Next morning, we ate breakfast in a subdued way. Ramei
was turning the Ethereal Compass over and over in his paws.
"What exactly is it you're looking for?" he
asked. I explained, adding on the story Immacolata had told us about the Fire
Faerie being slain with an arrow. He concentrated on the circle for a few seconds
and then, unbelievably, electric blue writing appeared inside the circle, running
in a spiral from the centre outwards. I couldn't read it, but the Eyrie explained.
"It's ancient Maraquan. Nowadays, we don't write
in spirals anymore. It gives me a headache reading it, but it's because we used
to write on shells and had to use the space as best we could."
"So, what does it say?" Immacolata leaned over
his shoulder, incredibly curious. Ramei glanced over the writing once more before
"It says: 'To find the Deepwater arrow that
defeated Kanati of Fire, lost forever more by the watery spirit, walk with the
rising sun at your back from the ancient faces of Mystery until the ground opens
for you.' Err… sorry, it's very old and not too reliable. You usually get these
really cryptic rhymes, that's really very comprehensive for the Compass."
"It's good enough for me!" I glanced out to
where Luaunoau's ship rested at anchor. "Ancient faces of Mystery, huh? I'd
say that was the Mystery Island heads. We walk with the rising sun at our backs,
which is westwards, and the ground will open up for us. Hmm… how old is that
"I'm not sure. I'm sure I remember my Mum saying
something about our family tree… probably about five hundred years."
"Sweet mother of Wombats, it's a wonder it still
works at all! RedBeard's mother must have been one great sorceress; I would
have given it two hundred MAX before it stopped working altogether."
"There are certain rare items that have longer,
ah, shelf lives than most kinds of magic." Immacolata pulled her ear down so
she could see the earring in it. "Chrissy, this is stinging."
"The seawater probably cleaned it out. Two thousand
year old darts are not the best things in the world for ear piercing. It should
heal fine now, as long as you keep that ring in."
Elenna stretched. "Well, come on! We know where
we're going, don't we? Last one on board ship is a rotten egg!"
Unfortunately for those of us not gifted with
flight, gills or a friend who has one of the above, being a rotten egg was almost
inevitable. Or maybe I'm just making an excuse because I don't like being an
aging chicken embryo.
* * * * *
Waterlily cowered as Anuina's rage broke over her like a tidal wave.
"You are a MENACE! First you knock me out, then
you attempt to escape and finally, you sneak into my PERSONAL study to use MY
Magic Mirror… WITHOUT MY CONSENT! HOW DARE YOU?"
The Faerie was scarier than Waterlily had ever
seen her, surrounded by a blazing aura of magic, but the Ixi lifted her chin
"I'll dare to do anything you don't want me
to! I'm not gonna stop until you let me go!"
There was a terrifying moment where Waterlily
felt sure she was about to be disintegrated into a small pile of dust, but suddenly
Anuina turned and blasted a nearby pillar into nothingness. A silvery, mercurial
fluid seeped through the cracks in the floor already caused by the Faerie's
"GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!" She pointed at the Ixi,
who was flung across the room by an unseen force. "Deathstrike, throw her in
the dungeon! Nightwing, come here, we have work to do!" Anuina shot Waterlily
a particularly evil look. "THIS time, I will make SURE that dratted owner DIES!
Lets see how she handles an ARMY!"
The sinking feeling in Waterlily's stomach was
so strong, she barely felt Fabialla grab the scruff of her neck and drag her
from the room. As soon as they were out of earshot, the scruffy Uni knelt down
to look her in the face.
"Waterlily, it's okay!" she whispered conspiratorially.
"I've got a plan!"
* * * * *
I pulled my waterproof hood further down over my eyes, clinging
to the balustrade as I stumbled across the rain lashed deck. My rain cape was
a bit too big, almost reaching my ankles, but the treacherous wind managed to
push back my cowl and lift up the faded green canvas to lash my face and legs
with sea spray, while totally failing to fill the sails.
Now don't get me wrong, Luaunoau's ship was surprisingly
comfy. She had a much smaller crew than I had expected, but she also mentioned
in a confidential way that they were the trustworthy ones. The non-trustworthy
ones had a high staff turnover. In short, it meant that there were a fair number
of empty cabins, even if we did have to share. I had been offered a bunk in
Lu's cabin simply because it was the biggest, while the remaining girls went
in the second biggest and the boys spilt between two smaller berths, taking
it in turns to share with the hyperactive Kunila.
