An Unlikely Group of Heroes: Part One
"Today is yet another unbelievably boring day in my unbelievably boring life," I complained to Callista. She nodded her head, half-listening, as she took another bite of her frozen yogurt.
"I understand," she spat through a mouth full of yogurt, "but remember, you wanted to move down here. You were the one who was just begging for something new to come into your life. So here it is. Yogurt?"
I shook my head. "No, Cal, it's not that. I mean, when I said I wanted something new, I meant adventure! Something to spice up my life! Instead, my mom moves us to Brightvale. Nothing ever happens here. It's probably the dullest place in Neopia."
"You want spice? Here." The Red Usul tossed me a red scorchipepper. I glared at her and placed the pepper back in a glass bowl on the counter
"I am not amused," I seethed.
"Well, I thought it was quite funny," Callista continued, finishing off the last of her frozen yogurt and leaving the bowl and spoon in the kitchen sink. "Come on, let's go. We have a field trip today, remember? Mr. Norbis told us to be at school bright and early."
* * * * *
"Well, now, kids. We have a great surprise today! We're going on a field trip!" Mr. Norbis, a Green Nimmo, smiled brightly at us as he rapped his pen against his clipboard and fumbled to put his glasses on properly. "Isn't this a great surprise?"
"No, Mr. Norbis. You told us last week about this." Callista rolled her eyes and took a bite of her green apple. "You said we're going to take a tour of Meridell."
"Right you are, my dear Catrina!"
"Of course, Catalina." Mr. Norbis grinned at us. "I know you folks probably haven't been around Meridell all that much—"
"Yeah, we only live here," interjected a rather scrawny-looking Blue Lupe.
Mr. Norbis bobbed his head and continued beaming. Apparently he had not picked up on the sarcasm. "Yes, yes, quite right. We'll be going to Turmaculus, and we'll get to race some Turdles, and pick some berries, and kiss those Mortogs, and play that game everybody's been raving about—Ultimate Bullseye! Doesn't that sound fun?"
"Anything sounds more fun than math," Callista muttered to me as we slowly made our way down the winding dirt paths of Meridell.
* * * * *
It was around noontime when we finally stopped for lunch. After a more exhausting than fun morning, both Callista and I decided that Mr. Norbis was far too much of a bother to spend any time with outside of the classroom.
"He must've been a real bother for his mother, don't you think, Shirls?" Callista was juggling three large, fresh-out-of-the-oven hot cross buns while I held a sad-looking bowl of porridge.
I bobbed my head, my Royalgirl Aisha ears jiggling up and down. "Did you see him, all excited after he found that old boot at Meri Acre Farm? I swear that Gelert thought Mr. Norbis wasn't completely right in the head."
Callista giggled. "And when he accidentally set the Mortogs loose? Why, I don't think he'll be invited back there anytime soon." She took a big bite out of her hot crossed buns as I vehemently agreed.
Mr. Norbis was busy setting up a nice picnicking area for the class, spreading out an array of loaves of bread, porridge, soup, and various types of fruits, vegetables, and potatoes. We wandered a bit father away from the class and chose a cozy place for lunch, a spot under the comforting shade of a leafy tree right next to the Mysterious Symol Hole.
I peered down the hole. "You think there's actually a Symol down there? Maybe it's just a big hoax so Meridell will get more visitors. Let’s face it, there’s not much to do around here."
Callista shrugged her shoulders and took another large chunk out of her hot crossed buns. I glared at her. "Must you always be eating?"
I turned and looked at my lunch. It wasn't much, I thought, certainly a lot less satisfying than the meals I had in Neopia Central. Oh how I wished I could have a cold kiwi smoothie and one of Hubert's hot dogs just then. Sighing, I prodded at my porridge with my spoon.
"Just eat it," Callista insisted, already done with her lunch.
She lay back and admired the view. It was a mighty fine view, I had to admit; a little too green for my taste, but pretty nonetheless. To the left we could see the heaving body of Turmaculus, and a rather nervous Miamouse inching up to poke him. She was clearly afraid of being eaten by the beast, but her owner was adamant that she approach. I simply couldn’t fathom how some Neopets could be so cruel and heartless. Ahead of us was Illusen's Glade, half-hidden in the shadows of the forest. Illusen was, perhaps, my favorite part about moving to Brightvale. I had yet to meet the Earth Faerie, but I was hopeful that one day I would. I was a huge fan of hers.
It was during one of my daydreams (one where I, alongside Illusen and other heroes of mine, helped save Meridell, and all of Neopia, from the treacherous evils of a as-of-yet unidentified force) when I noticed something seemed rather odd about the cottage. The Glade, which was usually bustling with activity—the faerie humming as she offered quests to eager Neopets, singing as she gathered flowers from her garden for her potions, offering soothing words to injured pets as she treated them—looked rather empty. The windows were dark, and the place seemed deserted. I had never seen the house during the daytime with the lights out. Even when Illusen was out running errands, she usually had a faithful assistant tending her hut, keeping on top of things. I pointed this out to Callista.
"Calm down, I'm sure Illusen's all right. Let's go check."
Together we strolled up to Illusen's Glade. I was about to knock when Callista stopped me. "No, silly! Don't you ever read books? You have to be stealthy about it. Like so."
She crept up to a window and, with a leap, grabbed onto the ledge. Carefully, and with much effort, she pulled herself up and peered inside.
"That's weird. The back door's open." She hopped down and proceeded around to the back. I followed her, cautiously. Callista did not seem to fear anything, to worry at all. I, however, was full of anxiety.
"Cal, I don't think this is such a great idea."
"Chill. It'll all be fine."
We'd reached the back of the cottage by then and arrived at a clearing in the forest. A small nest of leaves was situated in the center, where Illusen perched during most daytimes to greet those who came to complete her quests. It was empty, though, the leaves scattered and trampled on.
"That's weird," Callista muttered, turning on her heels and marching into the house.
"Wait!" I yelled after her. "This is trespassing!"
Callista rolled her eyes. "No it's not! The door's open!"
I was about to protest, but I knew Callista better than to attempt to argue with her. She was quite the stubborn little Usul. I entered after her, feeling rather disappointed with myself. It felt wrong to be in Illusen's cottage without the faerie’s permission.
Callista stood in the middle of the room, looking around. There were a few doorways to other parts of the cottage, no doubt her bedroom, and a kitchen, and probably a place where she kept her potion ingredients and food items. Then, of course, there was the rumored cavern beneath the glade, full of treasures; there had to be an entrance to there somewhere.
I gazed at the different trinkets on the shelves around the room. I surveyed the intricate stitching on a certain pillow on her sofa, the perfect brushes on various paintings around the room.
"Wow, this is really good!" I gushed about one picture that perfectly depicted the view from Illusen's window. "This should belong in the Art Gallery. I went to the Art Centre with my mother once, and it was pretty neat. Some of the pictures were really beautiful. I wish I could paint like that. Don't you, Callista?"
I turned around immediately. Callista never called me Shirley, ever. Not even when she found out her brother had taken her petpet and gone to Turmaculus with it. Not even when she'd fallen from the big tree in her backyard and broken her arm. Not even when she'd come down with Bloaty Belly and Fuzzitus simultaneously. Shirley was something reserved for the direst of the direst of situations.
"Shirley. I think Illusen's in trouble."
"What?" I half-sobbed. "No, Illusen's strong! She's brave, and she's smart! She can get out of any situation. She can't be in trouble!"
Callista shoved a note in my face. With a trembling paw, I took it and slowly began to read it.
To be continued...