Spells, Secrets, and Snowberry Tea: Part Three
The next day, an article in the Neopian Times explained to the public about the midnight attack on Terror Mountain, but assured everyone that experts were on the case, and everything was going to be okay. Cypher, however, had her doubts.
She and Luther immediately got on the case, only to find that the Chia Police refused to allow anyone atop the mountain. It was roped off to everyone apart from the professional investigators, and Cypher and Luther were definitely not considered professional. Whatever they did, they both agreed that sharing the scraps of paper with anyone was a bad idea. For now, they were on their own.
One morning, Cypher and Luther were sitting in the slushie shop, each with a Holiday Slushie, poring over their only clues. “Laughter and moaning,” Luther muttered. “Laughter and moaning... I don’t get that part at all!”
Cypher rolled her eyes. “You don’t get any part. We’ve decided that the frosty hill refers to Terror Mountain, right? So this is saying when everyone’s gone... something will happen. If we assume that these two messages are supposed to be next to each other, it would be saying that when everyone has disappeared on Terror Mountain, laughter and moaning will be in the air.”
“So...” Luther frowned. “Does this reveal nothing? Is it just stating that when everyone disappears, someone will be moaning and someone will be laughing?”
Cypher shrugged, and began to clean up. “I have no idea, but I do know that the only way we’re going to figure anything else out, is to look around the top of the mountain. By any means necessary... I think it’s our only chance.”
“Excuse me, sir. The name’s Philipo. I’m here to look around.”
The Chia raised his eyebrows and looked down at his list of detectives. They were standing on the mountaintop, right at the edge of the rope that extended around the kidnapping scene. “Philipo? You don’t appear to be on the list. I can’t allow you beyond this rope.”
Philipo, a shady-looking Kougra wearing sunglasses, a long coat, and matching hat, snorted in disgust. “You are obviously incredibly uninformed. I have a special referral from Queen Fyora herself. I’m her right-hand guy.”
The Chia raised his eyebrows. “Yeah... and I’m Sloth’s good twin, Chimpie.”
“If that is the case,” Philipo said sternly, “you will tell me his exact location so I can hunt him down and bring peace to Neopia. In the meantime, I am here to help on the Terror Mountain case. Please allow me to pass.”
“Listen, I can’t let you in there. I’m sure you’re just a kid who wants to be noble and acclaimed, but this place isn’t safe for anyone right now. Mysteries don’t just get solved in a matter of seconds. Do yourself a favor and run along.”
Philipo raised his eyebrows, however unnoticeable it was behind his big sunglasses. Before he said anything, though, a high-pitched shriek pierced the cold air. “Oh, help me!” an overdramatic voice wailed. “Oh, please, please, please help me!”
The Chia’s eyes grew to the size of juppies. “Come on, team, let’s go!” he called, and countless other members of the Chia Police and detectives scampered to follow the voice. “This could be it; let’s get moving!”
Philipo--- or Luther, as I’m sure you’ve figured out--- watched the last of them disappear behind a snowy hill, a smile on his face. “That worked out well,” he murmured to himself. Cypher, who had been hiding right at the entrance of the Ice Caves, grabbed her backpack of detective gear and scampered to Luther, who was removing his ‘Philipo’ disguise.
“We seriously owe Lucille, though!” Cypher said with a laugh. “I don’t think pretending to have skied right into the top branches of a dead tree comes along on her list favorite ways to spend the holidays!”
The two quickly ducked under the rope. “Okay,” Luther said, “let’s split up to cover more ground. I’ll go look around the Lodge; you take the shops. If they all come back before we’re out of here, hide!”
Cypher nodded and turned to her first investigation... Taelia’s Igloo. Like she had done only days before, Cypher crouched on her hands and knees and began to crawl. As she stepped up in the inside, she felt a drop of sadness. Taelia had been one of her role models for as long as remembered. Cypher always thought that Taelia was impenetrable, and could defeat any villain that came her way. Now, she had been kidnapped in an instant.
