The Case of the Missing Quest Items: Part Two
"Smooth, Shoya, real smooth," I said sarcastically.
Shoya glared at me, but before she could say anything Mist piped up, "Don't start fighting, you two. Queen Fyora was right--Shoya was just making sure we weren't dealing with the most powerful sorceress we know of who has a beef with the faeries."
"I'm just following the evidence, Kiko, and trying to make sure we don't get in over our heads!" Shoya whined.
I floated over to the Shoyru and patted her on the back. "I'm sorry, Shoya, I shouldn't have said that. Now let's get back to work and see if the thief left any clues behind."
Mist and I continued around the room, looking for footprints and any other evidence. Shoya flew up to the ceiling and hovered there, looking for anything odd or out of place. Rika followed behind Mist and me, using her device to look for traces of other Neopets, Petpets, or faeries. Mist and I were just finishing our survey of the floor when Rika's device started making lots of beeping and clicking noises.
"I'm getting some strange readings over here," Rika said hesitantly as we all rushed over to see what she had found.
Rika was standing next to a pile of boxes pushed up against the wall, about halfway around the room. The labels on the boxes indicated that they contained supplies for the water faeries. The only odd thing about these boxes that I could see was a small puddle of water on the floor in front of the boxes; Mist and I had noticed this on our survey of the room, and had filed it under "possibly suspicious," since it could have been left there earlier by a water faerie retrieving some supplies. Rika's device, however, was not reacting to the puddle, but rather to an area of the wall next to the boxes. Mist walked up to the wall and examined it with her magnifying glass.
"I think this brick is loose," she said, pointing with her magnifying glass to a brick at floor level. "It could lead to some sort of secret tunnel."
"No one could fit through a tunnel that small!" Shoya exclaimed.
"Except for a Petpet," Mist added.
I turned to Rika. "What sort of strange readings are you getting from that device?" I asked her.
"It says there were some Meepits in here a few hours ago," Rika replied.
"Meepits!" I exclaimed. "We need to open up that tunnel!"
After a bit of arguing we decided that Mist should be the one to move the loose brick, so as to not disturb any paw prints that might be on it. Mist stood just in front of the loose brick and concentrated. Slowly, she was able to use her telekinetic powers to move the brick out of the wall. She set the brick on the floor next to the boxes, and we all peered inside.
We saw a small tunnel, far too small for even the skinniest Neopet to crawl through. Rika knelt down and waved her device in front of the tunnel. The beeping and clicking noises sped up, and a series of numbers appeared on the device's screen.
"Definitely Meepits," Rika said, "and they came through the tunnel sometime last night."
"Can you find any other traces of them in this room?" Mist asked.
Rika walked slowly around the room, waving the antenna of her device at the floor. When she had made a full circuit of the room she said, "Looks like the Meepits came in and did a bit of exploring. Shoya, can I see that list of stolen items Queen Fyora gave you?"
Shoya reached into her pocket and brought out the list, which she handed to Rika. Rika read it over, then went to the nearest pile of boxes and started examining them with her device.
"All right," I said, " we know the Meepits came through the tunnel we found and took the missing items. We need to find a way to figure out where that tunnel leads, and we need some way to capture the Meepits when we find them. "
Mist and Shoya groaned. "This is going to be just like last time," Mist complained.
Before I could come up with a good retort, Rika cleared her throat and said, "Uh, Kiko? I can't actually prove that the Meepits took anything."
"What?!" I exclaimed.
"The Meepits didn't just get into the boxes that stored the missing supplies; they got into all the boxes in this room, or at least all the boxes that they could get into without moving any other boxes out of the way," Rika replied.
"That doesn't mean they didn't steal the items in question!" I exclaimed.
"It doesn't prove they did steal them, either," Shoya replied. "I know you want to blame everything on the Meepits, Kiko, but we can't ignore our other leads just because you're biased!"
"What other leads? The only lead we have is the tunnel and traces of Meepits!"
"Actually, Kiko, according to my device, four different faeries came in here sometime last night or this morning, and each went through all the boxes the supplies were stolen from," Rika added.
