Kasheera sighed as she looked out onto the Tyrannian Plateau. She saw Chombies, Pteris, and Grarrls, all playing together and laughing in front of the concert hall. "I’ll never be able to do that," Kasheera thought to herself. Her Magtile, Bahtra, curled herself around Kasheera’s foot, providing what little comfort she could. Even though everyone knew that tonus had thick skin, Bahtra knew that Kasheera was feeling lonely. After all, Kasheera and Bahtra only had each other – they would hurt anyone who got too close.
“C’mon, bee.” Kasheera called, turning away from the hustle and bustle of the Tyrannian Plateau to look for some place quiet. Kasheera knew that she couldn’t go down into the Jungle – not since the last time, at least. She thought about how her owner had painted her Magma and then just... left. Not a word, not a sign of her owner, just up and disappeared. All that Kasheera had for company was Bahtra, who had also been painted Magma. Initially, Kasheera had been worried about her owner. What happened? Where had she gone? Soon, the worry turned into pain: what had she done wrong? Was she not loveable anymore? Kasheera knew her owner hadn’t officially abandoned her, but she almost wished that her owner had. After all, anything was better than sitting in limbo.
But now, Kasheera was just quiet and alone. She had accepted that her owner wasn’t coming back. She also accepted that is was just going to be her and Bahtra. Any Neopet that got too close would shirk away from the sheer heat that Kasheera emanated. This made it impossible for Kasheera to play with other Neopets, or even her siblings. She couldn’t go to concerts with her friends, or wreck havoc and play pranks with the resident mischievous Meercas. She smiled as she remembered how much fun they used to have, but the smile quickly disappeared when she remembered the reality of her situation: she would likely never be able to see them again without risking their safety. Last time Kasheera had been down in the jungle, she had nearly burned it to the ground by accidentally bumping into a tree. She shuddered at the thought of what might happen if she accidentally bumped into another Neopet.
Kasheera and Bahtra settled on falling asleep in a cave near some large boulders. There, they could stay out of anyone’s way and perhaps get some rest before continuing on their travels tomorrow. Kasheera wished she had some sort of direction, but the truth is, she and Bahtra were nomads; they were travelers without a home.
Kasheera had just fallen asleep when she thought she felt something. She opened one eye and peered around the cave. Save for the flickering light her own body produced, she did not notice anything out of the ordinary. But there it was, again, it was like a sharp poke. Almost like a peck.
“Hey!” Kasheera barked, spinning around in a circle. She saw no one, but she heard the very distinctive sound of wings… right above her head!
Kasheera looked up and her chest swelled with so many emotions. She was excited and curious and hopeful all at the same time. Her feeling of loneliness quickly began to diminish, and even Bahtra cracked a little smile after seeing Kasheera’s demeanor shift.
“Sorry! Sorry!” tweeted the Pteri, wings still flapping. “Didn’t mean to scare you! My name is Moltinara. I saw some light coming from this cave as I was flying overhead and couldn’t help myself when I saw…” Moltinara’s voice trailed off.
“It’s okay,” responded Kasheera. She was so overwhelmed she could hardly think, but she quickly gathered herself and remembered her manners. “My name is Kasheera, and this is Bahtra. It’s nice to meet you Moltinara.” Bahtra said nothing, but continued looking at Moltinara with a heavy dose of skepticism.
Kasheera looked down at her feet, her horn nearly touching the ground. She had suddenly felt overcome with a mix of anxiety and curiosity. She took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself and gather her thoughts. "Go ahead and ask already," she thought to herself. "You’ve got nothing to lose!"
“Are you… are you like me?” Kasheera asked Moltinara tentatively. She had never met any pet like her in Tyrannia.
“You mean a Moltaran? That’s what they call us Magma pets,” tweeted Moltinara, still flapping in the air. Her flapping produced bursts of air so hot that the area immediately around Moltinara looked a bit hazy and warped.
“A Moltaran… ” Kasheera felt the word in her mouth. She had never conceived that there was a term for what she was, let alone that there were enough pets like her to coin a term!
“Yup! And I’m one too. I’m surprised to find you all the way out here! Most Moltarans stay close to the Moltara Caves. You’re quite a ways away, Kasheera.”
