The Road to Pyramid Parade: Part Two
The sunlight shone down on the plains where they walked, the green grass kept short by grazing Babaas that dotted the serene landscape like fluffy white clouds. Buzzers flitted from flower to flower, and Hopsos danced among them. Neopia wasn’t really all hugs and cookies, but today, it certainly seemed like it.
The two humans led the way side-by-side, talking as they made their way southwest, toward the Lost Desert. Their pets were behind them, their Petpets riding on either back or shoulder.
“It’s almost like we don’t exist.”
That sentence, spoken quietly in Desi’s headdress-covered ear, prompted her to turn her gaze on the Shoyru strolling along beside her.
“What makes you say that?” she asked.
“Look at them.” The Island Shoyru gestured to the two humans, who were absorbed in their conversation.
“Well, they haven’t seen each other in a long time,” Desi said. “And is it really such a bad thing? We can feed ourselves if they forget. And they haven’t.”
Majikn closed his large eyes. “I guess you’re right. I’m just not used to things like this.”
“Hey, were you with Sean when he found Kirsche?”
“As a matter of fact, I was,” he said. “We were taking my... I think he was my brother then... Yeah, definitely male. And a Xweetok, I think. Anyway, we were taking my then-brother Ellimerte to the Lab Ray, but we took a wrong turn. Before we realized we had, we stumbled on an old abandoned hallway, probably deserted for involvement with Sloth or something. We were about to leave, when we realized one of the storage chambers was unlocked, when all the rest had been sealed off. So I sent Rai to peek inside, and... Well, we found your owner.” He chuckled, as if the memory amused him. “After swearing on every last Neopoint we owned that we wouldn’t tell anyone where she was, we started talking. And, cheesy as it sounds, a friendship was born.”
“You’re right, that does sound cheesy.”
“Hey, Desi, what do you say about taking a quick detour?” Kirsche broke in, looking over her shoulder as she continued walking.
“Detour?” said Desi. “Where to?”
“This place called Coral Canyon. Sean’s guild is there.”
“It means we’d have to go south for a little bit, but you couldn’t ask for a more direct western path to the Lost Desert,” said Sean.
“How long would it take?”
“Not long,” said Sean. “We’re pretty close. It’d just take a day or two, and it’d shave about that much time off our trip to the desert.”
“Okay,” said Desi.
“Then it’s settled,” said Kirsche. “Lead the way, Sean.”
They continued walking, although this time directly south.
“GRUNDO MUST FETCH NEOPETS FOR MASTER!!”
Six heads snapped around to look at the Mutant Grundo.
“That’s not what they usually say,” said Sean. “This doesn’t sound like the usual random event....”
The six were just outside of Coral Canyon, the ground beneath their feet rocky and barren, except for the pink coral that grew in the water-filled cracks along the ground. They hadn’t heard the Mutant Grundo behind them, nor had they seen him previously.
“Wait, so Sloth is still around?” said Kirsche.
“Well, I wouldn’t say he’s the most active... But he’s alive,” said Sean, slowly backing away. “After all, nobody seems to really die here...”
The Grundo took a step forward, fists clenched menacingly.
“It’s not one of the usual events,” said Kirsche.
“No kidding. Run for the guild, everyone! Follow me!”
With surprising agility, he turned and began running, easily leaping over tall branches of coral that Kirsche was forced to charge through, snapping the brittle sea-plant as she passed. Majikn and Rai took to the air, swooping down low every so often to keep track of the others. Desi bounded over the pink boughs, her paws thumping against the rock ground. Owners and Neopets scattered for the guilds throughout Coral Canyon, using the paths the Grundo’s prey dared not take for fear of leading the Grundo to someone else.
Desi stole a glance back, and her lupine face assumed a terrified expression. She stopped, skidding to turn around. The Grundo was charging through the cleared path her owner was making, and with each cluster of pink coral she plowed through, she was slowed. The Grundo would catch up with her!
