Preparing Neopia for the Meepits Circulation: 195,057,485 Issue: 817 | 2nd day of Running, Y20
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Change Needs Growth:Part Two

by jehtredmonkey


     "It's been a while, right, Patrick?" Nash, the red Psimouse, spat out the words.

      "What do you want, Nash?" Patrick, the Psimouse with a green sparkling hat, tensed up.

      "You have been running from me for too long. I knew you were hiding in Unishire, but I also knew that you would come out to play again, just like how we would play when we were little." Nash snickered. Patrick grew uncomfortable.

     "What do you want, Nash?" The red Psimouse merely broadened his smile and walked closer to Patrick. Patrick took a few steps back, but allowed Nash to come up to him.

     "Isn't it funny that Shane had you go instead of Mordecai?" Patrick was appalled by Nash's knowledge. "They wanted you to leave because they wanted to get rid of you. Mordecai the hero is now on his way to do everything himself."

     "No. Mordecai believes in me." Patrick reassured himself.

     "No, Mordecai believes in Mordecai. Do you think he could tolerate saving the world while you were running wild? He devised a master plan to get you out of Unishire and think you were saving your home, when really he gathered enough data to go and fix everything himself. You are being used." Nash strolled around Patrick casually as he filled Patrick's ears with venomous ideas.

     "Mordecai… believes in me." Patrick persisted.

     "Fine. Believe what you want. I am not going to chase you this time. I want you to see it for yourself. You have been lied to again. No one trusts you and that is because of what you are." Patrick was enraged. He clenched two fire motes and hurled one after another as Nash bounded off to a great distance.

     "See you sooner than you would wish for." Nash's grin crawled up to a creepy smirk. He summoned a smoke mote and launched it onto the ground. Patrick hurled more fire motes into the smoke hoping one would land on the red Psimouse. The smoke dissipated and Nash was gone, evidence of missed fire motes trailed behind the spot where Nash once stood.

     "Of course." Patrick lost his joy that he once had when setting out on this adventure. Nash was back, and so was Patrick's old self.


      The green Psimouse plopped down in a clearing and removed his hat from his head. He needed to clean it because of all the dust it must have collected since yesterday. Patrick started his process as he contemplated what Nash had told him. If Mordecai really wanted to save Unishire, he would have been in a greater rush. He was an upstanding citizen. He was honest. He wanted the best for Patrick. Mordecai sought the best for everyone and he knew that this is what Patrick needed. The Psimouse sighed. Mordecai didn't trust Patrick though. He needed to pretend to support Patrick just to get him out of Unishire. Minimize risk at Unishire while fixing everything outside of Unishire. That was Mordecai. A Dragoyle who wanted to do everything himself.

      A green sparkling hat shimmered in the dark forest as it caught the fleeting light. Might as well finish up the task he was sent to fulfill. Patrick needed a distraction and this goose chase could be that so he could forget everyone at Unishire. "Maybe," Patrick thought, "I won't return to Unishire. They wanted me gone so badly, so here is my farewell voyage." Patrick would find this creature from the rainbow and go to the end of the rainbow to prove he could. He wanted to prove Mordecai and all of Unishire wrong.

      The Psimouse laid down onto his sleeping bag as he stared up past the limbs of trees clawing at the night sky in their agony. Patrick empathized. The night swirled around as it swallowed the green Psimouse, but not before sleep could claim him. Only a green hat illuminated the clearing.


      Patrick dragged his feet along the path as he slumped along. Sleep had been fine, but his mentality was the only difference between when he first began and now. The thoughts that he feared had entered into his head. As the Psimouse sulked in his memories of his mistakes, a Draphly flew up and zoomed around his head. Not even the reappearance of Cosmo could uplift Patrick from his own affliction. Decreasing in patience, Cosmo resorted to physical contact to try to win the attention of the Psimouse. Finally realizing that Patrick was not alone, the Psimouse became worried.