Moltara? Kasheera cocked her head to one side. “What are the Moltara Caves?” she asked.
“What are the Moltara Caves?” sputtered Moltinara. The poor Pteri almost spun out of control from surprise. “It’s where you were painted Magma, duh!”
Kasheera tried to remember when she had been painted Magma. It had been so long ago, and she was still a little fuzzy on how it had happened. She just remembered how loved she felt in the last days before her owner had left her. Kasheera’s eyes welled up as she remembered all the delicious foods her owner had fed her and all the interesting books she had encouraged Kasheera to read. Her owner hadn’t been a bad owner at all. In fact, she had probably been one of the better ones. Kasheera shook her head as if to shake away the thoughts, and then looked back up at Moltinara. “I’m sorry, you’re the first one like me that I’ve ever met. I don’t remember any caves. Can you tell me more about them?”
Moltinara felt a little sad for Kasheera. She wondered what it had been like for the poor tonu: to grow up in a world where she wasn’t close to other pets like her, to not even know what the Magma Caves were! Moltinara had flown over numerous lands and across oceans, and had never once met another Moltaran outside of Moltara City and the Caves. She found a small ledge to perch in the cave, giving her wings a rest.
“Moltara City is a land underneath Neopia. We rely heavily on obsidian and the lava rivers as our natural resources. We also rely on our engineers to do most of the math and science so that we can use our resources effectively. Underneath Moltara City are the Moltara Caves, where the larger portion of the population lives. Most everyone in the Moltara Caves are painted Magma, and because it’s so hot down there, they never have to worry about the same things that they might worry about on the surface.” Kasheera nodded her head – she knew Moltinara was trying to be careful with her words, but Kasheera wasn’t hurt. She knew what the consequences were for being painted Magma. For as long as she remembered, she had to be careful whenever she took a step. Kasheera couldn't even begin to imagine a world where she didn't have to constantly worry.
“Actually,” Moltinara paused for a second before continuing with her thought, “We could really use someone like you.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kasheera. She had never thought that she could be useful – after her owner disappeared, her only usefulness was being able to stay warm wherever she went and accidentally starting fires. Neither of these skills were particularly sought after in Tyrannia, her birthplace, and she couldn’t imagine that they were sought after anywhere else.
“Well, the Mayor of Moltara is looking to expand the city. He’s seeking time travelers that can withstand our high temperatures while also being able to interact with other Neopets. He’s also called for engineers, builders, runners, tamers, and pets with military experience. We’ve found pets to fill some of the roles, but we’re missing one big one.”
“What role is that?” Kasheera was astonished at all the opportunities that she could have in this mystical world of Moltara. She could be a time traveler! Or she could be a runner, whatever that was. Either way, Kasheera’s spirits rose as she realized she was good for more than hurting other Neopets.
“Well, Igneot has asked me to search the land for an apprentice. He is seeking someone who can learn from him and pass on his knowledge and mastery of Magma to others.” Moltinara paused again. “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about you… would you be interested in at least meeting with Igneot? You might just be exactly what he is looking for.”
Kasheera was hardly unable to contain her excitement. Being able to work with other Neopets? It was everything she had dreamed of since her owner had left her and Bahtra. Kasheera looked down at her best friend. She and Bahtra had practically been together since birth – inseparable even in the most trying of times. In fact, Bahtra had insisted on being painted Magma just so that she and Kasheera could continue playing together. Kasheera knew that Bahtra had sacrificed being able to play with other petpets just to stay close to Kasheera, but Bahtra would never admit it. She hoped that her best friend would join her for this new adventure, even if it meant leaving behind everything they had ever known. But, Kasheera knew that no matter how much she might want to meet this Igneot person, she would never go if Bahtra felt uncertain about it.
Bahtra pressed her head against Kasheera’s cheek, closing her eyes. The two didn’t have to say anything- they could understand each other without needing to speak. Bahtra withdrew first and looked right into Kasheera’s eyes and nodded, as if to say "Yes, go. I will be with you every step of the way." Kasheera had always been grateful to have Bahtra by her side, but was especially grateful to know that her best friend would join her no matter where she went.
