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The Prequel to "The Dart of Shame". In these stories, it is better explained how Salasi squirrel met young Duchess Lucinda, and how much a handful a lady lemur can be to train in ancient ways.
"Handle With Care"Edit
Duchess Lucinda knew she had to keep a low profile at the halfway house, especially since the land lady, Mrs. Wisey, is Officer X's mother (actually, and ironically, she was a very nice old lady who loved animals... but its better safe then sorry) Lucinda felt annoyed with having to stay inside, especially since, despite liking those wacky fruit bats, she only visits the Blood Sisters when Amy sends her to them... kind of an act of respect to both worlds. Feeling it was a nice enough day in Suburbia to visit the next-door neighbors, since the fog hides enough of her to keep people from calling her strange (so hard to be a young lemur in the big city) Lucinda figured that she should spook Liversnap the pit-bull before he bullies the younger pets again, but she tripped over a package as soon as she closed the door behind her. A quick learner, able to read enough to understand the posting stamps she figured something was odd about the label, "3114 Gypsy Ave.", which read this very building, but she's listed every wacko outside the Dehauntedo family raising her that lived in the halfway house, and nobody went by the name Patrick McGordon. Then she saw the crease on the corner of the labeling paper and folded it down: "8714 Gypsy Ave", the building across the street. "Don't they ever tell the new guy at the postage business the 'Handle with Care' policy?" Lucinda moaned, but she knew complaining won't help, she had to get the package to it's rightful owner before things got out of hand... besides, it stunk, more-so then fish!
Had been used to physical labor, Lucinda was able to carry the heavy box herself, but she was upset to see the notice on the door of Mr. McGordon's:
OUT GARDENING, PLEASE CHECK BACK DOOR.
Knowing she had to finish what she started, Lucinda needed not just strength but nerve to get to the gate to the backyard, but she managed. That man's place was creepy, even to her, but there was something about it that made her feel at home... maybe it was the oak tree there, as it has a strange reminder-vibe of the Baobabs back on Madagascar. Even the squirrels gathering there had lemur-like energy! Delusional from homesickness, Duchess Lucinda ran up to it, and accidentally knocked over a mushroom... she saw a glow around the oak, as it turned out to be encircled with mushrooms. She figured radioactivity at first, as that's what normally gets mushrooms to do that, but since the tree was healthy, could it be something more...?
"Sacred!" Mr. McGordon, an Irish immigrant farmer, pulled her away from the oak, and the glowing mushrooms dimmed down, "Rooted pooka shrine of the New York cul-de-sac didn't expect you coming, wee lass."
Duchess Lucinda couldn't tell if it was the fog, insanity, or poor vision that kept this man from noticing she's an animal, but it was clear that she had to use actions to commune with him, but since her sign language is limited, she had to use whatever it took to explain... starting with giving him the package, which he whiffed in excitement. "Aye! So this is what became of me new fertilizer! You must be a cleaver one indeed to use this mix up to sneak into me garden and peak at the pookas... 'pookas' are what we call Earth Spirits in me old country, by the way. All the local ones gathered in this spot for about a Hundred years know, first by using ritual of there world to make it grow up to seal demon underground, and now-days to insure it's still growing strong, that's what fairy ring is for... to keep reckless sorts from cutting it down without going unpunished. Clearly, lass, you mean no harm, as they could've caused acorn or branch to drop on your head by now, but they are busy enough without your surprise visit! I used many rituals last year for getting help from them for prize winning country fair garden, but it's always blue ribbons and no state fair trophy... nice, but not much to brag about to cousins in Dublin. So, I do it again, but this time... stronger manure for my share of labor! Cousin Fay eats her words on me being average. Here, use this scroll. It'll offer basic tips for many rituals to beg a pooka's forgiveness. Keep an eye out for the Elder one, Salasi, she keep saying she have worse things to take care of besides tree, but I never catch up with her to get specifics, and she creep everybody out... you seem the courageous nosy sort, maybe you can figure her out."
As Duchess Lucinda rolled her eyes, signed "thank you" to the Irishman, and headed back to the Halfway House, Salasi squirrel herself was watching on the top branch of the Old Oak, where her wise eyes saw through the fog and into the surprise guest's eyes, and noticed something familiar about them.
Lucinda studied the scroll carefully and shook her head, assuming the Irish farmer was indeed a few onions short of a full harvest. She studied several forms of spirit world lore to see where her old culture on Madagascar would fit in, and she knew that half the rituals, even in Celtic belief, were a load of baloney. She set up a bowl in a spirit hill shrine matter that night, as she knew was the right way (it's amazing what an open mind would pick up on while figuring what might or might not work) but as corrected she didn't put rotten plants at that alter all willy-nilly, but recalled the spirits in squirrel bodies and lined up trail-mix there in a crucifix matter, as proper with the Dehantedo Christianity. She wanted to add a song or prayer to her ritual, but she couldn't find the words for it, and was too tired to use them anyway... passed out on the floor!
Thunk! click-click! thud!
