To whitneywar516, who loves Zar almost as much as I do!
The young girl frowned at her egg in bewilderment and anxiously ran her hand through her shoulder-length, dark brown hair. It had been five days since she had received the egg from the Create-a-Pet center and yet all that time it had remained perfect and whole. The girl was beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong.
“I don’t understand it, Zar,” Corrie said to her blue Bori, who was lying on the sofa, reading a book. “The longest known case of a Xweetok egg remaining un-hatched is one week. But usually eggs don’t take too long to hatch. And how could this one not hatch? I’ve done everything for my new baby Xweetok - I’ve read books to him, I’ve talked to him for hours on end, I’ve wrapped him in blankets at night... I even comforted him in that one thunderstorm, remember?”
“Mmhmm...” Zaraneeta flipped the page of his book.
Corrie went on. “Then I tried to coax him out of his shell. I tried bribing him with chocolate - you know how Xweetoks love that - I told him I’d write stories about him, I told him that I’d be the best owner and that I’d never abandon him even if the fate of Neopia depended on it! What more could this Xweetok possibly want, Zar?”
Only then did Zaraneeta look up from his book, though his expression remained aloof and non-caring of his owner’s situation. “You sure that he can hear you? He is in an egg, you know.”
His owner rolled her brown eyes, which were covered by round glasses. “Did you not read my article that I sent to the Neopian Times about creating Xweetoks? I’m an expert at these things! I know he can hear me, Zar, but for some reason, he doesn’t want to hatch.”
“An expert, huh?” Zaraneeta turned his gaze back onto his book. “That’s a bit absurd, seeing as you’ve never created a Xweetok before.”
“Don’t you remember that I helped my best friend create all four of her precious Xweetoks?” Corrie raised her voice. “Remember?!”
“There’s no need to yell, Corrie. I’m right here,” Zaraneeta said calmly, though there was an edge of irritation underlining his voice. The Bori slammed his book shut, got up from the couch, and strolled towards the kitchen. Opening one of the pantry doors, his face fell when three bags of potato chips fell out. He glared at Corrie as he reached into the pantry and pulled out more bags of chips. “Corrie, you told me that you were getting over your obsession with chips.”
Zaraneeta was not fooled when his owner’s expression read shock. “I didn’t put those there!” Corrie protested, but when Zaraneeta folded his arms and stared at her with that “Don’t-you-dare-lie-to-me” look that he was famous for, Corrie lowered her gaze, flushed, and sighed. “Okay, okay, so maybe I just had to have one little bag.” She gazed up at her Bori, her eyes wide and watery. “Is that too much to ask?”
Zaraneeta was not at all affected by his owner’s puppy-dog eyes. He glared at the girl. “This is more than one bag, Corrie!” he told his owner angrily and he pulled out nine more bags of chips. Then he stuffed all of the bags of chips into a paper sack and headed towards the front door. Corrie glowered at his back.
“And just where do you think you’re going, mister?” she demanded.
The Bori didn’t even glance back. “I’m taking these to Neopia Central so I can throw them down the Wishing Well! Then I’m going to buy you some vegetables!”
“You are not leaving this house, young man!” Corrie hollered.
“Try me!” Zaraneeta called over his shoulder just as he rounded the corner. A few moments later, the front door was heard opening and then it slammed shut with a bang, signaling that Corrie was alone in the house.
The human girl sighed and then an evil grin spread across her face. She dashed over to the pantry and pulled open one of the doors. The nook that had been filled with chip bags earlier was now empty but for a golden key in the corner, almost completely hidden by darkness. Corrie snatched the key and dashed through the living room into her own bedroom, where she approached one of the wooden walls. Glancing around briefly to ensure that no one was watching, the girl slid a small panel of the wall back to reveal a keyhole. Corrie placed the key in it and turned it with a satisfying click. A larger section of the wall slowly slid away and Corrie beamed when she saw the secret compartment, filled with chip bags.
