Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 114,248,913 Issue: 228 | 17th day of Awakening, Y8
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A Quest to Remember

by fox_83


SPLAT! I reeled as a high-speed white projectile collided with my left cheek. Wiping the cold, wet mess off my face, I shot an angry glare at the giggling Zafara who had thrown it. As far as I was concerned, turning into an ice lolly on the top of Terror Mountain was no way to spend the summer. Clearly, however, my pets would beg to differ-they were having a blast throwing snowballs at each other, and me. I would much rather have been home on Mystery Island, lounging on a hammock in the shade or swimming in the ocean, but my pets had insisted that we do a quest for Taelia the snow faerie today. Now here I was, bundled to the ears in layers of warm clothing (but still freezing), while my furry-coated pets skipped about happily, unfazed by the sub-zero temperatures. Thankfully, I could see Taelia's igloo not far away, and I began to walk more quickly. Of course, igloos aren't very warm, but it might be a little warmer in there. I turned around to see if my pets were staying close to me, and found myself face-to-face with another snowball. As it knocked me backward into the snow, I decided that this was clearly not going to be my day.

     "Jinx!" I yelled. It was not a very loud yell, as my mouth was still full of snow. The sound of four small, quick feet in the snow told me that my pet was running toward me. I had managed to sit up by the time she arrived, but I was soon flat on my back in the snow again as she crashed right into me like a furry little projectile. Her bright Xweetok eyes shone as she planted her front paws on my shoulders and looked into my snow-covered face.

     "You bellowed?" she said. I shoved her into my lap and sat up again.

     "Didn't I tell you guys to stop throwing snowballs?" I asked, fixing her with a disapproving glare.

     "Yeah, but it was a really nice shot," quipped a voice from behind me. I turned to find my checkered Gelert, Razz, sitting in the snow, a smug look on his wide, two-toned face.

     "Didn't I tell you all that target practice in Meridell would come in handy?" replied the Xweetok, who had jumped off my lap and begun to shake the snow from her starry coat.

     "I wouldn't call it handy, Jinx," said another voice, "All it did was get you in trouble." I turned in the direction of the voice, and was met by the face of my shadow Lupe, Ravahna, who was shaking his head at the Xweetok. Jinx, the little Xweetok, suddenly aware that she might have provoked my wrath to the point of removing her dessert privileges, leaped into my lap again and peered into my face. She then made a most dramatic apology, but I scarcely heard-the cuteness of the look she gave me was enough to turn me into a bowl of mushy peas. This look is one of her favorite tricks when she might be in trouble, and it usually works like a charm. Smiling, I let her off with a warning, ignoring the exasperated sigh from Ravahna and the knowing leer from Zira, my Christmas Zafara, who had also been in on the snowball throwing but wisely let Jinx get them both out of it. I got stiffly to my feet, and we made it to Taelia's igloo without further incident.

     When we got to the igloo, Taelia greeted us with her usual complaints about the low temperatures. I wondered, not for the first time, why she didn't just move to Mystery Island like the rest of us who are not fans of snow. I pulled out my notepad and reluctantly took off my mittens, ready to write down the items she would ask us for today, and I was surprised when she told me to put it away.

     "No no no," she prattled, "I need something a little different today."

     "What? A space heater?" joked Razz. She shot him an icy look and turned back to me.

     "No, something a little more…er…interesting. You see, Jhudora and I have a little wager. We all know that Illusen sells some of the items people bring her for her quests. However, she won't tell us how she spends all the neopoints she gets. Jhudora and I have different guesses about the matter."

     "And you want us to find out for sure?" asked Ravahna. His face was expressionless, but there was an adventurous gleam in his yellow eyes.

     "You catch on quickly," answered Taelia. Razz, whose normally microscopic attention span had somehow remained intact throughout the faerie's speech, spoke up.

     "What's in it for us?"

     "Oh, I can't tell you that," said Taelia, "But I promise I'll dig up something that's worth your while. So, do you accept?"

     Before I could protest, Zira jumped into the conversation.

