The Greatest Scheme of Tor: Part Two
Also by sambundrick963
On the road to Meridell the two adventurers took to walking. Running alongside them was a bubbling creek where water motes danced joyously. To the left: towering oaks, spruces, elms, birches and rowans shot into a canopy that raked the sky. As Tor was lost in cloud watching, Roberta scribbled something on notepad.
“What’s that?” Tor asked, catching sight of the parchment and quill.
“We need a plan if all else fails,” cut in Roberta thoughtfully, whisking the utensil between her fingers.
“Okay, here’s the list!”
PLAN A: CATCH WILD WHINNIES
A small field rippled against a ticklish, warm breeze. Three whinnies grazed, braying to each other. Bordering said field were many trees and in one hid Tor, who wielded the awesome butterfly net of doom, which for some reason had “LOL” written on the handle.
“ARE YOU SURE THIS WILL WORK?” Tor screamed at the bush where Roberta crouched, veiled by the dense foliage.
The Acara sweat-dropped. “Yes, if you’re quiet...,” she muttered in an undertone. “Now, on my count we’ll—”
“Come to Papa, whinnies!” Tor yelled, bracing himself before swiftly descending to the ground in an air-light spring.
“Idiot!” crackled Roberta, nearly snapping her wand in half.
Tor’s brow crinkled in concentration; the Yellow Lupe gave a war cry before pushing off against the ground at breakneck speed, accelerating dangerously fast as he escaped the cover of the forest. A grin whipped across his face; dreamlike, Tor braced himself for a running leap...
...and tripped across a stray pebble.
The unsuspecting whinnys yelped as he skidded across the grass into their midst.
Roberta smacked a palm across her forehead.
“Whiiiinn!” One whinny reared onto its hind legs while the other two fled. It hoofed Tor in the face, leaving a red horseshoe print, before kicking up dirt and retreating down the road. Roberta delicately emerged from her hiding spot among the brambles and approached Tormund.
Tor wheezed in response and rolled onto his back, gazing up with uncharacteristic seriousness. “We need a new net.”
She gasped, gave him an indignant stare and kicked him in the face just like the Whinny had. As Tormund moaned, “The agony!” she scratched off Plan A from her list.
PLAN B: USE TRAPS TO CAPTURE UNSUSPECTING WHINNYS
- A rope
- A net
- Some vegetables and fruit from the nearby marketplace
- Dirty laundry
- Medicine for the migraine
In the same setting, afternoon sunlight filtered through the leafy pathway that led to Meridell. Dappled shadows flickered lazily across the dirt road, pockmarked by footprints and wagon tracks alike. Hidden in the brush were Tormund (gagged at the mouth by a sock) and Roberta. This was all in the means to silence the poor idiot. In the middle of the road was a plate arranged with a variety of berries, fruits, herbs, grasses and other leafy delicacies lying there oh-so innocently.
Roberta flashed a toothy grin and cackled. “If this doesn’t work, then I’m a Pteri!”
“Mweee, thwooo!” agreed Tor in a muffled voice.
“Shush! Get down! I hear something coming!”
As the two hid behind rows of shrubbery, the sound of thudding paws thundered against the ground.
“Listen,” whispered Roberta. “It must be a stampede! Now, hopefully they’ll go for the bait, and when they do—”
“Hwait hwone secon’! Hwhy dwo you’t get thwo twak?” (For those who can not understand Tor, he said: “Wait one second! Why do you get to talk?”)
“Because I can keep a low profile. Now shush.”
Just then the snapping sound of the net being released filled the woods.
“The trap!” the pair gasped in unison, and leaped from their hiding place. Tor spat out the sock as he blundered through twigs and brambles
They made it in time to see a Baby Aisha launched into the air, confined to her net prison in the above branches. The item in her paws—a Honey Potion earned from completing Illusen’s quest—dropped to the ground and shattered into many honey-slathered shards. The Aisha gazed down in complete despair, befuddlement crossing her face, before letting out a wail.
“Why, why me? No! I worked forever to finish that quest just for Icey, and for what? Just to have my reward shatter into pieces!” The Aisha fixed her hard gaze on Roberta and Tormund, snarling, “You.” She pointed through mesh rope at her “hunters.” “You owe me! Remember my name, Kayla the Great, for I shall hunt you down and make you pay!”
