The Maraquan Pet Woes: Part One
Dana perched on the end of the diving board at the Neopian Pool. She had always resented her stubby Chomby legs; they kept her from executing the spectacular dive she kept dreaming of. However, as she jumped off and sailed through the air, she knew that whether she could dive properly or not, the water was where she belonged. Swimming was her ability, even though her short legs prevented her from swimming quickly as well.
I so envy the Maraquan pets, she thought. Those fins, being able to swim and live and breathe underwater... What I wouldn’t give for a Maraquan paint brush!
Dana knew that her owner, Sheila, had been saving for a paint brush, but she wasn’t sure which one. One thing was certain: it wouldn’t be Maraquan. Maraquan was far too expensive. A paint brush for her was sure to be Starry or Cloud or Sketch. Not her dream color. That was too much to hope for.
An Acara lifeguard stood up. “The pool is closing! Everybody out!” Dana sighed and hauled herself away from the water.
Sheila was sitting in a chair bordering the edge. The red Chomby moved over to her.
“Hey, Dana!” Sheila greeted her. “How was it?”
“Great! Hey, tomorrow can we visit Kiko Lake?”
Sheila laughed. “All you ever want to do is be around water!”
“Then why not save up for a Maraquan Paint Brush? I mean, I know it would take a while to save up for, but I can wait...”
A dark shadow seemed to have passed over Sheila’s face, and when she replied, it was as though her response had been programmed. “No. It’s too expensive.”
The Chomby tried not to show Sheila how disappointed she was. And something about her owner’s tone suggested there was more to her refusal. Dana decided not to push her about it.
They walked back to their Neohome in silence as dusk began to fall. Later, as Dana lay in bed in her richly furnished room, she pondered Sheila’s response to a harmless question. Perhaps if she could come up with some argument, she’d be able to convince her...
Sheila shook her awake the next day. “C’mon, Dana! Get up. That is, if you still want to go to Kiko Lake today.”
Dana was instantly energized. “Let’s go!” She leaped out of bed and charged out of the room.
A worried crease crossed Sheila’s face. What if she asks me again? she wondered. Sooner or later, Dana will figure out what’s going on. And it’s so selfish of me to keep her away from her dream...
She swallowed down the lump in her throat and followed her Neopet.
Dana wearily plodded out of the water and sat where the waves just barely washed over her tail. Sheila walked over to join her.
“How was your swim?”
“Great, as usual. I love Kiko Lake. I wish I could go farther into it...”
A dark sense of dread pummeled Sheila’s stomach. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I want to be able to see what’s under the water. I’d be able to do that... if I was Maraquan.”
“Dana, how many times do I have to tell you?” Sheila exploded. “A Maraquan Paint Brush is far, far too expensive.”
“No, it isn’t!” Dana replied indignantly. “Some users make half its value every day!”
“I’m not one of them! I’m lucky if I make ten thousand Neopoints a day, and that’s barely enough to keep you fed!”
“So buy me less expensive foods! It’s not my fault you insist on getting me the really expensive, good-tasting stuff! Buy me Omelettes or something! I’ve heard they’re really filling...”
“Isn't the fact that I'm saving up for a paint brush good enough?”
"Sheila, I've never wanted anything so badly..."
“We. Are. Not. Getting. You. A. Maraquan. Paint. Brush,” Sheila said, punctuating every word. “You know I’m saving up for a paint brush for you! Why can’t being painted a unique color be good enough? Why do you have to ask for one of the most expensive colors?” And one of the most heartbreaking, she added mentally.
“Because I love the water, that’s why.” But she could tell that the argument was over. She supposed she shouldn’t have gotten angry. If she hadn’t, maybe Sheila would have listened. “Sheila, I’m exhausted. Can we go home?”
“Sure,” her owner replied, relieved for an excuse to get away from the lake.
Sheila talked to Dana on the way home, but the Chomby’s mind was only half on the conversation. It kept sliding back to Kiko Lake and Maraqua, the land for which her dream paint brush was named. If only there was some way... if only she could live in Maraqua, swimming among the ruins she longed to see. But it looked like that would never happen.
Over the next few days, Sheila kept her Neopet away from all bodies of water, including the Neopian Pool. Dana sighed inwardly. Perhaps this was unspoken punishment for the argument that they’d had. Even though she loved Sheila dearly, she couldn’t help feeling that this was a bit much.
“Dana, I got you a Blue Short Hair Brush. Want me to groom you?”
“Want to go to the Games Room?”