Some sounds woke her with a start, and she saw a shadowy figure gathering her nut-cross. The silhouette was that of an old squirrel; could it be the old pooka that her unusual neighbor called Salasi? Duchess Lucinda couldn't think straight, for she recalled that her island folklore claimed it's bad luck to witness a creature from the spirit-world in action, yet she wondered if its worse not to... and whether or not it was proper to start conversing with said spirit when it happens. Unable to contain her curiosity, the young lemur lost control of her mouth.
"Em, excuse me, are you Salasi?!"
Startled at the sound, the old squirrel disappeared in a flash... or would've seemed to disappear to ordinary eyes. See, Lucinda was given visions of sorts, little hints and clues from the Sky Spirits to her own eyes and ears, like when she learned the existence of snow before she came to New York or heard the name "Mordecai" before having a book called the Bible read to her for the first time, so now, when the supernatural-thunderstorm would've covered the old squirrel lady's tracks, Lucinda saw a squirrel-shaped glow moving at lightning speed, literally, and although the little duchess couldn't move nearly as fast, she did catch up enough to barely see the after-light of this stranger glow behind her. After following her all the way passed the New Jersey border, Lucinda was able to use her gifted intellect to assume the squirrel's next move, and cut her off at the junkyard.
The old squirrel didn't smile, yet she seemed impressed, "I haven't been pursued like that since I was avoiding surprise attacks in what is now referred to as World War I. More interesting, you are neither a human to had found me on purpose like this, nor a demon to have taken so long. Indeed yes, I am Salasi, eldest of the guardians that live in the Old Oak, and the Temptress below! And I don't need to see the jewelry to know a piece of your back-story, for I've lived more then long enough to know the type when I see it... nobody expects visiting royalty in this part of the world, but you are destined for greater things, even if it seems somewhat lesser."
"So I am in the right place... <ahem>... You might already be knowing this, but I'm Princess Lucinda Hira Cattamaki, but my human family calls me 'Cousin Cindy' or 'Duchess'."
"And you can either call me 'Auntie Sala' of 'Ma'am', but I don't waste my mouth on it, do I?"
"No Ma'am... Sorry Ma'am."
Even with fair warning, Lucinda wasn't an easy thing to silence once she starts to crave the attention she now has, and carried on and on about her back-story from an "invisible" princess back on Madagascar, to a humble castaway taken up as a pet... she even shown her new alias the outdated comic books she saved when the magazine stand near the pier tossed them out for misprints and smudges (that, and they were the editions of last year!) and had landed her right in that very dump before, along with a Herbology book that was missing a few pages.
"... I know they are still good for something, I just can't figure out what yet."
Sala looked at her chest, which wouldn't be much of a concern if you didn't see that jester with Lucinda's eyes, for in a blink, for a split-second, she saw that squirrel was hollow and seemed to be missing something... didn't see long enough to know what though.
"In my condition," Sala said at last, "I wouldn't care enough to do so, seeing that I have greater problems... far greater! In fact, I'm surprised I'm still bound enough in this world to still have an appetite! None the less, I recall nothing get's past the sight of my Xanthros either, and if he sensed I've turned you down, he'd be turning in his grave... and I only have about five years left to live anyway! Therefore, I figure I can teach you a few things you can do with those and all else the people discard, but let's discuss it in a later time."
Before anything could be asked about that, Sala grabbed Lucinda by the arm and tugged at it.
The next thing the little duchess knew, she was waking up in the morning light. She would've assumed she was dreaming... only she knew for sure she didn't sleep that particular night wearing an old t-shirt as a nightgown (and Amy never succeeds at putting her in that without waking her up... nor did she even try to that night), and she noticed the Crucifix had been recreated with acorn caps, when she clearly recalled she used every kind of nut for it but acorns
Shitamachi Combat (With a little bit of Science and Magic)Edit
While her human family was having its usual outing in the park, Duchess Lucinda felt unearthly winds that nothing in this world or the next could make.
Not knowing what to do, Lucinda wasn't paying attention to her own movements, and had been startled and have stumbled into a hole... travel-bag and all. She found herself in the older parts of the sewers, and almost screamed, but who else but Sala was there to cover her mouth. "Quiet child," the elderly squirrel warned her, "as we mustn't unveil the location of my hidey-hole."
"What's a 'hidey-hole'?"
"It's were I hide my valuable collection."
Sala tapped the bricks in a rhythm that somehow reminded Lucinda of a combination, and out of that wall appeared a doorway.
"Mostly, but I have seen the whole world before my first trips back and forth from it... I had an easier time staying young then, and was able to kept the toys. Careful of the bicycle over there."
"That is a Bike?!" Lucinda had seen bikes all over the city before, but had never seen a model that old... except in an Encyclopedia (if memory serves her right, Amy said that kind of bike was called a "Dandy Horse" during a reading lesson).
"I've been around a long time, Duchess," Salasi explained, "and held several identities before using my original one again. I was lucky to have kept the memory of it. Take a look around, and enjoy them... they don't mean as much to me as they used to."
