Finding a Home: Part Two
"Zachary!" Cassie hissed, her eyes going wide.
"I hear it," he whispered calmly, slowly standing up.
The two of them stood as still as statues, not daring to make even the slightest of sounds. Even though they were technically allowed to be there, they were doing something wrong by entering without permission. But then again, it wasn't entirely their faults that they were locked in, was it?
Now the person on the other side of the door was banging-- with both fists, it seemed. The force of their pounding made the whole hut shake and caused Cassie to almost fall face first into a box.
After a few minutes the banging stopped, and Cassie breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like the person was going to leave now.
Whoever it was was now kicking the door. Were they intending to make the whole hut collapse?
Cassie cast a desperate look at Zachary, hoping he might have any ideas. Slowly, he pointed to the door in the back, indicating that they should try to escape. Of course! Why hadn't she thought of that?
Slowly, the two of them crept to the back, taking care not to step on anything that would create a loud sound. Which was pretty tough, now that the person was hitting the door with some sort of object, causing vibrations throughout the floor.
Zachary reached the back door first and tugged on the handle. It easily swung open to reveal... a greenhouse? Amazed, the two of them stepped inside, softly shutting the door behind them.
Plants of all shapes and sizes were lined up against the walls, hanging from the ceiling, resting on counters; plants were everywhere. The whole greenhouse smelled delightfully floral- a refreshing change from the rotting zeenana smell in the hut.
"Now why do you suppose that there would be a greenhouse at the back of a rundown hut?" Zachary mused, lightly fingering a Star of Paradise Flower.
"It just doesn't make any sense," Cassie agreed.
Just then, a loud crashing sound came from inside the hut. Had the person knocked down the door? Once again, Cassie and Zachary froze, listening as thundering footsteps stomped towards the greenhouse door. Within a few seconds, the door swung open to reveal an angry looking Skeith. Shocked, all Cassie and Zachary could do was stare.
"What are ye doin' in here?" the Skeith roared in an accent that indicated he was most probably from Krawk Island.
Cassie was the first to regain her composure. "We could ask you the same thing, sir," she retorted.
"Oh yeah? This ain't no playplace girlie, this is me house," the Skeith hissed.
"If this is your house, then why did you have to knock the door down?" Cassie huffed.
"I left it unlocked fer a reason, girlie. When someone comes wanderin' inside, it'll lock by itself to keep 'em inside till I can get home. Security measures and all," the Skeith shot back.
"We're from the Petpet Protection League," Zach offered helpfully. "We heard that there was a petpet being mistreated here."
"I ain't got no petpet. Now get on back to yer little agency," the Skeith growled.
"Oh, really? Then what's that?" Cassie asked, pointing to a small Darigan drugal that was rubbing up against the Skeith's left leg, purring.
"This little guy? Ain't no petpet of mine, I can tell ye that. He just hangs around here, ye know," the Skeith explained.
"In that case, you won't mind if we take it?" Zachary inquired, inching forward to grab it.
"Not so fast, Zachary," Cassie interrupted. "I want to know why this man has a greenhouse at the back of this hut."
"It ain't good fer ye to be so nosy, girlie," the Skeith replied. "But I have no problem with telling ye if ye really want to know. It be cause I work in King Hagan's gardens in Brightvale. I gots to practice me work, ye know? The king wants his gardens perfect."
"And why exactly haven't you reported this petpet to our agency? It might belong to someone," Zachary chided him, reaching down and picking up the little drugal.
"He won't leave me house. I barely ever come 'round here anyway, but he be always here. I be busy with me work, ye know. He be cute, but I have no time to come 'round the house to take care of him," the Skeith groaned.
"Haven't you at least given him some food or something?" Cassie asked, crossing over to where Zachary stood with the petpet. "He's so skinny!"
"Aye girlie, like I said, I only ever come here to sleep. It ain't me fault if I can't take care of him."
"Haven't you asked your boss if you could bring him with you to your work?" Zachary asked, scratching the drugal under its chin.
"Aye, I have. Me boss, Laura, loves petpets; she has thirty of her own. But she only lets her own petpets roam around the gardens. She be very protective of 'em," the Skeith replied. "I don' even know what te do with this petpet anymore."
"Well, sir, it looks like we're going to have to take this drugal back with us. You have failed to provide him with adequate food, water, and shelter," Zachary said.