"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"
"You didn't ask."
"Which faeries?" Mist interrupted before Rika and I started fighting.
Rika looked at the display screen on her device and said, "The Space Faerie, the Battle Faerie, an unidentified air faerie, and Queen Fyora."
Mist asked, "Are we including Queen Fyora as a suspect? She is the one who came and asked us to solve this theft, after all."
Shoya sighed. "If we're going to be fair, we have to include Queen Fyora on our list of suspects for now. It is possible, however unlikely, that she stole the items and brought in some Meepits to create a false trail, then brought us in to investigate so that the other faeries wouldn't get suspicious."
"Guilty until proven innocent, Shoya? That hardly seems fair," I smirked.
"The law may be 'innocent until proven guilty', but it's often easier to approach a case the other way around," Shoya retorted.
"Right. We'll look into the movements of the faeries Rika mentioned, including Queen Fyora, as well as figuring out what the Meepits were doing in here. Are we finished here?" The others nodded, and I continued, "Then let's go tell Queen Fyora what we've found out, then interview those other faeries."
We packed up our stuff and made our way out of the storage room and up the staircase, emerging in a brightly-lit circular room which could be none other that the entrance to the famous Hidden Tower. A sign next to a grand staircase read "Hidden Tower Shoppe" and had an arrow pointing up the stairs. Two doors were set into the wall, across the room from each other; one presumably led outside, while the other probably led into the palace.
Rika pulled out her pocket watch and said, "It's getting late. Where do you think we should look for Queen Fyora?"
Mist nodded to the stairs and said, "Why don't we try the Hidden Tower Shoppe? If she's not there, we may be able to find someone who can tell us where she is."
We followed the signs up the long staircase and emerged in the fabled shop in the Hidden Tower, where we found Queen Fyora seated at a large desk, working her way through a stack of paperwork provided by the faerie Aisha seated at a smaller desk in the corner. The Faerie Queen looked up as we approached, smiled at us, then turned to the faerie Aisha and said, "Can you mind the shop for a bit, Celeste? I need to talk to these Neopets, then I have to get ready for dinner. I'll send Ysandrie up as soon as I can."
"Yes, Your Majesty," the Aisha replied.
Queen Fyora set down her paperwork, rose, and led us down one flight of stairs and into what appeared to be a small meeting room, containing a round table surrounded by eight chairs. The Faerie Queen sat in the chair nearest the door, and motioned for us to seat ourselves as well.
"Well, 00Kiko, what have you and your team found out so far?" she asked after we were all seated.
We told her about the puddle of water, the tunnel, and the evidence Rika found using her device. When we finished Queen Fyora asked, "Rika, can your device tell when exactly the other faeries entered the room today? Is it possible they were in there after I was? They may have gone in there after I told them of the theft, to make sure I was not mistaken."
Rika replied, "I'm sorry, Your Majesty, but my device is not sensitive enough for that. All I can say for certain is that those faeries were in that room sometime before we got there, and that they touched all the boxes that the supplies were stolen from."
Queen Fyora sighed. "I do not like to suspect treachery from those I trust, but I fear you cannot rule them out yet. I can tell you that the air faerie your device sensed was almost certainly Lisle--she's the only air faerie that has a key to that room. She lives here in the palace, as she's the one who minds my shop during the day when I cannot, just as Ysandrie does during the night." At the sight of our shocked expressions she added, "I am the Queen of Faerieland, you know, and I have many other duties besides running the shop in the Hidden Tower. I try to spend as much time up there as possible, doing paperwork when I'm not assisting customers, but I can't always be up there, and I hate leaving that shop unattended.
"I'll find someone to take you to Lisle's chambers, and I'll send word down to the kitchens to provide you with some food before you leave. I'd invite you to join me for dinner, but I'm entertaining some royal dignitaries tonight," Queen Fyora grimaced, "and I would rather try to keep this theft as secret as possible for as long as possible."
