Petpet Adventures: Mistress Maxie's Marvellous Circus - Part Two
Labez sounded shocked and amused, taking in the stranger with wide eyes, then staring in amazement at Eva. She felt her fur bristling as Karnu appeared behind the Magmut and stared at the other Noil. His eyes were narrowed in the way they always did when he was with the other male Noil in the troupe. Crazy macho types trying to prove who was better than who, Eva scoffed in her head.
The stranger had now backed as far into the wall as he could, tail low, not meeting either petpets' eyes.
"Why did you invite a stranger here?" Karnu asked indignantly.
"Umm..." Eva began, not quite knowing what to say. She knew they would laugh at her.
"He's obviously a stowaway!" Labez pointed out. "How can you not see that? He must have seen you guys performing in Neopia Central and got into his furry head that he could just join up."
Karnu eyed the stranger critically. "Doesn't look like he would last," he said cuttingly.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll do fine, once Tamir trains him up a bit," Eva interrupted hastily, trying to keep her half of the bargain.
"My name is Harro," the stranger interrupted coolly, finally speaking. Eva instantly facepawed herself inside her head. She should have introduced him immediately. It would have made things less awkward. Or maybe not.
"Still, the rule's the rule, and we can't just let any old petpet, or pet for that matter, just join us," Labez said. "Otherwise we would have a kilometre long trail of wanabees after us, all very unprofessional."
"Well, at least give him a chance," Eva said. Then inspiration hit her. "We should call Mistress Maxie!" she said.
Labez nodded thoughtfully. "True. She'll know what to do. She always does."
He slowly backed out of the wagon, picking up the jar that had been resting against his tail. Karnu shot Harro a warning glare, than padded after, tail high and waving. But he didn't argue. Mistress Maxie would get the final say, and everyone always trusted her judgement. Eva sighed and trailed after them, Harro on her heels.
"I feel like I don't even really exist to those guys," he commented.
"Well, we circus pets are sort of exclusive. We're all one big family, and you learn to be tight-knit," Eva replied.
They emerged into the sunshine, with pets bustling about them, obviously preparing to move on.
"We had better keep this short," Eva muttered to herself, stroking her necklace for comfort, as Labez lifted a paw to his mouth and let out a high-pitched whistle.
Within seconds a Beekadoodle was hovering above them, wings fluttering in a frantic blur. It exhausted Eva watching them just for a few seconds.
"What's up?" the Beekadoodle asked, after searching in vain for any pet that could have summoned her. "Don't tell me that was you calling me?" she said to Labez. "You know we're almost about to leave, and us messengers are all over the place trying to organise the pets. They're so hopeless without us." She waved the bit of paper clutched in her claw in his face emphatically.
"This is more important, Tarla," Labez replied. "You need to locate Mistress Maxie and ask her to come over here."
"And why should I?" Tarla asked, weaving a figure-eight in the air. "She's probably busy with Max at the front."
"Because Eva decided to bring a stowaway," Labez explained. "And we need Mistress Maxie here now."
At this news the Beekadoodle stopped flapping her wings in astonishment, visibly dropping a few centimetres before resuming. She grinned at Eva.
"Oooh!" she said gleefully, no longer trying to be difficult. "This should be interesting." Then she whizzed away, her form becoming a periwinkle blur as she disappeared.
It was not long before the other petpets began to arrive. One petpet must have noticed the strange Noil in their midst, or else Tarla had stopped and told everyone she had passed on the way about it. It would not have surprised Eva. Tarla was a notorious gossip, and also the fastest messenger in the entire circus, so she could easily have managed it.
The newcomers goggled at Eva and Harro, whispering among themselves. The first to arrive were the acrobats; the Hasees, Turmacs and Faellies. Then the stoic Armac, the juggling Cyodrake who could easily match his Scorchio pet at juggling fiery clubs, so long as they were petpet sized. Lastly the other Noils bounded down to the supply wagon, eyeing Harro in a way that only trained performers could. Harro shifted uncomfortably.