      "What's the matter, Draphly? Are you Cosmo?" The Draphly stopped in its tracks, a similar reaction had occurred when Patrick named the Draphly. "It is Cosmo!" The Draphly seemed to ignore the comment as it continued its franticness. "What is it, Cosmo?" The Draphly seemed to be shaking his head. "Do you have to go to the bathroom?" The Draphly again stopped and imitated its own version of a face palm. "No? What are you saying? Are you warning me?" Cosmo lit up as if to affirm that Patrick guessed correctly. "Of what?" Cosmo led Patrick forward into the undergrowth. The two of them cut across several paths of what used to be a forest teeming with life, but the potential evaporated in the dark mist of the Haunted Woods. Patrick was starting to feel turned around and lost. He felt confused and dizzy. Was the mist getting to him? His head started aching as he stumbled to the ground. The Draphly buzzed to his side as if to help him up. "Thanks Cosmo." The Draphly seemed to start warming up to the name of Cosmo. The two continued and as they wallowed through the thick greenery, a house slowly started shaping. The house stood out from everything, with unnatural colors compared to the surrounding forest. Upon investigation, the house seemed to be made of… candy?

      Patrick strolled forward in disbelief as Cosmo darted back into the woods. The house had giant candy cane poles, a gingerbread roof decorated in candy beads. Gummy shapes of Petpets sprinkled the outside walls. Frosting and coconut shavings littered the ground making it seem that it had snowed last night. Small gumdrops lined each side of a path leading up to the house. Patrick resisted the urge to eat the candy. Maybe this is the house? He looked around and at the start of the path sat a small sign that read: Here lives the creature from the rainbow. Nothing wrong with that! Patrick didn't hesitate as he walked forward and investigate the front entrance. The door was a solid chocolate candy bar! Raising his hand to knock, Patrick was suddenly stopped. It wasn't voluntary, but no one had stopped him. Patrick froze where he stood, shocked by the voice that had emitted from inside the candy house.

      "Enter. It is unlocked, Patrick." The deep unsettling voice felt as though little Petpetpets had crawled up his spine. Speechless, Patrick turned the peppermint doorknob and peered into the dark inside of the candy home. The contrast from the outside to the inside was confusing, but it made sense to Patrick. He wouldn't want to live in a fragile home. The inside was oak floors and spruce walls. The only light came from the outside as it became sparse closer to the darkness from the inside. "Shut the door on your way in." The authoritative voice declared. Incapable of anything but immediate obedience, Patrick stepped in and closed the door, sealing himself in the complete absence of light.

      "H-h-hello?" Patrick stuttered as his foot hit a loose board, causing him to stumble. "How do you know my name?" Patrick said in a quiet matter, a little unsure if he was safe.

      "I know the Haunted Woods as you know your home." The voice carried such weight like a bass drum beating at every syllable. "News of a foreigner travels fast. You are lucky I told the inhabitants not to prank you. Otherwise you would not have been able to reach my abode." Patrick squinted hoping to see something in the black fog.

      "I am the prank master! No way could anyone have made a fool of me!" Patrick announced, standing tall.

      "You seem confident. Why have you entered the Haunted woods seeking me?"

      "I need you to take me to the end of the rainbow!" A suspicious pause ensued.

      "The end of the rainbow? I have not envisioned my place of birth since my arrival here. What a change of scenery." The voice trailed off, clearly in its own thoughts.

      "Well, are you able to take me there?" Patrick questioned.

      "Of course!" The voice surrounded Patrick. "Yet, I do not trust you, Psimouse. You must prove yourself." Of course. "Bring to me a mucus soup from Meuka's long lost brother's uncle who had a Petpet whose former owner's cousin named Melooka. This strange Petpet is on the other side of the Haunted Woods. If you bring that back to me, I will know you are worthy of the knowledge where the end of the rainbow is."

      "I am on a time crunch. I cannot be running errands for a coward who hides in the dark!" Patrick erupted.

      "Careful, naive Psimouse. Sometimes the dark protects us from evils that should remain in the unknown." The laughter that followed made Patrick cringe as he tried containing his fear, all courage slipping away. "Now leave, lest you would rather meet my less respectable friends." Patrick had no choice, but to leave. The voice of the horrid creature created a need of obedience in Patrick that he had never known. Feeling the walls for the door, he soon grabbed it, but not before hearing a whisper of a giggle. Did he imagine it? Patrick continued realizing that might be his imagination or a prank from one of the "less-respectable friends."

      Patrick had once trudged through the Haunted woods when he was running from Nash. He did not pay much attention, but on the opposite side of the woods to the west would mean that Melooka might live in one of the caves. That would make sense that something related to Meuka, a bulbous formation of ooze and snot, would live in a dank cave. There was not a lot of time to waste, so Patrick decided to test his limits as a runner. He started at a brisk jog to see if he could make it to the other side by tonight.

