Caution: Quills may be sharp Circulation: 124,467,804 Issue: 251 | 4th day of Hiding, Y8
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Totally Ordinary Story

by artistwonders


The first beams of sunlight illuminated Francesca's room at six in the morning. She blinked her eyes open, sat up, and yawned and stretched. She walked over to the mirror on her wall and saw... a Krawk. But that was okay, because Francesca WAS a Krawk. She was a perfectly ordinary Krawk... except that she came from a really rich family and was painted royal. Francesca picked up her hairbrush and brushed her long blue hair back, and then she grabbed her staff, went into the bathroom to brush her teeth, and then headed down to breakfast. Her mother, a disco Aisha named Taylor, was sitting in the kitchen, sorting dishes. "Is my hair alright?" asked Francesca. "Is my dress alright? It's my first day in a story! What do I do?"

     "I've had experience in stories," said her mother. "It's simple. What you do is sit tight and wait for the author to write what happens to you."

     "That sounds easy enough," said Francesca, who set her staff down by a chair and then proceeded to go to the table and get some cereal and milk. She grabbed a spoon and began to eat.

     "How are you feeling this morning?" Francesca's father, a rainbow Poogle named Tyler, had just come down the stairs, and started to make some coffee.

     "Tired," said Francesca, rubbing her eyes and stifling a yawn.

     "We understand," said her father, "It's not easy getting up one hour earlier than you're used to. You need time to adjust."

     "Still," said her mother, "You children these days have it lucky. When I was your age, I had to get up even earlier and walk all the way to school. At least you have bikes to ride." Francesca kept on eating. After she had finished, she put her bowl and spoon in the sink, grabbed her backpack and staff, and ran out the door.

     "Bye, Mom! Bye, Dad!" she called. "See you after school!" Francesca then put on her helmet, hopped onto her green bicycle, and rode off. Naturally, it was a slight complication that she had a dress which extended below her toes; this sometimes got caught on the pedals. However, soon enough, she had reached her school, and she parked her bike and went into the school building. Wendy, an electric Ogrin, walked up to Francesca.

     "Hello," she said. "C'mon, let's go to our room together. I'll tell you about the most amazing experience I've had..." And Francesca listened and heard a fantastic story about a Doglefox and a piece of black velvet.

     Back at the house, Tyler and Taylor, the Poogle and Aisha, were taking care of the usual things. Vinny the rainbow Yurble had left for school, and Lauren the electric Korbat was eating breakfast. Baby Ivan the blue Kyrii was snuggling with his mother. The family was rather big, this was true, but it happens. The family members were Francesca the royal Krawk who was fourteen, Vincent, or Vinny, the rainbow Yurble who was twelve, Lauren the electric Korbat who was seven, and Ivan, the baby blue Kyrii, who was only one.

     After Lauren left for school, Tyler and Taylor fed Ivan and put him down for his nap, and then they washed the dishes. They were so rich they didn't need to work, and they didn't know when they'd find their next job opportunity. Therefore, they took care of some things here and there, and then relaxed.

     Later that day, they were not focused on anything in particular, when the Shadow Usul burst into their home. She ransacked the house and kidnapped both parents. Ivan woke up and looked around. He then began to cry.

     Francesca left school later that day. She hopped on her bicycle and pedaled on back to her house. She parked her bike and opened the door, only to find the place a mess and her parents nowhere to be seen. "Mom! Dad! I'm home!" she called. No answer. "Mom?" she tried again, "Dad?" Still no answer. "Stupid author," Francesca muttered under her breath. Then, she saw Ivan lying in his bed, crying. She picked him up and held him close to comfort him. "It's okay," she mumbled, reassuringly. Then, she opened her eyes and looked at him. "Did you see anything?"