Grabbing a bag of sour cream and onion chips, Corrie slid the walls back into position to hide her treasure trove, then slipped the key into the back pocket of her denim jeans. Then she tore open the bag and munched on the crunchy chips inside. She smirked when she thought of how Zar was trying to keep her away from chips and then here she was, consuming a large bag right under his nose.
Suddenly, a young, timid voice interrupted her thoughts.
“May I have one pleath?”
Corrie whirled around and saw to her astonishment that in the doorway of her room sat a baby green Xweetok. With a gasp, Corrie glanced out the doorway and saw in the living room the cracked remains of the egg, which had been whole only moments before.
Delight quickly overcame Corrie’s surprise and she rushed forward and scooped her new baby Xweetok into her arms, stroking his soft fur gently and holding his tiny body close to her chest. Then, she spun around the room joyously and collapsed onto her springy bed, still clutching the Xweetok tightly. “You hatched! Oh, you have finally hatched! Oh, this is wonderful!” The human girl laughed, giddy with joy and she kissed her new Xweetok on the tip of his pink nose.
Finally, the girl began to settle down and she sat up and stroked the Xweetok gently. She beamed at him, then furrowed her brow. “But, why didn’t you hatch before?” she asked.
“I wanted to wait for the wight moment,” the Xweetok said. Corrie adored his darling lisp.
“Yes, but five whole days?” Corrie ran her hand along his tail and almost swooned from the amazing softness of his long fur. “What made you want to wait?”
“It wuth Thar,” the Xweetok said. “He hath a hos-til-ity,” the Xweetok pronounced the word slowly, making sure that every syllable was correct, “toward me.” The Xweetok cowered in Corrie’s hands and gazed up at her with pitiful eyes. “He thcares me, Cor-wie.”
Corrie was a bit taken aback. Zar has a hostility towards this adorable baby Xweetok?! Can that really be? How is it that my baby sensed that? Has it ever happened before? I better keep an eye on Zar, if what my Xweetok says is true. She cast the Xweetok a gentle smile. “You don’t have to be afraid of Zar,” she assured him. Then after a moment’s thought, she said, “Although it would be wise to avoid him when he’s hungry, or if he slept in, or if he woke up too early, or if-”
“Okay, I get it!” The Xweetok had paled considerably and Corrie wondered if she had gone too far. “I thould just avoid Thar all the time.”
Corrie cuddled him in her arms. “No, that’s not necessary. I’ll protect you. Though, you’d better not call him Zar. It’s my nickname for him and he doesn’t like anyone using it but me.” It suddenly occurred to her that this baby Xweetok might not know Zar’s real name, if all he had ever heard was her calling the Bori “Zar” all the time. “His real name is Zaraneeta, though he doesn’t like that much either because he thinks it sounds girly.”
“Doeth my name thound girly?” The Xweetok looked frightened.
You have a big mouth, Corrie, the human girl berated herself fiercely. You’re going to scare this little guy to death! Now what was his name... oh yeah! Corrie smiled down at the tiny bundle of fur in her arms gently. “No, your name isn’t girly,” she told him sweetly. “Your name is Zeke! You are Zeke TwoHundred, another one of the TwoHundred legacy!”
The newly-christened Zeke just stared at his owner with confusion. Poor guy probably doesn’t know what legacy means, she thought. Zar did always tell me that I used too many long words, but now he uses most of them himself! I wonder when he’s going to get back, anyways. I’d better hurry up and finish these chips. Corrie retrieved her bag of chips from where she had dropped them when she had saw her new Xweetok for the first time and handed one to Zeke. “Would you like a chip?”
Zeke nodded eagerly, but just as Corrie was beginning to put it into the baby Xweetok’s mouth, a voice suddenly shouted, “Corrie, wait!”
The human girl froze and her head whipped around. In the doorway stood Zaraneeta, his light brown eyes wide. In one paw, he held a bag of groceries and in the other, an enormous wrench. Zeke whimpered, leapt out of Corrie’s arms, and hid behind her back. Zaraneeta furrowed his brow at the Xweetok’s actions and Corrie noticed that he wore a new hat on his head. She glowered at the Bori. And he says I waste money!