Lucinda was thrilled to actually be touching the playthings of yore, which would usually end up in a museum. There were beanbags, yo-yos (both regular and Chinese), marbles made of stones, tops made of clay, an old jump-rope or two, a Nankin Tamasudare (some sort of bending toy used for chanting stories), a boliche (some kind of ancient paddle-ball), a hoop with a stick... for rolling it, apparently..., bamboo-copters and whirligigs, dolls from mud-babies to puppets and jumping-jacks to nesting, an ocarina, a pellet drum, a Trammel of Archimedes (also called the "Kentucky Do-Nothing Crank"), a toy wagon, and several books and scrolls containing folklore and fairy tales told and retold... only one thing caught her eye more so then the others, as she never saw it's equal.
"It's a Celtic Stone," Sala explained, spinning it around in separate directions (though it seemed to only purger on direction), "my very first actual plaything, and there is a lesson to it... that when we keep going or intended direction, sometime we must stop, but if we intend to change the direction, somehow we wind up back in the same routine. You, Lucinda, seem to be my other direction. You claim to be a collector yourself, yet you fail to see that while a wagon can carry many things it can carry you as well, or that marbles used in ringers can also be a substitute for an oil slick... or that Alchemy is proof that Science and Magic can be used together, as the are as alike as they are different."
Lucinda took out the And the Challenger is... A Girl?! Edition of her Ranma 1/2 comic and tried to make sense of what was just said. "Are you saying that 'Good Old Days Style Martial Arts' is a real fighting style?"
"In the Edo Period, it was called Shitamachi, but yes, it's real. Every movement can be used as Kung Fu, any object can be used as a weapon, and any plant can be either a poison or a medicine depending on wisdom of use. I don't want the flame to die out when I take my final trip to the afterlife, as it is a one way ride, so when it comes to alchemy, I was looking for an apprentice, as Science and Magic is put to use as either a disaster of a miracle through these toys and all you find at the junkyard. You came the closest I can find to filling the void."
"Can we start with the 'Fire-flower Beanbag Endless Downpour'?!" Lucinda started juggling in excitement, but she missed the beat and hit herself in the head... four times!
Sala shook her head, "We start with... the basics!"
Changing the SubjectEdit
Lucinda was doing all sorts of nonsensical experiments on Salasi's watch... making fire come out of nowhere when the weather is cold, and doing the same with snow and ice in the hottest days of summer. Naturally, all Lucinda could manage to each of them was a quick draft, which was a good start, but wasn't enough to make a good sense of accomplishment. Sala promised that if she can change the subject of matter enough to control the weather, Lucinda can triplicate the threat level in the toy or trinket used as a weapon...
"No dice ma'am."
"Now there is an idea," Sala said (it seemed she wanted to smile, but something kept her strangely serious), and she signaled Lucinda to wait as she flashed away from the secret caverns and back, and returned with a pair of dice. "You may not know this, but these loaded dice are a family heirloom to your human family, the Dehauntedo's, for generations. As tonight's project, I would like you to set the 'lucky' seven to snake-eyes in at least six moves per piece, but there is only one rule to this test: you can't touch these dice, let alone tamper with them!"
"Impossible Auntie Sala! May I remind you, these dice are loaded?!"
Lucinda pounded on the table to prove her point.
Sala shook her head, "I'll give you a clue, and with an open mind, one clue is all you need: It has something to do with the subject of inertia."
Lucinda was taking reading lessons earlier, and had recently learned what "inertia" was... something staying still until forced to move, but how to move them without touching them? Banging the table wasn't much help. Then she recalled the matter of fact that, with a stupid question, there really is no stupid answers. Using one trick after another, trying everything her mind acted on a hunch upon, but nothing worked. Feeling worn out from her failed attempts, Lucinda figured how late it was, and panicked! If not back at the Halfway House by at least nine, she might get locked out, and her fear of thunder gave her a knack for sensing storms... felt like a lot of rain on the way tonight! The young duchess quickly rummage through the scrolls (most of them were in Squirrel Sanskrit, and the few written in Latin... somewhat like Spanish, which her human cousins hold their heritage... could only be understood only a dabble). She came across a charm that seemed to read "Body Electricity" and hoped the ritual would at least give her enough of a pick-me-up to get herself back before dark, let alone the storm hit. It worked as she hoped, though the energy boost effect was under whelming, but found that as she walked out her pendents, made out of two seashells and thick vines, kept sticking to the sewer pipes as though they had been... magnetized! Lucinda snuck into Amy's school several times and saw the Elementary Science Fair, so she knew all the things that can be turned into magnets, and seashells weren't on the list! Lucinda managed to unstick herself, and figured that if she can magnetize anything then...Eureka!
"Here Auntie Sala," Lucinda shown the dice to the alchemy teacher in pride, "Snake-eyes, in five moves! I couldn't think of an extra roll to fit into the assignment. My pendents did make good polarity reverses, you know."
"Why is there stone marbles on the ceiling?!"
"Oh, that? I had a little trouble finding the reversal to your 'Body Electricity' charm... nobody is perfect you know!"
"I never said you were. I must admit, it took you long enough, but you've found a way to generate plasma, which can be used to teleport, for the record. Anyway, now that the fifth element is in your favor, it will give you an edge with the original four... but only in emergencies!"
"I know what's an emergency... not getting back before anyone knows I am gone! How does that flashy running of yours work again?"
