Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 105,637,792 Issue: 210 | 30th day of Gathering, Y7
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The Petpet Detectives: Case of the Traded Turdle - Part One


by playmobil_is_my_life

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On the highest floor of the Meridell castle stood King Skarl, wearing robes of red velvet and his golden crown. He squinted through the pair of binoculars that were pressed up to his face and scanned the grounds. His focus stopped at a large circle of sand where several bleachers were placed and blue and red Meridell flags were blowing: the Turdle Races. Neopets sat at the bleachers, waving flags and pointing down into the circle. Five Turdles were being placed into the center. Skarl could almost hear the crowd's excitement by the looks on their faces.

     The Turdle Races were one of Meridell's most popular attractions. The sharp whistle to signify the beginning of the race must have blown because the five Turdles in the center were kicking up sand in an effort to be the first out of the ring. The Turdle farthest to the left crawled out first. King Skarl adjusted the focus on the binoculars to get a better look at the number. Five.

      Skarl sighed as some of the crowd cheered, while others moaned with disappointment, tearing up their betting cards. The bets were what helped the Turdle Races run every day. The Turdles were being collected by a red Techo and brought back to their pen. The day's races were over. The blue Skeith lowered his binoculars and rubbed his brow.

      "I didn't know you were so interested in the Turdle Races."

      King Skarl spun around to face his desk. Slade, the royal Draik, was seated at it with his feet up and his arms crossed. Slade was his nephew and often stayed at the castle.

      "If you knew what was going on, you would be interested too," Skarl muttered, slamming the binoculars down on his desk.

      "Okay, I'll bite," said Slade. "What's up?"

      Skarl sighed again, "Turdle number five seems to be on a winning streak lately. It's caused a lot of… curiosity among the citizens. I'm concerned."

      "Winning streak?" Slade laughed and picked up Skarl's Dream Orb from its stand. He tossed it back and forth between paws like it was a toy. Although it wasn't very expensive, Skarl caught it in midair and jerked his claw over his shoulder. Slade reluctantly climbed out of the reclining chair and crossed over to the window. Skarl sat down and placed the orb back on its silver stand.

      "Winning streaks don't exist," continued Slade, from the window. The royal Draik turned back to Skarl. "He's just been lucky."

      "I don't believe luck exists," Skarl echoed, feeling peeved at his nephew's arrogance. "I'd like to get this situation looked at. However, I'm not sure whom to ask. My servants agreed to assist me."

      "Well, don't expect me to help," said Slade, tugging at his green vest: a very annoying habit of his. There was a hint of sass in the Draik's eyes as he turned and prepared to leave. He passed the blue and red flag before calling, "Oh, and Uncle Skarl? I insist on letting the matter of Turdle number four die down on its own. No need to find someone."

      "I think I already have," Skarl answered, and he could sense his nephew's disapproval. A copy of an old Neopian Times issue was opened. On the second page was a picture of four Neopets: an Eyrie, Yurble, Aisha and pea Chia. One of Skarl's servants must have found it for him.

      "Petpet Detectives?" echoed Skarl, skimming through the article. "Perfect."

     ***

      "Kiss it."

      "Psh," I rolled my eyes. "No way, Luna."

      "Oh, go on," the shadow Yurble begged. She held a weird-looking creature up to my face. It had slimy, green skin and bug eyes with a tuft of blue fur atop its head. Hah, and Luna thought I was going to kiss it. Yeah right. She shoved the thing in my face again,

      "The game isn't called Kiss the Mortog for nothing, Marlo. Now come on. I paid fifty neopoints for your turn."

      "Fine," I said dramatically. I took the slimy petpet and I just felt the tip of my beak touch its ugly head before jerking away. Nothing happened. Luna inched closer excitedly but the Mortog didn't move. Suddenly, its huge eyes got bigger. Its skin stretched and his mouth opened. SPLAT! I turned my face away as bits of red and green sprayed all over my white feathers. Obviously, I had chosen the wrong Mortog.

      "That's disgusting," I muttered, wiping bits of slime off with my white paw.

