Baby Adventures: The Mystery of the Fontaine Sisters - Part One
Treaphie grinned as she followed her older brother into the restaurant. "I can't believe we're at the Golden Dubloon!" the Baby Usul cried happily. "Arrrre ye excited, matey?"
"Aye," her brother, Kolyae the Baby Chomby, agreed, winking with the eye not covered by his new eyepatch. "What be yer opinion, lasses?" he asked Leti and Kasthie.
Kasthie, a Baby Korbat, simply giggled, but Leti responded regally, "Oh, it all seems too rough for me. And I simply can't manage that pirate speech!" The Baby Peophin brushed her pastel-blue mane with a shining golden hoof that had already attracted the attention of several pirates in the restaurant.
"Come on, Leti, ye can do it!" Treaphie encouraged, adding with a wicked grin, "Or ye be an even bigger landlubber than I assumed ye ter be!"
"'Landlubber'?" Leti questioned, unable to pronounce it properly. "I think I have the best sea-legs out of all of you, to tell you the truth." She wiggled her Peophin tail for emphasis.
"Oh... point taken," Treaphie amended.
The four were leading the way into the restaurant, the rest of their rather large family walking behind them. Brianna, the owner of the many pets, was adorned in cheap pirate jewelry from the gift shop, wearing the fake gold pieces proudly as she marched in. Beside her was Awesomific, a chipper Blue Kacheek, who was questioning her owner about Captain Threelegs. The family was only at Krawk Island because Awesomific was considering switching from the Mystery Island Training School to the Swashbuckling Academy. At first, Brianna had been against the idea. She had argued that it was more convenient to attend school at Mystery Island, where Brianna's sister and her pets lived, so that Awesomific's training wouldn't require frequent trips back and forth from Faerieland to the island. Awesomific had proposed that she could stay at a hotel on Krawk Island and do training each day until she graduated from the Swashbuckling Academy, when she would return to the Mystery Island Training School. "It's much cheaper here," she told Brianna, "even when you factor in the cost of the hotel. We don't have enough money to progress too far at Mystery Island right now."
Brianna had still been afraid of sending her Kacheek to stay alone on an island with such a notorious reputation for toughness and thievery, so she wanted to come and see it first. She had also insisted that another one of her pets should stay with her, which Awesomific - a very social Kacheek - had agreed with. Silce, a bold, audacious Faerie Cybunny who had once lived on Krawk Island, had quickly requested to accompany her. The rest of the family was excited about visiting Krawk Island, which they had never seen before, and pleaded to be able to come too. Brianna finally consented to make it a vacation and brought all of her pets along with her - including her four babies, three of whom were beyond excited.
Leti gazed curiously around at the fine restaurant. She was the newest member of the family, brought home one day by Brianna after her trip to Brightvale. Brianna had not told her pets how she had obtained the baby, but always protected her and kept her in sight, making the others think she had saved her from something. Though curious about how she had come to their family, none of the pets could help loving their new little sister, who was thoughtful and quiet on her own but eager when playing with others.
Kolyae nudged Leti forward and she seemed to come out of her deep thoughts, continuing onward across the floor until she made it to an empty booth. She sat down inside it.
Brianna frowned when she arrived. "These booths are too small for our family," she decided. "We'll need to spread out. There's another booth next to this one. How about Silce, Awesomific, the babies and I stay here while the rest of you go to the other booth?"
The pets agreed and, after much bustling and fighting over seats, they all got settled. The four babies were squeezed together on one side while Brianna, Awesomific, and Silce sat opposite them. The three were talking quietly, which was unusual for them, for they were known for their loud voices that seemed to be heard in every room of their house. The babies looked around at the restaurant, feeling rather hungry.
"I can't wait for the waitresses to get here," Kasthie babbled excitedly.
"I can't wait for the food to get here," Treaphie mumbled. "It's what the waitresses carry that matters."
"Not with the Fontaine Sisters," Kasthie told her. "They're famous!"
