What Has to be Done
Durveda would have loved to have been in the room when his brothers took their first drinks of the potions. He would have loved to seen fate change its course within the foaming bubbles of the cauldron, and the hideous way that their skins morphed and shifted under the weight of the magic. This was the line of thought that followed him throughout his morning routine. He was familiar with it. After all, it visited him every day for the past four years ever since that fateful day.
He threw on his slippers after rolling out of bed, accidentally catching his massive Blumaroo tail in the bedframe and pinching it. He had grand visions of what he would have done, had he been in that room.
He tossed eggs into a pan and made a mental note that it was as good a day as any to look into cleaning his Lutra's pond, as not many Neopians would bother themselves with visiting the Petpet shop on the day of Fyora's festival. He stabbed a spatula into the pan, imagining that it was his hand destroying the putrid drink that his brothers swallowed in equal sized glass bottles.
He made toast. He remembered their screams.
He spread jam on his toast and slipped the eggs onto a plate, trying to not be upset at the flecks of strawberry jelly that had landed in the scrambled whites. He saw the silhouettes of his brothers break into the night, the last pictorial memories of them he had before the wanted posters and the news reports and the regular line of questioning by well-meaning Defenders of Neopia.
Durveda finished his breakfast and decided that he would pass the rest of this day without incident. He was so confident in this mental declaration that he instantly banished all thought of his brothers from his mind, until the doorbell to his home rang and shocked him out of his thoughts like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly, the Blumaroo was young again, the starry-eyed child that he had been when his brothers had done their deed, and he ran for the door. He knew it wasn't them. But it didn't stop him from hoping.
He flung the door open, and Durveda the adult returned and settled into his starry-blue skin upon seeing the guest. The Wocky's scent announced her presence before Durveda's eyes could make a judgement for themselves.
"Void," he said, nodding. "A bit early for you to come around."
The Strawberry Wocky nodded. "Forgive the early intrusion. I needed to see you immediately."
"Certainly. Always lovely to have you around."
He gritted his teeth in the privacy of his mouth, hoping that his annoyance wasn't obvious. "Won't you come in?" he asked, ignoring every cell in his brain that was screaming "no".
The Wocky obliged and passed the threshold of the house with a seeded paw. Durveda felt the cringe twinge through his neck and suppressed the urge to dry heave. As per usual, Void had no intention of making this interaction any easier than usual.
"When was the last time you left the house, Durveda?" she asked as calmly as one would about the weather, observing the particularly large stack of plushies Durveda had collected around the couch. She knew how loaded the question was.
"I've been to work every day this week, and I was on my way before you…checked in," he responded, stopping himself from saying something much ruder about the Wocky's unexpected appearance.
"You know that's not what I meant. The shop is attached to your house, anyway. It barely counts."
"I don't think you get to qualify what does and doesn't 'count' for me," Durveda said, allowing himself the one snide comment. "Anyway, what are you even doing here? You're not with the rest of Neopia celebrating Fyora Day?"
"Nope, it's a day off for me." She allowed herself a seat on the couch, careful not to sit on any of the toys. Durveda felt the eggs turn in his stomach, threatening to evacuate if he couldn't get the Wocky to leave soon.
"So if you're not here on Defenders business, what…"
"Where do you keep the money that your brothers send you, Durveda?"
His blood ran ice cold, and the eggs sat stagnant in his stomach. Somewhere outside, his Lutra cried, confused as to why it hadn't been fed yet.
Void rose from the couch, an invisible force keeping her still in the air. Durveda shivered under her gaze. It was no wonder why her full superhero title was "The Inescapable Void". A feeling was beginning to fill Durveda's chest much like what he imagined his heart being ripped out would be akin to.
"Don't lie to me, Durveda. Where is the money?"
He sank to his knees. "I keep…some of it in the shop till. Some of it under my bed. Some of it in the bank. All over, really. I don't care about the money. Take it."
"This isn't about the money. This about you lying to me over the past year." She drifted through the air and took position over the shaking Blumaroo, great spasms of fear now taking over his body.
"Take my money and leave." He was trying to be brave.
Frustration was evident in the Wocky's voice. "I'm not going to do that. I have a responsibility to Neopia to keep its citizens safe."
"And I have a responsibility to my brothers!" In what he thought would be an appropriate show of courage, the
Blumaroo rose himself up towards the level of the Wocky on his tail, making eye contact with her. A wave of corrupting fear rose into his throat, threatening to drown him.
Void was unfazed. "Do you even understand the gravity of what you've done? You could be thrown in Meridell's dungeons for this."
"I rather rot than give them up."
Pain refracted through the Wocky's face. "Durveda, you can't possibly mean that. These are the brothers that abandoned you as a child."
"No, Void, these are the brothers that risked their lives trying to protect me and failed! Don't you get it? They became zombies trying to create an elixir to make them immortal. They wanted to live as long as possible, so they could provide for me as best as they could. We were living out of the Petpet shop day to day! They did what they had to do."
"They took an incredibly foolish gamble and put the wellbeing of their youngest brother on the line – and lost. They wreaked havoc on Neopia in their hunger. I don't think you understand the horrific things they did to secure their next meals. These are not the Neopians you should be idolizing."
"I know what they did. I've read the papers. And they've spent every day of their lives regretting the early days of their hunger. I know they do."
Slowly, the Wocky inched her way down from above, settling her feet on the ground and standing below the height of the Blumaroo, who remained steady on his tail. "Durveda, I know you want to think the best of them. I know. But they rob stores. They steal from innocent Neopians. It doesn't matter what purpose is behind it, even if it is to support their little brother." She turned her attention to the plushies on the couch. "I assume these are gifts from them, too."
Durveda was silent, giving her the answer. She continued.
"They send you money and gifts from their robberies in order to support you – supposedly, anyway. How I found this out, you do not need to know. What you do need to know is that if you don't cooperate with the Defenders starting now, you could be in a whole host of trouble. I want to protect you, Durveda. It's why I picked up this case to begin with. Two Zombie Blumaroos, abandoning their normal brother…I know you don't realize it yet, but you're the victim to their selfishness."
Slowly, he too lowered himself from his tail. "Tell me what to do."
She nodded. "I'm going to need information on any and all correspondence you have had with your brothers. I'm also going to need to confiscate all of the stolen goods."
Durveda smiled the smile of a perfectly helpful accomplice. "Of course, of course."
He had a little bit of that elixir left. It was the only thing his brother left behind. He knew what had to be done. Just like his brothers had.
"Hey, Void, you must be hungry, Would you like some eggs and a big glass of milk…?"