Sean stopped running, realizing his friend wasn’t athletic enough to clear the coral. He gave a sharp whistle, and Majikn halted his flight, hovering uncertainly above the unfolding scene. Both were ready to assist if needed.
“I’m not a Battledomer, and I don’t like to fight, but drastic times call for drastic measures,” said Desi, a pair of Sandstone Boots appearing on her hind legs and a Light Metal Shield appearing on her right front leg, summoned from whatever alternate space equipped items stay in when not in use.
Fortuna dropped the luggage she was holding and leapt down to land by Desi’s side. The two had to make sure Kirsche was safe!
Desi ran back, the boots and shield surprisingly light enough to allow her to leap over the coral she had cleared before, while Fortuna slipped between the branches, sure-footed on the rocky ground so much like that of her native land of Tyrannia. The wrap and train on Desi’s headdress trailed out behind her as she bounded closer and closer to the charging Grundo.
Owner and Neopet passed each other, and Kirsche turned to watch nervously as the Lupe continued her charge, plowing into the Grundo head-first. The other Neopet stumbled back, but grasped the Lupe’s body with his large green hands and threw her off, sending her crashing into a cluster of coral.
Shaking herself off, Desi snarled and began moving slowly forward, her body low. As the Grundo readied himself to receive her attack, Fortuna plowed at him from the side, ramming into his ankle horn-first.
With a confused roar of pain, the Grundo whipped his head around, looking in vain for the source of the new attack. Because he didn’t think to look down, Fortuna was free to leap back and ram him again, this time sending him stumbling right into a backward kick from Desi’s sandstone-shod paws. With a moan of pain, the Grundo stumbled back, falling into a sitting position, looking hurt and bewildered.
“MASTER NOT SAY THEY FIGHT!” he bawled, tears streaming from his red eyes. Sniffling, he stood and lumbered off to console himself for his loss.
“Are you alright?” said Majikn, swooping down.
“I’m fine...” said Kirsche shakily.
“Me, too,” said Desi. “I’ve got some pieces of coral in my fur, but that’s nothing a little grooming won’t fix.”
“That’s good. Sorry I couldn’t help. I don’t do the Battledome at all.”
“It’s alright,” said Kirsche. “Let’s just go to that guild...”
After taking the time to assure Sean that everyone was okay, the six made their way down the coral-free paths, stepping carefully as they made their way down a spiraling cliff edge. At its end was a waterfall, plunging into a crystal-clear freshwater lake. There were stepping stones in the lake, leading to the waterfall. Half of a stone was visible on the side of the waterfall, suggesting that they should go behind it.
“Awesome,” said Kirsche. “The cave behind the waterfall?”
“Yes and no,” said Sean with a grin. “Come on. Hope you don’t mind getting a little wet.”
The humans and their Neopets crossed the stepping stones and passed through the waterfall, emerging inside a cave on the other side completely drenched. Desi shook herself off furiously, causing Fortuna to squeal in protest, clinging ever more tightly to her back, and throwing cold water droplets all over the other travelers.
“Tch, Lupes...” Majikn chuckled, shielding himself as well as his Shoyru paws could.
“This is the way to the Water and the Raine guild,” said Sean as he led them through the cave. About halfway through, they stopped between two blazing torches, their fire so hot that the water that soaked them was dried, yet it didn’t burn them.
“So, what does the guild do?” said Kirsche.
“Just chat, really,” said Sean. “That’s not a bad thing, though. We don’t stand for anything in particular, so it’s really hard to offend us, and it allows for greater diversity.”
They had emerged from the cave, and they were now in a beautiful clearing, woods enclosed in the canyon around them. A tower with a pentagonal shape rose above the trees, and beings of spirit and shadow flitted around them, white and black wisps of energy playing among the verdant leaves.
“There it is,” said Sean, pointing at the tower. He continued walking, and the others followed.
