The Tale of a Faerie Grundo Thief
A spoon carefully poked the meal and was brought back quickly as the Grundo replaced her spoon with her eyes to watch as the dent in her chicken cordon bleu quickly disappeared. If you were poor on the Space Station with only five thousand neopoints to get you through, five thousand neopoints stolen from unsuspecting tourists, everything looked tasty and wholesome. But this cordon was not exactly the epitome of palatability.
Shjil sighed and took a small bite. The stuff was, just as she suspected, quite unpleasant, but she forced herself to swallow.
It was early morning in Grundo’s Café, and already a group of neopets had gathered in front of the counter to watch as Gargarox placed a steaming batch of more delectable food before them. Suddenly, cries erupted as they vied for the food, some waving their neopoints and some still looking at the wares while the huge chef accepted and refused their offers.
The screams died down as the neopets finished taking the rarer food and departed, leaving Gargarox to his business of selling food to truly hungry pets. Shjil’s wings fell to her sides as she continued to eat. A faerie Grundo, a thief? How droll indeed! But her dark skin blended easily with the shadows, and often did she have to hide her wings to prevent being noticed. Such beautiful wings...
With a grumble she prodded the partly eaten re-hydrated meal and pushed it aside. It may have been cheap, but few neopets would find it pleasant.
Shjil shrugged and laid her head on the metallic counter, sighing and glaring at the chicken. Her friends in the past always said that you are what you eat, and she forced a smile. If that was true, she was pretty disgusting then.
Maybe she could buy something else? Something much more palatable? Shjil looked on the counter and saw multiple foods that to some were mediocre but to her were delicacies. Delicious smelling vegetable deluxe, piled in heaps upon the warmed tray, a spiced apple pie floating nearby, enticing her with its sweet aroma, and even now she saw Gargarox bashing a Salisbury steak until it was paper thin with a coat of mashed potatoes on top.
It took her a few moments to realize she was drooling. Some nearby Grundos looked at her with amusement and continued eating their meal, but then she noticed something shine out of the corner of her eye. Underneath the counter, a little thing glimmered temptingly. Shjil’s first thought was that it was a neopoint, and the stooped to pick it up, but when she touched it, her hands became numbed with cold. “Oh!” she gasped and stood up so abruptly that she hit her head on the counter with an audible thud.
Some nearby Grundos snickered, but Shjil quickly put on her gloves and picked up the neopoint, only to find it much heavier than she anticipated.
“What the?” she murmured and pushed aside the dust and detritus from what looked like a frozen orb. Her heart skipped a beat and she lifted the thing into the light. It was a frozen negg.
Gargarox was about to restock his wares again, and a group of neopets stood waiting, but when Shjil lifted up the negg, they all stared at her with shock, and then greed. “She has a cryogenically frozen negg! Get her!” screamed one Shoyru, and suddenly she was bombarded by a horde of pets trying to get her negg.
Shjil tried fighting them off, but there were so many that her attempts were unsuccessful. But she held on tight, even though claws and paws were scrambling to grab the frozen negg. Some recoiled with the cold, but some seemed more resilient and were close to being successful, until suddenly she felt something grab her leg and tug her out of the melee. It took much of her bravado to keep a still face as she felt her body rise and saw Gargarox to be her savior. Or was he?
“Where did you get that negg?” he asked in a gruff, chilling voice, prodding Shjil’s stomach with a meaty finger.
“I found it on the ground, I did!” Shjil said quickly. “It was right there. I stole nothing!”
Gargarox Isafuhlarg examined the negg while the neopets who attacked her glared at her from below. Shjil noticed that only five actually charged, the rest remained, something akin to disgust on their faces. “I made this two months ago!” he announced suddenly, surprising Shjil.
“Doesn’t that make it bad?” asked a waiting island Scorchio.
Gargarox shook his huge head. “No, it's cryogenically frozen. It will stay fresh forever.
“Listen,” he continued, “because you found the negg, it is yours, but you must pay for it.”
Shjil nodded, feeling slightly dizzy from being upside down for so long.
“Five thousand neopoints.”
This startled the faerie Grundo so much that her eyes opened wide. Five thousand? Oh the cruel irony, for that was all her worldly wealth! She thought for a moment, but then a voice called out. “Don’t take it, so we can!” It was the Shoyru that tackled her earlier, and he was sneering expectantly, thinking her hesitation was due to her being poor.
He was right, of course, but if she paid for the negg, then she would have no more coin to pay for her food.
But something inside of her snapped. Whether it was the Shoyru’s foul words or her own stubborn will, she quickly grabbed her coin bag and dropped it onto Gargarox’s huge hand that was outstretched before her for some time now. In response, she felt a slight pain of her head as the chef dropped her unceremoniously to the ground, her negg coming a second later.