Queen Fyora rose, and we followed her out of the meeting room. A gelert in a maid's outfit approached Queen Fyora, curtsied, and said, "Ah, there you are, Your Highness. I was just coming to inform you that it's time for you to dress for dinner."
"Thank you, Celandra," the Faerie Queen replied. "Would you mind escorting these Neopets to Lisle's chambers for me?"
Celandra curtsied again. "Yes, Your Highness," she replied, then hurried off down the staircase, with the four of us following. The maid led us out of the Hidden Tower and into the palace proper, then down a side corridor, up a set of stairs, and finally stopped at a door halfway down the corridor. She knocked politely, and a silvery voice from the other side of the door said, "Coming!"
A few seconds later the door was opened by a beautiful air faerie, garbed in the traditional pale blue gown, her long pale blond hair highlighted with a blue that matched her gown, and her gossamer wings held back in repose. When she saw the maid she started and said, "Oh! Celandra, it's you! Does the Queen need me?"
Celandra curtsied and replied, "No, milady, though she does respectfully request that you talk to these Neopets, if you can spare the time."
The air faerie shot us a sharp glance and said menacingly, "Are you reporters for the Neopian Times?"
"No, my lady," I responded quickly, handing her one of our business cards, "we're detectives. The Faerie Queen has asked us to look into a recent theft, and we would be truly grateful if you could spare us the time to answer some questions."
The air faerie took the card, read it, then smiled and said, "In that case, come on in." She turned to the maid and said, "Thank you, Celandra, you may go now."
The maid curtsied and whisked herself off as we entered the air faerie's rooms. Predictably, the room was decorated in pale blue and white, and contained a sofa, two armchairs flanking a bookcase set against one wall, a beanbag chair, and a table and chair against another wall. The faerie sat down on the beanbag and motioned for us to be seated. When we had all settled she turned to me and asked, "You're trying to find out who stole the missing quest items, am I correct?"
I stared at her in shock, and she continued, "I mean, I can't think of any other theft the Queen would have hired detectives to solve that involves me in any way, and if Celandra brought you here, then you were certainly sent by the Queen. So what did you want to ask me?"
Shoya cleared her throat and said, "We would like to know when exactly you were in the storage room today, and why you searched through boxes of non-air faerie quest items."
The faerie looked a little startled, but replied, "As if I could forget why I went down there today! This morning I was up in the Hidden Tower, filling in for Queen Fyora, who had told me the previous day that she was going to spend this morning working on recasting the ward spells on the council chamber. At about 7:30 she came rushing into the shop, which was fortunately devoid of customers at the time, and told me that someone had stolen some supplies from the storage room. She asked me to show her my key to that room, which I did, and she made sure it had not been tampered with. I swore to her then, as I will swear to you now, that I have not let that key out of my possession since Fyora gave it to me in the first place.
"Anyway, once I'd assured Fyora that I wasn't the one who had taken the supplies, she said she was going to talk to the other faeries who have keys to that room, and left. We had a bit of an influx of customers then, so it wasn't until about ten o'clock that I was able to take a bit of a break and go down to the storage room myself. I had helped organize the storing of the supplies in the first place, so I knew where everything was supposed to be. I started by going through the air faerie supplies, since I'm the one responsible for them, then I went through all the other boxes of supplies, just to make sure it wasn't merely a case of misfiling. When I had assured myself that the supplies were in fact missing, I went back up to the shop. It was about 11:20 when I got back up there, and I saw that Fyora was helping some customers, so I waited around outside until they left. When I came in, Fyora told me she was going to find someone to look into this for her, and that I should watch the shop while she was gone."
"Did you meet any of the other faeries on your way to or from the storage room?" Rika asked.
"Did you see any Meepits, or evidence of Meepits, while you were in the storage room?" I interjected.
"Meepits? No. Why?"
Rika, Mist, and Shoya exchanged glances, and Shoya said, "Just ignore Kiko--she has a thing about Meepits, and tries to pin every case we investigate on them."
The air faerie gave us an odd look, then yawned and said, "Is there anything else you wanted to ask me?"
