The Magical Rubber Duck: Part Three
Carissa was dumbfounded. It took her a few seconds to regain her surroundings.
“What?!” Carissa rushed over and knelt, looking at her pack. “It can’t be! I’m absolutely, positively sure that these were neopoints!” Her eyes depicted unmistakable panic.
“Hey! Stop, you dirty thieves!”
The group whirled around to find the shopkeeper pointing at them.
“You cheated me!” he shrieked, holding up a handful of rocks. “Come back here, you filthy robbers!” The Techo drew a spear from a nearby stand and started rushing towards them, followed closely by two Lupes who also donned spears.
“Uh-oh...” Carissa breathed, clearly terrified. “We have to go.” She quickly spilled the rocks on the ground and the three of them sprinted for their lives.
They rushed through the forest shrubbery, ignoring the scratches and scrapes they got from brushing past thorny branches and vines. Everywhere they ran, they could hear skittering and crawling of small, unseen petpets scurrying out of the way.
After about thirty seconds of running, Blaze pulled them both behind a wide tree trunk, listening carefully as the fast approaching footsteps grew louder and finally faded away. All three strained to suppress their breathing, fearing the slightest noise might give away their location.
After what seemed like an eternity, Blaze craned his neck and peeked around the tree trunk. “I think we lost him,” he said with a sigh of relief. Aleena and Carissa let out a long, deep breath that they had apparently been holding in fear of making noise. Blaze glared at Carissa.
“No repercussions, eh?” Blaze fumed. “What did I tell you?!”
“I was hungry,” Carissa stated stubbornly, crossing her arms and avoiding Blaze’s steely gaze.
“HUNGRY?! WE ALMOST GOT KILLED!” Blaze shouted indignantly.
Carissa stayed silent.
Aleena put a paw on Blaze’s shoulder. “What’s done is done,” she said soothingly. “Let’s just eat.”
Silently relieved, Carissa slowly slipped off her backpack and retrieved her Nurako. “EEEK!” she shrieked.
Blaze and Aleena quickly turned their heads to look. The Nurako was black and rotten.
“What happened?” Carissa was alarmed. “How did this get rotten?”
Blaze pulled out his Nurako. It was black and moldy. “It’s that rubber duck’s doing,” he stated, trying to control his seething fury.
“But I didn’t wish for a Nurako!” Carissa looked pleadingly at the other two. “I wished for neopoints!”
“But we bought it with those neopoints!” Blaze said angrily. “There is always, always a catch to magic!”
Carissa knelt down, put her face in her paws, and started whimpering. “I didn’t mean to do this...” she managed between sniffles.
For the first time that day, Blaze felt pity for Carissa. “It’s okay,” he assured Carissa.
Aleena walked over to Carissa and put her hand on Carissa’s shoulder. “We’ll get through this, together,” she said with a warm smile.
Carissa lifted her head from her paws. “Thank you,” she said, returning the smile.
All of a sudden, Aleena’s expression changed from friendly to shocked.
“Wha... what is it?” Carissa seemed slightly alarmed.
“Your wings...” Aleena pointed.
Carissa turned her neck. “EEEK!” Her wings had splotches of dark purple on them and it was slowly spreading. “What’s happening?” Carissa looked as if she might cry again.
Blaze eyed Carissa with an uneasy expression. “There are splotches of dark purple on your fur as well,” he said, slowly backing away.
“Wait... am I turning purple again?” Carissa asked, looking from one companion to another, tears sparkling in the corner of her eyes.
“No...” Blaze was obviously contemplating a thought. “The shade is too dark.” He looked at Aleena, alarmed.
“You’re turning Darigan.”
“WHAT?!” The terror is Carissa’s eyes could not by mistaken. “No! NO! This can’t happen to me.” Carissa once again started to whimper.
“Carissa, you brought this upon yourself...” Blaze said carefully.
“I KNOW WHAT I DID, OKAY?!” Carissa was wailing with tears now. “There has to be some way to stop this... please help me.” Carissa looked pleadingly in the eyes of her friends.
Aleena looked at Blaze in desperation before saying, “Carissa, we’ll try our best, but the fact of the matter is...” Aleena was silent in sorrow.
“What Aleena is trying to say, is that there may not be a way to reverse this,” Blaze finished. “I’m sorry.”
Carissa was crestfallen. Once again, Carissa cradled her head in her paws and bawled, waterfalls streaming down from her eyes.
“Wait,” Aleena said. “There may be a way... What if we returned the rubber duck to the pedestal?”
Carissa slowly looked up. “Would that work?” Hope had sparked in her eyes.
Blaze thought carefully. “It’s worth a try, but there is one problem...” Blaze paused.
“The tomb isn’t even there anymore.”
Carissa once again looked discouraged. “This is all my fault...” she whispered to herself.
Aleena looked from Carissa to Blaze. “Actually, she wished it was never ‘here’. However, we still have the duck, so it has to be somewhere, or the duck wouldn’t exist. It might be in a different spot – there instead of here.”
Aleena’s suggestion sparked a tingle of hope in Carissa. “Yeah, you’re right!”
Blaze thought about this. “Okay, let’s say it is somewhere. How do we find it?”
“Well, there aren’t many places for a large tomb to appear,” Carissa offered.
“True,” Aleena contemplated. “We just have to look in the less crowded parts of the jungles of Geraptiku where a tomb that large could fit!”
