Firstly, you will not know my name. Call me You, and only You--because if misfortune falls me, only You will see the consequences, only You will see the losses. To have a name as a Cove chaser is to have an identity--and a Cove chaser must never be caught, never be found. Because of this, my physical identity will change as often as my name. Though I am at my core a Pirate Yurble, my outside features must never give me away. You must never be seen the same way twice. This does present challenges--no friends, few accomplices. Without a name, or face, how can your allies recognize you? Cove chasers run alone. It is because of this I shall journal my story, my tale of adventure.
Here on the 19th day of Relaxing, I You, of sound mind and body begin this journal in an effort to document the arduous task of stocking the Smuggler's Cove. The Cove itself, with origins mysterious, is a shop in Neopia unlike any other. Nestled in a dark cave on the frothy shores of Krawk Island, it is claimed to be a transaction point for smuggler's looking to offload 'ill gotten gains.' This, my readers, is simply false. I am no thief! I am a master manipulator--I am a cunning, adept, fierce pirate who's talents lie in stealth and intimidation...if perhaps I see some monetary gains from my skills, so be it.
Every trip begins with the right ship and the proper mates. Though Scarblade (rest he be in Davy Jones's Locker) is long gone, his ghostly vessel still remains. The Black Pawkeet sits dormant, docked on the far end of the island near jagged black cliffs. As a red Ogrin, I was quite capable of maneuvering over the slippery rock face, climbing up and down the precipice and hopping easily onto the ship's deck. Captain Rourke taught me all I'd need to know about maneuvering a captain's wheel with Ogrin's paws. Raising the tattered sails, I let the old ship groan away from the rock face and drift to sea, gliding down the island coast like mist upon the water.
Stepping below deck, I fumble through the dusty bottles--my own personal supply, stored for safe keeping in a dank musk-smelling cabin. A particularly tarnished old bottle catches my eye--deep lavender with smooth edges, perfect. In one swift upturn I down the bitter potion as it lights my eyes and nose on fire--though you'd never know. A master at their consumption, I don't even flinch as my skin bubbles and changes, stretching to accommodate my new form, an Aisha. Unsuspecting, non-threatening, and a personal favorite of Lost Desert residents...the first stop on our journey.
The Black Pawkeet cruises seamlessly up to the dock outside the tiny coastal town, and with a few quick knots the boat is haltered by an old ream of rope. I let my eyes adjust to changing light as I step inside The Golden Dubloon, creaking across the decrepit wooden floor to the darkest corner of the room. The pianist looks up and catches my eye--with widened eyes, he quickly returns to his tinkling song. Although I never look the same, I swear that gnarled old Lupe can smell me. But no matter. With a heaving thump I lower myself onto a crude barstool. Across from me, already seated and coddling two grogs in their fists sit my crew, my best mates-- Goldhook and Timberleg. Timberleg's one uncovered eye narrows in a wry smile, and Goldhook offers his good hand for a shake. Though there's much to be said between us all, none of it can be even whispered. Too many wandering ears, too many peering eyes. We turn instead to this very journal, and wordlessly I sketch out a plan with my quill--a map of our travels.
First, to the Lost Desert. The owner of Sutek's Scrolls recently sent me some information on items I might be interested in. From there, Timberleg will sail the ship alone, as Goldhook and I travel north on foot to the Haunted Woods. We will meet again with Timberleg in Brightvale on our search for a few potions, before setting sail to Terror Mountain--I have a deal to make. With a few day's sailing we will anchor far out in the Neopian sea as my mates part--Timberleg deep into the waters of Maraqua, and Goldhook with me to Mystery Island…this will take some coercion from both of us. Lastly, we will collect our wares from Faerieland and head for home, where the arduous task of stocking the Cove will have finally been completed.
With a gruff nod of heads, our trio parts ways for a good night's sleep. I sit at the table a moment longer (to write at this journal, which of course you are now enjoying) and drained my grog, returning it with a heavy thunk. I saunter out to the ship one last time, looking it over in the night light. The blue haze of the moon pools across the deck, where an eager deckhand vigorously scrubs with a brush and soap. The young lad looked up startled with eager eyes. He slipped in the soap, crumpled onto the deck and scrambled to his feet, equal parts terrified and mesmerized. sure, I looked like an unimposing Aisha. But with a ship like this, even a land-lover deserved respect. "Is this to your liking sir??" I pondered his question momentarily while admiring his work. "One more go over should do it, young'un. This should cover it." I flipped a 5-Dubloon at him, ignoring his groveling thanks while retreating to the shadows of the shore. Time to rest--the journey was soon to begin.
The crew and I are finally at sea. In the early morning dawn, with the sky glowing a warm rose my crew and I boarded the vessel with all the necessary supplies. Barrels filled with salted Blumaroo Steaks and Raisin Kacheek Bread were stacked against the far walls of the bunk to stave off our hunger. Our necessary trade supplies--(far-away items so rare and powerful I dare not speak of them) were nailed tightly in unsuspecting crates, tucked beneath my bunk. Only took Goldhook one grubby attempt to root around for some of my personal treasure before he earned that hook of his and lost a hand, and I won't be taking chances like that again. But ah, he's a better Bruce for it.