"Who?" Leti, Kolyae, and Treaphie asked curiously. Kasthie looked perplexed.
"They're on Trading Cards! The Neopedia! Surely you've heard--"
"Kasthie, we can't read," Treaphie said, rolling her eyes. Words didn't quite make sense to her, nor to her older brother or youngest sister, but Kasthie - younger than Treaphie - had managed to self-teach herself how to read. The ability had come in handy on their last adventure - saving Faerieland from losing one of their elemental magic abilities. Treaphie was craving another adventure, but nothing interesting had happened since returning home. Coming to Krawk Island seemed to promise a change of events.
"What's so special about them?" Kolyae questioned.
"Well, they're beautiful, for one thing," Kasthie shared. "Especially Rosetta. Loretta, the more famous of the two, is known for her amazing pizza and for stopping a Meerca from robbing the secret recipe from the manager, Captain Hawkett!"
"Cool!" the others exclaimed, intrigued. Treaphie grinned. She couldn't wait to see these famous waitresses - she loved meeting legendary Neopians. As she waited eagerly, the others chatted about what they would order.
"I like the look of the Tropical Breeze. Krawk Island's got really good Chokatos!" Kasthie mentioned.
"Blergh, who would order the Double Stuffed Guppy?" Kolyae asked, disgusted, as he hastily flipped the page to find a more appealing dish.
"The Oyster Obsession looks very fancy, but it's hardly edible," Leti sighed, turning the page of her menu. She looked horrified at the look of the first two main courses, the Bilge Rat Madeira and Slithering Squid Surprise, and skipped the rest of the section. As she went to the dessert page, her eyes lit excitedly. "Oh, look at that Forbidden Plunder," she moaned longingly, staring at the image of the chocolate cake topped with whipped cream. "I think I'll just order that and go."
Treaphie looked up from the pages of her own menu, which was open to the cocktails section, and nudged Kasthie. "I think that's Loretta and Rosetta Fontaine!" she whispered happily.
Kasthie looked up immediately, and so did Kolyae and Leti. Each of them gasped as their eyes fell on the two waitresses.
Loretta, a Pink Aisha, had auburn hair elegantly tied into a large bun on her head. She wore heavy red lipstick, a short, simple brown-and-yellow dress, and a thin satin fabric around her neck. Her eyelashes were very long and thick, and she had a Classic Beauty Mark just under her left eye.
Rosetta, meanwhile, was a Green Aisha. Her long hair was the same shade as her sister's, but it was loose and fell down her back. Rather than being combed to the sides like Loretta's, the front of Rosetta's hair was exquisitely styled to curl and hang between her large eyes, which were decorated with a rather large amount of purple eyeshadow. Her clothing was more fancy as well, with a blue satin belt around her waistline and decorative stitching around the sides of the cotton dress.
They looked beautiful, nobody could deny it, but something was definitely wrong. The areas around their eyes were red and puffy, and much of their makeup was dripping down their face - they had been crying heavily recently. But why?
"C-can I take yer order?" Loretta asked shakily as Rosetta questioned the rest of the babies' family in the next booth. Brianna looked over and immediately appeared concerned.
"Something wrong, Loretta?" she asked the Pink Aisha uncertainly.
"Yes!" she wailed, so loudly that several diners looked up. "Oh yes, the worst news I've ever heard!" She began to sob, dropping the notepad she had been carrying to take orders onto their empty table. Startled, the babies, Awesomific, Silce, and Brianna looked at each other.
"What was the news, um, Loretta?" Treaphie asked tentatively. She hadn't imagined meeting the famous Aisha this way - she had expected her to be the polite, skilled, and classy waitress she was known for being.
Loretta sniffled, eyeliner completely smudged. "I... Rosetta and I... we're gettin' fired!"
"What?!" the members of the table cried in unison.
"After all you've done?" Brianna asked, appalled.
"But you have such incredible pizza, they can't fire you!" Kasthie cried.