      "That's the game," the shadow Yurble chimed in. "Watch and learn." She put fifty neopoints on the counter and the green Grundo produced two new Mortogs.

      "Honestly, I can't see how you enjoy this," I said, carefully observing how Luna watched the Mortogs carefully. She sized them up, then weighed them both in her arms, and listened to each one croak. She spent another moment or so staring them.

      When she was finished Luna picked up the one of the left and kissed it quickly on the head. It began to stretch the way the other did for me and I covered my face. Suddenly, there was a golden light and the Mortog transformed into a Kacheek prince who bowed to Luna.

      I clapped half-heartedly. "How'd you do that?"

      "I'm just lucky," she replied, taking the one hundred neopoints and smirking.

      I couldn't help but grin. Luna was always so sly. Every mystery, she always seemed to know what to do and who to talk to. She basically took the role of the group's leader and organizer and it was nifty, I'll admit. That way, if something went wrong, we could just blame it on her. But that rarely happened.

      "We should get over to the Ultimate Bullseye game. I told Damien and Charlie we'd be over there at one thirty," advised Luna, dragging me along like she always does. The shadow Yurble began weaving through the small crowds of Meridellians and tourists. Being one of the biggest, I kept my eyes on her dark head while she continued along the cobblestone path.

      You see, just two days ago we received a letter from Skarl himself -- King of Meridell. He explained that there was some sort of problem at the Turdle Races. We had never been asked to solve a mystery this public before but Luna, Charlie, Damien and I were always up for a challenge.

      As Luna and I continued down the path to the Ultimate Bullseye, I checked my surroundings. Meridell was new to me and it seemed like a quiet place with many lush forests and emerald plains. The highlight was, of course, King Skarl's vast stone castle that was towards the edge of the city. It seemed to have reached up to the clouds. Two tall Eyrie guards were standing at the castle gates, wearing solemn expressions and sweeping robes. I glanced forward for a moment to locate Luna before taking a last look at the castle.

      As we neared a side path, Luna pointed and I spotted the Ultimate Bullseye ring. A male royal Aisha was standing on the white line, holding a bow and carefully pulling an arrow from the quiver around his waist. His eyes narrowed in concentration as the arrow flew from the bow and landed in the red dot in the center of the target. Bullseye.

      "Great shot, Damien," Luna called from the cheering crowd. Damien grinned. I checked the scoreboard: ninety-three.

      The Turtum in charge of the Bullseye game took a silver hoop from the table and stuck it in the ground. Using a match he cautiously lit it against his shell and there was a gasp from the crowd as the flame licked the hoop, encircling it. Damien paused before pulling out his final arrow and stringing it to the bow. His concentration remained the same, as he adjusted the bow. The arrow shot from the string with a ping and it zipped through the fiery hoop. It landed towards the side of the target, on the three-point area. But it was worth six because of the fire ring.

      The crowd erupted in applause as the final score was released: one hundred and three points. Damien took the (rather large) sack of neopoints and blushed on his way over to us. A few Neopets congratulated him on his high score. Charlie, the pea Chia, poked his head out from atop Damien's hat.

      "Where'd you learn to aim like that?" I asked the royal Aisha.

      "Marlo, can't you just say congratulations for once?" Luna asked.

      "Thanks," Damien said to Luna and turned to me, "I grew up here, remember? I've been playing Ultimate Bullseye since I was a kid… here three times a day to practice."

      "Yeah and when I first met you, you almost impaled me with an arrow…"

      Luna elbowed me and muttered something about over-exaggerating. I looked at Damien and said, "Congrats."

      "We should probably head over to the Turdle Races," Charlie broke the silence from Damien's hat. The pea Chia continued, "The races start at two o'clock."

      The four of us started back to the Turdle Races, which were near Kiss the Mortog. I wasn't sure how I felt about Turdle racing… it sounded a bit pointless but apparently it was a bigger deal than I thought if King Skarl had to call us in to sort out a problem. The letter was vague; it didn't state what kind of problem the Turdle Races were having so I was a little intrigued.

      What could be so mysterious about a Turdle Race? I wondered.

      At the time I didn't realize how interesting this mystery was going to be.

To be continued…

 
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