Trouble At the Neggery
“Ulisa, I’m leaving for the Festival now! You remember all of the instructions I gave you, right?”
I gave an exasperated sigh at Kari’s words.
“Yes, Kari. I remember!” Keep the Crystal Neggs at precisely ten degrees below zero; keep the Fireball Neggs in a special room. Same with the Ferocious Neggs. We had been over it a thousand times before we had turned to stone and a thousand times more when we were freed, the Neggery in shambles.
“Alright, I’ll be back in a week to check in on you. Be careful, we don’t want anything happening to those precious Neggs!” Kari gave me a wink as she fluttered out of the Neggery in a blur of green. I just rolled my eyes and went into the back, pulling a Spiked Negg away from a Cracked Negg. I swear, those fruit/egg things have a life of their own.
I glanced at a clock, wondering if I could meet Taelia for lunch yet. Nope, it wasn’t yet noon... that was when we typically met for hot chocolate and snow sandwiches. With a sigh, I brushed my blue-and-yellow-swirled hair under a green bandana. The first pets and owners with Neggs to exchange had arrived.
“Okay, blue is five Negg Tokens, purple is two... you can do this, Ulisa!” I whispered, pasting a smile on my face. “Have any boring, ordinary Neggs for me?” I could see the little purple Meerca’s eyes widen in awe. Must’ve been a first-timer. The owner handed me a yellow Negg, pocketed the tokens, and left, the little Meerca still gazing at the various Negg Trees in wonder. I threw the yellow Negg into storage, knowing that the seeds would need to be extracted later.
It was like the most of the day: newcomers exchanging and sometimes buying Neggs, previous customers coming to cash in Tokens, and even some who just came to look. I handled all of them stupendously, if I do say so myself. Kari would be so proud. Come noontime, I hung the “Be Back Soon” sign on the doors and started my trek through the Ice Caves up to Terror Mountain’s peak.
“So, how is it like without Kari? Are you lonely?” Taelia asked from the kitchen, where she was mixing up some special soup for us and a stranded Neopet she had found an hour ago.
“It’s nice that she isn’t bossing me around so much... Thank you,” I said, accepting a bowl of the soup. It was mostly for helping you warm up like, well, normal soup, I guess. The little Chia accepted a bowl as well, shaking too much to thank her.
Taelia sat down in a huff, pulling her distinctive blue-and-white furred hood off her head. “She’s just looking out for your well being, Ulisa. Show some respect and listen to her,”--she paused to take a sip of hot chocolate--“because when faerie apprentices don’t listen to their elders, something tends to go horribly wrong.”
Deciding to ignore her, I dipped my spoon in the bowl and lifted it to my lips. I could feel her ice-blue eyes on me. Waiting, perhaps, for me to apologize, which I had no intention if doing.
“Do you remember Latiea?” she asked gently. As a matter of fact, I did remember Taelia’s apprentice. Latiea was one of my best friends when I first became Kari’s apprentice.
“What does Latiea have to do with me? She disappeared months ago...” I trailed off. Poor Latiea; she had gone missing in a blizzard and we hadn’t been able to find her. I still missed her.
“Ulisa, Latiea went into that snowstorm when she decided not to listen to my instructions. Do you always follow Kari’s instructions?” I could feel a lump in my throat at her words. No, not always to the T... Sometimes I left doors unlocked, or didn’t keep the temperature just right...
Now that I think about it, I think I left the doors to the storage room unlocked...
I racked my brain trying to remember what Kari said would happen if the storage room doors were opened, but came up blank. Whatever happens can’t be good.
“I-I have to go,” I stuttered, taking care not to spill my still-full bowl of soup. “Thank you, Taelia.” And with that, I took off at a run through the pure-white snow now falling from dark clouds.
Is it dangerous to fly through the Ice Caves? Yeah, it is. There are so many sharp, icy stalactites hanging from the cave’s roof that a faerie is in danger of getting her wings ripped off. That’s why I usually walk up the mountain; now, however, I was flying full-speed ahead. Now I was quite certain that I had left the storage room doors open and the doors for various Negg trees.
I’m such an idiot! Kari is gonna kill me if anything is the slightest bit damaged!
Much to my relief, I managed to make my way around the stalactites without so much as a nick in my wings. I ripped the sign off the Neggery’s doors, then fumbled with the lock until I finally managed to unlatch it.
At first, everything looked normal. Maybe Taelia had made me paranoid? I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding in. The doors for the rooms in the front were locked and, upon checking the temperature for each room, (which I did by just holding my hand against the door. Faerie magic.) I saw that they were all good. As I removed my hand from the last one, however, I noticed one room I had missed. As I placed my hand on that one, I noticed it felt far warmer than the rest of the chilly Neggery. I opened the door slowly, dreading what I would see inside.
