Baby Adventures: The Secret Note - Part Two
At the National Neopian, the large Green Skeith peered over his desk suspiciously at the group of youngsters assembled below.
"Hello!" Treaphie greeted him from beneath her Plushie Eyrie Mask. She was dressed in a potato sack, as were her brother and sister. Each had a mask over their face.
"Hello..." he faltered. "Um, it's not Halloween yet..."
"Oh, we know," Kolyae piped up.
"We're just practicing walking around in our costumes," Treaphie explained.
"Yes..." He cleared his throat. "Now, um, name?"
"We'll go under the account Treaphie, please," Treaphie told him.
"Good morning, madam," he recited. "It's great to see you again. What can I do for you today?"
"We'd like to put these in to my account." Treaphie pointed to the sack in a bright yellow wagon that Kolyae and Kasthie were dragging along, faces hidden under Green Uni masks.
The Green Skeith walked out from behind his desk and wheeled the sack over. He lifted it with ease and placed it on a scanner, noting how many neopoints it contained in a small notepad. Then he picked it up again. "Come with me, please."
The four of them began walking through a door labeled 'Neopians: Tn-Tr'. They strode purposefully down the long, seemingly never-ending line of vaults until they reached the one with the name 'Treaphie' labeled above it.
The Skeith calmly walked toward the vault. It was labeled #76,952. "Here we are," he told them. He motioned to Treaphie to step forward. She walked on shaky legs toward the vault and gazed curiously at a keypad.
"Type in your Personal Identification Number and perform an eye scan, please," he instructed. She typed it in and pulled down her mask to allow the scanner to view her brilliant lavender eyes. A green checkmark appeared on the screen. The vault swung open.
The Skeith chucked the money into the vault. "Did you wish to withdraw any?" he asked them.
"Yes," Kolyae said. "We want 80 coins in the form of 500-neopoint coins, please."
The Skeith withdrew 40,000 neopoints from the sack and swung the door closed. The group traveled back through the long row of vaults back to the where they had come. The Skeith walked toward a machine.
Treaphie smiled as the banker dumped the neopoints into the machine, pushed the button '500', and watched 80 coins tumble out. He handed them to her.
"Thank you very much," she said, putting them back in the sack. "Before we go, do you know how expensive it is to go to Roo Island?"
"Roo Island?" he asked curiously. "Oh, I believe it would be... 500 neopoints from here."
"Thanks. Come on, guys, we've got shopping to do."
As the group exited, Kolyae cleared his throat. "Um, Treaphie? Why are we going shopping?"
"We need supplies for a dangerous mission like this one!" Treaphie exclaimed, surprised he hadn't thought of it already.
The group traveled to a variety of shops. They purchased three Small Metal Shields, three Basic Dryers, three Simple Wooden Fighting Staffs, three bottles of Healing Potion IV, three Earth Faerie Pens, three Yellow Lined Notebooks, three Light Faerie Erasers, three Trumpets of Blasting, a Pink Kadoatie Backpack, a Faerie Backpack, and a Commander Garoo Backpack.
Treaphie looked at the bill. 30,283 neopoints were gone, and they hadn't even left town yet! "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," she told Kasthie and Kolyae while they divided the supplies evenly.
"Are you kidding?" laughed Kasthie as she piled items into her Pink Kadoatie Backpack. "This stuff is great! I love getting shiny new things!" She smiled fondly at her pretty Light Faerie Eraser.
Even Kolyae looked excited as he tossed a Trumpet of Blasting into his Commander Garoo Backpack.
"Well, we're going to have to pace ourselves better with the money," she explained. "And if we stay in town much longer..."
As if on cue, they saw a beautiful Faerie Meerca flutter down the cobblestone street. "Guys?" she called worriedly. "Treaphie? Kolyae? Kasthie?"
Each of them wore terror-struck faces. "Into the School Supplies shop!" Treaphie cried. They piled into the store, out of breath, cheeks puffed out and red.
The shopkeeper smiled. "Forgot something for your first day of school, I see. Don't worry. Happens all the time. What do you need?"
"Actually, we don't need anything more..." Treaphie started to say.
