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Traces of Faeryllium: Part One


by ee365

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When the Lost Desert was restored to its proper place, Neopia rejoiced. It could be said that none rejoiced so much as the scientists. The sand of the Lost Desert had always been a particularly complex subject to study, and now, after the great magic of Jazan and Razul had been performed there, it had grown even more intriguing and confusing.

     Several dig sites had been set up on the outskirts of Sakhmet. In one such, two ordinary field workers, or specimen collectors, labored to discover the sand to be something other than... well, sand. One, a thin, bespectacled male Yellow Nimmo, slid his Virtupets metal detector absentmindedly over a patch of sand. "Ye know, Zara, I wish we could actually find some magic metal in this sand or something, but we haven't found so much as fossilized dung," he complained to his companion.

     The companion, a heavyset female Desert Elephante, Zara, looked up as well. "Yes, wouldn't it be a grand thing if we could report something to the Commander, eh, Anton?" She swept a small broom (held in her trunk) over the saffron sands, beads of sweat running down her browned face.

     Anton turned around to start inspecting another sand patch, and gasped. His metal detector had started going crazy! It jumped up and down like some giant mutated silver Wormoeba. "Zara, I think we've struck gold!" he whispered, not wanting to attract the attention of any other workers.

     "Not gold, Anton," Zara whispered, as much reverence in her voice as if she spoke to the Faerie Queen, "Faeryllium. The sand contains traces of it."

     "Faeryllium!" Anton exclaimed. This was truly a discovery. Faeryllium was the rarest of magic metals, forged by the faeries themselves, and it was thought to have been proven unable to exist in sand. "We'd better go tell the Commander."

     ***

     On the edge of the dig site, a large cream tent stood erected like some great sentinel. Anton knocked timidly on the tent flap. "Come in," a calm but slightly stressed voice said.

     Inside, the tent was one large room, with most of the space taken up by a huge oaken desk scattered with documents, maps, sand samples, and everything else the Commander of a Lost Desert dig site needed.

     The Commander, an intelligent-looking slim Red Xweetok, sat perched behind the desk. Her hazel eyes looked up as the pair entered. "Yes?" she inquired.

     "Ur... well... Commander Taeshne," Anton murmured, not knowing where to begin. He faltered, and looked to Zara for help.

     "What Anton is trying to say, Commander Taeshne, is that he and I were looking for metals in Sector V of the Southern Dig area, and our metal detectors started going crazy," Zara supplemented, "so crazy, they were jumping up and down like living beings. As you surely know, Commander, only one type of metal excites detectors that way. We have realized that the sand contains traces of faeryllium."

     "Faeryllium!" The same excitement that had been in Anton and Zara's eyes was now present in those of Commander Taeshne. With a graceful agility that reminded the pair that Xweetoks were forest dwellers, she sprang over the desk and to the floor. "Let's go!"

     ***

     Taeshne couldn't believe it. Since leaving her Eastern Forest home to become a scientist, she had never been present for such a momentous discovery. Her dig site was one of the farthest from Sakhmet, and it had not been where Jazan had once stood or Razul first appeared, like the other ones were.

     She knew it was because she was such a newbie to the world of science, not a desert-born pet, and young to top that. She had been promoted to Dig Site commander because her skills were extremely strong and she had the patience required to organize a site. Already, she didn't even miss her forest home, or even her Xweetok friends and siblings. The scientific world was where she belonged, young forest-dweller or not.

     And now! The others would see she was capable of even more than they'd first expected. Faeryllium had never been discovered in the sand, and she was the first to find it! That meant she would be the first to experiment with it, test its properties, and determine what had changed the rule that it couldn't be found in sand.

     "M-Madam Commander? Taeshne? You... er... you have a visitor." Taeshne looked up from where she had been standing, oblivious to the world around her. Her secretary, the timid Fire Gelert Bay, stood behind her, running a paw through his long ears.

     "Bay, I'm busy. We made an important discovery here." Taeshne tried not to be abrupt with her diligent, kindly secretary, but this was no time for visitors. Faeryllium could not wait. She, along with Anton and Zara, had searched for the metal-veined sand and only just managed to collect a few samples.

