Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Three
Also by schefflera
Kass shifted his weight, flexing his claws into the thick
grass, then caught himself and resumed a military stillness. He was not exactly
looking forward to this journey. He welcomed it as a chance to do something
worthwhile, to begin to make up for far too many wrongs, but he wasn't under
any illusion that it was going to be pleasant.
The two Meridellian knights had evidently been
detained in talking to King Skarl, and Lord Darigan as well as the two Usul
farmers had gone back to their other duties. This left Kass waiting at the meeting
point in the silent and rather uneasy company of one small Meridellian Usul,
a situation he was fairly sure her parents had not expected.
They were also accompanied by a basket nearly
the size of the Usul. After several hopeful looks in the direction of Meridell
Castle, the child peeped into the basket for a long moment and then looked up
"Mr. Kass," she said, with a very faint hint
of a tremor in her voice, "would you like a turnip?"
"No, but thank you anyway, Sally," the Eyrie
replied. "I had lunch not too long before I left." While this was true, meals
in Darigan were not entirely filling, despite being larger than they had been.
On the other hand, Kass felt it unwise to begin depleting his party's supplies
before they had even left Meridell.
"What do you eat up there in the Citadel?" Sally
asked, seizing the chance to end the awkward silence. "It didn't seem like there
was much growing there?"
"We mostly trade with Meridell for food. You're
right -- not much grows on the Citadel, even now. We do have some hope, though,
as there have been reports of flowers and other plants growing there. I doubt
we will ever stop needing food from Meridell, though," Kass explained.
"So I could be helping to grow Lord Darigan's
food?" the young Usul asked, excited about that prospect. "Or your food?" she
added. Kass noticed that she seemed quite a bit more at ease now.
"That is certainly a possibility." The Eyrie
"I like that." Sally paused thoughtfully for
a moment. "The potatoes are very good this year, and the radishes. I hear carrots
did better in the south," she advised him.
Kass couldn't quite see himself turning up in
person at a Meridell market anytime soon, but nodded gravely. "I'll keep that
"The marrows are better than last year," Sally
went on, apparently warming to her subject. "So's everything that doesn't grow
underground, mostly, but that's because--" She broke off. "Erm."
"I'm sorry, Sally," Kass replied sadly. "And
I know that apologizing for it won't change anything, but...."
"We'll survive, Mr. Kass," the Usul said, not
wanting to see the Eyrie upset. "We had a good harvest otherwise, even last
"Even that cannot make up for my wrongs," Kass
sighed. Noticing that Sally seemed distraught by the conversation, he continued,
"I'm sorry if I upset you."
"We grow more root vegetables than anything else
anyway," Sally said, sitting down on her basket and carefully unfluffing her
tail. This wasn't exactly an answer, but she went on after a moment, "I didn't
mean to upset you either. I wasn't polite. I'm sorry."
"You have not been in the wrong," Kass said heavily.
"I would have deceived myself that you had, once, but you have never wronged
Sally squirmed and looked away from him, which
seemed a peculiar reaction. Even when he had really blamed every Meridellian
for the ills that had fallen on Darigan, and had attacked the children along
with the adults, Kass doubted he could have made any specific accusations against
a ten-year-old farm-girl. So why would she act as if she felt guilty about something?
But if she had planned to say anything, it was
set aside when the knights approached. Jeran in particular looked rather harried,
and when he saw Kass and Sally, he frowned and looked around as if (understandably,
really) expecting more people.
"Sally," the Lupe asked, not quite looking at
Kass, "where are your parents?"
"They had to go back to the farm. Mom sent us
a basket, though, see?" She hopped up from her seat on it and heaved it off
The Yellow Knight burst out laughing. "She certainly
did. Do you need a hand with that?" he asked, reaching out to help her with
"I can carry it!"
"You could fit into that basket," Sir Jeran pointed
out. He sounded, if not quite amused, a little less sour than he had a moment
ago. "There is food available in the Haunted Woods...."
"Mom says she's heard about it, Sir, and it doesn't
sound very good."
"It is on the strange side," Jeran conceded.
"Anyway, it's very kind of your parents -- but I'm sure they didn't mean for
you to have to carry that the whole way yourself." As Sally surrendered the
basket to the Yellow Knight, Jeran nodded and added, "Right. Let's go," and
started off directly west.
The quickest way to the Haunted Woods from Meridell,
according to Sir Jeran, was to go across the water to Neopia Central, where
there was a teleporter that one could use to travel to any of the worlds. So
Jeran and his companions found themselves at Meridell's western port, waiting
for a ship to Neopia Central.
"Are you sure that it is wise to travel through
Neopia Central?" the Yellow Knight asked Jeran. "It seems likely that we might
meet with a delay -- there are quite a few people there."
