Dangers of Boredom
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in Neopia, it’s that boredom, especially among my family, is never a good thing.
How shall I put this...? Oh. Yes, the last time Arphite was bored, he managed to get himself banned from the Neopia Central shopping center, which is part of the reason we moved. The other part is that Jade just likes the desert, but that’s not really important.
I’m still trying to figure out how Arphite thought it was a good idea to kidnap a pirate captain from Krawk Island and tie him to the hamburger on top of the food shop. Scratch that, I want to know how he did it-- Arphite is by no means a serious battler.
While the chaos resulting from that incident was amusing, it also resulted in more of a mess than we knew what to do with. Since then, both Jade and I panic when anyone in this family gets bored.
Unfortunately, Arphite picked up on this, and took to announcing his boredom at the top of his lungs at random times, just to watch the chaos. He’s evil, I tell you. That halo’s just a clever disguise.
Anyway. I’m getting off-track.
It was last weekend or so when the entire family had settled down for a day indoors. Arphite had announced his boredom, but Jade and I were gradually getting used to his false alarms, so we ignored him.
Turns out that was a mistake.
It was Ankh who realized that something was wrong first. She looked up from polishing her Double-Pointed Spear to point out, “Arphite’s been really quiet.”
“He’s always quiet with a book,” I said, a little snappishly, looking up from my own book. I wasn’t exactly happy about being interrupted. “Your point?”
The Island Eyrie clacked her beak a few times, which was generally what she did when she was unsure how to phrase something... or just nervous. “Crieste, he went up to his room a while ago. His book’s still down here.”
To my left, where the very human Jade was sitting, I heard a groan, and I looked up in time to see Jade discard her quill and paper, burying her face in ink-stained hands.
“Jhudora’s wings,” I groaned, marking my page before slamming the book shut. “We have to find him before he blows something up, don’t we?”
“It’s the Lost Desert,” Jade said through her hands. “How much trouble could he get into?”
Maianylle put down her drawing carefully, choosing her words with equal precision. “Jade. Think about this place. How much trouble could he not get into is the question.”
“No, I think the question right now is how much trouble can he get into before we find and restrain him?” I shot back.
The Halloween Lupe winced. “You have a point.”
A thoughtful Jade got up, heading into the kitchen. Moments later, we heard a sound of shattering glass, and a “Oh, battle dung on a stick!”
I exchanged glances with my sisters. This couldn’t be good.
Jade returned shortly, her lips pressed so tightly together that they were turning white. Wordlessly, she held up an empty container. I regarded it for a few moments before realizing that it was the container where we usually kept the coffee grounds. “Don’t tell me...”
Sighing, the human put down the plastic box on her chair. “There were only a few scoops left, but apparently he ate them. Or drank them, but the lack of dirty cups seems to suggest the former.”
“Now I know my brother’s crazy,” Ankh snorted, getting all the way to her feet and stretching. Maianylle dodged out of the way as the Eyrie unfolded and refolded her wings. “Coffee grounds taste like mud.”
“Regardless, there is currently a caffeinated Arphite running around the Lost Desert, and every minute we sit here is one more thing he’s managed to explode,” Maianylle reminded us quietly. “We should go track him down. I don’t think weapons will be necessary, luckily, as I don’t want to haul those all over Neopia looking for him.”
“All over Neopia?” Jade asked, a little stupidly. The expression on her face clearly told me that she hadn’t even considered that the wayward Zafara would have left the desert.
“Arphite has wings, and is quite skilled at flight,” Maianylle said patiently. “The probability that he would remain here in the Lost Desert is extremely slim.”
“Oh great.” The four of us raced for the door, managing not to trip over each other on the way out. Believe me, it was a hassle.
The hot air of the outside desert hit us with almost physical force. I cursed under my breath, Jade locked the door, Maianylle allowed her tongue to loll out of her mouth in an undignified yet extremely canine gesture, and Ankh... well, Ankh was staring at the sky, looking at something none of us could quite see.
