The next few tasks were easy enough. Kunila was very
good with the more physical ones (Walking a tightrope is deceptively easy for
a Kougra, and walking on hot coals isn't that difficult when you have paw pads
designed for scorching beach sands.) where as Keeragh foiled the trickiest Tiki
puzzles (The old 'Pick the coconut with the bean under it' game is very, very
easy when you have an Eyrie's sense of smell, and it turned out that he had
a knack for Gadsgadsgame.). Finally, the sun was going down, and the Tiki Neopets
were getting increasingly edgy. The Tiki warrior who had introduced himself
as Mu Cho Bra Vo edged up to Keeragh and Kunila.
"You are Ku Ni La and Keer Agh, it is proved.
But… ah… there is one test more."
"Bring it on." Keeragh touched the dragon I
had hung around his neck and grinned again.
"Follow me," Mu Cho Bra Vo gestured miserably.
The two pets shared a puzzled look before they did so. Something was afoot.
Or possibly a-paw, or even a-tentacle. You could never be sure.
We were taken out of our cages with our hands
or front paws roped together and nooses around our necks. I had no illusions
about them letting us go. They were just making sure the celebration feast wasn't
going to escape when everyone wasn't looking.
They took us to a large clearing, quite a way
from the village. It was empty except for what looked like an old, abandoned
Battledome arena, overlooked by a stone throne. Kunila and Keeragh were pushed
to the front as everyone flung themselves at the ground.
"Forgive us, Witch who walks unseen!" the Witchdoctor
howled. "But these two say they be Ku Ni La and Keer Agh of prophecy! We beg
you, test them, and prove truth!"
There was a sudden rustle of whispers. No one
was talking. No one would have dared to. So where, exactly, were the whispers
*SHE is making them.*/>
I didn't have to ask who she was, because at
that moment a figure appeared on the throne.
She was misty, almost see-through, like a ghost
rather than a real person. She was dressed in rags, her pretty face flanked
by Peophin-like ears and almost covered with a jewelled golden mask. Hooves
had replaced her hands and she had a finned tail.
~I am the Witch~ she boomed, but her mouth
didn't move. The voice was entirely inside our heads. ~I shall test these
two. Come forward, little ones.~
They took two paces forward, very hesitantly.
She nodded, an evil smile creeping across her
face. ~I challenge you to defeat my guardian.~ she waved her hand, and a creature
appeared in the arena. It was roughly similar to an oversized Gallion, but oversized
Gallions didn't have dark blue scales with crimson stripes, or a mane of flames,
or wings the size of mainsails. In fact, oversized Gallions didn't have curls
of steam coming out of their nostrils either. This monster was trouble. Big
trouble. In the most literal sense of the word. Keeragh gulped, but trotted
down into the stone circle after the exited Kunila.
He barely had time to crouch before the creature
reared back and spat a fireball at him. The Eyrie leapt into the air, barely
avoiding it. Kunila charged, ducking under the beast's stomach and slicing at
it with his claws. Beating his wings hard, Keeragh landed on the opposite side
of the arena, only to be swamped by a sudden tidal wave. His feathers totally
soaked, his wings were now almost useless, and he could only roll aside as a
second fireball sent up clouds of steam. The Kougra was caught a sudden blow
with the creature's tail, knocking him clear to the other side of the arena.
"Fire AND Water? That's cheating!" I yelled.
The other pets were in varying stages of dismay.
*Our brother, Deepwater, has somehow bonded
with the spirit of the deceased Fire Faerie. So, no, that isn't cheating… it's
just highly improbable and probably not a good idea.*/>
For a few more desperate seconds, they dodged
the beast's attacks with increasing difficulty. Don't believe what anyone says
about winning after long, arduous fights with dragons and other sundry monsters…
you get it over with as quickly as possible, or you lose. In was kinda inevitable
that finally, Keeragh wouldn't be quick enough and a fireball would catch the
edge of his wing. He collapsed into one of the large puddles that now covered
the arena, shrieking in pain and trying to smother the flames. The giant Gallion
pinned him with one front paw. Kunila leapt onto its shoulders, but the mane
of flames burnt his paws and the creature tore him free with its teeth, flinging
him against the stone with a nasty sound. Several of the pets screamed, and
I was tearing at the ropes with my teeth… I had to help him…
Then the Witch started laughing.
