A Novel Ending
A thin line creased Alastair’s forehead as he scowled at the scroll of parchment in his paws. The tip of his tail tapped the floor impatiently. The acclaimed author – perhaps best-known for his popular novel, Ogrin Survivor – was troubled. The final chapter of his latest work just wasn’t coming to him. The brilliant Gelert had 312 pages of a gripping, adventure tale in front of him... with no ending!
His original intention had been to kill off the fearless hero, Rex Flynn; however, the plan was very quickly curtailed by Agatha, a slightly neurotic Quiggle, prone to emotional outbursts, who proudly held the position of Alastair’s publisher. Agatha’s reaction to the death of Rex Flynn was loud enough to be heard in the most remote village in Tyrannia. It was not a favourable review.
Unfortunately, this now left Alastair in a most undesirable predicament. Without the dramatic demise of Rex Flynn, intrepid explorer and most fearsome Lupe to ever wield a blade, the book was nothing.
Alastair heaved himself out of his armchair with a sigh, tossing the unfinished chapter on the floor. His white fur was dishevelled after a long, sleepless night and his eyes were red-rimmed. Yawning, he briefly stopped to tousle the mane of Figaro, his sleeping Noil, before opening the front door and retrieving the newly delivered Neopian Times.
Focussed on the front page of the newspaper, Alastair very nearly missed the small fragment of fabric that floated past in the light morning breeze. But he did see it and, throwing a paw out, quickly put a halt to its progress.
“What have we here?” he murmured, flipping the square over in his paws. His eyes widened to saucers as he slowly drank in the intricately drawn image. “Fyora above! A secret laboratory map piece! I’d heard rumours but never imagined...”
He sank to his front step. His tail started drumming against the ground again. Not from frustration this time, oh no: Alastair had finally found inspiration!
“Okay, Fig. You know the plan? Keep your eyes out for any pieces of laboratory map. They’ll be scarce, but we can find them.”
The noil nodded enthusiastically.
“Alright, you take the lefthand side. I’ll go right. Shout out if you find anything!”
Alastair eyed the miles of queued Neopians with a great deal of apprehension. His oh-so-brilliant idea was looking a little less ingenious. After a hasty breakfast he and Figaro had rushed into Neopia Central to secure their place on the first ferry of the morning to Mystery Island – home of the Trading Post. As far as the eye could see, pets and owners had set up little tables laden with their belongings, eager to begin the day’s trading. Some booths were flanked with rather burly Skeiths and Alastair could only imagine what sort of priceless artefacts required such a guard.
Figaro had already trundled away so Alastair quickly set off down his allocated half of the grounds. He marvelled at the bottled faeries and lingered a little too long over a plushie petpet paint brush. He narrowly avoided being hit by a rotten left boot being flung back at a mischievous baby Shoyru who had just offered it in exchange for a faerie paint brush. He saw treasured, ancient, one-of-a-kind tomes and delicately swaddled Draik eggs. He saw stacked towers of jellies and omelettes – any flavour you could think of – and even decidedly malodourous piles of dung, of all things. Traders came and went all morning, but not a single piece of secret laboratory map was to be found.
At noon, it was a despondent Alastair who trudged to the other end of the Post searching for his noil. In his pocket he had two thirds of a sausage omelette carefully wrapped in a serviette (he’d traded a bottle of blue sand for it). Eventually he spotted his friend at one of the tables. Figaro was being quite thoroughly fawned over by an enthusiastic pink Kougra.
Alastair cleared his throat as he approached.
“I believe you’ve found my noil for me.”
Figaro rolled his eyes, clearly unhappy at the interruption.
The Kougra grinned sheepishly.
“I guess I have. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise he was being missed. He is certainly a cute fellow, isn’t he!”
“Uh, yes. Cute,” Alastair replied, slightly bewildered. “Nonetheless, we really must go. The uh, cute noil, Fig, was supposed to be looking for secret laboratory map pieces.”