     "Just leave it to us."

     "Good," said Taelia, "I'll expect you back later today. Don't be too long; I don't like waiting." I hurried out of the igloo with my pets in tow, and we headed for the ferry port. I sighed as I wondered how we'd get the information Taelia wanted. Clearly, this was not going to be my day.

     On the ferryboat, I gratefully sat on the deck in the warm sun, sipping snowberry tea. My pets were gathered around me, and we were trying to formulate a plan.

     "Do you think she'd tell us if we just asked nicely?" asked Jinx.

     "Not everyone is vulnerable to your cute look, Jinxie," remarked Razz.

     "Our only real difficulty is finding out where she keeps the things she buys," said Ravahna, "I think we should concentrate on finding that out."

     "But how?" I asked. "If Jhudora and Taelia can't find that out, why should we have a chance?"

     "Because she won't be expecting it from us," said Zira. Ravahna's eyes suddenly flashed.

     "That's it!" he grinned, showing his sharp, white teeth. "Come closer, guys. I have an idea." We all leaned in as he began to whisper his plan to us.

     When we stepped into Illusen's glade some time later, she greeted us in her usual manner; that is, she immediately sent us scurrying off to find an item. Fortunately, this was one of the easy quests: all she required was a red Wocky keychain. We fetched one with no trouble at all, made a quick stop in the Haunted Woods, and made it back to Meridell in plenty of time. As she handed us our prize (a cookie, of all things), Jinx fixed her with a meltingly adorable smile and a look of pure adoration in her bright eyes.

     "Miss Illusen, ma'am," she cooed, "I'm a huge fan of yours and I was wondering if maybe, if you're not too busy, could you give me your autograph?" Illusen was mesmerized.

     "Of course I will," she said. Jinx was jubilant, and jumped up and down like she had just won the jackpot in Test Your Strength. She pulled out an autograph book and handed it to Illusen, who tossed her hair proudly as she signed it. While all this was transpiring, Razz had slowly migrated to the corner of the little room. He looked bored, and skimmed the labels on various potions without interests. Illusen did not see him open his backpack, nor did she notice a small figure fly out of it and flap its way noiselessly to the dark, dusty rafters. He then made his way, slowly and aimlessly, back to me. By this time, Jinx had just finished thanking Illusen with all her heart. As we left, Illusen reminded us to come back tomorrow. She seemed a good deal happier than she had when we had first come in, and it was clear that she hoped Jinx would bring a whole Illusen fan club with her tomorrow. We all stifled our laughter until we were safely under the huge oak tree on one side of Meridell Castle. Then, we proceeded to crack up completely. We laughed until we could laugh no more, and when we had gotten our breath back, we began talking. I spoke up first.

     "That was awesome acting, Jinx!" I exclaimed, ruffling the furry head.

     "Did you see the look on her face?" giggled Zira. "I nearly died."

     "Ahem…not to mention…" interjected Razz, with the slightest hint of a growl in his voice.

     "Yes," said Ravahna, "Excellent job keeping Sigma hidden, Razz. Very well done."

     "Well, now all we have to do is wait. Who's up for lunch?" I said, opening my backpack.

     Illusen didn't make a sound as she crept down the side of the hill. It was time for her lunch break too, but she wanted to have a look at her precious collection first. She came to a large boulder at the base of the hill, and here she looked carefully all around before she reached out and pressed a small stone on one side of the boulder. Suddenly, the boulder rolled to one side-just enough to admit the slight figure of the faerie. Once inside, she closed the entrance to the cavern with another switch, but not before a small creature left the tree branch it had been watching her from, and flew in after her, unnoticed.

     We had just finished our dessert when Ravahna's sharp eyes caught sight of a familiar winged form. When the little brown karren landed on my shoulder, chirping excitedly, we all held our breath.

     "Did you find it, Sigma?" asked Zira.