“Dana, I know your mind is still on the Maraquan Paint Brush. You have no idea how sorry I am that we can’t get it, but we can’t. It’s best to get your mind off it.”
“I have told you. It’s too expensive. Now please, stop bothering me about it, Dana, I don’t want to hear more.”
“You’re the one who brought it up!” she said angrily, stalking away.
She moved out of the Neohome and aimlessly wandered up the street. Suddenly she noticed a speck in the sky in the distance. The shape got closer and closer, finally taking the form of a faerie. As she fluttered down in front of the Chomby, she gasped.
“The Fountain Faerie?” she breathed.
The faerie was gorgeous in every respect. She had waist-length curly blond hair, and her blue eyes were rimmed by thick eyelashes. She had several beaded bracelets around her wrists. Unlike other faeries, she had a scaly blue tail instead of legs, and no wings. Dana couldn’t figure out how she could fly.
“Yes,” the faerie replied. Her voice was soft and breathy, but sounded as musical as if she had sung the word.
“Wha-what are you doing here?” Dana stammered, hope rising in her.
“I have a quest for you. Can you find me a Tasu?”
Dana’s eyes widened. “But... those are cheap!”
The faerie raised an eyebrow. “Are you saying you think I’m cheap?”
“No, not at all,” she stammered, trying to cover her mistake. “It’s just that...”
The faerie laughed, a sound like a tinkling bell. “I get that a lot. No worries.” And with those words, she was gone.
Dana stared at the spot where the Fountain Faerie had been a moment before. Then she turned and sprinted back toward the Neohome.
“Sheila!” she yelled, bursting through the doorway and tripping in her haste to get to her owner. “Sheila!”
Sheila appeared in the doorway to the living room, looking annoyed. “Thanks for showing up again. I appreciate it.”
“Sheila, I’m sorry I got mad, but guess what? THE FOUNTAIN FAERIE GAVE ME A QUEST!”
Sheila gasped. Dana had thought she would see ecstasy on her face, but instead there was a mixture of shock and horror evident there.
“What’s the item?” she asked faintly, gripping the edges of the doorframe for support.
“A Tasu,” Dana muttered. She was trying to keep the excited tone in her voice, but the look on Sheila’s face was making all happiness evaporate.
“Well, those are really expensive,” Sheila said, gaining her composure again. “We’ll just have to reject the quest.”
“WHAT?” the Chomby exploded. “Are you insane? Those are cheap, especially for a Fountain Faerie Quest! Think of all the colors you could paint me...”
Sheila sighed, looking pale. “Fine. I’ll get it.” She took a few thousand Neopoints out of her pocket and trotted toward the Neoboards, Dana on her heels.
In a few moments, a helpful user had searched for the item and Sheila was cradling the petpet in her arms. Dana couldn’t help but notice that it was letting out noises of protest as it vibrated because of the way Sheila’s arms shook.
She knows I’m going to ask to be painted Maraquan. Maybe I’ll finally know what’s going on!
She walked briskly toward the Shop Wizard. The Fountain Faerie appeared almost immediately. “No! That’s – oh, you have my item already. Thanks!” She took the Tasu from Sheila and winked. “Next time you visit my fountain, I’ll have a surprise for you!” Then she vanished as she had when Dana had gotten the quest.
“Let’s go now!” Dana began bouncing up and down on her short legs. “Come on, please, please, please?”
“Tomorrow,” Sheila said, managing a very forced smile. Maybe when I tell her, she won’t want to be Maraquan anymore. But if she still does... I won’t stand in the way. No matter how much it hurts.
The Fountain Faerie flashed a dazzling smile as they approached the next day. “Here already?” she asked sweetly. “All right, then.” She turned to Sheila. “Sheila...”
“How do you know my name?”
"I know everybody's name. Sheila, pick a color to paint Dana."
“Pick Maraquan, Sheila!” Dana cried, feeling as though her heart would burst from excitement. “Come on, you’re always saying it’s too expensive, and now you can!”
The faerie looked unusually grave. “Does she know?” she asked Sheila. “About Maraquan pets?”
“No,” Sheila confessed. Dana’s heart quickened. Finally, she was to find out this secret! “Dana...” Sheila took a deep breath, and Dana could see dread in her eyes. What was so awful? “If you become Maraquan, you will have to live underwater, in Kiko Lake or Maraqua. And I couldn’t live there with you. In fact... I may never see you again.”
To be continued...
This will be my first series in the Times. Feedback LOVED!! Thanks for reading!