Orbulon and the Queen of Mystery Island
What a scam. A work of art, a masterpiece. Jhuidah, Queen
of Mystery Island, watched her Tombola Man assistant work. Tourists and natives
alike lined up all day every day for the slim chance of winning a Tombola Man
Keyring, which was no more than cheap advertising, or the even slimmer chance
of winning a Codestone. After all, there had to be some incentive to play Tombola.
After a couple hours of pulling numbers, the Tombola Man would require a million
or so Neopoints in donations to fund his prizes. Of course, none of the tourists
did the math to figure out that he was spending less than a hundred thousand a
day on prizes, and the natives were too brainless to notice. Jhuidah pocketed
the profit and the Tombola Man was assured that no one would ever find out what
was behind his mask.
Jhuidah nodded at him and the Tombola Man put
up a sign which read: "Ugggh... out of cash." Jhuidah let out an evil chuckle.
* * *
After several unfortunate events in Maraqua,
Orbulon crawled onto the Mystery Island beach. Ecstatic to be on dry land, the
little blue alien petpet strolled along the sand for days on end, picking up
dropped tidbits and the occasional wild fruit. Before long, however, the warm
sun grew sweltering hot, the soft sand became invasive, and the cool breeze
developed into an incessant wind. He therefore renewed his quest to get back
to the Virtupets Space Station, where things were as they should be: climate
Orbulon saw a mass of Neopians and, with dreams
of stagnant air fresh in his mind, walked towards them. Maybe they were trying
to get off this frying pan, too. The only problem with venturing off the beach
was tourists; there were even more in the shopping areas than on the beach.
He was short enough to avoid notice, and dodged from leg, to fin, to appendage.
He spotted a flock of creatures around a tall human wearing a tacky shirt and
mask. The Masked One would occasionally give an item to one of his visitors
from underneath his wooden stand. Maybe there was a transportation device or
a morsel of food under there.
By the time Orbulon's stubby legs got him through
the stampeding Neopets and into the palm tree-dotted shopping area, all the
Pets at the wooden stand were giving shiny things to the Masked One. Orbulon
stole through the shadows behind the tacky souvenir-infested stand. There, sitting
on shelves in front of the Masked One, was a treasure of brown wafers, shriveled
fruits and crusty-looking faerie cakes. Steering clear of the Masked One's dancing
feet, Orbulon reached for a cake on the shelf closest to the sand. He stretched
his arm and stood on his tiptoes, but it of was just out of reach. He swung
his arm around to better reach for it, but concluded he was too short. Orbulon
was not a good jumper in zero gravity, much less on this pressure-ridden rock.
However, he was only a few inches away from pink-frosted faerie cake, so he
tried anyway. He hunched down and sprang up, grabbed onto the shelf, pulled
up the right half of his body next to a faerie cake, and heard a creak. Creaks
were never good noises. He scrambled up and darted to the back of the shelf,
in the shadows where the Masked One wouldn't be able to see or squish him. Crick.
The Masked One's monstrous knee came into view, but he wasn't kneeling. Orbulon
felt gravity pull at his back; the stand was falling backward! The little alien
bounded off just before the stand tumbled into the sand, sending faerie cakes
and questionably edible substances flying and splattering. As a breed, Orbulons
are not very intelligent, but even this one knew now was the time to leave this
He darted into a churning sea of agitated feet,
away from the food. His stomach growled in protest. Orbulon assured it there
was a place nearby where he could always find a bite, even though he'd have
to get past the ground-roving appendages first. This turned out to be fairly
easy; most tourists were too busy looking at the beach or the sun or the Tiki
Tack items to notice an ankle-high alien.
Once inside a collection of huts and stands,
it was easier to hide. He could duck behind baskets, walk through alleys, and
pick up crumbs of careless shoppers. A petpet flitting from place to place,
however, could obstruct the flow of foot traffic.
* * *
Tombola booby prizes splattered on the sand.
