Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 34

Roxanne Winning Entry

Tara smiled as she pulled out her whacking stick. St. Patrick's day morning. In the Kingdom Village, pets were getting ready, waiting with baited breath for the contest to be declared open. Even the weather was cooperating, the mist that usually lurked in the morning had dissipated. Arnold put the book he was reading down and picked up a crate. Inside it, rustling and hissing echoed. He looked at Tara, sizing her up. The Tarinooki brandished her stick, it's wooden surface rough and not yet sanded. "I'm ready, Arnold. You can let them out, one at a time," she called from a little ways down the cobbled street.

First, a thick Clovyr Znake slithered toward the well. Tara darted toward it, clubbing it over the head with a single, expert stroke. It coiled itself lazily, dumbfounded by the whack it had just received. Quickly, she stuffed it into her leather sack. She'd been training especially for this event. Tara really wanted that prize. It was rumored to be a great gift from Pandoria herself. Just then, a ribbon-like Znake darted past her tail. Tara rounded on it, and it bowed up, baring its fangs. This little fellow wasn't poisonous, but he could have fooled her. She hesitated. As it turned to slither away, she rapped it on the head sharply. The Znake went limp. This one, too, she placed in her sack. Her practice went on for two more Znakes, then was interrupted.

The contest horn was being blown! She emptied her sack and left Arnold to gather the Znakes into the crate as she took off. Tara touched down just before the gates of Mistica's Kingdom. The pets blowing the horn were two Yexhil. King Blithe himself had turned up for the event! Tara was beginning to get nervous. As Blithe looked around contentedly at the pets before him, Tara placed her stick in the bag. He spoke in his normal voice, but in the gates it echoed and sounded much louder.

"Ah, fellow Misticans! Today is the day of the third annual Znake Whacking Tournament!" The King paused, looking around blissfully. "I am sure you have taken time to read the rules," he called, while gesturing to a sign that declared itself to be the 'Official ZWT Rules'. "But I should like to remind you of the three most important. First, no killing of the Znakes! Accidental or purposely, this will be a disqualification!" He looked around seriously at the crowd. "The second; the boundaries are from here to Darkwood, and here to the Kelpie River. Anywhere in between is fair game. Third, you will not. I repeat, will not, foul any other contestants. Let's have a clean tournament. Now, I declare the contest open. Go find the Golden Znake!"

Tara flew over a large boulder. Below her, something golden glittered and moved away. She went into a dive immediately, her coat rippling in the wind. As she drew nearer, she slowed and pulled her whacking stick. Wielding it, she touched down silently. Tara padded over and peered into the tall grass. A golden head poked out. This Znake was basking... but was it the Golden one? She gave it a good smack over the head and picked it up. Nope. It was a rare Dublin Znake, but not the type of gold she was looking for. Tara set it down on a rock. Sighing, she sprinkled a bit of water from her flask on it's head. She watched for a moment, to make sure it would slither away hale and hearty. It did.

Three hours passed. Tara had caught and whacked over twenty gold Znakes, but they were either Dublin, Celtic, or Lucky Znakes. Tired and thirsty, she settled on a grassy hill for a drink out of her flask. She opened it. It hissed. Or, did it? It wasn't carbonated, it was just water with some Juggaberry juice in it. Hmm. She pondered as she drank. Then a Zisscor slithered up, baton in tail. He seemed focused on an object just below her. Tara looked down. Just within her reach, the true Golden Znake! It radiated warmth and a golden light. She drew out her stick as fast as she could. Leaping down, Tara struck it just between the eyes. As they went out of focus, the Znake went rigid. It seemed to have a spell or enchantment on it, that it froze upon being hit.

Snatching it up, Tara felt how heavy it was. It was, truly, a Golden Znake. Giddy with her luck, Tara flew back to the Kingdom gates. She flew with light speed despite her tired and aching muscles. Just as Blithe was finishing his Miso Soup, Tara knelt at his feet. Reverently, she pulled the Znake from her bag and held it up to him. He exclaimed in surprise, "Tara, my dear. You have found the Znake!" The pair of Yexhil picked up their horns and blew them. Somehow, Tara knew that they could be heard all throughout Mistica. "You have earned this reward," the King beamed, holding out an Oceanic Box. "I trust you will use it well."

Tara opened the Box. A cool, bubbling sensation overcame her. She felt at one with Mistica's oceans. Her coat was blue and beautiful. And, best of all, she was allowed to keep the Znake as a trophy.