Cypher didn’t waste anymore time pondering. Immediately, she got to work holding a magnifying glass above every item that was stacked up against the snowy walls. There were cookies and biscuits, cakes and pies, pops and chips. It was any young pet’s dream to be locked up in that igloo... they wouldn’t go hungry any time soon.
As the minutes stretched on, chocolate chips began to look less delightful. Cypher found nothing that would prove to be in any way vital for solving the crime, unless the Chia Police felt that hundreds of sweets meant something. But Cypher did notice one thing.
What had happened to the four orange neggs she and Paisley had brought to the snow faerie? Of course, it was quite possible that Taelia had already used them as ingredients in a potion or a spell, but the strangeness of it still lingered. Taelia never requested neggs before, let alone two of the same thing. Cypher would know, she had completed too many quests to count.
With a frustrated groan, Cypher put the magnifying glass back in her backpack. “Perhaps Donny’s Toy Repair Shop will lead me on to something,” she muttered to herself. At that moment, an angry growl echoed off the sides of the igloo. Cypher jumped, worried that some fierce Lupe was waiting outside to eat her. It took her a moment to realize that the growl came from her own stomach; the Holiday Slushie she had slurped down felt like ages ago.
“I’m sure Taelia wouldn’t mind if I borrowed one of her ingredients,” she muttered to herself, eyeing a nearby cookie. In her eagerness to grab a chocolate chip biscuit, Cypher’s other arm managed to knock over a stack of cupcakes, which proceeded to fall to the ground. Cypher sighed and scurried over to pick them up. As she reached for one, however, it seemed to keep slipping farther away from her paw, until it was completely under the snow. Frowning, she reached for another, which did the same thing.
The cupcakes were melting into the snow!
Cypher groaned. She didn’t have time to deal with any cunning cupcakes right now, and she wasn’t about to make time. But this was Taelia’s igloo, and despite the fact that the snow faerie was missing, Cypher didn’t want to leave it in a messy state. With an exasperated groan, she practically jumped on the next cupcake, which was already halfway through the snow.
And then something weird happened. Cypher’s own feet were being sucked into the snow, unmovable. She flailed her arms around, trying to free herself, only managing to sink deeper in. “Oh no,” she moaned, “I’m going to meet the same fate as those cupcakes!”
With a few more seconds of uncomfortable sinking, and a loud pop, Cypher found herself falling a few feet, landing painfully in a spherical room of ice. Wincing as she stood up, Cypher observed her surroundings. It was similar to the ice caves, but too perfect to be one. This room appeared to have been carved out of magic.
The most astonishing thing about the room, however, wasn’t the magically perfect walls or snowy ceiling. Lined against the walls was a bunch of orange neggs. Cypher looked around, confused. Orange neggs? A secret room in Taelia’s Igloo? Snow that sucked you in? What was going on?
“Okay, okay,” she whispered to herself, “pull yourself together. Think. This must be why Taelia wanted neggs from me and Paisley. For a strange new spell? But that doesn’t explain this surreptitious cave. Why wouldn’t Taelia want people to see all the neggs she’s collected? More importantly... what kind of evil spell does she not want people to see she’s making?”
Cypher tried to clear her head. She couldn’t waste more time, but she really needed to think this through while she had access to the cave. Who knew when the snow could become solid again?
“Neggs. Think about neggs. We eat neggs. We trade neggs in for other neggs. An orange one is worth four tokens at the Neggery...” Cypher paused, thinking. “That must be it! Taelia is collecting these orange neggs to trade in for another negg! What would a snow faerie want?”
Cypher, who had yet to memorize every negg and its value, knew only one person who had, and that was the Negg Faerie herself. Before leaving, Cypher counted all the neggs and found thirty-one. If she was going to get information out of the Negg Faerie, she’d need to sound believable, so Cypher grabbed two neggs, tucking each one under an arm.
Three minutes later, she was racing across the snowy mountaintop towards the Mountain Lodge.
What she didn’t know was that she’d been seen.
To be continued...