She was interrupted mid-sentence. "Nothing more?" he asked irritably. "Then leave my store! Now!"
They peered through the glass doors. A Faerie Meerca was still looking around. Without a doubt, she was Toupahz, the babies' sister. She had beautiful coal-black skin and a creamy white face. Her black wings were streaked with an electric blue. She was brilliant in the morning sunlight.
"I mean, we don't need anything, but we sure want more stuff!" she exclaimed, quickly poring over the shelves and throwing things into a cart. The Techo shopkeeper smiled and allowed them to stay inside.
By the time they left the store, they had a Lollypop Stencil, a Ketchup Bottle Pen, and a Tigersquash Eraser. The shopkeeper had another 2,773 neopoints.
"Thanks! And come again!" he shouted as he waved with one hand and counted the profits with the other.
"Well, that didn't go so good," Kasthie scowled.
Treaphie was worried. "We've wasted far too much time. We've got to get to Roo Island - pronto!"
"But I'm hungry," Kolyae whined.
"Oh, fine," Treaphie gave in, her tone exasperated. "But we're eating it on the boat ride!"
They ran to Hubert's Hot Dogs and purchased three Banana Hot Dogs. Then they bought three Small Wild Chocomato Smoothies, three Kacheek Cheeseburgers, three bowls of Honey Coated Apple Slices, three bowls of Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and three Oranges. As their backpacks gained the weight of this food, they lightened by 5,226 neopoints.
"So, how do we get to the boats?" Kasthie asked, stuffing a Kacheek Cheeseburger into her pink backpack.
Treaphie sighed. "It'll take us at least three hours of walking. We don't have time for that, though!"
"Why not take a Uni-drawn carriage instead?" Kolyae suggested. Kasthie rubbed her tired feet and agreed, and the Babies huddled up near the NC Mall. They stared as many wealthy Neopians walked in and out. Uni-drawn carriages pulled up for transportation and were quickly occupied.
They ran up to one. The driver was a Purple Gelert with a short black mustache. He smiled kindly at them. "Hello. Where are your parents?"
"Um..." Treaphie began. She looked at the others for help. "They're..."
"We need to get to Roo Island." Kolyae spoke.
"Ah. Is your family there?" he asked them.
"They might be," Treaphie admitted, remembering Toupahz searching for them and realizing that their absence had not gone unnoticed.
The Gelert grinned. "Jump in! I'll take you to the boats. My fare is only 900 neopoints. Can you afford it, little ones?"
Treaphie handed him two 500-neopoint coins. He gave back a 100-neopoint coin. "Take us there," she commanded.
"Please," Kasthie added in her tiny voice.
He clasped the reins, and the Unis bolted toward the docks. The group stayed together in the backseat, out of earshot of the driver, and tried to think of a plan.
"Maybe we should get to see King Roo in person," Treaphie told them. "Since we can't trust his advisors or messengers."
"What if King Roo is responsible for this whole thing?" Kolyae asked in a worried tone. "Then what? Then how are we going to get out of there?"
"Remember the Space Faerie's note? 'She is coming.' I don't think King Roo is a girl."
"He might have worn a wig," Kolyae pointed out.
"Let's not think about that." Kasthie plugged her little ears with her small white hands. "Come on. We have to assemble the leaders of Neopia. We can't possibly exclude King Roo. He is vital to our mission."
"Well, how do we get to talk to him?" the Usul asked impatiently.
Kolyae answered this for her. "We simply request an audience with him and say it is of utmost importance. What else are we going to do?"
Treaphie reached into her Faerie Backpack and pulled out a small white bundle of fur: A White Faellie.
"You brought her?" Kolyae asked incredulously.
"Why, of course," Treaphie looked surprised at the question. She absentmindedly stroked the Faellie's fur. "Why would I leave her at home? After all, she could be important. She came with the note."
Kolyae scoffed. "You just want to keep her."
Treaphie smiled and didn't answer.
"We're here!" a voice called from the front seat. "Have a nice day!"
"Thank you!" Treaphie hurriedly told him. She pushed open the door. Kolyae and Kasthie filed out. Treaphie took a moment to hug the Faellie, who seemed to be in much better spirits than when she first saw her, before placing her inside the backpack. Then she, too, staggered out.
