Auntie Salasi (the old squirrel that had guarded an evil treasure for 100 years) is distraut when she finds that the key itself had survived along with the rats. What's worse, her apprentice (Duchess Lucinda) had got a hold of that key thinking its now a harmless relic... unaware she's wrong. A she-devil named Lo-Sheiba (meaning "No Promises", fitting for the rat-goddess of temptation) is trapped in the key's eyes, reduced to using her power to leave treasure-hunters helpless to there own greed, and will do anything to escape now that the treasure is no longer a tool. With Lucinda and her twin brother, the "pure-hearted" King Julien, being opposites in every angle, Salasi fears that Lo-Sheiba might use the young lemur-lady's dream of being human as a pawn, but is it already too late?
Prologue: A tale of Salasi (the mystic), Cama Lo-Sheiba (the temptress), and Xantros (the golden squirrel).Edit
"Only the pure of heart can look into the squirrels eyes and see the truth... alas to the blackest of black souls, for the evil within will be unleashed from both ends, and such a victim would have to find the strength to resist oneself as well as the Temptress, if to undo the damage that has been done."
(When Fred read these writings, he said he can only make out part of it. This was most likely what the whole thing was.)
''It is such a shame that Fred can only make out part of the scripture of the key of the lost treasure... if one can call that empty promise a "treasure", for if one did get all that gold and jewels and escaped with them as well as his own life, and spent them on all the things they think they need to be happy, he'd fail to see the truth... he'd hail to see that life's pleasures are soon deprived of meaning if you have no longing and gratitude for what they already obtain. I was a pure heart myself a long time ago, centuries before the Centennial Time-Capsule that held the key for ages was even made, let alone buried.
I was the pet of a Welsh Alchemist then, who used to come up with several tonics in attempt to find a formula for longevity... the ability to live forever, or at least seem to. He poisoned himself on his latest attempt, and I took a similar-yet-more-affective risk to fix it, but it was too late, as he asked in his will for his funeral to be a cremation. My formula was burned as well, as I figured that, if he lived to see it, he would've made me swear, under pact, to secrecy.
Over the decades, I've outlived my own kind, but at at a horrible price: you see, I was no longer a regular female squirrel, but a lady-sage... Though mortal enough to be part of this world, strange forces of several kinds kept beckoning me into Xibalba, the spirit world, where I was assumed at the time to belong. Several demons chased after me, leaving me to walk the earth more so then any drifter before, and perhaps more-so then the generations to follow, but none had haunted me as frequently as Cama Lo-Sheiba, who is more commonly entitled "The Temptress". Many say that Lo-Sheiba was the bride of the Demon Master of the underworld, and others say she is the mother of the very serpent that lured the first humans to disobedience of the creator, dooming them to exile from paradise, and all other species to chaos of what is now called "sin".
One thing is sure, the mother of the snake, ironically, was a rat, a she-rat, whose name means "no promises", as in none kept at full price. Those who get what they want from her always lose what they had... their souls, there innocence, there worth, everything, and every remark about the so-called "Eye of the Beholder" almost always referred to her eyes, as anyone knows (at least in my day) that a sightless demon is a powerless demon. She's able to see into souls, and know the desires of all who look at her face to face, and had always reflected the visions she found back at them, but I seen her work without allowing myself to fall victim to it myself, and learned what she is truly capable of... every vision a distraction, especially when she followed me to America during the Revolutionary War (back when New York City was a small town), as behind every great desire hidden an even greater fear, one that she sought out every time for her own amusement. Fears that she unlocked to influence those who saw what they want to see, as to assure they want those things even more.
Each was powerless to resist, and was consumed by there greed, which caused bad to turn to worse, even after the war was over to the humans. This kept up, until 106 years before this day, when I met Xantros. American with a British accent, and his fur was as blond as the wheat back home in the old country, and his eyes where dark in color yet bright in character. He was a bit of what you might refer to as an "oddball" however, as he considered human-problems like the national debt to be his responsibility even though his relatives told him again and again to let people take care of themselves. He had stored several golden artifacts as the rest of our kind did acorns, and combining that detail with his natural coloration is why Xantros Squirrel became better known as The Golden Squirrel. Everyone tried to be his friend to get a hold of his fortune, which he constantly reminded was reserved for the people, but I loved him for him, and I proven it by setting up several traps to insure those with shady-intentions don't spoil things for the purpose he had in mind... such a shame that, over the years, he fell in love with another girl-squirrel (and a red-headed one too), which had me consumed with envy.
You would think that after that, I would've seen that poser as falcon-food when Lo-Sheiba finally managed to find me and trap me with her eyes, but instead I seen a vision that meant more to me then that: Seeing Xantros is happy; something I already had. Disgusted with that, Lo-Sheiba panicked with realization that she had no power over me, and I only needed one small coin to turn that she-devil into a statue, one that I reshaped into the likeness of Xantros' bride-to-be... but that was only as a joke then. Alas, she refused to be overpowered and let the gold glaze her eyes, for they turned into jewels instead. I removed the face of the idol I made, to insure it's true form never surfaces, and put that false-squirrel's likeness onto a new head, attached to a key with my inscription. The key itself, and the curse that came with it, was my last and most powerful attempt to protect the treasure he had high hopes for, which only after did I discover, as just before his wedding (100 years ago), provoking the power of the Temptress for any reason, even a good one, had turned an innocent vault for charity into a dangerous, most alluring target to lesser hearts. The rats of that generation didn't recognized there own goddess, but they felt her presence inside the key, and her energies as well when they found out what it was for, but the clues where already hidden, and the traps were already set. The marriage had to be postponed when Xantros used the gift I gave him a bit early, and I laughed when they fought against each other long enough for the bride and wedding guests to escape the danger... alas, the rats stopped only on realizing that fighting over treasure when you don't know where it even is can be pointless, even a waste of time, but only figured that only after Xantros had a ten-second head start as he ran with that key. I followed in secret, in case he needed me, but despite being foolish he proved cleaver enough to hold his own against the rats, he even used the keys eyes on the rats a second time to put them in a stand-still when they grabbed him, and only one of them was awake enough to witness Xantros brake free of his restraints and hide that key into the Centennial Time-Capsule.
