Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 128,614,511 Issue: 257 | 15th day of Gathering, Y8
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Needed Adventure: Part Four


by tdyans

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Enzo stared up at the hideous monster that towered over him. Its eyes glowed a deep red and its black scales glistened dangerously under the sunlight. The creature glared down at him, opened its mouth with a deafening roar and spewed forth a flood of fire.

      Enzo danced nimbly across the cobblestones, the flames licking at his heels but never able to catch him. He turned and laughed defiantly up at the monster, which only made it angrier, and it seemed to grow with its temper, blotting out the light of the sun.

      His jaw set with determination, Enzo charged forward. The beast was so surprised by this show of bravery, by the pure valor that shone forth from the young Gelert's eyes, that it could only stand there and watch in disbelief-- and yes, growing fear-- as Enzo darted through its legs. Once behind the monster, Enzo grabbed hold of the end of its mighty, writhing tail in his teeth and pulled. The creature was lifted from its feet by the hero as easily as if it had been a newborn babaa. He swung it through the air and then let go, sending it flying far away with a shriek of defeat, surely never to be seen again.

      Enzo stared proudly after his conquered enemy, then turned and noticed the castle standing before him. Of course-- the creature had been guarding a castle! He sprang forward, knocking the wooden door down with one great leap, and then heard the gentle footsteps running quickly down the spiral staircase. He looked up to see the fair maiden he had surely rescued, and heard....

     "You again?"

     Enzo's brow wrinkled. That was certainly an odd thing for a damsel in distress to say... and in Dr. Death's voice, too? As he contemplated this, the dream began to drift slowly away. He opened his eyes to reality with a groan.

     Dr. Death was standing in front of the pen, claws on his hips, looking at a sandy-haired boy who stood beside him. Neither of them seemed very concerned with hiding their mutual dislike for each other. "Yes," the boy responded to the Techo's question without even bothering to look at him. "And I want that one there-- the Gelert."

     The doctor sighed, but he pulled his keys from his pocket obediently. Enzo thought he heard a muttered, "The customer is always right," as the lock clanged noisily open. Dr. Death walked into the kennel. He shooed the other pets off to the side and knelt down before Enzo. "You see, I told you you wouldn't be here long." The encouraging tone that he tried to inject into his voice was dishearteningly unconvincing.

     The boy brushed past the Techo, fastening a leather collar tightly around Enzo's neck, attaching a leash, and yanking him out of the pen. "Come on," he called to Dr. Death. "Let's get these papers signed. I haven't got all day." He dragged Enzo down the hallway, with Whooter flying after them, past the other pens filled with pets who watched them go-- some few with envy shining in their eyes, but most with only pity.

    At the front desk, the boy sighed dramatically and tapped his foot as he waited for Dr. Death to gather up the necessary documents. He grumbled when the Techo revealed to him the price of his new acquisition, but eventually handed over the Neopoints. Once he had, Dr. Death lifted the final stamp of approval into the air and brought it down with a thud that sounded for all the world like a death knell to Enzo.

     The boy grabbed the adoption certificate from the counter and held it before the Gelert's eyes. "See this? That means I paid for you, and that makes you mine. Understand?"

     Enzo understood, but he didn't like the sound of it one bit, and he opened his mouth to say so, but before he could, the boy gave another yank on the leash and pulled him coughing and sputtering out of the dully lit pound and into the shocking brightness of the Neopia Central morning.

     Enzo pulled back against the leash a bit and sat on the sidewalk, raising a back paw to scratch at the new collar. "Ugh, what is this thing?" he asked with disgust.

     "It's called a collar," Whooter answered matter-of-factly, fluttering down onto the top of the Gelert's head.

     Enzo looked up at him. "Well, I don't care what it's called. I just want it--"

     He was cut off as the boy tugged roughly on the leash again, shouting, "Come on!" Enzo quickly found his feet again and reluctantly decided it best to keep pace with his new owner from then on.

     "I don't think I like him much," he growled.

     "Well, Enzo," Whooter said, still riding atop his head, "I've always said you were an astute judge of character."

     Enzo scowled, but whether at the sardonic Whoot or the boy or himself for really being the cause of the whole thing he wasn't sure-- though he certainly did not want to admit to the latter, even to himself.

     ***

     Enzo had followed his father around enough neighborhoods to know that this was a nice one. The house that the boy led him to was two stories tall and well-built, designed to look luxurious, but the garden in front was sparse compared to those surrounding it-- little more than a few straggling weeds, really. The boy pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked the front door, leading the Gelert through. The inside of the house was similarly lacking in accoutrements. There were a few pieces of cheap furniture here and there, but all in all it looked as if the boy could not possibly spend much time actually living inside of the house comfortably.

