An Unlucky Day: Part One
“That will be 15,000 neopoints,” the innkeeper, a checkered Pteri, said.
The low figure pleased Evinti; even after living in Brightvale for four months, the ridiculously low prices still surprised and amazed the skunk Wocky. The same room would have cost twice that amount in Neopia Central, and it would have been on a noisy, crowded street instead of a quiet lane. These country pets led such simple lives, and they barely seemed to try to make a profit. That was an extremely good thing, because Evinti was rather pressed for money at that particular moment. However, all pleasant feelings evaporated as he reached for his wallet only to find that it was missing.
How poetic. Evinti, the thief who had organized countless heists in the past was now the victim of a theft. Well, at least he could be certain that his streak of bad luck was still going. Ever since he had left Neopia Central around ten months ago, it seemed that his luck had been getting progressively worse. By now, Evinti had convinced himself that this was not just natural bad luck, but some sort of curse. That was the whole point of his journey; he was going to Faerieland to get this curse lifted (hopefully for free).
“Excuse me,” the checkered Pteri prompted, “do you have the money? You’ve just been staring off into space looking slightly alarmed. You kind of need to pay me, you know, so that we can stay in business.”
Weren’t country pets supposed to be painfully polite? “Um, no, actually. My wallet appears to have mysteriously changed colour to invisible. And become impossible to feel.”
“So you lost it?”
“No. Someone stole it,” the Wocky said, speaking slowly in the patronizing tone one might use with a toddler. A small, detached portion of his mind noted that he was losing his temper far more quickly than usual. Well, traveling for tiring days on end hadn’t exactly given him a sunny disposition. “It’s a really great place you run around here, considering that my wallet got stolen in the half-hour it took to eat your bland breakfast,” he added.
The Pteri narrowed her eyes at Evinti. “We are not responsible for customers’ items or their actions. And yes, ‘actions’ includes losing your wallet. Go back to your room to find it. If you are unable to, I’ll find some work for you to do as payment. Perhaps you can help the cook with our ‘bland breakfast’.” That same detached portion of Evinti’s mind wondered what the Pteri’s excuse for rudeness was.
“Alright then.” Evinti turned and walked back up to his room, tense with frustration. Great, it wasn’t even ten a.m. yet, and his day was already miserable.
Close inspection of Evinti’s room held no pleasant surprises. His wallet was nowhere to be found, although he discovered several lost articles of clothing and a few unidentifiable, crusty objects that may have once been food.
Defeat slowing his steps, he returned to the Pteri. Upon seeing Evinti’s obvious defeat, she grinned manically. He made a mental note to be more considerate to people he might need mercy from in the future. “So you didn’t find your wallet.” It was a smug statement, not a question.
“Indeed I did not. What odious task will you inflict upon me today?”
“Like I said before, you’re going to help the cook. And don’t worry, I already told him what you thought of his food.” This was exactly why Evinti had issues accepting other people’s authority. Once you gave someone power, they would almost invariably abuse it.
“Where is the kitchen?” Evinti sighed.
“It’s through the door behind the counter where the food is served. Once you get to the kitchen, find a chocolate Aisha. He is the chef. Have fun!” The cheery note in the Pteri’s voice as she said the last part was the most terrifying thing Evinti had heard in a long time.
Scowling and feeling disheartened, Evinti made his way to the kitchen. It was amazingly loud and chaotic considering that there were only ten people in the room, eleven counting Evinti. Frying food sizzled, boiling food bubbled, cutlery clinked together and there was a remarkable amount of yelling. A tall, bulky chocolate Aisha (presumably the cook) loudly admonished a glowing Gelert who appeared to be about twelve years old.
Evinti cleared his throat. “I’m here to—” he broke off. The cook hadn’t even noticed him. “Excuse me,” he began. Still no response. “Excuse me! I’m sorry if I’m interrupting, but what am I supposed to do?” Evinti had walked right up to the cook and was practically yelling.
The cook broke off and stared at Evinti, clearly surprised at the outburst. Evinti was a little surprised, too. He hadn’t really meant to yell.