The next day, Xantros finished his wedding and, recalling the thing that kept the key from the rats then, began to realize that humans can indeed take care of themselves, and figured they can find there own way out of their debt from all those wars. He knew how old I really was, figured how much longer I would be, and had me promise that the treasure and its curse was destroyed forever on the year the time-capsule opens. Figuring I can keep what I crave most this way, I made my vow. Recalling my own writing, and my immunity, I figured it would be easy, and went to the remains of Lo-Sheiba's statue-form to gloat about it...
... long story short, it was a mistake, as an even ghostlier version of that rat-goddess' original, non-squirrelly face poured out of that statue, lunged at me in the chest, right between the shoulders, and the next thing I knew, everything had gone... BLACK!
I woken up, goodness knows how long I was out. One thing was sure, day turned to night. As I got up, I had to feel myself over for scars, and though I was convinced, at first, that Cama Lo-Sheiba's attack was only a nightmare after finding none, something was a bit off... my chest had less weight in it as I picked myself up, and when I felt there for injury, I notice I couldn't find a pulse either. Then it hit me... Cama Lo-Sheiba had stolen my heart, the one purity I had, and no doubt hidden it to have her revenge! If not for my long-life serum, which I hope to never make again, such an attack would've killed me then and there, but in waiting 100 years to live up to my word (which I now figured difficult, as one can't be pure-of-heart with no heart at all) I figured that, by the time it ever wears off, I'd be unable to complete my one-way trip to a decent afterlife unless that part of me was restored, and until then, I'd be nothing but a lost soul... a restless spirit that haunts over that cursed treasure... I found how true that theory of mine was when another pure-heart, a lemur-king named Julien (who was less-so in the mind then I was in my time) had been found, and though his handy-work, through realization that he already has what he wants most, I had kept my promise, and my unfinished business fulfilled... except for the matter of reclaiming my own heart. Destroying the treasure indeed broke the curse once and for all, but not so much the source of such black-magic, as the only piece of treasure this generations rats managed to escape with and live was the head of the key itself, and its eyes, alas, glow with more power then ever, as Cama is eager to escape, and the only way is for someone to complete the statue, which is why I fear the worst of Lucinda, my apprentice and Julien's twin-sister who, despite lack of gold when she took the key from the rats, clearly has the greediest desire of all... a desire to become something she is not!
First Act: Wants and NeedsEdit
"I'm telling you, Amy," Duchess Lucinda told her human cousin on one of her secret visits, "compared to my usual humanization dreams, this one was totally real... except for the part with my pendents still fitting me. If I had indeed make such a change, they would've either choked me or snapped right off my neck. No matter, everything in that vision was perfect. A wardrobe that fits Temari Kaminarimon's profile, and I was offered all the best outfits in the city for it, as though they thought I looked childish for my age... with the facial I was molded into, I'd have looked great in just about anything. After I got a little 'shopping' done, I was escorted all over Manhattan to the best places around. Everything looked better then I recalled upon realizing the 'No Pets Allowed' sign lost it's power on me, especially the Planetarium and the Museum of Natural History... it was a genuine riot to hear the tour guide scream when I took over the educational parts of the Evolution of Earthly Minerals Exhibit! Then I went to a restaurant... not one of the phony-baloney's that we animals make out of the dumpsters, but a real one, La Ritz, in fact, and I got the best first-class table there... who would've known that they'd know I wanted to hear classy jazz? Oh! That reminds me, the next thing I noticed after paying the bill was that I was dressed up in a much livelier dress then earlier and... hear this... I actually accepted an invite to a party, a masquerade in fact! The shyness in my I hidden well which held me back anyway was completely gone, and I almost didn't have enough control to keep myself from admitting I was really an animal... almost. What's more, my clumsy steps and spins were fixed up too. I was actually the best groover at the entire hullabaloo, so good in fact, that every hunk of man there was on there knees begging me to be his dance partner, but I only had my eyes for one guy. You'd pass him off easy as a James Bond wannabe but, seeing the abacus he's been toying around with, I knew better. He and I were both actually thanked by the NYPD for all the times we helped them, as the chief recognized us for what we really were and sworn to secrecy. He even gave us jobs at Interpol after the final dance was done, can you believe it...?"
"Easy Duchess!" Amy scolded, "Excitement or not, you get as bad as Chester sometimes. Just get to the last thing that happened before you woke up."
"That's kinda the other weird part," the young lemur confessed, "I don't even remember falling asleep. Recap: It seemed real. I came out of it the same way I came in; staring..."
"Into space, huh? There's a term for that, Little Miss Know-it-All: daydreaming!"
Zeke laughed at that (he has such a girly giggle for a boy of six years), and Duchess Felt offended.
"Nonsense Amy!" She yelled, "Non-sence! You know that don't loose touch with reality that badly!"
"You had been eating cookie dough again," Zeke asked, "didn't you? Don't worry, we left the skateboard tracks on the ceiling from last time for you to clean up, to insure you show some control, and while you are at it, you can race go-carts with me around the Half-way house. Man! I can't wait until you loose! I already got the giggles from seeing you kiss my..."
Ahem! Amy wasn't going to hear what she knew what really was coming out.
"What?!" Zeke said (trying to cover his tracks), "I was gonna say 'wrist'!"