A faerie cake nailed the Tombola Man's mask. Dozens of food items, ruined. Jhuidah
even saw the small blue something that had kicked off the mess, but that didn't
matter. Dozens of NP-donating Neopians were under the impression that the Tombola
man was out of items, and they, too, saw the prizes fly all over the beach-that
was what mattered.
Confusion was on the face of every Neopian there.
Jhuidah looked at the Tombola Man; he said nothing, and she could only guess
at what was going on underneath that mask of his. She darted in front of him
with a mock smile plastered on her face. "Look at that, Tombola Man," she said.
"It seems like you missed a few prizes."
The Tombola Man coughed and nodded. "Yes, yes,
forgive me, my sight isn't what it used to be."
A Kougra laughed. "Silly Tombola Man!" The rest
of the line laughed and normal Tombola function resumed.
Jhuidah smiled and shook hands with the tourists
before leaving. Now her attention turned to the blue something that had caused
this mess and was now nowhere to be seen. That little incident was too close.
Had it been an act of sabotage, or a mere mistake? She would have to keep her
eyes open for it, whatever it was. First she needed to go buy more booby prizes
for the Tombola. She hated spending Neopoints; at least on other people.
Since the tsunami, or "Great Cleansing Wave"
as it was called, wiped the shores clean of discarded Tiki Tack junk, booby
prizes were harder to find. Jhuidah used to send a team of flunkies onto the
beach to pick up the discards for use as Tombola booby prizes. Now she had to
go to the Island Market and actually pay for them, at least until the beaches
were littered to her satisfaction again.
On the plus side, walking about in the marketplace
was an excellent opportunity to be fawned over by her Islanders and tourists.
As soon as she stepped onto the hut-lined walkway, heads turned, haggling ceased,
and silence swept over them. Jhuidah reveled in it. Following the silence was
an explosion of activity: Usuls screamed, Kougras bounded towards her, shopkeepers
offered her their finest products. She smiled, shook some hands and cooed sweet
things to them. "I see you are quite the fighter. Aw, what a lovely Usuki."
The Islanders adored her, and Jhuidah knew these appearances kept her popular
with her potential customers (or victims). After a few minutes of the celebrity
treatment she raised her tan hands into the air, and they hushed. "Dear Islanders,"
she said in her practiced sweet voice, "I would like nothing more than to spend
the entire day with you. However, I really am in quite a hurry. I'm visiting
the pound in Neopia Central today, and I was hoping to take some Tiki gifts
to the poor orphans there..." The crowd let her go no further. They all ran
up and dropped Tiki Tack items at her feet, placed them in her hands, threw
them in sacks.
Jhuidah soon had more than enough booby prizes
for Tombola. She raised her hands again, commanding silence. "Thank you all
so much for your kind donations to the orphans of Neopia! I will be sure to
tell them of your generosity. I must leave now, my dears, but I will be at the
Cooking Pot tomorrow, so come and see me then if you like. Until next time!"
The awed Neopians cleared a path for her, waving and whispering goodbyes as
she walked through.
It was good to be Queen.
She was shaking the last hands in the line, carrying
the sack of Tiki Tack when she saw a blue blur dart out from the crowd in front
of her. She could not stop soon enough and tripped over the blue thing, falling
on top of her Tiki Tack loot. Crunch. At first she wasn't sure if the
crunch was the sack, her ribs, or both, but she jumped up in time to see the
blue thing dart into the dark trees ahead. Her ribs felt fine, but her items
were ruined. More important, she had been humiliated in front of her adoring
subjects. They ran to her, exclaiming questions, offering assistance. Jhuidah
was furious. These had been no accidents; the creature was trying to ruin her.
The Islanders were swarmed around her, and she could never appear upset in front
of them. She would take care of the troublemaker soon enough.