Spying on a Spy (for Love)Edit
It was so hard to believe that it was only a half a year since Lucinda had last been in Central Park to climb a tree, considering she usually detours into the nearby sewers for her Alchemy lessons, but after she told Sala that there was a "special view" in the Sycamore that she just had to get a glimpse of again, getting approval to take a brake was a piece of fruitcake. It's dumfounding how rusty her climbing skills were, but once she touched the bark of the trees, it didn't take long for Lucinda to get the hang of it... plus, what choice did she have? Not teleportation! The wind and thunder was a bit much too soon.
"Tell me, child," Sala said, stuffing her cheeks (its a squirrel thing, that's for sure), "what is so 'special' about the view from one of the tallest trees in the park... other then the songbirds-eye-view from the change in height? I know you are not aiming for that!"
"It's a bird alright." Lucinda had no need to say more, as she had used a telescope she had found in the junkyard last week (a bit dented and unsightly, sure, but with a few patchings it was still useable) and pointed at the Central Park Zoo...
...there, on the other side of the lens, she saw her target: A tall, smart, and handsome penguin doodling blueprints on a clipboard (she didn't know his name then, but we can all be assured this one is Kowalski), whom she passed by on three visits, two stowed away in Amy's backpack, and once in plain sight wearing dolly clothes she found and patched up... she's even found a pair of toy-sized boots that day, as well as an old red dust-mop she used as a wig. It didn't take long for Sala to figure it out.
"We don't have time for that nonsense, young lady! Love is a distraction, and if you tried to get his attention now it'll be all for nothing, as he is taken."
Lucinda gave the best "don't-you-dare-remind-me" look she can manage toward Sala, but another glance through the telescope did just that, as she saw that smart penguin waving to a pressy female dolphin with too-much waterproof make-up on (at least Lucinda knew her name... it's Doris), and then Lucinda saw her target of admiration getting slapped in the face by a flat-headed meany (Skipper).
"Ha!" Lucinda laughed, "Serves him right! A penguin of his intellectual capability should know better then to dive into shallow waters with nothing to do but splash around! Auntie... have you ever been in love."
Salasi hesitated, as it was too personal a question, but she took a deep breath and told her this much about it:
"Once, yes, but a long time ago, and like your love interest, mine was already... as it's now said... 'hooked up' with another woman. Unlike you, I made it so he knew I existed, and I had hoped we could make it work on account of the few things we had in common, but my... abilities had made us different. Maybe too different. It is only safe to say that it was one of those 'if-you-really-loved-him-you-would-let-him-go' ordeals. I always told myself that as long as my beloved Xanthros was happy, so was I."
"But Ma'am!" Lucinda argued, "I want him to be happy with me! I don't know who he is yet, but I can tell we can accomplish great things together."
"Yet the great things to accomplish with his men come first, that much is clear. I'm sure you'll get your chance to introduce yourself after he returns from the South Pole... tell nobody he's going there, or who ever told you of it, not even them!"
"When and if I'm ever ready to work up the nerve to talk to him without concealment, I'll keep my mouth shut ma'am... maybe he'd do so for me, in similar case."
The Hard WayEdit
"SUSPENDED?!!!" Lucinda screamed so loudly and with such shrill that she broke every window in the Halfway House... and at least eight mirrors.
"Zeke no know seben table yet," Zeke said (he learned a lot of words these past few months and was already trying to walk), "but cushion Cindy got lotta doo-doo years ahead!"
"It's pronounced se-ven, Zeke, not se-ben!" the young duchess was very upset, "besides, whatever curse those mirror shards have are but a neutralizer to the fact that I can't go to school like your sister! Well, there's always the odds, slim as they are, that I can sneak into the third grade with her."
As if on cue, Amy showed up after sweeping up the neighboring apartments for her "Looks-like-an-A-Bomb-hit-this-place Clean-up" Badge. She wasn't very happy about it.
"Easy, Drama Duchess," The young Brownie Scout scolded, "Your magical abilities would restore themselves in about a week, at least. No pressure points last forever, especially from an old squirrel like Sala. Besides, she gave you an extra credit assignment for your lack of workshop access: A list of chores to do around the building. Consider yourself lucky I'm not adding glass duty! Don't worry, Cindy, it won't be that much different from cleaning up on Pappy's ship, remember?"
"He bewildered me with stories from his war hero days!"
"Lucky for you I have to earn a cleanliness badge, so I can help you."
Lucinda shook her head, "These artifacts are not that primitive, I can figure this out!"
But the duchess had a harder time figuring out the housekeeping ordeal then she thought, as she knocked over a picture frame using a broom like a feather duster... she wasn't hurt, as she had used the dustpan as a helmet, but Amy wasn't fast enough to dodge the deflected impact... and a tooth fell on the floor! Duchess Lucinda felt terrible when she realized what happened, but Amy wasn't hurt as badly as she seemed. In fact, she was laughing; hard!
