Traces of Faeryllium: Part Two
Later that day, Taeshne stood in the Lab Tent with Captain
Leila. The plump Desert Usul stood over a small vial filled with the precious
faeryllium sand. "I'm pretty sure your original hypothesis was correct, Commander.
It seems a leakage of magic from a spell cast by Jazan or Razul-most likely Jazan-created
an extra bond between the molecules of sand and faeryllium to allow this unusual
compound. I believe it is as much a breakthrough as you believe."
"Yes, yes, Leila, but the Head of the Lost Desert
Science Department won't listen until we've performed more tests on it. We could
have discovered an entirely new molecule type, just a new bond, or it could
be totally magic-dependent."
Though Taeshne was trying her hardest to concentrate
on the new discovery, her earlier confrontation with Anberra had set her nerves
on edge. The red Xweetok was trying not to let her nervousness show, but it
was hard not to stroke her ruff or grit her teeth to betray her mixed-up emotions.
She was saved just then by the arrival of Anton,
Zara, and Destiny, an experienced yellow Lupe who served under Leila. "Commander
Taeshne, Captain Leila, excuse me, but it's nearly nighttime, and I think we
ought to stop," Destiny said. "Faeryllium is extremely reactive at night, and
we don't want any sand explosions, or burning fur. If we misplaced one molecule
of faeryllium while the moon is out, it could create an explosion large enough
to be dangerous to an Elephante. Begging your pardon," he added to Zara before
finishing and turning toward Taeshne.
"Yes, yes, I agree," Taeshne nodded distractedly
at the Lupe, "Leila, Anton, Zara, Destiny… in the morning we shall continue?"
she inquired. "Goodnight, all."
As Taeshne woke up the next morning, she felt
her shoulders taut with tension. At first the Xweetok could not remember why
she felt this way, and then the past day came flooding back to her: Anberra.
Faeryllium. Allowing her sister to spend the night.
As that thought crossed her mind, her intelligent
brown eyes lit up. Oh… perfect! Anberra would be leaving this morning, and Taeshne
would be free! She felt the tension slide of her back like a backpack being
released from its ropes. Now she could get back to the faeryllium and her work.
As she rubbed sleep out of her eyes, a nervous
and agitated-looking Bay burst in. "Begging your pardon, Commander Taeshne,
but… there's a problem. Come outside, please."
Taeshne was irked, but for the sake of her nervous
secretary she confined it to an irritated sigh as she followed him outside.
The sight that met the Xweetok commander's eyes
was horrible. There had obviously been a sandstorm of terrible proportions the
night before. Sand covered everything, tents, Neopets, and everything else in
sight. Worst of all, the dig site was situated in a low valley, and sand had
piled up around the sides, dulling them from cliffs of hard rock to mountains
of slippery sand.
"It seems, Commander Taeshne, that nobody will
be able to enter or exit the dig site until we can get this cleared up. It could
take weeks!" Bay's face was as pained as Taeshne's.
"Well, Bay, spare as many workers as you can
for the job. The Head of the Lost Desert Science Department is scheduled to
visit in a few weeks. That could be a problem. Nobody being able to leave won't
matter much; the supply train was just through last week and we have plenty."
A new voice entered the conversation, "Ur… Uh…
What happened? It wasn't this sandy last night." Taeshne turned, and the red
Xweetok groaned inwardly at the sight of the sand-dusted green Xweetok clambered
out of the guest tent. Of course! Nobody being able to leave the site meant
she was stuck with Anberra, perhaps for weeks!
"There was a sandstorm last night, Anberra,"
Taeshne replied in clipped tones. "It has made your leaving us… unfortunately
delayed. You must stay, but you cannot be just an extra mouth to feed. You shall
earn your keep… by working."
"But… I don't know anything about scientific
work," Anberra admitted. "But maybe this sandstorm is a good thing. Maybe you'll
want to come home once the trail out of here is cleared."
Taeshne turned her frosty glare on the Xweetok
that had made her life so miserable. "Then I have just the job for you, sister.
Though you know nothing of science, certainly you are not above bringing meals
and water to my workers?" she inquired, cocking a cheeky eyebrow at Anberra.
"Well? I am the commander here."
"Fine," Anberra grumbled, "I'll earn my keep."
She stalked away, tail held high, the picture of Xweetok irritation.