     "No," said Ivan. "Napping." That didn't help. However, Francesca did notice that there was a trail leading out the window. She set Ivan gently back in bed, and then she examined it. The fact that it lead out a rather high window meant that it couldn't have been a clumsy, lumbering Neopet (it was too big to have been a Petpet), or any that couldn't climb. Well, Francesca decided that, if anything, she should still do her homework. So she grabbed her pack and took out one of her books and notebooks. "Okay," she muttered. "Biology. Question one: what is the primary function of an Acara's horns?"

     The time came for Vinny to arrive home. Since it was the first week of school, Francesca didn't have much homework, and she resolved to go and get Vinny, and tell him what had happened. She hopped on her bike and pedaled off to the middle school.

     Vinny grabbed his pack and headed out the school, intent on getting back home quickly so he could finish his homework and fix some food. Vinny liked to cook; he mostly baked things but could do more than that. He hopped on his bicycle, and pedaled fast. He was nearing his home when who should he see but his sister, Francesca. "Hello," he said.

     "Hey, Vinny," said Francesca. "Listen, there's a problem. I already looked inside the house, and there's nobody there. And the place is a mess! Did anything weird happen before you left?"

     "No!" Vinny stared at Francesca. "I need to see this!" He pedaled the rest of the way home and opened the door. Sure enough, he couldn't see the parents and there were things thrown everywhere. "What happened here?" Vinny asked.

     "Our parents are gone," Francesca said, a little late with the news.

     "I don't understand it," said Vinny, "Where would they go to?"

     "No idea," said Francesca. "They wouldn't just leave. And it wouldn't make sense for there not to be something going on if this place is such a mess."

     "Maybe they were killed," Vinny thought aloud.

     "It doesn't look like anyone was killed," said Francesca. Ivan, however, was not so sure. He automatically assumed that they were killed, and he began to cry. It took quite some time to calm him down, and then it was time to go get Lauren. Francesca went and picked up Lauren, and then she told her little sister about what had happened.

     "Oh, no!" Lauren shouted. "This is bad."

     "I know," said Francesca. All four of them, including the baby, who like most Kyrii could stand since the day he was born, stood staring at the messy house.

     "What's gonna happen to us?" Lauren tugged on Francesca's dress.

     "I... I don't know," Francesca sighed. It was all she could say.

     Later that day, after the kids had finished their homework and Ivan had finished his nap, Francesca made and announcement. "I'm going out to look for our parents," she said. She went into the kitchen to pack Neopoints and a few other essentials in her backpack (now clear of homework), "And I won't return until I find them." She picked up her staff.

     "But it'll be dangerous going by yourself," Vinny said.

     "Oh, I'll be fine," Francesca said, more to reassure him than because she actually thought so.

     "I'll go with you," said Lauren, who walked over to her. Vinny picked up Ivan.

     "Me, too!" he said. Ivan stared with his big eyes. He didn't understand what was going on, being a baby and a baby Kyrii no less. So, with that, the four siblings set out on a grand adventure to find their parents. They cleaned up a bit and then they closed the door and went outside.

     "The first thing we'll do is ask for help," said Francesca. "Surely someone's seen something." However, nobody seemed to have. The four of them came to a big house, with reinforced lightning protection on the roof. In a garden, a royal Aisha was playing with a ball. He was trying to shoot it at some hoops. "Excuse me," said Francesca. "Have you seen anything strange lately?"

     "Sure," said the Aisha. "My mother with those cucumber things on her eyes."

     "No!" said Francesca. "Did you see a rainbow Poogle and disco Aisha around here?"

     "Sure. The Shadow Usul was with them."

     "The Shadow Usul!" Vinny shouted.

     "Yeah, she said that she was going to hold them captive."

     "Our parents are alive," said Francesca. "Wow, nice author!"

     "Those were your parents?" said the Aisha. "My mother's told me about them. My name's Giovanni, by the way." He held out his paw.

     "Nice to meet you, Giovanni," said Francesca, who shook it. "I'm Francesca. This is Vinny, Lauren, and the baby is Ivan." She indicated her siblings.

