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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 20th day of Awakening, Yr 22
The Neopian Times Week 49 > Continuing Series > Needed: Part Four

Needed: Part Four

by tdyans

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 not?

     "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 after.

     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 sausages

     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...

Previous Episodes

Needed: Part One

Needed: Part Two

Needed: Part Three

Needed: Part Five

Needed: Part Six

Needed: Part Seven

Needed: Part Eight

Needed: Part Nine

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