FR EN DE ES IT PT

Well, hey there! Look what the bow meow dragged in! Back for more, eh? Stories about Ecaflips are like those cylinder chips… Once you have one, you'll never be done! Alright then, let's give that wheel a spin. Off we gooooo! Man! Listen to me talkin' like a young incarnate! Aaannnnd… Oh! Here's a good one! Nomekop Wodly. One of the greatest bandits to ever live! Let's see what he got up to back when…

The story I'm going to share with you all is totally, completely, 100% accurate. It took place in 648, when Nomekop and his partners in mischief, Edasse and Eratz, were terrorizing the Cania Plains. At that time, the muscular Iop, the sneaky Sacrier, and our friend the Dzibi-leaf lover were inseparable. They always schemed as a group, or not at all.

Well… almost always. This particular day, Nomekop Wodly planned to do a solo job, as they say… His two partners weren't thrilled about the idea, and they were going to let him know it!

 "That's how it's gonna be? You're goin' solo now??"
"It's 'cause of what you said about Eratz and his dang temper, right?"

Eratz is fuming as Nomekop chews nonchalantly, his left cheek misshapen from a big mouthful of Dzibi leaves.

"Gimme a break, guys…" he says after spitting out a slimy green mass.
"After all we done together? You can't be serious, man!!" Eratz snaps back.
"Exactly! Why do we have to be joined at the hip??"

Eratz pouts, just like a toddler. Edasse can't help but smile at this, though he too is disappointed at being left out of the job. Nomekop rolls up another ball of Dzibi leaves and sticks it in his mouth with a little flick of his index finger.

"Say we're bwork'n'roll stars. Sooner or later, one of us is bound to leave the band to make a solo album. That don't mean the show's over for good."

"Haha! Listen to this guy! Check your pack for holes. Ya lost your marbles up on that high horse!"
"Yeah, I beg to differ! Remember what we swore on Ghimgan's tomb? Partners for life!" Eratz chimes in.
"Ohh, give it a rest! You're still alive, ain't ya?"
"I'm dead on the inside now… The way you're treatin' us, Nomekop."
"Stop talkin' nonsense! This one's mine, alright? I swore to protect you, not to be faithful till death do us part… So take a hike – I need some space, that's all!"
"What's this heist of a lifetime, anyways?" Edasse asks.
"You think I'm stupid? If I told you, you'd beat me to the punch and take the prize for yourselves. Now seriously, leave me alone, or I'll–"
"Pff…" Edasse blurts out. "He's actin' like he hit the motherlode, but if you ask me, it's a buncha hooey!"

Nomekop decides to drop it. When Eratz goes off, there's no stopping him. He's starting to know what he's like… Besides, he wants this job all to himself. He's allowed to take a personal excursion, isn't he? Plus… well, the target of the crime isn't the kind of thing you'd want to brag about. At least… not when you're a bandit with a fearsome reputation across the World of Twelve.

Beneath that tough exterior, Nomekop is really just a big kid. The feline isn't just hooked on Dzibi leaves. He's also hooked on Twingkeys. You know, those little cakes drenched in gobbutter and stuffed with strawberry filling? It's an obsession he's never shared. Just imagine if word got out. The ruthless bandit of Cania who just melts whenever he sees a sweet cake? It'd be a major blow to his reputation. No one, not even Eratz or Edasse, could find out…

Once a month, the Twingkey brothers criss-cross the World of Twelve, their containers bursting with the thing that's made them newly rich, to the envy of many. For months now, Nomekop has been perfecting his plan. Step one: get hold of the cargo. Step two: hijack the convoy. Step three: hoard his Twingkeys to get through those long winter nights.

If his calculations are right, the brothers should pass through at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Nomekop chose this spot for a good reason – the Ohwymi Desert is well secluded. That means no one will see him and discover his little secret. On the other hand, the Ecaflip must contend with one of his worst enemies: the heat.

Lurking in the shadow of one of the few shrubs nearby, Nomekop is on alert. The Twingkeys are due to enter the desert from the left. The tumbleweeds precede them in a wispy ballet.

After waiting a few minutes, the Ecaflip notices a silhouette in the dunes. The carriage, consisting of several caravans attached to one another, barrels along. The four dragoturkeys pulling it, all muscle, pant with effort.

Wasting no time, Nomekop abandons his hiding spot, lies flat on the ground, and begins to crawl, sinking his claws into the burning sand. The sun beats down so hard that the sweat dripping from his forehead clouds his vision. The sand is also present, permeating wherever it can, sharp as glass. At several points, he considersgiving up. But his desire for the precious treasure makes that impossible. Several feet away from the convoy, he pulls himself together, stands back up, and launches into a sprint before jumping with an almost graceful lightness, finally clinging to the back of the last caravan.

"Yes!"

