No Fun, No Profit, and 500 Cans of Achyfi
Author's Note: The following story references events which occurred in the previous two stories in the "Fun and Profit" series, which can be found here and here. You don't strictly have to read them first, but they do provide some context for what's going on in this story.
I awoke to the sound of somebody pounding wildly on the front door.
Reluctantly, I opened my eyes and noticed, with great displeasure, that it was still dark. I almost always kept the curtains of my bedroom window drawn, so I could wake up with the sun. I liked to think of myself as a morning Poogle.
For me, however, the morning didn't start until the sun rose. Getting an early start was generally a good thing, but there was such a thing as "too early."
4:52 A.M. certainly qualified.
Who in their right mind would be knocking on my door at this hour?
Growling, I wriggled out of bed and stomped over to the front door, glancing balefully at my sister's bedroom. I didn't have to check to know Laena was still sleeping. That Kougra could sleep through the Great Meepit Apocalypse and wake up, fresh as a Sillie Daisy and twice as cheerful.
I opened the door. "What in the name of Neopia do you think you're doing?"
The uniformed Blue Kacheek at the door smiled brightly. "Special delivery," he said.
"You have the wrong house," I said. I certainly hadn't ordered anything. Had Laena? If so, she hadn't mentioned it, though she might have just forgotten to tell me.
The Kacheek's expression faltered for a moment. "But... my clipboard. It says right here," he pointed, "that I'm supposed to deliver some drinks to this address as soon as possible. See? That's your house address."
I looked. It was, indeed, my address.
"So these five hundred cans of Achyfi are definitely yours," said the Kacheek, nodding decisively.
"Five hundred cans of what now?" Now I knew this couldn't be Laena's doing. She couldn't stand Achyfi. I wasn't overly fond of it either. "There must be some mistake."
The delivery-Kacheek looked back at his clipboard, then up at me. "Is your name Eversunkau, or Laena?"
I considered saying no, but it really wouldn't have been fair to the poor Kacheek to make him take all those cans back after he'd gone to the trouble of delivering them. "Yes," I sighed. "My name is Eversunkau."
"Then I hope you enjoy your Achyfi! The guy who sent it to you must be pretty generous, to send so much. Can't stand the stuff myself, but I guess you must be quite a fan!"
I didn't bother contradicting him. "What guy?" I asked. "He wasn't a Darigan Eyrie named Aevatrist, by any chance, was it?" If that blasted featherbrain was responsible for waking me up and inflicting all this Achyfi on me, I was going to... to... to have some very stern words with him, when I saw him again.
"Don't think so. My clipboard says," the Kacheek consulted it briefly, "that the sender is named... huh. What kind of name is Two-Eyed Jim? Anyways, it's been great talking with you, but I've got lots of other deliveries to make. See you!" He skipped off to his Uni-drawn delivery cart, leaving me with a pile of boxes sitting on my front porch.
I watched him and his partner roll away, then took another look at the Achyfi.
A folded piece of paper was taped to one of the boxes. I took it and started to read:
Dear Eversunkau and Laena,
Having no family of my own that deserves any, and being quite sick of havin' this stuff onboard the ship, I've decided to ship some of Achyfi to ye. Y'know, sharin' the joy and all that whatnot. I'm not rightly sure where Aevatrist is, and if he's a wise Eyrie he'll keep to himself and not go wavin' his newfound hat around, but since he mentioned havin' a family back home, I thought I'd send a little something your way. Aevatrist was a fine... all right, he was a halfway decent pirate, and it wasn't at all bad servin' beside him for the brief period I knew him.
Yours in piracy,
Oh, joy. Apparently, my wayward brother had taken up with pirates. Achyfi-drinking pirates, no less. Better not to wonder too much about how, when he'd been headed to Mystery Island to get some training. I had a whole list of chores ready for him to make up for the Neopoints he'd stolen out of the family bank account to buy codestones.
But, like Two-Eyed Jim, I had no idea where Aevatrist was. I had no doubt he'd show up back home sooner or later, probably with no Neopoints and a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob in pursuit.
For now, I had more immediate problems to deal with.
I took the paper and went back inside. It was entirely too early to think about what in Fyora's name I was going to do with five hundred cans of a soda I didn't even like.
Perhaps some opportunistic criminal would whisk the cans away while I slept.
But I wasn't feeling especially lucky today.