Corrie reached behind herself and took Zeke into her arms. The baby Xweetok was shivering uncontrollably and Corrie stroked him gently. “Look what you did, Zar! You scared him half to death!”
Zaraneeta looked as if he were frozen and he finally managed to choke out, “Uh... er... he hatched?!”
“Yes, he did while you were away.” Zeke began to stop shivering and Corrie cradled him in her arms, one of her fingers stroking his beautifully soft tail. She didn’t notice that Zaraneeta’s expression was turning dark and his usually light blue complexion was flushed. Corrie scratched Zeke behind the ear and the Xweetok giggled delightedly. Corrie beamed. “Isn’t he the sweetest little thing!”
“Corrie, you were about to feed that baby Xweetok a chip,” Zaraneeta said stiffly. “And I, an older and more mature pet, saved him from a lot of pain.” Corrie noticed the emphasis her Bori put on the ages of himself and the baby Xweetok and she frowned. What’s wrong with him anyways? “Look at that little... thing!” Zaraneeta continued. “He’s only got a couple of teeth! You should know that babies have to feed on milk for a while before they can eat solid food!”
Corrie realized that her Bori was right. “Sorry, Zeke,” she said to her baby Xweetok and she put the chip, which was still in her hand, into her own mouth. “The chips shall have to wait another day for a little baby Xweetok like you.”
“And for you too,” Zaraneeta said as he placed the groceries and wrench onto the ground and came over to his owner’s side.
“Alright, Corrie,” he said matter-of-factly, tapping one foot impatiently on the wooden floor. “Give me the key. I know about the secret compartment, though I didn’t know that you used it for storing junk food.” The Bori took the chips away from his owner, though Corrie saw him pop one into his own mouth and she smirked. She took the key out of her pocket and handed it to him.
“Here,” she said calmly and the corners of her mouth twitched with amusement. “I’ll find some other way to have chips!”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” Zaraneeta said seriously, obviously not amused, as he walked back over the items he had placed on the floor. He picked up his groceries and headed towards the kitchen. Corrie furrowed her brow, set Zeke on the floor, and headed after her Bori. The baby Xweetok began to follow his owner, but Corrie motioned for him to stay where he was. Then she exited the room.
What’s wrong with Zar today? she wondered. He used to be a brilliant teenager who was a lot of fun to be with! What’s gotten into him? This just isn’t like him.
“Zar!” Corrie barked.
The blue Bori ignored his owner and headed into the kitchen. Corrie gave an aggravated huff and then lunged herself at her Neopet, wrapping her arms around his neck and thrusting him to the floor. Zaraneeta pushed his owner off of himself and got to his feet, glaring at Corrie. “What was that for?!” he demanded.
“I need an explanation, mister!” Corrie said sharply. “Why are you acting like this? You haven’t been this moody since you went through that irrational attitude state when you were a kid! What’s gotten into you, man?”
“I don’t owe you any explanations!” Zaraneeta retorted, putting his paws on his hips. “Not since you brought that kid into this house!”
Corrie was a quite taken aback. Zaraneeta turned away and folded his arms across his chest defiantly. The human girl’s expression softened and she took a step towards her beloved neopet. She touched his arm gently. “Zar... what’s really wrong?”
The Bori jerked away from her touch. “I don’t want to talk, Corrie.”
“Well, I do,” Corrie said, wrapping her arms around her neopet. “Won’t you tell me what’s bugging you?”
Zaraneeta was silent. After a few moments, he finally gave a heaving sigh and said, “It’s Zeke. I don’t want him around.”
So Zar is hostile towards my baby Xweetok! Corrie was somewhat alarmed, but she managed to keep her expression and her voice calm. “Okay... why not?”
“I like it the way it is... just you and me.”
“Having Zeke around won’t change a thing!”
