Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 135,120,765 Issue: 267 | 22nd day of Storing, Y8
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Defender Chronicles: The Beginning - Part Two

by toffee_choc


"I thought you'd never ask," grinned Garoo maliciously.

     "Of course, a lot of the time we won't expect you to do anything. However, as an opening assignment, we'd like you to discover the following Neopians' allegiances and report back."

     He tossed her a data pad. On it was a list of several of the nastier denizens of Neopia. Along with...

     "The Soup Faerie?" she queried incredulously.

     Garoo shrugged. "Always worth a shot. After all, wouldn't you get sick of dealing with the whiney, snivelling Neopians who can't be bothered to get a job? Without any kind of holiday or benefit scheme? I know I would."

     The Blumaroo stood, his huge frame filling the tiny house.

     "Anyway, I want that report. You wouldn't want to keep the boss waiting now, would you? And don't try anything... stupid."

     He waved the bottle of potion threateningly and stalked out of the house, slamming the door behind him. This time several bits fell off the roof. Vera sighed and glanced at her list.

     First up was the Pant Devil. Great. Fortunately Edna was on the list... she was definitely easier to find, and usually had some idea where the blue menace was.

     And what better time to visit her than the middle of the night? Vera quickly threw on a coat against the chill of the autumn air, and made her way out into the night.

     Edna's tower was surprisingly deserted as Vera approached. She glanced at her watch and realised why. It was still witching hour - Edna would be in the Battledome. However, with only five minutes to go, Vera decided to sit and wait. She'd only been there a few moments when the witch appeared, grumbling to herself and waving her broomstick threateningly. She stopped when she caught sight of Vera, and eyed her suspiciously.

     "Eh, who's that? You're a bit keen, aren't you?" she grunted icily as she produced the keys to her tower.

     "It's me, Vera," said Vera, hesitantly. Edna turned to face her.

     "Little Vera?" she queried, pulling a face. "What on earth made you paint yourself such a hideous colour? No matter, come up, come up."

     Vera surveyed the general chaos as she entered the room. Little changes in the Haunted Woods, and Edna's cleaning habits were no exception. No wonder she kept using Neopians to find her ingredients - the whole place was so disorganised, it was a wonder she could find her cauldron.

     "So, dearie," cackled Edna cheerily to her, as she passed her a mug of Menacing Brew, "what can I do for you?"

     Vera blew on her drink to cool it, and took a tentative sip. The liquid burnt its way down her throat and warmed her from head to the tip of her tail. How was she going to put this?

     "I-I was wondering if you could help me with a couple of things..." she began uncertainly.

     The witch raised her eyebrows enquiringly, but said nothing. Vera swallowed and continued:

     "Uh, first off I don't suppose you know where the Pant Devil is... annoying people at the moment?"

     Edna pursed her lips in thought.

     "Well, he's not been seen around here since the time he tried to steal one of Eliv Thade's artifacts..."

     She paused to cackle to herself at the memory. "But I have heard he's been hanging around the Grooming Parlour in Neopia Central. Why don't you try there?"

     Vera beamed. "Thank you, I will."

     She turned to race out of the door when Edna called her back.

     "Dearie? What was the other thing?"

     Vera frowned. "Other thing?"

     Edna cackled again (it's a bad habit of hers). "You said there were two things."

     Vera suddenly remembered. "Oh, um, how would you feel about Sloth returning and taking control of Neopia?"

     Edna fixed a beady eye on her reflectively. "Sloth minion now, are we?"

     She began to load up her cauldron with various foul smelling ingredients as she talked, stirring vigorously.

     "I suppose as an apparently wicked witch, I should be on his side... but I never cared much for him. I can't even work out what kind of Neopet he is - some kind of demented Chia perhaps?"

     The witch found a stray ingredient on the floor and dropped in into the cauldron absent-mindedly, before continuing.

     "His methods leave a lot to be desired - they lack creativity. I think I'll wait for a more interesting insane genius to come along, if it's all the same to you. Toodle-oo!"

     Vera wandered slightly dazed out of the tower. Edna's response was... unorthodox to say the least. She imagined the look on Garoo's face when she reported that Edna thought Sloth was a sort of demented Chia whose methods lacked creativity. She smirked slightly at the thought and started to make her way to Neopia Central.