That was a close call…

The sides of the caravan are hot as well. The Ecaflip hurriedly climbs up to the top, then immediately crouches down to keep from getting knocked over by the blowing sands. He uses his teeth to tear off part of his tunic, which he then rips into two new pieces before wrapping each one around his battered paws. Thankfully, the pads on his hind paws, having endured much over the course of his adventures, are all callus and no nerve endings.

The Ohwymi stretches all around him. Infinite. Infinitely daunting. Nomekop has always wondered what it would be like to die of thirst. That possibility chills him to the bone.

Crawling along the steaming roof of the convoy isn't an option. The thin hide of his stomach couldn't bear it. The Ecaflip decides to move forward while crouching, kind of like a frog. He tries to suppress a smile as he imagines how ridiculous this will look.

The object of the future crime is located just one caravan away, but the vehicle is rolling along much faster than he expected, making each of his movements painstaking. The sand is rising in waves. Each time the wheels turn, a cloud of sharp, warm grains hits him in the face. Nomekop raises his bandana to cover his nose and mouth, when an especially strong gust of wind blows off the scarf protecting his head, the last line of defense between him and the smoldering sun.

"NO!"

Nomekop gets up and starts running to try and catch it. That was a mistake. His balance, already shaky from the speeding convoy and the narrow caravan he's on, is made even worse by the turn the carriage is rushing into. Teetering on his right hind paw, Nomekop finally slips off the roof. The Ecaflip grabs hold of the edge just in time, while his body dangles off the side, at the mercy of the jolting caravan.

"Aaargh… BLASTED DESERT!"

Nomekop suddenly realizes there's a half-open window under his legs. It's clear he won't have the strength to climb back onto the roof. He decides to take the risk of slipping into the opening.

Success!


Once inside, he immediately somersaults and stays crouched, on alert. By chance, there's no one around. This appears to be where the Twingkey brothers dine. The leftover dragoturkey sandwiches and empty bottles of Limo d’Grobe are clear indicators. On one of the tables, Nomekop spots the greasy, torn-open packaging of a Twingkey. He grabs it and removes his bandana to take a big whiff.

"Mmmmm… Oh spongy goodness, the divine smell of your filling makes me dizzy…"

All of a sudden, a clicking sound stirs Nomekop from his stupor. Someone's about to enter. Reflexively, the Ecaflip runs and hides behind the bar. Only when he gets there does he realize just how bad of an idea that was…

"What'll it be, old dog?"
"Whatever. Just add enough ice to make me forget this infernal heat… Speakin' of, remind me to make sure the cooling system's still workin'. With this dang heat, we wouldn't want it croakin' on us…"
"Quit your yappin', would ya? You're gonna jinx us! For three years, you been singin' the same old tune! Twingkeys are the future, man. Without 'em, you wouldn't be feastin' on biscuits with the missus every night. If you want us to keep strikin' it rich, there's only one way: by sellin' all across the World of Twelve. And don't worry about the rest – we got it all under control. I tell ya what… Our Twingkeys'll sell like hotcakes wherever we go."
"Like hotcakes…? Don't you mean, like Twingkeys?? Mwaaahahahahahahahahaaa!!"
"HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!"

The two Ouginaks give out a laugh as hearty as their cakes, and they slap their thighs hard enough to rattle the bar they're leaning on. Suddenly, one of them begins to sneeze violently. 

"Wait a sec, bro… Something's botherin' me…"
"What is it? Your B.O.?"
"Shut it, fool! We got one of those…"
"One of those what??"
"It's a dang tomcat… I can smell it… Last time I sneezed like that was when I crossed paths with that scoundrel Ush."

The Ouginak reaches behind his back and unsheathes a huge sword. The sound of metal makes Nomekop gulp loudly.

"Don't you smell it? It's like a mix of mimilk and Dzi–"

Being cornered, Nomekop decides to go for broke. He leaps over the bar and hits both Ouginaks with a perfect kick to the stomach.

"–bi–aarrrghhhh!"

He then walks over the cronies as they writhe in pain before disappearing into the hallway of the train.

"Stop right there, or I'll turn you into bow wow kibble!"

The two hounds get up with some difficulty and rush to chase after the Ecaflip. The caravan is topsy-turvy and stiflingly hot. After avoiding all the detritus, he finally sees an exit leading outside. He lunges at the latch. Locked.

He looks up and can just make out the outline of an opening in the ceiling.

"Freeze!" the two Ouginaks shout in unison while brandishing their swords.
"Don't hold your breath, ya lousy old mutts!"

