Voyages: Part One
My name is Aed. Though, it was not always my name. In fact, I received my name only after the first fourteen years of my life were uselessly wasted. I am a blue Tonu and I was born in Tyrannia. I was born at the end of the last war.
The village that I was born into was utterly destroyed and not many Neopets survived the destruction. My parents were not two of the lucky ones. Though, guess who was? If you had survived those first fourteen years, you may not believe me to be so lucky. My uncle, a red Skeith, was now my guardian.
Uncle was a good-for-nothing pet who scraped by on odd jobs. He was a transient, never staying in the same place for more than it took to complete a job and move on. It was fine for a cantankerous middle-aged pet, past his prime. At the tender age of one year, I was tossed head first into this life. I am not the quickest of learners but I learned quickly when it came to Uncle.
The punishment was not something I wanted if I did do something wrong. He did give me a little slack, us being kin and all. He took to me every place in Neopia, though I have never been to outer space. At the age of fourteen, I had been to Brightvale two or three times before and I hadn't liked it too well. It was a place for scholars and pets like me, who couldn't read and write, no name and a very scruffy appearance, were unwelcome there.
However, Uncle had found work there, shoveling snow out of walkways for elderly scholars for the winter. They gave us a room to live in and a food to eat. The winter had passed slowly with plenty of hard work and for once in my life, I was warm at night with a full fed belly. It was definitely different. Unfortunately for Uncle and myself, winter was ending; the last snowfall was now nothing but slush and patches of bare earth could be seen once more.
Work had run dry and we were kicked out of our warm lodgings. We made camp in the plentiful woods that surrounded Brightvale. The trees sheltered us from the heavy rain but I was wetter than I had been for the last three months and it was an unpleasant shock to get used to it, again. Uncle and his friend, Amenofi, a blue Krawk, just as curmudgeonly as Uncle, slept on the damp ground, snoring away, having appointed me guard, though of what I never knew. We were literally dirt poor with nothing valuable in our possession.
I was exhausted, having stayed up all night, very uncomfortable as the cold wind blew. I was freezing! I shuddered as the wind tore through my raggedy, holey Basic White Shirt that I now considered beige, encrusted with dirt and grime and other things that I didn't want to think about. I yawned, fighting off sleep. I couldn't fall asleep, I chanted to myself in my head.
Falling asleep would mean I would get severely punished. I counted up everything that made me miserable: Uncle, Amenofi, the cold, my exhaustion, my hunger. As I finished my mental list, my stomach growled in a low voice at me, as if it even understood that to wake up either of my tormentors would not bode well. I cast a longing glance at the sack of food that lay next to our campfire. I couldn't even get a nibble to stave off my hunger because Uncle would know about it and then that nibble would be the last thing I had to eat for a while.
I tried to stay awake, I really did. My eyelids dragged heavily and I kept blinking rapidly and yawning, almost cracking my jaw as I did so. Every now and again a violent shiver would rush through me but even that didn't help me. My body was already numb and slowly, I felt my mind also grow numb. My body didn't care about my Uncle's anger.
All my body knew was that I needed sleep and badly! Uncle and Amenofi, when working, were laborers and they earned every single Neopoint they received. When they were unemployed, it was a completely different story. They were very lazy and I knew that they would wake up an hour or so after noon. I decided to risk it and fell asleep, sliding off of my rock perch and rolling away, half-submerged in a thorny bush.
Kimchee, the little Pygui, was hungry. His owner, Professor Cherry, had left in an extreme hurry that morning, having been called to attend an emergency meeting. In her rush, she had forgotten to feed her beloved Petpet. With all of his regular food, out of reach in high cupboards, the little Pygui decided it was high time for him to leave home, find himself some food and return after that. So, the little Petpet did just that, exiting through his Petpet door, trotting as fast as his white, cloven hooves could go.
Kimchee didn't mind the cold, nor the snow. His species was originally from Shenkuu. What was a little slush and rain to a mountain Petpet? The winds were blowing fiercely and Kimchee wrinkled his stubby round nose, taking in the scents that it brought. There!