"Apparently, since I invented the pizza here, they have claimed the recipe as belongin' ter them," Loretta said shakily. "I be no longer allowed ter make it unless I work here."
"What about the robbery you stopped?" Silce demanded.
"They seem ter think that past events cannot erase the seriousness of what I've... been accused fer," Loretta murmured dramatically.
The babies stared at each other. "But... what've you been accused for?" Kolyae asked nervously.
"Apparently," Loretta said angrily, "Rosetta and I were seen goin' into the Food Storage Rooms - we do go there, of course, ter get the food fer the meals - but these witnesses say they saw us leave empty-handed! And what is worse, all the food in the Food Storage Rooms was completely coated with a very sticky, strange spice that made all of it taste disgusting. The Governor was eatin' here that day - "
"Governor Gavril McGill?" Treaphie asked interestedly as she peered around the restaurant, searching for more famous names.
"Yes," Loretta confirmed. "He tasted it and nearly got sick on the spot - as did the other customers present. He ordered that whoever did it must be fired immediately."
"But they have no proof it was you!" Leti exclaimed.
"And it wasn't me," Loretta persisted. "I didn't do anything! But the only clue they have ter who did it be the witnesses." After a tense silence, she asked quietly, "Um, what can I get fer you?"
The others ordered their meals halfheartedly, and Loretta nodded unenthusiastically before slipping off towards the Food Storage Rooms.
"How horrible," Kasthie murmured in a hushed voice.
"I know," Treaphie agreed solemnly. "Simply terrible."
Leti peered around the restaurant, which was filled with tough-looking pirates and only a few brave tourists. "I wonder why anyone would want them fired," she whispered.
"Maybe they didn't specifically want them fired," Kolyae piped up. "It could be that the culprits were just lucky that they were mistaken for Loretta and Rosetta."
"But how can anybody be mistaken for them?" Treaphie demanded. "They have a very distinctive look about them. This was deliberate."
"We should find out more about it," Kasthie suggested. "Maybe we can help!"
"Oh, no," Leti groaned, putting one of her golden hooves on her forehead. "Let's not get involved in this, it could be dangerous!"
Treaphie grinned. "Exactly!" she exclaimed eagerly. "Kasthie, Kolyae and I are experienced in adventures now--"
"I've heard!" Leti cried. "You guys took way too many risks--"
"And now it's time for us to help you learn the ways of adventures," Treaphie concluded. "First we should find out more about what happened. We heard Loretta's account of the story, and I assume Rosetta's will be similar, but how about we ask the manager of the restaurant for more details?"
"Good thinking," Kasthie said happily. "I'm sure he can give us a very precise report of what happened and who was involved. What do you think, Kolyae?"
Kolyae looked nearly as frightened as Leti. "I don't know," he muttered, hiding his face. "Whoever wants the Fontaine Sisters out of the way was okay with getting a bunch of people dangerously sick in the process. Maybe we should stay out of it."
"Exactly my point, Kolyae," Leti agreed, relieved.
Treaphie was not to be so easily put off. "Fine, you guys stay here," she sighed. "Kasthie and I will go save the Fontaine Sisters' jobs. Have fun missing out on solving the mystery." She hopped out of the booth.
"Treaphie?" Brianna asked, noticing her baby pet leaving the table. "Where are you going?"
"Meet pirates," Treaphie babbled sweetly.
"Oh. Okay," she said uncertainly. "Stay where I can see you!" She then became absorbed in her conversation once more, and Treaphie took the opportunity to slip away. Kasthie followed. After exchanging a quick look with each other, both Kolyae and Leti knew they had to accompany their sisters, and without a word they left the table and followed the other babies.
"Glad you could make it," said Treaphie nonchalantly as she toddled towards the door to the Manager's Office.
"How'd you know we were here?" Kolyae asked, surprised. He hadn't seen Treaphie turn around at all.
