Rings, Books, Life
She was very young when she first saw the ring. It was lying in Neopia Central, and, thinking nothing of it, she kicked it away. It made a slight sound as it bounced away, then it stopped, glinting at her. She passed on her way, not knowing what she had just done.
The neopet who had first kicked the ring was called Miqui. She was a blue Ixi who led a perfectly normal, civilised life. She knitted, she read books, she had afternoon tea, and she never, ever did anything exciting.
Time passed. Miqui had completely forgotten about the ring. Her life continued, and it wasn’t until one visit to the book shop that things began to change.
Browsing shelves, she was trying to find a book she hadn’t read. At last, she found one, at the end of a shelf, half hidden by a wall jutting out. As she pulled it, another book came crashing down to the floor. Miqui was intrigued. She had never come across a book that crashed. Picking it up, she noticed first that it was very heavy. Turning it over, she looked at the front page. There was no author’s name, no title, just a faded picture of a circle. She opened it. The pages were yellow and faded. It must be very old, she thought.
Miqui was very pleased with herself. She had come to the book shop to find a new book, and had found not only a new book, but also an old one, which she could add to her antiques collection. She walked up to the counter, and coughed softly. The shopkeeper looked up.
“Yes? Is there a problem?”
Miqui showed him the book. “I was just wondering what price this book is.”
She handed him the book, and waited for a reply. None came. The shopkeeper was staring at the book, mystified. “I’ve never seen this book before in my life,” he said. “However, if you want to buy it, I have no price to tell you. I do have a special offer. You can have both books for one thousand eight hundred and seventy-four neopoints.”
Checking her purse, Miqui realised that she only had one thousand neopoints with her. Groaning inwardly, (groaning was not something that she would do aloud) she resigned herself to the fact that there would be a long haggling battle.
“I’ll give you five hundred for both of them,” she said.
He didn’t look up. “One thousand seven hundred. I think that is fair.”
“Five hundred and fifty.”
“One thousand six hundred and fifty.”
“One thousand six hundred.”
“Six hundred and fifty.”
They kept on haggling, and a queue was growing behind them. After ten minutes, she had asked for one thousand, but he was staying firm at one thousand two hundred.
“Please?” she begged. “I have one thousand.”
A Mynci standing behind her in the queue sighed loudly and cut in to the conversation. She addressed Miqui. “ Have two hundred neopoints, then hurry. Some people have lives other than standing in this queue.”
“T-thank you,” Miqui stammered. “I’ll pay you back.” She gave the shopkeeper the two thousand two hundred neopoints, then walked out of the shop with her purchases.
A minute later, the Mynci emerged from the shop, a heavy book in her hands. Miqui walked up to her, and said, “I need to pay you back for those two hundred neopoints. Thank you for helping. It was very kind.” She started on her way towards the bank, but the Mynci stopped her.
“You don’t have to, you know. After buying my book, I was going to give two hundred neopoints away to charity. Good deed of the day and all that. Guess you turned up first. Consider it an act of charity.” With that and a bright smile, the Mynci walked away.
Miqui was mad. Normally, if something like that happened, she would walk over to the offending neopet, then quietly and firmly state that she did not need charity. However, the Mynci just made her angry. She was tempted to run, but her sense of politeness wouldn’t let her, so instead, she strode quickly over to the Mynci. When she caught up, not even her manners could stop her unleashing her feelings. “How dare you call me a charity case! I could pay you back right now by just going inside the bank, and I could be more polite than you are. I don’t know who you think you are, talking like that! I see right through you! Wait right here!”
Feeling slightly better, she headed to the bank, where she withdrew two hundred neopoints. Going back out into Neopia Central, she looked for the Mynci, but she had vanished. Oh well. Miqui shrugged. Her loss.
On the way home, Miqui had the distinct feeling of being followed. She knew that it was probably just her imagination, so she tried to forget about it. She reached her garden gate and unlocked it. Shutting it again, she continued up the path, noting that the flowerbeds needed to be weeded. As she was about to open her front door, she heard a distinct metallic ring and turned around. There on the path, lay a gold ring.
Miqui walked over to it and picked it up. It lay, cold and motionless, with no inscription or indeed any lettering whatsoever on it. She tried it on. It was (obviously) far too small for her hoof, but it fit perfectly on her horn. Still wearing it, she continued inside.
That night, Miqui made a cup of tea, and drank it while she was sitting on the sofa. She was still curious about the old book, so decided to take a look at it. She fetched it from the bookshelf, and settled down to read it.
She was about halfway through when she paused to check the time. She went to the kitchen, her head still buzzing with the information the book had given her. It had started like a story, a young neopet finding an old ring, and kicking it away. It then progressed into something horribly familiar. She tried to convince herself that it was just a story. It bore no resemblance to her life.
