Insured?: Part Three
Oscar was walking at a leisurely stroll. He didn’t think there was much point rushing to see Fyora. Jack and Imelda would get there before him, and if they couldn’t make Fyora sign, there was little chance of Oscar being able to. Instead he wanted to take in the sights of Faerieland. He took a spin on the Wheel of Excitement, had a quick dip in the Healing Springs, and then made his way to the city proper. He passed through the cloud arch and beheld the city in all its glory.
It was peaceful; there seemed to be a calmness built into the very air. There was none of the hustle and bustle of Neopia Central. Faeries went about their business without rushing. The entire place was incredibly relaxing. Here and there a few Faeries fluttered in and out of windows, along with some Faerie painted Neopets. He walked through the gentle mists of the cloud city, stopping to admire the magical wares in the shop windows. He resisted the urge to go inside the Employment Agency; one job was quite enough for Oscar.
Then he found himself near the castle gates, in front of the large hedge maze that Fyora had put there. They were no normal hedges; they were made completely from clouds, but appeared solid as bricks. No one questioned how they were made; everyone just assumed that Faerie magic had something to do with it. Visitors could easily go around the maze to enter the castle these days, but Oscar had time to kill. He shrugged his shoulders and plunged into the maze. Oscar loved mazes; they were always so peaceful, it was as if the world outside faded away when he entered them.
Lord Northolt closed the door to his private room and locked it very carefully, making as little sound as possible. He waited a moment and listened, making sure no one was approaching in the corridor outside. It was amazing; you threw the word ‘Lord’ around and the Faeries practically bent over backwards to accommodate you. He’d been given free lodgings in the palace, free roam of the grounds, and most importantly no one had bothered to check if there actually was a Lord Northolt. No one, that is, apart from the gardener. She was suspicious, Northolt could tell. The guise of Lord Northolt had outlived its usefulness. His mind raced to the conclusion. If his current identity was under scrutiny, he would acquire a new one. The gardener had told him all she knew; now he needed to gather information from the guards.
Northolt rushed over to the desk and wrote a quick note in deliberate writing that was made to appear both highly educated and highly snobbish. When he had finished, he read it back to himself.
“Send my apologies to the Queen; I am required back in Meridell. I shall send for my belongings in due course,” he said.
He signed the note with the name ‘Lord Price Northolt’, taking care to make the signature look pompous. It didn’t matter if Lords and Ladies actually wrote like that; all that mattered was if people thought they did. If you confirmed people’s stereotypes, they hardly ever batted an eyelid.
He looked at the note again. Yes, that would do. He placed the note in the centre of the table where the maid was bound to see it and made his way to the trunk that compromised Lord Northolt’s possessions. He lifted the lid and sifted around inside until he found what he was looking for. He produced a bottle resembling one of Kauvara’s magical morphing potions, but clearly a counterfeit. He uncorked it and took a deep gulp. The change was instant. The features of his Lutari body faded, mixing like paint as his frame changed shape. Within seconds there was a Faerie Kougra standing where Northolt had been.
Carefully, the Kougra put the cork back in the bottle and returned it to the trunk. Then he produced some armour bearing the emblem of Fyora’s personal guard and changed into it. The armour was polished just the right amount so that it wouldn’t stand out as rusty, but also wouldn’t stand out as well polished. People only ever paid attention to the really scruffy and the really neat; everyone else could slip by unnoticed. Once he was changed, the Kougra deposited the old clothes in the trunk, closed the lid and made his way to the door. He unlocked it carefully and strode out into the hallway beyond.
Just like that, Lord Price Northolt disappeared from the face of Neopia, and the palace guard John White appeared.
Imelda risked a dainty curtsy in front of Fyora, the Faerie Queen. She was stood in the lavish throne room. Fyora was sat ahead on her throne. Two Faerie aides were standing next to the Queen, and an open window caused their wings to flutter in the breeze.
“One Imelda Briars, ma’am,” said an aide.