Eversunkau looked unusually grumpy at breakfast this morning.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
She looked at me, swallowed, and answered, "Our beloved brother has, somehow, become acquainted with a pirate named Two-Eyed Jim. Said pirate has generously sent us some Achyfi." She dug her spoon into her bowl of cereal. I've never seen anyone manage to make eating cereal look angry before. I felt kind of sorry for the poor, abused Cinnamon Toasties.
"That doesn't sound so bad," I said. I didn't like Achyfi, but it was always nice to get presents, even if they weren't really what you wanted. It was the thought that counted, right?
"Five hundred cans."
"Five hundred... where would a pirate get five hundred cans of Achyfi?"
Eversunkau paused. "Wherever he wants, I suppose. The real question is, what are we going to do with them? I'm not too keen on the idea of drinking them."
I grimaced. "Me neither." While the thought definitely counted, it didn't count quite enough to make me want to actually suffer through a few hundred cans of that dreadful drink. "Um... I'm sure there's someone out there who likes Achyfi. All we have to do is find them."
My sister took another bite of cereal, chewing thoughtfully. "Maybe. Though I'm not really sure where to start looking."
"I have a few ideas," I said, pushing away my half-eaten bowl of cereal. "I'll just fly over and check on a couple people, okay?" Being painted Faerie was good for much more than just looking pretty. "Leave it to me!"
I didn't wait for her to answer. There were places to go, people to see, and horrible soft drinks to give away!
Of course Laena left me to rinse out all the breakfast dishes.
I didn't mind so much when she did it--she just got so caught up with things, such mundane tasks as washing the dishes completely slipped her mind.
Aevatrist, on the other hand, liked to weasel out of chores whenever possible. Maybe he didn't care if the house looked like a Snorkle sty, but I certainly did.
The house had been a lot neater after Aevatrist had run off, that was for certain.
After I was finished with that, I went outside to check on the Achyfi. I counted the boxes--yep, all of them were present and accounted for.
Laena would probably be gone for a while yet. Struck by sudden curiosity, I opened up the box labeled as Chocolate and Asparagus Achyfi. I'd never seen that flavor before, though I'll admit I don't examine the Achyfi section of the Fresh Foods shop too closely. What could possibly possess the makers of Achyfi to create such an odd flavor? Surely, something so anti-intuitive must have something going for it, or the company wouldn't still be making it.
I pulled out a can, popped it open, and took a swig.
I swallowed, hard, and then poured the rest of the can out on the front lawn.
How did these people stay in business?
Well, at least there were only four hundred and ninety-nine cans of Achyfi to deal with now.
I went back inside, tossed the empty can into the recycling bin, put on some sunscreen (even though, as a Fire Poogle, I didn't generally get sunburned), and went out to the backyard to do some gardening.
After I'd finished pulling out all the weeds that dared invade my little tract of land, Laena opened the back door, looking rather discouraged.
"No luck, huh?" I asked.
"The Soup Faerie said she had no intention of adding Achyfi Soup to her menu, the Money Tree said he'd really rather we didn't put that many cans in the donation pile all at once, and Jhudora said she really doesn't want any Achyfi at the moment. She did give me this lollypop, though." Laena brandished the candy, which grinned malevolently at me. "She's really not so mean as everyone says, I don't think."
"Wait a minute--Jhudora? How did you manage to fly all the way to Faerieland and back in such a short time?" And if she'd suddenly acquired superspeed, why not go ask a faerie less inclined towards curses and poison?
"I didn't. I just happened to see Jhudora in the Marketplace when I was flying over. She said something about an 'unlicensed use of her name' and that she was going to talk to the people at Achyfi Enterprises about it."
"...I see," I said. Maybe Laena had the right idea, though. If all else failed, maybe we could get one of the faeries to take some of the Achyfi off our hands. Maybe those blasted beverages were vital to the rebuilding project or something. With all of the other odd things faeries had asked me for over the years, I wouldn't count the possibility out.
But I really, really didn't want to have to lug those cans all the way to Faerieland, even if it was a little easier for non-flying Neopets to get to these days.
"All right," I said, straightening up and swiveling a bit to work the kinks out of my spine, "different plan. We need to get somebody to drink all of this Achyfi. It's not going to be you, and it's definitely not going to be me. So how... wait. I think I know."
"How are we going to do it, then?" Laena asked.
I smiled, pleased with my sudden burst of genius. "We're going to hold an Achyfi-drinking competition. Winner gets... hm. We'll need to come up with some sort of prize that's nice enough that people will want to actually drink this stuff, but not so expensive that we can't afford it." I thought for a few moments. "Maybe a set of codestones." Codestones had, in a roundabout way, gotten us into this mess in the first place. It was only right that codestones get us out again.