     "Nice to meet you all," said Giovanni. "Anyway, I could get you some food. Would you like that?"

     "Of course," said Francesca, who hadn't eaten anything since lunch and who knew that dinner options would be shaky. They followed Giovanni inside, where a royal Aisha was preparing something.

     "Hey, there, Giovanni," she said disinterestedly. "I see you've found some friends. Well, I suppose I can make some more tofu-turkey sandwiches with vegan cheese." Giovanni sighed.

     "What kind of place is this?" Lauren asked.

     "Lauren, be polite!" Francesca ordered.

     "Oh, I forgot to mention," said Giovanni. "My mom really feels strongly about eating things that don't have much fat. She needs to fit into that dress of hers. So, she eats foods--like the one she described--that have the taste and texture of meat but aren't, since those have less fat." The little royal Aisha sighed, and slumped into his chair. "Not that spaghetti with meatless meatballs isn't a good thing to eat, but just once I'd like some proper meat and cheese." His mother paid these comments no mind.

     "So how old are you, Giovanni?" Vinny took it upon himself to change the subject.

     "About fourteen," said Giovanni.

     "Me, too," Francesca remarked. The food was okay, though it wasn't what any of the four siblings were used to having. "So, we're going to rescue our parents."

     "That sounds good," said Giovanni. "May I come with you?"

     "Sure," said Francesca. "Ah..." She stopped, not knowing the name of Giovanni's mother.

     "Brunwella," Giovanni said.

     "Brunwella," echoed Francesca, "is it okay if your son comes with us on an adventure to rescue our parents?"

     "Sure," said Brunwella. "Son, just try not to get hurt."

     Later that day, the five left for the shipyard in Neopia Central, which would take them to Krawk Island. "Krawk Island?" they asked, walking from boat to boat and getting increasingly agitated as no boat seemed to sail to Krawk Island. However, at last, they found such a boat. The captain was a pirate Lenny named Kirk and his first mate was a pirate Uni named Ruben. And then there was the captain's son, Prentice the royal Krawk, who was around Francesca's age. He was very spoiled and did not like to meet new people.

     "Are THESE the people you're going to take to Krawk Island?" he said, raising an eyebrow and looking at Francesca and her siblings and her friend. "Well, okay," he said, "Lady, if you can spin your saff in any way that impresses me, I'll let you on board." He spun his own staff in front of him. You could barely tell what it was. "Your turn," he said.

     "Okay," said Francesca. She spun her staff in much the same fashion... only behind her back. Female royal Krawks had an odd habit of putting their staffs behind their back rather than in front.

     "I suppose I'm impressed," said Prentice. "Alright, get on board!" The five of them boarded the ship and spoke to the captain.

     "Does this go to Krawk Island?" asked Lauren.

     "Yes, it does," said Kirk the Lenny, "But not before we stop in Terror Mountain to resupply."

     "But that might be too late!" Vinny blurted.

     "We'll get you there when we get you there!" Ruben growled. He was prepared to back up his friend. "Now, leave us alone so we can set sail!" Vinny left the two men talking alone. Suddenly, the boat cast off and all on deck were bound for Krawk Island.

     Over a period of many weeks, they reached Terror Mountain, where everyone was allowed to get to land for a breather. Kanrik and his band of thieves were there, and some seemed to be relaying a story to others.

     "Have you heard about Kanrik?" asked Vinny, an avid reader of the Neopia Times. "He hasn't been quite himself since his foray in the Lost Desert. But he can't remember what happened then."

     "...We were this close to our treasure!" A thief, who was talking, made a pinching motion. "And then he came!"

     "He?" Lauren stared. "Who's he?"

     "The Kyrii thief named Stan," said Vinny, "The person our parents labelled as the best thief who ever lived. Actually more people than just them called him the best thief who ever lived, but that's not the point of this discussion." The strange thing was, Lauren wasn't the only one who had asked who 'he' referred to; the other was Kanrik.

     "Who is he?" Kanrik asked. "I have no memory."