* * *
Orbulon had been walking around, minding his
own business when all of the sudden he was mowed over by some tall chick. She
had a dangerously furious scowl on her face as she toppled, so he vamoosed into
a patch of palm trees. He kept running into the darkness, not wanting to find
out if she was following him, and before long he had no idea where he was. It
was unlike anywhere else he had been on the Island; it was cool and humid, and
sunlight could not penetrate the trees. Not that this was a bad thing, as there
were no Neopians in sight. Orbulon sighed and leaned against a palm tree, sank
into the cool sand, and fell asleep.
When he woke up, the forest was even darker than
before. He stumbled through the vines and roots without direction as the night
turned everything pitch-black. Hunger nagged at him and sleep begged to take
him over, but Orbulon was too scared. He was used to the black of space, but
even there stars gave off light. Orbulon, however, was an exceptionally lucky
creature, and soon saw a flicker of fire light. His sore feet sank into the
sand, but he ran anyway after the light and into a clearing. A great stone tomb
loomed in front of him, torches flaring on its walls. It wasn't a transport
to the Space Station, but it was something.
Orbulon climbed the deserted steps to a stone
door carved with images unlike any he'd ever seen. He tugged at the door and
realized there was no way he would be able to pull it up. There were no other
obvious entrances, so he headed back down the stairs, but then heard a rumble
and turned around. The door was open. Maybe there was food inside. Orbulon walked
through the door and into a musty hallway lit by torches, with no end in sight.
The door behind him closed; there was only one way to go. Orbulon walked deeper
into the Deserted Tomb. There was no way to tell time in the tomb, and Orbulon
was too weary to travel far. He lay down on the cold ground and dreamed of Grundo's
A scratchy voice woke him. Orbulon sat up and
blinked furiously to clear his vision. A strange green creature with a white
face was wagging his claws at him. Orbulon frowned at it; what was it doing?
The lizard looked from side to side as if it
were expecting something. "Booka booka booka!" it tried again in its rough little
Orbulon shook his head. What was this thing?
"Too tuk?" It dropped its arms in disappointment.
Orbulon stood up and put his hand on its shoulder.
Had he made it sad?
The lizard perked up. "Terik uk ug?"
This language barrier was going to be a problem.
But Orbulon's lack of response didn't faze it. It bounded a couple feet down
the passage and cried for Orbulon to follow.
He didn't have anything better to do.
You see, this odd little Geraptikite, called
a Lizark, was really the first line of defense against tomb raiders. Long ago,
it had been placed in the tomb to scare off any would-be thieves. Lizark was
kind of creepy looking, after all. It was now old, and had grown bored with
more devious defenses like arrows in the walls or the classic "boulder bowling
for thieves." Besides, the lower levels were guarded by a Hissi who was nasty
enough for the both of them. So, Lizark spent its days sneaking up behind intruders,
pouncing on them, and screaming, "Booka booka booka!" Today's average Neopian
was sufficiently terrorized by this display to run out of the tomb crying for
Obviously, Orbulon was not an average Neopian.
Lizark was disappointed at not scaring him, but being both curious and lonely,
decided to escort Orbulon down into the tomb for lunch. It might be fun, considering
it hadn't entertained company in a couple hundred years, and maybe it would
have another chance at scaring him.
Lizark tromped down the hallway with its guest
struggling to keep up, though Orbulon did appreciate having a stone floor instead
of sand. Torches continued to light the hallway, and they began to pass open
doors and other passages. Orbulon soon realized what a maze this place was;
without his green guide, he would be lost beyond hope in minutes.
"Too-ree!" it cheered and bounded down another
Orbulon turned the corner a moment later to run
into the lizark head-on. "Booka booka!" It was waggling its fingers again. Orbulon
raised what would have been his eyebrow if he'd had one.
The lizark dropped its arms in disappointment
again, shrugged, and continued down the hallway. The thing was certainly weird,
but for now, it was Orbulon's only hope for survival in this tomb. Soon the
white-faced reptile lead him into a room filled with crates. It dove into one
of them and returned a moment later with a skull. Orbulon took a step back,
but the reptile offered the skull to him. He leaned over to look in it; there
was a fragrant liquid inside. Orbulon eyed both reptile and skull skeptically.
