The Path: Part One
While returning from the market where she went to buy fresh Loveberries, the young Zafara noticed something moving among the trees. She continued walking without giving much attention to that, her head was full of plans for the day.
"Hey, psiuuuu," she heard a voice from behind a tree, and saw the figure of a hooded White Kacheek. He seemed to be impatient.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't see you there," said the Zafara while running awkwardly towards him.
"Finally, Amelie! Come on, I tried to call your attention for at least thirty trees," the Kacheek said, taking out a small box from his pocket. "I got what you were looking for!" He removed a brand new r99 stamp out of it.
Her eyes were shining bright when she saw it. "Wow! You found it! It's perfect! How much you want for it?" she asked.
"70 million," replied the Kacheek.
Her eyes then widened in shock; that was a much larger amount than she was willing to pay. "70? Ah... I... this is more than I expected." She looked at the stamp with desire and thought about how Derek would be happy to have it.
"Well... this stamp was very hard to find, because it's extremely rare and no one was willing to get rid of it. Look, I know you want it badly, so I can sell it for 60 million, which is the price I paid," the Kacheek said, friendly.
"Oh, oh dear, I can not resist. Give me one minute, I'll be back with the neopoints."
The Zafara ran toward her house, grabbed her hidden chest inside the wardrobe, and took off her economy of years. Breathless, she came back at the Kacheek in the same place and delivered the neopoints to the reseller, who gave her the stamp. In her face was a smile of the size of the world. She thanked him and went back to her home to finish preparations for the birthday of her best friend.
Amelie was a beautiful red Zafara who lived in Meridell since she was born. She was a dreamer, and even being an adult, had a child's heart. However, she had always been a very lonely girl, and used to spend her evenings imagining trips and adventures in Neopia, visiting all the lands and being a hero wherever she went. But then she met Derek. She realized they had much in common, and soon he became her best friend. Derek was a fanatic stamp collector, and even inspired Amelie to start her own - and modest - stamp album.
Amelie was now decorating his birthday cake. She put a layer of whipped cream on all sides and began to embellish it with the final touch, Loveberries all over the top. "Ahhh, Loveberry, you make everything look better," she said, relieved to have been able to make a decent cake - given the fact that she was not an expert in the kitchen. She put the finished cake in a basket and covered it with a towel, put a hand on her pocket to check if she did not forget the gift, and looked at the clock.
She left home for the picnic with Derek. They had agreed to go up the hills of Meridell to see the sunset. The weather was cloudy outside; Meridell is usually a sunny place, but that day it was windy and with some dark clouds approaching. There were not many people walking around and Amelie had a feeling that something was wrong, but she continued on her way to the hill as agreed.
She arrived, but Derek was not there yet. She put the basket on the ground and waited ten, twenty, thirty minutes, and then she saw him - a Blue Kyrii - coming up the hill toward her, with a stamp album in his hands.
"Geez, Derek! Thirty minutes! No cake for you!" she said, sarcastically.
"Oh... sorry... I just... Sorry I'm late," he replied awkwardly.
"Happy birthday, silly!" she said, then hugged him tenderly. She picked the basket up from the ground and took the cake out with excitement. "Ta Daaaa! Tell me, isn't it pretty? Please, it is marvelous, right?"
"Wow, I'm impressed!" the Kyrii said, scratching his head.
They sat down, ate the cake, and talked a lot. After they finished, there was a silence for a few moments.
"Okay, here's my gift. I hope you enjoy." She pulled the package out of her pocket and handed it to him anxiously.
Derek opened the gift impatiently and was shocked to see what was inside. "Ame... Ame... Amelie! Whoa! I cannot believe it! It is one of the most expensive stamps in the collection, wow!" he said with an amazed look in his eyes and a big smile. "Thank you very, very much! I don't even know how to repay you." He approached her and gave her a huge hug. "You're wonderful, Amelie!"
"Your smile is the best reward I could have," she said softly. "You are my best friend."
The two embraced. Amelie was feeling a great joy to have made her friend so happy.
"I'll add it right now to my album!" The Kyrii got out of Amelie's arms, excited. He sat down and carefully glued the stamp in the right place. It was the last one of the page. "Oh, it's beautiful... it's so beautiful..." He looked at the album with fascination.
