...The door opened.
A Moehog entered first -- another other -- followed by the Neopet Aliana had simultaneously feared and revered.
There they stood, two against two.
"You there," began the Moehog as he pointed to Osiri, "we can do this the easy way, or the hard way." He slammed his hooves together, making a cracking sound.
Osiri looked mystified.
Aliana looked horrified.
"What do you mean? What are you going to do with him?" the green Lutari gagged in harried frenzy. "Our deal had nothing to do with him!"
"Of course it did," started the Neopet with the glittery black eyes, somehow blacker than before. "As it takes two interested parties to make a trade, it takes a bead maker to make a bead." He tented together the tips of his fingers.
"Deal? Bead maker?" her cousin interjected before giving something of an adorable frown. "What's he talking about Aliana?"
"It doesn't matter," Aliana concluded, folding her arms. "I can't in good conscious make this trade anymore. The deal's off, sir."
The Scorchio's eyes just continued to glisten as he held up the golden vial.
And then another.
"Would you like to think about your decision?" He spoke slowly, confidently, with an air that what he was asking was the most important question ever asked.
"Aliana, what's all this for?" The golden Lutari cast a look of doubt mixed with resentment at his cousin. "You're hiding something, that much I know."
Aliana fidgeted. She tried to maintain her crumbling composure. "Yeah, well, I... I..." she broke down into sobs, then, before throwing the bead onto the floor, where all eyes watched it roll. "I took it! I stole the bead!" She was quickly becoming a hysterical mess. "I was going to trade it to that man in exchange for one of those vials so I could sell it to the smugglers on the other side of the island and leave this wretched isolated place but then you came and then you took me away from him but clearly he found me and you and now he wants you or something and I don't know what he wants anymore!" She buried her face in her hands.
There was an awkward pause, then, filled with Aliana's crying.
The Scorchio spoke first. "I was going to ask your, er, cousin -- the bead maker -- if he might consider coming to the mainland with the two of us," he said, gesturing to himself and his henchman.
"He would never do that, I'm his only friend -- he doesn't want to go with strangers!"
Osiri, however, just blinked. "Save for, obviously, the wealth attached to those bottles, why would I want to go with you?" he asked the others.
"The wealth attached to bead making itself," the Scorchio said, his black eyes twinkling in a manner that both disgusted and enchanted the green Lutari. "These beads, something you Lutaris craft from materials worth mere Neopoints, fetch unbelievably high prices on the markets." He paused for dramatic effect. "And not one bead maker has ever come to Neopia. You'd be the first, you'd be famous -- and I, one of the greatest marketers in Neopia's center of commerce, could sell your beads for you and give you a share of the profits." He smiled charmingly.
Osiri contemplated this, and then turned to his cousin. "You said you were my only friend... true as that may be or may have been you were all too willing to not only take my masterpiece but leave me behind here while you left for the world. That doesn't sound like much of a friend."
Aliana just gaped.
"Sir," Osiri spoke to the others, "I'd like to accept your offer on the grounds you let me take with me another, a girl called Lyka."
"If she is willing, then I will not object," said the Scorchio.
Osiri grinned, which stabbed through Aliana. "Promising her wealth beyond her wildest dreams as the partner to the first bead maker..." The golden Lutari picked the bead up from the floor and handed it to the Scorchio. "It'd be perfect."
"Then let us go," said the Neopet with the black eyes. He then snapped his fingers, and the Moehog took the shelf with blank beads and the three left.
This left Aliana alone. Alone in the bead maker's room.
The green Lutari sobbed softly.
She had wanted a chance to be off this island so badly she stole for it... And in the end she realized she lost not only that chance but a cousin, a friend.
And for what?
Clearly there was a lesson here...