      Patrick bent over gasping for breath. He had made it at least half-way, but exhaustion was much faster than he was and it had caught up. This might become a four or five day trip! There was no way he could allow for such a waste of time! Yet no matter how much he told himself that he needed to keep moving forward, doubts surmounted in his mind.

      "What am I doing?!" Patrick panted. "I am only fulfilling Mordecai's desires to get me out of Unishire." Patrick paused as he felt as though he was regaining his strength. He fingered his green hat. "They don't think I can help. I will prove them all wrong!" Patrick sped off with his second wind at a faster pace, but he was confident he had the motivation to reach his destination. He streaked past the darkly lit forest, everyone seemed to be avoiding him as he spotted nothing on his run. Fine by him, they might slow him down.


      Patrick stood at a river bank. He ate his breaths as he pondered how he would cross. People have done silly things and have wounded up injured or worse. There was no way Patrick would risk anything close to that when he just began his journey. Regardless, he leaped into the air. An ice mote formed in hand and he hurled it into the waves. The ice mote froze the water down to the bottom of the river as Patrick landed on it just as it began forming. Without a second thought, in one motion, Patrick hopped back into the hair and fired several more into the water as he leapt from one Ice Island to another. He was one jump away from crossing the river. He knew if Mordecai saw him now, he would be impressed and would let him save Unishire. In that moment, Patrick lost his focus.

      Patrick attempted to form another ice mote, but his focus was interrupted by his thoughts. He came tumbling down into the water, sinking to the bottom. The current lifted him up and dragged him down stream. Quickly reacting, the Psimouse tried forming a mote in his hand, but the image of Mordecai being impressed rearranged itself to display his laughter. The Dragoyle spun around and made his way to save Unishire. Without air, Patrick started struggling. Was this really the end? He looked upwards for an answer, but being pulled by the current, he didn't know which way was up. Wait. Patrick searched around him for the surface, panic ceasing. Was that a light? Determined, Patrick closed his eyes and he formed two air motes, one in each hand. The air motes floated to the surface as Patrick held onto them to carry him to fresh air. The surface was far away. Patrick started drifting because of the lack of air when he was hit in the face by a breeze. He started greedily filling his lungs as he continued clinging to the air motes. He looked up again to see what the light was. Cosmo! The Draphly fluttered around him, filling him with determination. Patrick was not a swimmer, but he had the general idea. Kicking his legs, the other side of the river was within reach.

     Slinking down into the mud of the river bank, Patrick realized the error of his ways. He couldn't always think about beating Mordecai. As he continued in thought, he reached up to finger his hat out of habit. Yet there was no hat atop his head! His head whipped around to face the river. He saw his hat farther down river going towards a water fall. Sprinting down the riverside, Patrick closed in, but he would not reach the waterfall in time. He tried remembering an advance lesson from his master and leapt into the air and into the water. He clawed at the water to desperately reach his hat, the waterfall looming just ahead. Patrick surfaced and noticed the edge of the waterfall was closer than he thought- it was right where he was! He was jettisoned from the river into the air, the hat just barely out of reach. Focusing again, Patrick positioned himself so that he was sailing through the air like a dart as he came nearer to the hat, but it was too far. He needed to pull up otherwise he would crash into the nearing ground. Yet he couldn't stop himself without the magic from his hat. Patrick was embracing for the worst when Cosmo flew under the hat and paused its fall long enough for Patrick to snatch the hat and place it back upon its perch. Focusing, Patrick straightened himself out mid-air and blasted several water motes in rapid succession in order to slow his descent and eventually propel him upwards. Like a rocket, Patrick was launched back up to the riverside bank at the top of the water fall.

      He thought his hat was gone, but Cosmo had helped him. Cosmo fluttered nearby.

     "I could have done that myself." Patrick grumbled as he adjusted his hat.

     The Draphly seemed disappointed with itself and Patrick, but the Psimouse payed no attention. Cosmo flew off. "Where are you going?" Patrick called when he noticed the departing Petpetpet. Cosmo made no attempt to stop as its light dimmed in the forest. Patrick shifted in his discomfort, but decided the best thing to do was to keep moving forward. It was good that he still had his hat, but he didn't want anything getting in his way.

