A Life Less Interesting: Part Four
Mystery Island was, as ever, a tropical paradise. The sun that gleamed down on Oscar from a cloudless sky was so hot that he was persuaded to loosen his tie, an achievement not accomplished in a good many months. The ship docked gracefully onto the wooden pier of the Mystery Island port, and its occupants disembarked considerably poorer, thanks to the thieving fingers of Sarah.
“The Defenders of Neopia are fairly fickle. I should think in a week or two they will have completely forgotten about us, you should be able to return home then. Just treat this as a holiday, go sightseeing. Try to lay low, though, won’t you?” Sarah reassured Oscar.
She turned to walk off.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I’m going to collect my reward for stealing this, of course,” she replied, tossing the egg shaped Codestone between her hands.
“Can I come? I don’t really know my way around here. We never get much call for insurance in these parts,” Oscar asked.
“Sorry, but I work alone. I don’t need a sidekick. There should be a tourist information centre around here somewhere if you are lost,” she said, shaking her head.
She walked away, counting the night’s winnings as she went. Oscar sighed, but then thought better of it. It wasn’t wise to go around with thieves; people tended to attack you.
Though it wasn’t quite what he was expecting, Oscar did indeed find a tourist information centre nearby. It was a small wooden notice board pitched firmly into the golden sands of the beach. ‘Welcome to Mystery Island’ was emblazoned across it, with a faded map of the island displayed below. Each of the island’s main tourist attractions were picked out with large red dots and labels describing the location. It was time for Oscar to start his new life. He checked the location of the Tombola and marched off to the northwest, hoping to find the Tombola Man in an agreeable mood. Everyone needs an assistant, he told himself.
As Oscar clawed his way through the thick undergrowth of the island’s centre, he began to consider the possibility that he may have been lost. Whilst the outskirts of the jungle were indeed beautiful and picturesque, the innards of the island could only be described as thick and impassable. Oscar himself would also have included the word painful, as the vines had slashed his clothes and opened up several gashes in his arms that he was sure would sting more the following morning than they did already. He was also sure he had headed off in the direction of the Tombola, so he decided that the map must have been incorrect; he couldn’t possibly have been wrong. He sighed slightly, stopped in his tracks, and turned on his heels. He found a spear pointing towards his throat.
“Do not move,” an authoritative voice commanded.
Oscar obliged. The spear was being held by a member of the local coconut tribe, and he didn’t look best pleased.
“I’m looking for the Tombola; you couldn’t point me in the right direction, could you?” Oscar asked.
The coconut man ignored him.
“You trespass on sacred ground; Pango Pango will be angry,” the coconut man stated.
“Ah, well, I am sorry, but I am lost, you see? I’m sure this Pango fellow will understand,” Oscar apologised.
“The Great Pango Pango will need to be appeased for this sacrilege. You will come with me,” the coconut man said.
It was the sort of voice that implied that what was being said was not a matter of debate, simply a matter of time. The coconut man jabbed Oscar in the side with the spear, marshalling him forward into the jungle. Oscar groaned and stumbled ahead. He decided then and there that someone had cursed him.
“Come here often?” the green Techo in the adventurer’s garb asked lightly.
“I’m glad you are having fun,” Oscar snapped.
Currently, the two of them were hanging upside down over a large boiling pot. From what Oscar had gathered, they were both to be sacrificed to the coconut god, Pango Pango. The gathered coconut men had not listen to Oscar’s protests that he was on holiday.
“It’s not that bad, really; I should imagine we’ll escape any time now,” the Techo reassured Oscar.
“What makes you so sure of that?” Oscar asked.
“Oh, I always end up escaping just as the peril reaches its highest level,” he replied.
“And just how often do you get sacrificed?” Oscar asked sceptically.
“Oh, well this is the first time for this particular predicament, but I’ve been in a few scrapes before. My name’s Harry. I’m what you might call an adventurer,” he confessed.
“Oscar. Delighted, I’m sure,” Oscar replied.
If he could have crossed his arms in mild annoyance, he would've.
“Now, there’s no need to be like that,” Harry said.
“How are you planning on escaping, by the way?” Oscar asked.
“Oh, well, I don’t exactly know right now. Normally a Battledome challenger turns up and I have to fight it into submission, or an intricate puzzle presents itself and I have to solve it,” Harry told him.
Oscar groaned. He’d heard of people like Harry, who went around Neopia helping out people and saving them from certain peril. Oscar was of the opinion that the peril wouldn’t be nearly as certain if people like Harry kept their noses out of other people’s business.
“I don’t see any puzzles that need solving,” Oscar said after a brief pause.
“Well, you never do until they present themselves, you see?” Harry explained.
“No, I don’t see,” Oscar said grumpily.
“Well, take the Lost Desert for example. When I helped save the kingdom from the clutches of Razul, I went around collecting hieroglyph fragments,” Harry elaborated.
“That’s very heroic of you,” Oscar said dryly.
“My point was that the fragments couldn’t be found until I found a tablet to put them in first. The puzzles don’t appear until they are ready to solve,” Harry said sharply.
“Well, this puzzle of yours had better turn up soon; looks like they are doing something,” Oscar said, glancing over to the crowd of coconut men.
