The inside scoop on Jelly W-argh! *choke* Circulation: 114,248,913 Issue: 228 | 17th day of Awakening, Y8
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Treasure of the Caves: Part Four

by ssjelitegirl


While Tsuki went down the street towards the harbour, Kat took another path that led her into a small block of wooden houses. She knew that she had to find something she'd be good at, and in her case that mainly meant a job taking strength and agility. The fire Uni trotted down the narrow street and suddenly found herself in the harbour. No wonder on that island though.

     The Black Pawkeet was farther away, noisy and lively, but Kat didn't care about that any more. She looked up at another ship that had just arrived; apparently it was a cargo vessel and the crew was currently discharging huge bags, most likely sugar or flour. They loaded the bags onto a wagon that was standing nearby. A purple Kau was harnessed in front of it and Kat could see at once that he was exhausted, breathing hard and giving his best to remain standing up. The Uni's ears moved forth.

     "Jack, this is insanity!" a white Kacheek standing next to the Kau complained. "It's obvious that you're not fit yet! You already had a hard time pulling the wagon to the harbour but now it's loaded with sugar and you just won't be able to move it!"

     "I don't care," Jack hissed and took a deep breath again. "I got work to do and nobody else is able to pull that wagon even with full health so don't try to convince me, okay?"

     Kat stepped closer. Now she could see that the Kau was indeed very muscular and massive, but some illness had made him so weak that the wagon was too much for him. The Uni's eyes narrowed a bit. She had always admired Neopets who gave everything they got in every situation and she was like that too. Now she could see that the Kau, even though too proud to admit it, needed some help and she could also smell an opportunity.

     "Excuse me," she said and the two turned around to look at her, "I'm looking for a job. Could you perhaps help me a little? I'm new here and need some money, almost any job would do."

     "Well," the Kacheek grinned slightly, "Jack here is a bit ill so maybe you could take his place for today?"

     Jack the Kau glared at him and then gave Kat a superior glance. "That lassie couldn't even lift up one of those bags, not to mention a whole wagon full of them…"

     "I'm not as weak as you seem to think," Kat replied with a vague frown and looked up at the wagon. It was pretty colossal. "True, that thing weighs a lot. But I'd still like to give it a try."

     The two friends glanced at each other and then at the fire Uni.

     "If she really wants to break her back here…" Jack muttered.

     "You could use a break one way or another," the Kacheek commented. "Let me help you with the harness… luckily we're not in a hurry."

     About a minute later Kat was in front of the wagon. The Kacheek who had introduced himself as Tom looked up at her and said:

     "Okay, let's see what you got then. Jack and I will show you the way. If you manage to get this thing moving, that is."

     Kat nodded, peering over her shoulder. She remembered the Techo Master's words. Use your opponent's strength and weight, learn how to turn disadvantages into advantages. Right now the wagon was her opponent. The Uni knew that huge heavy things on wheels were almost unstoppable once in motion. So all she had to do was - she pushed her legs tightly against the ground and leaned forward against the harness - get this wagon moving - all her muscles tightened too - and the rest would take care of itself. Kat was a lot stronger than most people thought. The wagon screeched. The wheels moved a little. Then they moved again and didn't stop any more. The Uni took a few steps forward and then found that the load wasn't heavy any more; the wagon now only needed little energy to keep moving.

     "Which way?" she asked over her shoulder. "I can't stop now or it'll take all my strength again to get it moving."

     "Not bad," Jack commented, raising his brow. Tom leaped onto the load. "Just carry on and I'll tell you when you need to turn, okay?"

     A short while later Kat had learned a lot about the two buddies. It turned out that Jack and Tom both worked for a local trading office; their job was to bring goods that arrived on the ships to the trading center. Jack pulled the cart and Tom took care of the paperwork. But about a week ago Jack had caught Neomonia and still wasn't fully recovered. Tom remarked that he should've spent a least three more days at home - after all, he didn't need that salary so desperately.

     "It's not about the salary," Jack claimed with a scowl.4 "I just hate sitting at home and having nothing to do."

     "Now you can roam the streets and have nothing to do," Tom grinned. "Listen lassie, if you want to take Jack's place until he's fit again, I'll just take care of all the papers as soon as we get to the office. Finding good workers is hard these days."

     "I'm only here for one day," Kat replied. That was also better than nothing so they had a deal and carried on down the street.

     Ice had lurked on the streets in the meantime, not caring much about getting a job but still keeping her eyes open just like everyone else. She knew that her family would be able to get some dubloons by the next day and being the oldest of the gang she didn't feel like showing up with empty hooves. After lurking around in the village she suddenly stopped in front of a big house and looked at it.