"I'll go get them!" said Laena brightly, her tail lashing like it always did when she was excited. "You want one of each, right?"
"Yes, that should be fine. Maybe see if you can buy a cheap, generic plastic trophy too."
"Okay!" She popped the lollipop into her mouth, then darted off.
Now, all we had to do was get the word out...
I took a bit longer than I wanted to, because a few minutes after I finished my lollypop, my tongue got all swollen, and I had to visit the Pharmacy and get a Tongue Shrinker. Maybe I was allergic to something in that lollypop. It did taste sort of funny.
At any rate, I managed to find all the codestones I needed with the Shop Wizard's help. I looked for a trophy for a while, but couldn't find one that fit until the Shop Wizard suggested I try using the plastic trophy cup from an Altador Cup Sundae. I bought two, and gave one to him as a thank you present.
I ate the other on my way home, then rinsed out the cup in the sink. In the living room, Eversunkau had paper and markers strewn out all around the floor.
"Would you help me make some posters?" she asked.
"Oh, sure!" I picked up a purple marker and flopped down on the ground. Eversunkau handed me one of the posters she'd already written so I could have a model to copy from. I carefully wrote out all of the information--we were going to hold the contest in the park, tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 P.M., and the prize would be a full set of ten codestones and everlasting fame as the Grand Achyfi Champion.
She'd also written something in tinier letters about this contest not being endorsed by Achyfi Enterprises. I copied that, too, then added flowers around the border of the poster, and a few pictures of happy, dancing cans of Achyfi.
After we'd made enough posters, Eversunkau sent me to put them up all over the neighborhood.
I couldn't wait until tomorrow. This was going to be fun!
After some hasty alterations to the Altador Cup Sundae cup (involving covering the Altador Cup logo with a crushed can of Dirt Achyfi), we were all set.
It took some doing to get all the remaining four hundred ninety-eight cans of Achyfi to the park for the contest, but sometimes, having Lab Ray-enhanced strength really came in handy. Given that the cans didn't fight back, my Lab Ray-non-enhanced Defense didn't come into play, for which I was grateful.
Now all we had to do was wait for the scores of excited Neopians to show up!
Or so I thought.
When 1:30 came rolling around, we had exactly six contestants--a Blue Lupe, a Purple Chia, a Magma Xweetok, a Split Grarrl, a Faerie Skeith, and a mysterious cloaked figure who, for some reason, was wearing a pirate hat on top of his or her hood. I did some quick mental calculations--if everyone drank around 83 cans of Achyfi, we were set.
"Ladies and gentlepets!" I exclaimed, smiling as brightly as I could. "Welcome to the first, and perhaps last, Completely Unofficial Achyfi Drinking Competition! The winner will leave with fabulous prizes and undying fame! The losers will no doubt leave with many happy memories and a great story they can tell to their children someday."
"Um... can we start already?" asked the Kacheek.
"Sure. Fine." I gestured to the boxes of Achyfi sitting out on the grass. "May the thirstiest Neopet win."
Two minutes later, all but the mysterious cloaked figure had quit.
"I'm sorry," said the Skeith, "but no amount of codestones is worth this. I mean, seriously? Chocolate and Asparagus-flavored soda? How do these people stay in business?"
The other four quitters echoed his sentiments. I looked over at Laena, who had been busily keeping a tally of every can of Achyfi drunk.
"Um, so far," she said, "we've gotten rid of fourteen cans of Achyfi. Does it count towards the contest total if the contestant makes the soda evaporate, rather than drinking it?"
The Magma Xweetok found herself on the receiving end of several accusatory glares. She shrugged, smiling innocently.
"Um..." I thought for a moment. "...probably not." I glanced over at the cloaked contestant, who was still chugging down Achyfi. After finishing one last can, the cloaked contestant looked back at me.
"Did I win?" he asked, in a voice that sounded entirely too familiar.
For a few moments, I struggled to find the proper words. "...Aevatrist? What are you doing here, and where did you get that hat? You didn't... tell me you didn't steal that from a pirate. Please."
My brother swept the hat and hood off his head with what he clearly intended to be a dramatic gesture. "I've come home, of course! Did you miss me? I'm sure you did. And I did steal this hat from a pirate. A pirate captain, in fact! It's a thrilling story, actually. But first, I won, right? I get the codestones?"
I looked at Laena. She nodded.
"Yes, you won, Aevatrist," I said, "and the codestones you've just won will certainly let you pay back a fraction of the money you stole."