Food! Not just any food, either. It was cheese. Kimchee's absolute favorite food! The Pygui broke into a gallop, but, being a Pygui, he looked like he was running in slow motion as he ran through slush and puddles of water, not minding the rain that was falling heavily from the dark sky.
Kimchee followed his nose to the woods that surrounded Brightvale and he slowed his pace slightly, running under bushes to reach his quarry. He came to a complete stop, puzzled as a blue mound came into view. His nose told him that he was looking at a sleeping blue Tonu. Not wanting to wake the sleeping pet, he went around the stranger. He had found himself a campsite.
Next to the smoldering campfire were some knapsacks. Kimchee paid no heed to the other pets in the clearing because he had just found a sack filled with... Grarrl Cheese Slices! Yummy! He made little oinks of delight as he stuffed his face with the treat. He took no notice that one of the sleepers had awakened.
A pair of pale golden eyes observed the thieving Petpet with cold intensity. Suddenly, Kimchee found himself being raised into the air. He squealed in alarm and began to struggle with all of his might, thoughts of food being replaced by alarm. Amenofi glowered at the Pygui, cuffing Kimchee roughly over the ears. The Petpet froze, giving one last whimper of pain; his ears were delicate and he had never been treated in such a manner in his entire life!
Amenofi next turned his heated gaze to his two slumbering companions, especially the blue Tonu. He kicked the Tonu roughly in the ribs.
"Get up, you fool," the Krawk growled.
The Tonu mumbled in his sleep and rolled over. The Krawk grit his teeth, his other hand clenching convulsively. The red Skeith awoke and got to his feet.
"What's going on here," the Skeith demanded.
"I caught a wild Petpet eating all of our remaining food. It only got access because this imbecile fell asleep," the Krawk gesticulated wildly, swinging Kimchee in the air, his voice raised.
Kimchee struggled, terrified at being held so high and so carelessly. He also felt indignant. He was not a wild Petpet! He had an owner who loved him dearly and took excellent care of him. He didn't realize that he was more brown than red, pelt full of thorns; he certainly didn't look pampered at the moment.
I had just awakened and I could feel the heat of Uncle's orange gaze on me. I scrambled to my feet, feeling sick because I knew exactly what I had done wrong and I had been caught! How could I have been so stupid?
"I see something wrong with this picture. Nephew, mind telling me what it is," Uncle said.
I gulped nervously. Uncle only addressed me as Nephew when I was in deep trouble, even more so than usual. I shuffled my feet, not meeting his gaze. I glanced at Amenofi and blinked in confusion. Was that a Petpet he held in his hands?
Uncle was waiting for a response and I knew that I couldn't hesitate any longer. Gaze on my feet, I gave my Uncle an answer.
"I fell asleep," I said.
"That's right," Amenofi exclaimed.
"We'll fill you in on the rest. A Petpet got in and ate all of our food. That means we'll go hungry until we manage to get more supplies," Uncle explained.
Oh, so that's what the Petpet was doing here. Going hungry was nothing new with me. I knew that Tonus were actually supposed to be naturally hefty but I was skinnier than a sapling. I rarely had a full belly. I decided to change the subject, hoping to appease Uncle.
"So... so, what type of Petpet is it," I stammered, catching myself just in time because I knew how much Uncle hated stammering.
"I don't know," Amenofi shrugged.
"It's a Pygui and we could make big money off of it if we sell it in Shenkuu. At least it's a ticket to somewhere," Uncle mumbled, mostly to himself
"Great! How are we going to get there," Amenofi asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.
I winced knowing I would never dream of doing such a thing. Uncle and Amenofi, however, were old friends and they could be as rough with each other as siblings.
"We'll stow away on one of those flying ships," Uncle said easily.
Amenofi sucked in a quick breath, "Are you crazy? Do you not know how difficult that is?"
"No worries! I filched those invisibility potions from Kayla, remember?"
Uncle had done what? When had this happened? How long-exactly-had I been asleep? Amenofi handed the Pygui to me and then Uncle and Amenofi ignored me completely, talking over their plans. I had never had any experience with Petpets.
