Brain of Neopia: Part Three
It was mid morning when Roan awoke. He groaned, sat up, and looked about.
“Where am I?” he said aloud, then decided that this was too much of a cliché, and unsaid it.
His eyes, wandering around, suddenly caught sight of the Neopedia, lying at his feet, and suddenly his brain woke up, and started connecting things.
“The competition!” he gasped. “It’s going to be starting soon.”
Brilliant, he thought, as he got up. I’ve only been awake for a few seconds, and that’s the second cliché I’ve used. I need to be careful, otherwise I’ll be going around saying things like ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’, and ‘Waste not, want not’.
Roan left the tent, and began to walk towards the large building, just a few feet away. He was now starting to panic.
Suddenly, an idea struck him. I don’t have to turn up. I could get lost in Neopia Central. Wander around for a bit, and find my way late to the quiz. Argue half-heartedly with the quiz host, be refused on, go home protesting that I could have won it, never needing to actually prove it. It’s the perfect plan. Nobody would ever know.
Roan turned around, and walked straight into the Producer.
“Roan!” he said. “Good morning. Feeling confident?”
“Naturally,” Roan lied. “Why would I not be?”
“No reason. I see you have a copy of the Neopedia.”
“Yes,” Roan said. “I was just... amending it. Some of the articles aren’t very in-depth, and I thought I’d submit some to the editor. Yes, that was what I was doing with it.”
“Very good of you,” said the Producer. “I thought for a second you were revising.”
“Very little,” said Roan, truthfully.
“Anyway, you seem to be a little lost. I’ll show you to the Brain of Neopia quiz centre. The show starts in a few minutes. I was coming to look for you. I didn’t want you to get lost in Neopia Central, and miss it.”
“No,” said Roan, as the Producer propelled him in the direction of the hall. “Me neither.”
The inside of the hall was vast. The main entrance hall spread in all directions, not quite as far as the eye could see, but a fair way along. The stone walls and old brickwork gave the area a feeling of definite menace, and, if it had been in the ruins of an old castle, it would not have looked out of place.
What would have looked out of place, though, was the large queue of people. The room was long, but the queue of people stretched from one end to the other, and three or four deep. And every single one of these pets was here to see the first round of Brain of Neopia.
The same security Skeith who had shown Roan to his campsite yesterday sidled up to the Producer and Roan.
“You waiting for tickets?” he grunted.
“I am,” said the Producer. “But my friend here is due to be a contestant on the show.”
“His name on the list?” asked the Skeith, producing a clipboard with a piece of paper on it.
“Yes. Roan,” said Roan. The Skeith ran a fat finger down the paper.
“How’s it spelt?” asked the Skeith, confirming Roan’s opinion that he was probably not a contestant himself.
After a couple more minutes of examining, the Skeith finally found a match.
“It says here you’re on first,” he said. “You’ve got to go through there.” He gestured to a side door, that Roan hadn’t noticed.
“I’m going to go and get a seat,” said the Producer. “I don’t want to miss any of your victory. Good luck! Not that you need it.”
The Skeith ushered the Producer across to join the end of the queue, and Roan entered the door.
This room was a lot smaller, and resembled a lounge. Comfortable chairs were littered around, and a fire was blazing in a fireplace. There were three other people in the room, who all looked across when Roan entered. Without looking at any of them, he went and took a seat.
A voice growled to him, “You’re Roan, aren’t you?”
Roan looked across to the source of the voice. It came from a Blue Grarrl.
“Yes,” said Roan. “Do I know you?”
“I was on the first Meepit Show,” said the Grarrl. “Olvatra? Remember?”
“No. Is that your real name?”
“That’s probably why. I don’t remember real names when I can come up with an amusing nickname instead.”
“As I recall, you were extremely patronising to me.”
“That seems very likely.”
At that moment, the door that Roan had come through opened again, and a Xweetok in a long, sweeping cloak glided through the door.
“Good morning, contestants,” said the Xweetok, sweeping across to the fireplace. “My name is Hugo, and I’m the host of Brain of Neopia. I’ve been asked to come in here and explain the rules of the competition to you, before we begin.
“Basically, the competition is in three rounds. Each round will consist of four contestants, with the winner of the round advancing to the next round, and the three others all being eliminated.
“The rounds themselves are structured into three sections. The first section is an individual quizzing session, where each contestant will be asked separately on a random topic for a minute, earning a point for each correct answer. The second section will be a conventional quiz format, where I ask a question to each contestant in turn, a right answer being rewarded with a point. The last round will be a buzzer round, where I ask a question, and the first person to buzz in with the correct answer gets a point. At the end of the three rounds, the person with the most points will be declared the winner!”
Roan was only half listening. I can’t believe they didn’t pursue me more, and got this guy instead, he thought. He’s more boring than an all-day convention about cabbages.
“Any questions?” asked Hugo. Roan shook his head, as did the other three contestants. “Very good. If you can stay seated there for a few more minutes, while we get the crowd sorted, then we’ll get you in and start the quiz.”
Hugo flicked his cloak across his shoulders, and drifted out of a different door to the one he came in from. As the door opened, the cheering of the crowd became audible, flowing through the gap. There were a lot of people there. The noise was only audible for a few seconds, before the space was filled again, and the oak blocked out all external noise.
The oak may well have blocked out all internal noise as well, as silence descended upon the room after Hugo’s departure. Every contestant seemed to be enveloped in their own thoughts – apart from Roan, who tended to avoid having thoughts of his own whenever possible.
It seemed like only a second later that the security Skeith appeared.
“They’re ready for you now,” he rumbled, holding the oak door open. Through the door, the voice of Hugo drifted.
“In a minute,” he was announcing to an excited crowd, “we’ll be meeting the first four deluded souls to be taking part in the Brain of Neopia! But first, as per our vow, we must respect those who have tried, and failed, before.
“All contestants enter, knowing that, if they are not to succeed, then there will be eternal humiliation. We are here to honour that pledge. Let us now have a minutes laughter at some losers from previous years. From Year 1, Aldrin the Buzz.” There was a peal of mocking laughter from the audience, and Hugo joined in for a moment, before continuing. “From Year 2, Vitt the Hissi.” The laughter continued. Hugo continued to list names for another minute, coming right up to “From Year 9, Vair the Techo. And, not forgetting, our honourable mention, Shy Roo the Shoyru.”
Eventually, the audience fell silent, and Hugo continued.
“But now, let’s meet the brave combatants who are squaring up for the title of Brain of Neopia, Year 10. Our first contestant is a librarian, famed for having read and memorised every one of the ten thousand books in her care. Please welcome Sulaila!”
A Yellow Lenny got up from her chair, and walked out through the door. The cheers doubled in volume as she stepped out into the large, open arena, and vanished out of sight of Roan.
“Next, we have the author of 'One Million Concise Facts to Remember about Neopia,' the acclaimed author, Kzabah!”
A Desert Chomby rose, and left the room.
“Our third contestant this morning is an acclaimed scholar. With no fewer than seven degrees from the University of Neopia, from subjects as diverse as politics, mathematics and Neopian history, one of the finest minds of her generation, Olvatra!”
Olvatra left her seat, and left the room. Now, it was just Roan and the Skeith left.
“And finally, a game show host. Please welcome our underdog, Roan!”
Roan stood, and began to walk towards the door. This was it. The big moment. If he stepped through the door out into the crowd, he would be a contestant. There would be no going back. Eternal glory or eternal humiliation awaited, and the latter was considerably more likely.
He stepped through the door.
To be continued...