Revolution Undercloud: Part One
Cipher sighed happily. It was a beautiful day in Neopia. The Pteris were singing, the Boris digging, the Buzzes a-humming. The sky was a clear, deep blue with hardly a single cloud. Cipher was currently lounging on a peaceful rock in Mystery Island. The serene silence was short lived, though, because from out of the sky, a quick dark blue blur sped through the clouds. Cipher quickly slithered to his feet, knowing exactly who was coming. It didn't worry him, because he knew exactly who it was.
Just a cheeky, airheaded Shoyru.
Just a spitfire that tackled you every minute you were in sight.
Just a little dragon no bigger than two feet tall, zooming at you at twenty miles an hour.
Oh no, you didn't need to worry.
Just as that thought left his mind, the Shoyru tackled him, sending him tumbling into the ground in a roll of twigs and dirt. Not a pleasant experience.
"Gotcha!" cried a distinctly feminine voice from somewhere beside him.
With a groan, he lifted his scaly head and looked at her blearily. "What in the name of Sloth (this was said with a cautious look toward the general direction of the Space Station) was that for, Skye?" Skye was both his cousin (somewhere along a cross-species line) and best friend.
The little dragon rubbed her head sheepishly. "Ehhh... well, well." She seemed to hesitate, but only for a second. Then, a new light reached her eyes, and she jumped to her feet.
"You see, we gotta be strong! Like your Pops, for instance! Oh boy oh boy, now that's a mutant guy that can really kick some baddies! And, and, and there are those Shoyrus from my colony. Did you ever see them? All speckled, striped, and absolutely-"
"And what, pray tell, do we need to be strong for? We all know that I'm just gonna take over my Pops’ Gallery when I grow up," he said softly with a touch of sadness.
Skye's wings drooped, but only for a second. Then of course, she perked up. "Whatever!" she declared confidently. "You never know. What if you visit Krawk Island and some pirate wants a duel? Then you'll be sunk! They are our biggest rivals, after all."
Cipher managed a laugh. "I don't think any pirate would want to duel me."
"Why not?" Skye continued with a far off, dreamy look. "One day, when I graduate from the Island Training School, I'm gonna go and challenge all the dojos in Krawk Island! I'm gonna be the first to beat em' all! Oh! And you too! You'll be my bestest friend and amazingly strong too. Well, I'll be stronger, of course."
Cipher was only momentarily caught up in the beautiful vision she had cast. It was surreal. It would never happen. No Hissi had ever broken Island tradition and gone slithering off somewhere. Never did, never will. Sad, but the truth.
"Look, Skye, if we could do that, then I would. But you know Pops. He thinks I shouldn't touch battle weapons. He wants me home and working in the Gallery. He wants a sheltered life for me."
Skye frowned, her brow narrowing. She was about to say something when a cold wind blew.
Now, Hissis and Shoyrus, they're both creatures of air, and a little wind shouldn't have bothered them. But this wind was different. Wind that seemed tinged with a weird prickling feeling was one thing, but when that wind came with a cloud of pink, magical sparkles, that was another. Either way, Cipher and Skye were not at ease.
Skye took a battle position she learned from the Training School. With one hand, she grasped a golden medallion around her neck. A Golden Geraptiku Talisman glittered. A prize she received when she bravely ventured into the Deserted Tomb.
"Put that down, you silly dragon," a soft, breathy voice chided. From the mist, a strange Lenny descended. He was old and wizened, with strange starry robes and a hat that kept on falling over his eyes. Cipher wondered just who this strange pink Lenny was. His musings were interrupted a second later.
"I'm Larry," the pink bird said with unnecessary flourishes. "And you two-" he peered through a tarnished gold monocle- "seem to be in a bit of a bind."
Cipher was on his feet in a second. "No, no, we're fiiine. And dandy." He slung his arm/wing through Skye's, hissing lowly. "Pops said never to talk to strangers."
But Skye, she was the adventurer, never one to back down from something that promised fun and intrigue. Slipping her hand out of Cipher's, she approached the suspicious Lenny. Cipher hung back, apprehension building.
"I need you two to do me a favor," he said softly, voice suddenly melodious and dripping sweet. "How about it? You'll be rewarded better than anything the foolish faerie queen could ever give. I hear the young Hissi had familial obligations to uphold. Why let those get in the way of your dreams? You could become the strongest Neopets on the planet, privy to magic that only the Lennies have ever seen."