The clock struck twelve. Immediately, she started walking. She opened the door, and walked down the path. What? What’s happening? Where am I going? STOP! Yet not even her willpower could stop her walking. Her body wouldn’t obey any of the commands her mind was issuing. And still, she was walking, farther and farther out of the land she called home.
Miqui didn’t know how long she had been walking. She didn’t know what it would take to stop. She just knew that she was tired and thirsty, and she thought longingly of the hot cup of tea, and cream sofa she had left behind. She had figured out that it must be the ring controlling her walking. Yet, no matter how hard she pushed herself, she couldn’t bring her hand up to her horn to throw the ring away.
The surroundings changed. Miqui was walking through a forest. A forest of identical trees, the same height, the same type. She seemed to be walking towards the centre, but she couldn’t be sure. She had never seen it before in her life.
A clearing became visible. Miqui walked over to a tree stump and sat down. She didn’t know where she was, or why she was there. She just knew that she was tired, and that the ring must let her do what she wanted now she was in the clearing.
A Mynci stepped out from the trees. Miqui took a quick look at it, then recognised the rude Mynci who had been rude to her before. She tried to jump up, but couldn’t. Instead, she looked at the Mynci. “Can you help me?” she asked. “Please, just take the ring off the horn. I can’t.”
The Mynci leaned against a tree. “Yeah, I would, but I don’t want to, mainly because it’s your own fault that you’re here. Plus, you know, you were kind of rude to me.”
“How is it my own fault that I’m here? Do you think I’m here on purpose? Huh? Why are you here, anyway? Now, just take the ring. NOW!” Miqui’s last word was delivered in a roaring voice, one that she didn’t know she had. Her eyes blazed, and she stared at the Mynci with a look of venom. However, the Mynci seemed quite unperturbed.
“Temper, temper. That sort of behaviour won’t set you free, will it? Anyway, since you were clever enough to find the book, I’ll tell you what’s happened. A long, long time ago, there was a ring lying on the ground. You kicked it, not realising that by kicking it, you were the first neopet ever to touch it. You should feel honored – or should you? You grew up, into a civilised, normal little Ixi, one who wouldn’t go on an adventure without a cup of tea, or indeed, the knowledge that you would be back safe and sound the next day. I saw you, and realised that you’re the sort of neopet that all of Neopia would be glad to get rid of.”
Miqui struggled to get free, but couldn’t move. “I am not – NOT - someone that Neopia would be glad to be rid of. I have friends who care about me. They’ll know. They will.”
The Mynci shrugged. “They’d wonder about you for a while, yeah. But after a week, if you still weren’t found, they’d gossip about you. Do you know what they’d say?” The Mynci’s voice took on a high pitch. “I wonder what happened to Miqui? Oh, she must have left. She was getting a bit wild. Did you hear that she shouted in public? Deranged completely.” Sneering, the Mynci continued, “Next, they’ll all have another cup of tea. However, you were clever. You found the book, the only other one of those books in Neopia. But you don’t need to know about the book. What I do like to tell all the neopets is what will happen, and what has happened.”
“Pardon?” Miqui was puzzled. What was the Mynci talking about? She’d never seen the ring before in her life.
The Mynci kept talking. “A long, long time ago, there was a ring lying in Neopia Central. You kicked it. You lucky, lucky neopet. Because the first neopet to touch each of these rings can continue with their life – for a while. Then, I come, just to check on them. If they’ve turned into an undesirable, like you, then I talk to them, just once, lend them money; depends, really. After that, I make sure that they meet the ring again. This time, though, it stays on.”
Dread was flooding into Miqui. Before, she’d thought that she was in a practical joke gone wrong. However, the tone of the Mynci’s voice – and the look in her eyes, had convinced her. The Mynci was serious. And Miqui was powerless.
“W-what are y-y-you going to do t-to me?” she asked, her voice quivering.
The Mynci smiled. “See this forest? The one you’re in? Yeah, it didn’t used to be here. Also, I like turning neopets into trees. Little trick I learned from the Dark Faerie. I know her. Do you see what’s going to happen now?”
“You’re going to turn me into a tree? Isn’t that kind of mean?”
“No. I look at it this way. When I get rid of another undesirable, I do Neopia a favour. So, really, it’s not mean at all.”
Miqui didn’t understand the logic at all. Still, it was not the time for being confused. It was the time for trying to escape. There was a maniac about to turn her into a tree. No time for understanding logic. She racked her brains, and tried to force herself to move. Nothing happened. Move. Get up. Walk. UP! WALK! GET OUT OF HERE! Her mind was screaming at her to move, but she couldn’t.
The Mynci must have noticed her straining to escape, because she laughed. “You can’t get off like that, sorry. Only someone with superior willpower could escape. Not you.” And the Mynci was right. Miqui was trapped.
“Listen! Just because I can’t move does NOT mean that I have given up! I am going to find a way out. I am! I AM!” Tears of frustration came out of her eyes, running down her face, and landing on the ground, each with its own small ‘plop’.