     "Chirp chirp bflrp," answered the little creature. I decided that this must mean yes, judging by the way my pets jumped around. Even the quiet, thoughtful Ravahna wagged his tail furiously. Sigma, a very intelligent petpet, had been borrowed from Finny, a close friend of Jinx's (they are both lab pets, so they meet at the Secret Lab every day). He had been instructed to follow Illusen without being discovered, until she went to visit her secret stash of whatever. He had apparently succeeded, and would now lead us to this place.

     After Sigma had rested a while, he took off into the air. Zira followed him, as she was the only one of us who could fly. We decided that Sigma would show her the place from the air, and then she would lead us there on foot. When they returned, we all set out. Getting to the boulder Sigma had shown Zira undetected would be no easy task if we walked across the fields. However, Ravahna, who had waves of genius regularly, suggested that we cut through the woods on the north side of the hill. Though this did take us a bit longer, we managed to sneak our way up to the boulder without being seen by anyone but a few batterflies.

     "Now what?" asked the practical Razz. As if in answer, Sigma took off from my shoulder and landed on the small rock Illusen had pressed, and the boulder rolled aside slightly. We quickly agreed that Ravahna should go in, since his Lupe eyes were the only ones that worked in the dark. The rest of us slipped back into the woods and hid among the trees. He had only been gone a few minutes (though it seemed like an eternity), when Jinx nudged me and pointed to the top of the hill. I groaned inwardly as I saw a faerie in familiar green clothes starting down the hill. This clearly was not my day.

     "The door to the cavern is open!" whispered Razz. "What do we do? She'll see it any second!" I knew we'd be in big trouble if Illusen saw that the door to her cavern had been opened by someone other than herself. She'd search high and low. What would she do to Ravahna when she found him? What would she do to us? We were only a stone's throw away, after all. I was about to turn to Ravahna for advice when I realized that he wasn't here, he was in terrible danger. Illusen was almost in view of the boulder. A sense of doom enveloped me, and I began to see grey clouds on the horizon. Then, quite suddenly, a ray of sunlight broke in. Frantically, I whispered some instructions to Sigma, who gave a quiet chirp and took off from my shoulder.

     When Illusen reached her cavern, she was startled and dismayed to find the door open. Who had found her secret cavern? Oh, they would pay dearly. Just as she was about to rush inside and find the culprit who had discovered her greatest secret, she happened to look over at the small rock which served as a switch. Sitting on top of the rock was Sigma, who was pretending to be asleep. His weight pressed down the switch, so it looked like he had opened the door by landing there. Illusen heaved a sigh of relief, shooed the little creature away, and entered her cavern. I knew that Ravahna, being painted shadow and very clever, would be able to hide himself without much trouble, but I still held my breath until I saw the faerie come back out of the cavern, close the door, and walk briskly back up the hill. As soon as she was out of sight, I sent Zira down the hill to let Ravahna out. He was waiting at the entrance when she opened the cavern door, and when he came out he closed it swiftly. They raced up the hill, and were with us in no time. I was dying to ask him what he'd seen, but we weren't out of the woods yet. We picked our way through the shadowy forest cautiously and silently. Nobody spoke until we were on the ferryboat headed toward Terror Mountain, but when Ravahna finally revealed what he had learned, I could scarcely believe what I heard.

     "I still can't believe it," quipped Jinx as we walked home from the Mystery Island ferry port.

     "Well, believe it or not," replied Zira, "Taelia did make it worth our while."

     "She did indeed," I said, staring at the Darigan paint brush she had given me. Each one of my pets also carried a paint brush; Taelia had given each of us our choice. Both she and Jhudora had looked surprised when we told them that the cavern had been full of a vast collection of Usuki dolls-shelves and shelves of them. They didn't tell us who won their little bet, but they promised not to tell Illusen how they had found out about her secret Usuki obsession. Perhaps this was my day, after all.

     "I don't blame her for keeping something like that a secret," growled Ravahna.

     "You don't think she'll find out it was us, do you?" asked Zira.

     "I don't think so," said Razz. "We were only seen by batterflies. They probably won't say much." We all laughed.

     In Meridell, a batterfly winged its way toward Illusen's Glade. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this was clearly not my day.

The End

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