Needed: Part Four
SILENCE FELL OVER the group until they rounded a corner and sighted a fenced-in,
abandoned junkyard on the outskirts of Neopia Central that Dantam had never
seen before. Dantam had been too grateful to the homeless pets for taking him
in to think to question where "home" was, but it was clear from Feruli and Silviana's
contented sighs and Brenner's happy yip that this was it. The Lupe ran ahead
of the others toward the entrance to the junkyard where a waiting blue Lenny
scratched his head fondly. "That's Allegra," Feruli said, pointing at the female
Lenny. "She the brains of our operation, Cap's right-hand Neopet--you'll meet
Cap later. Allegra keeps track of the numbers, organises things, you know."
As the rest of them approached, the Lenny offered
them an expression somewhere between stern and relieved. "You're late!" she
said. "Where have you all been? I was beginning to worry."
"Sorry Allegra," Feruli said, "We had a... bit
of an adventure." As he said this, Silviana helpfully pointed down at Dantam,
who peeked uncertainly from behind the Eyrie. At the sight of the shadowed Gelert,
all of Allegra's sternness left and she gave a full-fledged smile. "I hope you
can forgive us for not bringing back any food this time," Feruli continued,
already knowing the answer.
"Oh, that's all right," Allegra said with a
wave of her wing. She looked down at a clipboard that she held and jotted something
down on it quickly. "We already have plenty for tonight, and I know you'll make
up for it tomorrow. Now, are you going to introduce me to our new friend, or
"This is Dantam," Brenner broke in excitedly
as Dantam crept out hesitantly from behind Feruli.
There was a comforting motherly air about the
Lenny that put Dantam instantly at ease as she patted his head. "Well, hello
Dantam," she said. "I hope you'll be happy here with us."
Despite the slight scepticism that remained in
Dantam's mind over living in a junkyard, he nodded and smiled and replied, "I'm
sure I will ma'am."
Allegra's navy feathers crinkled as she smiled
back. "There's a good boy; I'm sure you will. Now, you'd best all get in line
for dinner before Rorro eats it all." She pointed into the junkyard where Rorro
and Toragi had already gone ahead and had now disappeared from sight among the
piles of garbage. Feruli, Silviana, and Brenner headed inside and Dantam followed
The Neopets navigated their way through the maze-like
stacks of old toys, appliances, and every other thing that anyone could ever
think to throw away. Finally, they reached a clearing in what must have been
the center of the junkyard and Dantam gaped in surprise. There were at least
forty or fifty other Neopets of every shape and size, all standing in a line
that led to a large pile of food on one side of the little encampment. The Gelert
followed his three new friends quietly to the end of the line, trying to ignore
the curious stares of the other Neopets.
As they neared the front of the winding line,
Dantam could see an old green Skeith who seemed to be overseeing things. He
greeted each of the Neopets who walked through by name, stopping to chat with
some as he gently chided the younger ones who tried to take more than their
fair share of food. When they reached the front of the line, Feruli pulled Dantam
aside and brought him up to the Skeith, who was already looking him over with
a keen old eye. The Skeith stepped slowly up to meet them with a gnarled smile
and Feruli addressed him, "Cap, this is Dantam."
The Skeith gave a friendly nod and extended his
claw to shake with Dantam. "Hello young fellow. That's quite a handsome coat
you have there," he said, gesturing to Dantam's shadow-coloured fur. "You must
have had a kind owner to paint you like that... what happened to her?"
Dantam swallowed before he was able to force
out the words, "She abandoned me." He told himself it was the truth, but with
the Skeith's wise eyes seeming to look through him as he said it, he somehow
felt that he was lying.
After a moment of silence though, the Skeith
nodded. "Well, you're welcome here with us then. My name is Capitan, but no
one's used that name in years. Everyone here just calls me Cap." He gave a toothy
grin that put Dantam instantly at ease with the old fellow. "Why don't you get
some food now and settle down for the night." Dantam nodded, and Feruli began
to lead him away toward the food until Cap called out to him again, "Oh, and
Dantam?" Dantam turned back with a questioning expression. "Welcome to our family,"
the Skeith said and Dantam smiled back in spite of himself before heading off.