"It's still the fastest way," Jeran explained.
"Even with delays, it should take several days' march off the trip. And we won't
stay there for long."
"But what if we're recognized?" Kass asked. "I
doubt that my appearance would go over well..."
"We can always pretend we're impersonators,"
Jeran said. "Besides, who would believe I would ever travel with you?"
"I guess you have a point."
"Impersonators will be a stranger idea on this
side of the river," the Yellow Knight pointed out. "We should probably go and
wait out of the way while the tourists disembark. Isn't that the ship coming?"
Kass, having keener eyes than the other two,
peered out across the water and frowned. "It looks a bit smaller than I'd have
"It has to be," Jeran explained as they made
for a shaded, less conspicuous area. "Meridell's supposed to be a few centuries
in the past compared to Neopia Central, and the inlet here is narrower and considerably
shallower if you start from the other side."
Even after moving themselves out of the open,
Jeran and Kass found themselves the topic of a good deal of whispering. "Is
that Jeran?" "That Eyrie looks familiar..." "Why would Jeran travel with a Darigan?"
Kass was relieved that no one recognized him -- he thought that might be problematic.
As Meridell's largest center for trade, the port
was filled with pets selling souvenirs, some of whom walked around hawking their
goods. One of these merchants, a Green Ixi, happened to notice Kass, who was
looking out for the ship. "Wanna buy a Whack-a-Kass plushie?" the Ixi asked.
"Only 500 Neopoints... and your young friend here would love it," he added,
Well, that was unexpected. Kass turned toward
the Ixi merchant and nearly got smacked in the beak as the latter waved a small
and fairly accurate plushie in his face. "Ah...." Debating in his own mind whether
it would be less suspicious to buy one or not, Kass decided quickly that the
thing to do was play on the idea that it would be for Sally. "Well, what do
you say? Would you like one?"
Sally went rather wide eyed and took a step back
from them. "I've, um... I've already got one," she said.
"Aw, have you?" the Ixi said, not seeming too
disappointed. "Well, no need to be shy, I've got some other souvenirs if you
want to look them over...."
"Hey, I want one!" squealed a young Blue Tonu.
Kass looked around and noticed that the Ixi's
merchandise seemed to be attracting a fair portion of the disembarking crowd.
"I'm afraid we'd better get to our boat," Kass said firmly but politely. And
now he was going to get out of here before anybody more observant than the Ixi
decided to connect the Darigan Eyrie toys with the real Darigan Eyrie amongst
them. He reached down and grabbed Sally's hand, hoping she wouldn't protest,
and towed her out toward the boat. After a moment, when they were out of earshot
of the merchant, he glanced down and couldn't quite resist asking, "Do you really
have one already?"
Sally went red, barely visible under her fur.
Fortunately, Kass and Sally were able to board
the boat without any further problems. Jeran and the Yellow Knight followed,
though not so closely as to draw attention to their group. Once they had boarded,
however, they found Kass and Sally, and all four of them went to an area of
the boat that was at least semi-private, mostly due to an excess of spray.
"He tried to sell you a Whack-a-Kass plushie?"
Jeran asked, not quite amused. "Didn't he realize who you were?"
"Obviously not," Kass answered. "And it was definitely
better that way..."
"I suppose," Jeran replied, knowing what might
have happened had Kass been revealed. "It's kind of hard to believe that no
one recognized you, though..." he continued, in little more than a whisper.
Kass shrugged and leaned on the railing, peering
down at the water. "I was out of uniform, and I doubt it occurred to anyone
that I'd actually be stupid enough to go wandering around Meridell." Fortunately
no one had taken alarm at his sword, either. "Besides, they thought I was with
"You were with Sally," the Yellow Knight pointed
"Yes, well...." Not the way they'd assumed, as
if he were actually an older friend or neighbor or family member. "She told
the Ixi she already had one. The plushie, I mean."
"Was that a problem?" the Yellow Knight asked.
"Not really... just... strange..." the Eyrie
answered. "I can understand why such toys would be popular, but she almost seemed...
guilty about it..."
"When one's hatred is shown to be unfounded,
that kind of reaction is only natural," the Yellow Knight explained.
"She has reason enough to hate me," Kass said
"Not from what she's seen of you. And that's
what really matters to her."
"She knows enough of what I did -- wait a minute."
The only thing at knee-level was the basket. "Where is she?"
All three of them looked around quickly, but
Jeran spotted her first -- halfway up the rigging in the indulgent company of
an amused Pteri sailor. "I suppose she's all right," the Lupe said, "but we'll
have to ask her to stay close instead of taking to the trees once we actually
get to the Haunted Woods."
To be continued...