Tallydepp and the Imperial Exam
Tallydepp, the Royal Uni, galloped home from school, full of nervous excitement.
"Woah!!" exclaimed her mum, as Tallydepp came hurtling through the door. She put the Uni cake she had just baked in the oven on the kitchen table and wiped her hooves on her apron. "Whatever has happened?" she asked.
Uni cake was Tallydepp's favourite food and usually the sweet aroma would stop her in her tracks, but today the excited Uni didn't even notice. She pulled a letter from her school satchel, her hooves shaking slightly. "Look! Look!" she cried. "I've finally been selected to try out for the Imperial Exam!"
Tallydepp's mum gasped with delight. "Oh my dear Uni daughter, I know how hard you've worked for this and how much it means to you!" She pulled Tallydepp into a tight embrace. "I'm so proud of you!"
Tallydepp laughed nervously. "It's only an invitation to try out for the exam, Mum. I might not even pass and get in. I've still got lots of studying to do yet. I've only got two days to revise all my spellings."
"I'm sure you'll do fine," Tallydepp's mum said encouragingly. She cut a slice of Uni cake. "Here, have some cake to celebrate."
Tallydepp breathed in the freshly baked cake and her stomach rumbled. "I really don't have time, I'll have some later! I need to study!"
With that, the young Uni trotted upstairs to her bedroom.
"You're the brightest Uni I know," her mum called up after her.
Sitting on her bed, Tallydepp looked around her room. There were books everywhere. Reading was her favourite hobby, and even though she was still young, she had already read over 800 books. Her mum was right, she WAS a bright Uni, and for the past year her greatest dream had been to sit the Imperial Exam and show everyone at school - everyone in Neopia! - what a top scholar she was. And now it looked as though this dream could come true!
"I need to study!" She pulled out a scroll from under her pillow. It was the Imperial Exam Scroll - an extensive list of words Neopians were required to learn in order to pass the Imperial Exam qualifier. "Measles! Come help me study these spellings! Please, if you're not too busy?"
Measles, the Plushie Mazzew, Tallydepp's faithful, playful petpet, appeared from under the bed. "What's the big deal anyway? Who wants to sit a stuffy exam? You could be out playing!"
"Oh Measles, the Imperial Exam is one of the biggest deals in Neopia! It's held in the Land of Shenkuu. Not everyone gets to sit the exam. On exam day people queue up outside the great examination hall and they have to prove they're qualified to sit the exam by spelling words correctly. If you get the spelling wrong, they send you away. Oh imagine the shame!" Tallydepp shivered with horror. "But if you get the spelling right, they let you sit the exam!" Tallydepp handed the list of words to the unconvinced-looking Mazzew. "Tell me if I get any wrong."
Measles perused the list, saying the words out loud. "Administration, adolescent, attendance, bankruptcy, besieging, bureaucracy ... Wow, these are super tricky words, Tallydepp."
Tallydepp nodded her head. "I know! There are three levels; basic, intermediate, and advanced. I'm studying the advanced level. I really want to show everyone I'm worthy of sitting the exam."
Measles raised his eyebrows skeptically. "Is that really necessary? Wouldn't it be easier to learn the basic words?"
The Uni snorted. "Everyone knows you don't score as high with the basic words! Now come on, let's get started!"
Soon it was the day of the exam. Tallydepp and Measles arrived in Shenkuu to find the mountainous land covered in a thin mist.
"Forget about spelling the words," Measles joked, "you can't even read the words in this mist!"
"Shush," Tallydepp muttered under her breath. "This is no place to make jokes! Shenkuu is a wise and disciplined land. Look how serious everyone seems."
Indeed the long line of Neopians snaking from the Imperial examination hall were a very studious-looking bunch. Tallydepp could hardly believe she was in such wise and intelligent company! Eagerly but with apprehension, she took her place at the back of the queue.
"This is going to take hours," Measles groaned, for the queue hardly seemed to be moving at all.
"Good," Tallydepp said. "That gives me more time to practice." The uni's head was filled with words. Manufacturing. Trustworthiness. Disobedience. Weaponry. For the past two days, Tallydepp had done very little other than spell, spell, spell.
All around them, words were been muttered, spellings practiced.
"Those sure are easier words than the ones you've been studying, Tallydepp," Measles mused. "Are you sure you needed to learn all the hard words?"
Tallydepp sighed impatiently. "I already told you, you get a higher score with the difficult words. Now let me practice! Omnivorous ... now is it an o or an e after the v?"
Every so often, a Neopet would pass their way, head down, looking dejected, obviously having been turned away. Oh please don't let that be me, Tallydepp thought to herself. Around her neck, she wore the demure uni necklace her mum had given her for good luck. She lifted her hoof and tapped the pendant lightly. "Please be lucky!" she wished out loud.
"I think you'll need more than luck with those two," Measles said, nudging her.
Tallydepp looked up. Without realising it, they had reached the front of the queue. The huge, imposing entrance doors to the examination hall loomed over them, guarded by a mean looking Grarrl, carrying a spear.
"Why does he need a spear?" Measles squeaked in fright.
Tallydepp fluttered her wings nervously. "I don't know," she squeaked back.
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all!
Next to the fierce Grarrl, sat a friendlier-looking blue Kacheek at a table. Rather than a spear, the kacheek held a pen in his hand, and Tallydepp felt herself relax slightly. This was more like it. The kacheek took her letter from her then crossed her name off the long list on the table.
"Level?" The Kacheek asked.
"Advanced," Tallydepp replied.
Both the kacheek and the Grarrl looked at Tallydepp in surprise.
"Advanced?" the Kacheek repeated. "Why ever would you choose advanced?"
Tallydepp felt the heat rising in her cheeks. "Well, everyone knows you score more points choosing the advanced level words," she stammered.
The Grarrl guffawed with laughter.
The Kacheek smiled sympathetically. "Alas, Tallydepp, that is a misconception. All levels on the Imperial exam qualifier score the same amount of points for each word, whether that word be basic, intermediate or indeed advanced. Now, would you like to choose a different level?"
Filled with confusion, Tallydepp felt certain her Uni horn was glowing with embarrassment. Besides her, Measles whispered smugly, "I told you so!"
"But I've been practicing all the advanced words!" Tallydepp said.
"Then advanced it is. You're very ... brave." The kacheek chose a piece of paper from a box. "Tallydepp, please spell 'knowledgeable.'"
A sudden calm fell over Tallydepp. She knew this! Taking a deep breath, the Uni spelt out the required word. "K-n-o-w-l-e-d-g-e-a-b-l-e." She looked hopefully at the Kacheek.
The Kacheek nodded slowly. "Tallydepp," he said, "You are correct. It is not often we have Neopians opting for the advanced level. You have proved yourself most qualified to sit the Imperial Exam, and what a wonderfully fitting word I selected for you, for you are very knowledgeable indeed. You may enter the exam hall, and good luck!"
Tallydepp could hardly contain her excitement! "Measles!" she cried out. I did it! I qualified! All that studying has paid off!"
Measles jumped around with glee. "Yayyy, now we can go play!"
Tallydepp laughed, then was suddenly serious. "Not yet, Measles. That was just the qualifier. Now I've got the actual exam to sit!"
The Grarrl lowered his spear and moved aside. Passing through the impressive doors, Tallydepp rubbed her demure uni necklace for luck. She felt incredibly proud. Not many Neopians got the chance to enter the great hall. Pass or fail, she felt she had already proved herself worthy of being a top scholar.