Those tusks looked sharp but the Pygui wasn't acting aggressively. I gently stroked his tufted ears and he narrowed his eyes, giving a little oink of pleasure. Gently, I began to take out the thorns in his thin coat, not caring that my fingers were getting extremely muddy in the process. The Pygui seemed to revel in my attention and I smiled.
"We don't mean you harm. You're our ticket out of here," I whispered into one of the Pygui's ears, hoping not to draw attention to us.
It felt good to have company who actually seemed to enjoy me being around. IT didn't feel strange to talk to someone who wouldn't respond, like some might think. It was soothing to not have to expect a scathing insult.
"I think I'll call you Chuffer Bob," I said to the Pygui.
It wrinkled its nose and nudged one of my hands. I wasn't sure if it was pleased or not. I hoped it was. I looked back up as I heard Uncle and Amenofi finish their discussion.
"Lets go," Uncle said gruffly.
Amenofi said nothing, merely flopping an empty sack on one shoulder for padding before hefting the other bags over. Uncle led the way, tromping through the woods, not giving much thought to noise. Amenofi and I (still holding Chuffer Bob), followed after. We came to a halt at the other end of the woods, the castle now in sight. Due to the rain, no one else was about.
"We'll wait here until the ship arrives," Uncle said.
Amenofi and I sat and waited. I had my hands full very suddenly because, as we came in view of the castle, I noted a new tension in Chuffer Bob's body. He had become very alert and had begun to wriggle in my arms.
"Sshh! Don't struggle," I said in a low voice, knowing that now was not the time to attract anyone else's attention.
Chuffer Bob seemed to realize that he wasn't going to escape. He gave a low sigh that sounded more like a moan before going limp in my arms. I didn't understand why he was so sad but I could relate. I didn't really want to be there, sitting in the cold wet woods, surrounded by pets that meant me harm. So, we sat there (at least for Chuffer Bob and myself) in grim silence.
The rainfall and the wind blowing at the flags on the castle were the only sounds. It was an hour or two before the ship arrived. Chuffer Bob seemed to sense it first. I had been studying his profile. He was so still and so sad that I couldn't help but watch him in rapt fascination.
The Pygui had flicked his tufted ears and suddenly he was very alert, looking up into the sky. Then, the flying ship came into view. I gawked, in awe at this spectacle. For all of the voyages that Uncle had gotten me on, I had never been to Shenkuu or seen or heard of a flying ship. When it had been mentioned before, I had thought they were simply mistaken.
For starters, it was just as big as the other ships that I had boarded before. I was truly puzzled as to how we would secretly embark on this vessel, even if we were going to be invisible while doing so. Though, I suppose I couldn't put anything past Uncle. For a Skeith, he was slyer than Mr. Krawley. Uncle handed a small corked vial, that looked like it didn't contain anything at all, to Amenofi and myself.
I looked at the vial in silence, very reluctant to drink it. It would be the first potion I would ever drink in my life and I was hoping it would also be the last. For all I knew, this was not an invisibility potion but a poison with no cure. Besides that, I felt wretched for drinking or even taking part in something that was so bad: stealing and stowing away on a flying ship!
"Give the Pygui to Amenofi," Uncle barked.
I flinched and hesitated for only a moment. I truly did not wish to part with Chuffer Bob. He was the only friend that I had in the world. We had only known each other for a matter of hours but it was the most pleasant few hours of my entire life. I feared Uncle more than I wished to keep a friendship.
Unfortunately, my single moment of hesitation was a moment too long. Uncle cuffed me hard over the head, which I hardly felt (Tonus are blessed with rock solid heads, after all and besides that, I was used to Uncle's cuffs). Chuffer Bob was wrenched from my grasp and I opened my mouth in a soundless dismayed gasp. The poor little Pygui's eyes were wide with fear and he let out a squeal filled with terror. Uncle shook him roughly to silence him and he did, his small yellow eyes wide with despair.