"Aye," the Skeith responded, gazing a little sadly at the drugal. "I know."
"He'll get the greatest care until we find him a new owner," Cassie chimed in, feeling a little sorry for the Skeith.
"Well, ye know where the door is, or used to be. Ye can leave now," the Skeith said, lumbering back into the hut.
Cassie and Zachary slowly made their way out of the hut and back into the snow, dazed. As soon as a gust of freezing wind blew their way, the drugal jumped out of Zachary's arms and into Cassie's, burrowing itself into her jacket.
"What's the matter with it?" Zachary asked, genuinely confused.
"Unlike you, it's actually cold," Cassie replied, laughing.
"Aw, come on, the temperature isn't even that low!" he exclaimed, pointing to his shorts for emphasis.
"Well, cold or not, I can't wait to get back. I'm ready for some hot cocoa," Cassie said longingly.
"Yeah, me too." Zachary smiled.
"Well done, you guys!"
Cassie and Zachary looked up to see their Kougra friend Clara heading towards them, a bright smile plastered across her face. They had just walked into the Petpet Protection League agency, the drugal still hiding in Cassie's coat.
"That mission took forever," Zachary complained, flopping down in a chair and propping his feet up against a desk.
"Aw, poor you," Clara crooned sarcastically, casually knocking Zachary's feet back to the ground.
Cassie gently removed the drugal from her coat and held it out to Clara, who smiled.
"Great! You guys actually succeeded your first mission. You'd be surprised how many people chicken out at the last minute," Clara giggled.
"Can't say I wasn't tempted," Zachary joked.
"Are all the mission destinations so..." Cassie struggled for the right word to describe the hut.
"Smelly?" Zachary offered.
"Pretty much, yeah," Clara sighed. "You'll get used to it."
"Where is everyone else?" Cassie asked, finally noticing that the agency was empty except for the three of them.
"Oh, right," Clara perked up, as if remembering something important. "They all had to run to Maraqua. Apparently a whole bunch of petpets got caught in a whirlpool."
"So then... who's going to take this drugal to one of the petpet stores?" Zachary asked.
Clara bit her lip and glanced at them guiltily. "I mean, I know you guys just got back and all... but... do you think you could maybe take him? I was ordered to keep watch over the agency, otherwise I'd take him myself."
"Fine," Cassie sighed, too tired to argue. "Which store?"
"Thank you!" Clara cried, breaking out into a grin. "Unfortunately, none of the petpet stores in Neopia have any space, but you can take him over to Brightvale. The Ixi at Brightvale Books has offered to take care of him for a day or two until a nearby petpet store can get some space."
Zachary stood up and took the drugal from Clara. "Looks like the cocoa will have to wait, eh, Cassie?"
Despite her weariness, Cassie felt a smile stretch across her face. "I guess so."
Together, they made their way out of the agency and towards Brightvale. After an hour of walking, they arrived at their destination, ten times more tired than they had been before.
As the two of them entered Brightvale Books, a bell chimed, alerting the shopkeeper that customers had arrived. A small brown Ixi scuttled out from behind a counter and hurried toward them, a pair of glasses perched precariously at the edge of his nose.
"Welcome, welcome! What can I get for you today? I have books, yes, lots of books. Books, books, books. Books of all sorts, yes. Books. In fact, my name could be Books," the Ixi mumbled, half to himself.
Something told Cassie that he probably didn't get visitors very often.
"Er, hello. We're from the Petpet Protection League," Zachary said, glancing at the Ixi a little warily.
"Oh dear! Don't tell me you need books for your petpets? Books, books. That would be so many books. I have many books. But, books!" the Ixi cried, his eyes flitting back and forth between Cassie and Zachary.
"No," Cassie hurriedly put in. "We're here to drop off a petpet. Our friend at the agency, Clara, told us you were willing to take care of him for a bit."
The Ixi paused, staring at the drugal Zachary held in his paws.
"No, no. Books is all I have room for. Just books. Books, books, books! No room for petpets unless they want to be in a book. Hehe, a petpet book!" the Ixi laughed hysterically.
Cassie and Zachary glanced at each other, alarmed.
"So... you're saying that you can't take care of this petpet?" Cassie asked, horrified.
The Ixi stopped laughing and stared at them gravely, looking quite serious. "No."
To be continued...