Insured?: Part One
Lord Northolt stood in the great doorway of the Faerie castle. The red Lutari watched as his servants carefully unloaded his trunk from the coach. Of course, in reality they weren’t his servants, just hired hands for the show of things. But that was it; this was a show, and he was the star with a thousand faces.
“Lord Northolt?” an Air Faerie asked from the top of the steps leading inside the castle.
Northolt nodded. The fake messenger he had sent ahead had worked wonders.
“I wish to speak with the Queen on a matter of much urgency,” Northolt said.
It was a lie, but then so was everything about him. His name wasn’t Northolt, he wasn’t a Lord, and he wasn’t even a real Lutari.
“The Queen is detained,” the Faerie said as she walked down to meet him.
“King Skarl sent me personally,” Northolt lied.
Of course, Northolt didn’t really wish to meet the Queen at all. He had other plans. But he was playing the part of a Lord, and a Lord would name drop to get what he wanted.
“I shall... see what I can do... though she will not be able to see you for at least two days,” the Air Faerie told him.
That was perfect, forty eight hours to commit the crime.
“That will have to do,” Northolt said snobbishly. “I shall require lodgings in the meantime.”
“Certainly,” the Air Faerie replied. “Follow me.”
She flicked her fingers, and Northolt’s trunk rose from the ground. It floated gently up the stairs, the Faerie following behind. Northolt followed close behind, venturing only a glance to assess the guards posted at the door. He was in, and getting in was half the battle.
The top floor penthouse of the Neolodge was home to the affluent and illustrious of Neopia Central. Every day saw a new group of well-to-do Neopets reach the top of the elevator, and mix with the upper crust of society. That day was no different; Judge Hogg had arrived with the Defenders of Neopia for some well earned R & R, while the millionaire playboy Spectre bathed in the gigantic swimming pool outside. In the drawing room of the suite, which might as well have been a palace, a few old friends were meeting once again.
“I tell you,” said Arthur Munroe, the yellow Chomby who was general manager for Neopia Central Insurance, Inc, “the business just isn’t what it used to be. The poor young ones try, but they just don’t have the flare that we used to.”
There was a murmur of agreement from several other Chombies sitting nearby. On the other side of the room a Draik laughed. He had long bushy hair, but could only be described as loosely Tyrannian. It was clear from his suit he was something altogether different from a caveman.
“Maybe that’s the case over at Neopia Central Insurance,” the Draik said confidently, “but at Ultra-Quick, we are going from strength to strength.”
“That’s not what the stock market says, Henry,” a purple Lenny scoffed from a nearby chair. “You fell three points yesterday!”
The Draik looked taken aback.
“You’re new in this business, Walter,” he replied, “so I’ll forgive you for not knowing the ropes. Insurance is always slow during spring. You just wait until winter; my team will wipe the floor with you.”
The Lenny laughed.
“We’ll see about that, Henry,” he replied, “Insuromatic Insurance has some of the rising stars of the insurance sales world. We’ll give you a run for your money, at the very least.”
“Oh, really?” asked Henry, “Then why don’t we make this interesting?”
“What do you mean?” asked Arthur from his chair.
“We three are owners of the three biggest insurance companies in Neopia Central. I propose a wager, to see who is best,” said Henry, turning to face the roaring fireplace.
“What kind of wager?” Walter asked; his curiosity was tempted.
“For the longest time Queen Fyora has refused to take out any insurance policy,” Henry explained. “I propose we each send our best field agent, and whoever manages to get a signature on a policy from Fyora wins.”
“How much are we betting?” Walter asked.
“Oh, the standard amount should do... four million,” Henry said mildly, “Are we on?”
“Certainly. I shall send Imelda Briars; she’ll have Fyora signing on the dotted line before you know it,” Walter said confidently.
“Imelda Briars?” Henry asked. “Not the girl who sold snowstorm insurance to Princess Amira?”
“The very same,” Walter told him.
“Very well,” Henry replied. “I choose Jack Storm, my very own protégé. He once convinced an entire village to get insurance against being crushed by potatoes resembling Sloth.”
