The Dragonmist itself wasn't a particularly impressive
object. A small cube, easily contained in Angel's paws, tinted eloquently with
gold and covered in engravings of an ancient language. And on each face of the
cube, a huge cat's eye was prominent and almost winking up at her.
But what was really impressive was the searing
degree of power that almost erupted from its very presence. The terrifying,
pulsating sense of evil that Angel recognised, and what made her step back a
few steps. Suddenly she was overwhelmed by both a sense of dread and of esteem.
Fear of what kind of terrible power she could have unleashed on Neopia. And
esteem because - instead of taking the logical approach she had trusted her
initial instincts and completed her quest.
It was too easy.
Far too easy. Sure, the trek to find the Dragonmist
had been exhausting, but she was just expecting more than this. If the Dragonmist
could be destroyed as easily as this, why did generation upon generation of
Kumlaa lay down their lives to protect it?
Angel gulped. There was no time to dwell on
such frivolous thoughts. She had to destroy it as soon as possible, before anything
really bad happens, as probability often made it. But even getting close to
the thing was proving a task - the surge of energy from the tiny box was overpowering.
She took it little by little, step by step, edging closer towards the Dragonmist
until she was barely a foot away. Close up, the box was dull and unimpressive.
Ugly, even. As if the glitter of gold was just a mask, but Angel saw right through
it to its bitter repulsiveness underneath. So it gave up the fight, dropped
its mask, and let Angel see its true colours. I'll admit, it was strange for
Angel to anthropomorphize such an inanimate object. But for her it wasn't inanimate.
It was too powerful, too intense, too evil to be inanimate. It was alive.
Just keep your mind focused, she told herself
over and over again, Destroy the Dragonmist before anything. She held
her paws hovering over the box in uncertainty, her mind still awash with the
knowledge of the impact that the next action could make on the whole of Neopia.
And it did.
Angel suddenly felt a sharp pain as something
cuffed her paw. She drew back, watching as thin red streaks appeared across
her paw, and glanced back at the Dragonmist … it was gone! Her eyes widened
in panic. Where was it? How had it disappeared? In a second a rhythm of beating
wings split the silence of the cave, and she turned slowly to the entrance.
Hovering in front of the mouth of the cave was a small creature, possibly 20
centimetres tall, with dirty-jade coloured fur and enormous ears. A pair of
blood-red eyes swivelled round in their black sockets like bright marbles. And
within his jagged and clawed paws nestled the Dragonmist!
"Hey! Give that back to me!" she screeched,
tensing her muscles, preparing for a fight.
The Korbat answered simply, "No. Finders Keepers."
His accent was a strange one, tough and lilting like a city-centre dweller's.
"Please, just give it here! If you don't you
have no idea how this could affect Neopia!"
The Mutant smirked, allowing a single fang to
slide from under his lips. "Oh, I know. Dis 'ere 'Dragonmist' iz gonna lead
doze guys - wossdernames - Darkgons, onto greatness. Dat's why I'm 'ere!" He
made a kind of mocking bow with his wing in mid-flight, and turned his back
on her. "I'll give mah regards t'FiskMerrick!" And in a flash of fluttering
wings he disappeared into the night.
Her reaction was instantaneous. Angel sprinted
to the mountain ledge, spread her wings, and … *Bleeper* grabbed her ankle,
holding her back.
"Lemme go, *Bleeper*! I've got to stop him before
he reaches FiskMerrick!"
The little Avabot whirred angrily and shook
his head, his eyes turning orange.
Angel's expression softened. Upon further reflection,
chasing the mutant probably wasn't such a good idea. Korbats have a flair for
agility in the air, and no matter how fast she flew, Angel would probably never
be able to out-manoeuvre him. She slumped on the mountain ledge, watching him
drift on the wind towards a small patch of jungle in the very middle of the
valley, where he stopped and marched in.