"Let's just hope the faeryllium sand is unaffected,"
Commander Taeshne and the others got lucky. The
faeryllium sand was indeed unharmed by the sandstorm. For nearly a week, they
performed tests and experiments on the precious substance. Taeshne's and Leila's
hypothesis was nearly confirmed. The magic of Jazan had indeed forced the molecules
to bond together in a way never before known, using a force stronger even than
the strong nuclear force.
Progress on clearing the dig site did not go
quite as well. The sand was hard to work with, and it looked as if the Head
of the Lost Desert Science Department would not be able to get in for a while
yet. Taeshne was growing impatient. She was almost certain now that her hypothesis
about the faeryllium was correct, and she so wanted to show the Head! The intelligent
red Xweetok was nearly certain she would be promoted for this-and maybe get
to work even more with the faeryllium.
Also, Anberra continued to be an annoyance. Though
she did the menial tasks Taeshne had assigned for her, she was obviously not
happy. Every time she saw her sister, Anberra tried to needle her into coming
home, never once succeeding.
Then, a week after the sandstorm, she received
a message from the Head of the Lost Desert Science Department. Taeshne had informed
him of the faeryllium sand and he was anxious to get a look at it himself. He
would wait no longer, the message said. He was going to come by Eyrie transport;
if Taeshne would be so kind as to prepare a landing ground, he would arrive
in three days.
Three days later, Taeshne and her crew had set
up the landing ground, performed final tests on the faeryllium, and were now
eagerly awaiting the Head. Finally, a speck in the sky was spotted. Taeshne
felt the tension that had built up over the past week leave her muscles. After
the Head had seen the faeryllium, he would surely pronounce it a great scientific
discovery-and she would be credited. She would have at last made a great contribution
to the world of science, and Taeshne was certain she'd be able to use that to
get rid of pesky Anberra once and for all.
Commander Taeshne headed forth to greet the Head
of the Lost Desert Science Department, Aox the dignified Brown Draik, and his
assistant, Sheila the Silver Eyrie. Aox greeted her in a friendly manner. He
was insistent on seeing the faeryllium, but Taeshne explained that it was too
close to nighttime.
"Faeryllium is extremely reactive-enough to be
fatal-at night," she explained to Aox. "We don't want to take that risk. How
about meeting the faeryllium team?" This was the way she referred to the pets
who knew about the metal and helped her perform the experiments.
The rest of the day went without mishap. Aox
met Leila, Destiny, Anton, and Zara and seemed truly pleased to do so. Taeshne
made absolutely sure he did not meet Anberra. She was too afraid of what her
sister would say to the Head. As Taeshne lay down to sleep that night, she hoped
tomorrow would be just as successful as today.
Anberra slogged through the sand of the dig site,
her arms loaded with water, Pyramibread, and Tchea Fruits to bring to the workers
laboring to clear the pathways of sand. This was her final load for the day,
and she was totally exhausted.
How can Taeshne enjoy this place? It's torture,
Anberra thought. The workers are ungrateful wretches, not even thanking me
for bringing them food, Taeshne is a cruel taskmaster obsessed with that faeryllium
stuff, and I've got no chance of getting back to the Eastern Forest for days.
My clan needs help, and I'm stuck in a desert bringing water to fat Elephantes
and rude Buzzes and the other workers! It's not fair!
"Hurry up with our food, Xweetok!" Anberra snapped
her head up at the barking voice. Wearily, her brain struggled to place the
hulking figure in front of her and its slim companion. Suddenly, she realized
it was Uba the Elephante and Logan the Buzz, two extremely rude workers who
took great pleasure in tormenting Anberra.
"Here it is, Uba," Anberra gasped, attempting
to hand it over to the Elephante.
Uba shook her head, however. "No. Deliver it
to our post, over there." She nodded to a spot a couple hundred meters away,
where Uba, Logan, and the rest of their team worked to clear sand.
Anberra staggered the short distance and dropped
the food at Uba's feet. Cursing Taeshne for giving her this menial job, cursing
her brother for asking her to come out here in the first place, and cursing
the sandstorm for shutting off her exit, Anberra reached her tent. The two hulking
Kau guards Taeshne had set moved aside to allow Anberra in. She barely heard
the menacing sound of the guards drawing their weapons as she fell into the
I hope once that "Head of the Lost Desert
Science Department" fellow looks at Taeshne's faeryllium, she'll agree to come
home. However, I doubt that will ever happen. When Kaus fly, perhaps...
was her last thought before fatigue clouded her Xweetok brain and she fell into
a deep, dreamless sleep.
To be continued...