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The Mystery of the Missing Cooking Pot: Part One


by trisshamster

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It was a Friday afternoon on Mystery Island. The sun was shining, the Weewoos were singing, and I had enjoyed six whole hours of peace while my pets were at Neoschool. However, my pets were just about home, a thing that I dreaded. Oh, I loved my pets, but one was hyperactive, one was a control freak, one was battle-happy, and one was a trend-follower. When they were together, sparks flew. Right now, I was preparing them a snack (a.k.a opening a package of cookies), as they usually expended all their energy arguing all the way home.

     I heard the sound of the door opening and shutting. Then Autumn, my very energetic speckled Kacheek, came rushing up to me happily, discarding her bag in the hall.

     "Lyke lyke OMG, Mommy! Today in P.E. we ran the mile and I won! The prize was a half-off coupon for dinner at Kelp! Ooh, can I have a cookie?"

     "No chatspeak in the house, please," I chided, and handed her a cookie, while silently vowing to destroy that coupon at a later date. Over my dead body would my pets ever step into Kelp again. Long story.

     Aquari, my rigidly rule-following striped Xweetok, sauntered in and dropped her book bag onto the table.

     "Hi, Mom. I signed up for Student Council. I hope I win, 'cause then I'll be able to have enough authority to make sure nobody breaks the rules. Mmm, did you make these cookies?"

     Before I had time to formulate a good lie, Luna, my Battledome pet, strutted into the kitchen. She also left her book bag on the table and grabbed a handful of cookies.

     "Mocha, can you drop me off at the Island Academy today? I need to train agility. Wow, I didn't know you could cook anything that wasn't ready-made. Kudos to you."

     I sighed. Of all my pets, Luna was the only one who still tried to call me by my first name.

     "It's Mom. Not Mocha. And yes, I'll drop you off after you finish your homework."

     My last pet, Triss the trendy baby Usul, sashayed in and looked dubiously at a cookie.

     "Like, how much fat's in there, Mom? Aquari said I was, like, looking kind of chubby."

     I looked at my slim little pet. "Triss, Aquari was probably teasing as usual. Eat it. And what took you so long?"

     Luna smirked and did a sad imitation of Triss's form of speech. "She was, like, talking with her friend Charmed about that awesome sale at the Grooming Parlour."

     Triss promptly whacked Luna on the head with a spatula she'd found on the counter.

     "Mom, I, like, brought in the Neopian Times so you can read"-she rolled her eyes-"all those short stories you adore. And while you're at it, can you check for any sales in the shops? There's a new shirt out featuring Fyora, but it costs, like, a fortune."

     Luna gasped in indignation. "Mo-om! You're not going to buy it for her, are you? No fair! You said you're saving up for my Royal Paint Brush!"

     Triss rolled her eyes. "Jeez, Luna. I'm saving up myself to get the shirt. Mom's only going to, like, help a little. Anyway, you, like, care way too much about that dumb paint brush."

     Luna bristled. "Easy for you to say. You're already painted Baby, Miss Trendy-Spendy! You've cost Mom more money than all of us put together!"

     Triss pouted. "Well, I'm not the one who gets trained regularly! How come Mom doesn't train me?"

     Luna gaped. "You don't even care about the Battledome! You just want to show off your level to your friends at Neoschool!"

     As my pets lapsed into what they did best (arguing), I took the paper and scanned it. In bold green text, the headline read:

     JHUIDAH'S MAGICAL COOKING POT STOLEN!

     Last night at about 8:00 NST, Jhuidah was called to Faerieland on a false message that Dr. Sloth had returned. Upon realizing it was a hoax, she returned to her home and found it ransacked with the cooking pot gone. When asked to comment, the distraught faerie said, "If my cooking pot has fallen into the wrong hands, this could mean disaster for Neopia. Vira could mix mirrors with her magic, Eliv Thade could combine anagrams and spells, or worse. Whoever took it, please give it back."

     Needless to say, a reward has been offered by Queen Fyora for any information regarding the cooking pot's whereabouts. For the complete interview with Jhuidah, see "COOKING POT", A3.

     I squealed with excitement. "Guys, quit yammering and look at this." I looked behind me and saw Luna frantically clawing the floor while Triss belabored her over the head with the spatula, with Autumn and Aquari shouting encouragement to both sides. I took a deep breath and assumed my best, but very sad attempt at a bellow.

     "Luna! Claws out of the floor, please. Triss! Put down that spatula before you concuss your sister. All of you! Jhuidah's cooking pot's been stolen!"

     This proclamation produced a desirable effect. Luna unhooked her claws, Triss put down the spatula, Autumn's mouth fell open, and Aquari said, in a shocked voice, "Stolen? That's so against the rules!"

