“James, there’s nothing to eat around here!” Kaden, a green
Lupe complained as he thrust open another cabinet door, finding only cobwebs.
James, a teenager with shaggy brown hair came
into the kitchen and scratched Kaden behind the ears. “Of course there is,”
he assured him. He opened a cabinet lower to the ground and checked the few
items in it—a bag of stale cheese and onion chips, boxes of dry cereal, and
a few rotten tomatoes.
“Why do we have to be so poor?” Kaden continued,
“This stupid war has lasted long enough. We’ve already rationed enough food
to Jeran and his army, we need to save some for ourselves!”
“Kaden, you know I do my best to provide for
you. I promise I’ll get better things soon.” He pulled out the box of Neocrunch
cereal, “Want some of this?”
Kaden lowered his head, thinking, James is
right. I know he tries hard to take care of me. He noticed that he hadn’t
been very polite, and he should be thankful that he and James still have other
things, as well. Kaden told James reluctantly, “You can borrow some money from
my paint brush fund, if you want…”
“Oh, no, Kaden, I couldn’t. I know how much you
want to be painted starry,” James slumped in a chair and sighed. “Is that a
‘yes’ on the cereal?”
Kaden shrugged, trying to be optimistic, “Sure.”
Why can’t things be like before? Why do we
have to ration so much food that we can’t get hardly enough for ourselves.
Kaden looked sideways at James. His arms and legs were thin, and his ribs were
showing through his thin T-shirt. Kaden was a little mad. Mad at the war. Mad
at James. Mad at the fact that if they lost their food and Neohome they’d be
destitute in the dirty alleys with all of the other homeless families. And Kaden
had seen them before… their fur was tangled and dirty, they ate whatever was
edible in the garbage cans and they slept in boxes and crates that people would
carelessly toss away.
We are never going to be like that, Kaden
tried to console himself. We’re going to be okay…
Only a few miles outside Kaden’s house, King Skarl was deep in conversation
with one of his royal subjects. The thought of Meridell being completely destroyed
was overwhelming. But this King had his thoughts on something a little more
vain. A task that was so difficult that the King thought that no neopet would
be able to accomplish.
“Whoever brings me the most interesting gift,”
King Skarl said, “will receive fame, a long life and live in my castle.” He
turned to his guard, “Darski, tell the citizens of Meridell about my challenge
and its rewards. Now!”
“Yes your highness, but… what is the point of
The King laughed, “I need to see who will prove
worthy enough to live in my castle and serve me as a loyal subject. Now, go
inform all of the citizens of Meridell that their King has the most grand challenge
that has ever taken place here!”
Kaden woke the next morning, his stomach rumbling with hunger. James was reading
an old issue of the Neopian Times at the table, he glanced up from it and when
Kaden’s eyes met his, he looked down without saying anything. Kaden was still
a little mad about last night. None of the food in the cabinets was gone, so
that meant that James and Kaden had only eaten cereal for two days.
A knock on the door made them both jump. Who
could be coming to visit them? Both James and Kaden jumped up and flung open
There stood a royal Zafara. She wore a fine dress
made of satin and a hat that was shaped like a cone. A long ribbon hung from
of the tip of it, and it fell down her back. She pushed past them into their
Neohome, curtsied and pulled out a scroll. After unraveling it, she said in
a loud clear voice,
“Hear ye, hear ye! My name is Darski. I am here
on behalf of King Skarl of the Meridell castle,” she spoke as if she were yelling
to someone on the other side of the Meri Acre Farms, “He wishes to inform you
about a challenge. Whoever brings him the most unique gift will receive fame,
a long life and get to live with him inside the royal castle. This challenge
starts tomorrow at dawn, and will end whenever the King receives the most unique
gift. However, you must be inside the castle before eight o’clock the same morning.”
She curtsied again and exited the Neohome before any of the boys could say anything.
Kaden exploded with thought,
“Oh, wow! A challenge -- how exciting! I’m going
to visit there first thing in the morning! Think, James. Us living in the castle
with King Skarl! What a wonderful life that would be. Can’t you imagine it,
James wasn’t nearly as excited as Kaden, “Don’t
get too ahead of yourself,” he said wisely, “And besides, what do you have to
give King Skarl?”