“How about you, Arthur, are you in?” Walter asked the old Chomby.
“We can send anyone who works for us?” Arthur asked.
“Yes, anyone,” Henry confirmed.
“Then I shall need some time to think,” the old Chomby replied with the faintest trace of a grin, “My man will meet your people in Faerieland.”
“Good, the race begins in... two days, shall we say?” Henry said.
The three men shook hands.
“Two days,” Walter and Arthur echoed.
The thin bead curtain was pushed aside carefully, and the large figure of Arthur Munroe entered the small caravan. Not being overly used to small spaces, the massive Chomby knocked a few snow globes off a shelf. They crashed to the floor, spilling their contents over the floor.
There was a low, deliberate cough from the table in the centre of the caravan. The Usul gypsy raised one eyebrow at the finely dressed Chomby. She clearly wasn’t impressed, and her dark attire didn’t do anything to detract from the mean scowl she wore on her face.
“I’ll reimburse you for the damage,” Arthur apologised as he sat down on a rickety old chair opposite the gypsy.
“Those were cursed objects,” she rasped in a cruel tone, “beyond a price.”
Arthur’s chequebook was already on the table.
“Would ten million cover it?” he asked casually as he scribbled down details on a cheque.
The gypsy’s mouth fell open, temporarily shattering her air of evil mystique.
“That will... be enough for me to overlook your deeds,” she said as she pocketed the cheque.
“Good show!” the Chomby bellowed as he leant back on his chair. It creaked ominously.
“Do you require something?” the gypsy asked lightly.
“A fortune,” Arthur replied. “I need you to tell me who I should send to Faerieland.”
The gypsy nodded slowly, and got up from her chair. She briefly disappeared behind a screen at the back of the caravan, and returned with a finely polished crystal ball. She placed it in the centre of the small table, and ran her hands slowly over the surface.
“I see trouble, unseen,” the gypsy said mystically.
“Then how do you see it?” Arthur asked, leaning in to watch the depths of the crystal.
The gypsy shot him a glare, and he moved back.
“This is a task not suited for those with skill,” the gypsy continued.
“I need to send someone without any skills?” Arthur asked.
“There is a figure in the crystal...” the gypsy revealed, “A small... small Neopet.”
“A Kiko?” Arthur asked, “Not Helga Ribbons, surely? She’s a typist!”
The gypsy shot the Chomby another glare. He fell silent.
“You will find the one you seek near Meridell,” the gypsy said as she leaned back, “in Hermit’s End. Take the man named Jones with you; he will know who you seek.”
A wide grin spread across Arthur’s old face.
He was going to win, that’d wipe the smiles right of his competitor’s faces.
Oscar was, truth be told, a bit bored.
Some time ago he would have given anything to be out of the insurance business, so he quit. The high risk world of pirates and royalty had got to him. Soon after, he’d helped a known thief get her hands on the crown of King Skarl, and had found peace and tranquillity in the backwater town of Hermit’s End, situated between Brightvale and Meridell. There he had hoped to live out his life as a simple potato insurance salesman, under the impression that nothing exciting could possibly happen with potatoes. Soon after setting up shop, he got messed up in events with Sarah the thief again, and had found himself breaking into Skarl’s castle once again, and facing off with assassins and ninjas. Oscar had complained at the time, but in reality the experience had exhilarated him. Oscar began to consider the possibility that, unlikely as it would seem, he was an adrenaline junkie. He craved to be in a situation of danger again, to barely survive a pirate tavern brawl, to be imprisoned within a dungeon, or to at very least get a paper cut.
Instead, Oscar sat behind his makeshift stall in Hermit’s End day after day. It was the life he had dreamed of, but now he had different dreams. The life less interesting was... well, less interesting. It had been good for a holiday, but insurance was in Oscar’s blood. As much as he hated it, he needed it.