     By the time she arrived in Neopia Central, the sky was already beginning to lighten, and some of the earlier members of the Neopian community were already up and about. She saw the glow of the Soup Kitchen and could already catch the faint whiff of soup on the breeze. She sighed and turned to the Grooming Parlour... first things first.

     The Pant Devil proved pretty easy to find. Despite his generally elusive and mysterious aura, Vera didn't even have to wave a rare item at him. She spied him routing through the garbage at the back of the Parlour. She stepped towards him and felt surprisingly unafraid - after all, she'd faced Garoo, and there was only one person she could think of who was scarier than him. Well, when she wasn't thinking too hard.

     "Oi!" she shouted, stepping completely out of the shadows. "What's the matter? Lost your lipstick?"

     The Pant Devil started and moved towards her, with his trademark grin.

     "Well, well," he sneered, "aren't we the brave little Xweetok."

     He looked her up and down and sniffed. Vera smiled maliciously. He'd realised she had nothing worth stealing.

     "What's it to be then?" he continued. "Another Defender wannabe? Come to try and beat me in the Battledome, is it?"

     Vera looked at him calmly, before stating her reason for approaching him.

     "Actually, I wanted to ask you about your... allegiance."

     The Pant Devil frowned (although he still maintained his grin). "Oh?"

     Vera smiled gently and took another step closer. "That's the question. Were Sloth to create a master plan and invade Neopia... would you be with him? Or against?"

     The Pant Devil frowned again, this time losing his grin entirely. "That would depend on what kind of... deals he would be willing to offer. I'm sure you know what I mean. Some kind of guarantee that I could steal from Neopians as and when I choose, that sort of thing. Perhaps making Safety Deposit Boxes illegal?"

     He looked so hopeful that Vera had to stifle a laugh. She managed to continue with a serious face.

     "So, you'd agree to support Sloth if you were sufficiently... compensated?"

     The Pant Devil looked at her carefully, and then gave the briefest of nods before disappearing.

     Vera sighed and looked at her list again. At least Garoo might be pleased with the response this time - she was fairly sure issuing some kind of guarantee to the Pant Devil would be the least of Sloth's worries.

     Back in the Defenders of Neopia headquarters, Agent Trilby was getting increasingly concerned. Not only had Space Station activity in the Haunted Woods reached such a high that he wondered whether someone had actually landed there, but he had also just lost his prime suspect.

     The Scorchio frowned and rubbed his temples. Vera seemed to have vanished from her house in the middle of the night, and she definitely wasn't in the Woods anymore. Trilby sighed and started to look for any other anomalous readings.

     In the Space Station itself activity was also focused on the small Xweetok. However, unlike Trilby, the staff knew exactly where she was. Sloth grinned to himself and glanced at the Blumaroo standing stiffly to attention behind him. He smirked again and turned to face him.

     "So, Garoo, how's she getting on?" he enquired.

     Commander Garoo relaxed slightly as he answered. "She seems to be doing better than expected, sir. She's already asked both Edna and the Pant Devil for their allegiances. We suspect she'll move on to the Soup Faerie next."

     Sloth looked at him sharply. "The Soup Faerie?"

     Garoo answered swiftly. "Yes, sir. I always put a trick one there to... test them."

     Sloth raised an eyebrow at his commander, and was met by his steely gaze. All of a sudden he began to laugh. It echoed through the conduits of the station. And all those who heard it cowered in fear.

     Vera, however, remained oblivious to all this. She was standing a short distance from the Soup Kitchen, and to be honest she was having second thoughts. She knew there was little point in even asking the Soup Faerie. After all, this was a Faerie renowned for her good deeds and kind heart. The whole idea of her supporting an invasion by Sloth was about as unlikely as Jhudora and Illusen suddenly becoming friends.

     As Jhudora sprang to mind, Vera glanced at her list again. She was in fact the next on it, while the Soup Faerie was the last one. Although her stomach was growling, the Xweetok decided it would be far more beneficial to visit Faerieland than the Soup Kitchen. At least she would blend in there. With one last wistful look at the line of pets at the Kitchen, the Xweetok opened her wings and began to make her way to yet another of Neopia's lands.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Defender Chronicles: The Beginning - Part One
» Defender Chronicles: The Beginning - Part Three
» Defender Chronicles: The Beginning - Part Four

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