Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Nine
Cypher and Luther jumped on Nork’s back with haste. “To the Space Station!” Luther yelled. Nork spread his wings and soared into the sky.
After a rough and windy journey, the three of them could see the looming station in the distance, even if it was just a little ball beyond the clouds. Nork asked, “How can they be here without people noticing them? Surely their victims are here as well! You can’t hide two entire towns in the Space Station without being noticed. You can’t go in through the front; it’s too risky.”
Luther frowned. “Good point. But they’re faeries, aren’t they? Who knows what they could have done to get their way!”
“People visit the Space Station every day!” Cypher said flatly. “If they haven’t seen anything yet, we know we’re dealing with evil masterminds.”
“I thought we already knew that.”
“No, we just knew we were dealing with evil faeries! For all we know, they could’ve been the stupidest faeries in Neopia.”
“There’s no such thing as a stupid faerie.”
“There’s obviously such thing as a stupid Kougra, because I’m talking to one right now.”
“Nork, wait right here unless we need you. Take this.” Luther shoved a Wocky-Talkie into the Pteri’s beak. They had landed on the inside of one of the two spikes that protruded from the station’s main spherical form, avoiding the main entrance.
“Now, how do we get in?” Luther whispered as he and Cypher climbed along the spike. Cypher gulped and looked down into the black abyss below her. To the left (and below) the station, the planet of Neopia gleamed invitingly.
“Why did they have to pick here?” Cypher moaned. “I don’t care how we get in. Just get me off this spike!”
“Well, in case of an emergency, there’d have to be alternate exits,” Luther thought aloud, “and there should also be several places for space ships to fly in and out, although I’m sure those are being watched. We’ll have to find some sort of emergency door.”
“And how are we going to find that?” Cypher asked as she climbed along, eyes shut tightly.
“There!” Luther exclaimed, pointing in front of him and slightly to the left. “The door blends right in so you can barely notice it. This spike must be used as an escape route.”
Luther pulled himself up at the dome and examined the door. With a little push, it eased inward and then moved to the side, creating an ideal emergency exit. Or emergency entrance, in this case. Luther stepped in, and Cypher followed, glad to be off the spike.
They were standing on a little balcony with metal stairs that led to the main floor. However, as Cypher and Luther stared at their surroundings, they realized that something was very wrong with the Space Station. Luther frowned. “Is this how it always looks?”
“I’ve been here before with my owner,” Cypher responded in a whisper, “and it looked normal. Tickle and Tackle have done something here.”
Instead of the usual layout of the station, there were metal walls creating labyrinthine passages. The maze-like halls were empty. The two pets crept down the stairs.
“So,” Luther whispered, “what’s the plan?”
Cypher looked around. Even though she had visited the station several times before, she had no idea where they were standing. Furthermore, she didn’t know how to find Tickle and Tackle or what to do when they did.
However, all those problems were solved when someone stepped around the corner. Unfortunately, millions of other problems grew in their place.
“Hey! Stop, you two!”
Cypher jumped and turned to see a Darigan Kougra walked towards them. She could tell by its voice that it was female. With a permanent scowl on her face, the Kougra walked towards them.
“Are you new or something?” she asked harshly. When Cypher and Luther just looked at each other nervously, she rolled her eyes. “Look, freaks, you have to check with the mistresses about tasks. Oh, and get yourselves out of those colors. Please! The paintbrushes are stored in the old weapons shop. Get painted before you talk to the mistresses, or they’ll get angry. Get moving!”
Cypher nodded quickly. “Will do.”
The Kougra rolled her eyes again and walked off. Luther and Cypher waited until her footsteps had long faded before they spoke again. Luther said, “Let’s just go with it.”
Cypher gasped. “You’re kidding! I am not painting myself Darigan! Are you crazy?”
Luther pushed her aside and started to walk. “Billionaires!” he muttered under his breath.
The door creaked open and a Darigan Kougra walked in. The faerie on the left looked up at her. “Yes, Reygan?”
The Kougra bowed her head. “I’ve come to inform you that the rumors are confirmed. Happy Valley has indeed been evacuated, except for the Chia Police.”
The other faerie banged her fist on the wall and said angrily, “Darn them! Bringing them here would be much too risky. I refuse to be embarrassed by some fat Chias.”
The faerie on the left nodded in agreement. “There will be no quarrelling with them. Let them be, Reygan. We’ll contact you when we have our next plan of action.”
The Kougra bowed her head again, and began to leave. When she reached the door, she looked up at them. “The new crew that came in has some real dimwits on it!” she said, and left the room.
The second faerie looked quickly at the other. “We have had no contact with Lorien about new followers for several days. This isn’t a scheduled arrival. There shouldn’t be anyone new today.”
The faerie on the left’s eyes got wide. “Someone got past the entrance. Someone is here who is not supposed to be.”
In seconds, they had left the room empty.
“Have you ever seen a Darigan Cybunny, Luther? Haven’t you seen the hideousness?”
Luther rolled his eyes. He and Cypher were standing in the weapons shop, which had become the storage room for hundreds of Darigan paintbrushes. Luther was looking around curiously, while Cypher was looking around in disgust.
“Didn’t you notice,” Cypher said, “that everyone we passed on the way here was painted Darigan? It’s such an ugly theme to paint a pet! Why would Tickle and Tackle want everyone painted that?”
“Maybe the power that Darigan held was inspiring to them.”
