Ridley's Ruin: Part One
The sun was shining and the Weewoos were twerping and I felt like screaming.
It wasn't the weather. Well, actually, maybe it was. Maybe it was the fact that the sky was so blue and the sun was so yellow and cheery and there wasn't a cloud in the sky and I felt like it should be cloudy and gray and storming to reflect my mood.
It wasn't Fay. He was being perfectly Fay and staring ahead moodily and scaring pets away with his face but probably thinking about Weewoos and Unis.
It was me.
It was my sudden and inexplicable ruin.
Sounds dramatic, I know. Sounds ridiculous.
Wait til you hear it.
I was sitting on a bench, playing my guitar, admiring the view of a rusty old machine spout oil all over the place, when some idiot knocked into me from behind and my guitar went flying out of my hands and landed in the oil. This being Moltara, my guitar was made of a combination of assorted metals and gears, and it was fine. I , however, was not.
"Who do you think you are? You probably broke my guitar. You're gonna have to pay me a million NP. This is vintage." It was, of course, worth about 5 NP. Fay had thrown it together with scrap metal salvaged from the Tangor's Workshop junkyard.
"Don't be ridiculous," the mystery pet snapped. I dusted myself off and straightened up. The pet was pitch black—died, not painted, I could see a few red hairs poking through—and a fine specimen of a Mystery Island Kougra, as was obvious from his accent and his Kougra-ness. I should know what a Kougra looks like, being one myself.
"I'm not," I answered. "Being ridiculous, I mean."
The Kougra sniffed. "And what is your name, little girl?"
"I'm not little!" I snapped. It was true. I was bigger than Fay, and he was a guy.
"I meant in age. What are you, twelve?" He looked down at me, his nose wrinkling in disgust.
"I'm thirteen, thank you very much," I sniffed. "And the name's Ridley." I gave the stranger a once-over. Obviously vain, or maybe trying to blend into the shadows, as shown from his dyed fur. He wore a long black coat—or maybe it was stained from the smoke and soot and oil around here. It was hard to tell. With that he wore a pin-striped suit and vest, a watch chain, and a red silk cravat.
"You're rich," I said scornfully. "You can afford to live up high in a ventilated, well-lit home, while the rest of us live in shacks or on the streets with goggles and respirators to keep out the smoke." I coughed pointedly.
"Go pick up your guitar," was all he said. "Why in Neopia would you play out here in this awful din?"
"In case you haven't noticed, the only place there isn't an 'awful din' is in the lava caves, and I'm not gonna risk that," I snapped, but picked up my guitar all the same. I shook it dry and settled it gently on my lap.
"Where are your parents?" the Kougra asked silkily.
"Lying in a bunch of lava," I said cheerfully. "I live with Fay."
"And who is this. . .Gray?" He pulled a monocle out of his pocket, wiped it off carefully with a lacy handkerchief, and then put it over his eye. The monocle, not the handkerchief.
"Fay," I corrected. "He's my brother. Well, sort of. His mama took care of us when I was found abandoned after the fateful day my parents took a tour of the lava caves. Mama disappeared into the depths of the caves when me and Fay where six, and we've been on our own ever since."
"'Me and Fay?'" he muttered. "I see she didn't teach you much grammar."
"She was the best mother I ever had!" I said hotly. "Well, the only one. Actually, no. The first one went and fell into a pit of lava. Not very responsible, if you ask me." The Kougra rolled his eyes.
"Anyways, I have something to offer you," the Kougra said smoothly. "I was listening to you play, and while it does sound like a sick Angelpuss, it sounds like a sick Angelpuss on its way to getting better. And I can help it get better." He smiled.
"Um. . .thanks?"
"So I'm offering you a deal. You. . ." he started.
I held up a paw. "Wait a minute. You haven't even told me your name yet."
"That is none of your concern."