"Just finish cleaning your room, Pipsqueak!" Amy said, "Duchess, why don't you bring your visit to the basement? I'm sure those so-called 'Blood Sisters' would love to hear all about your vision."
"Hemona, Cerculita, and Plateliette? But you always say that those fruit-bats were dig-bats!"
Duchess Lucinda was down-hearted that she chose this time to visit her cousins, especially since the annual scout candy sell-off was just around the corner. (Such memories... she used to be the mascot for Amy Dehauntedo and the other Brownie Scouts and, since lemurs weren't part of the zoo then, her "animal magnetism" always helped to outsell the boy Goblin Scouts by a long-shot!) With Amy so busy preparing, she's to stressed to hear a lemur out to mention an unusual artifact that opened her eyes to how extraordinary human life could really be! The Blood Sisters are fortunetellers, the little duchess thought on the way downstairs, maybe they'd know something about this jeweled head. Auntie Sala seemed to, but she didn't explain anything... just told me to destroy it and teleported out of of reach. I'd follow her with the same power, but I wasn't in uniform. Doing it undisguised is most probable to be noticed; I can't figure out what helps her manage it... how old is she anyway? Apparently, fortunetelling includes mind reading, as the moment she was in their special room of the basement, they were already giving answers before she could ask: "Ah yes, it's been awhile since any considered asking about Salasi the guardian."Cerculita grinned.
Plateliette grinned in agreement "Isn't she turning 747 years old soon?" "Not until tomorrow dear sister," sighed Hemona, "by the way, it is only for the best you two shield your eyes... I hear the voice of a demon in the bag our guest carries. Who is your little succubi, Duchess? Why don't you tell me?"
"There is no demon I know of," Duchess Lucinda explained as she took the key out of her bag, "it's only a harmless relic that I took from the rats, that Salasi told me to get rid of, and I was hoping you can tell me.""Harmless relic indeed!" Whispered Cerculita and Plateliette, as Hemona used her "psychic" sonar to examine the face of the squirrel-head further. "A most cleaver trick!" She said, at last, "using the image of a squirrel to hide the likeness of an entirely different rodent all together! If my ears are right on the mark, it would seem that it's the disembodied head of an ancient Rhodesian idol of the dark arts... Cama Lo-Sheiba, most likely."
"Cama Lo-who-huh?" asked Lucinda.
"The rat goddess of... temptation." Hemona explained, "Legends had it that she caused so much disaster with her empty promises, mostly by luring many into an untimely death, that she was, how its here-said, 'kicked-out' of Xibalba forever. That wasn't even the half of it, if you ask Sala... you did already and she didn't answer?"
The sisters spoke in unison: "Typical of one deprived of deep feeling, and is focused mainly on keeping this demon under control with little if any recall that some things used for evil cannot be used for forces of good. One may not believe she as once Pure of Heart, as she now has no heart at all, form one curse born of another. Be noticed that sometimes the way out of a matter is the path back in, and even a coincidence has a purpose. Also, may you not forget that the deepest secrets cannot be anything more then a surface as you determine the things one wants are not to overpower what one needs. Life is but mist, and we all must fade as it does, and only those willing to avoid getting lost can turn darkness into light."
Soon enough, Duchess Lucinda was alone. Obviously, they flown off to perch themselves for the day. I don't know what bothers me more, She thought, how they got into my head like that, or that their riddles are the only ones I had never been able to solve. The young duchess was about to leave when she noticed items in the Blood Sisters' seats, all pointed to the "cursed" artifact she brought... a Renaissance-style headband, a staff with beads tied to the handle, and a robe of sorts... all too small for her. she found paper-scraps under each, but them together and read:
RETURN THESE AFTER YOU FIND THE FOSSIL FOR OUR OLD FOSSIL!
Only one word crossed her mind reading that... "weird!"
Second Act: An Amber HeartEdit
Duchess Lucinda had just managed to sneak back while even her brother was deep in sleep, and pondered over the Blood Sisters' riddles. She thought over stand-out words like "mist" and "heart" and other such things to the near haiku-like verses they said. She pondered the longest on the word "coincidence", as she seen a lot of those, like how her brother appeared almost a year after Alex the lion disappeared, or how she and Private had been doing last-minute holiday shopping in the same part of New York (though she did a great job to make sure he and the other penguins didn't notice). The most recent coincidence she recalled, however, was that she wasn't the only new girl in the zoo when she moved in for, on the same day, maybe at the exact same moment, Stinky the platypus moved in as well. "First thing tomorrow," Duchess Lucinda said to herself as she hid the items she assumed by now to belong to Salasi (but not as well as she hidden her new relic in plain sight), "I am going to pay my visitings to Stinky."
First thing the next day, however, she had slept in instead, and was lured deeper and deeper into a strong trance as the key had lit up its eyes over her face, giving her desire more strength with her growing greed until...
Lucinda was woken with a start, and by (go figure) Maurice with a coconut! "You know," Maurice smiled, "the last time I did that to you, when we were kids, it was an accident. Never thought I had to do it to you on purpose... you were really out of it, my Duchess!"
"Yah, sorry about that..." she answered, then thought it over, "... You know, about yelling at you last time, not so much for sleeping overtime."
"Lemme guess... another human lifestyle dream?"
"Better then that Maurice... I was one of those anti-morph things, from those graphic novels. I was able to change between human and lemur as I seen fit, without having to swallow so many potions. It would be really handy if I'm to return to Madagascar and explain what I had been though!"
"Yah... if that power was even real! Now come on! How about a race, eh? Skipper is arm-wrestling all of the stronger animals in the gorilla habitat, and you just have to be there."