Using the walls for support, the Ecaflip kicks the ceiling with his heel, jumps up, and disappears onto the roof. With the brothers tailing him, he leaps onto the beam that connects the two caravans. It pitches like a ship in the Antinau Sea. Several times Nomekop almost falls off to end up crushed beneath the wheels of the convoy, but he finally manages to press up against the door of the next train – locked again… 

The bandit then clings to whatever he can to climb up the wagon, the Ouginaks hot on his heels. The chase continues, now in the open air, under the blazing sun once again.

Nomekop is out of breath. The distance between him and the other two keeps getting smaller. He's considering jumping off the edge, when out of nowhere, a piercing cry fills the sky – a bird of prey! The bird swoops down on him, its massive talons extended. At the last second, the Ecaflip does a roll, exiting the path of the scavenger, which then settles for the first Ouginak to come along.

"NOOOOOOOO!"

The dog is speared by the raptor's claws, and his cry echoes into the distance as his friend looks on in distress.

"YOU! Just wait till I catch you!"

With renewed vigor, the second Ouginak rushes toward Nomekop, who narrowly steps over droppings that must have been left by the bird. His pursuer isn't so lucky. He slips on the excrement and disappears into the smoldering dunes, all the while spewing a stream of insults.

Nomekop stops dead in his tracks and turns around to witness a rather comical scene: half buried in a dune, the Ouginak seems to be barking obscenities the Ecaflip can't even understand.

"What's that?? I can't hear ya – I'm goin' through a tunnel! Hahaha!"

Just then, the hound's face takes on a very different expression. His angry snarl is replaced by a satisfied smile that looks somewhat sadistic.

"Huh?"

Nomekop spins around.

"Son of a…!"

He drops down just in time and lies flat on the caravan, as if trying to pass through the roof. On his back, the Ecaflip can feel the rock grazing his fur. Once the carriage leaves what was indeed a tunnel, Nomekop lets out a deep sigh of relief and lies still for a few moments with his eyes closed, trying to regain composure. Then he simply raises his head. A smile lights up his crimson face. This is it. Only a few feet away, an opening invites him to go down into the container. Using the last of his strength, he manages to stand up and drop into the hole. The vessel is filled with Twingkeys, so much so that he remains on the surface, buried up to his chest as if he were floating in a pool of treats…

"At last… My precious sweets…"

The aroma of strawberry filling mixed with almond, a signature feature of Twingkeys, instantly intoxicates him. Utter bliss is written on his face. The crinkle of the brown-paper packaging is sweet music to his ears. That sound heralds a feast of delight.

The Ecaflip is in heaven. He is literally bathing in this moment of joy. And uh… also in strawberry mush, to be honest… Oh no! Nomekop realizes that his breaststrokes, combined with the suffocating heat, have turned the Twingkeys into a veritable slurry of cake batter and fruit sauce.

"No… NO! NOOOOOOO!!! Not the Twingkeys! NOT THE TWINGKEYS!!"

The Ouginak had been right all along. The ingenious Frigostian system that's meant to keep the Twingkeys fresh is clearly malfunctioning. And Nomekop wading through the shipment isn't helping matters. It's a bloody mess. He now finds himself swimming in a sticky red mixture. His completely smeared fur gives the horrifying impression that he's wounded.

"I can still save one! I HAVE to save one!"

He's officially gone mad. Nomekop frantically roots through the pile for an intact Twingkey. But nothing happens. The little hope he had left is drowning in a sugary amalgamation. The Ecaflip too will sink before long. After flailing around so much, he got himself mired in the Twingkey "remains." Now he's going under, as if pulled by an invisible hand toward certain death…

Suddenly, an actual hand appears above him, held out through the opening that leads outside. And then another one. Weakened and somewhat dizzy from the heady fumes of Twingkey flesh, Nomekop doesn't immediately recognize the big ginger paw or the one covered in scars.

The nearly unconscious bandit is swept up toward the light. His body is then dragged up onto the caravan, and in between the steam rising due to the heat, he finally makes out two familiar figures. Bit by bit, he comes to his senses and recognizes his rescuers.

"Partners for life… We swore on it, right?"

Eratz's voice seems unreal to him. And yet…

"Eratz… Edasse… I…"
"Shut it, old man! Save your strength – you're gonna need it to get to Cania," orders Edasse.
"We're goin' home, buddy!" Eratz adds.
"But I… The Twing–"
"Hey, hey! Shush!"

Eratz offers him something, placed right in front of his nose. Nomekop's vision is blurred. However, he distinguishes a logo he has a fond association with…

"A Twingkey… You saved one… It can't be…"

The Ecaflip is so emotional that his voice trembles and he suddenly bursts into tears.

"Well, dang. And here I thought you were into Dzibi…" Eratz says in astonishment.

They say the two bandits carried their friend to the carriage, where they took the reins of the dragoturkeys after "dealing with" the driver. It's also said they promised Nomekop to never reveal his shameful secret. Ahem… Speaking of which… This story is just between us, okay?