The journey to Mystery Island had taken three
days so far, much longer than I would have liked, but the weather was uncommonly
bad. The first day was utterly becalmed, and then we were gripped by a terrible
storm. It took two Neopets to hold the tiller steady, hitting each wave head
on with a huge smack of water on wood, a tiny pirate Aisha clinging to the Pteri's
nest to watch out for rocks while the rest of the crew swarmed over the rigging,
Luaunoau storming back and forth across the bridge, barking orders. The Kyrii,
bluntly cheerful in calm times, became sullen and officious during bad weather
and refused to eat or sleep for days at a time.
I climbed the steps to the bridge, where Lu was
standing. Rain had plastered her pale hair flat across her face, one sodden
ear drooping under the weight of a gold earring, but still her captain's hat
just managed not to collapse and the Kyrii had an air of command.
"I brought you something to eat!" I yelled against
the wind and rain. Lu nodded grimly, accepting the tankard of Grog without thinking.
"I think it's getting worse," she grumbled to
me, taking a deep swig. This opinion was echoed by a yell from the Pteri's Nest,
practically above us.
"Great nasty knot of clouds at half past one,
bearing strait for us, Cap'n!"
Half past one was ahead and to our right, or
port, side. The lookout was right; it was a nasty looking lot of clouds. These
weren't the pleasant, fluffy clouds that frolicked like little Babaas on pretty
summers days. These were big, mean, purple clouds that meant business.
"FURL IN THE MAINSAIL!" Lu yelled, sending a
few pets that had been huddled in the lea of the foredeck, sharing a bottle
of something I'd rather not inquire about, scuttling towards the rigging. I
glanced up towards the turbulent sky just as a sheet of white lightning flashed
across it, illuminating something I had only seen in nightmares.
"Sweet mother of Wombats, INCOMING!"
It dived, stooping like a falcon, a tatter of
darkness against a second flash of light. A Pirate Blumaroo screamed as only
a Blumaroo can as it tore him away from the rigging. With deceptive ease, it
hovered just out of reach as the wind blowing into our faces spattered something
red across the pale canvas mainsail. Several of the crew yelled in anger, drawing
their rapiers, but I was already vaulting over the edge of the Bridge and landing,
catlike, on the tilting deck.
I had taken to wearing the Spectrum as my waist,
and for the first time I was glad of its presence as I hurled myself at the
rigging. I'd never been the most coordinated of people, but the Spectrum compensated
for that. Within seconds I was level with the foul creature, still clutching
He was still alive, long claw marks bright red
in his grey fur and one ear ripped clean off. The winged beast was hurt too,
the dagger in the Blumaroo's paw testimony to that, but it didn't seem to faze
it. The thing was almost humanoid, black as night, with two wings torn to tatters,
a long tail and tiny, pointed horns on its fiendish little face. The form wasn't
familiar, but the symbol inked in crimson on its forehead was. We were facing
another servant of the Faerie that had stolen my Black Waterlily.
The creature, whatever it was, grinned at me.
There was about six feet of space between us. I couldn't jump six feet. Or could
For the first, and I swore to myself, the last
time, I voluntarily put down my mental barriers and let the Spectrum take over.
I clung grimly to my sense of sight, unwilling to return to the darkness. The
spirits sensed this and left me conscious. Maybe that was a bad thing.
It was like electricity shooting down every nerve.
Swinging my ankles level with my shoulders, with a strength I didn't possess,
I braced both feet against the thick robes and jumped outwards.
As it lurched upwards I lashed out, grabbing
its rat-like tail. The demonic thing screeched as it began falling with me,
snapping with its jaws as I lashed out with my feet. It kicked me in the face
with one black, bony foot, snapping my head back and raising what would be quite
a fantastic bruise on my jaw, but I clung grimly to it's tail as we plummeted
towards the deck. Snatching the wounded Blumaroo from its grasp, I curled around
him in a vain attempt to protect the pet from impact.
Luckily, we had some last minute cushioning.
We landed on top of the creature.
Someone a lot bigger than I was grabbed my rain
cape, dragging me along the deck. Another scooped up the Blumaroo. I wriggled
queasily, winded by the fall despite the last minute cushioning, and the someone
"For Maraqua's sake, Chrissy, hold still!"