"I'll catch up later, Maurice, but right now, mostly to investigate what force of nature and un-nature could've moved her in when I did, I'd like to visit that plat-y-pus, Stinky. That's okay, right?"
"Just don't let her recite her latest work too soon after breakfast."
Heeding Maurice's advice, Lucinda was more nervous then usual during this visit, but after she had breakfast with Stinky, and they talked about several things especially the posters on the walls of the dressing room (which used to be a giraffe's private stall), Lucinda practically had a sisterly bond with this particular neighbor. Stinky claimed that they are all images of her uncle, Peterson "Perry" Platypus, who used to be a major spy-movie hit at Mammoth Studios, before a spoiled-brat janitor-lady burned the place to the ground. He was one of those who didn't manage to escape the fire, but his memory lives on in a crazy children's show (although they did cutesy-up some of the missions a little). It was because of him that Stinky wanted to be a star too, but since animals are more common as big time actors and actresses in Hollywood (making it difficult for her to be an original), she was hoping to make it big in live theater companies, like Broadway."Wanna see Uncle Perry's most valuable thing... second only to family?" Stinky asked, and she took out a rusty looking chest (one otherwise intended for a prop in a pirate scene) and undid the latch the very moment Lucinda said "Why not?" The content was a shocker to the female lemur... it was a heart, preserved in a shell of an amber-stone.
"Yah, it used to freak me out too," Stinky admitted, "but since one of my ancestors used to be a zoo animal for the Welsh, he found this in a hollow tree near-by his habitat, and met his fiance the following night. It had been in the family for generations since. When Uncle Perry was alive, he used to tell me stories about the amber heart, and my favorite was that if any lunatic tried to steal it, the last creature to touch it besides the thief would be the first to know, as he... or she... would feel the beat of two frightened hearts from within instead of one."
"Interesting," Lucinda said, and she figured she'd better change the subject before Stinky revealed her latest script, "Hey Stinky... um... I hear Skipper is tussling gorillas and..."
"Who?" Stinky asked, then thought it over, "Oh right! That short, flat-headed, meany-face of a penguin that orders the others around."
"Don't worry, Stinky, Marlene the otter promised me earlier that was just him being friendly! Anyhow, it might be a real laugh-fest to see if anyone could knock that bird over. What'cha say?"
Before anyone knew it, those two girls got the best seats in the zoo to watch Skipper's rounds until...
"You have not yet arm-struggled with the great lemur champion!"
Lucinda was wondering if her brother was even crazier then she is to challenge Skipper to something he was good at, but once she learned the "champ" was actually Mort, there was no denying the king is mad-crazy! "Okay," Skipper chuckled, "I'll go easy on him." At first, at the sight of Mort losing, Lucinda was thinking of new reasons to try and get her brother to get the long overdue whoopings. Still, it was, at the same time, amusing to see that Julien would put so much faith on someone other then himself.
"Go Mort! No mercy! Oh... and Mort, if you win, you may touch the feet."
Lucinda was just about to point out to Stinky that this was mere desperation when....
Unbelievable strength seemed to burst out of Mort, taking even Skipper by surprise, and the little guy had practically thrown the penguin a forth-a-mile when he won, right before claiming his unusual prize. Julien had to hop on one leg to get around, but it was clearly worth it to bother Skipper with his giggly mockery: "Now you know... DE-Feet!"
"Would you mind telling me more about the amber heart now," Lucinda whispered to Stinky in annoyance, "pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease."
Third Act: Rat Out! Edit
Late at night, Duchess Lucinda had to force herself to look away form her now most prized artifact (but took it with, hidden at the bottom of her travel-bag), and walked to the Old Oak tree in the backyard of the Irishman that lives across the street from her people family in the halfway house... Salasi squirrels abode in the mortal world. Being a spirit of sorts, Salasi was able to "glitch" to-and-fro between here and the Afterlife, which Lucinda always told her was very cool... somehow, the old girl never agreed, and the young duchess, as alchemy apprentice, would never be prepared for the lesson as to why they never had a heart-to-heart talk before...
... that, and why so insistent that she brings Julien with the next time she comes (although Lucinda came alone anyway, he and the penguins followed along anyway, in secret)!
Lucinda was careful not to do any more damage to the mushroom fairy-ring around the Old Oak then she already done once in youth, but she almost did again by accident after knocking, when Salasi gave her greeting: "I see you both made it... and with company too!" Lucinda, until then, was sure that she was about to go though this alone, interrogations work better one-on-one, but with her brother, company or no, anything can be considered a party... and not the kind an elder of over half a millennium in age should endure!
Too late now, she told herself, before explaining to the others the exact age Salasi really is, and wishing her a happy birthday... the mystic just shook her head, took the gifts, and was about to teleport out of sight, only to be followed the same way by her one and only student, who asked if this was any way to thank anyone. The penguins then told the duchess about The Lost Treasure of the Golden Squirrel, and how "Auntie Sala" was the same way after Julien destroyed the evil fortune.
"...but if this 'Mystic' is really as old as you say she is," Kowalski analyzed, "you'd think that she would've done something about it herself by now. Unless...<chuckle>... unless arthritis pain finally caught up with her." All the penguins except Private laughed at that one, and he got a thrill from slapping all of them in the face (for a change) before scolding: "Skipper, what did you say about respecting your elders?"
They all felt guilt from that, but knew that this was out of there control, as this wasn't the typical elder... this who asked her apprentice (as though she already knew the answer was yes) whether or not she got the packages from the "Blood Sisters"... Lucinda told the others she'd explain them later.
Opening the package with the headband, Salasi explained that she was the pet of a Welsh Alchemist, one who gave his life to find the closest thing to immortality, and how she destroyed the one successful mixture she made herself in his memory.
