It was a drizzly, dreary night outside, and the busy murmur
of my Uni Celestilla and her best friend Andromeda was slowly lulling me to sleep.
Drowsily I watched them scribbling, erasing, and squabbling furiously about grammar
and diction. A sigh of contentment escaped me. It's always nice to see them getting
I, of course, am Taffychic, owner of the world's
most exasperating Uni. Celestilla is the gossip columnist for the Neopian Extra,
and she has personally harassed everybody who's anybody in Neopia. Always honest
(sometimes painfully so), my Uni has a wonderful nose for gossip. Most celebrities
know her by sight and the smart ones disappear when she emerges. Not that this
bothers Celestilla; she has a knack of extracting the facts from the most taciturn
Andromeda is her best friend, a talented red
Aisha with a flair for photography. She doesn't actually have an owner, but
she stays with us most of the time. She and Celestilla are like sisters, so
of course they fight almost constantly. Andromeda is extremely friendly, and
even the grumpiest of Celestilla's famous victims tend to stop and give her
a cheerful pat on the head. She's also impulsive and tactless, which can make
for a bad combination if you make her angry.
My eyes were just drooping shut when suddenly
an agitated rap on the door startled me out of my stupor. Andromeda bounced
up with her usual vivacity. "I'll get it," she sang out as she flung the door
Celestilla let out a startled gasp. She has
better night vision than me; I was trying to identify the shadowy form in the
doorway when it moved, dripping, onto the "Welcome" mat. It was Orayny, the
famous Neomillionaire and renowned Storytelling Champion. Her beautifully tailored
coat was straining at the buttons from a suspicious lump bundled up inside.
Wide-eyed at her good luck, Celestilla jumped
up. "Orayny! Let me take your coat! Would you mind if I asked you a few questions?
Of course, take this chair! Andromeda, push it up close to the fireplace! So,
did Jessimen participate in the Meridell War? Let me get some tea, I'm sure
Taffy would be glad to make-"
"I'm very sorry to intrude," she began in her
polite English accent, ignoring Celestilla's attentions, "but it's something
of an emergency. It's about Wisteria." Carefully she unbuttoned her coat and
removed the lumpy bundle she had been protecting. A sleepy Peophin's head appeared,
gazing at us with disinterest.
"Is that Wisteria?" I exclaimed in disbelief
as Orayny laid the Peophin down on the glass coffee table, spreading her blankets
around her. Orayny nodded solemnly and I gasped with shock. Wisteria had been
a beautiful Faerie Peophin, with many beauty contest trophies to her name and
a hoard of male admirers. But now…well, now, she was an adorable baby Peophin!
"What's so terrible about her? She's precious!"
cooed Andromeda, tickling Wisteria on the nose with one of her long ears. Wisteria
giggled playfully and socked the Aisha in the eye. Celestilla snorted and went
to get some ice for the swelling. I, however, stayed put. I wracked my brains,
trying to figure out what was wrong with the picture. Besides the obvious fact
that Orayny was a very active member of the Campaign to Abolish Baby Paintbrushes
in Neopia (CABPN), there seemed to be something the matter with Wisteria herself.
"That isn't right," I murmured. "She's not just
painted Baby… she is Baby!"
Orayny looked at me approvingly. "You see it,
don't you? The paintbrush has literally gone to her head."
Andromeda looked at us quizzically through her
Returning from the kitchen with a bag of ice,
Celestilla took it upon herself to explain. "Paintbrushes are only supposed
to change the appearance of a pet, not its mentality. As you can see, Wisteria
is not herself. Something must have been dreadfully wrong with the paintbrush
if it gave her the mind of a baby pet."
"Precisely. Please, you must help me. I want
my baby returned to normal immediately! I can't have my darling crawling around,
crying and throwing baby food for the rest of her life. I already miss her,"
she said, suddenly becoming tearful. A new thought seemed to strike her. "What
will the press say? Oh, I'll never hear the end of it!"
Quizzically, I said, "I don't understand, though.
Why did you come to us? What do you expect us to do about it?"
A red blush began creeping up Orayny's face.
"It's kind of a long story… oh, very well," she sighed, quailing under my gaze.
She made herself comfortable in my favorite recliner, settling a peacefully
sleeping Wisteria in her lap.
"You see, after this little catastrophe I decided
that Wisteria must be placed in the best possible hands. Samaritain seemed the
logical choice, of course." Samaritain is hailed as the best Neoneurosurgeon
in a century. Naturally he is extremely expensive and often unavailable. "When
I called his office for an appointment, however, the secretary was extremely
rude. Apparently she had been left with instructions to hang up on me and destroy
all records of my call. I can't…"
"…imagine why, of course, we know. You have
my deepest sympathy, but if you've had a falling-out with Samaritain there's
nothing we can do," I said sternly.
"It wasn't really my fault, though!" she protested.
"It turns out that his owner's username was one letter off from a scammer that
had been bothering me for weeks. A little typo in the abuse report and I'm bogged
down in legal matters for a solid year! It hurt Samaritain's practice quite
a bit; I suppose he has every right to be angry with me, but-"
Discreetness is not in my Uni's nature. She
had been writing busily during Orayny's narration and looked up as she trailed
off. "Hmm… can you give me the name of the real scammer? When exactly did all
this take place?"
Orayny dramatically pressed a hand to her forehead.
"I'd rather not get into it, if you don't mind…" she said, suddenly quite weary.
"Well then, I really don't understand why we
should get involved," stated Celestilla regally, shutting her notebook with
"Wait," said Orayny. Startled by her tone, we all turned to look at her. She
spoke earnestly to Celestilla. "I know-from personal experience-that if you
can't get me in to see Samaritain, no one can. I've seen you do some amazing
things for a story, and I'm willing to offer you exclusive access to this one.
I can make sure you are the only journalist in Neopia that has the real scoop."
I heard Andromeda give a small gasp. This would
elevate Celestilla's column-and our small paper-to big-time success. Ever cool,
Celestilla pretended to think it over, then offered Orayny her hoof. "It's a
deal," she declared.
"All right then," Orayny said, shaking hands
with the Uni. "Tomorrow, shall we say? I'll tell you the whole story then. If
you don't mind, of course," she added to me, as an afterthought. I narrowed
my eyes at her. With a pet like Celestilla involved, people sometimes forget
that I'm the owner.
"Fine. Meet me here tomorrow morning. We'll
pay a visit to Samaritain's office, providing you tell me the whole story on
the way." Orayny nodded at me, then scooped up the sweetly sleeping bundle of
Wisteria and vanished into the drizzly night.
To be continued...