      Night descended soon after he crossed the river. Patrick had journeyed only a little bit farther when he decided that the best thing was to rest. The mountain caves were visible from the spot he was camping at. Tomorrow, he would search those caves for the mucus soup from Melooka. If he was lucky, he could sneak in and steal the soup and avoid conflict. If he was careless, he would need all of his strength. If this creature truly is related to Meuka, then it would be very powerful and strong so Patrick would need all the strength he could get. It was fabled that the Meuka family had special powers that they did not always use because they were always curious and wanted to play with their victims. They also didn't use them unless threatened. Inside a home of theirs would surely startle them and cause them great distress. Patrick feared for his life, but it was evident that this mucus soup was the key to getting help from the creature. Hopefully Patrick would be able to help the creature from the end of the rainbow and in turn, the creature would point him in the right direction. But why mucus soup? As Patrick pondered the dilemma, he found himself drifting off into sleep, without need of the magical sleeping bag.


      Multiple caves lined the mountainside like holes in a cheese wheel. The daunting task of searching each cave for Melooka seemed insurmountable, but a loud and suspicious noise crept into Patrick's ears drawing his curiosity. He approached several caves listening intently until he came upon a cave where the sound grew loudest and he identified what the sound was. Someone was snoring! He went inside the damp cave as the morning light peaked in past him. The rays of sun seemed to retreat, the sound obviously a warning of the danger for lost adventurers.

      As Patrick tread carefully deeper into the cave, he noticed his eyes adjusting to the dark and the snoring became even louder. How could anyone snore that loud? The cave was twice as tall and four times as wide as Patrick, so there was a comfortable amount of room, but the deeper he got, the more claustrophobic he felt. The wet cave walls would drip occasionally onto him to remind him that he was still awake. An odor greeted his nostrils as he gagged in response. Soon the snoring settled into a more acceptable volume as Patrick entered into an expansion of the cave, the smell even more disgusting. The ceiling curved upward and the walls opened around a spacious room. The gloomy-lit cave made the details obscure, but Patrick thought he could make out furniture. There was a designated area for kitchen appliances and an area for sleeping. There also seemed to be an area for sitting and talking with a few coaches. As he looked from coach to coach, on the third and final coach laid a Sludgy, fast asleep. His snoring must have echoed inside here and made it seem as though he was bigger and scarier outside the cave. Was that done on purpose?

      Tiptoeing to the kitchen area on the far side, Patrick figured that if a disgusting creature were to make soup, it would be mucus soup. Surely he enjoyed it for whatever reason. There must be something wrong with some petpet's taste buds nowadays to enjoy that dish. Patrick focused back on the task at hand. Kitchen meant food. Food meant mucus soup. Gracefully stepping over trash and littered toys, he knew one wrong step might wake up the Sludgy. A foot landed near a wrapper. Another crept over the noisemaker toy. This Sludgy, who is probably Melooka, is a complete slob! A drop of water fell from the ceiling and caught Patrick off-guard as he stumbled backward onto a plush Petoot. It squeaked and Patrick dove behind a coach as the Sludgy rolled over. Patrick held his breath as he waited. Soon the snoring continued and the Psimouse paused for an additional moment before returning to his mission.

     Upon a safe feeling that the Sludgy was fast asleep yet again, Patrick sneaked over to the kitchen. He opened a refrigerator to find a bowl of mucus soup sitting in the back of the top shelf. "Score!" Patrick muttered.

     "I hope you found everything you were looking for?" The sudden voice made the Psimouse jumped as the refrigerator door slammed close. The Sludgy was upright next to the coach it was snoozing on. The Petpet studied the intruder carefully. "Why do you have my mucus soup?" Melooka said slowly with a tone of caution in its voice.

     "Just borrowing." Patrick tried.

     "Give it back and leave my home." The Sludgy warned, clenching a fist. Patrick needed the soup.

     "Here, let me give it to you…" Patrick reached around his back and tried forming a mote. He spun around and tried shooting it at the Sludgy, but not even a puff came out. "What in Neopia?"

     "Funny, eh? You are trespassing in my home. When you enter into Melooka's lair, it's Melooka's rules." The Sludgy grinned menacingly.

