The Wishing Well
This is a story about a mischievous, ok, downright naughty little red Ixi. Let’s call him Del, as his full name is quite a mouthful (his first owner obviously had a great sense of humour).
It was a less than fine day in Neopia Central, overcast and threatening rain, and everyone seemed to be in a hurry about their business, stocking up on treats for the weekend at the Food Shop, easing those unfortunate spring Sneezles attacks at the Pharmacy, or storming School Supplies for the necessary bits and pieces to tackle that all important homework project due in on Monday. Del was perched in his usual spot under the Money Tree, listlessly picking at an Old Left Boot he had managed to scoop up earlier and no longer bothering to pounce on any of the goodies dropping from the branches above – much as he loved free things, that was too much like hard work and he was feeling very lethargic.
Where were all his friends today? Oh that’s right, Del didn’t have friends anymore; he’d played a few too many mean jokes on them, bossed them a little too hard, caused too much trouble, and they’d decided they were better off without him. Well, he didn’t need them anyway. Surely he could find something entertaining to do all by himself; he’d show them. With a heaving great sigh, he stood up and ambled away to find something destructive to get on with.
First stop, the Rainbow Pool for a bit of fun tripping up the newly painted pets and getting their new paint jobs all muddy; that was always good for a laugh! But after twenty minutes hard mischief and several upset owners to poke fun at, Del was fed up. It wasn’t fair, all the other pets had beautiful, bright, colourful fur or amazing new outfits to go home and admire. Never mind that they had worked and saved for their Paint Brushes; Del wanted one now. He knew he deserved to shine, and yet here was he, boring red, boring as a newbie pet, boringly BASIC. If I had a Royal Paint Brush, he thought, I’d have my friends back and they would treat me like I deserve, like a Prince. Or if I was Faerie and had my wings, I’d be able to fly circles around them and they’d have no choice but to listen to me! Or if I was a menacing Mutant, I could scare them into playing exactly what I said!
How to get a Paint Brush, though? Del knew his owner would never paint him, he had asked so many times and the answer was always the same – Not til you start behaving yourself and go out and EARN it! But Del hated playing games; it took such a lot of effort. And restocking was no fun either. He usually lasted about ten minutes and ended up spending the Neopoints on a new toy for himself, or something yummy to eat.
Preoccupied with this dilemma, Del wandered through Neopia Central into the Plaza, passing through the Kadoatery to idly prod at the poor crying creatures through the bars and purposely get in the way of the frantic feeders rummaging through their food hampers, another favourite pastime of his, but again, it didn’t bring him any joy. Scowling, he stomped away, carelessly pushing past the busy shoppers with their umbrellas (yes, the rain had started just in time for the weekend) and flopped down in a strop next to the old Wishing Well, a place for silly babies with silly dreams and old people with nothing better to do, in his opinion. He watched as one such baby, a sweet little Eyrie, approached with his owner and dropped in a scatter of Neopoints, eyes firmly closed, and muttered something under his breath that sounded like “Zei Codestone,” but could just have easily have been “Fire Saxophone”... kids today were into such weird things.
A minute later, a Blumaroo bounded up to the well, followed by her owner (who was panting exhaustedly rather than bounding; have you ever tried to keep up with a Blumaroo?) threw down a fistful of Neopoints and yodelled loudly, “Rainbow Brain Tree Plushie!” Which is obviously quite an odd thing to hear yodelled. Next was a rather sad looking Lupe who requested a Snorkle Snout, and after that a Lenny threw in a rather hefty sack of Neopoints and politely asked to be considered for a Faerie Paint Brush.
Now, Del had been watching this more and more intently with each wish, and the last one had sealed the deal - he knew just how to get what he wanted! This time tomorrow, oh yes, he would be the envy of all his friends, he would be so popular he could do ANYthing! He whipped out his Neopoints sack, looked around nervously, and slowly approached the Wishing Well as soon as the coast was clear. Peering over the edge, he took a deep breath and... jumped! Clinging to the old metal bucket for dear life, he plummeted to the bottom of the well, down into the blackness til – THUD. His fall was broken by the tension of the rope that he could not bear to let go of, and the soft Neopoint sacks lining the wet stone floor. Eventually he stood up, staggered slightly and shook his head. What a ride! Looking up, the sky was but a pinprick of light. But there was business to be done! He shook out his pitifully empty Neopoint sack and began filling it with the coins that littered the bottom of the well, stuffing it til it almost burst, and stuffing yet more into the other sacks already down here, grabbing as much as he could hold.