What's our coordinates, Goldhook?" He was currently munching noisily on a potatoe pie, dribbling bits across the map as he bisected it with a compass. "Firdyfreeun Norfess--" he slurred incoherently with a mouth full of pastry. "Swallow and try again you buffoon! Where are we?" He gulped loudly, choking with teary eyes "---ack, 40 degrees North 70 West, You. Should see Sahkmet by sundown if we catch the wind right." I nodded in approval and ascended the steps where Timberleg was steering the ship. "MORNIN' SIR! Sleep well? Water's clear as glass, can see miles ahead of me. We're makin' fair time." With a stiff nod I sauntered to the railing and gripped it, looking into the water below. Sahkmet by sundown--then it was time to work.
We sat around a table inside of a lavish tent at the heart of Sahkmet City. The ruby-red curtains were drawn open, and Neopians bustled by outside in the streets with haste. The roads were dusty and dry, and vendors were doing anything to attract buyers, make their Neopoints and get out of the heat. Bells jingled, sellers yelled, and the loud, monotonous haggling of restockers drowned it all. But our matters were not as simple as those of the restockers, no--we were working with dubloons. "I take it you slept well?" The smiling Nimmo chirped as he untied the curtain, letting it fall closed--no need to attract buyers here. "Your accomodations were more than suitable." In truth, I had lay in the Nimmo's sleeping quarters restlessly. He always provided the most elite of facilities...but for someone like myself, used to sleeping with minimal necessities, becoming comfortable on the large fluffy beds presented a challenge. "All Lenny down feathers, those mattresses are. Made them myself." Again with the smiling. "I see you've been taking advantage of your Vengeful Scrolls." Now it was my turn to smile. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Ahh well yes...with the economy and all, you can only sell so many, can't simply let them go to waste can we? Anyway, I suppose we have some business to attend to. What wares have you brought me?" I motioned wordlessly to Goldhook, who was standing eagerly over my shoulder, and he reached into his knapsack to produce a hint of glimmering gold-and-silver. "Plenty where that came from. You show us yours."
The Nimmo motioned to his own attendant, who cracked his knuckles tensely and reached deeply into a velvet bag, producing a container of sand in an ornate star shaped glass. I studied it fiercely, but it was Goldhook who broke the silence. "We've trekked across the desert and sailed all the way here and you've got nerve! Presenting us with sand--suppose we couldn't have found any of that OURSELVES in the desert, eh? Oh If I had my way you long legged--" I slammed my first to the table and cut his words abruptly, hissing at him. "HUSH, you ignorant fool! Have you no idea what you're looking at?" The Nimmo's smile faltered at Goldhook's words, then widened at mine. "Ahhh--see this is why I value..you...You. You always know a good bargain. I tell my friends, THIS one, You, he knows his stuff." His dexterous fingers carefully accepted the glass container and slid it across the table to me. "Earth, electric, and heaps of damage. Nearly unstoppable--can crush a Sword of Skardsen. I could let you have it for 40 Dubloons." I couldn't contain my laughter! "With Ring of the Lost providing the same type of power at half of base value? It seems we have no business here. Always business partners and to think now, you are ready to trick me...I am displeased." The Nimmo lept to his feet, clutching the bottle of sand to his chest. "N--never You, never! I would never cheat you! Please, reconsider...I have three and only three, and you can leave with all of them--I'll throw in a Vengeful Scroll, I know you
always like to leave with one of those--70 Dubloons only. You'll leave with all of my profit, but to me its worth it, to keep in good graces--you know how Sahkmet needs your business..." "--No more groveling. The deal is done. Goldhook, give him the money. You are lucky I am feeling generous today; willing to take such a price-fragile item off your hands. I am overwhelmed at my own generosity." I shifted around the contents of my sack and carefully deposited the Bottles of Magic Sand. They clinked softly as I returned it to my back. "And give me
my scroll. Although our stay has been brief, I have other cities worthy of my attention." Wordlessly, the Nimmo presented me a tarnished, wrinkled piece of rolled parchment, and slunk back away from me into the corner of the tent. I pulled back the curtain and stepped out into the wavering heat and dust without another word, a wry smile crawling across my face. I've still got it