Then she unwrapped the staff, which she revealed was once one of her walking sticks as she was forced to walk the earth, century after century, always changing her title to keep her real age a secret, and pursued by many demons, and explained "The Temptress" as the worst, which she didn't defeat and trap into a statue until the previous century, right after she fell in love with someone who (of all ironies) was already spoken for, and found that it didn't matter who he's with, as long as she keeps her desire, which she already had... his happiness.
"But if you already had what you wanted," Julien realized, "that could only be meaning you're..."
"Pure of heart?" Salasi admitted, "I used to be, before I lost that. You see, after Xantros hid the key in the time-capsule and got married, he saw though my charade, noting how old I was and could be, and had me promise that the curse I foolishly started would be undone on the year the capsule opens. I bragged at the statue I made, remodeled into the likeness of his bride... to think, I used to have a sense of humor then... stating how easy it would be for me to finish this, but while her body was trapped, and still is, her wicked soul escaped, literally tore my heart out, and left me for dead! Officially, my life was over a century ago... make that 101 years by the end of the week... literally, Tuesday... but the soul didn't separate from my body, which lost the scars of the incident all to quickly, and ages as a though I never had the eternal youth that was part of the burden I carried already. Alas, I could feel it wearing off, and soon my next trip to the spirit world would be a one-way journey, and without my heart, the one part of me that was actually right, I couldn't live up to my promise... not on my own."
Lucinda looked at all the faces around her, and put together the message in the lingering silence. "What? You all seriously expect me to believe that my brother was the 'pure-heated' who carried out the task in my teacher's place?! I'm sorry, but I..." There was no more need to say the rest, as her laughter said it all, which caused a reaction in the squirrelly-sage: "This is serious! To think, I almost expected better of a reckless apprentice from you, more-so then when I thought I'd feel something when I embraced the decedent of the Golden Squirrel. Even if I was whole enough for it to be possible, it wouldn't be the same. And what's worse, I have to find out where that she-devil hidden my heart before my time is up, or else my cross-over would be incomplete, leaving me stuck here as as an entangable, ectoplasmic specter... or worse!"
"How worse?" everyone asked in unison, and the gasps where the same after Salasi gave her answer in a whisper: "Dark yet fiery depths of the underworld."
"That should allow no problems," she continued, showing the broken statue in the tree's roots, "I'm sure it'll all be over with gently so long as this never has a face to show ever again. Which reminds me, Lucinda, you did destroy the key after stealing it from the rats, didn't you?!"
"Oh, me?" Lucinda said, nervous with lying, "Oh! of course! Sure! J-just as you told me to... cero grande problema!" But the others didn't take long to catch her in her lie as they saw the key float out of her bag, take itself apart, and place it's face onto the statue, which soon after began to change from the form of a squirrel to the form of a rat... and was becoming less-and-less statue-like by the second!
Lucinda, feeling all but helpless, acted fast as she tried to pull of the face again, but they were already re-merged again, and was only able to pull out the jewels it had for eyes, glowing with life and evil!
As it changed from a gold idol to a black female rat, almost the size of the rat king, only one word came to the awakening temptress' mind once the shell finally cracked... "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
In desperate search for her own eyes, the female rat burst out of the tree-roots, and caused havoc between there and the street where, by instinct, she slid into the sewer. Lucinda chucked in guilt before Julien slapped her (as Skipper usually did his "soldiers") and asked, "You say it's 'nada big problem', huh? What in the spirit world was that thing anyway?!"
"Cama Lo-Sheiba," Lucinda said, "ancient rat-goddess of temptation and empty promises. Not to worry though, for a sightless demon is a powerless one... she can't do much harm in this world without her eyes."
"But those eyes done much harm without her!"
"Listen bro! I was so sure that with the treasure gone, the key was harmless! If it shows what I want most, so what?! I with these, I finally was able to live in a perfect world, in which none of the rules, schedules, or 'no pets allowed' signs had any power over me! I wasn't shy, not even secretly, and I was able change my form, see the world, keep it guessing, and as humans, Kowalski and I got married with six kids!"
She had to cover her mouth after that one, as she notice that Kowalski broke his options board in shock, and the other penguins were trying to decide whether to congratulate him or tease him. "Awkward!" Rico grunted, braking the silence. As Salasi took the robe from the last package, she disappeared with no need to say anything. It dawned on Lucinda that it was really a death-cloak, and time was short... the poor lady literally didn't have the heart to live things up on her last days in this world... time was short.
Fourth Act: Lady IncenseEdit
After running off from her humiliating confession, Lucinda had to made double sure that she wasn't followed before heading straight into Stinky's "amphitheater", as to explain to this particular neighbor what just happened, and to get help figuring out what went wrong. The poor duchess, she was so used to hiding her emotions with masks and mysterious behaviour (which was why Skipper codenamed her "Mystery Girl") that it was unbearable that her confessions where so full of them that when she tried to keep herself from crying, she couldn't... and Stinky, as a soon-to-be actress (who can tell real tears from fake ones), can tell that the whole thing was true as she handed her guest a tissue.
"...and so you see, Stinky," Duchess Lucinda concluded, wiping her eyes, "or at least I hope you are seeing, that you just have to part yourself from the Amber Heart."
"So you mentor could enter an afterlife of well-earned peace?" Stinky asked, as though she already got the picture.
"That is correct," Lucinda smiled, for she was actually hopeful for something other then human life (for once), "so what are you saying of this?"
Stinky thought it over, and then brought down the chest with the odd jewel. "Your story does explain why it's just an origin preserved," the young platypus said, "and not a whole animal like amber usually holds. I say that even if you didn't stare at that thing even once, let alone fifteen like you say you did you did, it was only a matter of time before you show the danger you had behind you love-induced glamor. By the visions you described, I say that your two greatest desires fused together, as you don't seem to be the type to choose only one. 'All or nothing'; that is the greediest way of thinking known to the whole universe. From the scene you set up, I say that you weren't taught by a pooka at all... more of a remnant."
