Estantia: Behind Closed Doors
Hey, this is yet another Neopets one, put here for safekeeping so that it can be proof read and then resubmitted, I'm sure you'll learn the lingo from Nothing is as it seems...
Nothing is as it seems...
Carie316 is male, level 1, has a strength of 10, a defence of 10, likes hunting for treasure, when meeting other neopets Carie316 would act very friendly. That’s what the little sheet on the front of his cage said, that’s all he meant to people, a blue Bori sitting in the pound, he’d been looked at his fair share of times, but each time the flicker of hope was smaller and smaller.
At least he had company, the Ixi to his left and the Eyrie to his right were his friends, and whenever he got called out they went with him, kaellan the Eyrie (whose numbers had been lost long ago) and Pixi_shimmer the Ixi with Carie316 the Bori. They knew they had all been abandoned for their weakness and their names, none of them remembered their first owners either, they’d looked at grey walls too long.
Carie had been there first, Kaellan not far behind with Pix arriving the week after, they were inseparable now. They’d heard each other’s stories and comforted the others when they were at their worst. You had a lot of soul searching time in the pound, and that led to despair when you encountered your own worst flaws.
“Pix?” came a small voice to Carie’s right, Kaellan was never that quiet normally, he must have found the nightmare in his mind again, “Can you tell us one of your stories?” Someone was crying below them, a sweet little blue Xweetok that had come in that day, “You know how it calms everyone.”
Somehow the small voice had managed to be passed along the walls of cages and an unearthly hush descended, Pix was famous for her stories, all the younger ones adored her, she was their light in the darkness, before she’d come there had a been a hole missing. Carie was the peacemaker and counsellor of their area and Kaellan? He was the older brother, complete with a warped telepathy of sorts. They’d even been allowed out of the cages sometimes to soothe a pet in another area of the pound, and Pix was regularly sent to soothe them to sleep, but she always came back drawn, as if it sapped something from her.
“Please don’t make me tonight Kaellan, I’m tired.”
“You have all day to sleep tomorrow,” the green-tinted beak stuck out of the door, “Please Pix,” they knew his unspoken sentence, -I don’t want the nightmares again-
“Very well,” she sighed, “Shall we go to Faerieland?”
“Where’s that?” asked the Xweetok,
“It’s a cloud that floats 10000 feet above Neopia, a huge cloud strong enough to support buildings, the buildings of the faeries.” Carie yawned, he could feel Pix’s magic working on him already and curled himself into a more comfortable position before closing his eyes.
Carie woke up much later, the lights were out and soft blue moonlight gently illuminated the rows of cells, one of the few times the pound was peaceful and beautiful.
He shivered as a shadow broke the bars of light silently, a human woman with dark shapes of hair and clothes wafting around her body in the otherworldly light before she stopped in front of his cage, tilting her head slightly to one side. Carie’s eyes shot open and his head jerked up off his paws, looking intently at this stranger, he’d seen her walk through the pound many, many times. Each time she’d come she’d looked at names and pets, never letting her thoughts show. Occasionally she’d noted something down and then left, the pet noted usually vanished a few days later without a trace.
And the Vanisher was looking at him.
She didn’t seem evil though, not as menacing as the stories said, Carie could see clearly that her eyes reflected sorrow and she stood in silence and met his gaze. He found himself able to hold it and the sorrow lifted briefly to show a happy smile before she looked around and the sorrow descended once more before she spoke softly.
“There are so many of you.” Carie nodded, certain this strange lady would see. Not a pitiless woman at all, he ought to mention that to Pix...
“And I can save so few...”
-Save?- Carie was curious, how did she mean save? As in take them from this life?
“But you... the doctor tells me you have been here for months.”
“My friends also,” he found himself replying softly.
“You are special, you’re even allowed out.”
“At times, to calm others.”
The woman remained silent for a time, looking at him until a familiar Techo appeared next to her.
“This one? No, I’m sorry, not him.”
“I too am sorry doctor, but I cannot control who is chosen,” the woman sounded almost sad.
“Please... let him stay, we need him.”
“And so do they.” This comment caused the yellow Techo to fall silent.
“What of his friends? At least take all three.” Was that pity?
“They have different stories, or destinies, whatever you call them.”
The doctor snorted, “You can not be serious with this talk of destiny, it isn’t like that,”
“Then how come you found this place?” Carie’s eyes widened, now he was amazed, this woman was facing down Doctor Death with a calm voice! She must be powerful, but there was something strange about her...
“I refuse to let any of those three go.”
