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Losing Your Keys


by sulphurheadmatches

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"Are you sure this is safe?"

     "Relax, scaredy Kougra! It's only a graveyard."

     "I don't like graveyards…"

     The red Gelert turned furiously on his whining companion, a red Shoyru.

     "Yantarni! Are you chicken? We've gotta do this, or Lano'll laugh at us!"

     Yantarni whimpered.

     "Dzenzursky! It's a graveyard! Lotsa ghosts haunt graveyards…it's scary!"

     Dzenzursky snorted, unlatching the rusty old gate. It creaked and groaned like a dying man.

     "It's just the Game Graveyard. Ghosts don't haunt the Game Graveyard."

     The Gelert padded through, followed by Yantarni, who stared around with huge, scared eyes. The Game Graveyard was full of fluttering shadows and huge, looming shapes. Dzenzursky seemed unconcerned and was jumping from gravestone to gravestone, reading off the names and dates inscribed in the stone.

     "Hey, look! Kau Korral! That's been gone for ages!"

     "Can we go now?"

     "No! Hey, I remember Swarm…"

     Yantarni eyed a particularly malevolent tree anxiously.

     "Dzenzursky…"

     The Gelert sighed irritably.

     "All RIGHT! But don't blame me if Lano takes the mick."

     Yantarni squealed happily and dashed for the gate. Dzenzursky followed more slowly, glancing back at the graveyard, until the Haunted Woods were well behind them.

     ***

     Later on, back in Neopia Central, where it was sunny and normal, Yantarni had regained his spirits, after several Splime Smoothies and a doughnut or six, all paid for by a grumbling sulphurheadmatches-their owner. They had run into Sulphur and her other two pets, the blue Kougra Lanoayhae and the red Acara Zheltovsky, at the Money Tree, eating bagels and arguing. Lano quizzed them on all details of the Game Graveyard, apparently to prove they'd actually been there, and then they trooped back to the small five-room neohome they just about managed to live in.

     "I'm hungry," Yantarni whinged, as Sulphur scrabbled through her pockets for the keys.

     "You can't be hungry," Lano said in disbelief. "You just ate more than us four put together."

     "Well, I am. Hurry up!"

     "Dzenzursky, you took the keys, didn't you?" Sulphur enquired, after a fruitless search.

     "Oh, oh yeah, I did. Hang on…"

     The Gelert gave himself a pat-down.

     "Erm..."

     "Yantarni?" Sulphur asked hopefully. Yantarni shrugged.

     "I ain't got nothin'," he said offhandedly.

     "You haven't got anything," Zheltovsky corrected irritably.

     "That's what I said. You didn't need to repeat it, Zhel."

     Lano ignored Yantarni's yells as an irate red Acara mauled him.

     "We've gotta find them, or we'll be locked out forever. How about I go look around the Money Tree, you take the Marketplace, Zhel takes the Bank, Dzenzursky takes the Bazaar and Yantarni goes back the Game Graveyard?"

     "I'm agreeable," Zheltovsky said, padding up dragging Yantarni by his tail. Dzenzursky and Sulphur also agreed, but when Yantarni heard where he was going, he balked.

     "The Game Graveyard? No way! Why can't Dzenzursky go?"

     "You're the only one who can fly," Sulphur pointed out happily. "You can be there and back quicker than any of us. Don't you always boast how quickly you can go places?"

     Yantarni cursed his big mouth, and Sulphur offhandedly added something.

     "And you're grounded if you don't go."

     "I'll go," the Shoyru said at once.

     ***

     The Game Graveyard seemed even more terrifying now dusk was falling, and there was no confident red Gelert ahead of him to bully him in. The gate creaked worse than ever, and a Whoot hooted in the trees, making him jump. The crooked gravestones loomed up from the shadows, and the grass rustled in odd ways. Creepers tangled themselves around his legs and wings, and it was cold…so cold.

     He didn't like it at all.

     As he made his way through the Graveyard, scanning the ground as best he could for the glint of dropped keys, the temperature continued to drop, and soon he was shaking uncontrollably. It was fully dark now, and he could barely see anything-he realised he was lost. He didn't seem to be in the Game Graveyard any more, as no gravestones with two sets of numbers and a name engraved deeply in the stone faced him any more. Instead all he was faced with was a wall of trees, branches seeming to reach out to him with twisted, scratching hands. The small Shoyru's eyes were as wide as dinner plates, and all he wanted to was to go home. But…which way was home?

     Suddenly panicked, he shot off into the trees, half running half flying, eyes bulging out of his head.

     ***

     Back at home, Dzenzursky had found the keys, half-hidden in a patch of scrubby ground by the Battle Magic shop. Now the family was clustered around the kitchen table, drinking cocoa.

     "Yantarni isn't back yet," Sulphur said, sounding somewhat worried. Dzenzursky waved a casual paw.

