Friday, September 25, 2020

Worth Searching For, Chapter 18

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7
Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14
Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 Chapter 21
Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32

Hyren had to concede that Brightvale University was a remarkably comfortable place. Its sunny hallways were lined with stained-glass windows that painted the walls with light. Cozy, hidden enclaves had been stuffed with books and cushioned chairs for a secret literary getaway. The university even sported an immense atrium with food vendors offering cuisine from various Neopian lands, and wall-spanning windows that presented a view of the castle town and its outlying countryside. Hyren could see why so many Neopets vied for acceptance into this institution.

After he’d questioned the Brightvale knights in vain, and put in a request for them to keep an ear out for information, he returned to the University to try to keep Blynn out of trouble. During lulls in her mania, he found quiet places to read. While he didn’t outwardly profess to be a scholar like Pharazon did, Hyren couldn’t deny his love of learning, and he had to do something to keep his mind off of everything else. At least waiting for a lead - or for Pharazon to contact Celice again - was bearable in a place like this.

Thankfully, Blynn didn’t break much or arouse the wrath of too many faculty members, and in fact she ended up joining that Neoquest campaign. Her character was a red Mynci bard whose lute-playing produced various effects in battle—and whose antics produced various reactions from her party members.

Even Hyren had to chuckle when the party faced a wandering mummy and Blynn rolled a critical on her entrancing ballad, giving the bard’s song such potency that the mummy began to dance. Unfortunately, the song was so powerful that she accidentally entranced her fellow adventurers as well, leading to an impromptu desert dance party. The other players were breathless from laughter by the end of the encounter.

Once the session had adjourned for the night, Hyren and Blynn met Celice back at her dorm. The Lupe mage was armed to the teeth with books, scrolls, and focussing charms. “And enough Tarragon Achyfi to last me the entire night,” she said, depositing a crate of the soft drink on her desk with a thump. Her white tail hung low in fatigue as she arranged the charms and slumped down in her chair, popping open a can of the noxious-smelling beverage. “When he calls again… I’ll be ready.”

Thanks to the subsequent sugar crash from the Achyfi, she was asleep within the hour.

Hyren couldn’t rest. He sat in one of the chairs near the fireplace, watching the flames dance and listening to the pouring rain outside, wringing out his mind trying to figure out how this would all end. His owner, his best friend was missing, and his brother was in trouble. And the solution was nowhere near as cut-and-dry as Hyren would have liked.

“Not enough pictures,” Blynn said.

Hyren looked up to see the Zafara sitting in the other chair, a large book perched on her lap. Her tail swished lazily between her hind paws.

The disco Zafara wetted her finger with her tongue and turned another page. “I was hoping this was one of the books with the really fancy letters,” she said, “but it’s just lists of potions. And not even the interesting ones. An elixir for untangling yarn, hooray.”

“Mm-hm,” Hyren grunted as he leaned his elbow on the armrest and rested his head in his hand.

“Hey, cheer up, grumpy Grundo,” Blynn said.

Hyren shot her an exasperated look. “Blynn,” he said, “this isn’t a situation that’ll go away if you smile and joke enough about it.”

She frowned and said, “Well… it’s not gonna go away if you mope and moan about it, either. C’mon. Stay positive. That’s what Terra would tell you.”

Her brother gritted his teeth. “Terra,” he hissed, “could be in serious trouble right now, and I have no idea if I’m ever going to see her again, and you want me to stay positive?!

“Yeah, because you’re dragging me down, too!” Blynn replied, slamming the book shut. “You don’t think I’m upset about this? Just focus on how great it’s gonna be to get ‘em back, and save us both the ulcers!”

“But what if we don’t get them back?!” Hyren blurted. “We have to face the reality that there’s a very good chance we’ll—we’ll fail!”

“Stop it!” Blynn cried out, her eyes welling with tears as she pounded her fists on the book. “That’s not true!”

Hyren jumped to his feet and said, “You need to grow up and get a reality check!”

“And you need to shut your face!” Blynn said. She attempted to heave the book at him, but it was far too heavy and it landed halfway between them, its pages crumpled sadly under the weight of its binding. With a sob, the Zafara turned to scramble out the door.

Hyren didn’t attempt to stop her. His anger boiled inside him and he was barely able to grasp the fact that if he lost control of it, he would do something he’d regret. Already he regretted snapping at her like that and upsetting her.

As Blynn’s paw touched the doorknob, Celice stirred. “Ph… Pharazon,” she murmured. The Lupe’s ear flicked and her paws flapped helplessly like she was trying to move in her sleep.

Both siblings froze and Hyren’s anger dispersed. Blynn turned away from the door and crept closer to the slumbering sorceress.

“Mmmmh… Hyren and Blynn… looking for you…” Celice mumbled, her speech slurred. “Confound the weather…” She let out a whine and her tail bristled.

“Should we wake her up?” Hyren whispered.

“That might break her out of the vision,” Blynn said.

After another moment, Celice’s struggling ceased and she seemed to drop back off into dreamlessness. Hyren wasn’t sure if it was wise to wake her yet.

