A Scared Owner and Her Brave Wocky vs the Battledome
I still remember the first time I held Foxie. He was small then, and blue, and adorably fluffy all curled up in my arms. It was love at first sight. I held him as we entered Neopia together, both of us awed by this new world. And I looked down at him then and knew we would accomplish great things.
Okay, maybe not great things. But we would definitely be doing things. Together. For a long long time.
And we did. Those early years were magical as we romped around Neopia. Foxie was at my side, no matter what I decided to do. We played games and staked out at the Money Tree (even though we were never fast enough to grab anything good). Foxie carefully helped me select new items for each of my changing collections. His favorite was the Blue Wocky Plushie that I found for him within a few months of our friendship. He used to go to sleep curled up with it in his bed.
Later on, we became more ambitious. We discovered that, yes, there was such a thing as a bank and, no, we didn't want to be eating at the Soup Kitchen for the rest of our days. We even earned enough to collect the pieces to the Lap Map, and Foxie was the first of my pets to bravely enter, head held high as he stood in front of the mad old scientist.
Yes, those were the good old days. And then work happened.
Work, I discovered, was time-consuming. Work meant less time with Foxie, and more time hunched over my desk in a corner. But work also meant putting more than Omelettes on the table, so I persevered. Foxie was always very understanding. "It's okay, Cait," he'd say. "You do what you have to. I'll always be right here when you're done." And it took time. A long, long time. But finally I had time again, and could spend more than a few minutes with my beloved pets.
There was so much to do! Foxie and I ran out of our neohome, jumping and laughing as we sprinted down Terror Mountain to investigate the rest of Neopia. "I wanna do something new," I told Foxie, "Something we've never done before!" And Foxie just grinned and nodded, willing as ever to go along with my plots.
Our first stop was Tyrannia, because at some point my pets had actually developed a fondness for the darn Omelettes and were all clamoring for more. I was so filled with joy at being back that I felt inclined to indulge them, so Foxie and I trekked over to collect our due.
It was from our vantage point by the Giant Omelette that I saw it for the first time. The Obelisk. "What is that?" I asked Foxie, and he lifted up a paw to shade his eyes as he stared out over the plateau.
"Oh," he said, and there was an undercurrent of something in his voice that I hadn't heard before. "That's the Battleground of the Obelisk. Apparently it's got some special powers or something? So there are a whole bunch of people fighting over it."
"Huh," I said, and then it was time for us to grab our piece of Omelette. I let Foxie pick it out, and grinned with delight when he pulled out his favorite—Juppie Omelette. "Nice going, buddy!" I said, and we high-fived before the next person in line cleared their throat and we had to head out.
We ended up strolling down a path that took us closer to the Obelisk. Foxie was munching contentedly on his Omelette, but I was still struck by the tall spire. "Wonder what's so special about it," I mused. "I mean, there's so much fighting."
Foxie remained curiously silent; even his chewing had grown softer. I turned my head to look at him, and noticed that his eyes were fixed on the ground. "Is something wrong?" I asked, instantly worried. What if all my time at work had me so out of touch with my pets that I had said something to hurt Foxie without meaning to?
"No," he replied quickly. "Nothing wrong. It's just..." He turned his eyes towards the Obelisk, and this time I saw a certain longing in there. "It's all anyone seems to do these days. Like, even the pets that aren't that serious of fighters. They like to go down and watch, at least." He paused, and ducked his head again. "It's supposed to be pretty fun, down at the lower levels."
I looked in surprise down at my Wocky. The Battledome and other places for dueling pets hadn't been something that had interested either of us before. I'd never been good at dealing with Foxie in pain; it was hard enough the few times we'd accidentally set off booby traps in the Deserted Tomb in Geraptiku.
Still. If Foxie was interested, I wasn't about to turn him down. "We've never fought before," I said carefully, and Foxie gazed up at me warily. I tried for a calm smile, but probably ended up looking like a nervous mother on her child's first day of school. "It's something new. I said I wanted to do something new, didn't I?"
A hopeful grin spread over Foxie's face, and his pink cheeks rounded up. "Really? You mean it? You'll try?"
"I will," I agreed, if maybe a little reluctantly.
"Cool!" He was bouncing around on his paws, hyperactive like a little yearling again. "Can we go join a faction now?"
"Uh..." I let out, and immediately his expression began to droop. "Hey, I said we'd try it! But maybe we could... research first?"
"You're such a geek," he groaned—even though I knew he loved reading almost as much as I did. Still, he willingly followed me over to the boards. We entered the Battledome section cautiously, and found hundreds of people and pets in the room, eagerly chatting away. Most of the pets were fully armed; a couple gave me threatening stares and I shrank into Foxie's side. "Cait," he whined. "I thought you said we were going to research?"
"Uh, right," I answered, keeping my eye on the tall Shadow Uni with the flaming sword. I quickly dragged Foxie over to a group of pets and owners on the opposite side of the room.
A pink Aisha and her owner quickly turned their eyes on us, almost in sync. I took a deep breath and pasted a smile on my face. "Hi there! I'm Cait, this is Foxie. We're kind of newbies to this whole Battledome thing. Mind telling us a little about it?"
The Aisha sniffed. "Sure. Give us your stats."
I glanced over at Foxie in confusion. He stared back, equally baffled. "Errr... stats?"
The Aisha's owner rolled her eyes. "You know. Level, hit points. Stats."