The three of them saw the boat rides quickly. There were large crowds of people talking and laughing as they stood in line to board.
Treaphie poked the leg of the last Neopet in line. "Excuse me, sir," she asked. "When's the next boarding time?"
The Neopet, a Green Acara, looked down at them and smiled. "Oh, the next boarding time is at 2:00. They set off every ten minutes. I doubt you'll make it to that one from here, though. The line is quite long, as you can see."
"Oh. Thank you!" Treaphie pulled Kasthie and Kolyae behind her as she ran off.
"Where are you going?" Kasthie cried.
"To the docks!" she called. "We don't have time to wait in this line!" She gestured to the crowd stretching down the beach and growing every second. The line was indicated by two long stretches of velvet red ropes. Neopets were lined up between them. Kolyae, Kasthie, and Treaphie ran outside one of the ropes, where there weren't any neopets.
They got to the front, where a tall Green Kacheek was allowing Neopets in. She turned and looked at them with a stern gaze that softened as she realized they were only babies.
"Hello, little ones," she told the group, bending down to be eye-level with them. "Please wait with your family."
Treaphie broke out into tears. "But... but... we think our family is at Roo Island! We need to get there!"
The Kacheek's head turned from side to side to make sure none of her employers were watching. At last, she said in a low tone, "All right, you three follow me."
She grabbed them lightly by the wrists and pulled them along, pretending they were in trouble for something. Then she stopped and released them in front of the boardwalk. "There you are. Remember to pay the fare before going on the boat!"
They thanked her and waved before walking across the planks to the small boats beyond. Many small Chias were assembled, ready to row the passengers to Roo Island. They wore festive little robes and donned brightly-colored hats, each one a different color of the rainbow.
"Fare?" one Chia asked. Kolyae, Kasthie, and Treaphie each pulled a 500-neopoint coin from their backpacks and handed them over. The Chia verified them, stuck them in his pocket, and allowed them to board.
Treaphie's fuzzy pink foot tentatively stepped onto the brown boat that bobbed up and down in the sea. Her other foot was still on the dock, promising the safety of firm ground, beckoning her back. She was supposed to be bold. She was supposed to be brave. But her right foot, the one resting on the jolty boat, made her feel something she tried to never be.
Suddenly, Treaphie felt a skinny little arm nudge her. The Usul turned. She saw a full smile on the face of an almost toothless Korbat who nearly worshipped her. Treaphie grinned weakly. If Kasthie could be brave, then the Korbat's idol could be even braver. She gulped down her fear and stepped onto the boat, eyes squeezed tightly closed. After a moment, she gave the others reassuring smiles to encourage them to come on and ease their fear. The three of them settled down into the wooden canoe and gazed at the sun overhead. It was almost noon on the first day of their quest. In two days' time, Neopia could be facing great danger.
There was no time to reconsider. A strong-looking pack of identical Blue Chias went to their usual places. They lifted their wooden oars with such pride and honor, Kasthie would have believed that each held onto Fyora's Staff. Then they began their labor, rowing rhythmically along the steady water. Treaphie stared at the scenery outside of the boat. She watched the light blue hue of the lapping water deepen as they entered ocean territory.
Kasthie whimpered. "Food?" she asked weakly.
Treaphie remembered all they had stocked into their backpacks. Wearily, she pulled out an orange. "Yeah, sure, Kasthie. We can eat now. Go nuts."
"We didn't buy any nuts!" she moaned.
Treaphie began lazily peeling the smooth orange skin off of her fruit while Kasthie nibbled on a Banana Hot Dog and Kolyae nervously took a few sips of his smoothie. Each of them had a clear expression on their face: We're wasting time.
"Hey, how long is this gonna take?" Treaphie asked the nearest Chia. The oarsmen had apparently been trained to not be distracted by this sort of talk, because the rhythm was just as harmonious as before.
"Five hours," he told her, not looking up.
Five hours. That would mean arriving at 5 o'clock, which would mean sneaking into the palace, alerting King Roo, and being on their way before the day's end.