Suddenly a wind swirled through the corridors and caught the woman’s clothes and hair, silhouetting her as two golden eyes shone in the darkness, when the woman next spoke her voice Carie shivered, it had changed to one that seemed much older, something using her as a channel.
“These three are marked, Doctor, nothing you can say or do changes that. You will lose all three, but they will lose far more than you ever will...”
The power stopped and the wind died, returning to the perfect calm of half-light and leaving in its wake a shaking Techo looking at her in horror. “You were advised not try and stop me when we first met,” the woman said firmly but gently, holding the Techo’s gaze, “I believe you just got a taste of why I said that.”
She turned back to the Bori and smiled gently, “I’m sorry if I scared you, that was a rare occurrence, even for me.” She smiled as the doctor walked away and then said another soft thing that sent a tingle down his spine.
“I’ll see you in two days time, be ready.”
When Kaellan and Pix awoke Carie told his friends all of what he had heard, including the reaction to her magical power, “It was scary, but I swear, I swear it wasn’t her talking, even the doctor gave way before it, and he doesn’t give way to anything, ever.”
“He has now... I wonder who she is?” They fell into silence at this until Kaellan suddenly spoke, “Pix?” They suddenly realised she was very quiet at this point. He called her name softly once again and she still remained silent until the green Eyrie spoke again, “It’s being split up isn’t it?”
“I think I’ll go mad...” came the whisper from the Ixi, “I don’t think I can manage without you guys...”
“It sounds like we’ll all have to,” Carie pointed out, “If we’re all marked...”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Judging by her voice the Ixi was on the edge of tears, causing Carie to stick a paw through his bars towards her side.
He bit his lip silently as two hooves and a forehead pressed themselves into his palm, “I don’t ever want to leave you two... I’m not well, I haven’t been in months, I’ll
“You haven’t been well?” Carie’s eyes shot open, “Do you want me to call the Doctor?”
“No! Just, just let me die here, I don’t want to live if you two go,” came her small voice and Caries held her hooves tighter, “No Pix, you have to live, you’ll get a lovely new owner, and be painted, have brothers and sisters, you won’t need us, you’ll have a wonderful life! You can’t die! I’ll come and visit you!” Carie’s voice was nearly desperate as Kaellan spoke in a sad voice,
“We know our fate Carie, leave us here, you need to go on, become great, remember us.”
“There’s no need to be so sombre! Your fate might not be to die! And one of you might be moved to be next to each other! Make a new friend!”
“There’ll be no-one like you Carie, but now let’s enjoy our time together and do all the good we can.” The Eyrie spoke sense but the Bori’s ears still drooped for the rest of the day, glad for once that the others couldn’t see him.
“I’ll never forget you guys, I’ll leave something, somewhere to say I remember, I promise.”
“Somehow I don’t think we’ll see it, but thank you,” commented the Eyrie as Pix sniffed.
It was once again that strange time of night when Carie next awoke to the sound of padding footsteps until a Kougra reared up to place their forepaws on the bottom of his cage to look at him.
“She says you know?”
“Yup.” Carie’s mouth was dry, it was time, “Can I say goodbye to my friends?”
“There’s no time, I’m sorry, I know how much they meant to you.” As she started to walk away Carie turned to look back and spoke softly.
The Kougra placed a gentle paw on his shoulder and took it off again before she led him away. Carie looked back to see only one pair of eyes and a seemingly empty cage. When they walked into the outside area at the back of the pound held in by high walls the Kougra stopped.
“This is your first lesson,” she said calmly, “the wall jump, you can climb if you wish but often that leaves a mark of very soft materials, brick it should be ok though, however jumping causes more noise, which would you use if you were trying to escape quickly?”
“Erm.... the jump? Why are you asking me?”
“Yes there is a point to this, and you’re right, but you need to gauge the territory first, no point jumping against a rickety wall, it’s likely to fall in. We’re going to practice the jump now, though you probably won’t use it much, you’re more suited for climbing.”
The cat looked up at the wall corner and tensed her muscles before leaping, planting her feet firmly against the wall and kicking back towards the other, zig-zagging between the two walls, sending herself flying upwards until she sat neatly atop the high wall, panting slightly. “Your turn, mostly you’ll use this for narrow alleys, corners like this are hard, feel free to climb if you fall three times.”
It wasn’t entirely surprising that the Bori has to resort to climbing, but even that was a bit of a challenge, the wall, old as it looked, was slippery and had a tendency to try and let his claws slip through the chips in it. He did make it to the top though, eventually.