"Oh." He looked down at the hat in his paws. "I'd sort of hoped you'd forgotten about that."
"No. I have not."
The other five Neopets, apparently not wanting to get involved with a family dispute, and having no reason to stick around now that the contest was over, drifted away, leaving Aevatrist, Laena and I to discuss matters.
"We really did you a lot, though!" Laena said. "I wish you'd written, or even just sent a postcard or something."
"Well, I was kind of busy," he replied.
"Busy stealing hats?" I shook my head. "How did you even end up mingling with pirates? Did you get lost on the way to Mystery Island?"
"No! I got there just fine, thank you," he said, puffing out his chest. "I simply intimidated the other students at the Mystery Island Training School so much, they had to ask me to leave before I scared away all the newbies."
"Of course. So you boarded a pirate ship."
"The pirates were really impressed by me, so they agreed to take me anywhere I wanted to go. Except for the captain. Her name was Alcyona, and she was envious of my good looks and toned muscles, so she challenged me to single combat! We fought a climactic duel. During a thunderstorm. With lots of lightning."
"Um, Aevatrist..." said Laena.
Aevatrist continued, completely oblivious to the pirates who were coming this way. "With my superior skill and Kadoatie-like reflexes, I got the best of her, and took this hat as my trophy!"
There were five pirates total. Four of them were carrying what I'd first thought to be a litter, but that I now realized was a shallow tub. The fifth, a conspicuously hatless Pirate Draik, was balancing skillfully on two planks sitting on top of the tub.
"Ye finished spinnin' tales, landlubber?" asked the Draik, her arms crossed.
Aevatrist spun around, his beak hanging open. He collected himself fairly quickly. "Oh. Hi. Um. I thought you couldn't leave your ship, or something?"
The Draik--Alcyona, I presumed--pointed at the planks she was standing on. "These are from my ship, and the water in the tub is from the ocean. Technically, I'm still at sea, aboard my boat. Did ye really think I would let ye get away with stealing my only hat?"
My brother drooped. "Yes. I sort of did."
"And after I took ye in, and made ye one of my own crew! Yer heart must be made of flint!"
"Hey, you kidnapped me! And then you called me 'pretty'!" He paused. "Um, do you think we could call it even?"
She glared. "My hat. Now."
He handed over the hat. "All right. Now can we call it even?"
The Draik thought this over for a few moments. "Oh, I suppose." She glanced over at the four hundred eighty-three cans of Achyfi that were, alas, still undrunk. "Where'd ye get yer paws on those?"
One of the pirates, a Lupe, met my eyes. He shook his head, briefly.
Perhaps he was the mysterious Two-Eyed Jim? If so, he clearly didn't want his captain to know that he'd sent the Achyfi. Perhaps he'd done so without permission.
It would have served him right if I told on him, but...
"Someone sent them to us. Anonymously," I said. I was sure the pirate had meant well, after all.
"I thought you said the guy who sent the Achyfi to us was named Two-Eyed Jim," Laena piped up.
The Lupe winced. The Draik captain narrowed her eyes, then hopped off her perch, fluttering a bit before landing lightly on the grass.
"Well, I'll just be takin' it back, then," said Alcyona. "That's my booty, fair and square, by the Piratin' Code."
"R...Really? All of it? You're going to take every last can?" Could it be? Was I actually going to be free of all that Achyfi?
"I certainly am! I think," she said, glancing coldly at Two-Eyed Jim, "I know somebody who would like to help finish them up."
"Yes, Cap'n," said the Lupe, looking almost as woebegone as my newly-hatless brother.
"Ye can leave the Achyfi right where it is; I'll send some of my crew to pick it up. Have a nice day, now. Except for ye, ye scurvy hat thief," said the Draik, shooting a dark look at Aevatrist. "I'll have my eye on ye." With a flap of her wings, she hopped back up onto the ship boards and gave orders to head back to the ship. We all watched in silence as the pirates disappeared into the distance.
"She... she took my hat," said Aevatrist in a small, sad voice.
I glanced over at him, about to point out that it hadn't really been his hat in the first place... but thought better of it.
"Let's just go home," I said.
So we did.
Everything went back to normal for about a week after that.
Then Aevatrist decided that, rather than paying back his debt via honest labor, he would just find a hidden cache of treasure somewhere.
The last postcard we got from him was from Moltara.
I wish him luck, and hope he doesn't get singed too badly.
He is my brother, after all, and I do love him.
But he's going to get a long, long lecture when he finally comes back again.