Of Squibble Berries and Olives: Part One
This is a sequel to "Of Angelpi and Qasalan Coffee," taking place a few weeks later. Once again, the author wishes to make it known that she doesn't condone pranks, though she does obviously like writing about them. The original characters are randomly named and not based off particular pets!
Just ten more feet, and... perfect!
Hanso peeked over the windowsill, and when he was certain the coast was clear, hoisted himself up and climbed through the window. This was his fourth window today, and no one had yet seen him as far as he knew. Clearly, he was still on top of his game, despite the fact that he was keeping his promise that he wouldn't try to test his skill by breaking into a shop. Now he just had to find his way back down to the main hall (it wasn't too hard to get lost in the labyrinth of corridors), and—
Something cold and sharp suddenly jabbed into his back. He automatically raised his arms, fearing for a split second that he was under arrest. Of course, that wasn't possible, so he quickly banished the thought. The voice that accompanied the spear was equally cold and sharp: "What in the name of our great Queen Fyora do you think you're doing?"
Oh, no. Not her. Not again. How had she found him? The coast had been clear! Hanso tried to keep his cool and sound as nonchalant as he could. "Working my way down to the main hall on the ground floor, what else?"
"By entering a window in a corridor on the fifth floor?"
"...I took a little detour?"
"Honestly, Hanso, why do you keep doing this? Just how stupid are you?"
Hanso let out an exasperated sigh and put his hands down as he turned around to face the guard who had caught him. "Because I'm bored, Eselde. Why do I do anything?"
"...You need to come up with a better response. That's what you always say," the faerie Poogle grumbled, lowering her spear. "Why can't you just be like everyone else and use that thing called a 'door' when you want to enter a room?"
"Because I'm not like everyone else," he argued. "Doors are so predictable and boring."
"Yeah? Maybe you won't think so if I actually use this next time," Eselde snapped, holding up her spear.
"Yeah, if you're gonna do that, why don't you go ahead and start thinking of an explanation to give to the queen? You'd need a heck of a good one. Oh, and I'm certain Brynn would kill you. So you might want to be careful."
"Why you...!" Eselde sputtered and trembled with anger, but was apparently unable to think of anything else to say, for she spun around on her heel and stormed off, leaving Hanso a little confused and very relieved. What, exactly, was Eselde's problem?
It had been three weeks since he and Brynn had returned from their little adventure in Qasala. Hanso was now certain that Queen Fyora had a dark side to her, as she had not at all scolded Hanso on his tactics, even after it became clear that he had outright stolen the dangerous scroll from Qasala's powerful and definitely not evil (or so she claimed) king. Both he and Brynn were able to keep their jobs as artefact hunters, and were awaiting their next mission.
For Brynn, there was plenty to do during the wait. Faerieland wasn't as grand as it once was, but it was a very busy place. Due to its new easily accessible location on the ground, there were more thieves and ruffians about. Brynn was on guard duty much of the time, usually taking at least one shift a day (although Hanso had sometimes managed to convince her to take a day off so that they could go sightseeing or just relax around the castle). Hanso occasionally joined her on her shift, although things always seemed to go wrong when he was around. He had a lot of not-so-secret admirers, even within the guard. Most of them weren't so bad, but there were a handful of guards who acted like screaming fangirls and always got in the way. Brynn was always flustered and annoyed with them (which Hanso thought was adorable, but that was not a good emotional state for someone who was on guard duty), and would hastily reassign them to other locations just to get them to go away.
And then there were some like Eselde: hateful, spiteful, irritated by anything and everything either Hanso or Brynn did, overly critical, jealous... actually, that really only summed up Eselde. No other guard was quite on her level. Though she certainly wasn't kind to Hanso, she tended to be even worse to Brynn, insisting that the non-faerie Brynn had no place in Queen Fyora's guard, regardless of how heroic Brynn had proved to be. How Eselde managed to keep her job while having a volcano-like disposition was beyond Hanso, but he figured it was the reason why she was one of the few who hadn't gotten any kind of promotion the entire time he and Brynn had lived in Faerieland. Brynn claimed that Eselde was a very good fighter (which was certainly believable) and extremely observant. That latter trait of hers had to explain why she seemed to be the only one (besides Brynn) who could catch Hanso when he was sneaking around. He knew that Brynn didn't like his habit of creeping along corridors, scaling the castle's walls, and climbing through windows, but he figured this would be a good way to keep his senses sharp. What good would he be if he lost his amazing ability to move around undetected, huh?
He gradually made his way to the castle's main entrance, where Brynn was waiting for him. She was standing with her arms crossed, leaning against a wall and staring at something up in a nearby tree, wearing her usual dark dusty pink tunic and grey pants. She wasn't wearing her armour, helmet or sword, which was good. That meant that she was indeed off duty.
She spotted him and waved. "Hanso! There you are! I've been waiting for ten minutes. Where were you?"
