Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Eight
Twenty minutes later, Cypher and Luther were once again on Nork’s back, the freezing wind piercing their eyes. “Where exactly are we going?” Luther called out over the rush of the air.
Cypher replied, “We’ll start where we can. The Altadorian Archives!”
Luther frowned. “The Archives are the repository of all Altadorian knowledge, science, and history. It’s all stuff about Altador! There won’t be anything about Jhudora there.”
“Got any better ideas?”
Cypher stepped onto the elaborate tile flooring of the Archives and stared around at her surroundings. There was a single wreath hanging on the wall, and from what she could see, about three other pets were peering through scrolls in the entire building. No one would disturb them.
Luther sighed and looked at Cypher, eyebrows raised. “Well? I’m telling you, there won’t be anything here.”
Cypher gave him an ‘I-know-what-I’m-talking-about-so-quit-pretending-like-you-know-everything’ look. “There are records of Altador’s history, right? Surely Jhudora visited the city at one point in the past. If it was at a time of significance, it might be recorded somewhere! Maybe we’ll be able to figure something out.”
Luther rolled his eyes impatiently. “Searching through this library will take years!” he cried in exasperation.
Cypher pushed him into the nearest room with shelves to the ceiling. “Maybe we’ll solve it in time for next Christmas! Start reading.”
“Hey... hey, Cypher! Look at this! I think I’ve got it!”
Cypher tore her eyes off the scroll she was examining and looked at Luther, who was excitedly motioning to her. “What did you find?”
“It says here that on the twenty-first day of the month of Gathering, the Usuki Convention set up in Altador for one week! Countless faeries and residents of other lands came to see the Usukis.”
Cypher looked at him expectantly. “And?”
Luther frowned at the Cybunny. “And... that’s it. It says faeries, though!”
Cypher groaned. “Does it say anything specific about Jhudora? I didn’t think so! We have to find things exclusively about her, not faeries in general!” Suddenly, an idea struck Cypher. She frowned to herself, and then smiled broadly. “Luther! Find me a scroll on the Altador Cup! Quickly!”
Luther jumped in alarm at Cypher’s sudden enthusiasm, but nevertheless, he peered through the scrolls and spotted one on the famous Altador Cup. As he pulled it gently off the shelf, Cypher ripped it from his grip and unrolled it in haste.
Cypher eyes moved like bullets as she read the small words. “Here! During the Faerieland team’s first match, Jhudora and her younger sisters were in the stands to support their homeland!”
“Younger sisters?” Luther exclaimed. “Who would’ve thought? I can’t believe it! But... we need more information on them.”
“Of course,” Cypher said as she pushed the scroll back on the shelf, “and we’ll get that information from someone who definitely knows!”
“You mean... we’ll go up and ask Jhudora about her sisters?” Luther looked at her skeptically. “That’d be a pleasant conversation. ‘Hello, Jhudora! Have you taught your younger sisters all your devilish tricks? Have they been kidnapping Terror Mountain and Ice Cave residents? Oh, great! Thanks for the info!’”
Cypher frowned. “What if Jhudora really would turn her sisters in?”
“And why would she do that? She may be a powerful dark faerie, but I doubt she’d betray family. Come on, she’s not completely heartless! Just partially.”
“Unless...” Cypher grabbed the scroll back off the shelf and found the text. She read over it, noticing that there was more. “It says that Jhudora looked displeased through most of the match, and it didn’t seem to be anything Cup-related. Her sisters were glaring at her through most of it as well.”
“Do they hate each other? Ha! I wouldn’t put it past Jhudora to have siblings who despise her like a rotten Juppie!”
Cypher rolled her eyes at Luther and pushed the scroll back in its place. “Oh, come on. We’ve got work to do.”
“Doing... what, exactly?” Luther eyed her suspiciously as she made her way to the door. “Asking Jhudora? Would she even answer our question?”
“Of course not!” Cypher replied with a laugh. “She’d sooner bake Illusen a pink frosted cake!”
“That doesn’t clear things up.”
Cypher turned to him. “Who is the most honest resident of Neopia? Who, next to the Brain Tree, is known for their intelligence?”
Luther bit his lip. “Uh... you?” he tried with a grin.
Cypher stared at him a moment, not amused. “Sarah!” she said, grabbing his arm and pulling him out of the building. “The Help Zafara!”
“Now that we have two prime suspects, we’ll get the details on their backgrounds from Sarah,” Cypher stated as they exited the Archive building.