"Can you, I don't know... hurry it up?" Treaphie had an edgy tone as she gazed at him with her wide purple eyes.
He frowned at her, which she could just barely see because of his face still turned downward. "Ma'am, we don't..."
"Why not? Is there a problem with your boat? Perhaps you could simply speed up," Treaphie persisted.
His frown deepened. "We have a set schedule. This way we don't become too tired--"
"Double payment," Treaphie promised. "And we'll give you an orange to share."
He perked up a bit. After a few grunts to his crewmates and groans in return, he smiled. "We shall accept your offer."
Treaphie tossed him the orange with a broad grin on her face.
"So how much longer?" Her eyes were shining.
"Four and a half hours."
Her face fell.
"Forget it, Treaphie," Kasthie groaned. "We'll get there when we get there. I suppose we might as well discuss a plan for now."
The others nodded grimly.
All three small babies huddled up together as far away from the rowing Chias as they could. It didn't really matter - the Chias were working so hard with the promise of double payment that it was doubtful they would hear the conversation anyway - but it felt better to be more secretive about it. Treaphie drew the wrinkled map of Neopia from her knapsack and laid it flat on t he boat's wood planks.
"Here we are now," she told them, pointing to the rainbow.
"How can you tell?" Kolyae asked skeptically.
Treaphie just pointed up.
There was a collective gasp from Kolyae and Kasthie as they noticed the rainbow high above them.
"Now, then," Treaphie continued nonchalantly, "we have to convince King Roo to travel to Faerieland. Any ideas on how to do that?"
Kolyae piped up, "We could... you know... ask him to take a vacation?"
Treaphie rolled her eyes. "Yeah, like that's convincing."
"We'll have to tell him the truth," Kasthie said, her face etched with worry. "I refuse to lie... much less to a King!"
"But the paper said not to tell anyone!" Kolyae shouted, looking appalled. "We're already failing!"
"No, no, I think we can trust King Roo," Treaphie said. "After all, if we don't trust him, why would Fyora want him to come to Faerieland?"
"Good point," Kasthie said happily.
"So now all we need to do is find out how to tell King Roo," Treaphie announced decisively.
Kolyae thought for a few seconds. "Well, first things first, we need to find a way to get the information to him."
"Sounds like we'll have to bust into the kingdom," Treaphie said with a mischievous smile, rubbing her paws together.
"Busting into kingdoms?" Kasthie sounded horrified, her hands flying to her mouth. "But that's terrible!"
"We're babies. We can say we accidentally did it," Treaphie defended.
Kasthie refused to be moved by this. "It'll still go on our record! It'll still be rude!"
"And I personally would not want to do what some palace-busters told me to, especially if they were babies. I'd accuse them of making up the story just to get away with busting into the palace. Then I'd throw them in the dungeon," Kolyae said wisely.
Treaphie grumbled. It was true. They would have to find another way.
"How do his subjects usually talk to him, then?" she asked.
"As if royalty would mingle with the peasants," Kasthie babbled.
The Baby Usul frowned. "But he has to have some sort of... I don't know... Neopets working for him that deliver information or something!"
Kolyae scoffed. "We can't trust a palace servant with this information! For all we know, they could be an enemy. I actually suspect they would be. I mean, what better spot to place an enemy than right where we're going to be?"
Treaphie wanted to pace, but she couldn't in this tiny boat. She absentmindedly took the Faellie from her pack and began stroking her. The Faellie never bothered her while inside the backpack. Treaphie had thought she was just sleeping, but she seemed wide awake. She was such a cute, calm little creature.
Kasthie tentatively touched the soft white fur on her head. Kolyae poked the Faellie's ear.
"Stop it, you guys." Treaphie glared at them. "She doesn't like being poked."
"Sorr-" Kolyae began.
Treaphie's angry eyes became playful, almost teasing. "She likes being pet. Just stroke her head and back. It's really fun!"
They all leaned in and pet the Faellie, who began making a tiny noise that sounded pleasant, like a purr. She lifted her nose into the air, as if sniffing something, and the babies giggled.
Then they stopped.