“You know that’s not true.” Zaraneeta turned to face her. “He’s a baby, Corrie. He’ll need constant care and attention. He’ll cry at night and keep both of us from sleep. There will be accidents in the house and then, on top of everything else, he’ll want a petpet. And then there’ll be the tedious process of housebreaking and training the petpet! Don’t tell me that you don’t remember when you first created me!”
“That was years ago!” Corrie was thoughtful. “So you don’t want Zeke around just because of all the trouble he’ll cause? It’s not like I can change that, Zar! Like you said, he’s a baby. But why are you worrying? I’m the owner. I’ll be the one to care for him. You won’t have to do a thing!”
“No... I’m not worried about me doing work. I’m worried about you.” Zaraneeta’s expression darkened and Corrie was taken aback by his glare towards her. “Like you said, you’ll be the one caring for him. You’ll have to clean up after him and feed him and play with him! And where do you leave me in all this? Where will I be? You’ll be spending all your time with Zeke that you’ll forget all about me! And then...” Here, Zaraneeta’s voice began to rise, “... you’ll completely lose your interest in me! And what happens when owners lose interest in their pets? Those pets end up in the Pound!”
Corrie was stunned. Never in all her life had she dreamed of giving Zar up. But as her Bori had explained the entire process to her, she realized that it was quite possible. Her eyes began to tear up. “Why didn’t you tell me all this before I went and created Zeke? We could have talked through this together much earlier.”
Zaraneeta rolled his brown eyes. “Don’t you have any memory? You didn’t say anything about creating a Xweetok that day. You just came home with the egg.”
“And then in the days that followed, you were so excited about your baby Xweetok that I didn’t want to spoil your happiness. But didn’t you notice that as you tried to get the egg to hatch, you barely spent any time with me over the past few days. All those books that were read to Zeke, all that warmth and love you bestowed upon him... did you not even think about me at all during that time?“
Corrie sighed and she suddenly wrapped her arms tightly around her neopet’s chest and hugged Zaraneeta tightly as the tears began to spill down her cheeks. “Oh, Zar! I never, never wanted to hurt you! I love you just as much as Zeke, even more so because I’ve had you longer! Zar,” Corrie released the Bori from her embrace and looked him straight in the eye, “you must know that I would never, ever, not in a million years, even if the fate of the universe depended on it, give you up. You are mine and I want you to know that you always will be. You can’t doubt it.”
“Really?” Corrie noticed that Zaraneeta’s eyes were watery as well. “Can I really trust you on that?”
“I’m the owner who created you all those years ago and raised you and loved you. Remember? Of course you can trust me.” Corrie hugged the Bori again and this time, Zaraneeta wrapped his own arms around his owner. “And I’m sorry if I ever spent more time with Zeke than with you. If that ever happens again, you tell me and I’ll be sure to set the scales right. Count on it.”
The two released each other and gazed happily at each other. Corrie sighed contentedly. “So... will you give Zeke a chance?”
Zaraneeta sighed as well and grinned. “Yeah, sure.”
“Ith about time!”
Corrie and Zaraneeta whirled around to see the baby Xweetok staring up at them, his arms folded across his chest defiantly. “I been waiting forevah fah you to come to an agweement! Can’t bewieve Thar was worwied about me taking his place...”
It was then that Corrie noticed the strawberry smoothie in the baby Xweetok’s paws. She gasped. I don’t remember having that in the fridge... wait a sec!
The human girl scooped Zeke into her arms. “Zeke, where did you get that smoothie?” she asked gently.
The baby Xweetok sucked on the straw a little while before answering. “It wath in Thar’s woom. Don’t you know? He keepth ‘em under hith bed.”
Corrie set Zeke down onto the floor and then lunged herself at Zaraneeta, who had been slowly backing away towards the door. The Bori gasped and evaded her, dashing into the next room with his owner close behind in pursuit. “Zaraneeta TwoHundred!” Corrie shouted. “You told me you gave up smoothies!”
Similar shouts and hoots of laughter could be heard from the interior of the Terror Mountain neohome as the sun slowly set beyond the distant western horizon, bathing the mountain side and fresh snow in pools of golden light.