A few pets stopped to stare at the gathering of petpets, but then shrugged it off. They knew the petpets were good at performing, and that was all that mattered to them. If they chose to randomly gather together, that was nothing strange. Maybe they just wanted company.
Finally they saw a green speck appear over the top of the wagons, a blue speck zigzagging around it impatiently. The speck resolved into a graceful Floobix, wings flapping delicately and enormous pink ears pressed flat against her head with the speed of her flying.
The petpets ranged around Eva backed off a little, leaving a respectful amount of space for the Floobix to land. Karnu and Labez also backed off, obviously not wanting to be implicated as part of the crime.
The Floobix landed with a flourish of wings, her two feathered tails curling around her claws neatly. She looked a little flustered, but then again, she usually was, whether or not there was something to be flustered about.
"So Eva," she began in her trilling voice, huge eyes widened as far as they could go. "What is this I have been hearing? You brought a stowaway into our camp?"
Eva bowed her head a little at the scolding, tail drooping. "Yes, Mistress Maxie," she said.
At that moment Mistress Maxie, who had been peering around, finally realised that Harro was the stowaway. She obviously had not been expecting a type of petpet that was already in the circus. She gave a little nervous flutter of her wings, staring at him so that he shuffled his paws and avoided her keen gaze.
"And why did you do this?" she asked at last, fixing her piercing gaze on Eva. "You know that we cannot allow stowaways."
"Well..." Eva began. "To be honest, it's because Harro gave me this necklace as payment." She showed the red gem to Mistress Maxie. There were a few giggles in the crowd. "I couldn't resist!" she said. "It's so pretty..."
Mistress Maxie was now staring fixated at the necklace. After a moment she shook herself. "It is rather pretty..." she admitted. "I can quite see why you had to accept the offer."
She eyed the Noil again, this time more critically. After all, she wasn't the petpet of the Ringleader for nothing, and she knew a good performer when she saw one. Then she took to the air for a few seconds, gazing back the way they had come. Eva couldn't see from the ground, but she knew Neopia Central was a few days behind. Finally the Floobix landed again.
"Well," she began with authority, now no longer nervous. "We are much too far away from Neopia Central to send him back. You are from Neopia Central?" This was addressed to Harro.
"Yes, I am," he replied, nodding. "And please let me stay. I know I can perform! And if I can't to that I'm sure I can help you in some other way."
"Well, you have just contradicted yourself, saying that you can perform and then implying you might not be able to." Mistress Maxie sighed, tapping one claw and thinking.
"Maxine!" The bellow was one that only a three metre tall Grarrl could produce. Judging by the volume, Eva judged the owner to be roughly three hundred metres away, near the front of the convoy.
Mistress Maxie looked in that direction anxiously, wings outstretched as she prepared to take off. She glanced back at Harro, indecision in her eyes.
"You may stay," she said graciously, and Eva watched a goofy smile appear on the Noil's face. "If Tamir decides he likes you, you may train with him. Otherwise I will find some other use for you, like you said. If you cannot perform, or if you do not appear to be a useful addition to the circus, we will drop you back in Neopia Central the next time we pass through. Be warned though, we are very strict on being professional here."
She was interrupted by two of the Turmacs getting into a tussle, while Armac observed with crossed arms, chewing the remains of his lunch and slowly blinking his single eye. They rolled in the grass, shouting friendly insults at each other.
"Stop that at once!" Mistress Maxie cried, and after a few seconds the Turmacs split up, looking shamefaced.
"Sorry, Mistress Maxie," they chorused as one, looking as innocent as could be.
"Goodness gracious!" Mistress Maxie said, fluttering into the sky, a disapproving look on her face. "It's like a circ—" Here she paused and closed her beak carefully. Then she serenely glided away, to join her pet.
As soon she disappeared over the first wagon the Turmacs began their tussle again, and the other petpets began to drift away, looking vaguely disappointed. Eva turned to Harro, who was still grinning stupidly.
"Well, it looks like you're here to stay," she said.
To be continued...