Thieves of the Fairground
“Step right up and give it a shot! Only one hundred neopoints for a try at the finest game in the Deserted Fairground! Just grab a ball and take aim at a coconut! Knock one down and win ten thousand neopoints and an exclusive prize! So whaddaya say, who wants to give it a try?” A funny green Quiggle grinned, exposing two rows of crooked teeth. He stood atop a crate, shamelessly advertising the Coconut Shy that he so proudly ran. His hands, lacking the usual amount of digits for a Quiggle, gripped the waist of his candy cane pants. The Quiggle’s unnerving eyes scanned the wary crowd, looking for a willing contestant. He hopped off of his crate. Ungainly, he hobbled over to a nervous looking Pteri.
“You there! How's about you give it the ol’ Haunted Woods try?”
The Pteri shrugged, looking down at her feet. The Quiggle loomed over the poor girl. The Pteri squeaked and obliged, pulling out a bag of one hundred neopoints. She hopped over to the stand and the Quiggle handed her a wooden ball. The Pteri took careful aim, but her hand shook and she missed.
“Oh dear, looks like ya missed. A shame, it is.” The Quiggle feigned a sadness that fooled no one. The Pteri scuttled away before she could be persuaded to play again. A burly looking Lupe took her place. The Lupe paid the fee and threw the ball, but to no avail. The coconut shifted slightly but did not fall.
“Well, at least you get half o yer money back!” The Quiggle laughed heartily. “Come on, who’s next? I know ya want one of these lovely prizes!” The Quiggle pulled a curtain back, and I took off.
The pile of evil coconuts behind me, I grasped a Flaming Evil Coconut in my mutated feet. I beat my wings furiously, but I didn’t notice the coconut that whizzed from the Quiggle’s chubby hand and hit me square in the head. I collapsed.
“Taking one o me most valuable coconuts? Why, I oughta...” But the Quiggle never had a chance to finish his sentence; I bit into his arm with my fangs. He screamed, and I used this moment to flee.
Once I was safely distanced from the angry Quiggle, I stopped to breathe. I raised my stubby arms to my head, examining the damage. Just a slight bump. Crawling into an alley near the Wheel of Misfortune, I let myself rest.
* * *
I woke up to find my coconut gone. Bolting upright, I scrambled forward and smacked right into the thief.
“Watch it.” The Ixi spun around, eyes ablaze. I took in her appearance: skunk, but with a bright pink heart over one eye. A bandana was tied around her head, a scarf around her neck. A leather pouch attached to a leather strap around her waist. An odd staff was sheathed in the strap. The coconut – my coconut – was clutched in her silvery hooves.
“That’s Skitchitt’s!” I hissed, pointing an accusing finger at the Ixi. She rolled her eyes at me.
“Uh-huh. I’m sure you acquired this honestly.” I felt my face heat up. Was she judging me?
“You assume Skitchitt is a crook, just because he is mutant?!” I practically spat at her. She laughed.
“I have nothing against you being a mutant Korbat, but I just came from the Coconut Shy. The fat Quiggle wants your head.” The Ixi shrugged. I felt the color drain from my face.
“S-so you’re gonna turn Skitchitt in?” Panic rose in me. I never got caught. Who did this Ixi think she was?
“No.” She dropped the coconut at me feet and turned away. I was completely floored. So this girl finds me, takes back the thing I stole, tells me I’m a wanted Korbat, then gives the thing back and walks away?
“B-but why?” I stammered unintelligently. She turned back around and stared at me, her magenta eyes piercing.
“I know what it’s like to have to steal to get by. To have everyone against you.” Her eyes clouded over. I stared at my feet.
“You there! Don’t move!” We both knew who it was before we saw him: the Coconut Shy Quiggle, out for revenge. I started to fly away, but an arrow pierced my wing. I fell to the ground with an audible thud. I squeezed my eyes shut, certain I would be caught. But before I knew it, I was hoisted off the ground.