After two days of arduous traveling, Goldhook and I found ourselves in the Haunted Woods. After his nearly-disastrous stunt in Sahkmet, I wasn't in much of a mood to carry on a conversation. My mind, as always, was on the profit. I had chosen the form of a Skeith for this adventure--as I knew little about this 'Leeroy,' I needed to appear as imposing as possible. The Deserted Fairgrounds were one sad, sorry attempt at a good time. Decrepit roller coasters which no longer bothered at safety creaked and groaned as their carts sputtered along the tracks. Only a few sparse carnival booths littered the lot. However, I knew too much about these Woods to be fooled by its empty appearance. Just because there were no visible park-goers, did not mean there were not plenty of spies eavesdropping around every corner. "This is it, I'm pretty sure, I think I remember," Goldhook said eagerly, waiving in the direction of a decrepit booth painted sloppily with the words "Coconut Shy." "Now don't forget what I told you, he's got some good things from what i hear but he's a bit.." "BOYSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!" A croaking voice cracked their conversation in two as a bulbous, vile Quiggle waddled to the booth counter. He was green and lumpy, sporting a pair of overalls that could seemingly walk away from a bucket of soap on their own accord. His eyes glinted with greed and manipulation--a look I know well. "I KNOW you two are BOTH interested in winning TEN THOUUUSAND NEOPOINTS TODAY, EH??" Though my insides wriggled at his vulgarity, I strained an emotionless look. "My business isn't interested in such meager summation. I've heard you play the Dubloon games." His greasy facade didn't budge a bit, but I sensed a slight change in his demeanor. "Wellllllllll now. You're looking to play a different game then, are ye?" I diverted my eyes to Goldhook, who was looking at Leroy with horror and disgust. I did not have a feel for this one yet, and did not need the Bruce chancing my opportunities like last time. "Go occupy yourself, Goldhook, and leave me the backpack. Pluck out a few for yourself and find me at my signal." Goldhook, who had obviously been waiting on such a childish reprieve, dumped the sack at my feet and fished out a few Dubloons, skittering towards the Bagatelle board.
My gaze returned to Leeroy, though he spoke first. "Whats your name, boy? How might I address a husky fellow like yourself on this fine, fine afternoon." I crooked an eyebrow at him unamusedly, hoping he would drop his charade. "Call me You. Everyone does." He guffawed--too loud and too long. "You, Me, whatever, you're a funny one kid." Without warning, he plunged a long dirty finger into his ear and swirled it once technically, eyes rolled upwards into his skull. In a flash he removed a large yellow hunk of earwax, and plopped it unceremoniously on the Coconut Shy counter. A less experienced Cove chaser might have socked this Quiggle in the jaw, or walked away (or some combination of both)--but having seen weirder, I waited on him to explain himself. He poked it into shape, a crude bipedal form, before speaking non-apologetically. "Earwax Chia! 14 icons...you won't find much better than that for 40 Dubloons." "Except I assume it only does this sort of damage to Chias? Unless you've left that part in your other ear." He grinned at me, His dingy, tile-like teeth poking out of dirty gums. "Eh so it has its flaws, don't we all." I half expected him to cram it right back into the orifice it came from, but he tottered backwards and lifted a clown-sized shoe, peeling it off. It revealed one of the most foul, stinking, grungy
socks I've ever witnessed--visible odor wafted from the top and my eyes burned, though I kept my gaze steely. This, too, he peeled off and presented it to me proudly. "Can't resist this though, can you? Toxic Sock of DoooOOOOm." "Sure I can, with the Bow of Destiny doing the same damage at half the price. I don't like having a reputation of shorting my customers, not my style. I'll pass. I guess word on the street was clearly wrong, Leeroy. You've got nothing for me. GOLDHOOK! Our business is finished here." The Bruce waddled back over, a frown creasing his face. "Hey, did you know that Bagatelle game doesn't even play with a ball? Its a Mootix! A little bug! It even opens up and crawls to the wrong places, I even caught him doin' it twice but that guy said there were no refunds..." I looked over my shoulder to the gnarled Lupe at the booth, and he smacked the "NO REFUNDS" sign hanging above his head to validate his point. "What, can't afford a few Neopoints for the game of chance, Goldhook? Enough griping, we're leaving. Grab your backpack." We had nearly reached the border of the Haunted Woods (I was impressed with his tenacity) before the Quiggle croaked a final plea. "WAIT! I didn't wanna do this you know, I didn't want to but aren't you boys just top of your game." He scurried over to meet us at the edge of the forest path, shielded by trees. He leaned in close, and though Goldhook stepped back to avoid the stench I did not budge. From behind his back he pulled a deceptively dirty plunger and waved it in my face. "I take it you know what this is, then. And you know what its worth. By the way that Bruce picked up his backpack, I recon you've got about 15 mil in Dubloons on you, am I right? Take it or leave it." The Battle Plunger was a fierce low-level weapon, and at an upper 8 figure resale price, precisely the item I was looking for. I eyed it tensely and tried not to show too much excitement-- yes
. Cove chaser's dream. "Goldhook, hand this gentleman your backpack. We have a winner."