She threw back her head and laughed like she
would never stop. The creature just watched her, waiting for an order. Finally,
the hybrid of Faerie and Spirit was able to gasp out some words around the laugh.
~Fools!~ She cackled. ~You cannot defeat
it! My creature, my masterpiece, it feeds off fear, and pain, and cruelty, and
anguish. The more you run, the more you hurt, the more you attack, the stronger
and angrier it will become! Fools! This is the end for you! Monster, Kill!~
Keeragh held up one paw, for some unknown reason
he was still alive. The beast's mouth was open, and he was looking between the
Eyrie and the Witch with an indescribable mix of emotions on its face.
"You don't really want to kill me," Keeragh
said soothingly. "I don't want to hurt you. I won't hurt you. I want to be your
friend. SHE'S trying to trick you, the more you fight the more unhappy you'll
~Won't work, little Eyrie! You think I didn't
think someone would try that? He cannot turn against me! He can't think, the
stupid little monster. I thought I told you to kill him?~
This last sentence was addressed at the giant
Gallion, who was looking more and more confused. Finally, it said something,
the same mind-voice as the spirits had, but slowed, hesitant, as though it wasn't
used to speaking.
~What did you say?~
Now the creature was thrashing its tail with
a mix of anger and pain. Not Monster! Not want to be Monster! You not call
It looked down, and took its paw off Keeragh.
The Eyrie still had his paw out, more from paralysed fear than anything else.
The creature lifted its claw again and very slowly, shook his paw, speaking
out loud for the first time.
The relief on Keeragh's face was visible even
from where we were standing. The Eyrie nodded happily.
"Yes! I'm your friend and you're my friend!
What's your name, friend?"
"Frend? Can I call you that?"
It nodded happily, thrashing its tail with joy
this time. I rubbed my eyes. Was it me, or was it getting smaller?
"Okay, Frend! You can come home with me, and
I'll introduce you to all my friends, and you'll never have to fight anyone
again, I promise!"
All of a sudden, the slow shrinking sped up.
The Gallion went from mammoth to minimus in about ten seconds.
~No!~ shrieked the Witch, but it was too
late, we were already cheering.
"He did it!" Lu punched the air. "Face it, Witch!
He did it! He defeated your guardian!"
We were all cheering at the top of our voices,
but Perilo and Elenna had already dissolved into happy tears. Ramei was being
as supporting as he could with two equines sobbing into his feathers. Two Tiki
warriors rushed forwards and carried Kunila to the edge, as As Pa Rin the Healer
ran forward and produced a bottle of healing potion.
Keeragh carried the Gallion to the sidelines
as the Kougra regained consciousness slowly. "Hey, Kunila, are you alright?
And, you can talk to petpets, can't you?"
"Of course! I'm just fine, and that was brilliant,
Keeragh!" Kunila touched a large bump on the back of his head. "No hard feelings,
little Frend? What do you want me to say to him?"
"Can you ask Frend here if he minds being little?
Oh, and ask him if he'd like to be my petpet, too."
The Kougra stared into the Gallions eyes for
a few seconds, the petpet doing the same, before looking up. "He's fine with
small, he was small before and didn't like being big that much, that Witch lady
made him be big. And he'd love to be your petpet!"