"I may be eight years old," Amy said, picking up the tooth, "but that makes me a late bloomer next to most other human kids that start losing baby-teeth between ages five and seven! This little pest just started wiggling last week, and even then it continued to endure hard, crunchy foods, tussles against the toughest boys in the Goblin Scouts, dodge-ball, and even the rollerskating lesson I took when I slammed against a wall... Don't ask. Anyway, it is a surprise that your clumsy attempts to be one of my own kind did the trick. Either The timing was coincidentally perfect, or you just don't know your own strength! You are like Krypto, or something!"
"Flatterer!" Lucinda said, but although the first option made more logical sense, she couldn't keep her mind off the second theory.
Super strong, super smart... like Krypto, or Beppo!
Using the fantasy that she's invincible, Lucinda found the endurance to finish the task, although she let Amy help, to prove the tooth ordeal was really an accident. Doing it right after learning how, the female lemur got carried away until she found a secret door leading to the attic, which hadn't been used since the "underground railroad" of Harriet Tubman! (Lucinda only dusted and reorganized up there, and noticed it roomier then it looks).
"When Sala lets me be her student again, this will be out new workshop," Lucinda said, "and I'll assure her that I won't take the easy way for granted again. Doing things the hard way is full of opportunity, and you'll never know what will light your way there."
The moment she said "light" Lucinda found the place was glowing, and in the center of the glow was a train car lamp with the alchemetic symbol for fire painted on it, perched at a 19th century tabletop, and standing next to it... Salasi squirrel herself!
"What took you so long, my apprentice?"
For the first year (if not a little over), Lucinda was a fine apprentice for Sala, as she picked up on many unusually dangerous... if not somewhat silly... toy weapons around Suburbia, and using her better-controlled magic touch to super-charge them now and then, she always had a thrill of using the neighborhood bullies strengths against them, but feels she can do more then that. Overhearing that her species was entitled after an ancient word meaning "ghost" (do to glowing eyes and night-life habits) this particular lemur, had picked up a little Spanish from her human relatives, put on a scarf as a robe and veil, and took up the secret identity of La Phantasma.
The first few rounds as an obviously overdressed super heroine (especially when she adds a utility sash for the extra-tough criminal elements... it is never easy being a little girl in the big city!) Cindy used her ghostly gags for the fun of scaring unexpecting humans, but on days when the finance rates won't play far on the Dehauntedo family, she springs into action as a bounty huntress. Sala was skeptic at first, fearing the worst of the greed in her apprentice's heart... constantly saying she is "not the one"... but seeing how almost unselfish Lucinda's heroics are in her spare time, not only from the Alchemy lessons and "family issues", but from spying on a certain penguin as well... not that there wasn't times being La Phantasma didn't collide with the last one. During her second Christmas, she unwittingly got herself of the naughty list by helping to reunite the rookery (but that's another story) but there was also that night she accidentally got them in trouble when they decided to escape to the wild in Antarctica!
Lucinda was reluctant to have them leave, Kowalski especially, but she couldn't ignore her teachers words on the issue: "If you really love him, you'd let him go." So she hacked the alarms on the zoo security system and, secretly supplying them with intel on her aid (in binary, as it was a "newer" code) and the keys to the supply shed near the main zookeeper office... the humans give away free balloons on the three-day weekends, and using those and whatever objects Rico had in his stomach, they were able to make a hot air balloon with enough power to get them the next bus-stop to Grand Central Station unnoticed. As the midnight hour turned Friday into Saturday, Lucinda noticed a glitch in the penguins' historical file: true, all penguins yield from Antarctica, but there specific species (half-bred, in Rico's case) are New Zealand penguins... they are warm-water birds, and if they got to Antarctica and tried to find others like them <yikes> they might not survive! She just had to get to Grand Central to warn them, but while other escapees (when she got there and saw through the skylight) where easy out, the penguins did there best fighting to stay awake... Kowalski was darted six times before he blacked out, and she couldn't find how to push through... in her latest attempt to succeed, she got darted herself (by accident, as the animal control officer was a nervous wreck)! When she woke up and learned the news, Lucinda took her ghost routine to the Animal Control officer responsible, who was retiring anyway, in revenge... as she used her "magnetic charm" on his wiring, she switched his station from Polka to her Techno-Horror Remix of "Moonlight Shadow" for effect.
Daja vous... Times Two! (or Other Lemurs in New York City)Edit
Another year has come and gone, and Lucinda's hidden concern for the penguins proved for not, as all four of them returned unharmed, as did the Chimps, Phil and Mason.
"What happened to the Giants?" the lady lemur asked Chester the chatter box once (she didn't know it at the time, but twin-telepathy was restoring itself when she asked that question).
"Well even I don't know for sure, but there is here-say that that germaphobe giraffe and that hotty-hot-hotty hippo had been transferred to San Diego Zoo to do some first-aid work when the place closes and the vet is off duty, while that black-and-white weirdo-horse and the now dethroned king of Central park are sticking to there love interests in Europe in some kind of Circus freak-show, but I'll keep you posted on my travels when I see them. Say did you say the penguins are back in the zoo? They have to have a housewarming or something, but I doubt they are much for party animals... maybe some caviar will loosen them up, especially with that otter girl coming to the neighborhood last week. 'Caviar' is is just fancy talk for fish-eggs, by the way, personally I recommend swordfish, but why am I telling you about it, your the one foxette that clearly doesn't like fish. Well I like to stay and talk, but I got to go! I just remembered a rumor that one of the nuns is bringing her clumsy cousin to the abbey... can't miss that show you know! Later!"