“We’re getting out of here,” the Ixi stated as she took off. She was my steed, running with a surefootedness of a creature accustomed to being chased. Again, I was dumbstruck by her kindness. I had little time to dwell on this because holding on for dear life demanded my full attention. We twisted through a maze of alleys, searching for a place to hide.
“No good...They will find Skitchitt if he stays in Fairgrounds.” I tried not to sound dejected. The Ixi shook her head.
“Then we’ll just have to get out of the Deserted Fairgrounds.”
After what felt like hours of running, I noticed a change in scenery. The broken carnival of the Deserted Fairgrounds had given way to the thickly foliaged Haunted Woods. And then we were stopped in front of Edna’s Tower. The Ixi pulled out a bent piece of metal and picked the lock easily. Before I could question her, she galloped up the winding staircase.
Finally, once we were locked in a tiny room, she let me down.
“So I assume your name is Skitchitt, right? I’m Nylairr,” she said as she rummaged around the room, tossing various items into a pile. Millions of questions popped into my head. I chose one at random.
“Why here? Why bring Skitchitt here?” I watched her intently.
“I have a knack for alchemy. You know, like potions and stuff. I have a room like this back at home. Edna’s place was closer, and I’m a decent lock-pick. We’ve got to tend your arm, first. Then I’ll see about making that Quiggle forget all about what happened. Memory is a funny thing. If you can’t prove something you remember with concrete evidence, who’s to say that it even happened? We’ll make this Quiggle squirm.” A grin creeped onto Nylairr’s face. I smiled back.
“So, why do you talk in the third person? Do you think that way too?”
“No, Skitchitt talks funny, he knows. He knows not why. Though think this way, he does not.” I shrugged. I really didn’t know why I spoke that way. My thoughts were very orderly. I just couldn’t say them right. Nylairr nodded as she started to measure ingredients. Soon she rubbed the newly made salve into my arrow wound. My eyes went wide as the stinging pain vanished. She did have a knack for this. Nylairr bandaged my wing neatly and set to work on the memory potion. She mixed ingredients in a large cauldron, stirring with the staff that was previously sheathed at her waist. As she worked, I walked around the room. My hands itched to filch one of the many strange things that perched on shelves, but I resisted.
A deafening explosion sent me crashing into a shelf.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Nylairr said. She dipped a vial into the smoking liquid and capped it with a cork. “This should do it.”
I rubbed my head as Nylairr told me what needed to be done.
“Basically, he has to ingest it. So how do we do that? We put it in a food that he can’t resist. But what?” She rested her head on her hands. I smiled.
* * *
“Hello sir, might I interest you in a free sample?” Nylairr, frighteningly convincing as a salesgirl, offered a tart to the Quiggle. His eyes narrowed.
“Why should I? You tryin’ to sell me sumfin’?”
Nylairr smiled charmingly. “No sir, I just thought I’d see if you were interested in sampling one of my delicious lime tarts.” Her voice was so sweet it could give you a cavity.
“Did you say lime?” The Quiggle snuck a glance at the tart, tempted.
“Indeed, sir. Would you like one?” Nylairr held one out to him. The Quiggle tried to resist, but broke down within seconds.
“Alrigh’ then.” Greedily, he snatched the tart from the Ixi’s hoof and stuffed it into his mouth.
“Thank you very much, sir. Enjoy.” Nylairr’s half charming, half sinister grin sent chills down my spine. She watched his eyes fade from delight to blankness.
“This isn’t my stand. Where’d that Pteri go... she looked like such an easy target. W-where am I?” The Quiggle’s head swiveled from side to side, trying to piece together the situation.
“Hello sir, might I interest you in a free sample?” I don’t know how Nylairr didn’t burst into hysterics as she offered him another tart.
“I don’t want what yer selling!” The Quiggle lost it all right there. He took off in the opposite direction, completely confused. Bravely, I stepped out from my hiding place.
“Hello!” I shrieked. The Quiggle stared at me, but no flicker of recognition crossed his face.
“Get outta my way, mutant freak.”
And for the first time in my life, I smiled at the insult.