~Fine.~ The Witch had got over her brief
rage. ~You win, little Eyrie. You've defeated an admittedly pathetic monster.~
This made Frend hiss loudly, and Keeragh had to hang on tight to him to stop
him attacking her on sight. ~But what have you gained? Nothing! I am still
here. Lets see if you can defeat ME.~
Kunila took a step forward, ready to fight the
Witch if he had to, but Keeragh stopped him. He glanced at the silver dragon
around his neck, and then looked up at me.
The Spirits were alive in every inch of my body.
I was barely me anymore. I was THEM.
"I have the right to a champion?" the Eyrie's
voice floated through the thick haze that threatened to overwhelm me.
~Of course. Do anything you like.~ The
Witch, Deepwater, was laughing at us. Laughing! At us!
"Then I choose Chrissy!" Keeragh turned to glare
at a couple of Tiki warriors, who ran to get me.
I was untied and given back my backpack, which
had all of my stuff inside it. I draped it over one arm and walked towards Deepwater,
totally calm, totally not myself.
"Deepwater." They were talking through
me again. What was happening? "Leave Kanati to her eternal rest and come
~What?~ She… he… it was panicking now.
I, no, they reached inside my pack and held out the two parts of the Spectrum
currently in my possession. Who was I, anyway? Who were they? Where was the
line? I couldn't see it anymore… couldn't feel where I stopped and weapon began…
"Come with us, Deepwater. Our last duty.
Then we can rest, when the Light Queen lies dead."
"No!" The voice had changed. Something had changed.
The shape of the Witch was changing. Deepwater was leaving her, but…
"But Kanati does not want to die." I
answered my own question. "Do not be frightened… death is not so bad… and
we should know…"
She didn't have a choice. Deepwater flew towards
us, a cloud of particles around a single, strait piece of wood, the Piece of
Water, and for a moment Kanati, just Kanati, sat on the throne. Then, with a
heart rending screech, there was just ash.
The pieces fused with a flash of blindness, a
strong smell of pine needles and sea spray, sudden warmth and a breath of air.
They were whole. I was whole. I was them and they were me. We were one.
Except I was fighting with all the strength I
Give me my body back give me my body back
give me my body back give me my body back By the Mother of all Wombats, you
stupid spirits, GIVE ME BACK MY BODY!
And then, unbelievably, there was a familiar
voice. A voice from the time before the quest. A voice I knew, and trusted,
and associated with warm greetings and protection.
"A-zero-zero-one Squadron… wait-for-it-wait-for-it-wait-for-it…
I flung my head back and yelled at the top of
my voice as a tight formation of blue Neopets flying across the sky spread out
suddenly, shooting off in different directions.
The world turned black. I'd fainted so many times
by now; I think I had the falling softly perfect.
The Blue Arrows.
I regained consciousness in a Tiki hut, with
As Pa Rin the Healer, Elenna, Immacolata, Hina and a very familiar Starry Scorchio
staring over me.
"Dudette! You okay?" Hina quickly passed me
a coconut shell full of water. Elenna looked like she'd been crying a lot. Immacolata
let out a breath of relief and then rubbed her eyes wearily.
"You were unconscious for two days." She explained.
"We haven't slept."
"That," I replied, sipping the water. "Was without
a doubt the single worst experience of my life. The Spectrum..." All of a sudden,
I sat bolt upright. "Where is it? No one touched it, did they?"
"Like, no one wanted to." Hina shoved me back
against the pile of leaves that served as a pillow. "But we wrapped it up, like,
in some blankets and brought it anyway."
"You've got to rest up before you can race off
and save the world." The Starry Scorchio, who hadn't said anything yet, grinned
at me. "If I hadn't turned up when I did, who knows what might have happened?"
"It was sheer luck," I grinned back at her.
"Everyone, this is Sparks, although you've probably already been introduced.
She's squadron leader for HQs one and only aerial support unit."
"A-zero-zero-one," Sparks added. "Also known
as the Blue Arrows, for obvious reasons."
"There's only one of you?" Elenna frowned as
Sparks nodded. "They, why couldn't you just call it One or something?"