They kept admiring the full page for a while, until thunder startled them.
"Uh oh, here comes the rain," warned Amelie, and a second later she felt a drop of rain on her shoulder.
"Oh no! We need to go! I don't want to wet my album!" Derek said, visibly worried. "Let's take the shortcut across the bridge!"
They walked fast towards the shortcut, until they reached the bridge. The construction over the river was in poor condition and was abandoned for a long time. Almost nobody used to go in that region of Meridell.
They began to cross it slowly, looking carefully where they were stepping. They were already halfway when they heard a loud roar. An enormous red dragon flew by, leaving a strong wind that hit them in one blow. Neither of them could see what it was. Amelie, who was near to the edge, fell forward with hands on the floor and with a swing of the bridge, she fell out, managing to hold onto one of the timbers of the construction. Derek just fell to his knees, but because of the wind his album flew away almost at the end of the bridge, and was about to fall.
"Derek! Help!" Amelie screamed while holding the wood heavily.
The Kyrii was still on his knees and had not taken his eyes off the album. He looked to his side and saw Amelie, desperate, about to fall off the slippery wooden bridge.
"Derek!!!" the Zafara screamed again in despair. She looked down and saw the wild river under her. The basket with cake had fallen and was being dragged by the river flow.
Derek looked back at the album and noticed that it could fall at any minute. He had to save it; it was his treasure. "I'm sorry, Amelie," he murmured ruthlessly.
Without wasting more time, he stood up and ran for his album. He grabbed it and held it tightly in his arms, closed his eyes and sighed in relief. He could barely hear Amelie's screams while her hands were slipping from the bridge. "DEREK, HELP ME, I WILL F-"
And she fell.
A whirl of emotions went through Amelie's heart while she was falling. Those seconds seemed like an eternity, and they were enough to have filled her eyes with tears.
"I do not understand..." That was the last thing that went through Amelie's mind.
She hit the water.
There was a strong scent of herbs taking over the place. It was raining outside and Amelie was feeling a severe pain in her head. She opened her eyes. It was night. She was lying on a hard mattress in a place that she had never been before, some sort of cabin well away from the civilization of Meridell. She heard the noise of the river, which was not far away. Then she heard someone singing in the place. The person approached along with the strong herbal scent.
"Ohh, there you are, you finally woke up!" said the individual of an old Christmas Zafara. She was lovely, had beautiful green eyes, and was holding a bowl in her hand. "I was worried you would not wake up." She sat down and took a little of the lotion that was inside of the bowl. "Ouch, that must hurt. You got hurt very bad!" She started to spread the lotion over the wounds, making Amelie have small contractions of pain.
"Where... where... am I?" Amelie asked in a low voice, confused by what had happened.
"In my house! My name is Rose. I found you on the riverbank while doing my morning walk. What happened to you, girl? I bet it was the bridge! Ah, that bridge... you should not rely on old bridges like that one!" she said, afflicted by the fact that the bridge was still there after so many years.
"I... I fell from the bridge..." Amelie recalled, but was still not believing that had happened.
"This fall must have been tough, you're lucky to be alive! You slept for three days," said the old Zafara, wiping her hands on a towel.
"Three... Three days? I need to go. My friend must be worried looking for me," Amelie made a move to get up, but Rose stopped her.
"No, you need to finish the treatment with herbs! Don't you feel pain, girl? It needs one more day to take effect," she said, worriedly.
"I... need..." The poor Zafara was visibly confused.
Rose sighed with a look of concern; she knew that something else had happened. It could not be a simple fall. "What happened there on the bridge, sweetie?"
There was a silence for nearly a minute until Amelie spoke. "My friend could have helped me, but... he is so fanatic for his stamp album, his album... I need to see him, he must be looking for me." Amelie could not even arrange the words.
There was a further silence. The old Zafara got up and began to walk in circles, thoughtfully. After a long time she said, "You're Amelie, aren't you?"
"I don't remember saying my name... Yes, I am."
"I heard your name... from a Blue Kyrii with a stamp album in his hands, when I went to buy herbal potions in the market this morning."
