Enter the Snowflake's lair... Circulation: 177,117,063 Issue: 323 | 21st day of Celebrating, Y9
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A Day of Giving Mystery


by anjie

--------

Also by chivo

Meti wasn't sure what had woken him. All he knew was he wasn't pleased about it. The Plushie Draik had been cuddled under his blankets, dreaming of the Month of Celebrating, revelling in its approach. Sleepily, he sat up, rubbing his eyes and gazing around. The room itself was still and unchanged from the night before. Toys were still scattered everywhere, the Neowaiian bread he hadn't finished the night before remained on his desk, and his Altador Cup poster was still hanging at an odd angle near the window. The pale beams of sunlight from outside were only now filtering through the open window and he was forced to conclude that this wasn't the time of day he awoke normally.

     He slowly stumbled from bed, yawning and almost tripping over some Neoblocks scattered on the carpet, now able to hear shocked voices from the kitchen nearby. Concerned, he trudged out of his bedroom, almost running into his owner, Anjie, who was reading the Neopian Times in distress. Her brow was creased with concern, something Meti wasn't used to seeing.

     First grabbing an apple, for the little Plushie Draik was never one to forget a meal, he peered over her shoulder, trying to catch sight of whatever had caused such worry. From across the table his sister glanced up mournfully.

     "It's Happy Valley, Meti. All the snow has vanished."

     Meti gasped, and studied his sister. Taja often teased him, but this morning she didn't seem to be joking. A normally upbeat, cheery Island Krawk, her tail now drooped, and her once merry emerald eyes were full of tears.

     "How could the snow vanish?" he ventured out loud, glancing to Anjie.

     His owner shook her head, clearly as bewildered as he was.

     "No one knows Meti. Not even Fyora herself can explain it. Terror Mountain is bare as well, and the Ice Caves."

     Meti bit his lip, worried. Neopia had never had a massive problem that the exquisite faerie Queen couldn't solve before.

     "But... without the snow, the Day of Giving won't be the same! Snow is part of the season; it reminds everyone in Happy Valley about the good things involved with the season!"

     Anjie smiled gently, unsurprised at Meti's outburst and attitude.

     "Meti, some parts of Neopia never have snow, and they still enjoy the Day of Giving. Can you imagine the fuss if it started snowing in the Lost Desert?"

     He shook his head in distress.

     "That's not what I mean! The Day of Giving and snow go hand in hand in Happy Valley! Without snow, there isn't Ice. What will the Bruce skaters slide on?"

     Anjie tried to interject, but the Draik was rambling in concern by now.

     "And what about the Advent Calendar? It won't be the same if we go there and it's sunny! What if the Igloo on Terror Mountain melts?"

     Anjie tried to comfort her distressed Draik, but to little avail. When Meti chose to panic, it was sometimes best just to let him do so. Sighing, she gathered up the paper, and cuddled him.

     "It will get sorted out, Meti. Tidy your room before I get home from visiting Kauvara, alright?"

     Meti, of course, didn't respond. Even in his worried state he wasn't going to be silly enough to make that promise! Besides, he was already formulating a plan. Maybe Fyora wasn't having any luck finding out what happened, but he was sure he could make some kind of headway with it.

     Some ten minutes after Anjie had left, and Taja was in her room, the doorbell rung. By this stage, Meti had gathered what he liked to think of as his detective kit. A Coltzan's lens, seafarer rope, and pumpkin cookies, because he figured even famous detectives got hungry on the job. Distracted, he skipped to the door, flinging it open to reveal a dainty Royal Kyrii, her long, cobalt hair braided back neatly.

     "Spectra!" he exclaimed, greeting his friend with a smile. "Why are you here?"

     The Kyrii shook her head, giving him a suspicious look. She was a delicate creature, the most elegant color blue, with rather large cobalt eyes.

     "I heard about the missing snow on Terror Mountain when my owner was reading the Neopian Times, Meti, and my first thought was that you would get some crazy idea, like to run off and...."

     She trailed off, gaze travelling to the backpack filled with essentials. Sighing, she shook her head.

     "You're going to go solve the mystery, huh?"

     He nodded, beaming. Meti had always thought of himself as something of a hero, and he wasn't about to pass up the chance to illustrate the fact!

     "Of course. Want to come with me?"

     Spectra smoothed down the skirt of her gown, and rolled her eyes. This wouldn't be the first time she had been swept up in one of Meti's wild plots.

     "I don't want to, but I'm going to. Who knows what trouble you'll get yourself into otherwise?"

     Meti didn't bother to protest, well aware that his fondness for rash schemes and plans very much proceeded him. Gathering his backpack and some extra pumpkin cookies for Spectra, he closed the little Neohome door and the two friends set off for Happy Valley.