"That's my name." The Eyrie finally dropped
me, staring into my eyes. "Great Ghoti, I'm surprised you didn't break your
jaw! That's gonna be a BIG bruise."
"You don't say." I sat up. Ramei had dragged
me into the shadow of the Bridge, where several pets were hiding. Lu nodded
to me, staring at the sky with her crossbow ready.
"Smart thinking. I owe you one. You'd make a
good captain one day, you know." Answering my unasked question, she pointed
to where a large number of the dark creatures were swirling in a vicious anticyclone.
"Imps. Nasty little devils. Reckon they brought the storm, or someone they know
did, if you catch my drift."
"We're dealing with that darn Faerie again."
I snarled, hefting the Spectrum. "RIGHT, lets see how THEY like being torn to
"Whoa!" Ramei grabbed my cape quickly. "Watch
it, Chrissy! They're not alone!"
I looked up. Hovering, in a patch of almost still
air, were two Neopets… a familiar Fire Uni and a Shadowed Shoyru, wreathed in
darkness. The Shoyru was holding a glowing orb, a glass ball filled with clouds
and surrounded with a crackling aura of electricity. I grabbed Ramei's mane,
turning to look at him. "Ramei, you said you wanted revenge?"
He raised his head to look me in the eye, a wild
determination flashing in his. "What do you want me to do?"
"You've got wings, I haven't. You don't mind
being a riding beast for a while, do you?"
The Eyrie shook his head, kneeling so I could
sit on his back, between the wings. "I'm not very good at this." I muttered,
grabbing a handful of feathers. As we took off, an Imp stooped, grabbing another
pet. This time, it wasn't one of Luaunoau's crew. It was an all too familiar
Peophin, her mane alternating between bright crimson and sickly yellow by the
second as she was dragged aloft, screaming incoherent death threats.
Several things happened at once. Ramei and I
shot towards the Neopets far above us, the Uni darting to one side with a squeal
as she saw us coming. The Shadowed Shoyru was oblivious, staring into the orb
as though it commanded all of his attention. Lu raised her crossbow and fired,
with deadly accuracy, the Imp sprawling to one side with a shriek and releasing
Gaining a few feet of altitude above the Shoyru,
Ramei folded his wings and dived. We slammed into him like a rock falling from
the sky, sending the orb spinning into darkness. Perilo hit the deck just as
it keeled to one side, sliding across the soaked wood and hitting the balustrade
hard. The Shoyru turned his head, yelling at the hovering Uni.
She dove, almost to sea level, clumsily snatching
the storm ball with the waves lapping at her hooves. She stared across three
feet of open water, strait into Perilo's eyes. Then, unexpectedly, the Uni winked.
"Oops," she muttered lightly, with a slight
smile, as the orb slid out of her hooves and into the water. Shocked, Perilo
grinned suddenly, her mane flashing bright violet in fierce joy, and she dove
over the side in a single, smooth movement.
Ramei twisted in the air as the Shoyru yanked himself free. He raised one hand
with an incomprehensible yell, a tongue of lightning forking down towards us.
Ramei hurtled to one side, less gracefully than he would have done in water,
and I raised my arm instinctively. The same arm whose hand was holding the Spectrum.
There was a flash and a tang of chlorine, and
the lightning bolt seemed to snap into itself, like elastic stretched too thin.
The clumsy blade was now wreathed with crackling energy, causing my hair and
Ramei's feathers to bristle out with static. Ramei wheeled for another charge
at the Shoyru, and without thinking, I strengthened my grip and let go of his
mane to make a two handed swing at the Neopet as he dove out of reach of the
Eyrie's claws and beak.
The blade only slashed across his leg, not a
serious injury, but with a second sudden glare of light and a crackle the lightning
discharged. It almost knocked the Shoyru out of the air, black wings fluttering.
Slowly, he hauled himself level with us, motes that somehow seemed to absorb
light rather than give it off orbiting his paws.
"So." His voice was almost expressionless, but
this was only because he was concealing a layer of anger and contempt. "You
are the one who has so far outwitted us? I am surprised."
"Yep, I usually have that effect on people."
