Invisible Paint Brushes rock Circulation: 183,842,220 Issue: 475 | 23rd day of Celebrating, Y12
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The Greatest Treasure: Part One


by masaryk_the_mad

--------

Also by bluerang1

"Wake up, wake up!"

     Croy's heavy eyelids opened a crack. Through her eyelashes, she could see the eager face of a red Acara who was shaking the sleep out of her.

     "Kat, what is it?" the sleepy Christmas Chia muttered.

     "You have to get ready. We're going camping today, remember?" Kat asked. Acknowledging that Croy was now awake, Kat stopped shaking her friend.

     "Oh, right," replied Croy, rubbing her eyes as she started to get out of bed.

     With that, Kat left Croy's room and headed to Kitthie's room next door.

     "Don't even think about it," mumbled Kitthie, hiding under her blanket which she had pulled over her head when she had heard Kat come in through the door.

     "Well, all I'm going to say is that you wouldn't want to be left all alone in this house while I'm out with your brother and sister having a blast camping," Kat said with a smirk. Kat let out a startled gasp as Kitthie, the Christmas Wocky, unexpectedly burst out of bed and started getting prepared for the camping trip.

     Camping had been the only thing on Kat's mind ever since she managed to grab a Tent In A Box from under the Money Tree. It was a week ago when she was out with two of her best friends, Croy and Kitthie, who also happened to be sisters. They had gone out for an afternoon of window shopping in Neopia Central, and when they had began to head back home, Kat suggested that they should try their luck at the Money Tree. Her friends quickly agreed.

     As they approached the tree, they spotted a blue Kacheek stopping by to donate a box. What the box's contents were was unknown to Kat, but she wanted to get her paws on something, anything, so she targeted the box. The box also caught the attention of a speckled Eyrie on the opposite side of the tree. The race for the item was on. Kat took off at a quick pace but as Eyries are naturally faster, with wings and all, the Eyrie had the advantage. Unfortunately for the Eyrie, she didn't notice the tree branch in her route. She flew into the branch with enough force to send her falling down to the ground. This left a clear chance for Kat to get the box, and she did!

     Kat helped the Eyrie to her feet and handed her a nearby Healing Potion. Then she quickly scrambled back over to where Kitthie and Croy were admiring their prizes. Kat held the box up triumphantly, before hurriedly opening it up to to examine her prize. Inside the box was a tent, and a big one at that. It was a triumph that she would not soon forget.

     Kat was sure she had packed everything she needed, and her bag was on her back, ready for departure. Croy, Kitthie and Cheikz were still packing up their last few bits and pieces. Kat wanted them to be done with it so they could leave for camp already. She paced back and forth in the living room waiting for her friends.

     "All set?" Kat asked her friends, excitedly. The three siblings that Kat thought of as her good friends were all now gathered in their living room with her.

     "Yes," replied Croy, smiling. Glancing at the pile of backpacks and bags sitting in the middle of her living room, she then jokingly added, "Are you sure we packed all the camping gear?"

     "Yeah, sure," replied Kitthie, sounding a bit anxious. "You know, I could just stay with Tori for the weekend, while you guys just have fun in the woods."

     "No, you're coming too! It wouldn't be much fun without you," her younger brother Cheikz said. The young Mynci then added, under his breath, "Without tormenting you, that is." He let out a small laugh.

     "Aww thanks," Kitthie said. "What's so funny?"

     "Oh, nothing," Cheikz replied with a sheepish grin.

     "Okay, guys. Since we're all set, let's go!" Kat ordered. She headed towards the back door of the house, stomping as she went, unaccustomed to the weight of her heavy gear.

     Croy, Kitthie and Cheikz's garden led out to the route leading to the Kiko forest. Kat had strategically opted to sleep over at their house the previous day for a more convenient departure, since her friends' home in Neopia Central was much closer to Kiko Lake than her own home. The friends joked and told stories as they walked, which made the time pass quickly, as they walked toward Kiko Lake.

     Kat led the venture, as the group of friends made their way down the road, not looking strained by the things she was carrying. Croy and Cheikz were fine during the journey, as well, but they didn't look as optimistic as Kat. Kitthie, on the other hand, dreaded all of this.

     "Why do I have to carry the box?" Kitthie asked, wincing at what she was carrying.

     "Because you don't want to carry anything else," Croy reminded her.

     "Right," muttered Kitthie, as she adjusted the load she was carrying to be more comfortable. Still muttering to herself about the weight of the tent, Kitthie felt something brush against her leg. "Argh!" she yelled, dropping the box and looking about frantically. "Something just touched me! Eww."

     "It's just a twig," Kat informed her, chuckling.

     "I just don't like this place and things touching me and having to walk loads on cluttered grounds and..."

     "Stop moaning, Kitthie!" Kat, Croy and Cheikz collectively chorused.

     This shut Kitthie up, prompting the journey to be more peaceful. Kat continued to talk about all the fun that they would have that weekend: they would hike up the small hills, climb the mountains they saw, explore caves, and swim, - Kat's favourite activity of all. She appreciated all of them coming along with her, even Cheikz, who wasn't even meant to come along. Kat saw this as an opportunity to remind him of this.