     It was rather strange, trudging along the familiar paths and trails without snow being scattered around. Now and then a Snowickle or Wreathy would pop up, glance around, confused, and dash behind a tree, no doubt wondering where the familiar ivory powder was!

     All around Happy Valley, folk looked confused and worried. Instead of the usual shimmering ice ponds, the water lapped gently at the banks of each stream. Some of the little shops were drenched as the piled snow atop them melted, dripping onto the ground below. Nearby, the Igloo which housed the Slushie Shop looked like a few hours might reduce it to nothing more than a puddle. One could only imagine the chaos wasn't confined to the little valley, but also very much in place within the chilling realm of the Ice Caves, and further upwards towards Terror Mountain. The Chia police were swarming around, but no one took much notice of the small Kyrii and Draik making their way through the unusual scene, seeking clues.

     Spectra leant against a tree, shaking her head. She had known all along the journey would be a waste of time, and would have preferred they had remained back at Meti's Neohome, making gifts for the upcoming Day of Giving.

     "Satisfied, Meti? There’s nothing to see here!"

     Meti gazed around, and his crimson eyes slowly widened. Stumbling over the emerald grass, a rare sight in the area, he found his way to the back of a small store which sold Wintery petpets. From within came the giggling sounds of mischievous Candychans and Bikas, but that wasn't what had captivated Meti. Something was wedged down beside the store in a puddle no doubt created from the remnants of melted snow. Dropping to his knees, the Draik used all his strength to grasp the item, and tugged as hard as he could, finally freeing it and falling backwards in the process.

     Alarmed, Spectra dashed over. Meti might be a plushie Draik, but falling over hurt even if you were just stuffing and fabric!

     "Meti! Are you okay?"

     He nodded, standing and dusting his plushie coat off, examining the damp item in his hand curiously. It almost looked like a hat, with a strange, exotic mask attached to it.

     "That's a Tiki Tack mask," Spectra observed softly, gently taking it from Meti and studying it. Turning it upside down, she pulled a face and withdrew a fish pop from it.

     Meti wrinkled his nose in disgust. He had seen fish pops before; they were often junk prizes from the Tombola stand on Mystery Island. They smelt funny and tasted a lot like old socks. His owner often ended up simply popping them into her shop rather than endure the struggle of getting Meti and his many siblings to consider snacking on one.

     "A Tiki Tack mask, and a fish pop...." He trailed off, having been thinking out loud.

     Spectra looked alarmed. "You're not suggesting the Tombola man had anything to do with this?"

     He shook his head rapidly. The Tiki Tack man was a friendly, if somewhat enigmatic fellow and possessed little need to steal the snow from Neopia. However...

     "Whoever left this here, if it's connected to the missing snow, had to have gone to Tombola shortly before, Spectra!" Meti exclaimed. "The fish pop doesn't seem to have gone funny yet, so it's recent!"

     Spectra nodded. Sometimes her friend managed to surprise her with his rare, but quick thinking.

     "Then it's Mystery Island we'll head to. Off to see the Tiki Tack man!"

     Some several hours and a rather lurching boat ride later, the two pets were running up the beach of Mystery Island. The sun was beating down without mercy, and all around them pets were engaged in frivolous fun. Island tours were running, coconut JubJubs rushing back and forth to tourists. Nearby, a group of Myncies seemed to be arguing over a rather heated game of Volleyball!

     Taking a left near the tour office, they scurried down a dusty path to the Tombola shack. Outside, the Tiki Tack man was sunning himself and enjoying a cool drink. Caught by surprise, he jumped as Meti and Spectra skidded to a stop in front of him, kicking up clouds of sand and dust.

     Babbling their story, the two pets gestured and rambled a no doubt confusing tale, eventually presenting him with the mask and fish pop. The stoic tombola keeper shook his head in concern.

     "These aren't mine... I gave out the fish pop, I'm sure though. No one else does, to be honest. They're not very popular."

     Meti looked distressed.

     "You don't remember who to, though, right?"

     The Tiki Tack man looked thoughtful, or as thoughtful as one can when his features are hidden behind a wooden mask.

     "There was a strange little petpet. Showed up yesterday, and kept demanding to try his luck at Tombola. I told him it was for pets, not petpets, but he was rather persistent."

     Spectra widened her eyes, gasping. "Then what happened?"

     Tiki Tack man studied the mask, sorrow in his voice. "I hope this wasn't used to disguise a snow thief as being me..."

     Meti shook his head. "You're not a suspect... But the rest of the story?"

     He nodded, coughing to clear his throat. "Eventually I gave him a fish pop, and sent the little fellow on his way. Haven't ever seen a petpet like that before. A grumpy fellow, squat and purple, with these webbed wings and a terrible glare..."