     "Come on." The boy gave another tug on the leash, and Enzo scowled but followed after him up the stairway. Bare walls and closed doors made the second floor hallway as uninviting as the rest of the house. Near the end of the hall, the boy paused, taking the key from his pocket again and unlocking the door to the right. As it creaked open, Enzo couldn't help his curiosity-- what could be valuable enough to keep under lock and key?-- and stretched his neck around, trying to catch a glimpse of what was inside.

     He was met by the sight not of riches but of two hollow sets of eyes, staring back at him from two gaunt faces. It took him a moment to recognize the creatures that sat listlessly in the corner-- a blue Draik and a red Krawk. There was a yank on his neck as the boy drug him into the room. "This is my new pet," the boy said. "Look at that--" He patted the white birthmark on Enzo's chest. "One of a kind-- probably worth millions. He's sure to impress everyone." Such contempt laced its way through his voice that it was clear that there was an unspoken ending to that statement: "unlike you." Enzo thought he saw the barest flinch from the pair, but they continued to stare wearily and wordlessly ahead.

     With a sniff of disgust, the boy turned away from them and toward Enzo. He reached down and unclipped the leash from the collar, stroking the Gelert's head. "I'll be back for you tomorrow." And without wasting another glance to the hungry-looking pair in the corner, he walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. A clicking sound followed a moment later, and then his footsteps receded down the hallway.

     Enzo immediately lunged at the door, pawing and mouthing at the doorknob to no avail. "How do these things work?" he asked, turning to Whooter. "What do you have to do to get it open?"

     "You can't," the whoot replied. "He locked it."

     "Not too bright for such a special boy, is he, Orla?"

     "No, Zinneus, he certainly doesn't seem to be," a female voice replied.

     Enzo and Whooter spun around, surprised to hear anything from the haggard pets who inhabited the room, let alone such venomous remarks. But the two sets of eyes that met theirs now were not the hopeless, exhausted ones of a few moments earlier. No, these eyes burned with cold hatred as the Draik and Krawk walked slowly and menacingly toward Enzo and Whooter.

     "Needs help from his petpet just to know a door's locked, it would seem," the Draik said.

     "Aye. Now, I don't recall Jason ever buying either of us a petpet, d'you, Zinneus?"

     "No, he never did." The Draik shifted his glare from Enzo to Whooter. "'Specially not some fancy magical talking one."

     "Now, see here!" Whooter piped up, fluttering before the pair. "Nobody bought me, and I'm NOT his--"

     The Krawk gave a powerful snap of her jaws just inches from the whoot, cutting him short and sending him flying for cover behind Enzo. The Gelert narrowed his eyes and stepped forward. "Hey, what's the matter with you two?"

     "What's the matter with us?" the Draik exclaimed.

     "I should think that would be quite obvious," the Krawk said in her smooth, dangerous voice. "You are."

     "Aye," the Draik said with a nod. "Coming in here, making Jason--"

     "Jason," Enzo interrupted. "That's his, huh? Your owner?"

     "Your owner, too, now," said the Draik.

     "More yours than ours, now, as far as he's concerned," the Krawk continued.

     "That's right. You're the next big thing. And we're yesterday's rubbish."

     "So, since Jason doesn't like you any more, you're--"

     "We don't care about his opinion," growled the Draik.

     "That's funny," Whooter said, finally gathering his courage up again. "You certainly could have fooled me."

     For once no quick retort came. Instead, the Draik and Krawk seemed to slump and shrink back a bit, clinging only to a few embers of the fire that had raged in them only moments before. Averting their gazes and looking suddenly almost lost and confused, they sighed and shuffled slowly back toward the corner in which they had huddled when the door was first opened. "Just... leave us alone," the Draik muttered, and they both curled up on the hard, bare floor and went to sleep.

     Enzo's own anger was quickly replaced by pity, and he found himself wishing to have the adversarial pair back in place of these two drained, hopeless pets.

     He turned his attention to the room itself. There wasn't much to see-- just blank, white walls all the way around except for the door and a window, which might have excited him if it hadn't been for the imposing iron bars that covered it. Still, he trotted over to it, putting his front paws up on the sill and sticking his muzzle and long ears between two of the bars, feeling the warm breeze ruffle his fur. He sighed.

     At the sound of the familiar flutter of small wings, the Gelert pulled his head back to watch as Whooter landed beside him on the window sill. "Well, this is a fine mess," the whoot said, "isn't it?"

     Enzo didn't answer. He just stared at the petpet, and at the barred window that framed him. Whooter knew the look on his young charge's face all too well-- something was brewing inside Enzo's head. And that made the whoot distinctly uneasy. "Enzo...."

     "Whooter," the Gelert said, "do you think you can squeeze through here?" He pointed at the gap between two of the bars.

     Whooter sighed. "Well, I suppose I can give it a try." Turning sideways, he edged toward the gap. With a bit of squeezing and a final nudge from Enzo, he popped through to the other side and hovered there, smoothing his feathers back down with his claws.