"What's a 'remnant'?" Lucinda asked, and no sooner did she do that had Plateliette drop in with one of her supernatural archives with an answer: "A remnant is a half-way phase between a ghost and a zombie. Usually are created from those who got immortality at a great cost, yet didn't ever make a true deal with the devil... though perhaps got the next worse thing. Sometimes they are given a certain amount of time before there official death loses the ability to delay itself, especially when given only a curtain amount of time to complete their unfinished business and cross over properly... what?! I foreseen that you would ask! Now if you excuse me, I have to get back to my sisterhood before the sun rises."
"Why didn't she ever get the Show-off Jar?" Lucinda asked, thinking about Kowalski as she watched the batty fruit-bat fly off, book and all.
"Anyway," Stinky continued, "what I say is that just because you want something, doesn't mean you should have it. I mean, do you have any idea what life would be like if everything went according to plan?" "Perfect?" Lucinda asked, before getting confused about this platypus shaking her head no: "Try bor-ing! Pure-hearts may be able to see away around her charms, as there case is the only one where what they want and what they need really is the same thing, but not even they can resist temptation... at least not on there own. On the other hand, there are times when there might not be any choice but to go one-on-one, so here... and take this too."
After Lucinda was given the jewel she asked for, Stinky went over to a suit of armor from the prop-pile, and took a sword from it's hand and unfastened the scabbard for it from it's waist. "Sir Kay the Reckless wasn't known for following royal-commands anyway... especially since the king used to be that guy's squire, but that's another story."
"Thanking you very much-ly, my strange yet wise friend," Lucinda said, taking her gifts, "remind me to knight you later, though 'Stinky' doesn't seem title worthy... I'm thinking of dubbing you 'Lady Incense', you like?"
"Actually 'Stinky' is short for 'Estivina Nicole Kytrina'," the platypus explained, "though it's the thought that counts. Oh! One more thing, your highness."
"What now?!" Lucinda said on the way out, stopping in her tracks and hoping she didn't sound too annoyed.
"If none else told you before," Stinky said, "they aren't mistaking to say that 'to error is human', and as part of that I'd like to point out that shape-shifting is most overrated when one hopes to use it to fit in. Clearly, you aren't like the other lemurs, male or female, because what you lack in rhythm, you made up for in wits, but there is no excuse for hiding from those who care of you more then you might think. As it is sung in a REAL Broadway musical: all the things that make us special are the things that make us strong...."
Lucinda didn't stick around for the rest of the song (though somehow she felt that she needed to hear it), and she silently thanked her might-be knight again, as she figured that there was only one-or-two days left before Salasi had to leave her forever, and she must find out what would happen afterwords.
"... Let your freak flag fly!!!!"
Fifth Act: Two ways to GoEdit
Before she was half-way to the Old Oak again, Duchess Lucinda had already crossed paths with her Alchemy mistress, who glowed as Officer X's new van went haywire. The young lemur tried not to laugh at the sight, as only a few times before did she witness Salasi's skill for using what they call "organic electricity" to intervene with the modern worlds interference. Sala usually did it to bail Lucinda out (as the young apprentice recalled), but it was clear that, this time, it was mostly a diversion, as the penguins and Julien had a harder time getting back to the zoo unnoticed then usual. Once they made it back (but snuck out again, with Mort, Maurice, and Marlene, as they figured that the duchess herself was up to something), Lucinda get close to her teacher, hoping that the "gift" she has for her isn't a decoy. The object inside glowed, and she felt a beat inside of it, and the aura around Sala began to change from a cold electric blue to a warm amber yellow.
"Thank goodness," Sala burst in tears (Lucinda had never seen her cry before, but can't help but feel it's for the best), taking and opening the chest with the unusual amber jewel, "You clearly have my heart with you! I looked and looked for a hundred- years to get this back! H-how did you manage to find it... and what, pray tell, is with that sword?"
"I guess the best way to start is saying home is where the heart is..." Lucinda recited the story of how Stinky's ancestors found it in Wales, and how that family of platypus' had been passing it down for generations, practically carrying it all over the world. She also told her all about how many times she's fallen for the eyes of the temptress herself, and how much she figures that, if things are to be set straight, she must face this demon as it was practically her own now, "...and I know I'll just have to do this alone!"
Sala shook her head: "It was a fine thing you got my heart back in it's right place, but you are mistaken to think it's really that simple. Loosing this is only the least Cama can do. That she-devil also took my comrades, my loved ones... she claims to offer so much, but in the end she reveals that she promises nothing, it's always a trap, in which she takes everything instead! Face her alone, and you just might consider it, as they say these days, 'game over'! Face her and you will...!"
"It won't come to that, Sala. She might not make promises, but I do. By oath as your apprentice, I assure that I'll get out of this alive, and I'd win too."
"How can I trust that she hasn't possessed you already? Eyes or no eyes, Cama always finds a way to mislead the weaker souls, and promises that are made end up broken."
"Look, I know how dangerous this one is, but I'm the only one who has to do this... Salasi?" Lucinda then realized that she was alone, and oddly Salasi didn't take her heart back. She found a letter on the chest: SOON... BUT NOT YET.
With no time to waste, Lucinda went into the sewers, and after finding hints that the enemy was close (like a sewer-rat corpses with its eyes apparently pulled out), she found Cama Lo-Sheiba with the rat king, whom she recognized as Bandersnatch, the very lab-rat that kept trying to woo her when they were... in more ways then one... smaller.