"Alleluia! Wait a minute, did he say 'swordfish eggs'?"
Lucinda went to the docks to get the caviar (fresh is always hardest to get) when she noticed another zoo-transfer boat. Where the larger animals coming back? Not likely... this freighter was too small. She sensed something, a presence she has not felt since...
Upon seeing the penguins investigate the crate that arrived in the zoo that night, Lucinda's sixth sence was confurmed, as her twin brother, King Julien, and his two closest servants, Mort and Maurice, came out to greet their old allies turning new naighbors... the penguins wasted no time closing the lid to the crate!
"I don't get it," Lucinda said to Salasi while stuffing the three photo-labled ballot-boxes (used for naming animals brought to captivity from the wild, as she wants to make sure the humans get it right), "before dying, my father had said that a king must never leave his kingdom, yet here my brother is, miles away from Madagascar."
"He 'must never', Lucinda, and not 'can't ever'." The old squirrel answered.
"Isn't those two versions of the same thing?"
"Isn't any wonder you are still an apprentice? Seriously, child, you asked the same thing on the matter of 'knowladge' and 'wisdom' not too long ago!"
"I know the difference between them: Knowladge is what you know, and Wisdom is the what happens in your experiance to get knowladge."
Sala shook her head. "There's more to wisdom then that," she said, "it is ones willingness to share the experiance, as well as ones beliefs. Wisdom is what makes a teacher prized greatly by her students, and while knowladge is veriable, wisdom is forever, as it's based on not just what the mind understands, but all ounces of you, from the soul out."
"I don't understand."
"Then you are failing already. Paitence, it'll come when you most need it... you've come so far, and I'm actually proud of you."
Lucinda was confused, as Salasi never acted proud of her. In fact, even on rare occations that she did smile, there is no deep feeling radiating from the brilliant old squirrel. The elder Alchemist knew what her apprentice was thinking and said: "I cannot have the heart for it, child, and that part of me is still missing, but what's lost will be found again in time... like I said: paitence."
As Lucinda headed back to the halfway house for some much needed rest, Salasi looked at the new lemurs, King Julien especially. There was something about the spark in his eyes and the spring in his steps that somehow gives her a remince of her younger, less serious self. She placed a paw on her now-hollow chest as she fades into the spirit world.
"What's lost will again be found in time."
Upon her return to this world, Salasi caught Lucinda telling Madagascan folklore to her human cousins; a sure sign she's learned her leason on wisdom.
Lucinda had alot of issues with Sala for the remainer of that year, and the most annoying was getting shut up in a box, in which she couldn't use any supernatural powers, during the grand opening of the Centenial Time-Capsel! Sala told her apprentice that it's "not safe" to go near, and she had "unfinished business" with... whatever the danger was. Lucinda refused to believe her teacher, as she's been using the leasons in her "hobby" of "making bad-guys bonkers", thus believes she can handle anything, no matter how much doubt others place on her.
After the danger's passed, however, the mistress and student put the whole issue down as bygones, and continue the lessons, as Sala has only one year left in this world before her visits cease.
"Cindy," Salasi said, at last, "You've come a long way in the past few years, and I believe that you're finally ready for the Magnum Opus... that is, if you manage to find it."
"The Magnum Opus? Are you making this up?" This was a new topic to the young duchess, so it's no surprise Lucinda's interest was sparked.
"No, child," Sala explained, "it's Latin for 'Great Work', and it's for that reason this particular book holds such a title."
"The Magnum Opus is a book?"
"Not just a book... it's the book of the Alchemists since the dawn if their time. A source of ancient secrets dating back even before the writings of Kells. It used to belong to the humans, but a the Scientific minds of the world began to exclude the existance of magic, the human hands to write it's ever filling pages grown fewer each passing decade, and we animals became it's best chance to keeping the ancient ways alive. My Master was the last human to know about it, and I've held onto it for ages. Of course, seeing what a challange it is to keep you challanged, I hidden it so you can find it. All I can say is that one page of my own writing was burned years ago, a dangerous experiment, but while I hidden one chapter here in this room, the rest is kept where another power was yet no longer is... hopefully."
With that, Salasi squirrel disappears yet again, and Lucinda was searching the Attic of the Halfway-house for ancient papers, but she could only chance upon one page, which seemed to be written in Welsh, and she can only make out so much of it:
A drowning glow-worm sparks new life to a dead Wishing Well...
"I can't understand the rest of it." Lucinda complained, "Though I think I can atleast prononce the incantation for it."
A thought then crossed her mind: "If Kowalski really doesn't believe in magic, then the day we officially meet will be the start of a very long day. Yet, the Zoo has a Fountain that is kind of used as a wishing well, and if that can grant wishes for real... yes! That just might open his eyes! Now all I need is a glow-worm, otherwise the charm won't work."
"Would these Jellyfish-DNA silkworm samples count?" Amy said, carrying a box up into the work area, "I overheard you thinking outloud again, and it's quite the coincedence that someone in the Posting business had goofed up... again! Don't they tell the new guy the 'Handle with Care' policy rule?"