A hissed, “There,” was the only warning Maianylle and I got to duck, as the massive tawny wings flared open in a rush of wind, and Ankh leapt for the sky, the uncomfortably warm downdraft swirling around us and kicking up sand in her wake.
I made the mistake of inhaling, and wound up coughing up sand for a few seconds. “What - was - that about?” I demanded in between coughs, the fur along my spine bristling.
Jade, looking infuriatingly calm, squinted at the sky briefly before donning sunglasses. “I’m really the wrong one to be asking, Ri-ri, but I’m willing to bet that Ankh spotted Arphite.”
“Don’t call me that,” I muttered, spitting out the last of the sand. “But I guess it would make sense; she has the best vision out of all of us.”
“I guess we wait,” Maianylle said, sensibly. “It’s not like we can follow her.”
We didn’t have too long to wait- scarcely ten minutes later, the Eyrie had landed, looking a little annoyed. “He flew into a cloud, and I lost him,” Ankh reported. “He was pretty far ahead of me. But from what I could see, he was headed for Meridell.”
Jade blanched. Maianylle groaned. I, on the other hand, closed my eyes, seeing the map of Neopia in my mind. He wouldn’t head the opposite way of his intended destination, on the off-chance that we’d catch him as he turned around, but... Oh. That was probably it. “Jade, when’s the next boat for Mystery Island leave?”
“About fifteen minutes,” the teen replied after a glance at her watch.
“Great. Let’s run. Jade, ride Ankh.” The dock was a good forty-minute trip at a leisurely walk, and the boats came only every two hours. We were not letting my hyperactive, bored brother loose on Neopia for that long.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Ankh kneeling to allow Jade to climb on; for once we were lucky that the teen was so petite for her age. As soon as the human was settled, I sprang forward, Maianylle beside me and Ankh and Jade just behind.
Looking back, we must have made an odd picture. A Mutant Kougra, racing side-by-side with a Halloween Lupe across the desert, with an Island Eyrie loping along beside them, a short blonde girl clinging to her back.
So we ran. We made it to the docks with barely two minutes to spare; Jade paid for our tickets, and we boarded the boat a little shakily before collapsing in a pile of olive-green, brown, and tan fur. We drew a number of odd looks from the other passengers. Jade, who had done no running whatsoever, regarded us strangely. “Are you okay, guys?”
“Ask me (pant pant) in a few years,” Ankh retorted.
After catching our breath, which took the greater part of the hour-and-a-half voyage, my sisters saw fit to wonder exactly why we were headed to Mystery Island. “It’s simple, really,” I explained. “Arphite is anything but stupid. You say he managed to ditch you, Ankh; he was expecting pursuit. As soon as he saw you weren’t behind him, he would have changed direction, predicting that you would tell us which direction he was headed in. Mystery Island was the most likely place for him to head to.”
“Now that I think of it, Arphite had been reading more about the Ghost Lupe legends recently.” Jade groaned, something she’d been doing a lot of lately.
“Oh boy.” Maianylle closed her vivid green eyes briefly in annoyance. “The treasure is his goal, most likely.”
“An explanation for those of who don’t read history books for lunch?” I wanted to know. Maianylle glared at me, but decided to elaborate.
“Most legends say that before the Ghost Lupe died, he left something extremely important, most likely a treasure of some kind, somewhere on Mystery Island, but has been unable to find it again. Some say it’s extremely dangerous; some say it’s a treasure to rival that of Geraptiku; some even say he won’t be able to rest until he finds it again. Most agree that it’s the reason he likes to try to warn people away from Mystery Island,” the Lupe explained. “That idiot Zafara...”
The boat shook violently as it impacted with the dock at Mystery Island. “Now arriving Mystery Island!” the captain, a large green Blumaroo, informed the ship in a very loud tone. “All passengers must disembark the vessel. Please ensure that you have all your personal belongings with you; to those of you who brought your Petpets, please keep them on a leash. Welcome to Mystery Island!”
We were already halfway over the plank between boat and land before he finished his little speech. In only a few moments, we’d put enough distance between us and those hanging around to talk comfortably.