     "Well, time for the old fashioned way." The Psimouse said as he snagged the petoot plushie and flinged it at the Sludgy. The ooze monster grabbed it in mid-air and tossed it to the floor. One of its arms became a long sharp blade as it charged forward. Patrick attempted to keep the soup upright as he rolled to the side, barely out of reach of the blade as it slashed for his belly.

     "Escaping is rude. Stay a while, Psimouse!" The Sludgy spat.

     "What if instead of escaping," Patrick started as he leaped over a coach to avoid another swing, "you let me leave with your soup?" The Sludgy crawled under the coach and a blade swiped at Patrick's feet. Acting fast, he leaped onto the coach.

     "I was looking forward to that! It's my families own special recipe!" Melooka whined as it stabbed the coach. Dancing around to avoid the attacks, Patrick stepped backwards until he toppled off the coach.

     "I would hate to be at your family reunion then." Patrick rolled away from the coach as the Sludgy appeared from under the sofa. Two blades protruded where its arms were normally and craziness were in the place of its eyes.

     "My mamma would knock you dead with how good her cooking is." Melooka came at Patrick with a cross-slice. The Psimouse expertly stepped right then left in time to pass by the blades.

     "If your mom smells as half bad as you do, then she would knock me unconscious for sure!" Patrick kicked up a toy into Melooka's face as he made a dash for the exit. The Sludgy followed in pursuit. It started spitting parts of ooze at Patrick, but the Psimouse made sharp turns to avoid being hit and continue his unpredictability. If he could get outside, he might regain his powers. Suddenly, an ooze ball landed directly in front of him. Patrick leaped onto the wall of the cave and bounced off, keeping up his pace, but as he landed, the wet cave floors stole all his friction and Patrick slipped forward, the bowl rolling ahead. The contents did not move. Gross. Patrick whirled around to face Melooka as the Sludy's blades were raised, ready to strike.

     "My mom smells twice as awful as I smell! How dare you say she smells less disgusting than me!" Patrick blinked.

     "No blood, no foul, right?" Patrick shrugged. The Sludgy roared as the blades soared right for Patrick. Out of reflexes, Patrick threw his arms in front of the blow and a metallic rang echoed throughout the cave, stopping the attack. Looking up, he realized he had formed a metallic mote and shaped it as a blade. The two petpets were in a corps-à-corps, an interlocking of the weapons where they were both struggling in close-quarters. Melooka realized he wasn't getting anywhere and oozed backwards to let Patrick stand up. Forming his blade from motes, he fashioned a gold hand-guard and a silver pommel. The sword shone brightly, but not as bright as his green sparkling hat.

     "Now we are evenly matched." Melooka growled as he swung both his arm-blades.

     "No, we are not." Patrick said, getting accustomed to the weight of the sword. "You just lost." The Sludgy shrieked as they charged forward at each other.


     Patrick held the bowl of mucus soup in one arm, and his sword in the other hand, the blade resting on his shoulder. He stepped into the light of the afternoon. "Fresh air." Patrick exclaimed as he wiped ooze from his cut, just below his cheek bone. The air was no longer musky, but something Patrick desperately craved. Packing the sword inside of his backpack, he scoured the ground for leaves and covered the soup with them in a tight manner so he could pack the soup. The Psimouse stood as he threw the bag onto his back, looking out into the Haunted Woods. They no longer seemed as tall and scary as they had when he first arrived. The trees stood nearly five times taller than the Psimouse, but his confidence stretched into the sky.

     Strolling through the woods, the Psimouse laughed at the thought that he once was scared by the woods. The random noises resounded all around him, hidden in the brush, just like Patrick's fear was hidden away. The sun was starting to shine. Day three was just dawning and he had the soup. Now he had to make his way back.

     Nothing had interrupted Patrick's brisk jog towards the candy cottage until he arrived at the river again. He pondered how to cross. An ice bridge would take too much energy and time, as well as it could wash away before he finished it. If he tried his first trick again, he could jostle the soup wrong and spill it. He trusted the leaves while jogging, but beyond that he was not sure. He looked around. Could something assist him across? He noticed a tree tipping over the water. It wasn't tall enough to extend the width of the river, but some bark was peeling from its base. Walking over, Patrick set down his backpack before attempting to rip off the loose bark. With three good yanks, the bark broke off. The dimensions of the bark were about the size of his bed and thick like a Meridell style wall. Tossing the broken off piece of bark onto the water, it floated level to the surface of the water. He picked up a long stick and the backpack as he carefully stepped onto the board. He stuck the stick into the water and pushed off the river floor to move forward.