     "Not exactly the thing for me but hey, it might be fun," she decided, trotted up the stairs and entered the wooden hallway. It was empty and rather quiet but distant voices were echoing in the Ixi's ears. She looked up and around, shrugged slightly and trotted on, finally stopping in front of a door that read "HEADMASTER".

     "Hi!" she announced, pushing the door open. "D'ya guys need a substitute teacher for today?"

     The headmaster of Krawk Island's Coastal Neoschool, a grumpy old Tuskaninny looked up and blinked. "What?"

     Ice trotted over the carpet and landed in front of his desk. "I need dubloons, and fast. Surely you have a few teachers missing every day; most of them have firewood to chop or ships to hijack, I know how life goes on Krawk Island."

     "Only fer today?" the headmaster slowly asked. He wouldn't have become the headmaster if he hadn't had the reflexes to match a school of future scallywags. The Tuskaninny dug into his papers. Ice nodded.

     "What do ye do then?" the headmaster finally asked, picking up a few papers.

     "What do you got?" Ice asked back.

     "Grammar… Neopian geography… and advanced art," the headmaster slowly said, examining the papers.

     "Geography," the Ixi decided. "Something I at least know a few things of. How much will I get for it?"

     One dubloon per lesson sounded reasonable enough so a few minutes later Ice slammed the classroom's door open and announced to the mass of blabbering students:

     "And a very good morning to you all, name's Ice, I'll be your substitute teacher for today, you might want to shut up and open your books now, the Kacheek with the spiffy earring will tell me what your last topic was, thank you."

     The class stared at her. Ice usually took a while to get used to.

     "Thar was supposed to be no lesson today," the Kacheek said, slowly turning his head and glancing at the Ixi. "The teacher be sailin' to Meridell today and until he gets back, we just quietly sit here in the classroom."

     "With Kastraliss hanging around in these waters? Good luck to him." Ice sat down and faced the Kacheek. Class leaders can be recognized quickly - gain their respect and you'll get along with the rest. "So, your last topic was…?"

     "Throwing paper balls at the teachers," the Kacheek replied with an arrogant grin. The class giggled. Ice opened the book.

     "Have you guys been to Darigan Citadel?" she asked then, looking up.

     "Geography is boring!" some Uni from the back row of the class announced. Several voices agreed with her. Something flashed in Ice's eyes; she seemed a bit absent.

     "While sitting in the classroom, yes. But while lurking around in the Citadel when it's being attacked by Meridell's forces, some locations of various hideouts and chambers may be good to know. Well, that's not important. What you're supposed to learn are the economy and nature of Darigan's lands. There isn't much to know as the lands are still recovering from that last Battle for Meridell… yes?"

     The class had fallen awfully silent. Everyone was staring at the Ixi and one young Techo had raised his hand.

     "Have ye been to the Citadel?" he asked.

     "A few times," Ice agreed. "It wasn't much fun during times of peace, only a fistful of lazy guards lumbering in the hallways waiting for the next meal." She snorted. "The Battle for Meridell was a nice change. Everyone was running around and trying to look like they were doing something important."

     "Wasn't it dangerous?" the Techo wondered.

     Ice shrugged. "It was a war. What do you think? Pointless wasters of time and money… you can't even visit some old friends without having to face the danger of being chopped into tiny pieces."

     "Whom did ye visit?" most of the class asked in unison.

     "Barallus," Ice replied. "An old buddy of mine. I took him some cookies… that stupid war had messed up the whole citadel's life, meals never came when they were supposed to. The poor guy was starving." Ice's past was long and colorful; even if her case of amnesia from her pound days didn't allow her to remember all of her old friends, those friends still remembered her and occasionally looked her up.

     The class was now completely hypnotized. "Do ye know why he went insane?" someone quickly asked. Ice grinned and nodded.

     "Of course, but I'm not telling. He doesn't want anyone to tell and I'm loyal to my friends. Besides, he's not as insane as most people think. He has his bright moments once in a while. That's why Darigan is still keeping him down there… so, does anyone know which plants grow in the Citadel?"

     "We want to hear more about Barallus!" voices arose in the class. "There's so little known about him!"

     "Then remember the plant called Flea Grass," the Ixi grinned. "Even if Barallus is supposed to be one of the Cellblock challengers, the guards are sometimes quite picky and then it's useful to have a handful of Flea Grass to keep them busy. Darigan's lands may be poor and plain but all lands grow something… does anyone know any other plants?"

     At that time Shad, Saura and Ace the Wuzzle were still walking down the streets, looking at the houses and not caring much about getting jobs whatsoever. The sun was shining, the streets were filled with people and Ace attacked all pickpockets who showed up every now and then. The day just couldn't get any better. Now it could just get worse and Shad wasn't thrilled at all when remembering what Kat had said about getting jobs.