This didn’t take long – a little Ixi can only hold so many Neopoints! But it was enough, oh it certainly was. Del grinned as he loaded up the metal bucket with his newfound wealth, and congratulated himself on such a good plan. He took one last glance around, already planning his next trip down here, and scampered off up the rope – all that practice climbing the Money Tree had created an expert climber out of Del! Nearing the top, he slowed and carefully peeked over the wall, but as expected, the Plaza was quiet now, the shoppers all driven home by the rain and the prospect of a lovely quiet Friday dinner after a long week. He clambered over the edge and got to work hauling the heavy bucket up after him – it was hard work, and once or twice he even wondered if it was worth all this effort!
But the thought of all those Neopoints drove him on, and fifteen minutes later the bucket appeared at the rim of the well – about time too! It was getting late and he’d be in so much trouble with his owner if he didn’t get home before dark. There was just time to stash the bags carefully in the nearby bushes, covering them ever so carefully in case a curious Meepit or pixel-combing Neopian came sniffing around.
That night Del slept like a baby, a particularly naughty one with a devious plan. The following morning he wolfed down his breakfast and disappeared before his owner had so much as said “Good morning,” and before long he was unearthing his Neopoint stash and relishing the idea of spending it... Well, he didn’t waste much time there! Twenty minutes later, Del swaggered out of the Hidden Tower, a few Neopoints lighter, and dashed to the Rainbow Pool to recreate himself (not missing an opportunity to trip a newly Starried Pteri on the way). He waded into the pool clutching his Paint Brush, dipped under and emerged... a beautiful Darigan Ixi! Giddy with excitement, Del lost his composure and almost skipped for joy. Almost. Recovering his cool, he stood in front of the mirror and posed, preened and pouted til he was certain – he was the most spectacular pet EVER. Obviously.
Leaving the Rainbow Pool, he strutted. Actually properly strutted. With a song in his head and everything. Oh yes, he was just IT. By the time he reached his usual haunt, the Money Tree, a small expectant crowd had gathered – this Darigan Ixi was something special! His friends would never have recognised him but for the elaborately rude gesture he managed to make at the Neopian paparazzi, who had popped over to see what all the fuss was about, bored after hours staking out the Neolodge on a rumour of a very famous visitor staying there. Del bounded through the crowd to parade in front of his friends, who in their excitement at this expensive new look had forgotten all the trouble he caused them and were just dying to know how he had got his hooves on that paint brush. He was happily bragging to them, the centre of attention when –
“DELIXIOR!” (Told you it was a mouthful.)
Del stopped mid-boast, wide-eyed... Oh no, not here, not in front of everyone!
His owner marched towards him, furious.
Del glanced around frantically, thinking, No no no this can’t happen now, not when I’m the most popular I’ve ever been... and he ran. He leapt over the fence and skittered away as fast as his little Ixi toes could take him, darted around the back of the Petpet Shop and hurled himself towards the plaza, back to his hidey hole in the bushes by the well. Tumbling in head-first, he rolled to stop just in time to hear the thudding footfalls on the path as his owner sprinted right on by, anger clouding her face as she looked left and right for her naughtiest pet.
Del sighed in relief watching her get further away, and settled back to wait it out – he’d stay here a little while, sneak out after dark and find somewhere to kip down for the night. By morning she’d be so worried about him being missing she wouldn’t care what he’d done; he could slink home and forget the consequences and flaunt his new look to his heart’s content. Yes, what a good plan.
Of course, sitting in a bush can be very boring and after a couple of hours Del’s smart plan was looking like a pretty rubbish idea. He was cold and hungry and stiff from sitting still so long, and no amount of fidgeting or daydreaming about his imminent Neopian domination was making it easier. So he decided to sneak out and take a stroll to get some supplies – which turned out to be a bit of a disaster because Del’s owner, being quite tuned in to the ways of her little troublemaker, had been patrolling the area and spotted him easily as he was creeping into Pizzaroo. She sighed and waited outside the door, collaring him a couple of minutes later as he slipped back out with his Jelly Bean Pizza.