     Slowly, the makeshift board drifted forward towards the other side of the river. To adjust for the flow of the water, Patrick would constantly push upstream to keep the board going in more of a direct line than if he had gone with the flow of the river. A loud splash caught his attention as Patrick turned and saw a Ghostkerfish dive-bombing straight for him. Ducking abruptly to dodge the creepy fish, Patrick was losing balance. His instincts turned him around and shot a water mote into the river, the knockback of the force of shooting the mote stabilized him as the board lurched forward. Patrick kept his balance as the board lurched forward, but an idea dawned on him. Another Ghostkerfish leaped out of the water. Patrick winked as he shot a few continuing shots of water motes into the water, launching the board forward as if he were on a water ski. Ghostkerfish continued jumping at the Psimouse, but he expertly weaved through the attacks by adjusting his aim from where he was shooting the water motes as the raft was launched forward in the opposite direction that Patrick was shooting the motes. Patrick made a bee-line for the shore closest to the candy hut.

     A crack appeared in the board as something knocked from the underside. The Ghostkerfish were breaking it from the underside! The river bank was nearing, but not close enough. Putting all his weight to one side, the board started tipping. Patrick hopped into the air as the board flipped around. Patrick launched an ice mote where he had jumped from and hit several Ghostkerfish, stopping their scheme. As the board spun around, it landed onto the water a moment before Patrick graced onto the board. It creaked, but did not separate as he reached the other side of the river. That was a close encounter! It would seem that the Ghostkerfish did not attack the previous day because it was late and they might have been sleeping. Where they nocturnal? Patrick was turned around and lost in regards to his sense of time, but he was sure it was daytime. Strange.

     The day was half way over and he still had a long journey ahead of him. He started jogging when he noticed a light flickering in the distance. Cosmo! The Draphly glowed rapidly as if to signal something. "Is there a shortcut?" Patrick asked. The bug zoomed away in affirmation and the Psimouse chased after him. Although Patrick did not want to admit he needed help, the idea of a shortcut was more important than his pride. He followed the Draphly every which way, hoping to reach the cottage without difficulty.

     Patrick was jogging along when his feet began to slow down as they grew heavier. Soon Patrick couldn't lift a single foot from a bluish-green sludge that encased his feet. He looked up to the Draphly "Did you forget to warn me about the possibility of something dangerous?" The Draphly looked at Patrick and seemed to shrug as if to say I forgot to warn you about the possibility of something dangerous. Patrick struggled to get out, but the struggling made things worse. "Classic quicksand!" Patrick muttered.

     "Quicksand? I find that insulting." The sludge started forming together into a mound. The sludge oozed up the mound to form a mountain of sludge, towering over Patrick. The Draphly hid in a nearby tree, obviously scared.

     "Great. How many disgusting sludge monsters live in this forest?" Patrick mocked. The monster disregarded this comment.

     "You clearly underestimate my strength." The monster growled.

     "You underestimate me! Now let me go! I am in a hurry." Patrick ordered.

     "Why would I do that? We are just starting to get acquainted. The words spewed out of the mountains enormous mouth like lava secreting from cracks of the earth.

     "Well. I warned you." Patrick shot a fire mote into the monster's face. The instant the magical mote touched the monster, the mote transformed into goop to match the substance Patrick was tangled in. The green Psimouse froze. "Who are you?"

     "My name is Esophagor and I am getting a little hungry."

     "Is this your plan? Trap innocent traveling Neopians and coax them into being a part of your meal? You don't even give them a chance. How sad. You wouldn't last in a real fight."

     Esophagor laughed eerily. "Again you place misguided judgement on your captor. Indeed it looks quite perilous from your perspective. From mine, I see trespassers who need guidance in their morals. Those who do not conform and satiate my appetite find an alternative. I am finding myself in constant hunger because of the use of my powers. The more I use them, the hungrier I become. I would like to stop using my powers, but many adventurers like to find out about the death of those that wander these woods. So in return for food, I use my powers to find out where and when victims perish. I have helped a great deal in the crime scene, but my credit is purposefully forgotten. Oh, but I do like to explain my existence to friends and foes alike. Now pray tell me. Are you a friend or foe?"