Our interactions in Brightvale went (almost) seamlessly. After depositing our wares back onto The Black Pawkeet (which, I might add, Timberleg brought on schedule) I adopted a Brown Ixi guise and sauntered into the castle town. Our ability to trade in Brightvale relied on a combination of a few things--a few devious souls, some old contacts and most importantly--boundry lines. The relationship between King Hagan and King Skarl was tense, at the best of times. By situating ourselves on the connecting bridge, knights and other do-gooders could not stop our illicit behavior. To pursue us, would mean follow us outside of their territory.
The three of us leaned casually against the railing of the cobblestone bridge, watching cart-pushing vendors and contented citizens meander past. With a casual nod of my head, I beckoned a few colorful jesters--a few from Brightvale, a few from Meridell--to stand in our midst and make our location all the more distracting. Excited passer-by's eagerly watched the fire-eating, juggling, and trickery. They could not have been less interested in the three scruffy Neopians standing precisely on the line between the two provinces. With our heads together and low, I outlined the plan to Timberleg and Goldhook. "Today is the Cake Bomb. Nearly 120 in existence now, and you know that's our limit- so this will be our last one. My contacts say it is currently being housed in Merifoods-- Sinsi assured me it was ready and in working order. Prudella will fetch the cake for us from the shop and deliver it here. This should be..." "A piece of cake?" Goldhook snickered before I could finish. "You're lucky I don't have a fist right now, only these clompin' hooves because you deserve one in the skull, you know that?" Timberleg's scowl housed a different problem. "PRUDELLA? REALLY You? Not Lady Vanella, or Kalandra, or...?" I cut him short. "This is a favor to Commandar Lazarr himself, my hands" "HOOVES!" snorted Goldhook "...are tied." I understood his worries. Prudella was a regular in Meridell's Round Table Poker circuit. A white Kiko with a Princess complex, she was a gossipy sort that couldn't keep her stories straight at or away from the card game. Commander Lazarr's complex, however, was power. One of King Skarrl's highest ranking officials, it was only under his jurisdiction (rather, a combination of a blind eye and considerable hush money) that we weren't arrested and slain on the spot. Prudella had been caught cheating at her own game, and in reporting to Lazarr had two options--do time, or do him a favor. It was only through the latter did we have our 'delivery maid' at all. I continued. "Anyway, if she plays poker as often it seems she does, she has to be a fair liar at least. Lazarr said the only way we could get the cake out was through her, so we better do as we're told. Oh, and he requested we stick his dubloons down the Symol Hole before we leave, so lets not make a scene of that either."
An agonizing twenty minutes later, we had foregone our attempts at subtlety and stared bleary-eyed at the door of Merifoods. Restockers came and went--some merely shopping with arms full of groceries, many peering eagerly in the window waiting for those few precious profits--and even once, an Alien Aisha emerged victorious, laughing and gripping a Draik Egg high over his head. I was beginning to become suspicious when I saw Prudella elbow her way through the front doors. She was speaking in a loud, sing-song voice, giggling with the teetering cake plate gripped tightly in her hands. "Oh hello dears! Just a cake here
for King Hagan! Nothing more--excuse me, pardon me, cake for King Hagan coming through!" She was beaming (albeit nervously) and couldn't seem to suppress the laughter and chatter bubbling out of her mouth. "Haha I know, lovely cake isn't it? Why thank you! Hee hee I quite like it too, for King Hagan you see, looks only..." Her eyes scanned for us nervously. Sinsi the Shapeshifter Ixi sat with a card game sprawled in the grass, casually watching the scene. With a myopic smile she looked up to Prudella, pointed casually towards us at the bridge, feigned a stretch and went back to her own matters. I'll have to thank her later. With a heaved "Ahhh there you are dears!" the Kiko bounced towards us eagerly, darting between the jesters. "So happy to have found you! I wasn't quite sure who I was looking for, didn't get a name or a description you see, and I was told this was very import--I mean, er haha, I HOPE KING HAGAN ENJOYS THIS LOVELY CAKE! HERE, PUT IT IN THIS LUNCH BOX, LETS KEEP IT SAFE..." Timberleg shushed incessantly at her. "Alright, alright, no need to make a scene. We've got it from here, eh? Favor fulfilled, thanks much, have a good one then?" I deftly tucked the cake into a large tin box, snapping it shut and grabbing it by the handle. Another exchange, seamless. "Right, so have you figured out how to drop a sack full of Dubloons down the Symol Hole without raising a weird hair yet?" Timberleg stretched a coy smile, which I returned to him. "Watch me work."