     I read my pets the article, but nobody except Aquari seemed too concerned until I reached the reward part. That was when Luna jumped to her feet and said, "A reward from Fyora? I could get my Royal Paint Brush! C'mon, we've got a mystery to solve." She herded her three siblings into her room and shut the door. I sat wearily and decided to read the Neopian Times. There was nothing like getting lost in a short story after an encounter with my four boisterous pets.

     * * * * *

     About a half hour later, Luna strolled innocently downstairs. In fact, she strolled so innocently I instantly became suspicious. I was on my guard as she halted in front of me, and said, in a sugary voice, "Mommy, we want to ask you something."

     Even though I was suspicious, it had been so long since Luna had called me "Mommy" that my heart started softening a bit. I tried not to show this by replying briskly,

     "Well, spit it out then." I noticed that Triss, Autumn, and Aquari had joined Luna, and were looking up at me with huge, hopeful eyes.

     "Can we go to the Neoboards, Mommy?" asked Luna. My heart froze over and grew icicles.

     "The Neoboards? Are you out of your mind? No way am I letting you go to the Neoboards! It'll just end up with you being in trouble or picking a fight with someone. No, I absolutely forbid it." All four of my pets looked at me pathetically. My heart started softening again.

     "Like, Mommy, it's just that, on the rare occasions you get on the boards, you always come back from the boards and, like, talk about what a good time you had chatting with, like, all your friends and stuff. And we thought, like, maybe we've been missing out on something. So please?" Triss did her best cutesy face. My heart melted into a puddle.

     "Well... maybe if Aquari watched over you, and you only went to the fan club boards... but you'd have to make sure not to insult anyone..." My voice petered out. My pets could see they'd reeled me in, hook, line, and sinker. Luna was already grinning evilly. One last piece of my heart remained, so I grabbed it and dropped a bombshell.

     "But you have to finish your homework first."

     All my pets groaned, then rushed off to the kitchen to grab their discarded book bags. I decided to let them onto the Neoboards every day if they would act like this.

     * * * * *

     After about twenty minutes, my pets reappeared again.

     "Mom, we're done," said Aquari. "So can you please take us to the Neoboards now?"

     I sighed. "All right. Let's go," I said grudgingly. As we walked to the boards, I lectured my pets one last time. "No name calling, no getting into fights, no spamming, no posting chain mail letters, no breaking any of the rules I haven't yet mentioned, and absolutely NO going on the Battledoming boards, Luna." My pets nodded solemnly. "Now be good, and I don't want more trouble for Luna tackling someone because they think she's a boy." By this time, we had arrived at the Neoboards. I bent to give them one last word of warning. "And whatever you do, stay OUT of the Evil Things/Monster Sighting board. I'm not going to come and get you to find you've been kidnapped by Vira or something."

     "Mom, quit worrying. We're not going to get you in trouble, okay?"

     I noticed, with some dismay, that Luna had stopped calling me "Mommy", but decided to let it pass, and said, "Do you want me to walk you over to the Fan Clubs board?"

     "Thanks but no thanks, Mommy," said Autumn. "We'll be fine."

     "Yeah, Mom. Like, you can't treat us like babies forever," added Triss, seeming to ignore the fact that she was, indeed, a baby.

     "Well then, begone," I said. "I'll pick you up at 5:00 NST. That gives you about an hour. And if you get in any kind of trouble, I will ground you for all eternity and deprive you of every privilege I can think of." My threat went unheeded; my pets had already dashed in the direction of the Fan Clubs board. I stared at them with narrowed eyes, determined not to let anything distract me from seeing them enter the designated board. They were almost in...

     "Oh my gosh, Mocha? I thought you didn't usually chat!"

     I spun around to see who was talking to me, and grinned. It was Mandy, the leader of my guild and the owner of my pets' best friends.

     "Hi, Mandy. I don't really chat, but my pets insisted they'd been missing out on something, so they've gone into the Fan Clubs board."

     Mandy smiled. "What a coincidence. Charmed, Prancer, and Vision gave me the same speech. They're in the Fan Clubs board too. I bet Triss and Charmed will find a mutual board."

     I felt better, knowing my pets would find their friends.

     "I hope so. I don't want any of them getting into trouble. I'd better be off. Got to go restock lots if I want to get Luna's paint brush."

     Mandy nodded. "I've got to go clear the guild contest. Someone sent in forty copies of the same entry. Forty! I ask you..."

     I clucked sympathetically. "Well, later." I glanced at the Fan Clubs board, hoped my pets were behaving, and strode off to Mystery Island, wondering why I had a nagging feeling my pets had pulled one over me yet again.