     As he trailed off, Spectra gasped. "A Bartamus!"

     She and Meti looked to one another, understanding the implication at the same time. Only one Neopian was famous for sending the rather eerie little Bartamus petpets to do her dirty work. And that same Neopian had a bit of a reputation for causing trouble. Without a doubt, the pets knew who it was, and together they gasped.

     "Jhudora!"

     ________

      Meti and Spectra now had a good idea of who the fiend was behind the vanishing snow. It seemed obvious, of course a villain would be the culprit. And yet, between the two of them they couldn't even hazard a guess at what Jhudora would want with massive amounts of snow, or why she might have a vendetta against Happy Valley, Terror Mountain, or the Ice Caves. Jhudora wasn't the most merry or benevolent of faeries, but her target was normally Illusen, or some other innocent creature she had formed a vendetta against. It wasn't worth imagining what the cheery folk of Happy Valley could have done to anger her.

     Leaving the rather bewildered Tiki Tack man behind, the two pets trudged slowly back down the Mystery Island Beach. Each was deep in thought, considering their next step.

     "We have to go to Jhudora's Cloud," Meti announced, sure of himself.

     Spectra looked shocked.

     "You must have lost your marbles, Meti. Has all that stuffing come lose? We can't go up and accuse a Dark Faerie of something! Especially not Jhudora!

     The little plushie Draik squared his shoulders in determination. He wasn't jumping at the idea of strolling up to the wicked Jhudora and insulting her, but if he and Spectra didn't take a stand, the situation would be a lost cause.

     "We have to, Spectra. The Igloos in Happy Valley are melting, and it's only a day until the Day of Giving!"

     Spectra nodded slowly. "I know what day it is, Meti! But we should just tell someone. Fyora, maybe." Even as she suggested it, though, Spectra knew it was useless. Jhudora had spies planted all around Neopia. She might hear about the information long before Fyora could act on it, and by then it would be too late. Time was of the essence, and they had precious little left. Resigned to her fate, she nodded. They would have to be brave, no one else was going to come and save the day. "Fine. We'll go to Jhudora's Cloud. But I don't know how you think we're going to get there."

     Meti looked like this question had him stumped. The acidic green cloud hovered in Faerieland, but Jhudora was hardly the type of Faerie to put out a staircase and welcome mat. They could easily jump from cloud to tiny cloud to get to Jhudora's home, but once there they had no guarantee she would let them in.

     "Disguise!" he announced. His friend looked at him as if he had just suggested offering to substitute themselves for the targets at Coconut Shy, or shout out rude comments about Sloth's appearance.

     "You're mad!" Spectra exclaimed. "We can't go into Jhudora's Cloud in disguise! Disguised as what, anyway?"

     Meti grinned slowly. There was only one option, as far as he saw it. It wasn't a fantastic idea, but it was all they had on such short notice. There would be no time to draw up a complicated plan.

     "The very petpets that go in and out of that place without the Faerie giving them a second thought, Spectra."

     Despite the Royal Kyrii's feeble protests, and several hours dashing in and out of Neopian shops for delays, they were soon on their way to Faerieland. Covered in dark, indigo paint, they had attached fake, leathery wings to their backs, and each now wore a pair of sharp horns atop their heads. Meti was realistic. Up close, no one in their right mind was going to think the two of them were anything but a couple of Neopets dressed in a most bizarre manner. However, he doubted Jhudora watched her gates too closely. It wasn't like pets were lining up in hopes of having a tea party with the dark faerie, and it might mean than they blended in enough to just stroll on in. Provided no one was around, of course!

     It was late afternoon by the time they arrived, and the sun was setting over Faerieland. The realm was awash with soft alabaster tones, swirling pinks and vibrant shades of lavender. As pretty as the sight of the golden beams washing over the ivory, silk clouds was, Meti and Spectra were both aware that this meant time was running out. Perhaps the Igloos in Happy Valley had already melted by now. Perhaps they were too late...

     Gathering every last ounce of courage, the small Plushie Draik led his friend up the winding, jade green path to Jhudora's gates. Both pets made themselves as small as possible and scowled, hoping they could pass for one of the irritable Bartamus petpets who flew in and out all day at Jhudora's whim. No one was more surprised than the nervous pets themselves when the creaking gates swung open as they approached. Eerie wisps of indigo cloud and smoke billowed from the beckoning darkness, and the atmosphere was nothing short of sinister.

     Frightened, Spectra glanced to her friend, but Meti's expression was determined. Slowly and staying side by side, the two friends ventured into the shadows of the Dark Faerie’s cloud. The air here was chilling, almost sinister. The path barely able to be seen for all the shadows and it was with a great amount of stumbling and tripping that they made their way to the towering throne where Jhudora sat. The mighty chair itself seemed empty, but behind it was a strange sight. For miles, as far as the two pets could see was pile upon pile of soft, alabaster snow. It was in piles taller than the throne itself and seemed to fill every spare inch of the cloud from the throne onwards, shimmering with cold which Meti assumed wasn't native to this part of Neopia.