"Tuk roo!" it said and took a sip of the liquid.
"Hmmm." It rubbed its stomach and smacked its jaws.
Orbulon shrugged. There wasn't anything better
to eat. The juice turned out to be quite tasty, and after that his companion
brought him a piece of fruit. Content with these necessary things, Orbulon took
his after-lunch siesta in a crate.
Orbulon woke once again to the prodding of the
lizark, though this time it only nudged him up. It motioned for Orbulon to follow
it again, and he did. The lizark hadn't steered him wrong yet. Orbulon followed
it for hours down the halls, through doors, and under thick spider webs. The
tomb's inhabitant never gave Orbulon a chance to rest, something he was getting
irritated about. Eventually, however, they came to a great cavern of stone bricks
with a pedestal in the center reaching far above to the ceiling. The air was
warmer here, and atop the pedestal was a small gold chest. Orbulon wondered
why the box had such a big room dedicated to it, but the box was not where the
lizark was taking him. It bounded to the far wall and pushed back one of the
bricks. Behind it was revealed a small passageway. Orbulon went closer to peer
down it. It was warm in there.
"Tuk tuk," said his guide, pointing down the
Orbulon looked at the lizark and then the tunnel
"Tuk tuk!" it insisted.
It still hadn't steered him wrong. Orbulon stepped
through the opening and into the passage. He heard a scraping sound behind him
and turned to see that his lizark friend had sealed him in. Alone. He could
only hope the lizark wanted him to continue down the tunnel, and that this would
be good for him. The tunnel traveled at a downward slope and had no light, was
very cramped, and was getting hotter with each step Orbulon took. The tunnel
was long enough to merit three naps and a serious case of hunger before Orbulon
saw a red glow ahead. Whatever it was, he reasoned it had to be better than
this darkness. He was wrong.
He stepped out of the cramped tunnel onto a sliver
of a walkway hugging the wall around a lake of glowing lava. Orbulon was the
hottest he had ever been. The sweltering sun on the beach was like the cold
of space compared to this. Orbulon felt like his toes were going to melt, but
he had traveled too far to turn back. It stank, too. Not like dead fish or six-week-old
Spotted Pudding; this was an all-consuming, make your eyes and throat burn stench
that seemed to saturate his body. He breathed as little as possible and carefully,
but quickly, crawled along the path around the lava, hugging the wall as he
went. As hot as he was, it was sure to be hotter if he fell into the lava. There
was smoke, too. Not a lot, but enough to make it hard to see how far his trek
around death would be. After what felt like hours he saw through the smoke a
cave the path emptied into. He jumped up in delight, almost slipping into the
lava. He grabbed onto the ledge and kicked his way back up. He didn't have time
to breathe, for the rocks underneath him began to buckle. Orbulon gave up caution
and ran down the remaining path into the tunnel. Behind him rocks tumbled from
the ledge he had been standing on into the lava. The lake gurgled and bubbled
and began to rise. He darted out of the cavern and up the tunnel and never looked
Too pumped up with adrenaline to rest, Orbulon
ran uphill for hours. Finally, not able to continue, Orbulon collapsed into
sleep. When he opened his eyes again, he saw a needle of white light ahead.
Dare he hope it to be sunlight? He picked his body up and ran on.
* * *
Jhuidah had sent all her trusted flunkies to
find the little blue menace after her humiliation in the marketplace. They found
nothing. Not in the market, or on the beach, or in the rock pool, or even in
Geraptiku. That was two days ago, and there had been no "incidents" since. Maybe
it was a fluke, some klutzy tourist who was on the Island for a day trip. No
need to overreact.
Today she was at the Cooking Pot, another great
work from the Artiste Jhuidah. Her next customers/victims approached; a pair
of Kacheeks from Central, she guessed.
With trembling hands they showed her their items.
A Negg and some smelly fish. "M-miss Jhuidah," said one, "will Mumbo Pango turn
these into a Fish Negg?"