“You must be Cochen. Alyss told me to expect you.” The cook looked Evinti over.
Evinti, remembering just in time that Cochen was the name he had given the inn, nodded. Alyss must have been the rude innkeeper. “What do you want me to do? I admit that I don’t have any experience in the kitchen.”
“You don’t need any experience to clean dishes. Just don’t drop anything or cut yourself. Yendir here will dry the dishes. So long as he doesn’t drop any more of them, that is,” the cook added with a stern look at the young Neopet he had been yelling at when Evinti had entered.
Evinti approached the sink. His introduction to the cook had been somewhat anticlimactic, considering the build-up the innkeeper given him. It seemed that the cook was nice enough if you didn’t mess up. Considering the way his day was going, he was probably doomed. One look in the sink told Evinti that this day was about to get worse. Dirty dishes covered with caked-on porridge towered and pots surrounded the sink, their contents congealing. How did such a small inn produce so many dishes?
Rolling up his sleeves and cringing at the disgusting dishwater, Evinti began cleaning the dishes. This was demeaning. If he had wanted to do other people’s dirty work, he wouldn’t have left the Thieves’ Guild. This job made his work on Krawk Island look glamorous.
“So, what’s your name?” A young voice interrupted Evinti’s thoughts. The small glowing Gelert, Yendir, was speaking.
“Ev—Cochen,” Evinti stuttered, remembering a few moments too late that he was under an assumed name. He was terrible at this false identity thing.
“What are you doing here?” The kid was speaking. Hopefully he was just curious and wasn’t going to continuously pester Evinti with questions.
“I stayed here overnight. Then, when it came time for me to pay, I found out that my wallet had been stolen. I then proceeded to get angry and wound up working in here to pay off my bill.”
“Why are you traveling?”
Yep, the kid was going to keep questioning him. How irritating. Evinti decided to answer any future questions with blatant lies to see if he would get the hint. At any rate, making up random fibs was fun! “I’m looking for rare petpets; that’s my job after all.”
“Just rare ones, like the...” Evinti cast a furtive glance around the kitchen, seeking naming inspiration “Three Legged... Spanork. Yes, Spanork.”
“What is a Spanork?”
“Its body looks like a pan, it has a beak like a spoon and it has three legs like forks. I’ve heard rumors that one has been running around this area.”
“Well, I haven’t seen it.” The kid pondered this, providing about two milliseconds of silence before piping up again. “Where did you come from?”
“Um, Jelly World.”
“Where’s Jelly World?”
“It’s a neighborhood in Neopia Central and it’s made entirely from jelly. It’s lovely this time of year, though it can get a little melted during the summer.” Evinti fought to keep his voice and face deadpan. How could the kid buy this Kau dung?
“Do you get free jelly there?”
“Yes, once a day. In fact—”
SMASH! The bowl, seemingly of its own volition, jumped from Evinti’s paws and smashed on the floor. Oops.
“What have you done?!” the cook howled, appearing seemingly from nowhere, suddenly enraged.
“I tried to stop it, but your bowl; it just jumped out of my hands. There was nothing I could do,” Evinti explained, adding, “Apparently kitchen experience is needed for washing dishes.”
“You think you’re funny? You have ruined a wonderful bowl! For that, I’m going to make you work for an extra two hours. And you can mop the floors, hopefully you won’t mess that up.” The chef produced a mop and bucket, seemingly from nowhere, and handed them to Evinti. “Now get out there and clean.”
The eating area was full of pets. Another stagecoach must been about to leave. That was one of the main points of the inn. It was near the station for the coaches often served travelers. Evinti now regretted his decision to walk from Brightvale. He should have taken a coach instead. While it would have been a little more pricey, the speed and ease would have made up for that. Well, no use regretting his decision now, he was already two days in to the journey and a little over half way there.
The patrons managed to track mud everywhere, so Evinti had no end of work to do. Still, mopping proved to be better than washing dishes. Sure, he had to work around people and furniture, but he didn’t have to touch anything with his paws other than the mop.
