Cobblle awoke suddenly, feeling for his Meepit Lamp. There was somebody knocking at his door.
“Ermie?” he asked, tentatively. His sister, a blue Usul, hurried in, closing the door behind her. She looked flustered, and one of her ears was drooping.
“What’s happened? Is something wrong?” Cobblle was worried now. Ermintudi ignored him and handed him the Neopian Times. There, scrawled across the front page, was exactly what thousands of neopets hoped for every day.
“She’s auditioning apprentices!” Ermie explained excitedly. “4 AM NST, just outside Faerie City!” Cobblle was speechless. He’d wanted this for ages; the chance to work alongside the Faerie Queen.
Ten minutes later, both neopets ran out the front door of their Neohome, clothes thrown on and still with bed-fur. All the way to Faerieland the siblings speculated on what amazing tasks might be in store. About an hour later, they arrived outside the city walls. Cobblle gasped. There was every single kind of neopet here – from Korbat to Draik, they’d all come to try their hand at being an apprentice. Some were polishing their Battledome equipment, proud owners were tying bows in grudging Grarrls’ hair, others were singing loudly. The little yellow Kacheek couldn’t understand how any of these things would help in this quest – he pulled out the Neopian Times again and read the article.
“This battle of the wits comes down to one thing – the Faerie Queen. Nobody can know what she will be looking for this time. The last post available was offered five years ago, and the successful candidate was Rafayell the Ruki, a very educated and highly celebrated Neopian poet. When approached by the Neopian Times, Rafayell would only divulge; “It’s a brain game. She wants to see natural flair, a certain quality that cannot be defined. It’s going to be a tough competition.”
Cobblle could not see how expensive equipment, operatic singing or a shiny red ribbon fell into any of the categories mentioned by Rafayell. The Ruki was every Neopet’s hero. Created by an unloving owner, Rafayell was pounded at just two weeks old. However, he was a determined character who never gave up, and was rewarded by being given one of the most prestigious jobs in all of Neopia – the Faerie Queen’s right-hand man.
All of a sudden, an angry Krawk shoved through Cobblle’s daydreaming, flinging his arms wide and clearing his throat with a great sense of self-importance.
“I am Liocoli the Pirate Krawk, and I plan on gaining this job!!” He flourished dramatically, and a crowd of blue Snarhooks clapped excitedly, gazing up admiringly at the towering pet. “My strength is ULTIMATE (396), my defence ULTIMATE (265) my movement ULTIMATE (279) and my intelligence ULTIMATE GENIUS (3565). So, as you can tell, I am pretty much the ULTIMATE candidate!” Liocoli began laughing at his own joke, and the young petpets took his lead and started to giggle, clapping their little hands together harder still. The magnificent Krawk started to turn away, when he noticed Cobblle stood with his older sister, looking nervous.
“Ah, I see we have the space-fillers,” the Krawk sneered to his posse of Snarhooks. “Goodness, I don’t think there’s one ULTIMATE thing about you!” Cobblle just ignored him and turned away.
“We’ll see who’s laughing when the Faerie Queen chooses me!”
Twenty minutes later, Fyora, in all her glory, stepped out from the gates of Faerie City. The whole crowd fell silent.
“People of Neopia!” she cried, her voice majestic and powerful. “Today you have come here in search of glory. The opportunity to become my apprentice – the opportunity of a lifetime!” She broke off here and the sea of Neopets began to roar, cheering and whooping. She silenced them with a wave of her hand. “To find the créme da la créme, I have devised a test. This shall challenge your wit, creativity and your patience, and the few candidates left shall be judged by myself, and, of course, Rafayell. Now, for your first clue. There shall be no cheating – each candidate must work alone. Here is the riddle:
Rumour alone sheds some light,
On what here happens during the night.
Evil? Crazy? Or Misunderstood?
Venture there only the bravest would.
Upon the thing, feared the most,
You will find an unwilling host,
To your clue, what you seek,
This is no quest for the weak.
