Dreaming of Adventure: Part One
"S o then, the Snowager roared and shot an icy blast right at me. My foot got caught in a fissure but I was able to wrench free. I narrowly escaped with my life,” Cairo finished his story.
For the last half hour, the eventide Wocky had kept his young audience captivated with an adventure he had had with that fearsome snow worm.
“Whoa! You’re so cool, Cairo!” Jace, a baby Acara crowed, rising to his feet in excitement.
“Tell us another one!” Ellie, a baby Korbat, demanded.
Cairo exchanged a look with the only other adult in the room, a brown Kacheek named Ramona. “Some other time, kids. I’ve got to get going.”
“Aw, can’t you stay?”
“You tell the best stories!”
“That’s enough from you. Cairo can’t spend all of his time entertaining you. Now what do you say?” Ramona quickly cut across the protests and prompted her young charges.
With a chorus of thank yous, Cairo made his exit. The four children were left to their own devices.
“Ramona, could we have a snack?” Stevie, a baby Elephante asked.
The brown Kacheek smiled fondly. “You just ate lunch not two hours ago. It’s a bit soon for a snack.”
Stevie gave a sad little trumpet with his trunk as he turned back to his friends.
Jace and Ellie were in full recap of Cairo’s story. Stacie, a baby Shoyru, was watching their animated conversation with wide pink eyes.
“Cairo’s so brave!” Jace exclaimed.
“Yeah, he has so many adventures!” Ellie added, sighing with envy.
“Sounds like a lot of work to me,” Stevie interjected.
“That’s what makes it so exciting!” Jace insisted.
“None of us has even been to Tyrannia,” Ellie pointed out.
“I’ve been to Tyrannia,” Stacie said.
Jace and Ellie looked at the baby Shoyru in surprise.
“You have?” Jace asked, eyes wide.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” Ellie demanded, hands on hips.
Stacie looked a little intimidated at suddenly becoming the center of attention.
“She means that she’s been to Tyrannia in her dreams,” Stevie explained.
“I’ve traveled Neopia in my dreams.”
Jace and Ellie burst into laughter.
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Ellie chortled.
“Dreams aren’t real,” Jace said.
“Dreams may not be real to you but they’re very real to me!” Stacie looked on the verge of tears.
The baby Acara and Korbat paid no heed. As they continued to laugh, the baby Shoyru’s lip began to tremble before bursting into tears. Her wails shut the little meanies up and Stevie placed his stubby trunk around Stevie’s small frame in an effort to comfort her. Unfortunately, the baby Elephante lacked the skills to be much use. Ramona entered the scene then to save the day.
The brown Kacheek scooped up the overwrought Shoyru, rocking her and murmuring gently to her. As she slowly quieted, Ramona fixed her gaze on the guilty parties without having to ask. Having lived with these babies for over a year now, she knew full well which of them caused trouble. Jace and Ellie wouldn’t meet her gaze, shifting uncomfortably. Stevie huddled at Ramona’s feet, looking concernedly at Stacie.
“What do you two have to say for yourselves?” Ramona asked sternly.
“We didn’t mean to make Stacie cry,” Jace said.
“Even though everyone knows she’s just a crybaby,” Ellie muttered.
“What was that, Ellie?” Ramona asked.
“Nothin’,” Ellie said, doing her best to sound innocent.
“Then I expect you both to apologize to Stacie right now before I put you in timeout.”
The pair of troublemakers looked ready to protest but wisely thought better of it. Stacie had mostly recovered from her tears, hiccupping a bit. She looked down at Jace and Ellie from the safety of Ramona’s embrace.
“We apologize for making you cry, Stacie,” Jace said.
“We’re sorry for making fun of you,” Ellie added.
Stacie sniffed and nodded her head, before burying her face in Ramona’s shoulder.
“Jace and Ellie, you four are supposed to be friends. Friends are nice to one another and care for each other’s feelings. I want you both to think about how to be better friends. I’ll be right back,” Ramona said.
The brown Kacheek settled the baby Elephante and Shoyru in another room, quietly coloring. She returned to Jace and Ellie. She set them in separate corners and sat on the couch, reading a book. Try as they might, it wasn’t long before they began to squirm and fidget. Ramona tried not to smile, noticing their Cybunny swift glances towards her.
“Ramona, I’m thirsty. Could I have a glass of water, please?” Jace asked sweetly.
Ramona finally allowed herself to smile. “Alright. Ellie, would you also like some water?”
The baby Korbat nodded her head enthusiastically. “Yeah.”
The moment the brown Kacheek exited, Jace and Ellie quickly met in the middle of the room.
“Timeout is so boring,” Jace began.
“Yeah, I bet Cairo never had to do anything boring,” Ellie said.
“Nobody tells him what to do!”
“He does whatever he wants.”
“So can we!”
Jace’s voice had risen in excitement and the babies fell silent, holding their breath as they hoped Ramona didn’t return too soon. When it became clear that she wasn’t, they resumed their conversation.
“What do you mean?” Ellie asked, careful now to keep her voice low.
“Who’s to stop us from visiting the Snowager ourselves?” Jace suggested.
The baby Korbat’s pink eyes widened in surprise at this idea. Though, she didn’t think of refusing.