“Please, that’s just...” Cypher froze midway through her statement. Beside her, Luther’s eyes grew huge. It had been a female voice that had responded to Cypher’s question. An evil-sounding female voice.
In the seconds that followed, Cypher felt like everything had become slow motion, and some sort of terrifying music had begun to play in the back of her mind. As she whipped around to see the speaker, it seemed like minutes before she could register everything before her.
Two Dark Faeries. Twins!
“Hello there,” the one who had spoken before said. Her voice was icy, harsh, and full of sarcasm.
The second faerie had a smirk painted on her face. “I’m Tickle.”
“And you are in big trouble now!” they said simultaneously.
Luther, unable to help himself, asked, “Do you rehearse that?”
Tickle snorted and took a few steps closer to them. “Why practice when you’re always right anyway?”
“And we are right in saying,” Tackle continued, “that you two are not supposed to be here.”
Luther pretended, rather lamely, to be shocked. “What? We’re your new associates! Or, uh... cohorts! We’re your new minions to help you with your devious plot! We...”
“Oh, button it, Skunkie,” Tickle said angrily, “we know who you are!”
“You... do?” Cypher asked apprehensively. “Do you mean that literally?”
“Yes, we do!” Tackle laughed. “You’re Cypher the Solver, and you’re... I’m sorry. I’ve forgotten the sidekick’s name! What was it? Loomer? Looter? Loser?”
Luther rolled his eyes and spat in disdain, “It’s Luther, and I am not ‘the sidekick’ like you said!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Tickle said with a sigh, “but we know who you are because your story has been painted all over the paper! Even here, at VirtuTwin Station...”
“VirtuTwin?” Cypher exclaimed. “You renamed the station after yourselves?”
Tackle let out a little chuckle. “Oh, Cypher, Cypher, Cypher! You may be Neopia’s little celebrity detective, but you have a lot to learn about power. Power and influence is what keeps everything together. But too much power is unsafe, especially when the holders of such power are too different to compromise. That’s why there’s no one else here. No Sloth, no nothing. It’s a two-faerie show.”
“What exactly are you doing here anyway?” Luther asked. “What’re your plans?”
Tickle raised her eyebrows with a smile, and said, “Perhaps you know of our older sister, Jhudora? Yes, of course you do. Everyone knows who she is, but no one knows who we are. That’s the reason for all of this.”
“Jealousy?” Cypher asked angrily.
“You could call it that,” Tickle continued with a laugh, “but we like to say that it’s realization that started everything. We realized that Jhudora is alone. No one trusts her... she’s all by herself! We realized that two dark faeries, with equally exceptional powers, are much better than one. Together, we’re more potent than a couple hundred faerie queens.”
“So we decided to start our own plot!” Tackle said. “It was up to us what was going to happen. It was up to us who suffered and who thrived. It was up to us who forgot and who remembered.”
Cypher frowned. “What does forgetting and remembering have to do with your vile scheme?”
“You see,” Tickle said, “in the holiday season, everyone drinks Snowberry Tea. Even here, in the Space Station! Anyone who came to visit here would be given a cup of the tea.”
“After they drank it,” Tackle continued, “they would forget about everything that had happened since they arrived. Instead, they would have the memory of an enjoyable day at the station. And then they would leave.”
“But... why?” Luther asked.
“Because we put a spell on it, of course!” Tickle said with an evil laugh. “We couldn’t have anyone blabbing about unusualness at the station back down on Neopia. There would be Chia officials flooding the place in an hour!”
“Why not just kidnap anyone who came up here?” Cypher asked. “You don’t seem to have a problem with kidnapping anyone.”
Tackle raised her eyebrows at Cypher. “When we captured Terror Mountain and the Ice Caves, it was a big statement. It showed our power, even if no one knew it was us. If a visitor took a trip up here, though, and never came back, anyone who knew where they went would send investigators up here. It was easier to just hypnotize them.”
Luther looked cautiously from Tickle to Tackle, his eyes narrowed suspiciously. “The neggs. What about them?”
Tickle smiled creepily. “Ah... our best kept secret, and our greatest plan yet. Care to join us on a little stroll though Virtupets?”
Sensing that they had no choice, Cypher and Luther allowed the twin dark faeries to grab their arms and guide them through the metal halls. They curved and twisted, making it impossible to remember the path back to the main room. Somehow, Cypher sensed that it was intended.
“Here we are!” Tackle exclaimed, as they came upon a large set of double doors. They were dully gray, had no windows, and gave Cypher the sensation that they were about to enter a dark laboratory containing Neopia’s biggest secret.
“This dark laboratory contains Neopia’s biggest secret!” Tickle said, motioning towards the door. “And you two will be the first, from the evil side, to see it.”
“The evil side?” Luther spat out angrily. “We’re the good guys!”
Tackle, who was holding his arm, squatted to his level and glared at him with an impenetrable stare. “Not to us!” she said through gritted teeth.
Luther gulped and looked away quickly.
Tickle gave a little giggle. “Are you ready to enter the Room of Concealment? Or shall we squirt Snowberry Tea down your throats?”
It was a question that really didn’t need a spoken answer. However, Cypher did ask, “Why did you just call it the Room of Concealment?”
“We may have many cohorts and followers,” Tackle explained, “but not everyone can be trusted. Only we can find this room. To others, it is just an empty hall.”
With that, the twins flicked their fingers and the doors inwardly burst open. They entered the room, and the doors shut behind them.
To be continued...