Quentin Calamity: Beyond the Storm - Part Four
Plushieville had been a normal place until four years prior, as Quentin Calamity and Captain Derrick O’Brien learned from the Ixi raiders. It had been a normal place, filled with normal Neopets—just like anywhere else in Neopia, but considerably squishier. But that was before the MSP Poogle showed up. No one suspected anything about him when he first appeared; he was merely another plushie Neopet in a city of thousands. They hadn’t the faintest idea that they were living in the midst of a powerful evil which sought to enslave their minds.
The Ixi raiders had long lived in the Asparagus Woods, beside Plushieville. They had been friends and protectors to its denizens for eons, so when the plushies fell under the evil Poogle’s spell they galloped to the town to stop him. Instead, however, they were met by Neopets made hostile to them by the MSP Poogle’s spell, since he had foreseen the threat from the Asparagus Woods. They could easily have overpowered the plushie Neopets of Plushieville, but it would’ve defeated the point entirely. All of this was explained to the pair by the Ixi raiders Isaac and Henry.
“What does the MSP Poogle want with Plushieville?” Quentin asked the Ixi raider Isaac.
Isaac raised his hooves in a shrug. “That’s anyone’s guess,” he said. “His spell seems only to work on plushie Neopets, though, and only within the boundaries of the city. We’ve tried to find him, but we can’t spend too long in the city before we’re forced to retreat.”
“We tried, initially, to bring the citizens of Plushieville out of its limits,” Henry put in. “We tried to lure them out, but they refuse to go. They fought so viciously when we tried carrying them out, though, that we abandoned the idea for fear they’d hurt themselves resisting.”
“Or us,” Isaac put in. “They got down right nasty when we got toward the edge of town!”
Quentin frowned. “So,” he said slowly. “Is there no way to free them, then?”
“Not unless you can find the MSP Poogle,” Henry said. “We haven’t been able to, no matter how many times we’ve tried.”
“Not that we ever got a good chance to look around, what with the being attacked and all. We never got very far into the town before we had to retreat.”
“They didn’t attack us, though,” said Quentin, putting one spotted paw to his chin as he thought. “The spell doesn’t think we’re a threat, then. We have all the time in the world to find that Poogle!”
O’Brien clapped his hands together. “Of course!” he exclaimed. “We can’t let that mad plushie villain get away with this, m’lad—if only we can stop him, then by Fyora’s crown, we’re gonna!”
Isaac smiled. “Thank you very much,” he said. “I’m sorry about my earlier reaction to you. You’re good men, both of you.”
He reached out his hoof and Quentin shook it. Henry removed feathers from the green bandana tied around his forehead and then, removing the article itself, handed it to O’Brien along with the feathers. “Here,” said Henry. “Tell them that you defeated us and took the chief’s feathers as a token of victory. They have no reason not to believe you.”
“You’re the chief, m’lad?” O’Brien asked.
“That’s right,” said Henry. “And as chief of the Asparagus Woods tribe, there is nothing on Neopia I want more than for Plushieville to recover from this horrible time. They need their hearts back;—they can’t go through their lives in forced happiness! It isn’t right. They wouldn’t want it. They want to be free. Please—please free them.”
“You can count on us to do our best,” Quentin replied earnestly.
Chief Henry’s ears flattened. “No,” he said. “Not your best—that’s not enough. I want you to make sure you set those Neopets free.”
“I will,” the young Gelert replied earnestly.
Henry relaxed a little. “Good,” he said. “May luck be on your side, Quentin Calamity. Go with speed, child, and go with strength.”
Quentin nodded and, together with his Kougra companion, started back toward Plushieville. As the pair walked they were silent, contemplating the task before them. They passed the borovan stream, and continued along, beneath the tall stalks of asparagus. When the town came into sight at the edge of the woods, O’Brien said, “Do ya think this is going to work?”
“I hope so,” Quentin said. “All we can do is hope and try our best. Let’s go.”
They entered Plushieville and were met once again by Charlene the plushie Hissi. “It’s you!” she exclaimed, slithering toward them. “Did you find those awful Ixi?”
“We did, as a matter of fact,” said Quentin.
She leaned forward, her button eyes gleaming. “How did it go?”
O’Brien held up the feathers. “Very well, m’lass,” he told her. “We defeated them. These are from the chief’s headband. Look here, I have the headband, too.”
“Oh, wow!” exclaimed Charlene. “Coleman’s going to be thrilled to hear that!”
“Who’s Coleman?” asked Quentin.
“He’s Plushieville’s mayor, of course, of course!” Charlene said.
The young Gelert and the sea captain exchanged a brief glance and Quentin asked, “What kind of Neopet is your mayor? I’d like to meet him.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’d be awfully pleased to have you!” said Charlene, motioning for them to come with her as she slithered down the street. “He’s been trying to do something about those Ixi for ages!”