The Shoyru was about to go for it again, but then the same Scorchio who asked a question to the chef earlier kicked him before he could make any attempt. Apparently he joined the greedier neopets to get a closer look at Shjil and the negg.
After what seemed like an eternity, Gargarox nodded his head and placed the bag into some unknown compartment behind the counter. “It’s yours,” he said gruffly.
Shjil rubbed her head and began to wonder if she had done the right thing, exchanging mountains of cordon bleu for a single cryogenically frozen negg, but her thoughts were interrupted by a kindly voice.
“Come on, get up.” It was the Scorchio.
More voices came behind her as the neopets began to crowd around the twosome, offering huge sums of neopoints for the negg, but the Scorchio pushed them aside and began to walk towards a table with Shjil following behind, still stupefied.
The voices receded, and it was once she was seated that the Scorchio spoke. “My name is Axal. What is yours?”
Shjil hesitated for a moment before saying her name.
Axal nodded and smiled. “I have seen you before here, always eating the cheaper food. Are you poor?”
The faerie Grundo hesitated again, but nodded in response.
The Scorchio whistled under his breath. “Well then, you are pretty lucky; this negg that you have costs quite a bit back on Neopia. My friend sold it once for three hundred thousand neopoints!”
Shjil was stunned. “That... is a lot...” was all she could say, her throat was so cracked that her speech could hardly be recognized, but Axal seemed to understand and grinned.
“Would you like to sell or eat it?” he queried.
“Why would I eat it? It is so cold that I can only hold it with my tattered gloves!”
Axal nodded sagely and began to play with his necklace. “Some neopets eat gourmet foods like this one. It gives them a chance to win a trophy for themselves and great prestige alongside in the Gourmet Club. I never tried, too many gourmet foods are not to my taste.”
“I would rather sell it,” Shjil murmured quietly.
“I thought so.” Axal stood up. “The Island Trading post is where you should go, then.”
Shjil just stared blankly. So many new terms and phrases... it was confusing indeed for her poor mind, a mind that only knew the space station. She had heard of Neopia, her old friends came from there, but now they were gone, returned to the huge world that intrigued her so. Shjil had never been to Neopia, but she heard that it was a vast and wondrous place, filled with all sorts of delights and frights that she could barely begin to imagine.
“I am going back right now. The teleporters are functional. Would you like to join me? I have enough neopoints to purchase an extra fare.”
Shjil’s heart skipped a beat with excitement. She would be leaving the space station! But then her eyes narrowed. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. “Why are you helping me?”
Axal seemed to know that she was about to ask that question and smiled kindly. “In my homeland, Mystery Island, there is a phrase: helping others is much more rewarding than helping yourself. I follow and live by that phrase.”
The faerie Grundo flapped her wings with the last vestiges of suspicion and nodded. She had a strange feeling that he intended to do no harm, though she didn’t understand why. Finally, she stood up and followed Axal, holding her negg close. “Is Neopia big?” she asked aloud to herself. “And will I be accepted there?”
The teleporters were strange devices created by some machine-crazy Grundos, and surprisingly, they worked quite well. All she felt was a queasy stomach as the room changed from a metallic blue to a bright, blinding flash of white. Shjil closed her eyes and whimpered as the light burned like fire, but soon the light receded and she opened her huge dark eyes a crack, to see an endless expanse of water and the beating of drums in the distance.
Axal laughed and opened his arms as if to embrace the warm, sweet smelling air and the salty spray. “I am home now,” he said and grasped her hand gently with his tan claws. “Come, and welcome to Mystery Isle!”
The wide, blue cloth that seemed to be spread out around her, replacing the star-studded sky that she knew and loved stunned Shjil for a few moments. As they began to walk down a well-trod path, she noted the tall, swaying palm trees that moved gracefully to a cool breeze. She had read about things like seas and breezes, and she had also heard about trees from the tourists, but she had never actually seen them before, and although she already began to miss the space station, Shjil felt that she liked Mystery Island better.
Bright flowers grew everywhere and fruits dotted the ground and the trees. The forest seemed endless indeed, and she thought the space station was huge, hah!
After a while, the forest opened up to a clearing with a huge hut made of leaves and palm trunks, surrounded by neopets of all sorts. Some were angry, others happy, and the sounds reminded her of Gargarox’s café, when the neopets were haggling for goods. “Is this a shop?” she asked Axal quietly.
The Scorchio laughed. “No, Shjil, this is the Island Trading Post. Here, neopets sell their wares to the public! We came here so you could sell your cryogenically frozen negg.”
Shjil nodded numbly, and followed her friend to an open space. “Here,” he said. “Place your negg here, and we shall try to sell it. What is your wishlist?”
