The Quest to Thorn Bridge Castle: Part Five
Also by thropp
The Spooky Food cart was tucked in a dark corner of the Deserted Fairground, just behind the Bagatelle kiosk. The food was presented in a glass display case that was illuminated by a dull, flickering light. A vampire Bruce leaned across the counter when Cait, Maz, and Abe approached, and he grinned, his long fangs slipping past his lips.
"You three must either be lost or extremely hungry, if you are at this shop," the shopkeeper teased.
"We are trying to find a few items for the Esophagor," Cait replied.
"Well, if it croaks, flaps, or slithers, chances are you can buy it here," said the Bruce. "Feel free to take a look around. Entrees are to your right, desserts to the left."
Since they were on a strict time limit - only forty five minutes remaining, by Mazeu's count - the group decided to split up and find the items they needed. Abezil was tasked with finding the Chocolate Korbat Ice Lolly, and Mazeu and Caitiry would get the Chilled Eyes with Clam Sauce.
As he and Cait browsed the inventory, Maz felt himself get queasier and queasier. Baked Intesteens were skewered and laid out on a bed of Creepy Spring Salad. Mazeu was sure the PPL would like to hear about that. Never before had he been surrounded by so much food and not had so much as a hint of hunger swirl in his belly. He just did not think Roast Work with Cranberries sounded appetizing.
"There sure are a lot of items with eyes, aren't there?" Cait asked as they passed a shelf filled with Eyeball and Worm Sandwiches, Mashed Eye potatoes, and Glaring Eye Wraps. Spotting a green shell under a platter of Spaghetti and Eyeballs, the Aisha bent down.
"'A startling treat for anyone, this clam shell is filled with eye balls and covered in a tasty clam sauce," she read. "Chilled Eyes with Clam Sauce. How delicious." She handed the plate over to Mazeu and winked. He tried not to breathe in through his nose, but it was hard when his throat was convulsing with involuntary gags.
"I hope Abe is done," he moaned. "Let's get out of here."
Sir Abezil was waiting near the checkout, a pink lolly clutched in his big hand. Caitiry could not help but laugh. The sight of the knight, covered head to toe in gleaming armor with a big sword about his waist, holding a small lollypop was as bizarre as anything else she had seen in the Haunted Woods.
"Abe, what is that?" Mazeu inquired with a quirk of an eyebrow.
"This is a Strawberry Korbat Ice Lolly," Abe responded, reading the tag attached to the stick he held. "It was only 900 Neopoints."
Cait glanced at her Mynci companion over her shoulder as she placed the Chilled Eyes with Clam Sauce on the counter by the check out. "And?"
"Well, it is just... the chocolate one is 5,000 Neopoints. Can we not just buy the cheaper one and keep our Neopoints? How is the Esophagor going to know? He does not even have a tongue to taste the food with, I doubt it will make a difference," Abe said, absentmindedly twirling the lolly.
Mazeu snorted softly and shook his head. "Do not be dense, Sir," he chastised. "Do you want to complete the quest or not?"
"Yeah, Abe!" Caitiry exclaimed. "Queen Fyora's life hangs in the balance, and you are worried about a few lousy Neopoints?! I am starting to wonder how serious you are about this."
The Mynci knight was astonished and a bit ashamed. He had not expected his friends to attack him in such a manner. "I was just making a suggestion," he muttered. "You did not have to chew my head off, you know."
"You would probably prefer to have us chew your head off rather than the Esophagor. I can guarantee he would, if you tried bringing him a Strawberry Korbat Ice Lolly instead of chocolate," Mazeu responded.
"Do not be a fool, Abe," said Cait. "You know we only have your best interests in mind, but sometimes I wonder how you became a knight when you do not use your brain!"
Having been sufficiently chastised by a tiny Aisha and nerdy Kyrii, Sir Abezil went to get a Chocolate Korbat Ice Lolly.
They could feel the earth shaking beneath their feet minutes before they reached the Esophagor. If they thought it was tumultuous in the Deserted Fairground, it was downright quaking by the time they made it to the sludgy creature.
"I aamm staarrvvingg....," he moaned. "Dooo yoouu haaavvee mmyy fffoooooodd?"