"I figured you'd come," she told him. "Now the manager should be in here. Come on." She led the way for her siblings, who followed obediently. When she reached the large wooden door bearing a gold plaque, she turned to Kasthie for confirmation.
"It says 'Manager's Office'," the Korbat announced, sounding a bit less certain about meeting the pirate manager than she had been before. Treaphie smiled and, without the slightest feeling of apprehension, she knocked on the door.
After a few tense moments, the door flung open. A tall, tough-looking Blue Lupe stood in the doorway, giving a very menacing impression. None of the babies would doubt he had ever been a pirate plundering the lands, for he certainly looked the part. He wore a large black Captain's hat with the traditional skull-and-bones emblem of pirates. He had one large golden earring, a long, bushy beard, and a slender, swirling golden hook instead of a left hand. His yellow eyes narrowed, though only one could be seen - the right one was covered with a black eyepatch.
"Arr, who be disturbin' me?" he growled. He caught sight of the babies and dropped his tough disposition immediately. Much more softly he asked them, "What are ye doin' here, lad and lasses?"
"Hello," said Treaphie pleasantly. "I'm Treaphie. This is Kolyae, Leti, and Kasthie. May we come inside? We have a few things to discuss with you."
A little taken aback by the formal speech of the Baby Usul, the manager permitted her to come inside the office. The other babies came behind her, a little nervous at the sight of the grand sea captain.
The manager sat on a rich-looking seat lined with red velvet behind his large wooden desk, the only furniture besides a large grey vault in the surprisingly small room. He stared inquisitively at his young visitors.
"You are the manager, aren't you?" Treaphie questioned.
"Aye, I be Captain Hackett himself," the manager announced proudly. "Did ye wish ter learn more about meself?"
"Not quite," said Treaphie lightly. "We have an inquiry to make about the Fontaine Sisters."
Captain Hackett was silent for a moment. "And why are ye wishin' ter learn more about them wreckers of me reputation?" he finally asked.
This surprised Treaphie. "I thought they made your reputation," she countered. "With their beauty and their food and stopping that robbery--"
Captain Hackett waved his large hand dismissively. "All in the past," he told them. "This last offense has been too much, lass. Don't get me wrong, I be quite fond of them sisters. But I've been ordered ter fire them from me restaurant."
"So you'd rather keep them working for you?" Treaphie asked.
"Well..." The pirate hesitated. "Technically I'm supposed ter say 'no', but they be the best barmaids ever to work for me Golden Dubloon."
"But surely you have all the power over your workers," the Usul said, taken aback by the Lupe's comment.
The captain growled. "Not when ordered by Governor McGill himself."
"The Governor!" Treaphie gasped, remembering Loretta's story. "But he only said that the person who did it was to be fired, according to Loretta. You don't know it was them! Why would they want to sabotage the restaurant?"
"Aye, there be witnesses," Captain Hackett sighed. "I'm afraid there be nothin' ye can do ter change it."
"Who were these witnesses?" Treaphie asked. "I'd like to hear it from them."
"Aye, many of those in the restaurant at the time saw the incident," Captain Hackett told them. Trying to be more helpful, he racked his brains for the names. "I didn't see it personally, but I be knowing that the other barmaids saw, as did most customers there at the time." Captain Hackett opened the drawer of his desk and removed a clipboard. "These papers say who came inter the restaurant at what times. There ain't too many names, fer I only allow a hundred customers in here at a time. Ye can borrow the page, if ye'd like."
"Thank you," Treaphie said gratefully. "What time did this event occur, Mr. Hackett?"
"At 4:30 pm NST precisely the Fontaine Sisters were spotted leaving the Food Storage Rooms with nothin' in their hands. This page contains all the customers of the day, so the customers present during the incident will be on there."
"Captain Hackett," Treaphie said determinedly, "I'm going to investigate this situation and help the Fontaine Sisters. This seems like a really interesting case."
The Lupe captain smiled, as though he thought them amusing. "O' course," he said with a grin. "If ye find anythin', be sure ter talk ter Gavril McGill." He laughed to himself at the very thought.