“RIGHT then, young Ixi, I think I deserve an explanation,” she barked, enjoying the shock on Del’s face as he registered that a) he had been caught and b) he had dropped his pizza. He came to a snap decision that the best thing he could do would be to keep quiet and admit to nothing, and that is what he did. Or tried to do.
Ever a step ahead of her Ixi’s antics, his owner had come armed with the ultimate weapon... a Starter Red Paint Brush! She marched him right on over to the Rainbow Pool, sat him down at the edge and threatened him with the brush until he confessed all, which didn’t take long - he just couldn’t stand the thought of going back to red. He liked being special, he deserved to be as good looking as this, and if it meant getting into trouble, well what’s the worst she could do, ground him again? Hah.
So he lazily owned up, yes he’d taken some Neopoints that weren’t his, but like it mattered, that stupid old well was never awake long enough to know what was going on; it wouldn’t miss a few Neopoints. It wasn’t his fault that stupid Neopians were always throwing their hard earned cash in there, and for what? It just sat there wasted while the well dozed all day. He knew how to make better use of it. It was hardly stealing, right?
Well, wrong actually. Sorry, Del. His owner was understandably very angry about it, and extremely upset too – how could she have raised a pet with so little consideration for others, who could not even tell right from wrong? It was hard to know what to do about this – a standard punishment of grounding or removal of privileges was not enough. And then there was the question of the stolen Neopoints. Obviously whatever was left would be returned with the biggest apology ever, but what about the money that had already been spent on the Paint Brush? There was no way of getting it back, and she just couldn’t afford such a large amount at the moment after all the recent work on her new Neohome. Del sat by the pool with his eyes glazed over, idly watching as his owner paced around agonising over what to do. He could see she was very distressed but he found it hard to care. It wasn’t his problem.
Eventually, after much thought and still with no idea how to proceed, Del’s owner (she does have a name but I wouldn’t want to deny her privacy) decided a trip to the Wishing Well might provide some inspiration. Hauling him by the scruff of his neck, she escorted him back to the scene of his crime. Better get started – she thrust the bag of remaining stolen Neopoints at Del and ordered him to return them and apologise.
“To a well? I’m not talking to a stupid well!” he fumed, kicking at the ground with his delicate little hooves and tossing his head from side to side (yes, he was angry, but he also knew he looked good when he did this). But another glimpse of that Red Paint Brush sent him stamping over as ungraciously as it is possible for such a sweet looking creature to be, a muttered apology and the bag of Neopoints flung into the well – along with an expensive wish, because hey, it was stupid, but why waste a free chance at a wish, if he could con the well into thinking he’d just made a hefty donation rather than returned what was owed...
With another flick of his head and a dramatic eye roll, he pranced on back to his despairing owner and lolled on the ground next to her while she continued to rack her brains. They both watched quietly as a small Shoyru flew down and spent some time talking to the well, confessing that he had been saving ever so hard for a particular variety of Negg to complete his beloved gallery, but never quite seemed to get there as more important things always came up, like friend’s birthdays or Neohome-warming presents.
“I wish you’d be more caring and thoughtful like that,” moaned Del’s owner... Hmmm... a little sparkle appeared in her eye. Yes! He’d hate it, what a perfect plan. Spotting this change in composure, Del became uneasy, wondering what on earth was in store for him. Well, being a clever little lady, she had come up with a perfect payback, solving both the problem of the stolen Neopoints and Del’s obscene lack of consideration and empathy. He was going to grant every wish he had stolen from that well; however difficult or obscure an item was needed, Del would work for it and grant it until the full amount was paid back, and more. His little jaw dropped when he heard this judgement passed, and he shook his head wildly, his eyes manic, No No No he would NOT do it!
“Oh yes, you will!” she sang at him, utterly determined that this act of vandalism would be his last, ever. She was going to work him til he forgot his own name – she’d been too soft on him before and he needed to darn well learn. Starting right now. Snapping an extra tough leash onto his collar, she dragged him kicking and snarling down to the Games Room (Torture Room, he thought) to get earning.