     "It was Jhudora, Meti! You were right!" Spectra exclaimed.

     "Yes, he was right." The soft hiss came from the Dark Faerie herself, standing behind them. Her hands were on her hips, and they could view the sharp, talon like fingernails painted that poisonous green tone. Jhudora’s expression was one of bitter rage, her eyes aglow with malice.

     "How dare you sneak into my Cloud! This is my home!"

     Meti gasped in rage. All the fear and panic of the past few hours rushed up on him and without hesitation he spoke back.

     "Happy Valley is a home to many as well! You snuck in, and you're trying to ruin the Day of Giving!"

     Jhudora looked stunned. Spectra, sensing a moment of weakness, quickly joined the attack. If they were going to be faced with Jhudora turning them into Mortog beasts, or anything horrible, the Kyrii wanted to go down fighting!

     "He's right! You've stolen the snow to ruin the Day of Giving for everyone in Happy Valley. You're a horrible, vile Faerie!"

     Even Meti thought this outburst was a bit much, slowly shrinking back into himself as he awaited the expected onslaught of anger from Jhudora. However, even as he stood there trembling and wondering what disgusting thing she would turn them into in her outrage, he was surprised to hear nothing but silence. Nervous, the Draik glanced up and to his own surprise, he noticed the Dark Faerie’s expression had softened.

     Jhudora slowly swept along to her throne, and lowered herself into the seat. She spoke softly, as if she were ashamed of her confession. "I didn't think of it harming anyone. It wasn't my intention."

     Spectra shook her head in disgust. "Then why steal all the snow?"

     Meti didn't wait for her reply. He was watching the piles of cold, ivory snow and had noticed a group of tiny Bartamus petpets playing within it. They were having the time of their lives, sliding from slope to slope, hurling snowballs with their wings, and making odd gurgling noises which he suspected was the Bartamus equivalent of laughter. "You wanted to give them a treat..."

     Jhudora nodded, and Spectra almost thought the faerie was blushing. "They work for me all year. Never questioning my plots or schemes. And I just thought a snowy Day of Giving might be a nice reward."

     Meti softened a little. Jhudora had done the wrong thing, but she had acted in haste, and out of genuine goodwill, as unlikely as it seemed. He more than anyone knew what it was like to have good intentions, even if they weren't carried out in the best way. Even Spectra couldn't hide her smile as the three of them watched the squat, winged petpets playing.

     Meti's owner had been right. It didn't snow in some parts of Neopia, and Jhudora's Cloud was such a place. Meti considered how much a snowy Day of Giving had meant to him and realized that perhaps it meant something to other Neopians as well, even if they were vile little creatures who served the will of the wicked Jhudora.

     All this aside, he was realistic.

     "You can't keep the snow. It's needed in Happy Valley. They rely on it."

     Jhudora nodded, then paused.

     "I shall allow you to return it to its rightful home. However..."

     Spectra looked frightened. "However?"

     The Dark Faerie nodded, looking awkward. She shifted from foot to foot, nervous.

     "You shall not tell anyone what I did. Say I stole it to make trouble. Say I had a vendetta against the folk there. Just don't say I was being... nice."

     Meti smiled faintly, understanding that she wished to protect her wicked reputation.

     "As you wish, oh dark one!" He bowed slowly, as Jhudora smiled, glancing over to her petpet minions, deep in thought.

     The next morning the Day of Giving dawned, and celebrations rung out through Neopia. Happy Valley, Terror Mountain and the Ice Caves had something extra to celebrate. As if by magic, all the snow had returned overnight, though the residents had no idea that a small Draik and a pretty Kyrii had laboured all the evening long to make it possible!

     The land was a lovely vision. Everything was dusted with snowflakes, and the igloos were strong and safe. It was strange, though. If one glanced carefully at the piles of snow, they could almost imagine that it didn't seem quite as thick and plentiful as before. It was barely noticed and all the residents were far too merry that day to even give it a passing thought.

     Back in the safety of Meti's Neohome the answer lay. In a corner of the Draik's bedroom was a rather large pile of snow, upon which was nestled a sleeping Bartamus. Jhudora’s reward for the silence of the two pets had been great, and unusually generous.

     Meti glanced up from his bed, yawning before breaking into a wide grin. The Bartamus glanced up and flapped his webbed wings in the snow a little. Happy Valley was safe, Jhudora's reputation was intact, and Meti and Spectra each had a new friend to forever remind them of the Mystery of the Day of Giving.

The End

 
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