I longed to communicate telepathically with the Petpet, to tell him that everything was going to be fine, even if it was a lie. I watched in silence as Uncle shoved Chuffer Bob to Amenofi, who stuffed him into a deep pocket concealed in his cloak. I rubbed my ear, in shock rather than pain. I wished to leave but I was far more frightened of being alone than of Uncle's terrible treatment of me. Besides, I knew that if things were this bad being in a group, I didn't want to imagine the hardships a lone pet would have.
Uncle, Amenofi and I uncorked our bottles. Uncle and Amenofi downed the contents and I wished I could hesitate, to sniff and scrutinize the contents of mine but I knew better. A second after they had emptied their vials, I did the same. I felt the liquid as it ran down my throat and I felt my stomach clench, wanting to throw up than drink something of unknown origin. Not even a moment passed before the invisibility potions did the trick.
I couldn't see Uncle or Amenofi and I couldn't see myself. This fact greatly disturbed me and I began to shake. My sensitive ears flicked as they caught the sound of movement and I followed, not wishing to be left behind, alone and literally invisible. Due to the high winds, heavy rocks anchored the ropes that allowed pets to board or exit the ship. I scared myself silly as I grabbed onto a rope, only to find that I had grabbed the scaly arm of Amenofi instead.
I froze, terrified I would be hit or cursed at. A few moments passed and I relaxed as no punishment came forth. Amenofi had merely shaken me off but he didn't say a word. I waited a bit longer before hesitantly reaching out one invisible hand and I smiled to myself when I grabbed the rope. Tonus, as the species goes, are quite clumsy creatures and I am no exception to this rule.
I could never be considered athletic and I struggled to make the climb like far more agile pets. It didn't help that the rain came down in buckets, matting my mane and making it flop into my eyes. The wind played havoc with the rope. It swayed violently and my heart was in my throat as I held on with all of my might. Panic clawed at me and I forgot all about climbing.
Things only got worse when the arbor knot holding the rope to the rock came loose. Now I was getting a lesson in flying! It didn't help that I was terrified of heights! A thin wail of terror escape me; sense eluded me. Suddenly, I felt a strong grip on my shoulders and I was guided through the air above the deck of the ship.
I hung there, limp with shock. Just as suddenly, that grip disappeared and I thudded heavily against the ship's railing. Unconsciousness claimed me quickly.
Kimchee snorted as he was stuffed into the Krawk's deep pocket. He squirmed but he received a hard thump for his trouble. It was more sheltered in the pocket than it had been outside but it didn't mean he was comfortable or happy. He felt movement and it was a short time later that he heard voices and they were angry.
"This fool could have ruined everything! When we arrive in Shenkuu we need to dump him," the Krawk growled.
The conversation was cut off and there was plenty of swift movement that made Kimchee dizzy. He took a deep breath of relief as they very suddenly stopped. He realized that he may never see Professor again. He cried silently and, exhausting himself, fell asleep.
I awoke as we arrived in Shenkuu. The weather was pretty bad, with even stronger winds than had been in Brightvale. I gulped nervously, hoping we didn't have to shimmy down anymore ropes. It didn't help that a blizzard was expected to storm in later that evening. Thankfully, Shenkuu had a proper loading dock for their flying ships and we were able to disembark first on the dock and then walk down a sturdy flight of stairs, though I still kept my eyes firmly on my still invisible feet, not wishing to look at the amazing views of the mountain merchant town.
As we reached solid ground, the invisibility potions wore off. That's when the complaints and curses started. Uncle and Amenofi had discovered something. They saw it first on my horn. In a black spiral on my horn were scrawled the words: Revenge is mine! Then, on Amenofi's tail: Lure was here!
Uncle thought that he had gotten off scotch free but, after closer inspection, he realized that: You've just been lured! was written on his ample belly. He and Amenofi were not happy in the slightest.
"Lets get rid of this stupid beast already," Uncle growled, stomping off.
Amenofi handed Chuffer Bob back to me and I tried to hide my smile of pleasure. The Pygui wriggled urgently and I realized something. He had to go!
"I apologize. I know you must... At any rate, I can't tell them that. I'll miss you, Chuffer Bob."
Chuffer Bob snorted but I could tell he still felt uncomfortable. I hoped he could hold it for a little while longer.