“Where.... where are we going?” he asked as she let him rest for a moment,
“We’re going over there, look,” She moved her paw to sweep over the city of Neopia central at night and Carie gasped. There were small lights scattered in all directions with some larger lights, the battledome, various halls. He swore he could hear singing from somewhere and the gentle buzz of talk.
“Come, you have to remember the way.” The Kougra moved off and the two figures melted into the rooves and treetops of Neopia central, the Kougra carefully leading and guiding him over the various obstacles, teaching him how to move soundlessly through each, emphasis on secrecy.
By the time they reached the inconspicuous house Carie’s mind was spinning with information, but still blinked in surprise then the cat-like creature carefully opened a hatch and slipped inside, landing softly in a dark attic.
“Now tell me, what can you see?”
“A light switch, but nothing else,”
“Do you want to turn it on?” Her tone was idle, but Carie hesitated, he’d heard that tone before.
“Is this a trick?”
“No, it’s a question.”
-So it was a trick.- “No.”
“Night sight will go and the light will draw attention?”
“I knew you’d learn fast,” the orange pet smiled at him, sounding satisfied, “Into the main house I think.”
When they went into the main house Carie really did not believe his eyes, “What the..?” he was standing on a slab of stone at the head of a corridor that looked like the inside of something ill’s guts.
“Jelly corridor, this house is in essence a training exercise, there are sensors within the jelly. The problem with jelly is that it wobbles if you step on it too hard or fast, try it.” Carie took a few normal steps along the corridor, not seeing anything strange and reasonably confident.
Suddenly a huge shadowy Tonu reared up in front of him and a huge foot fastened itself around Carie’s throat and pulled him off the floor, whirling him around its head once before sending him flying back to the slab of stone, where his instructor had neatly stepped aside to allow him to slide into the back wall with a thump.
“That is why you need to be careful. Try again, only this time go slowly and carefully, using your claws to slice in helps too, though remember it leaves a track, better to just go slow, lets you hear too.”
Carie moved carefully along and stopped at the stone slab outside the nearest door, only to see the Kougra jumping at the wall and letting it spring her back and forward between the walls to land neatly on the stone. “Never do that unless you need a fast exit and can control the fast jump, you’d climb rather than jump, but quite often the jelly is specially made to crumble off,” she quickly showed this and then ate it, “Also people usually notice if something’s bouncing along the walls.”
She turned his attention to the next room, “Cloud is a material that you’ll often find, the most expensive one of the sensible options, and the easiest to trip up any unexpected visitors. Just think, it moves, near impossible to climb, indents and remains indented, can hide anything within it... it is a very useful material for the ones we work with, and usually for as well, though many neopians use it.”
“Expensive but also cheap, this is a likely one for you to come across. The sensors are in here too, as well as traps. I want you to find a small wooden box with a flower on the lid.”
The Kougra placed a paw on his back and pushed slightly. "Do it, you can, just keep a careful eye on where you’re stepping, and walk carefully.”
Carie stepped forwards gently, seeing the imprint the he made, for about half a minute carefully testing how much pressure wouldn’t make a mark. However as he moved a few steps he looked back, still indented... Carie carefully lowered his tail and brushed the imprints away with the fur, stirring it so the tracks were erased.
The Kougra raised one eyebrow, “Beautiful, you’re the first who’s considered that.” Carie turned back to his work to hide the dull flush of pride spreading over his cheeks as he made his way along, the words of the Kougra following him, “However they may see it has been stirred, but the important thing is that they cannot trace what did it. You can also lay false trails using your tail, remember that, confusion is preferable.”
Carie nodded and stopped, seeing the cloud uneven. Now that was odd, it looked almost grainy, in fact the grainy cloud... he looked across the room, it formed a box around one corner. If that wasn’t an indicator that something was in there they wanted to protect then nothing was, but how to cross it... He lowered his nose to try and see through the grainy cloud, then lifted his head and tried to blow the cloud away.
“I love natural talent, not that I expected anything less from her, out of all the people I get brought to me hers are always the best, wait.” The Kougra jumped lightly onto a desk and proceeded to make her way across the room without touching the floor at all.
“Furniture is useful, always avoid the floor if you can. Did you spot that the contents of that corner are carefully separated from the other things in the room? Though the floor gave a big hint.”
She laid on the table and studied it, “blowing away the cloud works very well so you can see what’s there, often it will be a trap but in this case... what is it?”
“Erm...” the Bori looked at it carefully, “Is it an electric wall?”
“Yes, now there’s two reasons why this is effective here, look on the other side, what do you see?” the Kougra smiled as Carie’s head jerked to the floor beyond the trap, “Good, you’re not perfect. Remember to look at everything, not only would you be electrocuted but that little disturbance over there is a sleeping Drackonack.”