Ramei swerved so quickly I almost fell off, clutching at his neck as the Eyrie's
claws tore through the Shoyru's wing membrane. He tumbled, favouring his undamaged
wing, which made further manoeuvrability much more difficult. I pushed myself
upright as the lightning crackled again, dangerously close, a thin tongue twisting
aside to touch the Spectrum like a magnet attracts metal. Against all the laws
of physics, we didn't become a small pile of charcoal dust; instead the weapon
absorbed this second input of energy easily.
It should have been a heroic silhouette. The
brave crusader, hair flying in the wind, wielding her electricity-coated blade
defiantly against the storm-controlling fiend, and riding her brave and valiant
steed committed to the forces of good and justice. Unfortunately, once my hair
gets wet it assumes roughly the consistency of tangled Jubjub fur and is no
longer applicable for the streaming-in-the-wind category, very few crusaders
would be caught wearing a battered canvas rain cape and clothes that had been
trawled across five continents, and the impressiveness of the glowing Ethereal
Compass slung around Ramei's neck was strongly combated by half of his feathers
sticking back to front and the badly patched yellow weather beater he was wearing.
The Shoyru also seemed to have spotted this,
but remained totally inanimate. The threat was all the worse for being delivered
with no emotion whatsoever. "You pathetic little human, I will DESTROY you."
* * * * *
Perilo darted through the water like an arrow. There were things
following her, apparently the Imps were perfectly capable of swimming as well
as flying. Folding her legs close, she beat her tail as hard as she could and
dove towards the tumbling orb, far, far below.
Something latched onto her tail and she cracked
it around the skull without looking back. Another Imp shot past her, desperate
to reach the ball of storms first…
"Ain't gonna happen, flyboy!"
Twisting in the water, Perilo turned a cartwheel,
bringing her tail fin down on the Imp's head with as much strength as she could
muster. Dazed, the Imp floated away, cross-eyed and giggling slightly.
It had slowed her down, though, and several more
Imps were gaining on the orb. The Island Peophin, her mane flashing bright scarlet,
charged strait into the nearest one, knocking it sideways with her shoulder.
Another had the indignity of having her teeth latch onto his tail and being
flung backwards into two of his companions. Whooping happily, Perilo dived again.
She could see it now, resting on the ocean floor… just a little bit further…
Grinning wolfishly, a particularly small and
weedy looking Imp dove out from behind the rock and grabbed the orb, darting
towards the surface. With a whinny of outrage, Perilo was right on his tail.
A second later, he was drifting away with a stunned expression and a concussion
from a particularly nasty head butt, while Perilo was attempting to hold on
to the ball and finding out just how hard gripping round, smooth, slippery things
with hooves was.
"Ack! Hold still, you annoying little… argh…
A particularly evil snicker interrupted her complaints.
Glancing up, the Peophin came face to face with a very, very, very large number
of Imps. She was surrounded. Totally. There were even Imps hovering above her.
And every single one, down to the tiniest, no bigger than a Kacheek, was grinning
with tiny, sharp little teeth.
"This… is a Bad Thing."
* * * * *
The Shoyru charged, catching us off guard. Ramei dove to avoid him,
smacking into an unfortunate Imp and sending it plummeting down to the deck,
where it was quickly dispatched. Ramei wheeled to face him as I yelled out.
"You're gonna pay for Malania and Waterlily, fiend! I'll feed you your wings!
I'll have you stuffed and sold as a lawn ornament! I'll… yeek!"
The 'yeek' was because at that moment, the Shoyru
charged again and Ramei had to pull off a complicated twist, slashing at Imps
as he did. I was close enough to swing out at the Shoyru, scoring a better hit
than last time. He was knocked backwards several feet, and stared at me with
a look of utter loathing.
"You can't win! Give me back my Waterlily!"
He just sneered, gaining altitude with motes
of dark power orbiting his paws. "I should have killed you when I killed that
I froze. The look on my face was indescribable.
Ramei twisted his head round to stare at me, slightly worried at my sudden stillness.
Finally, I managed to hiss out the words.
"You… KILLED… Loki?"
Suddenly I returned to my sense, digging one
hand into Ramei's mane. "Get him, Ramei!" The Eyrie shot forward obediently,
and this time the Shoyru wasn't quick enough to escape. Ramei's beak tore open
his shoulder and I swung the Spectrum two-handed with all my might. I never
saw if it hit or not, because at that moment the Eyrie under me twisted sharply,
locked into aerial combat with the Shoyru, and I slipped sideways, unable to
stop myself, falling down through darkness…
* * * * *
Perilo was struck by a sudden thought, staring at the orb in front
"Hey… you guys want the orb, right?"