“So, ‘Nylle, can you give us a direction to head in?” Jade asked. “There’s a whole lot of jungle on this island.”
“I noticed,” the Lupe quipped. “Anyway. The books were no more specific than, ‘on Mystery Island.’ However, I think I can narrow it down.” She paused, as though waiting for someone to say something. I made an impatient motion with my tail, and she continued. “First of all, it’s unlikely to be in Geraptiku; the natives at the time of the Ghost Lupe’s life would have prohibited hiding anything there, or even going there. We can also rule out any place within a fifty-foot radius of the establishments on this island, meaning that our best bet is to head into the jungle between the Island Arena and the Trading Post, and to head for Techo Mountain while zig-zagging.”
I think it took us a few moments to recover. Maianylle’s extremely smart, but very quiet most of the time, so it’s rare to hear her say so much at once. And when she does so in an intelligent manner, we have to cope with information overload.
“...am I the only one who thinks it would be smart to get a native guide?” Jade asked quietly.
“No,” Ankh and I answered within seconds of each other. I made a face at her. “Ankh, you go find someone. Honestly, neither Maianylle nor I look that friendly.”
The youngest of the family made a show of baring one sharp fang at me. Ankh just padded off toward the village, a put-upon expression on her face.
She came back with a young Acara in tow. The Acara was small, bright green, and cheerful-looking. Even better, he didn’t seem to be worried by the fact that he was headed toward a werelupe and a mutant. Oh, and their human who was standing around looking innocent.
Ankh stopped as she reached us, and the Acara nearly kept going before stopping just in time, grinning sheepishly. The Eyrie clacked her beak once before speaking. “Okay. Everybody, this is Seren. He tells me he’s very knowledgeable of the surrounding area. Seren, these are my sisters, Crieste and Maianylle, and our owner, Jade.”
“Nice to meet you.” Seren nodded to each of us in turn. “Ankhariyar tells me you’re looking for your brother?”
“Just call me Ankh, and yes,” the Eyrie interrupted.
Maianylle nodded. “We have reason to believe that Arphite may have become lost in the jungle between here and the Mountain.”
“Ah.” Seren looked thoughtful for a moment. “Luckily for you, I like exploring the jungle- been doing it for years. If we don’t find your brother, he’s not here.”
“Well then, shall we be off?” Jade said brightly.
The Acara nodded, and turned around, heading into the jungle without further preamble. A little slowly, we all followed.
Now I feel it necessary to point out that I hate jungles. They’re humid and hot, and there’s tiny biting things all over the place, and you can’t go two feet without tripping over a gigantic tree root.
This should tell you just how happy I was that my brother had gotten it into his head to go gallivanting through the Mystery Island jungle. And he was here, there was no doubt about that; the strands of white fur we’d been finding caught on things as we went on made that very clear. However, Arphite appeared to be leading a meandering path, while Seren was doing an admirable job of tracking in a straight line, avoiding the short detours my brother so often took. In short, we were catching up.
Our luck ran out when we came to a smallish clearing. I use the word ‘clearing’ loosely here; we could see the sky, and the vegetation only came up to Jade’s knees. But there was no white fur, and neither were there any feathers. We seemed to have hit a dead end.
That was when a maniacally cackling Christmas Zafara shot out of a hole in the ground, clutching something to his chest. He seemed about to fly away, but changed his mind when he saw us. Grinning like an idiot, which I often think he is, Arphite turned right around and coasted to an easy landing beside us. “What’s up, guys?”
“Crieste, your eye is twitching,” Ankh said after a moment of silence.
Oh. So that’s what that weird feeling was.
“Arphite, what have you been doing?” Maianylle demanded in a deceptively calm voice.
Arphite chuckled nervously. “Well, I-I was kinda bored, so I decided to go check out Mystery Island on my own and see if I could find that treasure I’d been reading about... and I knew you guys probably would try to stop me, so I ditched Ankh when she saw me... and I’m in major trouble, aren’t I?”
Seren was staring at my brother incredulously. “You mean the treasure of the Ghost Lupe? The one that’s been spoken of only in legends? The cursed one?”