She turned to *Bleeper*, her eyes burning with
tears and anger. "Alright, *Bleeper*, here's the plan, we --"
*Bleeper* stopped her short. His eye ridges
creased in a stubborn scowl.
He bleeped again, with more fury this time,
digging his heels into the rock.
He took a step back, and before Angel could
question him again, took to his heels and ran as fast as he could down the mountain.
Angel screamed after him, furious that he had
left her in such a difficult position, but also disappointed that he had betrayed
her trust. But why? Why did he risk his life to save her in one incident, and
turn tail in another?
"Fine! Be like that! I never wanted you to come
on this mission with me anyway!" she screamed after him, and - with tears stinging
her eyes - spread her wings and took off, following the path of the mystery
Mutant Korbat and the valuable luggage he carried.
Within a matter of minutes the Feeralls had organised an army of Kougra warriors,
and were marching into the pass that separated Denholm and the rest of the island.
It was now early evening and the sun was glowing red against the ochre sky,
framed neatly by the deadly black silhouettes of the mountain peaks. The dust
beneath their feet shifted with every step, and yet the air seemed colder than
usual. Something was definitely up. What, they could not tell.
Nahele was a picture of nobility, dressed in
handsome, dazzling war garments, parading his troops to battle with Kendra at
his side. Keilani followed behind them proudly, but Velvet_Patheera was nowhere
to be seen. The wave of muttering that swept through the Feeralls said that
she was spotted relaxing in the treetops with no intention of fighting whatsoever.
Rincham filed in sheepishly, finding no need
for any weapons save his Wand of the Air Faerie he hid from the others. He was
a labbie, so even without all these weapons and armour he was stronger than
any of these Kougras. He didn't want to tell them that though. He was in enough
trouble with them already, and didn't want to make it worse.
Plodding along the sandy road like cattle, Rincham
kept his face to the ground and avoided the inquisitive stares of the other
Kougras. That was, until his path was cut by an enormous paw standing in his
way. He rammed into the paw, blinked and looked up. Keilani looked back down
at him and smiled. "Nahele wants a word with you."
Rincham felt his heart dip, but reluctantly
followed the Kougress. Nahele was still on the move, walking proudly with his
mate beside him. Keilani slowed down when they reached him and nudged Rincham
forward until he was walking in line with the mighty Kougra.
"We all have our secrets, child," said Nahele
with a booming voice that echoed power in itself. "All the Kougras here know
why you were banished from here in the first place. That sentence still stands."
Rincham shook his head, trying not to dwell
on the real reason why he was banished. "I am not here to discuss my past, Nahele.
I'm here to try and save my sister's future. The future of all the Kougras in
this pride and all the people of Neopia. That's why I returned."
All throughout, Nahele had spoken without taking
his eyes from the road, but now shot a look at him the young leopard-like Kougra,
and spoke with a kind of secret intuition: "Is it?"
"Yes!" Rincham lowered his head humbly. "And
"So what is the secret you're keeping from us,
if not the reason for your banishment?"
Rincham swallowed, and confessed. "I am the
reason my owner was kidnapped. I was captured by Malkus Vile once when I was
first banished, and unknown to me, he slipped a tracker under my armlet. FiskMerrick
must have activated the tracker and found his way to Bunbury Acres when I was
supposed to be protecting her!" He tented his claws, bearing his teeth in anger.
"I should have protected her still! Now FiskMerrick might have the Dragonmist,
and it's all my fault!"
There was a moment of silence, and a few whispers
could be heard from behind them.
"You think it is your fault, young one?" came
a voice to the side of Nahele as Kendra spoke up. "The Dragonmist was destined
to be found and opened. It says so in prophecy. And it is your sister's destiny
to overcome this evil. Do you really think that you are to be blamed - as if
you knew this tracker was planted on you all along?"
"Well, no. But how do you know that it's definitely
Angel who's going to stop FiskMerrick? Maybe now isn't the time for the Dragonmist
to be opened."