“Hmm,” Kaden rubbed his chin in thought, “Don’t
worry. I’ll find the perfect thing!”
Morning dawned bright and early. Kaden, who hadn’t
gotten much sleep, fumbled into his jacket and dropped his present to the King
in a small backpack. He slung the pack over his shoulder. Moving quickly through
the Neohome, Kaden grabbed a handful of Neocrunch cereal and stuffed some of
it in his mouth. As he was about to leave through the front door, a sleepy voice
“Wait, Kaden,” it was James, and he was holding
something: two red apples.
“James, why didn’t you tell me we had apples?”
Kaden asked, thankfully taking them.
“Well, I suppose… I was just saving them… if
we really needed them later on.”
Kaden’s eyes welled with tears as he put the
apples in his backpack. He hugged James goodbye and exited swiftly through the
front door, wiping his eyes with the back of his paw. “Everything will be better
soon,” he promised himself, “If my gift doesn’t impress the King, I’ll find
an easier way to get what we need…” The sun was just barely coming up. Kaden
made his way down the poorer side of Scenic Drive. On this side, the houses
weren’t as impressive as the others. They were smaller, older and more ugly.
As Kaden passed a house a little bit bigger than his, a Techo came scurrying
out, waving a final goodbye to his family. He caught up with Kaden.
“Hi,” he said, and Kaden noticed that he was
very handsome. His speckled skin was very sleek and he held his head with pride.
Kaden’s fur was sticking up in off sorts of directions, and he kept his head
low to the ground. “Going to the challenge, too?”
“Yeah,” said Kaden sniffing a little. He knew
that Techos had a reputation for being funny, and telling jokes. And right now,
that’s not what he wanted.
“So what are you bringing the King?”
“Look what I got,” Tali opened his backpack and
pulled out three rubies. They glimmered under the street light of a richer house
on Scenic Drive. “They’re for his crown. I understand if you don’t want to show
me yours. Want to keep it a secret, right?” He nudged Kaden jokingly. Kaden
grunted for his answer.
“So… which house is yours?”
Kaden pointed over his shoulder, “The very last
one down the street. It’s the oldest, poorest and dirtiest. You can’t miss it.”
“Ahhh,” said the Techo, not really knowing how
to respond. He changed the subject quickly, “Tali’s the name.” Kaden didn’t
say anything. The Techo leered his face into Kaden’s. He waited for Kaden’s
response. Kaden ignored him. “Whassamatter?”
“Nothing,” said Kaden, wishing that Tali wouldn’t
pry into his life, “I’m just… tired.”
“Then let’s run! That’ll wake you up. Ready?
Set?” Tali’s yelling ceased when he saw that Kaden didn’t want to participate.
“Okay, we’ll just keep each other company while we’re walking.” Every once in
a while Tali would pop questions like, “Do you ever wonder what bottles of sand
are for?” or “How much farther are we going to walk?”
“Come on, let’s run,” Tali begged. “It’ll get
you energetic and alive!”
“Fine,” said Kaden. Anything to make him
stop talking… “But I think we both know who’s going to win,” he added, with
a hint of vanity.
Tali grinned and counted them off. On “Go!” both
Neopets sprinted as fast as they could down the cold and abandoned street. Tali
was winning, but only because he was sprinting and Kaden was jogging. Kaden
had to admit, the cool wind felt good on his face and moving fast made his body
wake up and it lessened his anxiety about his life with James.
Turning his mind back to the race, he thought,
I can outrun Tali easily. He pushed himself a little harder, pulling
into a sprint. He was gaining on the speckled Techo. His legs were stronger,
and by nature, Lupes were generally one of the fastest Neopets. Tali was huffing
a few feet in front of him. Kaden was barely out of breath, and the race had
just begun. He felt warm inside, perhaps grateful for Tali’s company.
Just as he was passing Tali, he smiled and yelled,
“By the way -- my name’s Kaden!”
Author’s Note: Hope you enjoyed the first part! The last part will be featured
next week. (It’s only 2 parts). Thanks for reading!