“I-I’m so sorry...” Roberta stared up as the Aisha; “Kayla” was now gnawing vigorously at the net. “We’ll repay you, I swear on my honor!”
The captive paid no heed to her honest words, and as she continued to stare Tormund elbowed her in the ribs. “Forget your honor! Run; she’s set to kill, Roberta, to kill!”
While the half-crazed Aisha screamed threats and frantically churned in the seemingly unbreakable net, the two best friends ran as far as they could, leaving dust clouds behind them.
PLAN C: ASK KAYLA —the Zafara, not the Aisha—TO CLONE WHINNYS
- Two whinnys
- One heck of a believable alibi
“You want me to do what?” yelped Kayla, glancing up from the potion that she was stirring. In her crammed working lab panted Roberta and Tormund, each carrying a whinny that Roberta had explained were “borrowed” from Skarl’s courtyard.
“We need you to duplicate them,” Roberta repeated, holding up one of the whinny for Kayla to see. The tiny steed petpet brayed pitifully in the Zafara’s face.
“Thirty, to be exact!” voiced Tormund with a smirk.
The potion sorceress frowned. “I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“What? Why?” persisted Roberta. “During the Kass Wars didn’t you mutate Turtums and increase them in size?”
“Well, I did.” Kayla shook her head solemnly. “But it was mostly an accident.” As the two began to look crestfallen, Kayla added, “I can try—”
“PRAISE SWEET MARAQUA! Oh, thank you so much!” Tor cried.
“It’s not a guarantee,” Kayla admonished with an edge to her voice. Pausing to calm herself, she murmured, “Patience. Let me get one of my pre-made recipes from the cabinet...” The Zafara paused, before adding over her shoulder, “Don’t touch anything, either!” and set to work at mixing the jarred liquid with other objects in her spell pot. While she did this, Tor caught eye of a shiny potion bottle where a red liquid simmered.
“Ooooohhhh...” Googly-eyed, he bent over to inhale the strong scent.
Roberta’s eyes lit up with panic. “Don’t touch that!”
“I’m not touching,” Tor sweetly replied. “I’m smelling. Big difference, duh.”
As he sniffed again for some odd, odd and very twisted reason he grew another right arm right below his first. Tor beamed with giddy mirth. “Wow! Another limb! Do you think I can get a left to make a matching pair?”
Roberta waved her hands frantically and gave him a panicked look. “Hide it!” she hissed.
Kayla paused from her work to glance back over her shoulder. At this, Tormund quickly hid the mutant arm behind his back and with the other two used his whinny as a blockade.
“Is something wrong?”
At the same time both friends answered with a cheesy smile, “Nope, nope, nothing at all!”
Kayla shrugged, muttered, “Whatever,” and continued to work. Roberta frantically waved a finger at the Lupe and glared, motioning toward the rows of potions stacked up on a high shelf.
Cure. Now, mouthed the Blue Acara. Her left eye twitched.
Tor growled softly, and mouthed something along the lines of, I like my third arm!
She shook her head and made several hand gestures, which Tor threw back with much effort. Huffily Roberta gave him a final look, and Tor slunk off toward the wall for a remedy. He picked up a potion that read “DANGER” and heedlessly popped off the lid. He paused, took a sip, and in place of his yellow fur was red and white polka-dots. Roberta slapped a hand over her face and mouthed, Idiot.
Tor rummaged through the shelves and yanked a purple mixture into his outstretched paws. As he sipped it Roberta glanced away and noted that Kayla was about to turn around.
“Now, where is that Eye of Mortog...?”
Without thinking Roberta grabbed a container off the shelf and thrust it into Kayla’s outstretched palm.
“Oh? Thank you!”
While Kayla obliviously stirred the batch, Roberta turned away to glanced at Tor, who had transmogrified himself into a red-and-white polka-dot Mutant Skeith with a third right arm. Roberta near-fainted at the hideous sight.
Help me, Tormund mouthed. She gaped at Tor—no, scratch that. Roberta didn’t even dare call that thing “Tor.”