"It is," murmured Keilani. "We can feel it in
the air, sense it on every stem and leaf, smell it with the coming and going
of the tides. Do not forget, Rincham, that the attack on Denholm Valley occurred
before your time, and you've never had to experience the utter terror that the
mere mention of the word inflicts on all of us who fought so long ago. It's
unforgettable. And it's definitely coming."
Rincham knitted his brow, thinking hard about
it. "So, regardless if I had led FiskMerrick to Jen's front door, fate says
that he would have found a way of getting to the Dragonmist anyway?"
Nahele resumed his narrative. "That's right.
At least no one has been badly hurt yet. FiskMerrick is a nasty character. He's
vicious, sardonic and revolutionary, and he'll stop at nothing to get what he
wants, even if that means stamping on others along the way. Almost half the
jungle was destroyed last time he didn't get his way - when the Kumlaas went
into hiding we had to attack the Darkgons before they destroyed the whole island
searching for them. If he hadn't taken this 'relatively civil' route to get
what he wants, who knows what he could have done, or who he could have hurt
"Yeah. But it still won't stop hurting … Jen
and Angel could …"
"You weren't to know what was going to happen.
Guilt can be an overwhelming emotion - but at least you have it. If you have
enough trust in your sister your owner will be fine, and - thanks to you - they
have an army to support them," he beamed, proudly stretching his paw across
the many Feeralls who had joined in the battle march.
Suddenly, the little Kougra was filled with
a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Like he had finally done something good
in his life. Instead of dwelling on the past he was finally looking to the future
and was making all the difference in the world. So, with his head held high,
he filed behind the alphas and took his rightful place in the pride.
Not too far away, a small creature ran swiftly across the rocks towards his
chosen destination. Unfortunately it didn't judge the distance quite so well
and tripped, falling head over heels and landed on its head in the dust. With
an annoyed squeak it corrected itself and shook itself, only to be confronted
with two, slightly taller figures. After a brief exchange of soft murmurs the
creature took the decision to join the other two, and all three wandered mournfully
towards the same Mystery Island destination.
Angel's eyes throbbed with pain. She had cried silently - without muttering
so much as a sob or choke, but just allowed the tears to stream down her beak
like a torrent. The NSPA had trained her well. She had the stealth and composure
of a jungle cat. But she couldn't stop the emotion pouring out of her eyes.
Her real life brother - her last family link - was gone. *Bleeper*, who had
risked his life to protect her once, had abandoned her with a hard heart. Jen
had been kidnapped, and it was looking more and more like she was never coming
back. She didn't have a friend left in the world. But still, she had to do her
Within a few minutes she had glided down to
the spot where she had last seen the Korbat land. The air was cold and still.
The bustle of life was absent. A little while ago she would've thought this
odd but now she knew exactly why. There wasn't an element in nature that couldn't
sense what was going to happen now that the Dragonmist was indeed in the wrong
She crouched behind a bush, wiped her forehead
with the brush of her tail, and spoke softly to herself: "Okay, here's the plan.
I rush in there, grab Jen and the Dragonmist and leave. No, I destroy the Dragonmist
first. No, how about --" suddenly she felt two strong hands grip her shoulders
tightly, and barely had time to exclaim "Crud!" before she was hoisted to her
Two all-too-familiar faces looked at her in
the eye. One was a sandy-coloured Grarrl, very tall for most, and he only had
half a tail and only two fingers on his left hand. Angel knew why. He was Burzwakh,
an Island Grarrl who, when in his stone state, made the mistake of surplus training
before attacking her during a mission. As a result, his stone body began to
crumble, and when he became an Island Grarrl he was found to be missing two
fingers and half a tail.
The other one was a face Angel had hoped she'd
never see again. The one who captured Rincham her Kougra brother and said to
her that he knew something about her life so long ago. Malkus Vile. His beady
eyes scanned her face as the crime baron gloated. "Well, what do we have here?