The crowd was stunned. What could she mean? Cobblle had no idea, but as Fyora had clearly stated, he was to work alone.
“So long, Neopians!” she cried. “I shall see the lucky few back here, no later than 12 PM NST tomorrow.” And with that, the beautiful Faerie vanished into her castle. Ermintudi turned to her brother. “Good luck!” she said. Cobblle understood. She had never been to interested in the job – she wanted it for him. Giving him a quick peck on the cheek, she called up the carriage pulled by Babaas and waved him goodbye.
The young Kacheek flopped, dejected on the grass, replaying the riddle in his head. “Rumour alone?” His first thought had been the Haunted Woods; there was always some talk of hidden treasure or vast fortune. But nobody was really scared of the woods – he himself had been there many a time and had only found the robotic Chias a minor annoyance. It must be something else. Faerieland? No, there was nothing scary here. Krawk Island? Maybe the smugglers, but you don’t have to be brave to buy from them, Cobblle thought, merely stupid. You were bound to get caught by Lawyerbot eventually. He spent the next twenty minutes thinking hard. He finally stood up, and realised that everybody had left. There were only a few Nimmos playing on the grass, and a dejected Elephante who seemed to have given up on the search, as he was eating a whole picnic meant for eight. Cobblle had narrowed it down to one of four places. The Snowager’s lair – everybody was a little scared of the icy monster, even if some boastful Gelerts at Neoschool might claim otherwise. The Lever of Doom at the Virtupets Space Station – Cobblle’s owner had forbidden him to pull it, and he’d heard lots of rumours of being punched in the face..., the Deserted Tomb in Geraptiku, and finally, the Lair of the Beast in Tyrannia. All of these were pretty safe bets, thought Cobblle, and so he planned his route. First, he would go to Geraptiku, followed by the Snowager, then up to the Space Station and finally to the beast.
In Geraptiku, the young Kacheek found a mystified looking Poogle holding Fyora’s riddle on a screwed up tissue, an Ixi who whispered to him, “I have no idea where to look now,” and Liocoli, the obnoxious Krawk, who had a frustrated look on his face, and promptly kicked the wall. However, Cobblle could tell this was not the place. And so, confidence only a little knocked, he set off to see the Snowager.
The Negg Faerie had winked at him on the way in, and so, blushing slightly, he ducked in with a temporary feeling of positivity. However, after a good hour of searching in between piles of treasure and the (thankfully) sleeping Snowager, he escaped with a purple Negg for the Faerie waiting outside, but nothing for the one he really wanted to please. Now Cobblle was feeling a little nervous.
It was nearing evening, and he borrowed a shuttle to the Space Station with a knot of anticipation in his stomach, touched down on the Supply Deck. He rushed over to the lever, and, noting that he saw an expensive-looking hat he was sure belonged to Liocoli on the floor, left feeling very disappointed and three hundred neopoints worse off. He trudged back to Neopia, and off towards Tyrannia. There he shimmied up the rope and towards the beast he knew resided there, all the while thinking that his hopes of becoming Fyora’s apprentice had gone forever. He reached the beast, and, narrowly avoiding being snapped by the vicious beak, he was amazed to find a note written on the wall in a suspicious-looking red “paint”. He didn’t care; he just wrote down what it said.
Neopian Shopkeepers can be worldly-wise,
They may help you, and tell no lies,
To limit your search, remember this;
That mystery will never go amiss,
Don’t try to understand why,
It spoils all the surprise,
Just accept what can be,
And find the answers from me.
Cobblle rushed away. He just could not fathom what this strange riddle could mean. He was torn between elation at completing the first part of Fyora’s Quest and disappointment, knowing he could go no further.
The little yellow Kacheek slumped on the floor of Tyrannia, munching on an Omelette. Just what could it be? Or rather – who? All of a sudden, it hit him like a flying pile of dung. Kauvara! Of course! It made perfect sense. Who else would be talking about spoiling the mystery? Cobblle sprinted as fast as he could to the Kau’s shop in Neopia. By the time he reached the strange-shaped building, he was exhausted. The young Kacheek burst into the room, searching for the Kau he was so familiar with.