     "It was Stan, idiot!" shouted the thief who had spoken first. "Honestly, you can't even remember what had happened! And even the smallest details never seem to stick when we try to relay them to you!" Watching the tension heat up, Francesca rolled her eyes.

     "There's probably nothing to see," she said, passing her staff from paw to paw. "Let's go." She and Giovanni and Vinny, Lauren, and Ivan all left the area and instead played a game of Snow Wars together.

     Later, it was time to leave Terror Mountain, and all of them went back to the boat to get to Krawk Island. When they arrived, they said good-bye to the captain and crew and walked onto the shore, where a little blue Krawk was hoarding dubloons. "Can I go to the Swashbuckling Academy?" asked Lauren eagerly.

     "No!" said Francesca. "We don't have time to play around; we need to find our parents before it's too late!" Privately, she wondered if it was already too late. They wandered the island until they found Usul-style footprints. Following them, Francesca and the others found a cave. No sooner had they walked in than something grabbed Giovanni. Francesca turned around, startled, her staff pointed from behind her back, but there was nobody there.

     "This place gives me the creeps," said Vinny, who shuddered. But they continued to wander along. Soon, they found a big chamber, where their parents were tied up. Giovanni was also tied up; he was dangling from the ceiling, strapped there by his feet, and his paws were tied behind him, and there was a gag across his mouth. He did seem happy to see the others, though. The Shadow Usul was staring at Francesca and her siblings.

     "You! What are you doing here?" the Shadow Usul said. Francesca held her staff behind her back as she pointed it at the Shadow Usul.

     "We've come to rescue our parents. And that royal Aisha!" Francesca nodded toward Giovanni, who blinked. His hat had fallen to the ground.

     "Since you've come so far," said the Shadow Usul, "I know just what to do!" She untied the two parents, and grabbed Francesca around the shoulders. "Go on, you!" she said to the others, "Get out! But this one stays with me." The others left the cave, deciding to formulate a plan to rescue Francesca.

     "What are you doing?" asked Francesca.

     "I'm letting them go, just like you asked," said the Shadow Usul. "They'll live their lives away from you. They're going to start forgetting you, child. In, oh, about a few years' time, you'll be an alien to them. They won't recognise your voice and they won't recognise your face; they won't recognise you at all!"

     "No!" Francesca began to panic.

     "Maybe," the Shadow Usul muttered, chuckling darkly, "you'll even go mad, and then you won't be able to tell that they're even there, should you see them again." Francesca grabbed her staff and started to cry. Giovanni swung back and forth, but there was nothing else he could do. Francesca started to think. The Shadow Usul said a few years; not overnight, she thought, That'll give me time to formulate a plan.

     Her opportunity for a plan came rather soon. She was scrubbing the floors, like the Shadow Usul was telling her to. What Francesca liked to do was to stand up, holding her staff, and scrub the floor with her feet. "Ever hear of getting down on your paws and knees?" the Shadow Usul said gruffly.

     "I've been wondering," said Francesca.

     "Do NOT change the subject!"

     "Sorry," said Francesca, "but if I'm going to work for you, what should I call you? Should I call you Shadow? Or Shadow Usul? Or Mistress Shadow Usul?"

     "Ah, well," said the Shadow Usul, "It would be easier if you just used my real name." With that, she removed the black mask and unzipped the black and purple bodysuit. Upon seeing who was underneath, Francesca didn't know whether to laugh, to cry, to scream, to faint, or what to do.

     "H-Hannah?" she gasped.

     "YES!" shouted Hannah. "It's ME!"

     "You're the Shadow Usul?" Francesca's knees felt weak and she leaned on her staff for support.

     "Oh, yeah," said Hannah.

     "Why?" asked Francesca. "You're supposed to be a hero."

     "I know. I even have my picture in the Gallery of Heroes. But why stop there?" Hannah paused dramatically. "I just put on this disguise and I become the Shadow Usul, who is in the Gallery of Evil. I have my picture in TWO galleries; not just one! HA! Beat that, Galem!"

