A Yurble stole my cinnamon roll! Circulation: 155,374,162 Issue: 219 | 9th day of Celebrating, Y7
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Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Three


by ikkin_with_attitude

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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 at Kass.

     "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 smiled.

     "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 in mind."

     "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 year."

     "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 me."

     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 ground.

     The Yellow Knight burst out laughing. "She certainly did. Do you need a hand with that?" he asked, reaching out to help her with it.

     "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 expected."

     "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, noticing Sally.

     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. "Yes."

     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 Sally."

     "You were with Sally," the Yellow Knight pointed out.

     "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 sadly.

     "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...

 
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Other Episodes


» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part One
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Two
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Four
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Five
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Six
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Seven
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Eight
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Nine
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Ten
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Eleven
» Hubrid's Attempted Hero Heist: Part Twelve



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