Just then Kayla turned around, about to declare, “Finished!” when the Zafara witnessed the monstrosity. Roberta noticed a bottled smoke mote and rammed it off the wooden table with her arm, causing plumes of white smoke to fill the crowded chamber. The transaction took about a second. The three began to cough, and amidst the smokescreen Tor conveniently located a potion labeled “Yellow Lupe.” He drank it, restoring his old self, and the smoke vented out an open stone window. Kayla jaw-dropped and rubbed her eyes twice, wondering if she was going partially blind and was in need of glasses.
“Yeah, uhh... I... fin... ished...,” stuttered Kayla, holding up the mixture.
“Great, great!” Roberta exclaimed. “Let’s... give it a try, eh?”
Kayla nodded and bent over, holding out the potion to the two whinnies. They paused uncertainly before lapping it up. Bright maroon smoke engulfed the room, and when it cleared in place of the two white whinnies was one single whinny with two heads. Tormund fainted. Roberta groaned. Kayla grinned sheepishly.
“I can fix that.”
- - -
As they left Skarl’s castle, Tor slid against the back of a tree and sighed. “I’m doomed,” he moaned.
Roberta shot him a disapproving scowl. “No, you’re not. We just have to think up another plan.”
Tor sighed again, and fanned himself with the back of his paw. “Boy, I could go for some lemonade...”
Roberta nodded and thoughtfully gazed up at the sky. After she thought about what Tor said it hit her. She sat up and declared, “I’ve got it!”
PLAN D: SELL LEMONADE
“Lemonade! Get your fresh lemonade!”
Ice clanked inside the glass cup; Tor waved it in a fluid arch high above his head, brandishing the cup like a metal sword. “Ice, cold lemonade!” he bellowed. “Come and get it!”
“Customers aren’t Puppyblews. They don’t fetch,” chided Roberta as she squeezed her twentieth lemon over a pitcher. The grippy fruit squelched in her hand, wrung dry, and she chucked it over her shoulder. It bounced across the cobblestone street of the Brightvale marketplace. “And don’t shout so loudly!” the Acara added in an undertone. She ducked slightly behind the crude wooden stand as a Chomby and Lenny passed, engaged in conversation. “People might recognize me.”
The last words came out as a strangled hiss between her teeth.
Tor wiped his brow again. “Stop worrying. Neopian scientists haven proven that needless fretting causes wrinkles and gray hairs.” He gave her a skeptical look. “It isn’t very healthy.”
“‘Stop worrying’?” Roberta repeated, flushing. “You just had to say those words, didn’t you?”
“Relax.” Tor waved aside her complaints and scooped up one of the cups. He tipped back his face to allow the refreshing beverage to pour down his throat, before belching. Loudly.
Roberta made a face. “Ew. And that’s for the customers; don’t drink it.”
“Speaking of which...” Tormund’s muzzle curled into a radiant smile as he spied a Blue Jetsam pacing down the road in their direction, engrossed in a map. The Neopet donned a very feminine-looking powdered wig, one of the newer fashions spawned by the NC Mall. “First customer of the day—even if she is an ugly one. Watch this, Roberta; a fish out of water’s gonna be drawn in hook, line, and sinker.” He winked.
“Excuse me!” Tor waved the Jetsam over, and the Neopet’s stride—and facial expression—faltered when she saw the Yellow Lupe.
Tormund held out a cup. “Would you be interested in buying some lemonade, miss? It’s only—”
“‘Miss’?” growled the male Jetsam. His eyes narrowed to dangerous sits as the burly brute stormed over to their roadside stall with surprising speed. Tor shrank back in terror; Roberta threw herself into a nearby trader’s wagon.
“Do I look like a stinking girl to you?” the Jetsam asked roughly, stretching across the stall to glare at Tor eye-to-eye.
“N—No! Of course not! It’s just that the wig—”
“Curse this stupid thing,” the Jetsam roared, ripping it off his head. Tormund’s eyes widened. “What a waste of one hundred and fifty neocash! That cheap little Aisha at the shop said it was all the rage!” Snorting, he began to turn around, but not before throwing Tor a grim look over his shoulder. “You’re lucky I got a decent prize from the Wheel of Knowledge, kid. I’m in a good mood, so I’ll let you off the hook—for now.” Snatching one of the plastic cups off the table, the Jetsam proceeded on his way.
