued would be the best time to strike.

     Raising a miniature crossbow, the watcher loaded it with a tiny, sleek, black dart. It positioned the weapon at the necessary angle, pinpointed its target, and fired.


     I continued to struggle through the mob, hoping to remove my friends from the violent mass, when there was a sudden stinging in the side of my neck. I gritted my teeth at the twinge, and raised a paw to probe at the spot where the pain was radiating from. Feeling a small, streamlined shape tipped with stiff feathers protruding from my throat, I began to panic. There was some kind of dart or arrow there - had someone been trying to kill me?

     Cold sweat permeated my white fur in seconds and I staggered away from the scene of the brawl, trying to steady myself against the chair I had sat in earlier. I gripped the fletching and gently tugged at the missile embedded in my skin. It was no good - there were barbs on the pointed end. My vision began to lose its clarity, and it was as if I was gazing through a shield of dull, silver light that muffled the sounds around me. "Help," I choked, feeling dizzy.

     No one was listening, and I could barely hear my own voice. The world started spinning…

     I caught a brief glance of the shocked, wide-eyed look on Aly's face, and then the room was lost to shadows.


     Aly felt panic washing away her anger towards Terzin as she beheld the sight of Sisslio, eyes rolled back in his head, one hand clutching the side of his neck, collapse. He knocked over a chair as he fell. "Oh my gosh!" she exclaimed, yanking Dayne and Terzin towards her by the scruffs of their necks.

     "Watch it!" exclaimed the Lupe. "It was just a drink - you don't have to pummel me!"

     "Shut up," his friend responded absentmindedly. "Let's get out of this crowd of thugs." With that, the striped Zafara drew the silver dagger she always carried from her belt, flourishing it in the faces of her adversaries. "Get out of the way, curse you!" she howled. "I'll kill anyone who doesn't move!"

     Her threats got the attention of many. Seeing that his companion was serious about clearing a path, Terzin snarled at any stubborn individuals who stood their ground, and lunged with claws extended if his warning failed.

     As for Dayne, still not aware of Sisslio's perilous situation, she tried her best to punch, kick, and screech random war cries, striving to measure up to Aly's fighting techniques.

     Finally, the mass parted, and Aly raced towards the fallen white Zafara. "Fyora's wings!" she swore, "Wake up!" There was no reaction to her words. Knowing that there was nothing else for it, she inspected his neck and discovered the dart. A short yank informed her of the presence of barbs.

     "What's wrong with him?" demanded Dayne, becoming frantic herself. "What's that dart doing there?"

     "Shut up, Dayne," Aly replied. "Just shut up." With that, she raised her dagger again, but before she was about to attempt an improvised medical procedure, the Island shopaholic interrupted her.

     "What do you mean, 'shut up'? I just want to know what's wrong with him!"

     Aly whirled around. "Well you know what, Dayne? If I stop to talk to you, he could potentially die. Is that what you want?"

     "No," she replied, meek for once in her life. "But I'm worried, I -"

     "Then take my advice and shut your mouth!"

     With that, Aly began probing at the dart's head with the end of her dagger, parting the skin and removing the object, preventing the barbs from tearing the flesh. She then licked the tip of her weapon experimentally, and then immediately spit out whatever she had tasted. "Poisonous residue," she stated. "Terzin!"


     "Use your Light to cleanse it."

     "Sure thing," the Lupe readily agreed. Stepping forward, he raised a paw with a single claw extended. Slowly, a blazing white stream of light wound its way around the claw like a minute snake. Carefully, he placed his talon into the wound, the light uncurling and squirming into Sisslio's neck. The Zafara flinched as the toxins were exorcised by the light, but did not wake up.

     "He'll be okay now," Terzin assured his friends with a relieved sigh.

     Behind Aly, Dayne bit her lip to keep from crying.

To be continued...

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