The faerie Grundo stared blankly, and then remembered how Axal told her about his friend, and how he sold his negg for three hundred thousand neopoints. Just the thoughts made her heart skip another beat.
“Um... two hundred thousand?” she asked, unfamiliar with not just the sights and scents, but also with the idea of pricing... surely Gargarox would have priced better than her!
“Good choice!” Axal cried, and took up an empty post, painting the negg on it with skill and then writing the price underneath. “Now we wait for a buyer.”
Shjil felt that ages had passed under the hot sun before a rather large Skeith appeared, eyeing the sign and then nodding. “How about one hundred thousand, and a lesser spotted fish?” he asked roughly.
For a few moments, Shjil felt inclined to accept the offer. It was a very large sum, but Axal shook his head. “Two hundred thousand, firm.”
The Skeith glared but left without a word. “That was quite a lot!” complained Shjil, but Axal chuckled.
“We keep to our price. This is a rare item, a Kadoatery food for that matter, so let us just wait.”
Shjil shook her head. She was about to ask what a... Kad-o-atree was, but then a rather regal Kyrii arrived. “Ah, I was searching for this for quite a while!” he announced in a cultured voice. “Gourmet Club, you know. I shall pay full price!”
“Sold!” Axal said before Shjil had a chance to say anything.
Never before had Shjil seen so much neopoints in one place. Before her sat a velvet cloth that was heavy with coins. She counted them quickly, and sat – hard – on the grass, feeling herself getting sick. She was rich... totally, inconceivably rich...
Indeed, this was quite droll: a faerie Grundo thief finding a rare item, traveling to Neopia and getting rich... all in one day! If only her friends were here to see this!
Upon finishing the transaction, Axal tore the post out of the ground, spraying mud everywhere, and placed it gently on a pile before coming to Shjil’s side and beaming. “Congratulations!” he said. “Would you like to return to the space station now?”
The space station. Once it would have been thought of fondly... a home, a place where she had lived all her life and knew everything about... but now, just thinking about it made Shjil empty inside. Ever since she arrived on this Island where little was lacking, she felt as if she was a puzzle with a missing piece, and when she arrived, that piece was found and she felt complete. More complete that she had felt in a long, long time.
“No... I think I shall stay here. Thank you... Axal.”
Two Years Later...
Shjil sat upon a green cushion and laughed heartily as a shadow Eyrie told her exploits to the group of friends now gathered in the living room of a bamboo house. A plate of delicacies sat on a table in the middle, and a blue Zafara was now carefully taking a piece near the bottom of the stack, making sure it did not topple.
She found her friends at last! The Eyrie, Syph was her name, lived with her family in the Haunted Woods, a place that she thought sounded chilling. Forzaen, the Zafara, was her sister. She took up potions making after stealing a book from Sophie the Swamp Witch. Apparently her new, skinny tail that resembled a mutant Xweetok’s was proof enough of the encounter.
A green Quiggle sat in the corner, rather silent and brooding. Mozca was her name, and she lived in Neopia Central. She had only come to Mystery Island on a holiday, but was surprised indeed when she saw her old friend living in a well-furnished hut near the jungle.
Ever since her first sale, Shjil took up restocking and had become quite successful at it. Even now, she had a new cryogenically frozen negg sitting quietly on a wooden shelf to commemorate her exodus from the space station, and it was a tale that she retold frequently.
“So, Shjil, what happened to that Scorchio friend of yours?” Syph boomed, startling the Grundo.
She had forgotten that her friend had finished, and she did not even notice that Forzaen was standing in front of the table guiltily while Mozca was grumbling behind her, picking things up.
Shjil had not forgotten about Axal. He had left a year ago to go on an adventure around Neopia. He told her that he would come back soon, but he did not return yet, although a month ago she got a Shenkuu greeting card from him.
“I told you a thousand times, Syph, he went on a trip.”
Mozca finished picking up the little bits and sat back down on the chair, glaring at Forzaen, who was grinning sheepishly. There was a sudden yelp, and the Quiggle jumped up, holding a codestone in her hand and rubbing her back with a grimace. “Why do you put codestones everywhere?” she demanded.
“And that reminds me!” Syph cried out. “Why did you give those children codestones yesterday, you know, the ones outside the training school? I must say, you are too generous! It will be the end of your fortunes one day!”
Shjil smiled and sank down into her cushion. “In my homeland, there is a phrase: helping others is much more rewarding than helping yourself. I follow and live by that phrase.”
“But you lived on the Virtupets space station!” accused Syph.
“Yes, but when I lived there, I never really felt, whole, or complete... or accepted. When I came here, I realized that the space station floating serenely in the stars was never my home.”
The three neopets stared at her with surprise.
“Mystery Island, Neopia. That is my true home. This is where I belong.”