     "Seriously, I'm sure that the others will get enough dubloons to buy some food," he grumbled. "Why do we have to work our tails off too?"

     "Don't be such a brat." Saura snorted. "Where's your sense of adventuring now? Look!" They had reached the harbour and looked over the bay towards the huge ship that hosted Krawk Island's most famous restaurant.

     "So how are you planning to get there?" Shad asked after a short pause. "Swimming is out of the question as Ace hates water." The Wuzzle hissed in agreement.

     Saura looked around. "Then we need to improvise. How about that thing over there?"

     A few minutes later a small rowing boat left the pier and turned towards the small islet near the coast of Krawk Island.

      "Neopian restaurants are making their lives way too difficult," Shad complained. "There are thousands of square miles of Neopian worlds that are crowded like a Drugal's fur on Adopt-A-Mootix day… and where do they put Neopia's only restaurants? One is at the bottom of the sea and the other in the middle of the sea. Where's the logic in that?"

     "I suppose they want to keep all the landlubbers out," Saura guessed, rowing towards the Golden Dubloon. Ace sat on his shoulder, peering suspiciously at the sea. "After all, the Golden Dubloon is meant for pirates." He steered the boat towards the coast of the small islet, galloped across it and ran up the ladder to the old ship. Shad followed him grimly and so they faced the old Lupe who owned the place.

     "Ye don't have any dubloons!" he declared. "If ye can't afford to come here, don't come here!"

     "I've always wondered how he knows that," Saura whispered to his petpet as Shad stepped forward, claiming:

     "We didn't come to eat. We're looking for jobs."

     The housemaster glanced at the two. "Oh really? And what do ye do then?"

     About an hour later the two were buried under hard work. Saura was in the kitchen, cooking, baking and stirring as Shad dashed in and out, carrying empty plates, dirty plates and trays. Ace the Wuzzle sat on the table and observed them curiously.

     "This is unbelievable!" Shad declared, galloping in for the sixty seventh time and throwing dirty dishes into the sink. "Why do I have to be the waiter?"

     "Because you don't know how to do anything else," Saura replied with a grin. "Besides, you're doing great."

     "Yeah, it's been months since we last had a waiter working that fast," a Scorchio remarked from the sink. "The last one was a Hissi. Don't know why he wanted that job, he couldn't even carry two plates at a time…"

     "Too bad you're only here for one day," Loretta Fontaine, one of the beautiful Aisha sisters, commented, stepping in and taking a seat to rest a little. "Good workers are hard to find these days. Why are you in such a hurry anyway?"

     "You see, there's this long-lost…" Shad started. Saura pushed a tray full of steaks into his paws and poked him in the ribs.

     "Move it, big brother, time is money and the customers are waiting. We were planning to visit the Smuggler's Cove," he added when Shad trotted out, "but it's far away and we need to buy some food in advance."

     "There isn't much to see," Loretta remarked. "The smugglers show up very rarely."

     Saura shrugged. "What can I say? My family just won't listen… two Slithering Squid Surprises coming right up." He got back to cooking and the others turned around as well. The day was busy and was about to get even more hectic because most pirates showed up in the restaurant when the evening came.

     "I wonder if we actually get to sleep tonight…" Shad complained, throwing another load of dirty dishes into the sink. "They just keep coming!"

     "I noticed," Saura agreed, baking and cooking like crazy. He didn't seem tired at all and Pinanna Paradises, Baby Bloaters and Tropical Breezes just kept appearing on the waiters' trays. "Did the housemaster mention anything about accommodation?"

     "There are a few," Shad galloped out and returned in a moment with dirty glasses, "rooms for the temporary," galloped out and returned in a moment, "workers but he said that using," left the kitchen, entered the kitchen, "them would cost us half a dubloon each."

     "I'll just sleep in the kitchen," Saura replied. "He can't ask us money for," three Walk The Planks landed on Shad's tray, "working overtime. Because I'm working while," two Forbidden Plunders faced the same fate, "I'm in the kitchen, or what?"

     "Yeah, and at least the kitchen is warm," Shad agreed and added after trotting through the restaurant again: "I went to see the rooms. Tiny and cold. Most workers apparently go home for the night."

     "This place never closes its doors," Rosetta Fontaine said, entering the kitchen. "The second shift arrives at midnight, then you can take a break but the kitchen won't go empty."

     "I don't care, I'd even be able to sleep at Moehawk's concert right now," Shad groaned. "My paws are killing me!"

     "One hour to go," Rosetta comforted him and left.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» Treasure of the Caves: Part One
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Two
» Treasure of the Caves: Part Three
» Treasure of the Caves

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