He looked over at his sister. “Blynn… I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just… scared. Something like this hasn’t happened since I met you two. I tried so hard, for years, to protect you guys, and now I’ve failed in that. Maybe the first time was just a fluke.” His antennae drooped.

Blynn wandered over and gave him a fierce hug. “It wasn’t a fluke,” she said. “You’re the best big brother I could ever have. You’ll get ‘em back safely, I know you will.”

Hyren found himself choking back tears. “Aww, blast it,” he muttered with a sniffle. “I hate sappy stuff like this.”

His sister pulled back and wiped away the tears that got free and rolled down his cheeks. “You’re really dumb sometimes, you know that?” she asked.

“More often than I’d like to admit,” Hyren said. “You’re right, though—Terra’s right. I have to stay positive. I won’t let myself slide like that anymore.”

“Atta boy,” Blynn said. “Hold on—I think it’s happening again.”

Celice had begun to make snuffling noises, forming half-word sounds in her muzzle. This time her one-sided conversation was less distinct. Suddenly, her ears perked and she sat bolt upright. “The Werelupe Burrows?!” she yelped. Her eyes opened for a moment, but they were glazed over with sleep and they quickly drifted shut again as she slumped back onto the desk.

Hyren’s smile plummeted. The only memories he had of Werelupes were of seeing them hold Terra prisoner twelve years ago. And then fighting his way through their horde with her in tow. And finally the vicious rage on the Werelupe King’s face as Hyren let go of his cache of faerie weapons and sent the wicked beast plummeting to his doom.

“That’s impossible,” the Grundo breathed. Of course he knew about the Werelupes who had allied with the Darkest Faerie and caused some trouble in the Meridell region in Year 7, but it had been too easy to assume they were a completely different population.

Now, two words presented startling evidence to the contrary. Of course the Werelupe King would have been vengeful if he survived. The pieces of the puzzle fell together all at once and the weight of their solution dropped onto Hyren, making him ill.

Blynn reached over and squeezed his hand. “We will get them back,” she said firmly. “We did it before. We can totally do it again. You’re not in this alone.”

Hyren swallowed his nausea and nodded, trying to convince himself of that. Doubts and fears still made a mess of his mind, but he knew if they did not at least try, they would definitely fail.

He looked back to Celice. “Should we wake her up so she can trace the magic signature or whatever?” he asked.

“Nah, let’s let her sleep,” Blynn said. “We already got a good answer and she’s probably gonna be incoherent from the Achyfi anyway.”

They themselves drifted off shortly afterward, although Hyren shifted in and out of slumber, never able to fully rest. Panic bombarded him every time he was awake and nightmares of Werelupes taunted him when he wasn’t. By morning he was still ill, and at his wits’ end, and he finally allowed Celice to brew him a potion to soothe his frazzled nerves and stomach.

At breakfast, the three sat by themselves in an alcove on the atrium’s fourth-storey mezzanine. It was a grey day, robbing the food court’s stained-glass ceiling of its usual brilliance. But Hyren and Blynn weren’t there to admire the glasswork.

“What makes you so sure they’re the same Werelupes you encountered in the Haunted Woods a decade ago?” Celice asked, cutting daintily into her faerie fried egg.

Hyren swallowed his mouthful of pancakes and bacon and said, “Because a pack of random Werelupes in Meridell would have absolutely no reason to kidnap Terra from all the way in Shenkuu. A pack of Werelupes with a grudge against us would have all the reason in the world. It just makes too much sense.”

“Well, hey, we know where they are, so that’s awesome,” Blynn said. She sipped contentedly at her lemon grape smoothie. “So now we can just go to the Werelupe Burrows, right?”

Celice gazed out the window at the rolling hills and distant mountains, carpeted in barren trees waiting for spring. “In theory, it’s that easy,” she said. “The problem is, not many people actually know where the Burrows were—are located. Somewhere in the greater Meridell region, but that’s a lot of land to cover, still.”

“You said not many people know,” Hyren said, digging his fork into the syrup-moistened pancakes. “That’s different from nobody knowing. So we find someone who knows.”

The Lupe smirked. “You’re in luck, my friends,” she said. “I happen to be old schoolmates with just the person we need. We’ll go talk to her after breakfast. And after I do a little preliminary research. It never hurts to be prepared for these things.”

“Do what you need to,” Hyren said. He’d fed the last of Anshu’s medicine to Gwyneth that morning. He’d more than learned his lesson about being hasty.

“Swell,” Blynn said with an extra-loud slurp from her straw. “Because I have to let the Quest Master know that my bard has been unexpectedly called back to Mystery Island and can no longer continue the quest for the Adamant Pyramid.”

Celice raised an eyebrow and asked, “Oh?”

“Yep. Important stuff,” Blynn said. “She was level seven and had a petpet Lizark that gave her 1d4 extra performing focus, too! That’s okay, the QM told me she’d keep the character sheets in case I ever came back.”

Hyren laughed and said, “Well, it’s nice to know you’ll have something to do while Pharazon’s getting lost in the libraries.” He turned to Celice. “So, who do you know that’s going to be so helpful?”

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7
Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14
Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 Chapter 21
Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28
Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32

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