|Shalen looked out over the still, calm waters and took a deep breath. Kiko Lake during the Month of Eating was the best place to be in Neopia; sumptuous smells from Kiko Lake Treats wafted over the perfect lagoon, the glass bottomed boat drifting over the gleaming water. Shalen wondered why he had ever chosen to live in any other place.
"Roll up, roll up!" came a charming voice from not so far away - Shalen glanced over to the small wooden shack, laden with balloons on either side of purple velvet curtains. "Come and try your hand!"
"Kiko Pop..." Shalen muttered under his breath. The Uni had heard stories from other Neopians about how difficult the game was; to this day he had never tried it for himself.
"Roll up, I say!" the voice continued. "This could be your lucky day!"
Shalen paused for a moment. His hooves were certainly going to be an issue here -- but it could be worth a try? Who knows that the Kiko had for prizes? No-one had ever mentioned the prize.
Shalen pushed the curtain aside and found himself face-to-face with a yellow Kiko, who grinned broadly as Shalen let the curtains fall behind him.
"Welcome, traveller!" The Kiko exclaimed, ushering Shalen further into the tent. "Thank you for popping in." The Kiko smirked, but Shalen rolled his eyes.
"Okay, so what exactly do I have to do?"
The Kiko reached down behind the counter and pulled out a dart, which he handed to Shalen.
"Just see if you can pop one of the balloons," he explained. "It's relatively simple, but you could win a fantastic prize."
Shalen sighed. At least it was free to play, he thought to himself. He wasn't loosing neopoints over a balloon game.
"On the count of three, then," the Kiko said, pulling a lever to the left. The balloons on the wall began to spin. "One.... two..."
"Three." Shalen said, launching the dart in as straight a direction as he could manage. There was a huge bang; the balloons ceased to spin and the Kiko cheered.
"Yes! You've won something, young Uni!" he moved over to where the dart was quite deeply indented in the board. Shalen was mildly impressed with himself. Underneath the remains of a blue balloon was a small piece of paper with a symbol on it; Shalen couldn't quite make it out in the light. The Kiko ripped the card out from board and a strange expression filled his face.
"Well, it's certainly a prize, young sir. B..but whether it's a good one... well, that will be up to you."
"What do you mean by that?" Shalen quipped, but the Kiko was rummaging through the back of the shack. When he reappeared, he was holding a battered-looking cardboard box, with two holes punched in the side.
"Congratulations," the Kiko said, pushing the box into Shalen's hooves. "Don't forget to return again."
And with that, the Kiko all but shoved Shalen out of the shack.
"What on Neopia?" Shalen muttered, looking down at the box. "It can't be that bad, surely?"
He reached across to get a good grip on the box, but as he did so, something let out a shrill cry. Shalen nearly dropped it on instinct. Fumbling with the edge of the lid, Shalen closed his eyes and pulled it off in one swift movement.
He opened one eye and glanced down, but the sight nearly caused him to jump in shock. In the centre of the box, curled up and shivering, was a ...