"Um, yeah, it is. If I'm going to be accepting this deal of yours, I need to be able to contact you. You know, after I think it over." He looked shocked, as if his deal was so awesome I'd accept it right on the spot. As if. It didn't matter if he promised me Neopia for a Neopoint, I was still going to talk it over with Fay.
"Sir Genson," he muttered grudgingly, his voice losing its silky quality. "Not that you really needed to know that."
"I bet that's not even your real name," I sniffed.
He looked shocked. "Of course it is. Do you think I'd lie to you about that?" He paused, and suddenly looked suspicious. "Your name really is Ridley, isn't it?"
"Nah. It's Fiddlegeeomnosqwackadoo," I snapped. "Of course my name is Ridley. What do you think I am, some sort of con? Which is probably what you are, by the way. Which is why I'm gonna get Fay to check you out. You know, do some research into your name."
He looked vaguely uncomfortable. "Do what you wish. Where is your precious Blay, anyway?" he asked, with the air of a pet trying to change the subject quickly.
"Fay, and he's workin' in his forge. He's not big or famous like Cog or Tangor or anything, but he's got real talent. Made me this guitar," I said proudly, and lifted the instrument up. Sir Genson examined it through his spectacle, looking interested for the first time.
"Hmm, tin, copper, even some nickel. Very interesting. Not bad." He sniffed. "What else does May make?"
"This is getting ridiculous. May isn't even a guy's name. It's Fay, for the last time, Fay."
"Fine. Whatever. Can he make anything else?"
"Sure, lots of stuff. Gears, of course, and simple machinery, cups, plates. . ." My voice trailed off. "Hang on. Do you want some different instruments? Besides a guitar, I mean?"
Genson smiled. "Spot on. That's exactly what I want."
"Is that the deal?"
"No. The deal is, you join my premier band that I am managing. . .and I get you and your brother off the streets and into a so-called 'rich' home." He smiled at me.
I snorted. "You've got to be kidding me. First of all, I work alone, play alone, except Fay. And second of all, do you really think I'd want to be rich? No! I'm proud of living down with the regular people." I sniffed.
"Fine. I'm sure you'll reconsider. Talk it over with Jay. . .I mean Fay." He smiled toothily. "You know where to find me."
"No I don't !" I yelled after him. "Tell me where you live!" But it was too late. He was gone.
. . .
I trudged back home, my guitar slung across my back and my boots waterlogged from some leak in the City Hall. I trudged through centimeters of soot mixed with water before kicking my boots off, hiding them in a rain gutter, and shimmying up a light pole. I hopped onto a shop roof selling spare gears and onto the next roof, a small inn. I went on roof-hopping until I reached the poor district.
We were a bit like the gypsy camp of the Haunted Woods, not that I'd ever been there. Lanterns and campfires were our only light, beside the far-off glimmer of lava. Shanties, tents, and shacks were lined up haphazardly along the cobblestone streets, and the laughter and shouts of many, many pets filled the enormous cave.
I barged through the crowd and survived two pickpockets and three hawkers who went so far as chasing me to try to get me to buy their wares. I ducked through a random tent, frightening some poor old dear out of her socks, and crawled through to the other side. A small clearing had been made on the other side, where a sizable crowd surrounded a group of musicians. Two Kyrii tapped their feet to the beat and clapped their hands while an Elephante played the banjo and an Eyrie played a pair of pipes. I found myself clapping along as the players played a familiar song recently played by Jazzmosis on their most recent tour. I wasn't one much for jazz, but I loved good music.
My ears perked up and I darted through the crowd, searching for him. We collided and hugged until we almost lost our balance and knocked a young Kacheek over. He snapped at us and we snapped back and then ran away laughing.
"Your guitar's all dirty. Did you drop it again?" Fay asked, keeping pace with me as we ran through the narrow streets.
"Nah. 'Course not." He smiled at me, and I smiled back. He was my Fay, and I was his Rid. No matter whether I took up Sir Genson's offer or not, I would make sure my decision meant I could still have my brother.
To be continued...