"It's got to sound right," the Scorchio protested.
"No self-respecting squadron would call itself One. They all have names like
F-nine-zero-six or something in that vein. It just so happens that ours is called
A-zero-zero-one, 'cus there IS only one. If there were another one, it would
be A-zero-zero-two, capice? We prefer the Blue Arrows, though, 'cus we are all
blue one way or another."
Immacolata turned back to me. "If you're feeling
better, Chrissy, I think some sunlight and food would do you good. Come on."
As Pa Rin gave me one last dose of healing potion
before I was allowed to stagger into the light. Almost immediately we were swamped
"You're alright!" Ramei almost knocked me down.
"Thank Maraqua, Perilo has barely stopped crying since! At least now I'll be
able to dry my feathers out."
Kunila leapt up and wrapped his paws around me.
"You're okay! She's okay! Hey everybody, Chrissy's okay! You're absolutely A-OK!"
Lu thumped my arm and grinned. "You had us worried
there. Don't do that again, right?"
"Oh, Sweet Ghostkerchief, you're fine!" Perilo
smacked Ramei round the head for the feathers joke, and then blew her nose noisily.
"I thought… we thought…"
Keeragh was staring at the ground, rather embarrassed.
He held out my dragon pendant. "Err… sorry. Was kinda my fault. I didn't think…"
"That's okay, Keeragh." I draped the chain around
my neck one-handed, because a certain Spotted Kougra had pinned my other arm
to my side. "It was going to happen anyway, it's just good you didn't get blasted
in the process!"
I was hustled over to a fire and a huge amount
of fish and fruit was shoved in front of me. Having my mouth full gave me a
good excuse not to participate in the conversation, which was taking an unpleasant
"We have the slight problem that this is going
to happen every time Chrissy tries to wield the Spectrum. We might not be so
lucky next time." Immacolata mused in a low voice. Hina nodded.
"But, dudes and dudettes, Chrissy will, like,
be able to stop them. She's, like, done it before."
Lu stretched. "It's not finished, though. We've
got one piece left. Found anything, Ramei?"
"I haven't asked," he admitted. Picking up the
compass from around his neck, he stared at it for a few moments. A thin trail
of blue writing, much shorter than before, appearing inside the gold circle.
Immacolata leaned over his shoulder.
"Coordinates," she mused. "Very… unusual coordinates.
I have a theory, but… Ramei, can you ask it where to find Waterlily?"
The Eyrie nodded and focussed a second time.
Another trail of writing appeared. It was identical.
"I thought so," the Blue Aisha nodded. "The
Faerie who stole Waterlily has the last piece. They are both in the extra-dimensional
pocket that I told you of."
"Great," Elenna replied sarcastically. "My big
sister and the final piece of the Spectrum are both in the one place on Neopia
that we can't get to. Brilliant."
"Who says we can't get to it?" Immacolata replied
darkly. We all stared at her.
With a superior expression, she produced her
laptop. After all it had been through, I was surprised it was still working.
Flipping it open, the Aisha selected a program. "I created Platform +/- Infinity
as a method of, ah, creating an alibi. It would twist the Neopian Algorithm
so that a pet or pets could be moved thousands of miles in an instant, to any
known locale. Since we have the coordinates…"
Perilo, however, already knew Immacolata too
well. "What's the catch?"
"It requires a power source roughly the size
and density of a Flagship-Class Space Generator."
"Ah," Keeragh sighed, sitting down hard. "So
"Not necessarily." Sparks replied airily, helping
herself to a slice of Funnydew Melon from my plate. I stared at her for a moment,
then cottoned on.
"Of course." I swallowed quickly. "Flagship-Class,
Hina might not be quick on the uptake, but I
had to admit, he did have occasional flashes of brilliance. "What do you two
dudettes know that we don't?"
Sparks glanced at me, chewed the remainder of
the Melon rind and said calmly. "We've got a Flagship-Class spaceship. Fully
functional, or should be."