It was on one day, of the many, many days, that things changed. A lavish carriage pulled by royal Unis came to a rest in the main street of the town. Hermit’s End had since its creation been something of a one Uni town, until even that Uni escaped. Generally, the only thing people came to the town for was directions to get out. Thus, the carriage alone would have been cause enough for a commotion. It was however, the sight of who got out that caused Oscar to faint. It was his old boss, Arthur Munroe.
Oscar woke with a glass of water from the King’s Arms, the local tavern, being emptied onto his face. Such was the quality of service in the King’s Arms that a glass full of mud might as well have been emptied over him. Oscar opened his eyes slowly.
“Mr... Munroe?” he questioned, staring blearily at the old Chomby standing over him.
“Ah, so you remember me?” the Chomby said, a wide smile spreading across his face. “Capital!”
A green hand reached down and pulled Oscar up. It was Mr. Jones, Oscar’s old supervisor at Neopia Central Insurance, Inc. He had been an ancient green Skeith when Oscar had been with the company; now he looked even older.
“Jones said we’d find you here, my boy,” Munroe continued as he handed the empty glass to the Skeith. “Seems we gave you a bit of a start, eh?”
Munroe gave Oscar what he thought was a friendly pat on the back, but it sent the yellow Kacheek falling forwards. Jones helped him up again.
“What are you doing here, sirs? Are you lost?” Oscar asked as he brushed himself off.
“Straight to the point, eh?” Munroe said happily, “I like a man who gets straight to the point. I have an offer for you, my boy.”
“What kind of offer, sir?” Oscar asked.
“Are you familiar with Ultra-Quick and Insuromatic?” Munroe asked.
“Insurance companies, aren’t they sir?” Oscar answered.
“Sharp as a tack!” Munroe bellowed, and slapped Oscar on the back again.
“Well, we’ve launched a sort of competition between our three companies,” Munroe explained. “We each have to pick one of our agents to send up to Faerieland.”
“How do I come into this sir? I don’t work for Neopia Central anymore,” Oscar asked.
“Well...” Munroe hesitated, “We were hoping we might convince you to... come back.”
Oscar stared at his former boss.
“You see, the task is to get Fyora to take out insurance,” Jones interrupted.
“Naturally, Ultra-Quick and Insuromatic are fielding their best agents,” Munroe added.
“But that’s ridiculous! Fyora will never sign. She’s said as much before,” Oscar told them.
“Indeed,” Munroe admitted, “which is why I decided not to send my best agent. Instead, I thought this job may suit your... specialist talents.”
Oscar was well aware that his special talent was having no talent whatsoever.
“I am afraid I don’t understand, sir,” Oscar told the Chomby.
Mr. Jones sighed and led Oscar away from Munroe.
“The truth be told, Mr. Munroe seems to think that trying to get Fyora to sign is a fool’s errand,” Jones told him, “and Mr. Munroe seems to be of the opinion that there is no one better to send on a fool’s errand than...”
“A fool?” Oscar asked.
“Well, not his words... but yes,” Jones admitted.
Oscar looked glumly at the floor. He knew he had never been cut out for life as an insurance salesman, but no one likes to be told they are a failure.
“Listen, Oscar,” Jones told him. “It doesn’t matter if you get Fyora to sign or not. Mr. Munroe is willing to pay you one hundred thousand just for turning up. You’ve got to admit, your stall could do with a bit of improvement. Just treat this as a little holiday in Faerieland. What do you say?”
Oscar thought this over. If he didn’t actually have to try, what was the harm? He’d been thinking he needed an adventure anyway.
“Alright then,” he replied eventually.
“Capital!” Munroe said, appearing at Oscar’s shoulder from no where, “By jingo, we’ll show those upstarts a thing or two!”
The Chomby turned and marched off to the carriage.
“You’ll need a new suit,” Jones told Oscar as he helped Oscar into the carriage. “We’ll get you one in Neopia Central, no expense.”
“How am I going to get to Faerieland?” Oscar asked as he sat down in the lavish interior of the carriage.
“You just leave that to us,” Jones said happily, closing the door behind him.
To be continued...