The Maraquan Pet Woes: Part Two
Dana stared from Sheila to the Fountain Faerie, her eyes wide. Now that she knew, she realized she ought to have figured it out before. Of course she couldn’t still live in Neopia Central! Her legs would be turned to fins, and her lungs would vanish.
But still, being Maraquan...
“Sheila, stop being so melodramatic. You can always rent diving equipment and stuff to come see me. I always see people with diving equipment going down to see the ruins of Maraqua.”
“Then why can’t you be satisfied with that?”
“Because I want to live there. I’m sorry, Sheila, but I still want to be Maraquan. You will see me again, I promise. I know how to fend for myself.” Her heart quickened as she realized that Sheila had the power to totally disregard her request.
Sheila turned to the Fountain Faerie. “All right. Paint her Maraquan.”
“Now, you’re sure?” the faerie asked, peering closely at Dana. “Once you are painted, you can’t turn back unless painted again. This will be a life-changing decision.”
“I want to do it!”
“All right. Now, the choice is yours. Kiko Lake or Maraqua?”
“Maraqua. I want to see the ruins so much...”
“I can open up a portal to get you to Maraqua as soon as you transform. That way, there’s no danger. All right?”
“All right.” And suddenly, there was an odd compressing sensation in her chest as her lungs shrank, then vanished altogether. Gills appeared on the sides of her long neck, her tail was lengthening and flattening, and her legs were becoming more fin-like.
Dana gasped for breath. Then there was a plummeting sensation as she fell straight through the cloud; a prickly feeling of free-fall.
What’s going on? Did something go wrong? Am I going to hit the ground? she wondered, flailing around in mid-air.
Then there was water all around, and she was no longer falling, but gently sinking toward a sandy bed. Dana took in a few gulps of air and began swimming around. After doing a few flips in ecstasy, she stared around for the ruins. There! She could see a few crumbling monuments in the distance.
“Whoa,” Dana muttered as she got closer. She could tell that the city had once been gorgeous, but the glory had vanished. Now all that was left were a few crumbling stone pillars and piles of rubble. It was quite a disaster scene.
“Hey!” a voice came behind her. Dana spun around and saw a Maraquan Blumaroo making her way toward her. “Who are you?”
“D-Dana,” she stuttered, unsure whether to swim quickly away or not.
“New pet around?”
Dana barely managed a nod.
“I’m Charolette, but most people just call me Char. Is your owner around?”
Dana said nothing, but pointed up to the surface with her flipper. Char seemed to understand.
“Oh. Well, I’m glad you met me. I can tell you all you need to know.”
Dana sense of insecurity evaporated. She was glad she had met this pet, too. “I’m Dana. I think I’m going to need a lot of help.”
“Okay. Over there...” the Blumaroo said, pointing, “is the Fishing Hole. Stay away from there. Usually people have a bunch of sharp hooks. If you get one in your flesh, it starts pulling up. Sometimes people throw us back, and all we have to worry about is a scar where the hook jabs. But sometimes they kidnap us, since we’re well painted and all. I haven’t been caught,” she added.
“Now, the ruins are fun to look at, even if they’re not such a safe place to live. I’ll show you the best spots.” She took Dana’s flipper and led her past the ruins like a tour guide. “See this neighborhood? This is the best place. If you’ve got a few Neopoints, I’d get a Neohome. Maraqua isn’t good to pets on the streets. If you don’t have anything, I don’t mind if you stay with me. Things can get pretty lonely around here without an owner.”
“Don’t you have an owner?”
“I suppose I technically do, but I haven’t seen him since I moved down here. Not that I care. He hardly ever fed me, was way too obsessed with getting one of the best paint brushes. He was so disappointed when he found out I’d have to move away from him, that he wouldn’t have a pet by his side all the time that he could brag about,” she said, a trace of bitterness in her voice. “When I came here, I got a part time job at the seashell collecting store. I help to gather the seashells that we sell. It pays pretty well.”
“What about food?” Dana asked her.
“Well, there’s always the Kelp restaurant, over there, but that gets a bit expensive. If that isn’t good enough, you can try to catch a Breadfish or Rockfish. They don’t taste all that great, though, and they mostly swim by the fishing hole, so you have to be really careful. There’s a battle shop; some of the weapons work for spearing prey. Even though they weren’t exactly intended for that.