After the penguins blown their cover asking about that (and those two had to "break it down" in a rap-style even the duchess herself found disturbing), "King Bandersnatch" had explained that he still had intentions to win Lucinda over after wedding this "awesome, charming new babe", for kings can have more then one bride if they want (King Julien shown himself to tell Bandersnatch that "Queens are overrated").
"I will never marry you, Bandy," Lucinda said, recognizing the very creature she has to face, "but regardless, it wouldn't matter... you are just another sacrificial offering to her!!!!"
Cama knocked Bandersnatch out, and (with an accent oddly snake-like for a female rat) spoke to Lucinda: "Well, if it isn't my best customer... along with a few of my previous regulars and..<shudders>... a vandal."
"Nice to finally be meeting you face to face too!" Julien teased.
"If you plan on tearing out my brother's heart like you did my Alchemy teacher," Lucinda intervened, bringing out the sword, "forget it! You can't control me this time, and I know I can best you in an even playing field. Don't mind the referees on this playing field, they are aware that it's just you and me."
The Temptress chuckled, "Salasi's condition was nothing but a warning shot... I can take a lot more out of your idiot brother then that if I can find the time after words. And your 'refs' hardly know the rules themselves, being sidetracked by simple pleasures, like moments among the young..." (referring to Private)"...powerful advantages..." (Skipper) "...improving the usually unimprovable..." (Kowalski) "...dangerous games..." (Rico) "...classy lifestyles..." (Marlene) "....and coveted delights..." (Maurice) "...but you, young mistress, are the lowest of the low, and I find it most appetizing. Do you really think beating me is a good thing? Think of the aftermath, little girl. If you find a way to rid me for good, my powers will still linger around until the end of time, and you will still be a misfit in bot you so-called 'colonies'! I can tell you can't turn me down, for I fell the presence of my eyes are still with you... where are they?!"
"Right here!" Lucinda grinned, as the rats restrained her, "see for yourself." She pulled the two jewels out of the scabbard for her sword, and managed to do so without looking at them, but instead looked at the rats that grabbed her, as they quickly, yet still one by one, ended up in a trance and let her go (her alias shielded their eyes, to avoid the same results). Bandersnatch came to, and saw what was going on, which upset him: "No! No! No! Don' t look into them... GET' EM!!!"
"Not today!" Lucinda said, getting as far up the ladder of the nearest manhole, "and not ever again! 100 years is too short a wait as it seems, and I know you just won't give up... so if any wrong were to happen to those I care about, I swear that these will be smashed into 10,000 million pieces... far thinner then dust! Ha! None will have these after tha... a... a..."
"Oh boy!"Maurice groaned.
"There she goes again!" Mort trembled.
They were right: Within her gloating, Lucinda, by accident, looked into the eyes for the 16th time, and was an elegant human woman again, at dance at (apparently) the state collage. She spotted her "James Bond wannabee" again, but this wasn't a masquerade, and upon closer look, he didn't even bare a slight resemblance to what she assumed a humanization of Kowalski... not at all! In fact, everyone there was an impostor, as they didn't even look like humans at all, but rather shapes and shadows that make Zeke's scribbles look accurate. She saw two mirrors on the wall before her, and one shown the beautiful human girl she's always drempt of. As she was about to check the second mirror out, when something stopped her... Cama had managed to turn the dream into a nightmare by entering it in a humanization of her own (disturbing, but impressive): "Still think you can best me, little miss. If you win, you'd just be ignored and untalented as usual. Your brother wears the matching face better then you, and had feasted in his own glory while you are left with table scraps. Everything he got was the best, while you got all your toys from the garbage, your too smart for that. If you let me win, you could be able to escape the limits of the hairy little animal you had been since birth, who has a reputation that can't be upheld, and no longer be bored with every keep out sign you face. Just let me win... and you might never loose."
Lucinda almost gone for it, but then realized it didn't sound like a promise. this isn't right, she told herself, and she turned away and looked in the second mirror, and along with her true lemur face, she say all the good things in life she's managed just being herself, and instantly, the scene changed, for although she wasn't pure before, she had managed to improve, freeing herself with a simple "No deal!", where she swung the rat-woman into the mirror with the human illusion, destroying them both...
...the next thing she knew, Lucinda found herself back in the sewers, and she held the sword, handle in one hand, the blade and many demon-red pebbles in another, and she was quick to react to keeping her friends from getting sucked in as the Temptress, now powerless for personal appearances, got sucked into a hole in a ground, which disappeared as strangle as it came. "Well at least it is over... isn't it?" Lucinda asked. The hole reappeared, and after a burst of fire a goat-headed demon (most likely the devil himself) put Cama Lo-Sheiba back to the surface and asked: "Isn't it bad enough down there without her!"
Lucinda had enough of this nonsense, and hissed at the two demons, and they went back to the underworld in fear, closing the portal behind them. Now, it was over.
Epilogue: A tale of Lucinda (an alchemist), Julien (the king) and everyone else (the zoo and elsewhere)Edit
A few nights ago, I found the place where Auntie Salasi (actually, she isn't my aunt. She's my Alchemy Mistress, who I merely see as family) was meant to be buried... about a hundred and one years ago. At first, I thought it was too late, as the coffin held her death robe, and that robe was filled with dust, but a part of me was saying that there was still time, and I put the Amber Heart, her heart, inside the cloth. Turned out, she didn't leave this world yet, as I saw her behind me when I did that... or so it seemed for a few seconds; it's always hard to tell with that old girl of a squirrel.
One things certain, it was late, and I practically fell asleep in an animal cemetery! I fail to recall if I was dreaming or was wakened up to see what was real, but the coffin glowed, and opened to reveal that Salasi was wearing that robe, but I saw that in different forms, as one half of the vision shown her laying down, aging more so then I thought possible for her, adding to an already dusty box, and the other half, as though rising and bursting from the amber stone, seemed to be getting younger until I saw the pretty version of her I caught sight of when I sought her out in the spirit world, but seemed to have a star-light to her... clearly, she's meant for the best places there, and for the first time since we met, she actually said thank you.