“That’s it!” Carissa jumped up.”Come on! Let’s go!” The group shouldered their backpacks and took off without another word.
Blaze eyed the setting sun on the far horizon. “Come on, guys, we have to hurry. It will be even harder to find it at night.”
“Not to mention more dangerous...” Aleena added. She glanced at the elongated shadows of the jungle trees, caused by the angle of the sun.
“Hey! Look at this!” Blaze exclaimed. Aleena and Carissa turned and found Blaze running his hand over a withered tree. “Look at this tree. It must have been affected by the magic. The tomb can’t be far.”
“Let’s hurry,” Carissa egged them on. Her wings had already turned to a deep purple and the veins on her wings were colored an ominous black. Her fur was almost all dark purple and it was growing unkempt and jagged in some parts.
The trio rushed deeper into the cluster of withered trees, dried leaves and twigs snapping under their paws.
“There! I think that’s it!” Aleena exclaimed, pressing forward. Surely enough, the gargantuan, weathered tomb could be seen coming into view as the group neared it.
They slowed to a stop at the front of the tomb. “The door isn’t open,” Carissa moaned in desperation.
“Guys! This way!” Aleena called from the other side of the tomb. As Blaze and Carissa rounded the corner, they found Aleena standing in front of a small gap in the tomb wall, just small enough for someone to crawl through. A small tunnel lay at the other side of the hole in the wall.
“I’ll go first,” offered Blaze. No one turned him down. Blaze crouched down, holding his backpack in front of him, and slowly inched forward with his elbows. A minute or so passed when his voice finally echoed through the tunnel. “Alright! I’m in.”
I took five or so minutes for the other two to squirm through. Carissa, the last one through, drew in her breath, making herself as tiny as possible as Aleena and Blaze tugged her out. After Carissa was finally pulled out of the small tunnel, they all collapsed on the floor, breathless.
“We have to keep moving,” Aleena said between hurried breathing. She glanced at Carissa whose eyes were already starting to turn a deep red. The threesome got to their feet and rushed down the corridor to which the tunnel had led them.
“That tunnel must have been a shortcut,” Blaze panted. “I recognize this place. It took hours to get here from the main entrance.”
Skittering was heard as small critters scurried to hide from the pounding of multiple paws coming their way.
Aleena ducked under a cobweb. “There! That’s the door!”
“We have to find the brick that opens the door!” Carissa exclaimed. She began pushing on random bricks.
“Carissa, do you remember where you leaned when you accidentally triggered the switch?” Aleena inquired.
“No, but... wait... here it is.” The sound of stone sliding against stone was heard as the door shot upwards and dust clouded the air.
The three friends rushed through the dust cloud and into the room. “There!” Blaze pointed at the empty pedestal.
Carissa fished the rubber duck out of her backpack and scrambled toward the pedestal. She stopped before the pedestal, hesitating. The all-too-familiar tingle came over her as she approached the pedestal. Did she really want to abandon this magical rubber duck? Did she really wish to leave behind the magnificent sensation of using magic? Would she ever regret it?
“CARISSA!” Aleena shouted. “Do it!”
Carissa looked doubtfully at Aleena.
“Carissa, horrible things will happen if we keep that thing any longer! Return it to its rightful place. Please!”
Carissa looked in the eyes of her two friends. She could see in their eyes that they were pleading her with all their heart. Carissa backed away from the pedestal.
“Carissa, please!” Blaze and Aleena begged in unison.
That snapped Carissa out of her trance. Who needed some silly magic item when you had friends like Blaze and Aleena? Carissa stepped forward boldly and gently placed the duck back in the center of the pedestal.
Ever so slowly, Carissa let go.
Immediately there was a brilliant, blinding flash of light as the veil of magic was lifted from all it touched.
Carissa felt herself falling backwards slowly, as if time had slowed. Falling... falling... until she was caught. Carissa slowly opened her eyes. Blaze and Aleena were smiling at her. They had caught her.
Carissa slowly sat up. “What happened?” she asked, a bit dazed.
“Everything’s back to normal,” Aleena assured her.
Carissa looked at her arm. It was the nice, familiar purple she was used to. “You know, I think I like myself better purple than any other way,” she said, smiling warmly.
At that moment, a crumbling sound was heard, followed by the sound of rocks falling on the ground and finally ending in a brilliant ray of light that shone brightly in the room.
The three friends, shielding their eyes, looked at what had happened. Part of the wall had crumbled, granting them an easy exit from the tomb.
“The tomb is just letting us go?” Carissa asked, still a bit tired.
“Yes it is,” Aleena mused. “Part of me just thinks that the rubber duck was a test. A test of our friendship...”
“Maybe,” Blaze mused. “I wouldn’t count anything out after today.”
“Hey, I thought it was sunset when we were last outside,” Carissa observed.
“Maybe it was all a dream,” Aleena suggested.
“Maybe you’re right,” Carissa said to Aleena. “Maybe it was a test of our friendship.”
The group moved towards the light slowly, watching the shadows creep farther back into the room the closer they got.
They finally reached the doorway and peeked out into the nice, peaceful jungle of Geraptiku. Sunlight shone on them, making them feel warm and cozy.
“You know, maybe you were right,” Carissa admitted to Blaze. “Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.”
The three broke into laughter as they casually strolled on together underneath the smiling, radiant sun.