Amelie's eyes widened and she spontaneously smiled, then asked, "He was looking for me?"
The old Zafara looked down. "He was commenting to a reseller that you had gone traveling to visit some friends in Faerieland, and that you were very excited about the trip and would not come back so soon."
"What?" Amelie said incredulously. "I have no friends in Faerieland, and he said that... what? I..." she stuttered, not knowing how to interpret that.
"He seemed pretty happy with his stamp album and was exhibiting some super rare stamp to all neighbours. Everyone were congratulating him."
"That makes no sense," said Amelie. "I don't..."
"Oh... I see love in your eyes," Rose realized.
"And what you saw on his eyes?" Amelie asked, without even realizing that it had already been answered, in another way.
Rose turned to the other side. Years of wisdom did not make her able to know what to say in such a delicate situation. The silence lasted, and all they could hear was the sound of the rain.
Suddenly, a loud noise came from outside and the old cabin shook briefly.
"Oh no! It's him again!" Rose shouted, frightened.
"He? Who?" Amelie asked, apprehensively; that noise seemed like a monster.
The old Christmas Zafara ran to turn off the lights of the cabin. She didn't want to draw attention from that thunderous creature again. With the lights off, she came close to Amelie.
"What's happening?" Amelie asked, scared.
"Shhhh," Rose whispered.
The noise was moving away, until all that was heard was the sound of the rain and the river again. The dragon had raised wings and flown away from there.
"Oh my Coltzan!! This can only be a persecution," Rose said incredulously. She looked out the window and saw no signs of him outside.
"What was that?" Amelie asked.
"It's a dragon, an enormous red dragon that appeared about four days ago. I have no idea where from," she said angrily. "The first time I saw him, I was sitting eating a doughnutfruit, then I saw a huge creature flying in the sky of Meridell. That dazzled me. I always had a fascination about dragons, but never got to see one."
Amelie then remembered what made her stumble at the bridge; it was something big and with a loud roar. "It might be this dragon."
"Dragons! Never think that dragons are docile!" Rose continued. "A day before yesterday I saw him near the trees and decided to approach... Darn, you believe he came running after me spitting fire?" she said, seeming shocked. "He got me cornered, and by impulse I threw the first thing I put my hands on. He got scared and flew away," she sighed.
Amelie thought about telling that it was the same dragon that made her fall from the bridge, but before she could open her mouth, the old Zafara shouted, "Farlyn! Farlyn! Everything but the Farlyn, I'm too dumb! Arrrgghhhh!"
Rose was furious. She left and slammed the door, but returned just ten seconds later.
"I'm sorry, I'm a bit stressed," Rose said, now with a lower tone of voice. "Is that... I was really stupid to have throw the Farlyn Stone at the Dragon... It got caught in his skin like a splinter, and now I have no idea how to recover it," she said, sorrowfully.
"Farlyn Stone?" Amelie questioned.
"I have it for so long that I can't remember. It is a very powerful gem forged by a legendary Faerie Pteri. It's able to predict the future and say to its owner if they're on the right path."
"Ohhh..." Amelie was wondering what kind of person was Rose. Surely she was someone with great knowledge and power, but Amelie had never seen her in Meridell. "Maybe she's a witch..." she thought.
"I have to come up with a plan to retrieve it," Rose said, walking in circles.
"Maybe I can help you with it," said Amelie.
"And how do you intend to do it?"
"I... do not know."
"You know this can be very dangerous, right?"
"I know! But I want to help; you saved my life. Can I... I... just stay here for a couple of days?" Amelie asked with an embarrassed voice. All she didn't want was to come back home; her heart was broken and she wanted to run away forever.
"Sure, girl! Stay for as long as you feel necessary. I imagine that with the facts that occurred to you, you don't want to go back," Rose said as if guessing her thoughts.
"Well... yeah," sighed Amelie, "but capturing a dragon, it might even be fun."
"I'm sure it will be!" Rose responded ironically. "It's late, rest a little bit more, and tomorrow we will start with the plans."
"Okay, good night!"
"Good night, little Zafara. Be kind to your heart. Tomorrow is another day," she said and headed for the door.
"Rose," Amelie called, "thank you a lot!"
To be continued...