The back door to this room--which held all the basic Neggs we needed to extract seeds from--was open. I groaned and started counting them, but after a minute I realized it was no use. Almost all of our higher-valued Neggs had been stolen.
The Pant Devil? Did I leave the door unlocked, giving him a free ticket in? After checking the door, I knew it was my fault. Just great. And things were about to get a lot better.
I slammed the door shut, making sure to lock it this time, and began to count some lower-value Neggs. Maybe I could at least give Kari an inventory of lost items. Or... broken ones?
I held up a yellow Negg in dismay. Or at least, what was left of a yellow Negg. It had been cracked, little fissure lines spreading all along it, some pieces missing. I felt a surge of anger at the Pant Devil, who surely had been the cause of all this. Stealing Neggs was one thing, but cracking them?! Kari would never forgive a Negg cracker, and neither would I. Why, as soon as I find him, I’ll--
“Peep!” The little peeping sound cut off my train of ranting. I twirled around in confusion, trying to locate the source. After finding nothing, I looked at the ground. To my horror, there were tracks.
Little tracks left by little feet, right where the Negg had been sitting. I followed the little tracks, and they led to the door I had closed only minutes ago. Since there were no tracks coming back in, that had to mean...
“Peep!” That sound was killing me! How was I going to find it? By following tracks, if I could find them. It didn’t take long for me to find another cracked Negg, a pink one this time. Little tracks led from this one as well, so I followed them. For an hour, I might add, without hearing another peep. Eventually, the tracks ended, and I was forced to give up my search. Instead, I got back to cleaning up the broken Neggs--there were more than just two--and covering the tracks with snow.
What Kari never knows won’t hurt her. I’d just say that the Pant Devil stole the Neggs while I was away. Or if I could replace the stolen Neggs, I wouldn’t even have to tell her that!
After about half an hour of cleaning, I decided to go looking for the Neggs. Yeah, I’d have to use my own neopoints, but if I told them I was on a special mission from Kari...
I gathered up the things I’d need, like baskets and neopoints, and left the Neggery. As I was locking the door, I heard footsteps crunching the snow behind me. Very light, floaty steps. The kind of steps that only faeries can make.
I turned to see a certain green-haired faerie giving me a curious look. “Ulisa? What are you doing?”
I gulped, trying to hide the neopoints in my basket. “I was, um, going to check on how the Festival was doing!” Yeah, that’s what I was doing! Just please, don’t go inside...
Kari gave me an odd look. “Then why are you carrying a basket, filled with neopoints?” She tried to sidestep me, making her way for the Neggery, though I kept blocking her. “Can I enter my own home, please, Ulisa?”
I tried to swallow the lump that was climbing my throat at an alarming rate. “Um, what do you need? I could get it for you, and then...” I trailed off as she finally managed to open the door, ignoring my feeble protests.
“I just want some basic Neggs for the afternoon, in case I need a snack. I forgot them this morning.” My heart dropped to the floor at her words. I’m doomed!
“Are you sure you don’t want me to get them for you?” That was the last straw for Kari.
“Ulisa, what are you hiding from me?” And that, of course was when the little thing had to go make a peeping noise. Kari froze as soon as she heard it. “Ulisa, did I hear what I think I heard?”
I attempted to play dumb. “What do you think you heard? I didn’t-”
“Peep!” There was that confounded peeping again. Great. Now I tried a sheepish smile. “Some pests got in, and...”
Kari clamped a hand over my mouth in an attempt to hush me. “I don’t need to hear anymore. Just stop lying, please.” My eyes widened; how did she know? Kari bent over a tree and picked up something, though she hid it in her pocket. The little glimpse I got told me it was kind of fluffy.
Kari turned after pocketing the little fluff-ball, disappointment clouding her eyes. “Ulisa... Why didn’t you tell me the Neggs hatched? What else are you hiding?”
My head hung in shame, I told her the whole story. I told her how I had left the door unlocked, how Neggs had been stolen, how I was trying to replace them with no intention of telling Kari what had happened.
After the telling of my sorry tale, I squeezed my eyes shut, expecting the worst. So when all I got was Kari’s hand on my shoulder, and the clucking of her tongue, I was surprised.
“It’s okay, Ulisa. We can replace everything.”
My head perked up. I was off the hook? “So... You aren’t mad?”
She shook her head. “Not that the Neggs were stolen, or hatched. But Ulisa,” she said, green eyes boring into my own bright blue, “I am disappointed in you for not telling the truth straight out.”
Sighing, I hung my head again. “Sorry.”
Kari offered a warm smile as she led me inside. “Maybe I’ll forgive you when you whip me up some hot Neggdrop soup...”
Moral of the story? Always tell the truth. The first time. ^^ Comments, suggestions? Neomail me! :D