I announced how glad I was it was finally over, but it saddened us both when she had to tell be it was only over and done with for her! The Temptress herself may never again see the light of day, but true enough, her power had been poisoning this world since the big mess in Eden's Garden, and the least any of us can do is keep bad from getting worse. Sala warned me that, though only a matter of time, something or someone will lead me astray again. The pieces of amber stone had similar qualities as the red demon eyes, and she used them to show I still wasn't as well meaning as my idiotic brother, but I improved enough so that, if taking the misadventure I just been though to heart, I wouldn't stray so far that I'd get into irreversible trouble, especially since I was still alive, and was more-so her Xantros then Fred really was.
Sala seemed different compared to the last time we embraced, not only because she (despite death) actually had a pulse... fading or otherwise... but also because she seems far less strict. The one-set mind she was trapped in for a whole century was open again to many possibilities, and she was, for the first time in a long time, able to smile, laugh, cry, and had actual emotion compared to the serious, emotionally trapped old hag that I was used to... it's strange, but I think i was starting to like the improvement... such a shame we only celebrated a short time. Right before leaving, she said a part of her will always be with me even if i didn't hold the stones she left. Julien woke me up... maybe I was dreaming, but what we found in my mistress' grave said otherwise: the world's dustiest coffin, a worn out robe, and several pieces of amber stone... but no heart! She was redeemed, and she left some gifts behind her, from knowledge she didn't want sent to the grave with her to the amber jewels to get my human family out of the poor house... and the halfway house, if the mother makes it home from Russia.
My brother lived up to his promise to Amy by delivering those stones himself, as he owes her and Zeke for not blabbing when we switched places for the day. I hung onto some myself, but only enough to make a mirror for myself... what?! A girl has to have some priorities, and at least it reminds me that though I can be okay with choices, I don't have to choose between my dreams and reality again (unless it's momentary).
I'm not sure it's perfect yet, but I finally found my groove, turns out I was a jazz dancer in a hip-hop area... guess I'll just have to take a bash at it! Despite being short on cash as far as our greedy sides are concerned, many of us got our dreams-come-true anyway because of my decision to stick with my own kind (even though I still think that they think I'm a little bit of a weirdo)
Skipper managed to scout for bits and pieces with me at the New Jersey junkyard, out of fear I might make a wrong turn in Hoboken or something, and will soon have the greatest weaponry set in the penguin agency... of course, I refused to complete them until he finds a decent hiding place for them all.
While Rico had his flippers full trying to find a purple salmon with two heads (a "snipe-hunt" of my own design), he ran into a secret techno-mania arena under the docks at pier 25, and now can fight all the robots he wants now, so long as he can trick the guys with the controls into thinking he's human himself.
Private, while making sure that bottomless-pit ruffian gets home before anything blows there cover, was offered to help with a babysitting company for the animal world, so he can play with ducklings and other cutie baby animals whenever he has an opening, just as long as he has responsibility for them... no problem there!
Kowalski still thought he needed an upgrade to actually be any smarter, but I think I helped him by warning him the high probability that if he's head gotten too big for it's own good (literally) the results could be (more literally) unstable and explosive... he told me it be best for both of us if we were just friends, but it's a start.
I found Marlene this male otter named Antonio, and they had her place spruced up for two (much to my brother's annoyance), things were actually perfect for her... until her wild-side got the best of her while they were on a picnic and although he was indeed prove that Kowalski's romance-tracker didn't fail after all, it wasn't as great as Marlene hoped since he didn't love her unconditionally (that, by the way, was just a fancy word meaning: "no matter what"). She's trying to cope by working on self-control.
With me being his assistant (needing to get out of my workshop more often, as well as a new gig since I'm no longer a trainee in alchemy), Maurice had just a little more time to himself so he can take a load off. Why not? As the king's twin, I was as close to a servant clone as he can get (until I can convince Julien himself to return the favor to his right-hand man for all that hard work... wish me luck)! I had to remind him not to get too cozy with it, however, if he is to keep his rank over me. Works every time!
Mort and Fred... well, let's just say things haven't changed for them, but that's the way they like it.
I can go on forever with this, but the main point is, I am no longer obsessing with the idea of becoming human (though I still do some work on that project, a little, just-in-case), and had to thank Stinky for the tip about fitting in by standing out (its almost enough for me to reconsider my vigilante career... almost). I wanted to help with her next play, and she seemed to need a little help getting in character as a gypsy... maybe a visit to the Blood Sisters would amuse her, if she doesn't chicken out. What am I saying? She had a heart in a box for several years, I'm sure she can handle it. I'm so confident right now, I think they shy-shackles have weakened enough for me to notice. Maybe... just maybe... I can handle anything, and I may never, EVER be a pawn in an evil plot ever again!
That's what she thinks! Soon, even that treacherous, honorary member of the enemy will have no chance against me, for I have found his royal majesty's greatest flaw... poor big brother skills! Revenge will never be sweeter, and this time, those Pen-gu-ins will not stand a chance against me... hold on! Is that the lemur they sent to Hoboken?! What is HE doing back?! Surely not to find a plan B to his failed kingdom take-over plan! He better not dare... I had my sights on them FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -Dr. Blowhole
Oh, so booty-for-brains has a twin sister, huh? Just hope that the friends I made in Hoboken would be convincing enough to give us a proper engagement... as in making her marry me so I can overthrow my "in law" and take over the kingdom! Mwahahahahahaha! -Clemson
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