She led them along the street, past plushie Neopets with their expressions frozen into vacant smiles. Quentin suppressed a shudder at it all, but he couldn’t stop his fur from standing on end. Beside him he could tell that Captain O’Brien was similarly on edge. Charlene the plushie Hissi brought them deep into town and Quentin, swallowing hard, asked, “So, did those Ixi raiders ever come this far into town when they terrorized you?”
“Oh, no,” said Charlene, smiling broadly. “They’d run around the fringes of town and then they’d leave. They were silly-strange like that.”
Before them was a tall building with a peaked patio supported by plushie pillars and a large dome. It reminded Quentin of the architecture of old Altador, rendered in soft cloth and cotton stuffing. Here and there on the building there were patches of striped or dotted fabric in bright colors which contrasted with the grey cloth used for the main portion of the edifice. “What’s this?” asked Quentin as they stood before it.
“It’s the town hall!” exclaimed Charlene, clapping her hands together. “Oh, isn’t it lovely?”
“Y-yeah,” said Quentin, nodding.
“Mayor Coleman works here,” the Hissi told him happily. “He doesn’t usually like to be disturbed while he’s working, but I don’t think he’ll mind for this! Oh, he might even give you a reward for beating those mean old Ixi! Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Quentin found his throat was too dry to speak, so he merely nodded. Charlene beamed at him—insofar as someone who’s always smiling can specifically beam—and they made their ways up the steps toward the doorway into the town hall. It opened up into a great, plushie lobby with a high ceiling. The floor was a quilt of red-and-yellow striped fabric and blue-and-purple polka dots. In the center of it an enormous four-holed button had been carefully embroidered. Two staircases made of fabrics which didn’t match rose up to a balcony which was set before a large, squishy door. Charlene smiled and said, “That door is Coleman’s office! I’m sure you can go right in. I have to go do my shopping, but I’ll come back later to meet you! Good bye for now!”
“Yeah, good bye for now, m’lass,” said O’Brien hoarsely. Charlene turned and slithered away, leaving them alone in the grand lobby of Plushieville. The pairs started up one of the staircases toward the office, sure of what they’d meet there but not quite knowing what to expect.
“If he should attack,” Quentin mumbled.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t,” said O’Brien. “Chin up, m’lad—hope for the best.”
The spotted Gelert nodded. “Hope for the best. That’s right; I will.”
They reached the landing at the top of the stairs and approached the door. Quentin and O’Brien paused there, before that large door made of soft flannel. Taking a deep breath, Quentin raised one hand to knock, but before he could bring it down a voice from within said, “You may enter.”
With another deep breath, Quentin took the doorknob in his paw and turned it. The door swung easily inwards and the spotted Gelert and the Tyrannian Kougra entered the chamber beyond. It was a roomy office, filled with plushie bookshelves full of plushie books, and in the corner there was a plushie office plant. At the center of the room was a plushie desk, and sitting behind it was a Poogle—also plushie. His beady red eyes glinted with mal-intent as he said, “Welcome, gentlemen. Why don’t you have a seat?”
Mayor Coleman, the malevolent sentient plushie Poogle, leaned back in his chair, a smile on his yellow-and-orange-checkered face. “It’s my understanding that you defeated the Ixi raiders,” he said to Quentin Calamity and Captain Derrick O’Brien.
“How did you know that?” asked Quentin.
Coleman leered up at him. “I know everything that happens in my town,” he said smoothly.
“It’s not your town anymore, Coleman,” Quentin told him. “We know that you have this town under a spell and it ends today.”
The Poogle’s smile broadened. “Oh, does it?” he asked, standing. “I really don’t think so. This town belongs to me—now and forever.”
“You can either leave Plushieville quietly,” Quentin said. “Or things can get rough.”
“Leave?” snorted Coleman. “You don’t understand! This is my town! I took away everyone’s pain here! I made them happy; they can’t be anything but happy!”
“That’s not right at all,” O’Brien said. “Ya can’t just take away the rights of others to be sad or angry. It’s not right!”
“But it’s a better world,” said Coleman, waving his hands through the air. “Can’t you understand? This is the sort of place that everyone hopes for! No rage, or shame, or distrust. No discord, or grief, or sorrow. All they feel is joy! This is what everyone wants!”
“That’s not for you to decide,” Quentin said flatly.
The Poogle’s expression turned into a hate-filled scowl. “I knew you wouldn’t understand,” he said. “They never do. No matter; I will keep my town.”
He lunged at them without warning, his jaws stretched wide. O’Brien pushed Quentin out of the way of the attack and caught Coleman with a right hook, knocking him to the ground. The Poogle tried again to attack Quentin, but O’Brien caught his leg and held him back. “You don’t understand!” screamed Coleman, his eyes glowing a fierce red. “You don’t understand! This is for the best! They shouldn’t be allowed to live their own lives! I’m in the right! I’m in the right!”