     "Great!" Enzo said. "Now, I've got an idea. Can you go and find some sort of food and bring it back here?"

     "I've got a better idea. I'll go and get your father, and he'll figure out a way to get you out of this mess."

     "No! Whooter, I can take care of this on my own."

     Whooter gave him a skeptical look.

     "Look, would you just trust me and go find some food?"

     "I hardly think this is a time to be thinking about eating."

     "Whooter...."

     Whooter sighed, knowing that he would give in sooner or later and deciding that he might as well make it sooner. "Very well. Any special requests?" he said in his most put-upon tone.

     Enzo grinned. "Anything that you can fit back through these bars. Thank you, Whooter."

     "Yes, yes, I know," the whoot muttered, already flapping off toward the marketplace.

     ***

     By the time Whooter returned, trailing a string of sausages, the Draik and Krawk had awoken again, and seemed to be participating in a competition to see who could glare the most spitefully at Enzo. The Gelert was doing his best to ignore them as he waited at the window, and he sighed in relief when he finally spotted his friend returning.

     Whooter squeezed through the bars and back into the room, dropped the sausages at Enzo's feet, and gave a little bow. "There you are, monsieur, today's special. Bon appetit!" he intoned sarcastically.

     "Very funny, Whooter," Enzo said, but when the whoot fluttered up to settle on his shoulder, he added softly, "Thank you."

     Whooter seemed to soften a bit. "Well, you're welcome. Now, what are you waiting for? Aren't you going to eat?"

     Enzo looked down at the sausages and felt his stomach rumble. "I'd love to, but...." He looked over at the Draik and Krawk, still huddled in their corner, but now staring hungrily at his food rather than contemptuously at him. "Hey," Enzo called out, getting their attention. "Would you guys like some?"

     The answer to this question was obvious, but the pair still hesitated, looking at Enzo suspiciously. "Don't joke," the Krawk finally said in her low voice.

     "No joking," Enzo said, nudging the sausages in their direction. The two pets' distrust gave way to their hunger. They stepped forward and began to eat, slowly and cautiously at first, but soon they were filling their stomachs with ravenous speed.

     Enzo turned his attention back to the window-- not because there was much to see in the quiet neighborhood, but because he thought it best to give the two pets some privacy. Whooter settled beside him on the sill again, quiet for now as he watched the Gelert gaze out at the darkening sunset and wondered what he was thinking.

     "Excuse me?" a voice broke softly through the silence. Enzo and Whooter turned around to see the Draik and Krawk standing there, looking contrite. The Draik held out a single sausage and gave a little cough. "Um... we saved this for you. Sorry it's not much-- especially to feed you and your petpet."

    "I am not his petpet!" Whooter cried irritably. "I do not belong to anyone!"

     "Okay, okay, I get it," the Draik said, holding his claws up defensively. "I guess what I meant to say is... thank you."

     The Krawk nodded. "Yes, thank you."

     Whooter held up a talon and opened his beak wordlessly once or twice. "Oh, well... well, you're welcome," he finally managed, with one of his customary bows. He glanced at Enzo, but the Gelert looked unsurprised-- perhaps even smug, the whoot thought-- about their new roommates' transformation.

     The Draik set the lone sausage down before Enzo and shuffled his feet. "Well... good night, then. And sorry again for not leaving much...."

     "No problem," Enzo said with a smile. The two pets smiled crookedly back and headed once more to their corner, where they curled up and quickly fell asleep again.

      After a few moments, Whooter turned to Enzo. "Well, I must admit, your 'plan' seems to have worked wonders."

      The Gelert chuckled. "Dad always says, 'The stomach and the heart are not far apart. Don't judge a pet until you've gotten a good meal into him.'"

      "Ah, so you did listen to your father's lessons." It was Whooter's turn to be smug.

      "Well... once in a while...." Enzo quickly deflected. "So, Whooter, you got the sausages; you can have the last one."

      Whooter was not fooled by the ungainly change of subject, but he let it go. "You eat it, Enzo. I'm not much for those things-- no telling what's in them."

      "Whooter...."

      "Enzo, eat. I'll be fine."

     The whoot gave Enzo a look that the young Gelert well knew to mean "No more arguing," so without another word, he settled down on the floor, quickly wolfed down the sausage, and fell asleep before he could really think over all that had happened in just two days.

     Whooter sighed, patted Enzo on the head, and settled against the soft warmth of his side. He stared through the barred window at the full moon outside, listened to the rumbling of his empty stomach inside, then closed his eyes and joined the Gelert in sleep.

To be continued...

 
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Other Episodes


» Needed Adventure: Part One
» Needed Adventure: Part Two
» Needed Adventure: Part Three
» Needed Adventure: Part Five
» Needed Adventure: Part Six
» Needed Adventure: Part Seven
» Needed Adventure: Part Eight
» Needed Adventure: Part Nine
» Needed Adventure: Part Ten



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