“So, basically, that’s all of Maraqua. Anything else you want to know?”
“No, that’s about it,” Dana replied, faintly disappointed. She had thought that Maraqua would have more to offer than just a few shops and a nice neighborhood.
I bet Kreludor is less boring than this, she thought.
“I may need to stay with you tonight,” she told Char. “I’m flat broke. Do you know if any of the shops are hiring?”
“Miss Flora, that’s the shopkeeper at the Collectable Shells Store, is always willing to take people on. She’ll probably have you be a shell-searcher, like me. Want to come meet her?” Without waiting for an answer, Char pulled Dana toward a conch-shell shaped shop.
The entrance was the opening where, if a hermit crab had lived in it, he would poke his head out. The shop had an interesting shape, curving walls arching upward to meet in the center of the ceiling and create a dome. Shelves shaped to fit the walls lined the room.
“Miss Flora?” Char called out, edging inward.
“Oh, Charolette, you’re back! That’s good; I was beginning to worry. You’re just in time. I just sold out. These shells go so fast... Who is this?” she asked, noticing the Chomby.
“This is Dana,” Char told her. “She’s just been painted... and she needs a job.”
“Well, pets in need of jobs are always welcome here; you know that!” Miss Flora said, swimming over to Dana. “I need a lot of help with seashell collecting. Charolette here can’t keep up all by herself. Are you good at spotting stuff like that?”
“Good, good. I’ll just have Charolette give me the shells she just collected, and then you can both go out. Okay? I’ll pay you three hundred Neopoints per shell. I know it’s not much, but it should be enough to get by if you’re good.”
Char dumped the satchel she’d been carrying on the table, the contents spilling out. The shells were beautiful, catching the dim light and throwing reflections on the walls of the shop. Dana resisted the urge to stare at them and instead turned and followed Char out of the store.
Char showed her the best places to find shells, mostly among the ruins. While the shells were pretty, the work was so boring and tedious.
This is not worth three hundred Neopoints a shell, Dana thought glumly.
Eventually, the day was over, and Dana pocketed her savings – about seven thousand Neopoints. Not bad for her first day.
Char showed her to her Neohome. It was simple, just a few rooms and cheap furniture. But it would have to do for now. Once Dana had enough money, she’d make her own Neohome. Then she could really start a life here.
Already she was beginning to miss Sheila. But I will see her again, she promised herself. I will see her again.
Monotonous weeks passed. Dana was beginning to think that moving to Maraqua was the biggest mistake of her life. There was nothing to do, and she was struggling to make a living. And she still had to live with Char. At least Char was pleasant, she thought.
The worst part was that she hadn’t seen Sheila since she had been on at the Rainbow Fountain. Thoughts of her owner brought a stabbing pain to her heart. For all the separation, she may as well have been in the pound.
Finally, her homesickness was relieved. A familiar call reverberated through the water, sounding like music to her ears.
“Dana? Dana, where are you?”
She swam out of the Neohome. The sight of her owner brought great joy, regardless of the fact that Sheila was so covered in diving gear that she couldn’t see her face.
“Oh, Dana, I’ve missed you so much. I’m sorry it took so long...”
“It’s all right. But Sheila...”
“Is there any way I can live in Neopia Central again?”
Sheila stiffened. “Repainting you would completely waste the Fountain Faerie Quest,” she told her. “You wanted this and now you have it. But if it’s really what you want to do, I’m all for it. I wouldn’t mind having you in my Neohome again. Now really, really think about this. You weren’t thinking when you asked to be painted Maraquan and live down here.”
“Well, I have a Red Starter Paint Brush that I haven’t used yet. I can bring it here and paint you... But you are SURE you want to leave this behind?”
“I’ll be back, then.”
A few moments later, Dana spotted Sheila descending from the surface. She swam eagerly out to meet her owner, hardly being able to wait until she could leave this place.
Her heart plummeted as Sheila held up a paint brush, its bristles completely clean.
“The paint washed away when I put it in the water. I can’t repaint you, Dana.”
To be continued...