What Happened To Sophie's Hat: Part One
Part One: In Which Two Witches Quarrel
"Are you sure you're supposed to be here, Miss?" the red Grarrl guarding the door asked, staring down at the Cybunny before him. She certainly did not look like anyone else in attendance at the yearly Neopian Witches' Convention. Her fur was white and fluffy instead of the usual green - not a requirement for being a witch, but a popular color nonetheless. She had an adorable button nose, pink pigtails sticking out from behind her long ears, and like most Cybunnies, the shape of her face made her look like she was always smiling. All points against her. Most telling of all, she had not brought a wand, a broom, or even any potion-making equipment. Instead, all she carried in her hand was a funny-looking staff with a green jewel embedded into the top.
"I assure you," the Cybunny said, staring back up at the Grarrl with slightly narrowed eyes, "I'm at the right place. Please let me in, or I'll be very cross. You wouldn't want me to be cross, would you?"
The Grarrl blinked at the odd response, but quickly shook off his mild surprise. This was his first year working security for the NWC, but he had already seen much stranger things in just the past few hours. So far, he had already put out two fires, climbed a ladder to retrieve a misbehaving broom from the ceiling, and cleaned up after a novice potion-brewer who had accidentally added the wrong ingredient and covered the room in pink goo. Dealing with one misinformed Cybunny would be the easiest part of his day.
"Maybe I can help you," he offered, gesturing down the hall. "The Usuki Fan Club is meeting a few conference rooms down."
"Excuse me?" the Cybunny said, staring up at him with an angry expression. "The Usuki Fan Club? Do I look like I belong there?"
Unfortunately, the Grarrl did not notice. "Well... yes. I figure that's what you're looking for. They've already started, but I can show you the way if... you... like..."
The Cybunny lifted up her jewelled staff, tilting the green gem towards him. The Grarrl's voice trailed off into nothing. His large head suddenly felt heavier than usual, and he found that he could not blink. The Cybunny's staff began swaying slightly, and although he tried his best, the Grarrl could not force himself to look away. There was something hypnotic about the motion, and about the sparkling green jewel. It seemed to pulse with an internal light, and soon, the Grarrl's eyes began to swirl along with it as he gazed into its endless facets.
"You are going to let me into the conference room," the Cybunny insisted.
"I am going to let you into the conference room," the Grarrl repeated in a flat monotone.
"You are going to apologize for making me late."
"I apologize for making you late," the Grarrl said, reaching to open the door.
The Cybunny started to walk through the doorway, but then she paused, as if considering something. Her adorable button nose wrinkled a little in thought before she finally came to a decision. She turned back towards the Grarrl. "And until sunset, you are going to believe you're a mortog. Maybe next time, you'll think twice before crossing a witch. The Usuki Fan Club... really..."
The Grarrl dropped onto all fours, letting out a loud rrribbit as he began hopping awkwardly around the room. He opened his mouth, and his tongue shot out with a sticky slurp, as if he was trying to catch an invisible mozito. Then, he began wandering off down the hall, completely abandoning his post. The Cybunny watched for a moment, smirking as she admired her handiwork. Fortunately for the security guard, he had only inconvenienced her. He would be fine as soon as the sun set. If he had really made her angry... well, it was a very lucky thing that he hadn't. The Cybunny turned away from the hopping Grarrl and passed through the now-clear doorway, still carrying her staff.
Inside the conference room, several other neopets were already gathered around the various tables and booths, talking amongst each other. There were a even few vendors selling witch-related items: potion ingredients, new cauldrons, broomsticks, and the like. One stall even had hats for sale, and the Cybunny gave the vendor a sidelong glance as she passed it. She did not normally wear a hat, preferring to remain inconspicuous as she travelled through Neopia Central. Unlike many other witches, she did not sequester herself away in a gloomy part of Neopia, avoiding the rest of the world unless she needed something for a spell. She preferred to live right in the middle of the city.
Unfortunately, she did not remain unnoticed for long. As she was looking at the vendor, the Cybunny forgot to watch where she was going, and collided with a very solid, very green body. "Nesmy?" an all too familiar voice said, and the Cybunny quickly hopped back, her face falling as she saw who she had literally bumped into.
"Edna," she muttered sulkily, stepping even further back to try and put some distance between herself and the green Zafara.
"Here to destroy something of mine again?" Edna asked, frowning dangerously.
Nesmy sighed. The two of them were not exactly on good terms. In fact, during a very heated argument at last year's NWC, Nesmy had threatened to snap Edna's broom in half. Edna had retaliated by throwing a potion at her, but - as usual - it had malfunctioned. It had taken Nesmy a week to get rid of the spots. At least Edna hadn't fared any better. Her broom had spent a month in the repair shop, and as far as Nesmy knew, it still had a few scorch marks on the handle.
For a moment, Nesmy considered just walking away. She had other goals here today, and she did not want to waste time arguing with Edna. But she could not resist delivering some kind of retort before she left to go about her business. "No, you destroy things perfectly well on your own, Edna."
Edna clenched her teeth, and her fists balled up in anger. "You take that back!" she spat. "Don't make me turn you into a blechy!"
"Channeling Jhudora, are we?" Nesmy clicked her tongue in rebuke. "Besides, you couldn't turn me into a blechy if you tried. You got one of the lowest grades in our potions class at school." In all honesty, Nesmy had not done very well in that class herself. Her specialty was enchantment, and over the years, she had created many different magical objects to influence other neopets.
"At least the Head Witchtress didn't expel me," Edna shot back. "I got my Witchering Degree! What do you have?"
"Just this." Nesmy lifted her staff, but Edna instinctively shielded her eyes with her paw, her frown still clearly visible beneath it.
"Don't even try that on me," she said. "I know what you're up to, and my mind's too strong for your magic."
Nesmy smirked. "Then why are you covering your eyes?" she asked.
Edna made a low growl in the back of her throat. "I don't need to deal with you anymore," she said, shoving Nesmy aside with her free paw and stumbling past her. Unfortunately, she was still covering her eyes, and she tripped over one of the cauldrons on display in front of a vendor's booth, tipping it onto its side. Her luck continued to worsen when it rolled on top of her robes, weighing down the hem. Still protecting her face, Edna tried to tug herself free, kicking with her foot and yelping when the heavy cauldron rolled on top of it instead. After a few muffled curses, she finally managed to escape and limp away, still muttering under her breath.
Nesmy watched Edna go, unsure whether to be pleased over the confrontation, or worried because she had wasted valuable time. She needed to find what she had come here for, and quickly, before she attracted any more unwanted attention. Carefully, she scanned the room, trying to spot the witch she was after. Her target came to the convention every year, even though she normally kept to herself.
After only a few moments of searching, Nesmy caught a glimpse of the neopet she was looking for. Instead of browsing the stalls like the others, she was striding quickly past them, obviously fixated on something. Moving quickly, Nesmy ducked between the hat vendor's stall and one of the large cauldrons on display, crouching down so that she would not be seen. She gripped her staff, just barely peeking over the lip of the cauldron, and waited. Her plan would require speed, subtlety, and a good deal of luck, but if she was successful, she would be well on her way to becoming one of the most powerful witches in all of Neopia.
To be continued...