"Come on Dantam," Brenner said after they'd
picked out a string of sausages to share from the pile of food, "You can live
with me until you find a shelter of your own." Dantam nodded at the young Lupe's
friendly enthusiasm and followed him along. As they walked, Dantam looked around,
noticing the various makeshift shelters that lined the edges of the clearing,
from cardboard boxes to tents to overturned rowboats. Anything that would keep
the rain out had been made into a home by the stray pets.
Dantam spotted Allegra sitting inside of a nearby
tent and allowed Brenner to continue on as he lagged behind and strolled up
to her. "Gelert on Treasure Island?" he said, breaking her out of her concentration
as he nodded at the cover of the book. "That's one of my favourites."
Allegra smiled back at him, clearly excited about
the subject. "Well then, you'll have to tell me how it ends some time," she
said. Dantam looked puzzled, until she opened to the back of the book and showed
it to him. The last few pages had been ripped out.
"Oh," Dantam said, "Well, of course I will then."
"There aren't many of my books that aren't damaged
in some way," Allegra said, blushing a little as she pointed to the stacks of
books in the back of her tent. Dantam's eyes widened. The books were battered,
burnt, and torn, but there were more there than he had probably read in his
entire life. Allegra continued, "But you're welcome to borrow them any time
you like. It's nice to meet someone that I can talk about my books to."
Dantam nodded. "I'd love that." With that, he
left Allegra to finish what there was of her book and went on in the direction
that he had seen Brenner heading. After a few moments of bewildered searching,
he finally found the Lupe lying down inside a wooden crate and gnawing on one
of the sausages. He looked up happily when Dantam appeared and then went back
to his eating, seeming to think that no words were necessary. Dantam squeezed
into the crate, which was lined with a couple of moth-eaten but still soft blankets,
laid down beside Brenner and began munching on the other end of the string of
As he ate, he looked around the camp, trying
to take everything in. He noted Rorro and Toragi at one end of the camp, sitting
in twin cardboard boxes as they ate their dinners. At the other end, Feruli
was climbing into the hollowed out back of an ancient, tireless van. Near the
Eyrie's necessarily large shelter, an old tire hung from a rope that was suspended
from a tall, overhanging stack of garbage. Dantam saw Silviana hop up into this
tire swing and curl up contentedly in it.
At the center of the clearing, a young Scorchio
started a campfire, and it radiated warmth out to all of them while they finished
their dinners. Then, as dusk fell over the junkyard, Dantam saw the old Skeith
waddle out into the center of the camp. "Well, my children," Cap said in a loud
voice so that all could hear, "What story shall I tell you tonight?"
"Tell us what it's like to have a home, Cap!"
called out a youthful voice from somewhere in the growing darkness.
"Yes, yes Cap! Tell us again!" echoed several
voices, including Brenner's beside him.
"Again?" Cap groaned playfully. "All right,
all right," he said, and the voices quieted down. Dantam thought he could almost
hear all of their ears pricking up to hear whatever it was that the Skeith was
going to say. He listened, intent with curiosity.
"Somewhere," Cap began in his gravely, fatherly
voice, "There is a home, a real home, waiting for each of you. A warm hearth
waits for each of you, with beautiful flames blazing in the fireplace and beautiful
smells wafting in from the kitchen as you lie in your favourite, worn spot on
the carpeted floor..."
As the story continued, Dantam looked around
the camp once more. Feruli lay in his van-shelter with his head sticking out
the door and a smile curving his beak. The Eyrie's eyes were on Silviana, who
was snoring away in her tire-swing, which swayed with the breeze, but his little
ears were tilted toward the center of the camp. Across the way, Toragi's silver
eyes glistened as she stared at Cap, occasionally turning her head to check
on the Kacheek beside her, whose frown was erased from his features if only
in his sleep. Beside Dantam, Brenner's stub of a tail thumped contentedly against
the ground as the story of warm fires, warm food, and warm arms continued.
Dantam laid his head down and closed his eyes,
still listening to Cap's hypnotic voice, and he thought to himself that he had
been wrong. He had been wrong about these pets. They were the most noble Neopets
that he had met in his entire life--noble enough to face their present and still
dream of the future.
To be continued...