He tried to free himself only to catch the fabric of his leg on one of O’Brien’s claws. He began to unravel as he thrashed about, still raving. Quentin watched, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, as Coleman unraveled until he was nothing more than a pair of buttons and a few polka-dotted patches. A black cloud hung in the air where he had once been—a cloud of pure malevolence. With an ear-splitting screech, the cloud evaporated. O’Brien blinked and looked to Quentin Calamity. “What just happened?” he asked.
“I—I don’t know,” was all the young Gelert could say. “I think we defeated him.”
They left the office, still slightly stunned. The lobby was empty, and—in light of what had just happened—almost hauntingly so. Quietly they made their way across it, and left the town hall. In the streets of Plushieville, Neopets stood around, looking stunned and confused. “Do you think they’re alright now, m’lad?” O’Brien asked the spotted Gelert.
Quentin smiled. “I think so,” he said.
They walked down the stairs together, and the plushie Neopets turned their faces toward them. “Hey!” shouted a plushie Meerca. “Hey, you defeated Coleman, didn’t you? You lifted his spell?”
“That’s right,” O’Brien said.
The Meerca smiled. “Oh, thank you! Thank you!” he said, bouncing on his tail. “We’re free! We’re free! We can feel again!”
They saw Charlene on the sidewalk watching them and made toward her. When she spoke to them, it was in a flatter, more subdued voice. “Thank you,” she said. “It feels good to be able to feel something after that.”
“And what do you feel, m’lass?” asked O’Brien.
“Gratitude,” she answered. “Well, that and anger. I can believe we let that little weasel Coleman come in here and get power over us like that. Anyway—thanks.”
“It’s the Ixi from Asparagus Woods that deserve your thanks,” Quentin said. “They told us what happened here. They were so worried for everyone here.”
“We were so horrible to them,” mumbled Charlene.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Quentin told her. “They know that.”
“Please—can you go to them and tell them to come visit us?” asked Charlene. “We’ll throw a party in honor of the brave efforts of those Ixi and of the pair of you.”
“Of course we’ll tell them,” said the Gelert. “However, we really can’t stick around for the party.”
“We can’t?” asked O’Brien, his large round ears drooping slightly.
Quentin shook his head. “We have to get moving. We’re looking for something.”
“Oh?” asked Charlene. “What sort of something?”
Charlene laughed softly. “Jelly World doesn’t exist,” she said. “All the same, though, good luck in your journey. And thank you deeply.”
They parted ways with Charlene, and headed through the town. Everyone they passed was like someone who was waking from some strange dream; their expressions were confused and mystified and they looked at everything around them as though it were the first time they were seeing it. Quentin Calamity and Captain Derrick O’Brien left Plushieville and headed toward the Asparagus Woods.
They weren’t very far into the strange vegetation when they came across Isaac and Henry, heading in the opposite direction. “Ho, there!” hailed Isaac, trotting toward them with Henry half a step behind him. “We were just coming to see how it went!”
“The MSP Poogle is vanquished, m’lads!” exclaimed O’Brien. He handed Henry back his headband and feathers.
“Plushieville has returned to normal,” Quentin said. “We told them how hard you tried to save them, and they’re throwing a party in your honor.”
“You’re the ones that deserve the party,” Henry said, lowering his face. “Despite our efforts, we didn’t manage to free them. That victory was yours.”
“Without you, they’d still be trapped in that spell,” Quentin said. “Don’t count yourself out.”
Henry smiled. “You really are Harvey Calamity’s son, aren’t you?” he said.
Quentin’s eyes widened and he asked, “Did you know him?”
The Ixi raider nodded. “We met him back before Plushieville was put under that spell. He was on the trail of some great discovery, he said.”
The pair of travelers leaned forward. “What?” asked the Gelert. “What discovery?”
“He said what he was looking for... was a world of jelly.”
O’Brien raised his eyebrows. “And is there a world of jelly around here?” he asked.
“Not that we know of.”
“Which way did he head from here?” Quentin asked them.
“If I remember correctly, he headed beyond our forest, west.”
“What’s out that way?”
“No one knows,” Isaac said. “It’s a wilderness which has been unprobed by any Neopet.”
“Except Harvey Calamity,” said Quentin. “Good, then. That’s the direction we head. Thank you, and good-bye.”
“Farewell, and good luck to you.”
And so went the first adventure of Quentin Calamity with his companion, Captain Derrick O’Brien of Tyrannia.
A word, dear reader, before we part. Although it turned out alright in this case for Quentin Calamity, bear in mind that it’s seldom a good idea to venture out on one’s own into the unknown in search of faerie-stories. Quentin was chasing an illusion and he was lucky, this time. You or I, however, may not be nearly so lucky as him. That’s why it’s never a good idea to go chasing worlds made of jelly. After all, we’re smart people, aren’t we? We know there is no such thing as Jelly World.