     "I hope this weekend won't be too wild for you, Cheikz," Kat jeered. "You were meant to stay over at a friend's house. Camping is for big kids."

     "Hey! I'm big. Kitthie is only two years older than me, and you and Croy three. I'm the strongest and bravest one here, as well." Cheikz defended himself.

     All three girls broke out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter, which saddened Cheikz. Seeing Cheikz pouting, the three girls felt bad about laughing, and began showering the young Mynci with exaggerated praise. He pushed their sympathy away at first, but deep down, Cheikz was a big softy, so he soon forgave them and went back to joking and laughing.

     By mid-afternoon, the friends were approaching the forest surrounding Kiko Lake. They took the fork in the road that led to the forest trails, instead of continuing down the road to the town. They then began the search for the perfect campsite.

     None of the four pets had ever been camping before. They did not anticipate how much work it would be to find the perfect spot to settle down. They had not been travelling long down the trail when they found a campsite that had recently been used by some other pets. It was in a clearing, and it was all set up with a fire, complete with logs to sit on; however, it was too small for the four of them. The tent that Kat owned was too big for the small clearing between the edge of the woods and the fire pit.

     A few moments later, they found a nice big clearing, but it was way too cluttered with fallen branches and large boulders for them to even attempt to clear up. Dismayed, they moved on, Cheikz dragging his feet and Kitthie complaining loudly as she stubbed her toe on a fallen log.

     The next spot they found looked like perfect spot, at first. It was big enough, and there were no problems with it. But after a moment of looking around, Kitthie shrieked. "Did you see that!" she exclaimed, pointing at the edge of the forest. "Something moved!"

     The other three pets stared intently at the shrubbery. A moment later, Cheikz spoke up. "Wow! Look at that, Croy! A wild doglefox!" He was so excited he was bouncing. "And some pups too!"

     "I think the babies might be called kits..." Kitthie's voice trailed off, her brow furrowed in thought as she tried to remember back to her biology lessons.

     All four of the friends could now see the blatantly lurking petpets about. "We better find another spot that isn't so close to their den," said Kat. "We're sure to find something suitable soon."

     They found more areas to make camp but they all lacked a missing element or had one that the pets didn't like. The pets were getting tired from all the trekking they were doing and were just going to settle on the next spot they saw.

     They continued deeper into the forest until they found an open clearing which was close to the lake. Kat insisted on this spot instantly. For one, she was now feeling completely exhausted from the journey, but also for the fact that the lake was close by. Kat loved swimming. She was good at swimming, fantastic even. She could swim better than most other Acaras. She was well-known even in Maraqua for her gift in the sport, but, unlike other Acaras, Kat lacked the ability to breathe underwater.

     During the finals of a swimming competition Kat entered a year ago, on the last lap, she had a clear lead. It was at least seven metres ahead of the person behind her. But because of an accident when she was very young - a collapsed lung - Kat hadn't been very good at breathing while swimming. Kat's lungs gave out. She stopped dead in her lane and burst out of the water gasping for air. This cost her the win.

     Since then, Kat has been training even harder at swimming and breathing while swimming. She's got better at it and has won a number of competitions as well. Though she couldn't breathe underwater, she wanted to. Kat wanted to swim in the oceans freely without the weight of scuba gear or having to come out to breathe air. More than anything, Kat wanted to be a Maraquan pet.

     After spending more than an hour setting up camp, the gang began to enjoy what was left of the day. Cheikz had gathered some wood for a campfire, while Croy and Kat figured out how to set up the tent. It was a bit more complicated than Kat had thought. Kitthie tried to read the instructions, but there were pages missing, making everything more complicated than she expected.

     By the time they had finished setting everything up, they were too tired to explore the area of the woods around them, so they sat down on logs to eat. It took an additional hour to get a good fire going, since the pets were fresh to the whole camping thing. By the time the fire was crackling and snapping, the four pets were starving. They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on a fire, which was an exciting new experience they had only previously dreamed of. Over dinner, they discussed what they would do the next day - hiking and climbing were the activities they agreed upon.

     As the sun was setting, Kat decided that she wanted to go for a swim. All but Kitthie was eager to join her in the warm water. The three friends continued to swim and splash about until the surface of the lake glistened under the starlight of the night sky.

     "Come on in, Kitthie, the water's fine," Cheikz called at her.

     "No, I'm alright here," Kitthie replied, from her spot next to the dying fire. "The stars don't look like this from Neopia Central," she added, gazing upwards at the sky overhead.

     "They sure don't," agreed Croy. "I think it's time we call it a night, guys," she suggested through a big yawn.

     "I agree. We need to rest so we'll have lots of energy for tomorrow," said Kat as she began swimming towards the bank.

     All four pets then retired to their sleeping bags in the big tent. After their busy day, the four pets quickly fell fast asleep, dreaming of the adventure and excitement they were sure they would have the coming day.

     ************************

     "Argh!"

     Kat bolted upright, startled awake by the sudden shriek. She looked about the tent frantically, still in a sleep-addled daze.

     "Was that..." Kat began to ask before she was interrupted.

     Croy finished Kat's sentence for her, "Kitthie?!"

To be continued...

 
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