We arrived at the Rubbish Dump just moments later. It only took a few moments of digging through the innumerable piles of trash before I located what I needed--a large, old wooden chest that had seen better days. "Perfect, right. Here we go." I upturned one sack of dubloons over the chest, and a rush of clinking gold flashed in and filled it to the brim. "Tada, a Cofferling. Or, close enough...nobody's going to be looking anyway." I pushed the heavy chest of treasure into Timberleg's open hands, gold dribbling to the ground. "Right. Here's your precious petpet, and you're going to take it to the Symol Hole and dump it in. And you're going to be oh so sad when he doesn't return, so don't forget that." I put my hooves on his shoulders and turned him sturdily, giving him an earnest push towards the hole under a gnarled tree. "We'll be watching." Knowing better than to defy me, Timberleg gulped heavily and got in line beind the other Neopians, each with a petpet at their side ready to go into the Hole and look for their potential prize. Timberleg talked loudly, to no one. "Yep, my Cofferling. My little Pickles. Hope he finds something you know, he loves the adventure." As Goldhook giggled I could only roll my eyes. The line crept forward slowly until finally, it was Timberleg's turn--and with a "Alley-oop, Pickles!" he tossed the chest down into the hole. The Techo drummed his fingers together for a few moments nervously, and then a look of sadness washed over his face. "Pickles? PICKLES?? Pickles CAN YOU HEAR ME DOWN THERE?!" He was now actually kneeling at the edge of the hole, wailing into its depths. "PICKLES COME BACKKK. MY LITTLE COFFERLINGGGG." Goldhook and I rushed over and put consoling hands on his shoulders. "There there, only a PETPET, we can get another one, better luck next time," and with a suppressed smile, steered our friend towards the Brightvale docks.
We have been forced to rest one day due to bad weather. There were a few tense moments, admittedly. I awoke to the most tremendous crashing sound of a pile of crates at the far end of my bunk. It was pitch black in the cabin, and although I had been asleep only a few hours adrenaline drove me out of bed in a flash. I groped clumsily around for my candle, cranking the wick upwards to see around the room. Apart from the boxes sprawled across the floor instead of their more conservative stacked position, things seemed in relative order. Most importantly, nothing appeared broken or damaged. The floor beneath my feet surged up, down, up, down in an unsettling rhythm. Scrambling up the steps, I threw open the cabin door and was bowled over by a rush of wind and hail. "What the blazes is going on up here?" I bellowed, my voice lost in the wind. Timberleg and Goldhook were both drenched and white-knuckling the wheel. A storm swirled overhead, completely disguising the stars that usually littered the dark sky. "Why didn't you... WHAT?" they yelled in unison. "WHY DIDN'T YOU RAISE THE SAILS, YOU'RE TOSSING THIS SHIP LIKE A RAGDOLL." I muscled across the slippery, rolling deck as the sea punched fiercely at the Black Pawkeet's hull. Considerably stronger than both of them I wrangled the steering wheel as it bucked against me, and the two shipmates sprawled wet and defeated across the deck. "GET UP TO THE SAILS AND TAKE THEM UP--THE WIND RESISTANCE IS ROCKING US," "WHO'S DANCE IS MOCKING US?" "--NO THE RESI-STANCE, WIND, THE BOAT--JUST CLIMB UP THERE AND GET THE SAILS IN!"
With some struggling and indistinct yelling, the pair managed to get the sails tightly rolled and tied while I fought the flailing ship. Although the storm still raged fiercely, the wind could no longer toss us without the wind hold that the sails provided, and it was content to bounce sturdily along the whitecaps. I was able to loosen my grip on the wheel and was pleased to see the ship maintained a slow but steady direction. Now that the excitement was over, I realized just how chilly it was outside--my breath surged rhythmically and hung in the air. Goldhook was so exhausted from his exertions that steam was evaporating in clouds off his entire round frame. I rubbed my arms loosely, fighting a shiver--can't be too far from Terror Mountain now.
As a Bori, I had equipped myself to handle the cold that Happy valley brings, but GOldhook and Timberlegs were not so lucky. They were packed tightly into large woolen coats, grumbling with every step. "Its so collllddd, do you think the c-c-c-avern will be any warmer?" Timberleg nodded fiercly, jumping up and down on his good leg. "I swear I think I'm going to loose a limb. Another limb. They'll have to call me Timber Twolegs. I won't make it." "If you both spent as much time HOLDING that hot air in as you did spewing it out your mouths, you'd be plenty warm. Besides, its just up this path."
Our business today was filled with adventure--my favorite kind. At the very top of Terror Mountain lived one of my most trusted business partners--an enchanting Red Ixi named Tarla. Deeply embedded into the Neopian economy, she has the ultimate power to make or break an item's rarity, by producing them in mass amounts and deflating their net worth. Following some of our disagreements, she has even deflated 'untouchable' items in my line of work. Most notably, when Pirate Jelly curiously found its way to Jelly World and was suddenly being scooped by greedy masses. Though she claims to know nothing of it (while hiding behind a smile), I know better.