     Patrick had been thinking during Esophagor's monologue. He decided that he could not use the mucus soup in his backpack. That would defeat the whole purpose of coming out into the dangerous woods. The creature from the end of the rainbow needed the bowl of mucus soup for a particular reason and Patrick was going to make sure that the goal was accomplished. He had been searching around for likely sources of food. Nothing was lying around. If this monster truly was hungry, then it would have already eaten everything around. Patrick needed to outsmart the monster.

     "I think a Petpet trained in the art of Burvju Deju would make a mighty fine meal, don't you? I imagine a magical tickly in my bowels as you slowly digest." This seemed to humor the goop mountain.

     "How about some motes instead?" Patrick tried. Esophagor stopped to look intently into Patrick.

     "I am intrigued. What are you proposing?" Patrick got him right where he needed him.

     "Well, you have a large appetite, am I right there?" The monster nodded in agreement. "Then what could satisfy that, but the elements I conjure and feed you? I could give you as much as I need. I am able to give you a stream of fresh water that would fill you up!"

     "I am in no need of water as protein is more the style of food that I crave." Patrick was losing him.

     "When is the last time you had fresh water?" Patrick countered. Esophagor pondered a moment and did not answer. "Precisely why you do not know that you crave it! The taste has been forgotten, but the refreshing coolness of iced water quenches both thirst and hunger!" Patrick paused a moment, hoping his sales pitch was received.

     "Very well. I require an enormous amount of water. Fill me up!" The mouth of Esophagor yawned open like a cave.

     "The problem is that for a large amount of water that you require, and for an apprentice like myself to give you that much, I need a source of water to draw from. Luckily, there is a river nearby." That did the trick.

     "Very well." The goop surrounding Patrick's feet retreated as a path was formed back towards the river. "Make haste." There wasn't enough time to make several trips to pretend as Patrick would have hoped. Patrick could conjure up the amount needed, but the thought of the monster wanting some protein after water was a plausible outcome. He would have to backtrack and circle around Esophagor and bypass him completely. "Oh, and to make sure you aren't pulling any funny business…" Goop crawled up a tree and enveloped the Draphly. "Be back quickly and you can have your friend back." Patrick silently groaned. He didn't need Cosmo. It was just a Petpetpet. He needed to get to the cottage fast so he could have his guidance and be on his way. He didn't have time for these silly expeditions! He needed to save Unishire fast! The stealers of magic might be able to escape with all the magic if he doesn't act fast enough! Yet… he couldn't leave Cosmo. Maybe there was another way. Then it hit him. He quickly tunred back and approached Esophagor.

     "You return with greater haste than anticipated that I suspect something is amiss."

     "No, my friend, I just realized I could give you a small taste of water before I go collect some more."

     "Very well." The monster opened up his gaping mouth. Patrick smirked.

     "Open wide." He muttered to himself. He started off with a few motes. Aimed at the back of the mouth.

     "I don't taste anything." The monster said impatiently.

     "Let me try a faster pace." Patrick said. He took his stance, felt his hat, and then unleashed a fountain of water as though the flood gates of a dam had broken. The water filled the mouth of Esophagor as every single mote turned to sludge. His mouth was filled with sludge and the monster was caught off-guard! Esophagor tried spitting out the water-sludge and tried swallowing some as well. Patrick acted fast as he scurried up the tree where Cosmo was trapped. He reached into the slimy-cage and withdrew the Draphly, buzzing with delight. The monster had almost all the sludge out of his mouth when the monster noticed what was happening. Patrick dove from the tree into a neighboring tree and shimmied down its trunk as he made a mad dash away from the slime monster. The mountain of goop bellowed with fury as Patrick had outsmarted and pranked him. He smiled to himself.

     Soon, the pair was far enough from Esophagor that Patrick released Cosmo to continue their shortcut trail. Patrick checked the contents of the soup and found some had spilled, but the leaved were containing the soup well. Patrick repacked his gear as Cosmo found its bearings and the two were off. Patrick hoped he hadn't wasted too much time in the haunted Woods. He also hoped that the creature at the end of the rainbow had useful information that made all this work worthwhile.


