The Poogle Apprentice
He is the Poogle Apprentice.
He can perform only two spells, but they are all that is needed: a shrinking spell and a simple teleportation spell. He must use them to battle Hubrid Nox, to save Neopia, to obey his master’s final wish as he was transformed by Hubrid Nox’s spell.
He is Solus.
He defeats a JubJub, a Lupe, a Kacheek, a Shoyru. He does not know how long he has been fighting, shrinking, dropping little Neopets in jars.
He is the last hope.
The last Lupe drops a key as he shrinks. He uses it to unlock the door holding Magnus the Torch.
“Thank you.” And he is gone.
Chias, now. And circular rooms, where if you fall through the trapdoors in the floor you’ll find yourself falling from the ceiling. He continues.
No key this time. He uses a sliver of the bone one of the Lupes threw at him to pick the lock holding Jeran of Meridell.
“You have my thanks.” And he, too, vanishes, sent home by the Poogle’s spell.
The Faerie’s voice rings in his ears.
“You’ll never find them!”
“But I will,” he whispers.
It’s harder this time. More enemies, the ones he finds fight harder. The Faerie fires more orbs of magic. And there are no keys.
He tries to pick the lock. The prisoner - Master Vex, who guards prisoners - reaches through the bars and grips the sliver of bone. The lock springs open.
“Thank you, apprentice.” And the purple Mynci is returned to his dungeons.
It’s colder. The voices are louder.
“Blind luck! It won’t happen again!”
“You’ll never succeed!”
“How do you intend to get them out, anyway?”
“Yes, it will. Of course I will. The same way I did the other three.” He knows the answers, but why can he not convince himself?
“Blind luck will not repeat itself!”
“How do you know?”
“What makes you think it worked?”
He tunes them out and continues. The enemies are stronger. Fewer Kacheeks and JubJubs, more Lupes and Shoyrus and Chias. They fight harder. The Faerie fires even more orbs.
His bone sliver snaps in the door. He chooses another one. The door pops open, and Illusen steps out.
“Thank you.” She infuses the Poogle Apprentice with energy before being sent home.
The voices are more insistent now. He cannot tune them out. He tries to simply ignore them.
A crossroads stands before him. A long corridor turns one way. He cannot see the end. Another corridor continues ahead. He sees a flicker of blue, an Aisha paw, peeking through a door. His sister’s voice enters the mix.
“Please, Solus, just give it up, it’s not worth it!”
His little brother’s voice joins in.
His mother’s voice melds in.
“Please, little one. Please!”
“You’re not them,” he whispers. And he continues down the straight corridor.
His bone pick melts when it touches the lock. He grimaces and smashes his wand against it. The lock shatters with the impact. Jerdana looks up and smiles.
“Thank you for coming for me.” She is sent to her home, to Altador.
He has no home now. The Master is gone, one of the shrunken Lupes milling around in his jar. He has no home, nowhere to go when he has defeated Hubrid Nox.
The enemies are fighting as hard as they can now, he can tell. The Faerie vanishes only when her magic is spent, so that she can recharge it before returning again to fire the dark orbs. He has no shortage of bone shards.
One of the Lupes has deep yellow eyes, eyes like the Master’s. Somehow he can tell - this is the Master. He shrinks it and puts it in a separate jar. It’s the least he can do, after what the Master did for him: took him in after his family was destroyed during the Battle for Meridell (even if he did trip over the Poogle on his way to get some vegetables from the garden), taught him magic, and countless other small things.
The corridor branches ahead. Voices tug at him, tempting him down the left branch, pulling him ahead.
He turns right. There are no enemies here.
He doesn’t know what that means.
It gets colder. He’s going deeper underground. A thin layer of ice grows on the walls, then thickens. Scorch marks scar the walls. Whoever is down here, they fought hard to not be.
Fyora is inside the cell.
He puts his bone pick in the lock, only to have it explode in his hand. Pain sears upwards from his palm.
“It won’t work,” Fyora whispers. “Hubrid Nox has the only key.” He can tell that the Faerie is in pain.
“Then I will defeat him,” Solus says. “And I will come back for you.” He leaves the jar containing the Master by the Faerie Queen’s cell.
He retraces his steps. This time, as before, he takes the corridor on the right. Here there are enemies. He defeats them, dropping them in the jar. Finally, he finds two Gelert guards with spears. They fight hard. One spears him in the ribs. It is stopped from entering further by his ribcage, but still painful. He shrinks them and deposits them in the jar. The gates slide open, and he enters.