"That's what I say, Amy-gaga!"
Duchess Lucinda took one of the glowing silkworms in the dark of night, and was very worried about the next part. See, although labled a mermaid when found and raised by fishermen, she, ironicly, couldn't swim. Then again, she was quite smart for her species, and was able to make a small underwater helmet for herself and a small ladder, as to sink down, walk to the center of the fountain to place the worm there, then climb back up and out once the worst of it was over. All that was left is the incatation, and although she sang it out purfectly, the young duchess still had no idea what the lyrics even ment.
(If she did, she would've stopped herself, as the Welsh charm translated: "Waters in which the worm breathes last, and pit the glow thus faded away/ may all wishers offerings be worth their price, and dreams come true onword from this day/ alas, granting the wishes of all, will deprive some of there dreams/ may those who ask your help chose wisely or else undo my lifeforce seems")
At first, it seemed to have no effect, until the next day, when Private found out that the fountain had truely became a magical wishing well, and as Duchess Lucinda herself wished without so much as a penny to her name, Kowalski was begining to believe there are forces beyond scientific explaination, after wishing himself up a lazer riffle for himself, and she was weak-kneed just waching him use the new gun to play William Tell with his comrads.
Before long, however, the sence of weakness became far more then the results of love in a secret admirer to Lucinda... she began to get dizzy, as though she was drowning with the worm! That's when it hit her, and she's quickly snuck back to the fountain and saw that her idiot twin brother, King Julien, had also found out about the magic well, and had been advertizing it's power to get other locals of the zoo to love and worship him, unaware of his sister's existance, let alone the side affect his scam had on her.
Just my luck! Lucinda scowled, trying not to throw up (as disgust inhanced the growing sickness), The more self-centered wishes that fountain grants, the weaker I become! This couldn't possibly anything more then coincidence... could it?!
"Anything but coincidence, my apperentice!" Sala, as usual, took Duchess Lucinda by surprise. "I see you've found the chaper to the Magnum Opus I have left for you."
"Only one page," Lucinda confessed, "and it was in the language of your native land, which I'm still not very clear on, but seeing that the charm actually works, I say I've done a great job..." (Burt wished for a vacation, which almost knocked the young lady lemur out) "...inspite a few setbacks."
Salasi squirrel shook her head. "Only a fool would cast a spell without knowing how to break it! In cases like these, it'll cost you your own life."
"Well, excuse me ma'am, but I'm stronger then I look. All in my family were, actually, and only a preditor or a natural illness could kill us, while this ailment isn't natural. I can take it!"
Over time, though, the greed around the well became too much for the young lady lemur, and she made up her mind to return to the attic of the Halfway House in another attempt to find the rest of the chapter and undo this curse, and after a frantic search, she just found it when...
"I wish I knew what those penguins were really up to!"
... Duchess Lucinda fell over screaming in a surge of sudden pain, as though in the grasp of death itself! Sala responded to it simply by asking "Now what?!" before the Alchemist and her Apprentice saw an energy beam burst from the earth to the sky. Lucinda recognised the beam right away: it's Kowalski's lazer riffle!
"Oh no!" Duchess Lucinda gasped, in bout near-death and consurn, "What have I done?"
Sala wasted no time teleporting herself and her apprentice to the Central Park Zoo, as Lucinda used whatever strength she had to make out the basics of the rest of the chapter, and not a moment too soon, as it was revealed that the wish Alice made put all four penguins in real danger! Fortunately, Sala loaned her some of her own power, as Lucinda, pracitally the genie of the well, granted the wish Private made in a last resort... that the whole mess never happened! Time seemed to reverse itself, and it seems as though only Private was the only one besides Salasi and Lucinda to remember what has happened. That is, until Burt the elephant got back from Europe.
Sala sighed as Lucinda gave her a hard look (inspite the fact she's still feverously weak), "My dear child, these old gray paws just are not as they used to be, and you know that!"
"Regardless," Lucinda explained, "this whole issue will start all over again so long as that worm is in the well, and I can't get it out the way I've put it in... the diving helmet and underwater ladder broke and I don't have the strength to make new ones."
"You mean, you did the ritual non-traditionally?"
"I would've done it the way the Alchemists of old would've Sala, only... I can't swim!"
"Well. Seeing that you actually tried to make up for your mistakes, I'll give you a passing grade... just remember to never start what you cannot finish."
Just then, Amy knocked on the door, and then came in (as Sala disappeared) with a duckling by her side... and that duckling had the glowing silkworm in his wings! Duchess Lucinda hid herself from the young guest.
"My first actual mission and it's something stupid!" he comeplained, "What is so important about this annilid anyway?"
"That's a secret, Eggy," Amy explained, "all I can say is that everything will be much better now that it's out of the fountain. Now, head back home before your mother flips her lid!"
"Fine!" The little duck quacked, "I can take a hint! Watch it though! Once I'm a full fledged agent, I'll fight ninjas in a chainsaw factory, and no bad guy will stand a chance with me! If anyone asks, You didn't see anything! Cheerio!"