Mist replied, "Er... would you be able to tell us where we could find the Space Faerie and the Battle Faerie?"
The air faerie checked the clock on the wall and said, "Aethia's room is just down the hall, second door on the right. She and Mira usually spend their evenings playing chess together, so if Aethia isn't in her room she's probably in Mira's room, which is next to Aethia's and just before the rather unflattering portrait of Queen Fyora."
We thanked the air faerie for talking to us, then proceeded down the hall to the rooms belonging to Aethia the Battle Faerie. We knocked, and only had to wait a few seconds before the Battle Faerie opened it. On seeing us she drew her sword and said, "If this isn't important you'd better be ready to face my swords."
Trembling at the sight of the very sharp sword currently pointed at me, I held out another of our business cards and said, "We're... detectives, my lady, and... we would like to ask you... a few questions... about the missing... quest items."
The Battle Faerie took the card with a scowl, and while she was reading it another voice from within the room said, "Who is it, Aethia?"
The Battle Faerie looked over her shoulder at the Space Faerie, who was now standing behind her, and replied, "Detectives, Mira--they've come about the missing quest items. Looks like we'll have to put our game on hold." She sheathed her sword, and motioned for us to follow her into the room.
The two faeries seated themselves at a small table atop which rested a chess board, and turned their chairs to face a large sofa, which was the only other furnishing in the room. I glanced around as the others settled on the sofa, and saw that the walls of the room were adorned with weapons of various kinds. I floated next to the sofa (which wasn't big enough for all four of us) and started the interview.
"We're trying to trace the movements of all the faeries who have gone into the room where the quest items are stored at any time today, so we would like to know when and why the two of you were in that storage room today," I said, trying to phrase the question as respectfully as possible.
"How did you know we were in the storage room today?" the Battle Faerie asked, her hand reaching for the hilt of her sword.
Shoya, Mist, and I pointed at Rika, who sheepishly brought out her device and said, "Er, I-"
Upon seeing the device in Rika's hand, the Space Faerie jumped up and snatched the device from Rika. Rika urgently whispered something to the Space Faerie and showed her something which she pulled from an inner pocket of her coat. The expression on the Space Faerie's face went from anger to surprise at the sight of whatever Rika was holding, and she handed the device back to Rika, who quickly stashed the item she had shown the Space Faerie back in her pocket. With a thoughtful expression on her face, the Space Faerie made her way back to her seat, and motioned for Rika to continue.
Rika gulped and said, "I've reprogrammed this device to be able to detect traces of any Neopet, Petpet, or faerie, and while we were examining the storage room at Queen Fyora's request, my device detected traces of both of you on the boxes the stolen supplies had been kept in. So we need to know why you two both searched through boxes that didn't contain any of your supplies."
The two faeries exchanged a look, then the Space Faerie replied, "Early this morning I was heading down to the storage room to put a quest item in there, and I met Fyora on the staircase. She looked really worried, and she questioned me frantically about whether my key to the storage room was intact and if it had ever been out of my sight. Once I showed her my key she told me about the theft, then ran off hurriedly, presumably to talk to the other faeries who have keys to that room. I continued down to the storage room, and I searched through my boxes of supplies, to see what had been stolen. Fortunately the items missing from my boxes weren't the ones I needed today. My curiosity got the better of me, I'm afraid, so I examined the other boxes to see if I could figure out who had tampered with them. I didn't find anything conclusive, so I left, hoping that Fyora would be able to find someone competent to investigate this further."
"Do you recall exactly what time it was that you met Queen Fyora on the stairs?" Shoya asked.
"It must have been close to 7:30 this morning. Sorry I can't be more exact," the Space Faerie replied.
We thanked her and turned to the Battle Faerie, who sighed and, turning to the Space Faerie, said, "Before I tell them anything, Mira, I would like to know why you reacted as you did to the Ruki's device, and what she said to you that made you trust her."
Rika and the Space Faerie glanced at each other, then the Space Faerie replied, "Aethia, trust me when I say I must not explain it to you. I know of the organization for which this Ruki works, and I know her by reputation, but it would bring great danger on us if we told you more. The less I tell you now, Aethia, the less you'll have to lie about later."