There was a unanimous nod. The Peophin's grin
"And your boss would be pretty annoyed if it
was broken, right?"
There was another unanimous nod. On of the Imps,
marginally smarter than the rest, smacked the nearest over the head.
"Then eat splinters, evil Impish types!" Turning
one of her famous somersaults, Perilo brought her tail crashing down on the
storm ball. There was a blinding flash of light, a sudden shock of electricity
ripped through the waters…
* * * * *
Light flared suddenly, briefly blinding me, before I hit the deck
and the lights went out again.
When I woke up, I was in a cabin again. Perilo
was sitting next to my bed, dozing slightly.
"Perilo? Oi, Perilo, what happened?"
"Hmm?" She awoke with a snort. "Oh, you're awake?
That's good. You've got to rest, no getting up."
I paused, already halfway out of bed. "What?
Sweet mother of Wombats, I've got to see my pets… Is Ramei hurt? What about
you, what happened after you dived under? Why can't I get up?"
"Why can't you get up? Sweet Ghostkerchief,
you fell fifteen feet onto solid wood and you ask me why you can't get up? Get
back in bed, NOW. I'll tell you everything."
After a pause, I pulled the covers up to my chin
and settled back. Perilo nodded towards a collection of healing potions beside
the bed, along with a particularly fine Lost Desert vase overflowing with tropical
"Ramei and Elenna brought the flowers. As you
can probably guess, we've landed at Mystery Island and as soon as you're well,
NOT BEFORE, we're gonna go look for that mystical weapon thingy." Perilo passed
me a healing potion. "Drink up."
I did so, still watching her. She carefully adjusted
her newly beaded mane, currently glowing an almost neon green, and continued
"Right, what happened to me was basically that
I broke that orb thing. The storm vanished strait away, along with those two
pets, and all the Imps. As for the pets, Ramei's just fine, he and that Uni
of yours have been trawling all over this stretch of the island, some nonsense
about a jungle RGP they're working on together…"
"Whatever. Kunila is trying to tear the jungle
apart to find fruit, and occasionally collapsing into fits of giggles; Keeragh
has been trying to stop him from weirding out strangers and making a map of
the coastline while he's at it, Immacolata and Lu have been doing a lot of talking
and consulting old maps, and I've been teaching that Kougra of yours to surf.
He's quite good, you know."
"That's alright then. But when can I get up?
We've got to get a move on, they might come after us again…"
"What, you think I haven't thought of this already?
We're going as soon as possible, but first off, YOU, missy, are spending the
rest of the day in bed! We'll set out tomorrow morning, we have to prepare,
obviously, but if you're not one-hundred-percent better, you ain't going nowhere,
"That's a double negative," I grumbled, settling
down again. I knew better than to try and argue with Perilo. When that Peophin
got a certain set to her eyes, anyone who contradicted her was going to get
a slap with her tail fin.
The time passed deceptively quickly, what with
near constant visits; Ramei told me I ought to hold on better when I was flying,
brought me a fresh bunch of flowers and chatted for about an hour, Elenna practically
shrieked the roof down when she saw I was awake and, in between scolding me
for being so stupid and bursting into tears with happiness because I was still
alive, showed me the beginnings of a very promising Role-playing Game that she
and Ramei had been working on, Hina was desperate to show me his new skills
at surfing and looked rather embarrassed when Perilo told me he was very good,
Kunila whisked me up the best Coconut Cocktail I've ever tasted, Keeragh showed
me the maps he'd been drawing of his aerial surveys of the island, and Lu, Immacolata
and I looked at them and argued good-naturedly over possible routes. Even some
of the crew I hadn't met came in, wishing me a quick recovery, and the rather
battered Blumaroo that I had saved from the Imps limped over from his cabin
to thank me. I was rather peeved that he, who had been a lot worse beaten up,
was able to visit ME, when I had only fallen a long way and hit the deck rather
hard, but it appeared that Neopets were a lot tougher than humans.
After a very restful nights sleep, we were all
packed up and ready to go.
To be continued...