“Oh dung.” Arphite winced, glancing at the blue-and-silver amulet wrapped around his paw. “Okay, how is it cursed?”
“Arphite did something stupid,” Ankh snickered, and was ignored.
“No one knows,” Seren answered. “It’s always been said that the treasure was hidden in the jungle, but whoever found it would pay a terrible price if they did not do something in particular...”
The Zafara relaxed. “Oh, that’s fine. What something?”
“I don’t actually know. No one does,” the Acara answered nervously. “This is bad. Look!” He pointed skyward, and all of us looked up reflexively.
It had been a beautiful, blue-skied day, with not a cloud in sight. Now, thick black clouds were rolling in quickly, covering the sun and darkening the face of Neopia... at least in our general region. A spooky fog, such as would not be out of place in the Haunted Woods, began to creep up around our feet.
Jade shifted uncomfortably before paling noticeably. “Guys, I can’t move my feet.”
I tried and failed to move my own feet. Looking down, I saw misty chains wrapped around them. “I’m fine,” Arphite said, puzzled.
“I’m not,” Ankh grumbled. From Seren’s futile tugs at his paws, I guessed the same had happened to him.
“I cAn mOvE...” Maianylle rasped in an unnatural voice. We all turned our heads to look at the Lupe, who was almost completely enshrouded with the strange mist. Her eyes were flickering between green and red.
“We are in so much trouble,” I muttered. “Arphite, you are getting hurt when this is over.”
We continued to watch as the mist was absorbed into Maianylle and her eyes turned red. When she spoke again, ghost-teal fog curled out of her mouth and around her fangs, and her voice was not her own. “Put it back, Zafara. Now.”
“But-!” Arphite tried to protest.
Not-Maianylle cut him off. “Now, Zafara. I will find it myself. Put it back before you, too, become a ghost.”
Arphite flinched, and looked down. His feet were slowly becoming translucent. “You won’t know where it is once I put it back?” he asked, already moving toward the hole.
“It always moves, unless the amulet is gone or someone is inside. Put it BACK!” Not-Maianylle snarled, something that looked truly out of place on my quiet sister.
“Do it, Arphite,” Jade ordered, voice shaking. “Now.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Arphite acknowledged, a little dejectedly. He turned and dove into the hole.
Minutes passed in agonizing silence. Finally, Arphite re-emerged, panting but fully solid. As soon as he was out, the hole shimmered and vanished.
The mist flowed out of Maianylle, forming the impression of a much older, grimmer Lupe before blowing away. Slowly, the chains on our paws and feet disintegrated, and the sun reappeared.
Seren was the first to move; wide-eyed, he scampered away into the underbrush. I had the feeling he would have been screaming if he wasn’t so shocked.
The next was Maianylle, who sat back on her haunches almost dizzily. “Whoo... that wasn’t fun...” she muttered, mostly to herself.
When I thought I could move without falling over, I stalked over to Arphite and gave the sheepish-looking Zafara a good swat upside the head. “You get us in any more predicaments like this and I am not responsible for what happens,” I threatened.
“I got it, I got it,” Arphite whined as Ankh looked thoughtful and edged toward him, probably to follow my example. “Next time I’m bored, I’ll do something constructive. I just thought it would be fun.”
“Fun, my behind,” Jade snapped, sitting down heavily. “Just thank every power in Neopia that you didn’t do this at night.”
“What’s that got to do with it?” Ankh asked.
“If it was night time, he could have assumed his true form,” Maianylle said, a little faintly. “It wouldn’t have been pretty.”
“You can say that again,” I grumbled. “Oh, and no more coffee for you.” He pouted. “Ever.”
This has been one of the Incidents We Shall Never Speak of Again.
We never did speak of it again. Until Maianylle accidentally walked through the wall, but that’s another story.
AN: Hope you enjoyed. I plan to get back into the writing habit, so look for more stories in the hopefully not-so-distant future!
Oh, and Ankh’s a labbie, but she was once and will be again an Island Eyrie. ~Jade