      The cottage came into view, the candy looking as delicious as ever. "Why do you keep helping me?" Patrick inquired as he eyed the Draphly. The Petpetpet ignored him as it zipped over to the cottage and dived into the chimney. "Interesting…" he muttered. He had new appreciation for the Draphly, but it wouldn't stop following him. He approached the cottage and dug out the soup from his backpack. The intense smell of the soup shocked Patrick as he peeled away the leaf casing from it. He remembered another reason why he didn't want to carry it. Patrick admired the house decorated in candy as its atmosphere contrasted the spooky surroundings. The candy brought nostalgic memories of before Unishire. Although they were fond memories, he shook them away as those memories tended to lead him towards the less pleasant ones. Knocking on the door, a voice greeted him.

      "Enter." The deep voice vibrated Patrick's bones as he felt compelled to enter. The blackness crept around him as he was enshrouded in complete shadows, the door closed.

      "I have the soup, creature." Patrick declared, hoping that his uneasiness was not conveyed.

      "I know." The voice announced. "Now for the second test."

      "Second test?!" Patrick was taken aback. "I thought we had a deal. I proved myself worthy! I have no idea why you will need this soup, but I went through every trouble to make sure it was preserved! Now I demand you take me to the end of the rainbow! My village is in danger and they entrusted me with the task of saving them! Reveal yourself!" Patrick was furious with this pointless waste of time.

      "This task will be quick depending on whether you are brave."

      "I am brave!"

      "Show me." The voice soothed.

      "How?" Patrick was still slightly angry, but his pride had gotten ahold of him. He needed to prove that he was brave and he wasn't going to let some coward hiding in the shadows tell him otherwise.

      "I need you to eat that soup." Patrick paled. He gulped. He could not see the soup, but the bowl he held in his arms reminded him of the disgusting odor filling the cottage. "Only brave Neopets have ventured to try new foods, especially one as disgusting as Mucus soup."

      "That will not prove my bravery!" Patrick tried talking his way out of eating the soup.

      "You journeyed across the Haunted Woods. I know the extent of your courage. So why not further boast and prove that you are willing to try something new?"

      "You know I am brave so this is pointless."

      "You are trying to find a way out of this, leaving me to conclude that you are not as brave as I had hoped." The voice taunted. That did it. Patrick could not see the soup, but he went face first into the mucus and slurped up the slimy goop. The taste was a mixture of dead skin, grass, dirt, and rotten eggs. The texture was slimy, sticky, and at times, crunchy. Patrick held back a reflexive gag as he licked the bowl clean.

      "There. I ate it. I am brave." Patrick winced as the last of the mucus soup seeped down his throat, "Now let us go and save my village." No response. "Hello?" Patrick called. A sudden burst of laughter blasted in Patrick's ears, catching him off-guard.

      "Ok, ok, flip on the lights, Flash." A higher pitched voice said in between long series of laughter. Lights sparked and illuminated the cottage. It was bare except for a large chair and a small device next to it. A small Jinjah hopped down from the chair, still laughing.

      "Howdy! I am the creature from the rainbow!" The voice was significantly higher than it was moments ago. "Sorry about the voice modifier," the Jinjah said, motioning towards the device next to the chair, "It helps me seem tougher than I am."

      "What… is going on?" Patrick managed.

      "Well I call it a practical joke. Others say it is mean, but they just don't understand my elevated sense of humor. Haha! Gotcha!" The Jinjah started laughing again.

      "You're only a Jinjah? Are you supposed to help me?"

      "Right you are, my good sir!" The Jinjah exclaimed, "The name is Gumdrops!" Some call me, Gum, or Gumbo. Other nicknames I have include Creature of the rainbow, Dropings, some of my friends even came up with a clever one: Dufus! But only my closest friends call me that. We're not there yet, palio. By the way, what's your name?" Gumdrop talked at lightning speed, but careful to enunciate every syllable. Patrick was stunned. The fate of his village was in the hands of this Jinjah's guidance.

      "Patrick…" the Psimouse droned. How could he save his village with this Jinjah leading the way? Practical joke? He should have seen that coming! He felt stupid for not seeing it before. His pride and hope were draining. "I think I will go alone." Patrick stated as he paced towards the door.

      "Well if you want to go alone, we could go alone together, but you should wait to leave the cottage."

      "Why?" Patrick rolled his eyes. Suddenly the cottage shook at the sound of a loud blast. Knocked to the ground, Patrick looked up to Gumdrops, alert. "What was that?"

      Gumdrops smiled. "Visitors."


The End.

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