Entering her shop, the three of us pushed back our hoods and brushed the snow from our shoulders. Though she had yet to learn intimate details of my life, she was one of the few Neopets in the world that could recognize me off the street, and her eyes lit up at my entrance. "Well hey, You. You're a day late--thought you bailed on me. One more day and I was considering tossing Draik Potions back to the Snow Faerie again." "Ha, ha. You slay me. We hit rough weather a half a day from the coast, tossed us out a bit and set us back. But we're here now. What's the item." She turned and disappeared behind a desk, and with a grunt tossed 3 large, heavy sacks onto the counter. "Scratchards. From the Kiosk Wocky. Sales are low and so is the Jackpot, so she wants to deflate these particular cards down a bit." She motioned with a cloven hoof as she spoke. "Bag of Faerie's Fortune here, these are Peak-O-Plenties, and Race to Riches here. Of course she wasn't interested in releasing any Icestravaganzas, So you won't have to worry abotu stealing any hunting for a jackpot," she winked deviantly. "Us? Tarla, you jest. I wouldn't put a hand on anything that's not rightfully mine...I'm right as rain." She leaned across the counter to me, beckoning me closer. Her voice was a low, humming whisper, and her eyes darted around the empty shop to ensure secrecy. "About that. Mika and Carassa brought him a snack a few days before and confirmed its placement. Once you place the cards, the Snowglobe will be hidden in a tiny alcove at the back left of the pile. They said..." she fished around in the pockets of her jewel-blue robe and unfolded a scrap of paper. "'Th....three? Three icicles to the...leht? left, of the cave en....trance.' Goodness Chias could use some fingers, this handwriting is dreadful." She folded up the parchment and returned it safely into her pocket, patting it securely. "Thats all I have for you. My sources say he was very active last night, so with all luck he should sleep soundly...but you have an hour and no more, remember that." Timberleg's curiosity finally piqued, and he interrupted with a questioning glance. "Wait, WHO's sleeping?" Tarla snorted. "You really don't tell them anything, do you. The Snowager, of course. You're going to steal from him."
It took roughly an hour for the three of us to haul the heavy bags of scratchcards down to the Snowager's vast ice cavern. Though the cold wind assaulted us on our path down the mountain, the air inside the cave was still. His heaving breath was ice cold, and stung our cheeks with each noisy exhale. With a raised finger, Timberleg enumerated -one, two, three icicles from the left. Goldhook mouthed a 'thats it' and indicated a translucent alcove, carved into the icy wall. Buried in the back corner sat our prize-- Ship in a Bottle Snowglobe. Its glassy exterior was frosted over, and the snow inside hung frozen within the bottle, surrounding an ornate ship looking strangely like the Black Pawkeet. I mouthed to my mates. "Stay. Here. Do not come for me. DO NOT. Make. Noise." I collected the three sacks and hoised them onto my back, doubling over at the weight. Goldhook elbowed Timberleg with a satirical sneer. "'E looks like a Maraquan Shoyru," I heard him whisper. "SHHZZZZHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! SHH!" I hissed while slashing the air. Time for Goldhook to retire and find himself a new pirate gig. If he wasn't such a fair navigator I'd be ready to toss him overboard.
The Snowager was unperturbed, however, and dozed heavily. Timberleg turned and stood at the entrance of the cave, waving anxious Neopians away. "Sorry, Daylight Savings Time...he's actually awake now. I'm doing YOU the favor you know, saving you from digestion. Come back in an hour." I gave test pulls on the giant pile of treasure, looking for the surest footing before beginning my ascent. Scaling the mountain was easy enough. Though the bags were indescribably heavy, I managed to make it to the top of the pile and upturn them with ease. The cards rained through the air and settled randomly amongst the mounts of plushies and weapons. Now, to the important thing--the Snowglobe. I turned and eased down the pile, working as carefully as I could. In a tense moment, the Snowager snuggled up onto himself, coiling his head and bringing it towards the back of the pile--had he opened one chilly, translucent eye, he would have been surprised to be staring me right in the face. It was in this moment of noisy movement I took my chance, scrambling up the Ice wall and into the cove. My fingers were pink and numb, but I grasped the bottle for my life and refused to loosen grip. Just as I began lowering myself towards the ground, a low rumble started at the base of the pile. Goldhooks eyes widened as he waved violently at me, but there was no need--I heard it too. I froze (in a manner of speaking) too worried to make a noise and disturb him further. The grumbling grew louder, rising in a gurgle--I could see bubbles moving through his clear body like a pipe. I was about to face the inevitable, and I could only mouth No, no....as Goldhooks grin widened in understanding. With a rumbling "BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEGH!" the Snowager parted his frigid lips and belched, sending an icicle crashing to the ground and a billow of ice-cold, Fish-Lolly-smelling air into my face. Scrambling downwards, I plucked up Goldhook from the ground and pressed the cold Snowglobe into his hands. He was clutching his stomach in laughter with tears rolling down his face, and wasn't able to form a coherent word until long after leaving the Ice Caves. I'm getting too old for this.