Tor remained motionless. “That thief took our lemonade! For free!”
“No kidding,” Roberta murmured, carefully picking her way off the wagon’s produce—skeem—dusting off her blouse as she did so. “I’d have taken the lemonade and beaten whoever got my gender confused into a bloody pulp, too. Tell you what, Tormund, let’s switch places for a bit.”
Relief spread across his face. Sighing, Tormund swapped places with her at the back of the stand. He grimaced at the lemons.
It was going to be a long day.
Well into the afternoon and the two hadn’t had much success. Even with Roberta as the friendly shopkeeper, their fourth scheme was proving disastrous.
First, Tormund had mixed up a lemon and a screlon, creating a batch of lemonade so sour that the three customers Roberta had convinced into buying became horrendously sick. The Defenders of Neopia had actually fined them for “disrupting the peace” and “poisoning innocent shoppers.” So now they stood at negative five hundred neopoints.
To top off the first round, a young Cybunny who had been shopping with her mother had remarked to Roberta, “You smell like a whinny!” This hadn’t sat well with the Blue Acara, and the two Neopians had fled for their lives as spells were shot up their heels.
And finally, to wrap up their neopoint-less afternoon, a gaggle of slack-jawed tourists had come parading down the streets brandishing cameras and souvenirs. As Roberta had been preparing to serve a Purple Wocky some lemonade, one of the tourists—a Scorchio—stopped and signaled them out by pointing, “LOOK! IT’S NEOPIA’S SAVIORS, AND THE NEOPIAN TIME’S CUTEST COUPLE!”
To which the Blue Acara had responded angrily, “We are not a couple!” at the same second Tormund had started making muscles and posing for the happy-go-lucky tourists.
Crying, “Don’t just stand there; run!” Roberta had linked her arm around Tor’s (blushing slightly as she did so) before yanking him down five different alleyways, a tavern, and out of Brightvale in attempts to dodge and evade the maelstrom.
- - -
With their backs pressed against a brick wall, they allowed themselves to catch their breaths and recuperate in safety’s warm embrace.
His labored pants now huffs, Tor scrutinized Roberta through narrowed eyes. “Why did you drag me away from my fans? It’s bad publicity, and it’ll give us negative reputations if we’re seen—”
“No,” Roberta cut across him in exasperation, “first of all, Tormund: Fans. Are Dangerous. Underneath that jubilant and gleeful exterior is a crazed manifestation of energy and passion that—in the wrong state of mind—can prove... terrifying. Remember that crazy Techo we sat next to at the Yooyu Ball game two weeks ago? My point proven. And secondly”—she smacked him across the forehead—“did you forget today’s objection, numbskull?”
In concentration Tor’s face crinkled, as if his brain were devoting vast reserves of intelligence into solving what one might call “a simple equation.” In response, the Yellow Lupe’s mouth fell into an awkward O shape. “...”
“Don’t you ‘...’ me! We are supposed to be getting your whinnys back, not signing autographs for rabid Neopets!”
“But we could have charged a fee and made neopoints!” protested Tor, massaging his newly-acquired bruise.
Roberta pursed her lips momentarily, then slumped onto the ground with an audible sigh. “That, Tor, is bad publicity.”
The Yellow Lupe joined her on the earthy ground, scuffing his foot boredly. “It was just a thought.”
“A clever one, yes, but with a negative aftermath,” murmured Roberta, closing her eyes in contemplation. “Even though we’re not what one would call ‘normal teenagers,’ if we weren’t out on this cockamamy tomamu-chase then we’d both be ought and about, enjoying the evening like any normal Neopet. Who knows...” Ears drooped, the Acara turned her blue gaze toward the sun; its auburn rays were casting long shadows across Brightvale, the surrounding forests and mountains. “My friends mentioned to me yesterday that they were taking dates out tonight. Lucky them. ...not that I don’t mind helping you, Tor,” she tacked on hastily, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Help greatly appreciated. And thanks.” Tor let her sentence linger for several minutes longer, picking up the trace of wistfulness and patience behind her words. Then, with a jolt that granted him an insightful revelation, he hopped to his feet and cried, “I know what we can do!”
To be continued...