"Thanks again for all your help," Treaphie told him appreciatively, and she left the office.
The other babies, who had been too afraid to speak the entire time, now burst into a babble of speech.
"We've got a list of suspects now!" Kasthie cheered.
"I think we might really discover something," Kolyae told his Korbat sister, looking eager.
"How exciting!" Leti exclaimed, her eyes shining. She seemed to have forgotten all reluctance for adventure now.
Treaphie smiled at her companions' sudden interest in the case. "We can be like real detectives now," she told them excitedly. "Come on, let's go over this paper."
But before they could even glance at the paper, Brianna had spotted them. "We've finished our meals," she told them, smiling. "You guys didn't show up, so we got yours to go." She pointed to a stack of take-out containers that Awesomific was balancing in her paws, looking delighted at the challenge of keeping them from toppling over.
The babies glanced at each other sadly. They wanted to get right to work on the case, but it seemed that they would have to wait. They followed their family out of the restaurant, into a wooden cart pulled by two Pirate Unis, and into the hotel.
Compared to the beautiful Faerie Castle Hotel the babies remembered, Shore Inn seemed rather shabby. It was a very large cabin, but the rooms were nearly bare. There were only beds and a single table in each room. Just like at the Golden Dubloon, the family needed to split into two groups to accommodate their numbers. The babies got a room with Awesomific, Brianna, and Silce, and they quickly chose the section of four beds nearest the door - two on one wall, two on the other, so that they could easily talk.
Brianna sniffed disapprovingly. "This room is awful," she complained. "I know you'll need a hotel, Awesomific, but I think we can find a better hotel that we can afford for just you and Silce. Because there are so many of us here, we had to go... cheaper."
"I think we should search for hotels for the evening," Awesomific. chirped. "We have the whole night ahead of us, and we have so much to do!"
"This vacation isn't too long, Bri, and we haven't even checked out the Swashbuckling Academy yet," Silce put in. "We better get going."
"Oh, definitely," Brianna agreed. "I saw the Dubloon Suite nearby, it looks much more habitable." The three of them left hastily, closing the door firmly behind them. As their roommates' faint footsteps receded, Treaphie sat up eagerly.
"Now let's check out this paper!" she said excitedly. The others nodded fervently, crawling closer so that they could get a better look.
The three pored over the sheet, but their enthusiasm soon faded.
"These are a lot of names, Treaphie," Kolyae said uncertainly.
"How will we track them all to question them?" Kasthie whined.
"We're just going to have to check them one by one," Treaphie said grimly.
Kasthie scanned the list briefly. "There's Gavril McGill," she suddenly said, pointing to a name near the bottom of the first page. "He came in at 4:29 pm NST."
"Whoever was planning on getting the Fontaine Sisters into trouble was obviously waiting for him to show up," Leti said seriously.
"So we know when the deed was done, where it happened, and why: to fire the Fontaine Sisters," Treaphie concluded, "which is great progress for how long we've been on the case. But we don't know why they would want the Fontaine Sisters to be fired, who did it, or how it was accomplished, which are going to be a lot harder to discover."
"How many people were there before 4:30, Kasthie?" Kolyae asked.
Kasthie counted quickly. "Twenty," she answered promptly. "Ten were waitresses." She rattled off their names. "Loretta Fontaine, Rosetta Fontaine, Marietta Jonelle, Alice Swindle, Sally Anchor, Stacy Hora, Rachel Astondi, Tessa Trollie, Wendy Horco, and Nancy Sherley. The other ten were Monty, Grimtooth, Deadeye, Buck Cutlass, Orvinn the First Mate, Peg Leg Percival, The Tailhook Kid, Admiral Blackbeard, Goldhook, and Timberleg."
"What strange names," Kolyae laughed. "If I lived on Krawk Island, I wonder what I'd be called!"
"Goldtooth Kolyae the Deckswabber?" Kasthie guessed, also giggling.