I knew I'd see you again, Kumlaa."
Angel gritted her teeth and struggled against
"Ah ah ah. No use trying to get away, my friend.
Our gracious leader FiskMerrick wants a quick word with you." He tugged her
arm roughly as he and Burzwakh marched her along the empty forest path.
"I don't know what you're trying to achieve
from all this," muttered Angel, her strength diminutive in comparison with the
Grarrl and Skeith. "Why help this jerk?"
"You're either with him or against him. I'd
hate to be anyone who isn't his comrade. Like you, for example. Once FiskMerrick's
in power, darkness will rule, and we will all live like kings! You've been willing
to lay down your life for virtue - I doubt he'll disappoint you," he added ominously.
Angel ignored him, trying to plot out a plan
in her mind as she was marched towards her fate. Good or bad, she could not
tell. After a minute or so of walking the ground hardened until she found herself
walking on gingery sandstone. She lifted her head. Before her lay an stone archway,
and beyond that, a ferocious army of dark-clad Skeiths all crowding within a
ring bordered by stones around a central speaker, who exclaimed as they entered
the ring, ~Ah! Our guest of honour has arrived. Do come right through.~
The sea of Darkgons parted, all snarling and
gnashing their chops at Angel. She ignored them and kept her field of vision
forward. Sooner or later, he came into view. FiskMerrick had donned his black
suit and was wearing the most malignant toothy grin that could ever be seen.
On his shoulder perched the Mutant Korbat, who - quite frankly - couldn't care
Glad you could make it, Angel," he hissed.
"My comrade Sprytar here informed me that you may be paying us a visit."
The Korbat blinked at the mention of his name, then shrugged and drifted off
to sit on Burzwakh's shoulder. The Jetsam clicked his fingers and Burzwakh and
Malkus moved away, leaving Angel to stand alone before her enemy. Never before
had she felt such indescribable loathing. This monster was responsible for the
destruction of her entire family, for an entire Clan, and he was now just standing
there, a few feet away from her, grinning like an idiot. All it would take would
be one swipe of her talons and this nightmare would be over. Done. No more pain.
No more loss. Regardless of the consequences to herself. She hardened her heart,
and took a step forward.
The Jetsam's face creased into a sudden scowl.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you. Harm one scale on me, and it won't be
you that pays the price … it'll be your owner." He calmly stepped to the
side, revealing that Jen, gagged and tied still, had been standing some distance
behind him. She too was flanked by Darkgon guards.
Angel growled and turned her narrowed eyes to
FiskMerrick. "You hold all the cards. If you don't want anything that I have,
why bring me here?"
"To gloat," he stated casually. Slowly
he reached into his pocket and produced a small box, dull and ugly. The Dragonmist.
For a moment he became fascinated by the box, and Angel could have sworn she
heard him mumble, "See how it sparkles…" The Eyriess blinked. All
she could see was an ugly dull box. Of course. FiskMerrick was so blinded by
the power of what was inside the box that he didn't recognise it's ugliness.
What he saw was beauty. But in a second he turned back to her and cleared his
throat. "You would never have joined my army and been my comrade. I knew
that from the very beginning. Now watch: with a flick of my wrist I shall change
the course of time. With one little action, I shall change the fates of every
Neopets in the world!" And, with a flick of his wrist, the rim of the Dragonmist
Angel gave a screech of panic and dashed forward
a few steps. But it was no use. She stopped, and she felt her heart sink to
her feet. She had failed.
The rim of the box slid off and fell to the
ground, rattling at FiskMerrick's feet.
The Dragonmist had been opened.
To be continued...
Author's Note: Ooooooooooooooo! I can't bear the tension! Find out EXACTLY
what the Dragonmist is in the next chapter. I love to know the audience's opinions
on my stories, so if you have any compliments, criticisms, whatnot, send
'em on in!