     "He's probably got distracted in the Lost Desert," he said, bored, and swigged the last of his cocoa before yawning and stretching. "I'm gonna go to bed. It's getting late."

     Lano and Zheltovsky concurred, and the three pets trooped off to bed, leaving Sulphur chewing her nails and drinking vast amounts of caffeine as she waited for her last charge to reappear.

     In the morning, he still hadn't.

     "I'm worried now," Lano said, absently grooming her tail with an Illusen's Comb. "He should have been back hours ago."

     Zheltovsky snorted, moving one of his counters three spaces forward on the chequers board. Dzenzursky frowned-he was losing.

     "He's probably gotten lost. I shouldn't think anything too dreadful has happened."

     "But he should have been back last night!" Sulphur wailed. Dzenzursky took two of Zheltovsky's counters, only to have five of his swept away in one.

     "Ack… oh, Yantarni'll be all right. He can look after himself."

     "Are you sure?" Sulphur asked anxiously.

     "Positive," Dzenzursky said, losing spectacularly in one fell swoop.

     ***

     Back in the Haunted Woods, Yantarni had somehow ended up unconscious on Edna's bed. He groaned as he awakened, his head throbbing furiously. It felt like sixty-seven enormous Grarrls and Skeiths were tap-dancing in hobnailed boots in his skull.

     "Here. Drink this."

     A mossy green Zafara loomed into his view, and Yantarni made a strangled meeping noise as he recognised Edna.

     "It's not gonna turn me into a mortog, is it?"

     The potion-making Zafara laughed.

     "No, it's going to cure your headache. You got quite a whack-I found you under the Brain Tree. You'd run head first into him-he wasn't pleased."

     Yantarni considered this.

     "He won't try an' kill me, will he?" he asked anxiously, and Edna laughed again. She seemed to find him amusing.

     "No, he won't. But he does want you to find out when Peter Poogle died."

     Yantarni, reassured, sipped at the ominous-looking purple brew cautiously, and found his headache going almost immediately. The potion tasted intriguingly of apple and rhubarb. Edna watched him silently as he drank it eagerly, leaving a purple moustache on his upper lip. Finally, he set the mug down, and eyed Edna.

     "You have a moustache," she informed him, and he blushed an even deeper red as he wiped it away.

     "Now, how did a small red Shoyru like yourself end up in the Haunted Woods, spark out by the Brain Tree at midnight?"

     The small red Shoyru in question rustled his wings awkwardly, then told her everything.

     "…An' now all I wanna do is go home. But I don't know the way…Sulphur will be really worried…that's my owner. I miss her…"

     Tears welled up. Edna's heart melted like butter in a fire.

     "Hey, kid, don't cry. I'll show you the way home."

     "You will?" Yantarni cried, and flung his stubby Shoyru arms around the surprised witch.

     "Of course I will. Now can you possibly let me go…?"

     ***

     Sulphur was organising a search party. Dzenzursky had flippantly enquired whether he should buy a coffin, and ended up stuck in the ceiling. Lano had landed the job of checking out the Haunted Woods, as she had been unanimously voted the bravest of the lot, and had been loaded down with torches and emergency rations by an overprotective Sulphur.

     "Okay, okay! I've already got three torches," she complained as another one was thrust at her by a worriedly frowning Zheltovsky. "Don't tell me you're going soft too, Zhel? I thought you hated Yantarni."

     "Yeah, but…life wouldn't be the same without that brat whining all the time," the Acara said awkwardly, shrugging. Lano smirked at him, neatly avoided Sulphur's hugs, and ran off towards the Haunted Woods.

     "Yantarrrrrrrni…Yantarrrrrrrni…"

     The blue Kougra shivered. Despite the fact that her entire family thought her desperately brave, she hated the Woods as much as anybody. Difference was she was better at hiding it.

     "Yantarni! Where are you?"

     She nearly leaped out of her fur as Edna appeared in front of her.

     "Are you Lanoayhae?"

     Lano shuddered at her full name, but nodded, suspicious.

     "How do you know my name?"

     "You're Yantarni's sister, yes?"

     "You've got Yantarni? Where is he? Show me!"

     Edna made calming gestures.

     "He's at my tower. Follow me."

     The green Zafara witch led Lano to her tower, a black, forbidding place that made the Kougra shiver. But she forgot her fear when tackled by a squealing red Shoyru.

     "Yantarni! You are here!"

     "Edna was nice to me," Yantarni informed her, blinking up at her with enormous innocent eyes. "But can we go home now?"

     "Sure, we can."

     Lano turned to Edna, who was watching with an oddly wistful smile.

     "Thank you, Edna," she said sincerely. "I would never had found Yantarni if it weren't for you."

     "That's no problem," Edna said cheerfully, and watched them walk away, bickering quietly, with a faint air of wistful sadness.

The End

Comments welcome! Hope you enjoyed it. ^-^

 
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