     * * * * *

     I arrived exactly at 5:00 NST to find Triss, Autumn, Luna, and Aquari chattering happily with Charmed, Prancer, and Vision just outside the Fan Clubs Board. I distinctly heard the words 'Meeting' and 'Evil' before Luna saw me and started gesturing frantically. Their conversation ground to an awkward halt, and my pets raced up to me, babbling about how wonderful the boards were. I bade good-bye to the other three pets, and started walking home.

     "What was that about a meeting and something evil?" I asked.

     "We don't know what you're talking about," said Autumn innocently.

     "Mom, you must have, like, imagined hearing us say that," said Triss shiftily.

     "How many evil plots could we ever get into?" said Aquari, in a rather offended voice.

     "It's not like you'd ever give us a chance," said Luna, a little too regretfully.

     "And that's bad... why?" I inquired in my most dangerous voice.

     "Never mind," said Luna quickly.

     The rest of the walk home passed relatively uneventfully, with Triss only trying to maul Luna once. Since my pets had been so well-behaved at the Neoboards, I decided to forgo cooking and order takeout from Pizzaroo. When I went to fill out the Neomail order form, I found a Neomail waiting in my inbox:

     Dear Mocha,

     I need to talk to you about an urgent matter. Please come to my house around 6:30 NST. Make sure you've eaten dinner. Bring your pets.

     Mandy

     I read this while completing the order form, and decided that the "urgent matter" couldn't be anything more serious than me having to help her clear the guild contest of all forty entries. After we had eaten dinner, we set off to Mandy's house. Once we had arrived, I saw that Mandy and her pets were sitting in a semicircle in the living room, looking so grave that I began to hyperventilate.

     "Oh no, you're kicking me out of the guild, aren't you? I'm sorry about the Slorg Incident! I swear it won't happen ever again! Don't get rid of me, please," I babbled. Mandy rolled her eyes.

     "Mocha, calm down. I'm not ousting you, and this isn't about the Slorg Incident. Sit."

     I remained standing. This was a bit too much.

     "Then what the asparagus is going on?"

     "Mom, don't say bad words!" said Autumn, sounding profoundly shocked.

     "We've all been in a big huge plot to find the cooking pot, even Mandy," said Aquari without further ado. I sank wearily onto an uncomfortable Purple Coral Bean Bag.

     "Now, why am I not surprised? I should have known. And you've dragged Mandy into it too. Shame on you."

     "Actually, I was in on it from the start," Mandy said, looking abashed.

     "Like, remember how we went to Luna's room to, like, plan?" said Triss. I nodded.

     "Well, we, like, sent a Neomail to Mandy and, like told her about it, and she thought it was, like, a brilliant idea, so-"

     "Wait a second," I said. "First, will you tell me what this brilliant plan is?" All other than me glanced at each other and shrugged.

     "Might as well," said Luna. "But you can't say anything until we're done." I nodded mutely.

     "All right. Our plan was, we'd persuade you to take us to the Neoboards. When we got there, Mandy would distract you so you wouldn't see us, Charmer, Prancer, and Vision go into the Evil Things/Monster Sighting board. Then, we'd pretend we were calling a villain contest. Whoever has the most heinous crime wins a meeting with Dr. Sloth himself. Judging is in the middle of the Lost Desert around a campfire, at 11:00 NST. Everyone will say what crime they're entering. We'll find out who took the Cooking Pot for sure. Then, we'll turn him or her in, get the reward, split it, and get my Royal Paint Brush. It's foolproof. Mocha--I mean Mom--shut your mouth, or a Buzzer will go in."

     I closed my mouth.

     "Well, I don't think that's entirely foolproof," I said. "What if the villain doesn't show up? How are you going to deal with a heinous villain wanting to meet with Dr. Sloth? What if Dr. Sloth himself shows up?"

     Aquari smirked. "All taken care of. It turns out that Mandy knows someone whose brother once did a quest for a Light Faerie who is friends with another Light Faerie-" she paused for a breath "-whose sister runs errands for the Space Faerie, and she got word to the Space Faerie, who told her that Sloth is safely in some other star system. If we find the right villain, we'll take them aside to find out the details and then tell everyone that they're all so evil that we couldn't decide on a winner, and they will get notified when we do decide. If we can't find the right villain, we'll just tell them that anyway."

     I shook my head. "Going to a villain convention is too dangerous for you. I forbid it."

     Mandy nodded. "Sorry, guys, I have to agree with Mocha on this one. She's right, it's too dangerous for you."

     "I know," said Vision. I stared; Vision was usually even more stubborn than Luna.

     "We're not going to coordinate the villain contest. You are," said Charmed.

To be continued...

 
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