They crossed a drawbridge over a freshwater moat, and entered the main lobby. The pentagonal room had a black-and-white checkered floor, with a well-worn mauve carpet in the center. A banner hung from each wall, suspended from the open mouths of brass dragon heads, the eyes of each mythic reptile gems of the color on the banner – green, red, white, blue, and black. Under each banner was a door.
“What do you think?” Sean asked Kirsche. “Want to join?”
Kirsche looked around. “Desi, what do you think?”
Desi sat down, looking around at the decorated guild lobby. “I think it shows promise.”
“Then we’ll join. Where do we sign up?”
Sean smiled and motioned for Kirsche to follow him.
“Good choice,” said Majikn, fluttering along beside Desi. “You’ll like it here.”
Sean led Kirsche through the door, where they began going through the paperwork. The Neopets remained outside, waiting for their owners.
“What exactly goes into that paperwork?” said Desi.
Majikn shrugged. “I have no idea.”
They waited for a while, and their owners did not emerge.
“So...” said Majikn. “Not many people do the ‘move pilgrimage’ anymore. Most people use their own flying pets or hire one to get where they live.”
“I guess Kirsche’s a little old-school,” said Desi. “I don’t mind. ...But they’re taking a long time. Let’s go in there.”
“But we can’t...” said Majikn, his statement rendered moot as Desi nosed the door open.
They weren’t there anymore. A pile of papers had been left on the lone desk, and a door on the other end of the room was wide open, revealing a staircase that snaked around the corner and vanished from sight.
The two Neopets exchanged a curious expression.
“I know this staircase,” said Majikn, slowly walking over to the first step. “It’s like the backbone of the guild. You can get anywhere using this staircase... But I didn’t know it had a door here. I thought you could only access it from the lobby.”
“So they’ve gone somewhere else?” said Desi. “Without telling us?”
Majikn smirked. “Gotta be one of Sean’s pranks. C’mon, let’s see if we can find them.”
Desi sighed heavily. “Reverse Kacheek Seek, here we come...”
Majikn laughed as they began climbing the stairs.
The two Neopets and their Petpets soon reached the first landing, where it intersected with the staircase from the lobby that Majikn had mentioned earlier. A checkered Peophin and her owner were climbing that staircase toward them. Majikn gave them a friendly wave, and, after seeing it returned, they continued on.
They passed several doors, ones that led to many rooms (and one door that was locked, marked “Council Room”), but still no sign of Sean and Kirsche. Finally, the two reached the top of the tower, emerging into the midst of all the other guild members that were there. Immediately, Desi bounded over to the edge, putting her paws up on the guard railing to admire the view.
It was impressive. The sinking sun blazed orange across the forest clearing surrounded by the cliffs of Coral Canyon, the moat tinged pink. The spirits and shadows below were illuminated gold and violet, flitting about like supernatural fireflies in the twilight.
“Pretty, isn’t it?”
Kirsche’s voice was so unexpected that Desi jumped back, crashing into Majikn, who had glided noiselessly up behind her, and sending them both tumbling to the ground in a tangled heap of orange Lupe fur and Shoyru scales. Kirsche began laughing, echoed by Sean as he strolled up behind her.
“Oof...” groaned Majikn. “Not funny.”
“Yeah,” grumbled Desi, slowly untangling her limbs from the Shoyru’s and getting to her feet.
“Sorry.” Kirsche chuckled. “Sean suggested we hide from you and see how long it would take before you found us...” She giggled. “His jokes are always so good; how could I resist?”
Desi sighed. “This is going to be one long trip...”
After everyone had a smile over that, Sean and Majikn took the two around to introduce them to the other guild members. Desi grew to like the guild more and more as she was introduced to friendly, social people and pets. This was turning out good, despite the prank pulled on them when they first arrived. They would stay the night in the guild, leaving the next day on their trip to the Lost Desert.
To be continued...