     "Did you know that you totally swamped a Gelert a while back?"

     "I know!" Hannah looked at Francesca funny. "It was ingenious, too; he didn't suspect a thing!" With that, Hannah went back to ranting. "TWO GALLERIES! TWO! The thieves of Neopia can NEVER compare to a thief like me: both a hero and a villain!" Giovanni took a minute to mutter something derogatory about Hannah's grammar, but of course, it was completely muffled.

     "You are a thief," said Francesca, being nicer.

     "Ruining the moment!" Hannah yelled. "Ahem, Galem and Masila are only in the Gallery of Evil; Tomos and Nabile are only in the Gallery of Heroes; Kanrik isn't it any galleries; even Stan, who is supposed to be the best thief..."

     "Our parents always said that he was," Francesca said.

     "THE POINT!" Hannah practically screamed. "He doesn't even have his picture in one gallery, let alone TWO!" She continued ranting.

     "So, the only reason you dress up as the Shadow Usul at all," said Francesca, trying to get under the extra information and find the actual point, "is so you can get a place in two galleries?"

     "Pretty much," said Hannah. Idiot, thought Giovanni.

     "Ahem," said Francesca, who was trying not to laugh but who very calmly pointed her staff at Hannah (behind her back, of course), "you will let my friend and me out of here, and let us get back to our families."

     "How good are you at fighting?" asked Hannah.

     "Pretty good," said Francesca. She had fought a few times, but Vinny and Lauren were the chief Battledomers in the family.

     "Then, let's see how you size up against me, the treasure-hunter slash spelunker slash explorer slash thief slash hero slash villain," Hannah said. Francesca covered her eyes and shook her head. Then the fight began. Hannah flung magic pebbles at Francesca, who attempted to block these with a bubble shield and then shoot a water jet at Hannah. They fought on for quite some time, but the fact was, Hannah had the upper hand. Krawks like Francesca did have water and dark abilities, but Usuls like Hannah had earth abilities, and in nearly every case dark abilities too. Since things that grow from the earth suck up water, Hannah was at an advantage. I need a miracle, Francesca thought, as the odds were building up against her.

     Just then, Francesca saw the round Spicy Juppie cheese that was innocently enough on a tabletop. Francesca had noticed how much her Usul friends from school liked to eat cheese; if Hannah was anything like them, so would she. Francesca picked up the cheese and held it up in front of her. "Hannah," she said, "want some cheese?"

     "CCccchhheeeeeeeeeessssssse!" Hannah shrieked. Oh, cheese! The most wondrous, most delightful food ever invented! Hannah jumped at the cheese just as Francesca threw it in the air. As Hannah caught the cheese, Francesca used a powerful jet of water to shoot Hannah onto a spinning thing, and she started that spinning really fast with another jet of water. Hannah was then catapulted from where she spun and landed in a closet. Francesca closed the closet and locked Hannah inside. She then used her staff to reach the ceiling and she untied Giovanni, who fell to the ground. She removed the gag from his face. "Thanks," Giovanni said. "Um, could you please untie my paws? I can't do it myself."

     "Sure," said Francesca, who quickly set to work undoing the rope that tied Giovanni's paws. Giovanni brushed himself off. He then picked up his hat and put it on.

     "Let's go," he said, "I think your family's outside." Indeed, when the two of them wandered out of the cave, they found the parents and Vinny, Lauren, and Ivan, all cheering.

     "What happened?" asked Vinny.

     "The Shadow Usul turned out to be Hannah in disguise!" Francesca declared.

     "Is that so?" said Vinny.

     "Oh, yes!" Francesca nodded furiously.

     "Because," said Vinny, "I've heard tales of how Illusen has been spending quite a bit of time on Jhudora's Cloud. I'm beginning to wonder...."

The End

If you can read this, I've finally gotten into the NT! Beware Hannah...!

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