The Mystery of the Maraquan Ball: Part One
Among all the ritzy events in Neopia, the annual Maraquan Ball is the most exclusive. Every year only the richest and best-dressed Neopets are asked to come join in the night of festivities and rub shoulders with the crème de la crème of Neopia. The ball is held in the same location every year- under a large glass dome just outside of Maraqua. Specialty air is imported from Faerieland and Kelp is rumored to cater the event, although no one from their staff is willing to admit to their participation. Rumor has it that the Maraquan Ball is the sole reason for inflated prices on items like the infamous "butterfly dress," as the party's guests will go to any lengths necessary to look their best. So besides dancing and eating, what do these sickeningly wealthy Neopians do all night? Your guess is as good as mine. But I do wonder... can something so secretive be hiding more than just a classy guest list?
-Lady's Gossip Petpage
"Lady released that gossip bit two days ago and I haven't heard the end of it since. Do you have any idea how many angry neomails I have been sent? Yesterday someone left a mutant kadoatie on the doorstep and I had to pay 5,000 neopoints for someone to come pick it up! I didn't mind her blog so much when it was about nerdy roleplayers and faerie fashions, but this reporting on the secret lives of Neopians has got to stop. Where did she even get this information anyway? It must be true or there wouldn't be such a backlash..."
Grey continued to scroll down Lady's personal petpage as Feather paced around the room behind her. She reflected on her mother... Feather was very tall with flaming red hair, she possessed a strong will, and somehow she always seemed in control of whatever situation she was thrust into. Grey had never seen her mother act so stressed over something one of her own Neopets had done. Granted, Lady did cause upwards of 80% of their family troubles. The Eyrie tended to lean towards being petty and vain.
"Mom, just calm down. Lady can't take it back now... we just have to deal with it," Grey told her calmly. "She'll be back from the meeting with the clothing shop owner in a few minutes and you can talk to her."
"I'm home!" Lady's voice called out from the entryway. "Mom, the Uni at the clothing store liked my designs! I think she's even going to pitch one to her bosses and see if the NC Mall can start marketing it! I showed her that crystal blue gown that I drew after you took me to see the Snowager and the sandy red wig that I made after we took that trip to Krawk Island for Grey's academy training."
"Lady..." Feather started, almost running into the excitedly bouncing Eyrie as she continued to pace through the living room, "we have to talk about this petpage of yours."
Lady's beak visibly drooped as she realized that Feather was too distracted to listen to her accomplishment. "If they buy my designs I can pay you back for the kadoatie... Grey told me I should."
"That won't fix anything, Lady." Feather finally plopped down on their antique green couch and draped an arm over her face. "The problem is that you've stirred up a hornet's nest. These socialites and plushie tycoons aren't going to back off now that you've revealed what they're doing to your entire gossip fan base."
"No, that's just the thing!" Lady flew to the couch excitedly. "I invited everyone else to find out the juicy bits. I only gave them the... inspiration and know-how. Don't you want to know what those rich-"
Her excited jabbering was cut short by the prolonged howl of an angry kadoatie somewhere nearby.
"Sounds like that awful Jazzmosis concert you cajoled me into paying for last week," Feather remarked. Suddenly she realized that the Kadoatie was much closer than she had initially realized... in fact it sounded like it were somewhere inside the house. "I wonder if it snuck in through the air vents..." Feather said a few choice words and went to find the source of the noise while Grey and Lady quietly sneaked upstairs to their bedroom loft.
"I have an idea," Grey said after settling onto the bed. "What if we went to the ball and tried to solve the mystery ourselves?"
Lady snorted and her breath ruffled the feathers on her headband. "What would that do? We would just get caught and then be in twice as much trouble. Mom is already furious over this Kadoatie thing."
"Just imagine... what if you're right? What if the guests are up to something? If we discover their secret, we can make them stop delivering kadoaties like the milk every morning," Grey answered.
Lady mused over this for a while, kneading the bed spread with her paws. She looked very unsure about Grey's idea.
"Well... where did you get the tip off about the ball, anyway? If it was a reliable source, then you have nothing to worry about. We can assume they were right, sneak in, and find out the secret," Grey finally said, trying to ease her sister's fears.
Lady shook her head. "Well, that's the problem. I'm not sure where the tip came from... usually people send their gossip in to me, so I see their name on the neomail or letter. But this time... I was eating at the coffee shop. I left my table for a minute, came back, and then found the tip in messily scrawled writing all over my napkin... the information was obviously meant for me, but I have no idea who provided it."
"Great," Grey muttered. "What if it's just someone with a vendetta against rich Neopians? We have no way of knowing."
"We could go anyway..." Lady said. "I could make up some uniforms like the waiters wear at Kelp. If that tip was the truth then we can just sneak in and pretend to be caterers."
Grey grinned at her, but the look quickly faded. "We don't even have a way to get down there though. We don't know where the dome is and we couldn't get there without getting wet..."
"We could go back to the chocolate shop," Lady suggested. "Maybe my 'friend' will drop us another hint. Or maybe..." She rushed to her keyboard and quickly accessed her petpage. "I can type up a new blog hit. I'm going to lie and say that other hit about the Maraquan Ball was a joke or a mistake. If this person really does have a bone to pick with the wealthiest Neopians, they will make sure to correct me. Then we'll know that it's serious and we can make our move from there."
Grey hovered above her shoulder, reading the words as she typed:
Lady here. Looks like my hit two days ago was actually a miss. The Maraquan Ball seems to be a publicity stunt for the celebrities of Neopia to get some free fame... so don't go snooping outside the underwater city's limit. You'll be lucky to find shells, much less a thriving, underwater palace filled with the latest fashions. Sorry to let you down... but you know I'll make up for it soon.
Grey nodded approvingly. "Perfect."
"Not quite," Lady answered and began typing up another hit. "I need to post something extra juicy to make it look like I've truly moved on from that story." She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a large spiral notebook filled with handwritten notes. "Hm," she repeated several times as she flipped through the book. Finally, she picked out the perfect hit. It was shocking enough to really drive the point home that she was 'finished' chasing after Maraquan ball rumors.
Lady has a question for you: What happens when you take one prissy pants Usul and add a secret mootix infestation? Ask Missy, the Usul who runs the grooming parlour. Rumor has it she's scratching at more than just that obvious blonde wig.
"Lady!" Grey gasped and covered her mouth with her front hooves. "That's horrible!"
Lady giggled and stowed the notebook back in her drawer. "And completely true, too. I heard her talking about it last week when I went to go buy another bottle of Cybunny perfume."
"It's perfect," Grey said. "Now if someone wants us to know about the dance... they know to bring proof."
"So you're in?" Lady asked quietly. She could hear Feather walking towards their room.
"Of course," Grey answered, grinning widely at her.
"Lady! The pound refuses to come get this mutant kadoatie. They say the first one is mewling loudly enough to wake Turmaculus. So meet your new petpet!" Feather deposited the angry kadoatie on Lady's Esophagor bed and stomped out of the room.
Grey and Lady watched over the edge of the loft as the kadoatie began purring and kneading and turning circles on the bed in the room below.
"Good grief," Grey said.
The kadoatie settled down in a little ball and looked up at them with big green eyes... and then let out one last loud meow before going to sleep.
"Ugh, he stinks," Lady complained. She flew down to the kadoatie and poked his side. "And his skin feels seaweed."
"Well, you get to sleep with him from now on," Grey said and laughed.
Lady let out another groan and picked the kadoatie up. "Come on, you need a bath before bed..."
To be continued...