Hubrid Nox is waiting for him.
His pawsteps echo, painfully loud in the great hall. It appears to be made of polished obsidian, with a ruby throne at the end. A Chia sits in it.
The Chia laughs.
“Hello! I’m amazed you got this far. My guards would have stopped most Neopets. But no matter. I can deal with you myself.” He flies up out of the throne and creates a cloud to sit on. The Faerie appears at his side.
“Take him,” Hubrid Nox commands. The Faerie nods and fires an orb of energy. The Poogle dodges. Using his spell, he shrinks the Faerie and dumps her into a crack between the throne and the wall. Hubrid Nox looks impressed.
“I’m surprised. Not many could take on the Lady Iniquity and live. I have a deal to offer you, apprentice.”
Solus pauses to listen.
“I could use more Neopets like you in my army. I’ll make you a general, even restore your master, on one condition.”
“What?” the Poogle inquires suspiciously.
“That you recapture all the prisoners you let loose, and the other ones I’m going to have you find.”
The apprentice considers it. It’s a nice offer. But what about Jeran, and Illusen, and Magnus the Torch? the voice in his head whispers. He sighs. He knows the voice is correct.
“And?” the Chia proposes impatiently. The Poogle sighs. He knows Nox won’t let him go without a fight when his offer is refused.
The Chia snarls and throws a bolt of lightning at him. It nicks his burned arm, sending pain flaring through his muscles. The Poogle apprentice whispers the keyword for the teleportation spell, sending himself onto Hubrid Nox’s cloud. The Chia jerks in surprise and spins, ready to knock him off the cloud. As Solus names the spell keyword, he is knocked off the cloud, and he falls.
Agony explodes through his leg as he makes contact with the ground. An angry Chia floats above his nose, and the Poogle stuffs him in the jar. His leg is broken, he knows. Gripping the key, he drags himself down the passage and to the Faerie Queen’s cell.
She exclaims when she sees him, bloody and battered and dragging himself down the passage with one leg trailing limply behind. He stuffs the key in the lock and pulls the door open. As Fyora steps out he lets the darkness dragging at him take his body, and falls gratefully into the empty, painless night.
The yellow Poogle stumbles down the streets. Seeing a doorstep with an overhanging roof, he crouches there. He tries not to remember what has happened to his family mere hours ago - the fire, the screams, the knowledge that he must run, run, and never come back to his home.
He drops off to sleep, still crouching in the doorway.
The Poogle awakes with a start as a foot catches on his arm. The owner of the foot whispers something and stops himself in mid-fall. The Poogle jumps to his feet and begins to run. The white Lupe grabs his arm as he races past.
The yellow Poogle frantically tries to rip his arm away, but the Lupe’s grip is strong.
“What were you doing on my doorstep?”
He sounds genuinely curious, not angry.
“Sheltering,” the yellow Poogle whispers. “From the rain.”
“I think I’ve seen you in town.”
“Yes. Selling potatoes.”
“Yes, that sounds right. But that doesn’t answer my question. You live several miles south. Why were you on my doorstep?”
“The farm... it’s gone. Nothing left but me.”
The Lupe blinks.
“Yes, that makes sense. Well, if you want, you can come live with me. I suppose you don’t mind learning some magic?”
“N-no, that’d be fine,” the Poogle stutters, shocked.
The snowy Lupe smiles and turns to enter the house. “Oh, yes, I don’t think you told me. What’s your name?”
The yellow Poogle blinks. “Oh, my name? I’m Solus.”
The scene blurs, twists, and shoots forward. It shifts into focus again inside the house. Solus, now two years older, is studying a book. The Master is writing some words on a scrap of paper.
Hubrid Nox appears. Solus and the Master look up. The Master growls. “You can’t have him!” Hubrid laughs.
“Then I will have you.” He throws a midnight-black orb at the white Lupe. The Master cannot dodge fast enough, and it hits. Instantly, a large patch of his fur turns dark brown. The Chia snickers.
“I’ll see you later...”
And he vanishes.
Solus crouches beside his Master, a frightened expression on his face.
“You can’t do anything,” the Master states. “The spell is too strong. You’ll have to break it after completion. I’ll keep my eye color - I can resist that much - so look for that.”
“I’m not the only one. You’ll have to save the other ones. Do your best, Solus. I have faith in you, boy.”
He is in the Faerieland palace. Someone - probably Fyora - has healed his wounds. An amazing amount of pink and purple surrounds him.
The Master is sitting next to him.
The white Lupe reaches over towards the bed, and Solus and his master hug.