"You must almost look forward to being sold, huh? Uncle and Amenofi are not the best company, I know," I said.
Chuffer Bob looked up at me with what seemed to be understanding in his small round eyes. I trailed after Uncle and Amenofi. They seemed to be having trouble. They wanted the highest price possible for Chuffer Bob but he was scruffy looking and hardly high quality. Besides that, no large shop would buy only one Petpet at a time; they all had regular suppliers.
So, large shops were out and Uncle and Amenofi and come to the unsavory conclusion that they were not going to get top price for Chuffer Bob. That meant they would have to settle. Though, I knew Uncle and Amenofi well enough to know that they weren't going to scrape the bottom of the barrel, either. They were experts at getting the best price, no matter what. They walked and talked with confidence and I envied their easy manner.
It wasn't long before we entered a shop and they began to haggle with the shopkeeper. As we entered, Uncle snatched Chuffer Bob from me. I felt depressed. I slowly wandered the aisles, doing my best to think about nothing. Eventually, I found myself in front of an empty pen.
I lightly braced myself against the railing and closed my eyes. I focused on the scent of the stale straw but the tears came anyway. I had never had anything before. I had made a quick attachment to Chuffer Bob and now the Pygui was being taken away. I felt hollow and lost.
I don't know how long I stood there, frozen to the spot. A harsh clearing of the throat jolted me and got my attention.
I took a step back and turned my head to see the shopkeeper. He was a tall green Shoyru. He looked elderly. To me, this made him look stern, though not mean, or aggressive like Uncle and Amenofi. He was thin, much like me and this furthered my impression of him.
"Well? State your name and your business or take your leave of my shop this instant," the Shoyru barked, in a strong voice, rapping his cane against the floor in impatience.
I opened my mouth, willing to comply but unable to make any sound come out. The Shoyru sniffed and quickly looked me up and down.
"I take it you don't have a name. If that is the case, you don't know how old you are, either," the shopkeeper said.
I shook my head to both questions, for I truly didn't have a name and, at that point in time, did not know how old I was. The Shoyru sighed and rubbed his face slowly. Clearly, he was thinking. Chuffer Bob struggled in the Shoyru's arms. The Shoyru looked down and came to a decision.
"Here, put this Pygui in that pen. Your name is Aed. You look about fourteen years old. You'll be of use to me or you won't stay twenty-four hours. Understand," the Shoyru stated.
Newly named, I could only nod. I took Chuffer Bob and set him in the pen. The Pygui snorted in relief.
"Follow me," the Shoyru ordered.
I did so, slowly, deliberately, like everything the Shoyru did. We headed for the front of the shop and stopped in front of a paneled wall. I was confused for only a moment. I gaped when, with one smooth motion, the shopkeeper slid the wall to the side, showing a large hidden room. We stepped inside and the panel was slid back into place, the shop now hidden from view.
The kitchen was behind us and we walked through the living room, past a mostly bare desk and stopped at a bed and an empty space next to that bed, the desk bordering it.
"Here is where you will sleep," the Shoyru directed, unfurling a mat he had picked up before entering his private space. The Shoyru dropped an Orange Jelly Pillow and pulled out a spare blanket. "Now, you say thank you. Its called being polite."
"Thank you," I said at once.
"Your time is your own. If you wish to leave the shop, please ask for my permission. I am going to the shop till. You may watch, if you like and also ask questions."
With that, the shopkeeper exited the room and reentered the shop. I looked at my bed. I was tired but curiosity ate at me to learn everything that the Shoyru could possibly teach me; after all, they were both willing enough. First, however, I needed to check on Chuffer Bob. I felt responsible for the Pygui' it seemed we had formed a deep connection out of need and oppression.
My steps were quick and sure but I slowed as the pen came into view. It seemed that Chuffer Bob was sleeping. I decided not to disturb him but by then it was too late. As I was about to turn away, I saw the Pygui's ears twitch and he looked up expectantly at me. I smiled as I came forward and Chuffer Bob greeted me with a happy snort.
To be continued...