Carie’s eyes widened as he located the petpet, “So I need to not wake it?”
“The cloud in this part of the room is like water, dip your paw in.”
"I’ll take your word for it.” At this the Kougra looked stern,
“You have to do it sometime.”
The Bori reluctantly nodded and slipped a claw in, feeling it slice through something solid before reaching a watery cloud, “Oh,”
“A moving floor piece, very clever is it not? It serves to catch out any jumping over the fence, it tips them straight into the Drackonack’s path who raises a disturbance and attacks you, hence you are officially dead.”
“So what do I do instead?”
“You go around the walls, there’s stone behind them, that or you carefully ease the moving floor down without causing a disturbance and then step over.” She watched as Carie opted for the second, carefully easing himself over the electric wall and making his way stealthily to the drawer, up to his knees in cloud, such cold cloud... He quickly scrambled up onto the wooden object, eyeing the cloud distrustfully.
"Well done, never underestimate any enchantments people may have in place. The Drackonack isn’t affected due to being cold-blooded. So, get the box out then.”
“There’s another trick isn’t there?” he asked, “but it will aim for anyone opening from the front... They won’t expect them to be on top, right?”
“In this respect then maybe not, overconfidence can kill you and them. I would suggest standing to the side briefly if you really wanted to be certain. Carie did this and carefully eased the draw open without using the handle to find a ghostly hand shooting out and reaching down, to the front and then retreating. “Another good tip is to have a dummy it can take, then it won’t be so paranoid,” his instructor said as Carie resumed his position on the top of the dresser and looked down into the draw, noting the alarm spell waiting, connected to the lock mechanism.
“Now before you take the box look carefully, many fall here because they have their goal in sight and lose caution.”
“So basically the way to do this well is to be completely paranoid?”
“Basically, and being clever enough to get around it.” She watched as he paused, not going for the box as he had before. Instead he looked closer and saw the hand was also connected to the box.
He carefully took an eyeshadow case from the dresser and moved the box forwards. Immediately the hand shot out and grabbed the eyeshadow case, grasping it firmly as Carie waited to see its next move, no, just huddled there, the case big enough to take up the thing’s palm.
Now Carie lifted the box carefully, expecting the next move, the clawed hand shooting out, but it had forgotten the eyeshadow container taking up its palm, causing it to fumble uselessly as Carie cradled the box in his paw.
“Very good. Inside there may easily be correspondence, love letters, all sorts of things that we can use.”
“Who is 'we'?” Carie’s eyes studied the calm-faced Kougra.
“We are the people who secure Neopia’s safety from the shadows.”
“So you’re spies.”
The Kougra hesitated, then nodded, “In a sense, we are the Intelligence.”
“Every ruler needs spies.”
Carie’s eyes widened as he saw who his new boss was, “You mean..?”
“Yes,” The instructor smiled, “we are the intelligent ones. We walk among other pets by day and night but no-one ever knows them because they hide their true potential. We are never seen for what we are.”
“Ever.” There was a silence in the dark room as they looked at each other. “Come, the night is young and you have much to learn.”
So Carie followed.
“Well Carie, I guess this is goodbye for now.”
The Kougra and her pupil were sitting outside a very normal neohome in a very normal street, for Neopia central anyway, as the sun was starting to rise, lighting the sky with an eerie neutrality.
“I’ll still report to you though,” Carie pointed out as they sat there quietly, waiting for the dawn.
“That you will little one.”
“I told you not to call me that...”
“And that stops me?” The Kougra raised a dainty eyebrow at the Bori, who stuck his tongue out before facing the door and reaching towards the knocker and tapping it once, twice, three times. A minute later a girl appeared at the door and stared at her new pet. “Are you Carie316?” she asked curiously.
The Bori nodded, “Yes, that’s me,” he said, the words sounding awkward even as he said them, not that she noticed.
“Hi! I’m your new owner, welcome to your new home! Hey guys! Come and meet your new brother!” As the girl was yelling into the house Carie turned to look back at his instructor, only to find she wasn’t there. He looked back to the house as he heard his new owner speak, “Hey, come in, there’s no need to stand out there in the cold.”
Carie316 the Blue Bori turned to look out at the early morning street one last time as he stepped into the house and closed the door behind him, smiling slightly as he thought about Pix and Kaellan, wondering how they were doing as he was on the brink of a new double life...
Something unseen rippled down the street like a whisper. These three are marked, Doctor, nothing you can say or do changes that. You will lose all three, but they will lose more than you ever will...
The end, for now.
Nothing is as it seems...