Duchess Lucinda was lucky that Amy didn't insist Eggy to stay awhile. In fact, it was a brake that Amy left the dead worm on the work table and left, fot Duchess Lucinda, though on a low-insect diet much like her brother, knew that in order to make sure this doesn't happen again, and restore her own strength, there's only one thing to do...
...She ate it, and prayed she doesn't throw up (or worse)!
A week later, Duchess Lucinda was strong again, and while traveling through Chinatown to see if she can get herself another fortune cookie to help cancel out the misfortune cookie she's got from the Blood Sisters ("Those who deceave others get deceaved themselves"), and while she looks at the resturant signs for the one the disturbing fortune came from, she fails to watch where she's going and falls into a sewer manhole, something she hasn't gone down in a long time. Luckly, it was one of those (as she once heard a profecional plumber call them) "drypipes", as it looks more like one of those trackless subway tunnels then parts of the sewer, and it was vacant and hollow, even the smallest whisper was an echo down there, and among those echoes what sounded like the otter woman's voice.
"Hey! Not cool! Let me go!"
Lucinda followed the voice in consurn, unaware it was just an echo from the past, as was a gruff voice that seemed to have a rat-like accent (it almost sounds like an overgrown version of the lab rat, Bandersnatch) constently saying "Not this one" between slams of what could be booby traps. Before long, Lucinda came across a tunnel full of keyholes all over the wall, and the secret doot was left open, though apperantly burned somehow. Going though the door, she found a room full of melted statues and shattered jems... she tasted the ashes: Tin with yellow paint and glitter polish, fools gold, glass-crystals and plastic pearls... somebody has been gathering shiny artifacts and passing them up as real treasure, and the things that only appeared to be made out of gold, but weren't, were accurate in dencity!
"Whoever owned this phony-bolony treasure must either be an idiot, or a genius!" She told herself, looking at the once unnoticable squirrel-carvings, and it came to her attention that one of the images resembles a younger-looking version of Salasi, trapping a demon-rat in a statue of a more-lovely squirrel-woman, taking off it's head, and using the head as part of a key! On the other side of the same wall, was the images of rats, looking into the key's eyes and ending up either fighting each other for it, or bowing down to it. The tails of the bowing rats all seemed to point in the same direction, and Duchess Lucinda found a secret panal on the floor in that very spot, opened it...
She's found the rest of the book! The Magnum Opus itself! Duchess Lucinda was so happy she attempted to dance, but as always she crashed on her peroettes. Still hanging onto the book, she saw something sparkle that seemed to be made of real gold among the fakes; whatever it was, it's vibrating, as though trying to expose itself further into the small amount of sunlight pouring in.
Suddenly, Duchess Lucinda felt the pressence of Salasi and heard the old squirrel's voice: "Child! Sheild your eyes and run from here! Take the book and run!" Doing as she's told, Lucinda was protected from the eyes's of the golden squirrel, as the rats crawled out of the firepit to reclaim it, disapointed to find the rest of the treasure was fake!
The Sun and the MoonEdit
"Mother always says that my brother and I are as different as the sun and the moon," Lucinda recalled, after the solar eclipse has come and gone, "he is the sun, always shining, so long as nothing clouds his judgement, and with friendlier warmth, if not with too much hot air within him, but I am the moon, sometimes light, sometimes dark, always cool or cold, and even when I do shine, there are stars around me that do so with no end, but all the light I have is not my own but that of my brother."
"And I assume," Salasi asked her apprentice, "that you take what just happened as a prophesy that you'd overthrow him as queen one day?"
"That, and a warning as to what might happen if I do so!" Lucinda concluded, "There are many tribes up there, but the Sky Spirits are connected, and with connection to Earth-Ghosts like you and the Water Beings, my brother and I have to be under the right area of the skies at the right time, always! I know I should be able to shape my own destiny by now, but I was just reading an old Inca poem translated to English about a week before this happened and now I can't get it out of my head!"
"Here we go again!" said Zeke (who was evesdropping, and had developed so much by now that one never would've guessed he's a late-bloomer), as the lemur-duchess recited the verses:
When a woman get to a curtain age
that adoring men no longer swoon
avoidence pays on the sunlit days
with light from the kindly moon
but the moon gets old, as do we all
so her beautiful years are done
therefore she prays through nights and days
to take her revenge on the sun!
"Lucinda!" Salasi said, "You don't really feel a connection with those words, do you?"
"I was an adult before my time, Ma'am!" Lucinda nodded, "I ran away from home when everyone prefered my idiot twin brother over me, I have to have him grovel in my presence even for a short time if I'm ever to find self-worth again, that is, if I had any dignity to begin with. Besides, even if the two of us could get close together without snuffing out the light, King Julien would still be more important then I am. After all, every thing I have to shine about is because of him, as the works of the real sun and moon, but what good is the moon to the sun?"
Lucinda didn't get an answer from Salasi, as the old squirrel disappeared already, but where the ghost stood, a peice of cloth was layed, and Lucinda recognised the markings on it as a ranking from the Navy... her visit with Paublo Dehauntedo (who she and her human cousins, his real grandkids, call "Pappy") was long overdue.
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