“Let’s do it. We’ll have our own adventure to tell Cairo when we see him next,” Ellie said with a giggle.
They went to the hall, peeking out to see if the coast was clear. With no one in sight, they made their way to the front door. Thankfully, with one flap of her wings, Ellie was able to reach the doorknob and open the door. With no further obstacles in sight, the babies dashed out to freedom. Their adventure had begun.
~ ~ ~
Before getting two cups of water, Ramona decided to check no Stevie and Stacie. Unlike most children, they enjoyed quiet play and it wasn’t suspicious when she didn’t hear any ruckus from their room. She found Stacie taking a nap while Stevie was playing with blocks.
“Are Jace and Ellie bored to tears?” Stevie asked without looking at Ramona, focusing instead on placing a block at the top of the tower he had built with his trunk.
“No but almost. How long has Stacie been asleep?” Ramona nodded to the baby Shoyru cuddling a large plump pillow.
A voice rose in the other room and Ramona recognized Jace. Stacie jumped, eyes popping open.
“What was that?” Stacie asked, looking around.
“Sounds like Jace and Ellie can’t be left unattended for long,” Ramona said.
“Unlike us,” Stevie said, a little proudly.
“If the two of you are alright, I’ve got to see what Jace and Ellie are up to now.”
The brown Kacheek finally went to the kitchen for two glasses of water, walked down the hall and entered the room where she had left her troublemakers in timeout. The room was empty. Surprised, Ramona set the glasses down on the table. She wasn’t concerned. She thought they were playing a game.
“Jace? Ellie? Are you playing hide and seek? You’re supposed to be in timeout,” Ramona said as she began to search the room.
The Kacheek was thorough, looking under the table, behind and under the couch and its cushions, and realized that the baby Acara and Korbat were nowhere to be found. This was when she felt her first tremor of unease. Quelling it, she retraced her steps to Stevie and Stacie. The missing babies weren’t there. Feeling concerned now, Ramona did her best not to show it.
“Have you seen Jace and Ellie?” Ramona asked.
Stevie was cracking Stacie up with the silly faces he was making but when Ramona asked her question, he paused long enough to shake his head. “Nu-uh.”
From there, Ramona searched the entire cottage, going from room to room. Coming up empty each time, she could feel her panic rising. She had never imagined such a thing could happen to her. This was a nightmare. One that she couldn’t deny any longer.
They were gone.
~ ~ ~
Jace ran and Ellie flew down the snowy path until they were out of sight of the cottage. They paused in the shelter of a snow-laden evergreen and giggled at their escape.
“We did it, Jace!” Ellie exclaimed.
“Yeah! We didn’t get caught,” Jace said, sounding a little surprised, as if he hadn’t expected to get this far.
“Which way to the Ice Caves?”
“I don’t know, Ellie.”
The two babies lived in Happy Valley but had never bene out by themselves before. They continued on, looking around them eagerly with wide eyes. When they came upon a group of Neopets building snowmen, they readily joined in. There was spot of trouble when they accidently mistook a snow Draik for a snowman and tried to pluck the leaf rom his head. Irritated, the Draik batted Ellie away as she fluttered around him.
“Oops, sorry,” Ellie yelped, quickly getting out of the Draik’s way.
“Children!” The snow Draik snorted as he stomped off back to his own snowman.
“Don’t mind him. He’s a professional snow sculptor and doesn’t like children messing around in his workspace,” a disco Blumaroo explained.
Jace and Ellie scampered over and began to help the friendly Blumaroo and her electric Cybunny friend with their snowman.
“Everyone comes to this spot to play in the snow. If he’s that bothered by children then he should go somewhere else to work,” the electric Cybunny pointed out.
“I suspect he’s the type that enjoys complaining.”
“He wouldn’t complain if Lofty were here.”
“Yeah, Lofty doesn’t tolerate bullies.”
“He isn’t afraid of anyone, not even the Snowager!”
At the mention of the Snowager, Jace and Ellie were all ears.
“Hey, our friend Cairo isn’t afraid of the Snowager either,” Jace piped up.
“He barely escaped with his life,” Ellie said.
“Except that I’m sure your friend Cairo went into the Snowager’s lair for a nifty prize,” the disco Blumaroo said.
“Lofty only went to see what all the fuss was about and he believes stealing is wrong, even from the likes of the Snowager,” the electric Cybunny said.
“Not to mention, he’s saved several foolish Neopets from getting iced.”
“I think the latest was somebody that had gotten their foot stuck in a crevice and was blubbering like a baby-no offense kids-that Lofty helped rescue while he was passing by.”
“That sounds just like the story Cairo told us this morning,” Jace said, sounding puzzled.
“Except that he wasn’t crying and he didn’t have help,” Ellie said.
“Well, I don’t know about your friend but Lofty doesn’t lie,” the disco Blumaroo said.
“We’ve known Lofty for years. He’s as honest as they come,” the electric Cybunny said.
“Now for the finishing touch on this snowman. Here, Ellie.”
The baby Korbat took the black top hat from the Blumaroo and set it on the snowman’s head.
“It’s crooked but it gives him character,” the electric Cybunny said.
Snowman built, Jace and Ellie moved on. For the first time ever they could decide what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it. No one was telling them otherwise. They had never had this kind of freedom before. They were having the time of their lives!
To be continued…