"I ran into Eselde," he said. "Are you ready?"
"I am." She held up her... satchel, which was definitely not a purse, no matter what it looked like. "I'm paying this time, OK?"
Hanso rolled his eyes. He and Brynn had decided months ago that they would pool their funds together (it was just easier that way, and he had a feeling that Brynn wanted to keep an eye on his income), but Brynn still insisted that she had main control over their money. He didn't really mind, but couldn't shake the feeling that she still didn't entirely trust him with their neopoints. "OK, fine, this time. Just this time, mind you. It's my responsibility!"
"No, it's mine; I'm the one everyone trusts," Brynn pointed out. She linked her arm through his. "Let's go!"
They had a nice afternoon walking through Faerie City, first stopping to order a number of books for the castle's library (the reason why Brynn made sure they had plenty of money), and then wandered off outside of the city to chat with the faerie who ran the healing springs. Two days ago, after a long storytelling session with a group of young faerie neopets, the children had gone off to visit with the faerie, and Brynn wanted to make sure they hadn't caused any trouble. The faerie assured Brynn that the children were no trouble at all (they were nothing compared to a certain Lutari who had visited a few times, though the faerie did not wish to talk about that), and then invited them to have some tea and chocolate cloud cookies.
Once they were finally able to head back toward Faerie City, it was early evening, and Hanso suggested that they stop and get something to eat at the food shop. They would miss dinner at the castle, so why not just buy some food to bring back to their chambers?
"I'm surprised. I thought for sure you'd ask Rosalie to prepare something when we got back," Brynn said as they entered Faerie City's food store. They didn't have long; the store would be closing shortly.
"I thought about it, but there are a few faerie foods I like. Just... not the ones with wings."
Brynn chuckled. "Fair enough. So, let's see..." She wandered off to go look at the salad and vegetable dishes.
The store was fairly crowded, probably because it would be closing shortly and many, like Hanso and Brynn, were purchasing food to take home for dinner. The earth faerie who ran it was working hard to get everyone checked out quickly, and at the same time, used her magic to restock simple foods. The more complex dishes apparently required more concentration and effort and were disappearing quickly. (Why didn't she try hiring a few more employees?) The constant chatter and variety of smells assaulted the senses and made choosing something difficult!
Hanso noticed that they had a few crazy crisp tacos in stock, which was great because those were one of his favourite faerie foods. The shell never got soggy, and the fillings never fell out. Plus, they were flavourful without being excessively spicy! He'd have to make sure to grab one before they ran out!
But before he could do that, he heard a choked gasp or cry of surprise that sounded like it came from Brynn. Alarmed, he glanced around the store and saw she was standing by the salads, gaping at something. Wondering what could possibly be the matter (as Brynn wasn't afraid of petpetpets or anything like that), he quickly stepped over to see what was going on. Something on a salad had her full attention, and as soon as Hanso followed her gaze, he immediately knew what it was.
"Whoa... I've never seen that here." Hanso wrapped an arm around her shoulders and whispered, "You probably shouldn't stare like that. People are going to think you're crazy, sweetie."
"Sorry, I just... ugh, bad memories." Brynn shook her head. "I hate squibble berries, and I've never seen squibble berry salad here. It's just... look! The berries are fresh!" She pointed to the salad, which had chopped bits of berry that were indeed wriggling. Would they work their way off the plate? "Who would buy that?! That's just gross!"
"Haha, now you know why I'm creeped out by the food with wings, huh?"
"I am not touching those," she hissed. "They're slimy and the insides wriggle like worms! They're disgusting!"
"I know, I know, why don't you just look for something else, huh?" Hanso asked, trying to pull her away.
"They're not a faerie food! What are they doing here?"
"Maybe some prankster from Brightvale sent some squibble berries here? It's not as far-fetched as Jazan getting that angelpuss from--"
"Okay, okay, I get it," Brynn cut him off. "I was just so surprised..."
"Faerieland is close to Brightvale. It's possible. I've seen other foods made from Brightvale fruits."
"Yeah, I'm sorry, that.... that was very unprofessional of me," Brynn said, finally allowing Hanso to pull her away. "What are you getting?"
"A couple of tacos. You?"
She exhaled rather hard, almost like a sigh, catching the hair framing her face and blowing it out of her eyes. "A nutty cheese surprise sandwich and a big bag of faerie bubbles," she finally said. "You grab everything and then I'll pay, okay?"
"I'm on it!"
As Brynn was checking out, Hanso noticed Eselde over by the salads, watching them closely, her face something between an intense stare and a smirk. He met her gaze, and she quickly ducked behind a nearby shelf lined with pies. Well, that was odd. Why was she hiding? Hanso debated telling Brynn about it, but figured that's she'd already had enough drama for the day. Eselde wasn't fond of Hanso at all, but she absolutely hated Brynn. It might be best if Brynn didn't know she was there...
To be continued...