“I know that, silly! That’s how he found me. I’m selling eight pieces of the map. I was saving for the last one but then my brother, Humphrey, had a change of heart and didn’t want to be zapped. So now he’s decided to be painted royal. I’m not fussed with the colour myself but it’s his life.” She shrugged. “Of course, I am a little disappointed that I don’t get to meet the great scientist. It would have been just a brilliant adventure!”
Alastair grinned wryly at her animated speech.
“I’m Alastair,” he said, offering a paw. “And I have a propo-”
“Alastair? And Fig... – this is Figaro? You’re Alastair, the author of Ogrin Survivor?!” the Kougra squealed with apparent enthusiasm. “Oh my Fyora, I can’t believe I’m actually meeting you. I love your books,” she gushed.
Alastair nodded shyly.
“Look, I have a proposal,” he added hastily, desperately trying to change the subject. “I have-”
“I’m Isla,” she interrupted again, belatedly pumping his proffered paw.
“Isla,” Alastair said firmly before she could gain momentum. “Could you just listen for a moment?”
She nodded mutely.
“Excellent.” He chanced a smile and reached into his pocket. “I have here the ninth piece of the lab map. You have the other eight. I would like to buy them.”
“You?” she gushed before clapping her paws over her mouth. “Sorry, no talking. But why do you want to be zapped by the ray? Scary things happen down there. I once heard-”
“Yes, me,” Alastair laughed. “I’m doing research for my new book. My editor won’t let me kill off the main character so I have something else in mind.”
“Wow,” Isla gasped, wide-eyed. “That sounds amazing!”
She shifted anxiously from paw to paw, clearly wanting to add something else.
Alastair anticipated the question.
“Isla, do you want to come with me to see the scientist?”
“So Rex Flynn strikes the final blow to the Esophagor when he finds himself pinned down by the Brain Tree’s branches. Because the bad guys were in cahoots all along, you see. Now, in the original, the Esophagor would reach up in his dying throes and crush Rex into oblivion. Agatha thinks that that might be seen as a little morbid. I beg to differ but apparently it’s not important what the author thinks.” Alastair grinned.
He reached a paw back to help Isla over a fallen branch. The pair (and Figaro, of course) were making their way to one of the most secret locations in Neopia. And the going was tough. Alastair was passing the time doing what he did best – storytelling – and his companion was hanging on his every word.
“So what will happen now? Rex Flynn is trapped by the Brain Tree. The Esophagor’s dead... isn’t he? What will Rex do?”
Alastair simply smiled cheekily. Isla hit the back of his arm.
“No! You can’t do that,” she laughed. “You have to finish the story now that you’ve started.”
“Look,” he said, smiling over his shoulder, “I’m still mulling most of it over. But it’s coming along nicely. A little more research and I promise, I will fill you in compl- ARGH!”
A yellow Scorchio appeared mere feet in front of Alastair. White hair radiated out in all directions from the Scorchio’s head, as if trying to maintain as great as possible a distance between itself and the scalp. He wore a tattered and slightly charred lab coat that one could only assume was originally white in colour. But what most captured the travelling duo’s attention were his eyes. Beneath the two pitch black caterpillars that passed as eyebrows, were a pair of the largest eyes either of them had ever seen. The deep orange swirls were almost hypnotic...
“Welcome,” the scientist rumbled. “So you have found your way to my lab, have you?”
Alastair regained his composure.
“Very well. Follow me and you may partake in my newest experiment.”
Isla gulped and grasped Alastair’s paw.
“Are you sure about this?”
He scooped Figaro up under his other arm and nodded firmly.
“I’m a writer, Isla. Research is essential.”
The scientist led them through a series of secret doors built into the face of the mountain. Natural light faded as they gradually made their way deeper underground and small, discarded pieces of machinery began appearing in the passageway. Eventually, they burst into an open cavern. Computers and machines of varying appearances took up nearly all the floor space. Except, however, for a large circular space in the centre of the room. Directly above it was the reason why.