     "Well... er... Commander Taeshne, this is a... very distinguished visitor w-who requires... your immediate attention, ma'am," Bay stuttered, backing up at the blazing annoyance in the Red Xweetok's eyes.

     However, Taeshne did not get to her position being dumb. If it indeed was an important guest, he/she would grow very angry if Taeshne ignored them. "Fine. Bay, send for Captain Leila and her most trusted employee to take charge here. They, Anton, and Zara will continue working. Tell Leila the importance of silence. The fewer who know, the better."

     With that, Taeshne stalked away, leaving a stressed-looking Bay to summon Captain Leila. As she reached her tent, she was surprised by the lack of a retinue. Important visitors (the few who even paid attention to her dig site) always brought with them servants, armed guards, and whomever else they felt like. This one had not.

     Curious in spite of her annoyance, Taeshne walked into the tent. "Welcome to the Farthest East Dig Site, sir or ma'am. I am Commander Taeshne, who is in charge of this particular dig site."

     When no response came from her visitor, Taeshne looked up. She stumbled back in surprise. There, sitting graceful and poised on the desk, right on top of a pile of documents, sat a thin Green Xweetok who bore a strong resemblance to Taeshne herself.

     "A... Anberra!" The Red Xweetok commander couldn't believe her eyes. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be in the Eastern Forest?"

     Anberra, Taeshne's sister, jumped down from the desk, her mossy ruff hanging easily on either side of her face. "Taeshne, Taeshne!" she exclaimed, "Oh, it is you, sister! How good it is to see you again at last!"

     Taeshne frowned, a little annoyed by her sister's reaction. "Yes, Anberra, that's all well and good, but what I'm trying to figure out is why you are here instead of back in the Eastern Forest with the rest of the family, where you belong. I thought I told you when I left to command this dig site that I didn't want you coming to visit!"

     "Because, sister," Anberra said, with a defiance in her voice that surprised Taeshne, "There has been trouble at home. Much trouble, worse than we peaceable Forest Xweetok colonies have ever experienced. We need you home, Taeshne, we need our sister. All of us. Please come home, Taeshne. Xweetoks aren't meant for the desert."

     Anberra reached tentatively over to put a placating paw on top of her sister's.

     That did it for Taeshne. Batting the Green Xweetok's paw away, she snarled, "Get OUT! Get OUT, Anberra! I am ashamed to call you sister of mine! I told you when I left the Eastern Forest that I was not happy there, and you know it! I told you I was meant to be a scientist, a desert scientist, not a simple forest-dwelling Xweetok in a peaceful life. You did not respect that, and now, now just as things take a major turning point for me and my career, you show up! You ask me to come home! You could ruin things for me, Anberra, so get OUT!"

     Anberra backed up a few steps. "Taeshne, really, calm down. I'll go, but you're doing a horrible thing. Your family needs you, and aren't they more important than your job as a scientist? This is sand, just desert sand, that's all."

     Taeshne frowned. "You don't understand, Anberra. Don't you see this tent? This desk, these quarters? I am Commander of this dig site. A Commander doesn't just desert her post! And... listen, I have no idea why I'm doing this, probably because you're my sister, but I am going to let you in on a large secret: We have found traces of faeryllium metal in a section of sand. Faeryllium is a very dangerous, powerful, reactive, and magical substance. It was previously thought impossible for faeryllium to correctly bond with the molecular structure of sand so that they coexist... basically, that faeryllium couldn't exist in sand. We have made a breakthrough, Anberra, which could change the entire world of science."

     "Hah," Anberra spat. "So this is it. Taeshne abandons her family for some magic metal in a few grains of sand!" The Green Xweetok raised her tail as if to stalk off indignantly. "Farewell, sister."

     "Anberra, wait," Taeshne called, softening fractionally at her sister's reaction, "I will allow you to stay the night here, so long as you make yourself... and your relation to me... known to no one. I will arrange for Uni or Eyrie transport for you in the morning. Goodnight." And with that, Taeshne pointed curtly to the room Anberra was to stay in and hurried back to the faeryllium sand.

To be continued...

 
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