“Cobblle!” She smiled. He was often in there, poring over her wonderous concoctions, a look of wonder spread lazily across his face. She was so glad to see him; she knew all about his wish to become Fyora’s apprentice.
“What is it, Kauvara? What’s the next clue?”
She grinned back at him. “Last one, Cobs!” she exclaimed, throwing him a Juicy Elixir with a note attached. He ripped it off breathlessly.
Congratulations, young pet,
You’ve done so well, and yet,
Still there is, more to come,
Your work for Fyora is never done.
Search for the place, many before,
Have given up hunting for the door,
To the castle in Faerieland rests,
The end of your unique quest.
The Hidden Tower. That was the only explanation. As Cobblle ran from the shop with words of thanks for his friends, he passed Liocoli in the doorway, and a look of satisfaction spread over his face. He was beating the egotistical Krawk – for now at least.
Finally, he arrived at Faerieland. He entered the Castle gates, where, what seemed like a lifetime ago, he and Ermintudi had waited to see Fyora. The Hidden Tower was a place of myths to pets like Cobblle – his owner could never afford the extortionate prices, even if they could locate it. However, this time he wasn’t giving up hope. He could sense that the end was nigh – he just had to find that tower. After searching in vain for an hour, he decided to visit an old friend for inspiration.
He settled himself down on a cloud next to the Lost Grundo Plushie of Prosperity, thinking hard about the whereabouts of the Hidden Tower. That was just it, Cobblle thought – it was hidden too well! He lifted himself up, thanked the silent Grundo and entered the fray once more. He was running his paws across the clouds in a pathetic attempt to locate some kind of door, and he felt something metal. He brushed away some loose clouds, to reveal – a lever. Cobblle felt his heart pounding hard in his chest, and pulled. There in front of him, was...
Liocoli, shaking hands with Fyora. Cobblle burst in, determined not to lose out at this point. Fyora turned, smiling.
“Aah, it seems we have a contender, young man!” Liocoli looked furious. There was nobody else around. Cobblle checked his watch, holding his breath. He exhaled pure relief. It was 11:58. He was two minutes within the time limit. He turned, giving Fyora a quizzical look. What now? it asked. She looked like she had no idea.
“Wait here, please,” she said firmly, striding towards the back of the tower.
Cobblle and Liocoli sat down on the steps, the tension mounting.
“Well done, Lio,” Cobblle ventured. “It was tough getting here, eh?” The Krawk just turned away, saying nothing. The Faerie Queen hurried over, and the two Neopets stood quickly.
“I want you to take a sheet of paper and a pen each, and draw me what is most important to you. Right here.” She pointed. “Rafayell will be the judge. Go.”
Cobblle was a little bemused, but set about right away, tongue sticking out as he concentrated hard. Half an hour later, Fyora returned. “Right,” she said. “Rafayell will now judge the two entries.”
The Ruki looked down, studying one picture, then the other. Cobblle waited, feeling very nervous about his artistic skills. Then the Ruki held up both pieces of paper. Lio’s showed a swagbag bursting with neopoints, and a closet full of clothes. He had drawn himself admiring his reflection in a mirror, wearing fine robes of deep purples and royal reds. Cobblle's showed just four things. His brother, his two sisters and his owner. Rafayell said nothing for many agonising moments. Then;
“I have chosen this one.” He pointed at Cobblle’s drawing.
The Kacheek jumped for joy, hugging Rafayell and Fyora, then offering his condolences to the furious Krawk, who stormed from the tower.
“Congratulations, Cobblle.” The Faerie Queen smiled. “You start on Monday.”
Cobblle couldn’t stop grinning. He couldn’t wait to tell his family.
This is my first story for the NT, so if anybody has any constructive criticism it will be appreciated!! :)