They were deep in their own conversation.
“So, what do you do?” Harry asked.
“I’m on holiday. Well... if you must know, I’m a fugitive. I used to work for Neopia Central Insurance, Inc. though,” Oscar told him.
“Oh, I see... one of those... I’ve always wondered, what does ‘Inc’ stand for?” Harry asked politely as if the thought of mortal peril had evaporated.
Oscar thought about this.
“Who knows, maybe ‘Inconceivably Nice Chombies’? I think there are a lot of Chombies on the board of directors,” Oscar told him.
In truth, he had never considered it.
The coconut men stopped talking and all turned to stare at their captives. One of them stepped forward.
“Listen, I’m dreadfully sorry about all this, but it seems we will not be able to sacrifice you today,” he said to them in apologetic tones.
“What?” Oscar asked.
“Well, we were due to take delivery of a new sacrificial magic stone today, but it hasn’t turned up. We simply can’t do it without the stone; is next Tuesday good for you?” the coconut man asked.
He took what appeared to be a diary out, and began to pencil in details.
“I can’t do Tuesday, I’m afraid, a friend’s birthday. Wednesday should be fine, though,” Harry replied.
“Wednesday, that’s good, yes. We can do that...” the coconut man said, scribbling in details.
“Now wait just a minute!” Oscar yelled in protest.
“Wednesday isn’t good for you?” the coconut man questioned.
“NO! I don’t want to be sacrificed at all!” Oscar complained.
“Ah, well then it appears we have a conflict of interests, doesn’t it? You see, Pango Pango must be appeased,” the coconut man stated.
Oscar thought about this; the coconut men appeared to fear gods.
“Wait! You cannot sacrifice me! I am the great... Mungo Mungo!” Oscar bellowed in an overly dramatic voice.
“Where’s your second head then?” one of the coconut men asked.
“... I mean, the great Pango Mungo?” Oscar corrected himself.
“Don’t look much like a multi-limbed Draik to me,” another coconut man piped up.
“Cinto Mungo?” Oscar ventured.
The eyes of the coconut men went wide with horror.
“Look! He wears the black tie of the underworld!” one of the coconut men screamed, pointing at Oscar.
“He has come to wreak vengeance upon the island! Flee for your lives!” another coconut man screamed.
The others screamed in response and fled into the jungle. Harry and Oscar were alone in the clearing.
“Oh, that was very nice work,” Harry said sarcastically.
“What’s the matter? I got us out of that situation, didn’t I?” Oscar asked.
“No, you didn’t. You let them escape from us, but we didn’t escape from them,” Harry revealed.
“What difference does it make?” Oscar asked.
“The difference is that we are still hanging above a boiling pot in the middle of the jungle. The only people that could possibly have let us down have run away,” Harry complained.
“Ah... sorry about that,” Oscar apologised.
“I spy with my little eye something beginning with... J...”
“Is it jungle?” Harry guessed.
“Yes! It’s your turn now,” Oscar said, bobbing up and down on the end of his rope.
“We’ve been playing this game for hours now; I think we are out of things to spy,” Harry told him.
“Oh alright, I was only trying to lighten the mood,” Oscar said.
He had used the jungle twelve times, but that wasn’t the point.
“What are you doing here?” a voice from the edge of the clearing came.
Oscar and Harry spun themselves round on their ropes to find the source of the voice. It was Sarah, leaning on a tree.
“I could ask you the same question,” Oscar replied.
“I’m supposed to be meeting a client here,” Sarah said, walking into the clearing.
“We’re being sacrificed,” Harry informed her.
“We were being sacrificed; I saved us,” Oscar said proudly.
“Not by the coconut men?” Sarah asked.
“Yes, why does that matter?” Oscar asked.
“What did you do to them?” Sarah asked accusingly.
“Nothing; we just scared them away,” Oscar told her.
“Great... just great,” Sarah mumbled, sitting down on the grass.
“What’s the matter?” Oscar asked.
“They were my clients, I was supposed to deliver this to them,” she replied, holding up the egg Codestone.
“Oh, sorry,” Oscar apologised.
“Listen, it wouldn’t be too much trouble to cut us down, would it?” Harry asked politely.
A moment later he and Oscar were safely back on the ground.
“So how are you going to repay me?” Sarah said impatiently.
“What?” Oscar asked.
“The way I see it, you just cost me three million, and I have saved both your lives. I’ve saved yours twice, Oscar. You two owe me,” she demanded, hands on her hips.
“I don’t have five million,” Oscar said simply.
The insurance company didn’t pay badly, but it wasn’t exactly a ticket to being minted either.
“I know where you can get something worth more than a thousand of those Codestones,” Harry piped up after some thought.
“What?” Sarah asked, her thief instincts picking up the smell of money.
“The crown of King Skarl,” Harry revealed.
“Good one!” Sarah laughed.
“I’m not joking. I know how to get it. If we tell you, you let us go,” Harry bargained.
Sarah considered the proposition for a moment.
“Deal,” she said eventually.
On the borders of Oscar’s conscious mind, he could feel the fear welling up already.
To be continued...