The laboratory ray. Isla regarded it with great wonder. She snuck a sidelong glance at Alastair and found him equally entranced with the contraption.
“Which of you will it be then?” The scientist’s enquiry interrupted their thoughts. “I can’t do the little fellow,” he said, gesturing at Figaro, “but I know another chap who has a device for things like him, if you like.”
Alastair quickly tucked Figaro behind his back.
“No, not him. Me. I’m going to do it.”
“Hang on! What do you mean you’re going to do it? This is just research, isn’t it? Let’s look around, take some notes and get out of here!”
Both Alastair and the scientist frowned.
“Look here, young miss. That’s not how this works,” the Scorchio began.
Alastair raised a paw and halted the other’s outburst.
“Isla, I have to research this thoroughly. I have to be able to describe exactly what Rex Flynn goes through-”
“Rex Flynn?” the scientist asked with some interest. “Say, you’re not that writer chap, by chance?”
“No. You must have me confused with somebody else. Shall we just proceed?”
The scientist harrumphed and grudgingly pointed to a scuffed X on the floor. Some ominous maroon stains were splattered across it and Alastair decided he’d rather not know their origin. He gazed up at the pointed tip of the ray and began to feel the first threads of fear course through his veins. The end of his tail thudded anxiously against the ground and he fought to regain control of the tick. ‘Research is good,’ he told himself. ‘This is your bestseller.’
“Alastair! What if you turn into a frog?” Isla called.
“Just release me into the mortog pond in Meridell,” he murmured under his breath, refusing to acknowledge that the same thought had been playing on his mind.
A clicking noise suddenly filled the air and gradually increased in volume until it was near deafening. Until, out of the blue, it stopped. Only to be replaced in the next instant by a high pitched whine. Alastair felt his paws trembling.
Then, without warning, a beam of light erupted from the machine and engulfed his body. The ray clicked off and, as quickly as it had begun, it was all over. The cavern was silent again, save for a faint whir as the device settled down.
“Oh, for the love of Fyora...”
Alastair heard the whisper and whirled around to face Isla.
“What? What is it? I feel the same. Nothing has changed.”
“That’s what they all say to start with, dearie,” the Scorchio snickered to Isla. “There’s a mirror to your right, boyo.”
Alastair turned slowly, not wanting to know what, if anything, had happened. At first he didn’t realise what he saw in the mirror. A blue Gnorbu stared back at him. He spun around, wondering who the new addition to their party was. But there was no one there. He faced the mirror again and realisation sank in.
Alastair reclined in his seat, muscles still a little sore after his adventure. He was back in Neopia Central and currently sitting in his editor’s office at White Weewoo Publishing Ltd. Agatha laughed a little as she flipped over the second to last page of his manuscript.
“A Gnorbu?” she chuckled again, laying down the final page. “What on earth inspired that?”
“It’s a long story.” Alastair smiled.
“It’s different, Allie. But good. Very, very good. I can’t wait to read the sequel.”
She shook his paw over the desk and grinned at his slightly stunned expression. He could still hear her laughing to herself as he walked out of the office: “Rex Flynn, a Gnorbu!”
Isla caught up with him as he entered the marketplace.
“Well? How did she like it?”
“Loved it,” he beamed, smugly. “She wants a sequel.”
“Congratulations! I knew she would,” she squealed. “So, where to now?”
“Well, as lovely as it is just to be a Gelert again,” he said, gesturing to his newly obtained red form (thank you, morphing potions!), “a certain white paintbrush and I have a date at the Rainbow Pool.”
“I don’t know, Alastair. I sort of like the Gnorbu look on you.”
He took the jibe good-naturedly and shook his head.
“Never again. Anyway, after that I was thinking I should get started on this sequel. Perhaps a little research is in order... if you’re up for it, that is.”