Turning back to Moltinara, Kasheera smiled. “When do we leave?”
For days, the group journeyed to the Moltara Caves, being careful to cause as little damage as possible to the land on which they touched. Moltinara flew a little higher to check for potential obstacles and Neopets who had gotten lost. Bahtra sat atop Kasheera’s voluminous, fiery mane, enjoying the view and the free ride. Kasheera just put one foot in front of the other, finally feeling as though she had a purpose. She imagined what life would be like in Moltara: what kind of friends she would have, the kind of games she could play, and the kind of work she might be doing as an apprentice.
After what seemed like weeks, the three arrived at the edge of Moltara City. They took a break for a moment, and Kasheera sat in awe. She was a long, long way from Tyrannia. She hadn’t even said goodbye to her friends and siblings – there wasn’t much point anyway, seeing as she couldn’t hug them without hurting them. She still hoped that they were happy and healthy, but her heart didn’t ache the way that it used to. Soon, Kasheera’s thoughts turned back to her old owner. She wondered what her owner would think if she could see her now. "She’d be proud," Kasheera thought to herself. Her owner had always encouraged Kasheera to read more books, to train a little longer, and to always share whatever she had with others. Kasheera hoped that now, she could resume all of that under the guidance of Igneot. "Even if I don’t become an apprentice," Kasheera thought to herself, "I can still find a place in this city. No, I will definitely find a place in this city."
First, the group descended down into Moltara City. Moltinara led the way, with Kasheera following directly behind and Bahtra slithering by Kasheera’s side. They could hear the banging and clanking get louder as they got closer and closer to the City. “That’s Tangor’s Workshop,” tweeted Moltinara. “And over there is the Molten Morsel’s factory,” she pointed in the direction of a small factory pumping away. “We can go there for lunch tomorrow, if you’re not too busy with Igneot.”
They finally crossed the city center and passed through a doorway, marked with a very simple sign directing persons to the Caves. As they descended further, Kasheera felt the heat rise – but not in an uncomfortable way. The group followed the only path further down, sometimes disappearing into complete darkness, until they finally broke out into what looked like an ancient city. The caves were small, but there were many, and they were all lit by the glow of the Magma that ran the city. Moltinara directed them to the left, towards the great Igneot. Igneot lived in a modest cavern with a unique symbol in front of the doorway: a small spiral. Moltinara saw that Kasheera was staring at it, “It’s a ward to encourage health and safety to all who enter. Don’t forget to wipe your feet on the doormat!”
Moltinara flew ahead and opened the curtain with her beak, allowing Kasheera and Bahtra to pass through. When they entered, Kasheera had to stop for a moment to take everything in: the skull that hung above the fireplace, the pile of obsidian in the corner, and a bright Magma Gnorbu who sat at a rock table. He had his back to the group, and seemed to be focusing his energy into a perfectly spherical rock on the table. Kasheera thought she heard him muttering something under his breath, but couldn’t quite make it out. The group of adventurers stood quietly, waiting to be acknowledged by the mystic. Finally, the old Gnorbu fell quiet and dropped his hands from the sphere. He slowly turned around.
“Hello Kasheera. I’m glad to see that you’ve come to Moltara.” He turned to Moltinara, “Thank you for your services.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black bag. Moltinara took the bag with her beak, nodded at Kasheera and Bahtra, and left without another word.
“H – how did you know my name?” asked Kasheera, still overwhelmed with everything she had seen.
“It has been foreseen,” he responded solemnly. “Come, it is time for you to start your lessons.”
Kasheera hesitated only for a moment, looking down at Bahtra. Bahtra nudged Kasheera’s foot with her head, encouraging her to join the mystic and begin her lessons – whatever that meant. Bahtra watched her friend follow the mystic to the back room, and once satisfied, Bahtra slithered up the table and wrapped herself around the still-glowing sphere. Bahtra was no mystic, but even she knew that Kasheera would find a way to be happy here. Even though Kasheera did not know this old Gnorbu, even though she was in a strange place with new people and unfamiliar technology, Kasheera knew in her heart that she was exactly where she as supposed to be. For the first time since her owner had left, Kasheera felt like she was at home.