Xavier's Quest: Part Three
Xavier’s eyes widened and turned gold--like the gold of neopoints--and his mouth gaped open. The stash in front of him rivaled the rumors he’d heard about the Snowager’s stash of neggs. The entire room--walls and ceiling of ice, a sort of secret cavern inside Terror Mountain that Sarasan had discovered while swimming one day--was filled with neggs. There was only room enough for the Tuskaninny to stand on solid ground: Xavier was perched precariously on two Super Icy Neggs, one for each foot, with a paw against the frozen wall to keep him balanced.
“So, Mr. Bruce, wa’d’ya think?”
“I think,” Xavier slowly convinced his mouth to work, “that you should come with me to Neopia Central and auction these off as the largest collection of neggs in the whole world. They’d be worth millions!” Jealous, he reached for his purse and opened it, checking to make sure that his treasure was still there. The neggs, mostly forms of Icy with a few Lemon and Lime Swirly Neggs and some Easter varieties mixed in, were worth a sizable fortune, but Xavier was sure that his treasure was worth more.
“Nah. Why would I want to do that? Look at them. It’s a mighty sight, my mountain of neggs, and I’ll never go hungry, if I can convince myself to stomach the Jaw-Freeze Neggs.”
“Whatever you wanna call them. Those things are cold.”
“So how many do we need?” Xavier asked, trying to escape the thought that anyone could want neggs for their being neggs when they could sell for a fortune.
“Ya know, I’m not sure.”
“Well, what negg is it that you’re trying to get?” Xavier asked knowing that his knowledge of the Neggery was rusty.
“The one with Fyora on it.”
“Faerie Queen Negg?”
“I think so.”
“Why that one?”
“It’s Fyora. The Faerie Queen herself. It looks nice, and who else’s image will keep my stash safer? Who would steal from under the watchful eye of Fyora herself?”
Xavier, noticing Sarasan’s sincerity, stifled his laugh. “No one.” He tried to remember how many negg tokens the Negg Faerie charged for the Faerie Queen Negg. As hard as he thought, as much as he tried to picture the shelves and price tags of the Neggery, this one eluded him. “Happy is four, Cool is two forty-seven, there’s Radioactive and Glamour and the one with a book inside--Genius--that’s twenty-four.”
“Not any of those, Mr. Bruce. I want the one with Fyora on it.”
“I know. I’m just trying to remember--fifty? that sounds about right--how many negg tokens you have to trade in for it. I think she charges fifty.”
“Fifty? The Super Jaw-Freezers she gives six for,” Sarasan mused. “I know because I argued that it should be nine instead and she kicked me out. But that’s a lot of neggs to have to carry.” Sarasan started digging through his mound and making a separate, small pile for all the Ultra Icy Neggs he came across. “Six each, and I need fifty. Six doesn’t go into fifty, though,” the Tuskaninny mused. “Well, I guess I’ll just have some tokens left over. You said the Happy Negg costs four tokens?”
“Yep,” Xavier answered.
"Maybe I'll just have tokens left over."
Sarasan surveyed the mound. He’d sorted out ten Ultra Icy Neggs. “Well. Now how do we get them all down?”
Xavier studied the mound and thought. Between them they would be able to carry four, nowhere near the nine they would need for Sarasan’s Faerie Queen Negg. Sarasan tossed his tail around, agitated.
“Wait just one second!” the Tuskaninny exclaimed. He rolled his tail over and around the mound of Ultra Icy Neggs and held it up in triumph: seven of the nine were sticking to his tail. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” he cried out, “these are cold! Grab those other two and let's move! My tail!”
Xavier stifled yet another laugh, amused by the Tuskaninny’s antics. He scooped up the other two neggs and held them close--Ouch! the Bruce thought, these are cold!--and hurried after his companion. With Ultra Icy Neggs frozen to both of them, the Bruce and the Tuskaninny started down the passage leading out of the cavern.
“Not far,” Sarasan called back. Their progress was rushed: both of them wanted to be rid of their freezing burdens as soon as possible.
When they got to the end of the tunnel, Xavier and Sarasan stopped to clear out some fresh snow. The Tuskaninny paused long enough to peek out the end of the tunnel--to make sure no one was watching--and stepped out. Xavier followed a few steps behind him.
“Hurry up, Mr. Bruce!” he urged. Sarasan packed the opening back up with snow. “Can’t let anyone find this place. They’d steal my hoard--”
“And sell it,” Xavier finished.
“What is it with you and selling stuff?” Sarasan demanded. “Like all you care about are those little shiny coins. They’re no good up here in the cold. You’ve got to have food, and warm.”
