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Shad and Saura: A Week in Bogshot - Part One


by ssjelitegirl

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"Shad, Saura, this concerns you two."

     Huntress, the owner of a huge Neopet family, was sitting behind the kitchen table of her Neohome, digging through the mail. The kitchen was currently rather empty; only Saurani the spotted Zafara was washing the dishes by the sink and Shadoron the shadow Lupe had curled up next to the cupboard, gazing out of the window and watching a pirate ship sail by the coast of Mystery Island. They didn't even look around when hearing their owner's voice but their ears moved a little and that was just enough. Huntress rattled her nails against the letter on the table.

     "It's from that swamp witch, Sophie," she said with a frown. "She claims that a few weeks ago you two geniuses managed to break a shelf when visiting her house, thus destroying hundreds of valuable potions and mixtures."

     "It was an accident!" Shad stated quickly, looking back at her with his huge yellow eyes gleaming. "We had it all sorted out too; she said that she would be able to make new potions if we brought her the ingredients! We did that too, mind you, spent two days on that."

     Saura nodded grimly. "And ran out of allowance. Why would she bring the subject up now?"

     Huntress glanced at the letter again. "Because you didn't manage to get all the ingredients, buddies. Some of them were very rare and hard to obtain. Apparently she's planning to go on a longer trip to get all the missing things and," now her eyebrow started to twitch, "she wants you two to go down to Bogshot and live in her hut while she's away, keeping an eye on the place and her Meowclops. Has she gone insane? You two - looking after her house?"

     "Guess we still owe her that," Saura agreed a bit sheepishly. "She knows that we'll be extra careful this time. Anyone else would be more likely to break something, but as the two of us already have the odds of being turned into Mortogs if we break anything else in there..."

     "Bogshot seemed fun enough as well," Shad supported instantly. "So she wants us to go down there? Cool! Let's go then!"

     Huntress's eyes narrowed. "Not taking it very seriously, are we? I can't afford to pay for her hut if you burn it down or something, y'know. Besides, many things lurk in that swamp. People have gone missing, and as I've heard, something new has recently showed up there."

     "No sweat." Saura grinned, drying his paws and turning around. "We'll do fine. Really. You just deal with the cooking while I'm gone. After all, it's not like we have a choice here. You don't know that girl. If you fail Edna's quest, she just grunts and turns to someone else. If you fail on Sophie, she turns you into a doormat."

     "Lovely, just tell her to deliver you guys in an envelope or something. I don't have time to come all the way down to Haunted Woods to get a couple of doormats," Huntress suggested. "Off you go, then. And take care."

     A few hours later the two Neopets were on their way through the Haunted Woods, striding deeper and farther in order to find the small village of Bogshot. They knew the way so it didn't take them too long to reach the marshes that hosted a bunch of little houses. Sophie lived even farther, in a tiny hut right by the huge mossy trees that were practically growing out of the water. The surroundings were dark and damp but the two Neopets didn't really mind that. It was a nice change after the sunny and cheerful Mystery Island. Saura navigated his way over the unsteady wooden bridge that led over a bog-pool right in front of the hut and knocked on the door. It slid open and the green Ixi was standing in front of them.

     She didn't seem unfriendly. Sly, yes, unpredictable and obviously dangerous, but not unfriendly. Sophie nodded at the two and stepped aside.

     "Your owner got my note, eh? Nice." Her voice wasn't unfriendly either. It did have some cold cynical touch in it but the two pets didn't mind that - their owner sounded like that often enough. The witch led them inside, into the depths of the shadowy hut that seemed a lot smaller than it actually was because of all the shelves, books, potions and cauldrons of various sizes. Some small insects ran off when they stepped closer to the biggest cauldron which was the main source of light in the hut.

     "So here's the deal," Sophie announced, turning around to face them, her face glowing in the light of the green potion in the cauldron. "I'll be off for a week. There's plenty of food in the hut, the books will provide you with everything you need if there's an emergency of any sort and naturally I'll be expecting the place to be in perfect order by the time I get back."

     Saura nodded. "Okay, ma'am. Anything specific we need to know?"

     "Don't drink, touch or better yet, look at any of the potions," the witch replied. "Be careful with the books, some of them are... picky. Don't try to clean the place up; I like it the way it is. The swamp is a bit haunted so you might want to stay inside at night. And... the Meowclops eats pretty much everything but if you give him brains, don't let him get outside for a while after that. He tends to get... confused."

     Sophie threw a small backpack over her shoulder, nodded at the two and went off, disappearing between the trees within minutes. Saura closed the door and looked around in the quiet hut. Shad had sat down in the middle of the room, looking around curiously. His face was green in the light of the potion.

     "So here we are," he remarked. "Nice place, really. What did she mean with 'a bit haunted?' Somebody's bones floating around at night?"

     The Zafara came closer to the cauldron. "There's no telling. Hey there, little buddy!" He patted the small black Meowclops who had suddenly showed up from the shadows and was rubbing himself against Saura's foot.

     "I think he's hungry," Shad remarked. "Maybe we should check the kitchen?"

     Saura's eyes narrowed. "You always want to check the kitchen whenever you land in a new place. Where were you when they distributed good manners?"

     "At Moehawk's concert." The Lupe grinned, trotting towards the small kitchen. "Come on, kitty, let's see what we can find here. Hrm... what's his name anyway, Saura?"

     The two exchanged quick glances.

     "I don't think she told us," the Zafara muttered.

     "Never mind." Shad was already ripping a box of Meowclops food open and glanced down at the purring petpet. "I think I'm gonna call you Clopsy."

     Saura stared at him.