All four heads turned towards the looming clouds above: Faerieland, the city in the sky. But it had certainly undergone change. The previously bright, fluffy clouds were outstretched with a hazy purple hue. The violet tinge was thin, but they could see it rapidly coloring Faerieland - and could hear the chaos that it caused. The Faellie kept pointing upwards with her small little nose, more urgently now. The babies gazed at each other.
"Do we really have to go up there?" Kolyae mumbled in a voice so quiet it was barely audible.
"Better sooner than later," Treaphie put in. "After all, looks like the longer we put it off, the more dangerous it will be."
The others nodded in agreement.
The ride was silent after that, besides little teeth crunching on food, quiet snores, and the steady sound of water being pushed aside with long oars.
Then, at long last, the jolly sight of land met their eyes.
"Roo Island," Treaphie breathed. "It's beautiful."
It was true. The sunlight seemed to shine brighter on this small patch of land than the rest of the sparkling sea. A rainbow bridge glittered brilliantly against the golden light in the sky, stretching from the very edge of Roo Island to the tip of a patch of land far, far away. The sound of giggles filled the air. Pearl white smiles lit up the island. It was impossible to feel down in a place like this.
"When I think of beautiful," Kasthie murmured, "I usually think of... of palaces and elegancy and pristine architecture. But this..."
The others knew what she was thinking. The sheer beauty of happiness was far more attractive to see than any impeccable artwork. As the boat docked, the young ones found themselves entering the island as if in a trance. It looked so relaxing. Care-free. Something they missed dearly since they had first seen the slip of paper delivered by a Faellie.
Treaphie was the first to snap out of it. "Th-thanks, mister," she told one of the oarsmen, still feeling a bit dazed. "Would you mind directing us-"
"Double payment," one of them huffed. "Plus an orange."
Treaphie handed the Chia who spoke a bulging sack. She had eaten her orange on the way, and so had Kolyae, but Kasthie still had hers. The Korbat didn't even notice as Treaphie unzipped her backpack, grabbed her orange, and handed it to the oarsman.
The oarsman's eyes widened at the sight. He tossed the sack to another of the crew, who staggered backward under its weight, and began peeling the delicacy. He popped a piece of it into his mouth and felt his parched mouth at long last quenched with its juice.
"Hey, I want some!" another yelled.
"Too bad! She handed it to me!"
"Come 'ere, you!" a third oarsman grumbled, and he charged. The babies backed away slowly, inching their way towards the central Roo Island land.
Finally, they couldn't stand it anymore. The three broke into a run, heading towards the cobblestone streets of Roo Island.
The place absolutely deserved to be put in the definition of 'happiness'. All the Neopets who passed by radiated joy. There weren't too few Neopians, making you feel alone; there weren't so many that you had to push against a crowd. It was perfect.
A little too perfect.
"Uh, guys?" Treaphie told her friends a little loudly. "Remember... our quest?"
"Mmmm?" Kolyae murmured.
"Snap out of it!"
Kasthie blinked. She stretched as if she were waking up from a dream. "Oh, yes. The quest. Right. Sorry, got a little distracted there."
Treaphie rolled her eyes. "A little?"
Kolyae sighed. "Okay, we'll focus. Now, how do we break into the palace?"
"Shhh!" Treaphie hissed. "Don't say it so loudly!"
Kasthie thought a moment. "Well... we could try to find an excuse to get in... something that King Roo would permit."
"I think trying to save Neopia is a good excuse," Kolyae muttered.
Treaphie's gaze turned sullen. "As if anyone would believe three babies without an owner. We've gotta be careful, or else we'll be heading home before the quest is even started!"
The others realized the severity of this in the silence that followed.
"Maybe the first step," Kasthie mused, "is finding our way to the palace."
Kolyae and Treaphie stared at each other, wondering why they hadn't thought of it yet.
"Good idea, Kasthie," Kolyae told his little sister. Then he turned to Treaphie. "So, uh, how do we find it, exactly?"
Treaphie smiled casually. "Well, palaces aren't usually too hard to find. We just have to ask the locals. Let's go-"
Kolyae nudged his sister. "Uh, Treaphie..."