“But, then what?” Luther asked, looking around the town for Nork. “If it is really them, what else can we do? There’s a time to throw in the towel, and I think that’d be the best time to tell the Chia Police about all our discoveries.”
Cypher sighed. “Maybe. But there’s still so much to figure out!”
“Like those weird scraps of the paper and the ferocious neggs? That’s true,” Luther said as a thought crept into his head, “but now that we have an idea of the culprit... maybe things will begin to fall into place.”
“I know absolutely EVERYTHING about Neopia!”
The bespectacled blue Zafara pet the slimy Slorg on her head. She held a thick book, and various magical items were around her. Luther stepped forward and smiled. “Uh, hello Sarah! We were wondering if you knew anything about the relationship between Jhudora and her...”
“STOP!” Sarah yelled randomly. She glared at Luther and pointed at a sign beside her. It read: ‘One-word inquiries only!’
Luther frowned at it. “What?” he exclaimed.
“I did not find anything matching your search criteria!” Sarah said pointedly. “NEXT!”
“Wait!” Cypher stepped in front of Luther. “Jhudora.”
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Look, I’m here to help people when they have problems with Neopia or games. I can’t answer a question for you about a faerie. Check the Neopedia.”
“It wouldn’t be in the Neopedia,” Cypher continued, “because apparently Jhudora doesn’t like her sisters.”
Sarah’s eyes widened for a moment. “Her sisters?” She shook her head quickly. “I don’t know anything about Jhudora’s siblings. In fact, I didn’t know she had any! That’s funny, isn’t it? I wonder if they hate Illusen as well! That’s very interesting. Very, very interesting.” She said it all very fast.
It was Luther’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “You’re not too good at bluffing.”
Sarah narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t know anything, okay! Go away!”
“You’re Sarah the Zafara!” Luther said angrily. “Don’t you know everything about Neopia?”
“Wait,” Cypher interrupted, “why don’t you want to tell us? You haven’t been... threatened, have you?”
Sarah looked around herself quickly. “Listen,” she said in a hushed voice. “Their names are Tickle and Tackle. They’re twins. I was sent a message that said if I answered any questions about them, I’d be kidnapped and Mr. Slorgy would be taken away.” She motioned to the Slorg on her head.
Cypher and Luther exchanged glances. “Did they say anything else?” Luther asked.
“No! And I shouldn’t either!”
“Please, Sarah, this is for the aid of everyone in Neopia. We have reason to believe that Tickle and Tackle are the culprits behind the attacks on Terror Mountain!” Cypher said. “Please help us.”
Sarah sighed. “Through observation over the past couple of years, I’ve deducted that Tickle and Tackle are jealous of Jhudora’s fame. They are also very clever. Jhudora dislikes the two of them because of their jealousy. From what I can tell, the two twins talk to each other in code when they’re around their sister.”
“Code?” Cypher exclaimed. “What kind of code?”
“They would replace words they were trying to say with terms that were incredibly similar, but still different enough. With every word replaced, it meant the same thing but was extremely hard to comprehend in the normal fashion.”
Cypher gasped as realization came over her. “Luther,” she said quickly, “what does someone to do make you laugh?”
Luther stared at her, but went along with it. “Uh... tell a joke? Tickle me?”
“Exactly!” the Cybunny continued excitedly. “And what makes you moan?”
Sarah looked at Cypher and smiled. “You know of their codenames?”
“We happened upon two scraps of paper that spoke in the strange way you explained. The words Laughter and Moaning were capitalized! Getting tickled makes you laugh, and getting tackled makes you moan!”
Luther pulled the scraps of paper out from under his hat, where he kept them. “The message says: When the frosty hill is empty, Laughter and Moaning will be in the space around us.”
Cypher translated what she knew. “When Terror Mountain is deserted, Tickle and Tackle will be in the space around us.”
Luther scratched his head wearily. “So... this will tell us where they are?”
“Probably,” Sarah answered, “but it seems strange that something like would just be left lying around. Where’d you find them?”
“I found mine near the Rainbow Pool,” Luther replied, “and she found the other one in the snow on top of the mountain.”
Cypher said, “It seems to me like it was an accident that they ended up there. Like they were dropped.”
“Going back to the code,” Luther said, “all we need to find out about is that last part.”
“‘The space around us...’” Cypher muttered to herself. “Maybe that phrase represents something specific. A place, perhaps?”
Like a punch in the face, realization crept over the three pets.
To be continued...