Now it was Ramei's turn to be sarcastic. "What's
"The Space Station it's docked with, Virtuapets
6, is overrun with Evil Fuzzles," I explained.
Kunila leapt about a foot into the air. "Evil
Fuzzles from Outer Space?" For a moment he looked petrified, but then he relaxed.
"Oh well, guess we can't go there, then? Can't we?"
I grinned. "Oh, I never said that… I think we
better go pay White a visit."
* * * * *
"Yeah, quite swish, isn't it?"
I was quietly refusing to be impressed by HQs
new Headquarters. The pets weren't quite so calm. That much ultramodern brushed
steel and blue glass can do that to you.
Sparks and the rest of the Blue Arrows had given
us a lift over here, and had apologised that they weren't able to come with
us since they had to run some low altitude checks (Exactly where, they refused
to say.). I calmly sauntered up to the head office, with awestruck pets in tow,
and almost ran into a strangely familiar Faerie Kacheek.
"Yo, Chrissy." It took me a moment to work out
who he was.
"Hey, Shift. I like the new look!" Shift was
our resident Labby. He'd had his species, colour and gender changed so many
times via experimental morphing potions, paintbrushes and the Lab Ray that it
was sheer luck he wasn't a pile of goop.
"So do I, though it's a tad on the small size.
Can't wait to try out the new Darigan Paintbrush, Luna and Solar are still working
on the temporary morphing potions." He tapped a small badge pinned to his collar.
"I got promoted. Head of Espionage. What d'you think?"
"Great." I gave him a thumbs-up. "Oh, before
I forget, you've met Hina, Immacolata and Elenna, but this is Ramei, Keeragh,
Kunila, Perilo and Lu."
"Pleased to meet you." Shift grinned, fluttering
gently in the air. "Shadow, White and the Kougra Twins are over in Ops, you'd
be better off looking there. Oh, and speaking of Luna and Solar, you're in for
"What d'you mean?" I frowned, but he just grinned
and flittered away. I sighed and found the door to Operations. "You lot wait
The new Ops was pretty cool. Wall to wall plasma
view screens, an interactive map of Neopia showing the various hotspots and
positions of the different units and agents, and even a drinks machine. White
choked on his coffee as I walked in.
"Chrissy! What are you doing here?"
I smiled at the White Eyrie. "I've come to ask
Shadow turned round and grinned. He was a Shadowed
Lupe with a studded black collar, and headed up our Special Operations force.
"Hey, you found Waterlily yet? You look like you were just dragged through a
hedge backwards, by the way."
"No," I sighed, choosing a seat. "We haven't
found Waterlily yet, but we know where she is. Hence the need for the favour.
I'll explain later, but for now, I just need to ask if I can borrow the Archangel."
"Last time we checked…"
"The Archangel was overrun."
"With Evil Fuzzles."
I almost fell out of my chair. I now realised
what Shift had meant about me getting a shock. Luna and Solar had changed, and
not for the better. Luna, a Silver Kougra, was wearing a studded black collar
like Shadow's, with bracelets to match, jeans that looked suspiciously like
they had once belonged to Hina, a ripped T-shirt with 'Save the Primella' on
it and her hair dyed bright pink and gelled into random spikes. Solar was no
better, her Golden hair had been dyed black and slicked flat over her face,
and she wore a black velvet dress with long black sleeves and fishnet gloves.
"Sweet mother of Wombats." My eyebrows hit the
roof. "What happened to you two?"
"They hit their teenage rebellion stage a bit
late." Shadow muttered. I stifled a giggle as the Kougra Twins glared at him.
They might look a bit strange, but they were still the best Techies we had.
"Well, you see, I had an idea… it's a bit risky,
but it's doable."
"This idea wouldn't involve a walkerbot and
a Big Gun, would it?"
"Funny you should say that, White…"
To be continued...