“Evinti, what a surprise! So, have you finally gotten an honest job?” an ice Hissi wearing the fancy Gothic attire that was all the rage in Neovia exclaimed in a warm tone. Was there no peace? Why couldn’t Evinti work anywhere without someone talking to him?
“Kwetsilcoatl, what are you doing here?” Evinti tried not to let his alarm show. Although he radiated mystery in a way that no spy should, Kwetsilcoatl was probably the best-informed Neopet in the world. He had a wide web of informants and only left his Neovian mansion if he was investigating something important. The fact that he had crossed paths with Evinti seemingly by accident probably meant that something big was about to happen.
“I’m on vacation, if you must know. What are you doing? It seems to be honest work, but I somehow can’t imagine you being happy in a rural place like this, doing something as menial and low-paying as this.”
“I stayed here for the night and while I was eating breakfast my wallet was stolen. Now I have the honor and privilege of working to pay for my room.” Evinti sighed. “Anyways, I’m actually looking for an honest job. Lately, I haven’t been able to do anything right. Seriously, though, what do you actually want?”
“Perhaps I just want to speak with an old friend,” Kwetsilcoatl suggested. vinti snorted derisively at the word ‘friend’.
“Since I’m the only one you seem to be talking to, I’m going to guess that you have a different reason for being here.”
“Don’t be so harsh, but, yes, I do have an ulterior motive for talking to you.” The posh Hissi gave Evinti a strained smile. “If you really are so keen to avoid small talk, I will tell you that seeing you in such an unexpected place has aroused my curiosity. I would like to know what you’re up to these days.”
“Why, is Gerald still looking for me and you want to tell him where I am?”
“No, I’m just personally curious. I have a feeling that something interesting is about to happen and you are going to be a part of it. It seems advantageous to keep tabs on you.”
That seemed somewhat ominous. “Will I be getting anything in return?”
“Of course. I know the value of information better than anyone.”
“You won’t give this information out to anyone who might use it against me, will you.” Evinti cringed inwardly at the unintentional pleading note in his voice.
“Okay then. Ask away.”
“For starters, why are you in this inn in the middle of nowhere?” Evinti wondered if Kwetsilcoatl had intentionally phrased his question to maximize the use of the word ‘in’ and its homophone.
“Well, I’m headed for Faerieland. It’s a long story.”
“I have a while before I have to make my coach, so explain away.”
“Ever since I left Neopia Central, my luck has been getting progressively worse. I usually rely on complicated schemes, but I couldn’t get anything to go right on Krawk Island. It got to the point where I had to resort to—” Evinti paused and looked around, checking to make sure that no one was paying them attention, no one was, so he resumed his story. “Mugging. It ended quite badly with the loss of my stun gun. It’s gotten bad enough that I’m actually trying to find honest work. Not that I’ve been able to find any. Lately, my life has been an unending stream of humiliation and bad luck. I’m running out of options.” He took a moment to sigh. “Anyways, I don’t know what else to do, so I’m headed to Faerieland to see if I’m cursed or something. I know it sounds stupid, but in the past few months I haven’t had one instance of good luck. Also, the Faerieland Employment Agency might be able to help me out.”
“Interesting.” Evinti had no idea what the Hissi was thinking. “Where have you been since you left Krawk Island?”
“Brightvale. I’ve been trying to avoid places where Gerald’s Thieves Guild has any influence. Anyways, that’s why I’m passing through here on my way to Faerieland.”
“Brightvale. Hmm. Have you stolen anything interesting while you’ve been living there?”
“Nothing. At all. I’m have horrible luck.”
“I didn’t think so. An acquaintance of mine had something valuable stolen recently, so I thought I’d ask. Have you noticed anything interesting, strange or otherwise noteworthy that over the past few months?”
“Not really. I’ve been so busy trying to get enough money to eat that I simply don’t have enough time for my usual habit of sticking my nose into places where it doesn’t belong. I know that the Brightvalian Archives decided to finally organize in the aftermath of that business with Faerieland, and they found some rare and interesting things, some of which may or may not be illegally for sale. Other than that, however, I haven’t heard much news. Do you want to know anything else?”