Laughing nervously, I scratched at the back of my neck. "I'm afraid I... don't know?"
Both of their eyes flew wide. The Aisha leaned into her owner and whispered loudly, "She doesn't know her pet's stats."
I bit at my bottom lip. "I'm sorry, should I?"
Our new acquaintances nodded together. The owner took in a deep breath. "Yes, you should." I began to stammer out apologies, but she held up a hand. "It's okay. Obviously you've just got a lot to learn." She handed me a couple of documents. "Look, these are Battledome guides, written by some of the best. Why don't you just... read those first? Then you'll at least know something."
"Thanks," I said, even if I still felt a bit intimidated.
Foxie and I booked it over to a corner of the room and squatted down with our newfound knowledge. As we read, our eyes got increasingly larger. "That's... a lot of neopoints," Foxie said in a high-pitched voice. "I mean... that's a lot of neopoints."
"I know!" I hissed back. It made our two million neopoints sitting in the bank look like nothing. And I was proud of that two million neopoints, by Fyora! "There's weapons and shields and training and potions for when you get hurt—"
"We don't have to do it," Foxie broke in. He rubbed his paws together nervously. "I know how hard you worked to save up all those neopoints. And I know this is really expensive. We can just, I don't know, go see a concert or something instead. Maybe I could learn piano?"
"Do you want to learn piano?" I asked skeptically.
Foxie's shoulders sagged. "Not really... I think it would be hard to play the piano with paws."
"Yeah..." I murmured, trying to imagine it. "I wonder how they do it..."
We contemplated that for a minute, before returning to staring at the pamphlets in front of us. I took another deep breath and squared my shoulders determinedly. "You know what? We can do it. Even if this means we need to eat Omelettes every night. We'll save up enough for you to become a Battledome champ!"
"Yeah!" Foxie cheered, and we high-fived. And then we headed on over marketplace to get some ideas on weapons.
Turns out, our pamphlets hadn't been exaggerating about the cost. I started biting my nails after one over-enthusiastic seller tried to convince me to purchase ten bottled air faeries for over two thousand neopoints each. "I'm pretty sure they aren't supposed to cost that much," Foxie whispered to me nervously.
"It's okay, it's okay," I murmured, although whether it was for Foxie's sake or my own it was hard to tell. "We're just here to get ideas. Then we'll Shop Wizard it up."
Still, even though we were just browsing, there was a lot of selection. There were scrolls—which were apparently for more than reading—and axes and shields and hats that weren't meant for wearing and swords and sporks and—
Well, you get the picture.
Finally, we stumbled across a more moderately priced area. I let Foxie roam freely while I slumped against the wall. By Fyora, window-shopping was a lot of exercise.
"Cait!" Foxie called excitedly. He was hopping around over by a grey metal thing. I slowly made my way over to him, clutching my side. Once I was there, he pointed eagerly at what I could now tell was a hammer. "Look! It's only, like, ten neopoints! And it's really cool!"
I looked at the hammer. It was certainly something, although I wasn't sure 'cool' was the word I'd use to describe it. "It's very... tough," I settled for, and coughed a little as my Faerie Wocky fluttered around it. "Do you really want it?"
"Yeah!" Foxie looked up at me with big pleading eyes, and I knew I was a goner.
"Alright then," I said with a sigh, and watched as he cheered in excitement. "Just this, though. Then we go home." He struggled to pick it up, and I frowned a little. "Are you sure you want this? It seems heavy."
"It'll help me get stronger!" He puffed out, hoisting it up over his shoulder. I offered to carry it for him, but he shook his head with determination. "I've got this, Cait."
At the register, the girl behind me snickered. I turned around to look at her and the Pirate Kyrii in her arms. "You do know what that is, right?"
I crossed my arms across my chest. "Actually, I don't," I said coldly.
She let out a loud burst of laughter and then realized I wasn't kidding. "Oh! Wow, sorry, it's just... That's a Ridiculously Heavy Battle Hammer. Only losers use them."
"Well then, I guess we're starting a new trend," Foxie said fiercely, and both of us held our head up high as we paid for the hammer.
By later that evening, Foxie had nicknamed the hammer Smasher and was cuddling with it as he slept. I took a couple of pictures for posterity. My Neopet's First Weapon had such a nice ring to it.
The next day, we headed down to the Battledome. It was crazy. There was Balthazar in one corner, growling threateningly at the Pineapple Chia in front of him. In another corner was the Space Faerie, laughing as she tackled an opponent down to the floor. I gulped and held onto Foxie's paw tightly. "You sure you want to do this."
"Sure," he said firmly. And then, with a waver in his voice, he added. "Only not these guys. But maybe..." His eyes scanned the room. "Maybe the Chia Clown? I think I could take him."
To my worried eyes, even the Chia Clown looked threatening. But I swallowed my fears. "Alright. Chia Clown it is." I turned to Foxie, assessing him. "Do you have everything? Your hammer? Your shield? Oh, and that last potion I gave you?"
"Yes, Cait," he said, with a roll of his eyes. "I promise, I'm ready."
Standing before me, determination gleaming in his eyes, I could tell he was. "Alright," I said weakly. "You go out there and do your best. I'll be right here, cheering for you the whole time, okay?"
He nodded, giving me a quick hug before walking off. It was hard to watch him go, knowing what he was going to face. But if he had confidence, so did I. I cheered as he entered the stadium, Smasher aloft. Maybe we really were going to achieve great things.