..."The swamp where we first found the three of you. I was angry that I couldn't find the source when we were searching. The whole area was saturated with trace magic that I lost the trail. That's why I took Melissa, because I was just so sick of the curse. I wanted to be rid of it, one way or another, and I let my greed get the better of me," Morose explained, hanging his head.
"That's okay," Melissa said, putting a hand on Morose's shoulder. "We'll help you!"
"Y-you will?" Morose asked, shocked that she would even offer after all he had put her through. "But how? If I couldn't trace the magic, then surely you -"
"Since the curse has been existing, surely there will be some physical proof. An item left behind to catalyze the magic, or maybe even the caster themselves," Malice reasoned. "We couldn't find it when there were two of us, but now that we are five, we may stand a chance."
"Then what are we waiting for?" Ben asked. "Let's get looking!"
The Kougra siblings couldn't help but shiver when they got back to the swamp, and it wasn't because of the cold and rain. It was just a few hours ago at this very place that their problems had started.
"Keep an eye out," Morose instructed. "I have no idea who would have wanted to curse our village, so therefore we could be looking for anything or anyone that is out of place."
Ben and Melissa nodded. Eliza, however, was staring ahead through glazed eyes with a determined look on her face. Ben touched his sister's shoulder. "Are you okay? You've been quiet since we left."
Eliza shook her head. "I'm fine. I'm just thinking. When we needed to find Melissa, I had a vision, so I thought if I concentrated hard enough, I could have another vision to show me what we're looking for. But it's not working, no matter how hard I think about it."
"Don't stress yourself out over it. You can't make them appear," Ben reminded her. "Just search normally and if it happens, then it happens. If not, then, well, we didn't need a vision anyway."
"I guess you're right. Thanks, Ben," Eliza replied.
It was slow going looking through everything. At one point, Malice asked worriedly if maybe the item they were looking for was hidden beneath the murky waters.
"Let's just keep looking above-ground first," Eliza replied, grimacing at the bubbling swamp water and feeling no desire to go swimming in it.
Eventually the silence was rent by Melissa's excited cry. "I found something, I think this might be it!"
The other four converged on her and saw that she was holding something lumpy and grayish-green with a note taped to it. Malice took the note and read it aloud:
"You probably don't know who I am, and as time goes by I expect you to remember even less. Just know that despite your angst, your town truly does deserve its curse. However, I am tired. Tired of maintaining the spell of at the expense of my own energy, tired of seeing the two of you mope around without even trying to solve your dilemma, tired of watching you drag other innocent Neopians into this. So I will offer you this option: if you can remember who I am and how you wronged me, and if you apologize for it, I will end the curse. Do not look for me; merely speaking the words aloud will be enough."
Morose frowned as Malice finished reading. "It's been thirty years, how are we supposed to remember someone we wronged so long ago?" he fretted.
Eliza gasped; a jolt of what felt like electricity had shot through her head. She was in the village again, but it was livelier - or at least the homes all had lights on and shadows moving in the windows. "It's late at night ... stormy, very stormy and cold. A figure is going door to door ... it never stays at one door for long ... it's at the cottage, the door opens ... it's Morose ... there's magic, the figure flees ... I hear crying."
Morose gasped. "I think I remember now. It was very stormy and a girl knocked at our door. She was frantic, wondering if we had seen her favorite plushie. She wanted to come inside to see if it was in our cottage - we'd never met her so of course I didn't allow it. I thought it was a ruse, that she was up to something devious. Who would go out in the middle of a storm looking for a plushie? So I sent her away."
Eliza looked at the lump in Melissa's hands and could just make out faded features on it. "But she was looking for a plushie all along. This plushie. She was scared and cold out in the storm and worried about her favorite toy, but one would help her find it."
Morose took the old plushie from Melissa and stared at it. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for not believing you. I'm sorry for blasting you away when I should have helped. We do deserve to be cursed for our rudeness, myself in particular. I understand that now, and I am deeply sorry."
"I'm sorry too," Malice murmured. "I believed Morose when he told me you were just some loony without even bothering to talk to you myself. We shouldn't have brushed you off like that. Please forgive us."
Miraculously, the plushie began to glow in Morose's hands. He and Malice both felt as if a weight had been lifted from them. The light then faded.
"Let's head back to the village and see if anything's changed!" Ben cried.
Back at the village, the Neopians were greeted with the sight of other Neopets walking out of the various houses, rubbing their heads and generally looking confused.
"It's like waking up from a deep sleep. What happened? Why is everything such a mess?" they overheard a Kyrii say as they walked past.
"I can't thank you enough for your help," Malice told Eliza, Ben, and Melissa.
"Indeed. Even after all I put you through, you still helped our village. I can never repay you," Morose added. "You've taught me to be a better Neopian, that is for sure."
"It was no trouble - well, maybe it was a little trouble, but everything worked out in the end, right?" Eliza said with a smile.
"That it did." Malice returned the smile.
"What are you going to do now?" Ben asked.
"Try and rebuild as much as possible. It will be rough, explaining to everyone that they've lost thirty years, but I think we will be fine. Feel free to visit at any time, our door will always be open for you," Morose offered.
"We will!" Melissa replied.
"And the plushie?" Eliza asked, gesturing to the toy that Morose was still carrying.
"I think I'll hold onto it, just in case someone comes looking for a plushie on a cold, stormy night. Next time, I will do the right thing."