Not much to say. Sailing has been smooth and uneventful. We anchored today 20 miles off of an uninhabited island--our marker to Maraqua alone. Timberleg suited up into his scuba gear and departed with the necessary essentials--he would be meeting us at Mystery Island if all went well. I pressed a Vengeful Scroll into his hand and clapped him on the shoulder. "Get your business handled in Maraqua, then go to Faerieland—use the scroll and you can just fly at your whim. Fyora promised me a last Grey Faerie Doll, since our daft Lupe friend now stocks them a'plenty in Neopia Central. Good luck."
Two more days sailing brought us to Mystery Island. A quick Morphing Potion change, and I was a passive Yellow Kougra ready to tour the island on vacation. A couple of tacky tropical shirts and some sunglasses from the Ticki Tack store completed the facade. We loaded down our large backpacks (filled admittedly with Dubloons, and not the suspected supplies) and globbed sunblock onto our noses, leaving the Black Pawkeet 3 miles from shore. Hitching a ride from a Tours charter boat, we chatted excitedly. "This is going to be such a fun day." I feigned excitement with all the enthusiasm I could muster. "I just can't wait. Won't it be fun to see Techo Mountain. And spend time on the beach...oh goody." Goldhook smiled dazedly back, for once on track. "I definitely do not want to visit Geraptiku." An excited pair of elderly Lennies, each hiding behind a large tropical sunhat, exchanged curious glances and then spoke. "Whats wrong with Geraptiku?" squawked the older male. "Its quite scary. Dark woods and no safety. I will NOT be going. You can find me at the Rock Pool." The two birds looked at each other with wide eyes, and nodded solemnly. Well good--there's our alibi.
Sunset, we snuck away from a painfully boring round of Tombola and started the twisting hike towards Geraptiku. I scrubbed sunscreen off my nose angrily--is the money even worth this anymore?--and Goldhook stripped off his straw hat. The trees began to close in around us slowly, and jungle vines obstructed the clearings, leaving only one narrow, winding path ahead of us. The air was humid and thick from the wildlife--I was panting profusely. In an hour's arduous hiking, we managed to make it to Geraptiku's deserted open clearing. What natives had once inhabited was now abandoned, and only a few desolate, dried huts lay abandoned. Their structures were slowly being enveloped by kudzu and many plots had simply crumbled in around themselves. A few old rock bases harbored long-cold ashes, and tiki stakes had been burned to the quick...not much to worry about in the way of activity here. We crunched over dried underbrush and old bones, coming to a gnarled piece of hide strung across posts by a tin cup. "PLEASE LEAVE MONEY IN THE JAR." Goldhook bent over and upturned the cup with a frown, yielding nothing. "Sales a bit dismal, eh?" "Nothing to buy," I noted, motioning around to the empty cages. "No petpets here, now anyway. But thats not what we're looking for anyway, come on. We're looking for this coconut." Goldhook, beyond the point of skepticism with me, simply sighed and began to stare upwards into the tall palms. "What KIND of Coconut." "A 9 Pound one, to be precise. Mumbo Pango's told me personally he hid it here for us, somewhere beyond the petpet shop in Geraptiku. Timberleg's journey in Maraqua was to collect on some equity from Kelp's Maitre D. He's providing Mumbo Pango with all the gourmet food he can eat--in return for this Coconut. Which conveniently for us, is a Ghostkershield-busting Battledome Weapon. Its all handled. We just have to FIND it."
We began shuffling around underneath the trees, craning our neck and hunting for anything suspicious. With a long stick, I would occasionally stretch upwards and poke a few of the brown seeds to test their weight. Nothing CLOSE to nine pounds. I caught a whiff of something pungent...a rotten, fruity smell, and turned around to identify the source. I expected to see Mumbo Pango, perhaps here to show us where the weapon was. Wishful thinking. Instead, I found myself face-first in the squashy belly of the largest Mutant Quiggle I'd ever known in my life. "Hello, Meg."