     "A name like any other," the Lupe claimed as he stuck the food bowl under the Meowclops's nose and opened the fridge. Apparently Sophie liked to keep her food fresh so even though her hut was old and mossy, the fridge was relatively new. The fact that someone had painted Korbat figures all over it didn't really make it fit in more.

     After a quick lunch they spent some time exploring the hut that turned out to be bigger than it seemed. The newly-named Clopsy followed them around, driving them away from more dangerous places with loud fierce meowing. He didn't mind the name - after all, it was only temporary and the two were responsible for feeding him.

     "How come all witches have huge cauldrons with green glowy stuff in their huts?" Shad asked, sniffing the cauldron. "Is that some clause in their contracts?"

     "Could be." Saura shrugged. "Hey, don't..." It was too late already - the Lupe was up to his neck in the green goo.

     "Well, this isn't too bad," he remarked, licking his lips. "A bit salty perhaps..."

     Saura's eyebrow twitched. "He's in a witch's hut and what does he do? That's right, he drinks from the cauldron of some glowing icky stuff. Nice. Well done, Shad. That's exactly how these things go. Feeling any doormat-ish already?"

     "Sophie wouldn't keep poisonous liquids in her living room," the Lupe claimed, jumping down from the cauldron. "Look, there's a stuffed Calabat under the ceiling!"

     "She wouldn't? Why not?" Saura asked hopelessly, trying to keep an eye on his brother who was prancing around the room, his brother's thread that usually floated absolutely elsewhere and everything Shad directed him to. The Calabat under the ceiling opened one eye and glared at them before going back to sleep.

     It took a while before Shad had examined the whole hut and sat down in the middle of the rug, panting frantically. "What do you think she does here all day?" he asked, looking around. "Doesn't brewing potions get boring eventually?"

     Saura, the family's cook who got cranky after being away from the stove for more than half an hour, just glanced at him.

     "Right," the Lupe muttered. "We have a week here. What are we going to do in all that time? It shouldn't take more than two days to explore the whole Bogshot and the swamp around it and then..."

     He didn't get farther. The Meowclops glared at him and then let out a long, semi-desperate, semi-fierce cry that sounded like some tortured soul. The two pets caught themselves wondering where Sophie had gotten her petpet.

     "I think it was a warning," Saura remarked. "Neopia doesn't know much about this place yet. Besides, we don't really know how the locals tolerate Sophie, or what? I'll get it..." There had been a hesitant knock on the door and the Zafara went over to see who it was. The Meowclops followed him, hissing quietly.

     Opening the door revealed a chubby Cybunny with a wooden basket and a very scared look on her face, though that gave way to vague confusion as she looked up at Saura.

     "Hello," she stuttered. "Is Sophie home?"

     "Off for a week," Saura replied. "We're housekeeping. Come back later."

     The Cybunny's eyes widened. "But... but... I don't have that much time!" She burst into tears. "I... I'm sorry... it's j-just that... my son!" The lady stared up at the two brothers who exchanged quick sheepish glances. "He went to the woods to pick berries but it's been hours now and the swamp is filled with monsters and mysterious things... I'm really afraid that something happened to him!"

     "See why we should stay inside?" Saura asked his brother with a frown. The Lupe stepped up with a shrug and asked the worried mother if she had anything that belonged to her son. The Cybunny had indeed brought an old shirt along and so the two went back to the hut, promising to find the kid as soon as possible.

     "So that's what she does all the time," Shad grunted, carefully sniffing the shirt. "Plays the local detective. Makes sense too... people always run to witches when they have a problem."

     Saura sat down. "We're no witches, remember? Whatever she does to find missing people..."

     "... is surely not half as effective as my nose," the Lupe finished for him. "I may already be picking up something..." He pushed the window open and smelled the swamp air. "Yus, that same kid. Fresh track. I should be back for dinner." He leaped out of the window and landed in murky water. "Whoa, it's all soft and squishy. I'm probably going to need a bath afterwards... just wait here!" Shad splashed through the water and as the surroundings were misty and dark, he disappeared soon enough. Saura closed the window and sat down. The hut was suddenly very quiet and empty. The Meowclops came closer, purring softly.

     "Wanna bet that he'll get into trouble?" the Zafara asked with a frown. "Then again, he's an expert in struggling out of any messes he gets himself into... might as well go and bake something, eh? And I need to boil water for his bath..."

     In the meantime Shad was galloping down the narrow path deeper into the swamp. He enjoyed running and the surroundings were new enough to keep his spirit up and excited. All his senses were working at full speed. Though joyous and happy-go-lucky for most of the time, Shad wasn't dumb at all. In fact, he couldn't have allowed himself to be carefree if part of him hadn't always kept an eye on everything around him. The Lupe's excellent nose registered all the scents of the swamp; following the track was already secondary as it was clear enough. Getting there currently had bigger importance.

     Trees and rivers whizzed by. Shad knew that many swamp creatures were watching him but they were just curious at the moment and he trusted his sharp fangs and powerful jaws enough. Avoid a tail here, dodge a Spyder there - mind your own business and they'll forget that you were here the very same moment. Swamp critters don't really like to mess with fast Shadow Lupes one way or another.

     Well, usually.

     The track turned left, past some more trees and bushes. The Lupe ran on, already calculating if he was able to jump over an upcoming branch or not when he felt a sudden sting in his paw.

     "Some thorn..." A thought flashed through his head while he made two more steps and then his feet didn't obey him any more. Shad slowed down and blinked in confusion. The swamp turned blurry in front of his eyes. His instincts forced him to carry on, taking over the command when his brain quit but it was no use any more. The last thing Shad could feel before falling into a weird haze between sleep and unconsciousness was something thin and strong curling around his paws...

To be continued...

 
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