"We do," Cait confirmed, tilting the Chilled Eyes with Clam Sauce plate toward him. What was she supposed to do? Leave it on the ground? Would it just sink into the Esophagor's mass and be absorbed?
"Plleeeaassee ffeeeedd mmee," cried the Espohagor.
Cait arched her arm back and tossed the food as close to his mouth as she could. It landed with a gummy sounding squish and the Esophagor stretched his mouth to fit the clam shell inside. It promptly disappeared from sight.
"MMMMMMMMmmmmmm Nowww essoophagorr happy!!!!" he cheered. "Wwhhherre isss my deessseerrrt?"
Abezil copied Caitiry's actions and threw the Chocolate Korbat Ice Lolly into the Esophagor's mouth. The creature finished the lolly in one gulp and smacked his lips contentedly.
"Thhaaannkk yoouu," he said. Nnnoooww foorrr yoouur aanswweerrs... Daaavvviiddd vonnn Cyyybuuunny dieeddd innn thhee yeeear 34 BN iinn Maraqua."
"Thank you, Esophagor," Mazeu said, ready to leave. If he thought the food was disgusting, the manner in which it was eaten was even worse. He would hear those squishing sounds every day for the rest of his life, which if they did not get back to the Brain Tree soon, would not be all that long. "We must leave now."
The Kyrii gripped his companions by the shoulders and led them back toward the woods. As they walked away, the Esophagor could still be heard talking to himself. "I ssshoooouuulldd haavveee asssskkeedd foor a sssstraaawbeeerrryyyy llloooollllyy iiinsssteeeeaadd," the beast lamented.
The path back through the Haunted Woods did not prove to be as frightening as it was the first time. Now that they knew what to expect, the adventurers were much braver than before. Knowing that there were things outside of the woods that were far more terrifying than inside was a comfort. Shadows were more easily dealt with, in Mazeu's opinion, than gluttonous swamp beasts.
"Well then... have you found that information out for me?" bellowed the Brain Tree as the group returned. "I am waiting... you only have 6 minutes left!"
"We do," returned Sir Abezil. "Our sources indicate that David von Cybunny died in the year 34 BN in Maraqua."
The Brain Tree's brain pulsed and his branches quivered with excitement. "Now that you have provided the correct information to me, it is my turn to reward you. Please accept the following magical item, and also 1202 Neopoints!"
Taking their newly acquired map pieces to Thorn Bridge Castle, the adventurers happily left the haunted Woods behind. When they made it back through the mouth of the forest, sunlight shined down on them in brilliant rays. Mazeu was so glad to be back to "normal" Neopia that he fell to his knees and kissed the lush grass below.
"Now we should head for Altador," Sir Abezil commented. "Maz, what is the fastest way there?"
Mazeu unrolled his map and traced a path with the tip of his finger. One route would take them through the Lost Desert; another, over the snowy mountain range that bordered the Haunted Woods. "This course would be faster," the Kyrii said, pointing to the mountain pass. "But I do not know how we would get through."
Caitiry, who had not said a word since they exited the forest, smiled and pointed behind the boys. "Draik."
"Come again?" Maz and Abe said in unison. They had already had one bad experience with a Draik during this excursion and were in no hurry to have another.
"There is a Rent-A-Draik stand over there," the Aisha elaborated. "50 Neopoints a ride."
The knight and cartographer turned and stood beside the sorceress. Sure enough, there was a wooden sign touting the safest passage to Shenkuu and Altador via the back of a beautiful White Draik who lay on her back, quietly snoring.
"Pardon me," Caitiry called to the slumbering Draik. "May we take a ride?"
The Draik stirred and opened her eyes slowly. They were friendly eyes, much more welcoming than those of Dhevien.
"Greetings," the Draik welcomed. "I am Eisian. I would be happy to carry you over the mountains."
Sir Abezil fished 100 NP from his coin purse and gave it to Eisian. She lowered her long, powder white wings and allowed the three Neopets to climb aboard and sit on her back. "Please take us to Shenkuu," he requested. "Then to Altador."
"That is quite a long trip," the Draik warned. "Try not to get air-sick."
Mazeu groaned and covered his eyes.
To be continued...