The bulbus quiggle towered over me, her seedy yellow eyes trained in narrow slits. A waterfall of purple hair was tied half-up with a bone, and she sported a rather revealing grass island skirt and top. She cracked her knuckles before speaking in her deep, menacing voice. "YOU two. I figured you'd come knocking around here. Mumbo Pango came stompin' up here a week ago. Loud, making a racket and knocking things over. I know where he hid whatever you're looking for, and you can't have it." Meg was the Shopkeeper at Geraptiku Petpets--by title only. Rarely if ever seen, she mostly wandered back to the shop once a week to collect her earnings, squander them away on the Island, then toss a few more unlucky pets into the cages. She was a bit of a brute and a bully, but on rare occasion proved to be a useful ally--so I treaded lightly. "Meeeeeeeeg. I have no idea what you're talking about. So good to see you though." Her round nostrils flared. "DONT get cute with me, you scrappy little runt. You've always made a business of inching ME out of the good profits but this time, I. WANT. IN." The last three words she emphasized by poking my chest with a nubby, thick finger. "So tell me..." one hand reached toyingly into the tree above her head and motioned towards the coconut's hiding place. She towered over us by multiple feet, and no amount of desperate agility or scrambling could have gotten me close to it. Still, she grabbed me by the scruff with one large hand to ensure I wouldn't try. "What's this worth to ya. I'm a lonely frog here, my friend. I have needs. Its hard to get customers way back here in the mountain." Goldhook was nervously creeping backwards--we hadn't quite prepared for this scenario and he wasn't prepared to make decisions without my order. "And come to think of it..." her eyes lit up in a devious grin. "I do SEEM to remember you knocking me out flat to steal an Amulet of mine last year that you popped off at the Cove for 15 million. Or did that...slip your mind?" Eeek. I was afraid she'd bring that up. OK, so in a brief moment of desperation Timberleg MIGHT have distracted Meg for me as I jumped her from behind and pulled the Amulet off her neck before sprinting into the forest while screaming "MONSTER!" So what? A harmless prank? And now she's going to hang me by my scruff and pester me for Neopoints--quite unfair. "So. You're going to tell me the worth of this Coconut on the current market...and I'm gonna sell it, or I'm gonnAAAACK—" Meg's three yellow eyes rolled into the back of her head as an enormous "CRAAAACK!" snapped like a bullwhip. Her purple face squashed and contorted, and she wavered comically on tiptoe before flopping backwards and rumbling the earth. Knocked out cold. Bewildered, I scrambled away from her loosened grip and looked for the source of her misfortunate—what had hit her? Goldhook and I exchanged stunned glances. Moments later, Timberleg dropped out of a tree onto Meg's round belly, using her as an airbag. He casually walked a few feet and hoisted up the heavy coconut, which he'd just dropped on her head like a bowling ball. "Looking for this, boys?"
Conversation on the ship has been lighthearted as Timberleg recounted his adventure. Having finished his business in Maraqua early, and retrieved the Grey Faerie Doll in record time, he circumvented the hiking that we had to endure by simply flying to Geraptiku on his Lenny wings. (Remember, Vengeful Scrolls are the only Scroll in Neopia that actually serves as a morphing potion…even if its species range is limited.) Coincidentally, he had watched Meg find the coconut while perched for the evening high in a tree, and figured the opportunity was too golden to pass up. Sure, it limited our trades to anywhere far, far from Geraptiku from now on, but knocking Meg the Great out cold? There's a story to tell the grandkids.
It has been a somber day—we have at last docked outside the Smuggler's Cove. The moon was only a sliver and cast minimal light over the glassy water. Milky clouds further dampened its effects and left us in utter darkness as we drug our crates of wares deep into the back of the cavern. Timberleg stood on stoic lookout as Goldhook and I muscled the boxes overboard and through the powdered white sand. We worked in unison backing the crates one by one into the cave. Soon, not even my lantern could provide us enough light,
but we pressed on by groping along the dank, wet walls. This we did in almost complete silence—none of us wished for all of our hard work to be spoiled now. I cranked the lamp down to a wimpering flicker, and looked at my two mates as shadows danced across their faces. "Well gentleman, we have succeeded yet again. Now to reap the benefits." It was our job to collect the wares—not sell them, that aspect was handled by a different set of constituents. For now, our time together was over…and payment was at hand. I reached deftly into the jacket pocket of my sailing jacket and pulled out one, tiny Attack Pea. With a solemn nod I pressed it into the palm of Timberleg's hand, nodding to him. "The Smuggler's Cove chasers thank you for your services. You are excused." With a low nod, Timberleg retreated with his prize and turned on us towards the mouth of the cave. My gaze shifted to Goldhook. I reached in again, feeling carefully and grabbing yet another, wrapping it into his fist. "The Smuggler's Cove chasers thank you for your services. You are excused." He pulled me in for a brief embrace, clapping me on the back. "Good to do this again. You know where to find me when its time for another round." Silence hung heavy in the air but there was nothing more to be said—our job was done. I nodded solemnly and watched him quickly disappear into the drowning darkness. I patted the pocket one last time, ensuring my own prize was still present—after all, my efforts need not go unrewarded. Finally, it was my turn to exit the cave, entrusting our wares to a different crew and return to the life of Neopian 'normalcy.'
My adventure is at last over, and so too must be this journal. I have now described to you in explicit detail the happenings of the Smuggler's Cove—releasing all candid details with the utmost confidence that still, despite this knowledge, you will never catch me, never catch the Cove chasers. I now sit placidly in the Golden Dubloon, listening to the old Lupe tinker away on the piano as he eyes me suspiciously, draining a glass bottle into which I will insert this tale and toss to sea. Obviously you, swift reader, have managed to find it, and I applaud you, though by the time you do my identity will be cold and untraceable. On top of these tales, I impart upon you this wisdom—pursue adventure vicariously; live with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and never let money be the ultimatum to your happiness. For me, this job's rewards (though plentiful) are marginal in the fiscal sense compared to the longing I feel careening across the open seas. I leave with you now my bonus from these adventures—I have now only my memories. If you know it's worth—do use it well.