The Usul turned. Kasthie, the little Baby Korbat, was already giggling next to an elderly Mynci, who was chattering away about how cute she was. Kasthie's pink ears twitched in delight as the Mynci fiddled fondly with her small blue bow. Then the Baby piped up in the sweetest possible voice she could, "Do you know where the palace is?" She gave a grin, showing off the few teeth she had.
The woman chuckled. "Do I? It's right over there. Hard to miss. Just head on along this pathway-" she pointed a bony finger straight ahead, "-and then follow it. Don't go east, though, whatever you do." Her face turned pale at the thought. Then she cleared her throat. "Here, sweetie, let me draw you a map. Ah, here you are. All right, see you later!"
She chuckled and trotted along toward the rocks.
Treaphie blinked. "Wow. Uh... good job, Kasthie. That was pretty clever."
Kasthie beamed. It wasn't every day she received compliments from the sister she looked up to so much. "Thanks, Treaphie!" she gushed.
Kolyae peered over at the map drawn onto a rough napkin. "Hmm... looks to me as if we should go here nearly the whole way. Then a left, then a right - hah! Look, she marked it with a Blumaroo!"
"That's understandable," Treaphie explained. "You see, Roo Island is home to Blumaroos. It always has been. The palace is the heart of the island. Good symbolism."
The three found it harder to get to their destination than if it had been filled with obstacles. The pathways were open and nothing was stopping them, but for fun-loving babies, it was torture just to be surrounded by such jolly Merry-Go-Rounds and rich fields dotted with flowers without being allowed to stray towards them. They tried with all their willpower to stay on the path. However, no matter how hard they tried, they were unknowingly being drawn towards the fun. It was too much to bear.
Treaphie halted in her tracks. "We're on the wrong pathway," she murmured.
Kolyae frowned. "How can you tell?" he questioned. "These pathways look identical."
Treaphie peered again at the small, neatly-folded white napkin that lay in Kasthie's tiny clutches. "But... we should be there by now. I see no grand palace or anything."
"Maybe the answer to this mystery is on the Merry-Go-Round," Kasthie suggested. "I'll check there and report back anything I find."
"Oh, no, you don't!" Treaphie hollered, grabbing her sister's arm and pulling her back.
Kolyae whimpered. "It's not fair, Treaphie. We're babies! We deserve some fun!"
Kasthie's voice shook as she murmured her agreement.
"You two aren't very focused." Treaphie sounded exasperated. "Always looking for the fun way out. How about doing what's right?"
Kolyae stared at their little map. "But... it looks like it's straight ahead. Let's just keep walking."
"But, guys," Treaphie protested, "I just have a bad feeling about this." She tried to hold back Kolyae as she had done with Kasthie, but though she acted older, she was still his little sibling. He easily shook her off and marched onward.
Treaphie's hands trembled. Kolyae had never disobeyed her before. She couldn't very well let him go alone, so she told Kasthie, "Let's go," and raced after him. Kasthie was more than happy to oblige.
By the time they caught up, Kolyae was beaming. "See, Treaphie?" he told her haughtily, "I was right! We're on the right pathway."
Treaphie was skeptical. "And you know this because..."
He had a smug smile on his face as he lifted his chin and pointed forward. Sure enough, there was an elegant sign directly ahead. Written in fine cursive was:
You are now entering the Palace of King Roo. Please proceed downstairs if you wish to talk to him.
Kasthie giggled in delight. "We made it!" she cried. "How about celebrating somehow... ooh! Ooh! How about on the Merry-Go-Round?" Her eyes were shining brightly.
Treaphie wouldn't be swayed. "Underground palace?" she muttered under her breath as Kolyae leaped down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Her brother was in quite a trance. He was terrified of climbing down a single step on their staircase back home.
And there was her shy little sister, bounding down those stairs as if she had not a care in the world.
Why was she, Treaphie, the brave one, so horribly scared?
Was it not because she was scared for herself... but scared for them?
She slowly traveled down the stairs. "It's just a game we're playing, it's just a game we're playing," she told herself over and over again. Her friends were far ahead of her by now. She saw no reason to hurry. There was no way she could catch up to them, not with the fright she was burdened with.
This fright deepened after the first scream rang through her ears.
To be continued...