“That will be all, I think. I have something that you may wish to know, though, and I think that it is suitable payment for the information you have given me.”
“What is it?”
“Well, Gerald is still looking for you. He is convinced that you are plotting against him and I suggest that you don’t let him find you.”
“I thought that you said that he wasn’t looking for me.”
“I only said that I wasn’t going to tell him where you are.”
“Seriously?” Evinti’s yell drew a few curious glances from the inn’s patrons, but he didn’t care. “Gerald is still looking for me? Still! He is so paranoid. I want nothing to do with him or his Thieves Guild; why can’t he just accept that?” Evinti paused after the outburst, somewhat appreciating Kwetsilcoatl’s surprised look. “Does he know where I am yet?”
“I haven’t spoken with him in a while; he doesn’t trust me at all anymore. Or anyone else, for that matter. Last I knew, he still thought that you were on Krawk Island. He may have noticed that you left by now, but I’m almost certain that he doesn’t know that you are in Brightvale. If you keep your head down, I doubt that he’ll find you any time soon. After all, as you know, the main Thieves Guild is still keeping him from getting any kind of foothold there.”
“That’s good to hear, I guess. I wish that he would just give up, though. Anything else I should know?”
“No. Just keep your eyes open, something big is about to happen. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a coach to catch.” And with that, the enigmatic ice Hissi stood up (or whatever it is Neopets who lack legs do) and left the crowded inn.
Evinti stared after the Hissi for a few moments. What a strange encounter. And Gerald was still looking for him. He was going to have to be careful.
Well, back to drudge work. However, it was not to be. With the next sweep of his mop, he managed to knock over the bucket and dirty water splashed over the floor in a miniature tidal wave. Well, wasn’t he accident prone this morning? With a yell of frustration, he stomped out the door. It was time to just cut his losses and leave the stupid inn. After all, he was a criminal. Why follow the law now?
The moment he left the building, Evinti immediately regretted his decision. A thick wall of rain hit him once he left the doorway. Within moments, he was completely soaked. Sigh. It was too late to walk back inside without looking like a complete moron and getting even more work. He would have to find a place to shelter in the next ridiculously small town down the road. As he trudged down the muddy road, Evinti looked at his watch. It was only 10:30 am. Talk about a long day. And, judging from the rain, it was just getting started. Well, at least his luggage wouldn’t get wet, though that was only because he didn’t have any.
After one of the longest half-hours of Evinti’s life, a shelter from the rain appeared in the form of a small cottage at the edge of the forest. Wait, forest? He hadn’t noticed it before, probably because of the driving rain, but the road now ran near a thick forest. Was that supposed to be there? He honestly couldn’t remember. Had he gone too far and met with the Haunted Woods? No, these woods weren’t nearly sinister enough, and now that he thought about it, he was certain that he remembered a forest on the map.
Evinti walked up to the cottage. It seemed to be deserted and it had a slightly creepy atmosphere. No matter, just then he would have entered the shelter even if it had been full of tormented evil spirits that were fully visible through the cottage’s small, dusty windows.
After knocking several times, Evinti waited a minute or so for a response and then tried the door. It wasn’t even locked. Evinti pushed the door open and called out. There was still no response. Evinti closed the door behind him as he walked inside.
The cottage wasn’t very impressive. It consisted of one small room with no furniture and a thick layer of dust and cobwebs that indicated that no one had been in here for quite some time. It would be a great place to settle down until the rain stopped. Evinti took off his shoes and socks and set them out so they would dry a little faster. Then he took off his soaked suit jacket and tried to place it somewhere relatively clean with his hat resting beside it.
After settling himself on the floor, Evinti realized that he was quite tired. He had nothing better to do until the rain stopped than sleep, so he lay down and tried to make himself comfortable. He’d probably wake up feeling sore from the hard floor, but for now he just wanted to sleep. Resting his head on him arms, he drifted off with surprising ease considering his soaked clothes and the earliness of the day.
To be continued...