Now, you can imagine for yourself how these next few weeks progressed – Del fought every step of the way, the champion of avoidance. He ran away more than once, he lost games on purpose, he made scenes at the poker table that saw him banned for weeks, he insulted the Scholars of Imperial Exam and left the poor Library Faerie in tears. But his owner wasn’t going to give up this time – she devoted every waking hour to this harsh new regime. Like it or not, the Neopoints were starting to stack up, and Del could not help but eye them up greedily every time they made a new deposit. Oh how he wanted to take them and buy himself a treat, maybe a Royal Paint Brush this time, oh, but he was so attached to Darigan. Well, an expensive treat all the same – didn’t he deserve it by now?
Finally one afternoon he had had enough. He was just itching to spend that stash, and midway through a game of Faerie Bubbles he made a break for it. He was tired, his muscles ached and his brain was full of the colours and lights of the Games Room, he could not sleep for thinking up new strategies and when he finally fell into a deep sleep, he dreamed of level ups and Neopoint rewards, but still he found he could run faster these days. Leaving his owner far behind, he skipped off and made a hasty withdrawal at the bank – “Everything, sir, all of it?” Yes! And with his Neopoint sack heavier than ever before he made his way to – where was he going to go? He just couldn’t decide. Maybe he’d nip back and finish off that game first, it’d help him get his head straight.
Whirling his way back through Neopia, he spotted out of the corner of his eye a little figure sitting forlornly on the ground outside School Supplies... Del thought he looked familiar and a quick glance confirmed that it was the little Baby Eyrie from the Wishing Well all those weeks ago. And he looked so sad. Del noticed the little Eyrie was gazing longingly over at the Music Shop, and his mind echoed back to the muttered wish... “Zei Codestone”... or had it been, “Fire Saxophone”? Oh what the heck, Del hurried into the Music Shop and had some words with the shopkeeper, who chuckled back and accepted the strange request (and generous Neopoint incentive). Minutes later, Del was perched on a bench nearby and watched excitedly as the shopkeeper wandered outside loudly mumbling something about “rotten luck selling” and “no interest”, carefully discarding a sack of junk items, on top of which lay... yes, that’s right, the Fire Saxophone. And the little Eyrie nervously, delightedly, making his move towards it, the shopkeeper’s friendly wink as he retreated back into the shop, the Eyrie’s pure joy as he made his first (awful) notes on his new instrument and proudly showed off to his bemused owner, who had just spent rather a lot on homework materials but had never seen his Baby so excited about learning anything!
Del was quite pleased with himself as he tottered off back to the Games Room. Who’d have thought you could have fun MAKING someone’s day, rather than ruining it. Deep in thought, he got back to his game of Faerie Bubbles and absentmindedly flicked through like a pro, scoring nicely, not quite trophy material yet, but maybe one day! Still no further with his decision of what to buy, he thought maybe a stroll through the Hidden Tower would help – he was loaded, after all; the place was his if he wanted it! But he just couldn’t rally up any enthusiasm. What was the point – all these shiny things, they couldn’t make him happy or popular, his new paint job had proved that – his friends hadn’t even been in touch since that sorry day by the Money Tree when they’d see him flee like a wimp. Yes, he’d been busy, but you’d think they might pop in to say hi just once or twice.
He sighed sadly and floated through Faerie City, passing by the busy Healing Springs – so many sick pets these days. NeoMonia had been doing the rounds and cures had shot up in price. The poor old Water Faerie was looking very stressed and tired, getting confused and handing out all the wrong things. And Del had a bright idea: a little while later he arrived back from the pharmacy laden down with Medicinal Soaps and many Neopoints poorer than he had been, and sneakily started to drop them into open bags and pockets, slipping through the crowds, inconspicuous despite his colour, an old pro at this stealth business.
Cheered, he made his way home, completely forgetting that as far as his owner knew, he’d made off with every penny they had and had probably done something foolish with it. “DEL!” she roared as he drifted into the kitchen. But something in his face stopped her before she went off at him – he looked different: peaceful, gentler, somehow more grown up. “What did you do this afternoon, Del?” she asked curiously, and he flashed his cheeky trademark grin at her for the first time in weeks and invited her to accompany him to the Wishing Well to get on with granting those wishes – including the most important one of all: her wish for a caring and thoughtful little Ixi. A pretty Darigan one who had ALMOST earned his beautiful coat!
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