Skye and Cipher was stunned.
"No," Cipher said, suddenly. "No, Skye, this is a trap. We have to get out of here. It's the oldest trick in the Neopedia. Offer the victim power. It's impossible. It's impossible to grant power like that. The price would be too much."
Larry smiled a tight little smile which was little more than a horizontal line. "Clever brat," he said. "However, that was simply a ruse. To test your self-control, willpower, and reasoning. Every other Neopet I came across accepted the offer, those foolish, foolish, vain, greedy pests. Their ears only hear the promises as their brain refused to function under the little spell my voice cast on them. You're the first, little Hissi. Who knew I could find a natural talent here in this dump? You, darling Neopet, have the potential to be a warlock, able to utilize that ancient magic that the Lennies have been perfecting over the ages. And not just any warlock either." Now, his eyes glinted excitedly. "You could take down Kreludor with just one flap of your wings from Neopia."
Skye was listening with detachment. As soon as the faerie spoke, her head seemed to start floating in the clouds, following the sound of that beautiful voice. Then Cipher had snapped at her, and she felt the sensation of coming to grasp with reality. She shook her head clear of the remains of the spell.
"And what beef do you have against Kreludor?!"
Larry spun around to face her. "Ah- I nearly forgot about you." He sneered. "Talent-less Shoyrus. Tsk-tsk. They were never compatible with higher level magic. Which is really a pity; you seem more eager to learn than your friend here."
Cipher grabbed Skye again. "We are NOT interested! Why would I want to take down Kreludor, anyway?"
"Because those Grundos are dim-witted. In other words, so silly with stupidity, that’s its beyond belief!"
Cipher scoffed back, "That’s not true! And even if you really did think that, I don’t believe that’s the only reason!" He began dragging Skye in earnest. "Let's leave, let's leave, let's leave, let's leave-" he chanted.
Skye began nodding mechanically, and at first, Cipher was relieved. But as he turned around to pat her on the back, he stopped. A pale sheen of suspicious pink covered her irises.
"Yes, yes..." she said, nodding all the while. "Those Grundos- ridiculous creatures. Absolutely. Lennies should live in Kreludor Just think of all the ancient materials waiting to be unearthed...!"
With horror, Cipher watched as Skye floated adoringly toward Larry, the same obnoxious Lenny that only seconds ago had insulted her. He had a pleased, smirking smile on his lined face, making him look like an ancient evil instead of a grandfather-type figure. He ran his wings over Skye's head, the same way Cipher would have petted his petpet.
"Are you sure, little Hissi? Your friend seems more than delighted to be a part of our cause."
Cipher bristled. "What did you do to her?" His voice came out so lowly, so dangerously, so snarl-like, that for a second, he surprised himself.
"My magic doesn't seem to affect you. Must be the scales or something. But it sure does affect this little Shoyru. If you want to see her again, you better consider doing us a little favor in Faerieland. Maybe forever." With a cackle, both Lenny and Shoyru vanished in a shower of pink.
Cipher sat down, head in wings, and groaned.
Later that night, when Cipher was still mulling over what to do, there was a knock at the door. Cipher's Pops, also known as Lurkxy, opened the door.
"Why, hello, Cloudy, what brings you and your colony here today?" A dainty faerie Shoyru stepped into the house, followed by what Cipher assumed to be Skye's whole colony. There was a collective undertone of worry.
"Evening, Lurkxy, may I talk to Cipher? Skye hasn't come back yet, and we're just a little worried-" Catching sight of Cipher, she hurried over. "Cipher? Did you see Skye today? She said she was going to hang out with you today."
"Do you know a Lenny named Larry?" Cipher asked abruptly.
Cloudy looked perplexed. "No, why?"
"Well, he kidnapped her."
Needless to say, that didn't go well with anybody. Lurkxy (Pops), who is a burly mutant Hissi, barged next to Cipher and began a frenzied lecture on "informing adults of dangerous situations." Cloudy, however, demanded silence, and calmly asked for the rest of the story.
"The thing is," Cipher tried to explain, "is that it wouldn't do any good to tell you guys. Larry said that they were located in Faerieland, and I'm pretty sure that even if we all went there in search for Skye, we wouldn't be able to find her. Larry said that he wants me to do a favor for him. Me in specific. So if I go alone, I should be able to find him."
As he expected, bitter arguments broke out. He could only sigh.
I’ll find you myself, Skye!
To be continued...