“Ah, the delegation of business representatives from Neopia Central,” Fyora recalled, “I thought there were three of you coming.”
“Once you have heard what I have to say, your majesty,” Imelda said politely, “you will not care where the other two are.”
“How do you know this?” Fyora asked out of curiosity.
“Because, your majesty,” Imelda said, “this meeting is going to change your life. Have you ever been robbed?”
“On the odd occasion, though my guards normally catch the thieves before they leave the castle,” Fyora told her.
“They must do a stellar job, ma’am,” Imelda said.
Her sales pitch was ruined. Clients who catch their own thieves don’t want insurance against burglars. Imelda changed tactics.
“Being as you are, the leader of all Faerieland, sovereign of the Faeries, sworn representative of magical kind, you need to set a good example,” Imelda explained. “What better way to show your compassion for your fellow Faeries than to insure their lives against all manner of ill fates?”
“Stop right there,” Fyora said, holding up her hand, “Are you here to sell me insurance?”
“No ma’am,” Imelda lied, “I am merely here to speak on behalf of many frail Faeries all over Neopia, who for just a few Neopoints a month could sleep safely in their beds.”
“Get out,” Fyora replied. “Now.”
“Please, I beg you to reconsider!” Imelda protested.
“Tell whoever sent you that I do not want or need insurance, now or ever,” Fyora said wearily.
Before Imelda could say anything further, two palace guards took her by the arms and escorted her out of the throne room. Fyora sighed and put her head in her hands. It was going to be one of those days, she could feel it.
“I am afraid the audience for the representatives of Ultra-Quick Insurance, Ltd, Neopia Central Insurance, Inc, and Insuromatic Insurance, Plc has already taken place, sir,” the Faerie at the castle reception told Jack.
“But it can’t have!” he shouted, “I’ve been lying on your steps unconscious for the past hour!”
“Sorry, sir, but that’s what my records state,” the Faerie replied.
“When’s the next available audience?” he asked, leaning on the desk.
“Not until next Tuesday,” the Faerie replied, checking her records.
Jack leaned in closer.
“What if I give you this bag of Neopoints?” he whispered, “Can I get in sooner then?”
The Faerie frowned at him.
“I don’t take bribes, sir,” she said angrily. “Next Tuesday or nothing.”
That was no good; Imelda would get her to sign within the day. He had to get to Fyora before then, if he wasn’t already too late.
“Is there any other way I could speak with the Queen?” he asked.
“No, she’s got audiences all day,” the receptionist Faerie replied.
“Thanks anyway,” he said, and walked away.
He emerged back out onto the castle steps, which glowed in the bright sunlight.
“I need to get into that room,” Jack said to himself.
His gaze drifted up to the hundreds of towers in the castle.
“Even the throne room needs a window,” he thought aloud.
He flexed his wings experimentally, and then shot off into the air. As long as he could avoid the Hidden Tower, he’d find Fyora sooner or later.
Behind him, Oscar emerged from the cloud maze. He made his way up the stone steps and through the large open gates of the castle. The receptionist Faerie was waiting inside behind her desk.
“Good morning,” Oscar said cheerfully.
“It’s afternoon,” she replied.
“I was in the maze that long?” he asked.
The receptionist Faerie flared her nostrils slightly.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I think I have an appointment with Queen Fyora,” Oscar answered.
“Ah, your name please?” the Faerie asked.
“I am with Neopia Central Insurance, Inc,” Oscar told her.
The Faerie positively frowned.
“Another one?” she shouted. “Listen, I’ll tell you what I told the other one just now. You have already had your audience, and no amount of bribery will change my mind!”
“What are you talking about?” Oscar asked.
“I’ve just about had it with you Neopia Central types coming up here thinking you own the place,” the Faerie continued, ignoring Oscar. “Guards! Escort this man out of the castle, and see he doesn’t get back in!”
Within a heart beat, the palace guards had surrounded Oscar. A dozen spears had their tips pointed at his throat. He gulped loudly.
To be continued...