The Day After Lutari Day: Part Four
It wasn't long before Paddy came over, and he and Bannok were both settled in the living room. Paddy's cheesy chips were cooking in the oven and as a special treat Bannok had a mug of hot chocolate – topped with mini marshmallows, of course. Even still, the little Kyrii was fighting yawns, and I doubted he'd be awake for long. I was feeling a bit tired myself, but the cool evening breeze woke me up on the walk to the bus stop. On my shoulder, the little red creature shivered a bit in the cold, wrapping my hair around itself like a blanket. I stood the collar of my shirt up as much as I could to give it some warmth, but luckily we didn't have to wait too long before the bus came.
"The castle, please," I said, handing over a few coins to the driver. He took them with a nod, then flicked his reins at the whinnies, and with a clatter of hooves the carriage was off again. There weren't many people around at this time of night, so luckily it was a fairly short trip up to the castle.
"Last calls at eleven, pet," the driver reminded me as I disembarked. "Or quarter past from by the armoury, you know the stop?" I nodded my thanks, and made my way down the stone paved path to the library, passing a few hopeful souls waiting in line for the throne room to impress King Hagan with their wisdom.
The Brightvale Library was grand, with high, vaulted ceilings and a royal purple and gold carpet down the main hall. Curving back either side of the entrance were stair cases made of a dark coloured wood and covered with gold carpet and golden gilt on the bannisters; rumour had it that all wood in Brightvale Castle was finest quality sapient pearwood, a species of tree closely related to the Brain Tree. The stair cases lead to a stone balcony with marble rails around, dotted with statues of Neopia's great thinkers and lined with tapestries of the Brightvale Standard. At the far end of the hall was a large circular window filled with every colour of stained glass – the pride of the Brightvale Glazers.
The library itself was in a room off the main hall, through a double pair of doors with a golden crest emblazoned on the front. It was a peaceful, tranquil place with sounds being muffled by the thick green and gold carpet and the various leafy plants dotted around the room. The ornately carved book shelves were interspersed with low tables lit by glittering crystal chandeliers; towards the edges of the room were desks with built in ink wells and long weewoo-feather quills laid neatly next to them.
And to think – this was my local library! There were times I found living in Neopia harder than I expected, but there were things that more than made up for it – and the library was among the best of them. I could quite happily live here if given half the chance, spend my life curled up in an alcove beneath a stained glass window with an endless supply of books.
"Mreep?" the little red creature on my shoulder asked questioningly. I shook myself out of my reverie.
"Sorry," I murmured quietly to it, raising a hand to stroke its head. "I tend to get a bit distracted in here." It purred softly in response.
I wandered around the library deliberately trying to look as lost as possible. It was the only successful way I had found of finding Lore, the orange scorchio who was the librarian here; the library was so large that he could be anywhere among the miles of shelves. And yet somehow, he always managed to appear wherever he was needed.
"Welcome to the grand library of Brightvale!" Lore said, right on cue. "How may I be of assistance?"
"I'm looking for a reference book," I said, "I'm trying to identify someone who may be a pet, but I'm not quite sure – could be a petpet."
"Oh – Book of Ages?" Lore asked, leading me further into the library. "It's got an entry for every notable Neopian from all the lands of Neopia, far more complete than that Neopedia they have in Neopia Central."
"Not quite, I think. Do you have one that identifies pet and petpet species?"
"Well," Lore said, frowning a bit. "One would usually go to the rainbow pool for such a thing, no?"
"Yes, it's a possibility," I said, choosing my words carefully. In truth, Neopia Central was too far to go at this time of night and I was too impatient to wait until tomorrow – but that wouldn't go down well with the prickly scorchio. "But I wanted to be absolutely certain, and everyone knows that Brightvale's library is better than anywhere else."
Lore almost visibly swelled with pride. "Well, yes, of course it is. Come on then, this way." He gestured down one of the aisles. "Brightvale has the originals, of course; the oldest books that they copied the rainbow pool records from, you know. Ah, and here they are." He pulled two old tomes down from the shelves and carried them over to one of the low tables for me.
"Now, you know the rules?" he said before he put them down. "No detailed reading cover to cover without first requesting anti-vanish protection, keep it out of the sunlight, and absolutely no removing it from the library, hm?"
"Absolutely," I said, nodding. The librarian was quite draconically protective of his books; they were layered ten feet deep in ancient magic to stop them disappearing once read, but he took no chances.
"Excellent then. Let me know if there's anything else I can help you with," Lore said cheerfully, and vanished somewhere into the ether of the library.
"Right then, my furry friend," I mumbled, settling myself down in a kneeling position on the plush cushions that surrounded the table. "Let's find out what you are, eh?" The little red thing ignored me, but I hadn't really been expecting a result.
I started with the petpet book, as it was on top. There was one petpet in there that looked plausible, the lutra; unfortunately it was naturally blue, and only able to be painted pink or white. To be on the safe side, I checked the maraquan painted versions of every petpet, but no luck – and by this time the sun had dipped below the horizon and I was reading by a flickering gas lamp that Lore had brought round.
I reached for the book on pets with a sinking heart. I might not be an expert, but I'd lived in Neopia long enough to recognise most of the species, and none of them matched – and the size as well! Pets varied in size, it was true, but they were rarely small enough to fit in your pocket unless they were only a few days old. And – well, that couldn't be the case; it was illegal to abandon a pet that young.
I flipped listlessly through the pages, only skimming the illustrations and not bothering to read the texts. None of them looked right. I reached the last page and almost closed the book on auto pilot before I noticed.
Lutari, the page said. "Lutaris are alert, friendly creatures that enjoy playing games outside," I read out loud to myself. "They are excellent swimmers and spend much of their time in the water... Yes, this could be it!" I said excitedly, then immediately covered my mouth as though I could take the words back. I waited for a minute for Lore to turn up and kick me out for being loud, but it seemed that luck was on my side.
I glanced down to check the colours available, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw not only red – of course; it was a standard colour – but baby, and the picture of the baby Lutari could have been a photograph of the little pet asleep on my shoulder it was such a close match. I read the rest of the page with gleeful excitement, grinning as each new fact lined up. Lutaris were very attached to their owners, had an immense fear of being abandoned – no wonder the poor thing had panicked when I'd gone next door earlier today! – and, best of all, Lutaris were only ever born on Lutari day – the 19th day of the month of Eating. Today was the 20th; it fit perfectly.
"So that's it, then" I said happily to the newly identified Lutari on my shoulder. "You're a baby Lutari, which means that there's no petpet protection league to say that you can't stay with us." It lifted its head sleepily and yawned at me. I took the hint and collected the books to put back on the shelf; time for both of us to head home. Tomorrow I'd go into Neopia Central to complete the registration process, but we were done for tonight; time to go back and relieve Paddy of his babysitting duties.
To be continued...