She turned on her sweet smile. "Welcome, visitors.
You only have to try to find out."
The Kacheeks looked at each other briefly before
easing their items into the red soup. Poom! A plume of smoke erupted
from the pot, the Kacheeks squealed, and their items were gone.
"Oh, I am so sorry," Jhuidah cooed. "Next time,
The Kacheeks sulked off. Jhuidah look down a
peephole underneath the pot. Below "Mumbo Pango" was a pit all the offered items
fell into. She was collecting a nice haul today. Jhuidah was a big fan of spreading
out false recipes, the "Fish Negg Recipe" being among her favorites. All kinds
of Neggs brought by all kinds of Neopians ended up in her pit. She looked over
the day's goods: Codestones, Neggs, Bottled Faeries, Island fruit, a little
blue petpet . . . a little blue petpet? Jhuidah gaped at what was in her pit.
That little blue creature who was ruining her! It was climbing up the side of
her pit toward her peephole! She tried not to panic and pushed a rock over the
hole. He was too little to push it out of the way.
"Who's next?" she chimed. The next victim came
up, but before he could drop his plushies in the Cooking Pot, the cauldron shuddered.
Jhuidah gasped. That blue thing was digging out from underneath the pot, right
in front where everyone could see! He was stronger than she predicted, and with
a last push he was out. Behind him the Cooking Pot caved into the pit, leaving
a hole in the sand. The Neopians looked down, dumbstruck at all their items
in the pit with red liquid spilled all over them.
Jhuidah did not have time for damage control.
She charged after her blue enemy through the crowd. She saw him squeeze between
two Islanders and she pushed them aside, running after him. He dove behind a
rock; she flung it out of her way. Jhuidah grabbed him by his golden ring, satisfied
by the squeal he produced. Glaring into his vacant eyes, she yelled, "Who do
you think you are to challenge me, Jhuidah, Queen of Mystery Island?"
* * *
Orbulon's eyes were wide; this tall faerie was
scary. And it hurt to be held by his ring.
"Answer me!" She got nothing and became more
enraged. "Fine, little conspirator! I can take care of you." With a violent
beat of her pink wings, they were airborne.
Orbulon's goal was to go up, back to the Space
Station, but he doubted this screaming person was his ticket home.
The winged woman carried him above the forest
of palm trees and toward the center of the island where a smoking mountain towered.
Hadn't he seen that somewhere before? Oh, yes, when he fell down to Neopia he
had spotted a round thing of lava. He hadn't fallen into it before, but he had
a bad feeling about being thrown into it now. The wind was cool, but as they
approached the volcano it became hot, and the smoke got worse. His eyes began
to burn and his head started to swim. A familiar aroma of stink met his nose.
The faerie cackled. There was now a slightly
red tint to her eyes. "Meet your doom, little imp!" She hurled Orbulon down
into the volcano, where lava was contracting and spitting fire. Orbulon was
experiencing uncomfortable tunnel déjà vu as he hurtled down to the lake of
lava, but the lake lowered. Suddenly, the lava exploded and a blast of searing
smoke shot him out of the mountain. As he sailed up the atmosphere, lava spewed
out of the mouth of the volcano. Below him he heard screams from the faerie.
"My hair! My beautiful auburn hair!" She was
flying around flapping her arms, her head bald and smoking. "Curse you, SR,
for not counting hair as vital to bodily function!"
Orbulon had no idea what that meant, but the
momentum from the blast kept him soaring up and away. He began to look for the
Space Station, but didn't see it. It must have been over some other part of
Before long, with the Island only a speck in
the distance, gravity kicked in. Orbulon started his descent back to the planet.
Oh well, at least wherever he landed next couldn't possibly be as bad as that
smelly island with its weird lizarks and scary faeries.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! I'd love a neomail telling me what you
thought of it. This is the sequel to "Orbulon
Has Landed," a short story in Issue 218. Thanks, Psycho and AuntFalcor for
being my editors!