The Mynci checked her watch. “Oh! Ready to become a tree? It’ll only take about a minute. Virtually painless, too. At least, I think it is.” She started chanting strange words, which seemed to be made up of several languages. However, just behind Miqui, a tree began to fall...
The next thing Miqui knew was a blinding pain in her head. She was still in the forest, and a tree was lying right beside her. She looked over to her left and saw a horn lying on the ground, with a ring right beside it. It must have been her own! Miqui was overjoyed. At last, she was free!
She lay there, her head still hurting, and her heart pounding. What had happened? Why had a tree fallen? Where was the Mynci? She struggled up, and walked slowly around, squinting to find the Mynci.
After ten minutes, she at last saw the Mynci, under a thick branch. Miqui walked slightly quicker over to her and checked her pulse. She wasn’t dead. That was good. Suddenly, Miqui caught sight of some gold. It came from a ring, which was on the Mynci’s finger. “What?” Miqui breathed. She pulled it off, and immediately things began happening.
Trees were shrinking, and turning different colours. The tree that had fallen was turning blue, drawing in branches, and Miqui watched to discover what neopet it was that had saved her. The trunk was shrinking, and becoming thinner, and some other branches were forming wings. “A Shoyru!”
Miqui looked around her. Neopets were lying down, eyes closed, as far as she could see. Even the Mynci was still not awake. However, the Shoyru was visibly struggling to wake up.
“Up. Eyes open. Awake. Now,” were muttered words that Miqui listened to for the next five minutes. In a flash came an idea. She went up to the Shoyru and looked around for one of the gold rings. She pulled it off and set it on the ground. Immediately the Shoyru sat up. As well as that, the ring, which was lying on the ground, sank into the soil and disappeared.
“Who are you?” she whispered. “Were you a tree? Did you fall?”
The Shoyru didn’t say anything for a while. It sat up, and flapped its wings. Next, it stood up and tried to fly, with Miqui watching intently. It collapsed again, then said, “Of course I was a tree. What else would I have been? And why can I not fly?”
Miqui looked at the Shoyru. “My name is Miqui,” she said. “Who are you?”
“Cloud. Funny name for a pink Shoyru and everything, while I suppose Miqui is a perfect name for an Ixi whose future I have just changed.”
Miqui couldn’t help but smile. Cloud, who was obviously full of character, amused her. “Thank you,” she said quickly. “What’s happened to the Mynci? I took the ring off, but she didn’t wake up.”
Cloud came to look at the Mynci. “She’s been hit on the head. Was the Mynci wearing a ring? Do you still have it?” Miqui brought out the ring. “Drop it onto the ground. Quickly.”
Miqui dropped the ring and watched the earth soak it up, relishing the moment. It went slowly, and as the last bit of it disappeared, Miqui had an unmistakable image of Jhudora, sinking into mud, screaming, “NOOOOOO!”
“Was Jhudora behind this?” Miqui asked her, eyes wide open.
“Most probably. Clever of her too. Far away from Faerieland. And using the Mynci as a scapegoat – intelligent stuff. Look, the Neopets are waking up.” It was true. The Neopets were waking up, looking around, and staring blearily at each other.
Miqui was curious about what had happened before. “When you were a tree, how did you fall? The Mynci said that nobody could escape.”
Cloud smiled knowingly. “That was the loophole. Actually, she said that only someone with superior willpower could escape. I was one of the first captured. I stood and watched many, many neopets turned into trees. I resolved that I would help at least one. I didn’t take into account all of them being freed, though,” she said, looking round at the variety of colours and shapes wandering around. “Still, we have to move the Mynci. By the way, what are we going to do about Jhudora?”
Miqui shrugged. “Nothing, I guess. Her conscience, if she has one, will punish her enough. Anyway, I’m not crazy about the idea of going to Faerieland, with the clouds, and the sparkles, and the general air of bubbles. Also, I don’t think that Faerieland would be particularly pleased to see us – an Ixi with one horn, an unconscious Mynci, and a Shoyru too full of herself for her own good. Never mind about it, though. More importantly, can you tell me the importance of the book? Did you ever hear anything about it?”
“Nothing was ever said about the book. Ever. You were actually the only neopet to have anything explained to you. Feel honoured, really. Now, why don’t we try to discover where we are, and try to get to either your home or my home, whichever the closer one is?”
Time passed, and Miqui, Cloud, and the Mynci, (actually called Vale) became best friends. Vale had forgotten everything, except her name, so she lived with Miqui. Miqui had changed. She still read, knitted, drank excessive amounts of tea, and was generally civilised, but she stopped living life in a pattern. She discovered more things to do, like exploring, laughing, and the joys of coffee (full of caffeine, naturally).
The book had disappeared when Miqui got home, so she never read it, and, after puzzling for several days over it, she stopped worrying and got on with life. There were better things to do than sit at home mourning over some unattainable book. If she wanted it, she would have to find it. That would be the next adventure...