"Lie about? To whom? The Queen?" the Battle Faerie asked uncertainly.
"To an enemy of Neopia."
"Does Fyora know anything of this?"
"No; if I cannot tell you more I certainly do not dare tell Fyora even as much as I have told you." The Space Faerie held up her hand to forestall the Battle Faerie's next question, and continued, "If she knew, she would unofficially approve of this organization, though officially... if she officially approved, or if the enemy learned that she unofficially approved of it, Faerieland would be drawn into a war."
"And we both know that Faerieland would not be able to survive a war at this point," the Battle Faerie sighed, rubbing her temples. Turning back to us, she said, "All right, I will answer your questions.
"At a quarter to nine this morning Fyora came out into the courtyard, where I had been drilling some of the new recruits for the palace guard. She ran over to me, and whispered that she urgently needed to talk to me. Seeing how distraught she was, I cut the drill short, and she led me into a small room just inside the palace. She told me about the theft, and asked me to show her my key to the storage room, which I did. She checked it to make sure the enchantments on it were still in place, and I swore to her that I had never let that key out of my possession. She asked if any of the members of the palace guard could investigate this for her, and I replied that the only two faeries I have who are good at investigations were needed elsewhere. She said she'd try to find someone else to investigate this theft, which she evidently did." The Battle Faerie nodded to the four of us.
"Afterwards I decided to take a look around the storage room, to see if I could find any breaches in the security on that room. I looked at the illusion spell on the door, examined the lock to make sure it hadn't been picked, and went through all the boxes to see if there was a pattern to what was taken. I couldn't find any clues as to who had done it or how, so I left and went back to my normal duties."
"Thank you for your time," Shoya said as she put away her notebook.
Rika turned to face the Space Faerie and said, "I just have one more question for you: why are you here in Faerieland, instead of out in space?"
The Space Faerie replied, "Originally I was just going to be down here for the duration of that ill-fated Faerie Festival, then return to space, and I had set up a network of Neopets who would take care of watching certain entities while I was away. As soon as I recovered enough from that petrification spell I contacted those Neopets, and they assured me that all was well, and told me that they had arranged for a few diversions to keep Dr. Sloth from conquering Neopia while we faeries were out of commission. Then Queen Fyora asked me if I would stay here for a while to help with rebuilding Faerieland. I agreed, of course, and set up a diversion of my own to keep Dr. Sloth from taking advantage of my absence."
A mischievous smile spread across Rika's face, and she said, "I heard a rumor that the Space Station has been overrun by a horde of Kookiths..."
The Space Faerie grinned and said, "I will neither confirm nor deny my involvement in that, though I shall forever cherish the thought of Dr. Sloth running in terror from a bunch of Kookiths emerging from a Neocola machine."
The Battle Faerie laughed, and we thanked the two faeries for their assistance and left. On our way to the palace kitchens, we stopped to look at what the air faerie had called "the rather unflattering portrait of Queen Fyora."
"Unflattering is right!" Mist said as we stared at the picture.
Shoya, who knows a bit about art, said, "That style is known as Early Caption Contest, though I do not recall ever seeing this exact picture." She moved closer and said, "I don't see any signature. I wonder who painted it?"
"I wonder why Queen Fyora has it hanging in her palace?" Mist added.
"I don't know," I replied, "but I bet we'd all get turned into Mortogs if we asked her."
We continued on our way down to the palace kitchen, where we found the dinner Queen Fyora had promised us ready and waiting. Rika said she needed to get back to her workshop to work on a way to find out where that tunnel leads, so we packed up our dinner and headed back to HQ. Dusk was just turning to night as we made our way silently through the streets of Faerieland, for we knew it would not be a good idea to discuss the case where anyone could listen in. Rika took her dinner with her into her workshop, and the rest of us sat in the office and ate while discussing the case. When we had gone over everything we knew so far for the fifth time, we decided to call it a night and went to bed.
To be continued...