They were on a ridge over the entrance to the Ice Caves, and from their vantage point Xavier could see the alpine roofs of the Happy Valley shops. It would be too easy just to waltz down the mountain to Happy Valley and from there to Tyrannia and on to the Auction Genie. No, he decided, that would be going back on a business deal. Bad karma. Very bad karma. Besides, maybe he’ll reward me for helping him. He has enough of those neggs to go around. Not that anything he can offer will sell for more than Taelia’s signature.
As they edged their way down the ridge, the Tuskaninny using his tail for balance and Xavier clinging to the rock face, the Bruce’s mind went back to brewing his next plan: how to get the signature of the Negg Faerie. By the time they were safely down the ridge Xavier had finished squaring away the last details of his plan.
The Tuskaninny slipped through the cave entrance, the Bruce a few steps behind him, and stopped to let his eyes adjust to the sudden dark.
In some places the ice of the Ice Caves was thin enough to let light in from outside, and the walls shimmered. In other places, poles had been thrust into the ice and adorned with torches to cast what light--and warmth--they could.
“She’s over there.” Sarasan pointed. There was a giant negg--large enough for five or six of Neopia’s largest Grarrls to comfortably stand in--sitting in the middle of the Ice Caves, green with (color) polka dots and a twisting brown stem. A door had been carved out of one side, flanked by two windows. The Neggery.
“Lead the way.”
“Oh no, Mr. Bruce. I wouldn’t dare go any closer than this. If she sees me with all these neggs, we’re done for. She’ll know you’re turning them in for me and I’ll never get my Fyora Negg.”
“I can’t carry all these neggs over there at once,” Xavier pointed out.
“Of course not. You’ll just have to take more than one trip.”
The Neggery was a good five-minute walk from the entrance to the caves. Xavier knew he could only carry two neggs at a time, and he took a minute to do the math in his head: five minutes there and five minutes back five times. Fifty minutes. Nearly an hour ferrying neggs back and forth to the Negg Faerie. I just want to get her autograph and get out of here, Xavier thought. Fifty minutes is too long! But, there wasn’t much of an alternative. The Bruce had already decided not to go back on the deal he had made. He started off toward the Neggery with the two Ultra Icy Neggs he was already holding.
“Good luck, Mr. Bruce!” Sarasan called out after him.
Xavier waddled across the Ice Caves, muttering oaths that he would never, ever touch any sort of icy negg again, regardless of how much he could sell it for. He counted his steps. He watched the other Neopians go about their tasks. He estimated how much longer it would take to get to the Neggery. In short, he did everything that made the trip seem longer. It felt, to the Bruce, like an hour had passed since he left Sarasan; it hadn’t even been the full five minutes of his estimate. His arms were as close to frozen solid as they could get, but Xavier managed to raise one of them, negg and all, to tap on the door.
“It’s open! Come on in!”
Xavier was surprised. The voice--he assumed it was the Negg Faeries’s--sounded shockingly normal, almost... human. He fought to make the door knob work, twisting it between his wrists, and was rewarded with the slink of the latch opening. He stepped into the Neggery and shook off the Ultra Icy Neggs.
They thudded to the floor. The faerie, keeping warm by a merry fire, turned around. “Six each, twelve for both,” she said and turned back to the fire
Xavier looked around the Neggery. There was a fireplace, a small sofa, and a table with some papers and an inkwell strewn across it. And then there were the shelves, guarded by the counter, with more different kinds of neggs than Xavier had ever seen in one place. His eyes jumped to the Faerie Queen Negg, situated at eye level directly in front of him. Fifty-seven tokens, the label read. Fifty-seven, not fifty. He would come up three tokens short.
“Thirteen for both?” Xavier bartered. If he could get three more tokens out of the Negg Faerie, he and Sarasan wouldn’t have to go back to the cave and bring another negg down.
“Token values are non-negotiable,” she answered. “I'm not Kauvara, little Bruce. I don’t haggle.”
“Oh, sorry.” How can I tell Sarasan I was wrong about how much it cost? “I’ll take twelve then.”
The Negg Faerie pulled herself away from the fire and walked--elegantly, as all faeries walk--behind the counter. She picked a box up from the floor, put it on the counter, and opened it. “Hand me the neggs,” she commanded.
Xavier shivered at the thought, but did as the faerie demanded. She counted out twelve tokens--little gold pieces shaped like neggs, complete with stems--out of the box and handed them to Xavier.
“Can I get a receipt?” Xavier asked, hoping for a signature at the bottom.
“My memory, little Bruce, is perfect. There’s no need for one.”
Xavier hid his dismay as he walked out of the Neggery.
To be continued...