"I suggest we investigate the other waitresses," Leti suggested, still intrigued by the paper given to them by Captain Hackett. "They're working right at the Golden Dubloon, so they'll be easy to find."
"And we could check the Food Storage Rooms to see if there's any clues to what the stuff was that contaminated the food," Kolyae piped up.
"Great ideas, guys," Treaphie told them, smiling. "Looks like we better get going to the Golden Dubloon."
As the four of them toddled towards the door, it was opened by Toupahz, their sister. The Faerie Meerca grinned at them. "Glad you guys aren't on that adventure anymore," she joked, laughing. "Now I don't have to worry about you!"
The babies exchanged looks with each other. Toupahz had accompanied them on their last adventure in Faerieland, but they didn't think it would be wise to invite her to come again. Last time they had to worry about her safety far too often. With a straight face, Treaphie replied in her babbling voice, "Golden Dubloon?"
"The Golden Dubloon?" Toupahz repeated, surprised. "We just ate there! Your lunches are in my room. Eat quickly and we'll head to Warf Wharf!"
The babies went obediently to Toupahz's hotel room, eating their food quietly and making no mention of their latest adventure. They were thankful they had ordered small meals, for they were all feeling curious about what was at Warf Wharf.
The group of nine pets traveled in the cart they used before, and the Pirate Unis were trotting along at a steady pace. Treaphie questioned Toupahz on where they were going.
"Well, I don't know too much about it," she admitted. "But I've heard it's the most bustling city on Krawk Island. The majority of the population lives there - it should be interesting to see what a pirate's daily life is like. Plus, it's a thriving center of trade. I can't wait to barter for goods like a pirate!"
"It might be dangerous," Kasthie said worriedly. "Think of all the mean pirates just waiting for people like us to come!"
Toupahz was unfazed. "There are plenty of tourists at Krawk Island," she told the Baby Korbat gently. "We'll be fine."
"Besides," Treaphie muttered to Kasthie under her breath, "if most of Krawk Island lives there, we should be able to find some suspects!"
Warf Wharf wasn't far from the hotel. They soon reached the outskirts of the bustling city and immediately realized how rough a pirate's life is. The people of the town would roughly push past one another, glare at each other, and wear looks on their faces that clearly showed they were calculating how rich passerby were and what the odds were of beating them in a fight. Kasthie shuddered more and more as they walked on.
"Warf Wharf isn't as quaint as I had hoped," Toupahz murmured nervously, walking closer to the babies as though her presence would scare away any pirate. "We should stick together as a group... oh! Krawk Fashions!" She gasped at the sight of two pretty Aishas coming out of the store, dressed fancily in bonnets and ruffled dresses of white silk, and without further ado ran into the shop. The babies glanced at each other uncertainly.
"We should follow her," Kasthie said automatically.
"No, wait!" Treaphie called, holding out her arm to prevent Kasthie from passing by. "This could prove to be a useful opportunity to find out more about these people. Any one of them could be a suspect."
The babies walked nervously around, asking the less scary citizens about the names on their list. A tall Purple Acara glanced at it for only a moment before answering, "Aye, I be recognizin' these names."
"Who are they?" Treaphie asked with mounting excitement.
The Acara pointed towards the middle of the list. "Monty, Grimtooth, and Deadeye be well-known Bilge Dice players. They be skillful, mind ye." The Acara nodded knowingly.
"Thanks," Treaphie said gratefully, turning back to her siblings. "I know where to go!" she whispered happily.
"You do?" Kasthie asked, surprised. "Where?"
In answer, Treaphie pointed next to the shop Toupahz had disappeared into. It was a shabby, shady-looking building with an old wooden sign that had small, scrawling letters on it. A pair of die were drawn next to the words. Treaphie glanced at Kasthie.
"It says 'Bilge Dice'," Kasthie informed them, sounding a little shaky.
"Good, then let's go," Treaphie replied, stepping boldly forward. The others followed more uncertainly.
To be continued...